Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Personification of Leaves

I find myself lying in bed with a bad back/right arm combo. As I don't own a laptop I have dragged my bed across the floor towards my desktop and have pulled my keyboard out to full extension so that I can type whilst sitting in bed. This has suddenly become a very dark day (AGAIN). I have no idea what is going on right now only that I appear to be struggling with everything, which is ridiculous as I don't really have pressures in life at the moment. It just go to show you that you can't escape yourself. 

Me with plants painted by Piers Ottey 2004
Whilst laying in bed and writing in all of my diaries something extraordinary manifests in my thoughts - a realisation: I am my leaves, the leaves are me. Every leafscape is not only a portrayal of a dystopian ecology, every one of them is also a reflection of me. Stuck on the margin on the paper, unable to claim their space, full of life or slowly decaying, spiky or soft, they are all facets me. 

I mentioned my dreams of giant leaves and tree trunks in my last post. When reflecting on my plant-based dreams, one in particular still plays on my mind. It must have been dreamt back in 2012 when I was still living in Kew. In it I found my old bedroom in a house of many houses. It was covered in dust, and shafts of life erupted from the furniture and climbed towards the shuttered window. Disrupted layers of dust whirled around the stagnant, stratified air. Toys I had forgotten ever owning were left out, half drunk cups of tea, university papers, school journals - you name it, everything was inside this hexagonal room. The room held all the items every one of my rooms has ever held, it was a capsule of my space and identity. Stunned I had come across such treasure my eyes went back to the thing they noticed first - the bed, from out which grew a coffee tree. It was Caroline and she was in bloom, but her flowers were that of a Gardenia- big, white and showy. Her roots covered the bed and her branches, which were full of singing, electric green birds, spread out like an awning in their desperate search for light. She was incredibly stunted but able to function nonetheless and the entire room had developed its own ecosystem.

On remembering this dream I remember all the others I had during that year of trees growing in houses and churches, halls, bedrooms, cellars and attics. There were dozens of them, all different species and all dwarfed by their environment. I now see a theme developing... took a while for me to remember and piece it together, but the brain is an amazing muscle that always requires time (and space). So with that in mind I am left feeling rather stunned and a teeny bit sad, trying to work out what I need to do in order to move away from the margin and into that white space. That is, if I want to. I think I do, but the subconscious is a strange thing and maybe, just maybe there is something inside of me that prefers the margin. 

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Inky Leaves' Desert Island Discs

Roughly a month ago I sat down in front of a roaring fire and watched Arena on BBC iplayer. This week's documentary covered the history of the legendary Radio 4 programme - Desert Island Discs. It is well worth watching if you have access to iplayer.

Record Player by Paul Senna
What do botanical artists listen to all day?

After the 46 minutes had passed I sat thinking it would be an excellent idea to do our own version. I am always fascinated to know what other botanical artists listen to when working, or taking time out away from the easel. I am equally interested to know what my readers listen to (feel free to comment at the bottom). With this in mind, I have decided to start the chain by being the our first 'castaway' listing my top eight records, starting with my most wanted. At one point, I almost decided to go down an artistic route and rank my most desirable according to the artwork on the album covers. Maybe I'll do that another time. In an age where the album cover is fast disappearing, I think such a process would be apt.

1. Etude 12 (Phillip Glass) 

2. Rival dealer (Burial) - but within this I'd like 'Come down to us' and 'Hider' which are part of the ensemble.

3. Harvest Moon (Neil Young) 

4. Suzanne (Leonard Cohen)

5. Sentinel (Mike Oldfield) 

6. Climber (The Progedy) 

7. Dance of the Bad Angels (Booth and the Bad Angel) 

8. Don' t Fear the Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult) - although it is toss up between this and 'Stairway to Heaven' by Led Zeppelin.

This is so difficult, I would have liked to have had some David Bowie in there, some Nick Cave, Pink Floyd, REM, Tchaikovsky, Johnny Cash, Joan Osbourne, Enya, Muse and I am always listening to 'Lucky Man' by The Verve, 'Les Fluer' by 4Hero, 'The Sound of Silence' by Simon and Garfunkel, Christmas Day by Jim White and of course 'Great Balls of Fire', which always seems to lift my spirits.

