Writing prompt – direction

Lavender Farm way in sign by Judy Darley

Sometimes a story just won’t take root, however much you love the seedling idea. If that happens, try a change of direction.

Look at your cast of characters and assign a different one the role of narrator, change their gender, turn your protagonist from good to bad, switch from past to present tense or go from first to third person point of view, or vice versa. Far from just tweaking the occasional word or pronoun, you’ll find ripples travelling through the entire text, and may even see new plot lines bob into sight.

And if that doesn’t work, change the narrator, tense, point of view or moral code back again, but collect up the most interesting traits and nuances that have shifted along the way.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

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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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.

The investigative artist

Suspension Bridge at Night by Nigel Shipley

Nigel Shipley has been a firm fixture on Bristol’s art scene since beginning his Bristol Cityscapes series in 2004. Using bold brushstrokes and his own luminous sense of colour, he captures the urban landscape’s spirit as well as its appearance.

An avid curiosity and skilful use of controlled and uncontrolled accidents influence the direction of his work, imbuing his finished pieces with a sense of organic energy.

“Leonardo da Vinci urged artists to search for inspiration in the dirt on walls or the streaked patterns in stones,” Nigel explains when speaking of his own methodology. “In the same way I have found that the accidental blot, the chance mark, or the naturally occurring stain can be a starting point for my art.”

Suspense by Nigel Shipley

An example of such an accident led to Nigel’s painting Suspense (shown above). “Some random marks led to an idea of the tension of two blocks of colour, of the same weight, close to each other, almost touching, but apart,” Nigel says. “The intense red block in this painting became a ground lying at the bottom, and the dark blue/black block came to hover just above at a slight angle. The dark block is forever calmly suspended in space, held in place by the strength of the red block. A stormy landscape emerged behind them.”

This blend of tranquillity and vigour seems to represent the artist himself, as well, as he explores his own impressions of the world and internal emotions with equal interest.

Painting an abstract image is like feeling your way in the dark,” he comments, echoing the sentiment on his website’s About page. “In all of my paintings I try to achieve a sense of space and depth. I try to capture things such as emotions, a sense of calm or energy, a link to nature or an organic process.”

Warm Grey and Yellow Gold by Nigel Shipley

He cites as an example his painting Warm grey and yellow gold (shown above). “The creation of this included painting a board with white acrylic paint and then washing a thin grey oil paint over it and allowing it to gently slide down the front of the board,” says Nigel. “The oil and acrylic paints reacted to each other and the grey paint fractured into tiny cracks. The pattern of these cracks is similar to those you might find in nature, such as when mud dries. This natural cracking process created something of the infinite complexity that we find when we look closely at nature.”

Before falling headlong into abstract painting, Nigel’s work was far more figurative.

June 2013, part of Nigel Shipley's Tango series

June 2013, part of Nigel Shipley’s Tango series

“For many years I painted cityscapes of Bristol, or tango dancers, and these paintings sold well and were popular,” he recalls. “Then I took a break from painting to work on building a new home for myself and when I had time again to paint I decided that my painting was becoming stale and I needed a bigger challenge. I started to look at abstract paintings and then began to create my own.”

Taste of Heaven by Nigel Shipley

Taste of Heaven by Nigel Shipley

The degree of difficulty involved in abstract painting is one of its attractions for Nigel. “I couldn’t return to my previous figurative representations of Bristol harbour, because they would be too easy and I would become bored. I don’t become bored with my abstract paintings, but I may become exasperated as I struggle with them.”

In other words, exasperation is preferable to boredom when it comes to experimenting with paint. This outlook is perhaps shaped by Nigel’s experiences of studying art in the 1970s.

“I didn’t have a happy time at Norwich School of Art in the 70s,” says Nigel. ”They wanted me to create welded steel sculptures, but I didn’t. I left art school feeling disillusioned with fine art world and went on to study cabinetmaking.”

At that time, few artists had the possibility of making a successful living, Nigel says. “I didn’t feel that I fitted in. Coming back to fine art in Bristol in the ’90s I found new opportunities to succeed. I picked up where I had left off twenty years earlier and reinvented my identity as an artist.”

