Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Journals, collages, and an amazing auction.

It's amazing how quickly one forgets things.  A little over a decade ago, I enrolled in a few courses offered by the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists' Guild (or CBBAG, affectionately pronounced "cabbage"). I was trying to find a way to marry my love of paper and books and of making things with my hands.  Seemed a no-brainer.  It also helped me with my blank journal addiction: I couldn't - and still can't - walk through the journal section of a stationary store without having heart palpitations.  For a few years, I made quite a number of journals:  I sold some, used some, and gave some away to my long-suffering friends and family members ("Not another danged journal for Christmas...")

When I made my latest one last week, it had been so long since I'd done it - a few years - that I found myself making all sorts of cardinal mistakes.  I had to refer to my old notes, but they didn't help much, as I'd left out many of the very basic, obvious points which no self-respecting binder would have to think twice about.  Oh, well, at least the cover paper is beautiful.  While I was at it, I made a mini-journal with the cut offs.  I like all things mini, and enjoy these tiny books which are made in exactly the same way as the larger ones.

I've been working on a new series of collages, using leaves and flowers that I've found and pressed, as well as pieces from the old letters I purchased last year in London's Spitalfield's Market, and papers, some of which were already painted, and others which I painted a while ago.  I found myself very much influenced by the season's change with the pallet for these.

And I wanted to add my pipes to spreading the word about an amazing auction happening right now within the mythic arts community.  There are fabulous items - books and art and more - being auctioned off for a very, very good cause.  It can be found at Magick4Terri.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Liebster Blog Thanks. Zwei Mal.

Katherine Langrish, writer of folklore inspired fantasy books for children and young adults (which have been very much enjoyed by this adult), and keeper of the wonderful blog Seven Miles of Steel Thistles, has included my blog in her list of the five recipients of the Liebster Blog award.  Thank you very much, Katherine!


The premise is that this award is that it is to go to five blogs you enjoy, each with fewer than 200 followers.  Upon receiving one the protocol is to:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you .
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Hope that the people you’ve sent the award to forward it to their five favourite bloggers.

And I'm now coming to the Zwei Mal (two times) in my title.  

A confession and an apology, actually.  A number of months ago, Kate at Ogham Moon awarded me a Liebster Blog, which I thanked her for and was going to fulfill the four points above.  However, at the time I was still finding my blog-legs and felt self-conscious about announcing an award, and I wasn't quite sure how to go about passing it along, and when I finally got it all sorted out in my shy-techno-slug of a brain, it seemed like it was too late (you know, like when you let too much time pass before responding to an e-mail, and it gets harder and harder to do).  Stupid, but there you have it.  

But now with a year of blogging under my belt, and a bit more confidence at putting myself out there, I am very happy to announce the receipt of this award.  Thank you, Katherine and Kate!  

And now, to pass it along:

Kit and Kaboodle  This fascinating blog is kept by Kate, of Ogham Moon above, and is where I first got to know her.  She combs the net for curiosities in music, video, and images, as well as posting anecdotes and pictures from her visits to interesting places in England, and sometimes (though not often enough, if I might be so bold) includes her haunting re-touched photographs.  

101 Ways to Draw a Rabbit Jan's blog is a lovely mix of whimsical musings about art, writing, and life with occasional anecdotes about a lively ferret thrown in.  I always enjoy reading her book recommendations and seeing her latest paintings, which often have mystical or fairy tale themes.

Windsongs & Wordhoards Carrie shares her wonderful, mythically themed paintings on this enchanting blog and, very generously, gives behind-the-scenes glimpses of her works in progress which is always fascinating to see. 

Jo Treggiari's blog is full of interesting, witty, insightful posts about her journey as a writer for children and young adults.  

And last, but certainly not least: Gathering Scraps This is writer Claire Massey's fairly new blog in which she posts about books and films, as well as current events in arts and letters which she attends and, at times, participates in.  Makes me wish I had a magic carpet to get out to even half of these events.  

And thanks to everyone linked to above for such diverse, creative, and inspiring blogs. 

(A - hopefully - temporary ps:  It seems the graphic for the Liebster Blog isn't showing up on my post.  Sorry.  I've been trying to fix it, but nothing seems to work.  Seems like it should be simple: copy and paste.  Even I can do that.  Going to take a break now, before rising blood pressure turns my head into a molotov cocktail.)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

In the time of re-remembering.

