Stitch by glorious stitch…

Ian Berry artistOne of the features I’ve most enjoyed writing recently is Oh Sew Beautiful for Simply Sewing issue 34 (in shops and available to buy online now). It gave me the chance to interview five exceptional artists who use threads and fabric as their medium.

Harriet Riddell, Ian Berry , Jessica So Ren Tang, Nigel Cheney and Michelle Kingdom each create worlds of light, shade, texture and dreams using their textiles of choice.

India, Living Root Bridge stitch by Harriet Riddell

India, Living Root Bridge stitched by Harriet Riddell

Harriet captures the scenes and faces she encounters on her travels using a peddle-powered sewing machine. “I like to work from life and use my surroundings as a colour reference,” she says. “I love the tactile nature of textiles. I love textures and how strong the use of line can be when in thread.”

Detail by Ian Berry

Detail by Ian Berry

The gorgeous painterly quality of Ian’s artwork is achieved through hours of painstaking effort. “They take a long time to create, layering up the denim pieces and also finding the perfect shade,” he says. “When I open up the pocket, underneath you’ve got such a strong indigo, with a gradient to where the pocket opens. I see the fade in the cat’s whiskers, the amazing contrasts around the belt and a hem, and all of this allows me to use the denim like paint.

Blue Willow Plate detail stitched by Jessica So Ren Tang

Blue Willow Plate detail stitched by Jessica So Ren Tang

Jessica fell in love “with the softness and tactile nature of embroidery. I could create 3D objects and illustrative thread paintings with textile and fabric. It offered the potential to create something new and different.”

Nigel Cheney dog portraits photo by Sylvain_Deleu

Dogs by Nigel Cheney, photo by Sylvain Deleu

Nigel is passionate about fabrics. “There’s something about the quality of colour when it’s in a soft material that can’t be beaten,” he says. “The way that linen will have a faded grandeur and silk a bloom and depth of shimmering colour is so seductive. The tactility of different fibres, their textures and physical properties never fail to make my heart sing.”

Using threads was instinctual for Michelle. “While it’s inherently beautiful, there’s also something primitive, awkward and fragile about it, which strikes me as both compelling and honest,” she says. “Undeniably tactile in nature, embroidery touches not only the seamstress in me, but connects me to the memory of so many women with stories buried in thread that came before me.”

Life Will Divide Us by Michelle Kingdom

Life Will Divide Us by Michelle Kingdom

Michelle’s preferred technique is to use thread loosely as a drawing tool. “More and more I move away from traditional stitch technique and prefer to play with thread in intuitive ways to recreate the medium. I tackle one new piece at a time and continue to plough ahead on new ideas. The medium seems the best way for me to express my private thoughts, and its results still surprise me after all these years.”

Read the full issue in Simply Sewing issue 34.

Reasons to visit AAF Bristol

Channel Orange by Rowdy via Clifton Fine ArtToday the Affordable Art Fair returns to Bristol. *squealswithjoy* Brunel’s Old Station at Temple Meads is already filling up with gorgeous artwork, and I can’t wait to get down there!

If you are after something special and spectacularly original, it’s a great place to go with a wad of cash or a healthy credit card in your pocket. Galleries from across the UK will be representing some extraordinary artists. I’ll be looking out for the Clifton Fine Art stand, which will feature work by the likes of Harry Bunce, Steve Slimm and graffiti artist Rowdy, who painted the vivid beauty at the top of this page.

Waiting For The Cloads To Break by Steve Slimm via Clifton Fine Art

Waiting For The Cloads To Break by Steve Slimm

The fair launches with a Private Charity View tonight from 5.30pm – 9.30pm, and is then open on Friday 9th Sept from 11am – 5pm, with a late view from 5-8pm, on Saturday 10th Sept from 11am till 6pm and on Sunday 11 Sept from 11am till 5pm.

