Rumble Strip

 

It’s the perfect day for sitting under a blanket with coffee and a stash of biscuits, looking at more photogenic versions of Autumn than the one currently outside my window, all windlashed,rain sodden and dripping. As usual I uploaded the pictures days ago and then got distracted by stuff so that I’ve almost forgotten why I chose them. I also had to re-read my last post to remind myself of where things stood back then (September for goodness sake!).
Its a shame I got distracted because I know I chose this title and some of what I wanted to write about when I was walking alone on the fells this Tuesday which happened to be #WorldMentalHealthDay. I’d been reading this story  about the yoga teacher Michael Stone and trying to sort out all the tangled assumptions and conclusions I’d come to when I first read it; an initial thought that it is often those with insurmountable problems of their own who end up in professions where they are attempting to help others, physician heal thyself. His is a sad story of a struggle with mental illness that he felt he had to keep secret and my own lazy reaction, despite my own struggles with the black dog, proves that “Culturally, we don’t have enough language to talk about this. Rather than feel the shame and tragedy of it, can we find questions? … What can we do for ourselves and others who have impulses or behaviours we cannot understand?” (statement by relatives)

So, as I walked I thought about how we’re all just doing our best to navigate the waters and sometimes it’s really not that easy- or easy to own up to our crappy navigation skills. We’re little islands full of hopes, fears, dreams, histories and insecurities and we all deal with it differently. Rumble strip? Well you know when you go a bit off course on the motorway and there’s that bit that makes it feel as though the wheel’s about to fall off and jolts you into consciousness? I felt a bit like that last month and the rumbling told me that I needed to stop being quite so hard on myself for not being “The Most Successful Artist Ever” or “Having the perfect job that enables me to pay back the parents and bail out the kids” and take on board a bit of the new age bullshit… trying to be outdoors (a little bit) everyday, doing yoga, eating green things and writing honestly.

Meanwhile in the idyllic edited highlights of the year we went paddling over  a mirrored lake, so smooth that it was possible to feel vertigo as it appeared as though we were actually in the sky. The surface tension of the water held downy feathers, bone dry as if still falling through air and it seemed to curve up and away from us like the meniscus on an overfilled spirit measure. I did feel dizzy and being in the middle of the lake in the eerie stillness I had half a thought that Rupert might be planing to throw me in or what if the boat got a hole or what if it got foggy and we were lost, what if…? On the journey back from the pub it was almost dark and bats flittered about hunting, I hadn’t thought they would fly so far out over water. It felt like the last night of summer, like a night in a story and so in the dark, on the pebbly shore I jumped out of my clothes for a dip in the black water, giggling like a maniac.

Back on dry land the digital “painting” of the Jack Daw in the September blog post became a stencil for a print which will be at the Cumbria Printmakers/Cumbrian Sculptors “Poetic Vision“exhibition in Grasmere which opens on Sunday. It’s going to include some poetry chosen by the Wordsworth Trust and poetry readings. I’m really honoured that Polly Atkin allowed me to use her book title “Basic Nest Architecture” for this piece and will hopefully be reading from her poem Jack Daw.

After making my fingers very sore piercing and sewing the paper I have now found a proper tool for piercing holes which takes a bit of the pain away and makes the sewing part much more fun. I’ve got completely carried away on the more recent prints and it’s part of my new plan to make less work but to spend longer on each piece.

I found the perfect poem to go with this hare print, just a little too late to be included in the reading on the night but it will be credited on the print and in its title “The Leap From The Lea”  none the less, with kind permission. It is by the writer Dom Conlon, a Twitter connection and can be seen here 

Now you know the nights are drawing in and although it’s only 4.30 pm the weather has made it feel later. It’s time to make a cup of tea and bully the stove into life. It’s going to be a busy weekend and I’m really looking forward to it. Hopefully this little person will visit again at some point…

She is a Goldcrest, called Regulus regulus or King of Birds and I’ve never seen such a tiny little fairy bird in all my life. She banged her head on the window which is why she sat for long enough for me to grapple with my camera ( not long enough for me to learn how to focus obviously) but happily she was soon recovered and flew away.

