15 December 2012

collecting words at gylly

lately i've been doing a lot of sewing and as much as i love my trusty singer we'd been spending too much time together and were beginning to get on each other's nerves. i had to escape, if only briefly. i headed down to gylly for a much needed break and a very blustery walk in the wind.

a little fragment of burnt paper blew into my legs and then away again. i chased it and managed to pin it down. it turned out to be a piece of a dictionary. and as i walked along the beach i found more.... and more..... a little bit like a treasure hunt. i became absorbed in collecting these 'e' and 'f' words and wondered where the snippets of text might lead me. i still don't know but curiously on every piece (except one) was some mention of ships or the sea.

the words that i found on the beach:

haddock n. smoke cured
like or having fins
narrow arm between cliffs
firkin n. small cask
or ship
small island in river
for protection out of ship(s)
-boat, seaplane with
of two kinds of fish
for warning ships in fog
forestay n. stay from foremast
to ship's stem
of barnacle
and aft sails
cabin, ship
whale's tail
in flow of tide
flood water
flotilla n. small fleet 
flotsam n. floating
flipper n, limb used to
covered by tides or shallow
turbot, plaice etc
or boats under sail
admiral or vice-admiral
business of fishing
of or like fish
of siamese fish
fish, kind
and fishing
take or go in boat
over river, lake etc
or across ocean or continent
fender n. a thing used to keep
hung over vessel's side

06 December 2012

songs from the shadows

a little while ago a friend lent me a copy of julie murphy's album 'a quiet house'. after listening to it once  i was completely spellbound and began to play it every day. when i love a piece of music i often listen to it on repeat and become absorbed by it, lost in it. and this album touches something deep inside me.

it wasn't until i'd heard it a few times that it dawned on me that the words of one song 'convoy' are the haunting words of charles causley- an all too often unsung poet, but one of my cornish heroes. he was a very special and inspiring man and whenever i think of him i'm always amused by his humble response to being honoured as a 'companion of literature' at the age of 83. he replied, "my goodness, what an encouragement"! a couple of months ago in celebration of national poetry day causley's poem, 'i am the song' graced the famous piccadilly lights hoarding in the west end- a tiny fleeting gem of human truth sailing in a vast ocean of commercial advertising. and what a great tribute to the man who regarded all poetry to be magic and a "spell against insensitivity, failure of imagination, ignorance and barbarism".          

i am the song

i am the song that sings the bird.
i am the leaf that grows the land.
i am the tide that moves the moon.
i am the stream that halts the sand.
i am the cloud that drives the storm.
i am the earth that lights the sun.
i am the fire that strikes the stone.
i am the clay that shapes the hand.
i am the word that speaks the man.

also influenced by causley is the talented anna maria murphy, one of my favourite contemporary cornish poets and playwright for kneehigh theatre. for my birthday i went to see 'the kneehigh rambles' at the tremough performance centre just up the road from me. anna maria has been walking the length and breadth of cornwall collecting stories which are wildly exaggerated and performed as a series of sketches with kneehigh actors, wonderful puppets and a duo of enormous dancing crabs! it was both touching and hilarious with moments where i was actually in pain from laughing so much. and there was a little bit of causley thrown in for good measure. i love it when different things i like link together, in this case, two murphys!

my friend told me that julie's recent gig in st ives had been beautiful and said that she'd probably come back to cornwall next year. but i was dying to see her live and like a small child who's just had a birthday, a whole year just seemed like too long to wait! so i was very excited when i heard about a last minute performance in a church in hampstead and when i realised it was on 'megabus wednesday' i just had to go. (i recently discovered you can travel anywhere on the megabus on a wednesday for £5 which is less than the price of a bus to redruth! and if you leave from plymouth at an ungodly 1am you can be in london by 7am, albeit with much loss of sleep but not much loss of money- it's a bit like the poor man's sleeper train!)

so i took some sewing work to keep me out of mischief and caught the last train to plymouth. a man sitting nearby became curious, came and sat opposite me and watched intently at my repetitive tasks of folding, snipping and attaching fastenings to 144 small pieces of lining fabric. at first it was a little disconcerting and communication was tricky as he spoke very few words of english. after much perseverance he managed to tell me that he was a tailor and seemed keen to help. so i got a little production line going where he turned the pieces right side down and handed them to me in pairs. i must say it didn't really speed up the job but time passed more quickly. and it amused the train conductor who joked about it being 'craft night' onboard.

