19 August 2013

beach combing with a kindred spirit

beach combing with a kindred spirit is an amazing experience. amazing but you have to learn how to share.

i've never met anyone who was as excited and inspired by as many of the same things as the friend i made last year. i ventured into her open studio to find intricate layered sculptures surrounded by wonderful collections of natural objects and beach finds. i didn't know where to look first and was so overwhelmed by it all that i had to go back again the next day.

i've always loved searching for interesting, unusual and beautiful objects on the beach. both the experience and what i discover inform and influence my work. in the past, reactions from friends have ranged from totally perplexed and a little horrified (if something was dead) to curious and enthused but still slightly hesitant by some of the things i found fascinating. i've hitch hiked laden with carrier bags of driftwood from the arctic circle in finland back to yorkshire with a boyfriend indifferent to my bleached bone white hoard. i've received two long gift wrapped pieces of driftwood for christmas from lovely friends in devon. i've wandered beaches with friends who've known my taste and handed me their finds along the way. but i've never met someone who collects and sees beauty in so many of the same wonderful and rare treasures to be found.

at first it was a bit disconcerting. you're walking along together enjoying the space, the peace, a little lost in conversation. you glance down at the sand and see a tiny pink cowrie peeking out from beneath a pebble. as my brain registers and thinks - oooh, a cowrie, a hand reaches forward and picks it up. but it's not my hand. my brain is still sending that message and it all happens a little too late. echoes of a distant childhood feeling of 'that's not fair' spring forth and with it the desire to be the first to spot the next one.

that was my first experience of wandering the strand line with crab s. if we walked together chatting then it was easy to pick up something from under the other's nose. you tend to look slightly forward at an angle as you walk and not always see exactly what's right under foot. if the other person is a few paces apart, the line of their angle can hit the ground at the your own feet. and you can literally whip away something from under the others toes and nose. i think my friend is a little bit faster than me.

to avoid this one option would be to start at separate ends of the line and meet in the middle. but that would be a bit solitary and conversation would be tricky. so without really realising it we seem to have worked out our own sideways overlapping crab crawl. i was trying to imagine what our movements would look like if they were seen from the air and plotted on a graph or diagram. i think they would look something like this:

so now when there is a neat tide line we often make this pattern along the beach. we can still chat and share our finds. like two little crabs weaving a scalloped border beside the edge of the sea.

and just wandering around the beach together must create an interesting abstract design. no neat pattern for as crabs we wander freely. and sometimes we collect crabs too. it's a lovely feeling to be in tune, to look intently together, to share and observe and enthuse about our finds and to enter the absorbing quiet place together.

collecting crab moults along the river

13 August 2013

feeling my way

last year i painted 100 birds. it was a starting point having neither drawn or painted for about 15 years. things had put me off. i've written about it before.

i've just read a lovely piece by artist sarah gallespie. i've seen her work but a friend has just introduced me to her blog. her latest entry resonated deeply within me, as did the previous ones. (you can find it here).

and it started me thinking.
i realised i'm feeling my way.

in her post 'on drawing and non-violence' sarah talks eloquently about the relationship and connection forged between herself and the dead stoat she draws and recognises her feelings of deep love.

"After six hours of drawing, reluctantly but with gratitude I buried her carefully in the compost heap and wondered the following:  If we spent more time looking at things - and by more time I really mean sitting for hours, and by looking I really mean gazing -  and less time channel-hopping our way through life, would we be less violent, unhappy beings? Buddhist monks in India traditionally spend weeks sitting in the charnel grounds, contemplating the dead.  Can we continue to fear, or hate, or even feel indifferent to something when we've looked at it properly?"

in a previous post she mentions taking a break from painting and falling back on that common piece of art school wisdom to "draw, draw, draw". it's interesting because having been someone who drew, drew, drew (from life) i'm actually trying to distance myself from that now. i'm finding it much more exhilarating and freeing to draw from my emotions, to draw from my memory, to feel my way. i find it incredibly challenging, to discard the object, the safety of the immediate point of reference and head blindly into the unknown. and by this, i mean that i don't even want to have a plan of what i'm going to paint - i want to let it happen. instinctively. intuitively.

i'm familiar with that relationship of looking intently, of gazing, of slowing down. i love that feeling of knowing, of building up the relationship. but personally at the moment i feel a strong desire to gently nuzzle it out of the way all together, to search for something deeper within myself. to gaze, to absorb, to touch, to examine, to observe, to photograph (as another way of seeing) and to take that feeling, that which can't be defined by language and paint spontaneously from it. to paint from the heart and the soul. filtered dreams and polished memories. to let go of that hand/eye/brain connection - embrace sentience and let go of mental perception.

