Monday, 29 June 2009


When rifling through my portfolio in search of a suitable image for today, I thought that this picture had a certain Monday morning feel about it.

I know, you don't have to remind me that it is in fact now Monday afternoon. But when Monday morning is really Monday-morningish then it is not bound by time or even day.

If things are really bad you can actually have a perfectly respectable Monday morning on a Tuesday afternoon! or even Midday on a Wednesday if things still have not rectified. By Thursday that Friday feeling is starting to kick in 'Thank Crunchie!' so the feeling is a whole lot better and it is really hard to have that Monday morning feel any later in the week at all!

But for now - Monday Morning. All tangled and prickly with dark black coffee and an unpleasant deep red throbbing in the temples.

Although, to be fair, this painting was not done about Monday Morning at all. This was simply a celebration of Teasels. i do like Teasels - although after letting them loose in my garden a year or so ago I realise why some people view them as a scourge. They really do manage to seed themselves everywhere - even in the lawn. So I don't think that I will be introducing them into the garden in Spain. I am sure that in the mediterranean climate they would be even more rampant. I am also sure that there are plenty of indigenous weeds that will persecute me when I start to garden there anyway.

I like this drawing though - I like the lively quality of the plants and the perspective that I achieved in it. I also like the way it has other stems lurking darkly in the background.

On another note - the weather here is still phenomenal, although the sun is not shining through as much today. It was quite hazy this morning and now there are some quite serious dark clouds gathering. i wonder if it might not give us a thunderstorm!

Lucky i got the washing done over the weekend - all the sheets and all the towels, the lot. all washed and dried quickly and easily in the heat.

and on that domestic note - i will close for now and hope you enjoy today's picture!

Friday, 26 June 2009

I have decided to round off the week with another experimental piece of work.

This was made during the year that i was doing my HDip (that is teacher training).

i was planning a jewellery making module with my transition year students and had to make up some ideas for making jewels using everyday objects.

Surprise, surprise i thought that nature would be a good inspiration for my own work and so chose this wonderful Oak leaf as a basis for this pendant. It is shiny because i varnished it to preserve it and suddenly it looked like a jewel in its own right. The embellishments with wire and beads turned it into a new object.

I hated the Dip year - really hated it and decided afterwards that i would never teach again. I haven't taught since finishing in 2005 but now - as you know from an earlier post - I am thinking along those lines again. However, I will not be teaching in a school situation again. There are too many restrictions within the system - certainly in Ireland and England and from what I have read and learned in many other countries too. Also take into consideration the fact that in most places art is viewed as a second rate subject anyway. That is also felt when teaching in a school, manifest in budget as well as the attitude of other teachers. I hasten to say that it does not apply to all teachers but the majority.

In fact - i considered myself a 'dummy' at school. i was only good at music and art! I have since learned that there are different types of intelligence and those more 'feeling' subjects are just as valid and do not mean that you are stupid. You simply have a different way of processing the world. In fact there are many artists who are well read, well educated and extremely articulate. We are not all dyslexic lefties!

The point I am trying to make though is a serious one. The perception of art and artists is not always entirely positive and as an artist I have struggled with this perception throughout my entire life.

Returning to thoughts of the class that I was teaching at that time. i thought that it was one of my more successful classes. The girls loved the idea of making jewellery and were very inventive in using the materials - found objects, beads and wire. One project in particular stands out in my mind as particularly original. One of the girls had recently started rowing with a team on the River Lee in Cork. Her necklace was based on the river itself and the sinous lines of the course of the water lent itself perfectly to a flowing neckpiece. Made from articulated segments it sat perfectly around the neck and across the collarbones.

So I suppose, although a horrible, horrible year, there were certain simple successes within it. In any event it is always enjoyable getting to know your students - at the end of the day they are the one thing that makes teaching worthwhile.

On a completely unrelated subject: The Volleyball World Championships continue in Stavanger. The weather is delightful and the town is heaving. The only fly in the ointment is that there are all these absolutely stunning 6ft girls wandering around wearing tiny shorts and vests which show off their well developed shoulders. They all have six packs and long brown limbs! I am afraid it makes me feel short, plump, middle-aged and pale as i walk in their wake. Oh well nevermind - I could never be 6ft anyway, no matter how hard I work out!

Have a nice weekend! I will!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Source

Today I have chosen something quite experimental.
It is a medal, but not this time made out of traditional materials - eg bronze, silver, aluminium etc.

It was in fact made at a time that I was experimenting with various casting resins.

Like most artists I love experiments - I think it is one of the definitions of an artist - in my humble opinion of course but I did say most artists very carefully at the start of this sentence.