For me the best part is simply to meander the vast space of the Old Station, traversing corridors of exceptional art and letting it set my imagination alight.

Find full details here.

Art to rock your weekend

Seawall by Karen Stamper

Seawall by Karen Stamper

The Other Art Fair returns to Arnolfini in Bristol tomorrow, and I can’t wait! It offers up countless brilliant examples of the exceptional art being created, and I’ve met a few of my favourite artists there, including the wonderful Karen Stamper.

Look out for hand poke tattoo artist Sarah Lu aka Needle and Chopstick, screenings from Encounters Film Festival, plus interactive poetry feature ‘I, the Poet. You, the Poet’ by the Cole sisters, Biba and Laurie. There will also be masses of exceptional exhibiting artists. Don’t miss Rosario Galatioto, Evie Kitt, Alan McLeod, Grace Green, Richard Heys and so many others, along with Karen Stamper who will be there again with her vividly atmospheric collage work.

Not Ready To Tell by Karen Stamper

Not Ready To Tell by Karen Stamper

The Other Art Fair is at Arnolfini, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA from 1st-3rd September 2017. The opening night is 5-9.30pm on Friday, with the show continuing from 10am till 6pm on Saturday and till 5pm on Sunday.

Find full details and buy your tickets here bristol.theotherartfair.com.

Remembered textures

Giselle, detail, oil on linen, by Sophie PloegI love to run my fingertips over beautifully enticing fabrics. Artist Sophie Ploeg is playing with our tactile desires through oil paintings and pastel works that tempt the eyes instead of our sense of touch. It’s a skill that’s somewhat confusing at first glance, as our mind conjures memories of these fabrics against our skin, filling in the information presented by sight. In the same way that a description of food can make us salivate, Sophie feeds other more sensual urges simply through pressing colour to canvass or page in such as way that she perfectly captures the play of light and shade and the texture of draped fabric.

The Shawl, oil on linen by Sophie Ploeg

The Shawl, oil on linen by Sophie Ploeg

After growing up in the Netherlands, Sophie has made her home in England for a very simple reason. “I fell in love! During my research for my PhD, I spent a lot of time in London in various archives and libraries,” she comments. “I met my British husband during these trips and decided to stay. It has been nearly 20 years now and until Brexit I could not imagine ever going back. I am completely integrated and at home here, though I do admit a preference for Dutch cheese.”

Despite Brexit, Sophie is hoping to remain in the UK. “I will stay as this is my home and this is where my children are growing up,” she says. “I love Britain for its love of history and its beautiful nature but I will remain a Dutchie in my heart.”

A passion for art, architecture, photography, fashion and theatre have provided Sophie with the foundations of her life here, but it’s her experiments with recreating lusciously textured textiles in her artwork that caught my eye.

Looking Back, detail, oil on linen by Sophie Ploeg

Looking Back, detail, oil on linen by Sophie Ploeg

“I was always fascinated by painting various textures and have tried to challenge myself with painting water, rocks, sand and so on,” she says. “When I tried fabrics I was hooked.”

To up the ante, Sophie started painting depictions of lace. “This has kept me busy for a few years now,” she says. “It’s still a challenge to really capture the crisp, transparent qualities of the fabric and I doubt I will ever be totally happy about my efforts. Other fabrics like velvet, silk and patterned woven or printed textiles supply an endless source of inspiration.”

Her favourite materials when drawing fabrics are oil paints and pastels. “Other artists might get on better with watercolour, digital mediums, photography or even textile itself,” she comments. “I love oils for its depth of colour and pure beauty. It can make the deepest blacks and the richest blues or reds. With glazing and scumbling you can create beautiful effects. It is hugely versatile and easy to use, it doesn’t dry up and you can play with it endlessly.”

She also loves the precision required to get the most from pastels. “They are very direct in that you cannot pre-mix colours. You have to layer colours in order to mix, which not only forces you to learn about colour but also automatically provides textures and depth.”

