So I finished my Agatha Christie (of the mystery title) work this morning. Framing tomorrow. Show at Powderham Castle opens on Friday. I really loved making this one!
The Indian embroidered braid in the turban is edging from a sari – I bought it many years ago while working for my degree, in a tiny shop in a side street in central London – The Cloth House which sells fabrics and vintage haberdashery.
The background ‘wallpaper’ is Indian braid which I found in a local charity shop a couple of years ago – I had no idea what I would be able to use it for at the time but it was beautiful and only £3! The pale blue braid is cut-work and was applied onto a background of gold paint. I knew that covering the background would be tight as I had a finite length of the braid. However, I hadn’t factored in the pattern repeat which had to be matched like wallpaper and required a greater quantity of braid. Also, being from India, there were slight irregularities in the pattern which made matching even more tricky.
Originally, the picture was intended to be just the prince alone, but in order to use less braid for the background, I added the monkey and parrot (with more than a nod to Frida Kahlo.) I laid the long lengths first and was able to patch in the smaller areas from the offcuts. Just enough! Quite a challenge but fun and very satisfying.
I am so excited about how the ‘mystery work’ is progressing. Sometimes a work just goes together easily (but not always!) I’ve booked in to have it framed next week in time for the exhibition – nothing like a deadline! Will reveal all (without the title) on this Blog when finished.
I have just started work on a new mystery piece! I can’t say what it is as it’s for an Art event which is the brainchild of Devon artist Anna Fitzgerald.
Local artists have been invited to create something to illustrate an Agatha Christie title (from a list of many!) for an exhibition with a twist. Visitors to the event will be given a list of titles and have to match them to the works for a prize. Great idea!
I’d decided to work on this after the Puffin, not knowing if the event would go ahead this year or be postponed till 2021 (due to Covid-19.) So imagine my shock today when I saw this poster on our village Facebook page – not only is the exhibition happening this year but it opens on July 24! Better get back to work!!
I completed the Puffin yesterday – managing to fill the gaps in the background with tiny shells from a ‘hippy’ necklace, dyed in various natural shades of green. On the bird’s breast are two oyster shells. The one on the left with the blue patch came from the client. The other (very white shell) was brought back from Australia from my visit to my son and his partner in January. We cycled along a river in Tasmania and the beach was littered with literally thousands of bright white oyster shells – not a farm, just growing there naturally.
Writing this Blog is a kind of therapy. I find it cathartic to record my thoughts, my inspiration, my work and all things art-related. As an art diary, it has become a useful record to look back on.
Lockdown due to Covid-19 has brought many changes to my life (as for everyone.) With exercise facilities and swimming pools shut, I’ve been walking more than I’ve ever done before. I’ve discovered many previously unknown tracks and paths close to my home where I’ve lived for 32 years. I feel fitter.
Like many people, I have felt more connected with nature – from the wildflowers changing in the hedgerows and the rapid growth of crops in the fields to the variety of birds at a local nature reserve. It’s been a joy to watch the antics of birds in our garden – baby robins fledging from a hedge and a pair of courting pheasants. I decided I wanted to get my paints out to record some special lockdown moments by sketching.
As a child, I used to draw all the time – my favourite hobby – but I’ve lost the habit. Getting started was hard – blank pages are scary – but I found it very enjoyable. Here are a few… These have been sketched quickly in acrylic paint with biro or pen added over the top (from my photos, not drawn from life.)
There have been memorable moments on my walks and great spotted woodpeckers seem to have featured frequently: a baby on the ground having fallen from a tree, hopping back up a bank to safety.
Two woodpecker holes in the same silver birch tree with such a noise coming from the nests inside – I wish I’d taken a recording. (I returned 2 weeks later but the babies had fledged.) On another occasion, a baby woodpecker was attacked in the local lane by a sparrow hawk. Some children brought the stunned bird to a friend’s garden where it recovered in a darkened cardboard box and flew away an hour later.
My usual work with found materials is slow to produce and I’ve enjoyed doing something totally different. Now the challenge for me is to keep going …
I sent a copy of Puffin in progress to the client – she was puzzled by the cardboard glasses in the background, which she didn’t recognise. They had arrived in the box of materials she sent and I thought they must have some special secret significance. But no! It remains a mystery. I have removed them from the work!
I’ve been enjoying working on the Puffin this week (it’s been quite addictive!)
Most of the client’s own materials have been used but a few items were too large and dominant. Also I felt it important to restrict the colour scheme so have not used any dark blue, purple or bright shiny silver.
As this is still ‘work in progress’, there are gaps to be filled and all the stringy glue from the glue gun is yet to be cleaned off in the final stage.
I’ve now exhausted my supply of light green things – I’m expecting a box in the post from a lovely lady who sends me materials (Hi Loren!) so I’m hoping it may contain something I can use!
Because my work is accessible to children, I frequently hear from young people using it as inspiration for a school art project. It makes me happy that I can inspire creativity in someone else. I get messages from teachers and children all over the world – this has been a wonderful and unexpected part of my artistic life.
Last week, I had an email from a teacher who had seen my name in the Sunday Times in connection with home schooling during the Corona virus lockdown (I had no idea!) She scanned and sent me the cutting which she had kept:
During lockdown, I’ve been contacted by a few schools setting home schooling art projects using recycled materials – from Dubai, Los Angeles and Argentina, as well as the UK.
It’s been lovely to be included in these art projects and to be sent images of the children’s work. (I was hugely honoured when one school linked my name with that of Tony Cragg!)
Here are a couple of examples – really stunning work …
Sea-Free by Neal, year 5 Bristol
Girl with Balloon, after Banksy by Lily, Devon
The completed Madonna and Child has gone to the framer today. With its collaged/ painted background, it’s a bit different from my usual work but I’m very happy with it.
Madonna and Child, after Vrubel
I have started a new piece – a close-up of a Puffin from a client’s own photo. I am using a recycled base (which I’ve scraped off and painted) and materials provided by the client. This is quite a random selection of items!
I started by sorting all the collected materials into colours and am trying to use as many of these personal items as possible before adding any extra materials of my own. There are a few items I’ll probably exclude as I’ll need to restrict the colour scheme. However, I think most items can be accomodated in the background of grass and flowers, even if they can’t be used for the Puffin itself. We shall see – an interesting exercise and I’m enjoying the challenge.