i'm interested in emotional intellligence. feelings and emotions connect. they are associative. i feel that in drawing your way around an object or thing you will in some way or form, end up with that thing. drawing from emotions can take you anywhere. i mean that in both senses of the word - sketching from emotions as well as drawing on emotions. i like the idea of tapping into the less conscious part of the psyche to discover what is buried, as yet unknown. the starting point may end in something completely different and take you on a journey in the process. blank canvas. tapping into the stillness, the inborn centre, the deepest root of self.

i paint with the earth to unearth a deeper truth. i paint and draw from my heart and soul.

for me the greatest barrier is anxiety and the greatest aid is music. anxiety disconnects. i once read that when someone expresses that they are 'besides themselves with worry', they really are. one is no longer grounded in one's centre but is literally outside or beside oneself. part of this is a healthy flight or fight response when there is a real danger but many people exist in a mild and continuous state of this arousal. i feel this sometimes in myself and recognise it strongly in others.

i find that music connects me to the calm, still place inside myself. not all music but music written and sung from the heart. recently i went to see sigur ros play at the eden project. it was one of the most deeply emotional experiences i've had in a long time. jonsi's voice was from another world and the emotional intensity of his performance was spine-tinglingly captivating. i had an experince where i actually felt as if roots were growing through my feet and anchoring me to the earth below. i felt i was taken to the deep place i go to when i paint from my self.

and sometimes snippets of songs i'm listening to might weave their way into a painting. one line that comes to me time and time again is repeated in kathryn williams haunting song 'until the dark'  - "think with your heart".

you can hear the grass grow
and feel what the birds think
but you won't drink
what they give to you.....

 .....you think with your heart

12 August 2013

masked crab

masked crab

nestled in a tiny crab-sized crevice
tucked beneath the turbidite rock
lurking under a blanket of tangled kelp
scuttling cautiously or
cowering shadow still
camouflaged by kindness

your shell a mask
no emotion betrayed
tight breath drawn through
hollow antennae

keep your hidden heart buried urchin-safe
beneath the sunlit sand

06 August 2013


magpie moths spread their wings in the patchy sunlight
velvety with seams of river gold caught between dark boulders
too delicate to touch
too still to fly

05 August 2013

penryn arts festival

penryn has just had its first ever arts festival courtesy of lidl (and other generous funders). i'm not quite convinced by the logic behind it but apparently when lidl was built 6 years ago there was an agreement that they paid £10,000 towards an arts festival for the town. i'm unsure if this was in some way supposed to compensate for the impact of another supermarket on penryn's already dwindling small independent food retailers and..... why an arts festival, or who decides these things...... but...... it was really wonderful and the community feeling was inspiring.  

during the week my friend minko took up residence in her cardboard shed in my studio with her maracas, xylophone and boyfriend for her project 'one song wonder'. from inside her little world she played beautiful pared away songs to an audience of one or two people. 

"the project was inspired by the intimate spaces where she rehearses with other musicians - sheds, garages and bedrooms and aims to offer a completely different experience to that of being a member of a crowd or even a faceless listener on the internet".

and on the saturday night she played a candle lit gig to launch her second ep, 'creature' (which you can find here ).this was partly inspired by my current lack of electricity in the building but also the feeling that walls of candles would create a magical atmosphere. so i set to work bending spoons (more brute force than uri geller panache) to quickly russell up forty candle holders. fortunately soup spoons seem to be out of fashion these days so i managed to find thirty in the salvation army shop alone.... and got a discount for buying so many! i mentioned to the old lady that they were just what i was looking for. she said 'you look like an arty type' and i replied that i wasn't intending to have thirty people round for soup. with a self-assured, knowing twinkle in her eye she said, 'i knew you were going to make something'. but time was running out so i had to dash without letting her in on the plan. 

spoons bent and candles secured the evening got off to a flickering start. minko pinned yellow flowers to the walls and as audience members filled the room a warm glow radiated out into the street. i hadn't anticipated that the combined heat of people and candles would make for a very warm room. maybe a source of heating for the winter? we pondered which gave off more heat - a candle or a person? as night fell shadows became stronger, the music ever fuller and i felt like we'd created a world apart. people wandering home looked in, two drunks sheltered in the doorway from a brief shower. from outside i saw my space radiant with light and life - a quiet but fiery haven.