Writing prompt – uncanny harvest

Shoes in tree cr Judy DarleyMy nephew spotted this tree full of shoes and asked why people choose to do this with their footwear. I’ve heard a number of theories over the years, but love the fact no one quite seems to know a definitive answer.

Why not make up your own scenario that could explain this phenomena? What message might the shoe casters be trying to spread?

And how might the trees respond?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. I’d love to know the direction your creativity takes.

A Poem to Remember competition

Red poppy by Judy Darley

Enter a new national poetry competition to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

You’re invited to breathe in the spirit of the Great War poets, and write a poem that honours those affected by service while paying tribute to humankind’s capacity to overcome adversity. The winner will receive a £2000 cash prize. Deadline 9th April 2018. 

The competition has been launched by the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC), itself a new organisation designed to become one of the world’s best clinical rehabilitation centres for the armed forces and potentially civilians too. Inspired by the war’s famous poets, including Wilfred Owen, Muriel Stuart and Siegfried Sassoon, they’re seeking poetry “that honours those affected by service and pays tribute to humankind’s capacity commemorate the moment the guns fell silent in the First World War. It will honour the fallen and those who took part, remembering that many survivors suffered very serious injury which affected the rest of their lives.”

The best five entries will be chosen by a panel of judges, chaired by historian Dan Snow, and then go to a public vote.

The winning entry will be read out by Prince William at the opening ceremony of the new Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre near Loughborough , and will be displayed prominently in perpetuity at the Centre.

The overall winner will receive a £2,000 cash prize, with four runners-up receiving £500. Only one entry is permitted per person. Poems must be no longer than 25 lines.

Closing dates for entries is 23.59pm GMT on April 9th, 2018.
For inspiration, read more about modern day soldier poets.

Find the full competition details, rules and terms and conditions here.

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

Storyfied art by Amanda Cozens

Hare by Amanda Cozens

I fell in love with the fairytale quality of Amanda Cozens’ paintings the moment I laid eyes on it. They draw to the surface the kind of imaginings prompted by tales read and told to me when I was a child, but far from being fey, the women featured in her work are forces to be reckoned with. Hints of ancient myths run through them, providing the sense of stepping into the centre of a scene with much more to come.

Narrative is something that comes naturally to Amanda. “Inspiration sometimes comes from something going on in my own life – a theme I’ve noticed and automatically ‘storyfied,’” she says. “Narrative is a strong personal survival skill as well as being important in my work so it’s inevitably going to bleed into a new piece. Often I’ll feel drawn to paint a certain animal or creature and it ends up quite totemic.”

Twins by Amanda Cozens

Twins by Amanda Cozens

A survival skill? That’s true for me too, but I’m intrigued to discover Amanda’s version of this. “I have the sort of mind that has always learned and problem-solved through making things into stories,” she says. “It’s second-nature just like some people are very numerical or practical. Even in art school, when my works appeared to be quite abstract, in my mind they were still very strongly rooted in the narrative I had experienced with them.”

I’m curious to know the kinds of things that run through Amanda’s head as she’s working on a new piece of work.

“I get totally immersed when I’m working on a new piece,” she comments. “It’s hard for me to let go. I think in pictures and I see myself beneath a great invisible, fast moving river than runs just at the height of my upstretched hand. Beyond its membrane is, well, everything. Life, inspiration, branches and tendrils of seemingly unrelated narrative and colour and texture. I dip my hand in and see what I can catch!”

Octopus by Amanda Cozens

Octopus by Amanda Cozens

Amanda studied fine art at Falmouth School of Art. “Kife drawing was my baseline really, the tool I used to develop my language and something I return to again and again.”

She describe her process as “acrylic overlaid with drawn pigment”, which she explains means the following:

“I layer thin and thickly applied acrylic paint over drawing, and then draw over those layers,” she says. “I love using watercolour pencils for this, meaning I always have the option to blur and waterdown any line. I incise lines by scratching into the paint and often pare back using wire wool.”

Amanda hopes to provoke layers of ideas and feelings in her viewers.

“I love that they may stir a long-forgotten memory or collective unconsciousness and trigger a connection that may not have been there before – a catalyst for some personal narrative that I may never be  party to,” she says.

For Amanda, honesty is the most important aspect of her work. “Being genuine is vital,” she says. “Art is the space I hold for myself where I can be the most authentic amidst the other work of mothering and being responsible and fitting in adequately and bills and all the other marvellous things in life.”

Amanda can often I often be found at arts trails or markets with prints of my work as well as clothing that she makes. “I’ll be at Bristol Folk House Flea Market on 23rd July.”

