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

Helena Park’s Shadowlands

Hinterland etching by Helena Park

Hinterland etching by Helena Park

Helena Park learnt at art college that self-motivation is key. “You must become your own agenda-setter,” she says. “Stay true to what you want to make and follow whichever direction it takes you in.”

It’s a lesson that has served her well as she’s pursued her aim of being a working artist.

We met at The Other Art Fair, where Helena was showing her beautiful yet unsettling etchings and monoprints depicting scenes of monstrous hinterlands.

Gossip etching by Helena Park

Gossip etching by Helena Park

“Books have always been my biggest resource,” she says of her inspiration. “When drawing a new series of initial sketches I usually spread out a selection of books around me and pick and choose imagery which catches my interest.”

Much of her work is figurative, so existing images of people with expressive gestures “like an Egon Schiele painting or photographs of dynamic movement” are key to her process. “Ancient art is another inspiration, in particular Mayan, Anglo-Saxon Christian and Ancient Greek artworks,” she says. “I find that there’s a visceral and expressive quality to such works which transcends time and remains relevant to contemporary life.”

Helena enjoys examining her ideas, while protecting their ambiguity. “My concepts for new work are always vague and I like them to remain so,” she says. “This leaves room for me to keep exploring ways of creating a tangible conception of those ideas. I’m drawn to other artists who create a world within their art that’ both highly stylised and immediately recognisable as the artist’s own. This is something which I try to channel and in my own practise.”

This instinctual yet informed approach offers a dark dreaminess to Helena’s work, which often seems to be capturing images from the shadowy subconscious. “Particular figures often reoccur in many of my etchings,” she says. “I like to repeat certain characters in order to test whether they have staying power. In effect, I’m developing a core cast of players in the work. I like the idea that viewers will be able to recognise reoccurring characters throughout the etchings and that through this repetition the characters gain a significance.”

The Conversation etching by Helena Park

The Conversation etching by Helena Park

She builds up images drawing from her own rich imagination as well as through close observational study of the human body.

“A good example of these different attitudes would be the etchings; ‘The Conversation’ and ‘Morning Light’,” she says. “‘The Conversation’ exemplifies my imaginative or stylised approach whilst ‘Morning Light’ comes from my desire to move away from just distorting the human body but rather to make a study of it in it’s true form.”

Morning Light etching by Helena Park

Morning Light etching by Helena Park

Helena created her etching Morning Light by tracing a photograph she’d taken onto a soft-grounded zinc plate. “A soft-ground picks up any impressions you make onto the plate,” she says. “I placed my photograph on top of the grounded plate and with a pen drew the lines of her body. This process is unlike using a hard-ground which requires you to scratch through the waxy layers in order to create a line which can later be etched.”

Other surface marks and textures were added using sugar-lift and spit-bite – painting with acid onto an aquatint. “Through these textures I could convey a damaged or corroded appearance to the girl’s skin which was suggestive of some organism growing on her or perhaps acts of violence,” Helena says. “This particular print led to my making a whole series of further etchings and mono-prints all of which used the same female subject.”

Helena’s core aim is to create a sense of another world, “within which exists a cast of characters I am constantly building on and adding to. The series of etchings entitled ‘Hinterland’ are my largest explorations to date of such an imagined world. I hope to keep exploring this concept in my future work.”

Life Study monoprint by Helena Park

Life Study monoprint by Helena Park

The palpable darkness in Helena’s work seems to be directly at odds with her sunny personality. When I comment on this, Helena is surprised.

“It’s gratifying to hear that you think that I seem cheery, but I admit to occasionally suffering from spells of hanger and that at the times when I have missed lunch my sunny disposition has immediately clouded over,” she exclaims. “In such moments anyone unlucky enough to have be in my vicinity has certainly caught a glimpse of my stormier side.”

As it happens, Helena doesn’t regard her work “as just being unremittingly dark or grotesque. I think that there is a healthy dose of black humour in the work. This comic aspect is very important as it is this sense of humour which I utilise as a vehicle to convey sensitive topics or my personal emotions in an accessible way.”

See more of Helena’s work and purchase art at www.helenapark.co.uk or on her Instagram account: helenapark_ where she regularly post updates on new projects.

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.

In the footprints of Dylan

Seimon Pugh-Jones at the Tin Shed, Laugharne. Photo cr Graham Harris of GPhotography

Seimon Pugh-Jones at the Tin Shed, Laugharne. Photo cr Graham Harris of GPhotography

Dylan Thomas was born on this day in 1914, making it entirely appropriate to celebrate with an artist I met in the town where he wrote much of his poetry, and the play Under Milk Wood.

I encounter Seimon Pugh-Jones in Laugharne while exploring the Tin Shed museum – a marvel of a place dedicated to wartime memorabilia. There’s even an Anderson shelter in the back garden, and countless ephemera such as old letters and guides for American GIs posted in Britain with glorious cultural titbits such as ‘Reserved, not unfriendly…”

Seimon is one of the museum’s founders, with a background in film photography. He’s currently absorbed in painting all the characters from Dylan Thomas ‘play for voices’, Under Milk Wood.

Cherry Owen by Seimon Pugh-Jones

Cherry Owen by Seimon Pugh-Jones

I’d done stills photography for the History Channel. It was for a series called ‘Battle Stations’, which gave me a lot of experience in historical reconstruction pictures,” says Seimon. “That basically means, recreating images in the style of original WW2 pictures. Costume, props and vehicles had to be accurate to the period and then I would create a little story within the image to add some pseudo-reality, if that makes sense.”