Reading : Autumn by Ali Smith and this blog post  by Laura from Elsie & Nell which says a lot of what also I feel about the difficulties of being a small creative business.

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Introspection and Indiscretions

Mid September and I’m trying to be still, to take stock of the year so far and also recognise how far have I come from that sunny September day (3 years today) when my life was turned upside down by a chance remark – and how far I have yet to go towards accepting my new reality. A recent spur of the moment decision to visit family and friends at “home” in Yorkshire left me with a terrible feeling of not belonging anywhere (yet) – old friends were away and too much had changed. I walked around Town like a deer in the hunting season, all full of adreneline, in case I should see Enemies (at one point retreating to my car for a few tears and the coffee I’d hastily tipped into a flask to escape the loneliness of a window seat for one). It’s pretty hard for people to understand because on the face of it life here in the Lakes is pretty bloody idyllic and I can’t argue with the fact that the enforced change has opened doors to exciting places and brought unimagined new joys … but thats not the point, it wasn’t my free choice to leave at that time. The prodded, still raw, emotions made me overflow with empathy for displaced people everywhere and wish more than anything that I could be of use somehow.In Costa, where the only newspapers were the Daily Mail and the Sun I felt like an outsider, even me with my privileged, white, middle class cappuccino, wondering how much worse it would feel to be a refugee or asylum seeker. Homesick for a place that no longer exists. I try to raise money for charities like Shelterbox but it doesn’t seem enough; one bleeding heart idealist giving the odd tenner, however it is an amazing thing they do, so if my brief wallow in the past informs one person about their work then that’s good isn’t it? ( theres also a very neglected post on my Facebook Page which has some things for sale to raise money for them)

And so the colour palette changes again – hot pink, steel grey, purple blacks, russet and velvet brown-  and I wish and wish I was a painter – or at least was able to express what I feel and see in some satisfying way. The Rosebay Willow Herb has climbed to the top of its stems and the last few magenta flowers are held above downy clouds of seed feathers, bright memories of a summer that seemed to be over before it had started. The joyful discovery of this summer was swimming without a wetsuit ( the wetsuit gives me floaty legs and I end up in a skydiving position with a crick in my neck – I’m really not a good swimmer!) and I can hardly believe that this picture, taken just a few weeks ago was probably the last one before next spring. There’s been so much rain that all the water temperatures have dropped and since I do it so infrequently there’s no chance to get acclimatised to the cold like some of the real swimmers are. Still, I might give it a go and I’m hoping one day to get  some tips from local swimming guru  Susanna Cruikshank who has just set up a new business as a swim guide and might help me progress from being a head up dipper to someone who can swim more than 25 metres without getting hiccoughs. (EDIT we went and swam in Ullswater last night as I was half way through writing this and I got in again for a moment or two after the wetsuit bit – it was chilly but bliss).

Continuing to assess the year;  as far as work goes I’ve been up and down and round in circles and back up again. Sometimes things have worked really well and I feel quite surprised at myself; the digitally doodled Jackdaw I drew the other night for example or this hare print which is now a lamp, heading to Shetland, Bonhoga Gallery  next week. Other times I feel so cross with the whole thing I just wish I could get a regular job as a gardener or bake cakes for a living- everybody likes cake and gardens never stop growing but people don’t always NEED a card or a piece of art, its undoubtably a luxury. I was really excited by the response to the “Just A Card Blog” interview I did earlier in the month, it had been a bit of an ambition to get some nice exposure and help promote their campaign message. On Twitter at least, I felt briefly famous and successful … it’s only when I tell you that barely 3 people looked at my website because of it and there were no extra sales that you start to realise that our social media bubbles are like a hall of mirrors, reflecting distorted versions of your own thoughts back at you … the brutal reality is we need to reach customers not just other creatives.