however, once on the megabus 'craft night' turned into one of very little sleep (through being constantly woken up as opposed to all-night craft activity!) and feeling more than slightly dazed i arrived into the world of dazzling lights that is london before christmas. and to add even more bum-numbing hours to the journey, i'd made a last minute decision the day before to go and see the 'ghost's of gone birds' exhibition in brighton. so.... another bus and a steady trundel through a very snowy winter landscape.

once in brighton i met up with a friend of a friend who i'd recognised on the facebook gig invite. i didn't  know her but it turns out that she plays in a band called fernhill with julie and had lived in falmouth briefly. we had a look around the exhibition before retreating to one of brighton's many lovely coffee shops.

i came across 'ghosts of gone birds' at port eliot festival a couple of years ago and was instantly inspired by the concept. the ongoing art project is dedicated to breathing life back into the birds we have lost and raising awareness and money so we don’t lose anymore.  after shows in london, liverpool and now brighton, the project has amassed "a creative army for conservation of over 180 artists, writers and musicians". the donations and a percentage of the profits from the sale of the original art and prints will go directly to help frontline conservation projects fighting to save the lives of endangered birds around the world.

and apart from the idea, i just love the exhibition visually and the way it links the work of musicians and artists of all media at varying stages of their career and experience to create a rich and diverse room full of birds. amazing!

ghosts of gone birds- advent bird boxes

the brighton show is in a small gallery opposite a big church. there is a variety of painting, printmaking, sculpture, textiles and installation. i was also surprised to recognise stunning work by a couple of falmouth artists. a back door leads out to a small courtyard where a large piece has been painted graffiti-style on the exterior wall. easily overlooked is an old and interesting looking out building where a large flock of tiny white birds have escaped their cages and dissolve quietly back into the shadows. very beautiful.

red- moustached fruit dove by emily sutton

a box containing a clear ghost of a seabird
drypoint etching of a laughing owl by beatrice forshall
a flock of white birds disappear into the shadows -  'where have all the sparrows gone?' by maxine greer (since writing this post i've learnt that this is an old crypt which is why it looked unusual for an out building)
and then back again to london. i made a quick visit to 'the cloth house' and my senses were bombarded by the busy streets adorned with huge flashing festive marmite jars suspended overhead. tiredness started to kick in. i became mesmerized by the enormity of it all and swallowed up by the vast camera-wielding crowds. every so often i had to snap myself out of this slightly overwhelming light-gazing commercial christmas world to cross roads. it occurred to me that it might be a good chance to do some christmas shopping but a part of me was strongly resistant. a small box of birch bark stars was where that idea began and ended.

soon it was time to track down the church in hampstead. away from the hustle and bustle of central london it was quite moving to come upon a little table on the pavement lit by candles, a piece of paper reassuring me that julie murphy was playing here tonight and that i'd found my final destination.

once inside, the church was very quiet. it was bare and dark and candle lit. a scattering of seated figures broke the horizontals of the wooden pews and things were about to begin at any minute. i'm not used to gigs actually starting on time so was instantly relieved i hadn't arrived any later. my journey from cornwall was appreciated, which was lovely, and although i knew i was very far from home i felt i was in a small village. travelling overnight was disorientating and the last night and day had been a collection of contrasting scenes; the quiet starry sky above the falmouth train platform, drunken revellers leaving union street clubs in late night plymouth, the glitzy tinsel town of knightsbridge shops before dawn, snow-halted traffic and a fox prowling through the white woods somewhere near gatwick, the watery sun breaking through the cold air over brighton beach, an exhibition of art and conservation followed by coffee in bohemian brighton lanes, the flashing marmite jars and bustling shoppers of oxford street and finally the shadowy flickering arches of a church that could be anywhere in any time. it took me a while to take it all in. that these songs i'd been listening to at home were actually happening here, live in front of me by the actual person who wrote and sung them, the candle lit reflections glowing gold in the real trombone before me, the shadows gently shifting with the music.

