Thursday, 23 November 2017

Finding inspiration...just how does this art thing work, and (scarily) not work?

Often people ask me about my art. And it makes me stop and reflect.

What does inspire me? Indeed, why do I create artwork in the first place? How would I describe this thing we call art? More importantly, what happens when I wake up and I can't seem to make it work (enter inevitable morning anxiety).

The easiest way to answer these questions is to at first just be technical. Describe the process...the how...not the why (that's way too scary to leap into right away, though I promise I will come to that - comforting cup of tea needed first though).

My artwork and techniques do tend to wander, hence my wandering artist name. An artist's journey is continuous, and carries on throughout their entire life. Or at least for as long as they practice as an artist. The technique and process is therefore apt to develop, change, and evolve over time, and hopefully improve.

For the moment, I tend to focus on the detail, whilst allowing a smidgen of spontaneity. Attempting to capture as much as possible, whilst remembering that perfection does not exist. That in any perceived error, there often lies beauty and interest and an opportunity to learn.

And to do this, I often combine the precision of a designer's pens with watercolour paint.

Beginning the composition
I frequently, though not exclusively, work outside. This can be either entirely or partly, with the drawing construction coming first. This focuses my mind, as the drawing needs to take shape before the lighting shifts too much, or circumstances change. And they can change dramatically.

During this particular day's sketching a moped rider came off his moped suddenly and I and several passers' by went immediately to help. It was quite encouraging to see people automatically leap to the rescue, and how people will willingly take charge of the moment.

Emergency over, and the moped driver safely on his way to hospital, I was able to carry on with the day's drawing and painting.

The essentials - travelling art kit, art board, paper, comfy stool and water

Sometimes, due to the weather, there might be complete, or partial working of the piece indoors - especially whilst working at the top end of Australia, and during the build up to "The Wet", as occasional torrential downpours and lightening storms interrupts the afternoon!

People who know me know that I love to draw trees. I have been particularly drawn to them since I was a biology student. The sense of age, and strength and the beauty of the graveled, characterful grooves, notches, breakages, growths, and wounds add to their gnarled beauty...something we appear to negate or reject when it comes to human beauty. What we see as part of the story of the trees life, we try to mask, cover, deny or even make-over with humans.

Choosing the subject matter

The next step is to set pen to paper. I make no preliminary pencil sketches first. I sometimes warm up, or at times feel the need to go in cold, but the actual image is drawn directly with pen and ink. Any mistakes are exploited or controlled mid-flow! Or not, and I might need to begin depends on how easy it is to let go of that need for perfection.

To be confident enough to do this has taken many years of daily (or as many days as I can) practice - even a single daily sketch is enough to ingrain that muscle memory further, in the same way as a musician learns a musical instrument, a child learns to catch a ball, or a dancer learns a specific dance...the same can be said of an artist. Eye-hand co-ordination needs development in the same way for an artist, as for any other task. And once developed, confidence in the unconscious task ensues. Don't use it...and lose it.

Beginning the initial drawing

The initial drawing is worked steadily and patiently. Not rushing the process is a skill that has taken a while to develop. The process now takes time and represents a meditative process. Observation, and slow steady hand eye co-ordination.

Helping to mask over an area to stop smudging the image

And as the hand works over the page, I'm suddenly confronted with a different challenge, than that usually encountered in the UK, where I often have to stop and run for a cup of tea, and warm surroundings. Here, I have to try to protect the image from the perspiration now building on my hands and arms, and running down my face. Darwin, placed at the top end of Australia, is in a very warm and humid climate at this time of year, building as it is towards 'The Wet', and so I have to fashion a screen over the drawing to prevent it smudging.

Once the final tree image is completed, I look to the images of the different birds seen in the area, and finally decide on the masked lapwing as a good subject matter to add to my composition.

Masked Lapwing hunting for insects © David Norton

This is also part of my art process. Being a biologist, nature often forms part of my inspiration, and using art helps me observe, and focus, and learn more about the world about me. Not so much in words (the blog helps me do that) but visually. It helps me really look at my surroundings.

Birds inspire and fascinate me, representing creatures that will not be conscious of the man-made boundaries and migrate around the planet searching for where the climate and resources suite their needs. This carefree nature though is perhaps an illusion, as the rules and lines still exist for them, often fighting and competing over it, and of course we and other creatures place extra pressures on them too.

