Sundarbans is a delta where hundreds of rivers meet the Bay of Bengal represented by the wavy vertical lines of this artwork. This original collagraph is hand pulled onto Somerset Velvet 300gsm paper using Cranfield inks with watercolour detail.
At times we get so focused on getting really good at an activity that time seems to run out for experimentation and playfulness.
I swim regularly and know that playing in the pool doing roly-polys or attempting handstands increases confidence and can stretch me out of my comfort zone. Yet on a day to day basis I only allow enough time to use the water to keep fit.
As an artist I like to create pictures that have a fair chance of being successful and that must mean following a well practiced strategy for getting a decent drawing transformed into a painting.
Playing with materials and ideas helps to break these predictable patterns and although there is a much greater chance of the exercise ending in an image that is far from perfect it is a route to discovering new techniques and allowing pursuit of different ideas.
The most difficult thing of course is allowing ourselves to have this time to be playful rather than pursuing a direct course to being predictably productive. The process of discovery through playfulness allows us to develop our practice further rather than stagnating and ultimately becoming bored with what we do.
Yesterday I allowed myself time to play; above is a print of my son’s drawing of an eagle which I transferred onto mdf board alongside is a print of my photo a well known local tree. I tried putting gold leaf on some buttons as a addition and sprayed around the board with gold laquer. Who knows where I will go with this, but my nominated play-day is over and now I must get back to work!
Here is my original painting which is now called The Gatekeeper in a nice chunky black A3 sized frame, it is a painting of a raven holding a key. Ravens are a common feature of ancient religion and mythologies from familiars of witches to the supernatural, from the carriers of souls and associations with good luck, to trickery and foreboding. According to legend, the Kingdom of England will fall if the ravens of the Tower of London are removed; care has been taken to ensure that they continue to inhabit the Tower as they have done now for centuries.
Sedna is mythological figure, a Goddess of the sea for the people of the arctic.
The Myth of Sedna
The young girl Sedna was tricked into marrying Raven, and later when her father tried to rescue her by kayak a raging storm brew and her father threw Sedna in to the sea in order to save himself. Her hands clung to the side of the boat and he beat them until her cold and frozen fingers fell into the sea and became sea mammals. Sedna sank under the sea and was transformed into a sea goddess, able to conjure up storms with her rage whereupon shaman must swim down to calm her by combing her hair.
The Innuits survival is dependant upon the success of their hunting animals. From this is derived a great respect for the animal kingdom. Part of the myth is that Sedna holds onto the animals if she is displeased with the people ( so that they will not be successful in hunting them) and untangling her hair is part of the process of calming her.
From this story I created my image of Sedna with fishes swimming amongst her tresses of red hair, she is looking up to the light of the sky on the surface of the water. The image at the bottom is a painting done some time later showing Sedna sleeping with three seals.
These three paintings on the left seen below featuring Sedna are for sale in Studio 71 in Totnes.
This weekend my focus is on painting a commission. I am concentrating on this whilst dealing with an ear worm, an expression which does make me squirm somewhat. I have been listening to the line about not messing with Major Tom from Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes track for several days now. The painting is going well despite the interference! To my glee there is in fact a true story to this commission about a dog arriving at a castle one night at Christmas.
Below is cropped section of a painting which I did some years ago when I was putting together a children’s picture book idea. I dug it out of my folder as like my current commission it is a night time scene. This image was for a story about a jealous kingfisher who steals a peacock’s tail feathers whilst the peacock is sleeping.
I love storytelling whilst painting, whether it be a fully formed story or presenting narrative for possibilities that the imagination can cast from before or after the moment in the painting itself. Here is a visual excerpt from the Tiny Tale Of Kingfisher.
Just a few tiny details to add and my Barn Owl will be completed.
This is another image for my series of Lost Things (along with the Lost Pearl and the Golden Bell) and a continuing theme of gold leaf moons. The captivating Barn Owl. Both feared and venerated throughout history and a variety of cultures the owl has been associated with both evil and wisdom. Thankfully superstitions such as its association with witches have died away and we can count ourselves lucky if we manage to enjoy a glimpse of this fascinating night time hunter.
To compliment my recent Elephant in Red and Gold here is the Ibis. The Nile was central to Ancient Egyptian life and religion. The Egyptians of old believed that souls of the dead were transported across the Nile to reach the afterlife in the presence of Thoth the god of knowledge, who was represented as the Ibis bird.
The Ibis is of ancient evolutionary origin, its fossil records going back some 60 million years. Carvings of the Ibis can be found on many Egyptian monuments; they were also mummified and buried in the temples with pharaohs.
Red and Gold are a favourite combination of mine, as are the colours Prussian Blue, Ultramarine and Alizarin Crimson. Red, Gold and Blue shine out from traditional Egyptian wall paintings, paintings from the renaissance, and religious paintings. Many colours are featured in the decorating of elephants for festivals yet I have been drawn to the deep blues, reds and gold so often used, and now echoing the colours of the recent Christmas period now nearly over.
My next Travelling Animal is an elephant. A revisitation to research I did for a picture of Harvey the Aardvark on his adventures with decorated elephants in the desert.
Embellished with gold leaf, and decorated with a hint of African textile patterns this elephant carries a crane feather.
Elephants are symbols of wisdom and strength and revered by African cultures. The crane (bird) is also known for its longevity, its lifespan similar to the African elephant some 40-60 years. The crane is also associated with wisdom and loyalty, and folklore has extended its lifespan to 1000 years.
I have combined these two animal symbols to encompass wisdom and power with loyalty. This has enabled me to show the gentle nature of the elephant delicately carrying the feather of a crane.
If an image captures your imagination you may find your own internal dialogue emerging as to what is taking place in the picture. I make ACEOs with my own narrative in mind and often show them to my family and find that they in turn arrive at their own (sometimes surprising ) conclusion as to what they think is going on with the characters in my ACEOs.
I love to start the story and hope there may be a variety of possibilities for a story to be told.
Decide yourself what is happening here between Digger and Freddie, and then see below for what I had in mind. My description for this aceo goes something like this : “Digger could not be sure but he thought that Freddie was trying to tell him something…..”
My narrative could have been…. “Looking at Freddie Digger was not sure if Freddie actually liked him.” but I decided that it would be “Freddie kept glancing at the Fish Food and looking at Digger hoping Digger might take the hint and gives him a little snack!”