there was a feeling of entrancement, of being spellbound, of people united and captivated by the music and atmosphere. the man at the end of my pew edged nearer and whispered that it was a very special evening for him as he had met his wife at a fernhill gig. this seemed very romantic and without thinking i immediately asked why she hadn't come too. he replied with a tone of apology that wednesday was her bingo night and that he was the real 'folkie'. red candles lit the alcoves near me. one of the candles dripped down the wall at first slowly, and then with building momentum until a small red river cascaded down the radiator. this echoed a feeling of letting go. the combination of julie's voice and piano with ceri's trombone and harp were breathtaking and hauntingly beautiful; sometimes sad and poignant, contemplative, emotional and soulful. there was a sense of stillness, of time stopping as people seemed to be carried by the music to deep interior places. the heartfelt singing seeped into my soul and i was so happy to have been a part of it. so a big thank you to such warm and welcoming musicians.

julie murphy and ceri owen jones in the heath street baptist church, hampstead

and back down having sung unaccompanied from the pulpit (which i didn't dare photograph for fear of breaking the moment)
it's late and i'm writing this on the bus (on paper which i'll type up tomorrow). my light is the only one lit. i'm surrounded by the deep breathing of sleeping people, the rhythmic vibrating of the road and the eek eeking of my window which only stops when i hold it (it is after all the shonkyness of a megabus and what you'd expect from a £5 journey). songs from the evening echo through my mind as i retrace my journey through the night. my writing becomes too wobbly to read. and soon it's time to turn this last light out.

30 November 2012

the alchemy of paint

cecil collin's pigments and an artistic spillage
i remember long ago when i was studying for my gcse's my art teacher saying to me, "when you do your fine art degree you'll get shown how to make paints just like i did.....and you'll love it!" the fine art degree came and went..... more quickly than i was expecting. i left after the first year through utter disillusionment. and we didn't get shown how to make anything.

so you can imagine just how excited i was to stumble upon what i thought could be the course of my dreams a few months ago. i was doing some online research for my exhibition and i came across a course called 'the alchemy of paint; the transformation of earth, rocks, roots and berries into pigments'. and what was equally exciting was that the tutor, dr david cranswick, had been a studio apprentice to cecil collins. i've always loved cecil collins, more for his writing and ideas about art than his painting, and along with many of my favourite artists i managed to weave some of his words of wisdom into my dissertation.

the course is run through the prince's school of traditional arts in london and they have an ethos which i immediately identified with but feel is lacking in higher education art establishments today:

"Although theoretical programmes exist at postgraduate level at many western universities, there are few, if any colleges, apart from The Prince’s School, where the practical skills of the traditional arts are taught at this level. The School holds that the practice of the traditional arts is a contemplative process based upon universal spiritual truths. Art is seen as an integral part of everyday life and not a luxury; neither is it a subjective psychological experiment, nor a whimsical exercise in nostalgia.   

The School’s programmes aim to encourage an awareness amongst students that form, pattern and colour as manifested in the various branches of the traditional arts, are not simply pleasing to the senses, or demonstrations of good design, but are created to embody beauty — the beauty of the permanent that shines through into the world of the transient.  The distinction made today between ‘Fine Art’ and ‘Craft’ is entirely modern.  In a traditional society painting, pottery, carpentry, agriculture and music were all expressions of art or making and the artist’s practical activity was integrated, not only into the wider community but also into a more profound order".

upon reading this my deposit was promptly paid and all i had to do was to wait patiently for november.

my greatest surprise was to discover that the course was to be held in david's own studio within a large block of artists studios built under and next to a huge flyover. gone were my romantic dreams of grinding pigments in an old victorian building. that said, the studio was round the back and had a little outdoor area with a table of bonsai trees. once inside there was restful world music playing, coffee brewing and incense burning, along with lots of wonderful books and david's paintings. and it was exciting to be in the intimate setting of an artist's personal studio rather than the neutral classroom environment i was expecting.

and from this point an absolutely fascinating week proceeded where we discovered the miraculous processes by which our raw materials were ground, washed, purified, heated, precipitated and transformed into beautiful pure pigments. we chatted and got to know one another through this fusion of chemistry, cookery, alchemy and magic.


grinding azurite, malachite and chrysocolla in a brass pestle and mortar

raw azurite

washing azurite - a lengthy process that took all week to complete

grinding, grinding and more grinding!

