Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Space Between

The Speed of Colour
oil on board, 3ft x 2ft

I'm in that weird space between the body of work having been finished and the exhibition date. Last Monday evening I crashed and burned. I was exhausted. I can't find the words to tell you how bone tired, ass-dragging knackered I felt. My brain ground to a complete halt. It got to the point where I could only sit on the sofa and drool. Last week, I rested. I'm still not at 75%, but I've got enough juice in the tank to start encouraging my ducks to line up. This week, I don't have high expectations for myself and I'm okay with that. That's what next week is for (fingers crossed).

My To Do List, pre-exhibition spans two pages and is frankly scaring me to death. Almost as much as the exhibition itself, and that's saying something. Rather than lie on the floor quaking (as I really would like to do), I've broken down all of the tasks into chunks and I'm going to trust that everything will get done and to a good enough standard. Yes, I would like everything to be perfect. Unfortunately, 'perfect' is not within my abilities. 'Good enough' will have to do. 

After I finish this post, I will start writing both the exhibition statement and my artist's statement. Given I've been working on this project for two years, you'd think I'd be all over this like white on rice. Yeah, no.

Rowan asked me last night why am I doing this? What is it I hope to achieve? I stuttered for a long time.

Why am I doing this? It's obvious, isn't it?

Actually, no it isn't.

I'm an artist, because I do the art work. Whether I'm a good, bad or indifferent artist is another question I am not qualified to answer. I'm too close to this body of work to judge it's success or failure or quality.

I do this for the same reason I blog. It's a my way of communicating, I am reaching out beyond my small sphere to offer a glimpse into my reality. I hope to connect with other people who are willing to have a conversation about what comes up in my life, in my thoughts. My blog does this with words, my art does this visually.

My blog has been a vehicle in which I've explored how it's been to be Me dealing with various challenges, issues, people, situations. My art is taking things a step further. It's an invitation to have a conversation about what it is to be human and look up at the Universe. What do we see?

I believe Life is a paradox. On the one hand it is meaningless. You're born, you live, you die. There are seven billion of us on Earth currently going through this process. The only two certainties in life, often quoted, are death and taxes. If life itself is meaningless, what then? It is up to the individual to create meaning. Therefore everything then becomes full of meaning. The decision to connect, to create, to communicate becomes the starting point of a meaning-full life. 

This morning, I realised the work for this exhibition is not going to be good enough; it never was going to be. With this exhibition, I stepped up and stated "this is what it's like to be human, looking up." This is the kind of subject best left to the end of an artistic career, after many, many years of practice, honing of skills, success and failure, trial and error. I've gone and jumped in at the deep end at the beginning of my artistic career. This is Big Picture stuff and who the hell am I to have an opinion about anything?

Who am I? I am an artist. As an artist my job is to start the conversation, to ask the difficult questions. I'm not here to paint pretty pictures. I'm here to highlight the difficult things about being human: the fear, the anger, the hurt, the loneliness; as well as the positive. 

I want to contribute to the Big Picture. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Waiting for Paint to Dry

Yesterday evening, I thought I'd finished the triptych. I kicked back, drank a glass of raspberry beer and contemplated my work. As I contemplated, I realised as much as I like the piece I've done, it doesn't work with the triptych.*sigh*

Earlier in the week, I had another realisation: while my first love is oil, one of the pieces really did not work in that medium. The acrylic paint I've been using with the triptych gave exactly the effect I wanted. *bangs head on wall*

Dave and I hit the DIY store for more MDF boards and yesterday I started on that piece of work. Of course it meant emergency buying of yet more art supplies and quite a lot of stressing about varnish to finish the pieces off. Everything I had was geared for oils. I've had to learn about acrylic paint from scratch. It was never a medium I liked. The paints I'd used just weren't up to much.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a piece of unsolicited advice, if I may? If you are thinking of trying out something new in the art and craft world and you're standing in front of a few racks of shelves of materials and you think "I'll get the starter stuff, there's no point in spending a lot of money, if I don't know if I'll like it." STOP. Step away from the cheap supplies. Find someone who uses them, ask them what the middle of the road version is, swallow your uncertainty and buy that stuff. Do. Not. Buy. Cheap. Art. Supplies.

