Sir Timothy Tortoise – work in progress

For our exhibition at Powderham Castle, Janec and are are each making one piece to go inside the castle, as a link with the designated exhibition room in the courtyard.

I’ve taken inspiration from the many ancestral portraits which hang on the blue rococo staircase (featured in the 1993 film The Remains of the Day, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.)

Here is the painting being (temporarily) replaced:

When my children were small, they loved visiting Timothy Tortoise who lived in the castle’s rose garden. Timothy died in 2004 at the age of about 160, having been brought to Powderham in the late 19th century after a career as a ship’s mascot in the Crimean War. Timothy was first discovered on board a Portuguese vessel in 1854 and later discovered to be female – (when named, it was not known how to properly sex a tortoise!)

I thought it would be fun to dress Timothy up as one of the Courtney family’s ancestors, complete with powdered wig. (I’m having great fun with this piece!) For the wig, I had the idea to use sheep’s wool found on the Powderham Estate. I put out an appeal on my village Facebook site for donations of scraps found while walking. By the time I discovered some pieces of sheepskin buried in my work room (which will be much easier to use), one of the local farmers had given me about half a sheep as they happened to be shearing!!

You can see quite a few shells and also some fossils (belemnites) on the face, which seem fitting for such an old creature. Obviously, the hair will need coiffing!!


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How True!

I recently found this wonderful quote by Thomas Merton on the DAN website (see below.) How true it is!

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”

Devon Artists Network (DAN) promotes the visual arts, supports artists and runs events and exhibitions in the county of Devon, UK (where I live.) Every September, DAN runs a two week Open Studios event – Devon Open Studios (DOS) for both professional and amateur artists to show their work in a variety of settings. The Fabulous Beasts exhibition at Powderham Castle will be part of DOS this year (although we will be opening before DOS, from the end of July.) The DOS brochure is always a wonderful document – one well  worth keeping!

Back to my art room now, to lose myself in the process of creating …

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Presenting Gustav

I’ve just finished my latest project, Gustav (giraffe in the style of Klimt), filling in the small gaps and giving him some lovely eyelashes!

It’s a sunny piece. Hope it brightens your day!

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Gustav the Giraffe

Where has the past month gone?!

I’ve been working on a giraffe in the style of Klimt, hence the name “Gustav”. The idea was to make a stylised giraffe in Klimt’s decorative style, against a background inspired by one of his lesser known works (below):

I had a clear image in my head but it isn’t looking quite as I imagined! I think the whole piece would look better at a much bigger scale with more room for larger decorative elements. But it’s working well enough – here’s a small area of the neck … more to follow…

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I’m not sure what’s going on but I’ve been working in a kind of frenzy for a couple of weeks – waking up early in the morning and so many ideas constantly pinging about in my head. All rather exhausting actually!

Anyway, the result of this frenzied activity is that I’ve finished the new Pride, seen here in all his rainbow glory …

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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on a new Pride (a gay lion in rainbow colours) as a housewarming gift for my son and his partner who are building a house near Melbourne. I plan to show it as a Fabulous Beast in the exhibition and then it will go to Australia. Matthew and Casey met in Dubai while working as Cabin Crew for Emirates, so the work includes their crew name badges and some Emirates buttons, as well as Matthew’s bright orange crew badge from his previous time with easyJet.

It also incorporates things to represent their different nationalities – for Matthew, a red London bus, red post-box, Big Ben, Union Jack flag, London 2012 Olympic keyring and Father Christmas. For Aussie Casey, a crocodile, parrot, kangaroo and koala.

The lion’s mane is full of characters from TV and Disney films like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, Homer and Marge Simpson, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, Fireman Sam, Peter Pan, Spiderman, Power Rangers and Noddy. It’s quite a fun crowd! (Of course there is also ‘filling’ with non-relevant objects like dinosaurs, beads and plastic sausages!)

Image to follow soon …


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The Exhibition Space ‘Before’

Last week, Janec and I visited Powderham Castle to see our exhibition space and start planning where and how we will display our work. At the moment, the exhibition space is full of ‘stuff’ from one of the castle towers which is currently being renovated.

A box of very old leather boots and ice skates made me recall the magical children’s classic Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, which I loved reading to my children …

When everything has been moved back to the tower, the space will be re-decorated with an oak floor and white walls. I came away feeling re-inspired and very excited about the exhibition! I thought it would be fun to take some ‘before and after photos’, so here is fellow artist Janec, posing in the space ‘before’ … 


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Introducing The Revolutionary Feminist Iguana

Here’s my latest Fabulous Beast – The Revolutionary Feminist Iguana…

This one was great fun to make – I love the colours and am so happy with it.

Some details – the small textile sample (bottom R in image below L) is something I made during my degree course using heat-shrinking fabric (I can’t remember the name), beads and orange fishing line found on my local beach.

(Meanwhile, the frog remains unfinished, awaiting its fate…)



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Thank you for Froggy Ideas!

Many thanks for all suggestions for going forward with the frog – everyone has suggested a different solution but the clear message is not to abandon him! I’ll  finish the iguana first (going well) and then see if I can find a way to resolve Froggy…

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Demise of the Freaky Frog?

I started making this frog at the beginning of December and just got stuck! My intention was to make a fun and quirky piece using dolls heads for the bumpy skin as well as other doll parts, but it just looks ugly and ‘clunky’. I don’t like the puce colour of the doll parts and I have concerns that, over time, the plastic of the older dolls may become brittle and shatter. I’m about to dismantle it! (I’ve already picked pieces from the face.) Does anyone think it’s worth saving/persevering?? Sometimes you just have to admit defeat.

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