Its also vital that people realise why work is priced as it is – I’m probably being terribly indiscreet and unbusinesslike ( what’s new) but 0n Saturday at a wonderful open studio in the Eden Valley I got into discussion with a visitor who praised my work but said it was “too expensive” in her opinion. I’ve said it so many times, and I know I’m preaching to the converted because you’re here reading this, so you probably understand, but listen – a piece of art or anything you see in any shop probably has at least a 50% mark up (shops and galleries have bills to pay too) that means that if you half the price of a print which retails at  £70 you’re left with £35 from which to take the cost of materials (the paper alone can be about £6 a sheet), time, framing or mounting and all the other expenses ( including the years of learning the technique, making preliminary sketches, thinking and planning). Nobody’s getting rich quick like that.Having said that we recently walked in on a customer in an outdoor equipment shop rudely accusing the staff of  “just wanting to make money like all the other shops in this town” which was pretty crazy when you think about it, so maybe its not jus a problem in the creative industries.

September 28th has been planned as #JustACard Day ; a chance to really spread the word about the importance of even apparently small sales to keeping independent shops thriving in our high streets and supporting artists and makers – if only by spreading more understanding of the issues around this kind of business. There are a few ways to get involved so do follow the link and see what it’s all about.

I almost lost my nerve a bit while thinking about what to write this time. There is a strong case for the whole “keeping up appearances/positivity attracts positivity/you’re in business so don’t be so open” school of thought but actually I’m bored with that kind of dishonesty; the extreme end of which is “fake news” and other evils of these unsettling Trumpian Times. Anyway, it is what it is and I’ll end by singing about the good things… the walks in the now familiar fells (who have shaken the moths out of their brown velvet coats and scented them with woodsmoke), the postman arriving with surprise, unsolicited book gifts, the re-discovery of yoga ( yeah, like the rest of the world we’re rolling around on the carpet most days trying to follow Adriene Mishler videos without falling over or getting attacked by the cat or distracted by the mousetrap going off) , the excitement of new exhibition plans with Cumbria Printmakers. It’s not Utopia but sometimes when you’re standing up as tall as you can on top of a hill and pretending to be a mountain it gets pretty close. x

Reading: ” A Pocketful of Crows” Joanne Harris (one of those happy moments when social media works as it should and the lovely @likewinterblue from Sam Read Booksellers, Grasmere sent me a surprise pre-publication proof after seeing that it was on my wish list. Some people are just friendly and kind and that makes up for the rest!)  I’m loving it and making it last longer by also reading “The Ladies of Grace Adieu” by Susanna Clarke.

Listening to: owls and there deepening breath ( ha ha! not really I’m just trying to get in the yoga mood)

Edge of Autumn

Nothing specific happens but it suddenly doesn’t feel like summer anymore; an awareness of the tiny changes in the smell of the air or the particular shades of green seems to awaken some ancient instinct to begin baking cakes with cinnamon, checking the store cupboards and worrying about logs (* I started writing this post about 2 weeks ago now so the logs have been delivered and stacked; one thing less to worry about).  You imagine August to be all sunny corn fields, blue skies and ice creams on the beach but it seems more often to be jungly shades of Hookers Green as the shoulder high bracken completes its takeover of the fells and the trees balance darkly on the edge of Autumn. It feels like the moment when you just can’t wait to get the decorations down and clear up after Christmas- anticipating the new season and the fresh inspiration it might bring.  Now, a couple of weeks since I initially started  this post, you can definitely see the first russet tones creeping over the green brackeny slopes … like the roots starting to show through on dyed hair ( I pinched that line from Rupert who has been fretting about the weather after a summer spent getting wet and drying out soggy tents with bunches of NCS kids). The cusp of a changing season is such a special time and as I write I’m hoping for a bright crisp Autumn full of rich colour and clear skies, an excuse to bake comfort food and the smell of woodsmoke and fallen leaves.