Seriously, don't. 

My experience with cheap-ass acrylic paints was so disappointing, I walked away and never looked back until I had to use a different brand entirely. 

Also, just because you see 'that' brand in every other art shop and it gives good bullshit marketing in the blurb, don't believe it. Art materials are not made equally. There are some that are truly dire. Then there are some that are excellent value for the money. You've got to experiment.

Anyway, I'm currently multi-tasking like a boss. I've got a piece varnished and drying, two other pieces drying. All of them are quite large, 3ft x 2ft, cause I deal in old money, as they say here. And yes, before you start, size does matter. In this case bigger is better. No, it's not negotiable. In this case, I'm right. It's my work damn it.





Dry damn it.

While Dave was driving me towards the DIY shop so I could get more MDF, I realised he's my muse. All artist's go on about their muses, well he's mine. Dave did give me a funny look when I said that to him. Muses inspire, challenge and generally put up with a lot of shit from their artist. Tick, tick and tick.



Me and my muse!

Therefore, I roped him in to providing some assistance with the piece I was re-doing....



Every journey...

I've glanced across and I think one painting is ready for more.

Laters darlings.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

It's Been Awhile

I've been busy...I've been arting, chasing chickens and coming to terms with the difficulty of living with Dave's cancer. Since I last blogged and not that long ago, his cancer began progressing which means he's back on the chemotherapy. It's hard people, it's hard. Life is uncertain and has meant I focus pretty much on a week at time now. Planning further than that is harder. Dave is coping with the chemo as best he can, which frankly is like a super-human. Given the level of pain, the effects and side-effects of the treatment, he remains stoic throughout...me, I'd be whinging like I was training for an Olympic sport. When I hurt, everyone knows about it. 

In the meantime, in between hospital appointments, travelling for treatments and generally trying to live, I've been working towards my first joint exhibition in October. I find it difficult to write about my art, it's personal and I'm insecure. Now's the time to get over myself. The exhibition is coming up, whether I'm ready or not. I'm working on the last pieces that will form a triptych and will be the centre-piece over the fire place...no pressure then.

Yeah...my exhibition....

It's called The Speed of Colour: an abstract exploration of astrophotography. I'm doing it with astrophotographer, Chris Grimmer. I had this wacky idea, talked him into it, now I'm reaping what I sow.

I've got three more pieces to do before the work goes off to be framed at the beginning of next month. 

This has been a very steep learning curve. I've had to learn as I've done...and I'm still doing...I've gone from planning everything to working intuitively, the results are a bit variable but on the whole I think the work is stronger for it. 

I'm going to leave you with my latest obsession: lemons.

Earlier this summer I couldn't stop painting and drawing lemons. I did them in as many different mediums as I could...though thinking about it, I didn't do pastels. I'll have to rectify that. Anyway, here they are:



Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Greetings and Salutations from 2018

I won't start with an apology, give the reasons why I stopped blogging. The words left. Simple as that and I'm not sorry they did. I didn't miss blogging or I would have done it sooner...or would I? I don't know. All I know is that I didn't blog. I'm not entirely sure the words are back, they could be just visiting. Passing through on the way to a better conduit and to have a last hurrah with me before they go on their merry way.

I like the idea words look for their hosts. There are a lot of words that seem to make do with poor hosts and I suspect I was one of them. I didn't indulge their endless rambling at 3 am, I wasn't quick enough to refill their glasses with wine after dinner. I think I only offered them discount supermarket sherry and port from the discount bin. Such meagre fare indeed.

And yet...and yet here I am. A whim whispered to me and I thought I'd go with it, see if there were more adventures to share, worth sharing.

It's been a busy time. 

I am an artist. 

Did I tell you this? Oh yes. I'm an artist. 

Keep the evening of Thursday 10th October 2018 free. I've got my first exhibition at Anteros Arts in Norwich. I'm working with Chris Grimmer, an astrophotographer. He's showcasing his amazing photographs and I am creating work out and around what he does. Exciting stuff. I'm pretending I'm a snowball rolling down a mountainside, gathering momentum as I go.

