An abstract sense of balance

Tropical Colour By Oliver NeedsI initially encountered artist Oliver Needs at The Other Art Fair in Bristol’s Passenger Shed, where his vivid abstract canvasses sang out from his booth like barely controlled visual explosions.

“I developed my abstract style was after painting in a range of styles, and learning and trying out a range of techniques,” he explains. “I love painting and looking at paintings from most centuries. Impressionism and Abstract Expressionism are particularly influential art movements for me.”

Jungle by Oliver Needs

Jungle by Oliver Needs

For Oliver, part of the thrill is the chance to continually learn from the paintings he creates. “My abstract style seems to be still developing, but I often focus on memories and emotions and try to translate this into my painting,” he says. “I express a variety of feelings from the sense one gets walking in nature to that of going out in the busy night life of central London. Each painting tells a different story.”

Prompts to start a new work are mainly rooted in Oliver’s emotions. “I am inspired to make art by the sheer feeling of excitement like a child gets when going into a sweet shop, that sense of variety and colour and joy and happiness,” he enthuses. “Another example would be that of going to the fair ground where each ride offers a new and exciting experience and buzz. Being a creator and artist has ups and downs but the ups are of sharing positive energy and art with others, just as a great musician does with an audience, making a positive difference to our lives.”

Tutti 1 and 2 by Oliver Needs

The process of creating paintings such as Tutti 1 and 2, shown above, usually begins with choosing a base colour, which Oliver layers onto the canvas as it lies flat on the floor. “I then add relatively fluid colours, which I drip or splash onto the canvas, so to speak, rather like Jackson Pollock did as he has been captured in film and photograph a lot.”

The colour choices themselves are a vital component. “Of course, colours have subliminal effects on the mind and therefore, depending on my mood, will change accordingly,” Oliver explains. “I will try to let myself go up to a point and choose each colour according to how I am feeling at a particular moment, but also considering what I feel will work with well with the previous colour applied onto canvas.”

Redwood by Oliver Needs

Redwood by Oliver Needs

He admits that this method is often therapeutic on one level, but adds: “It’s also some kind of internal journey or release. I enjoy the interplay between the colours and lines, just like different chords in music.”

Recognising when a painting is complete can be a challenge. “Knowing when to stop or finish a painting can be a little perplexing but generally it is just about getting a sense of balance and knowing that the colours and movement of paint sits well,” Oliver says. “I guess this is just an artist’s intuition.”

Summer Fun by Oliver Needs

Summer Fun by Oliver Needs

Oliver will be showing his paintings at Parallax Art Fair in Chelsea Town Hall, London from 19th-21st October 2018.

Find Oliver’s work at instagram.com/needsoliver/ and oliverneeds.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. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

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Writing prompt – boater

Floating boater, Oxford by Judy DarleyThe moment I saw this boater floating in an Oxford waterway, I had an image of how it came to be bobbing there. I suspect you can envisage it too: the inept holidaymaker or undergraduate attempting to steer a punt, the near collision with another vessel, or that sharp and historic corner, the flailing that enabled them to regain their balance and retain their dignity, but lose their hat…

But I challenge you to take your story somewhere else. Confound expectations and dream up an entirely unique and breathtaking series of events that ended with this particular hat languishing in the River Cherwell.

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.

London Literature Festival 2017

Chibundu Onuzo_credit_Blake Images

Chibundu Onuzo. Photo by Blake Images

This year’s London Literature Festival hosted by the South Bank Centre invites us to “explore the world in which we live and celebrate the power of literature to reflect on the burning issues of our times”

The festival takes place from 18th-28th October 2018 and is crammed with enticing options.

Mary Beard credit Caterina Turroni

Mary Beard. Photo by Caterina Turroni

Look out for freshly commissioned works receiving their world premieres, live readings, book launches, exclusive in-conversation events with the likes of Salman Rushdie and Marilynne Robinson, family-friendly fun, free encounters and thought-prosing literary debates. Highlights include new releases from Sally Field, Olafur Eliasson and Sue Perkins. And don’t miss a cast of high calibre actors performing a specially commissioned live reading of Homer’s The Odyssey, followed by panel discussions featuring Mary Beard, Madeline Miller, Sharlene Teo, Simon Goldhill and more.

Roger Daltrey credit Fabrice Demessence

Roger Paltry. Photo by Fabrice Demessence

Plus Carol Ann Duffy will present her last collection as Poet Laureate, Roger Paltry launches his new memoir Thanks a lot, Mr Kibblewhite: My Life, and there’ll be a world premiere performance of Chibundu Onuzo’s 1991, a new commission from Southbank Centre. Not to mention insights into writing practises of established authors and a chance to discover rising talents.

In short, have your imagination thoroughly stirred and your mind inspired.

For the full programme, visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk.

All images supplied by the South Bank Centre.

A breath of forest air

Totality by Elizabeth JardineThere’s a palpable sense of the coolness, dappled light and breath of a forest in the paintings created by artist Elizabeth Jardine.