I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to complete this post; I can only put it down to a massive bout of inertia ( and some truly evil migraines) that arrived as soon as I got back from Skipton Art in the Pen… suddenly there was a gap in deadlines and I had a bit of a dip in confidence and motivation- despite both shows combined being a big success. I had some really interesting conversations with people visiting my pen, including several people who immediately “got” the references and shared the same passion for bears, and the stories associated with them, The Owl Service by Alan Garner and even one person who noted a Japanese influence (which I initially denied before remembering my obsession with Haruki Murakami novels). It was also really wonderful to spend time with other artists and makers, particularly Penny Hunt (whose beautiful Yorkshire Dales house I stayed at), Debbie Yare and Hester Cox  – working in isolation, it is always such a relief to realise that we all share many of the same doubts, fears and joys that come with this job ( and life in general). I had a LOT of people asking me HOW I made my work  (or explaining to each other without asking) and it’s taken me these past few weeks to organise how I feel about that … being naturally super friendly, approachable ( I hope you’ll agree) and (a little too) open,  it seemed rude not to share- and I did, in detail- but the more I was asked the more I wanted to say… but it’s just a technique, don’t you like what I did with it? Did you notice the drawing and careful composition? You wouldn’t ask a painter how they made a painting or walk in to a cafe and ask for the recipe to their most popular dish without even ordering a coffee  Sometimes I spent ages explaining after which the visitor declared they would order the chemicals online and try it themselves before walking off without even buying a card (of this more later). I LOVE sharing what I do, including how and why, but from now on I will be trying to be a little more businesslike and promoting workshops… if you want to learn about cyanotype, get in touch ( there will be cake).

I was really excited, on my return, to find an e-mail inviting me to be interviewed for the Just A Card blog. You might have noticed me going on about the campaign at various events, and on here, ever since I first heard about it, in 2014. It aims to raise awareness of the difference that we can all make by choosing to support independent shops, artists and makers by making even small purchases, such as greetings cards, which help keep people in business. Certainly most of my income over the weekend at Skipton was earned by selling cards…sometimes just one , but each one carefully chosen by the customer and each sale so very important to me. The combined card sales meant I could come home knowing I had made enough profit and would be able to continue doing what I love.

You can read my interview on the Just a Card blog on September 1st. Let me know what you think.

Hmmm, I’m sitting here trying to choose pictures to illustrate this post and getting cross because my silly iPhone photo-stream won’t synch with my laptop. This means I can’t share the picture of  a fairytale swim I had this week. It also shows how annoying technology can be…except that I’m currently in love with my new Wacom pen and tablet which has reawakened my love of sketching and doodling and just playing with colours and lines and the stories in my head. As someone who loves simple, real things, bakes their own bread and likes to make jam, it feels a little wrong to be spending so much time with a “pretend” sketchbook when I could be using real paints and any of the gorgeous materials I have stockpiled since childhood. Is it cheating? Or is it playing and enjoying mark making ( which is the first thing they make you do at art school) ? Either way I’m having fun and it makes things much easier than my ham fisted drawing with a normal mouse or trackpad.

Now I’m being told my battery is low, it’s 3 o’clock and I promised myself I’d walk down the lane to see if there were any blackberries. As usual I want to write more and I’ve left it too long between posts so I think I’m going to leave this one here and try to be more disciplined about writing in future. I need to tell you about that swim and the cold water hives episode and the absolute joy of it all.

If you subscribe to my website newsletter you will have got a message about this month’s shop discount code and the fact that I’m donating a percentage of all web sales this month to Shelterbox who provide practical  help in disaster zones and areas of conflict. Home and “shelter” are subjects close to my heart so please take a look at what they do.

Until next time x

 


Reading :    “The Remains of the Day”  Kazuo Ishiguro   Listening to: My treat this moth has been to subscribe to Audible so I’m currently 7 hours in to the 19 of Kafka on the Shore byHaruki Murakami.I listen to it in the bath while practicing my underwater swimming technique!