The air is incensed now with woodsmoke and dying leaves.
A time when everything changes.  Is not what it was.  What it seemed.  

First the spectacular dying of the year;  the trees and shrubs show their shape-shifting nature.  In the trickster hedges and copses, I sometimes see figures on the very edge of sight: a shape, a movement. Nature has her Carnival time.  She plays, wears costumes and masks, she flirts, and dances until dawn. 

Then drops, exhausted, under a covering sky.   


And sheltering mists.

Now, the introspective time of the year.  Time for retreating.  For hearth and home.  Kettle and comfort.  
Ladybugs seek a bed for the winter.   

I find I read more poetry at this time of year than any other.  I write more poetry too in this pleasantly melancholy time of re-remembering.  

My old journal is just about full.  Time to get out the bookbinding tools and make another one.

Work on a poem jotted down in a sketchbook inspired by the sketch of a dying apple.   

Every time we remember, we minutely alter the memory by what has passed and who we have become between remembrances.  It's a slippery eel of a thing, memory.  A shape-shifter when cornered.  Proteus in a bear-hug.  

In her website's October column, Jeanette Winterson wrote something which struck a chord:  
“I come here [Paris] to live another life, connected to but not identical to my own. I read different books. I speak (not well) a different language. I eat different food and change my usual habits. Consequently I think about things differently, and when that happens, I remember things differently too. This is striking and surprising, as though the layers and layers of time and mind and experience and capacity will re-order themselves if given the opportunity to do so.
I felt relief this morning walking over the Pont Neuf with the dog. The relief was not just the happiness of a short break, though it was that too, but it was also a tectonic shift in my social relations with myself and my life. We are in relation to our ourselves, and that can change, stretch, recolour, recode.”

For me, this is the season for reevaluating my relations without and within.  This is only in part due to its being my birth month - birthdays always give an opportunity to contemplate, to remember, to reevaluate.  But it's mainly because of the season.  The strong changes both without and within.  A mirroring.  A magical symmetry.  A slow, slow dance.  
Think I'll end with a poem by one of my favourite poets, Gwendolyn MacEwen, whom I posted about (herea few months back.  

Dark Pines Under Water

This land like a mirror turns you inward 
And you become a forest in a furtive lake; 
The dark pines of your mind reach downward, 
You dream in the green of your time, 
Your memory is a row of sinking pines.

Explorer, you tell yourself this is not what you came for
Although it is good here, and green.
You had meant to move with a kind of largeness,
You had planned a heavy grace, an anguished dream.

But the dark pines of your mind dip deeper
And you are sinking, sinking, sleeper
In an elementary world;
There is something down there and you want it told.  

* Gwendolyn MacEwen's works copyright to the Estate of Gwendolyn MacEwen.  

Monday, 10 October 2011

Spitalfields and a year of blogging.

I've finally finished the six Spitalfields collages.  I almost didn't want to, as it was so much fun making them and thinking about their possible stories.  Their stories haven't been written down yet.  That's something for the winter months.

"She returned from India with a splinter of its saffron sun lodged deep in her heart."

"Her heart broke into a storm of black feathers." 

"It was only in the morning's solitary twilight that she could hear that feathered song murmur through her thirsty bones." 

"She collected shell after shell - ever searching for the one that would sing her the sea." 

"Page after midnight page saw the feverish scribbles of his laudanum dreams." 

"He told her the necklace he gave her contained secrets of the Spanish sun."

It's been just over a year since I began this blog - in a rash, what-the-hay sort of a moment.  It was all the rasher for my being a rather shy person with a bad record of fist-fights with my computer.  But I made the plunge and am very glad that I did.  (Wanted to post on the actual day - Sept. 21 - but I'm so not organized enough for that.)  

At the beginning, I had no real idea or vision or plan for this blog.  Still don't.  Over this past year it's just meandered along in its own, organic way.  At first I was a bit uncertain about just how meandering it was - stopping at this topic, taking a look at that topic, tripping over yet another one.  I'm not anymore.  

All of the blogs which I read and enjoy seem to spring naturally from the person writing them.  There are some which focus on very specific things, perhaps just a person's progress with their paintings, or their writing, others are more of a mix including anecdotes about life, family, kids, mythology, stories, song, travel.  

In my first post, I wrote that one of my reasons for starting a blog was to reach out to the community of like minded people out there in the blog-sphere.  That's happened and it's been a real enrichment.  The exchange of ideas and inspiration which blogging allows is truly incredible.  

