Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Photos From Garwnant

Any underwater shots are by Jo ... taken on her voyage to the bottom of the river. (Cue: Take Me To The River, by Talking Heads).

I’m Glad It’s Not Just Me

My daughter Jo came here for a few days last week and we had fuuuuuuuuun!!!

We went to Garwnant to take more pictures and do more drawings. Jo needs source material for her new print projects in college. I just tend to snap reference shots, but Jo has a much better eye and gets in closer for the composition and the light against dark etc.

I thought it was going very well. I hadn’t done anything stupid for days. And I didn’t that day either. Well done me.

But Jo did.

I only turned my back for 2 minutes. When I turned back she was definitely looking sheepish. And wet. All down one side.

She’d fallen in the river. Somehow, it was bound to happen. She saved her camera but nearly lost her wedding ring that slipped off when she fell. It landed on a stone and she managed to grab it before it was swept away.

She was soaked. Through all 5 layers that she had on to combat the cold.

I was sympathetic. I may have used the phrase “daft woman” though. She wasn’t allowed back in the car because she would get the seat wet. In the end I relented when she put a plastic bag over the seat.

At least now I know where I get it from.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Unsuccessful Day

Yesterday morning I picked up the film from the day before from Boots. Most of the pictures went straight in the bin. These are the few I kept.

Because of various reason, I didn't get out until the middle of the afternoon. Bit too late really. The sun was low and no matter how much I chased it around the Brecon Beacons, I couldn't catch it. It was always just behind some hill or another. For much the same reason I didn't do any sketching either.

Sounds like a pretty stupid-free day, doesn't it?

Except I dropped my electric shaver down the toilet.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Am I stupid? Or what?

NOTE TO SELF: Only get inspired to go out drawing and painting … IN THE SUMMER!

There’s snow on the Beacons. It was bitterly cold. The sky was gray and the light was flat. My camera would only work intermittently (do they feel the cold?) and I couldn’t draw properly with gloves on. In fact, the one drawing I did was so bad it made me despair. I slipped twice and fell over once. My red canvas shoes got all mucky (my walking boots were in the car – I’d thought about putting them on). And I broke a nail.

Please don’t tell me there are people worse off than me. I don’t want to know.

There are so many reasons why I shouldn’t be allowed out on my own.

But I did get ‘the lie of the land’ and shoot a roll of film. So that was nice.

As I was leaving, in the last gasp of the day, the sun suddenly broke through. Instantly, everything was bathed in a warm light. The sky was blue, the clouds were yellow, and the bracken on the hillside shone copper and golden. Forget film, pencils, crayons and paint. It was just a moment to watch the earth do its stuff. The icy wind blew hard in my face, my hair, my eyes, my ears. But I swear I heard the mountains sigh as they basked for a moment in the evening sun, after a long, hard day.

(I’ve been listening for the Voice lately. In that moment, at the side of the road, I could almost have heard it. But I’m not thin enough. I’m carrying too much weight. Still got a lot to get rid of.)

On the way home, I got lost. Actually, this is not unusual so I was OK with it. I start off being a bit lost and then get totally lost. It’s because I follow someone who looks like they know where they’re going. And they do. Not usually to my house though. Forty minutes to get there … an hour and a half to get home.

It’s been a good day. Really. I’m going to do it again tomorrow … only better, hopefully.(Yeah, right).

On Saturday I took myself out for the afternoon. I’d had enough of feeling stuck inside the flat. My work felt stuck and flat too. I wanted to scout out a location where I could go to draw and paint.

So I went to Garwnant in the Brecon Beacons. It’s a Forestry Commission Visitor Centre. It has all the essentials … namely a café and a toilet. This means I can spend a fair amount of time there without needing a flask (which I haven’t got) or peeing in the woods (which is dangerous, what with all the bears in there doing what they do).

I wandered a round a bit. There are some good views of the Beacons and of Llwyn Onn reservoir. There are plenty of walks. And a fair number of people around which made it feel safe. There are a lot of the usual Forestry conifers, but also some areas with really old, moss covered trees. Fluorescent green and manky black. There’s a small river that was flowing really fast, crashing down over the rocks.

Driving back, my imagination started motoring. I want to work there, on location, as much as I can this week. On the first day (today) I will explore the area, do preliminary sketches and take photos. I will get the photos developed the next morning before setting off again. Then I will make big drawings and start gathering materials for some paintings. I’ll take more photos, too, and make lots of notes and sketches. I want to fill a sketchbook (or two!) with this project. Finally, I will produce some pictures … there on the spot … using paint, ripped bits of photos, bits of wood and bark, moss, dirt … whatever I find. It will all be glued together, paint dripped and splashed over the surface.

