It’s in the detail

As I shared in my last blog post, I enjoyed time painting and drawing whilst on holiday recently. I showed you paintings of the sea and drawings of the islands, but what I did not share were the little details that caught my eye and captivated me enough to capture them.

Kioni plantlife growing through the wall

Kioni plantlife growing through the wall

On the island of Ithaca, we moored up in Kioni, a beautiful spot with red-roofed houses built into the hillsides and a feeling of creativity in the air… a pottery and jewellery shops seemed right at home here. It was one of those places where you find yourself dreaming of discovering a little gem of a house to renovate and return to each Summer. In high season, we would have been lucky to find a berth, but in October, we managed to get space on the quay, squeezed in between two other yachts. Here, we wandered the back streets of the picturesque village (or town, I was not sure). Few houses here survived the earthquakes of 1953, but a few interesting ones remained and I took photos of the details of some.

The image above was a snap on my phone. I was drawn to the muted, limited colour palette and the variety of textures. A plant I did not recognise had made its home between the cracks of a wall. Back at the boat, I zoomed in on the photo and worked on a little watercolour inspired by the details.

Watercolour inspired by Kioni plantlife

Watercolour inspired by Kioni plantlife

Little leaves shaped like hearts caught my eye on the path, the little spots on their skin echoing the small stones. It’s the little details like this that draw me in.

Heart-shaped leaf

Heart-shaped leaf

An abandoned house, just a few metres from the beach, beckoned me to its door to take a portrait. I loved the reflection of the trees in the glass that remained and the drape of the curtain through the gaps. The colour palette again, pale and sun-faded, with a hint of its vibrant past.

Abandoned house, Kioni

Abandoned house, Kioni

I just know such places have stories to tell… if only we could hear them! Write one for me about this place… go on.

It’s not just on holiday that such things move me. My phone acts as a visual notebook for capturing such moments and memories, in the woods and on the streets.

What catches your eye and inspires you in the everyday that others may just pass by?

Nothing is finished


1:24am and I have been drawing, painting, exploring on and off for a few hours. Nothing is finished, but I have enjoyed dipping into a variety of subjects and playing with materials. I began to re-do the portrait from the first day of the 30DC, but with colour and new words, but insufficiently inspired, I stopped. I will return to that piece at a later date. I played with another self-portrait (not my own), dancing a line across paper from the subject’s hair. Something reminded me of a murmuration of starlings, spotted some six months ago during a walk on the South Downs, so I put pen to paper, attempting to capture my memory of their movement… difficult to do, but mesmerising in its own way… a kind of meditative way of drawing, like the cloud pictures I first did from a train, London to Liverpool on May 1, 2008, and have occasionally attempted since, always enjoyable, and tried again this evening, but this time not from life.

Tired and ready for bed, I stood up from my desk to head upstairs, but spotted the roll of brown paper I had purchased yesterday to draw on, pulled the charcoal from the drawer, the mirror from the cupboard, taped the top of the paper roll to the wall, unravelled it and embarked upon what turned out to be a lopsided self-portrait, which captures to a degree, my dishevelled appearance this evening.

Satisfied and about to share, I will now stop. I have promised two young chaps a picnic and some treasure hunting on the South Bank beach in the morning with big boy’s new metal detector. Low tide at 11:51am. It is time to sleep.

Paper, scissors, paint

There has not been a great deal of time to write these past few days. Sickness in the house has allowed little time to think with the clarity required to finish a paragraph. Big boy was quietly ill, spending most of his sick-time reclining under a blanket on the sofa before bouncing back the next day, full of beans, raring to go… just as small boy became lethargic and ill. Small feverish boy has been (and continues to be) rather vocal, poor chap, so my bursts of creativity have been punctuated by cries for cuddles (which of course I don’t refuse), and doses of medicine. I have managed to be surprisingly productive with with the art though. Perhaps these little interruptions mean that by the time I get back to the job in hand, I too am raring to go, keen to get on and create, having been dragged away and then returning by choice, rather than succumbing to the usual distractions that prevent me from focusing for long.

