I haven’t done any painting for ages, but today the weather outside the studio was so appalling that I felt moved to try and capture something of its bleakness. It is wet, windy and cold here and it’s hard to believe it’s May. There is a freezing, and very strong westerly wind and as I sit here in the studio this afternoon everything is clanking and banging. There is something knocking on the roof and I can’t make out what it is!
This morning the tide was rushing in fast, and the wind was pushing it on, whipping up the water to create choppy waves in the creek. A few hours later and the water is still high – I think the wind is preventing it from ebbing. As I write it is beginning to hail and it is terribly loud.
The swifts, which have just arrived back for the summer over the weekend, are being blown sideways as they swoop and dive over the water. It’s lovely to see them again and there seem to be quite a few around.
So here are a few paintings. They are on Bockingford watercolour paper – it is quite thick, probably more like card than paper, and they are about 16 cm squared.
I’ve used my favourite, sludgy palette of indigo, mars black, sap green and yellow ochre. Today I decided to get out some ink and I drew into them whilst they were still wet so that it spread out and made interesting, but uncontrollable patterns in the wet paint.
I’ve just put 6 of them up in my shop. You can have a look at them here.
Thank you everyone for your suggestions about my green pebble.
One suggestion comes via Sarah Waters who serendipitously read my post just before her brother-in-law, a geologist, came to visit. He says: ‘This is possibly a piece of Cretaceous Green Sandstone. The green colour is from the mineral glauconite which forms in shallow marine environments. This is quite a dark one. It is about 100 million years old and was formed at the height of the dinosaurs dominance of the planet. It almost certainly was washed into the sea at Hunstanton, where a thin out-crop reaches the sea, and moved along the coast by a process of long shore drift to Cley.’ So thank you Sarah for passing on the information.
Even more, she sent me a map of the geology of Hunstanton that shows where the pebble would have come from. It probably originated from the bright dark green area down the right hand side of the river at Hunstanton. See the map below.
So I think that little mystery has been solved. It has pleased me no end to get all your suggestions, and I have made this special pebble a little bag out of a fold of waxed silk that is just translucent enough to see its form and to glimpse a hint of its colour. It will live with the growing number of other found objects and their made containers that are presently multiplying down in the studio!
A couple of days ago I picked this green pebble of the beach at Cley. It caught my eye because of its colour – I have never seen one like it here in Norfolk. I’ve had a look around on the internet and in a couple of pebble books that I own but can see no reference to a green beach stone. What can it be?
I’ve seen pebbles of a similar colour in Iceland at the edge of a glacier – but they had lots of little holes in.
The soft, but definite green, is similar to the roof tiles of some 1920’s houses – I wonder if it could be a sea worn tile fragment?
Serpentine rock from Cornwall is green, but I think this is too pale?
This pebble has similar qualities to other limestone on Cley beach – I wonder what type of rock it is and where it comes from. Any ideas?
I have just received my new Fragments book from the printer and it is now available in my shop.
I was to have had an exhibition of the body of work contained in this book last year but the pandemic happened it didn’t take place. So, since Christmas I have been putting together a book so that I can show it to you in another form.
Fragments is a response to diverse recollections of my experience of walking the coast, both during the day and at night. I have created word-sketches, drawings, 2-D and 3-D textile works that explore evidence of natural phenomena and the continuous, and often infinitesimal processes of change that transform the landscape and the objects in it.
The book has a short written essay about the work and my thoughts behind it, photographs and the words that inspired each piece.
The book is 200 x 200 x 7 mm, has a soft cover and 58 pages with full colour photographs.
I have been trying to pretend that things were very soon going back to normal and that I would be teaching in person again soon. But sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case, and so I have put together a one day online Zoom workshop where I will be present online all day to teach, offer advice and chat to you.
This first online workshop will be looking at how to make 3-D textile sculpture using stiffened cloth and I have called it Sculptural Pockets.
As you may have noticed making containers and objects is a big part of my practice. It connects to the idea of ‘Holding Place’ – a play on words that suggest either a place for holding things, or, a way of evoking (or holding) the landscape through the materials and processes used.
I often (well everyday really) pick up objects put them in my pocket and I question myself, asking ‘What do I pick up and where and how do I put it down? ’ We will be addressing these questions during the workshop and I will be sharing some of the processes and techniques I use for designing and making sculptural objects. There will be plenty of time for you to experiment and try out techniques and as I will be at the other end of your computer all the time you can ask as many questions as you like.
The workshop will give you the opportunity to learn the basic techniques that I use for making 3-D objects and will give you the confidence to go forward to experiment with shape, form and materials in your own practice afterwards.
I have also been busy preparing lots of back up material to go alongside the workshop and I have produced a digital instruction booklet with photos and information, and a new digital booklet of my recent work that will only be available to those doing workshops that I will send before the workshop. I have also taken a tentative step into making videos and have produced a virtual visit to my studio. It is a visual exploration of containers and objects that I have made and it has a peek at a new installation that I am currently making and presently is hanging around in there.
If you are interested there is more information here and you can book it here.
At the beginning of this year, just after the first lockdown began, I was supposed to be having an exhibition of new work here at the Art Gallery in Wells. Unfortunately, lockdown happened and it was postponed. For various reasons, and the fact that everything is so uncertain at the moment, I am unable to reschedule it in the near future.
I have been wracking my brain as to what to do. I am still hoping to find a gallery to show this new body of work soon, but in the meantime I am going to do what others are doing and just show some of the works to you digitally here on my blog. In the New Year, I hope that there will be a new publication with writing and photographs as well.