I might also ask if I could have a floral gramophone like this as I feel it is appropriate.
My book of choice, which doesn't include Shakespeare or the Bible as they are already on the island, is Masquearade by Kit Williams. I can look at that book for hours upon hours and not grow tired of it. The book is both transporting and grounding - it does everything. Filled with vistas of what I'd call 'home' made up of British plants and animals, this book would certainly take a hold over me on a desert island as the nostalgia starts to set in and would bring me comfort. Also, of course, there is the riddle itself - the treasure hunt to the infamous golden hare, so it would keep my mind busy too. For my international readers, I recommend that you look up the entire meaning of this book which was published in 1979. 

From Masquerade by Kit Williams.
Recently I uncovered this fantastic article by Jess Zimmerman about the power this book had over its readers. Well worth putting the kettle on and reading the entire piece, as it says a lot about our needs and our sense of longing as an audience whilst also addressing our ability to find patterns, even when there are none to be found - fascinating. If it wasn't Masquerade, it would have probably been a book of poetry, most likely my massive book of the complete works of Ted Hughes.

From Masquerade by Kit Williams

Ok then, so now onto the luxury item. Although I'd love to have a piano (interestingly, a piano is one of the most requested items on Desert Island Discs) I think I will be boring and go with a toothbrush. I cannot stand having furry teeth and I will never forget watching that scene where Tom Hanks has to knock his tooth out in Castaway with a rock. If a toothbrush is deemed too practical and boring, then it would have to be my sewing kit with all my embroidery things inside.

So there you have it. What are your discs? You have all of Christmas to mull over it...

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The art of polishing and partying

Still polishing this botanical illustration of an Artichoke leaf  (76 x 56cm)
(Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus)...
I took a day off yesterday and drove across Spain. I needed to spend some time out of the studio, to travel under a big blue sky and see something new. The journey took me to the ancient city of Gaudix where the people still live inside caves, and onwards through the Alpujarras and to the towns of Yegen, Órgiva and Lanjarón. I saw great swathes of national forest, Roman ruins and Islamic castles. The weather has been incredibly unusual of late and as a consequence confused Almond trees have started to blossom again and there wasn't any snow to stop me in my tracks. Only fragments of mica piled up on the mountain slopes glistened in the sunlight shining like little mirrors, and the only a few deer and a partridge provided company - there was no one around - it was the middle of nowhere and incredibly silent. 

It has been a busy week in the studio - lots of darting about from painting to painting. A very restless energy has built up and it is being reflected in my work. I have been trying to finish the Artichoke, whilst also delving deeper into the giant poplar leaf - two paintings that couldn't be any more different to each other. I like this, it is keeping my brain busy, preventing boredom. I wish I could say that I don't get bored, but I do. After weeks painting the same subject in the same colour it can get a little overwhelming. Mid last week when I sat down in front of the Artichoke I felt my tummy doing somersaults and actually felt a bit sick, like I'd eaten too much chocolate. I usually take this as a sign to stop what I am doing and move away. The intensity of the Artichoke is also not doing my back any favours as I tend to tense up when working in that amount of detail, so the Poplar has been a useful tool in doing the exact opposite. 

Little and Large, although little isn't exactly little! Artichoke (on top) and Poplar (underneath) - a sense of scale
(Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus and Populus nigra)

I am still on a limited palette but have swapped my D&R Rose Madder for D&R Cadmium Red (an old one too, so its bound to be seriously toxic) and I have to say I am very much enjoying it. I had forgotten what an awesome colour this is, especially if you mix your own green and don't use any green pans. It just gives the green some depth and reality. 

