27th July 2014

Les has decided uthat he needs the space and time in his studio to prepare for his exhibitions, so isn't going to allow me to use the studio any more. I have collected my paints and canvases, and will have to organize the attic into the other art studio - for oil painting, glass work etc. So no new work. I really need to get all that stuff I did with him into the Saatchi website, as the only thing in there is Shemyaza and the new images will go well with him.

Meanwhile the Byazantine tarot is nearly ready. I have 18 more images to paint - two 6s, and the 7s, 8s, 9s, and 10s. I will miss it when it's finished - it'll be interesting to see what will come in next. Les thinks I ought to paint portraits, but I can't see myself doing that for any length of time.!

The 'Cherish' image I mentioned last time needs finishing and a decent photo taken of it ... everything is waiting on the tarot now.



15th June 2014

One buggered clutch and a self-portrait on, I've started on a new oil. I went to Les's class as usual on Monday but could tell that something in the clutch had changed. The gears, too, didn't seem to be sliding in the way they should. So after the class I couldn't get it to go into reverse and finally had to call out the RAC (pity the insurer I'm with uses Green Flag, isn't it!)

The Self-portrait is now finished and I like it a lot better - it's quite interesting now.

Self-portraitdddCilla self-portrait final



12th May 2014

I could have sworn I'd uploaded my finished artworks, of Old Ghosts (which is what Old Deaths is called now), plus the completed Birds and Eurydice, but it all seems to have disappeared into cyberspace. How weird is that? So there are quite a few images to be loaded - the painting I like best is Les Birds. Then there's Eurydice, which worked out well though poor old Orpheus seems to have disappeared into the background.

Les Birds

Les Birds

EurydicedddOld Ghosts

Eurydice and Old Ghosts


And today there's this - a self-portrait looking brassed off and maybe like I couldn't give a ****, which wasn't really what I had in mind when I started - but that's what came out.


4th March 2014

More on the new picture, which I'm calling 'Old Deaths' for now. My subject matter certainly seems to be focusing on death at the moment! Les suggested I did more on the bodies this week, which improved it (though this photo doesn't really do it justice). It's not a 'nice' picture but that's not what I'm after, I'm after something visceral. Whether that's what is emerging, I'm not sure, but at least it's more interesting now!

Old DeathsdddOld Deaths4



20th February 2014

A very interesting development in my artwork (i.e., not the Byzantine Tarot). After I posted the last lot of pictures of Les Birds, I suddently realised that I thought it was an old picture - something I would have done 30 years ago - but not the sort of piece I want to do now. So instead of continuing with Les Birds, I decided to continue seeing what wanted to come through. I dug out a big canvas - something I'd started some years back but had never done more than the first session. I figured it would be a good exercise iin stripping back the extraneous stuff I've often painting from over the years - Les Birds, in fact. Shemyaza came from the right place (although he still needs some work done), and SwanSong definitely has a lot of the right energy - but now, from this place, I can see what was missing. I was painting from the outside, not from the inside.

Old-DeathsdddOld Deaths2

New Work Versions 1 and 2

Of course, when Version 2 appeared, I looked at it and wondered what on earth this was - it felt like doing anything more on it would be incomprehensible. The figure on the left began as a skull but ended up on the 10th looking more like she was wearing a mask, as well as having a predatory look around the hands. The right-hand figure seemed masculine, a bit of a weeping lily (if that is a legitimate term), and again that seemed to be referring to old stuff, nothing I wanted to delve into! Then there was a strange joker-type face at the top. None of it made sense, but Les liked it and thought it had real potential because it was raw and definitely making a statement. I agreed - but had no idea what I would do with it!


Old Deaths3

New Work Versions 3

Last weekend I went to Cologne to meet Devesh's group there, and the first thing he did as a talking / thinking point was to play us an audio on the Dark Night of the Soul. I thought it was an wonderful way of stripping away the normal conventions. After that, I spent a lot of Friday night awake , finally coming to the conclusion that all the art I had ever done was about letting go, letting these filmy gauzy veils drift away from me. I could see it as a video work, and at the same time quite large, like a female version of Shemyaza (whom I now realise is not Shemyaza at all now). I came back on the coach and a more or less sleepless night, but tackling this piece after the weekend was interesting. At the beginning it still didn't make much sense but after a while it began to make more sense - the figure on the right is a woman (me) pulling away from the other - who is dead. At the beginning of the class all I could think of was the 2nd head of Zaphod Beeblebrox in Hickhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Later on I saw the similarities between Eurydice and this painting. The skulled figure whispering into the other's ear - the other pulling away quite desperately, in fact. But also what is very interesting is that in both paintings the dead figure is the aggressor, and the live one is either disappearing - losing all substance - or trying to get away. In both paintings the dead figure is the one with power. So the dead can drain you of substance or, at the very least, piggy-back on you and thus you finally lose substance and reality. That does make a lot of sense, I have to say - I wonder if it's coincidence that in this painting I've really been having to engage with it and fight it. Les was brilliant in that he could see what was coming through and encouraged me to stay with it.


5th February 2014

The Byzantine tarot is going ahead. I've done the four Aces already, and am moving onto the Kings. Posting the images is still a little iffy due to copyright issues (or rather the lack of copyrighting on the internet), but I can, I think, post the box as that is copyrighted to Connections Publishing, and it also shows a couple of the cards.

Box Lid (copyright Connections)

Meanwhile, Eurydice is nearly finished though it's very hard to get a decent picture of it. I decided I disliked the much more overt representational style and unpainted Orpheus. I have no idea whether it's a better painting, but at least it doesn't wake me up at 3 a.m. now. Les Birds, meanwhile, is coming along well and could be on the home straight - although just posting this image has helped me to see some other possibilities. Neither of the paintings is quite as red as the photos have made them, but Les Birds does have a fairly armageddon-like feel to it.




13th January 2014

The Major Arcana of the new deck is complete ... wowee. I've been tweaking and tidying them up and can now get on with the Minors!

And the Eurydice picture is coming on ... has now moved in quite an interesting (though rather unexpected) direction - back to a more overt representation. Not sure whether I like that though I did choose it, of course. The birds painting is also quite interesting, as it seems to have painted in all sorts of ghosts, all by itself. In fact, both these paintings seem to be about death and ghosts....




Ghost birdse dddGhost birds

The birds painting (looked at landscape, as it's supposed to be seen - and then vertically, where two faces have appeared of their own volition)


5th January 2014

Mike's door panel, complete... I now have an idea for a much larger window for my 'conservatory'/'verandah' - whatever the bit I'm adding to the house is called. (It will be an extra workspace, with a transparent roof and patio doors. Atm all that needs to be done is the final transparent panels and the floor). The window began as an idea to use up all the bits of glass. Whether that will work in practice is a moot point - and how long it will take to do is also fairly moot as I'm still aiming to finish the new tarot, paint a mandala for a friend, write another book for the Devas, design a new kitchen and bathroom, and continue doing my backward paintings. But I've actually completed quite a few of the backlog, so the window may actually get done before the end of this new year.



Door Panel

Mike's door panel, complete

draft stained glass

Larger window for the 'conservatory'


31st December 2013

Last entry for 2013, posting the door panel I'm making for my ex-husband. Poor man, he's been waiting for this window for at least 1 1/2 years. Thank goodness for the Christmas break: I've been able to lead it up. All that's left to do now is to solder and cement it.


windowddddddglass panel


16th December 2013

I can, at last, post one of my new tarot because we are not going to use it for the deck (though I'll use it for Xmas cards - if I send any out, which is looking increasingly unlikely at the moment!!)

Judgement old.

And I can also post images from my class with Leslie - which I am excited about. The whole idea about doing this class was so I could find where my artwork needed to go ... I was sure it needed to be set free again, so the idea was to give myself permissionn to work backwards again (i.e., beginning with oil washes to see what would emerge). Oils are absolutely right for this (though I could never do it with the Mische technique - building up layers and layers and layers , it's not intuitive enough).

I had two large red canvases, bought from a charity shop (stupidly, I didn't take a shot of them before I began). In the first class a couple of weeks ago, I found they weren't interesting enough: a little too much like my old work, which didn't interest me. So I began again today: first with splodges of colour, and then honing in on a couple of bird-like shapes I could see. They're not very clear yet, but there's a swan or goose's head on the left and a large winged shape on the right. Could even be a shadow figure in the background, but I may get rid of that.


The second painting began as an idea, of Eurydice and Orpheus (as I was reading a book called The Orpheus Descent). Orpheus, the archetypal musician and poet from ancient Greek myth, was married to Eurydice but, on their wedding day, she is attacked by a satyr. In her frenzied attempts to get away from the creature she falls into a nest of vipers and dies from a bite on her heel. Distraught, Orpheus goes down into Hades to retrieve her - his mournful music melting even the gods' hearts - but is warned not to look back at her until they have reached the surface once more. Unfortunately he can't resist checking that she is following him, and her shade has to return down to the underworld. But as Les (the art tutor helping me bring out the work) points out, neither Orpheus nor we ourselves are ever certain that she was actually following him.

The image at the beginning was an adequate rendition of the myth but the only bit that really interested me was Eurydice's head. All the rest was too easy, so I painted over everything else and scratched into all of it with a palette knife (Les's interventions were timely and very appropriate - working with him in this way is one of my best decisions this year!). After a while a dark figure in the background appeared, pointing towards Eurydice. This could be Hades rather than Orpheus, but whoever he is, the figure excited me so he stays. I'll continue pushing this painting and see where it goes, but I'm very pleased with its progress so far.





4th December 2013

I have nearly finished the Major Arcana on the new tarot - they are gorgeous and I'm really happy with the way it's going. We are still waiting for a publisher to take the deck though the pre-sales are a problem. I assume that Eddison-Sadd would like a big pre-sale, and the publishers are being much more cautious than they used to be. The online publishing business is hitting all conventional publishers hard (although companies like Lo Scarabeo are still churning their decks out - I guess they produce less than the really top-flight publishers). -

So I still can't post any images. However, I am making strides in other directions now too - finally had a brainwave and asked Leslie Moore, the art tutor in Croydon, if I could come and oilpaint in my old style at his studio every Monday evening. He agreed so I'll be able to post some new paintings soon!

I also had a wonderful day last week with a friend in East Sussex. We went down to Devil's Dyke, near Hove, and sat for a long while just looking and being. My friend asked some relevant questions that led to a few new realisations ... afterwards I wondered about taking a photograph of the scene as it now felt so meaningful, but didn't because I didn't want to be disappointed - photos taken for that sort of reason usually look a little flat, all their atmosphere lost. So instead, I drew the scene from memory and hope that it has captured some of the atmosphere and depth of the scene.


Devils Dyke


6th September 2013

One of these days I might even get my website redesigned. And take this creative blog out into the wide world. It will happen (as I said, one day), but my cards have taken over... first, of course, there's the tarot. I see I have actually posted something on that, though it's extremely tricky (not to say frustrating) to not be able to post pictures from it.

Meanwhilte, the Devas are being published. They've been proofed once but, notwithstanding having been sent the original prints so they can colour-match, still didn't manage to get the shading or the blues right. Blues are obviously a real trial when you convert from RGB to CYMK - I remember this from the Intuitive Tarot - but they could have tried a bit harder. I don't think they referred to the originals at all before they sent them out. And now they're trying to charge me more than £500 to correct the proofs - I don't think so.

Rant over, I'm back to what's going on, which is more Deva stuff - a second book, to accompany the deck. I of course decided to go straight in there with the history of angelics, which is taking rather longer than I thought. At this rate I'll still be writing the sample chapters by the time the Devas themselves are out. But at least I get to look at lovely pictures of seraphim while I do it - and read the Bible. Yes! I am checking what Ezekiel actually wrote, rather than referring to what other people think he said, years after the event.

SeraphimArchangels and Seraphim


9 July 2013

I am steaming ahead with the new tarot but quite frustrated that I am not allowed to upload any images. The High Priestess (Sophia) was the last I talked about, and I've finished both the Hierophant and the Lovers. Then I started on Diabolos, but unfortunately he didn't work - much too exuberant for this deck as one of my friends pointed out (I had managed to ignore the inner concerns I had until she said this and then I realised I couldn't continue to ignore it any longer. Pity.

So then I took a detour and did the Wheel for which John had kindly given me a brilliant template. Now I'm back to Diabolos, and found (in the unlikely inspiration of a towel discarded on the floor) a good starting image for his face (you can probably see the towel patterns behind my scribblings). I went on to see what it would look like on my rough of the card itself, but somehow it looked a little like a painted savage rather than a devil. I tried a few more ideas and got something that began to feel right - but it also felt quite familiar. After a few minutes I realised that what it reminded me of was one of my very first paintings - it was the first holiday vacation and I was trying out rag-painting in oils. This face appeared ... and I have to admit it scared the s***t out of me. I certainly hadn't intended to paint the Devil but as far as I was concerned, this was undoubtedly the Devil. I was struck by the despair in its face, but also the lack of humanity (well, duh), and its cruelty. Unfortunately I have not captured it exactly yet - the mouth and eyes are still a little less than I wanted, but at least it's 80% there. He will make a worthy companion for the rest of them - can't help thinking Temperance will be shocked out of his/her angelic skin when s/he sees her companion, as s/he is looking directly at the Devil figure, though he isn't looking at her (for which I'm sure she'll be profoundly grateful).

Devil faceThe Devil



27 May 2013

The new tarot - I'm just finished Sophia (the High Priestess) and am starting on the Hierophant and The Lovers.

