March 9, 2014
One nice thing I did when I was in England last month was to meet up with a fellow blogger I had previously only met virtually. Sonia found my blog through our common work of painting harpsichords. I paint sound boards and she decorates the cases- two entirely different specialities. Sonia’s skills involve hard physical work sanding and finishing large areas, as well as gold-leafing and faux finishes. Mine entails designing and painting flowers.
Anyway, we became online friends and have followed each other’s projects for awhile. I was really impressed when Sonia conceived of, wrote, and self-published her travel, photo, and cookbook, ‘Androula’s Kitchen, Cyprus on a plate’. And when we met in Brighton, she told me of the doors this has opened for her to new opportunities such as lecturing and cooking demonstrations.
Neither of us are out for the fast bucks, and subsequently are discovering the hidden treasures that come from doing something well because you love it. Then gifts come pouring in- experiences that lead to making new friends, developing new abilities, and building community. It is inspiring to share stories.
Below are a few more general shots from the London part of the trip.
Above a detail from one of my most heart-lifting sights in London, the meters high horse head sculpture at Marble Arch. The first time I saw him while passing by on a bus, he took my breath away. And this time I made a point of getting up close.
One of the snazzy new double deckers:
Another horse’s head sculpture I stumbled across near Oxford St.
One of the other things that made me smile every time I saw it was the placing of public pianos in various locations inside St Pancras International railway station. They were there for anyone to play, and there was always someone noodling away- sometimes shyly, sometimes performing, sometimes good , often haltingly searching out the notes. I loved the idea. There is always live music now when you walk along the busy indoor shopping boulevard, it makes it warm and homey instead of impersonal like an airport lounge.
And finally, here is the outside of St Pancras on my last day in the UK, the sun finally came out! I adore this building, it is the old Euston station, and part is now a posh hotel. I always like looking out on the warm red bricks from the hostel, which is the building on the right hand side of the photo. Across the street, not shown is the British Library. Despite the heavy traffic on Euston Road, I love this area, it is busy and vibrant and a great mix of architecture and things to see.
March 4, 2014
During my recent trip to England, this was the usual weather. And these muted greens and earth colours were the palette in the South Downs area.
There was some relief from that the day I went to Brighton to meet Sonia. I’ll write about our pleasurable meeting later, you can see Sonia’s account of it here.
I’d thought Brighton was a charming, small white-housed seaside resort- so I was kind of surprised at my first glimpse of it through the train window!
And after Sonia and I had a light snack at the museum, and I headed out to the ocean, I got away as fast as possible from this scene.
So I guess it isn’t surprising, considering the dull pre-spring greens I’d been seeing up until then, that when I finally got to the beach, my eye was pulled to stronger colours. I had a brilliant time scavenging for bits of washed up plastic. Though it was devastating to see evidence of how plastics end up in the ocean food chain, I decided to see them also as colours and forms. Below is the first collection.
After that I set about collecting (via photos) plastic objects, one for each colour of the rainbow.
March 1, 2014
I spent 5 days in London during the worst weather one could imagine. There was massive flooding in Southwest England, there were rain and gale force winds in the city. I traded the parks for the galleries and tried to make the best of it.
The undisturbed time spent with the Impressionists, but most of all the Cézannes, must have shifted some things for me, because I came home with new inspiration. What I learned most from spending time in their presence, sometimes almost putting my nose practically on the surfaces of his canvases, and sometimes looking from further away, was that there are no tricks or formulas or secrets to good painting. Rilke, in his ‘Letters on Cézanne’, speaks about the straightforward purity of Cézanne’s search, and of the absence of any interfering concepts, ego, or ideology laid on top of the work. It simply is.
Today I went to see his pictures again: it’s remarkable what an environment they create. Without looking at a particular one, standing in the middle between the two rooms one feels their presence drawing together in a colossal reality. As if these colours could heal one of indecision once and for all. The good conscience of these reds, these blues,, their simple truthfulness, it educates you;and if you stand beneath them as acceptingly as possible,, it’s as if they were doing something for you….
