A creative voyage

Clipper by Judy DarleyI’ve just come to the end of an art course at the RWA in Bristol, and am already missing it immensely. The course, Illustration for Picture Books with Sam Church, offered the rare treat of devoting three hours each week for five weeks to playing with ink, paint, pencil and words.

We were each invited to devise or find a story or poem to illustrate. As you might imagine, I went in fully equipped with that side of things, keen to bring one of my short stories to life in new, visual ways.

It was energising to be in a room full of people who have such artistic talent. While I enjoyed figuring out perspective and thrilling with the success of painting a scene that made sense to me, there was just as much pleasure to be had in wandering the room at the end and seeing what my fellow students had been working on throughout the morning. Some produced works of utter beauty!

Boy and merhag by Judy Darley

For me, the biggest challenge was drawing and painting the face of my protagonist, and I’m still not satisfied with that. I think I need to try cartooning to get the character from my head to the page. It was magical, however, to discover I’m able to recreate some of the villains and accomplices from my tale, as well as the setting of the sea, sky and isle.

Evil crab by Judy Darley

The best part, however, was the chance to devote substantial chunks of time to exploring the artistic possibilities of my fiction under the gentle guidance of course leader Sam. It’s focused my growing passion for making as well as writing about art, and given me a new expressive outlet that fills me with joy.

Find upcoming RWA courses.

Submit your art to the RWA’s Drawn exhibition

Sea Mark silver, Tania Kovats, 2015, image courtesy of Sidney Cooper Gallery and RWAThe Royal West of England Academy in Bristol is currently preparing for their Biannual drawing exhibition Drawn. The show aims to “explore the boundaries of drawing and celebrate it as both an autonomous discipline and an interdisciplinary tool.”

The image above is from the 2015 exhibition, and shows Sea Mark (silver), by Tania Kovats, and is provided courtesy of Sidney Cooper Gallery and the RWA.

Entries are invited from artists who draw or explore the concept of drawing in their work. Submissions are open until 5pm on 15th March 2017, so if you still have a chance of being part of it.

As well as the opportunity to have your work showcased in the exhibition, prizes for Drawn include the following:

  • The Theresa Knowles Travel Bursary which offers a bursary of £1,500 to go to Italy to make new work.
  • The Student Prize – a month long exhibition at Hidden
  • Work on Paper Prize – £400 of printing and framing courtesy of Niche Frames.


All applicants must apply online, submitting images using the Online Exhibition Submission System.

Find full details here: www.rwa.org.uk/artists/open-exhibitions/drawn-artist-information. Good luck!

Writing prompt – expectations

Grandmas Footsteps by Angela Lizon

Grandmas Footsteps by Angela Lizon

This eerie oil painting is Grandma’s Footsteps by Angela Lizon, and is one of my favourite artworks on show as part of the RWA exhibition Strange Worlds: The Vision of Angela Carter.

Resembling a black and white photo, it shows an obedient little girl apparently gazing at the camera with a worried expression on her face. And no wonder, because a vast grizzly bear lurks just behind her.

To me it encapsulates our parents’ and society’s expectations that we smile for the camera, regardless of what may be breathing down our neck.

This week, consider a situation where someone may be expected to act against their instincts. How might they respond? What might the outcome of their actions be?

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

Enter the mind of Angela Carter

The Misfits by Nicola Bealing

The Misfits by Nicola Bealing

Author Angela Carter put her own twist on many traditional fairytales, as well as dreaming up her own unsettling stories that hark from ancient fables. In celebration of her askew imagination, the RWA is hosting Strange Worlds: The Vision of Angela Carter, an exhibition of artworks inspired by her writing, as well as original cover art from her novels and more.

After The Masked Visitor by Lisa Wright

After The Masked Visitor by Lisa Wright

Eerie, beautiful, thought-provoking and discombobulating, the pieces on show include Marc Chagall, Paula Rego and some truly luscious works by Leonora Carrington, as well as plenty of others that seem selected to haunt your dreams and stir your imagination.

The exhibition is curated by Dr Marie Mulvey-Roberts of UWE, and the artist and writer Fiona Robinson. Among my favourites were works by the wonderfully macabre Heather Nevey (below), and an understatedly unnerving oil painting titled Grandma’s Footsteps by Angela Lizon.

The Murder 1 cr Heather Nevay

The Murder 1 cr Heather Nevay

Other highlights include the chance to see Angela Carter’s photos, pens and other artefacts. For me the best part of all, and the most alarming, was stepping through a curtain into a gallery populated by strange figures with outlandishly large egg-like heads, seated around a table where a naked, terrified man lay prostrate – an installation by Ana Maria Pacheco titled The Banquet.