“My paintings have developed over the years, but have always been concerned with the idea of a journey, and with interconnectedness and symbiosis,” Elizabeth says. “I’ve had a love of the outdoors from a young age, growing up on the edge of the South Downs National Park, and after my BA I started long distance walking, which immediately fed into my artwork.”

Borderline by Elizabeth Jardine by Elizabeth Jardine

Borderline by Elizabeth Jardine by Elizabeth Jardine

Elizabeth has been painting woodland scenes for about a decade now. “It offers so many compositions and metaphors that I don’t think I’ll ever come to an end,” she says.  “Occasionally other imagery crops up – structures, or people or animals, but usually within a wooded space. I love to build up many layers of paint, working with gravity, light and dark, in parallel to the layers of growth and decay in the woods.”

The wooded rural areas she’s attracted to also provide the chance to explore a site’s social, historical and geographical aspects.

“I’m fascinated by the layers of history embedded in the landscape and I set off on long walks in order to draw them out, looking for echoes of the past,” Elizabeth says. “I tend to work with moving image or develop an artist book for specific research projects, but  wherever I walk I’m inevitably drawn to areas of woodland; these are the places that I feel most at home, and that I feel driven to paint.”

Satellite by Elizabeth Jardine

Satellite by Elizabeth Jardine

Elizabeth describes her paintings as “an intuitive response to place, concerned with the abundance of growing things, the shifting of light and the sense of timelessness you can encounter on a solitary walk in the woods. I explore the emotional response I had to a physical place, and aim to recreate the sense of being drawn through a landscape.”

The paintings offer up a means of communicating the feelings that rise up when viewing the landscape.

“These are the things I like looking at, and it’s lovely to share that with people,” she says. “I always leave space for the viewer in my paintings; I want to create a space where people can be absorbed, and feel drawn into their own journey.”

Drift Derive by Elizabeth Jardine

Drift Derive by Elizabeth Jardine

I ask Elizabeth what tempts her to stroll down a new path and set up easel and paints.

“I guess it’s a universal human condition to want to know what’s down the path, round the corner, get to know the world more deeply,” she replies. “I like to keep moving!”

Taking a full arsenal of art tools isn’t practical for most long distance strolls.

I used to sketch in the field but long distance walking is an activity in itself, you get into a rhythm as you roll through a place,” Elizabeth explains. “Now I use my camera as a sketchbook and starting point for paintings. I refine the compositions within photographs back in the studio as little sketches; then scale them up.”

Dark Matter by Elizabeth Jardine

Dark Matter by Elizabeth Jardine

On walks, Elizabeth carries a backpack of food, tent and various layers “to keep the British weather at bay. My knees aren’t up to carrying an easel as well! It would be interesting to spend a long period of time in one woodland, working in situ, to see how that would change the feel of my paintings.”

Elizabeth adapts her process as her painting progresses.

“At the start there is so much potential, and towards the end it is easy to overdo it; I slow right down,” she says. “I try not to get too tight or precious, but keep the spontaneity and energy of the first strokes. I don’t like to have too much control over the work, as long as it is underpinned by a solid composition, and by a real place that I’ve walked though or slept in.”

Potential Vorticity by Elizabeth Jardine

Potential Vorticity by Elizabeth Jardine

But how does her own frame of mind shift between the beginning of a work of art, and putting down the paintbrush at the moment of completion?

“Watching a painting unfold into some kind of resolution is a process of discovery, like walking round a corner, or taking in a new view,” she says. “I like there to still be a sense of potential, a feeling that it could still grow, or change. For me they feel ‘finished’ when they still sort of hover on the verge of becoming – it keeps them alive.”

Fairway by Elizabeth Jardine

Fairway by Elizabeth Jardine

In 2017 Elizabeth was selected to be resident artist in Yeovil Country Park’s Water:Meadow:Wood project, which aimed to foster greater engagement with the park. “Each year focused on a different element of the park, with a different artist each time,” she says. “My element was Wood, and I worked with children with special educational needs in the wooded areas, using clay to explore the trees and imprint a record of our time there. Creative activities are an amazing way to embed people in a place, encourage them to spend time there, and look closely. The children I worked with gained so much confidence from working outside, and made some wonderful artwork as well as building a sense of togetherness.”

She adds: “I think it creates a sense of belonging too, that of belonging to a place rather than of owning it, which is really important for our health, happiness, community and for the future of the planet.”

Find more of Elizabeth’s work at www.elizabethjardine.com

“If you’d like to be invited to exhibitions and events please join my mailing list – email art@elizabethjardine.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 – borders

Borders cr Judy DarleyI have a fascination with the borders of things, when one thing is on the brink of becoming another. Child to adult, land to sea, safe to unsafe, sane to insane, living to dead…

Some of these changes can happen in the space around two beats of a pulse, and alter everything you thought you knew. Others creep in so stealthily you barely notice until the whole landscape has shifted around you.

