Grief and recovery.

During lockdown, I must admit that I neglected my paint brushes. This was not the first time that I have experienced the feeling that my art was pointless. Over 10 years ago, when my husband died, my world broke down. I sat in splendid isolation, and wondered what would happen next. Then I received a letter. It was from someone whose husband had died suddenly. He was a lovely man, called himself my scottish fan club. She wrote to say that the last gift he had bought her was one of my paintings, and she wanted to thank me for that which brought back so many fond memories, and she hoped I was still happy and painting… That within months of experiencing her unexpected grief, and unaware that I too was grieving, she would write to me to tell me how much my work meant to her…I took it as a sign that my artwork was not pointless, if it could bring pleasure and meaning. I started painting again. So although lockdown brought home the inessentiallity of art, I knew there was more to life than the essentials of health, food and shelter. Whilst I cultivated my garden, I was waiting for a sign. Sometimes if you’re lucky, and you can take time to sit and be still, you can perceive signs, and acknowledge synchronicity.

At the end of May, someone ordered 2 of my paintings. She wrote “I look forward to receiving the paintings and getting the same pleasure from looking at them as the one of Robin Hoods Bay has bought me all these years.”
She sent me a photo of the painting, she had bought it 13 years ago. Now, her words were the sign I was hoping for. Just to emphasize the point, in the same week, someone who had bought some of my paintings over 10 years ago contacted me, and yes, bought 2 paintings. And then in the same week, someone else bought 2 of my paintings. So yes, I am painting again.

I am so lucky to have a job I love. Sometimes I wish I painted faster, as a painting often takes me a month to complete. But then it brings pleasure to someone for over 10 years… That’s why I paint. It is such a huge feel-good-thingy to be told that one’s creation brings pleasure for years. It is a great feeling.
And it is a timely reminder, when the current situation makes one feel that one’s skills are worthless, that art matters too.

Sandsend Wave. oil on canvas, 40x80cm. PS. 30 June. Yesterday, I posted this painting, recently reworked, on Facebook, and it has already found a new home. I am lucky, and very grateful.

I haven’t posted for a while. Maybe you hadn’t noticed. Those bizarre lockdown days, distorting time and imposing space constraints… We’re all different, so the many ways we react to this crisis have been different, yet there are patterns in responses, from denial and anger to acceptance, just as there is in grief.

Grounded, I am grounding myself, earthing myself in my tiny garden. It is a beautiful Spring. Nature in its bounty offering us a new flower opening everyday, showing us beauty and perfection in small things, demonstrating hope through new shoots and growth. And this renewed wish to produce food from our gardens, whether a vegetable patch or just some chives and lettuce in a window box. Growing food, a skill so essential, yet so often neglected…

“Candide”, a philosophical tale by Voltaire, is the journey of an innocent through a cruel world. Finding that the world is not as well as it could be, and that boredom is as painful as physical torture, Candide finally decides we should tend our garden: “il faut cultiver notre jardin”. Productive, practical work, in touch with nature. Growing flowers is good for eyes and bees, growing food is good for body and soul. And of course, culture and cultivation share the same root… Many artists, like me, finding that the world is not as well as it could be, put their brushes aside for a while, to cultivate their gardens. Wherever you are, whatever you do, do it as well as you can, and do it with kindness. Thank you.

Plant pots in front of a stone wall. Flowering tulips (tulipa akebono), pelargoniums and others. Warm sun...
Tulipa akebono, pelargoniums and more…

Usually I have more ideas and projects than time in which to do them. I paint for long hours because I know that the flow of inspiration might dry up one day. (It once did, and the drought lasted for 6 years!).
Then in September, following a nasty bug, I lost my mojo, my inner drive, my motivation. I had only sold 3 oil paintings since July, the last one was sold at the beginning of November…After a few false starts, I’ve recovered my mojo, hooray! and finished 2 paintings in February, and last week I sold 5 paintings.
Winter wolves slinking away.
I love Spring. Here is Rutmoor Beck, started in September and recently finished.

Stape road, and a clear blue beck bordered by heather. Purple hills in the distance.

Edit. 17 March. Staithes Captain Cook’s Museum is currently closed due to Covid-19.

In the small fishing village of Staithes, on the North Yorkshire coast, there is an old Primitive Methodist chapel which has been converted into a museum of heritage dedicated to Captain Cook. Within that building there is now a small artisan shop, filled with gifts and artworks produced by local people (including me). It is open everyday, 11am to 4pm. You will find it on your right as you go down the high street. Here is a link to tell you more… https://www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/visiting/see-and-do/attractions/the-staithes-heritage-museum

On the day my father died
I was two thousand miles away.
The weather was wet and grey.
The waves rolled roughly.
There was no blue
In sky
Or sea.
And what was tears or rain or spray,
I couldn’t say.

But that night, when I went to bed,
I opened my book:
Andersen’s Fairy Tales.
I turned the page
And there it was,
The title of the next story:
“What Papa Does Is Always Right”.

And now I must admit
That’s not as I saw it,
And quite often we clashed.
Like the farmer in the story
He had a loving wife,
And as much business sense
As a cucumber.
But he had a good heart,
And really in the end,
Nothing else matters.

Clothylde. January 2020.

(Because a picture can paint a thousand words, but sometimes one has to tell it as it is. and this is it. Sorry for the interruption. Back to painting).

It’s the beginning of December, and I usually run out of calendars by mid December. If you’d like a calendar, please let me know.

PS. Edit 15 December: Thank you to all who ordered or reserved a calendar. There are a few calendars left in the Brigantia exhibition at Danby Moors Centre, and a few in Wold Pottery in Loftus.

The 2020 A4 calendar features my recent paintings of river and sea, from Whitby to Skinningrove. Printed in Yorkshire on 250gsm paper, it has 12 pages (plus front and back covers) and it measures 21 x29.7cm. I hope that it will remind you of our wonderful North Yorkshire all year long.
Please message me if you’d like one. You can leave a message by clicking “Leave a Reply” below, email clo@clothylde.com, or phone 01287 643030. £12.50 including 1st class postage within the UK. Thank you!

Whitby Winterfest. Saturday 30 November & Sunday 1 December 2019. Whitby Spa Pavilion, 10am to 5pm. Winterfest is here again! I’ll be in the foyer as part of Whitby Art & Craft Collective. There will be lots of stalls and local crafts on this community-minded weekend.