Speaking with other artists we often admit that it is the same as playing. We try things out but not always with a complete end result in mind. We just try out the medium and see what it can do. Or we mess about with a technique or in this case the boundaries of what a medal actually is.

We ask questions and then we answer them, but not always in a serious way. Often we play with the answers, playing with the words and through them, the ideas.

We love to push boundaries and see how far we can take things, whether it be the subject matter or the paint. We love to mess things up and then tidy them out again and it is even more fun when they don't tidy out quite right! That is when you get something new and exciting. We often refer to this state as the 'Happy Accident' I just love happy accidents. Some of my best work has contained several HAs or even been a complete HA!

Even as I write this I am playing with the language and trying out ideas in my head about the meaning of being an artist. It is funny how important that is.

Now you might think that I am digressing at this point, but if you look at the title of this piece which is called 'The Source' you will understand that what I am speaking about is a source for inspiration or technique in my work. So rather cleverly, just when you thought that all was lost and I was totally entangled in my tongue, I have brought everything back home again. Without so much as a glimmer of an accident happy or otherwise.

So, as you can see 'The Source' is cast from polyester resin

I tried another clear resin at the same time. Urethane. Now urethane was unarguably a nicer sort of resin to work with. It has very little smell so you can use it indoors and do not need a mask. However, it is not as easy to cast without very expensive, large equipment, such as a vacuum. It is very hard to cast a piece without bubbling occurring. There was some other problem too as I cast my mind back, but I can't quite remember what it was. That was very frustrating indeed and very expensive as yet another casting bit the dust

Polyester resin on the other hand is absolutely lethal. The first time i used it I had no idea and my studio and home were reeking, not to mention the fumes I inhaled! On that first occasion I remember having a small drink when I had finished my work - honestly it was not much - not a whole bottle or anything! But by gum did it take effect! i was swaying and wobbling all over the house afterwards. So the next day I went back to the shop and bought one of those space masks with great big filters on either side and a mouth and nosepiece that sinks into your face to create a seal. Wonderful! I look like a battle scarred warrior when I take it off as it presses great big grooves across the bridge of my nose and down my cheeks. But it is definitely a necessary evil.

I learned a lot about the resins at that time - obviously I forget bits, but another thing I do remember is that when i was casting a larger piece in polyester it turned slightly yellowish as it cured. I solved that in the end by mixing in less catalyst as that was making it heat up too much and literally burning itself and causing the discolouration. Interesting huh?

Ployester also tended to react with the new silicon mould that I was casting from and left a tacky surface. That can be solved apparently by cooking the mould gently in the oven for a length of time. I cannot remember exactly why this is, but there is some residue left in the new mould after making it that has to be laid to rest. But in the end I never actually got that far with them before moving house and as all my equipment is now in storage it will be some time before i do any more experimental casting again.

So, to get back to the actual medal (eventually) I poured the medal into a silicon mould I had prepared with a printout of my image made on a printable overhead sheet. Tadaaaaa!

I am not sure if the photo here shows the medal to the best advantage, but it is difficult sometimes to photograph such things.

Something really nice came out of this medal though, as i took it with me to a BAMS conference that year and one of the other artists took a real fancy to it and asked me if I would do a swap, as I had admired one of her own experimental medals. I was thrilled to pieces because I love Nicola Moss's work - I always have and now i own one of her medals too.

I cannot find her website right now but you can see one of her medals on this link

and may I say once again that far from getting off the point I have once again brought today's theme full circle when I tell you that when i was speaking with Nicky she was wondering whether to call the above medal 'The Source' so there!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Dun Laoghaire renewal scheme

I have put this picture in today because on my walk into town after lunch I was struck by the holiday atmosphere and seaside air about the place.

The sun is shining and it is really warm. Everyone was out in all their sundresses and shorts. The harbour bars were buzzing and some of them were putting out extra seating because the World Volleyball Championships are opening today in Stavanger harbour.

When i was in Dun Laoghaire I was also struck by that fresh seaside atmosphere. The rawness and the saltiness. It was that which I tried to capture when i was designing these plaques.

Stavanger is a strange place. One day it is really quite cold and you see people wearing winter coats (me included) and that was only last week. Then suddenly, like today, it is so warm that there are only short sleeves in evidence. We had a week or so earlier on in the year where everyone got into their summer things too. So you see it is really up and down. Still there is always that little tang in the air. But it is really quite nice - hard to get overheated, unless of course one is in the middle of a hot flash!

So there you have it a blog about the weather really - you can tell I spent over a quarter of a century in Ireland - obsessed with the weather, ruled by it even.

I remember when I first moved there being fascinated by the rain. There were all sorts of different types - like Iceland and the snow probably - but what i noticed most about the rain was that no matter how light or misty it seemed or 'soft' as the farmers said, it always managed to soak you right through to your bones.

