Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Horses and herons.

The morning disolved into chaos when I realised that the children had a dentist's appointment in half an hour and Hannah was in bed still and Tom was in Croesgoch at his dad's. So, quick movement and somehow we arrived in time, even Tom who had to cycle there.
So much to do, and I had another session of riding booked and the day was beautiful, so Hannah decided to come too. We rode into the valley just as a great gray heron lifted up into the sky. There were buzzards, and a buzzard and a raven sparred in the sky and the air was still and hummed to the sound of insect wings. And Hannah's horse hummed too. I have never heard a singing horse before. He has a tail like fire and he sort of hums to himself as he treks along.
For a while I have been wanting to draw horses so Al sent me off to a field where The Snowman had his herd. I walked across the field and they barely lifted their heads to watch me, though two young foals were curious.
Such beautiful creatures, I think I will be able to draw them and draw them until I have pages of horses. Hoping to sit in the field with my sketchbook now and again also. 
This time though I didn't stay long. One of the horses gave birth as I walked across the field. All long legs and afterbirth and beautiful fresh creature with fine legs. I watched the foal rise to its feet for the first time, saw it take its first taste of warm milk. If you look carefully you can see the fragile, elegant newborn searching for first milk in the picture above. All legs. Amazing to think that moments before it was curled up inside its mother.

Back home a message on the answer phone was from David who was collecting a painting, so I got wrapping very quickly while he drove across and collected the brown paper package tied up with string.

I may not have done much more work that looking and thinking and seeing and dreaming, but it has been a good day, and after the crazy start, a peaceful one.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunshine on the garden and the Love Cats.

Early morning sitting in the garden with cats and only the air through the wings of a high flying raven to disturb my peace as I travel through the power of words from Pembrokeshire to Mexico. So peaceful even the flight of butterflies make a small whisper of sound.
John came back and loaded the car with hares and hounds and a fox and a heron and cheetahs and cherries, then headed off to Amanda's, though however he will squeeze anything else into the car I will never know.
The rest of my day has been sunshine and painting punctuated by reading in the garden, cats and thinking. Peaceful, perfect, undisturbed.

Small pink roses blossom in a pot and in my newfound enthusiasm for growing food I think I will turn the small sheltered square of back garden into more space for planting. I need a garden diary, so that I know what to plant and when and I think with my moon love I will go for the madness of biodynamics and plant according to the phases of the moon.
Watching the spinach re-grow does not make it grow and faster, so next year I must plant more. I have a beautiful recipe for spinach bhaji, with onion and spring onion and garlic and chilli and a little salt and black pepper. So good, just perfect. And next year two courgette plants should give us as much as we need. More leeks, more onions, more beetroot and maybe I can persaude the slugs to let me have the carrots by growing carrots in pots.

And in the meantime something John Foley said has made me revisit the Two Cheetahs Two Cherries. But this one will be called The Love Cats.

The cheetah and cherry paintings seem to develope along quite conversational lines.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tap tap tippity tap tap, ping.

Thinking aloud in the pages of my sketchbook. Cheetahs and goldfinches, and clover.

The fields around here are full with clover. Amazing how beautiful these flowers are on close inspection.

Typewriters are multiplying in my studio, a small Olympia and a larger one that is more brittle. I would still like an old fashioned portable black typewriter with gold paint on. There is something about the way that you have to write on a typewriter. I think perhaps they would be good for poetry, because you have to think very carefully about what you write before your fingers begin to move as any mistaykes you mite make cannott be easily reckdefyd.

Meanwhile John Foley arived and I tormented him with paintings that were sold that he can't have for the exhibition, showed him sketches for work in mind, and seals sleeping on smooth stone beaches. We then went to The Shed at Porthgain and they fed me mussels while I signed books, so they now have a good stock, including The Ice Bear, which will be published on Thursday, the same day as Seamus Heaney's new book of poetry.
I am looking forward to seeing the photos from John's visit.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A short essay on being an artist no 2.