It's led to me expanding my horizons somewhat as I'm doing several courses to better understand my subject matter. I did no science for my GCSEs, the lack of which I am feeling every time I step up to my easel. That's okay. I'm best when slightly overwhelmed with lots of stuff to do and learn. October is ages away; I keep telling myself. I've a few more months to go before I'm officially allowed to panic at my lack of paintings.

See, here's the thing: the painting is the very last thing in the artistic process and for me, if I don't get the process right, it doesn't end well. I'm trying to start well, to mean to go on well, to finish on time with minimal stressing. Bwahahahaha! That's a road to nowhere if ever I've seen one. Yeah, right.

Anyway, in the meantime...

What I feared most came to pass. Dave's cancer came back and then some. He was accepted on to a ground-breaking treatment trialing two immunotherapy drugs. There was a rigorous selection process and when he began treatment we feared the delay would be costly. Nothing has gone according to Plan. There have been hiccoughs and surprises and detours which have meant I now consider myself an expert on hospital catering. The people around me leaned in and held me up since that awful day in mid-June.

At the moment, Dave seems to be doing much better. When he does better, I do better. Bad news crushes me, good news sends me soaring. This is a helluva ride. I won't say more than that, it's not about me; which quite frankly, is just as well. I would not be as physically or emotionally strong as Dave. I say to him I hope something like that never happens to me, my friends and loved ones would fight to hold the pillow over my face because I'd be whinging, whimpering and complaining so much. I'd be the most high-maintenance patient ever. 

Back at the ranch: in the autumn the pheasants and George the Herring Gull came back to demand breakfast. I've taken a mortgage out to pay for the tons of bird food I go through every month. It's worth it. Yes, I grumble on grey, damp days, or when the wind is blowing an absolute hoolie as it was early last week. I wouldn't be without my creatures. Thanks to a broadened menu, one platter does at least three sittings, starting with George and the pheasants. After they've gone the crows, magpies and blackbirds move in and finally, the partridges, robins and other small birds and a couple of very fat pigeons and a few collared doves come a-munching. 

George the Herring Gull and the Pheasants
(I wonder if they take requests?)

My flock of velociraptors are well, though not particularly happy with me as I'm keeping them mostly in due to the bad weather and the fact that I re-seeded my lawn in November. Happily, it's coming on well.

From left to right: Polly, Jenga, Canasta and Scrabble

I spent the summer in the garden freeing it from the clutches of the perennial weeds, planting, plotting and re-arranging. Gardening was my tiny act of rebellion. I created something for the future: colour for the spring. It's hard to be a cynic and garden. When I planted I wasn't thinking of the Present or even next month. I plant for five years' time. It's good to see the bulbs rising to my challenge as they poke through the cold ground. It won't be something a magazine will come to photograph, not if I do it right. I want it to be a scruffy, sensual place to be home for chickens, creatures, cats and creepy crawlies.

This is Chip
Haven't had him long and I've broken him already

Speaking of cats, Rummy now has a room mate Chip, which he is not best pleased about. And if Rummy isn't best pleased, Eloise the cat is downright furious at the intrusion of her territory. Let's not forget she is the Queen of All She Surveys and while she might see herself as Rummy's little sister, she'd rather Chip jumped off a cliff. Chip for the most part is fairly pleased with his change of circumstances. There's a lot to see and people to interact with if he fancies it, which he doesn't very much, it has to be said. He's established himself as head honcho and Rummy doesn't seem to mind too much as long as he still gets unfettered access to me. 

Herb planter by the kitchen door

Artist, gardener, creature lover, mad chicken & cat lady, me.

Anything else, I'll let you know.

Cheers

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sardines & Beer

The last two weeks have been unbelievably hectic and I'm only now finding the space to sit down and actually relax. Hence being a bit slow to blog about it.

On Wednesday, I decided I'd been big and brave enough by myself and met up with Nicola, my art mentor for some gentle hand holding and reassurance. I'm glad I did. She reminded me of how far I've come, complimented me on the quality of the work, its presentation and my preparation. Perhaps more importantly, we talked about my scheme of work next week and for the next month. It was crucial for me not to get to this weekend and fall flat after the event. It seems I worry and stress unnecessarily. The self-inflicted pressure is counter-productive. May's objective is to lighten up a bit. To take more breaks. To breathe more deeply. 