So The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, Empress, Emperor, Chariot, Justice, Hermit, and Temperance are all complete, together with three cards from the Minor Arcana. It's been to the London Book Fair and we have some bites but nothing completely confirmed yet. As soon as it is confirmed I can start posting images.

The Devas have not yet been taken up by a publisher, which is sad. I've been sending out proposals and a couple of publishers showed interest, but have then decided they can't do it. However, I've been given a new contact - the printer who did Tony Christie's Labyrinth deck - and will see how much they quote.

Yesterday we went to the Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum. There are some wonderful frescoes in the exhibition, which has been beautifully conceived. Apparently, though, 2/3rds of Herculaneium and 1/3 of Pompeii are still unexcavated. The remains from Herculaneum are stunning - we've heard a lot about Pompeii over the years, but because of the way Vesuvius covered Herculaneum the buildings and remains are far better preserved. There's a beautiful book I may get .... or not, as I have far too many books already.

Roman fresco


3 May 2013

It's been a hectic few months, attempting to sort new computers out (I tried to shift onto a Mac, but it didn't work out. It was slow (why, I don't know, but there would be a major lag before any software would open, which drove me slightly mad. I'd thought it would be difficult to switch platforms but in the end, that was the easiest part. There were just too many things it didn't do without extreme difficulty (like communicating with my Android phone (duh) and my beloved scanner; the scanning software was pathetic and I'd have had to buy a better package if I didn't want to use Apple's; the web browsing was great but I didn't like the email software much - and on.... So in the end I bought a Lenovo in a small box (but a big spec, better than the Apple as it's quad core) and an Asus U36S - which I think would be counted as an Ultrabook, or nearly. Lots of false starts and frustrations, but it's nearly there now.

I went to see the Light exhibition at the Hayward about a month ago and loved it - so many of my favourites were there! Anthony McCall - not a new piece but it was great to see it again; Nancy Holt - great to see her work and there were photos of her Sky Cylinders or whatever she calls them. Turrell with an average piece, Wheeler with something that tried to be a Ganzfield space but didn't quite work; Villareal with his fabulous Cylinder II and Cerith Wyn Evans' S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E was interesting.. But the best piece by far was by Olafur Eliasson, an absolutely beautiful piece called Model for a Timeless Garden, with strobe lighting and a succession of 27 different fountains. A photo doesn't do it justice, but I must check whether there's anything on Youtube. I was very law-abiding and didn't even try to take a video of it.



10 February 2013

The new tarot is coming along well - will be presented at the London Book Fair in a month or two, and then (hopefully) I can start posting the images.

In the meantime, I went to the exhibition by Mariko Mori, plus a talk with her and Brian Cox Mori came across very well - quietly assertive and prepared to argue the toss against Cox, who was less open-minded than I had expected. Her work is very beautiful - a little new-agey, but maybe they don't have the strident love-n-light brigade in Japan.

I very illegally took a video of her Tom Na H-lu II (2006) but unfortunately it's not landscape, nor are the transitions smooth, so I haven't uploaded it yet. Tom Na H-lu II is brilliant - the images don't do it justice. It reminded me of the monolith in 2001, as it was about the same size (about 20 foot tall), with lights that shift and illuminate the space in different ways, a kind of visual version of the sounds in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But I think the rest of Mori's work, in this show at least, is a little static (somehow I felt it all needs to move). She is still working on Sun Pillar - the Moon bit of it has still to be installed. I downloaded another piece which looks lovely - but it wasn't in the exhibition, unfortunately (on right)

Tom na H-luSun and MoonMariko Mori

Tom Na H-lu II (2006)

11 January 2013

I usually report favourably on exhibitions I've seen (mainly because I tend to go to mainstream shows I know will be good). This week, however, I had an hour or two spare to went to Hamilton's Gallery in Mayfair to see a show called 'Watercolour' by Gilles Bensimon. I was in there for about one minute - walked in, wandered round astounded at how the gallery had actually considered them worth a major show, and walked out again. They look quite interesting small (see below), but enlarge them 400% and there's no justification for them at all: just some guy who purports to be 'an artist' putting flowers in water, photographing them and then putting them through a Photoshop liuqify filter. If he had in fact worked in watercolour, they could have been interesting. As it was, I am amazed and irritated that any gallery would give them wall space. Surely the gallery could have looked for a really talented photographer with something real to say? I think I will avoid these smaller galleries now, unless the work is someone I particularly want to see (for instance, there's a show coming up with some quite controversial work by Cindy Sherman. Even so, it might be that I come out of there thinking never again - as the Metro says the work is 'sadistically and coldly composed'. But they also recommended Gilles Bensimon's show...) However, Cindy Sherman usually has something pointed to say even if you don't like the point. Bensimon seems to have nothing to say and doesn't even say that particularly well.



Bensimon 'Watercolour' - don't bother.


6 January 2013

The Bacchae illumination isn't completely finished yet, but I scanned it in to see what it looks like and then thought I'd post it anyway, finished or not. I'll put a third image when it's actually completed, hopefully in the next couple of days as I want to get back to the tarot.

I have no idea why I decided to do a Celtic style on a classic Greek text, but it looks pretty impressive (though my Celtic knotwork isn't a patch on the real stuff, or even the 'Celtic revival' pieces I've seen). Oh well, at least I gave it a try - I certainly know more about the style than I did before. As for the artistry of the monks who did the original pieces - words fail me. It is breathtaking, stunning.


early BacchaedddBacchae


One piece of escellent news - I've sold Weaver! Someone emailed from the US asking if she could buy it and is sending a cheque and someone to collect it - so I don't need to do anything but pack it up securely. In addition, before Christmas, someone from Holland said he wanted Swang Song but as he hasn't come back to me I'm assuming he changed his mind.


26 December 2012

Went to Cologne for a couple of days just after the end of Time as we know it (though it does seem to be continuing regardless). I thought it was a lovely city - small, so we were able to walk to the main areas. I saw the Hockney (again), but on Sunday went to the medieval museum, the Schnütgen, half of which is in a Romanesque church (right). It was well curated, but nothing to compare with the ethnological exhibits in the Rautenstrauch-Joest museum opposite. It was conce=ived and designed by Atelier Brückner from Stuttgart, and was, frankly, stunning. Most ethnological museums seem somewhat patronising. This exhibition was respectful and wonderfully inventive, offering new curatorial ideas in each area - for example, the photo on the left which gives you an impression of the Bardo (state after death). You can't really see them in the photo, but there are long white curtains enfolding different spaces, so you walk slowly and mindfully through different realities. within these soft white spaces there are white settees, where you can rest and hear chanted OMs or organ music. Added to all this, museum staff who go out of their way to show you delights you might otherwise miss - like an alphabet of found objects gathered by unfamiliar explorers from around the world.

Koln EthnologyKoln medieval museum

The Cathedral (Dom) in Cologne is like a man-made mountain - awe-inspiring. It needs a good clean, though. And the Christmas markets are also worthy of mention, though I wouldn't go back just for them. But there are ... 97 other museums I haven't visited yet, so I can see another visit on the cards, once I've finished researching Byzantine areas.

Cologne CathedralCologne Xmas marketreliquary




21 December 2012

We've got to half-way through the shortest day (and the end of the Mayan calendar), and the world shows no signs of ending. But then a friend posted on thios facebook that it wasn't supposed to be the end of the world, just the end of time. Whatever, it doesn't show any signs of anything apart from rain. It was a beautiful day to begin with - glorious blue skies and crisp and cool, but it's now turned overcoast (so same old same old then). I'm off to Cologne for 2 days tomorrow, getting up at 4a.m. so if time is going to stop, perhaps it could stop before the alarm goes off? In the meantime, here's a season's greeting for everyone who actually looks at this blog of mine. Have a wonderful time, and I'll see you in the New Year!

Merry Yuletide


17 December 2012

And here is the finished certificate, with and without its frame.

Rosie finaldddrosie certificate

3 December 2012

The Olafur Eliasson film was very good. He's a fascinating man and the film was well edited. It was really about the process he went through to create some waterfalls on the Hudson River in New York, but it showed a lot more of his work which is really spectacular. There were two other people from Meetup there, the organizer and a French man - they also found it fascinating, but inspiring. I found it made me wonder how I could ever hope to do something on that scale (glass half-empty, I guess).

Anyway, here's the latest incarnation of the Rosie certificate. It's coming along well.

Rosie certificate

1 December 2012

I have been hard at work on the new tarot, which is still under wraps so nothing is being posted at the moment. However, in the last week I've had to stop doing those in order to produce another illuminated certificate for a friend's niece. So I can post that here at least, although it's not finished yet. It's coming along but needs an outside border to hold it together.

Rosie certificate

On Monday I'm planning to go to a film on Olafur Eliasson (The Weather Project). I have no idea what it'll be about, but am hoping it'll be interesting.

Still waiting for the new Mac - Apple apparently promised to ship the new i-Macs in November, but have failed to do so. Well, it's not a huge problem for me apart from the totally rubbish response of this Windows version of Adobe CS3. I have no idea what's wrong with it, but you can't open the program immediately on start-up or it freezes; it takes forever to open images in Photoshop; and the Dreamweaver response isn't much better. So all I can say is, roll on Apple CS6 and I hope that isn't buggy too. I've reinstalled the application at least twice, and run a virus checker and Spy-bot on it more than once - no obvious viruses. But it takes 12 hours to reinstall, so I'm not doing that again.


7 October 2012

Two - no, three - exhibitions this week: The Rain Room at the Barbican Curve, Bronze at the RA, and a small Kapoor exhibition at the Lisson Gallery.

Bronze was fantastic - what an exhibition! I will go again if I get time. The Greek bronze in the first room was breath-taking, and they had juxtaposed them in a very unexpected way which meant you couldn't really take anything for granted - Benin and other African pieces next to contemporary, for example.

SatyrBronze ChariotChimera

The Rain Room was fascinating but a long wait didn't guarantee that we saw it in its best light, as it were... the rain dried up when we arrived so we had to wait until it recovered. First time I've ever been jumping up and down in disappointment at the cessation of rain. The sound - and the sensors - were brilliant, though.


And the Kapoor exhibition ... well, I have found his more recent work less than enthralling. I loved his big bloody monolith at the RA (Swayambh), but since then the work looks like it's been squeezed out of a large toothpaste tube, and to what end? Why get a factory of people producing these things en masse? I'm sure the first ones they did were technically challenging but when I remember how his first pieces changed one's whole perception of space and time, these are trivial. Yes, I'm sure Kapoor vets each piece, but I think he needs to start being a bit more discriminating. It's time he began a new series or more interesting pieces and let go this extruded ant-spit-egg-fixation. My opinion, of course; the write-up in Timeout thought he was 'back to his transcendental best. Mud and cement combine in earthiiwe voids and holes that suck you in'. The images they show weren't in the show, though. Maybe I left my visit a little late (the exhibition was due to finish the day I went).



28 October 2012

I went to Istanbul last week with a friend - as I'd been there before I wasn't sure whether it would live up to expectations, but it was wonderful. On the first day we went into the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia (one of the places about which I feel very strongly), and the underground cistern - which I hadn't been into before. But it was the second day that really made the trip ... we went off the beaten track to the Chora Museum (Kariye Camii) and I would have gone to Istanbul just for that, though the afternoon was spent going up the Bosphorus to the Black Sea, so it was an amazing day. On Saturday, our last day. we did Topkapi and the Grand Bazaar, which was even more noisy and hectic than I remembered.

Hagia SofiaChoraBlue

I could post many more images, because the place is so beautiful ... research for this new tarot is certainly a pleasure! I'm looking forward to posting them, though that may take some time. Anyway, I have four more on the go now - The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress and the Emperor.

I'm going to revamp my websites, so I don't know how my blog will work in the future ... on a completely different computer system! I'm buying a nearly new Apple Mac and a laser printer. I will keep the PC for a while, just to make sure I can do everything I need to do, but this could be just what I need, as Adobe Creative Suite 3 is really painful to work with. Though I will miss my Quark Xpress very much, I have to say.


7 October 2012

The mirror was finished in time, by dint of staining the whole thing black. Apparently it was very effective, though, which is gratifying (one person made it around the exhibition until she encountered the mirror, and then scurried out - I hadn't realised it was so powerful). Even the Victorian outfit was finished, more or less (though as the buttons I bought were too big I had to fudge it by cutting off the buttons an existing blouse and using those - I have since found some better ones and restored the blouse to its former state). By the way the brick in the photo below is the wall behind the mirror, not the frame itself.

Black Mirror

The evening's tarot readings were as usual queuing more or less out of the door and Jane had to throw about 5 people out at 10 o'clock, as they were arguing the toss with her. As she pointed out, the whole evening is provided free so the fact that they were wanting yet another perk - i.e. a tarot reading - just because they'd been queuing for 2 hours (they said) was a bit unnecessary. I said I'd read for them if they come while I'm invigilating and they were even arguing about that, so if they do turn up I'll give the a few choice pieces of wisdom - again, for free. There were some interesting readings though - worth my while to be there, then.

However I am looking forward to starting on the tarot again. All these extraneous events have meant I've done nothing on it for about 2 weeks. However, I have found two great images for the Empress and Emperor, and am looking at the card backs as well.


17 September 2012

Lots of work over the last few weeks, trying to get gilding to work. (I gave up in the end and used spray for large areas - obviously this is a skill I will have to work at!) Nothing more on the illumination front yet, though I now (theoretically) have the technical know-how to do my illuminated pictures - I have another illuminated certificate to do in October and November, and a stained glass window for later on (a winter project?).

