Early morning art with Carolyn Stubbs

Sculpted paper birds cr Carolyn StubbsThere are few places or times more enticing to me than a coastal area soon after dawn. Through much of her artwork, Carolyn Stubbs evokes this setting with heart-aching grace.

Part of it comes from her subject matter – many of which are wading birds the like of which frequent southern England shorelines. It’s clear that Carolyn’s love of these areas drives much of her work, as does her ardent ecological stance.

“I think that giving a visual focus to the plight our planet shifts perceptions in a fresh way so that people may begin to take notice,” she comments. “We are overwhelmed with communication at so many different levels – there is only so much we can absorb at any one given time. Looking at imagery can open us up to more soulful thinking, hopefully touching our hearts.”

Curlew cr Carolyn Stubbs

Curlew © Carolyn Stubbs

Despite a life-long love of art, it took Carolyn a while to come to it professionally. “At school, art and English were my best subjects and my teachers actively encouraged me to have a career in the arts.  However, I wasn’t supported in this by my family and reluctantly opted for a career in nursing,” she says. “All through that, however, I spent my spare time painting and drawing.”

It took a near-death experience to remind Carolyn to take control of her life fully, however. “It wasn’t until I contracted Tuberculosis from a patient, and almost didn’t survive, that I decided to prioritise my life and do what I’d always wanted to do – art!”

Carolyn has since gained a degree in Art & Visual Culture (BA Hons) and an HNC in Graphic Design. “These were taken when I was a mature student. It was a great experience, collaborating with others of all ages and backgrounds.”

Carolyn finds inspiration in the natural world, especially “vulnerable species such as delicate birds, our fragile eco system but also people, cars (I have a rusting project on the go!) and places that many are unaware of – particularly wildernesses, and broken parts that were once whole.”

Lapwing cr Carolyn Stubbs

Lapwing © Carolyn Stubbs

In order to do her subjects justice, Carolyn devised a new form of artwork, which she calls sculpted paper.

“When I was doing my HNC Graphic Design course, there was a call for the students in my course to enter our work in a ‘Designs on Nature’ competition,” Carolyn remembers. “The brief was to design a range of stationery that had a theme to it. I decided to try creating a couple of hens in a different way. I tried the collage technique but wasn’t pleased with the result. I experimented with cutting out paper finely to fill the image I’d drawn. It worked!”

Carolyn received an award for her entry. Following her success, Carolyn refined the technique by using a scalpel to cut carve out very fine segments and layering them up to gradually build an almost 3D image, which she then coats in protective artists’ varnish.

“With the sculpted paper I aim to reflect the birds’ fragility and vulnerability,” she explains.

dipper cr Carolyn Stubbs

Dipper © Carolyn Stubbs

I also find myself drawn to Carolyn’s photography, particularly her ‘mudscapes’.

“For me, photography goes hand in hand with my other work,” she says. “Photography captures moments in time that a painting couldn’t.  It’s the immediacy of the picture, the fact that this image will never be seen again. I’m concentrating on our unique world, bringing awareness of the incredible diversity and qualities of our landscapes that are often ignored, or forgotten, like the mud of the Severn Estuary.”

I find the imagery unexpectedly serene and contemplative – ideal for hanging on the wall of a writing room!

Find out more about Carolyn’s work at www.carolynstubbs.co.uk.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Midweek writing prompt – Art Everywhere

David Hockney, My ParentsI’m a big fan of projects that bring art to the masses – public works of art that brighten up city centres with unexpected sculptures and the like.

A new exhibition aptly titled Art Everywhere is currently showing off works of art in spaces normally reserved for advertising – from billboards to bus shelters, and I think they’re a real breath of fresh air!

The exhibition, spearheaded by artist Antony Gormley and Grayson Perry, was preceded by a grand online vote via the Art Everywhere Facebook page, which resulted in more than 38,000 people voting for artworks ranging from David Hockney’s My Parents (shown at the top of this post) to Ivon Hitchens’ A River Pool (below).

Gormley, who produced a specially-commissioned digital artwork for titled Feeling Material for Art Everywhere, says: “Works in public collections form an important part of our collective visual memory, marking a particular place, time and person. It is great that these works are being celebrated and shared in this way.”

Art Everywhere will be scattered throughout the UK, including on bus shelters, underground stations, roadside billboards, motorway services, national rail networks, shopping centres and airports, as well as on motion screens in the back of more than 2,000 black cabs, until 31 August 2014.

Antony Gormley Feeling Material

The event organisers say: “Be moved, be inspired, be surprised and get smiling! Use #arteverywhere to share your thoughts and snaps on Twitter and Instagram.”

But first, take part in this week’s #writingprompt.