Take this idea as your starting point and place your character in a period of flux, then observe how they emerge on the other side, if they do…

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.

Write to evoke memories

Severn River shadows cr Judy DarleyNational Memory Day is a partnership between Literature Works and the Poetry Archive, supported by the Alzheimer’s Society. The project is interested in the creative power of poetry to enhance the lives of people living with memory loss and their loved ones or carers.

In Memory Cafes around the UK, conversations and emotional connections are forged with the help of well-loved poems and the generation of new creative works. Quite simply, they bring light to the lives of people afflicted with dementia and other memory-diminishing illnesses and those who care for them.

To raise funds for this excellent resource, The National Memory Day Poetry Competitions invite you to submit poems which evoke the theme of MEMORIES.

This year, they’re accepting submissions to two prize categories:

The National Memory Day Poetry Prize, sponsored by Literature Works, and the Primary Carer Voice Prize, sponsored by The Alzheimer’s Society. The latter category is open to those who have direct experience of caring for someone with memory loss. In each category there are three awards:

  • 1st prize of £700
  • 2nd prize of £200
  • 3rd prize of £100

Poems should be no longer than 40 lines and can be submitted either by post or online.

Submissions are charged at £3 for a single poem and £2 for each additional poem.

The closing date for entries is 5pm on Friday 5th October 2018. This year’s judge is poet and nature writer Miriam Darlington.

Find full details of how to enter.

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.

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Writing prompt – transience

Train station cr Judy DarleySeptember seems to be the perfect time to pack a bag and venture out to see a bit of the world. The weather is often beautiful and golden, the crowds diminished and costs a little lower.

Travel, whether by train, plane or automobile (not to mention, boat, bus and on foot), presents the ideal environment for gleaning new ideas for stories, whether from snippets overheard or glimpses seen, or simply through having the space and time to daydream. Those brief pockets of transience open up the imagination and give it room to unfurl.

Alternatively, travel itself can provide your story’s setting. Deposit your protagonist on a train station, consult a timetable and see where the journey takes them, you and your future readers.

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.

A short story – Not Every Wound Can Heal

Old Town Square, Prague by Judy DarleyI’m delighted to have my short story with a not so short title published by the excellent Spelk Fiction. Not Every Wound Can Heal went live on the stellar flash fiction site this morning. Prompted by a mis-remembered tale of a holy relic glimpsed in Prague church, it rings in at just over 330 words and begins:

A dark artefact hangs from the ceiling of the Baroque church. It resembles a bit of branch, or a stick covered in rags. Our tour guide tells us it’s a mummified arm.

Afterwards Tim and I each remember the story differently. He’s convinced it’s the relic of a saint. I’m sure it’s the limb of a thief who tried to steal jewels from a statue of the Virgin Mary, and that she came to life and twisted his arm entirely off.

Perhaps it’s not an arm at all.

I can’t get it out of my head. 

Read the full story Not Every Wound Can Heal here.

Mirror-themed fiction at Salon Soirées

Bloom and Curll interior cr Judy DarleyI’m excited to be sharing one of my stories at Salon Soirées’ mirror-themed evening on Tuesday 11th September. This cosy literary event takes place at the gorgeous Bloom & Curll Bookshop, 74 Colston Street, Bristol.

I’ll be reading my story Farewell Gifts, which was inspired by artist Gilly Mound’s painting Little House, pictured below. I wrote the story just after moving to a new home, and with love and loss on my mind. If you come along and listen to the story, I think you’ll understand what I mean.

Little House by Gilly Mound

Little House by Gilly Mound

Tickets are free, but limited, so book yours here. Doors open to the audience from 6:30pm for a 7pm start. Organiser Julia says: “Listenings will take roughly 2 hours, with a short interval between, and a chance thereafter to mingle, indulge in a delectable tipple, and find yourself a book treasure – please bring cash!”

As summer edges into autumn, I find that literary events become ever more enticing. Find out more about the Salon Soirées series here:

Facebook | www.facebook.com/salonsoirees
Instagram | www.instagram.com/salonsoirees
Eventbrite | https://salonsoirees.eventbrite.com

Book review – If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch

If I Die Before I Wake coverEasing a reader into the viewpoint of a protagonist is every writer’s greatest magic trick. Emily Koch managed something remarkable with her debut novel, enclosing us in the mind of a man suffering from undiagnosed locked in syndrome.

Unable to move or speak, Alex lies in his hospital bed, wishing he could let his friends, family and medical attendees know that he’s aware of everything that happens around him, that he feels pain, hunger and pleasure, and hears and smells each person who visits. From their point of view, he’s in a vegetative state, and the kindest thing to do might be to let him slip away.

More than a year into his ordeal, he wants nothing more than to die. But something isn’t quite right. Alex knows a climbing accident led him to hospitalisation. He was an experienced climber with confidence in his equipment, so what went wrong?

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