A moment’s respite

Old Harry Rocks by Gilly Mound

Old Harry Rocks by Gilly Mound

There’s an enticing hint of reminiscence about Gilly Mound’s mixed media artworks – looking at them I find myself recalling childhood holidays to picturesque villages, often within sight of the sea and almost always within earshot of sheep. The vivid colours and bold shapes are deliciously inviting, with an impression of sunshine throughout.

“I have always loved colour,” Gilly comments. “Initially my art was based around mixed media and stitch and was quite colourful, but not as bold. Then a few years ago I decided to pare down the media and processes I was using and began to experiment with acrylics. I was instantly hooked.”

Home From Home by Gilly Mound

Home From Home by Gilly Mound

Gilly describes her style as “quite ‘blocky’ and naïve. Acrylic is a perfect media for this style.”

Her surroundings are frequently the impetus of a new work of art. “For me it’s down to environment,” Gilly explains. “I live in the countryside where the changing seasons are very defined and inspirational. I love to walk in a rural landscape of fields, trees, leaves and sheep! And the British coastline, particularly Cornwall and Wales is very influential in providing imagery of little boats and harbours.”

Little Harbour by Gilly Mound

Little Harbour by Gilly Mound

Gilly is also a fan of ceramic pots and jugs, and these, too, appear in many of her works as still life elements, often providing a foreground focus to an idyllic view. I love the details she chooses to include, such as the pebbles in the scene above.

Three Sheep crop by Gilly Mound

Three Sheep, crop, by Gilly Mound

Gilly’s aim is to share her affection for the places she lives close to in Worcestershire’s Teme Valley, and the locations she visits.

“I try to portray the way I feel about places and everyday objects rather than capture their exact visual reality,” she says. “For instance, my painting of Bayards Cove, Dartmouth, is pared down and stylised but still recognisable as the subject.”

Bayard's Cove by Gilly Mound

Bayard’s Cove by Gilly Mound

Prior to immersing herself in fine art, Gilly worked as a fabric retailer and knitwear designer, before studying and then teaching fashion and textiles. I couldn’t resist asking how she feels her background in this area impacts on her work.

“A really interesting question!” she exclaims. “I believe it has given a commercial leaning to my work. Colour, shape, pattern and form are important features of fashion and textile design and yes, I believe these ‘organising’ factors do influence me when I am making art.”

Where I Want To Be by Gilly Mound

Where I Want To Be by Gilly Mound

The pleasure of creating is evident in her work. “That moment of making art and ‘being in the zone or flow’ is a priceless experience,” she says. “Unfortunately it doesn’t happen every day, but when I’m fully connecting with my work there’s a sense of immense satisfaction in simply being involved in the creative process. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

Find more of Gilly’s work at www.gillymound.co.ukThe Art Agency, 118 – 120 High St, Esher KT10 9QJ and Whalley Fine Art & Framing, Holywood, Belfast, Co. Down.

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 – seahorse

Seahorse by Judy DarleyI met this otherworldly creature at my local aquarium. Clinging to his net for support, he looks rather as though he’s a felon behind bars, which made me smile until I considered the controversy currently surrounding Sea World.

These ambiguities offer a rich mine of story possibilities. Is he enjoying a moment’s serene contemplation or is he a frustrated captive?

Aquariums and zoos can be centres of conservation, preserving wildlife and providing education. Equally, they can jails where animals suffer for our entertainment. Write something that explores these dualities, or choose which side of the fence you’re sitting behind and show us something that will make us think about these issues in a fresh way.

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.


Get ready to sparkle

Adam Closs Magic Eye 3 detail (not part of the exhibition)

Adam Closs Magic Eye 3 detail (not part of the exhibition, but an artwork that evokes circus 🙂

The RWA will launch their new exhibition Sawdust and Sequins on the weekend of 24th and 25th March 2018, and it sounds fabulous. It marks the start of a spectacular exhibition that will run until 3rd June at the RWA Galleries in Bristol.

The exhibition will showcase historic and contemporary art that offers up a sense of the UK’s circus heritage and Bristol’s thriving circus scene.

The exhibition coincides with Circus250 – a nationwide celebration of the 250th anniversary of circus in the UK.

The opening weekend will transform the stately gallery buildings on Queen’s Road with  with performances from Circomedia Academy of Contemporary Circus and Physical Theatre, with aerial displays, acrobatics, aerial displays, have-a-go workshops and creative activities for all ages to get stuck into.

It’ll all be happening on Saturday 24 March 10.30am–3pm and Sunday 25 March 11.30am–3pm. Find out more here.