And I don't care what the natives here say about it - it is not wet in Stavanger. Well sometimes!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Shot Like an Arrow Through the Heart

And now for something small and sensitive:

I made this piece in the last year of my degree. It is a piece that has stayed with me (in memory only - because it was snapped up at my degree show). There is something about it that does something to me on a very spiritual level.

For me there is something about the line of it. It is very fluid yet not cissy. I cannot say how I made it to look this way, it was simply made as a feeling and response to my life at the time. A gut feeling you could say.

What does the title mean you might ask?
This too is something that just came about in a very natural way.

At this time I was living on my own - well, on my own with two children and two dogs. I had been married for ten years and was really feeling quite lonely on my own - what can I say - i had a few 'relationships' It was like starting all over again - I made all the same mistakes and some new ones, but each one taught me something. Though in the doing I got shot through the heart once or twice. An occupational habit i guess.

So this is a sort of arrow and a sort of bird and a sort of abstract. But very sensitive.

Made from aluminium, polished and pigmented
20cm long approximately

Monday, 22 June 2009

The Navigator

Well I was much torn this morning on how to impress you. I was not sure whether to go so subtle and small, but beautiful and meaningful or large and impressive.

As you can see I went large and impressive (but if you are lucky I will give you small and sensitive as well this afternoon)

This was my first large scale commission. What a rush! I was actually still in my final year of college, albeit my fifth year, which was a research year only - I had no assessments, which is just as well because I seemed to get so much work that year that I could hardly cope with it. If only that had continued - but that is the 'joy' of being an artist, famine or feast, but usually famine!

As I said, in my final year - 1999-2000 - I answered an ad to apply for a public commission. I pottered along to the site-meeting in Cobh, County Cork (formerly Queenstown and where the ill-fated Titanic sailed from) which is a very pretty, colourful port town. A little bit run down in bits, but with pots of character and as you can see from this photo a spectacular Cathedral (although I note that I have managed to cut off the tip of the spire - oops!).

There was the usual motley crew of artists and Arts officers at the meeting and we were all filled in on the brief. The requirement was a sculpture to celebrate the Christian Millennium and Cobh's maritime heritage. The site was the newly designed Millennium Park - formerly the Promenade. It is a lovely site, facing right onto the sea with the town and cathedral behind.

On the technical side the sculpture had to be made from durable materials and be reasonably vandal-proof.

My humble design somehow came out on top and I when I got the phonecall i remember it was the best thrill in the world.

My design is a Christ figure, an Everyman. He is sitting in a boat - or is it a bathtub? and in his large, very strong, yet gentle hands he tenderly holds a paper boat. Around the boat/tub are scattered some tools of his trade - a compass and sextant - he is after all 'the navigator' steering us through this life. The paper boat represents us and our fragile journey through life. He is about to set us off on that great journey, but he is taking care that we will have the best start possible by cradling us and protecting us until we are ready.

Including the base - which was designed afterwards at the suggestion of the architect, and I think does improve the stature of the piece - the sculpture measures approximately 6ft tall. the figure is a bit larger than life - his boat is smaller.

An added feature is the use of water which dribbles between his fingers and drops into his tub which increases the sense that is in fact a bathtub. The water adds movement and a draw for children.

For me, I love the playful, yet sensitive feel of this sculpture. I think it was successful in a lot of ways. It fits the space, it addresses the brief, it is very popular with tourists and children, the figure does look like the gentle giant that I envisaged, everything went reasonably smoothly with the creation and siting of the piece (not entirely, but that would not be normal!) - and I am very happy with it still.

I hope you are impressed

not too chipper

You have probably noticed that i did not blog today.

Two reasons:
1. I was very, very busy this morning with Monday morning stuff
2. In the afternoon I got a rather sick tummy which completely took the wind out of my sails

I will blog first thing in the morning and try to find something in my picture box so astounding that it will make up for today.

I am off to bed now

good night

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Night and Day

Sunday morning and I am awake - well coming round, with copious cups of coffee.
Yesterday turned out so busy (well we did get up a bit late). We had to get a few bits and pieces from the shops for the weekend first, but we tied that in with a bit of photography with my new camera - did I mention it already?

Finally after many years with just a compact digital camera I decided I need to go back to the old SLR photography - I just was not getting the results from the compact. Even my snapshots were substandard. I kept remembering back to my old Olympus 35mm with a zoom lens (can't remember offhand how powerful, but probably around 300) I had great fun with that and produced some really nice crisp, clear shots of things that were of interest to me - like shadows and leaves and reflections on water etc.

