I was on the west coast over New Year. The weather was mainly wet, wild and windy. And pretty cold. We strode out on the beaches and through the woods during the dry spells of daylight. We visited the garden at Inverewe, marvelling at the rhododendrons in bloom, both there and in the lovely arboretum at Flowerdale. The fire was lit, as were candles on the table with nearly every meal. I didn't do any drawing or painting, but I did take photographs when we were out and about. And I knitted a hat. In a day. Sometimes it's good to move away from one creative stream and into another. I needed a break, and I had one. I am still not feeling very creative, but there are ideas bubbling away gently, which I hope will surface sometime soon. I keep thinking of that beautiful beach on Harris last summer and how I would like to capture it in a painting, or a series of paintings. I just need to make it happen. Find a canvas, or a board, and look out the paints, assemble some brushes or palette knives, or both, and get on with it. That is my tiny and only, resolution for the New Year.
I've been thinking a bit about the creative process recently. It's a funny thing. Funny peculiar, not funny ha ha. The longer I am involved in this creative world, the more I realise just how long things take.
I had an idea. Just a small idea, about Christmas card designs (this was after a friend asked "so, are you doing Christmas cards again this year?" i.e. designing and selling them). I sketched the idea, or several possibilities, with a pen in a sketchbook. Or maybe with a pencil, but definitely in a sketchbook. This year I showed these possibilities to a small group of friends (including the one who asked the orginal question) who are very supportive of my creative endeavours. They told me which ideas they liked best. I cast aside the ones they did not choose. This was a helpful process, as I am not great at choosing. I pursued the ideas, both at art class and at home. My art tutor gave suggestions about design, as did my classmates. Again, all very helpful. The shapes should be better defined, the design clear and distinct. I prepared several sheets of watercolour paper by painting shades of various colours on them. I got my scissors out. I'm not very good at cutting out. Too impatient to do it neatly and well. I got out my craft knife instead (mini Stanley blade). And a ruler. Cut triangles of painted paper freestyle. I enjoyed that bit. The "trees" turned out fairly random, with different coloured patterns on each one. More cutting out produced a hill and a moon. It all just evolved. I had tried drawing or painting the designs prior to this, but somehow the cutting out and placing of the pieces produced something quite different. I don't quite understand how it worked, but it did. So I am not going to worry about understanding it, but am just going to be happy and satisfied that it did. My friends loved the end results. And so did some other people. That is good.
I've been updating my profile on the Redbubble website. I have a wide range of work uploaded on the site and have my own portfolio page. Images are available to purchase in a wide range of forms - from greetings cards to framed prints, mugs and travel mugs to tote bags and tee-shirts. The range has just been expanded to include clocks, and there are phone and tablet covers too... something for everyone! Feel free to have a browse and let me know what you think. A few of my clock designs are shown here...
I spent the weekend in Edinburgh recently. The main feature was to take part in a sponsored walk to raise funds for the wonderful Maggie's Centre in the city. It provides support for people who have encountered cancer and also for their families. It has helped one of my oldest and dearest friends and her family, so that was reason enough for me to take part. The "Culture Crawl" started at the magnificent edifice that is Fettes College and from there it all went downhill. Not literally, of course; Edinburgh is quite a hilly city, which I had conveniently forgotten when I signed up for the event more than six months ago. There were cultural events along the route (which we only found out when we turned up to take part) - including Gilbert & Sullivan at Parliament Hall, an organ recital at St Stephen's church in Stockbridge, storytelling at the... yes, you guessed it, the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the High Street and singing in a hidden-away chapel at the back of George Square. Added to that lovely mix were some light refreshments, including paella (perfect walking fuel), homebakes and tea and even a few alcoholic beverages to spur us on. A good time was had by all. And I raised over £200 for Maggie's. Many thanks to all who donated.
It was good to be back in Edinburgh, where I grew up. I travelled by bus or walked, while there, which made a pleasant change from driving all the time. Nowadays, there are CCTV screens on the buses, so the driver can keep an eye on what the passengers are up to. It means the passengers can keep an eye on each other too. Quite disconcerting, really. I remember when the buses had platforms at the back. There were conductors who took your fare, then furiously wound their ticket machine, slung round their neck, to produce your ticket. They were printed on proper paper, those tickets, not the flimsy stuff you get now. Now, as I discovered from my friend, you can have an app on your mobile phone, so your ticket appears on the screen and you show it to the bus driver. I remember the days when you could smoke upstairs on the bus. I liked sitting upstairs, but didn't like the smoke (I still don't). My Mum could tell if I'd been upstairs on the bus by the smell of my blazer when I got home. I spent a lot of my childhood on the bus in Edinburgh. I had to take two buses to primary school; my big sister valiantly waited with me at the bus stop on George IV Bridge to make sure I got on the right one. By then she was at senior school and that was the end of her bus journey. There was a lollipop man at the end of my bus journey, to assist my crossing of a busy road. Then there was a walk along a leafy street with big sandstone houses on either side before reaching the sanctuary of school. Once I reached primary 6, I too only took one bus to school. The two-bus journey involved an overlapping stretch where I had the choice of where to change buses. I don't recall how I decided where to do this, but I do remember leaving my violin behind on more than one occasion and my poor mother having to go somewhere to collect it. I'm ashamed to say I don't actually know where she had to go; the bus depot, I assume. I still have that violin, and still play it, so thank you Mum, for mopping up my mess!