Through “being at the right place at the right time”, Seimon was invited to work on Band of Brothers, supplying ‘newsreel’ style footage shot on a vintage camera. “I even got a bit part. That was an amazing experience,” he comments.

Gossamer Beynon by Seimon Pugh-Jones

Gossamer Beynon by Seimon Pugh-Jones

Seimon then became a stills photographer for an American history magazine called Armchair General. “I did ‘reconstruction style photography’ full time for four years, and loved it, but then my contract came to end and I was out of work,” he says. “Because I had a large collection of costume and props, I ended up opening the Tin Shed museum with a friend of mine, Andrew Isaacs, in Laugharne.”

After focusing on working on the museum for several years, Seimon was interviewed for a web-based photo-site. “One of the questions asked me was ‘What’s your next project?’ I’d committed myself to an exhibition of photography at a local gallery, and when I listened back to the interview, I realised I’d lost the enthusiasm for taking pictures.”

PC Attila Rees by Seimon Pugh-Jones

PC Attila Rees by Seimon Pugh-Jones

He adds: “I’m a bit old school, I love shooting on film and working in the dark room. There are some great photographers out there, but Photoshop and computer-manipulated images have taken the magic away from photography for me… But I’d made a promise to fill the gallery, so what could I do? I’d dabbled a bit with painting, nothing serious..so I though, Give it a go!”

Captain Cat by Seimon Pugh-Jones

Captain Cat by Seimon Pugh-Jones

He says producing portraits of Under Milk Wood’s characters was almost inevitable. “I live in Laugharne, virtually opposite to where Dylan Thomas is buried,” he says. “It’s a magical place and I quite understand how he got his inspiration for Under Milk Wood. This led me to take a photograph of a friend of mine, John Bradshaw, dressed as Captain Cat, with a fish on his head, (as you do) as a little photo project. It worked well as a picture, so I thought I’d paint him. It turned out ok. And as Captain Cat needs a Rosie Probert, she was next.”

Rosie Probert by Seimon Pugh-Jones

Rosie Probert by Seimon Pugh-Jones

Using the people of Laugharne as models for this was equally inevitable.

“Rosie Probert was another friend of mine, Lorrain King, who sings in the band I play for, Trenchfoot. That’s another story. As the paintings progressed, I realised I needed models…then I realised it would be so much fun getting my friends involved. So it went on from there.”

Mrs Ogmore Pritchard by Seimon Pugh-Jones

Mrs Ogmore Pritchard by Seimon Pugh-Jones

All kinds of details are to hand to bring the caricatures to life.

“Dylan Thomas has given the caricature such depth and richness, and a back story. I try and make the expressions realistic to those ‘moments’. I also try and incorporate subtle bits of humour.”

Running the Tin Shed museum offers endless opportunities for staging and painting the portraits. “I love vintage fashion, and having props and costume to hand makes it interesting too,” he comments. “The museum is not for profit, we can’t take a wage from it, so being able to paint around the museum, so to speak, is very handy.”

Evans The Death by Seimon Pugh-Jones

Evans The Death by Seimon Pugh-Jones

The lack of technology involved in his painting style is also appealing. “I suppose going back to ‘Old school’ works for me. I think art has replaced what I was missing in photography. It’s a new challenge.”

You can see more of Seimon’s paintings dotted around Laugharne, as well as encountering his models going about their everyday lives in a variety of settings around the village!

No Good Boyo by Seimon Pugh-Jones

No Good Boyo by Seimon Pugh-Jones

He admits that showing his models the finished works is always a tense moment.

“This is the nerve wrenching bit, because Under Milk wood is full of colourful caricatures. I have to make sure my models are comfortable with the casting. But so far, I’ve had a great response… Fingers crossed for the next series!”

Find Seimon at www.pughjones.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 judy(at)socketcreative.com.

An expression of love

DancinginMocoMoco#3 by Natsuko Hattori

DancinginMocoMoco#3 by Natsuko Hattori

Natsuko Hattori’s soft, curving sculptures are beguilingly sensual creations, yet they express sorrow and feelings of helplessness as well as love.

“In 2011, a year after I moved to New York, the earthquake that devastated the northeast Japan happened,” Natsuko explains. “It was very big thing for me. I lost contact with my family and friends for more than a week. I panicked and spent sleepless nights crying. I felt so powerless.”

Sculptures in blue by Natsuko Hattori

Sculptures in blue by Natsuko Hattori

Through her desperation, Natsuko began to wonder if she could do as an artist to express or alleviate these feelings, not just her own, but those experienced by others too. “In the end, I came to the conclusion that I want my art to make people smile, make them feel warm and tender at the moment they feel sad and down,” she says. “I decided to recreate through art what I feel when I think of the word love. To me, to love is to embrace, or to envelop someone or something with warmth, tenderness and affection. So I came up with the idea of wrapping cotton balls in piecse of cloth and putting them together to create a soft sculpture. This is how MocoMoco was conceived.”

SCULPTURES1 by Natsuko Hattori

Sculptures by Natsuko Hattori

She sees textiles as the perfect medium to t communicate emotions on a relatable level.

“Fabric is my medium of choice because people everywhere can relate more easily to this material, which conveys warmth, natural softness and the intimate human touch,” she says. “My works are all made up of my feelings and experiences. People who have seen my work for many years say that each piece of work represents my life and ideas. For me, the work is like a diary, which confines the feelings of that time. Just through looking at my work, I feel my thoughts from that time again.”

Find Natsuko’s sculptures at www.natsukohattori.net 

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.