But of course I got tired of toting this lead weight along with me which is why I went for the compact. Now I am right back to the lead weight again - with relish! It is such a joy to be able to see crisp results and not have to endure endless lost shots because of shutter lag.

After lots of agonising, comparisons online and an almost fatal error when I plumped for and even purchased a camera that I realised (luckily just before I opened the box - so it was still fully refundable) was in fact not going to deliver the quality I wanted, I finally purchased a Nikon D90.

I find it quite bulky in my hands, but it does have a nice grip which allows me to swing it easily when I walk with it - but this is not a camera review - you can go online for that. I think I might have got a bit sidetracked there :-)

After our excursion into town we got back for 'breakfast' at one o'clock and after that I settled down to sort out a few photos to send to family. Of course this always takes an absolute age - and that is just to pick out some options. My eyes were positively square by the time I said to Vic "lets go down to the Martinique for a cocktail!" and I still have to finish sorting and printing the photos - that is a job for this afternoon as we want to get them in the post tomorrow.

So it would appear that it is a photo dominated weekend anyway, so my 'camera review' was not so out of place after all.

But now down to business:
Today's image is of two panels I made for the fireplace in my last house. They are large format reliefs approximately 1ft by 30inches. They are rather Art Nouveauy - nice and flowy and all sinuous lines and symbolism. Well, the very obvious symbolism is of course the Sunflower which represents the day and the Poppy which represents the night. If you look a bit closer then you start to notice the seeds which leads you on to the life cycle of the plants and of course of the rest of nature. My favourite subjects again. Well it was made for my fireplace!

True to form of course, I never did finish - eg cast them in something more durable than plaster so they never did get attached to my fireplace - and now that I no longer own that house, well it will never happen there. However, at the present time we are discussing ideas for our new fireplace in Spain - so who knows where they may end up!

By the way - the two panels look different in the two pictures because the sunflowers are cast in plaster and spray painted with silver paint while the poppies are cast only in wax at this time - brown, luscious wax like caramel

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Darragh Bronze

Good Morning.

I am just waiting for the rain to pass over, before I nip down to the harbour to photograph more cruisers.

Today's medal was also a commission and also designed and made in 2007.
In this instance, however, i actually made the mould, the waxes, designed the patination and oversaw the whole casting process at a local foundry.....

Ooops! the rain seems to have passed so i will leave you with this picture, but will pick up the rest of the story later!

Okay! am back at my desk
i think I am becoming immune to cruisers. They are not so awesome (in the true sense of the word - not the L.A. Ink sense) any more. Or perhaps it was the light today - Although the sunshine flirted with coming out from behind the clouds from time to time, overall the light was overcast, flat and grey and even the duck photos, which should have had zinging colours against the grey pavement - in fact looked grey too.

I thought I was going to be blown away because there are three cruisers in today. So from now on I will have to become a bit more choosey. Not just taking photos of any old cruiser in any old light, but waiting for the perfect photo-opportunity.

But back to the medal.
This medal was first of all designed for a competition run by BAMS (British Art Medal Society - for those who are not tuned into my blog yet). I wanted to show the spread of BAMS influence and importance in promoting the art medal by using the well known saying "From little acorns, great Oaks grow" A simple sort of concept but I thought that it was a nice image. for the BAMS medal I had the acorn on the reverse and the great oak on the obverse.

But remodelled for the Kildare County Council I was asked to put a crest on the reverse and move the acorn onto the front. So I did.

The Oak is one of the symbols of Kildare which is why they liked the design when they saw it in my portfolio

It did turn out nicely and they were very pleased with it. However, as it was a large order - eg 50 medals, if i remember rightly, I had to make 50 waxes! Not to be sniffed at as i only had one mould and limited time. Also there was a bit of a disaster at the foundry during the casting and about 20 of them had to be recast! So that was 20 more for me to pour.

I remember the time well, because I was trying to squeeze an extra bit of social life into an already full timetable of work and events. Something had to give and I think it was probably my sanity - it always is :-) But I also very nearly lost my social life - even worse!

The Darragh Bronze - presented annually to persons of high achievement.
Approx 8cm Diameter.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Ireland's contribution to European Celtic culture

Today I would like to celebrate one of the greater achievements in my artistic career.
2007 was a pretty good year for me in many ways and it began with my winning of the competition run by the Central Bank of Ireland to design a commemorative coin.

The theme was Ireland's Contribution to European Celtic Culture and this is the result.

For a start i thought about what Irish people are like. Very welcoming and articulate. i chose to use a typical Celtic interlace design and created four figures who are all very animatedly talking and communicating with one another. they are also reaching out to each other. As well as communication this might also be seen as a dance - another great Irish tradition.