When I first left college I did a series of part time jobs while I established myself as an artist. These kept body and landlord happy while the painting and drawing satisfied my soul. I worked as an illustrator and also sold paintings, first through The Rooksmoor Gallery in Bath and then through Anthony Hepworth Fine Arts in the Cleveland Bridge Gallery. (Anthony now works from Kensington Street, London) .
I had a couple of exhibitions with Anthony and the story of how I came to show work there was a story of sunshine and serendipity, but one for another posting. This is about how I learned that as an artist you can not only sell work, but you can also buy it .

Anthony shared the gallery space with another art dealer and he had an exhibition by a Welsh artist called Evelyn Williams. I fell in love! Her work was stunning. I bought a catalogue, I visited the exhibition every day, but mostly I visited one drawing, a haunting piece of a girl, very still, very sombre, looking straight back at you. Her name, I think, was Sarah. I began to take my friends to visit her. I went to the opening and Evelyn was there. So elegant with a beautiful plait of long gray hair and she seemed so at ease with herself and with her audience. There were sculptures, paintings, drawings, all so full of heart and soul, and a darkness. I read the program notes and they talked about self doubt and how she worked and I thought, how can this woman doubt that her work is anything but wonderful. Her work had a quiet heartbeat of its. I was too scared to talk to her at the show, she seemed so confident.
And still I went back to visit this drawing and I would skirt the exhibition in a spiral that always led to it.
"You know, Jackie," she said, " you can buy art as well as sell it."
Buying art was something other people did and it hadn't occured to me that I could walk up to the gallery owner and I could say, I want that painting please. I could buy it, and I could take it home. 
I had had a good run of jobs recently and sold a few pieces. I was single, no mortgage. The money was sitting in the bank, waiting for work to dry up. It could sit there, or I could buy this drawing that haunted my dreams.
So I did. £500, unframed, a piece of paper with marks on it. I took it home and in my small and shabby flat it looked even more beautiful. I sat for a long while and just looked. 
I think I cried. 
I had it framed, and recently had it reframed again by John who dresses all my work and does such a stunning job with my paintings, making them look more special. He framed it in a simple molding and hand gilded in a white gold and now she hangs on my studio wall.

£500, at a time when I had little money to spare. And what is she worth now? I don't know, and I hope I never have to find out because I do not want to ever part with her. I know what she has given me over the years, what she is worth to me:

The courage to carry on with my work because every time I look at her I know that the woman who made her suffered so much with self doubt and yet she had the courage to carry on. And how could she doubt herself, when her work is so stunning.

The pleasure of looking at such a beautiful piece of work.

Stillness in time as in a busy life she holds me with her eyes and makes me pause for a while to look.

A connection with another artist.

The memory of how I had to be told how I could buy work, if I wanted to, almost being given permission to own something so beautiful, because somehow I thought that buying art was a thing other people did. That still makes me smile when I remember.
So much more, the stories that are tangled up in those haunting eyes, the history of the girl, the history of the artist. I met Evelyn's sister, saw some of the work that she had made in various stages of her life. I can't even remeber how this meeting came about but I do remember loving seeing work from school, college and then on through life.

And I have never, no not once, ever, regretted spending that £500.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Light through leaves, heather on the hill.

My first year of growing vegetables and I love to look at the way evening light falls through the leaves. My leeks have suffered from my laziness with watering. Next year I will have two more beds, which will have organic matter dug well in to beautiful top soil. I will grow onions and beans, leeks and  lambs lettice, beetroot and carrots, spinach and rocket and swiss chard and maybe even artichokes. And I will water them more and chant incantations by the light of the full moon to keep off the slugs and I will search for toads and put down things that snakes can hide under, to do battle with slugs. 
For now I am just so entranced by courgettes.
And I wonder if next year I might have bees also.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A short essay on being an artist.

