We all need something beautiful, gentle and real to cling onto during these difficult times. We all need to be reminded that just because there are those who shout out their hate and lies into the world……there is still so much beauty and love that we can share with one another.
In this post, I pay homage to the American poet and writer Mary Oliver (1935-2019) whose soul and spirit live on in her beautiful and evocative words.
She asks her reader
‘Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life…..’
She reminds us that material stuff clutters our lives.
“I have a notion that if you are going to be spiritually curious, you better not get cluttered up with too many material things……”
We are reminded of the importance of giving time, power and…
When I change one tiny section of a ten meter mural…everything is changed. The rhythm, balance, composition, everything. The same is true for life.
The other day I watched a documentary about Clive James (Australian critic, broadcaster and writer.) Filmed in 1991, London looked like a different world to the one we are inhabiting now. Much less crowded….no one carrying i phones….generally speaking a seemingly more manageable place.
Since 1991 many things have served to change the rhythm, balance and composition of our beautiful world. So much has changed in such a short period. Far too rapidly for we human beings to assimilate in a balanced fashion. Today we find ourselves with leaders who clearly have no understanding of interconnectedness, rhythm, harmony and balance overseeing and governing our collective futures. We wake each day alert to what new form of madness, they have imposed upon us!
Meanwhile, our beautiful world becomes more and more unstable……and mental disease more prevalent in humans of all ages.
So many feel a deep sense of frustration and loss. How can we make a difference? How can we help to bring some form of equilibrium back into our lives…..?
There are ways as individuals we can make small but significant differences…
For the last two evenings, I watched The Choir: featuring Gareth Malone and the inmates of Aylesbury Prison. Not only was it uplifting and moving, it showed how differences can be made. I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t seen this to watch on BBC 2 I Player.
Gareth Malone did more in a short period of time with minimal funding than all of our politicians put together. The power behind Gareth’s work is of course creativity….in his case music.
Anyone who has followed my blog will know that I am constantly talking about creativity being the key to emotional, physical and spiritual well being. In The Choir we see the creative process achieving these goals. And so my friends, at the beginning of a new year and decade, I suggest that everyone find a form of creativity that works for them. Something that calms and heals the mind and body.
Then think of the small ways you can make a difference…….
I found this on FB yesterday.
And of course don’t forget the unseen energy that magical hummingbirds show us.
On Friday I gave my first live workshop since lockdown and it felt wonderful to be with a group of real human beings…:)
I mentioned in a previous post that during lockdown something quite magical was unfolding where I am based in Hampton. A wonderful centre called THE INSPIRED HUB – http://www.theinspiredhub.co.uk was being transformed and so it was there that I held the workshop.
After our small, socially distanced group met in the relaxing garden….we moved into one of the rooms within THE HUB.
I always begin with warm up exercises and give demos throughout.
In this simple warm up I ask participants to explore what their brushes can do. Using a mix of BURNT SIENNA and PRUSSIAN BLUE – I encourage everyone to PLAY. Several people did some beautiful warm up pieces on brown wrapping paper and newspaper.
With the Prussian Blue/Burnt Sienna mix many different tones can be achieved. The only way to discover these joys is to PLAY and PRACTISE. I never use black in watercolour, but rather make my darks using this mix,
These were the tools I used for demos. One large brush, one rigger, a Tomboy water soluble pen, knife, Burnt Sienna, Prussian Blue, and some marigold yellow.
As I have said many times on this blog, by PLAYING and WARMING UP on newspaper, envelopes, inexpensive wall paper lining, fear and anxiousness is removed and consequently people tend to do their best work. Most importantly it gets the juices flowing and brings us both physically and emotionally into the room.
Using a mix of Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue I make marks with my large brush and small rigger brush. I use a clean wet brush to pull out colour……Note I have scraped out colour using the knife.
In this rapid warm up the darks are the mix of Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna. The Yellow is Marigold Yellow….and again you can see where I have pulled out colour with a clean wet brush…and scraped with a knife.