To give a further layer of meaning to an already complicated design I also thought about four specific things that the Irish are known for.

One of the figures carries a book - which represents the literary culture of ireland
the next carries a violin - representative of the musical culture
another carries a shovel - this represents the huge amount of labour that Ireland has provided to Europe and indeed the rest of the world
and the last carries a laptop with a swirling mouse - this stands for modern technology which was of course booming during the Celtic Tiger period. Which incidentally was just about to come to a crunch at that time - although none of us knew it then - we were still riding high on the crest of that wave even though the credit crunch was merely months away.

But that is me musing in retrospect - at that time Ireland and its influence in Europe was definitely booming.

If you want to view the coin on the Central Bank website you can go to:
You can also still purchase the coin if you wish from there. It was minted in both silver and gold.

It was not the first time I entered this national competition. Prior to winning I had been shortlisted twice - once in 2000 and the second time in 2006. So this was an absolutely brilliant high, after trying so hard for so long.

Once the design was okayed I had nothing else to do except to turn up at the launch of the coin later in the year - I am trying to think when it was now, August or September. What I do remember about that day is the fact that two of my friends came up with me in the train from Cork to Dublin. My son attended - as he was living in Dublin at the time, several other of my Dublin based friends attended, another friend drove all the way from Belfast and my beloved Vic flew in from the UK to make sure that I was well supported. I felt deeply honoured!

Did i tell you why he was in the UK at that particular time? Well it is a long story, but I will keep it short for now, in any event most of it is his story, so he should tell it really.

He was living in Cork at the time but had no suit with him - he did some sums and worked out that it would be cheaper for him to go home and collect one from his house. So, very mysteriously, he crept off the evening before, got home, picked his suit out and basically turned around and got the first flight back to Dublin. Here he spent the day at Collin's Barracks - where the presentation was taking place, and by the time I got there in the evening, excited and slightly nervous he was pretty much a fixture on the Museum scene. He was known by all the staff from the director to the janitor and when I rolled in through the gates I was greeted by one of the organisers with the words "Vic is here!" as if he was the guest of honour! Of course I did not mind at all. He was indeed there and he put me very much at my ease on a night when my natural shyness meant that my heart was nearly jumping out of my throat.

It turned out to be a magic sort of evening and then we all got the train back to Cork - a lot of travel for a few short hours, but high on the moment I did not feel a bit of it!

So there - that is the story of the winning of the competition of the Central Bank Coin.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Dormant Seed and the Underdog

Obverse Reverse

Over the following days I would like to make a few posts which show off some of my Art Medals.

I have explained previously what a medal consists of (see previous postings on the 3rd and 5th of June) so by this time you will be able to follow quite easily when i explain the meaning of this medal.

It is called Dormant Seed and on the Obverse - or front - of the medal you can see the the face of the little seed sleeping gently as it waits patiently for germination. When you turn it over in your hand you see the soles of its little feet waiting to push down into the ground to form the roots for the plant as it starts to grow.

I like this medal very much because I think it is very peaceful and I like the face of the sleeping seed. i really enjoyed making it. Another thing that really appeals to me is feet - so I really enjoyed making the little feet or footprints on the reverse of the medal.

I have always liked feet. I have exceptionally good feet, that is they are not perhaps the most beautiful of feet but they are such good, strong feet. I get the odd bit of dry skin from time to time that is true and when I get new shoes I often get a blister or two but on the whole my feet have never let me down and they have carried my very successfully for all these years without great pain. In my teens I did experiment with high heels and strappy uncomfortable shoes, (and please do not forget that it was the 1970s so there were also huge platforms!) which really cut the feet, but I very soon found that as long as my feet were happy then so was I. I do sometimes regret not being able to wear really sparkly and spangly shoes when I am dressed up for some occasion but when I have done in the past I usually find that I have jettisoned the uncomfortable shoes as soon as the dancing starts. Now, I love being barefoot more than wearing any shoes, but at a wedding or birthday party, after drink has flowed freely for several hours, it is highly risky to go barefoot. Not all my dancing partners have been as fleet of foot as Fred Astaire!

But I think I might have gone off the point a little bit there. I was talking about feet in general, not necessarily mine. I love feet, they are one of my favourite body parts (well two of my favourite body parts actually) I like Hands too - they are also really cool. They are similar in many ways (I am sure I do not have to explain) but they have a completely different agenda. Hands are so very versatile and feet so supportive and humble. i think part of my fondness for feet lies in the fact that they are so unloved by the general public. But they carry on with their work, quiet and unassuming. The underdog of the body world.

this medal was made in 2007 and is cast in bronze.
It measures approximately 8cm in diameter

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Fern Frond

Just having a little lunchtime blog.