That probably tells you my state of mind Thursday morning. Poor Dave, I volunteered him to babysit me as I waited for the gallery to open. Happily, I was not first in the queue, I was third. What I am particularly proud of, was the fact I did not gush, I did not do my wet spaniel impression all over everyone involved. I calmly handed over my two pieces of work (the framer had ignored Dave's instructions and I wasn't happy showing the sunflowers in the end) and then Dave and I went on our way so I could complete my preparation for the evening. I needed good nails and two eyebrows stat!

I think I probably over-thought the whole thing as I planned everything down to my outfit. Inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe's iconic style, I made an executive decision and bought a man's suit. I don't have the income to be a fashion plate and I'm not interested enough to do it on a budget. Neither am I retro, vintage or hipster in any form. Classic fashion is beyond me, though I can do it if pressed. I'm too old and cranky to be sexy-chic and I didn't want to present myself as an artist as a sexual being. Don't get me wrong, I am a sexual being, but I don't want it to be part and parcel of my marketing. I'm not interested in flirting for the camera or anyone else for my art. Hence, the suit. I'd read this article about a woman wearing men's suits for a month and it appealed. A suit would be stylish, classic and comfortable. I talked to Dave about it and boy did we have fun, we went to Moss Bros and got the suit. I did have to get the trousers and the vest adjusted though; with the best will in the world, I'm still a curvy woman trying to fit into clothes that were meant for frames more straight than mine. I found women's double-cuffed shirts online. My neck size is 11.5 inches, men's shirts tend to start at 14 inches and any smaller are for boy's clothes which I'd have never buttoned up. Dave was my valet and did my tie for me.

Once dressed, I felt amazing. Power dressing at it's best. I sat and walked differently. And darlings, pockets. Men's tailoring has pockets in so many convenient places, it was just a question of where I put things.


Letting social media know I was on my way

Thirteen A is a small gallery. It's more the size of someone's front room than an exhibition space. We were definitely sardines. There were bottles of beer and ice in a large plastic tub in the middle of the room. I had an absolute blast. 

The Private View was mainly attended by artists and their friends all crammed into this small space. We spilled outside onto the pavement as well, when it got too packed inside. I got to talk to so many incredibly interesting people. The show was an open submission and yet it worked. The diversity of styles and media meant it should have clashed, it shouldn't have made sense. And yet, it did. The synergy was astonishing. There were oil paintings, lino prints, acrylic paintings, drawings, 3-D pen sculptures and of course my work.

The whole point of the experience for me was to put my intention out into the world. I did what I set out to do. Earlier in the week, I watched an amazing talk by Paul Klein on YouTube, on How to be A Successful Artist. Amongst other things he talked about not the Art World, but Art Villages. He said the challenge artists face is to find their art village, the place where they can call home i.e. the internet, the gallery space, etsy, it's not so much about geography per se, or the base market, but an amalgamation of the two. There's also an expectation that an artist will move around for a while before they find their art village. Thursday night for me was my first exploration into the art village in Norwich. 

I very much doubt I will sell my work this weekend, and that's fine. I was pleased to be there. I was after the experience, and I feel I presented myself well. I intend to create an art career that will continue into my dotage. This was the first step. 

Yesterday, I went on a day's course on pastels. I had an absolute blast; it turns out I love soft pastels and it's mutual. Please bear in mind I was basically colouring in the tutor's tracing of the reference photograph next to me. But this is what I did. Yeah, I'm beginning to think I've got a good shot at this.
No biting

Friday, April 21, 2017

Waiting for Paint to Dry

It's true, I am. I've got a canvas on the go and a board I finished prepping about forty-five minutes ago and I can't go any further with either of them until they dry off a bit. It's okay, I decided to have a break and blog. My blogging habit still hasn't returned and I confess it's making me sad. I miss being here. I'm hoping that the fact I sat down this afternoon is a shift in the words.