I have called the whole body of work Fragments and it is a response to diverse recollections of my experience of walking the coast, both during the day and at night. I have created word-sketches, drawings, 2-D and 3-D textile works that explore evidence of natural phenomena and the continuous, and often infinitesimal processes of change that transform the landscape and the objects in it.
At the heart of this work are words that I have written. In the essay at the beginning of the book I say, ‘At first, I just write down words as I recall, and try to articulate the experience. Nothing fancy, just a stream of narrative consciousness. But very soon I find myself trying to find a different, or better word. I move words around. I cut words out. I simplify. I compose. My aim is to find an expression that is the essence of the experience.’
The first two pieces I am going to show you today are titled Day Moon and Night Walking. They highlight two really very obvious phenomena, things that you will probably have noticed yourselves, but the two works came about when I questioned what I was looking at and didn’t fully understand what was happening or I was seeing. Curiosity, I find, is one of my fundamental criteria to making work.
Norfolk Fragment: Day Moon
The first week of January.
For the past week, around midday, I have been watching the moon rise.
Hanging low in the sky a slivered crescent has slowly grown
to its present bloated, waxing gibbous state.
In a few days, after the full moon, the pale day moon
will again become a luminous night moon.
Question – I always think of the moon as being in the sky at night, so why exactly do I see it during the day? I didn’t know, so I looked it up. The answer?
Half of the moon’s surface is always illuminated by the sun.
It takes 27.3 days for the moon to make a complete orbit around the Earth (sidereal period)
It takes 29.5 days to for the moon to appear in the same phase in the sky (orbital period)
The moon goes through 8 phases in the orbital period
At the start of the cycle, when closest to the sun, the moon is hidden by the brightness of the sun and disappears for 3 days before it appears again as a New Moon.
The only phase that the moon is in the sky all night is the Full Moon when it rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. After that the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day. (which is why we see the moon during the day).
The second piece that works very well alongside Day Moon is called Night Walking.
Norfolk Fragment: Night Walking – Betelgeuse
The beach bank, wrapped in darkness,
Catch at the back of your nose cold and very, very clear.
Looking north, away from the sodium glare of the town,
more and more stars are revealed
as my eyes become accustomed to the dark.
To the west, an indistinct smudge of light above is the Milky Way,
Orion’s spear is clear and bright beneath his three-starred belt
and W-shaped Cassiopeia.
To the north the Plough.
And then a star falls, and another, and again,
out of the corner of my eye in my peripheral vision,
another falling star and another.
Five shooting stars in a row are a rare treat.
Question – what stars am I looking at?
Night Walking simply satisfies my curiosity as to what stars I am looking at when I look up. It highlights Betelgeuse, the red star, and you can see it just above Orion’s Belt in the Orion constellation. It is the rusty red eyelet.
The slightly larger eyelet below and to the left is Sirius or the Dog Star. It is in the constellation Canis Major and is the brightest star in the night sky.
With the ongoing pandemic and uncertainty as to whether the workshops in my diary are going to go ahead next year, I have decided not to book any more workshops in my studio in Wells for 2021.
However, I have done a few online talks via Zoom in the past few weeks and have decided to do a few more if you would like to hear me speak about my work and its inspiration.
During the talk I describe my love of walking, of collecting, of being curious, of telling stories and of making, and outline some of the things that inform my work. I use PowerPoint with photos of the landscape up here in Norfolk and, of course, photos of the work itself.
I talk about the natural processes and phenomena that inspire me – light, weather, water – and some of the material processes that I use to evoke them. I explain why impermanence, change and degeneration play a large part in the making of my work.
I want to make things interesting and varied so I play sound recordings from the environment and video clips of some of the work being made. I have samples and sketchbooks on hand to show you, and at the end there is ample time for some chat and questions.
The great thing about Zoom, and and a huge positive since the beginning of the pandemic, is that it can bring people closer together. Already I have spoken to people in the States and Canada – incredible!
At the moment I am booking for groups only, but may well put up some dates for individuals to book onto in the New Year – I’ll see what sort of response I get first.
I have been meaning to address my online shop for some time and things just kept getting in the way – you know how it is. First, all my children and their partners descended on Wells for a summer/post lockdown holiday (which was wonderful); and then a local gallery asked to take some of my collages, so a few went there; and then I had an open studio and I sold some things, so, coupled with the fact that the weather has been so good and I wanted to get outside, updating the shop went to the bottom of the list.
Sometimes you have to welcome bad weather. We have had simply atrocious (and destructive) weather over the past few days. 60 mile an hour winds have blown down trees and sunk boats, and heavy rain has caused flooding. It is grey and damp. But the upside is that I have been able to spend a bit of time at my computer doing things that I don’t always find time to do.
I have put some work up for sale. Some collages….
And some individually painted handmade cards….
The collages have all been created intuitively and they are images of the North Norfolk coastline (mainly from just outside my studio on the salt marshes in Wells) that come from my memory: the shape of a bend in the creek, the rocking of moored boats or the outline of the creeks. They are about shape, colour, light and space. I go out with my sketchbook and draw. These drawings are never ‘copied’ in my collage work, but instead the act of drawing sets an image into my mind that I can draw on later (no pun intended).
The small watercolours have been created ‘in situ’, and I go out with my paintbox and draw my impressions of what I see and hear. Again they are about shape, colour, light and space but executed with a watery medium that I think expresses so well the local landscape.
Finally, these little cards originally came from a body of work that I did a couple of years ago and considered the connection between the visual and aural landscape of the North Norfolk coast. Again they are interpretations drawn from my visual memory, and are a combination of inventiveness and actuality.