Well I am settling down now again after my trip to Spain. Today has been far more productive and my head has cleared a bit.

Like a fern frond in the springtime I am coming out of my sleep and unfurling my limbs and my thoughts again.

This is a picture of a wonderful fern - I love the way they unroll in the early part of the year. The colour of them is so fresh and the flesh of the leaves is so luscious looking - they make you want to touch them or sense them. In this picture the person is doing just that - she cannot resist the temptation to gently feel the baby fern with her lip in order to sense the tenderness even better.

I had a great big Antarctic Tree Fern in my last house and that was an absolute wonder. Last year it put out 12 new fronds! But this is not a picture of the Tree Fern. I actually do not know what type of fern this one is, but obviously it is one of those smoother types as you can see by the adult leaves. I love the contrast of the brown and damaged older leaves that make the new growth even more luscious.

I am very happy with this painting - I love the large scale of the leaves, larger than life and i like the way they are well defined and have a tension as well as a harmonic feel to them. I also like the background which I think is a bit mysterious as it is not quite clear what is going on. It is a bit like an abstract painting. And I like the way the face fits into the fern and becomes a part of it. But you know that I love that connection between humans and the natural world.

I hope you like the picture as much as I do.

Monday, 15 June 2009

'Pupa' and the return from Spain

I am back from Spain.
I had a wonderful time, very busy (i will tell you a little bit about that in a minute) and it was very warm so I am FREEZING now back in Norway!

I decided to use this picture today because that is how i am feeling. A little bit sleepy and introspective and I would dearly love to curl up in my duvet and have a little sleep today. As you can probably guess this is a little study of Metamoth curled up in her pupa, still dozing but pretty close to being reborn.

There is not a whole lot more to say about this picture except that I really like those colours. I use them quite a lot, especially those sap and olive greens with the pale pink and flesh tones of madder and rose dore. Rose dore was my latest discovery, the last time I was buying watercolours. I love it because it works so well as a flesh tone and then you can blush it up with a little rose madder.

I told you last week that I was off to Spain for a little holiday, this was strictly speaking not quite true as it was in fact a working holiday and fact finding mission.

Two years ago I took the plunge of buying a little house in a pretty little town in Andalucia.
My faithful and patient man, who just happened along as the sale was closing, therefore inherited a vast project that he never envisaged when he asked me out on that first date. You see - being me - I did not buy a ready house that you could walk into, but rather more a shell of a house. That said we have camped there over the last couple of years quite happily - except for the first time trying to sleep on an airbed! Nightmare, as the air just would not stay in it so that in the morning we were sleeping directly on a hard tiled floor. Not very good for my back at all!

About a year ago we began work with a really nice Spanish architect and finally after an awful lot of planning and discussion work has just begun on the house. Only demolition at the moment, but you know you have to break eggs to make omelettes. We have all really enjoyed the process, as there was no real rush at first, although now I have to admit I am just aching for the house to be finished so that we can take up residence there and start having all our friends coming to stay.

This trip was first and foremost a mission to seek out tiles, doors and other such fixtures and fittings. The week flew by in a bit of a whirlwind and I am still trying to remember and process all we viewed and discussed. Of course the couple of glasses of wine with a late lunch every day did not really help my energy levels, but I am still maintaining that it was the sunshine and heat that did for me in the afternoon!

Now, I have for some time been planning to run art holidays when we finally move down there and that was the other aspect of the trip - a fact-finding mission for these art holidays. This could not have been more successful as I had by chance booked into a lovely Bed and Breakfast (Casa de Orange just around the corner, which has exactly the right ambience that I was looking for. That takes care of the residence for the students.

As further luck would have it there was also another artist staying there at the same time (Natalia Romero and would you believe it, she was actually giving painting lessons to a couple of students who were with her. As you can imagine we got talking and after sharing conversations and ideas we finally got down to the real business of discussing a new plan of running holidays together in future.

I could not be happier as I can be a bit shy, so the thought of setting the whole thing up on my own was a bit daunting. With someone else, with relevant experience it will be a real joy!
She was also delighted at the thought of having the company of another tutor in future so we are really looking forward to making proper plans over the next few months with the hope of taking bookings for next summer. An added plus is the fact that as she is a painter and I am primarily a sculptor we should be able to devise some very interesting programs of study for our students.