My second demo – was to do a simple exercise that uses basic watercolour techniques.
In this instance I am working on white paper.
I begin by adding water to the sky area….and then introduce colour into the wet. I then allow the colour to run (bleed – do its own thing). The beauty of watercolour is the spontaneity it brings to an image. If the paint begins to puddle simply hold up the paper, move it around and allow the paint to run.
I then add some colour along the bottom of the sky line to indicate trees in the distance. Where it is wet, the paint will bleed.
At this point the bottom of the picture is still DRY WHITE PAPER.
To finish I add some juicy paint to the dry area at bottom of the picture (this iscalled DRY BRUSH, because I am now working on a dry surface) It’s important to leave some DRY WHITE AREAS. This brings a sparkle to the painting. I then take my knife and scrape out colour while the paint is still wet…..
Remember to look at your warm ups in many different ways….also cut them up..use them for collage…the important thing is to PLAY.
My third demo was taken from a photograph I took in Portugal. I prefer to work from life, however we are not always in a position to do that…and so working from photographs, preferably ones we have taken ourselves and using them as a JUMPING OFF POINT is fine. I prefer that people don’t copy photographs verbatim. Be creative.
In this instance, using watercolour and gouache, I worked from an ORANGE GROUND (note that any orange you see in the picture is dry paper). Because I am working from an orange ground any opaque whites you see are PERMANENT WHITE GOUACHE
My fourth demonstration was of lilies, emphasising the NEGATIVE SPACE – the space that surrounds the subject.
As artists we need to train our observational skills so that we automatically see the NEGATIVE SPACE in everything rather than focusing purely on our subject. Remember everything in life is interconnected.
in this instance there is no detail, just the simple shapes of the lilies surrounded by rich colour. The colour in the NEGATIVE SPACE – REVEALS the flower heads.
This was one of my watercolour/gouache paintings we used as the JUMPING OFF POINT for this exercise. Note how the colour in the negative space, surrounding the lilies REVEALS the subject.
The workshop lasted for three hours which seemed like a lot when we began…however as always the time flew by……..
I definitely plan to do more workshops at The HUB and hope to do some portrait demonstrations. Watch this space.
Please scroll through my posts to see other demonstrations….
For now stay safe, keep painting and always remember to WARM UP
Part of large symbolic mural commissioned for a public building in the States thirty years ago. When I was commissioned to paint this mural, based on the theme that all of life isinterconnected, climate change and many other elements that have become part of our daily conversation were rarely discussed.
We believed that if we put a border or line around something, it was contained.
Artists of all disciplines understand that when we change one small part of a creation, the whole is changed and so it is true for life in general.
Today we see how an unseen virus has dramatically changed the world we live in. A virus activated by an ever growing and unsustainable population with disregard for the laws of nature.
This week I received a beautiful hand made gift from my dear friend Kat Ranalli – who I met in the States in the early seventies. The gift is a symbolic reminder that we are all connected BY THE THREADS THAT BIND US…….
When Kat and I first met in West Chester Pennsylvania…our world was very different. I am not imagining it when I say things were simpler and calmer – (definitely not without problems) but nevertheless a healthier and happier time to be alive.
On the same day that I received this beautiful gift my daughter Christie Reed, who was a baby when Kat and I first met, wrote a blog entitled LIVING LIFE IN BLACK AND WHITE – 5 which taps into this subject of there being no lines or borders around anything very eloquently. I am also proud that she has chosen to use one of my watercolours to demonstrate her point. (please read)
This morning’s headline notes that DAVID ATTENBOROUGH MAKES A STARK WARNING ON EXTINCTION.…
Attenborough, a man who has been actively involved in the care of our environment for sixty years. We must listen to him and the others who have been working tirelessly to educate and warn us.
It seems that we have been sleep walking as we have doggedly plodded on destroying so much in our collective paths.
Bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger planes, bigger resorts, bigger hamburgers, bigger cruise ships, big containers to ship all the crap that we have and continue to consume….and the list goes on and on….and then we are
STOPPED BY AN UNSEEN THREAD THAT HAS NOW CLEARLY BOUND US TOGETHER in ways that we could never have imagined.
It is my sincere hope that we all learn from the virus. That we wake up to our vulnerabilities and at the same time wake to new and wonderful possibilities.
CHANGE is NECESSARY
We must recognise that we really are all interconnected and that we need to support and cherish the fragile threads that bind us.
I see Kat’s gift as a metaphor for a new way of thinking and being.
I first mentioned the inspired hub two months ago on this blog in a post entitled ‘CREATIVE THINKING, PERSONALWELLBEING AND COMMUNITY.’ The HUB is proving to be a wonderful addition to the Hampton (SW London) community.
Using watercolour, and beginning with playful exercises the workshop will focus on spontaneous painting and loosening up.
Watercolour is a beautiful medium. There are a few basic techniques to learn – each one taking time and patience to master. Allowing ourselves to play with the medium will help build confidence and ability.
In this instance I have sketched out two cala lilies – using yellow ochre. I am working on a Saunders and Waterford Hot Pressed – heavy paper. (more about papers at end of blog)
Having sketched the basic image I add ‘juicy tube paint’ into the negative space (the area surrounding the lilies). I am using a mix of Daniel Smith Perylene Maroon with Winsor & Newton Winsor Violet and a little Winsor & Newton Cadmium Orange.
When we add paint to the negative space – we automatically reveal the subject…..Using very small amounts of pigment I begin to add colour to the lily. For this I use Winsor & Newton Green Gold and a touch of Windsor & Newton Cadmium yellow. For the dark green in stem and shadow I mix some Winsor & Newton Burnt Sienna with a tiny amount of prussian blue and Gold Green.
All the whites are dry white paper.
I begin to build depth inside the lily using small amounts of pigment – making sure to leave dry white paper for highlights. As I build up the colour I am mindful of bringing the background colours into the Lilies. Everything is connected….nothing is isolated. By moving colour around a painting we bring a sense of harmony and rhythm.
It is important to note, that when we change one fraction of a painting – (no matter what the size) we change the whole. This is true for everything in life. The finished watercolour is an observational exercise revealing the subtlety of nature….. and at the same time honing watercolour technique. I hope that there is an element of energy and movement. The most important thing is to PLAY and warm up. This can be done on any paper including newspaper…..The key is to release any fears or anxiety about messing up a good piece of paper. Ultimately this is a freeing up mechanism.
When purchasing watercolour paper – it is measured by weight and surface quality….Cold Pressed for rougher surface. NOT (meaning not hot pressed) is smoother and Hot Pressed is very smooth. My analogy is that using cold pressed is like roller skating and hot pressed like ice skating – NOT is somewhere in the middle.
When we purchase a piece of lb140 weight paper – this simply means that the ream of paper (500 sheets) weighs lb140 – and of course the same applies for all weights. It’s a good idea to purchase a sample pack of papers.…and again PLAY.
Another example of where I have used strong colours in the negative space to reveal the image. After I add colour to the flowers – leaving dry white paper for my whites.
My title refers specifically to British politicians who have been well and truly caught with their pants down!
At this point in time, there is a whole list of things that would fall into that category but the one I am referring to is the total lack of understanding politicians seem to have when it comes to human nature and what their constituents really want and need.
watercolour/gouache – David
Early on in the pandemic Boris Johnson asked the British public to work from home – something I have been doing for many years and so know it offers a much better quality of life.
It didn’t take a heartbeat for the British public to recognise that their lives were greatly enhanced by not having to commute on crowded, very expensive and unpunctual trains. Let alone fight to get on buses (as very few people seem to honour the British queuing system anymore) – or drive in bumper to bumper traffic….pay congestion charges and so on.
On top of this employees and employers alike were surprised to learn that people working from home are on the whole happier and much more productive.
watercolour/gouache portrait demonstration – Paris. The expression people have on their faces when commuting to work……:)
Of course not everyone can work from home….but it stands to reason that if a vast swathe of the population is, public transportation is greatly freed up for those that have to travel every day……a win win situation.
