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The story of a charcoal drawing

A moment of poise

We can’t quite work out what we are seeing: is it tree, human, or something in between?

dark and dramatic charcoal drawing inspired by a tree by artist Tansy Lee Moir
‘A moment of poise’

From a distance there’s a powerful sense of solidity and sculptural form. Emerging from the velvety darkness of densely applied charcoal, parts of the form are obscured and mysterious, while others stand out in dramatic chiaroscuro.

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What to do when an exhibition ends

What I do at the end of an exhibition

There’s a flow to mounting an exhibition, a pattern of highs and lows and the bits in between.

From the start to the end of an exhibition, I feel hopefulness and excitement, creative risk, vulnerability and doubt, pleasure from sharing what I make, joy in connecting with people through the work. There’s praise and criticism, intense activity and hours of frustration and occasional, moving glimpses of strangers falling in love with my artwork. That’s a whole pile of emotions there!

So it’s never as simple as just putting things on a wall – there’s always this emotional aspect to showing your work and I’ve gradually learned how to respond to it rather than ignore it over my years of exhibiting.

Here’s what I do when an exhibition ends

  • Say thank you to anyone who helped make it happen – I couldn’t do it without them, so I tell them they are appreciated
  • Check over works that have come back to the studio, then store them – with labels visible on the OUTSIDE of the wrap
  • Update my Artwork Archive inventory so I know where works are and should be – I could not function without this
  • Contact collectors and arrange deliveries and studio collections
  • Update my Studio News mailing list with the new people who want to hear more
  • Put all the installation images I have in one folder (I should but I don’t always)
  • Gather all the writing and documents for the show (as above)
  • Update my website exhibitions page, moving ‘current’ to ‘past’
  • For a solo show, I might make an archive page too, it’s nice to still be able to see it somewhere
  • Reflect on what worked, what didn’t, what I’ve learned and what I’ll do differently next time, and write that down where I can find it again
  • Feel a bid sad/wistful and sit somewhere comfy with a cup of tea, relax, stare out of the window and be nice to myself
  • Resist the urge to race towards the next thing, just revisit my sketchbook and see where it takes me

artist Tansy Lee Moir with her work at the end of an exhibitionAn art system

OK, I appear to have created what Alyson Stanfield has shown me is a system, so I’m putting this here to save for the next show – please save it (or share it) if it’s helpful to you too.

Of course I don’t always follow my own advice but I recommend this approach to all the regular things you do as an artist.

If I were to meet my former self, I’d tell her this…when an exhibition ends make time to rest and reflect, pause and treat yourself well.

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Transforming

Making a film poem

This time last year, I talked to my pal and collaborator Steve Smart about making another film together. Over the last couple of years we’ve worked on ‘Foraging’ about the way I find the trees which inspire my work and ‘Connecting’, which show how I get to know their individual characters through drawing. He created two beautiful short films which you can see here.

Tansy Lee Moir drawing at Marchmont residency

Steve’s new vision was to capture elements of my work as a film poem,

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‘Landmarks’ Artist Talk online

Online Artist Talk, Thursday 4th January

I so enjoyed doing the artist talk with my fellow Calder Wood artists last month that I’ve decided to give an online one too, direct from my studio. Preparing to talk in public about your work really focuses the mind on the why as well as the how of making and I like the idea of sharing that in a reflective and hopefully informative way with all my supporters wherever you are.

a natural drawing tool for charcoal by Tansy Lee MoirI’ll be focusing on my latest body of work ‘Landmarks’, a series of charcoal pieces prompted by some of Calder Wood’s memorable trees.

It will be just for Studio News subscribers so you don’t need to book, just make you have added your email to my list, put the date in next year’s diary and I’ll send you details and a link nearer the day.

« Join my Studio News »

charcoal drawing by Tansy Lee Moir on wall at Linlithgow Burgh Halls
Installation view of “A moment of poise’ at Linlithgow Burgh Halls 2023

This talk was recorded – you can now watch it here.

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Artists in Calder Wood

Poster for Artists in Calder Wood Exhibition by Tansy Lee MoirOpening soon

‘Artists in Calder Wood’

Almondell Visitor Centre, Almondell & Calder Wood Country Park, West Lothian

20th December – 4th February 2024

A satellite exhibition looking at the creative processes behind the exhibition ‘Calder Wood: Contemporary views on an ancient woodland’, on show at Linlithgow Burgh Halls until 21st January.

Anne Gilchrist, Kirsty Venters Marks, Tansy Lee Moir, Jennie Tuffs and Cordula Marks Venters have spent the last four seasons discovering some of the stories and secrets of West Lothian’s foremost ancient woodland, Calder Wood.

