A creative voyage

Clipper by Judy DarleyI’ve just come to the end of an art course at the RWA in Bristol, and am already missing it immensely. The course, Illustration for Picture Books with Sam Church, offered the rare treat of devoting three hours each week for five weeks to playing with ink, paint, pencil and words.

We were each invited to devise or find a story or poem to illustrate. As you might imagine, I went in fully equipped with that side of things, keen to bring one of my short stories to life in new, visual ways.

It was energising to be in a room full of people who have such artistic talent. While I enjoyed figuring out perspective and thrilling with the success of painting a scene that made sense to me, there was just as much pleasure to be had in wandering the room at the end and seeing what my fellow students had been working on throughout the morning. Some produced works of utter beauty!

Boy and merhag by Judy Darley

For me, the biggest challenge was drawing and painting the face of my protagonist, and I’m still not satisfied with that. I think I need to try cartooning to get the character from my head to the page. It was magical, however, to discover I’m able to recreate some of the villains and accomplices from my tale, as well as the setting of the sea, sky and isle.

Evil crab by Judy Darley

The best part, however, was the chance to devote substantial chunks of time to exploring the artistic possibilities of my fiction under the gentle guidance of course leader Sam. It’s focused my growing passion for making as well as writing about art, and given me a new expressive outlet that fills me with joy.

Find upcoming RWA courses.

Writing prompt – rural

Golden Teasels by Jane Betteridge

This painting, Golden Teasels by Jane Betteridge, seems loaded with potential to me. I have the sense of someone wandering along deep in their thoughts, then unexpectedly witnessing something private and possibly awful unfurl.

Or perhaps this is a scene of bucolic beauty and innocence.

What does it bring to mind for you?

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

Book review – Unthology 9

Unthank_Unthology9_Cover_The tales in Unthank Books’ Unthology 9 are awash with troubled souls grappling with twisted ideas about love. From paternal to oedipal, the sensuality is fringed with unease. Protective love, manipulative love, obsessive, idealistic and thwarted, it’s all here, laid out between the pages of Ashley Stokes and Robin Jones’ latest masterpiece.

The introduction is itself akin to a beautiful flash fiction, rich in atmosphere and mood. It’s the perfect introduction to this archipelago of outstanding fiction, where every story is an island and each reader an elective castaway.

And, like all shipwrecked souls, we’re soon immersed in the preoccupations that make up human existence, starting with the mortal coil, and the twin barbs of love and loneliness.

Continue reading

Bristol Short Story Prize 2017 invites entries

Bristol hot air balloons cr Judy DarleyOne of my favourite writing competitions (and not just because it’s local), Bristol Short Story Prize 2017 is now open for entries. Flick through any of their anthologies and you’ll discover a wonderful breadth of theme, topic and style.

The closing date for entries is May 3rd 2017. Submissions can be up to a maximum length of 4,000 words.

The judging panel will be chaired by Tania Hershman. Tania is joined on the panel by acclaimed author Roshi Fernando and award winning bookseller, Simon Key.

BristolShortStoryPrize-vol-9-coverThe 2016 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Stefanie Seddon for her story, Kãka.

The 2015 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Canadian writer Brent van Staalduinen for his story A Week on the Water.

The 2014 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Mahsuda Snaith for her story The Art of Flood Survival.

The 2013 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by London-based writer, Paul McMichael, for his story, The House on St. John’s Avenue.

Stories can be entered online or by post. The closing date for entries is midnight (BST) on May 3rd 2017. Find the full competition rules here.

The writing competition prizes

First prize is £1,000. Second prize is £700, and third prize is £400.

Each of the 17 remaining shortlisted finalists will receive £100.

Entry fees are £8 each.

For full details or to enter, go to www.bristolprize.co.uk.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at Judy(at)socket creative(dot)com.

Unfettered nature

Snowdrop Wood by Jane Betteridge

Snowdrop Wood by Jane Betteridge

The fragrant half-silence of drawing a breath in, easing a breath out, as a woodland stirs around you is one of the most enchanting things about entering a patch of wilderness.

Likewise the headiness of standing on the brink of a stretch of land with the sea forming itself into endless shifting sculptures just beyond. These are the moments that remind us of  the sheer awe-inspiring beauty around us.

These are the moments Jane Betteridge transforms into works of art.

Blossom's Out by Jane Betteridge

Blossom’s Out by Jane Betteridge

Despite this, Jane never imagined she’d become good enough to be a professional artist, Happily, “years and years of practise and experimenting, in between getting on with my day job and raising a family, finally paid off.”

And the pay-off is enviable, as Jane now has the pleasure of being a full-time artist and experimenting with paint daily.

“In my eyes there is no other medium that comes anywhere near the vibrant characteristics of watercolour,” she says. “The way they merge and mix together on the paper, granulating and changing colour is mesmerising. Their glowing luminosity adds life to a painting.”

