Sunday, July 29, 2007

Artist In Residence Week

Got a call from the Director at Nature In Art to say that the flood waters have receeded allowing road access to the Hall, so he's opening the museum/art gallery to visitors again from Tuesday.

My friend, Julie and I are booked to be the artists in residence (AIR) there this coming week and there was some doubt that we would actually be able to do our stint. Another friend of mine, Marion, unfortunately not only had her AIR week cancelled but the silk painting course she was tutoring today cancelled as well. A double blow for her.

There is still not water supply to the Hall, so with the aid of a few trusty buckets, they shall be using the wells they have on site for the flushing of loos. Also as it is still uncertain whether the beautiful farmhouse B&B I usually stay at during my AIR week, is accessible and whether they are able to accept and provide for guests. So I may very well be commuting back and forth for the first few days at least, if not the whole week.

Of course, it's possible that no-one will visit Nature In Art - having too much sorting out with flooded homes etc or just not knowing that it is once again open. This could mean J & I will be on our ownsomes, but on the bright side... we should get some work done, if we're not too busy chatting and catching up ourselves!!!

I love doing the AIR week... not only is Nature In Art a fantastic place in a beautiful tranquil setting, it's also fun meeting all the visitors, catching up with my friend (she has been living in Denmark for about 3 years now), and doing arty stuff in an arty place; enjoying the atmosphere, company and venue. It's almost like a sort of holiday in some respects. It certainly recharges my batteries as it is such an inspirational atmosphere to work in.

In previous years J& I have usually been very lucky with the weather.. I'm not holding out too much hope for this coming week.... surprise, surprise rain is forecast!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Batik workshop cancelled

Well, here in the West Country of the UK we have been experiencing a ‘freak/unprecedented weather event’. Following one of the UK’s wettest June and July's on record, several days of really heavy rain has caused massive flooding and associated problems in a several counties, including Gloucestershire. In one 12 hour period many places were deluged with 2 – 3 times July’s normal rainfall, with constant rain in the weeks and days both before and after. Consequently… the rivers, their tributaries and the drainage system has not coped with the massive amount of water.

On Saturday 21st I needed to travel to Gloucester to set up the classroom where I would be holding my batik workshop at a school in Tuffley, along with the other tutors booked, on the southern edge of the city. News report from the evening before and early morning of that day showed the motorway at a standstill and closed due the 1000’s of cars stranded by the chaos from flooding and other road closures. Many had to spend the night in their cars.

By 9am on Saturday the traffic was beginning to move and I watched the online traffic reports and TV news to keep me updated. I had made a decision by 9.15 that with estimated 3 hour hold ups on that section of the motorway (just before Gloucester) that it wasn’t worth me travelling up and adding to the problem, as the school was only open between 9 and 12.30 for tutors to set up. However, at 9.45 the online traffic reports indicated that the motorway was clear so I changed my mind, quickly loaded the car and by 10.30 I was on my way.

As it was the motorway was clear with little traffic and I made it up to Glos in good time. Whilst at the school I met a friend, who was also tutoring at the school for the week, who lives just north of Glos and she had tales of friends who were abandoning cars and wading waist-high through water to get to their houses as well as hairy moments driving home in her car the evening before!

My journey home was quick and easy too. The next day I was planning on going up to Glos again to stay at a friend’s house for the week, as she lived just a few minutes away from the school. But by late Sunday afternoon that had changed as her house was without a water supply, due to a pumping station getting flooded and evacuated of personnel. This affected most of the city and would soon affect the surrounding area and Tewkesbury and Cheltenham too. I thought it wrong to add to the problem, so I decided I would commute between Glos and Bristol until they got the water supply back on. The school was still going to be open as they had water tanks to supply loo’s etc but I was advised to bring plenty of my own water for use in the classroom.

By Monday morning, the friend I was going to stay with was without electricity. This cast doubt over the school still being operational as I, amongst a few other tutors, would need power for our respective workshops. However, I carried on - packed the car with plenty of water containers (enough for me and some spare for my friend s should they need it), some food, blankets (in case I got stranded on the roads) and what I needed for the workshop that I hadn’t already taken up.