It's that time of year again. Artists and makers will be opening their studios, garages, front rooms, shops, galleries and other miscellaneous spaces this weekend, to show the public what they do.
It's my 6th year taking part - once again I am in The Cabin in my back garden. This year I'm number 227 in the directory. There may well be baking. I have been tidying and sorting through my work from the past year, deciding what to put on show. The Cabin is quite small, as those of you who have visited before will know - I am contemplating having an outside exhibition space, weather permitting (and if I can find where I put the little gazebo...), in order to show a wider range of my work.
There are more artists than ever included in the trail I'm part of - this year called The Lower Deeside Trail (see image below). I have also posted this on my Facebook page, and paper copies will be available at any of the entries listed on it. Time to get planning where to go - I have started making my list already!
I look forward to seeing you and welcoming you to The Cabin!
Delighted to say that this painting, "Letterbox at Mellon Udrigle" is off to a new home after the local art exhibition which I took part in last weekend. Apparently the buyer (I did not meet her) had been to Mellon Udrigle, so there was a link. It's one of my favourite beaches on the west coast - take a turn off the main road at Laide, north of Gairloch, Poolewe and Aultbea, but south of Gruinard, and out along a single track road past a string of houses, over the little bridge across the burn and then up over the hill and back down to the coast again. Watch out for seals along the coastline. And seabirds - gannets diving perhaps. It was on Mellon Udrigle beach a while ago, on an overcast day, that I glimpsed a movement to my left, as I stood taking photographs of the sea. At first I thought it was a dog, but then I noticed the way the animal moved. A sort of lolloping, ungainly gait. It was an otter, headed from the dunes down to the water. They are built for swimming, of course, not running. I was not quick enough with my camera, choosing to enjoy the moment, instead.
Mellon Udrigle beach, photos taken early April, 2016.
Just a quick note to tell you that this lovely exhibition is on this weekend. Opening times listed in the poster. Teas, coffees and homebakes are available at the weekend, courtesy of Milltimber Playgroup mums. I will be on duty at the exhibition on Saturday and Sunday afternoons - hope to see you there! Also a wide range of artists' cards available, and some beautiful textiles and woodturned work.
Two whole weeks away on the west coast. Wonderful. The weather was "mixed" - the polite Scottish way of saying that there was no blazing sunshine or sunbathing on the beautiful beaches. No, it was more a case of rushing out for a walk between the showers, watching the sky for a darkening, making the most of the patches of blue. The wind kept the midges away; no-one got sunburnt, we had a lovely time. This time the time away included an adventure involving crossing the Minch (it would be fun to play the tune on the ferry) to the island of Lewis to visit my daughter, who is there for the summer.
We were treated to a family fishing trip and caught lots of lively, silvery blue/green mackerel and even some haddock. It took me back to fishing with a handline in Lochcarron as a child - the thrill of feeling that bite on your line, the guessing (to start with) what would be on it, and learning the feel of the way the fish moved. Maybe it was no coincidence that I went on to spend many years doing mackerel research work. This time we used sea rods - good sturdy, simple contraptions. No casting involved, which makes very good sense in a small boat with four rods deployed. Unlock the reel, finger over the line, let it out till it hits the bottom, reel it in a bit, then jiggle up and down (gently), and wait. Of course the folk who took us out knew exactly where to go, which helped!
Lewis. What a place - vast expanses of sky and moor and beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see. Oodles of abandoned houses and sheds, many with half their roofs torn off. Rusting corrugated iron galore. Since I was with family, there was less time to take photographs; some day soon I hope to go back. We made a visit to Luskentyre beach on Harris (I still haven't worked out exactly how the division between Harris and Lewis works, but we did pass signs indicating the end of one and the start of the other). The sun came out and the sea was that magical turquoise that comes from sea over sand. A fortuitously washed up log on the beach made a perfect place to perch and sketch. The family were thoughtful enough to leave me to it. I only moved when I realised the tide was about to reach my feet. Bliss. One day I will capture that colour. One day.
I was "on duty" at Monymusk Arts Centre the other day. There was quite a lot going on - exhibitions were being changed over, artists came and went with their work. I managed to fit in some work of my own. It still doesn't really feel like work. I sketched what was to hand, much as many people do. Crayons from the tub provided for visiting small people, a blue pen from my handbag, my reading glasses. All good practice and good to switch off and focus completely on the task in hand.
Of course I should have been painting some landscapes (my plan for this summer) and finishing a garden commission which for some reason keeps slipping off my "to do" list. I recall an artist friend saying she was really struggling with a commission (a portrait) and simply told her client that she was very sorry, but she could not do it after all. She said that almost immediately, she felt freer and lighter and was able to paint the portrait in a loose, free style that would not come to her while she struggled with the "c" word. The brain is an amazing thing, but it can also be a bit of a handicap at times. With artistic endeavours, it seems to me that I am best not to "try too hard". I have to switch off most of my brain and "just do it". I've played a little golf in the past and that maxim has served me well - don't try too hard, relax and just do it. Without caring about the result. That's the plan for now. I'll keep you posted about how it pans out!