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.

munching by Martina Paukova

munching by Martina Paukova

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.

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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.”

Hypnotist by Debbie Lee

Hypnotist by Debbie Lee

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.”

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.”

Sadness by Debbie Lee

Sadness by Debbie Lee

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.

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The magic of a child’s imagination

Selkie and Mermaid stories with Nicola Davies

Southbank Centre’s annual multi-arts Imagine Children’s Festival returns for its seventeenth year from 7th till 18th February 2018. It’s the perfect opportunity to set your creativity loose, with twelve days of storytelling, playing and exploring for children and their families. At its heart, this year’s programme features a specially curated Royal Festival Hall event celebrating the world’s leaders and pioneers who have changed the world, to inspire the next generation of young changemakers.

The line up of activities include Super Hero parties, magical immersive adventures and snail friendships (particularly intrigued by this!) to dancing scientists with flatulence. Elsewhere, Nicola Davies will be sharing Selkie and Mermaid stories (see the beautiful artwork above), and award-winning author Jacqueline Wilson will discuss her much-loved characters including Hetty Feather and Tracy Beaker, as well as her latest novel Wave Me Goodbye.

An Afternoon with Jacqueline Wilson Credit James Jordan

An Afternoon with Jacqueline Wilson © James Jordan

Over half of the events are free, making it as inclusive as possible, with the likes of Caroline Bowditch, CBBC’s Ben Shires & Cerrie Burnell, Charlotte Cotterill, Radio 1’s Chris Smith & Greg James, Francesca Simon, Harry Hill, Jacqueline Wilson, James Campbell, Jess Thom, Joseph Coelho, Mitch Johnson, Patrick Monahan, Robin Stevens, Yuval Zommer all counted among the folks hoping to rev up kids’ imaginations.

Find out more and book tickets at the Southbank Centre website or call 0203 879 9555.

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.

Water, vapour and light

Weston Pier by Ruth Ander

Weston Pier by Ruth Ander

I met artist Ruth Ander at Peter Ford’s beautiful Off-Centre Gallery and was immediately drawn to the cool, calm quality of her work. To me they feel full of clean air and miniscule water droplets. In fact, Ruth states on her website that her work is inspired by water, vapour and light. What would be more refreshing after a days of intense family time and over indulgence? Her paintings and prints offer a chance to stand still, breath deep and feel newly alive.

Sandbay Reflections by Ruth Ander

Sandbay Reflections by Ruth Ander

“For me it’s an emotional kick,” Ruth says of the urge to begin a new work of art. “Landscape, nature and the sea feed my emotions and inner life, and when the light and weather conspire to create those beautiful effects I just feel I have to express that somehow. I’m lucky that I’ve found a technique whereby I’m able to express that feeling well – though it took a long time to get there! I can create very thin layers of paint that can be equivalents to light and vapour, so now if a view inspires me, I find I will start deconstructing it into how I can convey it, Not sure if that’s a good thing though!”

Cadbury Camp by Ruth Ander

Cadbury Camp by Ruth Ander

As much as this may detract from Ruth’s own enjoyment of the views she depicts, each artwork provides a moment of peace for the viewer, captured through a process Ruth describes as painted prints, or printed paintings.

“Generally, I make pictures as mono-prints, which means a one-off print, a bit of a contradiction in terms.” She explains. “Basically, I’ll roll ink out onto a flat surface, manipulate it if I want to, then lay paper over it and press onto the back to transfer the ink. It can create wonderful unexpected marks and textures, but of course the downside is that once the ink is taken off the surface onto the paper, it’s gone for good and so can’t be reproduced as a multiple.”

Steep Holme by Ruth Ander

Steep Holme by Ruth Ander

Recently Ruth has had the chance to use the print facilities at Bower Ashton, one of the University of the West of England’s sites, as part of a scholarship programme. “This has been really exciting for me and allowed me to make etchings and screen prints mixed with my mono-prints to make, if not editions, multiples and variations on a theme.”