This week I've been pretty much flat out. I was so busy I didn't even have time to write a To Do List! Unfortunately while I was busy, it wasn't with art per se. I was trying to get some marketing done. I write that and I feel myself groan and want to slide off the chair. As you know, marketing was how I paid bills until recently. I've always considered myself to be reasonably competent, able to negotiate website creation and updates, e-newsletters, business cards and social media without any issues. 

Yeah right. 

Let me tell you, doing this stuff for myself, drove me to drink! 

I created my website with the help of dearest Wix.com from scratch. At the same time, I updated all my social media accounts and created a Facebook page for my art. I then did my business cards and made and wrote an e-newsletter. All from the comfort of my laptop. What's the problem? I hear you ask. Bearing in mind I am not a details person; instructions go from "turn right at the Post Office, second..." into "blah, blah, blah" within nano-seconds. Having to create the website was a nightmare. Now it's done, I can tell you that Wix do it in as straight-forward and easy manner as possible. I was a little puddle of stressed out goo at the end of the whole process. 

Anyway, it's done. I'll pop the links to all that malarky on the bottom of the page. The whole point of all of that stress and work was there's an open submission exhibition next Thursday at a gallery in Norwich that I'll be submitting three pieces of work to! *squeaaaaal* And breathe, breathe damn it. I've got two pieces of work already framed, the third is actually Dave's picture that he wants me to include. If this canvas goes well, I may swap one of the pictures over. We'll have to see. It's half-way done and I'm not a good judge of my work at this stage. 

I'm ridiculously excited by this. Hopefully by next Thursday, I'll have worked through the nervous energy and either be totally exhausted or chilled out so that I'm not bouncing around like a wet spaniel. Bad things tend to happen when I do that.

In the meantime, I continue to work on the Space project. Chris' work is amazing. He's got such an instinct for a good shot, he's going to totally shine next year. It's me that's the worry. Yesterday, I had a down moment. Everything rests on my ability to bridge the gap between science and art and I stared at an experiment I'd been conducting based on visible light.

Have some science. What we see as light is only a small fraction on the scale of electromagnetic radiation. For photographers and scientists, light is split into seven colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Using filters to block frequencies, it's then possible to do all sorts of weird and wonderful things with light - like figure out the composition of astronomical bodies. Artists on the other hand, start with the three primary colours: red, yellow and blue, they then mix the primaries to create secondary and tertiary colours. Eyes see colour because light bounces off the pigment of the object they are looking at, there's also the whole structure of the human eye and receptors, but I'm not going there now. 

Why does anyone care? Well, Chris gets the data for his images in black and white. He adds the colours afterwards and the reason he knows what colours to use? Chemistry! He uses filters linked to the building block elements to build up the image! How freaking cool is that?! Science man. Science.

I'm playing with the concept of filters and visible light. I've prepped a board with gesso and a ground to act as a foundation for the work. The board is 3ft x 2ft and is currently the same colour as the Pink Panther. I decided to add a dollop of cadmium red to the gesso to help support the first layer. Putting colours straight on white can limit the effect I'm after. 

So yeah, this is what I've been doing. Oh, as well as doing various art studenty activities to build my skills. One of the things I've been very aware of recently, is that I haven't factored in enough proper breaks in my week to do fun stuff, to recharge my batteries. I've been turning into a boring stress monkey and have been of no fun to anyone. Well, I learn from my mistakes if nothing else. Hopefully, I'll be able to get this layer done before Dave comes over. Then there's raspberry gin to drink with whatever he chooses to feed me with; when he asked about the content of my fridge, I could hear him roll his eyes when I listed the half a sandwich, out of date chicken and milk. He's bringing dinner people! How lucky am I? 

Right, love you loads, the board *must* be dry by now!