(The logistics will take some working out … but, you know what? Bugger it. I’m just going to have a go and see how I get on).

Sitting here now, Monday morning, I realise that I need contact … connection with my material … a new conversation. I’ve been in the studio too long. Seeing the rushing water on Saturday refreshed my enthusiasm for my ‘Water’ series. I’ve been trying to depict water without being anywhere near it. No wonder it had gone stagnant. I want to paint more ‘Images of Earth and Spirit’. I want to get dirt and paint on my hands and on my clothes. I want to dig back into the things that get my creative juices flowing. Not just the Spirit in nature, but the Spirit in me.

Part of my plan for this year is to go on ‘tour’ to different places. Spend a week or so in Mid Wales, North Wales, maybe even Spain. Work on location, exploring, producing and maybe even selling … there and then. I realise now, that Garwnant is a prototype of that. I can learn how to work from the back of the car … find out what I need to have with me … how to produce art on location … find out whether it’s any good or not.

I’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

So, this is what I've been up to, eh?

This last week I've FINALLY got back into some work. I've been painting (and sticking etc.) onto Welsh slate. I'd done the preparation work before Christmas so they were just lying there ... taunting me. But who's laughing now, eh?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jo sent me this ...

"I have been reading a book about Mark Rothko for my colour project and there were some quotes which related to the things you have been writing about on your blog, so I thought I would forward them to you.

Have a read:

From a manifesto written by Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb:

1. To us art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take the risk.

2. This world of the imagination is fancy-free and violently opposed to common sense.

3. It is our function as artists to make the specter see the world our way - not his way.

A quote by Mark Rothko:"No possible set of notes can explain our paintings. Their explanation must come out of a consummated experience between picture and onlooker. The appreciation of art is a true marriage of minds. And in art, as in marriage, lack of consummation is grounds for annulment." "

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Coach Parties Welcome

My brother and his wife were staying at my Dad's on the weekend.

They all came to see me.

Actually, that's not true.

They came to see the cooker and the fusebox.

I refused to do a re-enactment of how I fell off the chair in the dark.

I'm a bleedin' tourist attraction now!

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Artist quiz was one thing ... but what about THIS???!!! LOL

You Are 73% Feminine, 27% Masculine

You are in touch with your feminine side.
Sensitive, intuitive, and caring are all words that describe you.
And you're just masculine enough to relate to both men and women.
Are You Masculine or Feminine?

I'm Frida Kahlo. It's the only possible explanation.

You Should Be a Painter

You have the vision, patience, and skill to bring your unique visions to canvas.
And you're even tempered enough not to cut your ear off in the process!
What Sort of Artist Should You Be?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I Haven’t Finished Yet …

True Story 1:

Late in 2005 I approached an Arts Centre in Surrey about the possibility of doing a show there in 2006. I knew the guy who ran it – I’d known him from way back, when he used to be a lawyer (bad omen). He was as excited as a lawyer can get about the prospect of working with me, so we arranged for me to visit and show him my work.

After some pleasant preliminaries, I put my work out around the room and talked him through the concept of the show and the different elements within it. Obviously, it was a little nerve-wracking and I felt a bit vulnerable. Fool.

He looked it all over and then asked … “Are you going to have explanatory notes to go with each piece?”


I replied that I hadn’t thought to, and asked, “why?”

He replied, “Well, people are not going to get it just by looking at it, are they?”

I said nothing out loud. I can do a great blank expression when I need to. But inside I was screaming at him …

“But it’s ART for f**k's sake … LOOKING at it is pretty much WHAT YOU DO!!!”

I packed up my pictures and left after having a pleasant lunch where we talked about anything except art. I couldn't eat much ... I was grinding my teeth and couldn't get the food in.

For that, and a number of other reasons, I didn’t show there.

True Story 2:

I had a show of work in an art space at a Community Centre in SW London. After everything had been hung, and people had arrived, I said a few words about the exhibition and encouraged them to take a look around.

From that moment on, I went deaf. Couldn't hear a thing.

What actually happened was that a deathly hush ensued as people drifted around the room, occasionally gathering together in clumps and chatting in low tones. Only one girl spoke to me … she obviously didn’t know any better. I asked her to communicate in sign language. She did, and I think it was very rude. Either that or she wanted to buy 2 pictures.

Later, after they’d all left, I stood there wondering what on earth had just happened. Did they like it or not? Did they like me or not? Were they bored? Did they just show up out of a sense of duty? To me, the evening was a desperate failure even though I sold a few works.

Later, I was chatting to someone who had been there, and explained how I felt about it (after they’d said “It went really well, didn’t it?” YOU THINK?)

What they said stunned me, but made so much sense.

