Jul 3, 2019 | Art inspiration, Personal experience
Photograph of an Oil on Tarpaulin by Hughie O’Donoghue RA from Summer Exhibition 2019.
I never thought I would get this post written. During the ebb and flow of my work, I have distanced myself from my website for a while now. So much so, that I now no longer know how to create blogposts properly (as there have been so many updates to Divi software where they change things for change sake: not necessarliy intuitively which is what I rely on). It’s a frustrating feeling that I am not keeping up with the times.
What’s going on?
It’s quite simple really… I seem to have lost my creative art ‘Mojo’ for the first time in years and I am feeling a little lost with how to push on through it. I have been so fortunate in that my previous creations (card decks) have tapped into a well of inspirational energy and have been created from a place of ease. Even sharing the, sometimes awkward, process felt reasonably comfortable on IG and Facebook. Not any more. I am conscious that I am hiding most of my new work (not that there is alot of it!) ….In fact, I have been hiding my art more and more these past few years. I am not sure what to do about it.
I feel I am letting myself and others down.
I tried an adventure into Textile Art but became frustrated and a little bored at the slowness of progression and the continual need to change the needle and thread etc. It was beginning to feel like the wrong direction, at huge expense. Though I do feel what I have learned will serve me well some time.
The more I do and see art the more intimidated I get at being self-taught ….and the more frustrated I get when I can’t seem to create something equally amazing and fantastic. The more I know, the more I realise I don’t know. I have my own creative space, but it is restricted, so I can’t experiment with big volume, big mess and big ideas (just in case I have them….not yet!). I am too shy to create art in public spaces. So I knit comfortably with creatives in public instead.
My art has to have meaning, so I don’t feel able to create for arts sake. Recently, I have sat with a blank page for days on end. I am procrastinating all the time! These past few years, I seem to have picked up a few extra traumatic wounds around being an artist….the odd difficult experience, encounter, and harsh words has left its imprint on me to the detriment of me seeing and appreciating the mainly positive experience and opportunity I have been gifted these past few years.
I want to create art my own way, at my own pace, but personally feel continually under the shadow of needing to make money. I would do art for free….really I would….We can live modestly on my husbands salary….But I want more beautiful experiences and be surrounded by more beautiful things and Nature. I love spending money that I have made making art….but I am stuck connecting being an artist with the want… I self-sabotage all the time! I am a paradox of wanting my cake and eat it…..I feel guilty knowing the difficult lives for many people in the world… I feel despair at the way we humans are destroying the planet….I feel it all to the point of overwhelm. I confess, I sometimes give up hope that we can make a difference. I try to do what I can. For example, I have chosen not to fly since 2003….but people around me are repeatedly flying all over the world and return with exotic stories and adventure and I feel a little more ‘dull’ each time…. Yet, something within me doesn’t feel comfortable flying on holiday just to keep up with others…..I am often content with the simplest of pleasures. I am digressing, sorry….
What am I doing now?
In the last few weeks, I have found a small way into my art through the excitement of creating acrylic art for our flat. I have become a little obsessed with colour, hue, value, intensity, tints and tones etc. I have no particular experience in this medium, but its something about creating art with no price-tag, introducing juicy bright colours (when I am usually of a muted palette) and flying by the seat of my pants making it up as I go along… I have some of the creative sparks back and some element of flow…but it won’t be enough to sustain me in the longer run and we have a small flat with limited wall space! Also, they are more abstract which can be a challenge for my fabulous husband to embrace in our scared space! Ha! Ha!
I thought I would just update you as to where I am up to in this life as an artist: just being honest and not necessarily looking for advice… Thank you for reading and thank you for continuing to buy my card decks!
Onwards and upwards
May 16, 2018 | Art inspiration, Personal experience, We are Nature
A thought provoking exhibition at the V&A: Fashioned from Nature (FFN). I felt it important to take the time to visit. It truly opened my eyes to the close relationship we have with fashion and Nature: good and not so good.