I decided that I wanted to be an artist when I was six years old. As I grew up I realised that in order to do so I would have to make sacrifices. I would probably never have enough money to buy a house, probably never have children. Holidays were rare and unusual things. I wanted to paint and draw. That was all I wanted to do. I would always be poor, because very few people manage to live off their art. All of these were conditions I accepted so that I could follow a path that I chose and spend my days pushing coloured water around on paper, scribbling and later writing.
I have been very lucky. A run of work for a card company enabled me to gather enough money to put a deposit on a house. It is amazing how years of frugal living can suddenly lead to savings as money comes in. I met a man who I loved who wanted to look after the children so that we could have a family and I could continue to work and was blessed with two very beautiful babies.
It was a great sadness to me when just as we seemed to be finding our feet and he was working also doing something that really fired his mind our paths went in very different directions ( a nice way of putting something that was a very painful time).
For the last ten years I have painted and illustrated and written and been a single parent. And life has been good, but not always easy.

I sell my paintings. It is always hard to put a price on them, but I do find what I think is a fair price. I am very lucky in that it seems that much of what I do is desirable and people find pleasure in my work. This is a great privilege. And what I am trying to find in this post is a way of saying how I feel when someone goes into a gallery and asks for a discount on the price. 
Some years ago a gallery I showed with phoned. There was a man in the gallery who wanted to buy a painting of a red winged angel. "He wants it, but he doesn't want to pay £1 700 for it. What shall I do?" " Tell him to pay in instalments or buy something else." I suggested. "We need the sale, " the gallery replied. " Then wait for someone who values the painting enough to pay what I ask," I answered. The gallery sold it at a discount and took the hit themselves out of their comission. Happy gallery, happy punter, very unhappy artist. To me it feels as if people think I am trying to cheat them. I don't want to play the game of putting an extra £2 or £300 on a painting so that I can go, "I tell you what, I'll knock a couple of £ off because I like your face." I price the work. That is how much it is. If people want it, fall in love with it then that is the price. I do not sell used cars. I do not go to the supermarket checkout at the end of a shop and go, "I tell you what, knock £30 off and I'll take the lot." And I do know that bartering is a game that people like to play, but I don't.

Likewise for a gallery. I know how much work goes into putting on an exhibition, paying for invitations and post. I have never paid for publicity, but exhibitions, framing, commission etc all eats away at money and even more at time. I am so lucky that John Foley and The Imagine Gallery found me. In my working life I have wasted so much time with galleries who want my work and then say, "Oh, these are a little expensive for us. I don't think we can get those sort of prices from our clients." And then they sell work and it takes me months to get the money from them.
John has such an eye for beautiful things. My visit to the gallery in September will be my first visit there, other than online. So looking forward to it. I feel very privileged to show my work with John at Imagine.

The wind is rattling over the house and shaking it like a ship at sea. Blue sky and fast clouds outside and I have said too much.

The red winged angel would now sell for between £2 500 and £3 000. I doubt very much that if the gentleman sold it he would offer me a share for all the hard work that I have done in honing my skills as an artist and 'building my market' and all that sales jargon nonsense, that has led to an increase in the price of his angel.
Someone once asked me if I thought my work was a good investment. I said no. They looked surprised. You should never buy a piece of art as an investment. You should buy a piece of art because you love it, because it speaks to you, because it sings to your heart and soul, because it gives you pleasure, because it intrigues, because it challenges, because it is beautiful, because you can't not buy it.
My answer would be different now. I would say, it depends what you value.

An even douzen.

Outside rainsong on windows and birdsong mix.
Inside trying to gathered scattered self and direct towards work.
It is time for listing.