Black Poplar (Populus nigra) leaf found in the plantations of Granada (1.5m x 1m)

I have been reading a fabulous book called On Longing by Susan Stewart which I recommend to those who are interested in the psychology of longing, especially in the context of art. I found some of my missing paints that had managed to hide themselves under the plastic casing of my Daler Rowney set when I knocked all of my paints on the floor after the catastrophe that was starting the Poplar leaf. Video link here:

Live from the Inky Leaves studio...
Posted by Inky Leaves on Friday, 4 December 2015
Had a Christmas party, but still not done my shopping... leaves took over my life. Shopping tomorrow...
Have a very lovely Christmas everyone if I don't see you in this virtual space before hand!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Missing advent doors

December crept up on me. I had no idea that November had ended some time ago. I live in a bubble over here in Spain and all the days roll into one. I didn't get an advent calender, or know anyone else who has one and this hasn't helped matters. No talk of Christmas shopping here - the Spanish don't appear to regard the event as a commercial opportunity. A few baby Jesus' printed on shrouds dangle from balconies but that is about all. I only realised it was December after a double bank holiday this week - celebrating Constitution Day and Mary's Immaculate Conception.  I was left in a state of shock - is 2015 really wrapping up? Gosh. Stunned, I have decided to do what I normally do at the end of the year; panic, go over everything I have done to date and then tie up all loose ends (in the studio, hall, sitting room and kitchen) in a futile attempt to remedy the state of panic... 

Kitchen based tying involves me helping mum tie the string on our homemade Christmas pudding. Hall tying involves untying the wiry, white, fairy lights, Sittingroom tying requires a much needed spell of restringing on all of our Christmas baubel's and the studio? Well that doesn't really involve any thread-like products. In the studio I have just worked out that I could actually take a wad of paintings back for scanning in January if I pull my finger out and get on with some work. With this in mind I have put my dried leaves, including the massive leaf, to one side while I get on with these other pieces. I am having to use photographs for some subjects and with the Artichoke leaf (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) I am using a combination, which is what I tend to do towards the end of a painting (when I am painting anything that is 'alive'). There's still a field of green globe artichokes at the back of my studio, which, with the absence of a '¡Peligroso!' sign looked more inviting for a pick on one of my most recent walks.

Artichoke Leaf - botanical art
After 'weaving' basal layers all over the Artichoke leaf painting and putting in the darkest bits, I appear to now work in large sections across the leaf. This is a new thing - I didn't do this before. It began with my first Catalpa leaf and I liked this method of working so much I have stuck with it.

Artichoke Leaf - botanical art
Artichoke Leaf (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus)
Not the whole leaf, but the better 'side' of it as the bottom section is still pretty drafted out.
Talking of walks... whilst painting I have also been listening to this fantastic series on Radio 4 which I really want to share with you as, although they are short programmes, they completely transport you. I am not really the Radio 4 type, but my mum was kind enough to draw my attention to this wonderful little programme on Virginia Woolf's walks. I myself am a walker. I could walk all day if I didn't feel so concerned about wasting my time all of the time. Walking is always my activity of choice when I have a day off. Even if I am stuck in London, I will walk. When I was looking for a place to rent in the city 5 years ago I remember I walked from Kew to Brick Lane as the crow flew, along a fictitious equatorial line, I sliced the city in half. It took a while, but it was one of the best things I could have done at the time as I found my bearings and with that, my confidence. 

So here is the link to the programme on the BBC. What I find particularly remarkable is that her walks are EXACTLY where mine have been, minus a stint I did in Edinburgh. We have London... Granada... Cornwall and Sussex. Remarkable. 

Flock of pigeons in flight - taken on my walk today near Santa Fe, Granada, Spain

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Hands that do dishes...

The Hand Album

This afternoon, whilst sitting on a sunny wall eating my lunch I looked down at my hands. At first I was cross with myself for not having washed them, and once again a bit more manganese entered my blood stream (I often smudge in paint with my fingers when painting). As the inward tut-tutting subsided, I then began to study the lines. I turned my right hand edgeways, where, since I was 8, I have had a splinter. It's been entombed in a mass of skin at the base of my little finger since I rubbed my hands along an old wooden flap-desk in Miss Brullhard's class at Rose Green Junior School and has over the years made a home for itself in an underground bubble. It's a tiny little thing, but evidently there. However, this week I could see that rather suddenly it has decided to tunnel its way out and with a helping left hand that splinter of wood saw the Spanish sun for the first time. It's been embedded in there for 23 years.
My hand in 2010

Alex's hands out of their pounch

I love hands. To me there is something slightly obscene about them, providing a window that looks straight onto the soul. Just think of all the things they've touched. You can tell a lot from someone's hands. The texture, the lines, the muscle. Mine are very dry, scarred from both too much gardening without gloves and over picking scabs at times when I have been anxious. The joints bend where they shouldn't, there's a callus from writing and painting and freckles on the top from spending so much time outside. There's soot under my nails from scrubbing the fireplace. Yes, you can tell a lot.