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

Writing prompt – home

Moon and roofs by Judy Darley

Moon and roofs by Judy Darley

My man and I moved home last weekend, which has meant constant upheaval for several weeks. I took this photo in our former street on the night of a supermoon and can’t help thinking how the stillness of the houses and the apparent agitation of the moon makes it resemble the start of an encounter of the third kind.

On the other hand, these are all utterly familiar things, each of which speaks of home.

What means home to you? How would you feel if that was removed? Can you channel that emotion into a tale or poem that says something about what it is to be human bereft of and seeking a home?

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.


Enter the Tillie Olsen Short Story Award

Solive Winery, tractor cr Judy DarleyThe Tishman Review is open for entries to their short story competition in honour of author Tillie Olsen.

“Olsen is one of our heroes,” says the magazine’s co-founder and prose editor Jennifer Porter. “She was born in 1912 on a tenant farm in Nebraska, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. Early in her life, she began crusading for worker rights, jailed for organising packinghouse workers and for participating in strikes. She continued working as an activist her entire life. (…) Olsen died at the age of 95 – a mother, grandmother, award-winning writer, feminist, and human rights and anti-war activist.”

Tell Me A Riddle by Tillie OlsenOlsen was the author of the short story collection Tell Me a Riddle and her story Requa I appeared in the publication Best American Short Stories 1971. She also wrote journalistic pieces from the 1930s about the struggle for economic justice.

Entries are invited of unpublished (including online and personal blogs) short stories not longer than 5,000 words in length. Manuscripts and file names must not contain any identifying information. Make sure you follow the formatting guidelines!

All entries must be received through Submittable with the $15 entry fee per story.

The closing date for entries is 30th March 2018.

The final judge is author Tori Malcangio.

Contest winners will be announced on 30th July 2018. The winner will receive $500 and publication in the July issue of The Tishman Review.

All entrants will receive a one-year e-book subscription to The Tishman Review.

Find full details of the Tillie Olsen Short Story Award.

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.




The power in portraiture

Untitled 2 by Hatty Butler

Vigorous brushstrokes, spray paint and mixed media give Hatty Butler’s portraits an uncommon vitality. They have statements to make and personalities to exude, and little time or patience for the uncertain viewer.

“I’m drawn to painting people because the idea of representing someone in a new form fascinates me,” says Hatty, who studied BA Hons Fine Art at Bath Spa University. “I love creating an image of someone and bringing it into a whole new dimension, giving the individual a new life. The concept of bringing a likeness of the person the painting yet adding a contemporary, energetic aspect is, for me, hugely exciting and inspiring.”

The scale of the pieces is immense: it’s as though their fizzing force of character has transformed them into giants.

Hatty Butler, artist

“The energies and emotions I aim to capture of those just under the surface, those that we may try and hide in day to day life,” Hatty says. “It’s all about those feelings of vulnerability and a stripped back version of our existence.”

Pink Is For Me Too by Hatty Butler

Pink Is For Me Too by Hatty Butler

She adds: “I am also passionate about portraying individuals that may be overlooked or criticised by society for being different. We live in a society where the abnormal is sometimes laughed at and my aim is to alter these outdated views. Art can be the most innovative and compelling means of providing change within our society. I challenge the viewer, encouraging them to look deeper into the painting than just the portrait itself, to raise internal issues and try to comprehend them.”

Hatty’s own mood shifts drastically while she is painting. “At the start of creating a new piece I feel a mixture of excitement for the unknown, yet also apprehensive how it will turn out,” she admits. “I never plan ahead what direction the piece will take – it grows and evolves as time goes on. I love the freedom of adding pastel and spray paint once the finer details have been completed. It is a liberating and fulfilling experience.”

April by Hatty Butler

April by Hatty Butler

She’s become an expert at melding the observed and invented in her work.

“I tend to makes initial sketches from life and then work from a series of photographs,” Hatty says. “A lot comes from my imagination too – my work is a representation of the subjects inner being, I only focus slightly on the external likeness. For me it is more about externalising the internal.”

I Am Strong, I Am Proud, I Am Me by Hatty Butler'

I Am Strong, I Am Proud, I Am Me by Hatty Butler’

To do this, Hatty needs to set aside her own immediate feelings. “That’s the greatest challenge of trying to represent the internal through painting the external – I need to be able to be honest and not portray my own internal emotions,” she says. “The work needs to represent the characteristics of the subject initially.”

Being an artist, Hatty says, offers a wonderful sense of freedom. “To live a creative life is such a special thing and while it comes with its struggles I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. “I relish having the freedom to express myself and spend every day doing something that I love. I love what I do, creating things that did not exist before, that are unique and that touch other people. As an artist, I see the beauty in things that are often overlooked. Without art the world could be a very boring place. It’s so important that we take a moment to appreciate what’s around us.”