Meanwhile I am also working on the carving around a black (scrying) mirror for the Illumini exhibition starting September 27th. it will be a minor miracle if I get it finished in time, especially as I also have to make a Victorian outfit.


23 August 2012

The MUnch exhibition was quite a disappointment. Richard Dorment gives it 4 stars, and throws in a few sardonic asides to suggest Munch was much more of his time, and less angst-ridden, than popular imagination has dubbed him. However, you wouldn't know it from this exhibition, which is why I found it disappointing and rather depressing. The exhibition curators seem to have gone out of their way to focus on the most lurid, obsessive and disquieting images Munch produced, and omitted thebeautiful, painterly landscapes he produced (such as those below). He might not have conquered his demons completely, but he was certainly not as painfully out of kilter aas they portrayed him. In fact, I'd had the impression that he'd painted his Sun painting quiet late in life, and assumed that - like Rdon - his work transformed in later life, but that may be a little simplistic if this exhibition is anything to go by. Still, I don't think they did him any favours. If I were Munch, I'd be slightly teed off if I weren't dead. There are some wonderful paintings they could have shown, instead of the gorey debased images they decided to choose.

munch train-smokedddyellow logdddthe wave

Edvard Munch: Train - Smoke; The Yellow Log (I think Hockney must have seen this one); The Wave

21 August 2012

I've now done my training on water- and oil-based gilding and - while I didn't make a particularly good job of either, I now have more of a handle on what works and what doesn't, when you use what and when you don't. The pitfalls are several:

) Universal gesso does not work, no matter how traditional or 'absorbent' they say the panels are. If you want to use bole, egg tempera, or gilding, on gesso panels, ensure they are prepared with traditional gesso. Universal gesso contains acrylic, and it doesn't work with anything but acrylic or oils ...

2) Avoid draughts, hot weather, steamy weather, too wet and too dry weather - just about everything in summer. Gilding appears to be tailor-made for Britain, just not in August.

3) No matter how much gold you have, it's never the right gold. That's probably because for some reason the shops sell you transfer gold as a default, and you want loose sheets (see (4)).

4) If you buy gold leaf from Cornelissens (Great Russell St, London W1), ensure you check it before you leave the shop: for some reason they do not accept returns on gold leaf. As they have just supplied me with transfer gold instead of leaf gold, that's an expensive mistake, and one I'm not likely to repeat ... I'll buy my gold from a different supplier in future.

So, as it's our week of summer (hot, steamy weather), I have to wait for cooler damper weather (am I mad????) and get on with other things - I'm going to paint sky-scapes, will be working on the frame for the black mirror, and have another illuminated certificate to design. Here are three cloudscape images I've taken recently,including the vertical shot showing the most stunning clouds I've ever seen, which I took earlier this year.


We're going to the Mucn exhibition tomorrow, and at the same time I plan to look at the new galleries at Tate Modern - which should be stunning.


10 August 2012

At last! the Virgin and Unicorn is finished and looks great. My first entry about this was on the 29th April, so it's taken a while to finish but oil glazes aren't the fastest technique in the world... I've still got paint coming off the border which was painted a couple of days ago. And it certainly isn't the best technique for medieval paintings of this kind - but the translucency is stunning. I'll have a chance to do more with this mische technique on the large painting I've started at Brigid's classes.

virgin and unicorn

My version of the Virgin and Unicorn, from the Book of Simple Medicine, Matthaeus Platearius, Late 15th Century

Next week I'm off to Totnes to learn water-based gilding. I have 14 small gesso panels waiting for their borders, all with bevelled edges made from balsa. I am quite proud of them, as at the beginning I thought I would have to get someone else to cut them out of manky mount board, but putting 21st century machine-cut cardboard over proper poplar gesso boards didn't sit too well with me. Then inspiration struck - use balsa! I found a supplier that stocked long 4" wide sheets of balsa, and could then cut the bevel and gesso them myself. It means that the originals for the Byzantine tarot will be 4" wide, smaller than I wanted them to be, but given the size of everything else I'm doing atm, it's no big deal. I'll just work with a magnifying glass, that's all!


Exhibitions - I actually got to see the Summer Exhibition this year! Lots and lots of RA paintings, most of them nice (nice being the word we were taught never to use, because it's so nondescript). Some wonderful architectural models, and one stunning digital print that really did take my breath away.


Suzanne Moxha - Feralis.


17th July 2012

Here's the new Deva of the Firmament. I did a painstaking one showing lots of different clouds but somehow it didn't generate much enthusiasm in me. Then I started on another, using an awesome monochrome photo to generate ideas - it worked much better. I think it's a worthy successor to Lightning. As lightning is an essential part of the Deva's work, I've added lightning strikes into another of the cards, the one I call Kali Dance.

14 July 2012

A friend and I went to the Whitechapel last week, to see the lighting exhibition. It was a bit too much for my brain - very hard-edged and fast, although the technique would have been brilliant for my old 'Light Cylinder' piece. But I got some new 'Windows' shots and there was a wonderful piece of plaster-of-paris heads - politicians who had been sculpted and a cast made - but it was the casts that were displayed. It reminded me of Messerschmidt's heads, and I guess it was a conscious reference. Leigh Clarke is the artist, Heads of State is the piece. Apparently he sources the masts through the Internet, and puts them through a process of reprographic manipulation - he squashes, folds and scans the masks to reeveal shoadowy, abstracted portraits. He then casts these manipulated images 3-dimensionally.

I've just been in Kelmarsh Festival of History, in the Midlands. The idea was to do a multi-period tarot gig. Up till last night, the weather had been pretty good. Unfortunately that didn't last and during the night, the heavens opened. This morning we found our tent waterlogged (my Deva and Tarot decks, which were in a bag on the floor, are ruined), and after a couple of hours of splashing round the field in wellies and getting thoroughly wet and muddy, they cancelled the show. I missed the shot of a woman poling down the river (weaving through the tents) on an airbed. Shame about the sand castles - they were beautiful (how they survived the rain I don't know, or perhaps someone made them after vacating their tent early this morning?).

The good thing about this debacle is that I can do some of the things I should have done weeks ago - like finishing the gold leaf exercise I did at my miniature and gold leaf course at West Dean. I can't say I made a particularly good job of the miniature I chose, but at least I know now how it's supposed to be done!

However, unfortunately, the gold for St Michael (below) and the Byzantine tarot I want to do, turns out to be a different sort of gilding - water-sized gilding. I looked high and low for a course to teach the technique, and eventually had a brilliant idea - to ask a friend who has done medieval painting, as well as icons, over the years. She's happy to teach me, so I'm off to Totnes in August to learn. Meanwhile I need to source old sheets to line the wood, and make gesso. I got a wonderful copper double-boiler for the gesso, almost too pretty to use!

20th June 2012

It is nearly the Solstice (and it looks like we're finally getting some summer weather to accompany the long days), and it's light at about 4.30. I got up at 5.45, trying to source some good silk inkjet paper. I used to be able to buy the ideal stuff at the local computer fairs - 260gsm, smooth as silk, non-sticky. Then the man who stocked it decided to stop selling, and since then I've been trying in vain to get a comparable make. He said something about the Cornish china clay doing the trick. Today I finally put the magic formula into google and it discovered a supplier (the InkJet Paper Girl) in Cornwall. So could it be that, after 7years, I have rediscovered my satin paper?

Meanwhile, the medieval work has been put on hold as I rework the Devas of Creation. For a long time I've wanted to get the two sections (Above and Below) to match - 36 cards each instead of 32 and 40. The solution, suggested by my colleague of Tarot Etc fame - Ania - was to move the elements from Below to Above. It is, in fact, a great solution, because the elements as we know them now - hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and so on, are the building blocks of the universe and as such fit perfectly with the Fundamental Laws, which appear just above or just below the elements (haven't decided which yet). It also gives me the opportunity to add some extra cards - Witness and Insect.


11 June 2012

The Virgin and Unicorn is progressing slowly: working with oil glazes, you simply can't hurry the work. So, to manage the time a bit I've started a copy of icon of St George and the dragon. I always feel very sorry for the dragon, particularly as it's a female symbol. The Python that Apollo killed was the ancient feminine, and they've been killing her ever since. I also have a new illumination on the go - one I'll keep for myself.

The idea of the Byzantine Tarot may well prove to be a go-er, but I'll wait for a little while to post more about that.


21st May 2012

I was given a wonderful image recently - a postcard from St Catherine's Monastery in Sinai. This - coupled with a holiday in Crete - has absolutely fired me up about Byzantine art, which previously had somehow gone straight past me - I'm now kicking myself good and hard for not going to the exhibition a couple of years ago. I think I had the idea that it was all stiff mosaics and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. But this image of Elijah is riveting - it reminded me of The Hermit in the Tarot, and I'm now collecting ideas for a new Byzantine tarot (for some reason I've had two relatively sleepless nights recently and sifting through ideas for the cards is a good alternative way of counting sheep). There is already a Russian Orthodox tarot - ornate gold metallics and all - but it's produced by Lo Scarabeo and as such is more like an illustrator's tarot than an insider's working tarot. (That said, it's very beautiful, as are most of their metallic decks - these scans don't do it justice.) However, if the energy stays high for this I will start producing roughs and see how it develops. Otherwise, it'll just be more medieval reproductions in egg tempera.

The unicorn panel has now had its blue glaze and is ready for the next stage; and I'm doing an illumination based on a song from the Bacchae, for myself. I've loved these words for around 30 years or longer, and as I recently acquired a lovely little silver frame, I am designing the illumination to fit. I'll scan it, and the tempera paintings, as I go.

Elijah - from St Catherine's Monastery, and two cards from the Golden Tarot of the Tsars

29 April 2012

I'm working on a new egg tempera. It will probably end up a combination of the mische technique and egg tempera proper. However, I didn't improve it yesterday when I was attempting to put the yellow glaze on the piece. It was looking really great, but instead of mixing acrylic yellow and white, I managed to put Titanium white OIL and yellow acrylic. This is guaranteed to make a complete mess of anything delicate - you might get away with it on a large oil canvas, but on a small glazed panel - no. So herewith my corrected panel, and I'll continue updating it as I do it.

Virgin and Unicorn - from the Book of Simple Medicine, Matthaeus Platearius, Late 15th Century

19th April 2012

The Be The Light illumination is finished, and as usual the gilding is really difficult to scan; nor is it easy to show the detail on the lettering. I' now need to cut a mount for it. I was hoping to find a ready-made frame for it, but unfortunately - although there were a couple that weren't bad at all - they were the wrong orientation (i.e. portrait instead of landscape).

11th April 2012

Quite a few new projects now -

1) I've been asked to do some illustrations for a hermetic website - very exciting, as before it was even broached, there were a whole lot of interesting synchronicities relating to it!

A few weeks ago I came across a book called 'The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance', by Joscelyn Godwin. In it I found some wonderful illustrations of small temples, which come from The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. I'd come across this strange book some years back in a novel called The Rule of Four, written by two ex-Princeton students - a kind of intellectual Da Vinci Code. The temples reminded me of my hermetics studies so it seemed very syncrhonous that one of my hermetics teachers emailed me a few days later to see if I would do these illustrations!

The Hypnerotomachia was written around the same time as the Major Arcana of the Tarot first came on the scene, so all three books offer interesting reflections on the times. Joscelyn Godwin has made a study of the era and the Hypnerotomachia, and is obviously worth investigating further (apart from his book The Real Rule of Four, in which he extracts fact from fiction (i.e. from The Rule of Four).

The author of the Hypnerotomachia appears to have been a monk, but a very well-educated and talented monk. The illustrations for the book are extraordinary - some of them shocking even in our over-exposed times.

2) I'm doing some more illuminations - small ones, in egg tempera and gold leaf. I've even made up some proper gesso, though I haven't tried it sticking any gold leaf to it yet. Still so far, though, this illumination is looking promising.

3) I was asked recently to do a smaller version of Tethys, although it's just been put on hold.


22nd March 2012

The certificate is finished, and looks good. I hope the client is pleased! (They were.)

I'm going to the Hajj exhibition at the British Museum tomorrow, as there are a lot of interesting illuminations and art pieces. The geometric discipline is fascinating - there was a programme recently about the structures built using geometric schemes. The prohibition against representational art wasn't apparently always as strict as it is now, but the intricate geometry of some of the mosques and temples takes the breath away.

15th-19th March 2012

I have been asked to do an illuminated certificate to commemorate a Diamond wedding anniversary. I roughed out a couple of templates and have been working on the illumination for a couple of weeks. It isn't finished yet - obviously - but is looking good so far. I'm working with egg tempera on calf vellum - best of the best, and I've bought all the ingredients needed for proper medieval gesso (which includes highly toxic lead white), so I'll see if that works better than the commercial stuff I've been using so far - I don't find any of those options particularly satisfactory.

19th March - I managed to slake the plaster okay, but it's still drying. So I've spent the day doing the lettering - I am not sure if doing the 'Certificate of Marriage' in blue is correct. In the rough I had done it gold, but just now I decided to try it blue. However, I don't think it's right. I'll just have to illuminate the letters with geometric gold paint, if not gold leaf (if the gesso gets finished in time).


4 March 2012

I have been to quite a few exhibitions recently, so time to remind myself of them.

First was the Burra exhibition down in Chichester. We went down by train which made it a relaxed day - it's not a nice trip by car. But the gallery, Pallant House, was lovely with some great work apart from the Burra exhibition. It's a shame it's so far away.