Imagine a scenario where your character sees a work of art that means something personal to them suddenly exhibited at the bus stop where they wait to commute to work. It could be from a favourite gallery they used to visit with a loved one, a landscape painting of a childhood haunt, a work by an artist who happens to be an ex-lover, or even a portrait of someone they thought they’d never see again.

What reaction might the unexpected sight prompt?

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to share it on SkyLightRain.com.

TREEOLOGY – or how I can’t stop writing about trees

Future self cr Judy DarleyFollowing the publication of Trees of Bristol, the book’s author, poet Tony D’Arpino, confesses his obsession with all things green and leafy, and offers his advice on giving into your own inner tree-person, gracefully.

“Sometimes a tree tells you more than can be read in books.” Carl Jung, psychogeographer

Why write a book about trees of Bristol? One answer may be because it wasn’t there. Or, because the trees were there. But the real reason I think is beauty. This beautiful area is intoxicating for a poet. Bristol is a truly special place. There are not many cities now in which one can see hedgerows, fields, and woods from the city centre. The idea of this book really started here in the streets of Bristol, which were once the woods. It’s a kind of dream book, because trees set me dreaming.

Another reason: I’m a tree person. I was born near a forest and pretty much lived in those woods as a child. I’ve been lucky to have lived and worked in some the world’s most beautiful forests – the woods of New Jersey and the Atlantic seaboard, the redwoods of California, the rainforests of Hawai’i and the Pacific Northwest, and now Bristol and the West Country.

What’s your favourite tree? I’ve been asked this a lot recently. There’s so many. The dogwood from childhood. Do you always remember your first climbing tree? My new favourite tree may be the apple tree I’m planting this week at the allotment. What’s your favourite tree? The one you’ve just planted.

Know your roots

Bristol has over 200 Legacy trees (aka Landmark trees) in Ashton Court Estate alone and England has more Legacy Trees than all of Europe combined.

A small island, with more Legacy trees than the continent.

There’s a reason for this: the Ancient Forest stewardship of our ancestors. Pollarding. Coppicing. Pleaching. Traditional, artisinal forest practices. It is a monumental heritage. Humans are a very invasive species, but the English have behaved very socially with trees and forests. It’s something in the English soul – a part of this island’s mythological makeup. It’s why trees and forests pervade our consciousness. It’s a heritage we need to continue.

Westonburt Arboretum cr Judy Darley

Echo your ancestors

Santiago Rusiñol was an early 20th century modernist painter and writer, who was an influence on Picasso. This is from his book The Island of Calm:

“One could write a whole chapter concerning the harm the automobile has done to the woods. It would seem ridiculous if we tried to prove that the trees have been cut down to be converted into petrol.”

He goes on to lament the aristocrats and landowners who choose between shade and speed: “If the motor car is to be their first consideration they have to mortgage their estates. This means the felling of trees and general laying waste, and that is why the beauty of this wonderful island is gradually being converted into carbon to make the petrol.”

He adds: “In some countries it is a transgression of the law to cut down a wood, and to those who would wish to infringe this regulation they say: ‘Enough! Since you have no conscience we will have it for you. We will make it impossible for you to commit the crime of damaging what is beautiful, because beauty belongs to all.'”

Now I’ve never heard of an automobile that runs on charcoal; but of course Santiago Rusiñol is being metaphorical (with Catalan humour). He’s talking about protection vs destruction.

Sawdust. It’s an emotional thing and causes civil disobedience. Don’t grumble, plant a tree.

Arnos Vale leaves cr Judy Darley

Pick some apps

The Forestry Commission has a tree identification app called ForestXplorer but the coolest so far is called Leafsnap. It uses face-recognition technology to identify any leaf.

There’s another tree app I’ve heard about: a leaf-noise app, which claims to identify any tree from the sound its leaves make in the wind. I’m pretty sure that was a joke I heard on the BBC gardening program.

“Every forest is a dormitory for the atavistic being we’re still evolving from, who emerges nightly in search of his true boudoir. Every woods is a bedwoods for the backwards boy in my brain.”  Bill Knott.

Every forest is a dormitory for the future.
The forest is like childhood, forever growing.
There is a young soul in the most ancient tree.

Sow with foresight

I have an illegal tree. It’s a very young oak tree I need to move and replant. It grew secretly in a large overgrown herbal mound of sage and rosemary on my allotment. Just discovered last autumn, it’s about three years old now.

And of course you’re not allowed to have oaks on the allotment gardens. The high sheriffs say it must be removed. Its origin: one of the ancient oaks in the nearby hedgerow. If anyone has a place for it, I’ll be happy to bring it to you and help you plant it. And I’ll deliver anywhere.

Some ships travel far from their acorns.