Oh...my shiny new website...and Facebook page. Click the links if you're bored!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I am an artist

As I'm still struggling with words, let's do this bullet blogging style. I don't know why the words haven't come back I feel fine in myself, it's simply that I can't write a coherent sentence on here at the moment. I've been deleting drafts all month. Pfft. Whatever. Here's my world in all it's glory.
  • I am an artist. 
  • It does not feel at all real. I announce: "I'm off to my studio" on Facebook and fall about laughing. Yet, here I am arting away. Artist are as artists do.
  • The session with Nicola, my mentor focused my work for the month. I had suggestions of activities I could try, as well as artists to look at.
  • Nicola has got me rethinking artists materials and surfaces. I've put away my usual drawing pens and am now using a dip pen and drawing ink. Given my cartridge pen was taken away from me at school because I covered everything except my paper with ink, it's been a challenge.
  • One of the suggestions was covering a 10m roll of wall lining paper with my stick forms. I've only managed about a meter and let me tell you, ten meters is quite a lot. 
  • It turns out I like using dip pens and ink to draw my shapes. It gives me The Happy.
  • I'm beginning to let go the idea of me being a figurative/representational painter.
  • In fact, I'm not even sure I can call myself a painter...or that I'd even want to.
  • I'm still getting used to the idea that what I'm doing now isn't so much about learning to be a better painter (which I've been working hard to do), but rather my challenge is to explore the length and breath of my artistic practice. 
  • My work with Nicola isn't only about how prepare for my application to an Master of Fine Arts programme, our time is also about how I build a solid artistic career.
  • I've known for some time that retirement will be something that other people do at the end of their working lives. I won't retire because I intend to create art and (hopefully) to write until I stop making sense or I drop dead. Whichever comes sooner.
  • The lack of retirement means I am thinking about creating an artistic life from the foundations upwards. To this end, I've overhauled my morning routine of coffee, social media and squabbling with strangers on the internet. Julia Cameron, author of the Artist's Way strongly recommends doing Morning Pages before anything creative. I've taken this on board and have already finished on Moleskin notebook.
  • I'm also working on my meditation practice. My sanity is a precious and fragile thing and daily meditation is beginning to help me keep my thoughts under control. 
  • Yoga and daily exercise is a goal I'm working hard for. My physical fragility is a constant source of frustration recently. I want to be out there running and lifting weights again. I miss feeling awesome. It also means I'll be physically more robust in my later years.
  • It turns out there's ten years of dust and cobwebs gathered in my brain. My ability to think critically (which wasn't all that great to start with) needs a good dose of WD40 and a massive wrench to get it going again. Anyone got any jump cables?
  • I'm working on several projects at once. This gives me The Happy. I like having several different schemes of work to dip in and out of. It means if I get stuck in one, I can hop over to another, giving my unconscious time to resolve the issue. It keeps me from getting blocked.
  • As well as preparing for the show next autumn, I've been invited to submit work to an exhibition at the end of April (this April, like April 2017). It's called Sardines & Beer and is being held at Thirteen A in Norwich. I'll be putting in three pieces of work. One is actually Dave's, it'll have an NFS sticker on it. The other two I'm working on now and they will be for sale. I've only got about ten days to get them ready as they've got to be framed. No pressure. No pressure at all.
  • The exhibition next month means I've got to get other things sorted like: business cards, website...you know all the marketing stuff I should be all over, but actually have been ignoring.
  • I am an artist.
  • I've got to think about myself in the world in those terms and that's a bit scary. People believed me when I said I could do this and now I've got to get the mass of ideas from my head onto paper and canvas. Easy peasy.
  • The chickens are still in lock-up. Unfortunately, with the warmer weather, they've discovered how to dig. Dave and I moved them to give that patch of grass a break, he glanced out of the window and called me over. On a totally fresh bit of grass, within an hour Scrabble had dug herself a lovely hole up to her chest.
  • Bantams are brilliant for getting moss out of grass. If only they would stop there.
  • Apparently, I'm feeding the pheasants too much. Dave says their obese. Nonsense. I say they're just puffed up!
  • Jenga was kicking up a fuss, when I went to see, the massive cock pheasant was strutting around like he owned the place. I did try to get a picture, but he became suddenly camera shy. 
  • It's definitely Spring around here, though I am deeply resentful of the hour lost to British Summer Time. I don't care what the clock says, it still feels like 5am when my alarm bloody goes off.
Well, that's enough for the moment. In my typical fashion, once I got going I was fine. Ah well. Let's try this again next week, shall we?

The Space Between

The Speed of Colour oil on board, 3ft x 2ft I'm in that weird space between the body of work having been finished and the exhibit...