My partner was unable to attend the show so I had a spare ticket. I found it impossible to give the ticket away to people within my social circle, which kind of viscerally emphasised a disconnect with the subject…(even if that was not the truth of the matter!). The show was eerily quiet when I visited, but it gave me the space and time to connect with the material. I’d like to think that over the duration of the exhibition there will be an acceleration of people coming to view it. It’s a new exhibition and it’s wonderful!
The show covers the global journey of British fashion from around 1600 to the present day. The lower floor is mainly covering 1600-1900’s whilst the upper floor continued into the present times. It appears that ‘everything we wear, from clothes and accessories to jewellery, is ‘fashioned’ from matter found in the world around us. Nature inspires us for fashion ideas, provision of the raw materials and also in the energy used to produce and transport them (FFN)’. If you cannot get to the London exhibition, then I highly recommend the accompanying book ‘Fashioned from Nature’ (FFN). It is extremely informative and beautifully represents the exhibition. It is full of useful facts from the widely known to the more obscure.
I was particularly shocked to read how our human relationships have developed with Nature. One example is the effect of cultures where Christianity was the dominant religion. ‘It was justified by biblical teaching, particularly Genesis I, verse 26, where God granted man dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth (FFN). This God-given mastery over the earth fits well with our economical approach to the environment. When I read this, I caught myself thinking… ‘and over WOMEN too!’. I can see why religion has never sat comfortably with me; maybe that is one of the reasons I am so fond of the tarot. Nature is seen more as a commodity or playground for man to use for economic gain. Another example is our historical fascination with adornment where we wear animal fur or, say, iridescent jewel beetle wings (I kid you not!) stitched into textiles. Where starling-trimmed hats are contorted, dyed and painted from our desire to improve on Nature. We have historically had an instinct to ‘impose a human aesthetic of beauty on Nature through artifice (FFN)’.
An issue for us in the twenty-first century is fashion’s global demands on Nature which directly threaten the flora, fauna and human environment. ‘By 1800 the processes that supported the fashion industry and its rising demands for raw materials were beginning to have an impact on the environment and some animal populations. Although there were concerns about the spread of industrialisation, particularly in areas of natural beauty, but for most people these were outweighed by its economic benefits: turning a blind eye (FFN)’. It’s a similar story today! I cannot quite believe how long we have been abusing that which sustains us. This includes the hunting of animals to the point of extinction, the pollution of air and rivers, cutting down ancient rainforests and, of course, slavery.
In recent times, there has been a more environmentally driven clean-up of the fashion industry. But, this is counterbalanced by a more pernicious force which is our hunger for consumption of commodities and having fast fashion at low-cost to the consumer and high-cost to the Nature around us: turning a blind eye again. On top of that is our rapidly expanding population and demands for finite resources.
There seems to be disconnect that is hard to reconcile: Nature comes first argument verses the pursuit of globalised economy at any cost. The economic argument appears weak when we no longer have a sustainable planet to live on. How can we shift our focus from short-term gains to a more long-term solution? At the moment, particularly in recent world-wide political times, it feels impossible! Progression feels more like regression….
It’s not about returning to the old ways, as they too were harmful to Nature. Plus, our population was a lot smaller back then. But, it’s about finding a symbiotic relationship between smart modern technological solutions whilst living within the finite boundaries of our planet.
An example would be reducing the amount of water used in fashion. Resources are stressed to the extent that ‘if we continue on our current path, demand for water by 2030 will outweigh supply (FFN)’. If solutions can be found where water is either not needed or can be recycled then there is more water for human consumption. Or, another example is, tracking data as to find the supplier details and journey of fashion items. In May 2017, a London-based designer Martine Jarlgaard and technology company Provenance launched a pilot collection to provide completely traceable products vis a ‘smart label’. There are so many more forward-thinking examples to read about within the exhibition or the book.
