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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A global odyssey

Starry Roundscape by Hattie Buckwell

Starry Roundscape by Hattie Buckwell

Discovering the imaginative illustrations created by Hattie Buckwell is a little like finding an opening in the back of your wardrobe, and stumbling out into the version of the world you always hoped was true.

It’s an impression only deepened by the shape of her Dreamscapes Within Roundscapes series, offering the sense of looking through a telescope or porthole.

“I have a bit of thing for circles, painting within a circle is much closer to what we see through circular pupils,” Hattie admits. “Our field of vision is somewhere between a circle and an oval so I love this way of illustrating.” 

Mountains to Climb Oceans to Swim

Mountains to Climb Oceans to Swim by Hattie Buckwell

Inspiration often comes to light when Hattie is on the move. My series of ‘Homes of the World’ came from a love of travelling – imagining what its like to live up a treehouse or surrounded by snow-capped mountains,” Hattie says. “I love to paint places I’ve been (or want to go to), recording what it feels like to be in a particular part of the world.”

Homes of the World by Hattie Buckwell

Homes of the World by Hattie Buckwell

As you might expect, lots of Hattie’s illustrations stem from her love of walking amid nature, and from her passion for travel. “I always have a sketchbook on me and draw a lot, bringing together elements from different ideas into paintings later.”

Hattie also loves watching documentaries and reading ‘proper nature encyclopaedias’. “I really enjoy of infographics of all kinds, learning with pictures, symbols on maps,” she says. “Some of my illustrations came from a want for a visual guide to something, for example, ‘Eat Fresh’ is an illustrated guide to what food is in season.”

Eat Fresh by Hattie Buckwell

Eat Fresh by Hattie Buckwell

In fact, many of Hattie’s artwork titles read like instructions for living well and enjoying life: Eat fresh, explore, feast, swim wild…

There’s a real sense of narrative in Hattie’s illustrations, which I find irresistibly enticing.

I often work on a series of illustrations, with individual pieces coming together to tell a story,” she comments. “I recently completed my ‘Explore’ Series, playing with illustrating tiny people exploring vast natural landscapes. Some by canoe, some skiing down slopes, some pulled by huskies. Through illustration I can create miniature worlds for the viewer to explore. I enjoy adding tiny details to spot little going-on’s within the tiny worlds seen in the paintings.”

Surfing by Hattie Buckwell

Surfing by Hattie Buckwell

Various elements of Hattie’s past and present influences these tiny worlds.

I grew up doing house-swaps with my family, swapping homes with people living all over the world,” she recalls. “So much more than a holiday, it allows you to really get a feel for life on the other side of the world. I feel very lucky to have so many memories and photos to draw inspiration from. Now I live in Bristol, such a thriving creative community and always so much to see and do – it is a constant source of energy to make.”

When I first picked up one of Hattie’s business cards, she described herself as a textile artist, a element of her past that immediately intrigued me, especially with reference to its impact on her art today.

Koi by Hattie Buckwell

Koi by Hattie Buckwell

“I trained as a textile artist – my work was based around colour, colour mixing, traditional dyeing and print techniques, and creating repeat prints from my illustrations,” she tells me. “At the beginning of a painting I still use a lot of the same processes of testing colours, playing with different layers of detail. I love to dye and play with textiles, but my first love was always in drawing & painting. The simplicity of working on sheets of paper, I feel freer to concentrate on the illustration itself.”

She still finds a lot of  satisfaction in creating a design which repeats perfectly, “like ‘Koi’. In the future I would love to work on some more repeat illustrations which could be printed on fabric, but for now I’m still revelling in the simplicity of paper and colour.”

Swim Wild by Hattie Buckwell

Swim Wild by Hattie Buckwell

Being an artist suit Hattie’s free spirit perfectly. “I love that every day is different, and that I can work on lots of different projects at once,” she says. “If it’s a sunny Monday I can just go and explore or spend the day planting in the garden if I want to. When I first went to art collage, I couldn’t believe that I could work on creative projects all day. Now I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else! It’s been a lot of hard work to get to where I am today, but I’m so proud to be able to do this full-time.”

Feast by Hattie Buckwell

Feast by Hattie Buckwell

Hattie co-owns Blaze shop and studio at 84 Colston Street in Central Bristol, “so naturally this has the best selection of my work. It’s a co-operative run by artists and we are proud to sell the work of more than 60 Makers living in Bristol, from printmaking to ceramics to original paintings. It’s right in the middle of the Christmas Steps Arts Quarter which has so many fantastic independent shops to explore.”