The Ritual, oil on linen, by Sophie Ploeg

The Ritual, oil on linen, by Sophie Ploeg

For Sophie, fabrics are brimming with stories – lived, invented and imbued. “Fabrics are full of associations, and history,” she says. “They are tactile and sensuous. They are used for fashion and home furnishings, film and theatre costumes, drapery, sails and sacks. Many people have memories evoked by clothes, many have associations with certain types of textiles. It is one of the richest sources of inspiration for me and I hope to evoke these associations in my paintings. The most lush fabrics such as lace, velvet and silk are the most fun to work with as they are so beautiful and take us to another world of history and imagination.”

Winning the BP Travel Award in 2013 and having her work exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London has given my career a very definite boost, she says. “It was a fantastic experience to not only be included in the show and the buzzing activity that surrounds it, but to have an opportunity to really dive deeper and combine my love of art history with my love of painting,” she says. “It was a proud moment to have a series of works on show at such as prestigious location.”

White Dove, oil on linen, by Sophie Ploeg

White Dove, oil on linen, by Sophie Ploeg

Sophie is currently working on a new series of paintings that springing from her imagination, with some inspiration sourced from works by Old Masters. “These works are freeing me up to experiment and play a little, both of which most artists need to develop their work,” she says. “I am sure this period will help me move my work onwards, and I am excited to explore where it will take me.”

Sophie is also writing about art, art history and painting on my blog and for other publications, “which I enjoy immensely. Find more about me and my work on www.sophieploeg.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.

Ceramics in Flux

Binary by Yurim Gough

One of my favourite artists-to-watch, the brilliant Yurim Gough, is having something of a busy year. Having just finished exhibiting in The RWA’s Drawn exhibition in Bristol, she’s also been selected to show works at the Flux Exhibition in London this July.

FLUX exhibition is on at Chelsea College of Arts, London, from July 12-16th July 2017.

Binary by Yurim Gough

Binary by Yurim Gough

“The ceramic pieces which I will be exhibiting at Flux are much larger than any I’ve created before, but follow on in development from the bowls I’ve made previously,” Yurim explains. “I had the idea that by setting the bowls in relief into a much larger vase, I could display more than one of my individual as part of the same piece.”

It’s a unique method, bringing together Yurim’s beautiful, provocative artworks into tangible series. “It means that I can have a theme for each piece.”

Loves by Yurim Gough

Loves by Yurim Gough

Her first work in the series is a vase with a single concave face in the side, “like a bowl set into it.” The next in the series has two faces, and three and so on up to the sixth piece, which has six faces (would have loved the surprise here of seven faces, but that’s just my contrary side). “The pieces with one, three, four and six faces have been completed and will be exhibited,” Yurim says.

Mother Earth by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

Mother Earth by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

Each vase is a study in compare and contrast, with several opposing and complimentary opposites, Yurim tells me, “such the inverted faces and the pointed tops of the vases, like male and female, yin and yang.”

Birth by Yurim Gough

Birth by Yurim Gough

The first piece, pictured directly above, is titled Birth. “It has one face, showing unity, the sperm and the egg.”

The second piece, shown in the first tow images in this post, is Binary, and is shaped into two concave breasts, or buttocks, with the artwork highlighting these feminine body parts so hyper-sensualised by modern ideals of beauty and fashion.

Wind by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

Wind by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

The fourth work, Elements, offers Yurim’s take on water, fire, wind and mother earth, while the sixth vase, Loves, reveals six different kinds of love.

“I began adding colour to my work at the end of 2015, and found this enabled me to take a new direction with my art,” says Yurim. “When I began carrying out my life drawings on the ceramics, I saw that the pictures in it prompted me to think about the shapes of the human body and how these reflect on the potential of our lives.”

Water by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

Water by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

To explore this idea further, Yurim went beyond her life drawings to sample and blend in images sourced from the internet “to bring the stories I imagined to life.”

