Artistic Me? 2013 365 Challenge #306

One of my favourite pieces

One of my favourite pieces

Just when I thought I only had to struggle through a few more days until I can stop and be ill, when the children go back to school on Monday, I checked my calendar and discovered that I’m meant to be giving a talk on Monday to a local art group. Arrgghh. I vaguely remember the woman ringing me up weeks and weeks ago, and I agreed without really thinking how exhausted I would be after half term (even without the killer cold!)

Not that I don’t want to do it: I love talking about my paintings and hopefully inspiring others to try painting acrylic abstracts. They are wonderfully liberating; a great way to pour emotion onto canvas and create something beautiful. It’s just I don’t know how to do an hour-long talk on the subject. Particularly as I haven’t painted anything for two years. Two years! I couldn’t believe it when I realised that’s how long it has been since my solo exhibition.

I thought I would start with digging out my Artist’s Statement, that I produced to go with my artwork at the local gallery Art in the Heart. I was mortified to discover several typos in said document. Me! A writer! I even put ‘site’ instead of ‘sight’ in one sentence.

Crawls under rock in shame. 

My excuse is I seem to remember I was mad-busy when I put it all together, to the point where I broke down sobbing in the shop where I went to have it all printed because it didn’t print properly. Ah, the wonders of sleep-deprived stress.

Anyway, this is my artist’s statement (hopefully now without typos). Do you think it makes a good enough place to start a discussion on me and my paintings? What else would you want to know?

Purple Ghost

Purple Ghost

I paint because it makes me feel alive. I love creating something from nothing; starting with a blank canvas and building it up layer by layer without knowing what the final result will be.

My paintings grow the more you look at them. What seem at first only blocks of colour become intricate landscapes and strange dancing figures. I believe art is a collaboration between the artist and the viewer and my paintings are created anew each time they are viewed. If someone sees something within one of my pieces – a face, an animal, a landscape – then that will always be there. The painting is recreated and will always be personal to them.

I was originally inspired to begin painting abstracts by a fellow artist and it has now become my main passion. I work in acrylic because I love the vibrancy of the colour, combined with the speed with which it dries. This allows layers of texture and colour to be built up using different brush strokes. This texture means the paintings change with changing light through-out the day.

Tranquility

Tranquility

I am inspired by the colours of everyday items: a glass of wine or the vibrant orange of autumn leaves. Although I don’t seek to reproduce on canvas the things that inspire me, I search for the same sense of joy the items bring: The sight of a sun-drenched landscape fills me with elation and I feel the same emotion when I am painting my abstracts.

My favourite colours are Rose Madder and Pthalo Blue. They are both strong colours that can be made soft and magical when mixed with white. The Pthlalo colours (blue and green) create beautiful sea colours that I find very restful. Rose Madder is wild, like blood or poppies. I work mostly in primary colours, with a restricted palette of two or three colours per piece. I prefer to mix colours directly on canvas and it never ceases to amaze me how many colours can come from mixing magenta, yellow and Pthalo blue.

I thought I would start with something like this, and then maybe talk through some of the individual pieces. I don’t think they want a demonstration, which is a shame, as that kills loads of time! 🙂 Ah well. Wish me luck. (Oh and I must send an updated personal statement to the gallery. Mortified!)

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire looked around the hostel lounge, gave a deep sigh and smiled. Although the room was crowded it wasn’t noisy. In the corner a family played cards; their muted voices punctuated occasionally by a cry of “Uno!” One or two people curled up in the deep red armchairs, their faces intent as they absorbed themselves in the books cradled in their laps. Claire wondered what worlds they inhabited, far away from the prosaic room.

Her contentment surprised her. The whitewashed stone walls, utilitarian carpet and faded furniture were not exactly the height of luxury. It was no different in the kitchen, with the formica-topped school-like tables and plastic chairs, or in the bare bunkrooms.

If I’d come here a few months ago I would have stayed one night and run away to a refurbished city hostel with relief.

The beauty of the place was not inside the cool stone walls, but outside, where the sun shone endlessly on an expanse of never-ending verdant nature. Somehow the mundane accommodation complemented the experience, allowing a visitor’s attention to focus on what was important.

Stretching her legs out in front of her, Claire shifted the laptop to a more comfortable position and continued typing. She’d been trying to capture her thoughts on the subject all evening, but her mind frolicked away from it like the Dartmoor ponies who visited the building from time to time.

She tabbed away from her open document to reread the reports she’d discovered on the company laptop. It had helped direct her writing, but she still wasn’t entirely sure she knew what she was doing. Something had to be written, though: she’d been in the Dartmoor hostel for nearly a week and knew that Conor would be expecting an update.

Conor.

Just thinking his name gave her goosebumps. They hadn’t spoken since their last meeting; communicating instead via email and text message. Claire had refused to even charge her phone for the first twenty-four hours, convinced she would discover impassioned messages from him after her sudden departure. There had been nothing for a day or two, and then only a polite enquiry as to whether the laptop worked and contained everything she needed.

Even so, Claire had left Salcombe hostel at dawn, following their evening together, and had driven in blind panic to the most remote accommodation she could discover; her only intention to find somewhere to lick her wounds and consider her options.

Who knew I would end up somewhere so beautiful. And restful.

The dark grey hostel at Dartmoor sat contented amid the National Park, with all sorts of outdoor activities on the doorstep. Claire had spent the last few days pushing herself to exhaustion; hiking to the top of Bellever Tor, exploring the forest and petting the Dartmoor ponies. She’d climbed the boulders at Dewerstone and cycled the Plym Valley.

Each night she’d collapsed into her bunk with weary muscles and a full head. Despite the endless blue skies, fresh air and amazing scenery, her brain still roiled with unruly thoughts.

