Wednesday, August 31, 2011

TV treehouse build week.

The Great Treehouse Challenge for SKY1 is well underway. previous a blog  here.

So I'd penciled in the week to get stuck in & help unload lorry's, lugging the building sections, digging & hammering etc. I was looking forward to observing and participating in the whole process. I was looking forward to some physical graft, which is always good for body & soul. A message had come looking for certain number and types of volunteers for certain times and days. I chose to ignore the bit about 'Strong Male volunteers' to carry heavy things. Last I looked I wasn't a male, but its never stopped me carry heavy things yet. work gloves and overalls at the ready, I got the phone call.

They want me to be one of the people who gets a big surprise on camera when the finished building is presented to the community. They want me to NOTsee the site all week.... not get stuck in, dirty, hands on and build the thing ??? NOOOOoooooooo!  

So alas dear reader there will be no progress blogs from me, no sneaky peeks, or even after the programme has aired no behind the scenes info and pictures.

Okay maybe a little...

a busy site office

equipment pool

researcher and general go girl Ellie measuring up caithness slabs, donated by a member of the community for the stove hearth.
 so i did get a chance to do a little rock lugging and getting dirty in finding these stones with Ellie at least. The big presentation is Friday evening, better dust off my frock and get used to the bizarre and alien notion that I don't actually have to do everything myself or even at all. ... if the frustration gets really bad i do have a shed here at home which needs building. sigh.

Liminal period

Dictionaries are good. I tend to sit with google translate and a dictionary open on the computer desktop. Learning things is cool. one of this weeks new words is Liminality . Which accurately describes the state of between big creative projects. Life seems to lurch unstably between projects, months of intense work at the expense of everything else- for what? a two day event, a week long festival, a talk, a workshop, a painting which gets a few nice comments, a couple of opening nights, some nice inches in a newspaper, a notch on the CV ? and then its gone... sometimes ten years later people say that a piece of art work or an event or workshop made a big difference to them, which is great and amazing. But in the immediate aftermath of creating a body of artistic work or pulling together a big event... there is nothing. The reward is the journey, the hope and blind faith that somehow all that effort progresses ones aims. But afterwards looking back there is no evidence of this. A couple of days grace can be gleaned by basking in reviews, feedback  and photographs, but it is fleeting. It can feel like you need to go backwards to try and pick up other threads which may or may not lead anywhere. In this limbo - burnt out, penniless and exhausted it is probably not a good time to take stock and reappraise life aims and objectives. But its hard not to question, why do i put myself through this? What was the point in what i just did?  No good answers are forthcoming in the liminal period. I think it would help just to continue painting without a break, let art take up the questions. But life and other work gets in the way and once the art flow is broken its hard to get back.

Here is a painting i started, 'The Furies'. The problem is i'm not sure if i can produce art for art sake alone. We women are traditionally more focused on other rather than self. There is the whole work ethic & need to support 'others'. We artists are traditionally a low esteemed, low self worth, type of people. ( ironically there is also a selfish aspect to such sensitivity and non regard to self ) So the problem is without a paycheck, a boss, an editor, a deadline, a specific goal, a muse, a commission, a specific brief or customer...without something or someone outwith the self to paint or produce work for specifically, then it all falls down & feels like pointless self indulgence. If my duty is to others not to my self, then why paint?  This is not a new problem of course, i've been fighting tooth and claw with it for the 25 years since i left art college. answers on a postcard not expected.

meanwhile here is a great review of the Inchmore 'Reactions to Vysotsky' exhibition. Yay!

and i am trying to catch up with work on the ' Band of Butchers ' comic strip which is part of Barry Nugents Unseen Shadows universe. I'm on digital colour duties, watch this space.

I'm also mucking in with the Ceangal Project- which is a grass roots international artists connections thing, coming from collaboration between Lynn Bennett-MacKenzie and Somu Desai. We're doing some art in North West schools and in the landscape next week..Its all going to be BIG and exciting. more information to follow!

Then i need to tidy out the studio, as soon as i get some energy and time. URG.

( the horror )

I'm also in a rush to produce some large artwork for a rather good exhibition opportunity in Brussels.

There is the TV treehouse getting built this week too - I'll blog that separately, this one is too navel gazing.