It’s an exciting project set to stir intrigue and recognition in viewers to the show. See them for yourself at FLUX exhibition from July 12-16th July 2017, at Chelsea College of Arts, London.

Find full details at fluxexhibition.com and yurimgough.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.

Pianissimo by Louise Gethin

Abandoned piano cr Judy DarleyThe talented Louise Gethin has written this deliciously moving poem in response to last week’s writing prompt – abandoned. Louise is an alumni of Writers Unchained. Thanks so much for sending in your response to the prompt, Louise!

Pianissimo by Louise Gethin

Finger touch tap,
percuss.
‘Why doesn’t it play, mummy?’
Chubby fists beat.
Pause.
‘Can’t you hear it, darling?
Pause.
‘If you listen.’

Boy ears strain for notes.
Insects tickle peeling veneer,
tease strings – no longer rebounding,
or resounding on hammer strike -
struck dumb by rain, by sun
and inquisitive cat.
Weathered sharps softened black to mute,
ivories silent.
‘I’m listening.’

Woman hears chord on wind
stir memory of songs played dolce;
of dances and waltzes stepped to fingertip touch.
Fortissimo, yes, fortissimo – beating heart of home,
wrought, fine-tuned to perfect pitch.
Scales and arpeggios tumbling, turning, slipping, sliding;
minor melancholies resolved in a cadence.

Creak
Hinge squeak
Iron moan
Wheel lost
Woodworm hole
All rots
Shh.

If you write or create something prompted by a post on SkyLightRain.com, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. It’s magical to discover the flurries  being prompted by my ramblings!

To the wilds of Iceland and back again

Mountains, Iceland by Lilly Louise Allen

Mountains, Iceland by Lilly Louise Allen

Falling for picturebooks as a child fuelled Lilly Louise Allen’s determination to become an artist.

“I was absolutely in love with my picture books as a child, the more detailed the better!” she recalls. “I had a great imagination and was always making something from posters to little books.”

Wild Mushrooms by Lilly Louise Allen

Wild Mushrooms by Lilly Louise Allen

At school Lilly continued to learn new skills and express herself through art. “Then I feel there was a lightbulb moment with the ‘new wave’ of Illustration which happened in the early millennium – then there was a resurgence of books on the subject and companies used illustration more frequently. A book which really got me into contemporary Illustration and realising it was a viable occupation was ‘Hand to Eye’ by Lawrence King Publishing, which showed a broad range of Illustrators at work at the time.”

Bembridge Windmill by Lilly Louise Allen

Bembridge Windmill by Lilly Louise Allen

Other influences include the work of Lucinda Rogers, Julie Verhoeven and Tom Gauld. “I’m attracted to the storytelling that can be accomplished with just a single picture, the magic which can be created and the fact that an illustrator can orchestrate the mood of a picture, from humour and charm through to the surreal and thought provoking.”

Inspirations included “people, food, the countryside, the sea, travelling, reading, other artists – all sorts of different subjects! I don’t like to limit my subject matter either; I’m open to trying anything new if it feels good.”

Green House, Iceland, by Lilly Louise Allen

Green House, Iceland, by Lilly Louise Allen

More recent adventures include an artist’s residency in Iceland.

“I had been thinking about doing an artist’s residency but it felt like more of a daydream than something that would come to fruition!” she admits. “I looked at several websites and found the Residency Unlimited website. It was full of amazing places but The Fish Factory Creative Centre in Stöðvarfjörður in the east fjords immediately stood out to me. It looked like looked like an absolutely beautiful place and the ethos behind the centre really resonated with me.”

She quotes from the website: “The Creative Centre is an ongoing collaborative and community project and our actions and aims are based on sustainable principles and alternative methods. We want to regenerate and sustain our small village by making it into a possible and desirable place to settle – a place where you can have engaging jobs, enjoy culture, and the influx of new ideas and creative people.”