Mum's hands

Matthew's and Dad's hands. Matthew's are big and thin, Dad's, chunky

I am fascinated by the lines. I have hand prints from all of my lovers, my best friends and my parents. I collect them, although haven't taken any since 2010. To me there are so deeply personal. I remember taking them so that I'd have a souvenir if I were to ever loose that person. Morbid I know, but that's just the kind of girl I am. It all started when I worked at Plymouth City Museum. I was studying some geological micro mounts and I found a fingerprint left in the wax on which the micro gem was perched. It had been there since 1799, left by Comte Louis de Bournon who had ended up in England after fleeing the French revolution. At the time I was deeply moved and felt instantly closer to a ghost and the absurdity that is time.  Time... just us casting shadows in space.

Henry's hands - which didn't come out very well sadly

Katie's hands in their pounch

My hand prints are kept in a yellow book which I later started to use for my Bare Necessities Project, which I will one day, when I am old lady, have time to actually paint. It was always meant to be a project about time -  looking back, looking forward - a comparison of diets over the years and what makes me - me. On reflection, it is quite a special book this one. It's full of the souls and food that nourished me. This book, in a way, has become my identity, my own digital print.

Bare Necessities Project - packaging album number 1 (there are 3 for the year)

Alex's hands

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Never the same again

Last fortnight I was trapped in a maze. I sometimes refer to it as 'the maze' or 'a shadow', but most call it 'black dog'. Leaving Facebook for a while was a challenge set by said maze... It was pretty bad and I did a lot of soul searching and thankfully I managed to navigate myself out of it, the storm passed and this new week brought with it a fresh start. 
Monday/Tuesday - laying out in the studio...
 I have begun a new piece of work and so far it’s been a fascinating journey and one which I wanted to share with you. This Monday morning one could say I probably felt a little over confident after battling my way through an emotional thorny bush. As a consequence, I brazenly ventured into the spare bedroom and carefully peeled the first sheet of my new supersize paper away from the others and carried it clumsily down the marble stairs. On the drawing board it looked even bigger and over hung Drew (the drawing board) by about a foot on three sides. However, it is such heavy paper I think we can cope as it doesn't flop like the 420gsm. Still feeling self-assured I then draw out two compositions of three, as the plan was to do a triptych. Of course now I have got started I am not entirely sure if I have the time to successfully do a triptych, but we live in hope. 

Wednesday - drawn out on Drew
Yesterday… Wednesday, I telephoned St.Cuthberts Mill as I couldn't spot a watermark on my Saunders Waterford paper*, which made distinguishing the correct side to paint on a bit tricky. Added to this confusion was the fact that it wasn't hot press paper, so to my untrained eye both sides looked as rough as each other. Anyway, after a lovely conversation with an English lass I managed to work out the felt side and transferred the graphite image onto the paper (yes this took almost an entire day). 

My wonderful Series 44, size 12 Rosemary and Co. brush
which was kindly gifted to me from my Biology teacher
This morning, Thursday, I crept into the studio with a hang over... Not ideal but I didn't get much in the way of carbohydrates with my tapas the night before which was not only a little disappointing but negligent on my part. However, a pot of tea, two ibuprofen, two ginger nuts and some breakfast slowly sorted the issue out, thank goodness. So yes, back to the studio… In the daylight I was able to see that the graphite had transferred so I began to paint, but I found I couldn't straight away… 

Firstly I had to rearrange my studio - the lights, the stools where I keep my paints - pretty much everything. My 'clippy' angle poise no longer could ‘clip’ onto Drew, so I am now a daylight bulb down which is a bit of a nuisance but easily solved - just something else to keep me on my toes. I then found myself thinking about other botanical artists who have painted such big works, such as Rosie Sanders, Coral Guest and Heidi Willis. This is something I tend to do a lot at the start of a painting - it is almost like saying a prayer where I ask for their guidance in spirit (hi guys if you are reading!).