Thanks and a hearty welcome to everyone who has stopped by my little acre of this whimsical new land.     

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Turning.

Autumn has always been my favourite time of the year.
A sudden awareness of changes.  Awareness of the slow, internal movements of the earth.  Of time.

Lovely things have been appearing on our table.  
Chestnuts collected by my younger son on the way home from his soccer game.

A last harvest of garlic brought for us from a relative's mother's garden in Bosnia.

Apples given to us by a neighbour from her allotment nearby.

I find that I read more at this time of the year.  Curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea.

I've just finished an inspiring biography written by Charlotte Gray.  "Sisters in the Wilderness: the Lives of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Trail" covers the lives of two self confessed bluestocking sisters from England who decide - at the urging of their husbands who have a misguided hope for a better life financially - to emigrate to the backwoods of Canada in 1832.

Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill (nee Strickland) in spite of being completely unprepared for the rough, hands on life of pioneers in the Canadian bush, did manage to carve out a lives there, though very modest and not always comfortable ones.  They kept homes, raised families, and in spite of hardship after hardship (including loosing their homes to fire, the deaths of children, and at times a lack of any financial means), always managed to find the time, energy, and ideas for their writing, which was published on both sides of the Atlantic.  

As someone who is trying to juggle many of the same things - though under much more comfortable and less adverse circumstances - I found the spirit and will of these two women an incredible (and perhaps timely) inspiration.

And so, to work.

This is also the time of year when I find myself wanting to wrap up unfinished projects.  Especially after the kick-in-the-butt that book gave me.  I took over the living room floor once again and got to work finishing my Spitalfields collage series.

This lady's line is: "She collected shell after shell - ever searching for the one that would sing her the sea."

And I finally decided what to do with this fellow.  "Page after midnight page saw the feverish scribbles of his laudanum dreams."

There's one more lady, and she's just about finished.

Since there's no chance of my getting back to London in the near future, so I shall have to find a source here for old photos.  I don't like the idea of buying them on-line.  It's much more fun to walk through a market and riffle through musty shoe boxes of old photos looking for ones which speak to me.  

Seems an Autumn thing to do.
Perfect at this time of passages and of ghosts.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

On collages and commissions and what to do with your wellies in the dry season.

Well, Autumn has well and truly begun.   We had one last day-outing to a nearby lake with our bikes.

Cows watched us with minimal interest. 

As we went, the foothills of the Alps were a constant reminder of expanse and distance; of how close together and far apart countries are.

At the edge of the Staffelsee there was a welcoming shore.

  Fallen leaves on stones were a sign of the seasons on the cusp.

More foothills.

A hunting perch which I saw as the perfect writing room.

Back home.  Things have been hectic these past few weeks.  I've been in the middle of a couple of projects.  

My tiny painting/collage/writing room is overrun.  In a fit of where-on-earth-do-I-put-this-paper I rediscovered my Wellies.  Unfortunately there's not much use for them here in Munich, but I love having them around as a reminder of soggy green fields, clambering over wooden stiles, and hours spent exploring the English countryside.  

These are the papers I mentioned in the previous post, along with some old letters and some of my tools.  I am in love with my paper cutting knife.  Many a journal and collage have been made with its help.   

One of the nice things about collage is that you can keep every single scrap of paper.  Often I find just what I'm looking for in this box of skinny chaos.

Some of the flowers and leaves I picked and pressed this Summer.  I was hoping to pick more, but didn't get around to it.  I kept thinking that I had all the time in the world.  Nope.

This piece isn't finished, but I wanted to show a bit of my process.  Basically, I just start laying papers and other items onto a stretched canvas; playing with colour and shape and composition.   I love this playful aspect of collage.

I've only finished one more collage in my Spitalfields series.  Her first line is:
"It was only in the morning's solitary twilight that she could hear that feathered song murmur through her thirsty bones."

I keep telling myself that I'll get around to writing the stories for these women, but it hasn't happened yet.  I have to start heeding the lessons of nature...

A few weeks back, I was fortunate enough to receive a commission from one of my husband's cousins.  Her father was going to celebrate his 84th birthday.  She wanted a pair of collages in the style of the Spitalfields ones, but with photos of the family farm they lived in and worked for years.  It was my first commission, and I must say that I was rather anxious, hoping that they would like what I'd done.  Luckily I know the family and could add elements which I thought would be apropos.