 

 

“Chiaroscuro” seemed like a good title.

IMG_1458These two pictures sum up last week as I prepared for my first big art fair, Art in the Pen, at Thirsk. I tried to work in the dark, gloomy cave of the house while the sun beckoned like a secret lover, through the lace bedspread, hung to keep out the bitey insects. Setting up outside I was driven back in by the glare or the wind or the fact that I looked like I’d been dip dyed upside down in a vat of pink from sunburn. The evenings of swimming were blissful though and I’m now slightly addicted to the well documented after effects of being in cold water; the silky cool feeling under the skin that contrasts with the warm surface and the release of endorphins that feels weirdly like the effects of …hmmm, less “official” methods (which I neither admit to, endorse or condone) but were once described thus by American chemist Alexander Shulgin … “I feel absolutely clean inside, and there is nothing but pure euphoria. The cleanliness, clarity, and marvellous feeling of solid inner strength continued… through the next day. I am overcome by the profundity of the experience.” Obviously swimming is a much more healthy way of feeling “pure euphoria” and less likely to land you in jail; it really has helped lift my blue moods when my natural inclination would normally be to curl up and nest.

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After an epic drive ( hot air blowers on full blast to stop the car overheating in the traffic jams) and still in recovery from a 3 day migraine ( brought on by dropping the settee on my foot during a mad hoovering session and not cured by standing for an hour, thigh deep in Scope Beck wearing just a t-shirt, hat and pants like a crazy old hobo) I made it to Thirsk and set up my pen (with lots of help from Rupert who’d been waiting there for hours).

It was a fantastic, if unlikely, event. As if by magic the slightly grubby and smelly animal pens were transformed by an amazing group of artists and makers who not only produce fabulous work but also design the display solutions (not easy making a sheep pen that was awash with slurry hours earlier, look like a gallery), and work like mad to make it all look great. I didn’t have much chance to look at everyone’s stands as I was on my own but it was so good to meet Hester Cox in person at last (my heart is set on one of her prints one day) and I spent a virtual fortune on some the work I saw on other people’s stands. My friend Sarah Ames wins my “resilience and tenacity” award for doing the whole thing on her own and driving all the way back home to Cockermouth every night! Sarah Robely wins “set design and catering “award because her stand was pristine and her lovely mum Shona, was there with home baked treats to feed to the 5,000. Bridget Wilkinson wins my “wow you’re an inspiration” award because she was so helpful, is a good friend and is making it work! I’ve also got to thank the lovely Penny Hunt  because she suggested I applied and her gorgeous work will be at the “Inspired by” gallery in Danby next week for her solo show, as well as Skipton Art in the Pen next month.

Ok, it’s no fun reading lists of links or thank you’s so I’ll stop now but if I missed you out it forgive me; everyone I met was truly inspirational and that’s before I think about all the friends who came and said hello. I’m still processing it all- months of isolation followed by a manic weekend of catch ups and emotion can be a bit overwhelming and I’m trying not to worry too much about all the ridiculous things I may have said or the faces I didn’t instantly recognise when they appeared out of context!

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I walked alone across familiar fields that belonged to another lifetime and stood watching a small drama as the sun set and a pair of  buzzards, disturbed by something not visible, called to each other and dipped and swooped with chattering, acrobatic swallows- rioting before bedtime.

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And so, after catching up with as many people as I could and wishing with all my heart I could spend more time with them, I took a massive detour home to avoid a traffic jam which would have meant needing to steam my face again with the car heaters. A two hour journey took four but I saw some great landscapes as trundled back through Kirby Stephen, Kendal and the South Lakes. I actually found myself saying “hello” out loud when Blencathra finally popped in to view and for a treat we went to the pub for chips before an icy, dusk swim in the river to wash away the sin of fried food. A tent was pitched right beside the swimming hole, as I’d guessed it might be, so we lowered ourselves in to the dark water upstream, trying to gasp quietly at the shock and swam quickly and breathlessly past the campers, trying not to alarm them. It felt quite exciting and the mossy rocks were like carpeted steps under the water- I wouldn’t like to be in water any faster though, it’s deceptively hard to swim against even a gentle current and I do quite enough of that on dry land.