Finally, paint hit paper. The texture of the paper is completely different to what I am used to, but I actually rather like it. Like a butterfly trying to find a nice hot branch on which to settle, I danced around a bit to begin with. I seem to do this every time - it’s the same old routine - paint the scaffolding first, so in goes the far edges, the darkest bits and the main veins. This is done with big brushes. I then try to do the lightest area and eventually, such as at 1pm this afternoon, I manage to settle on an area that appeals. I feel I have to say though, that with this piece I was beginning to worry that firstly - I wouldn't settle down as I was ALL OVER THE PLACE and secondly - I was beginning to get concerned that every time I moved around I would have to move everything with me to that extremity on the paper. So all in all I can conclude that big paper = a work out.

So here are some images of the bare bones. I am showing you the bare bones because I think it is funny how my paintings often look this diabolically bad to begin with. It's something I don't like to reveal at the best of times, but there you have it, I have decided to reveal all. I am also working on this one very differently to my previous pieces - because it is big I find I have become incredibly free with the brush. I am painting like an impressionist. I don't want the end product to be impressionist in style, but I can tell at this early stage that it might have a completely different feel to it. Maybe it will be more abstract - who knows?! I certainly don't. I don't have a clue - I just found something I wanted to paint big and am doing it. Hopefully, when I am finished, leaves will never be the same again and neither will I.

*St. Cuthberts Mill apparently don’t watermark their bigger paper.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Our pigments - protection or problem?

As botanical artists I think it is fair to assume that we all practice our art with an bias towards ecological responsibility. We surely all have a deep connection with nature? We choose to paint it after all. A consequence of this is that I have noticed that artists will go out of their way to use only ecologically friendly products for their work. For example, Alex Viamensky uses eco-repsonsible, sustainable, acid free, bamboo paper for his fine art prints

The toxic mud has now reached the Atlantic Ocean, about 500km 
(310) miles away from the area where the dam collapsed. Source: BBC
This week in the news I read about the sorry state of affairs occurring yet again in the Amazon. Not only did a recent study for IUCN come out this week, but there was also news about a wave of highly toxic mud which has swept through the Amazon towards the sea causing mayhem for ecosystems along its journey. This week the mud reached the sea. 

According to sources, the red mud burst out after a dam used to hold waste water from an iron mine collapsed. As a consequence, the environmental agency has fined the iron ore mine owners, Samarco, which is owned by mining giants Vale, from Brazil, and Anglo-Australian company BHP Billiton. The money from this is intended to be used to cover the initial clean-up and to offer some compensation to the victims and their families. 

An area of at least 9 sq km of natural vegetation was sadly destroyed instantly where the burst dam was, but the mud has caused even more destruction along the path of the River Doce, which meets the Atlantic Ocean some 500km (310 miles) away. To make matters worse, Samarco has reported that two other dams close to the disaster area are also at risk of collapsing. Emergency work to prevent another disaster is already being carried out.
Watercolour set by Björn Laczay
So why am I talking about this incredibly depressing news? Well it made me wonder about our paint and where it comes from. How delightfully ironic would it be that the paint we choose to use as artists to represent the species we are trying to protect being part of the problem. Makes you wonder doesn't it? 
So this week I have got in touch with all the big brands to ask them what their policy is on this sort of thing, if indeed they have one. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Animals in Danger

Remember these? What ever happened to them. I still have a pencil tin and a pencil sharpener which I use to sharpen my green eye liner with. It has two blue bears on it with the Animals in Danger scripted in a wavy line across the top. I have had it for years.