Brean Down from Birnbeck by Ruth Ander

Brean Down from Birnbeck by Ruth Ander

Ruth aims to reflect something universal in the scenes she recreates.

“I think light and weather are so fundamental to us as human beings that they’re bound to affect us,” she comments. “Certain landscapes in certain lights have an impact, and I don’t think I’m alone here, or I hope not anyway. Especially living on a wind and rain swept island, where the weather changes so dramatically and often.  It does seem to be a Northern European thing to use the weather as a way to express feelings.”

The opportunity to spend a day making things is deeply pleasing to Ruth.

“Absolutely nothing beats being creative and playing in the studio all day with no restrictions – time or otherwise.  Nothing at all,” she says. “It’s an incredibly satisfying and fulfilling feeling. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I’m very thankful.”

 

Harbourside by Ruth Ander

Harbourside by Ruth Ander

Ruth’s work is currently stocked by Clifton Fine Art on Perry Row, Bristol and Tincleton Gallery in Dorset, as well as with Tinca Gallery in Portishead and Church House Designs in Congresbury. “Next year I’ll be opening my house for the Southbank Bristol Arts Trail and taking part in Dorset Art Weeks so keep your eyes peeled for more information.”

Find out more at ruthander.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.

Seasonal cheer

Christmas Tree Year 5 cr Judy DarleyWhat an immensely complex year it’s been. So much change. My life has taken such twists and turns that this Christmas period I’m most excited about the hiatus from from every day life. I need to catch my breath, absorb everything that’s happened and take a moment to both appreciate all that, and look forward to the new year preparing to break its first wave on my shore.

Little Christmas tree_yr 4_2016 cr Judy Darley

Our little tree in Christmas 2016, apparently relishing a new, roomier pot…

Our little tree has had its own challenges to face. Early on in 2017, our wee spruce began to drop needles at an alarming rate, and no amount of TLC would revive him. So we sorrowfully planned to chop him up and bid farewell.

But the thing is, we’re both really busy. After dragging the tree and his pot closer to the house, we left him alone for a week or two.

In which time he began to sprout fresh green needles at the end of each bough. And while the boughs and stem remain skeletal and bare, each one boasts a green flourish – a hell yeah, I’m still here, suckers! to the world.

Zombie tree?

I’m concerned this year’s bedecking could mark the end for our fine, if confused, tree, but we’re counting it as a final hurrah for this feisty fir. Whatever comes this January, we’ll know he’s done us proud.

Our little Christmas tree 2015 by Judy Darley

Our little Christmas tree 2015 – year 3.

LittleChristmasTree yr1 and 2

So Merry Christmas, however you choose to spend your day. And as always, remember, however dire things get, don’t give up. You never know what a burst of determination can achieve!!

A giant Bristol bauble

Buoyble by Vicky HarrisonThe ultra-talented Vicky Harrison of Crafting The City has brought an extravagant splash of colour to Bristol’s waterfront in the form of a gigantic crocheted bauble!

In fact, it’s a crochet covered buoy, or ‘buoyble’, as Vicky has dubbed it. This spectacular community project comprises around 1,120 hexagons, which completely transform the massive buoy on Brunel Square, located beside Brunel’s SS Great Britain and on loan from M Shed.

Take a stroll to the dockside this Christmas season to catch a glimpse for yourself! There’s also a possibility of encountering a crocheted crocodile and a flock of woolly seagulls – not quite so festive but equally fabulous.

Eerie, magical beasts

Crow and toes by Rachel FalberI interviewed Rachel Falber for SkyLightRain some time ago, intrigued by the elegant and precise darkness evoked in her deliciously named Hare Raising Designs. I adore the way her artworks always hint at what lies just beneath the surface, not just physically, through the animal skeletons she often draws, but psychologically.

Over the past few years I’ve continued to see Rachel’s creations cropping up at art shows all over Bristol and beyond, and couldn’t resist finding out where she and her work are at now.