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Now I’m going to tidy up the boxes still to be unpacked and see what I have left to take to Skipton on the 12th -13th of August and prepare for a workshop at Greystoke next week. Thanks again to everyone who made it a fun weekend. I have loads more to say but I’m having think first and anyway, it’s time for coffee and baking a cake I think 😉

 

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The Magpie Told Me…

Last week I decided to believe in magic again; after being reminded about the strange story of the sketchbook that foretold my future . It all seems so unlikely –  a Dorian Gray kind of spell – except instead of getting eternal youth (sadly) the picture seemed to have been an oracle leading me on a journey far removed from my own chosen direction and wishes at the time.

So now I’m looking for small everyday magic and finding it as I walk ; from the friendly face I spotted in the tree this evening, to the hare gently loping along the path in front of me, before slipping into the long grass and invisibility. I’ve been inspired by some of the people I’ve “met” on Instagram such as Milla, “The Woman who Married a Bear“, to rekindle an interest in plants and herbs; mixing a potion that works wonders on tired fellwandery feet and, who knows, maybe if I fill a sketchbook with my hopes and dreams they might come true someday (better practise drawing pretty houses with vegetable gardens and swimming ponds…and some kind of representation of world peace of course.) Meanwhile I continue to dawdle on my walks, saying the names out loud – Tormentil, Bog Asphodel, Silverweed and Usnea; and tonight, purple-ing my fingers with surprise bilberries up by the reservoir; where I wasn’t brave enough to swim alone. It was the first time I’d walked alone for a while (feeling fat and sluggish after being left in charge of my poor self control and one of Rupert’s coffee cakes while he camps out on soaking wet islands, inspiring groups of NCS students) and I thought, or resolved perhaps, to do it more often. To lose myself in thought and daydreams…

As well as all that wandering about with my head in the clouds or my nose in a bilberry bush, I’m getting organised for Art in the Pen Thirsk, which is in just two weeks time. I hope I can fit everything in the car and even more, I hope it all sells so I can buy the materials needed for Art in the Pen Skipton the following month, as well as some more exhibitions I’m sending work to. It’s been a bit of a flurry of activity the last few weeks with some very happy days in Sam Read Booksellers preventing me from becoming a total hermit and work delivered to three lovely galleries for summer exhibitions ( The Witham, Byard Art and Obsidian Art)

As usual I’ve left this writing until late and all the stories wanted to tell you will have to wait because none of us has the attention span we once did and I need to soak my midge bitten body in some cool water before bed and book time. Remind me to tell you about the evil grey squirrel who scampered below the lazy cat, snoozing on a bench and absolutely didn’t give a damn about the danger ( the squirrel warden has been notified) ; or how I let myself down in Loughrigg  by wallowing in the waterlilies when my prescription goggles steamed up.

Reading: Letters From Klara by Tove Jansson and “Waterlog” Roger Deakin Listening To: White Horses by Jakie Lee (this has been on the radio lately as the theme to Eddie Izzard’s autobiography and I remember loving the series when I was small- which makes me almost as old as these hills)

