This isn’t the best photograph, but the painting looks good. I thought it would go in the Brigantia exhibition at the Inspired By…Gallery, in Danby Moors Centre. But I showed it on Facebook, and this latest painting found a new home within a few hours. I have to submit a list of paintings by 15 October, for the November exhibition. It usually takes me 3 to 6 weeks to complete a painting. Just as well I’m in “can’t-stop-painting” mode, I’ll be rather busy for the next 2 weeks…
My latest painting is a view of the garden through a window in Boggle Hole, North Yorkshire. Looking through my sketchbooks, I found a quick drawing from 2012. Painted from this sketch and memory, to remember wonderful summer days in years gone by… Now memory is a strange thing, I remembered the curtains were a pale lilac velvet, I remember a seamstress called Annie making them. But they looked wrong when I painted them lilac. So I asked my husband if he could remember the colour, and he said dark green. Of course! Now I remember. Lilac curtains were made about 4 decades ago. They were replaced by dark green later, but it was the first impression that had stayed with me. The green colour works much better…
That tree seen through the window… I love that tree. I was painting that tree decades ago, when a little girl asked me if she could paint it. That led to a small watercolour, which led to a little story. When that little girl grew up and had her first child, I made the story into a book. Here is the link to see the book, you can click on the book to see inside pages. The book is available as a print-on-demand from Blurb : https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/1033901-once-upon-a-tree
Danby. A view across to Danby Castle, above the village. This landscape was just about dry enough to travel when it was put in the passenger seat of an open-top Lotus yesterday, on its way to its new home. My paintings are usually transported in a tricycle, this was so much more stylish! I needed a new laptop, so I had asked on Facebook if someone had a spare laptop in exchange for a painting… So I now have a brand new and very nice laptop, and this is the painting my patron chose in exchange. I am exceedingly grateful, for I have exceedingly kind patrons.
Danby Sunset is another painting started earlier this year and recently finished.
Staithes, that picturesque fishing village, just a few miles away from my house…I started this painting, part of my “unbound” series, at the end of February. [You remember, that in between time, wondering whether or not a pandemic was about to engulf us all]. Severe, strong lines. Sharper contrast. Black frame broken by the sea. The unboundable strength of elements… [Then it was March, lockdown, limboland]. Having regained my motivation, I have finally finished this painting. At this time of year, I’m usually preparing for Staithes Art Fest. But as so many other events, this has been cancelled. Let us hope that things will feel better next year. In the meantime, many artists open their studios or galleries by appointment, so do feel free to contact artists if you are planning to visit the area. The artists who were going to take part in the Staithes Festival are listed here, and the blue “link” under the short description takes you to their websites. https://www.staithesfestival.com/festival/artists.php
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.
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.
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.
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
Edit. Staithes Captain Cook’s Museum closed due to Covid-19, March 2020. Re-opened August 2020.