So now you can probably understand why I am so physically and mentally exhausted - but also quietly really excited. Life suddenly got more interesting!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Other Worlds - The Flipside of the Leaf

Obverse Reverse

This is a medal I made a year or so ago - i think in 2007 as a matter of fact.
I am posting it today because I did not want to leave you with such a sad thought in the shape of that poor little changeling pushed out of his nest and the bosom of his family. So I cast about (forgive the pun) for something a little bit more uplifting for the weekend
This medal is a little whimsy.
I used to have a garden in my last house and I delighted in filling it with plants and flowers with big lush foliage. I especially like the herbaceous type that dies down in the autumn, leaving nothing but straw-like twigs and brown leaves.
It is true - I am a bit of a lazy gardener. Loving the planting of new things, but not so good on maintenance. But that is the beauty of herbaceous plants - they sort of take care of themselves and are new every spring.
Please do not think I have gone off the point again!
Well, one of my methods of clearing up was to put all the trimmings and old leaves right back underneath the shrubs and bushes to let them rot down. Now, in one way that might be seen as lazy because it meant that i did not have to bag the waste and put it in the bin*, but on the other hand it provided wonderful mulch for the plants, keeping a lot of weeds down or at least weakened. Secondly it provided wonderful cover for beetles and centipedes to scurry around out of sight and out of the midday sun. Thirdly it was soooooo irresistible to blackbirds and robins. The minute my back was turned they would be in there, under the shrubs picking and pulling away, hunting for all those tasty beetles and centipedes. So I thought it was a wonderful solution that encouraged all this extra wildlife in my garden. And I did have more birds than most of the other gardens in our terrace because I also had lots of hiding places and lots of plants with seeds and aphids. A very natural garden.
Are you still with me? - I am not off the point even though you think I am rambling.
The point is this:
When I was kneeling down in my garden, sweeping all those bits of twigs and leaves into the dark shady places beneath the shrubs i was on a different level. Usually, we grown-ups view a garden from a height - in my case - my eyes are at a level of approximately 5'2" (i worked this out by deducting 5" for my forehead from my overall height of 5'7") So that is the height I view from (I admit that was a bit of a ramble). But when I get down and dirty in the undergrowth a whole new world and perspective open up to me. This is what gave me the idea for this medal. You never really know what is going on in the undergrowth - it is a whole 'Other World'. So when you pick up the medal, that looks like a rather nice green leaf - cut into a circle - and you turn it over in your hand, suddenly you are seeing things from a different perspective and lo and behold, there beneath the leaf is a strange sort of worm. This is a sort of celtic-y worm because of course it was an Irish garden. Of course - I have made it a WHOLE other world :-)
i hope my description made you smile.

So now, dear art lovers, I wish you all a wonderful weekend and a wonderful week, as I will be away - in Spain yippee! For a bit of a holiday. I won't have my computer or access to internet very easily so will not be making any new postings until i get back next weekend. If I am not too groggy on Sunday I will let you know how I got on.

*You might wonder why I did not have a compost heap. Well I did for a while, but very honestly I have never quite got the hang of making compost and always ended up with either a pile of dry rubbish in the corner, or one of those green, slimy, evil smelling heaps that never seemed to become anything useable. Also it was a very small garden, so it was hard to hide it. When I decided to tidy up to sell the house I did away with it altogether - leaving me with that very real problem of how to get rid of garden waste responsibly.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Changeling

Good Morning, Good Morning,
The sun is shining and the wind which has been blowing for the last three days has subsided - so I think it will be shorts again today.
I have also just checked out the Port of Stavanger website and note that there are two cruisers in this very morning. They are due in at 8.00am. So I will have to nip down to the harbour to get some pics.
But that has nothing to do with today's picture. The Changeling:
This is one of my study paintings for my cuckoo theme.
What can I say about Cuckoos - they cannot help their nature. it may seem cruel that the big fat cuckoo babies or their mums push the other eggs out of the nest and then take all the food from their tiny surrogate parents as they grow and outgrow their stolen nests. But that is the way they have evolved and they know no other way. Nature is red in tooth and claw!
This little embyronic chick lies on the hard pavement, her life-line ebbing away, as the all the goodness from her egg seeps away between the cobbles.
Behind her grow three bitter herbs - Rue, Dandelion and Tansy - representing the bitterness of the cruelty that has befallen her.
But she was more than a little bird as you can see - she was a changeling - a chymera with moth wings, limp and unfurled and beneath her curls one little human hand.
I suppose it may seem far-fetched, a little bit sci-fi, but all it means to me is the strong empathy between other species and ourselves.
In our language we speak of 'the cuckoo in the nest' meaning the person who pushes out the other children to get closest to the parents. To be the most important and most loved. That is sad in its own way, is is not? To be that needy to have to be the 'only one' not able to be properly socialised with others. Never learning to share properly. A lonely place really.
So, I think this is quite a sad painting, with sombre colours and a sad theme.
I do apologise - I did not mean to lower the mood this morning. I will try to post a more uplifting picture later on today then - to get you ready for the weekend. :-)