Being busy, published and exhibited internationally doesn't mean you can pay the bills or know what you are doing kids. Its all an illusion.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Smithy mosaic's in place.

Here are the mosaic's i did last year for the Smithy. now mounted on the walls.

Filming starts next week for SKY1's 'Great Treehouse Challenge' this is the site again, but bracken etc cleared.  watch this space!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Inchmore 'Reactions to Vysotsky' Opening night

Thursday lunch time. left for Edinburgh, visited friends on route, finding sanctuary from exhausted burn out in a colourful artists studio. 10.30pm took a wrong route into Edinburgh again & hit the football crowds and princes street. 9.30 am rush up crowded streets to Scotland-Russia Forum, pack up exhibition. get taxi for boxes and artwork back to where car was parked. 11.30 leave Edinburgh drive north. 3pm arrive Inchmore gallery, hang show- or Rather Jane, Inchmore owner hung show beautifully, i got in way. 6pm meet Rich, club together our last pennies for chips and a cup of tea. change into dress in public toilets. 6.45pm meet Tommy at pub opposite gallery. Go to gallery for opening. Talked to lots of people. smiled a lot posed for photos. Tommy sang wonderfully, enchanting this new audience & spreading the message about the Scottish - Russian connection, Vysotsky and the role of a Bard in a modern context. thankyous, applause. home.

Jane Inglis the Gallery owner and me.

myself & Tommy Beavitt, co-collaborator

Tommy gives and powerful performance of the Vysotsky songs

Great coverage promoting the event in the Inverness Courier

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

artwork from the yelabuga symposium

This time last year myself and Lynn Bennett-MacKenzie were in Tatarstan Russia on our life changing adventure. I never really got decent photos of the artwork I did, but Photographer Aktas Hamadeev kindly sent me recently some that he's taken for the book that is being put together about the 'Breath of the Epos' symposium.
Aktas plays us a tune while we waited to photograph the sunrise.

Its strange for me to see these paintings again. We arrived at the Symposium expecting that it would run like a residency, we would set up in the studios and see what artwork started to flow in response to the theme, place and other artists. However everyone else arrived with pre-prepared artwork to execute! We thought we'd have plenty of time , but the deadline kept moving forwards and we were in great demand for meetings, interviews and events. So it was a highly pressured painting time. I hadn't really been free to paint these sort of subjects in this style before, what style?!  There was a heat wave on so my acrylic washes needed a drastic rethink, at 45degreesC the paint was drying virtually before i could squeeze it onto the palette. However it was such a warm, supportive and inspiring environment. There were many revelations to see ourselves as Scottish artists from such a faraway perspective. I think we both became angry realising how suppressed we had become back in the UK, how narrow and shallow the art confines are here.

I was of course less than happy with my finished pictures, but i did my best. The one above was a mixture of a few silkie, seal-people, lost lands, siren and mermaid stories from the Celtic world. Many of these stories imply themes about the old religions verses Christianity, fear of the feminine principle, the idea that wolds become submerged as a punishment for the acts of a woman, the mysteries of women, and of course the sea and nature herself. I deliberately chose a sea theme as we were so far inland in Yelabuga. In the UK I  find inland claustrophobic, not so there, the majestic Kama river wound its way across the steppe to the Volga, those endless eastern skies held hope and freedom.
 This was the first painting I started by way of a warm up when we first arrived 'overseas' . That glorious sense of flying, freedom and possibility launched faraway into the unknown. surrendering to where the winds may take you.
I wasn't happy with this' The journey ', I loved painting on the circular canvases, it was about 80cm across, but i didn't have time to weave in as many decorative elements as I wanted. Its rather simplistic & crude. The idea was about my own personal journey & story, the animals that accompany me and have joined along the road, but of course micro is secondary to macro- the journey of ideas, or stories of peoples, migration, symbolic memes across continents and thousands of years.