Autumn Landscape by Nigel Shipley

Autumn Landscape by Nigel Shipley

Nigel lives with his partner, professional (and very talented) sculptor and art teacher Sophie Howard. “Her emotional and practical support is very important to my work as an artist,” Nigel says. “I greatly respect her opinion about my work, and sometimes she can give me insights about what I’m doing that I might otherwise have missed. We share a pleasure in seeing art and meeting artists, and living a creative lifestyle.”

Nigel’s creative life is about far more than painting, these days. “I relish how I can use creativity in everything I do,” he says. “I also love tango dancing, and dance at least one evening a week. This is a complex dance with a rich culture of music and Argentina. Recently I took part in a performance on the theme of happiness and pleasure.”

Deep Blue by Nigel Shipley

Deep Blue by Nigel Shipley

Nigel also uses his adeptness at my creative thinking in other parts of his life and work. “For example, when after years of looking Sophie and I could not find the home that we wanted, we decide to build our own Grand Design.

The result is unique home in the centre of Bristol, called Hours. “It incorporates a space that is sometimes an art gallery, and at other times a dance hall, or a venue for creative writing, poetry, yoga and much more.”

Far Horizon by Nigel Shipley

You can see all of Nigel’s currently available paintings at www.nigelshipley.com. “I will have an exhibition of my paintings at HOURS (Colston Yard, Bristol) on 13th October. I have a studio at Unit 5, Barton Manor, Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0RL, and I’m happy to meet people there if they would like to see how I work. I have recently taken part in the Bristol Other Art Fair which was organised by Saatchi Art and included 100 artists from around the world chosen from 500 who applied. I plan to take part in this again in 2019.”

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 – art

Philip's art. Photo by Judy DarleyToday’s #WritingPrompt is inspired by my dad. It amazes me how art can help to sustain us in the most challenging of circumstance. I myself write prose poetry and poems to manage the emotional strain of visiting my dad in his care home. He’s afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease and Semantic Dementia which has made language particularly elusive.

Yet on a recent visit, following a fairly nonsensical chat, he picked up some pieces of napkin, tore them and placed two of them as shown above. It felt like he was trying to both make sense of and communicate something. He told me the middle piece was the people, and the one underneath was something he couldn’t get to or reach.

I added the top piece. He considered it with great seriousness, and then smiled. I think the collaborative, ‘reaching out’, aspect of it pleased him.

His earnestness really moved me, and I believe that many admired artists could toil for months with a far less profound outcome.

Strip back a message or emotion to two or three components that interest you, then create a story or a piece of art imbued with those words or feelings. Alternatively, take the words expressed here: people, out of reach, collaborating or reaching out, and write something inspired by these sentiments.

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.

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Writing prompt – signpost

Too Far_photo credit Judy DarleyIf you’ve visited Bristol, you may be aware that certain sign-posts have been added too with helpful advice. This one seems like it could be a warning against heading to Temple Meads Station and actually leaving the city. On the other hand, there’s something enticing about following a sign that invites you to go too far!

Bristol is wonderfully blessed with a population that loves to contribute a hint of weirdness and magic to the urban landscape. To me it speaks volumes about the local culture and personality.

Where could this sign lead? What would you put up in its place to reflect your own neighbourhood’s character?

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.

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Writing prompt – proposal

Marry Me street art, Stokes Croft. Photo by Judy DarleyWhat better way to declare your undying love than with a gigantic bit of street art that spells out your honourable intentions for all to see?

Get inside the head of the person who went to all this effort, or of the person this grand gesture was intended for. Do you think the outcome was a happy one?

In case you were wondering, the real life version of this scenario had a happy ending, but it’s entirely up to you whether your characters fare likewise…

Marry Me response_StokesCroft. Photo ju Judy Darley

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.

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Writing prompt – spirit

Les Colomes by Michael Pendry. Photo by Judy Darley.During a recent visit to Salisbury I made a special stop at the cathedral to see this beautiful exhibit by artist Michael Pendry, titled Les Colomes. It features more than 2,500 paper doves flocking in the cathedral nave.

The sculpture inspired a spectacular community project. Beyond the cathedral, paper doves flutter in windows across Salisbury, depicting the locals’ refusal to succumb to fear, following the chemical attack in the city last March, which poisoned former Russian spy Sergei Scribal and his daughter and Yulia.

Imagine a peaceful town becoming the epicentre of some kind of attack. How might the townspeople decide to show their resilience?