Burra apparently was a difficult man. In 1961, when the Royal Academy rang to ask if he'd become an Associate, he shouted down to his manservant 'Tell them to f*** off, I'm busy.' At the exhibition there was an accompanying film and he gave the interviewer a pretty hard time, but you could see his impish sense of humour as well. He always reminds me a little of George Grosz, though his wit is softer. He is obviously rather fond of the underdogs he painted, where Grosz hated many of his subjects and was painting them to point out their shortcomings, rather than their foibles.

Of course, I couldn't not see the Hockney 'Bigger Picture', though in the first couple of galleries (at the RA), I definitely wondered why I'd bothered - just because the painting is on 50 different canvases doesn't make it good art. But then they had the Grand Canyon pictures, which were wonderful - his colours are sensational, and gradually I began to accept that this isn't a gimmick, it's really about the joy he expresses in what he sees - it is obviously a labour of love. In the end I loved the huge green vistas (particularly the numbers of different greens he used) and, surprising myself, the i-pad work (apart from the last gallery where they'd blown up the Yosemite images so much that they'd lost their charm). I am hoping his lack of clever intellectual discourse in this late work will have an effect on the contemporary art world, enabling us to return to a simpler, more genuine and less strained way to create art. But of course while artists might wish this, the art establishment and the critics would probably disagree. What would they have to say if they couldn't trot out their usual clever explanations of the work? Oh Duchamp, what legacy you left us.

The crown jewel of these exhibition (excuse the pun) has to be the Royal Manuscripts: Genium of Illumination. Stunning is the only word for it. The first time we went was at about 11, and while I am not a fan of queueing to see exhibits, it was essential if you wanted to see anything. In the end I went again the other morning early, and that was fine. I've even bought the book, although nothing beats the real McCoy - but I've been asked to design an illuminated certificate for a friend's parents and I persuaded myself that I needed it.

Finally yesterday I went to an exhibition of Chihuly Glass at the Halcyon Gallery in New Bond St. It's a commercial gallery but rather interesting, as it seems to have been converted from banking - one of the rooms had a strong vault door as a feature. Novel, and for some of artwork, quite apt.

Chihuly seems to be a force of nature, tireless and inventive. A short film showed him directing the glass-blowing, and doing some himself - awe-inspiring! How they manipulate these enormous organic shapes is amazing. I wish I'd seen his show at Kew, which looks stunning in the photos, and some of the work in the Halcyon was very different and quite subtle.


5th February 2012

I decided to do a copy of an old picture for my brother, as I know his wife likes it. However, as I drew it up, the whole energy of the piece changed. From being slightly despairing or fearful, the woman now seems to be embracing life fearlessly. It isn't finished yet, but I wanted to upload them both so I could see them together.

I think I prefer the shape of the woman in the older version, looking at them both. The newer one is a bit small and stiff, but I prefer the landscape. Well, back to work on it then. I'll post again when I've finished it. It feels good to be working again.


23rd January 2012

I have been looking into a couple of possible subjects for a new painting or couple - I bought some long thin canvases which can become one larger painting, or two smaller ones - maybe a diptych. First idea is about spinning - the myth of Arachne (though Ariadne keeps on intruding). Arachne was a weaver and so proud of her prowess that she boasted about it incessantly. Athena heard about the boasts and as she knew herself to be pre-eminent in the field, came in disguise to test the challenger. Arachne, extremely foolishly, said to the apparent old woman, 'Let Athena try her skill with mine, and if beaten I will pay the penalty'. You don't challenge goddesses, or at least you didn't in those days as they tended to be quite touchy, but Athena was probably feeling generous for a few minutes, as she countered, 'I have much experience, and I hope you will not despise my counsel. Challenge your fellow-mortals as you will, but do not compete with a Goddess. On the contrary, I advice you to ask her forgiveness for what you have said, and as she is merciful perhaps she will pardon you.'

Arache was obviously not about to take any advice. 'Keep your counsel for your daughters or handmaids; for my part I know what I say, and I stand to it. I am not afraid of the Goddess; let her try her skill, if she dare venture', she announced. Athena cast off her disguise and stood before Arachne in her full majesty. Arachne paled but would not pay homage or back down, so the contest began.

Athena spun her finest weave, depicting her contest with Poseidon, and showing twelve gods - Zeus in the centre, Athena with her helmet and Poseidon smiting the earth in his guise of ruler of earthquakes; and in the corners were incidents showing what happened to mortals who happened to challenge the gods.

Arachne, who really did need to learn some tact and wisdom, filled her tapestry with scenes of the gods' failures and errors. On one side she showed Zeus disguised as a swan, seducing Leda; another maiden, Europa, deceived by Zeus in his guise as a bull into mounting his back at which he swam out to sea; and Danae in a tower being taken by Zeus as a golden shower. The elements were so cunningly wrought that you could almost taste the sea, and feel the golden light. The swan's feathers could have been made out of gossamer.

(My painting of Leda and the Swan - gouache, 1986)

However beautiful the work was, it was still very inflammatory. Athena could hardly have let the insults pass; nor did she. Having destroyed the foolish girl's loom and tapestry, she touched the girl's forehead to force her to see her shame. Arachne, finally realising her foolishness, was unable to deal with the knowledge, nor with the loss of the vocation she loved so much, and went to hang herself. Athena at last took pity on her and transformed her into a spider, and thus Arachne still spins her webs of the purest silk - so strong and fine that man can never match it. (Quotes from http://www.goddess-athena.org/Encyclopedia/Athena/Arachne.htm)

There have been some very strange synchronicities since I started researching Arachne. First of all I began to wonder if you could capture spiders and get them to spin webs in a specific space. Next, completely out of the blue, a friend mentioned he'd seen a BBC News report on weaving a golden cape and shawl from golden orb spiders' silk. The project leaders, Simon Pears and Nicholas Godley, organized a team of eighty in Madagascar to go out every morning at 5a.m., collect as many spiders as they could, take them back to the centre where they were milked of their silk (should that be 'silked'?) and then returned to the wild (it's not clear how the spiders would manage while they generated more silk). More than a million spiders were collected over a period of 5 years. Finally the silk was woven into a golden silk cape and scarf - which took four years to create.

Apparently the earliest recorded weave from spiders' silk dates from 1709 in France by Francois-Xavier Bon de Saint Hilaire, who boiled the cocoons apparently (I think they may be getting it confused with caterpillar silk), and produced gloves and stockings (and perhaps even a full suit of clothes) for the Sun King ... how apt!

In the 19th century Raimondo Maria der Termeyer, a Jesuit priest, found that theads extracted directly from the spider produced a higher-quality silk; he clamped the spider with a half-moon aperture for its abdomen. A winding machine then drew out a continuous thread from the spider. One thread is made from 96 twisted strands, and the cape is so light you can barely feel it.

The next synchronicity

A TV programme about weird natural effects showed trees and a Rotterdam car completely cocooned in silk from the spindle ermine larvae - they must have mistaken the car for food. While it seems slightly bizarre, this is apparently a natural phenomenon due to floods, for instance, or other extreme conditions. (images from Mail Online)

Finally, a couple of days ago there was another television programme, about manufacturing spider's silk ... from goats. This slightly unsettling programme was on biomechanics. The researchers investigated the different qualities of silk: frame or dragline silk (right in the centre of the web) is resistant to water droplets and, weight for weight, is stronger than steel cable, while the capture silk (on the outer edges) are viscid, are covered with droplets of glue. This silk is not as strong but can still absorb far more energy than anything man can produce. Dragline silk can stretch 30 percent longer than its resting length, whereas Kevlar (man-made) fibres snap after just 3%.

(Image from University of Washington website)

Enter the biomedics. The researchers in University of Washington have now cloned the spider genes that specify the proteins, called fibroins, which make up the silk. They then insert these cloned genes into goats, whose milk will contain harvestable fibroins. In the programme we saw the process whereby the silk protein was extracted from the milk and finally wound onto large reels.

So where do I go from here? We went to the London Art Fair on Saturday at the British Design Centre in Islington, and although I was quite shocked by the standard of work there(much of it seemed derivative and limited), I still came away with a few ideas. My Arachne piece may need to be two different pieces, one painting and one more conceptual, but I think a layered effect might be in order.


Dolly Thompsett (left), Emily Young (centre) and Sarah Lucas (right) - my images

20th December 2011

A friend told me about an exhibition on night paintings at the Guildhall Gallery. First time we went it was already closed, so we went to the nearby church instead, drawn by the beautiful stained glass windows and the singing. They were rehearsing for their carol service, so we had a free preview. It was lovely.

The next week we managed to get into the exhibition - Atkinson Grimshaw, Painter of Moonlight. My friend had said it was a beautiful show, and so it was. Grimshaw was a popular Victorian painter and after seeing this exhibition, I understood why. His technique was peerless, truly breathtaking in places, and the works were atmospheric and evocative.

Atkinson Grimshaw : A Lane in Headingly, Leeds; The Thames in Moonlight; and Roundhay Park.

Apparently his work has recently emerged from the mist of obscurity in which we have shrouded the Victorian art era (though, to be fair, all of it seems to be making a come-back over the last few years). Last time I went to see George Watt's work in Compton, Surrey, in - well, around 1978 or so! - I remember thinking it was all a little overdone, but earlier this year when I went down to see the gallery again, I was surprised to find his work surprisingly relevant to me now (as well as being a leading portraitists of the Victorian era, he produced a body of symbolist work - he considered that art was a means to social reform). Also, of course, the trustees had spent £10million pounds renovating the gallery (apparently rain was coming through the roof, and all the paintings were in need of conservation). Now reopened, the Watts Gallery is a jewel, with workshops and studios and a wonderful, double-height window displaying Watt's enormous equestrian sculpture. The Chapel, which made such a huge impression on me those many years ago, is still superb, but for some reason I had to work to remind myself of the impression of sumptuous iridescence I'd seen before. It's possible that our first visit was sunny, while this time it was a more sombre day.

Watts can still be a bit syrupy, but his best works have a belief in the reforming ability of art that our cynical age seems to have forgotten. As well as a power that our contemporary BritArt nonentities and their PR gurus could die to achieve.

GF Watts: Orpheus and Euridice; Endimion; and Hope.

2nd December 2011

I have not been doing any artwork for a while. However, I have submitted Weaver for the new season of Show Me the Monet ... it will be interesting to see whether they find the painting intriguing enough. Shemyaza and Tethys were not accepted for the Royal Society for Oil Painters, and I was really teed off to find that a few days later, after lugging the damn things into town and then having to go in to collect them again, that they now accept or will on images sent online. Still, I don't know that a conventional society like that will ever accept my work. They'd probably have rejected Cecil Collins as well.

And I finally have decent photos of Parvati and Shemyaza, so here they are - at last:

I wanted to put a link in this blog to an article on healing through nature. Not art, but definitely inspirational:

Mark Golding's story Walk the Deep Line.


29th October 2011

I've done no artwork this month - decided to give myself a bit of a holiday. However, I have been accepted for the Society for Art of the Imagination and Weaver will be shown there at their annual exhibition. I've also submitted Shemyaza and Tethys to the Royal Society for Oil Painters open exhibition.

And I have been able to catch up with some of the exhibitions around - we managed to see Devotion by Design (medieval Altarpieces before 1500) at the National Gallery just before it closed, and Treasures of Heaven at the British Museum. The astonishing workmanship in the latter was rather offset by the underlying emphasis on death - Christianity does have this tendency, of course.

This week it was the John Martin 'Apocalypse' exhibition at Tate Britain - breathtaking. His brushwork and colour sense are amazing (just look at the blue in The Plains of Heaven below).He had a huge influence on some surprising people - for example the Brontes, Sir John Tenniel (illustrator of Alice in Wonderland), John Constable, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly Rossetti. And of course, his work has had a massive impact on our culture today. You can see echoes of his work just about every Hollywood blockbuster since then - what wouldn't he have done with CGI. (We could do with a reincarnated Martin right now: there are some pretty bad 'epic' films being churned out right now. I've just seen a trailer for the film Immortals, which looks like it's just cloned the sets including cast of millions from Lord of the Rings - merely altered the main characters from orcs to Titans.)

Anyway, back to John Martin. I hadn't known he was born in Haydon Bridge in 1789 - about thirty years later than Blake. Nor that his older brother deliberately set fire to York Minster! (Martin paid for his brother's trial defence, and though he was ultimately found guilty his life was spared on the grounds of insanity.) I also hadn't realised that the Victorians found Martin's art a bit overblown, I thought it would have suited their sensibilities, but of course he came to prominence in 1812, so by the time the Victorians came along he was well on in years.Thank goodness he didn't take any notice of the critics, but it must have been very disheartening for him. After he died, his work was neglected - in the 1930s his work sold for a few pounds! It took more than 100 years (and the advent of epic cinema) for us to really appreciate him.

The Tate has included a sound and light show (and some good morphed visuals) of his large triptych: The Last Judgment, The Great Day of His Wrath, and The Plains of Heaven - quite a feat.

John Martin - The Last Judgment; The Plains of Heaven; The Great Day of his Wrath (1853)



26th September 2011

The exhibition has been up for a week, and looks good - it's great to see the pictures up together as before now they were just piled up against the walls! Good new contacts and possibilities of future collaborations, so it's been useful. I love seeing all my work together - though as you see, we put Shemyaza upside down (i.e. as if he's standing, rather than in his true Hanged Man stance). Someone at the Private View asked if he had been hung in reverse and I explained why I'd put him that way - mainly because I know that everyone would have had to turn themselves upside down in order to see his face. I did put two sets of hangings so he can be hung either way, and if he comes back here I'll hang him upside down. Although I should say that because he took so long to complete, various Hermetic practitioners posited the idea that when I finally finished the picture, he would be freed...