No wonder Lilly couldn’t resist. Living as she does on the Isle of Wight, Lilly also felt an affinity with the isolated located.

“I live on an island which is often faced with similar issues, certainly a lack of jobs and opportunities, especially for the younger generations growing up here. With shops and community facilities frequently closing down, it’s often Art in its varying forms and community that can help more than anything else.”

Ice Store, Iceland by Lilly Louise Allen

Ice Store, Iceland by Lilly Louise Allen

Lilly set off for Iceland with these thoughts firmly in mind. “I wanted to look at the importance of solitude to myself and to people in general,” she says. “To be alone but not lonely is something I find interesting. It’s often in these quiet times that our strongest ideas can appear and we find what we really want from life. I certainly found the time for quiet contemplation and a peacefulness inspiring. It feels completely unique to Iceland and particularly to the remote East Fjords where Stöðvarfjörður is located. There were no planes flying over head, few cars passing you by on the roads, no crowds of people or noises other than the wind, the water coming into the shore and the sound of your own footsteps – heaven.”

Turf House, Iceland by Lilly Louise Allen

Turf House, Iceland by Lilly Louise Allen

The life in the village and what she calls “the human element” also interested Lilly. “Many homes are occupied but there are a lot of holiday homes and some which are empty,” she says. “I took photos of every house in the main part of the village and it really made me look at each of their characteristics, reflecting the people who resided inside currently or in a previous occupancy. I also created large watercolour pictures which I hope reflect all of these thoughts.”

Photograph of Icelandic house by Lilly Louise Allen

Photograph of Icelandic house by Lilly Louise Allen

In addition, Lilly took sound recordings at places where she paused during her walks around the area. “It felt good to try things which I don’t normally do – photograph and sound are new elements in my work and were influenced by the other artists I lived with, which was another wonderful part of the Artists’ Residency!”

Lilly came away with a sense of being at the start of something special. “I’m pleased with what I created whilst I was there but I feel it is only just beginning in a way,” she says. “I can now reflect on everything and find a way of consolidating the project in what I hope will be an exhibition.”

Preparing to work by Lilly Louise Allen

Preparing to work by Lilly Louise Allen

Lilly relishes her life as an artist. “What I love most is that magical time when I’m painting and am completely unaware of what’s going on around me, when the work is immersive and it feels exciting,” she says. “It’s quite hard to explain but its much like when you’re reading a great book and can’t wait to read the next line, the next chapter and then you wish it wasn’t over when you’re finished. If people can sense that feeling when they look at the work and it makes them feel something too then there’s nothing better.”

You can see more of Lilly’s work at www.lillylouiseallen.com, read her blog at www.lillylouiseallen.blogspot.com and find her on Twitter as @LillyLAllen and on Instagram as @LillyLouiseAllen. She will be taking part in the Isle of Wight Open Studios from 14-24th July 2017.

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.

Beneath the surface

Turtle by Cai BurtonArtist Cai Burton has a unique talent for capturing the natural world. Using fineliner pens, he fills pages, and the occasional wall, with swoops, circles and dots that conjure up a creature or scene that bubbles with life.

“I think I’ve always loved making patterns,” he comments. “You look back to my school books and they were covered in them. My friends used to sit and watch me draw in our physics class (Sorry Mr Gregson and Ms Wales!). But since then, that’s carried through and become an intrinsic part of the work I create today.”

The Great Bear by Cai Burton

The Great Bear by Cai Burton

Cai describes the work of creating his artworks as a mindful experience. “I absolutely love the process that goes into it, and I think that’s as important as the finished piece,” he says. “It’s almost as though I’m watching the illustrations come to life as I’m drawing them, which is a cheesy, but exciting, feeling.”

Mug Designs by Cai Burton

Recently Cai has begun producing mugs and greetings cards emblazoned with his patterns, as well as carrying out mural commissions for clients such as Mercure.

