Monday, October 31, 2011

Old book, new book.

 Title page for I am Cat, with dedication.

Tentative cover idea for East of the Sun, West of the Moon.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Pleasure District: A Contest of Beauty.

Idly flicking through a beautiful book on Japanese prints I read the title of one. " A Contest of Beauties in the Pleasure District." Such a wonderful idea, A Contest of Beauties. I had been thinking about having a competition again on my blog and the idea of A Contest of Beauty seemed to be a good place to start.

So, the prize will be a small drawing of a moon-gazing hare, and the competition will be to make, show, tell, create, something beautiful. It can be with words, images, sculpture, any medium what-so-ever, but it must be beautiful. A celebration of beauty.
Email me a link to your entry and I will list it here on this blog post. Please invite others to enter too. I would like this to be a celebration of beauty, more than a contest. If you write, then write something beautiful. Sing, play, dance something beautiful. If you are not a maker, but wish to share what you find beautiful, send a link to that. All artists desire an audience and the audience to art is no less important than the maker. I would like this blog post to become a portal to beauty.

  • To begin with here is something very beautiful that I love.

  • The most beautiful, stunning, dangerous, breath-taking natural history filming I have seen for years, BBC's The Frozen Planet, directed by Elizabeth White. Glorious. If you can watch on iPlayer do. The ice caves, bears, whales, land, sea, everything is just stunning. Link is to her blog. 
  • Walking in the street the other day I watched a couple, maybe in their seventies, walking hand in hand. The autumn leaves blew around their feet. Watching them I wondered if they had had a lifetime together or whether they had met again after living separate lives, childhood sweethearts reunited. A fragment of time, watching the lives of  others. Beauty. 
This is one of the most beautiful pictures of a child I have ever seen. Magic in her eye.

( Later I read the text that went with the image from the book of Japanese art and realised that I had been thinking along completely different lines. It was a series of prints from 1795-1796 of Japanese courtesans in Yoshiwara. Had to laugh. Seems my mind had wandered into a completely different Pleasure District from the one so elegantly depicted.)

The competition will end on 10th December, International Day of Human Rights.
This is the drawing that the winner will receive:

The list begins:

  •   From Lyn Oates, a photograph seen on the web. Child and tiger by Dyrk Daniels. 
  •   From Jane Johnson, author of The Salt Road and The Tenth Gift, patterns in Saharan sand and her husband, for, as she says, "is anything more inspiring than love?"

  • Above, from Susan, a beautiful ballet from  Tamasaburo Japan. I love herons, and snow and transformation.

May Tree by Kate Green

The Dark Hands of the Sea by Catherine Hyde. 

  •  From Jane Ryan of Opi, her message that came with the link is beautiful in itself. It reads: " My lovely daughter singing......... a beautiful thing for her mother to hear." Jane's work is magical too.
  • From A Mermaid in the attic, a contemplation on Beauty, a sideways look. Her entry to the Contest of Beauty is complex. A painting, which I will add below, or Beauty, sleeping and dreaming and remembering, but also a poem, sung. She recorded the song in a swift window of 15 minutes and says that it is rough and yet if you tried to recreate the nature of it you would struggle. Even the dog conspires to the atmosphere. I love the idea of Beauty looking back on her life with her Beast lover, so look first here for the poem and the roots of it, then at the 'finished' song and image.

  •  From a friend on Facebook an entry by email, beautiful, atmospheric. 
  If I was any good at writing, or drawing, I would put down something
about last Tuesday, when I took my 3 year old gypsy vanner and my
daughter out for a walk. It had rained hard earlier, so there was no
point in staying in the field, but the paths in the woods were dry
enough. I put her on his back with a blanket and walked next to them,
in the twilight under the trees. I knew we didn't have much time until
full dark, so I ran part of the way, jogged with the horse trotting
next to me, and ran hard with him cantering. It is somewhat scary
running with a horse ten times your weight running next to you, almost
touching, but exhilarating as well. we stopped because my daughter
shouted 'enough!', and anyway it was getting too dark to see. On the
way home, the other horses greeted us from across the fields, the
lights from the cars on the road in our eyes.
Looks like I have written something after all.