We are at the edges of many planetary boundaries and some have been breached already. ‘Prior to the mid-twentieth century, the earth experienced around 12,000 years of stable climate during which human civilisation developed (FFN)’. Since human industrialisation, there has been a hastening of effects on carbon dioxide emissions, rising sea levels, global extinction of species, and the transformation of land by deforestation : the age of Anthropocene. The Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Australian National University have identified nature’s limits in quantifiable terms. In naming the earth’s nine planetary boundaries, we have already crossed four (climate change, species extinction, waste pollution, land use and biochemical usage). Fashion is a significant contributor to many of these boundary breaches.
This exhibition has impacted me and left me deeply reflective in my decision making around fashion. Historically, I have not really invested much in fashion (let alone thoughts around it), choosing instead to direct my finances and time elsewhere. My ethical choices have been a bit hit and miss depending on the urgency of my wants and needs. But, I am at a pivot point where I now need and want to invest in my wardrobe. I am taking things slow and choosing second-hand or a ‘less is more’ approach often at more financial cost: e.g. looking at sustainable fashion brands that have more ethical credentials. For example, I am hoping to be married in the near future and have recently invested in a simple 1970’s vintage wedding gown. Simplicity of style and what suits my body shape whilst deliberately not buying into the seasonal trends: avoiding the ‘cathedrals of consumption’ department and online stores where possible! It will take time, but informed awareness is hard to ignore in the face of our global problems.
Finally, clothes express who we are as individuals but are also ‘lived as a process (Kate Fletcher)’…so I am excited to start reading ‘The Craft of use- Post-Growth Fashion‘ by Kate Fletcher. It looks at the fostering of sustainability in the fashion sector. I am am confident it will be interesting so I will keep you posted.
Onwards and upwards!
Mar 9, 2018 | A sense of place, Art inspiration, Personal experience
I have many reasons for choosing Kingston Upon Thames for my new home. But, I did not realise that, nestled within this city, is a mecca for textile art and embroidery. Hampton Court, for a start, has quilting shops, embroidery schools and all sorts of courses. I am naturally gravitating towards integrating my love of Nature with art and textiles. I particularly enjoyed creating my latest deck The Textured Tarot. I am not sure which direction I will eventually go in, but I feel I am in exactly the right place to find out!
Serendipity is a wonderful thing. I was hanging out with my partner at a quirky cafe called Wags n Tales (I wish I had a dog as it is a cafe for dog owners to welcome their pets inside)… when I came across a local magazine. Within it, was an article about Ruth Blackford. She is a textile artist living in Kingston who has enjoyed twelve months of creating textile portraits of local people. I had one day left to see it at the Rose Theatre in Kingston. I was pleased to view it just in time and I was not disappointed.
In the write-up, she mentions the friendliness of people in Kingston compared to her previous home towards central London. I can totally understand. Being from North Wales, I was used to open and friendly engagement with my local community. Living five years in North London has taken its toll on me. Generally, people seemed to be in a bubble and not as open to friendly banter and gestures. I am sure there are many lovely people there. Personally, I found it a little isolating at times. BUT, I do have some wonderful friends in North London who I miss seeing regularly. Sigh…I digress.
There were around forty textile art images up in the lobby of the theatre. Their bright colours punched out against the greyness of the walls. ‘Full of personality’ I thought to myself. I almost expected the people to jump out the pictures at any given moment. It was obvious to see the warmth of their personalities filling the space.
I stood for ages with my mouth open as I studied the art in close detail. I found myself wondering why she decided to leave out certain features while emphasising others; her choice of prints for the lips and teeth; her use of hand embroidery in contrast to machine embroidery; the colours of the fabrics and their textures to emphasise personality and her use of wool to highlight furry/fluffy hair and beards. I recognised some of the background fabrics from Hampton Court quilt shop. So, I imagined the conversations she would have had while excitedly talking about her year-long project.