Whale by Cai Burton

His marine series have become an enduringly popular part of his output, but began on a whim. “I just fancied drawing a whale, so I did!” he says. “In all seriousness, though, I’m both in awe and terrified of the ocean, and I was feeling inspired to create something different. I like to think of it as inspiration striking in a flash! Ever since then I’ve enjoyed finding more about the amazing creatures that inhabit our oceans.”

His respect for these animals shows on the page – portrayed usually in black on white, their strength and serenity is vividly portrayed.

Seahorses by Cai Burton

Cai is equally passionate about the work dreamt up by other artists. “Generally, I love finding work from other illustrators and artists! It’s SO inspiring when you find someone who creates beautiful work – I love it.”

You Star Pattern Card by Cai Burton

He thrives on the energy generated by following his own creative urges.

“I really love being my own boss,” he says. “I love the freedom to be able to do exactly what I want and not to answer to anyone – well, except for clients. It’s amazing to be able to come into my studio and decide to just spend the morning drawing, because I can. It means I can really shape my business into something I love and am proud of.”

Octopus2 by Cai Burton

Octopus2 by Cai Burton

Cai’s work frequently appears at art markets and art trails in the Bristol area. “I’m also exhibiting at Grounded in Horfield, where you can see my animal illustrations as well as a few others,” says Cai. “I’ve just launched a brand-spanking new website which has got all of my illustrations as prints and products as well as a collection of most of my work.”

Find it at www.caiburton.co.uk.

Mercure-Mural-Mark-006Are 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.

 

 

The power of music

Judy Darley and her dad, Philip DarleyToday, Thursday 18th May 2017, is the inaugural National Memory Day, celebrating the power of creativity to aid people with memory impairments such as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

My dad, Philip, is one of those people. In an effort to connect with him, I recently persuaded his former choir, the excellent City of Bristol Choir, to bring some of their finest alto, soprano, tenor and bass voices to his care home and sing. It was a magical and heart wrenching experience.

I wrote about it for The Bristol Magazine. You can read the full feature here.

An artist’s eyes

Casely-Hayford for Tate Britain Great British Walks

Casely-Hayford for Tate Britain’s Great British Walks

I’m a fan of telly channel Sky Arts, and the wonderfully engaging ways they come up with to excite audiences with a love of fine art.

Their latest offering, Tate Britain’s Great British Walks, invites half a dozen celebrities to discover the landscapes that inspired their favourite paintings, chosen from Tate’s national collection.

Flatford Mill by John Constable

Flatford Mill by John Constable

Taking part are Richard E Grant, Michael Sheen, Cerys Matthews, Miriam Margolyes, Danny Baker and Simon Callow, with artwork by John Constable, JMW Turner, William Hogarth, Alfred Wallis, William Powell Frith and Josef Herman revealing some of the UK’s most impressive scenery, from the bucolic to the squalid to the enchanting.

Norham Castle by JMW Turner, chosen by Cerys Matthews

Norham Castle by JMW Turner, chosen by Cerys Matthews

Singer, songwriter and broadcaster Cerys Matthews shares her love of Turner’s more tranquil works, as she heads to the Scottish Borders to discover the majestic Norham Castle, painted by Turner in 1798.

Along the way, art historian Gus Casely-Hayford joins the guests to reveal the stories behind and around their chosen paintings.

“I thought I knew Britain, but seeing it through an artist’s eyes was like seeing it for the very first time,” says Gus. “Stepping into worlds created by some of our greatest landscape painters and walking the very paths that they once trod has changed the way that I feel about our country.”

The Derby Day by William Powell Frith

The Derby Day by William Powell Frith

I love the idea of rediscovering familiar paintings and scenery in this visceral way beyond the art gallery’s walls, and of glimpsing insights into the actors and broadcasters who have selected them.

Tate Britain’s Great British Walks will screen in six one-hour episodes from 2nd May 2017 at 9pm on Sky Arts.