Berries and Bindweed by Jane Betteridge

Berries and Bindweed by Jane Betteridge

Jane sources inspiration from the ever changing nature of landscapes, as well as ephemera and other potential new materials.

“Changing seasons, country walks, hedgerows, colours, textures, textiles, old stone walls, rusting metal, and peeling paintwork, the sea, the sky, new tubes of paint or unusual watercolour mediums, old postcards, tickets and wrapping paper can all stir a desire in me to paint.”

Teasles and Honesty by Jane Betteridge

Teasles and Honesty by Jane Betteridge

It all adds texture to her art, and enjoyment to the process. Jane’s ongoing desire to experiment are vividly evident throughout the pages of her beautiful book Watercolours Unleashed. But how did the book come about?

Crashing Wave and Gulls by Jane Betteridge

Crashing Wave and Gulls by Jane Betteridge

“I spoke to Search Press when at an art fair in Nottingham and then sent them some images of my work and they asked me to go to their offices for a chat about writing the book.”

An urge to capture the sense of a moment drives much of her work.

“It’s the atmosphere of a place that makes me paint. For example, an isolated bluebell wood with the sun streaming through can be ethereal, magical and peaceful,” she says. “A rough sea lashing against the rocks can be awe-inspiring. Whether or not I do actually capture the atmosphere doesn’t really matter to me as it’s the fact that it made me create a work of art which is the most important thing.”

Bluebell Woodland by Jane Betteridge

Bluebell Woodland by Jane Betteridge

Looking at her glorious, energetic paintings, I’d say Jane captures the atmosphere with every stroke, offering glimpse of the world that can quietly infuse any room in which you choose to hang them.

Cow Parsley by Jane Betteridge

Cow Parsley by Jane Betteridge

Along with teaching, which she finds “so rewarding”, Jane feels hugely fortunate to be able to devote so much of her time to creating new work.

“I feel like I’m in heaven working as an artist,” she says. “If I wasn’t a full time artist, I’d be painting every spare minute I had anyway, so how lucky I am to be able to earn a living at what is essentially my hobby and favourite pastime.”

Poppy Field by Jane Betteridge

Poppy Field by Jane Betteridge

Jane has studios in Leicestershire and in St Ives, Cornwall. “People can make an appointment to view my work when I’m there. I’m in a couple of galleries at the moment and you can view my work on my website www.janebetteridge.com and my Facebook page Jane Betteridge Art.”

Forest Blues by Jane Betteridge

Forest Blues by Jane Betteridge

She adds: “I’ll be taking part in the St Ives September Festival (from 9th-23rd September) this year when my studio will be open to the public. I do quite a few commissions and had solo exhibitions every year for around 10 years until recently when writing the book took all of my time.”

Watercolours Unleashed has been such a success that Jane is now writing her second book for Search Press. I can’t wait to see what she creates for us this time.

Read my review of Watercolours Unleashed.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Writing prompt – grave companion

Grave companion cr Judy DarleyMy local Victorian cemetery where I like to run is littered with tombs topped by curious effigies. When I spied the small horse above, my only thought was, “Funny, I never noticed that one before.”

I actually ran past, then trotted back for a closer look, and realised that what I’d taken for carved stone was in fact sodden fur, moss-stained and sullied by spending who knows how long in a graveyard?

Grave companion by Judy Darley

Who could have lost this precious companion? What lonely soul might have claimed it as their own?

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

Book review – Watercolours Unleashed by Jane Betteridge

Watercolour Unleashed by Jane BetteridgeThe cover of this beautiful book offers a vivid preview of the treat you’re about to experience. Mouthwatering shades and intriguing textures abound. Inside, Jane presents an array of wonderful techniques, using everything from clingfilm and tissue paper to threads, seeds and (my alchemical favourite) salt to create effects that will lift and transform your art.

With chapters devoted to materials, colours and preparing your paints, Jane ensures you’re equipped to make the most of any opportunity to capture a scene. A section on composition will help you present your subject in the most breathtaking or pleasing way possible, while a series of projects will ease everything you’ve learnt beneath your skin so that it becomes an everyday part of your artistic arsenal.

With Jane’s exquisite paintings appearing through, the book is also a pleasure simply to pore over for a hit of energising colour.

I spent a very happy Sunday afternoon dabbling with a few of the techniques, and watching the results. My painting, below, created using Jane’s tips and encouragement, turned out a bit clumsy and abstract, but was infinitely satisfying.

Textured Haze by Judy Darley1

As Jane comments in her intro to the book, it turns out that “Watching paint dry can be extremely exciting.” She also takes a moment to remind us that painting should always be a pleasure, never a chore. “Free yourself up. Unleash your passion for watercolour by keeping an open mind, experimenting with techniques, and enjoying yourself by trying new ideas. The watercolour medium has a mind of its own.”