and finally a pure azurite pigment

grinding malachite in brass mortar

grinding persian berries in water and potash

adding alum solution to the strained dye and watching the bubbling reaction

the bubbles continue to grow

madder root

straining the madder root and collecting the dye

extracting the last drops of dye

adding potash solution to finely ground brazil wood

madder root, persian berries, brazil wood and cochineal precipitating with alum to form a pigment from the dye

cochineal hand

gum arabic ready to be ground

yellow ochre ground in gum arabic

minium (red lead) with egg tempera

oak gall ink which darkens on exposure to light

14 November 2012

you can't press flowers with a kindle....

i'm sitting here on the train to london with my pile of old books. the lady sitting next to me is reading on a kindle. i barely know what one is and i'm immediately repelled by this grey plastic box with a grey plastic screen housing darker grey words. anyone who knows me will be aware that i'm a big fan of grey- dove grey, slate grey, warm greys, cool greys, the pale greys of dusk, the rich charcoal greys of night and the watery light greys of the break of day. books are amazing. the colours, the feel, the weight, the texture, the smell, the craftmanship, the intrigue, the unexpected....... all this is lost with a plastic box.

a book has a history- the many thumb prints of many hands over many years. creases and tatters, scribblings and smears- a barely visible watermark of tears. open an old book and drink in the scent- often musty or smoky, mouldy and damp. open a new book and breathe in the smell- the smell of the press, the smell of the ink, of the paper, of the factory. feel the texture of the boards- the battered covers, the fluffy worn corners, the brittle skin of the elderly dust jacket. or feel the smooth, crisp, perfect cover and that first crease in the spine made by your hand as you explore from jacket through to skeleton, deeper into the body and finally through to the heart.

paper is beautiful- delicate and translucent like vellum, light and fragile like a butterfly's wing or coarse and elephant-wrinkled like a gunnera leaf in late autumn. words are woven in the type faces of the time- a thread leading back to another decade, another era. the nostalgia of childhood, the nostalgia of a grandmother's childhood or something even older. colours and design place a book in time- quaint and dated, antique and revered, fun and quirky, contemporary and cutting edge. there are scribblings, dedications, names, dates and affection- the celebration of birthdays, christmases and etched reminders of events in lives long gone. books as prizes, books hard saved for and books as surprises.

and finally, the unexpected. the little treasures trapped between the pages- the long lost bookmarks, the letters of love, the notes, the lists, the scraps of card, the pressed flowers. fragments of a life. books to read in baths, books that have travelled the world, books that have lined the libraries of the soul. books piled high, balanced precariously, a temporary stair for an extra arm's reach. books for pressing, supporting, displaying, insulating, warming. books for burning, altering, lending, shredding and sharing.

why would i want a kindle?

13 November 2012


every time i go to 'steckfensters' i have a bizzare and amusing experience. not surprising really as this wonderful shop full of antiques and curiosities in penzance is bound to attract the eccentric and curious. taxidermy creatures abound, a darlek, an array of vintage bicycles and weird and wonderful objects are crammed into this unique shop.

i totally failed to buy a mackerel box i fell in love with (i wrote a post about it back in june). at that time i was told it was £40. by the end of the summer it has gone up to £60. the next week i was told it wasn't for sale and the following week i was told that it had been sold. so when i spied a rather beautiful old 'falmouth and district laundry' box my instinct was to avoid asking the price as i thought it could be complicated.

during my last visit i was looking at some old books. out of the corner of my eye i noticed an elderly man lurking next to me. i glanced over at him, he smiled and said, "i bet this shop is right up your street isn't it". it wasn't long after my exhibition when i'd spent a week chatting to a huge number of people and the following saturday about three people i didn't know smiled and said hello to me in sainsburys. i thought to myself, i wonder if this is the beginning of the dizzying heights of local fame! i wondered if i knew this man, if maybe he'd come to my exhibition as he acted as if he knew me. i resumed the conversation to try and discover more and we chatted about all the amazing things in the shop. he followed me around as i examined various objects and when i left my details regarding the mackerel box, he leant over and looked at my name. the lady in the shop had just phoned her husband who had said the box was no longer for sale. disappointing. the old man piped up "well, go for it jo- give him a higher offer. if you really want it, it's worth it". i explained that it wasn't for sale and was slightly alarmed that he was now using my name. "so jo, " he kept saying and managed to turn the conversation to his tango lessons. it was becoming quite amusing and i could see where it was heading so i let him continue. "so jo, do you dance?" - "no," i said, "absolutely not". and he looked a bit disappointed and as i left he said, "bye jo, bye". 