Keep an eye on what Amanda’s up to and see more of her glowy art at www.glowything.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.

Writing prompt – skies

Totterdown sunset Judy DarleyI’m often stopped in my tracks by the beauty of the sky above me. Riddled with light, colour and sculptural cloud formations, they have the power to set us adrift from the mundane, if only for a moment.

Pause at some point today, and look up. Is there a cloud, plane trail or simply an intensity to the grey that moves something creative within you?

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



Art to make you smile and think

Ironing by Martina Paukova crop

ironing by Martina Paukova, cropped

Artist Martina Paukova has launched her debut solo exhibition Girls, at The Book Club in Shoreditch. Running until 8th April 2018, the show represents an antithesis to the glamorous, air-brushed photos we face daily.

“These domestic environments are little self-made worlds of sort,” says Martina. “Away from the outside world where we are pushed to pose and perform, it is usually at home, within the four walls, where we are at our most natural and non-performing selves.”

waiting by Martina Paukova

waiting by Martina Paukova

The vivid scenes feel like snapshots of real life, with a quirky cartoon feel. The girls are surrounded by the paraphernalia – laptops, phones and coffee cups, but they themselves are unpolished and occasionally 2-dimensional, folding into the angles of the sofas they slump onto.

dining by Martina Paukova

dining by Martina Paukova

The artwork is hyper-simplified, flattening out detail in a way that’s both light and cheery, while underlaid with a faintly foreboding darkness that speaks of our concern for the future of females in a time when artifice is paramount and men still have the upper hand. In Martina’s world, men serve as furnishings or simply hang around waiting to be tried on, while technology wins her girls’ overriding affection.

loving by Martina Paukova

loving by Martina Paukova

Martina Paukova was born in Slovakia in 1983, and has since studied graphic design in London, followed by illustration at Camberwell College of Arts. She now lives in Berlin, doodling people and creating commitions for clients including Pull&Bear, Converse, the Guardian, Google and The New York Times.

Despite the shadowiness of her underlying themes, Martina is aiming to prompt more smiles than disruption. “I am hoping for a light amusement mixed with some sense of familiarity,” she says. “The scenes I present can be super autobiographical and rather tongue-in-cheek and ideally I’d get some tongue-in-cheek response back :-P”

Find out more at www.wearetbc.com

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.



Writing prompt – first love

Bunny Valentine by Judy DarleyToday, to the satisfaction of card sellers and florists everywhere, is Valentine’s Day. This is the card I made for my husband of ten years (and friend for countless more).

Today, I invite you to write a love-letter not to the person you first loved, not to a parent, sibling, or even pet, but the object you first felt true, undying passion for, whether that’s a toy, book, or random item, such as, say, a particular sock. A friend of mine once harboured an unwavering loyalty towards her pyjama case. I myself was partial to a train set that thrilled me with its swooping hills that its interlocking parts allowed me to construct myself.

What first filled you with such delight?

Turn that devotion into a poem, letter or story that reflects the depths of your feelings, but hold one detail back – the word that explains exactly what the item you so adored was or is.

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

The Edge of the Sand – a short story

Cornish shore cr Judy Darley

My short story The Edge of the Sand is the featured tale in issue 9, the March issue, of In The Moment magazine. It’s in shops now.

Turn to the centre of the any issue and you’ll find the cute mini-mag, inviting you to “take a moment”, with a recipe, a crossword and a short story. What a fab idea!

IntheMomentissue9Their strapline for my tale reads: “Arianne finds a way to help her mother overcome her fears in this moving story by Judy Darley.”

What a great introduction. Ta very much!

It’s a beautiful magazine to have my words take up home in, and they pay a decent amount too, which is refreshing. In issue 10 they’re publishing a travel piece I’ve written for them about visiting the Azores. Can’t wait to see how it look on the page.

And, yes, I have used this photo previously to illustrate a post about my tale Adrift. It’s curious how many of my stories happen within earshot of the sea!

Beyond the curtains

Levitated solar etching by Debbie Lee

Levitated solar etching by Debbie Lee

I encountered Debbie Lee’s extraordinary solar etchings, paintings and prints at the RWA Galleries in Bristol. Taking up almost a full wall in the downstairs gallery, it felt a little like having drawn aside a heavy velvet curtain and discovered a wonderful circus of the shadows taking place.

“I’m a visual artist based in Dorset, and work in paint, print and animation,” Debbie explained when I got in touch to find out more. “In recent years I’ve made a series of mini etchings which have been exhibited around the UK and in France and Spain. They explore themes of magic and illusion.”