“Oh, I didn’t know we were allowed to talk! I certainly didn’t think I could talk to you … you’re the artist after all!”

So What To Make Of All This:

There’s a lot of work to be done before people (in general) feel comfortable around art and artists. Before they learn to look and appreciate. Before they "get it". Before they learn to buy or not buy. Before they understand how to ‘read’ a piece of art, just the same as you read poetry or prose.

Please understand, I'm not looking for COMPLIMENTS or CRITICISM … but I would like a CONVERSATION.

My conclusion is weak, here, I know. Not full of answers or helpful hints. I’m trying to work it out. Work out what I think and how to go forward. It’s no good me being angry and upset. Or broke. As an artist I want to discover how to connect with people just as I want them to connect with me. And how to initiate and maintain a conversation.

I always read the acknowledgements in books. My guess is, that a writer's life, during the conception and development of a new work, is a solitary one ... just as it is for any artist. But there then seems to be a high degree of collaboration in getting the finished work into production and out to 'the public'. Is that true?

Maybe that’s part of my job, too. Get some collaborators. Just not lawyers.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I'm Officially Annoyed

Caroline has a great blog called 'In Search Of Adam' that you should go and take a look at. It’s OK … I’ll wait.


It reads well and it looks great too. Doesn’t it?

She’s also had her first novel published and you can read an extract on her website.

(Hey … get me with these hyperlinks!)

I find her own story about how she came to write the book inspirational. Makes me hope for good things and believe that good things DO happen.

But that’s not my point.

Some time ago, another woman writer made some snide comments on her blog about Caroline’s blog. She basically (as I recall) made 2 main points. I’ve been annoyed since I read them but it’s taken me until now to figure out why. So I’m going to tell you because the points she made equally apply to my own art … and, indeed, have been made about my pictures.

I’m going to try to stay calm.

Firstly, with regard to the style of Caroline’s blog, she said “she didn’t get it”. She also said she didn’t get poetry either. That’s kind of sweeping, don’t ya think? Like saying you don’t “get” music, or art, or science or whatever.

I have so many problems with this kind of attitude that I hardly know where to begin.

Firstly, it’s so damn DISMISSIVE. If someone takes the time and effort to produce something that they feel pleased enough with to share with others, then don’t just dismiss it out of hand. That is so rude.

Which brings me to my second point. The point of art often is to challenge convention … to provoke a reaction … to make us think …to show us something different that we maybe hadn’t thought of before … to move us …to change the world … or at least, our world. So saying “I don’t get it” is so totally the wrong response to any piece of art.


Engage with it and the artist … think about it … talk about it …do some digging … learn.

And thirdly, Caroline’s style is very contemporary. It’s a visual language. The use of typography and design is a BIG part of our culture now. Most of the magazines I read (Nylon, Another Magazine, Tank, POP) use an eclectic, interesting and arresting mix of fonts and layouts. Tom Peters (the management guru) recently changed publishers so he could get the LOOK he wanted in his business management books. He wanted the look of the words to reflect his spoken style. Take a look at his book Re-Imagine (published by Dorling Kindersley – pioneers in this area of book design) to get an idea.

So Caroline’s style cannot be dismissed out of hand.

The other comment “that woman” made was that her 12 year old could do it.

(Excuse me one moment … AAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!)

I have heard it said (to my face), about my pictures, that “my kids could do that”. Actually no … they couldn’t.

Haven’t you ever heard of INTENTIONALITY!

Jackson Pollock flicked paint all over the canvas. A monkey could do it. But the story goes that when a journalist said that to him, Pollock asked him to place a dollar bill on the floor about 10 feet away. The artist then dipped a stick in a pot of paint and flicked it so that it went down the floor, around the dollar bill and back again. INTENTIONALITY.

When I’m doing a picture, I know what paint effect I can get with a brush, with a sponge, with kitchen roll, with my fingers, with string dipped in paint, with a stipple brush, with cling film … and so on. These are the tools of my trade. I know how they work and what to do with them (though I’m learning more every day). I put paint on in a seemingly random fashion … and then take it off again because it isn’t right. I might do this over and over again until I get the look and effect I want. It’s INTENTIONAL RANDOMNESS. Controlled chaos. I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING AND WHY I’M DOING IT. I can do it over and over again.

Your 12 year old can’t. He or she is playing … I’m WORKING.

My guess is that when Caroline is putting a post together for her blog, she’s fiddling about with fonts almost as much as words. Changing, deleting, trying again …until she’s happy and ready to share it with others.

So when she does … DON’T say you don’t get it, or your 12 year old could do it. Because if you do … I might just have to come round there and SLAP your legs. HARD.

Be fair, I think I stayed fairly calm.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A palimpsest is a manuscript page, scroll, or book that has been written on, scraped off, and used again.