I've also been busy with an upcoming exhibit of my paintings.  There is a large medical arts building in the neighborhood (Aerztehaus-Harlaching) which displays works on rotation.  I went in about two weeks ago enquiring as to whether they had a waiting list for artists, and whether my paintings might be suitable.  When I heard back from the doctor in charge, she told me that the artist who was to hang this month (and display into December) had cancelled and if I'd like, I could hang mine.  I was thrilled.  I was also a bit overwhelmed as it meant doing a tonne of work in a very short period of time.  

All of the prep was incredibly tiring - and it coincided with the first week back to school for my two boys and they spent a couple of late nights with my husband and me in the clinic, but it's done.  Finally.  The paintings are up (40 of them - it's a large building with three floors).  I've even sold two to one of the doctors there.  I just about fell off my chair when I heard.  What's interesting, is that the two which he purchased are of entirely different styles and from different years.  

 (blue 8 / oil on canvas / 153 x 92 cm / 2011)  

(red / oil and acrylic on canvas / 123 x 61 cm / 2007)

I'm very happy that they've found a home.  The red one was always a particular favourite of mine.  Perhaps I'll return to explore that style again at some point.  Perhaps not.  

For now, I have two very large blank canvases up on the living room wall (120 x 180 cm each).  There was no possible way of them fitting into my painting room, so I've had to encroach and take over the living room.  (I'm sitting at the kitchen table writing this, as there isn't room in my room.  I am taking over our apartment one room at a time..)

I'm very happy that Autumn is here.  Always a time of beginnings.  Of new projects.  The crisp, clearer air seems to tighten everything up a bit.  

Just hope I don't need my Wellies any time soon.  

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Bones, and stones, and an oyster shell.

First blog post in a month.  These past few weeks, I've been on Summer time:  kids at home, no fixed schedule, a visit from my mother from Canada, outings.  I've also been finding my time at the computer to be more draining than usual, so I haven't been on it as much.  I seem to have been drawn to tactile things more.

Inspired by some of the items I have around my room, I painted more paper for collages.  The neutral tones in bone and shell, the stark and sometimes surprising colours found in stones.

Near the beginning of the holidays, we did a 12k walk with our two boys to Kloster Schaeftlarn.  The last time I went, it was by bike.  On foot, one sees so much more.

A huge snail.

A brilliant orange slug.

Piece of bark almost the same colour as the slug.

A pile of logs, waiting.

And a stone with a spiral on it which reminded me of Valerianna's gorgeous spiral paintings.

I would have taken it to add to my collection, but it was larger than a pebble and we still had a number of kilometers to go.  Besides, it looked quite comfortable where it was.

There is a stunning little late-Baroque church at Schaeftlarn which has recently undergone an extensive renovation.  It was built under the direction of J. F. Cuvillies from 1733 - 1740.  We spent a while exploring.

I found this little fellow at the foot of the confessional.

Another outing was to the beautiful mediaeval city of Regensburg.  Reminders of the Roman settlement can be found throughout the place, sometimes where you least expect it.  In this case, it's smack in the middle of one of the public underground parking lots.

Outside, the elderberries were just turning.

There are many churches in town.  This was a Menorite church, which is connected with the Historical Museum of the area around Regensburg.

There we met with images of death.

And dragons.

And creatures who once would have drooled water down from the Cathedral in the centre of the city.

And death.  Again.

There was also a trip to the mountains south of Munich.  It was my first time in the mountains.  We took the train to a lake called Spitzingsee in the foothills of the Alps.

A cable car up.  Incredible views.  Incredible, hearty flowers.

And an incredibly welcome Weissbier at the end of our hike.   I have absolutely no head for heights.

And back to work.  More paintings in their early stages.  Very early stages.  Note the Thames in the background, from a printout of a 1746 map.  A constant reminder of the manuscript which I've been neglecting.

More pieces.

And finally, since this post doesn't seem to know where it's going or why, here's one of me.  I needed a new photo of myself for my website.  I have a bit of a problem in that I don't look like the same person in any two photos that have ever been taken of me.  The one I had put on the website a couple of months ago was the one chosen from about 150 shots my husband took of me.  (Thank heavens for digital cameras.)  In it I looked confident, professional, full of vigor and ready to take on the world.  Not a damned thing like me.  I think this one captures it a bit better.

Hope everyone's having an enjoyable, creative, and productive Summer.