Water, Trees and Make Believe

Last week began with two day’s wonderfully frantic, bank holiday bookselling at Sam Read’s Grasmere and ended with a magical walk through ambrosial woodland; complete with red squirrel and iridescent purple beetles (and, less romantically, an evil sheep tick which wasn’t discovered until bath time!). In the middle of the week I took a spur of the moment trip to Bristol to visit my daughter. We decided that we needed a bit of ancient perspective on recent events so we drove to Avebury, always a favourite place since the children were small, to wander around the stones barefoot and invent our own ritual for peace, love and good luck, which involved making a charm out of bits of found wool and flowers to hang in the Clootie Tree. The tree was festooned with ribbons, shoelaces, pieces of string, bells, paper notes and one or two “natural” offerings like ours. There’s a long tradition of this kind of “wishing tree” in British folklore and it is also interesting that the practice is found in some form all over the world. I thought the tree looked beautiful and it felt very serene sitting underneath in the baking Wiltshire sun, while some of the charms jingled and flapped gently in the breeze. It’s a fine aesthetic line though…is it harmless decoration and votive offering or unsightly,non biodegradable litter? I guess it’s down to personal opinion but  I found an interesting point of view on this blog and feel happy that our magic charm won’t cause offence as it was entirely made from found natural objects and has probably blown away by now – I just hope it works and brings us a bit of good luck.

Wiltshire has been part of my life since we lived there for a year when I was about 11 (you can see the funny little etching I made when I lived there in this old post) It’s funny to think that it is now Sara’s “home” and my brother has lived there for over 20 years too.

The Wiltshire landscape is such a contrast to the Lake District, with enormous skies and smooth rolling hills dotted with isolated clumps of trees- sacred groves and mounds- and in my mind it is always summer and we areaways slightly too hot!. Sara and I swam in the river at Lacock again (shoals of tiny fish, fresh water mussels and damsel flies but also a lot of litter and still burning barbecues which breaks my heart) and also treated ourselves toa swim at Bristol Lido ( my birthday present ) which made me very happy. Another version of me- the one with the money and rosy stone villa in Clifton- could quite happily live in Bristol, and spend my days down the allotment growing vegetables, before an evening swim and tapas at the Lido. It’s fun to pretend.

Back in the mountains the rain has returned, which in a way is good because it means I have no distractions from work. I really have got to start thinking about how much work I will need for Art in the Pen next month and how I’m going to display it. Everything needs to fit in to my ancient VWGolf and be easy for me to construct on my own with a dodgy shoulder and those wobbly heirloom ladders I’ve mentioned before. I got myself a credit card reader specially and keep meaning to test it by charging Rupert for his supper but instead I get regular e-mails from iZettle along the lines of ” we notice you haven’t accepted any payments yet…can we help?”- well yes actually, I want to reply, you could buy some artwork thank you very much, just a card would do 😉 If all else fails I’m going to batch bake pizza and cakes to sell to passing walkers; I even have a sticker that says which major credit cards I accept, it’s like playing shops!

Some new prints have emerged including the Fell Pony, which is actually my friend’s pony Rocky, and more owls with various bits of added stitching. My adventures cyanotype continue with no two days or two prints the same. I sometimes get disheartened when I struggle to achieve the same results in each print, as you might if it were Lino printing or etching for example, but I’m slowly forcing myself to accept that the beauty is in the variability and that is what has kept my interest in the process. As part of Cumbria Printmakers I’ll be taking part in an exhibition at The Witham, Barnard Castle, opening on the 22nd June. The exhibition will include lots of information about the techniques used by the group members and the unique way each person works. Cyanotype seems to be very much in vogue at the moment, with some wonderful examples and experimental techniques popping up as I browse Instagram; I really do have to keep reminding myself sternly that it is just a tool that each person will use differently and smack down that doubting voice that keeps telling me others do it “better”.