Check out Hattie’s website www.hattiebuckwell.co.uk to see more of her work and her online shop, and find a list of current stockists. Hattie’s artworks make great writing prompts too!

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.SaveSave

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Wading in

Big Blue No. 1 by Emma JacksonI’ve been entranced by the art of Emma Jackson ever since encountering the contemplative peace of her canvasses at Bristol Affordable Art Fair and discovering that she is prone to wading right into the watery scenes she recreates. It’s an immersive technique that helps her to fully experience her surroundings, and thereby convey them more compellingly to us, the viewers.

“The more directly I come into contact with nature, the more I am able to make an emotional connection with and make sense of a place,” she explains.

Big Blue No.5 by Emma Jackson

Big Blue No.5 by Emma Jackson

For her recent BIG Blue series, she’s delved into recreations of an underwater world glimpsed off-shore from Australia and Hawaii “where I was lucky enough to go diving and experience at first hand the ethereal quality of nature and life beneath the ocean.”

Back on dry land in her studio, Emma uses a range of photographs for an initial set of drawings, “then I create a music playlist to set the scene before I can start painting. I played Modern Kosmology by Jane Weaver over and over again during my Blue painting sessions.”

Big Blue No. 2 by Emma Jackson

Big Blue No. 2 by Emma Jackson

Each of Emma’s paintings begins as a search for “the ‘Genius Loci’ the spirit of a place. I’m quite often drawn in be a certain light at a certain time of day. I’m currently experimenting with some nighttime photography to capture that very special light between day and night.”

Quarry No. 6 by Emma Jackson

Quarry No. 6 by Emma Jackson

Forests, oceans, quarries and streams all play their part in feeding both Emma’s urge to be outside. As she mentions in her artist statement, “I start the creative process by getting outside, walking and exploring, sometimes trespassing searching for unusual and remote areas within the landscape. This could be a deserted slate quarry in the Lake District, an ancient woodland in Scotland or island-hopping in Finland. It’s important to make an emotional connection with the place before I can start to make art. I will spend a lot of time in one place, taking photographs and making quick sketches. It is essential to capture the ‘sense of place’ before I head back to the studio and start making art.”

Finland No. 6 by Emma Jackson

Finland No. 6 by Emma Jackson

Her pieces offer slices of shadow and light, and a hint of the movement of a breeze over water and through leaves. There’s a suggestion that if you concentrate and inhale with care you may just catch a whiff of damp earth and the heat of living things. “I’m aiming to recreate the emotional experience I had at the time of being there,” she comments. “This is sometimes representational or it can be quite abstract. I think my work is most successful when they reflect both styles – semi abstract.”

River No. 1 detail by Emma Jackson

River No. 1 detail by Emma Jackson

Life as an artist suits Emma through and through, as she relishes “thefreedom and diversity, and the opportunity to travel and see the world.”

From 21st-25th March Emma was lucky enough to head to the New York Spring Affordable Art Fair where she exhibited with London-based gallery Wills Art Warehouse.

For details of all Emma’s latest work and exhibitions, visit emmajackson.org.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.

A moment’s respite

Old Harry Rocks by Gilly Mound

Old Harry Rocks by Gilly Mound

There’s an enticing hint of reminiscence about Gilly Mound’s mixed media artworks – looking at them I find myself recalling childhood holidays to picturesque villages, often within sight of the sea and almost always within earshot of sheep. The vivid colours and bold shapes are deliciously inviting, with an impression of sunshine throughout.

“I have always loved colour,” Gilly comments. “Initially my art was based around mixed media and stitch and was quite colourful, but not as bold. Then a few years ago I decided to pare down the media and processes I was using and began to experiment with acrylics. I was instantly hooked.”

Home From Home by Gilly Mound

Home From Home by Gilly Mound

Gilly describes her style as “quite ‘blocky’ and naïve. Acrylic is a perfect media for this style.”

Her surroundings are frequently the impetus of a new work of art. “For me it’s down to environment,” Gilly explains. “I live in the countryside where the changing seasons are very defined and inspirational. I love to walk in a rural landscape of fields, trees, leaves and sheep! And the British coastline, particularly Cornwall and Wales is very influential in providing imagery of little boats and harbours.”

Little Harbour by Gilly Mound

Little Harbour by Gilly Mound

Gilly is also a fan of ceramic pots and jugs, and these, too, appear in many of her works as still life elements, often providing a foreground focus to an idyllic view. I love the details she chooses to include, such as the pebbles in the scene above.

