I've come to realise that creativity for me is a never ending process of filling myself up to the point where it overflows - if I don't keep filling up with new stuff, the flow slows to a trickle and eventually stops. So I've learned to make time to seek out new things to inspire me, to devote energy into research as well as production.
A bit like this, though now I've drawn it I think perhaps there should be a hole in the side of the bucket for the 'work' to flow from, rather than it coming over the top...
The Creative Bucket (patent pending Tansy Lee Moir)
So I've been out and about, minus walking boots this time, a bit more smartly dressed for visiting galleries and all that.
I met up with a friend and first of all we visited the Peploe exhibition at Edinburgh's Dean Gallery, properly known as the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Two. It was quite busy and I was not able to take any pictures of course, so you'll have to take my word for it that the paintings were masterful, striking, elegant and colourful. I loved the way the show documented the development of his work - moving through the rooms I was struck by how different the phases of his paintings were.
Across the road at the Gallery of Modern Art One, we saw 'From death to death and other small tales', a show of contemporary works which were in turns mysterious, thought provoking, puzzling, hilarious, irritating and wonderful - Ernesto Neto's work falls into the last category, with his sculpture evoking the internal structures of the body, 'It happens when the body is anatomy of time', 2000. I sneaked a photo of this one though it sadly fails to capture the fragrance of all those spices at the base of each tube-like form.
The following beautiful sunny day, eager for more, I headed over to the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh with the family.
I love the John Hope building, with its confident, innovative, sustainable design and its welcoming, comfortable spaces. It's big and busy but it makes me feel at home straight away - I'm not sure what the architectural term would be but it seems to guide you round all its interesting nooks and crannies without ever making you feel like you're lost.
'Jalan Jati (Teak Road)' is showing in the main exhibition space downstairs and I loved the idea behind this project. It's an exploration of the journey of a single piece of furniture - a teak bed found in Singapore, and traces it back to where the original tree may have grown. This is a wonderful partnership between scientists and artists with some gorgeous large scale collages made from direct prints from the bed itself.
Upstairs, through the restaurant (where we may or may not have indulged in afternoon tea) is 'Leafing through Scotland', described as "A celebration of the Year of Natural Scotland with a selection of books and objects from publishers across the country." In the display cases my daughters spotted both books and whisky which we have in our house too!
Finally, though it made no sense at all on the hottest day of the year so far, we toured the famous glasshouses... I don't need to say anything more other than see these for yourself (with a few photos in my next post to persuade you) - fantastic!
Inspiration comes from many sources and in many forms - these three have influenced the way I see and think about art and how we relate to our environment...
‘Beechcombings’ by Richard Mabey
This is a beautifully written exploration of the author’s and society’s relationship to trees, the beech in particular. Every time I read it (I’m on my fifth time) I’m struck by a new idea, a fascinating fact or a thought provoking quote. It covers our relationship to trees through a variety of historical periods, touching on politics, ecology, aesthetics, art and literature, and includes some honest little snippets of self reflection too. There are lots of scribbles in my copy which I’ve developed into ideas and themes in my sketchbook and have filtered into all my work.
Here’s my favourite quote, which I’ve used in my show ‘Damaged woods’:
“which bits of our aesthetic, or emotional, consciousness do rot-holes and calluses touch?”
You can find the book here.
‘Cave of forgotten dreams’ directed by Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog’s hypnotic film about the cave art discovered in Chauvet, France, some of it found to be over 30,000 years old! Yes that’s the right amount of zeros! Mindblowing. The paintings on the cave walls are so vibrant, directly conveying the movement and nature of the individual animals, yet we know virtually nothing about the people who painted them, nor their reasons for doing so. The simplicity and incredible skill of the images are a great reminder to me that I have so much to learn.
Herzog’s film explores the scientists and researchers studying the cave as well as the actual cave paintings themselves. The restrictions imposed on the filming seem to enhance the other-worldliness of the cave and its contents, and his deadpan commentary contrasts wonderfully with the weirdly comical characters he interviews. It’s on DVD, but see it in the cinema if you can – there’s a 3D version which I wasn’t able to view in the little arthouse cinema I went to.
‘Wildwood’ by Roger Deakin
I think of this as a ‘core text’ for the development of my artwork. In the book, Deakin muses on woods and trees in the UK, Australia, Kirgizstan and Poland, recounting his travels and meetings with many others who shared his passion. He had such a rich, intimate relationship to the natural environment and creatures surrounding him, and a beautiful way of putting this across in his writing. It’s deeply poetic, personal, knowledgeable and subversive. There’s also a melancholy to it, perhaps because you read it knowing that he died before it was published. One day I’d like to escape for a while to a wee shepherd’s hut like his (see Caught by the river blog), with some sketchbooks, maybe some whisky and my tatty copy of his last book.
Old contorted oaks at the base of Burbage Edge near Sheffield.
It was a relaxed but very informative first day at the 'Shadows and Ghosts' event, the rain held off for our site visits and the hightlight for me were these amazing oaks, with their mossy confusion of branches. I managed a very swift drawing - I'll be back here with more paper and more time!
I'm on my way south to sunny Sheffield!