when i went in yesterday i was lucky enough to overhear another conversation that made me smile. another elderly man but this time quite posh came striding in. "i see you have nearly what i want but it's not quite right". the owner of the shop: "oh what's that then?" posh man waving his hand towards a vintage mannequin speaks in a commanding manner: "i'm looking for a girl, a nice looking girl, for the back of my (i forget what he calls it but it sounds like a flash open top vintage car). he explains about it having a special fold out back seat which he sadly never gets to use but if he had a "girl" it'd be a different matter. "yar, must be sitting, must be, you know, nice looking". shop owner: "well, it's very rare to find one sitting. does it need to have legs?" posh man: "oh yes! she must have legs!" and he turns to leave. "well keep an eye out for me" and he strides out. i burst out laughing.

i return to the laundry box. the shop owner comes over and i explain that i was the one who tried to buy the mackerel box. "oh, that was a tricky one" he says. "you see i was offered £150 for that. it went to a museum". i think, that's very strange, as when i last came in his wife said to me, "your box. it's gone. he sold it to a girl for £65 just a couple of days after you were here". so i tell him that that's not what his wife had said. and he quickly replies, "well, that was just a cover story". there's definitely something a bit fishy going on! he asks me if i live in falmouth and i tell him i do. "well, this is the box for you then! the other one was from newlyn". i admire his sales tactic, i go along with it and although i much preferred the mackerel box i come away with a rather beautiful laundry box for £20.

11 October 2012

over the moors to morvah

this morning i set off from penzance to visit the yew tree gallery at morvah on my bike. i stocked up with supplies from archie browns and had a fascinating conversation with a retired farmer who was having a cup of tea in the cafe. he told me all about the ochres he'd discovered whilst ploughing his fields, an ochre pit he'd unearthed at godolphin (one to go and search for) and the process used to protect sails with ochre. he was very knowledgeable about all things ochre and it would have been great to have chatted for longer but the moors were calling.

after some cunning short cuts through housing estates and alleys recommended by locals, ("how could i not stop to give a girl in the rain directions"- but it was obvious he really didn't want to!) i found myself on the road to madron. it was a bit of an uphill climb but i gradually left any traces of humanity behind me and headed into the strong wind and heavy mizzle of the moors. i suspected that behind the blanket of mist there were probably stunning panoramic views but i didn't see them. i concentrated on making myself visible to any passing cars, although there were very few. i knew i wasn't far from either coast but i had the feeling of being somewhere very remote.

after a long steady incline i came to flat stretches but cycling straight into the wind made it feel as if i was still going uphill and then finally a downhill slope but that felt as if i was on the flat. the bushes told of the strong prevailing wind- their wirey branches set uniformly at a near horizontal angle. visibility became a little better as i neared morvah but as i squinted into the rain i was still unable tell if the blank nothingness i was staring at was sky or sea.

it was a relief to be shielded from the wind as i had a look around the schoolhouse gallery. a few years ago i'd bought a friend a chough spotting book- a little handmade notebook where you can record all your chough sightings and i was hoping they'd have some more. but they'd sold out so i'm now looking for a chough spotting book as well as actually seeing some choughs! there was a knitting exhibition upstairs and some pretty spotted feathers.

and then on to the lovely yew tree gallery. it's one of my favourite galleries and has been created from converted barns and has a lovely potager garden. i was met by the owner gilly who supplied me with fresh coffee and homemade scones in her beautiful kitchen. i was very impressed with her multi- tasking- chatting to me whilst cooking her friend lunch whilst waiting on her b and b guests whilst rushing backwards and forwards to the gallery to greet visitors! i ate my scone whilst chatting to her interesting artist friend who was immersed in painting live lobsters in his van outside. the same lobsters were to be on the menu later that evening!

by the time i left the mist had dissolved and there was a completely different landscape. with the wind behind me i made swift progress and passed all sorts of interesting looking places, standing stones and cairns. earlier i'd noticed on the os map that 'break my neck farm' wasn't far off my route but instead i went to have a look at lanyon quoit where i chatted to some german tourists. they asked me if i was a tourist too. i said i was a tourist from falmouth which wasn't very far away. they were travelling around in their camper van and had a guide book in german with the history of the ancient stones. the man was telling me about a site they'd just been to nearby:- "there is one other 2km this way" (pointing back the way i'd just come) "it is circle. you go in it and it give you many many babies!"