On my trip up to Glos I heard my phone beep to say I had a text. It was from my friend who was also tutoring to say that the school was closed and all workshops cancelled. I drove to the services, which I luckily hadn’t passed yet and rang her to get the details. The school was not only without water, but power now too and the roads around Glos, that weren’t closed due to flooding, were chaotic and jammed up with the morning’s traffic. So even if the school was open… it’ll be hell just getting to it. Also there were tutors and students (my friend now amongst them) who were stranded in their homes/neighbourhoods - cut off by the water levels. So the organisers had no choice but to cancelled all workshops for the whole week... something they have never had to do in their 27 year history of holding the Gloucester Summer School of Arts and Crafts. Great disappointment all round for all involved.

So I drove to the next junction and came back to Bristol very disappointed. I had been looking forward to this week of batiking, not only for the money I would earn from it (which is much needed), but also for the fun and challenge of it. I had put a lot of effort into the last month or so preparing not only for this workshop but the following week’s stint as artist in residence at Nature In Art. There have been many late nights and a lot of stress involved – basically I suppose trying to do too much as I had to think and organise stuff for several other projects and exhibitions as well as normal day to day stuff and working 3 days a week.

Next week I am supposed to be in Glos again - at Nature In Art… we’ll see what the weather holds and whether that will be possible or not.

However, I should not complain… I am very fortunate. I have a house that I don’t have to wade through water to reach, which is dry inside with water in the taps and electricity at the flick of a switch. I have had no possessions ruined by flood waters and do not have to ‘look forward’ to weeks and months of drying out, insurance wrangles, stress and fixing up my home. I can make use of my time at home by painting..... I have several commissions to do and this is an opportunity to crack on with them.

Monday, July 16, 2007

NEWA submissions

So today I got my form back showing me that two of the three pieces of work I entered for this exhibition have been selected. Great news.

These are the pieces I submitted... Giraffe - batik, Zebra foal - pastel and Elephant - batik

......... it was the ellie that didn't get in.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Silk painting workshop

On Saturday 30 June I tutored a silk painting workshop organised by The Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project. A work colleague, Mandy, is the Biodiversity Education Officer for this project and she organises numerous events, talks and walks to highlight the wildlife, both flora and fauna, of this unique location in Bristol.

The aim of the workshop was to create a silk painting inspired by things the students saw on a walk on the Clifton and Durdham Downs. The above silk painting was one of the trial pieces I did prior to the workshop.

If you live in Britain, you will know what a 'damp' June and July we have had! In the week run-up to the workshop both Mandy and I had reservations about what the weather would do for us on the Saturday, as it rained pretty much every day, but we remained hopeful.
The morning of Saturday started wet and as I unloaded the car at the Conservation Education Centre at the zoo I was thinking my contingency plan just might have to suffice..... as, surprise surprise..... it was raining.

I had brought with me various cuttings of plants from my garden including ivy, hawthorn, ash, sycamore, cranesbill and herb Robert. On top of that I had brought lots of my reference pics and photo's of wild plants; these we laid out at the back of the class for the students to use if they wished.

The students arrived, thankfully kitted out for the wet weather, eager to get started once they has downed a warming cuppa and nourishing biscuit. Luckily the rain only spit-spotted and so we braved it and walked the fifteen minutes or so up onto the Downs. Here we were led by a very informative and inspiring Mandy as she showed us the many plants found amongst the tall grasses. Just after she was lamenting the fact that there were no butterflies in flight due to the drizzle and lack of sun... lo! the drizzle stopped and the sun came out for a brief few minutes and on cue the butterflies all flitted up from deep within the grasses. It was a marvellous sight. Several of us tried to get photo's of the marbled whites - the most striking of butterflies we saw about us.

As we headed across the Downs the weather improved; no more sun but the rain held off. On the main meadow area we were shown the 'common' lesser spotted orchids and learnt about how the Roman soldiers used plantain leaves as 'plasters' due to its drying properties. Mandy is a goldmine of curious and interesting facts about the plants and animals of the area.

After about an hour we headed back to the zoo's Conservation and Education centre. Here I showed them some basic tips on using gutta and the various effects you can get when applying silk paints. Then it was time for the students to draw up a design for their 'painting', which they traced onto the silk before pinning it to the frames.