Wonderfully, while some of these works were inspired by Carter’s fiction, others, such as Chagall’s work, helped to fuel her creativity, while others still sprang from similar ideas, proving what a rich conversation visual and written works can enjoy.

Strange Worlds: The Vision of Angela Carter is on at RWA, Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1PX until 19th March 2017.

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, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Jamaican rhythms

II Treez in a Forest by Ebony G Patterson

II Treez in a Forest by Ebony G Patterson

Fancy feeling the heat this summer? Until 11th September 2016, Bristol’s RWA Galleries will be awash with Jamaican art, culture and politics thanks to a special exhibition.

Jamaican Pulse: Art and Politics from Jamaica and the Diaspora will showcase the diversity present in Jamaican art today and yesterday, with contemporary works exhibited alongside more historic pieces.

Artists featured include Ebony G Patterson, Andrea Chung, Kimani Beckford and Di-Andre Caprice Davis. Expect vivid colours amid works simmering with energy and emotion.

“While exploring the roots of modern Jamaican art and suggesting new links between past and present, the exhibition also explores the artwork through a political lens and considers how global attitudes to body, gender, religion, class and sexuality have impacted this small island nation.”

Find out more about the exhibition and connected happenings at www.rwa.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/2016/06/jamaican-pulse.

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, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Real and Imagined

Long Shore Drift-Low Tide by Lydia Halcrow-photo by Alice Hendry

Long Shore Drift (Low Tide) by Lydia Halcrow, photo by Alice Hendy

I’m drawn to the idea of imagined landscapes. A sense of place is vital to my writing, and often I take inspiration from real places, but alter them to suit my own preferences and needs. In the RWA‘s Imagined Landscapes exhibition, on at the galleries in Bristol until 12th June 2016, artists have create works from places they’ve known and dreamt.

SomeWhen by Jethro Brice and Seila Fenandez Arconada

Some:When by Jethro Brice and Seila Fenandez Arconada

Other strong pieces include Some:When by Jethro Brice and Seila Fenandez Arconada, a collaborative art project that responded to the severe flooding of the Somerset Moors and Levels. The piece on show takes the shape of a handmade boat called a Flatner, built from reclaimed and new materials.

Imagine Landscapes, photo by Alice Hendry

Imagined Landscapes, photo by Alice Hendy

In the adjoining galleries you’ll find Inquisitive Eyes: Sade Painters in Edwardian Wessex, 1900-1914. This exhibition offers a rich insight into the lives and delights of some of England’s best loved painters, including John Everett and Augustus John.

The Blue Pool by Augustus John

The Blue Pool by Augustus John

The final gallery holds a more modern interpretation of our surroundings, as Simon Quadrat explores the social awkwardness and built beauty of cafes, buses, and greenhouses. While not every painting features figures, their presence is always suggested, and most that do appear look decidedly at odds with the place they inhabit. In Cafe Garden, only the waitress seems relaxed – every other person present is apparently on the brink of bickering.

Quadrat’s paintings wriggle with narrative, making them ideal writing prompts. I urge you to visit the RWA, soak up some inspiration, and see what tales emerge.

Simon Quadrat exhibition at the RWA

Simon Quadrat exhibition at the RWA

The three exhibitions seem to flow into one another, each capturing the atmosphere rather than the mirror image of a place, and creating an impression of setting that’s all the more evocative for that.

Imagined Landscapes, Inquisitive Eyes and Simon Quadrat PPRWA are at the RWA until 12th June 2016. Ticket prices apply. Find out more at www.rwa.org.uk/whats-on/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. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

A quality of stillness

Swimming Dog by Stephen Jacobson

Swimming Dog by Stephen Jacobson

There’s an enticing quality of light in the work of artist Stephen Jacobson. He describes his main interest as “translating the stillness to be found in landscapes and interiors,” which explains at least in part the serenity exuded by his work.

I discovered Stephen through a painting currently on show as part of the RWA’s annual open exhibition.

Boxers by Stephen Jacobson

Boxers by Stephen Jacobson

Unlike many of his work, this piece features two figures, sparring partners, though the impression of early peace remains unbroken. It’s possible that rabbits graze nearby, unperturbed by the concentration of the two men atop the hillside, bathed in the first rays of the sun.

Stephen says that this tranquil scene betwixt night and day appeals to “something deep in my subconscious – I seek images that I find are able to convey this slightly other-worldly atmosphere. My first pictures were more overtly surreal but I realised this atmosphere, without the psychological overtones, can be found around us in the everyday world.”

