Monday 21 January 2013

On my work table.

As I was working on new collages this past couple of weeks, I took photos of my work table from time to time.

When I'm working on a series of collages, or in this case two series, I usually lay out a few of the canvas or wooden supports I'm going to use as well as the boxes of materials: papers, scraps of fabric, antique photos, pressed flowers and leaves, antique letters, glass beads, old keys...

For the first few days I experiment, placing items here and there, trying to come up with combinations that make sense to me: the feel of a certain key with the handwriting on a certain hundred and fifty year old letter...

I fiddle with scraps and bits, leaving them for a while and coming back to them, exchanging items or starting from scratch.

Once I'm in the midst of things, I usually give up trying to maintain order, finding that too stifling of the creative process at this point.  

This is - of course - loads of fun with a kitten present.  

The ones with the antique photographs take longer.  I've decided to start with eight of the photos I bought in London's Spitalfields antiques market in November.  They are all women, which wasn't intentional, but I found that as I was looking through the countless boxes of old photographs they had, it was the women - and girls - who spoke to me.  They intrigued me. Each looked like she had a story to tell.

With these, it's not just the composition of the collage that I'm after, it's also the line of story.  I jot down notes, ideas, and images in a notebook.  Once I've found the right one for each woman, I print them, cut them out, then stain the paper with water colours.  So far I have words for six of the eight. Finding just the right line for each photograph is, I think, my favourite part of the whole process.  (Yes, that is Molly in the bottom left of the photo.)

Once I'm certain about the composition of a collage, I paste all of the pieces onto the support with acrylic medium.

Here are the first two non-photo collages.  These belong to the "Nostalgia" series which I've popped into my Etsy shop.

(15 x 15 cm.)

(15 x 15 cm.) 

Here's the only one of the women I've finished so far.
Her line is:  "She kept the hearts of her loved ones pressed in a book on her topmost shelf."

(10 x 10 cm.)

She looks quite at home on a bookshelf herself. I write this, Molly is in the process of trying to un-make some of my collages.  I do have a door to my room, but can't bear to hear her meowing on the other side to be let in...

Saturday 12 January 2013

Winter and a return to Ginnungagap.

After weeks of temperatures hovering between 6 and 10˚, grey skies and rain, we finally woke up to Winter.

I've put up photos of my latest series of small oil and cold wax paintings on my website.

It's titled Élivágar.  

The name comes from Norse Creation Mythology and was the general name given the eleven rivers (or Storm Waves) which existed at the Beginning.  They filled the great void Ginnungagap with ice, which formed the Frost Giant: Ymir, father of all giants, from whose slain body the world was created.

The story can be found in Snorri Sturluson's "The Prose Edda", a compilation and retelling of Norse Myth put together in Iceland in the first half of the Thirteenth Century.  It occurs in the section titled "Gylfaginning" and it goes like this in my version:

"When those rivers, which are called Elivagar [Storm Waves], came so far from their source, the poisonous flow hardened like a slag of cinders running from a furnace, and became ice.  When this ice began to solidify and no longer ran, poisonous drops spewed out and froze into icy rime [hoar frost].  Then layer by layer, the ice grew within Ginnungagap."  [Snorri Sturluson: The Prose Edda, trans. Jesse L. Byock (London: Penguin Classics, 2005), 13.]

(élivágar 2  oil and cold wax on wood, 30 x 30 cm.)

Over the next while, I'm going to continue reading and musing, sketching and painting.  There are a few other pieces on the go. The return of Winter makes it easier to delve into these stories of the frozen North.  Tales of Gods and Goddesses; of battles and trickery; Giants, Dwarves, of the time Before.  It's always fascinating, and sometimes surprising, to see how inspiration takes shape in one's work.

Monday 7 January 2013

no place like home

On New Year's Day we went for a walk to clear away the cobwebs spun by the late night and by glasses of bubbly.  We also wanted to survey the post pyro-circus damage.

Absolutely everywhere, there were empty bottles lined up and used to launch bottle rockets.

I'm always surprised not to see cars with the ends of rockets sticking out of them; or tendrils of smoke escaping from shattered living room windows.

Thousands of half-looped revelers with lighters and explosives. Amazing there isn't more damage, actually.

Someone's trailer was used as a launch pad.

In spite of the chaos, many citizens did indeed take their bottles to the crammed-full recycling bins and lined them up neatly.  Even sorting them by colour.  (!)

There were prettier sights along the Isar River.

There's one particular spot which is a magnet for swans and at any time of year you can go there and find scores and scores of them.

When they take off in flight, the sound is unbelievable, a swooshing thwap which makes you aware of just how huge and powerful these birds really are.

Geese and Gulls and Crows also frolicked.

All this under a Winter sky.

On the walk home through the forest, I found this tiny nest.

A book I'm currently reading and enjoying immensely has to do with forests.

Sara Maitland's "Gossip From the Forest: the Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales."
Maitland spent a year visiting twelve different forests around Great Britain.  She looks at them not only as important ecological entities, but also as what they mean for our deep story-rooted past.  At the end of each chapter, she rewrites a known tale.  I find her writing clear and witty and I totally agree with her Rumpelstiltskin - a tale I've always found frustratingly unfair.

Late one night in our indoor forest of one, odd sounds roused me from bed.  Turning the lights on full blast, I found the cause.

Earlier, when I told my husband that it would be fun when Molly first tries to climb the tree, he said that there's no way she could do that.

He's never had a cat before.

And now with the New Year already in swing, and the children (finally!) back in school, I can get back to work.  I've unfortunately had to move out of my studio.  It was a beautiful, old place that I took so much inspiration from, but I've had to leave.  (My landlord and I are having a disagreement, and I've - regrettably - had to ask for legal council over the matter.)

I've had very bad luck with studios here, so I'm going to paint from home from now on.  Our flat is very small, but people have - and do - work under far worse circumstances, so in the spirit of "counting my blessings," I've once again organized my room for work.

My collage shelves.

Paint shelves.

Paint trolley.

Work table.

I have two shows coming up, one for March and April, and another for July.  I'm upswing about that.

I've also joined a full-manuscript critique writer's group - a spin off of the Online Writer's Workshop for writers of Fantasy, Horror, and Sci-Fi.  There are nine of us, and we have a March 15th deadline.  That's perfect for me.  I've been wanting to get back to my fiction writing for ages, and now I've got the perfect incentive.

It feels good to start the year with all this momentum.
And I still stick by what I said in the last post: I do have a very good feeling about 2013.

(Gotta be better than 2012 was.)

Wednesday 2 January 2013

New Year's Eve German Style.

I have a good feeling about this year.
May it be full of beauty and wonder
song and dream,
may it be a path through the woods 
allowing us to experience 
being deeply and giddily alive.