Now it’s time I went to retrieve the print I left soaking in the bath and try to light the fire because unlike this picture of Castle Crag with velvet fields and blue skies, today is so wet I couldn’t even get out of the door and Rupert has been canoeing with a group on the lake so might need to dry his socks…

Reading: Ernest Journal Issue 6    Listening To: a leaking gutter overflowing into a galvanised watering can ( any music suggestions welcome…)

Making a Scene

The cat and I have curled up in my little room under the orange, woollen blanket to keep warm and think about things. We’re not complaining about the damp and rain because for a while this month it seemed as though we were living in another country, one with endless cerulean blue skies, arid hillsides smelling of coconuty gorse flowers and heady bluebells; things even started to wilt in the shady part of the garden so the rain has been welcome ( for now). I’m not fond of daffodils, May is the month for more subtle and delicate flowers, so I was happy when the acid yellow was replaced by carpets of  bluebells (why didn’t Wordsworth write about them instead?) and now the Hawthorn and Cow Parsley frothing along the hedgerows. As ever my walks are slowed by the need to  sniff May Blossom and discover that it does NOT taste like “bread and cheese” or examine, on hands and knees, like a Hemulen, the  Dog Violets and Heartsease hiding amongst the grass. For the first time I realised that Wild Garlic flowers actually smell of sweet honey unlike their delicious leaves which I’ve been using to make pesto.

It’s been a slow month in some ways ( financial ways of course!) and rather than panic I tried to make myself take the advice from the last blog post and draw more. Draw anything, for no reason other than to be doing something constructive rather than procrastinating. Even though it is the hardest thing to begin an empty page and to mute the negative inner voice that is mumbling “stop it, go and find a real job, you’re not good enough, it’s all been done before…”. Isn’t it sad how we measure our “success” and  relative happiness in monetary terms so that even on a day when I’ve made loads of  ok artwork and baked a good loaf of bread and marvelled at the clouds and the light on the mountains,  I can still feel like the day was a disaster because I didn’t sell anything. Someone asked me this week what I would do if I was suddenly rich and I really couldn’t think of a thing I would want to change – except of course to be secure in my home rather than at the mercy of landlords – so why the discontent?

Anyway, the pages of doodles gave me lots play with in Photoshop and it really was playing, because I discovered I could build little worlds to endlessly rearrange ( using the layers ), like my beloved model farm or dollhouse from childhood, I could design my own indoor garden. Rupert likes to tease me about my love of creating “little scenes” on windowsills… a few found objects and a miniature bear in a doll’s chair perhaps, or glass bottles with tiny flowers. I made some virtual shelves to display my virtual pot plants and then got engrossed in the great excitement of making a moving GIF with Spirit Bear (who is usually a card or a wooden necklace) . I may get completely carried away with this idea now – about 25 years too late to become an animation legend!

The blue prints continue and a story seems to be emerging- although I think Coralie Bickford-Smith already cornered the market on foxes and stars… I haven’t read her beautiful book but I was aware of it so I wonder whether I was unconsciously remembering the link or whether  it was genuinely totally random that I found the star sequin on the floor just as I was setting up the print…

Well it’s nearly time for some more coffee and some more drawing before an evening in Grasmere for Polly Atkin’s poetry book launch. Last weekend we went to a Royal Geographical Society lecture about Indian Shadow Puppets so living in the Lakes is definitely making my social life more cultured, or maybe I’m just growing up…good grief!

If I was good at arguing persuasively  I’d tell you how important it was to vote those mean old Tories out next month but instead I’ll just leave these two pictures here. PR gurus tell us not to mix politics with business and sometimes I worry in case someone is put off buying my work because I’m a bit of a Lefty (I guess this sticker would be earthy brown if I mixed in a hearty dose of Green policy too ) …but I reckon if Rob Ryan is prepared to nail his colours to the mast then it’s better to live fearlessly and keep believing in a better world. The picture below was taken after an evening swim in Rydal Water, where all the sad and cynical people, all the greedy, fighty, selfish people, should be dipped in the crystal water and made to breath in the bluebell air until they see that we only have one world and it’s beautiful and it’s time we stopped pissing about and looked after it- and each other. x

Reading:-  ” Work and Love” Tuula Karjalainen ( About Tove Jansson)  Listening to:- Skylarks and UPDATE! since the evening in Grasmere I’m listening to Jenn Grant who played a lovely live set amongst the Pre School toys and Brownie notices and almost me me cry. http://www.jenngrant.com