Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Fragment of Inspiration

So many ways to find inspiration. 

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     From journaling daily life events to illustrating inspirational quotes, celebrating nature, loving your pets, your family; sharing spirit or faith or recording dreams, there are so many ways to bring art into our everyday lives. One of my favourites is to illustrate a favourite poem and disappear into the lines and words; lose myself in a more eloquent space and find peace. 
This was a [kind of stream of consciousness] doodle based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan'. I've not had time (or will) to paint or draw this week having been alternately rushed off my feet dealing with problem after problem, or too knackered to move. Searching for some sense of solace and feeling of regeneration I took time to look through my older journal/inspiration pages and found this doodly brain ramble. 
     Tracing the lines with my eyes I took time to breathe and recite the poem - a long time favourite - in my mind. The words work like a spell, conjuring magical images which fire and spark in my brain and before I know it my muse has begun her wild and intricate dance again. I have an urge to read poetry and make marks with colourful things. 
     Whatever ignites your passion, whatever makes you laugh - or cry - take a moment to record the moment and expand your creative world...there will come a time when you may need to make a withdrawal from your artistic bank account, and every deposit pays out with interest!

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Kubla Khan

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
   Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
   The shadow of the dome of pleasure
   Floated midway on the waves;
   Where was heard the mingled measure
   From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
   A damsel with a dulcimer
   In a vision once I saw:
   It was an Abyssinian maid
   And on her dulcimer she played,
   Singing of Mount Abora.
   Could I revive within me
   Her symphony and song,
   To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Alarming Lumps

When life gives you lumps, make journal pages.

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     Well it makes sense to me... And it's true - there are times when an art journal page can be the best gateway for self expression and catharsis. The awesome thing about art journaling is that there are no rights or wrongs, no judgement and no rules. Grab a piece of paper, card, slow moving child, very tired lion and decorate it with all manner of shiny things until it represents or reflects your mind/heart/dreams/state of being/craving for chocolate/desire to instigate a zombie apocalypse and hey presto! You've taken something abstract and ephemeral and given it form and substance.

     This is my page of cacti....big, pointy, spiky things with lumps. They're not everybody's cup of sneaky Irish coffee, but I love the prickly critters. They may look like angry harbingers of stabby pain, but just when things may be at their worst, as rain pours down from stormy skies, beautiful flowers in the brightest most glorious hues burst forth from the ugly and alarming lumps, turning the darkest day into a carnival and colour - hope and joy from something so intimidating.

     .....When I paint a page like this I have no real idea how or why I choose the direction and the form. I make marks that make me feel better, that provide affirmation and release. Only when the page is complete can I sit back and take stock, view it as a whole and finally find the meaning. It's not a process that suits everyone, I know, but to go with the flow - to allow the process to lead me rather than trying to force my hand to interpret my fluid mind - just works for me.  So, when I paint a page of lumpy cacti the day before I go for an emergency mammogram, having found a lump in my booby-boob, I just have to appreciate how this whole thing works. I painted the flowers.

     Cancer took my family, my pets, my friends. It is my nemesis and I hate it with a vengeance. The feeling that it may have gained a foothold inside my body isn't easily put into words. But I can paint a picture... At face value it means nothing to anyone but me, but isn't that the point? Finishing it last night somehow made me ready to face today, ready for a showdown if one be needed. I had made my mark - a part of me existed outside of myself in defiance of the alien existing unidentified within me. My cacti have big spikes; I see them as a "fuck you" to the possibility of cancer breaching my defenses. I have felt small and afraid, but I am strong and spiky, and I bloom brightly in the harshest of environments.

     I do NOT have cancer. My lump is benign - a zombie in my chest, but one that's likely harmless. I have more check-ups, but cancer can't touch me right now. My spiky defenses are in place and holding and my colours aren't dimmed....not for an instant. Fuck you, cancer.