They have interpreted what they found in the wood from their own individual perspectives, exploring it from their differing cultural and historic viewpoints and considered the perspectives of the non-human world and how these ancient, complex relationships can be read in the landscape.

charcoal drawing of birch branches
‘Birken’ Charcoal on panel 30 x 30cm Tansy Lee Moir

‘These works help us to look beneath the surface of what we see to understand the layers of human and non-human relationships more deeply.’

Catalogues for sale from the Visitor Centre £8.

Supported by Jane Begg, Tree and Woodland Officer and Kirsty Morrison, Country Park Ranger, West Lothian Council.


Calder Wood Artists Walk

Sunday 14th January 2024 10.30-1pm

Join some of the Calder Wood artists and Ranger Kirsty Morrison on this gentle walk around West Lothian’s foremost ancient woodland. Hear about how it inspired their new work, see some of the special places they found there and stop to share poems, stories and memories along the way.

Free to attend but places limited, contact the Visitor Centre on 01506 882254 or almondell&calderwood@westlothian.gov.uk to book.

Details

Meet outside the Fork & Field pub Mid Calder from 10.15am (what3words ///knees.bounding.older)

Outdoor clothing and sturdy footwear recommended. Paths are uneven, steep in parts and may be muddy. Bring a flask if you wish for refreshments. Please note there are no toilet facilities in Calder Wood.

In the case of bad weather, the walk will be rescheduled to Saturday 20th January.

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An Aberdeenshire retreat

The journey north

Imagine a dark December afternoon, cold enough to keep your hat on in the car.

Driving north, snow shines on the fields and hills beside the road. You’re glad to have your thermals and a bottle of whisky packed in the back, tucked alongside your sketchbooks and drawing kit.

The sun has long since disappeared when you turn into the long approach to the castle and stars are beginning to emerge from behind icy clouds. The impressive silhouette of Drum Castle comes into view as you move slowly through the arboretum giants. Small windows in one corner of the castle glow warmly – you’ve arrived.

Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire

A creative break

At this time of year I find the creative energy ebbs away a little and I need some reflective time away from the studio. This year I chose to properly get away

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Completing the Marchmont commission

Reunion triptych charcoal drawing for Marchmont House collection
‘Reunion I, II, III’ Charcoal on panel, 110 x 210cm Photo by Steve Smart

Thinking about ‘Reunion’

I generally prefer to leave room for other people to make their own interpretations of my work but thought that, since ‘Reunion’ won’t be on public display for a little while, I would share some images and try to articulate what it might mean to me.

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Calder Wood: Contemporary perspectives on an ancient woodland

Coming soon to Linlithgow Burgh Halls, West Lothian

19th October 2023 – 21st January 2024

Five artists spanning a variety of approaches and media will present works made over four seasons in response to the life and history of Calder Wood.

Along with Anne Gilchrist, Kirsty Venters Marks, Jennie Tuffs and Cordula Marks Venters, I have spent the last four seasons discovering some of the stories and secrets of West Lothian’s foremost ancient woodland.

For this collection of new work the artists have interpreted what they found in the wood from their own individual perspectives, exploring it from their differing cultural and historic viewpoints. The works here also consider the perspectives of the non-human world and how these ancient, complex relationships can be read in the landscape.

‘These works help us to look beneath the surface of what we see to understand the layers of human and non-human relationships more deeply.’

a charcoal drawing of a birch tree against the sky
‘Birken’ Charcoal on panel

The show encompasses vibrant colour, intricate detail, poetic imagination and dark drama. It aims to reveal some of the tiny marvels and big mysteries to be found amongst these trees.

See the virtual tour here»

Events

There will be an Artist Talk with all artists on Thursday 23rd November, 6.30-8pm. Free, book here»

I will be in the gallery for informal ‘meet the artist’ opportunities on Saturday 11th November 10am-12noon and with Kirsty and Cordula on Sunday 10th December 12-2pm.

We are also planning a woodland walk – join my Studio News for details.

Visitor information

Linlithgow Burgh HallsLinlithgow Burgh Halls are fully accessible and open to the public every day 9am-5pm.

The exhibition is free to visit and the Halls are a 5 minute walk from Linlithgow train station on the Edinburgh-Glasgow line.

Full venue details here»

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‘Conversations with Trees’ now showing

Kilmorack Gallery virtual tour screenshotThis autumn I have work showing alongside some stunning artists in this unique gallery space. Art is best experienced in person of course but if that’s not possible, take a look around this 360 degree tour created by gallerist Tony Davidson.

‘Conversations with Trees’

Runs from 2nd – 30th September at the Kilmorack Gallery, near Beauly, Inverness-shire

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