It is as if the integrity of his struggle with his work releases one to be oneself. I looked at some of the strokes in his still lifes, and they are simply done- to cover the area, to get a tone in, nothing is polished up, made pretty, smoothed over in any way. He attends more meticulously to some of the fabrics and surfaces, but what one gets from the original work is that it is above all, painted. And the mark- making, rhythms, and choices are completely idiosyncratic to this one individual. Which once again gives a clue to how to paint- paint like yourself, warts and all. Don’t think too much.
The still life I’m working on now is informed by all these insights and experiences. It is from the same series as the previous one below, but has entered a new realm.
Instead of doing the acrylic underpainting in one solid colour, I followed my former mentor’s advice and loosely painted all the areas in their complementary hues. While I was doing that I let that brief go as well, and started to just use colours I liked. Then I made a radical departure from my other realistic work, and decided to keep true to my own, rather than the ‘correct’ colours. I am still working with balances of light and dark and cool and warm, but there is suddenly much more room for me.
February 27, 2014
I’ve recently returned from 2 weeks in the UK. The first part was a city visit to London galleries. And the second part was meant to be a restful walking holiday in the South Downs national reserve area.
I stay in youth hostels and was looking forward to trying the new one at Southease, not far from Brighton. It is advertised as being rural, in the middle of the South Downs coastal walking area, and after 5 hectic days in an overful 12 bed dorm in London, I was looking forward to some peace and quiet.
Getting off a the tiny Southease train station and walking the 200 meters to the hostel, it appears to be just what is says on the tin. It is a rebuilt farm with rustic elements, and looks great.
Here is the view looking back to the railway line.
Once in the hostel, I was shown to my dorm and regardless of my budget, immediately upgraded to a private room. It was so narrow and tiny, and had no storage space for my things, that I couldn’t face 5 nights there. Luckily there was a room available, and I began to unpack. But for a moment I couldn’t believe my ears- whoosh, whoosh, …..cars, trucks, horns! What is this?
So here is what they don’t tell you on the site or anywhere else about South Downs yha- namely, that it is located literally on the side of a major artery, A26 . And that there is heavy traffic there from 5AM to 11PM, and that the rooms are not well insulated. Underneath is a picture of one of my windows (pink arrow) , the other one is on the corner where the blue arrow is, the blue arrow is pointing to the road.
Below you see how close it is to the road, the blue arrow shows where my other window was. And there is are other bedrooms right on the road side as well.
In the photo below, the blue arrow shows the hostel.
I’ve already written to yha that I feel this is a gross misrepresentation. I didn’t sleep well at all, even with earplugs, and a quick nap during the day was impossible.
Still, I was there, and the surroundings were nice, so I did make the best of it. But I want to add that this hostel is designed badly, there is more emphasis on externals than actual needs of the visitors. There are many glitches besides not enough storage space in the dorms, which are more than just teething problems. Looks like it was done by a committee, with an eye to profits as the bottom line rather than creating a caring, comfortable place for hostellers to relax. I wouldn’t recommend this hostel to anyone.
February 24, 2014
Image copied from here
I’m just back from 2 weeks in the UK and will post on that later. For now I want to let people know that my dear friend, Kathy Carr has completed her DVD, Whale Journey, connecting with Humpback whales.
Kathy and I go way back, from Findhorn days. We’ve worked together on several Findhorn publicatoins, one, Faces of Findhorn, published by Harper and Row.
She is a consummate photographer, and impassioned artist and activist. Kathy lives in Hawaii and swims regularly with dolphins. The Whale Journey film was made during several trips to Tonga where she swam with and connected deeply with humpback whales, and photographed these encounters.