21 September 2012

copper colours

a quick lunch time rummage through a table of coins at a carboot sale. the man selling them (obviously a coin collector) was a little bewildered at my choice. "you've gone for all the mouldy ones! had i known i would 'ave brought a whole box of mouldy ones. got one at home....... was gonna chuck 'em out. my wife likes the shiny ones". and she nods in agreement by his side.

18 September 2012

photographing my work

i've told many many people that photos of the 100 birds would be appearing on my blog. that's still my intention.... and although i've been very busy it's not because i've been lying on the beach soaking in the autumn rays (though that is very tempting)....... it's more that the photos are terrible and don't do the work justice and i can't quite bring myself to put them up. i've tried a bit of tweaking on photoshop- just to try and bring them back to as close to the original as possible. it sort of works but i do like them to be on a white background and just to do that to the one above took well over an hour. as the colours and textures are very subtle i think they are probably tricky to photograph accurately. i will take some of the ones yet to fly the nest to a professional photographer, compare my attempts and give you an update. i've always been happy with my own photographs and like to do things myself but spending hours fiddling around with photoshop feels like a massive waste of time.... especially when i could be on the beach!

11 September 2012

art action: living with ptsd

i'm jumping around a bit in time here as i'm trying to catch up with thoughts and posts i really wanted to write during the exhibition but didn't have time to start, let alone finish. but new and exciting things are happening daily and so this is an immediate response to a private view i've just been to a few hours ago.

on august 30th (a few posts ago) i wrote about meeting and chatting to a young soldier due back in afghanistan. tonight i went to the opening of 'art action: living with ptsd' at the poly, falmouth. it's an exhibition of artwork by combat veterans who are experiencing post traumatic stress disorder and there's also work by their wives and friends.

what was great about this private view was that there were brief talks by jayne howard, the director of 'arts for health cornwall', rich emerson from 'surf action' and one of the founding artists, steve woods who manages their art studio at heartlands. these two charities have worked together to facilitate this exhibition and it was really interesting to hear a little of the background story. the aim is to raise awareness of ptsd and to highlight the work of 'surf action' in supporting people with this condition.

it was inspiring to hear how the art group gradually evolved from getting veterans together to go surfing. steve woods also explained that images within the pieces had not been painted in order to shock but to help the sufferer expel them from their mind. 

i couldn't help thinking about the young soldier i met on the train...... and what his fate will be.

'escape' by ian wilkes, combat veteran- concrete and slate
and a poem by "a wife of a soldier with ptsd".

I Have Never Been to War........

I have never been to war

I have never held a gun
But I feel the repercussions

I have never smelt the burning 
But I can see the fear

I have never heard machine gun fire
But I can see the shake it causes

I have never been to war.

I have never fought for my country
But I can see the scars it leaves

I have never been a soldier
But I hear the marching of his dreams

I have never been on a battlefield
But I feel like I am on enemy lines

I have never been to war
But I live through it every day.

10 September 2012

the funkin' art radio show

the weekend before my exhibition i was invited to be interviewed on source fm's 'the funkin' art radio show'. every saturday sarah-jane marsden has a chat with a local artist about their life, work and favourite things. there's a round up of the week's art events and exhibitions in cornwall and roving reporter, lizzie waddling is out interviewing from a mystery location! all in all it's a great show.

i was very nervous and never having been on radio before i wasn't sure if i'd go all quiet and monosyllabic or be quite chatty. fortunately it turned out to be the latter.... and the show actually over ran by half an hour. but this was ok as the following programme was pre-recorded music so luckily it didn't mess up the schedule for the day.....phew!

having found the portacabin that houses source fm tucked away outside the local adult education centre i ventured inside and made a cup of tea. the recording room with it's egg box style decor is home to an alarming array of buttons and switches. it was a huge relief to find that i didn't have to wear any of the big head phones or be wired up to any switch boards! 