Crab print by Rachel Falber

Crab print by Rachel Falber

“Quite a lot has been happening recently,” Rachel says. “Most exciting of all is I am now a Princes Trust Enterprise Young Person, which means I did the four-day course and am attending meetings and workshops to help me launch Hare Raising Designs officially! It’s been amazing and I still have a couple of years’ worth of support with them. Other things I have been up to include re branding myself as a designer and artist, launching new products and trying out new places to sell like markets and Arts Trails.”

Screen printed sperm whale by Rachel Falber

Screen printed sperm whale by Rachel Falber

Rachel’s debut solo exhibition Semblance took place a while back “for a few different reasons, mostly to make myself do a fine art-based body of work, to give myself a time frame to do it in, to get a bit of exposure and to try new things and do some experimenting.”

To achieve this, Rachel had access to a large space “where I could go big and messy”, which became the birthplace of all art for the show.

“I thought the word ‘Semblance’ fitted the themes within my work as well as how I felt people perceive my art,” she explains. “I feel like my fine art has folklore and anthropomorphic themes as well as sometimes having macabre elements to it, but what inspires me to make the work are things that aren’t obviously connected.”

Narwhals by Rachel Falber

Narwhals by Rachel Falber

I love the card above. My husband bought it for me when I was writing some fiction filled with these peculiar, magical sea-beasts, and it always makes me smile to see it.

Research forms the foundation of much of her projects. “I was doing lots of research on quite current things like the internet and our personas both online and off, and how different they can be,” she says. “For example, people who are shy in real life can be outgoing and confident online, even though thousands more people can see them. It’s like they’re using the screen as a mask and a tool to distance themselves from the rest of the world. I took elements of these ideas and elements from more traditional ways people use masks and made art that reacted to it. So, I guess I feel like my art has hidden depths which mirrors the essence of the word ‘semblance’.”

Folklore, mythology and culture all inspire her creations, “also human behaviour and natural history, which is a huge element that spans across all the art and design work I create.”

I’m a huge fan of Rachel’s shadowy view of the natural world, not least her darker-than-average take on Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer, which is serving as my Christmas jumper this year 🙂

Rudolf sweatshirt by Rachel Falber

Currently Rachel is devoting some of her energy to focusing on the business side of things. “The actual creating of work has been put on the back bench while I try and get the business off the ground,” she admits. “I guess I’m developing my work, but from a more business point of view, I’m learning a lot about the things that run alongside creating work, promoting myself, expanding my customer base and getting my products and art out to more people. That takes a huge chunk of time and I’m really experiencing what it’s like to be a one-woman band.”

Collection of work by Rachel Falber

Rachel relishes getting feedback from people who encounter her work through art trails and markets. “I love talking to likeminded people who maybe create themselves or are starting a business of their own,” she comments. “I find great comfort and pride in being able to advise someone on something which helps them in some way, and which I have experienced as a self employed creative. The feeling I get when someone is willing to part with their hard earned money to buy something I’ve made, even just to buy a card, humbles me greatly and I will never take that for granted.”

Rachel has a website for her design work at www.hareraisingdesigns.com, plus a second website solely for her fine art at www.rachelfalber.com.

You can also find her on Etsy, on Twitter as @hareraisingd or @Rachel_Falber, and on Instagram as hareraisingdesigns or rachelfalberartist.

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Give me a shout at judy(at)socketcreative.com!

Botanicals ablaze

Mother's Marjorelle Chair by Grace Green croppedWith an evocative sense of heat and botanical aromas imbuing every artwork, Grace Green’s paintings bring a hit of gorgeous colour to chilly days.

“I’ve always been preoccupied with colour, pattern and texture,” she admits. “As a child I was always drawing. Art is something that’s followed me through all my educational decisions, I took BTEC art and design instead of A levels, and at 16 I knew it was the only subject I wanted to pursue. Both my parents went to art college and my brother too, it’s almost as if I didn’t have a choice!”