There are two large pictures showing all the Devas in order, and four original Deva paintings as well - in the window and just outside the exhibition room. Of all the work those two were the most difficult to frame (each card had to be placed individually, mounted, then framed) but they look wonderful!



1st September 2011

Weaver is finished, finally... the photo doesn't really do it justice, as the camera struggles with the extremes of light and dark. Still, I'm pleased with it and will use it on the invite for the private view of my exhibition at Atlantis - which should have gone out about 2 weeks ago. It might end up being called 'Tree of Life' instead to highlight the tree in the left side of the painting which has my version of evolution (with dolphins and birds higher on the evolutionary ladder than mankind, and chimps on the same level) . However, I'm used to it being Weaver - and if it gets renamed Tree of Life I guess I'll have to do another to reflect the idea of Weaver. Parvati is coming along but still needs a fair amount of work. Given that I only have 18 days left, I need to get moving on the framing. Off to Origen tomorrow to get it, I hope.


26 July 2011

Ah, this beautiful sculpture!

The first shot was sent to me some years back, firing up a desire to see the original. Having finally managed to get up to Birmingham City Art Gallery, I had to be pried away from it.


16 July 2011

I've had a productive day today: finally the new Weaver is coming together. It's still a mess on the left hand side, as I don't really know what I'm doing there, but it's better than it was, and the Orion imagery in the lower right is also beginning to make sense, though it obviously still needs some work!

And, after an amazing, unexpected visit to a Hindu temple in East Ham, my Parvati 'vision' has finally made it into this world - though, I have to say, she's still a bit closely tied to the conventional imagery. I'll have to winch her loose from it, and make her more like Shiva.



5 July 2011


The Woman Clothed in the Sun - now complete. Colour is better in the older one, but the dragons and the clothing are new. Facebook people have been very complimentary - odd, because I thought it was a kind of throw-away image. Having said that, though, she is beautifully sensual, and quite a few people have remarked that they are working with the image of the sun in their meditations. So she's reflecting something...

And I have put the dragons in - I am quite pleased with them, though they are a bit schematic.


26 June 2011

I've been remiss over the last few months: posted nothing, even though I have done another of the egg tempera alchemical images - this one is the 18th Century Flammarion engraving of the Discovery of the Heavenly Spheres, which I've loved ever since I saw it and have now produced my own version - it's as near finished now as dammit so I might as well post it now.

Also today have started reworking a painting with a slightly unhappy history. I found the canvas at SCOLA (the local college at which I have taught for the last eight years), and began a demonstration of oils on it. After a while I decided the image wasn't going to work and gave it to a friend who comes here every fortnight to paint. She had a stab at it but finally gave up on it. In the meantime I'd seen a possible figure in what she'd done - the 'Woman Clothed in the Sun' from Revelations. So that's where the painting has gone today - it still needs a lot of work, but seems to have potential.

12 May 2011

The Green alchemical lion setting the sun free is now complete. I'm aiming to do a series of these alchemic images as - being an alchemic artist, as discussed with a friend yesterday - alchemy is what I do in paint. It's bringing opposites together; progressing through a series of transformations until I reach a solution, a unification.


Exhibitions - a friend and I intended to go and see the Psychoanalysis exhibition a couple of weeks ago at the Science Museum, but unfortunately the finish dates on the website I referred to were wrong (they said it ended on the 30 April, but it didn't). Nor have I made it to the Ai Weiwei (Tate Modern) or the Susan Hiller. Still, I did get to the Watercolour exhibition at the Tate, which was a really good show; and there are others coming up - the Miro and the da Vinci (to name but two!).


26 March 2011

I've begun about 3 new paintings today - I'm finally redoing the dark and light angelic picture I posted below, started another which is essentially my version of an alchemic engraving with a lion, as that seems relevant at the moment; and am playing with a strange elongated thing that may or may not work.

I've also finished The Tarocchi Players, The Sorceror, Tethys, and Shemyaza, in preparation for an exhibition at Atlantis in September. I've posted all these images already, but this one, the painting I posted on 24th January, has had a complete make-over, as I didn't like it (below left). Then my mother had a slight stroke about a month ago and I decided to redo it for her. It's now provisionally entitled Harmonics.

9 March 2011

I've been neglecting my blog. But as I'm not sure if it's ever seen because it's not a blog website, it probably doesn't matter at the moment. I've not seen any exhibitions - I went along to Shadow Catchers but unfortunately it had finished already so that wasn't too bright. But I have been doing some egg tempera painting - at last - working large, on animal hide. It's not an original piece, I hasten to add - it's a copy of The Tarocchi Players by Agostino da Vaprio, an Italian artist born around 1457 who worked in Pavia. Not much more is known about him, but tarot enthusiasts are familiar with this painting (which was done as a fresco, possibly as a commission for a noble family, or perhaps for one of these exotically clothed card-players).

I have been pleased to see that you don't need to be too precious, or use tiny brushes, with egg tempera; I've been really working the paint hard, and it responds fine. Just as well, really, because I don't have the patience to attempt the normal tempera style. And the finish is lovely - not so good on a soft surface like this because of the camera flare but in real life it's very attractive.


Exhibitions to see:

Anish Kapoor (Kensington Gardens) 28 September 2010 - 13 March 2011
Gabriel Orozco (Tate Modern) 19 Jan 2011 - 11 April 2011
Modern British Sculpture (Royal Academy) 22 January - 11 April 2011
The British Art Show (Hayward Gallery) 16 February - 17 April
Psychoanalysis (Science Museum) 13 October 2010 - 30 April 2011
Ai Weiwei (Tate Modern) 12 October 2010 - 2 May 2011
Susan Hiller (Tate Britain) 1 February - 15 May 2011
Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World (British Museum) 3 March - 3 July 2011
Joan Miro (Tate Modern) 16 Februiary 2011 - 21 August 2011
Watercolour (Tate Britain) 14 April 2011 - 11 September 2011


24 January 2011

A friend, Ginny, and I have spent a couple of Mondays painting. She's working on a Cosmos-sort of image, and I've worked on a whole raft on paintings that have been sitting waiting for resolution for years. Last time I spent the whole day working on the Rapture, and while it's not appreciably improved, I have now completed the Sorceror (which I started - well, I can't even remember! - I think around 2000?) and another painting which has been around for even longer and changed even more dramatically. And I've nearly completed the other deva-like image, though I'm not sure if I rate it particularly.


The first photograph I have of the Sorceror is on the left - the sorceror, the child and the tree are there, and the 'goddess' has turned up again in the final version, rather unexpectedly. Having said that, this happens quite frequently - I'll get rid of something only to have it reappear, in a better guise, later on.

The original Tethys is on the right, though there was an even earlier version which I can't find right now. The dark female and light angelic male later transmogrified into Mike's picture of the Fallen Angel. I quite like the original female and male and may revisit them yet again, keeping more closely to the original image.



25 December 2010

How sad is this, to be updating my blog on Christmas morning!! But I'm quite excited, startled, even shocked, by a painting I started this morning.

It probably doesn't look much atm, but what it said to me was apocalyptic stuff, 2012, The Rapture and all that stuff - which is why it shocked me, especially as I wasn't consciously thinking about anything like that. It's a big picture - 6 x 4 ft, so the impact is pretty powerful.

At the same time I had another go at a piece I started quite a few years ago (trying to get a Cave for the Devas that worked). And that also now seems to be talking about The Rapture, unless it's' just another' Lucifer...

I industriously went to quite a few exhibitions in November and early December: Serge Diaghilev and Ballets Russes Exhibition, the Glasgow Boys and the Treasures of Budapest, as well as the Illumini Crypt-mas at the St Pancras Church crypt. The Diaghilev was a huge show, as was the Treasures of Budapest - the first was interesting with beautiful costumes, but Treasures was full of extraordinary work including quite a few El Grecos, a real treat as you don't see him very often; some gorgeous Franz Hals, Goyas and even a Rembrandt or two. At the end they had a modern room including Gauguin and Schiele (used for one of the posters). A lot of the work was really unusual, as you can imagine.

Treasures of Budapest -
St Andrew Altarpiece; Franz Hals,
Portrait of a Man; El Grego St Mary Magdalene; and Goya, The Knife Grinder

The Glasgow Boys was a much smaller show, with three images that stay in my mind: A Highland Funeral, by James Guthrie; also by Guthrie, To Pastures New; and Bringing in the Mistletoe by E. A. Hornel and George Henry (1890). The latter is a big painting, and has extraordinary impact. We decided Hornel and Henry must have been pretty well stoned, but they certainly had a good time painting it - what a powerful image.


Illumini's Crypt-mas was impressive, as usual, though they had chosen a bad day for the opening, with London pretty much snowed in. Jane Webb, the curator, sat valiantly in the unheated crypt through the exhibition, but her work Father Crypt-Mas was what the exhibition was all about, a time-travelling cyborg produced by an ageing Father Christmas to help produce and deliver gifts for every child. Another piece, Tracey Sarroff's Psycho-Grass was also stunning.

Jane Webb: Father Crypt-Mas; and Tracey Sarroff: Psycho-Grass


Exhibitions to see:

Salvator Rosa (Dulwich Picture Gallery) 15 September 2010 - 28 November 2010*
Serge Diaghilev and Ballets Russes Exhibition
(V&A) 25 September 2010 - 9 January 2011* done
Treasures of Budapest (Royal Academy) done
Shadow Catchers (V&A) 13 October 2010 - 20 February 2011
Anthony Gormley (St Pauls Cathedral) 24 February 2010 - 31 December 2010*
Eadweard Muybridge (Tate Britain) 8 September 2010 - 16 January 2011*
The Glasgow Boys (Royal Academy) 30 October 2010 - 23 January 2011* done
Da Vinci exhibition (National Gallery) 9 November 2011 - 5 February 2011
Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition (National Maritime Museum) 10 September 2010 - 27 February 2011
Egyptian Book of the Dead exhibition (British Museum) 4 November 2010 - 6 March 2011
London Futures Exhibition (Museum of London) 1 October 2010 - 6 March 2011
Anish Kapoor (Kensington Gardens) 28 September 2010 - 13 March 2011
Gabriel Orozco (Tate Modern) 19 Jan 2011 - 11 April 2011
Modern British Sculpture (Royal Academy) 22 January - 11 April 2011
Psychoanalysis (Science Museum) 13 October 2010 - 30 April 2011
Susan Hiller (Tate Britain) - 1 February - 15 May 2011
Ai Weiwei (Tate Modern) 12 October 2010 - 2 May 2011
Joan Miro (Tate Modern) 14 April 2011 - 11 September 2011



14 November 2010

I have begun another page of the illuminations - The Houses - and then allowed myself to sidetrack onto a painting I began probably in the last century (!) and could never finish. Now I am a hairsbreath from completing it, although I don't think it's particularly wonderful. It's just good to finish it, after so long. Its completion was fuelled by a couple of powerful active imagination meditations, and the Gauguin exhibition I took some of my students to last Friday. Gauguin has always been a wonderful resource for me. His forays into the Other World, his symbolist approach and use of colour are inspiring, even though I'm afraid I would have found him rather repellant as a person. I've included the one on the right although it isn't in the exhibition. In the next day or so I'll post the completed painting I'm working on - however it ends up.

Paul Gauguin, Nevermore; and Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?


4 October 2010

And the last Illuminated Astrological sign ... Libra, after a year. I finished Phoenix, the first one I did (yes, I know it's not an astrological sign but so what) on the 20th October 2009. They are all complete - how extraordinary is that!

Now I want to do the planets, the houses, and something on the moon signs. (I hope this doesn't take another year to complete - it could, theoretically - the planets, in particular, are just as labour-intensive as the signs.)


At the beginning of the week I went along to the Saatchi Gallery in London with a friend and her Foundation year art class. I'd had a quick glance in some months ago, but nothing grabbed me at that time. On Monday I had the opportunity to go through all the galleries, and there was some interesting work. Saatchi still has Richard Wilson's 20:50, which I saw in Boundary Road. At the Chelsea gallery it's still sumptuous (get the allusion, do you?), but I think its best incarnation was at City Hall, mainly because the contrast between the engine oil and the beautiful Georgian panelling was so extreme (the image below is from there). The smell is now an inescapable part of the piece - the first time I saw it, in Boundary Road, it was barely noticeable. Perhaps they've been using the same oil ever since?

One artist that impressed us was Ged Quinn, whose superbly painted landscapes are pure Claude Lorrain - until you look a little closer. In True Peace, below, there's a survival bubble protecting a small blue city - presumably for very small aliens - under the tree.

I also took some shots for my Windows series - of course!

Richard Wilson, 20:50; John Wynne - 300 Speakers; and Ged Quinn - True Peace
Saatchi Gallery, October 2010


18 September 2010

Two exhibitions - one at the Royal Opera House on the forest, a number of rolling performances and pieces of artwork rolled into one. Some wonderful Russian animations (worth turning up for those alone!) but also some intriguing contemporary art pieces - the Floating Forest, for instance (below). The mix of performance and sculptural art was interesting, although I wasn't sure about the Fading Forest, a room of costumes. In the end I felt that the theme of forests hadn't quite got there. Perhaps I should have just gone for a walk at Boxhill instead.

The second exhibition was the Illumini Secret Subterranean London. I didn't manage to get a light art piece accepted (my Blood Tap would have been fantastic in there with some lighting, if I'd had the nouse to join up the dots [London - Subterranean - Tower - torture, duh], and I could also have shown You Cain't Always Get What You Want as well. I'm obviously far too slow). Anyway, I was the tarot reader they mention at the opening, and I also did a talk on Occult London. That was fun to prepare - a bit of a scare when I couldn't figure out the laptop's quirks, sorted when one of the audience helped me see the missing tabs. So I didn't have to throw the laptop out of the window when I got home.