My Beauty is
the wild and windswept moorland
the piercing eye
of predatory bird

My Beauty is
the well-lined face of Oak
the visionary Wren

My Beauty is
the sensual touch of velvet flower
salt taste of ocean
scent of Earth

My Beauty is
green grass in stone circles
Sun-bleached bones of desert
Undulation of prairie

My Beauty is
the ecstasy of dance
the moonlit glade
the chant of invocation

My Beauty is
the hypnotic hum of bees
fragrance of honey

It is laughter, tenderness
and frightening as lightning
It is the arching rainbow
the glinting sharpness of obsidian blade

It is night-hunting Owl
Playful Crow
Blue Star Maiden
Swan-blessed river

  • A late entry, sneaking in on the last day! Which is only fitting as I knew this young woman when she was a small thing and she sneaked into my house through the cat flap with her sisters. First I knew of them being in was three giggling girls. She has grown up to be very beautiful and very talented through years of hard work and practice.


Please invite your friends to join by sending them a link to this blog post. There is so much beauty in the world. Let's share it.

nb. And there was more, much more and thank you to everyone who has enriched my life with all their beauty and shared. Sorry I can't put more on. There is just so much and I run out of time to paint and draw, but I have looked at everything. There is still one day left. Tomorrow morning I will decide where the hare will go. The winner will be announced on my new blog.

Day Off

1. Make List
2. Walk dogs
3. Email Guy about exhibition.
4. Phone Dru re Tues ( hmmm.... Thai feast night, lovely), sister re birthday, Parcs re studio.
5. Capture 2 or 3 images so that can work on East of the Sun in studio next week.
6. Stretch paper.
7. Put washing away.
8. Tidy studio/ bedroom ( slut slut slovenly slut!)
9. Read, for at least half an hour, but fire, with feet up.
10. Blog.

Friday, October 28, 2011

End of the first week.

Peaceful working today after a busy book signing yesterday. In the morning I popped out for a coffee and found a strange visitor on my return.

Washing up, lovely to have a sink in my studio.


Adam Buick's moonjars complete the window. 


Meanwhile, in my studio, old work, and new.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

On the beach today.

I missed the coming of the light, and by the time I reached the beach the tide was full in. Walking out onto the small headland an ink dark seal lifted her head. Closer she came and closer, her body salt-water buoyant in the sea, her eyes dark and wild. The clouds silvered wind wrinkled sea surface. Walking back to the beach she followed around and stayed close to the slip, lifted by small waves. The sea cradled her beauty.
I met Maggie. She told me that yesterday a pup had been taken from the beach. The sea had been rough and her pup was young so they had found a place to rest, safe. It was by the slip and the tide full out and when the sea rolls back at Whitesands it rolls back far. The sandy stretch between mother and child would have seemed like an ocean. So many people at the beach, so many dogs. People had come and taken it away to the seal rescue place. So when the sea came in and the people went away she would have come back to look for her child, but he was gone.
Wild thing. She searches for him. It tears your heart.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Learning. Always learning.

Early morning dog walk on the beach. On the way there a flock of curlew flew across the hill in echo of the invitation painting for the exhibition opening tomorrow. Made me smile.
On the way home a dead rabbit lay in the road. I collected things for the day ahead and stopped to collect the still warm body. Soft fur, shine still in the eye, almost warm. Dead. So many times I have wanted to just draw, so I decided to change plans and begin a series of roadkill drawings. ( Traveling so much over the last few weeks I have been shocked by the weight of dead creatures by the roadside. Foxes, badgers, deer, more pheasants than a shooting party could hope to bag, cats, dogs, buzzards and owls. Sad) I remembered something one of my tutors had once said. " Never make a mark without thinking of what you are doing, without thinking of what it is you are trying to say." I begin to understand what he meant, but it is a tentative understanding.


Other drawings happened and I  prepared the Hobb cover for gilding tomorrow. I hate these pieces when they are at this stage. They look ugly to my eyes.

I met two young people, the girl a student from Bath Academy. She wouldn't have been born when I left there. Both fantasy fiction fans, both interesting to talk with, they now frequent places I once did when I lived in Bath.