1. Make list.
2. Blog, and let the cats blog too, they have been quiet for far too long. At the Imagine Gallery John is working hard on the exhibition and I am so glad to have been introduced to the wonderful work of Amanda Popham.
3. Finish romantic cherry cheetah picture.
4. Draw out balancing cheetah.
5. Work on Mnemosyne and hope that she will give guidance as the goddess of memory and mother of the nine muses.
6. Draw out front cover for Nursery Rhymes as Frankfurt book fair fast approaches and it would be good to have feedback.
7. Finish roughs for rhymes and invoice.
8. Do rough for KNTR calendar piece and start painting it ( this and Alzheimer's poster need to be finished before setting off towards Suffolk.)
9. Find time to ride Uther the Beautiful.
10. Stop time for thought with Hannah Willow's hare oracle.
11. Think about supper, go to the dentist, and remember that it is your daughter's birthday on Wednesday and that it might be nice to get her a present, walk dogs.
12. Find moments in the day that will be busy to sit quietly either in a place where the sun has thrown a pool of warmth, or wrapped in a blanket watching rain slide down glass and read a few pages of The Hummingbird's Daughter.

Is that too ambitious a list? There is no space inside the organisation of time to allow unexpected happenstance.
Outside the window the sheep in the field are smudged by rain, the sky is a bruise, the field is green, and I want more time, peace of heart and peace of mind. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A blue day

More walking was done than painting yesterday.

Harebells, delicate powder-blue, as blue as the common blue butterflies dancing over heather. 
Ravens made black winged holes in the blue sky that painted the sea blue too.

And on the path, a soft feather pile of a silenced songbird.


A tiger in a tea cup and a cheetah on some cherries.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The passing of time

Jo, with Tom and baby Hannah

I moved to St Davids almost 19 years ago, when I was in the early stages of being pregnant with Tom. In the house down the road we would always hear children laughing, behind high garden walls. When Tom was born we got to know them better. Rowanna seemed tiny, until Tom was born, Jo Jo was the middle child and Noona the oldest and they were all wonderful wild. I still remember them tumbling into the house one day through what was a large catflap in the back door.
Now time has passed. They couldn't fit through a cat flap now and yesterday I went to hear Jo, now Jocelyn, playing piano in St Davids Cathedral. There was a time when she held my Tom, cradled in her small arms. Yesterday she held a whole audience in her hands, filled the cathedral with a beautiful sound, painted images through notes, was wonderful. How amazing it is to see and hear such elegance, all grown up.

It was a while before Jocelyn and I realised that we had a connection other than living as neighbours. I think it was one time that I had asked Anne, Jo's mum, to look after and feed the cats for me when I was away. She noticed a Christmas card lying around the house, a card I had designed for The Musicians Benevolent Fund as a fund raiser. Jo had just received a grant from them to buy a new piano. In the subsequent years she received bursaries during her studies from the MBF. This is such a hard time to be a student, especialy a student of the arts where it is always a struggle to make a living. How wonderful to have such a close connection and see so clearly the benfit of the MBF.
This year's card will be available soon, I am told on 6th September, and the mugs are available now from the MBF. The artwork for the card will be on display and for sale at the Imagine Gallery from 5th September.

My house is full with flowers from the garden and paintings waiting to go to The Imagine Gallery, Long Melford, Suffolk, for exhibition. The preview is 5th September. For more details and invitations please contact John.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Taking time, seal pups and the beautiful sea.

In the post yesterday, a portfolio of Starlight Sailor produced by a company called Rising Stars. Looks amazing and if you wanted to decorate a child's nursery these would be great. For working in schools they have all kinds of projects and things that you can do. Lovely.

My sister has been staying for a few days and we took her and the family, and Ann and Mark ( sister's inlaws)  and their children, over the hill to see the seal pup. And now there are four, and the cow seals are all coming to shore and lazing in the beautiful water waiting to give birth. Soon there will be seal singing.


Later we went to Whitesands, so busy in the day but in the evening the beach clears of people. This is the best time of day. Matthew and Edwards and Jane and her brothers all went down to the sea to swim while the dads took charge of the barbeque and Max and I sat on the stones and Hannah decided I was a new kind of armchair and Tom gathered things for a fire. I love the smell of smoke in the open air and it was lovely to sit and watch the sea change colour.

As it turned to darkness the sticks of driftwood caught with flames and the children sat around the fire in the darkness.
I forget sometimes to take time to do this.