Debbie has linked the artworks together using an imagined narrative and bound them into a limited edition artist’s book entitled ‘Tread Softly’. “I like the containment that a book offers and the intimacy of studying each illustration secretly. I’ve made larger paintings of these miniatures and I hope to exhibit the prints, paintings and book together.”

Tread Softly artist's book by Debbie Lee

Tread Softly artist’s book by Debbie Lee

Debbie often works in print, and enjoys the social aspect of the print studio. “I sometimes invite other artists to my studio to print and share ideas while we work side by side,” she comments. “I have always made prints alongside my paintings and have visited many print studios during my travels to India as a commonwealth research scholar, as well as in Chicago and Tasmania. When I first moved to Dorset with young children, I found going to Poole print studio a great way to meet local artists and I have been teaching solar etching there for a number of years.”

Find out more about solar etching.

Debbie draws inspiration from “surrealism, outsider art and philosophy, psychological theories and fairytales. I like to paint on coloured Indian khadi paper. I am interested in the different process of working in miniature and large scale pictures. Sometimes I take a part of a miniature Indian painting and magnify it so that the brush strokes are physically present and the shapes become abstracted.”

Previously, Debbie worked as an art therapist with children, and still values this process in the work she makes today. “I will often start a number of pictures simultaneously, sometimes with my daughter making random marks on the paper, and exchanging the pictures between us working with large brushes and sponges which I later develop in my studio. I like the idea of developing attachment through drawing and painting with my daughter during this process.”

Sadness by Debbie Lee

Sadness by Debbie Lee

Debbie has also found support though joining creative parent projects. “We work together and encourage each other to retain our artistic practice,” she says. “Resources like this provide an archive of material for new creative parents to draw upon and a platform for parent artists to show artwork. Last year I was asked to contribute a creative piece of writing in celebration of grand mothering.”

In 2016 Debbie teamed up with other artists to experience collaborative ‘play’ on a massive scale at the Hansard Gallery in Southampton. “This has led to further collaborations with group members,” she enthuses. “Ideas from this experience evolved into a series of images offering a psychological inspection of women caught behind the scenes.”

Whispered by Debbie Lee

Whispered by Debbie Lee

The body of work they produced was also influenced by the novella The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, one of my personal unsettling favourites. “It charts the female protagonist’s attempts to manage altered mental states after childbirth,” Debbie says. “Isolated by her physician and husband and told to ‘rest’ her creativity, she hallucinates disturbing figures in wallpaper patterns.”

The series of artworks produced in response to the novella also ties in with the phenomenon of pareidolia, an intriguing topic that formed the basis of one of my recent writing prompts on SkyLightRain. “I projected wallpaper and invited the group to draw out images from the patterns and made a stop motion film of the process which inspired future paintings,” Debbie says.

Drawn Curtain still image by Debbie Lee

Drawn Curtain still image by Debbie Lee

Exploratory play is key to Debbie’s imaginative process. “I like to experiment with animated drawings – drawing over one drawing and erasing it over and over to create the sense of movement,” she says. “I find this a satisfying way to bring memories to life using collected sound tracks and images. It has also been a good way to take my work to a wider audience and this year I have had my animations, including Drawn Curtains, screened in Chicago and at the RWA.”

These processes provide a foundation for Debbie’s larger paintings. “For me these are windows to my imagination (Sadness),” she says. “I enjoy the physical activity of working on a large scale and I enjoy the playful processes I go through to create them. I try to create a believable world from my imagination.”

You can see more of Debbie’s work and find out where she’s exhibiting on her website www.debbieleeart.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


Writing prompt – fever

Jardim Botanico Jose do Canto tree cr Judy Darley

Over Christmas and New Year I was ill with a sinus infection that led to high blood sugars, racing pulse and boiling temperatures, a concoction which led in turn to some pretty peculiar  imaginings. One result of this was a hastily, barely legibly scribbled story that I ended up naming Old Blue Eye.

It’s now been published by The Fiction Pool. I can honestly say it’s one of the strangest tales I’ve written.

So this week, why not try putting yourself in an unfamiliar frame of mind? I’m not advocating drugs or attempting to catch some terrible ague, but you could try to write in bed before you’re full awake, or stay up late and write when your thoughts begin to ramble. Who knows what gems your addled brain might come up with?

You can read my fevered flash fiction Old Blue Eye here, but please be warned, if you’re of a sensitive disposition you may emerge rather disturbed!

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