Awakenings…

Today is Imbolc…a word I learned from Robert MacFarlane (not sure he has a website but his Twitter name is @RobGMacFarlane)…Imbolc is from the Celtic calendar…meaning the mid point between the winter solstice and spring equinox; it marks the earth’s awakening from cold…from slumber…It is also known as Candlemas or Feile Brighde – the quickening of the year..(again, courtesy of MacFarlane).

This year Imbolc falls on February 1st and after last night’s super moon phenomenon that somehow feels appropriate. I took my usual walk down to the River Soar…

…a raw wind, blue skies, clouds scudding quickly across revealing a watery sun…a sun, that when you found that spot, out of the wind and lifted your face in salutation, the first hints of warmth could be felt…

Ripples across the river, widened by recent rain, a moorhen (or coot…must read up on my bird recognition!) family swimming, darting into the reeds hiding from the scampering dog, the distinctive sound as two swans flew overhead……and amidst the blanket of crisp, dry leaves, those tiny shoots and buds, braving the cold and wind…those welcome signs of Spring…the growing anticipation of longer, lighter days…

…those awakenings…

I am attempting to awaken my creative soul and have spent the past few days playing around with media, seeing what I like (or not), what works or doesn’t…

…and sometimes something happens that you quite like…

…something that awakens that tiny spark deep inside…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Stretch of River….

We all need places to go…to think, chill, watch the world go by… My place is the stretch of the River Soar…only yards away…

Although the drone of the A6 is ever-present, my little piece of river seems a world away… for the most part, gently meandering its way through the countryside – although there are times it tries to get a little too close..

The changing seasons bring a different feel to the river…from early morning winter serenity….

…to now, mid-summer…with cotton wool clouds floating by and the swaying reeds and nettles echoing the flow of the water..

…I took my coffee with me this morning and just sat…watching, listening….saying hello to the occasional passers by..

…watching the ever-changing reflections and ripples on the surface of the water..

…watching a dragonfly dance across the grass, the swallows, swoop and dive, skimming the water, and a common tern (I think…) hover, then plunge… Listening to the chattering of the swallows, the ‘clap, clap’…silent glide of the pigeons, interspersed with the increasingly agitated call of the walker calling her dog…who was having far too much fun digging in the undergrowth…

Along the river bank, the nettles and bindweed tangle with the rusty seed heads..

…and signs of the approaching autumn mark the passing of time..

…my place, my stretch of river…

..where is your special place, the place you go to, to sit, think, chill, watch the world go by….?

Magic in the Water…

Despite living in central England I love the water….I really empathise with this quote by Loren Eiseley – ‘If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.’ (Although, I hasten to add, I also find magic in the mountains….) Whether it’s the sea, a lake, a river, stream, puddle, rivulet or ripple, there is something about water that draws me to it….

Just over 100yards from where I live is the River Soar and is a favourite place of mine to wander along, to sit awhile….

…to ponder and wonder….to such an extent that I am now reading Tristan Gooley’s book, ‘How To Read Water; Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea’..

Along with the physical properties of water, Gooley intertwines history, anthropology and his own experiences…am finding it fascinating…..

Water also plays a large part in my attempts at art….and I have spent the morning playing with my favourite Daniel Smith watercolours, lots of water, sepia ink and granulation fluid – something I had forgotten I had until Ann Blockley used it in her demo at Patchings Art Festival

I used Saunders Waterford 140lb NOT paper produced by St. Cuthbert’s Mill and Daniel Smith watercolours – Perylene Green, Lunar Blue, Blue Apatite Genuine, Moonglow and my favourite, Rich Gold Green…along with granulation fluid and a black watercolour pencil…and water!

The following three are my favourites – judiciously cropped and framed using Photoshop…

Not sure where this experimentation will lead to, if anywhere, but it’s fun…and, being a person who puts such pressure on myself to produce masterpieces every time I pick up a brush…having fun and enjoying my art is something I should concentrate on….the magic will come, hopefully!!

Reflective Whisperings…

Monday finds me in a reflective mood… among a myriad of people I follow on social media, one is the artist Lucy Marks. Every Friday she posts a vlog/blog highlighting areas of interest, a topic for discussion…..and a couple of these posts have made me question myself…

One vlog was concerned with finding your own style and anyone who follows this blog effort of mine will know this is an area I struggle with. Influences abound in the art world; we have all seen artist’s work that we love, and one trap that we, as artists, mustn’t fall into is that of slavishly copying. Techniques, colour palettes, media… these can all be adapted, but it’s finding your own way of utilising them that makes your work unique, recognisable…

Bowed But Not Broken

As you can see from this small selection, finding my way is ongoing…perhaps I should think of it as ‘growing as an artist’….

….and, at the moment, I quite like where the ‘path’ is taking me…

The other vlog of Lucy’s that piqued my interest was about why we paint, what are we trying to say, what is the philosophy that underpins our work….