I am sure I will recognise these beautiful people when I am out and about in Kingston. I notice that Ruth is part of the Kingston Open Art Studios which have a yearly event where you can find a trail of artists living in your neighbourhood. Ruth is definitely on my list to view again. If I was brave enough, I’d love to invite her for a coffee to, say, Wags n Tales and chat about her work and process. It’s not that I want to copy her style, it is more that I am inspired by her process, her decision making and the exquisite standard of the finished pieces. I have my own ideas of a personal style….I just don’t quite know how to express it yet. I have many skills to learn.
The purpose of this blogpost is to showcase the amazing work of an artist I admire. I have an odd relationship with textile art in that I seem to only love some of it. I am not totally sure why and I hope to dig into what moves me more than others. It doesn’t appear to be related to the complexity of stitches or more traditional styles. It is more about contemporary, or unusual ways to express art through textiles: an edgy originality that could be made up with the simplest of stitches and lines. I have many more examples to chat about in future posts….all uniquely different. Ruth Blackford
felt like the perfect place to re-start my posts again. I invite you to check out her website because she has quite a range of styles that I am totally in love with.
Feb 26, 2017 | Art inspiration, Life Design cards, Personal experience
It’s been 5 months since I last wrote a blogpost. I was ‘not okay’…
Allowing oneself to step aside from the distraction of routine life can reveal the truth of who you are with more clarity. This can be liberating, disappointing, humbling and strengthening at the same time: the complex messy nature of the human experience with all its paradoxes. This was sharpened by my missed miscarriage the week of the Brexit vote and then the rise and rise of Donald Trump.
In June 2016, I halted the completion of my third card deck (Life Design Cards). I had designed 33 cards but my creative appetite had withered away. No wonder, I see now that the cards are a personal development tool. I was in personal maintenance (survival) mode.
So, I took time out of my business life to literally knit myself back together, one stitch at a time. With a ball of unravelled wool from an old knitted jumper, I needed to repurpose my life plan. I didn’t rush anything. Each day was about allowing and surrendering to what was in the moment. With time, the maker spark within me reignited….Firstly, I made simple nature-themed illustrations to post on my Instagram feed (#beleaves). Then I started to sew…
It didn’t happen quite like that. Initially, I wanted to completely break free from my art and move in a different direction. I am not sure why. I spent weeks looking at possible career changes, but nothing felt right. Then I gradually realised that I was already in the right place with my choice of vocational direction: the fog began to clear. I reflected on my courage and bravery to transition in 2012 from a secure NHS career to an artist. Not an easy path, but an authentic one. I remembered who I am.
I began to design and make beautiful pouches and wraps that could house oracle and tarot decks. I found a British shirt design company that would provide me high quality fabric remnants to line the inside of my creations. I was enjoying the process of designing, implementing and selling again. In the future I plan to design the fabrics too.
I started to notice the comments of encouragement about my art and crafts from people in my online world. Their kind words actually began to sink in and penetrate through the armour of my heart. I cried regularly as I read the little messages. Every single one mattered. Their words, patience, tolerance and gestures literally cracked my heart open: to feel again. There is so much unconditional love and kindness out there and I will be forever grateful.
My previously designed oracle cards created the environment for the love to blossom; people could feel their magic, power and kindness. Their love reflected back to me through a communtiy who understand my art and my intentions. How can I do anything else but honour my process and my deep desire to be an artist and maker? No matter how small, I make a difference in some peoples lives.
So, I decided to return to the Life Design cards with a fresh perspective. They appeared different to me this time; more resonant, more nuanced, more delicious, particularly against the backdrop of our political climate.They are my small gesture of hope in how to move forward and make improvements in our life without becoming too overwhelmed or exhausted.
In June 2016, it was not their time to be born. Their true expression had not been revealed to me until January of this year. Against a backdrop of visionary planning, I found them helpful to work through ideas and coping methods for the road ahead. I could even see their value in groups. A tangible act for incremental changes when our world is rapidly changing before our eyes.