The exhibition itself had some very good pieces, themed around plague London, World War II, torture, the Thames tunnel - which I missed, unfortunately - and the sewers and other tunnels. I love that sort of work - Casebere, for example. Illumini had Nicholas Adams, a photographer with a passion for the unseen, so he was a favourite. There were quite a few other pieces that caught my eye, Wendy Couchman's Vital Signs, Laura Luck's Woven, and Jane Webb's The Screaming - particularly effective due to its sound fx, though my picture doesn't show much of it. I also enjoyed Jo Taylor's Terminal - 'smoke-a-graphed' body prints.

Left: The Floating Forest, from the ROH; centre: Nicholas Adams Hidden Spaces (left); and Wendy Couchman Vital Signs

Left: Laura Luck: Woven; centre: Jo Taylor Terminal; and Jane Webb The Screaming


8 September 2010

Virgo, finally!

3 September 2010

I still haven't finished Virgo - and it's already a month since I uploaded Leo. Where has the time gone? I suppose I have been away quite a bit - three weekend of medieval fayres. Anyway, I should be able to complete it in the next few days - I only have the border to do now.

I went to the Ernesto Neto exhibition today. Have to say I wasn't enthralled. It was certainly different; an interesting use of materials and environment, transforming the upper galleries of the Hayward into soft spaces. Very interactive, as they even had a swimming pool for the brave. I'm sure I've seen his work before, possibly in Venice, but the Hayward exhibition didn't do too much for me. Biomorphic, yes; it made me think of intestines and body passages, as intended, but I found it less immersive and more samey than I wanted. He called the exhibition 'The Edges of the World', and the publicity images made it look fascinating, but it was less varied than I hoped, and extremely expensive (£9 for an Art Fund ticket). So not the most inspiring experience I've had this year. The critics liked it - 'The show is a heady, out-of-body experience made to draw us together in its gorgeous embrace' [The Observer]; but it obviously didn't have that effect on me!

The Hayward exhibition The Edges of the World (left); and two pieces from The Malmo experience

On Sunday we are going to the Royal Opera House Deloitte Ignite contemporary arts festival - Joanna MacGregor on forests. It sounds fascinating - films, music and dance performances, soundscapes and installations: a floating Forest, a reclaimed forest and a Fall Forest. The descriptions sound good - 'shimmering projections' and 'mysteriously playful', so let's hope it's more my thing.


3 August 2010

Leo. At last. And I'm uploading this instead of getting ready to go into town for my weekly stint at Watkins. I guess I'm so pleased it's done I just want to put it out there.


15 July 2010

Help! I'm getting behind! I won't be able to post Leo by the beginning of Leo. I was already behind when I posted Cancer, but I don't know how I've managed to do so little when it's half way through July already. At least I have a few days where I can actually work on it, but I'm away on a field from next Wednesday. Well, I'll just have to spend as much time as I can on it from now until next Wednesday, that's all.

Needless to say, every single person who asked about the illuminated astrological sheets over the weekend was a Leo...

Oh, and if you're into doomsday scenarios, check this website out...

It basically says that there's a press blackout around the whole BP thing, because a massive methane bubble is forming under the seabed in the Gulf of Mexico. I always treat these sorts of predictions with great scepticism (I don't know how many end-of-the-world predictions I've heard over the years, and we're still here). But this one ... let's face it, BP have drilled incredibly deep into a geologically unstable area, which could well have hosted more than one disaster already (if the scientists are right about the comet crashing into the Gulf of Mexico, causing the extinction of the dinosaurs - not quite sure why one led to the other, and as it's after midnight, I don't feel like looking it up). Who knows? But sooner or later, we will do something irrevocable, probably out of greed and stupidity. Human extinction? Bring it on.


28 June 2010

Cancer is done - for some reason it seemed to take far longer than the others, especially as I see I posted the revised Taurus on the 2nd, so it has taken quite a while. Still, I'm pleased with it: I love the gold and ultramarine blue. I only have three more to go now - Leo, Virgo and Libra - no more Water signs! I'm looking forward to designing the pages with Ls and Vs, as I've had a recent run of round letters - Cs, Ts, Gs.

BP has managed to put itself in deep dudu with the world, after scrrewing up its Deepwater Horizon oil-well in the Gulf of Mexico. Greenpeace had an article on the fact that BP want to exploit the tar sands of Canada, but that looks unlikely now - they're in such bad odour with the press, public and politicians, the company may well not survive. The paper was saying they'd be taken over before too long. But - even now - will we stop? Fat chance. Sooner or later, though, we will have to wake up.

Time to finish Spirit of Easter Island, I think.

Spirit of Easter Island


I still need to see some exhibitions (time to do an update on the current exhibitions, as well...):

Myths and Monsters, Horniman Museum (February 13-September 5)
Henry Moore, Tate Britain (February 24-August 15);
Fra Angelico to Leonardo da Vinci, British Museum (April 22-July 25)
The Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy (until the 3rd week of August)

Gauguin, Maker of Myth, Tate Modern (September 30-January 16 2011)


2 June 2010

I've redone the bull in Taurus, courtesy of Bronze-Statues.com. As I said below, finding a bull with the characteristics I wanted proved to be difficult, but I finally found a sculpture of a 'fighting bull' which was just right. So my friend can now rest easy, here's a bull that hasn't been emasculated and doesn't look like it's just screeched to a halt.

The paper yesterday said that Louise Bourgeois had died. She was 98, and I'd seen a film on her about 2 years ago and she was already very frail although she was still doing weekly tutorials for aspiring artists. So - homage to Louise Bourgeois is due - a phenomenal artist, and a woman. I am not sure I understand her work, which is extremely complex, but I certainly 'got' the spider, which was one of the first things ever exhibited in Tate Modern.


28 May 2010

Gemini is finished. I don't know why it seemed to take a really long time before it started to come together - maybe because I was side-tracked into sketching different bulls for Taurus. In the end I decided to put that off until another day. So here (at last!) is Gemini - anyone who knows my deva cards will probably recognise the air beings which have been taken from Air. I'm allowed to nick my own stuff, I guess...


13 May 2010

A friend rang over the weekend to say that although he really liked the astrological illuminations, he did not like the bull in Taurus. It has a cow's face, looks like it's just screeched to a halt, I've destroyed its masculinity and its horns are wrong. Had I modelled it from a real bull, he asked. Not something you tend to see easily in London, I have to say, and although I looked at lots of pictures on the internet they were either boring (bull standing in middle of field looking half-asleep), or lacking in the detail I needed (some poncey little man in a pink cloak standing exultant over a fallen bull. The original bull-fights were a real test of skill and bravery - the Cretan bull jumpers vaulted over the backs of the enormous wild bulls of the Mediterranean. The bulls they breed in Spain and France are far smaller - although maybe just as ferocious. But see below*).


My Bulljumper (1989)

[*Rant of the day: Why is it that humans seem to think it's fun to wound large and dangerous animals like bulls and bears? So many of the images of bulls on the internet were revelling in the bull blooded or dying after being lanced about 15 times. One image, though, showed a man with lances sticking out of him, bleeding and dying - finally, an artist holding up a mirror to us. The human race is weird. We are capable of understanding and creating sublime beauty, of selflessness and caring, of amazing feats of imagination. But tipping the scales on the other side is the way we treat the world we've been given. AFAIAC it is particularly vile to harm an animal in the name of entertainment.]

Going back to my story - eventually I found a stylised bull I thought would do as a reference image but, unfortunately, - on looking at lots more photos on the internet - it looks like he's largely right, so I'll have to redo it. I don't think I can amend it, as its legs are too long as well.



3 May 2010

A friend and I went to see the Paul Nash at the Dulwich Picture Gallery on Saturday. Nash is an artist I've always admired as his deep connection with the land always seemed to me to have an extra dimension. Of course, there had been some of his stuff at the Dark Monarch exhibition (20th March), but this exhibition gives a far better idea of the range of his work, as well as the intensity of his vision. It is an excellent show, particularly as it communicates what I'd picked up from his work (and why I enjoy it). This is Tom Lubbock on the exhibition: - ''The powers that dwell in these landscapes don't feel like quasi-persons. Nature doesn't wear a human face. When Nash's work is at strength, it's as if another and quite alien world had intersected with this one; as if the hills etc had been taken away and then returned, subtly changed.' Yes. Or perhaps we ourselves have been taken away and now can see in a different way.

One of the most powerful pieces is Two Pyramids in the Sea (1912 - a very early piece). It has the potency of a prophecy - although I guess I have to admit that for me it's a kind of wish-fulfilment prophecy. And I thought Winter Sea was stunningly beautiful. His work - often disturbing, ghostlike, begins to show a resolved symmetry that felt deeply satisfying. Somehow, after all the war-borne horror and later ill-health, Nash found what he'd been searching for throughout his life: self-acceptance and union.

Two Pyramids in the Sea (1912); Winter Sea (1925, 1937); Chestnut Waters (1923, 1927)


19th April 2010

A weekend of work on Taurus, as a friend wants one by the 22nd, and - as I'm seeing her tomorrow - I decided I'd try to complete it. The trouble is now I really think I ought to change the heavy border on Capricorn (which I still wasn't sure of when I completed the revision). Taurus works with its floral border (all the plants and trees Taurus is supposed to be allied to - vine, roses, poppies, cloves, pear - and I've put in a couple of dogs and a monkey, though those are my own addition. Dogs because of the patient, faithful aspect of Taurus, and monkeys because ... well, why not?!). I'll have another attempt at Capricorn.

Off to the London Book Fair tomorrow, with all the illuminations - I don't know whether I'll actually talk to anyone about it but I'll look for publishers who might be interested.


14th April 2010

A couple of exhibitions - the Kingdom of Ife tomorrow, and Leighton House on the 9th. Leighton House - well, mostly the Islamic Room - is stunning. The critics are being pretty sharp about it, saying that it was all self-promotion for Lord Leighton, whose art demonstrates Victorian sentimentality at its worst. Also, they say, he had an eye for soft Arabic boys, and gave his paintings abyssmal titles such as 'Pavona' or 'Bianca'. True, I ignored most of the paintings, but he could certainly draw - his life studies were beautiful, and I felt that the house had been cherished, whatever the critics thought. Leighton surrounded himself with things that inspired him and if it included his own art - well, what else do you do with a whole lot of paintings that haven't sold?

To return to the Arab Hall ... my main criticism of Leighton House is the books they sell about it - after this £1.6m restoration, you'd have thought they would have produced a sumptuous coffee table book for people like me who love detail... but no. There are two books, one about Leighton and one about the house, and the photography in the latter was pretty poor. Nor did they allow photography. Thank god for mobiles, is all I can say...

Leighton House Arab Room - and detail of gold frieze


5th April 2010

After 3 1/2 days of concentrated effort, I've finally completed the new layouts for both Sagittarius and Capricorn. The reason for this was that I decided - a little after the event - that I wanted all the elements to have the same layouts. This meant both Sagittarius and Capricorn would need to be altered, which I've now done - primarily in Photoshop. Both are a lot better now, particularly Capricorn, which I actually didn't like much originally. I'm still not sure of the heavy border, but we'll see.

I also managed to see the Decode exhibition at the Victoria & Albert. It was quite small - I had expected it to take about 1 1/2 hours, but I was finished in only about 3/4. Still, it was quite fascinating - one piece in particular had everyone riveted. Again, unfortunately, my photos don't do it justice, as the display was constantly changing - if you laughed or coughed, the colours that appeared on the screen were gorgeous. I managed to snatch these two shots - the mobile camera is just too slow!


28th March 2010

Aries is complete but I have two versions - a brown ram or an angora ram. I have no idea which I should use as I like them both. I'll post them on Facebook and see which other people prefer! {Most people apparently prefer the dark ram but as I like both, I'm keeping both.)


20th March 2010

This week we went down to Eastbourne to see the Dark Monarch exhibition, the publicity for which said 'Enter a dark fairytale of shadowy landscapes, mysterious figures, the secret and the supernatural'. The title, taken from Sven Berlin's book, was intriguing; and the exhibition certainly contained a number of interesting pieces - particularly more contemporary art, such as John Russell's Untitled (see below), and an unusual Damien Hirst. Our favourite was a sculptural piece made of bostik and glass, although the photos of it don't do it justice.

14th March 2010

A busy week for exhibitions. First the Chris Ofili, and yesterday I managed to get round the Gorky - although I felt like death warmed up (a 24-hour bug? Don't know, but I feel much better today).

Seeing Chris Ofili's work in earlier years, I always enjoyed it but thought it was fairly light-weight. Sumptuous, hugely decorative, technically interesting, and culturally diverse, he was obviously working through issues of religion and race in an entertaining way. No problem there, though I wondered, before I went in, what he'd been doing with himself and whether he'd moved on after those early works. The exhibition answered that - he's moved to Trinidad, and his paintings are now plain oil on canvas. Still full of religious iconography - apparently his sculpture is even more overtly religious - three of the paintings were interesting in that he'd used deep blue on deep blue (using textures to differentiate between the different aspects of the painting, like Rothko's black canvases). I reserve judgment on whether I prefer his new direction.