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.

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Art as a sensory experience

Gloaming by Ange Mullen-Bryan

Gloaming by Ange Mullen-Bryan

For artist Ange Mullen-Bryan, creating paintings is a sensory experience. For starters, there are the materials she uses: oil as a medium and canvas or linen as a base. “I often use coloured linens, using that colour as part of the painting and often leaving areas of the linen unpainted as part of the image,” Ange says. “Sometimes while on location in Sweden I paint with acrylic on unprimed plywood panels using the wood grain and texture as part of the work, again leaving areas unpainted.”

Evig - eternal by Ange Mullen-Bryan

Evig – eternal by Ange Mullen-Bryan

The texture of these materials is important to Ange. “I paint very intuitively and instinctively,” she explains. “Light conditions, choice of music and even smells contribute to the work. The mood of a painting is established as much in the studio as it is in my mind.”

Nearly all of Ange’s paintings are inspired by the landscape of Sweden or other remote Scandinavian locations. “I have been visiting a part of central Sweden for the last 21 years,” she says. “We stay in a cabin a few feet from the lake shore with no running water and no electrics. It is a very important place to me and its remote and beautiful landscape provides endless inspiration and scope for new work.”

Regn by Ange Mullen-Bryan

Regn by Ange Mullen-Bryan

Rural scenery, Ange says, serves as a vehicle “to describe emotions and experience through the medium of painting. Each painting is a journey to somewhere I don’t really know.”

Intriguingly, each work of art is a voyage of discovery. “The painting reveals itself along the way and is often very different from the place in which I began,” Ange says. “The initial idea that made me start the painting is often left far behind as the painting takes its own path and I follow it. I try not to think too much and give myself up to the journey, that’s where the painting really begins, when you are no longer consciously aware of it.”

Borta - Gone by Ange Mullen-Bryan

Borta – Gone by Ange Mullen-Bryan

For Ange the greatest pleasure is, as she put it, “That opportunity to enter into that altered state, that flow state you hear many artists and musicians talk about it. It’s rare and fleeting and the thing you are always trying to achieve. And if you find it you cannot be conscious of it, otherwise it’s lost again by the very fact that you have become aware of it.”

Completing a painting offers up is own set of emotions. “There are a few moments after you finish a painting when you feel certain and complete and relieved, when it is finished and the whirlwind of compulsion to make something is over,” Ange says. “Sometimes that moment comes after a few hours or many months but that certainty about what you do is also really rewarding. And then the process begins all over again.”

Floodlight by Ange Mullen-Bryan

Floodlight by Ange Mullen-Bryan

Despite seeking creative paths throughout her life, Ange didn’t begin to think of herself as an artist until she was in her 20s. “I was very interested in photography and spent endless hours at secondary school in a small cupboard that had been made into a darkroom,” she recalls. “I also liked pottery and lace making, textiles and so on, but also creative writing was really important to me.”

While in the midst of her Art foundation year, Ange had the opportunity to make large oil paintings. “Suddenly it all made perfect sense and I had a language that I totally understood in a different way to anything else,” she says. “But it was probably about 10 years after that that I really found my own way of painting, and I was painting consistently throughout that time. I was steadily learning to find my own voice, I guess.”

Photography, collage, textiles and creative writing are all still a huge part of Ange’s creative practise.

Milk Herb by Ange Mullen-Bryan

Milk Herb by Ange Mullen-Bryan

“Some of my work is exhibited at the St Michaels Bistro in Painswick, Gloucestershire (The Painswick Centre, Bisley Street, Painswick. Gloucestershire. GL6 6QQ), at the moment. Also my studio is an open one so you can call in and meet me and view the work, she says, adding: “Generally by appointment works best.”

Find Ange on Instagram as @ange_jolene, on Twitter as @Angelajolene, and at her website www.angemullenbryan.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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Writing prompt – canoe

Canoe by Hattie BuckwellThis beautiful picture is part of artist Hattie Buckwell‘s tantalising Explore The World print. Send your imagination on a journey and conjure up an adventure – it could be across oceans or over mountains, or simply through an Ikea on a hectic weekend!

What challenges could your intrepid travellers encounter? What might they discover about themselves and each other?

Read my interview with Hattie Buckwell.

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.

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