Herbaceous Hot House 1 by Grace Green

Herbaceous Hot House 1 by Grace Green

Grace’s vividly fecund paintings are the result of hours of experimentation with different hues.

“I enjoy the way two colours sit with one another more than anything,” she says. “When I left college I went to India for three months, at the time I was unaware of how much it would influence my love for colour. Now I choose my holiday destinations by looking at how colour is used within a country. Nature is so vibrant and not afraid of colour either.”

Herbaceous Hot House 2 by Grace Green

Herbaceous Hot House 2 by Grace Green

It’s abundantly clear from her creations that the natural world is a driving force when it comes to composition.

“I appreciate the contrast between linear structures and organic plant forms, as a reminder of constraints that are placed by man over nature,” she comments. “I notice different patterns next to one another in everyday set ups and it reminds me that pattern is everywhere. When looking under the microscope at something that to the eye seems flat or single tone, you see its make up is so intricate. When I paint I let my minds eye imagine these shapes which allows me to free flow forms next to painted shapes that one can understand.” Continue reading

Take a trip with memory game Arabicity

Arabicity game by Daradam

This beautifully packaged memory game takes a familiar idea and carries it overseas. The first thing that struck me on opening the box was the sweet smell of plywood. Each smooth cornered square sports a miniature artwork, showing an architectural landmark from an Arab country, such as Jordan, Algeria or Lebanon, with the name written in one or two of three languages – English, French or Arabic.

I’ve always believed that reading and playing are two key ingredients for nourishing a child’s empathy and interest in the world. The third is undoubtedly travel. Arabicity is excellent example of how well this can work, encompassing all three elements as the squares offer glimpses of enticingly foreign settings, with each successfully matched pair providing an insight into a language entirely unlike English.

Arabicity game by Daradam1

The smooth, light playing pieces are a pleasure to handle, making this a refreshingly multi-sensory alternative to on-screen games. The illustrations by Noha Habaieb are exquisitely detailed too. Shady stepped streets, grand buildings and friendly locals abound, bringing a sense of distant cities into my chilly British living room.

Arabicity game by Daradam2

Arabicity is created by Daradam, a French-based publishing house that specialises in educational toys inspired by the cultural heritage of the Arab world. “Our concept is to awaken kids’ curiosity for this part of the world,” says founding director Hanna Lenda. “For instance, Arabcity takes players to the narrow streets of Sanaa’s old city, in front of the Samaraa mosque in Irak or to visit the Sursock palace in Beyrouth. Some of these architectural wonders are out of reach these days, and Daradam enables little ones to discover them in a fun way.”

I’m planning to take my younger two nephews on a whirl through Arabicity this Christmas, and I’m pretty sure their art-loving nan will relish the game just as much as they do.

Find out more at www.daradam.com, www.facebook.com/daradamkids and www.instagram.com/daradamkids/

Shades of thought

Feature of Landscape1 by Clare Thatcher

Feature of Landscape1 by Clare Thatcher

The concept of painted landscape representing human emotions is intensely appealing to me. Stormy skies, wind-lashed fields and scenes verging on abstraction can all evoke a state of mind.

It’s a school of thought artist Clare Thatcher is fully enrolled in with her dark, contemplative layers of oil paint applied to linen or plywood.

Formation by Clare Thatcher

Formation by Clare Thatcher

“I’m a Contemporary British artist based in Bristol with a passion for painting,” Clare says. “I attended University of West of England from 2011 till 2014 graduating with a First Class BA Honours Degree in Drawing & Applied Arts, and then gained a MA Fine Art at Bath Spa University. Since graduating I’ve exhibited in London, Belgium, Nottingham, Bristol & Bath.”

It’s the psychological impression of a setting that she aims to capture in her paintings. “My work is deeply connected with a sense of place, taking influence from the idea of liminal space in landscape,” she says. “The locations I choose and the focus of my attention is highly selective, personal and resonant of individual landscape features and associated thoughts, emotions and reflections. The emphasis is upon the sense of contemplation within place.” Continue reading