Whatever it is that is happening with my art, I am enjoying it. I have been trying to create whilst the boys are around, get them involved if possible, rather than waiting until they are tucked up in bed before I pick up my tools and begin. Yesterday, with big boy back at school, small boy and I did some “scissoring”, as he likes to call it. I had painted some large sheets of paper whilst he was sleeping, then cut petals from these and magazine pages of a similar colour, before forming them into paper flowers which reminded me of things my grandmother used to make as Christmas decorations. Memories of borrowing her pinking shears, a.k.a. “angry scissors”, to snip jagged lines into cloth and paper, came flooding back as I saw small boy’s pleasure at snipping alongside me. After a little while, he gave in to the fever and requested I cut a little cat from an advertisement in one of the magazines, to sit alongside him whilst he rested. He and the cat sat happily for a while, watching and chatting as I worked, the cut-out-cat on a small cushion, before disappearing temporarily, down a gap in the sofa, only to be noticed missing and retrieved some while later, slightly crumpled, but still intact. It was at this point that he went to live on the window ledge.

The flowers formed the beginning of another collage piece which is still in progress, but can be seen here in its current state.
This afternoon, I took some paints into the garden for both small boy and myself, hoping that he would paint alongside me. He found the movement of his paper in the breeze rather too frustrating, so we returned indoors and sat at the table to work on our individual projects. I had given him a selection of paints on a plate, and a handful of cotton buds to try instead of brushes. He loved dipping and dabbing, and produced a rather lovely dotty work in blue, green, yellow and pink. As he was using both ends of the cotton buds, his fingers had also become painted, so he added some finger dots, then hand-prints to the piece you can see here, below.
Meanwhile, I completed a new little self-portrait in watercolour which I had begun last night, but had put on hold to answer a call from small boy upstairs which became a cuddle and a  sleep and when I woke up, work unfinished at 5am, I was still wearing the red dress I had been painting.
I feel I am on a roll today. I would like to continue painting long into the night, but common sense is telling me not to, that sleep is more important and that little and often is good. This time, I am listening.

But first, I must seek out the gorgeous little black and gold buttons, purchased in a vide grenier in rural France several years ago, which I squirreled away somewhere, until I could find a good use for them. This afternoon, I purchased the perfect cardigan for these little gems. Now, all I have to do is locate that safe place I put them in…

Fragility and growth

Last night, I was wondering what it would be like to create at the beginning of the day, rather than after dark. This morning, I awoke with the word “fragile” on my mind. Feeling somewhat flat last night and questioning myself and my mission here, I had reached out for help. It was suggested to me that I use my creations to track and express my moods and emotions… something I do inadvertently at times, but rarely consciously.

So, this morning I set out to express that feeling of fragility. Blue seemed the obvious colour to use for this word and an egg (raw) seemed the perfect canvas. As I took photographs of the painted egg, two other things caught my eye… some cress planted a few days ago, beginning to grow on a tray in the kitchen and some grass planted out in the garden a few weeks ago, now an inch or so high. In my mind I began to explore the connections between fragility and growth.

I will not go into detail here, other than to say that at that moment… photographing the egg, noticing the growth from the seeds, I saw myself as those fresh shoots… green, new, growing.

In the morning rain, the paint washed off, but the egg remained intact.

When we plant little seeds, they are fragile, delicate, vulnerable, but treated in the right way, loved and nurtured, they flourish and grow. I hope that in acknowledging my own fragility… in allowing myself to be vulnerable, but treating myself with love and care, I am paving the way for fresh growth and new learning.

Dressing up

A full day today… friends to play, cakes baked, lunch with family, hunting for treasure with new metal-detector, tennis, homework, etc… all good fun, but I was exhausted by the time I walked in the door this evening. I had to find something fun to keep me motivated.

What would be the most fun thing I could do? I took a glance over my bookshelves for inspiration and my eyes rested on I Will Never Forget You… Frida Kahlo to Nickolas Muray: Unpublished Photographs and Letters. Yes! Dressing up!

I have wanted a little more colour in my life for a while now, so who better to dress up as than Frida Kahlo, the Mexican Queen of Colour. I pulled out an old net skirt, long and layered in an interesting blue hue; raided my jewellery box, pulled out a few old rings, a necklace I rarely wear as last time I did it shed shiny red beads all over the street and in spite of having gathered them and fixed it, I no longer trust it to hold together in public; a spotty top; a sequin-covered cardigan; shocking pink tights; a rainbow scarf… not all of it Frida Style, but in the spirit of. I then put scissors to an old bag made of bright felt balls and turned it into a necklace… something I have been thinking of doing for some time, but held back until now.

Time for a self-portrait. I took a number of pics using my webcam and then selected a few to fiddle with in iPhoto. The results you will see here. The final piece – a black and white photo which I printed onto watercolour paper, then painted using Inktense blocks and watercolour pencils is more Madame Yevonde than Frida Kahlo, but I had fun playing.

And today, after 7 days of making art and writing about it daily, something wonderful struck me… I feel like an artist!