Well, how could you resist? Watercolours Unleashed offers full, unreserved permission to play. Whether, like me, you’re fresh to your artistic journey and seeking the courage to tackle the beauty about you, or experienced and wishing to rediscover that early joy, Jane is the artist to take you there, and inspire you every step of the way.

Watercolours Unleashed by Jane Betteridge (RRP £14.99) is available to buy from www.searchpress.com

Discover more of Jane’s art.

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to Judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Enter the Poetry on the Lake Competition

Carzano harbour cr Judy DarleyThere’s still time to enter the Poetry on the Lake Competition with a closing date of 30th April 2017.

There are three categories:

Silver Wyvern (all forms, max 40 lines). The theme is precious, base, and anything metallic, and can be interpreted in anyway you wish, but must bear a reference to the theme.
Short poems (max 10 lines). No theme.
Formal (max 40 lines). No theme.

Carol Ann Duffy is the Silver Wyvern adjudicator. Short poems will be judged by Oz Hardwick, while Kevin Bailey adjudicates the formal poems.

Prizes range from €500 to €100. Interestingly, all fees are donations to the organisation and events of Poetry on the Lake, so while there is a suggested amount, they add: “If you genuinely can’t afford the fee, just send what you can. Of course, if your bank manager kisses the ground when you walk in, please donate generously.”

Find full details at www.poetryonthelake.org.

Mapping the world

Installation for Rio Olympics at the Belmond Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro by Kristjana S Williams

Installation at the Belmond Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro by Kristjana S Williams

From maps to globes to nature’s extravagance, Kristjana S Williams’ art encompasses the whole world.

“I grew up in Iceland where the visual landscape is entirely dictated by nature,” she says. “Whilst striking, I always felt the scenery lacked colour and it was this aspect that I craved. Having been born in the UK, I longed to return to England and discover London and its cultural diversity.”

When she was 20, Kristjana moved back to the UK and studied engineering. “I initially worked in this field, however, I had always dreamt of pursuing my artistic nature,’ she says. “I finally had a chance to do this when I got a place on the Illustration course at Central Saint Martin’s.”

Portrait for RIO 2016 by Kristjana S Williams

Portrait for RIO 2016 by Kristjana S Williams

Kristjana always had an interest in Illustration. “This passion stems from an early age when I discovered maps in a Cartography class at school in Iceland,” she says. “I used to draw the maps and fill them in, I would imagine where I would go and what I would do and that was the happiest I have ever been.”

Globe by Kristjana S Williams

Globe by Kristjana S Williams

At first, Kristjana’s drew most elements by hand, “but I later discovered the technique of using Victorian engravings which I recoloured and reinvented making them individual. I started to combine these with my old love of maps and was pleased with the result I got.”

Falin Viltur Blar Solar Palm III detail by Kristjana S Williams

Falin Viltur Blar – Solar Palm III detail by Kristjana S Williams

Her creations form from three key ingredients.

“Colour, narrative and shape are all equally crucial components in my work and it is the combination of all of them in unison that make a piece successful.”

Mood image by Kristjana S Williams

Mood image by Kristjana S Williams

These days, Kristjana receives commissions from large corporations as well as members of the public, many of whom “have seen a large 3D artwork I have done for a big client, such as The Knowledge for The Shard.”

The Knowledge in the Shard by Kristjana S Williams

The Knowledge in the Shard by Kristjana S Williams

Clients have included a series of glorious butterfly and bird-infused installations for the Belmond Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics.

“Sometimes people fall in love with an element the work and want something of their own,” she says. “Once I have gathered a good body of research on the individual and have got to know them, the design begins to flow quite freely.”

Kristjana relishes the independence that comes with being a freelance artist. “Expressing yourself visually is such a great feeling.”

WBTC London Cushion by Kristjana S Williams

WBTC London Cushion by Kristjana S Williams

You can see Kristjana’s large commissions at The Shard, The Connaught and The Trinity restaurant. “We will soon be opening a pop up shop at Harrods, which will stock new products and limited edition prints, which will be exciting.”

Find out more at www.kristjanaswilliams.com.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Writing prompt – change

Deceased March wasp photo by Judy DarleyApologies, I realise this post should have come with a warning for those entomophobes among us.

I stepped over this deceased wasp on a sunny day last week and was struck by how wrong it is to see a wasp, alive or dead, at this time of year. To my knowledge, they’re best known for spoiling late summer picnics, so what was this one doing out and about so early, and what caused its demise?

To me this insect corpse is a potent symbol of climate change – a seemingly minor anomaly, but heralding potential catastrophe – the equivalent of a butterfly effect with a sting in its tail. It seems ripe with metaphor and satire for cli-fi (yes, that is a genre) writers.

Curiously enough, when I googled the definition of wasp, as well as getting lots of info about White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (go figure), I was informed that a wasp is A) a social social winged insect which has a narrow waist, and B) a solitary winged insect which has a narrow waist.

So there you go, plenty of tangents to fly with.

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