Tag Archives: Art in the Pen

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!

 

 

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“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)