I have tried in vain to find the artist
responsible for these designs so I can't really credit them!
The success of the unique brand of the Body Shop has always fascinated me - it is their rare approach to product development that draws me in. A child of the 1980s, I arrived at an age that was easily influenced by trends at a time when the Body Shop was probably hitting its peak. I remember at school the Body Shop became a fashionable icon. Everyone had their tote bags, their pencil cases and stickers on their books. As I have got older, I still see the living remnants of the movement, so many of my friends went into conservation and ecology with the belief that they could save the world. Many of my generation went on to do low paid work carrying the belief that it doesn't matter they weren't earning. The philanthropic philosophy of having a purpose and being responsible socially has lived on in all of us. We were the children who bought their soaps and soaked in bath tubs of ecological responsibility. 

Anita Roddick used to live very close to the place I grew up in from the age of nine near Amberley village, and every time we drove past her house I was reminded of her. We used to drive past the Body Shop factory in Littlehampton frequently in dad's 2CV van and I participated in their tours several times on school trips and with friends. It was an experience I revelled in, seeing all the bananas shipped in from the tropics being put into large vats to make their banana shampoo and watching all the mandarins being pulped. The smells were incredible. I think it would be right to say that Anita most certainly contributed to my love of plants and ethnobotany.

So yes, it is the ethos of The Body Shop that still plays on my mind repeatedly. I find it deeply moving that a brand such as theirs could have become as successful as it did. Their consistent pursuit of social and environmental justice permeated the culture of the firm and probably still does. However it is something about what it did in the 90s that really sticks in my mind. Their branding doesn't seem quite so apparent these days, it is as if they've been drowned out by other large eco-socio companies. It's the thing - everything is now more focused on being organic and 'from the source'. What I find so sad, is that even though they were the ones to have had the bravado to campaign for this movement, I now find that the messages they made so clear are no longer really part of it. It's morphed and now more about being paraben-free and holistic. What I liked about their campaign was that they broadcasted from the top of their voices how opposed they were to animal testing, how much they helped economically stressed communities and how they promoted recycling. I always recount the clip boards in every shop collecting signatures. For example, in 1989 the body shop collected a million signatures on petitions to 'stop the burning' in the Amazon Rainforest, where fires were being set to clear cast areas for development.  Personally, for me, their best branding mission was 'Animals in Danger' where they designed and responsibly manufactured a range of merchandise aimed at children that highlighted the plight of our most critically endangered species using illustrations (there is just something about the amazing accessibility of art isn't there?). Their campaigns were not hidden in the 90s, they weren't just written on pieces of paper, published on the web or there as a percentage of the price, in the 90s one could 'wear' the campaign and be part of it. 

Save the Rhino
Today, I have just visited The Body Shop website, a place that, to me, on appearance is so very far removed from the inspiring world of Anita Roddick's dream. It's incredibly 'glam' and airbrushed glitz. Such a missed opportunity for L'Oréal I feel. In order to read anything about The Body Shop's ethos you have to scroll right to the bottom of the page, past all the Christmas promo, to the 'About Us' icon, which, after being clicked on is a disappointing read and you have to go onto yet another page to get the full feed. Personally, I feel now that the message is lost in a heap of advertisement, but in the 90s, the message was clear and very simple. Through all of their hard work and concentrated focus The Body Shop created a global community that everyone could identify with and I wonder (and hope) if we, as botanical artists, could do the same?

Sunday, 15 November 2015

They dry like poppadoms in the sun

One thing is for sure, and that is that I'm still obsessed with the Catalpa bignonioides tree growing in our back garden. Everything about it is fantastic. Its leaves, its long spooky pods and its entire form. I have always loved these Cigar Trees. There used to be a large specimen growing at the end of my road on Brick Lane. I loved that one too, but there is just something extra special about this one. 

Spooky beans of Catalpa bignonioides at night
Like the 'Whomping Willow' in Harry Potter, or a wet dog on the beach, it is now shedding its massive leaves in one big shake. Scattered across the sunlit lawn they dry like poppadoms. A fan of the Indian snack, I later come along and gather them all up, study them, select the best leaves and paint those. Here's the latest:

Inky Leaves studio
Inky Leaves studio

Indian Bean Tree
 Close up on another one of my Catalpa bignonioides poppadom leaves
Apparently, the name Catalpa derives from the Muscogee name for the tree, "kutuhlpa" meaning "winged head". Later on, between 1729 and 1732, the spellings "Catalpa" and "Catalpah" were used by Mark Catesby and then Carl Linnaeus published the tree's name as Bignonia catalpa in 1753. Giovanni Antonio Scopoli then later established the genus Catalpa in 1777. I wonder what represented the winged head on the tree?