     I have a vegan zombie boob. Hurrah for vegan zombie boobs! I may paint a version, I may not....knowing me I will actually paint my actual boobs - something that I assure you will most definitely NOT be appearing on a blog post! Art is self-expression as much as it is skill, style and technique. Long live every page, every graffiti-adorned majestic lion, every be-glittered toddler...long live every mark we make....we give them worth, they give us meaning. May we bloom like a cactus. May our strength be our beauty. Kick arse, we're awesome.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Lord Of The Shrews

The early days of this new year bring chills, frosts, windy gusts and now and then, a perfect still and pristine night. Stars glitter in diamond scatters on a velvet sky, the sound of nocturnal wildlife carries for miles echoing eerily in the night. 

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     Husband has decided to have the first bonfire of the year. The incinerator is expertly stacked with combustibles in well organised layers, the ground cleared and finally the fire is ignited....a flash - a spark - then the first crackle of tinder accompanies the flickering firelight, illuminating the blackness with a primordial glow.

     Husband watches, assessing the furnace with a professional eye. At the perfect moment, he steps back and nods just once, satisfied that all is well, then turns and trudges across freezing earth towards the light from the kitchen door, clapping gloved hands together to recover some warmth until a mug of hot coffee can restore life back to his fingers. The door closes, and Husband and Wife retire together to relax watching tv in the living room.

     All is perfect. All is quiet. All is still. All is......

     .....the sound of drums......ancient sounds of primeval tradition. The sound of paws beating a rhythm on frost-hardened ground brings a wild magic to the night and shadows begin to dance across the lawn, the fences, the hen house, the cracked and painted panels of the old work shed. Some magic is afoot...some enchantment born of ancient rites.... It is the time honoured Roasting Of The Shrews! Spoken of in unlit places.....whispered only by those who know.....

     The cats have joined forces. Their warders are fooled, not noticing the strange draft emanating from behind the the enormous Raquel Welsh poster on the wall, knowing nothing of the tunnel leading to freedom and the dance of destiny which now whirls and spirals around the living flame. Outside, for miles around, shrews cling together, quaking at the sounds that herald inevitable doom. Their days are numbered, for Leonidas of Wickham has been summoned, his power undeniable, his presence overpowering, as he steps forward into the light and utters the awesome words of prophecy:

     "Hellooooo! Are there any sausages?"
     Wise old Gizmo sits upon his makeshift throne and watches the Champion with a drifting gaze. Now all he can think about is.... sausages. In the bordering fields, the shrews feel a flicker of hope - a glimmer of opportunity.....escape!  With Missy distracted by the robust rum and catnip punch, only the miniature Sapphira follows the path, the spare chicken coop already lined with plastic sheeting and the tools sharpened and laid out in grim and deadly glinting lines. A feline mincing machine, ecstatic in her enclosed psychosis, nothing can stand in her way! Shrew sausages..... she smiles as the marketing opportunities for organic local produce open up a world of possibilities! An island....a lair.....a shark tank and a laser to write her name on the moon! ALL THE CATNIP IN THE WORLD!!! Now a new sound, high pitched and piercing overrides the ominous drums, making dogs howl and bats drop their moths:


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Welcoming 2020 with the first kitty pic of the decade. For those who would like to note supplies, I used Winsor and Newton watercolours, Derwent Inktense bars, black Indian ink, pearlescent Cosmic Shimmer watercolour paints, white gel pen and gold Winsor and Newton metalic ink. And yes, I had to include my other old man, Harvey, watching over all us and telepathically ordering his brothers and sisters to gather ALL the blankies  and ALL the cushions and, darlings, order the pate de foie gras and the Chablis with your own fair paws...otherwise it's the prescription nippity bikkies AGAIN!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Bright Bird

I'm continuing my portfolio of winter themed pieces featuring British wildlife and flora. This is my latest baby:

     His name is "Bright Bird".

     I love robins....they visit our garden all the time (whilst wisely avoiding eager feline attention) and the flash of stunning vivid red against the dark, bare branches of winter trees and hedgerows is startlingly magical every time they appear.