Now, no way do I profess to be a deeply philosophical thinker, (some of that stuff at uni, such as why is a table a table, went straight over my head…) but even I recognise that, as artists, we are all trying to say something, even if it is ‘this is what I can see in front of me’…

For my final show at uni I produced an installation that incorporated sound called ‘Connecting Threads’..

Connecting Threads…apart from the odd sketch which was more of a diagram for the aforementioned, I did no painting whatsoever….and although, I successfully justified/situated the above Threads, I find categorising my painting more difficult….or perhaps I am over-thinking things – why do I have to label my work at all?

Much easier for me is to say what interests me….

I have always loved being outdoors;  lately I have become fascinated with the literature and language we use to describe nature and the landscape…. and have found the books of Dominick Tyler (Uncommon Ground) and Robert MacFarlane a joy to read – for me, Landmarks transports me to the high mountains, the fenlands, the woods, even those in-between areas…I think I have said in a previous post about how his writings have made me stop and look at the details in the landscape, and having a language to describe it makes life so much easier…so, with all this reflecting taking place, and spring having sprung, I took myself off for a walk by the River Soar…

…the reeds stood like giant cotton wool buds….

…the warm weather had brought out the narrow boats and dog walkers, all shouting good morning – lovely how the sun brings out the best…

I sat and listened, church bells, a distant cockerel – a little late in the morning perhaps – the ‘flap flap’  silent soar of the pigeons, a lonely mallard squawking…the gentle flow of the river, ripples glinting in the sun…and as I walked along the desire path – so much better than ‘shortcut’.…I blew a kiss to the two magpies I disturbed – is that part of a song or an old wives’ tale – and watched a butterfly dance along… The path was springy underfoot, in fact, in some places it was definitely squelchy…

…but as I squidged and squelched I thought of a poem by Vicki Husband… called Desire Paths – I am never quite sure about copyright so I am not posting the whole poem, although an image of it is available on her twitter page @VicHusband – but the last lines are beautiful…

‘where every desire path reaches for its vanishing point

before heading off to shortcut a rumoured route between the stars’ ….

The poem even has its own desire path….

I am not sure that my work could every conjure up an image as poetic as that, but I keep trying…perhaps it’s the magic, ethereal, contradictory landscape that I am attempting to capture…

…and on the subject of language and words to describe features of the landscape..is there a word for the seemingly silver-tipped blades of grass, glinting in the sun…..?

 

Looking….and Seeing

The weekend has been one of taking stock and making plans……more of which I will tell you when they come to fruition….(note I said ‘when’ not ‘if’… how’s that for positivity?)

I have also been reflecting on my art practice – having to write an artist’s statement does concentrate the mind – and where and how I draw my inspiration from…

I have always been an avid reader and at present I am enthralled by the writings of Robert MacFarlane. I love the countryside and wild places and having devoured The Old Ways I am now reading Landmarks.

I like these because, not only does MacFarlane have a wonderfully descriptive prose style, he has a love of language, for the forgotten words, the archaic turn of phrase, for local dialect. I too love words and learning the etymology of words….

How can you not be inspired by such descriptive terms as:

summer geese – steam that rises from the moor when the rain is followed by hot sunshine (North Yorkshire) or

ammil – ‘The icy casings of leaves and grasses and blades and sprigs were glowing and hid in a mist of sun-fire. Moor folk call this morning glory the ammil (Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter 1927 Exmoor…)

(both of the above were taken from MacFarlane’s ‘Landmarks’)

Last night I read this excerpt from Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain quoted in ‘Landmarks’..

(Apologies for the wonky camera angle…)

These writings are making me stop and think about how I look at the world around me but sometimes don’t really see….

With these thoughts ringing in my head I took myself out for a walk…now I don’t live in a wild place, I live in middle England, Leicestershire where the drone of the A6 is a constant….

….but at the end of my road is the River Soar


..so I walked, I sat, I listened, I made notes….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I don’t profess to have the same turn of phrase as Robert MacFarlane but these are some of the words that sprung to mind as I sat, watched, listened, searched for the details…

reflection, glinting, ripples, sunlight, flow…

…although you can’t really see in the above, there was a wonderful ribbon of silver between the river and the far bank..

Reeds, shadows, pale, leaning, swept against the bank, seed heads..

Celandines (I think…correct me if I am wrong) and lichen..

and wonderful furry stars…

A country girl born and bred, my ability to identify birdsong is shameful…but I did hear the caw of the raucous crows, a magpie and the odd, ubiquitous gull amongst the ‘whee, whee’, chirrups and calls, some more strident…

..even spotted a lone crow atop a tree…perhaps on the look out for a nest site. Most of the trees are still skeletons..

..but their density provides a solid delineation between land and sky..

There was one however, a willow, clinging to the river bank, which was beginning to show signs of it’s green, sweeping curtain…

Con trails criss-crossed the sky, the church bell called the hour, the distant neigh of a horse, the honking of nearby ducks…

The difference between looking and seeing….detail, and with that I think the essence of the place comes alive…

..will be fascinating to see how the above develops in my work…watch this space..