Observations #151115

One man in a cut field with a gun

One lady thrashing plants on the side of the road with a stick

Two men with radios

One man sitting on a wall looking pensive

Two dogs fighting

Two runners

One man throwing corn seed into a ditch

Two cyclists, both stationary. One at the start, one at the end

Observations,  11am on 15/11/15, Belicena, Granada, Spain

Hiroshima: after the explosion, shadows "fixed" in the walls and pavements 

It's been preposterously light here over the last seven days. A continuum of blue still dons every crown and seeps through the gaps until it’s halted by something opaque. Such is the nature of light, and I am once again rudely reminded that every light casts a shadow. What that shadow is, I am not entirely sure. I suppose it is just a different state of being. A wall can be in the sun in the morning and by afternoon not, but it is still a wall. Like a chameleon, it has just temporarily changed its skin. If there is light, then there are definitely shadows and so where there is light, there is darkness. On a metaphorical level, my greatest fear is that as I try to step closer into the light spiritually, someone or something else edges a little closer into the darkness.  Such is the impossible violence of light.

Still from the documentary film, The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, produced by Akira Iwasaki and Kihon Eigasa, 1945. Photographed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum's daily screening by slavick.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Studio updates

It's been quiet again. I think I am getting quieter and quieter, going deeper and deeper underground. I am bored by social media and more entranced by the things outside my door. I suppose this isn't a bad thing. 

Currently, what I find when I step outside of my door are platoons of corn stubs,
shimmering Poplar trees and long, long shadows.
So I have been getting on with a commission of a wreath made up of Salvia officinalis, Lavandula officinalisMarjorana officinaleVeronica officinalis and Rosmarinus officinalis plants  for a new website.

Preparations are also underway for my upcoming show. I have worked out the time I need to build a collection of work together. I was aiming for February 2017, but with the RHS also in contention, I might have to wait until 2018. Lets see... So I have been very carefully selecting specimens for the job. I feel like one of those judges at a summer fete judging flowers, fruits and vegetables, except my criteria are slightly different in that I am looking for the perfection in imperfection. 

As for the RHS... well this has all gone awry in my heart. I still don't feel 100% happy doing what I wanted to do and all other ideas still aren't really fitting the bill. They are either too whacky, too difficult or not very me. I am finding it difficult trying to find something that I want to do that isn't going to be seen by the judges as madness. With this difficulty, I have decided to just step back from the whole thing and let the plant/theme/subject find me. 

After drawing after drawing, and fantasy session after fantasy session I have had a complete rethink on what I am doing. I often find that this is how I come to most of my pieces of work - there are those that come from dreams and fantasy and those that come from reality. Dreams come first and I tend to stick with them. Darth was a dream, as was the Coffee and Cos. They are usually softer paintings that come with an aura of uncontrollable darkness. Sometimes I dream so much I end up falling out on the other side and finding a simple solution in reality. I wonder how it will be with the RHS? So no blogging about this for a while now. Not sure what I will be writing about instead but I want to carrying on going deeper within in order to create something incredible and I feel I can't do that when I am spreading myself out on the web.

A spontaneous burst of pigeons - fabulous movement. 
Came across this the other day... a diary entry before I went to the UK in August... Made me laugh whilst also highlighting the importance of taking one's time in planning:

"Drawing it out and its the wrong size, only slightly wrong. Could go forward as is, but not happy with the size and that will ruin everything. I know it will. I got away with it on the pineapple, but not with this. I need Gertrude to be big. Bugger. Totally pissed off I have wasted 3 whole days  on this, sitting in a boiling hot room for nothing. Part of the process. The planning is so important and remember what Steven Moffat says - 'it is all the ideas that you didn't go ahead with that makes good writing'. It's all the silly doodles and ideas that lead to something ground breaking. I must remember this".