Three Sheep crop by Gilly Mound

Three Sheep, crop, by Gilly Mound

Gilly’s aim is to share her affection for the places she lives close to in Worcestershire’s Teme Valley, and the locations she visits.

“I try to portray the way I feel about places and everyday objects rather than capture their exact visual reality,” she says. “For instance, my painting of Bayards Cove, Dartmouth, is pared down and stylised but still recognisable as the subject.”

Bayard's Cove by Gilly Mound

Bayard’s Cove by Gilly Mound

Prior to immersing herself in fine art, Gilly worked as a fabric retailer and knitwear designer, before studying and then teaching fashion and textiles. I couldn’t resist asking how she feels her background in this area impacts on her work.

“A really interesting question!” she exclaims. “I believe it has given a commercial leaning to my work. Colour, shape, pattern and form are important features of fashion and textile design and yes, I believe these ‘organising’ factors do influence me when I am making art.”

Where I Want To Be by Gilly Mound

Where I Want To Be by Gilly Mound

The pleasure of creating is evident in her work. “That moment of making art and ‘being in the zone or flow’ is a priceless experience,” she says. “Unfortunately it doesn’t happen every day, but when I’m fully connecting with my work there’s a sense of immense satisfaction in simply being involved in the creative process. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

Find more of Gilly’s work at www.gillymound.co.ukThe Art Agency, 118 – 120 High St, Esher KT10 9QJ and Whalley Fine Art & Framing, Holywood, Belfast, Co. Down.

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 power in portraiture

Untitled 2 by Hatty Butler

Vigorous brushstrokes, spray paint and mixed media give Hatty Butler’s portraits an uncommon vitality. They have statements to make and personalities to exude, and little time or patience for the uncertain viewer.

“I’m drawn to painting people because the idea of representing someone in a new form fascinates me,” says Hatty, who studied BA Hons Fine Art at Bath Spa University. “I love creating an image of someone and bringing it into a whole new dimension, giving the individual a new life. The concept of bringing a likeness of the person the painting yet adding a contemporary, energetic aspect is, for me, hugely exciting and inspiring.”

The scale of the pieces is immense: it’s as though their fizzing force of character has transformed them into giants.

Hatty Butler, artist

“The energies and emotions I aim to capture of those just under the surface, those that we may try and hide in day to day life,” Hatty says. “It’s all about those feelings of vulnerability and a stripped back version of our existence.”

Pink Is For Me Too by Hatty Butler

Pink Is For Me Too by Hatty Butler

She adds: “I am also passionate about portraying individuals that may be overlooked or criticised by society for being different. We live in a society where the abnormal is sometimes laughed at and my aim is to alter these outdated views. Art can be the most innovative and compelling means of providing change within our society. I challenge the viewer, encouraging them to look deeper into the painting than just the portrait itself, to raise internal issues and try to comprehend them.”

My Hair Is Pink, So What? by Hatty Butler

My Hair Is Pink, So What? by Hatty Butler

Hatty’s own mood shifts drastically while she is painting. “At the start of creating a new piece I feel a mixture of excitement for the unknown, yet also apprehensive how it will turn out,” she admits. “I never plan ahead what direction the piece will take – it grows and evolves as time goes on. I love the freedom of adding pastel and spray paint once the finer details have been completed. It is a liberating and fulfilling experience.”

April by Hatty Butler

April by Hatty Butler

She’s become an expert at melding the observed and invented in her work.

“I tend to makes initial sketches from life and then work from a series of photographs,” Hatty says. “A lot comes from my imagination too – my work is a representation of the subjects inner being, I only focus slightly on the external likeness. For me it is more about externalising the internal.”

I Am Strong, I Am Proud, I Am Me by Hatty Butler'

I Am Strong, I Am Proud, I Am Me by Hatty Butler’

To do this, Hatty needs to set aside her own immediate feelings. “That’s the greatest challenge of trying to represent the internal through painting the external – I need to be able to be honest and not portray my own internal emotions,” she says. “The work needs to represent the characteristics of the subject initially.”

Twenty-one by Hatty Butler

Twenty-one by Hatty Butler

Being an artist, Hatty says, offers a wonderful sense of freedom. “To live a creative life is such a special thing and while it comes with its struggles I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. “I relish having the freedom to express myself and spend every day doing something that I love. I love what I do, creating things that did not exist before, that are unique and that touch other people. As an artist, I see the beauty in things that are often overlooked. Without art the world could be a very boring place. It’s so important that we take a moment to appreciate what’s around us.”