Home, tired, to a house warm because Hannah had made the fire, Tom had got the logs in. I took the rabbit to the high hill top, a present for the ravens now, or maybe for the winter fox.  A rainbow shone in the sky and wind ruffled his soft fur. Peace.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Inky blue

Today, quiet progress despite hustle and bustle at the centre. Next door in the afternoon, a lecture. Outside the door a small girl watched while I painted and commented to Jetska that I was 'working very hard'. In the cafe as I placed prices next to a hare drawing a woman said, " Well, I don't think my husband would agree on that price." I wondered what he did when he wasn't theoretically questioning my prices.
I learned that the day dawns at 600 miles an hour in St Davids, and a formula for calculating how fast it rises depending on where you are in the world.
On the beach the tide line was littered with by-the-wind sailors and I feel as blue as their inky sails, though cannot specifically define why.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Working away from home.

Working in my new studio space for the first day. I found that as soon as I sat down to work the conversation that takes place between myself and the paper was the same as it is anywhere. I could hear people around, but Radio 4 kept focus away from being disturbed and it was warm and light.
The only thing was the day finished at 5. When I looked up I found that the sky was falling down! Rain so hard everywhere was flooding, but I had been lost on the wings of dragons.
I only had my iPhone with me, but here are some photos.
I learned a few things.
1. I whistle while I work.
2. I swear too much at my paintings.
3. Best not to burst into random out of tune singing.
4. All that matters is the spaces between head, heart and drawing board.
5. I work on a lot of different pieces of work at the same time. ( I have another half finished piece here in my studio at home that needs to be taken in.)
 Above and below, the studio space.

 A painting that has waited too long to be finished.

 Above and below, two new strawberry foxes; or, something to settle me in.

 Above: wolf drawing, waiting. Kingfishers, almost finished. Below, my boots, Robin's rug.

 My desk in my studio with the beginnings of the cover for Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb. Soon there will be gold leaf.

Spit, Fente, Sintara and Heeby.

Meanwhile, outside, rain.

Exhibition at Tourist Information Centre, St Davids

 Last week I spent three and a half days with Nigel from the Tourist Info Centre in St Davids moving and hanging the exhibition that will be on there until the end of January. The TI Centre shares its space with Oriel y Parc, the beautiful and small gallery that houses a part of the Museums and Galleries of Wales collection. At one time they ran an artist in residence program in the building, but with cutbacks this is one of the things that has fallen away and the room has been idle and little used. Somehow I managed to talk my way into becoming an 'artist in residence' there, using the studio space and having an exhibition that runs through the length of the building.
Today will be my first day working there. I have never worked away from home before and require solitude when working so the idea of working in such a public space is, at the moment, filling me with dread. The residency is not a paid position, but even so I feel some, pressure isn't the right word, maybe obligation would be better, to be a little accessible to people. So, how to get the balance right?
This week I will be open to the public between 2 and 5 on Thursday afternoon, working in my studio and available to sign books. Then in the evening a more formal opening from 6.30. ( If you would like to attend please let the Parcs know as they are trying to get some idea of numbers attending.)
Other than that if people want books personalised they can leave them to be collected and I will sign at the end of the day. 
Moving my studio has been more disturbing than I thought it would be and so I am moving tentatively at first. I am hoping to be able to 'play' with some new ideas at home during the evenings. Meanwhile will see how things go one day at a time.
And for those who find Pembrokeshire too far here is a sneak preview of the show. It will be on until end January and the exhibition at Oriel y Parc in the Museums and Gallery space will change on around 25th November. At the moment is a Turner, Cecil Morris, John Bellamy and Graham Sutherland. Also beautiful silver work and exquisite glass pieces. A small but richly rewarding exhibition.

Caro Flynn is also showing some work in the window of the centre. Emma asked if I would help her to arrange the display, so, despite my better judgement I said yes. We were chatting and she had been cleaning the glass doors and shelves and I was saying how I didn't really 'do' ceramics because I am such a clutz, but, being brave I picked up the most expensive and very beautiful jug and went, 'I'll put this here then" and slammed it straight into the glass door! The noise was awful and I felt sick and Emma's face was a picture and the room ( where there was a meeting going on) went silent and everybody looked at me, and the jug, still in my hands, and fortunately for me and goodness knows how, unbroken. Well, if Emma hadn't cleaned the glass so well I would have seen it!
Glad to say the rest of the window disply was put together with more care and the jug looks beautiful, as does all of Caro's work. I am particularly taken with the small, round, owlpot.