I have always been fascinated by dolphins and whales, and one of my dreams is to eventually be in the water with them. In the meantime, I live with the above image in my studio (available to buy from Kathy’s site), and feel daily the vast, benign presence of these intelligent creatures.
January 31, 2014
This is where I stopped, I could have done more, but liked the slightly raw quality. The photo is more contrasty than the painting, it was hard to capture- it is actually dark and muted, not quite so harsh as it is here, especially the reds and ochres. The format is largish-
around 50 x 50cm.
It was difficult for me to not continue working and put in the pattern on the fabric. It was a good decision and is part of letting go and making one’s own choices about what to put in and what to leave out. It was good to go for the larger lines and not fuss over every detail.
Here is a peek at the fabric:
January 29, 2014
Generations of artists have been moved by the work of Paul Cézanne. What is it about these seemingly unassuming paintings which, in the words of Rilke, ‘struck like a flaming arrow’? He goes on to say that Cézanne, ‘remained in the innermost center of his work for 40 years’.
What is it to ‘remain in the innermost center’ of one’s work; is it perhaps this quality which speaks to many modern painters in our distracted and fragmented times? I know this idea hits me a certain way, as an admonishment and an inspiration both.
I don’t think it is just the freshness and purity of his still-lifes and landscapes that has made him such a (distant) mentor for so many. Knowing something about his life- the early struggle to acknowledge art as his path and commit to it, and the truly cruel repudiation he received at the hands of critics- you feel the dogged courage it must have taken to keep painting anyway. And as importantly, to stay true to himself in his work.
In the mid through late 1870s, he was associated with the Impressionists, and was represented in most of their early exhibitions. But he gradually withdrew, finding their emphasis on surface light and the fleeting moments of nature too superficial compared to the direction he felt pulled in. He wanted depth. His approach to nature was to look for the enduring and solid. Even his still lifes reflect a timeless presence.
Additionally, conflicts with some of those associated with Impressionism in Paris could have contributed to his distancing himself from the movement.
Looking at one of Cézanne’s still-lifes, you see numerous imperfections which add up to a lively, beautifully balanced whole. There are some potentially disturbing deviations, where ovals on bowls and pitchers are askew. Some analysts claim these were deliberately done in order to achieve balance in the composition, others disagree. I’m undecided, Cézanne could draw beautifully and I’m sure he had mastered the laws of perspective. Perhaps it is that he was less concerned about getting everything Right. And that the constant interplay of various visual distortions create the underlying tension in the paintings which makes them, as well as harmonious, also exciting and alive.
When artists copy Cézanne, it isn’t the personal quirks, but, I feel, rather an attempt to emulate the truth this work radiates. It is ‘clean’ in the sense of having very little ego overlaid onto it.
Certainly Cézanne was aware of himself as a painter, perhaps even as a key figure in heralding a new modern age in painting. He wasn’t without ambition, but when he was engaged in the work it was an all-encompassing communion between him and his subject.
I sense that reverence and concentration and it moves me.
There is a direct observation of form, yet also something entirely his own. In ‘Conversations with Cézanne’ by Emil Bernard, the young painter observed Cézanne at work, and reveals that over the years Cézanne had developed a complicated technique of working from dark to light, through layers of rhythmic brush strokes, and that through this ‘modulation’ forms were built up directly out of colour. As spontaneous as some of his work looks, it was the product of a well thought out technique; and he worked with a clear intended direction.
In an earlier post, I said that I thought his still lifes were probably accomplished in a few sittings. They looks so fresh and directly painted. Well, the old man has something to say about this:
I’ve stayed faithful to that object- I copied that there, do you see? There are months of work in that. Laughing, crying, teeth gnashing. We were talking about portraits. People think that a sugar bowl doesn’t have a face, a soul. But it changes daily. You have to know how to look at them. Those fellows over there, the glass and plates- they’re having a conversation. They are constantly confiding in each other.’ (as told to Joachim Gasquet, quoted from ‘Cézanne’, Hajo Düchting)