     I wanted to play with that image - the brightness against the monochrome - but also pay homage to the richness that nature's evergreens give to our world. Even in the darkest, bleakest and coldest months the promise of hope, renewal and rebirth is there before us every day. I chose to highlight the flora whilst leaving the bird in its original black and white, so that it still stands out, but his beauty is enhanced by the flowers and leaves that surround him.

     Adding colour is always a double-edged sword when I've spent three days working through the intricate ink designs and it's something of a leap of faith on each occasion.

     I'm hesitant and nervous with each drawing, but I think it's worth it. I have to very carefully rework the fine ink lines sometimes, where the paint has blurred or covered them - even watercolours. I used Winsor and Newton paints on this piece with some mica powders to bring a little life and texture. After staring at it for half an hour I also added some spirals with a white gel pen to reflect the frosty cold of this time of year.

     Illustrating wildlife and nature is so important to me. I love to celebrate the diversity and beauty in every way I can and these ink drawings are always a labour of love. As with all my work, they are intuitive. I decide on a vague theme (i.e. "winter"), choose an animal, then elements which will complement that choice. In this case it was winter flora, and the bell and ribbon as a nod to the festive element of the season. In other cases - larger pieces, or marine illustrations usually - other animals or even landscapes and landmarks will feature, as well as quotations or other literary text.

     I work from reference for a lot of my detail - especially plants and flowers (or insects!...complex critters) and generally combine source materials to develop an original angle, shape or pose. My laptop is filled with thousands of images which allow me to form these fresh composites. I admit that I relish the research almost as much as the art!

     This "Winter Berry Bunny" didn't require any research for his detail as these plants and berries I have drawn so many times that they are instinctual. His patterns and swirls also just "happened".... the intuitive brain chose them for an earlier companion piece so I have adopted them as part of the theme. I used two reference photos (one of my own and one from copyright-free stock) to composite this little silhouette. This is the only winter bunny I have left - his companions were released to the world before Christmas arrived, so he's currently mine to do with as I please. I have yet to offer him for sale as I am considering adding colour.....somewhere.....somehow.......Let me know your thoughts?

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     Nature is wild, extreme, unpredictable and ferocious. Fires, floods, bitter cold and hurricanes may devastate, but if we support our planet, help our environment to thrive, nature can also heal, repair, regrow and sustain. We've just passed Yule, a time when we bring in the evergreens of nature, the colour of our world and the light of the sun captured in the flame of a simple candle or even the twinkling lights on a tree. The practise is as old as the birth of our awareness... we've followed these simple traditions each in our own way for countless generations as our species evolved. Our simplest expression of hope and determination to overcome must still sustain humanity as we reach to a future where this earth's well being - and that of every living thing upon it - rests on our shoulders... the choices and efforts we make.

     To create is a wonderful thing. To paint, draw, sculpt or sew... to twist and twine, build and mould, sing and dance.... these things add to a beautiful flow that reflects the power of nature's creation and adds to the energies which will guide us on a bright and positive journey. What we believe, who we worship is largely irrelevant... The feelings and the hope, the soul and the heart, reach far beyond mere words and icons to the very core of who we are as human beings. Our power lies in our OWN creation: how we choose to forge our path, taking the best - and the worst - of who we are and choosing to weave our complexity into nature's dance, finding ways to work through the damage and the destruction that is within each one of us, to follow the golden threads, untangle knots, add our glorious individuality and diversity to the design that is the cloth of life that covers this world.

May our patterns be as bold and bright as the little robin in winter, and as full of promise as the berries on the frost-bitten branch.

Much love to all of you and yours this new year and brand new decade xxx

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A Wish for New Year 2020 xxx

Wishing you all a year full of colour and magical muse, of light and beauty and days full of the joy of being. I wish you the courage to persevere when life is grey and the bliss that comes with dancing in rainbow light. Whatever comes, I wish you a hand to hold, arms that embrace and the security that friendship brings. May stars light your way and love be ever in your heart. Happy New Year 2020 to all of you - Shroo xxxx


Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Wishes!

Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and all good things for the coming year! xxxx

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Bright Bird

I'm continuing my portfolio of winter themed pieces featuring British wildlife and flora. This is my latest baby:      His name is...

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