To see more of Hatty’s work, visit www.hattybutler.com, and look out for news of upcoming exhibitions.

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.



Writing prompt – dream

Cat dreaming cr Judy DarleySomething about this sleeping cat reminds me of the Salvador Dali painting snappily titled Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening

What sounds might be contributing to this cat’s dreams? How surreal might those dreams be? And what if those dreams somehow influenced the world we live in?

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.



Micro-Fiction competition invites entries

Buttons cr Judy DarleyI’m a fan of flash fiction that packs an emotional wallop ­– such a challenge to achieve in only a handful of words!

National Flash-Fiction Day returns on 16th June 2018, and celebrates this short-short form in all its glory.

As part of the build up, their annual Micro-Fiction competition is open for entries of 100 words or fewer. There is no minimum word count.

The deadline is 23:59 (UK time) on 17th March 2018, so you just have time to string a few powerful, carefully selected words together. No problem, right?!

This year, entries are free. You’re invited to submit up to three flash fictions on any theme.

Find competition rules, terms and conditions, and the full list of prizes at nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/comp.html




Garden of culinary delights

The Florist interior by Judy Darley

If you knew and loved Goldbrick House in Bristol, you may be aware that a new company has finally taken root in this amazing building, reopening its doors just over a week ago. With a light and airy flower-strewn interior, The Florist makes the most of the eclectic spaces in that hub, with café corners, a bar with DJs after dark and a stunning restaurant all ready for you to explore.

Stairways and walls are decorated with prints and presses of petals, feathers and leaves, while silk blooms pour from ceilings. It’s rather like stepping into a gloriously extravagant potting shed.

But it’s the menus where The Florist really excels. Already well-established in Liverpool, their Bristol location seems set to become equally popular. Lunchtime cocktails, you ask?  While Mr J perused the Anthology of Ales, I delved into chapters devoted to divine concoctions, opting at last for Rhubarb In Bloom (£8.50), a fruity blend of Slingsby rhubarb gin, rhubarb and ginger liqueur, green apple liqueur raspberry syrup and ginger ale. Gorgeous.

The Florist olives by Judy Darley

We nibbled on taut green olives while choosing our main courses. As a fan of small plates and lots of varied flavours, I found the deli board (£11.50) irresistible – brilliantly you get to mix and match an assortment of four mini plates, or more if you’re extra hungry, to create your perfect plate.

The Florist Deli plate by Judy DarleyI opted for chilled chalk stream trout, mango and lime cerviche (sweet and tenderly meaty), a Dolcelatte cheese, poached pear and candied walnut salad, a generous wedge of firm Manchego sheep cheese (which I’ve been in love with ever since discovering it in Spain), and an indulgent serving of macaroni cheese, made with a 2-year aged Shorrock Lancashire. Every mouthful was a mini-adventure as hot and cold, sweet and savoury, components mingled on my tongue.

Mr J ordered the cod, king prawn and chorizo kebab (£11.75) with harissa chips and garlic oil, the latter poured with a flourish by our waitress through the perforated dish at the top to drizzle the fish, meat and chips in a fun bit of table theatre.

The Florist Lavender Thistle by Judy DarleyAs icy rain assaulted the windows, I resolutely pretended it was summer and sipped the Lavender Thistle (£7.95), chosen from the English Flower Garden section of the cocktail menu. Marrying Brockman’s blueberry gin, blueberry liqueur, lavender bitters and vanilla liqueur, and with a tangible hint of Palma Violet about it, this was the perfect accompaniment to my dessert. I’d decided to go all out on the floral theme and selected the elderflower meringue with caramelised peaches, dinky cubes of clear prosecco jelly, dabs of rich red raspberry coulis and a scattering of toasted almonds (£5.50). Light, luscious and perfectly indulgent, it was the ideal finish to a meal that had toyed with every tastebud without weighing me down.

The Florist Elderflower meringue dessert by Judy Darley

Mr J went with the waitress’s recommendation and wallowed happily in a warming sticky toffee pud, complete with toasted a sesame and peanut sauce topped with vanilla ice cream (£5.95).

It’s impressive to find a place that can create two very different meals for two utterly different palettes, and ensure that every bite, sip and lick is delicious. The secret to The Florist’s success lies in thoughtfully sourced, ultra fresh ingredients put together with care to create a dining experience that will feed all your senses.

Find The Florist at 69 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5PB, tel: 0117 2034284, theflorist.uk.com

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







Writing prompt – snow day

Snow Day by Judy DarleyIt’s hard to believe that this happened less than a week ago. I love all the activity happening in this image, all the different interactions, collisions and connections – not least  between the two dogs on the lower lefthand side.

Let this vibrant scene prompt a story. Whose tale do you want to tell? Or which tail do you want to wag?

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.