Applying the gutta was easy for some and tricky for others; I had brought four different colour guttas and each had different flow properties. Changing the colour gutta they were using helped some who were having difficulties. Making sure the gutta was dry before applying colour was paramount and to help speed this along we had hairdryers.

Then it was the fun of adding the colours. As I wandered around, helping or advising where requested or needed, I could see some amazing works taking form. The subject matter was mainly flowers, both on a small and large scale, but there was also a bird and some butterflies. Salt was a favourite for making effects in the paints; some used it in an abstract way and some used it to create the patterns/structure on plants. I really regret not having the presence of mind to photograph the work they did (something to remember for future workshops) the students produced some beautiful and creative pieces that I would love to be able to look back on or post here (with their permission).

All too soon the time to finish was upon us. We had been soooo lucky with the weather, when it mattered the rain held off and we even had a spot of sunshine. I really enjoyed the day and hope that the students went away not only proud of what they had produced (as they all should be) but also hope that they had an as fun and informed day as I had.

Wouldn't it be fun to do one in the Autumn.... all those colours!

NEWA aka The National Exhibition of Wildlife Art

I have submitted three pieces of my work to NEWA this year for selection. Two batiks and a pastel. As this website now has a link on the NEWA website I am assuming my work has been accepted.

Unfortunately I have never been able to get up to Liverpool to see the show, something I really hope I can do in the future; as I have heard they always put on a fabulous exhibition.

Please also read July 16th's post


Has it been that long already! Can't believe my last post was nearly three weeks ago! I was doing so well too, with regular postings!

My only excuse is that I've had my head down working... but not on paintings, sad to say. Since my last post I have prepped for and tutored a silk painting workshop... and there was a lot of prepping, as I was out of practise big time with painting on silk. And since then I have been prepping for a five day batik workshop and a six day stint as an artist in residence. During my artist in residence week I shall be giving an hour long talk to fellow members of The Wildlife Art Society on my work at the zoo; for which I have been working on a powerpoint presentation. It's quite a lot of work, but hopefully will be worth it as once it is done... I can use it time and time again for other talks to art groups. Powerpoint is actually very easy to use, and I say that as a complete beginner to the application, and I'm hoping what I have done will not only be of interest to my fellow members but a bit of fun as well, here and there. The hard work has been the amount of hours I have spent scanning in and adjusting photo's and images of my work in preparation. Of course, the proof is in the pudding, as they say and time will tell if this ease of use translates and continues when I do the actual presentation.

On top of doing that I have been printing out cards and promotional leaflets for both events and sorting out paintings for two forth coming exhibitions, making email and telephone enquiries in pursuit of a very exciting project (which I won't say too much about that now in case I jinx it but once things are more definite I won't be able to contain myself and will no doubt be blurting it out everywhere!). Over one weekend I had to catch up all our baby fish... well some were over a year old but as we have only a very small pond the 30 or so youngsters were causing a huge problem. The ponds' ability to maintain itself was struggling and it would not cope with them all come the winter. So I had to fish them all out... quite a job because for some reason the fish did not want to be caught. And whoever says they only have a 3 second memory.... don't know my fish! In the end, I had to empty the pond (not the best time of year to do that kind of job!), I scoured the plants I hooked out for invertebrates and young newts, which took some time. Luckily it rained on and off all day... I say luckily as this prevented the plants I hooked out from drying up. Eventually I managed to get all the fish out, putting only the adults and the youngsters I wanted to keep back. I had homes lined up for the youngsters so I kept them in holding containers with some of the plants until they could be collected and taken to their new homes. This 'little' job took over the whole weekend and gave me a killer backache for a few days! And of course there's all the other householdy things to do as well.
So, all in all, my posting priorities took a back seat, but this morning I decided I really must change that and at least explain my absence to my regular visitors.

I also wanted to make sure I post about the silk painting workshop before the batik workshop and my artist in residence happens.

The batik workshop is at the Gloucester Summer School of Arts and Crafts, Glos running from 23rd July to 27th July.

My Artist In Residence week is at The Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery, just north of Gloucester, from 31 July to 5th August. If you are in the area and have the time, do please pop in and say hello, whilst I am there.