Try as she might, she couldn’t decide how she felt about her boss’s advances. Unlike the grazes from her fall on the South West Coastal Path, her memories of that night refused to fade and heal. Her sense of outrage at his betrayal of trust warred with a lingering feeling of loss at his curt business-like manner ever since.

With another sigh, Claire brought her attention back to the screen in front of her.

Only eleven more weeks and I can hand in my report, collect my pay cheque, and get the hell away from here.

Back in the beginning, when she’d taken her first step on the journey away from her former life, she and Kim had jokingly come up with the name Two-Hundred Steps Home for her blog. It was looking like home was a lot further away than that.

***

Tranquility: 2013 365 Challenge #257

Tranquility

Tranquility

While walking the dog this evening, in the pouring rain, I tried to nail my scatty thoughts to a topic for today’s blog. I was unsuccessful. My head is full of words but they’re like confetti chucked in the river.

I tried to think what people read blogs for: advice, company, shared experience, entertainment. I didn’t feel capable of any of those things (if I ever am!) All I craved, as I walked, was silence (I had the lyrics “Be happy, be healthy and get well soon” stuck in my head from one of the kids’ bedtime shows).

You can’t recreate silence on a blog. I tried to think of the nearest thing and I thought about some of the poems I recite in my head when I need to drive other words out (especially kids’ songs and TV themes: those pesky things are persistent!)

The poem that comes to mind when I’m dog walking is always Gerard Manley Hopkins’ The Windhover, as there are usually red kites flying overhead. But, as I always worry about copyright on this blog, I didn’t want to include it here. The other thing I often recite is the Desiderata (same applies about the copyright). The opening words particularly are often true, but generally every line is something I can learn and live by.

In the end, with copyright in mind, I thought I’d include a couple of my more tranquil paintings and one of the poems from my creative writing degree course.

Purple Ghost

Purple Ghost

Postcards from an English Summer – May

Wild lavender obscures the once-neat path –
My passing hands stir childhood memories.
Bare feet luxuriate in verdant grass, 
I pause beneath your graceful Acer trees.
 
A symphony of song pervades the air,                                               
with soaring solo blackbird melody.
Above, the fire-red leaves blaze bright against
a cobalt sky.  Like hands they wave goodbye.
 
The silver birch, with peeling papery bark,                                        
is worshipped by the bluebells, as they bend                                      
and whisper to the wind of what they’ve lost.
Their sorrow echoes my unending grief.
 
Wisteria flowers in indigo and cream,
deep fragrance swirls around me like cologne.
They seem robust but fallen blossom tells                                          
of frailty. Already they are dying.
 
Silk-tassel draped with hoary lifeless blooms,
like slender wind chimes silent from respect.
In hues of brown and blue my thoughts are drawn,
sensation without reason.  You are missed.
 

Thank you for your patience. I hope you enjoyed your little patch of serenity and hopefully normal service will resume tomorrow.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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“Wake up, Claire.”

“Wuh?” Claire turned at the sound of the voice intruding on her dreams. She could feel drool running down the side of her mouth and prayed she hadn’t been snoring.

“Hey, sleepy head, we’re at Franz Josef. Time to get off the bus.”

“We’re here? What did I miss?”

Bethan chuckled. “Most of the day.”

Claire stretched and peered out the window. “Doesn’t look like much of a town.” She pulled her bag up from the foot well and climbed to her feet.

“We’re not here for the town.” Bethan’s smile suggested hidden secrets. Claire didn’t have to wonder what the joke was for long.

As she exited the bus, she stopped and stared. “Holy moly. Where did they come from?”

Up ahead, mountains rose to the heavens. A tree-covered conical mount dominated the foreground, symmetrical and green, as if someone had let moss grow over a mole hill. Then, in the distance, snow covered peaks, with a valley carved between them like a giant had split them with a machete.

“That’s where the glacier is, over there. I’m doing the heli-hike tomorrow, if you fancy it?”

Claire shook her head, partly in wonder, partly in denial. She’d seen the cost of the helicopter ride and couldn’t justify the expense. Yes it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, but there were too many of them on the trip. She thought she might do a half-day hike, if the men with hammers moved out of her head sometime soon.

As if sensing her pain, Bethan linked arms with her and asked gently, “How is the head? Do you feel better for the sleep?”

“I’d probably feel better if I drank a gallon of water.” Claire forced the words out of her parched throat. “Please tell me there are no more parties planned for this evening? I’m not as young as I used to be.”

*

“What do you mean we don’t actually walk on the ice? I thought it was possible to climb up and see the ice caves?”

The man behind the desk shook his head. “Not any more, love. Terminal face collapsed last year. Access by ’copter only.”

“I can’t afford the heli-hike.”

“There’s always Fox.”

“I can’t get to Fox, I’m on the bus. It’s here or no-where.”

The man in the tourist info shrugged, as if to say he was out of options. Bethan came to stand next to Claire.

“Come on the heli-hike, it’ll be worth it, if the weather is okay. Once in a lifetime experience, Claire. Worry about the money when you get home.”

“That’s easy enough to say,” Claire responded, “but if I don’t reign in my spending, I won’t even make it home.”

“Why don’t you get a job? A few weeks in Wanaka pulling pints will restore your funds.”

Claire laughed without humour. “I’d have to pull more than pints to fill the hole in my bank balance. Any rich sugar daddies in Wanaka?”

Bethan’s expression grew sombre. Then she gave a shake of her long black hair and the smile returned as if nothing had happened.

“Why not decide in the morning? See what the weather’s doing. It’s not like it’s peak season, you might get on.”

With a sigh, Claire agreed, and let Bethan guide her back to the hostel.

***