This was tricky, ' Boudicca- a mothers duty' . I'd never thought to paint something like Boudicca before. Our ancestors have been so devalued in our society, our cultural past, reduced to a sanitised fairy story, a joke, nursery rhymes. Historical and mythological subjects are in art a curiosity in ancient paintings and sneered at as kitsch in contemporary art. Not so in Russia. I've always looked back to the Picts & Celts for inspiration, joking that Boudicca was my great great great great great Auntie. I figure that if my family tree goes back to the area where the Iceni tribe were, people moved around less in the past, the further back in time the more we are genetically related, yes why not!  Out there in Russia people were immediately saying i was like a celtic queen, like Boudicca- ahhh such lovely kind people! so it seemed a good time to tackle it.  I figure this is the scene where Boudicca is about to go into battle to avenge the wrongs done to her daughters and to her people, the Hare ( symbol of Goddesses ) was an omen that the battle would not go in her favor. She knew this, but for her daughters she had to make that sacrifice. A difficult subject for a mum to paint. I was still working on it when the other artworks where getting hung, sweat and tears. Needless to say I'm not happy with the result. but it is what it is.

 Now this one I did have fun with! 'The Guardians' the day I learn to paint with the same intuitive ease as I draw I'll be happy( er ). Many of the celtic squiggles drawn in here ( hey no rubbing out, no tippex, no mistakes, no pre-planning ) are worn on my own skin, if not yet, they will be by the time i'm finished. The Tattoos became a means of communication, those symbols transcended the distances from the Celtic kingdoms across Scythia and the steppes, they wove throughout the stories that the other artists painted. I was so proud when a Yakut artist painting a massive and dramatic scene from his culture in Northern Siberia pointed to my arm and then to his canvas, nodding approval. Those Deer with their antlers pointing to the skies like a tree of life, have been leading and inspiring me for over 20 years now, a totem, a symbol, a story an idea? it straddles time and place. Where to next?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reactions To Vysotsky- Edinburgh Opening

Friday 12th August was the first opening and recital of our Group show ' Reactions to Vysotsky' . This event was at the Scottish-Russian institute in Edinburgh. We were really lucky to get a space in the city during festival time at such short notice. Jenny from the Scottish-Russian Forum was a brilliant help!

It was a major challenge of producing a body of work in such a short time, my collaborator Tommy Beavitt moving to Slovenia in the middle of all this added to the fun of bouncing back and forth our understandings and impression of the meanings and imagery within the songs. However the final painting was finally finished, the varnish was almost dry. Car loaded off I headed, very nervously as I normally take public transport rather than drive into towns. Miles into town and past the venue to find parking, daughter Tal collected to help out, Taxi back to venue, hung pictures. I'm not going to put many photos of the actual artwork up until the after the next show... So if you're impatient you'll have to go to see the exhibition in Edinburgh this week or from Friday 19th 7.30pm at the Inchmore Gallery near Inverness! The Friday night will have a second presentation and recital of the songs.

On Friday the Ceramic contribution from Allison Weightman, and a wonderful painting from John Mikietyn arrived to join my work. 

The recital was in an upstairs room, only room for a small and select group of Scottish-Russian Forum members and a few others. We were very honoured that Sergei Krutikov, the Russian Consul General was able to attend.

Tommy explained the background to the project and introduced the songs with a slide show of the artwork to accompany. It was fantastic to see and hear them together!

After the presentation, the wine flowed, the conversations got lively, everything got rather fun and chaotic!
Tommy sang a couple of his other songs including some Burns later on. It was brilliant to hear all the positive feedback on the art, not so much for the sake of my ego or anything , but what fascinates me is how other people are interpreting the stories within the paintings and the take on the songs. There would have been nothing worse than polite nods!

 The day after the opening, with a rather fuzzy head. We all met up again for a meeting with Boris Petrov of the Ural-Scottish society. I realised how far i need to go with my Russian before I can even start to half keep up with discussions. But it was a very good meeting, which fingers crossed will be leading to more exciting things!

Sorry this isn't a very detailed account of the opening, you had to be there really!  Now I am desperately playing catch up before heading back to Edinburgh to take down the show & back up to Inchmore to hang it for this Friday. I hope to see many of you there. The artwork will go online afterwards, along with prices of course. Prints and cards are available too.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

kitsch this tartan lovers

and after weeks of intense painting madness, lovely to do some other 'making' for some R&R, here is a little bag I made myself today to go with my frock for the exhibition opening on Friday. That's the first time I've had a chance to use the new sewing machine I got for Christmas!  so if the painting thing doesn't work out? who wants some tartan accessories? 

