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.


  1. I'm familiar with this set of prints and I kinda wondered at first where you were going with this, lol. Its beautiful and think this is a wonderful event you are having,, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder and its different to each of us.It should be wonderful to see all the entries,

  2. Sounds like a great idea, I can't wait to see the results. I will email a link later.

  3. This illustration is still in process but at this stage it's the most beautiful thing I have ever done-
    it's for Old Man Crow's song "Entropy"-
    this feather aka the arrow of time is my favourite bit-
    The text needs to dance across the page like Fred Astaire

  4. Lovely idea.
    At last our local Waterstones is stocking your books, found 3 from my Christmas wish list.

  5. The crow is just exquisite, what marvellous company to be in.

  6. Which Waterstone's is that, Charlotte? Different branches of Waterstones keep sendingme facebook requests, but so few stock my books.

  7. Laurie, could you almost hear my idle thoughts as I flicked through the book? " Ah, what a wonderful idea (thinking how elegant Japan is and how wise to have a district called The Pleasure district). And how lovely that she has brought her beautiful small cow on a bed of cushions to the competition. How lovely in this world of dark days to have a competition of beauty." Then realising that it was a different kind of 'Pleasure Districy' to the innocent one in my head! Made me laugh too, but I still thought it too good an idea to pass by.

  8. I agree completely,,

  9. Sorry for the late reply, it's our local in Bridlesmithgate, Nottingham.

    They currently have the Nursery Rhymes, Ice Bear and Tell me a Dragon. Sadly only one copy of each, but I think that unless the publishers buy the shelf space these days you are lucky to get one copy.

    Still holding out wish list to family for Christmas, only ever want books and paints. Can live without most other things.

  10. Sounds like my kind of wish list, although I would add music to it also.

  11. Hi Jackie, Sunday was the first really cold day. Frost had in the night decided to decorate the plants around our house. Enjoy!

  12. Dear Jackie, I found your work via Lisa Igo and at the risk of sounding cheesy ( and desperate to win!), your work is the most beautiful thing I've seen lately.Yesterday however I saw the Mervyn Peake exhibition in Newcastle which made me a bit emotional, very beautiful use of line
    and yes, the bears on Frozen Planet...oh and the leaves on the wooden bridge and the sloe tree with grey lichen... so much beauty all around. x

  13. Wonderful to celebrate beauty and have a contest!

  14. T find the song and illustration to the recent Twinnings Tea advert (Where ever you will go by Charlene Soraia)the most beautiful to watch and listen to.

  15. Mervyn Peake. What a genius. I do love the way this contest turns people's focus towards things beautiful.

  16. I watched the video "murmuration of starlings" several times now and sure will do so again; I experienced something like it though not as big as this several times in my life and it still sends shivers down my spine! Congratulations on having been so lucky to be in the middle of this beautiful event! This video speeds up my heartbeat... Thanks for sharing!

  17. Hi Jackie, this is a lovely idea...
    I have put up a tentative blog post with a piece of music called Caislean Oir which makes the hairs rise on the back of my neck when I hear it! Perhaps you already know it... if you don't I hope you like it too :)
    Its just over here:

  18. Oh dear, I have just spent most of the morning contemplating beauty –not a waste of time at all, but not good news for my deadlines! And I don't think I can compete with Catherine Hyde's work, or the murmuration of starlings – that is absolutely breathtaking. But for me, beauty lies in the eyes of my daughters when they look back at me with love.

  19. Well, I managed to record a (very dodgy!) version of 'Beauty Remembers', so I've posted everything in the one post; painting, song, and link to the poem. So here's the link to my (semi) completed entry into the Contest of Beauty!