Chris Ofili: Virgin Mary; No Woman No Cry; and Judas Iscariot

Similarly, Gorky's later paintings bore little resemblance to his early work. He tried out different styles - Cezanne, Picasso, Kandinsky and the Surrealists, were all grist to the mill. In the end he discovered a gorgeous synthesis and then transcended that. I find it incredibly sad, though, that even though he managed to process a tragic upbringing through his work (he lost his beloved mother to starvation in Armenia), he still lost the ultimate battle. First he lost much of his work in a fire, and then in 1948 a car crash made it impossible for him to paint; a month later, he committed suicide. So much genius lost to depression and self doubt!

Ashile Gorky: Agony (1947)


9th March 2010

Here's Pisces - finished well before the end of its astrological period, so that's pleasing! Aries is the drawing board and already coming along fast, which is gratifying, as I was concerned before I started it that I would have problems with the layout. I began by using one layout for Scorpio and Sagittarius (lettering at the top, main illustration bottom right hand corner) and another for Capricorn and Aquarius (main lettering in centre, illustrations at top and bottom), I realised that each element should really have a different layout - i.e., fire, water, earth and air should each have their own layout. However, that presented technical problems which I thought would be difficult to solve. When it came down to it, though, Aries drew itself, and that layout will work for Sagittarius too - with any luck all I have to do now is to move the elements in Sag around a little. Capricorn, for Earth, presents more problems as I think the whole page will have to be repainted, but it's not one of the best and will probably be a good thing in the end. I included both the sea goat and the mountain goat as there seems to be some confusion over which one is actually used for Capricorn - but in the end I think this just exacerbates the confusion, so I'll probably remove the mountain goat as there won't be space for it in the new layout.

I'm off to see the Ashile Gorky on Saturday and will make some time this month to check out the Chris Ofili. I noticed yesterday that there's a Michelangelo exhibition on at the Courtauld, which I must get to as well.


18th February 2010

Aquarius is done, at last. I'm very pleased with it. I've already begun Pisces but I had problems with the Uranus motif within the illumination, but now that's sorted I'm happy. Time to put some more Windows onto the site, too.


9th February 2010

The egg tempera workshop was great. Quite an eye-opener, as you can obtain such detail, and stunning colour, with this medium. It's not easy to master and I definitely haven't managed that; and I don't think I'll ever consider it my preferred medium, but I will continue - I now have three prepared boards and most of the paints, so all I need now is a muller and some glass to grind the pigment (as well as a good number of free-range eggs!).

This is what I produced over the weekend - taken from the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries - so (given that the whole reason for getting into this was to be able to demonstrate medieval painting techniques, as well as produce diptychs and triptychs) it's a good start. I need to complete this painting before I do anything else - the woman's dress, the castle and the dogs need more work. The duck in the pond turns out to be a seagull, and I wasn't sure about the hawk but for someone who doesn't enjoy detail, it's not bad.


31st January 2010

Aquarius is coming along well and I'm hoping I'll get ahead of the game now, though I'm on an egg tempera workshop next weekend (maybe I'll take it with me if I haven't finished). Finally got my Wacom tablet working (after about 11 years of it sitting in a drawer), so now I can actually paint and draw online. I still prefer the real stuff though: real paint, real pastel - most of my pieces have taken shape because of mistakes, or earlier layers coming through.

And a surprise exhibition - a friend phoned to ask if I'd like to go to the van Gogh exhibition on Wednesday. What a treat! I was even given tea at the end, too. It's a wonderful exhibition - seeing his writing and little sketches in the letters was amazing. His life and work always touch me deeply - I think Don McLean's song 'Starry, Starry Night' expresses it all, really - he had such passion, such integrity, and such hopes; he loved the world, threw all his passion into his art, and yet at the end he 'took his life, as lovers often do'. He would have said his life was a failure. Now his work sells for mind-boggling prices. I don't think the amount of money would have impressed him - he seems to have been quite spartan in his approach to life, but the fact that people care about it - that would have meant a lot.

The exhibition makes the point that van Gogh was a cultured, intelligent man - unlike the popular image of a rough, shambling figure who could barely string two words together, or a lunatic who painted in a manic frenzy. He learnt his skills carefully, trained himselt to use paint and colour, and was an intelligent, culted man. He was fluent in four languages, well-read and educated, and had a number of correspondents including English artists. His understanding of psychology was also sophisticated - witness his paintings of the chairs from the Yellow House. His own, spartan, utilitarian, on tiles; and Gauguin's, on carpet, and a candle, perhaps to light his way home (Gauguin was a bit of a philanderer). Unfortunately his intuitive understanding of their differences didn't help him with their volatile relationship, and as both of them were quite difficult, it's not really surprising the whole situation degenerated into violence. But - what a loss. You see those sublime paintings, and read his words, and know that - as the song says - 'this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you'.

Back to reality then, and my list of exhibitions, laid out clearly so I can refer to it:
The Real Van Gogh, RA (January 23-April 18)
Chris Ofili, Tate Britain (January 27-May 16)
Ashile Gorky, Tate Modern (February 10-May 3)
Identity, Welcome Foundation ((November 26-April 6) (closed Mondays?)
Decode, V&A (December 8-May 11)
Myths and Monsters, Horniman Museum (February 13-September 5)
Henry Moore, Tate Britain (February 24-August 15);
Kingdoms of Ife
(West Africa), British Museum (March 4-June 6)
Fra Angelico to Leonardo da Vinci, British Museum (April 22-July 25)
Michaelangelo's Dream - Courtauld (Feb 23 - May 16) - drawings done for Tommaso de'Cavalieri

Gauguin, Maker of Myth, Tate Modern (September 30-January 16 2011)


24th January 2010

The Sacred Made Real - what an amazing show. The two sculptures below are my favourites - the Mater Dolorosa on the right because the detail on the fabric is exquisite - it's been tooled with gold patterns and looks as if you could wear it. (In fact, quite a few of the sculptures were clothed in glue-treated wool.) I have included Ecce Homo on the left because his legs were exactly what I needed for the figure of Aquarius (although that may change - the Waterbearer is not working at the moment and I will probably redraw him). Mary Magdalene, in the centre, is beautiful, far more so than this rather static photo. I've included her because, as you'll see, she is equally relevant to the next show we went to.

The exhibition is small but still a lot to take in as the sculptures, in particular, are stunning and you want to really spend time with them (though there were too many people to do so comfortably. That's the problem leaving things to the last weekend). I have a great dislike of pieces being removed from site and brought to museums - the Elgin Marbles, all the burial treasures from Egypt and around the world lose their relevance, become just stuff, when they're exhibited - but at least many of these pieces are still used for worship and are brought out in religious processions in Spain, and feel so much more potent because of that.

We also dropped in to the Hoerengracht, the Kleinholz installation in the main National Gallery. It was an overwhelming experience. It seemed in some strange way to be just another part of the Sacred Made Real. The sculptures were also life-size, also expressing unbearable sadness and loss. In addition, though, the Christ the Spaniards took such pains to bring to life had no problem with prostitutes - he saw everyone for who they really were.



Mary Magdalene, of course, has been portrayed for two thousand years as a prostitute. Nowadays there is some doubt about this (a doubt which has been simmering quietly since well before Dan Brown's assertion that she was Christ's wife, as well as his closest disciple). That question isn't one I want to address particularly, at midnight on Sunday night; but (as I said previously) what I found in both exhibitions was a sense of passion and pain, loss and grief. Saint amd sinner, prophet and penitent, we all feel those emotions. And what I come away with is a sense of wonder at the technical virtuosity and passion that inspired the Spanish exhibitions - but a feeling of shared humanity and pity with the benighted women, waiting in their shabby little rooms for the next client. Both exhibitions invited me into their world, but it was the Kleinholz that really made me feel human.


21st January 2010

Capricorn is complete - dead on time, courtesy of the snow (I really needed that snow!). It's different from the others in that I wanted to give it a more 'structured' feel, to go with the Capricorn character who, being influenced by Saturn, is highly structured and organized. So the frames are more geometric, the animals are all earth-based, and I'm not sure it works with the double-frame. It also features a different layout. Anyway there it is, and I hope it goes with the others.


I am going to see The Sacred Made Real on Saturday which will no doubt be an experience - also intend to go to Kienholz The Hoerengracht as I really like his work and have never seen it in the flesh (as it were). Both of these are on at the National Gallery London. There are some great shows coming up -the Real Van Gogh, of course, at the RA from January 23-April 18; Chris Ofili at Tate Britain (January 27-May 16); Myths and Monsters (February 13-September 5) at the Horniman Museum; Henry Moore (February 24-August 8); Kingdoms of Ife (West Africa) at the British Museum (March 4-June 6); and Fra Angelico to Leonardo da Vinci, also at the British Museum (April 22-July 25).

In Paris Christian Boltanski is doing an installation at the Grand Palais. The Guggenheim Bilbao has a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition on until February 14th, and then a Rauschenberg show from February 12-September 12. Kapoor has a show at the Guggenheim New York, but I think it's mostly what we've seen in London (nice - London's doing well atm as we hosted the World Premiere of Avatar recently).


13th January 2010

It was thawing well yesterday so I went into town to Wild Thing (the Epstein, Gaudia-Brzeka, Gill exhibition at the Royal Academy). It was good to see Gill's Ecstasy again as I copied it several times, years ago, and Epstein's revoutionary Rock Drill is impressive. The piece incorporated real machinery - unheard of for the time, given that the sculpture was completed in 1913-1914 and first exhibited in 1915; the infamous Fountain (1917) was not even a glimmer in Duchamp's eye at that stage.

The exhibition includes both the reconstruction with its rock drill and the truncated bronze which was all Epstein had left after he finished severing its limbs. When we realise that his friend Gaudia-Brzeka died in 1915 at the age of 23, it is perhaps easy to see why Epstein amputated the piece. Both statements are as apt in our day as in his.

Time Out gives the exhibition 3 stars which is probably about right - the ticket price, however, is something the RA should think about. £9 (or £8 if you happen to be over 60 or an Art Fund member) is well over the odds for such a small exhibition - £6 would have been a better level. They didn't even include Epstein's beautiful alabaster Jacob and the Angel. The RA spent a lot of time and money in the recent Kapoor show, and is nowgetting ready for the van Gogh which is sure to be a block-buster; but alienating the art-going public by charging over the odds is counterproductive.


9th January 2010

Capricorn is coming along well: I hope to finish it before the official end of the sign (20 January).

I was planning to get up to a museum or three this week but the snow put paid to that. I probably could have struggled in, but getting back out of London in snow - even as little as 1/2" - is usually a nightmare, so discretion has been the better part of valour. Instead I've been doing my tax returns, doing some digital animation, and planning a proposal for three pieces of light art. The latter will consist of my light bin piece, though that is dependent on getting a large aluminium cylinder; the next uses three converging slide projectors, and the final piece is more conceptual, based on a number of long thin cylinders through which you peer to see - well, the light? I don't know whether this one will work - although sod's law predicts that it will be the only one that does. (I wonder if there's any significance to the preponderance of 3s in these pieces?)


31st December 2009

And here is Sagittarius. Finally, and more or less at the last moment - any later, and I'd have to put 2010 as its date! They're already setting off fireworks, though there's still an hour and a half before midnight.

I had to stop doing the illuminations for a while, as three Deva decks needed to be made up, so it's taken even longer than Scorpio, and there are other projects coming up which will take time in January - proposals for light artwork and some archangels I've been asked to do, and it will be really interesting to see what comes through for those! However, I must try and catch up with Capricorn or I'll never keep up with the year! Still, as usual I had a lot of fun doing Sagittarius - I love all the little dragons and grotesques I have put in (I'm sure the monks consoled themselves by doing the same, as they sat with frozen feet and hands, hunched up over their vellum and gold leaf). I have actually managed to include some embossed gold leaf in this one, though I still want to get a smoother finish).

A friend and I went to see the medieval galleries at the V&A - or at least, the ground floor (I still have to get back to the 2nd and 3rd floors!). It's amazing, a tour-de-force (apparently they spent £30m on the galleries and I can well believe it). The detail and thoughtful touches the curators have put in make the whole experience head and shoulders over any museum I've visited. The Daily Telegraph gives it a 5 star rating which is totally justified.

There are also a number of other exhibitions I have to see - the Epstein and Gill, van Gogh, the Sacred Made Real and the Kienholz Hoerengracht. There's an Earth exhibition at Burlington Gardens (or the RA) all January, looking at artists' depictions of the planet trying to look at global warming through art, which may be interesting. There's a Gorky exhibition coming up in February, too. Later in the year there's Gauguin - a must-see.


29th November 2009

The Scorpio illuminated manuscript is complete - or just about, as I think I may do something with the gilding around the eagle. If I am to keep up, though, I'll have to move onto Sagittarius immediately, as I'm already a week late with the dates (the sun moved into Sagittarius last Sunday). I am looking forward to finding out all sorts of new things - I already knew a reasonable amount about Scorpios, being one myself, but the other signs are fairly new ground for me.


The header page for Illuminated Astrology is also finished now. This will be the frontispiece of the book - when I finish it!


24th November 2009

As promised, I've been to see the Kapoor again - Saturday evening, so rather too crowded. Also dropped in the V&A to see their medieval galleries, but unfortunately we mistimed that - they reopen after a major refit on the 2nd December. I loved this carving, but need to get its title next time I go!

As the Scorpio ms is well on its way, I should really get to the British Library and have a look at their illuminated manuscripts as well.


11th November 2009

A quick entry - I've been to the Kapoor exhibition which, as usual, blew my mind. All the pieces there were gorgeous - particularly the huge yellow inner space in the second room and the wonderful 'Hive' - which I'll include here. The cannon which shoots globules of what looks like blood (red pigment) comes from a shot I grabbed - another visceral piece - but the enormous blood-red 'train' [Svayambh] that inches along a 5-gallery-long track is possibly, for me, even better. It's a stunning show, and I'm glad I'm going again at the end of the month!