Tony D'ArpinoAuthor’s bio

Tony D’Arpino is a San Francisco poet and writer now living in Bristol. He was a forest explorer from early youth. His first book of poetry was entitled The Tree Worshipper. Other books include The Shape of The Stone, Seven Dials, Greatest Hits 1969-2003, and Floating Harbour. His poem Pero’s Bridge appears in the anthology The Echoing Gallery: Bristol Poets and Art in the City, published by Redcliffe Press.

The photo shows Tony in the woods above Arpino, Italy: “My family’s hometown, also the birthplace of Cicero.”

Midweek writing prompt – write a letter to an unknown soldier

Unknown Soldier_2As part of this year’s World War I events, Kate Pullinger and Neil Bartlett invite you to write a letter to an unknown solider.

In an effort to engage as many people as possible, this thought-provoking and moving venture encourages you to dig deep and think about what you would say to the people who lost their lives fighting to defend us in the years 1914-1918, as well as every war since.

The letters submitted will be gathered to form, as the tagline states, ‘a new kind of war memorial made by thousands of people’. And you can be part  of it.

“On the hundredth anniversary of the declaration of war – in this year crowded with official remembrance and ceremony – we’re inviting everyone in the country to pause, take a moment or two, and write that letter.”

The idea was prompted by the statue on Platform One of London’s Paddington Station, which shows an unknown soldier reading a letter.

Use this as your writing prompt this week, and write a letter of hope, of gratitude, of understanding, or whatever else you would like to share in memory of the sacrifice of countless thousands of people. The deadline for submissions is 4th August 2014.

And if you need a nudge to get started, got to the 1418now website and read the letters already submitted, written by everyone from Stephen Fry and Andrew Motion to ex-soldiers and school children. It’s powerful stuff.

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Promote ecology through art

Potting shed cr Judy DarleyInspired by the earth and all that grows in it? Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW) is inviting applications for the second round of its Soil Culture artist residencies.

The aim of Soil Culture is to encourage a deeper understanding of the value of soil – it’s not just what we stand and build on, but what we live on.

They say: “Healthy soils are essential for the production of the food required to feed a growing population.  They also play an important role in our global eco-system, acting as a carbon sink to reduce the impact of climate change. Today, soils are threatened by several forms of degradation including loss of natural nutrients and bio-diversity caused by contamination, compaction, erosion, flooding and salinisation.”

Got that, and got something to express about it? Taking place across the South West of the UK the residencies will allow you to experiment with your ideas and develop new work to help the public engage with these message. To enable you further, you’ll have unparalleled access to facilities, expertise and working contexts.

Currently there are two projects you can apply for. The deadline for submissions is 30 July 2014.

The Eden Project mid-November 2014 to April 2015

“This residency invites an artist to work with the Eden Project team to re-engage visitors with the brown gold beneath our feet, revealing the secrets of the life within and the life-giving force of the soil, helping to communicate how Eden turned a recipe that usually takes 200 years to cook into an 18-month process and to provoke curiosity and ultimately create a love affair between man and soil.”

Interview date: 20 August 2014

Schumacher College, Dartington January / February 2015

“This residency invites an artist to explore soil from a holistic and ecological perspective, creating a deep engagement with the earth. The work needs to have a strong connection to nature, with at least an element of exploring soil in an outdoor, living context.”

Interview date: 26 August 2014.

Wellies cr Judy DarleyThese paid, part-time positions offer a fantastic opportunity to explore your understanding of and promote ecologically far-reaching ideals.

CCANW will also be inviting applications for the third round of residencies in the autumn 2014.

For full details and an application form, visit www.ccanw.co.uk or contact Sally Lai on s.lai@ccanw.co.uk.

Midweek writing prompt – child and beach

Small children, beach cr Judy DarleyGive a child a beach, a bucket and plenty of salt water, and generally they’ll be in heaven. While adults lounge, sun-doused into somnolence, kids become industrious little marine bees, building, sculpting, digging…

But just occasionally so much joy can turn sour – transform them into mini savages. You only need to turn to Lord of the Flies to know how tenuous our so-called civility can be.

I don’t want you to plagiarise William Golding’s novel – but simply use it as a vivid reminder of the knife-edge all children seem to amble between angel and devil. Send them to the seaside, turn on the heat and see what bubbles up…

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Poetry review – On Becoming A Fish by Emily Hinshelwood

On Becoming A Fish by Emily HinshelwoodIn this collection of finely drawn poems, Emily Hinshelwood invites us to accompany her on a series of meandering strolls through the coastal landscapes of west Wales, and presents a series of impressions it may take eons to erode.