It’s an entrancing thought, and one enhanced by Stephen’s careful choice of what to depict, and what to omit from his work. “I edit highly and select only the parts that will convey the feeling I want to create,” he says. “I’m concerned with the timelessness of the images I choose and you will notice there is no evidence aging or decay in any of my pictures.

Seaside Cafe by Stephen Jacobson

Seaside Cafe by Stephen Jacobson

Stephen loves the fact that being an artist is not a job you work from nine till five, then step away from.

“It’s with you constantly and even when you’re not physically making work it pervades your life and world is constantly full of wonder.”

Field of Crows by Stephen Jacobson

Field of Crows by Stephen Jacobson

To see more of Stephen’s work, visit his website, www.stephenjacobson.co.uk, head over to the RWA before 29th November, or visit Sladers Yard Gallery in West Bay, Dorset, where Stephen has work in the current exhibition, aptly named Dream Visions.

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, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Midweek writing prompt – Raindance

Raindance by Sophy ThomasThis beautiful work of art is Raindance by Sophy Thomas, and is currently on show as part of the Drawn exhibition at the RWA galleries in Bristol.

I find it an utterly intriguing scene. The stance of the two men is more challenging than friendly, which makes me wonder whether they’re having a dance-off, rather than lovingly swaying together. Perhaps one is teaching the other to dance for a special occasion such as a wedding, or maybe, following the clue in the title, this is a ritual that has nothing to do with a passion for movement and music and everything to do with ending a drought.

The beauty of it is than any or none of these might be right. What do you think is happening here?

If you turn this into a short story, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. You could see your words published on SkyLightRain.com.

Midweek writing prompt – mistakes

Handwashing in Hospital by Susi Bancroft, plus reflections of figuresHave you ever wondered how artists work? From the conversations I’ve had and the observations I’ve made it seems that experimentation is to be at the forefront of many’s processes, with ‘mistakes’ and happy accidents leading to some of their best works.

Last week I attended the exhibition launch of Drawn at the RWA (a fabulous exhibition full of works using and interpreting drawing in an astonishing variety of ways), and fell in love with a triptych of works by Susi Bancroft titled Handwashing in Hospital, and using a mixture of drawing and free machine sewing. They’re filled with a sense of movement, even haste, and I crouched down to take a photo (flash off, and with permission, natch).

What I hadn’t considered were the crowds milling through the room, who’s silhouettes showed up on the crisp white background as I snapped it. When I realised what I captured, it made me smile. Purely by accident, I’d taken an artist’s work of art and added a new dimension to it. Tahdah! Perhaps the shadows imprinted on the scene offer a sense of the people waiting to be looked after in the hospital.

I’m not suggesting you take others’ work and subvert it too your own ends. My point is that accidents happen, and can be embraced. A misspelling that tweaks the meaning of a sentence, a spill of ink that changes the shape of a drawn tree into a possible monster in your artwork. Embody printmakerJulie Paterson’s Imperfect manifesto – don’t delete your mistakes or cast them aside too quickly, take a moment to consider whether they add something to the work you hadn’t anticipated. You might find yourself wanting to welcome them in.

Drawn will be at the RWA in Bristol until 7th June 2015.

If you create something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to share it on SkyLightRain.com.


Self-Contained Man by Moira Purver

Self-Contained Man by Moira Purver

My story ‘Selfcontained‘ has been published by the marvellous Café Irreal. Hurrah! I’ve been sending them my less conventional tales for a while now, so am very happy this one has been chosen to be invited to pull up a seat, order a hot drink and join in the conversation 🙂

The Café Irreal specialise in publishing literary fiction that accepts (and welcomes) the possibility of the impossible and makes it common place. They define the genre here.

My particular story drew inspiration from a wonderful piece of art by Moira Purver, titled Self-Contained Man, which featured in the RWA’s open exhibition. I spent an afternoon there in late 2014, gleaning inspiration and taking notes. I rather fell in love with Moira’s beautiful sculpture. An idea about Self-Contained Man took root, and developed into a story told from the point of view of a sculpture grappling with the question of whether or not he has a sole. You can read it here.

I also had the pleasure of being invited to be a guest on the Steve Yabsley lunchtime show for Radio Bristol last week. The show was billed as being “Author Judy Darley, blossom poems and dormice” so I was in great company, though sadly didn’t get to meet any actual dormice. Steve talked to me about my book Remember Me To The Bees and asked lots of questions about SkyLightRain.com and writing in general, some of which I was able to answer intelligently, others less so. I read out snippets of some tales in the collection too – you can still listen to it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02gwq1y