Kapoor: Shooting into the Corner (2008_9) ....................Yellow (1999) .............................Svayambh (2007)


20th October 2009

The Phoenix is at last finished. It looks really good. Although the lettering is a bit inconsistent, hopefully I'll get the practice I need doing the rest of the astrological signs! I haven't decided what I'll begin with. I've various requests - Virgo, Taurus, and Scorpio: the latter is the most appropriate, given the date.


17th October 2009

I've decided it may be better to have the most recent events first, so I've reversed my blog. Very apt, as (taking part in the UK Tarot Conference today) the Hanged Man appeared prominently in readings.

For the last couple of weeks I have (at last) got back to my artwork, and have been working hard on my new project: a series of astrological illuminated manuscripts. To get my hand in I've begun with a more hermetic image - the Phoenix. Well, it can be the 13th sign! I will also produce cards - so here is the first one, amalgamating Libran motifs with the Phoenix.

Rather to my surprise I love doing the illuminating because, although it's hugely time-consuming - the Phoenix has taken me about 3 weeks' work and it's still not finished - it's very rewarding. The pages look so beautiful! I played with some gold and silver leaf on Thursday and found that more tricky, but that was always going to be challenging, not least because it's almost impossible to scan effectively once it's done. I'll persevere.

However, the more I do of this project, the more excited I get about it. There are so many ways I could continue it: into mythical beasts or even a medieval tarot along the lines of the Visconti-Sforza deck; and, of course, into the triptychs and diptychs (and egg tempera) paintings, which will be my winter project.

I also went to the Cecil Collins exhibition at Central School of Art (Holborn) yesterday (Friday 16th). It's a lovely exhibition, with some very powerful work; I had only seen his 'fool' and angel paintings and now see that I prefer his early work. The exhibition ends on Tuesday, so I'm going back there to track down the paintings I like the best. Hopefully I can get photographs of them (as you see, I managed - just)! And the dome inside the exhibition space will be good for the Windows series (I'll have to go back for that - I was asked to stop photographing, so - being a very obedient sort of person (not), I desisted. (Actually, I went into the foyer to watch the films on Collins, but unfortunately we were all forced to evacuate due to a fire alarm. So I didn't manage to get back into the exhibition space - this time.)

Cecil Collins: The Guardian of Paradise (1963) and (right) Fete Gallante (1951)


2nd October 2009

Our trip to Newcastle was very enjoyable. Newcastle is a lovely city - uncluttered with wide streets and gorgeous old buildings, some interesting street sculptures, and the glass museum in Sunderland is a great visit (image on the left).

Given that my main reason for the visit was to see Liliane Lijn's exhibition at the Glass Museum, though, I was a little disappointed to find only three pieces of her's. Still, a walk along the beach-front in Roker, a wonderful Art Nouveau church, and the Angel of the North on Wednesday made up for that - especially as I managed to invoke 2 hours of rain-free weather!

We then went back to Newcastle to see the wonderful titanium concert hall, the Baltic, and the swing bridge, which started swinging just as we came out of the Baltic. Brilliant timing. The best, though, was the light sculpture in the ceiling of the public car park! Very civilized city, Newcastle.

The swing bridge half-way up - and the light sculpture in the ceiling of the carpark


17 August 2009

I went down to Eastbourne last Thursday to see the Jodie Carey exhibition In the Eyes of Others. Her work is stunningly beautiful but the exhibition - which the Towner commissioned - somehow didn't work as well as it could. The images shown in the Towner website look wonderful, but if Carey's intention (as she states in her interview in Cultural Quarterly) was for 'there to be a feeling of amazement when they [the audience] stumble into the clearing', she should have made the labyrinth of fruit boxes and newspapers more ... well, labyrinth-like. And I'm not sure that she needed three chandeliers of bones - one would have done the job just as well, maybe better (though of course that's just a personal view). The bones - as everyone points out - are of plaster, so the chandeliers weigh at least a ton ... so where do artists store all the stuff they make? I guess they just have to pay for warehousing!



31 July 2009

Some more Windows , from the Tate (Britain and Modern), and the famous glass ceiling from the British Museum where I went round the medieval and Sumerian galleries. Tate Britain was showing Richard Long, and Modern had the Futurists, both worth seeing (although the Futurist display leaves a lot to be desired - there was nothing on their architecture, the titles were all placed together, at the side of a whole group of paintings, so you had to keep returning to check on what title referred to which painting. Why? Perhaps it suits the gallery staff. It sure doesn't do much for the viewer. Also it was a rabbit's warren of galleries, opening into and out of each other with no clear progression. No wonder the papers didn't think much of the exhibition.) But the Long was wonderful. I hadn't previously seen much of his work and he wasn't one of my favourites, but that exhibition changed my mind.

Boccioni - Unique forms of Continuity in Space; Richard Long - Vermont Circle

As far as Windows are concerned, the Tate does not allow photographs or ceilings or windows, which seems to me perverse. They burbled something about insurance, when I asked. Well, my photos could obviously offer thieves a chance to make a million dollar heist from the galleries - not.

My brother rang saying I should put a 'comments' box in my blog. Good idea. I will, when I can work out how to do it in Dreamweaver! I'll be doing a course on it in September, so I'll be able to find out then, if not before. Meanwhile, if you do have any comments I'd be really interested to hear them: cilla@cillaconway.com.


24 July 2009

A quick update - two medieval gowns later, I met a Master Gunner at the Dorset medieval festival last weekend (see below), who asked me if I could demonstrate medieval painting techniques. If so, I could take part in re-enactment - something I've wondered how I could get involved with. Suddenly a whole new world opens up - years ago I had thought of making my own colours as a way of practicing alchemy, but didn't take it any further (too much like hard work, probably). Now, though, I have more of an impetus. I also found Kat Black's Golden Tarot which is not only a brilliant source of material (she produced the cards using digital collage from medieval paintings, and in the booklet she gives the titles of all the original paintings!) - but as an unexpected bonus, I find I can read with it. So now I have a medieval tarot to use at the festivals, as well as a source for the diptychs and triptychs the Master Gunner was suggesting. Producing medieval paintings is not a path I could ever have imagined, but it feels synchronous enough to follow up.

The other thing I've managed to do is get my new door installed. My ex-husband did the installation, and while the locks gave a few problems, the stained glass in the door looks stunning ... I hadn't realised it would be so successful; you get constantly changing coloured reflections and at night it's especially beautiful. at night, and the glass shines, catching different facets of the outside. Pictures as soon as the various bits of ironmongery are on the door (see above).

By courtesy of another artist, I've also been introduced to an amazing company in London that is running multi-media courses - for free. They have innovative presentation techniques capable of showing someone talking or dancing on stage, utterly realistically - to the extent that when the projection and the real person are shown side-by-side, it's difficult to tell the difference! So they can beam images of a famous presenter (Madonna, for example), onto the stage and have her singing in real-time. I will see if my light-bin could benefit from the technique.



1 July 2009

It's quite a thrill to have a place to show my Windows pictures - opposite - as I've been photographing them for so long, but the blog gives me a chance to display (and catalogue) them. That's the good news. The bad news is that an exhibition I had intended to show SwanSong at, turns out to be a bit of a joke.

The exhibition was publicised as the Summer Exhibition and Party of one of the on-line galleries. I'd paid my fee to exhibit my work - no problem there although the website isn't the most appealing or well designed. They then emailed about the exhibition, for which they asked a fee of £20.00. That seemed reasonable, but the show was then postponed for two months and when (finally) the information came through about the show, we were given only about 10 days warning. Worse still, as a friend pointed out, the address seemed to be a bar - although the email neglected to tell us this. We were told to be there at 3.00pm sharp, and when I got there at 3.30 (after getting lost in the wilds of Shoreditch) there were about four dispiritied people waiting - two of whom had work of dubious artistic merit (I'm being charitable here, although it may not seem that way). I thought we must be the latecomers, but it turned out that these were the only artists to have turned up. The organisers, meanwhile, were not ready for us yet. When they finally showed us into the 'gallery' my worst fears were realised: the room was narrow with a long bar on the left, and on the right there were about 3 very rickety screens that would probably collapse t if you hung anything more heavy than card on them. There were no proper lights, and the whole thing was seedy in the extreme. Most of the exhibitors began hanging their paintings, although a couple of men also seemed a bit dubious. One had been invited to exhibit and had come all the way from Edinburgh. Othe people were beginning to turn up - a woman who had also been invited to show and was desperate to sell her work. Unfortunately, I'd say the odds of that happening at this venue were about zero. I came back home with my painting, glad I hadn't invited anyone to come to the show (guests had to pay £7.50 upfront, which I thought was unacceptable).

SO - the moral of this long story is that if you are an artist and you want to exhibit, do your homework! There are a lot of artists' sites on the web. Most, if not all, of them now ask an annual fee for showing work. Some of them will be more established, and offer a reasonable service. Some of them, however, will be one or two people with a laptop and mobile. So be canny - don't just blindly hand over money. Look at the other work on the site. Ask questions - there should be contact details somewhere on the site. And if they invite you to show at an exhibition, find out where it will be held first!


26 June 2009

A friend suggested I add a creative blog to my website, and - while not particularly wanting to add to the millions of unnecessary words in cyberspace already - I think it's a good idea, mainly because it'll help me. I'll see what I am doing and, more importantly, it'll act as an impetus for me to do the creative work I need to do. So - first of all, a doodle I did on the 23rd:


The reason I like this is because it shape-changes. If you look at the small version, there seem to be two slightly predatory bird-like shapes in the lower portion of the circle. But when you look at the larger version you can see there's a face in the middle, and the bird shapes are just the legs of a starfish - or pentacle.

I have finally finished the four stained glass panels I was making for my new front door; they still need to be puttied up and cleaned, but hopefully I'll have my new door installed in the next few weeks! Here's the finished set of panels, installed.



There are some good exhibitions on at the moment: Madness and Modernity at the Wellcome Collection, Euston Road, London, finishes this week and has some fascinating pieces from asylum patients, as well as a very interesting film by David Bickerstaff. It utilises a sophisticated use of split screen video and effective sound-track.

The Futurists is a must for me, as is the Richard Long exhibition, both at Tate Modern. And then at the end of August I'm off to Sunderland to see a show of light and glass at the National Glass Centre - main reason is because there's some work by Liliane Lijn, a light artist who works with Aerogel. As my main ambition atm is to produce some more light art, it should be a wonderful and inspiring trip. Annie, my fellow-traveller, has come up a really great idea for a sound-light-glass piece which we'll work on together; I've been hoping to do some collaborative light pieces for a long time, so this is very exciting.

Liliane Lijn - Heavenly Fragments

We're also going to take a side-trip to the Angel of the North as well, which I've never seen up close.

However, it looks like I'll be taking the car up: the train prices are ludicrous! How they can justify charging £71 one way to Newcastle when it's less than £60 to Paris is beyond me.


Cologne windows


Cologne beer hall

Cologne - December 23 2012

Stupidly, I left my phone at the hotel so couldn't take any shots of the windows at any of the museums. The cathedral, of course, is incomparable, and thie lower image shows that even the beer halls have stained glass!


Whitechapel - July 12 2012

Ceiling and skylights. I really like the skylight photo (lower)- it reminds me of the very first pieces at the Venice Biennale which started off this piece of work - around 13 years ago! I've included a bigger image of this as well, if you click on it.

Chihuly reflected on the ceiling,
Halcyon Art Gallery - March 3 2012


Worcester Cathedral - January 1 2012

Birmingham City Art Gallery - July 24 2011

If you're awake, you may see that the sculpture is not a Ron Mueck, but it could be.
Saatchi Gallery - Newspeak - October 2010


Skylight at the Royal Opera House
(Deloitte Ignite festival 2010
The Enchanted Forest).

Golden light - Dulwich Picture Gallery at the Paul Nash exhibition.

V&A - ceiling windows at the Decode exhibition.

Just for fun - the V&A again of course: Chihuly glass and dome.

The Towner - taken 2009 for Ivan Novara's Nowhere Man exhibition of 2009, but equally valid for The Dark Monarch!


Tate Britain - where photography (even of the ceiling) is strictly verboten (you can tell I will never outgrow my knee-jerk rebelliousness). This is at the Chris Ofili exhibition, March 2010.

Summer 2009 - the geodesic dome at the Barbican.


Some photos from the series I call the life-death series. Taken on a Canon 400D with a macro lens in 2008 (Bristol) with my friend Nadia, who encouraged me to buy a digital SLR - when I'd given up on photography...


Another photo from the same series - my favourite.



This photo looks like the barrel of a gun -
or a tunnel - slightly derivative of James Bond. But it's actually the inside of a cardboard cylinder from a kitchen roll!





Have you ever looked at the windows and ceilings in art galleries? All too often, they are far more interesting than the exhibitions themselves. I realised this at the Venice Biennale in 1999, and began photographing and cataloguing the shots. So this piece of work - which builds up to a considerable number of photographs - is my statement about much of the contemporary art shown today.

Venice Biennale, 1999



Arnofini, April 2008


Tate Britain, July 2009
(Richard Long exhibition)


Tate Modern turbine hall, July 30 2009
(Futurist exhibition)


British Museum, July 26 2009
(Sumer and medieval galleries)


RA, November 11 2009
(Kapoor - very definitely not a comment about the exhibition though!)




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