sarah-jane is a great interviewer which made things easy from the outset. very soon i relaxed into it and there was no stopping me. i'd been asked to choose two tracks (exciting- a bit like desert island discs....) and i think i was really concerned about trying to provide enough background information to put these music choices into context. so much so that i nearly forgot to mention my exhibition dates!

i admitted to liking to sniff my old singer sewing machine live on air!! (my favourite smell). and whilst trying to describe my porcupine quill (my favourite object) i amused myself by holding it up to the microphone to 'show' it to the listeners! 

it was a really fun experience- next stop tv. well, i am going to the antiques roadshow in falmouth this week so you never know......

you can follow this link and listen to the show HERE

09 September 2012

the poly members show

going back in time to mid july i was busy painting away in my studio. all members of 'the royal cornwall polytechnic society' (locally referred to as 'the poly') were invited to exhibit up to four pieces in the annual members show. i'd painted my first twenty or so pictures which i really wasn't happy with. i had started '100 birds' intending to work my way through 100 different species of sea and coastal birds spotted and recorded in cornwall since the 1950s. i painted 19 different species of gull! here they are for the record......

1- sabine's gull, 2- kittiwake, 3- bonaparte's gull, 4- black-headed gull, 5- little gull, 6- laughing gull, 7- franklin's gull, 8- mediterranean gull, 9- audouin's gull, 10- common gull, 11- ring-billed gull, 12- lesser black backed gull, 13- herring gull, 14- yellow-legged gull, 15- caspian gull, 16- american herring gull, 17- iceland gull, 18- glaucous gull, 19- great black-backed gull.

that's a lot of gulls! although i thought my paintings were terrible i definitely learnt a lot about gulls. i also looked up their eggs and included those in the pieces. i moved on to an oyster catcher and a chough. i'm not really sure if you can count the chough as a seabird but it seemed crazy not to include the national symbol of cornwall in the 100.

it's strange how things turn out. i would never really have considered painting a chough as pictures of them are found frequently down here and i think i felt that it would be a bit obvious, something for tourists, not quite as bad as pasties and piskies but edging towards that terrain. they are however stunning birds and in painting the chough i made a bit of a break through.

i really didn't consciously think of the title '100 birds' or know how the exhibition would evolve. every time i thought about what to do i came up with many ideas which all seemed ok. every time i went out walking, not thinking about the exhibition at all, the phrase '100 birds' kept repeatedly coming into my mind. i have no idea where it came from but each time it grew louder and louder until finally i listened, and adopted it as my title. my instinct was just to start painting birds and see where it went. but i guess i thought about it a little too much and came up with the idea of the 100 different cornish seabirds. that seemed like a good idea and so i set about my research. however, things weren't going well and i couldn't tell if it was because i hadn't painted properly for about 15 years or something else. i persevered and moved on to the chough. finally things started falling into place. the poly show came round and the only piece i felt happy with showing was the chough . i hastily dropped it off and walking past the building the following evening i was both surprised and happy to see it in the window. almost immediately i was getting inquiries from people wanting to buy it. this was encouraging. after much thought i realised what had happened differently with this painting. i had a strong image of a chough in my mind so didn't have to refer to photographs as with the previous gulls. this gave the painting a spontaneity, an immediacy and it was all coming through me, from me. i felt a huge sense of relief as i scrapped all the lists, all the photos and all the research and returned to my original instinct to paint birds- any birds, just birds.

08 September 2012

a personal pasty!

well, the good news is that i finally seem to be able to upload photos again. we've not done anything to the internet, it has just started to mysteriously work again of its own accord - probably because i am not so desperate for it now (a bit like a cat- i find when i really want one to come and sit on my knee they won't stay yet when i'm trying to work they become all purry and affectionate and try to rub themselves on the pencil i'm trying to draw with!).

it's a bit daunting trying to decide where to begin with writing about the exhibition- there's so much to say. so i thought i'd start with something totally irrelevant and procrastinate a little longer!

on friday i was helping some friends with some painting and decorating. about mid morning they asked me if i'd like to put my pasty order in. so i went a long with it and said i'd go for a vegetarian one. at lunch time cousin glyn turned up with a baking tray fresh from the oven with an array of steaming pasties. i've met glyn before- a mechanic in his sixties, also a gardener.... and as i'd just discovered, a very accomplished pasty maker too! and what's more, all the pasties had our initials on them!