Last weekend I travelled by train to Kent (for the first time since lock down) and experienced one of the most civilised and pleasant rail journeys I can remember. Given that there were very few people on trains and stations, social distancing was easy and trains clean and punctual! I travelled on Friday and Monday – days that would normally be busy and crowded….not this week – it was a delight.
Little Cosmo who I spent time with last weekend.
Now here’s the rub….Boris Johnson is now virtually begging (some have inferred threatening) the British people to get back on public transportation and the public is saying – NO THANK YOU. The FatCats who have also been caught with their pants down are worried sick that large corporations are not renewing leases…and people en masse are saying they don’t want to go back to the old ways….they want to continue to work from home and live differently.
On top of this when I visited my friends in Kent who have lived in their house for forty years surrounded by beautiful Kentish countryside and just one mile from their local village, I was invited to a community planning meeting about a new ‘country town’ that has been proposed – (mostly to entice people from overcrowded London to the countryside…..) which would completely change the demographics of their area.
quick sketch of wise little Cosmo…..
And so here we are with our major cities looking like ghost towns and our countryside getting more and more developed.
Seems to me that we need wise, innovative and creative leadership…..and a leadership that respects and understands human nature and the ever threatening climate change.
Cosmo who represents the future of this country and the world enjoying simple, creative play….
Something we discussed at length this past weekend was the overpopulation of a small country/Island such as the UK. I don’t have the answers for that, but surely it is clear to see that what we have been doing simply hasn’t worked.
The Pandemic has helped us all to see other ways of being….alternatives to the horrific treadmill that so many people have been forced on.
For those people running small businesses and relying on big cities to support them it is perhaps time to adapt to other solutions. Maybe this is where the Government should be helping and supporting these people as they adapt to our brave new world.
As a working artist and Mother for all of my adult life I had to learn to adapt…if I didn’t I simply wouldn’t/couldn’t survive.
watercolour of Margarida at the school in Portugal where I will. be on 30th Sept. Please do join me for a week of creativity. http://www.artinthealgarve.com
September is always the beginning of a new year for me….probably because as a Mother it always was – back to school….etc:) This year will be about NEW BEGINNINGS….
Yes, it’s been a strange year. For anyone trying to juggle work, look after children, and manage challenging finances or is worried sick about losing their job….DOODLING for SANITY can help regardless of what age you are and what you might be experiencing – and it costs nothing.
watercolour in paperback book…..
For those who are scared to mark a new piece of paper, or for that matter don’t have any paper – I suggest using newspaper, wrapping paper, envelopes or inexpensive rolls of wallpaper lining, – or maybe as shown above, playing with a well read paperback book….Why Not?
I recommend warming up and playing/doodling a little every day. This will keep the creative juices flowing and is very calming. Even if you do this for fifteen minutes a day you will feel better and it will benefit anything else you do during the day.
You don’t have to produce a finished anything…far from it. Artists often produce their best work through warm up exercises…..
Hummingbirds on newspaper. – watercolour/gouache
Newspaper is great for doodling….Keep doodling until you begin to relax….
Doodling is just doodling…allowing yourself to go into what is almost a trance…allowing your pen or brush to glide across the paper. It doesn’t have to look like anything in particular
If you need a prompt….use an apple……
watercolour in paperback bookIGNORE any Chattering Monkeys that might be filling your head with reasons why you should not, and cannot do this.
A doodle/warm up in a sketch book
Special thoughts go to parents with young children who are trying to work and entertain at the same time, often in small spaces.
Although my children are adults, I remember very well what it was to work and look after children..and it’s not easy under the best of circumstances.
Maybe some newspaper, newsprint, wall paper lining, and felt tip pens could get those little ones doodling for sanity:). Of course doodling with paint is great fun.
“The creative process in all its many forms is the key to emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing”. Janet Weight Reed.