Sheffield may not seem like the obvious place to hold a conference about old trees - it's such a lively, youthful feeling city I think, probably because much was destroyed in wartime bombing so the buildings are relatively recent. It's also had a huge investment in its public spaces with some amazing public art, as well as the trams of course.
It's a city I know quite well having grown up next door in Derbyshire and having a sister living there now. And because it's so close to the Peak National Park there is actually very easy access to some really interesting wooded landscapes which I'm hoping to find out more about at the 'Shadows and Ghosts: Lost woods in the landscape' event this weekend, hosted by Sheffield Hallam University.
There's a field trip to two sites on Friday and a busy programme of speakers and discussions all day Saturday so my head will be buzzing with new knowledge and crazy ideas on the train home on Sunday, which will help to feed my work for the coming months.
So here I am in my native habitat nestled amongst the honeysuckle, rewarding myself with a nice cup of tea after some drawing and feeling very pleased to have been offered a solo show at the Meffan Gallery next year.
Angus council's museum and art gallery is in the busy town of Forfar and it's a lovely space to exhibit in. I'm really excited about the opportunity to think big and have plenty of time to work towards the show, which will be October/November time 2014.
I'm just starting to research some possible drawing sites in the area so that I'll be prepared to make the most of the late Autumn drawing season - it's all getting a bit leafy now so I'll be concentrating on studio work over the summer and waiting for the wind to blow in October to reveal some new trees to fall in love with!
I'm a member of the Society of Scottish Artists - just an 'Ordinary' one you understand but it feels quite special to see my new profile amongst all these creative people's work.
It's an artist led organisation with some very active (and very busy!) members, who put a huge amount of time and effort into shows, events and support structures for artists like their facebook page and lovely new website.
Making art can be a lonely activity sometimes, but the SSA shows what can be achieved when we work together!Tags:
It won't be long till the leaves are out and the nettles are up, so I'm taking every opportunity to get out drawing at the moment.
Here's some images from last week's trip to Dalkeith Country Park:
A few warm up sketches and some hot coffee to get started.
Settling on a spot to draw is hard when there are so many amazing trees to choose from, but I try to be strict with myself and just get drawing - they're all good subjects.
I make my drawings on a scroll of paper so that I can work on a decent sized piece but still transport it easily. It does mean that I can't see the whole drawing at once while I'm working, so there's a kind of 'consequences' type of reveal when I've finished drawing from each angle.
The finished drawing about to come off the board - I blow away any bugs so they don't get rolled into it too.
Going through them in the studio, reviewing old and new, noting what to work on next.Tags:
I had my first visit to the Buy Design Gallery today and what a wonderful place for anyone who appreciates wood, art, original design and fine craftsmanship. It's in some gorgeous borders countryside, next to the Harestanes Visitor Centre, near Jedburgh. Owner Eoin Cox is a man who's been making a difference in the world as well as making beautiful furniture - check out his website to see his work. He and his team also run woodworking courses at the gallery, encouraging you to have a go yourself too.
I dropped off some drawings and pastels today and I'm really excited to be working with the gallery - I think I'll be getting to know the A68 a bit better from now on!
I've been developing my charcoal drawing techniques for around four years now - it's such a versatile material there's still much more to discover. Many of my favourite drawings from my early days at art school are charcoal ones. I have fond memories of the first time I was encouraged to tape a piece to a stick and draw BIG!! I thought my tutor was mad at first but it turns out to have been a valuable lesson and I often draw with a stick now. People I teach now think I'm mad I suppose.
My discovery of charcoal powder was quite a revelation - I'd tried to make my own, having some success with homemade bonfire remains, but I now use Cretacolor powder which has an even particle size and consistent tone. It's perfect for large drawings, behaves almost like paint in that it can be moved around on the paper, can be combined with binders and water for liquid effects and best of all, I can apply it with my hands, thus getting messy which makes me happy.
I also use regular willow charcoal of various sizes. I've tried hard to like compressed charcoal since it allows a really deep black to be achieved, but I cannot get on with it, it's somehow far too waxy and stubborn. I'm currently experimenting with charcoal soaked in or mixed with linseed oil - it seems to give a lovely blackness which adheres to the paper quite well. Because of this I've been able to use it out in the field without the usual worries about smudging. Here's one I made earlier:
I think there's something poetic about depicting wood with its carbonised self.
My studio is essentially a private place, but I'm curious about other people's spaces so thought I ought to share mine...
I've had my studio for four years now, so I've had plenty of time to organise it to my liking. It's set up for working on paper with charcoal, pastel and inks, which is why there's no paint on the floor. What you can't see here is the layer of charcoal dust clinging to everything - sometimes I have to hoover my drawing board!
This wall is a sort of vertical shelf where I stick up ideas in progress, things that look scruffy but may in fact be useful to my thought processes.
Being on the 8th floor has its benefits (unless the lift's broken) and I love my view out across the Firth of Forth. The Edinburgh velodrome below is an entertaining distraction during the racing season.
If you fancy seeing Art's Complex for yourself there are regular Open Studio events which I participate in. If you are interested in my work in particular please contact me to arrange a studio visit - I may even dust!