Architects imply palimpsest as a ghost - an image of what once was. In the built environment, this occurs more than we think. Whenever spaces are shuffled, rebuilt, or remodeled, shadows remain. Removed stairs leave a mark where the paint stopped. Dust lines remain from a relocated appliance. Ancient ruins speak volumes of their former wholeness. Palimpsests can serve a noble duty in informing us, almost archaeologically, of the realities of the built past.

"Erasure is never a matter of making things disappear: there is always some detritus strewn about in the aftermath, some bruising to the surface from which word or image has been removed, some reminder of the violence done to make the world look new again. Whether rubbed away, crossed out or reinscribed, the rejected entity has a habit of returning, ghostlike: if only in the marks that usurp its place and attest to its passing." (Taken from an article in Tate Magazine)

It's my 50th year. And my first full year of living on my own. Wish me luck.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

That Darn Cooker!

I got told off again last night. I thought everyone would have been pleased. I was like a dog with two tails. But no. Apparently I'm the cause of much despair. And mirth.

My cooker's working again. The hob, the oven, the grill ... everything (oh, that is pretty much everything). I shared the good news with my friends in chat. They collectively lost the will to go on.

It was the fuse.

Sssshhhh!!!!!! Don't all start at once! I KNOW I was told to check the fuse when the cooker first blew up. And I did. In my own 'special' way.

I took it out and looked at it.

It looked fine to me. So I left it. Well surely it would have been charred, or melted or exploded or something if it wasn't fine? Wouldn't it?

I was on the brink of getting an (expensive) electrician in to take the cooker apart to fix it and relieve me of what little cash I have left. But yesterday, on a whim, I popped into the market and bought a new fuse. Divine inspiration? Could have been. More likely an outbreak of common sense. I came home and put the new fuse in ... even remembered to switch the cooker on at the mains ... and it worked.

Two months without a hot meal (microwave meals don't count).

Two pounds and two minutes to fix.

Being a visual kind of person really didn't help in this instance.

Paella, anyone?


I know some people read this who are not registered with blogger and so have not previously been able to leave comments. Now you can. If you pop in for a quick butchers (ooh, listen to me going all cokerney) then say a quick 'hello' too. All you have to do is click on 'comments' at the bottom of the post, type something lovely in the box (with your name, so I know who you are), then click on the 'anonymous' box and publish your comment. Or something like that. You'll figure it out.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be #2

So this is the Prefab I grew up in. Not the actual one, obviously, but it could be. It’s a lot smaller than I remembered it … but cosy. We had a coal-shed and a garden. I lived there until was 11 or 12. And there on the bed is the Rupert Bear Annual I was telling you about.
I must learn to tidy up after me.

It triggered so many memories …

I remember sitting on the sofa reading a book (Commando … a comic book). My brother wanted me to go to the park with him but I couldn’t. I really wanted to but I had to keep reading my book … it was so exciting I couldn’t put it down. What a brilliant feeling that was ... and still is!

I remember one time I did go to the park and I got near to the top of the steps on the slide and froze with fear. Couldn’t go up or down. What a wuss. Had to be rescued by my dad. Tut. I was 17 at the time. (Not really). Still don't like heights, though. Or falling over.

I remember learning to play the piano. My teacher’s name was Hiroth Davies and she lived up ‘The Pitching’ in Llantrisant. I seem to remember I was pretty good … passed exams and stuff. She had a long pencil she used to point at the score with … and then rap you over the knuckles with it if you messed up. Harsh, but fair! Or maybe just harsh.

I remember learning to ride a bike. It was red. You could go anywhere when you had a bike … even right to the end of the road and back.

I remember my friends Paula and Vanessa. Paula’s dad was a carpenter and he had fingers missing, so he can’t have been any good. And my mother used to take me with her to Mrs Rex’s house and I would have a milky coffee. I still have one most mornings.

I remember going to Sunday School in Ebenezer Chapel at the top of the housing estate where we lived. It was here, when I was 13, that faith found me. And has never left me.

I remember Tonysguboriau Primary School. And Mrs Lloyd. I learned to draw there. And to make up stories (lies, in other words). I also remember crying as I walked home on the day I had to leave to go to Secondary school.

All that came back to me after one short visit to Saint Fagans.

Visual memory … seems that’s how it works for me.

Post Script: Following my post about teddy bears, my daughter bought me the 1984 SuperTed Annual! How cool is she? And how lucky am I? VERY, is the answer to both.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Feliz Ano Novo ... Feliz Ano Nuevo ... Penblwydd Hapus Newydd ... Happy New Year!!!!!!!

Dreams, visions, wishes, hopes, desires and aspirations ....

may they all come true in this new year.

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