To see more of Hatty’s work, visit www.hattybutler.com, and look out for news of upcoming exhibitions.

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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From waste to want want want!

Upcycled spoon handles into earrings-www.phipholle.co.uk

Upcycled spoon handles into earrings © Phipholle

With so much stuff in the world, it makes sense to me to reuse and refashion wherever possible.

Artist Delphine has woven this ethos into her work, transforming waste materials such as old paper, unwanted spoons and bottle-tops into covetable items of jewellery.

“In a period of my life where I was very short on money, I found myself surrounded by unwanted things, left for free on the street,” she recalls when asked how it all began. “I enjoyed digging into them, finding unusual things, old things or just useful nice things.”

Upcycled inner-tube earrings-www.phipholle.co.uk

Upcycled inner-tube earrings © Phipholle

This was about 10 years ago, when French-born Delphine was a student at the Art&Culture University of Lille in France. “At that time, each area had one special night per week where people were able to put whatever they did not want anymore – books, glasses, picture frames, sofas, tables, clothes, dishes – outside on the pavement,” she says. “During the night things were picked up, so quite a lot of people, including myself and my housemates, used to go for a special walk on those nights to find some treasures! Those nights were very exiting. It was like a Christmas each week. Some of the things we found were still in a very good condition, some were vintage and full of charm, some were partly broken but fixable. At first it was a way to find furniture, and then I found some very nice old papers, old fabrics, bits and bobs and started to collect all sorts of things.”

Upcycled paper into crane origami earrings-www.phipholle.co.uk

Upcycled paper into crane origami earrings © Phipholle

Delphine began upcycling her found oddments and offering them to friends and family. “I enjoyed the all process so MUCH!” she exclaims. “I love the idea of the history that’s carried in these pieces!”

Before long Delphine had her own thriving salvage arts and creations company, which she named Phipholle using her own old nickname (more recycling!).

Often, it’s the materials themselves that inspire what Delphine transforms them into. “It could be the colour, the texture, the design…” she says. “I don’t do anything to the materials. For the drink can earrings, I just find a design that I like on a drink can, cut it and wrap it around a paper clip. Sounds pretty basic, but if you do it properly and you choose a very nice part of the can’s design, the effect is astonishing. It’s the same for the cutlery jewellery. I find cutlery with beautiful designs, cut the part that I want, such as the handle, and make a pair of earrings with it. The material is just so beautiful by itself – I am just giving it a new purpose.”

Upcycled drink can earrings-www.phipholle.co.uk

Upcycled drink can earrings © Phipholle

Her acts of recycling offer a fresh way of regarding waste.

“People often miss the creative potential of materials,” she says. “Big waste companies know the commercial value of materials. Recycling is not just a green thing to do. It’s also a big business. In my work I just want to reveal the unexpected beauty of materials and show to people that they could have great fun making things themselves and in the same time recycling their waste!”

Her methods are fairly vintage too. “To make my jewellery, I use the technique of the origami making, and I hammer a lot on my anvil, as well as engraving. Most of my techniques don’t have any official name :)”

Delphine now runs regular recycling workshops.

“Making is very therapeutic,” she comments. “It works for myself and I wanted to share that. I thought that some adults might enjoyed making and might like the upcycling theme, and they did. There are many good reasons do to workshops with children too, but two main ones for me are awareness and education. If we teach the young the importance of reusing, recycling and the creative potential of upcycling, they might grow up to be responsible and aware adults who don’t drop their plastic and paper on the street, and who care for environment. And they might prompt their parents to care too!”

She hopes people come away from her workshops feeling positive and excited.

“I hope they gain confidence in themselves,” she says. “It’s already a big thing to come and try something new, but they are often proud of making something themselves and go back home with their creations and new skills.”

Wine bottle top necklaces-www.phipholle.co.uk

Wine bottle top necklaces © Phipholle

For Delphine, freedom is one of the main pleasures of being an artist. “I love being able to choose what I want to do, and which material to work with or not,” she says. “I have no boss! I am very flexible, and I don’t have official working time 🙂 Inspiring people is surely what I like the most.”

Delphine sells her upcycled treasures on art trails and in several shops across Bristol. You can see more of her creations, find out about the workshops she runs and gain upcycling inspiration of your own on her website www.phipholle.co.uk.

“You can also follow me on facebook (facebook/phipholle) and on Instagram (phipholleupcyclingcreations)”

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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