The TV treehouse challenge- design reveal

Remember back HERE I blogged about the visit from the SKY! TV production company. They are working with the community to make a tree house for a community venue. On the 6th August when I was away running workshops at Belladrum festival, a party of local volunteers were busy clearing the site and access to the river bank where the tree house will be built.

Yesterday the film crew spent the day getting bits and bobs or interview and footage with our main spokesperson and the Presenter Charlie Luxton. Then in the evening members of the community gathered at one of the local pubs where the architect designs were to be revealed. Its good to see that everytime the film crew come up more local people are getting involved, these are not all from one committee or group either but representing a wide range of interests and ages.

so on a chilly highland summer evening with a few midges, once it got dark enough, a presentation was projected onto the outside wall of the Strathcarron hotel and Charlie talked us through the design process. They first showed my hasty coloured sketch which took everyone's ideas on board ( I really really should have had my name and website in capital letters across the thing! ).

 my sketch.

local heroes, and Rich advertising Hi-Ex!

The designers looked at the site, our ideas about a traditional roundhouse with lots of light, they also looked at yurts and other round structures and came up with...... ah ha!  I imagine i'd be in trouble if i revealed the reveal. So you will have to wait.
The design has to be something that will last, can be built in 4 days & come within budget. Designers Charlie & Alex had put a lot of thought into the way the space would be used, site security, and working with the gorgeous riverside view.  Charlie had to run through the unscripted presentation three times so the cameras could get all the angles, such is the nature of television, the ooo's and ahhh's were getting a little hammy towards the end ! He took a few questions, our initial concerns are the larch needles building up on the roof ...and another feature. The longevity and practicality of this other feature, water drainage from the roof. Someone raised the point that the river bed had been moved when the road was built some 150 years ago and what if it moved back again, but seasonal flooding is why we put the design on stilts in the first place.
No spoilers here - you had to be there!

As the cameras moved off to do some interviews with a couple of individuals, a couple of folks voiced their concerns that the roof pitch simply wouldn't work in our wet climate. So it turns out when these TV programmes have drama moments, they are not necessarily contrived!  Once the drainage ideas, design principals and building materials involved were explained to us by Charlie I felt reassured. We have explained from the outset the difficulties of our climate here, so they are certainly taking this on board. I think the general consensus was very impressed with the design. Hopefully no-one will be too put out by the change in roof design. the conical shape we'd initially proposed simply cannot be built in the time frame with the materials available. I'm prepared to trust the architects on this one.

 and yes I am well aware that i talk too fast and wave my arms about too much when giving talks/ interviews etc!  I think I managed to not do the looking off & up the right thing this time- hopefully.

ooo look > a tiny near spoiler!

Next stage is the actual build in 2/ 3 weeks time, where it will be complete maddness !  Looking forward to it & meeting the team again as they are all really enthusiastic and know their stuff. 

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Belladrum Festival

We are just back from Belladrum festival where i delivered a couple of comic strip workshops. I'm far too sleep deprived to write much so here are some photos instead. IT was great fun, I loved it!

Getting ready for my Comic strip drawing workshop- On the left Cosmonauts Elena and Anna from The Highland- Russia Connections charity.

Day One of the Comic drawing workshops

Getting from A to B involved navigating, mud, over zealous stewards, the longest possible routes through a labyrinth of fences- guarded of course by the dreaded "you can't go this way!" yellow jackets - This took three hours negotiating the first day and we nearly didn't get to the tent where I was workshopping at all! Its not often you'll see me do a Diva strop, not very dignified with baubles in hair let me tell you !

One of the art installations was lots of Pianos in the woodlands.....

Bella the Highland Coo

Three young men Sporting the latest in sporran wear

and later on the day they appear to have gathered some girls phone numbers as tattoos

Another Art piece

Aliens stopping by for cream teas

 a wishing tree

day two of the Comic workshops, lots of sleepy children focusing on drawing for an hour or so.

bagpipe and drums.

Alien abduction.

Slouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

a Wicker Horse

Ukulele Karaoke

Newton Faulkner gets the crowds jumping with his version of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Bootilicious workout.

Burning Logs