Footprints in the sand “collide, converge/in silent riot of unmet strangers”, “sounds of birds/run like wet paint/across the sky”, a journey to a lighthouse ends with a walk home “followed by that empty sweeping beam”, a duck “dives down past walls of limpets, ‘dead man’s fingers, spider crabs/anemones,” the ocean reeks of “the breath of saints,” and “the face of Saddam Hussein flaps in a hedge.”

There’s a delicious intimacy to Hinshelwood’s words, enhanced by her humour and evident fondness for the places included in this tour of Pembrokeshire. With the poet as our guide, we embrace enticing rock formations at Saundersfoot, watch gleeful ghosts run “long-knickered into the sea” at Tenby, observe swans “floating/like love letters, open only to each other” under the Cleddau Bridge, sneak a peek at a girl’s prayer for her goldfish at Caldey Island, greet a snake at Shrinkle Haven, bear witness to the disintegration of a wreck at Mill Bay: “Salt cuts lacework as/the stiff body is eroded rib/by rib.” We even join the poet and her daughter in counting dead birds at Skomer Island: “use the binoculars/to see their twisted spinal columns in grotesque detail…” Continue reading

Midweek writing prompt – the cable car

Cable car cr Judy DarleyA really simple one this week, with lots of potential for utter mayhem! Pop your character in a cable car hanging over somewhere meaningful to them. As their car approaches another, they see something or someone unexpected in the one passing theirs.

I love the idea that the sighting would be so fleeting, and that they’d be trapped in a bubble travelling in the opposite direction to whatever or whoever they’ve just glimpsed – how frustrating!

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

From Cabot Tower to the towers of Hong Kong

orange stained sky, Hong Kong cr Susan LavenderThis week I received the exciting news that one of my stories has been selected to be performed at a Liars’ League literary night in Hong Kong! How’s that for international?

Liars’ League are a series of events across the globe, with the strap line: ‘Writers Write. Actors Read. Audience Listens. Everybody Wins.’

Can’t argue with that!

My story Night Flights, which explores the somewhat dark and twisted relationship between a brother and sister, takes place entirely on Brandon Hill and up Cabot Tower in Bristol. The idea of it being shared with story-lovers in Hong Kong is somewhat mind-blowing!

As part of the ‘Night & Day’ themed event hosted by Liars’ League Hong Kong, Night Flights will be read aloud by Susan Lavender. Susan is a writer, performer and lawyer, and also took the glorious photo at the top of this post.

The Night & Day event is at the Fringe Club Dairy on 28th July 2014 from 8pm sharp, so if you happen to be in that part of the world that evening, do go along!

On Monday 7th July (from 7.30-9.30pm), I’m taking part in Small Stories, the monthly literary event hosted by  Natalie Burns and Sian Wadsworth, at Small Bar on King Street in Bristol.

I’ll be reading two of my flash fictions. The first, This Gallery, includes the following paragraph:

At least I had an umbrella with me that day, which was unusually efficient of me. But you didn’t yet know that of me, any more than I could guess that you organised your sock drawer by hue, transforming the balled-up grey and blue woollens into something resembling a close up of an Impressionist painting.

The second story, well, you’ll just have to wait and see!

Midweek writing prompt – future self

Pol meets lizard cr Judy DarleyThe Write Life magazine, which is on the App Store for iPads and iPhones. Laura’s idea utilises Futureme.org, a great service that allows you to write an email to yourself and have it delivered to your inbox at some point in the next 50 years. I’d just like to add the suggestion of doing this for one of your characters instead of yourself, and imagining the response of their future self to receiving the email at some random time in the future.

Of course, there’s no reason not to send an imaginary missive to your past self too…

What a great chance to write about something you’re going through right now, a challenge, a blessing; a hard job or a young love, and think about what your future self would think about it. Another way of thinking about it is, what will your future self want to say to the younger you?

Warm it Up!

1. Decide what event to write about, and which “future you” you want to send the email to. Do you want to read it six months from now, a year, five years, ten? You can choose to have the email delivered anytime in the next 50 years.

Work it out

2. Head to www.futureme.org/

3. Spend 10-15 minutes writing the letter. What do you want to say about what is happening right now, and perhaps where you hope to be when you read the email?

4. Be sure to choose an email address that you’re likely still to use in the future. Also check that futureme.org is whitelisted by your email provider so that it doesn’t land in your spam folder.

Cool it Down

5. Choose whether to make the letter private or ‘public, but anonymous’. The ‘public, but anonymous’ letters that have been delivered recently are published on this page, http://www.futureme.org/letters/recently_delivered?offset=0, and make for great reading.

6. Hit send!

Got an idea for a writing prompt you’d like to share? Send it to me at Judy(at)socket creative.com!

And if you write something prompted by this, please let me know. With your permission, I’d love to publish it on SkyLightRain.com.