Templebar in Long Trousers

As i have been speaking about commissions - I now speak about competitions.
i enter a lot of competitions - unfortunately i do not always win. On one hand I enjoy it, because of course there is the promise of real money at the end of it - held up like a great juicy carrot or a Lotto win. But of course, just like a lotto win the odds are definitely stacked against me. Well, that is not strictly speaking true. The odds are not against me personally but like a lottery the picture chosen is chosen at the whim of the judges of the competition. It is really pot-luck which way they will go. That said, sometimes the resulting entry is not always as great as one of my own pictures, drawn out of my imagination and own interests.
Take this picture. It was designed for the cover of a tourist guide for the Templebar area of Dublin. Templebar is an area of great tourism in Dublin and it attracts a lot of street performers and markets. There is a food market there now and books and bric a brac. The theme of the competition was the coming of age of Templebar. It is now 25 years (i think) since the area was overhauled and turned into a more desirable area. So the organisers wanted to draw attention to this. So I have drawn a typical Templebar scene with one of the bohemian types, with his flowing dreadlocks adjusting the sleeve of his very smart jacket. You see, Templebar has come of age and has grown out of his short trousers - and is now an adult.

Well that was my idea - i tried - but did not succeed on this occasion. Still I thought i would just put this picture in because it is at least very colourful and shows my determination to try things out. I don't think it is one of my best but i will post it anyway because I did it and I entered it.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Another portrait - this is of 'Brid'

Just a quick follow up to the last posting - which was of course a portrait commission. Well so was this.
This portrait is on the obverse (front) of a medal - I am a medallist as well as a full 3D sculptor - but you will know that from my very first posting which is of my medal 'The Song of the Thrush'.
It was just by chance that i got roped into the wonderful world of medallic art. I was in my third year of Art college (oh such a long time ago now!) and my tutor (I was doing sculpture through foundry) got an invitation for his students to take part in the Student Medal Competition for the British Art Medal Society or BAMS as it is abbreviated - in fact here you can go have a quick look at their website too if you wish.
Well I entered two medals and one of them won a prize. It was quite sweet really, a little hand reaching out of a curling shell. It was a bit more like a little sculpture, but actually that is pretty much what a medal is anyway.
over the years of course I have refined my ideas and knowledge about medals and have discovered that there is more to them than that. Medals have a back and a front - reverse and obverse - and a rim. These three parts can be cleverly combined to tell a story, so that when you pick the medal up and look at one side, you then turn it over to find the second part of the idea - a complement or a contrast or a complete surprise - sometimes the rim is used to make the idea flow from one side to the other - that is in fact something i am working hard at - I have not yet quite used it satisfactorily - well at least not to my satisfaction anyway. But that is always exciting, when there are still challenges.
You could compare medals to miniatures or jewellery.
What i really love about medals - or very tiny works of art - is the fact that you are literally drawn into the work, you have to get right up close and personal to look at it.
A medal should be picked up and handled too i think - like any good sculpture which calls out to the viewer to touch and caress it.

But as usual I am off on a bit of a ramble. Just you ask my beloved what i am like. He will just roll his eyes and sigh, but i think he is getting a bit used to me now. Sometimes he indulges me but other times he reminds me to get to the point - gently - and i really quite appreciate it because then the story actually has a conclusion.
Unlike this one which just seems to be going on and on and i never even spoke much about my medal for 'Brid'
But as i must go and check on the dinner I don't have time right now, however, i will just say that this photo is taken of the wax - very cunningly photoshopped to look more like bronze. I did get it cast in bronze, but am not sure if I have a photo of the bronze edition. Something else to put on my 'to do' list.

For now

Jimmy's Girls - a commission

This is a bit of a change of direction.

Every so often I get a chance to do a commission. Sometimes it is a medal or a sculpture but this one was for a drawing of 'Jimmy's Girls'
I was really quite pleased with this. Portraits are not always easy, but this one turned out well.
I admit - it is not a real portrait, as in from a live model with sittings and all that - that is really difficult, but of course gives far more interesting results.
This is a simple copy from a photograph of the two girls.
Still - I was happy with the likeness and happy that the figures came out looking quite round - working from a photo often results in a flatter picture.

I wanted to include this in my blog just to show that there are more strings to my bow than just what i am currently doing. I can turn my hand to portraiture should the commission arise. I enjoy the challenge and enjoy trying to get the likeness. However, I would prefer live sittings, however frustrating, in order to be able to try to capture the real person rather than just copying a snapshot - because that is all you get - a copy of a snapshot. That said, this was a very nice snapshot - the girls have an aura and distinct personalities.