I now have 49 cards and a guidebook. An order has been made at the printers. They are due to be launched in early March 2017. I love them now. They are an eclectic mix to reflect a personal journey of many aspects of the human experience. The guidebook, as well as descriptors for each card, show 5 novel uses for the cards in a more seasonal or numerically ordered way. They also work well as an oracle to use on their own or incorporated with other decks.
So what are they?
The Life Design Cards are a personal development companion: whether as an oracle or a numerically structured tool. They tap into your intuitive wisdom and aim to provide support and guidance to make incremental improvements in your life.
The Life Design Cards have a web-like focus: similar to a spiders web that spreads the load, catches things, makes connections, is strong, light and repairable. The more steps that are made, the more connections and resilience a web has.
They also weave in the different energies of the seasons.
Overview of the deck:
- The twelve design steps (1-12) are inspired by permaculture design and are about observing where you are, awareness of where you want to end up and identifying the steps to get you there.
- The twelve permaculture principles (13-24) act as a lens to view your subject, with the possibility of sparking fresh ideas or insights.
- The third set of twelve cards (25-36) are an eclectic mix of ideas and activities that align with the seasons. They add another layer of meaning to weave within the design steps and permaculture principles.
- The final set of cards (37-48) are inspired by the twelve astrological signs of psychological processes that are common to us all. They take into account our common humanity and the seasonal changes of our personality. They serve as a broader perspective to the other cards within the deck.
- The last card (49) is a Nature note.
What is permaculture?
Permaculture is a Nature-inspired, holistic, solutions-based design system anchored around co-operation and connections to help create abundance and harmony within human habitats. The initial 24 cards apply this methodology to personal sustainability.
So, they are a deck of cards that look at the bigger plan whilst also homing in on the details, with realistic actionable steps and attention to wellbeing. I am sure I will write more about them in future blogposts.
They will be launched in my Etsy store Whimsy of Nature within the next two weeks. There will also be a few web-like pouches available that complement the deck. If you would like to be notified of their launch then follow me on IG or FB or sign up here on my website.
Thank you again for being on this journey with me and I look forward to the adventure with you in 2017.
Sep 19, 2016 | Art inspiration, Personal experience
I Raku glazed you at The Goodlife Festival Experience 2016: you, the ugly bowl, with the rusty copper glow. You awkward-looking, disappointing bowl.
How I hate you!
I desired you to have flashes of turquoise and green weaving intricately amongst the crackled white glaze: a bowl to be proud of where people gasped in wonder at my natural talents. Instead you were the runt of the litter with splashes of gaudy copper; an ostentatious, lumpy exaggeration of a copper colour. How dare you disappoint me with your flamboyance? I knew you would let me down.
I hide you away to forget about you: so that I may reflect and cast a judgemental eye upon myself!
But wait…I ponder…I realise…STOP… I wake up to the truth of what you actually represent in this moment:
- You represent ease as I laugh and chat with the course participants;
- You acknowledge how far I have come to truly feel comfortable in my own soulskin: out at a festival, relaxed with people and trying new things;
- You represent stepping out of the inner turmoil of social anxiety and into a new sense of inner calm;
- You acknowledge that I am riding the waves of grief.
You are a beautiful bowl! I see your cheeky flashes of turquoise and green winking through the copper. I see you perfectly imperfect and okay as you are. I see you are unique and mysterious with a sense of humour. I see you mature and evolve with each passing day.
Thank you ugly-beautiful bowl for this lesson in (self) acceptance, kindness and compassion. Thank you for showing me how beautiful you really are: Wabi sabi.
Do you find yourself harshly judging what you have created?
Stop and ponder a moment: re-frame your wonderful addition to your world. What hidden messages does it have for you to learn from? Is there a golden(copper) thread in those reflections? I would love to know.
Feb 2, 2016 | Art inspiration, New Service, Personal experience
Portrait above is Odette Marie Céline Hallowes (née Brailly) by Pietro Annigoni 1961 (ink and tempera on thick paper prepared with gesso). Licensed from the National Portrait Gallery for use on this blogpost.
The more I develop my craft as an artist, the more hungry I become. Hungry to experience visual art. Particularly to notice its impact upon my body. What lights me up, even if I don’t understand its meaning…
I was inspired by an article in the October 2015 Issue of The Simple Things titled ‘Arts in Mind’. The article encourages us to look at art more slowly by: choosing quieter times, paying attention to your reactions and simply focusing on a few great works of art that move you somehow.
I don’t know about you, but I can find visiting art galleries (particularly in London) rather overwhelming at times. They are often busy and packed full of art with tiny little descriptive labels. I feel the need to move quickly from room to room like a bumblebee in order to maintain a feeling of spaciousness and ease.
It was my birthday last week. One of our activities was a trip to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portraits. Of course they were breathtaking and inspiring. But they are not the reason for this posting today.
We had a little time left over to visit a few more of the free exhibits. I visited Room 32 which was brimming with sumptuously detailed portraits of the Queen, Hockney, Princess Diana to name a few….
Then I noticed it happened
I came upon a painting that met me with such a punch to my chest (in a good way). I noticed butterflies in my stomach as my nose was pressed up really close to the finer details. I stayed in front of this piece for a good 15 minutes…bobbing back and forth pondering what and why I might be feeling undone by it. You see it was more textured, loose, and unfinished perhaps. Whatever the artists intention, it was love at first sight. It moved me. I was left wanting more.
The painting is here on my blogpost. I love it so much that I have paid a license fee to keep it here on my blog. The artist is called Pietro Annigoni.
Pietro Annigoni is an Italian portrait and fresco painter influenced by the Italian Renaissance. Between 1945 to 1960, Annigoni produced a succession of important and very successful works including the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. He signed the manifesto of Modern Realist Painters which opposed abstract (interesting!) art and the various movements that had sprung up in Italy in these years.
What is it I love about the painting?
It evokes within me what I hope to achieve with my own art. It is the essence of a human soul without the finer detail. There is a flow of energy and a softness within the layered, muted colours. I love that it appears unfinished so that I may use my own imagination to fill in the gaps… There is just enough here to create an impression of the person…perhaps a teeny tiny bit abstract? (interesting!). I love the fact that the face is not emphasised as much as the background. Yet the background emphasises the face. I love, love, love the energy of it.
I have collected a few more examples of his more sketchy ink/tempera paintings that appear unfinished.
Overall the colours are duller than my palette. But, I adore the mystery of them. Their energy. Do you?
There are many amazing artists out there. There are many fine artists who can create detailed paintings where you have to look closely to see if it is a photograph or not (Pietro Annigonis more detailed art pieces like Queen Elizabeth II fit that description).
I have no aspirations to be a fine classical artist. My passion is energised when I create fresh art with a new twist. That’s why I love collaging my art and deliberately omitting details. Deliberately keeping them perfectly imperfect. They evoke a soul-connection within me somehow. The painting above touches me in the same way. It enriches me deeply. Revealing a lot about where I would like to be heading.
As well as my products and illustration services, I feel inspired to venture into Pet and Human portraiture (with my twist) and have added the service to my Etsy shop here. I am looking forward to its evolution.
Over to you
Is there a creative hobby you would love to research a little further? If so, I invite you to take the journey of purposeful awareness, with no pressure for quantity. Have more emphasis on the quality of the experience. Just study one or two objects that trigger you somehow (good and bad). Take them into your soul and feel why they move you so much. Drink them in.
There are secrets to be revealed to you in those quiet moments.
If you enjoyed my blogpost then do comment or share amongst your social media.