Another has had enough, and wanders away © David Norton

The masked lapwing, Vanellus miles, is seen as a common nomad here, and I'd been watching them wandering around the grassy areas of Bicentennial Park in Darwin. It is also named the masked plover, and the plover I am more used to seeing in the Northern Hemisphere does not have the fleshy yellow mask, or wattles, around the eyes and beak, and familiarity goes hand-in-hand with unfamiliarity here. The lapwings here are busy searching for insects and worms amongst the grass. It is seen to be very adaptable to its environment, and the number observed in a more urban area do indeed bare that out.

It appears that people have in the past believed in the myth that the wattles contain venom, it seems that this is because of being extremely territorial and their protective behaviour around their nests. They exhibit a noticeable swooping behaviour, mostly against dogs, cats and other birds. It may just be that the wattles actually have meaning during mating, as with cockerels and turkeys.

These lapwings appeared to be quite at ease today, and so I was able to use a couple of David Norton's images to develop the artwork, drawing in the birds and completing the foreground, before finishing off with a gentle watercolour wash and bringing depth of field by including my characteristic line clouds and sky; giving an artist's view of the day...without the moped accident of course!

Finished piece - Masked Lapwing, Vanellus miles - Bicentennial Park, Darwin, NT

So how about that other question? The why? Why do I attempt to create art?

What's that about?

I am definitely a creative person, and a predominantly visually creative person at that. And so my need to create drives me. Take away everything from me, and if bored, sooner or later I will begin to create. And I have an urge to improve myself, and personally I see art as a striving for perfection (although that does not exist, I continue to repeat to myself!!).

I have always received attention when it comes to art; given positive (and negative) feedback when I create something. My earliest memories for me involved the creation of some sort of childhood artwork, and right at the beginning the feedback was positive, and I didn't receive too much negativity (although enough to stop me severely for long periods of time). Voices that may have thought they were being constructive, but that for an artist, can have exceptionally damaging results, and some of those voices are my own thoughts...

Such as only dead artists are successful, there's no money in it, surrounded by all these masters, what is the point? These are just a few...and they are is a journey, and to answer the question why I produce is because for as long as I can remember, a voice inside me was and is always saying, I want to be an that's the voice that keeps leading me.

Creating artwork gives me a sense of validation in the world, and contribution, and a sense that I can create something that might last, and hopefully be appreciated, at least a while, after me. It also helps me to connect to other people (even if that connection is negative, and sometimes painful).

And as the next potential artwork looms, it leads to another important question about producing art.

How do you retain that freshness, that joy and spontaneity in your work? How does the process actually work, rather than how you want it to work?

The wish is for it to be turned on and off like a tap. To have good work appear every time. To wake up fresh and new and become as productive as a factory every day, and at any time of the day.

Alas, it is not that way all the time. And every artist, I'm told, is different. We all need to answer that question though I think. What helps the process? Or what maximizes it. What helps keep it as a joy, rather than a chore?

These questions I am, in fact, still seeking to answer for myself. And it often is akin to the natural world itself. There is an element of unpredictability and an uncontrolled nature to it, but there is also an element of discipline and ritual involved too. To always come to the table, to the day and to the work, and always strive to do one's best, through the good and the bad work. That is important.

To respect it. But to also respect yourself, and your limits. That too is important.

To exorcise and listen to the devils and the daemons, and move through it and use it for the next work. This is another important part of the process. Can I do it again? Will it work this time? Is there any point to this? Have I killed the magic? If I could do it yesterday, why can't I do it today?

And through the practice, I await the next stretch; the next step forward; the next big leap. Where I get to say, wow, I didn't realise I could do that.

The next improvement; the next development, and the next inspiration. That's what you constantly yearn and wait for. Scaring yourself, and moving yourself out of your comfort zone can often help.

Be bold, and bold things will come. Perhaps not in the way we expect them to, but bold, scary things tend to come...our universe just seems to work that way.

Sometimes that inspiration is like a bird. Unpredictable, and flighty. And you never know which bird it will be. But a bird will suddenly land in front of you. Nervous and aware that it is being watched. And sometimes it stays long enough, and sometimes it flies off before it is caught.

Rainbow Bee-eater, Merops ornatus
And so for this next artwork, stay tuned...she'll hopefully come back...

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Shooting wildlife in the digital world

The intrepid Australian Dave-duo are settling into a wee bit of routine in Australia, and developing a team feeling. Dave N takes the photos of the local bird and insect-life and imparts the local knowledge, whilst Dave D composes the artwork.

Forest Kingfisher Darwin Northern Territory Australia by David Norton
Forest Kingfisher (Todiramphus macleayii), Darwin, NT Australia © David Norton

Forest Kingfisher, Darwin, Northern Territory, NT, Australia, David Dalzell, the wandering artist
Forest Kingfisher, Northern Territory, Australia

What quickly gets flagged up is my naive (but I would argue, uninfluenced) eye, when it comes to subject matter. I get the impression, when I see something new, and for me, exciting, that I may be getting swept away about the equivalent of the local common sparrow, or pigeon from the UK...two a penny.

Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Scrub fowl, Bush Chook, Darwin, Northern Territory, NT, Australia, David Dalzell, the wandering artist
Orange-footed Scrubfowl (Megapodius reinwardt) or "Bush Chook", Darwin, NT - Australia

Magpie-lark, Lark, Darwin, Northern Territory, NT, Australia, David Dalzell, the wandering artist
Magpie-Lark (Grallina cyanoleuca), Darwin, NT - Australia

The Orange-footed Shrubfowl (or Bush Chook) and the Magpie-Lark are two examples of this. They are a frequent resident of the Darwin area, and for the Bush Chook, in tropical areas of Australia, and for the Magpie Lark - throughout mainland Australia. They are wonderful birds however!

Finding them frequently may also give me the opportunity to show the animals in a new style and light, by using them in new compositions. In this next case, whilst looking at the Darwin Parliament Building - a wonderful example of art deco style design - popular around Darwin.

Keeping Watch, Parliament House, State Square, Darwin, Northern Territory, NT, Australia, Magpie-Lark, David Dalzell, The Wandering Artist
"Keeping Watch"

Wandering around the city, I have been able to begin to gain a perspective of the very new, with the very old. Composing "Keeping Watch" felt like the tensions between the ancient and the new, the natural and man-made worlds, and the inherent fragility of both.

The parliament building in Darwin is Australia's newest parliament, completed in 1994. A lot of Darwin was rebuilt after cyclone Tracy struck on Christmas Eve in 1974, and twenty years later this building was built on the old post office site. Such destructive force of cyclones for me is unimaginable, although it seems they are growing in frequency and force around our planet.

Shifting the perspectives for me gives the almost 'dinosaur' watchfulness of the bird to the fore. It brings an almost sinister air to the piece. Nature is often seen as beautiful, but of course it can also contain surprising destructive forces. During times where the natural world seems gentle, our influence could potentially unleash such huge and lethal forces, and the questions within this building would be most apt...what are we doing to our world?

Spending time on this continent brings the opportunity to increase my knowledge of the animal (including human) and plant kingdoms firsthand. The life and history here were separate for so long, that many things are very different, and I have only touched the surface. Only comparitively recently would it have been possible for someone like me to even be aware that this continent existed.

Watching the local wildlife is an activity that brings some challenges in identification. As a trained applied biologist, my strengths were more in the areas of the how, why and when of the biological world, rather than the what, and taxonomy has always been a little challenging for me, even in the UK.

Dave's local and national knowledge however, becomes invaluable, though there would be times when we were both utterly stumped.

Immediate answers are something that we have become more expectant of, demanding of even, as our electronic world has propelled us into an era of instantly accessible information.

Now I am not always content with the digital world...actually, at times I wonder if we have lost too much by adopting it - time, patience, perspective to name but three. Living in the world of online resources is somewhat an illusion that we can always access the right information, and act immediately, and my frustration levels are often a symptom of this phenomenon.

Artists and taxonomists in the past however, would have had a different approach to illustrating and identifying their prey...with results somewhat slower, and permanent, hunting either with a gun, or a net, with the prey ultimately stuffed or spiked on the end of a needle!

Thankfully, these days the technology we have to hand enables us to capture an organism, whilst allowing it to continue its life relatively unaffected.

Accepting the pros however, also means we have to accept the cons. And the virtual world is an ever-moving world of facts and figures. Caution speaks out that I would have need of an expert.

Taking pictures of the animal life here may result in images that can be used for art reference, but what do you do when you have no idea what it is?

The books needed are sometimes many, and not always to hand.

Interest had begun to turn towards the smaller, and at the same time vaster diversity, of the insect world.

A pair of rather intimately-locked butterflies had stumped us. They appeared to not at all be concerned by the photographic capturing of what should, I suppose, be a private matter (although they'd decided to throw propriety aside by using the balcony).

Graphium eurypylus nyctimus, Great Jay Butterflies, Butterfly, Darwin, Northern Territory, NT, Australia, David Norton
Graphium eurypylus nyctimus (Waterhouse & Lyell, 1914). © David Norton

With the butterflies digitally caught and showing no signs of stopping, to save blushes, our attention turned quickly to identification!

Where would we find an expert. Enter the virtual world of forums, stage left! And the joy when technology enables us to quickly connect up.

In just a few minutes I'd managed to find, join and introduce myself to the Insect Collectors Forum. This is a resource for insect collectors, enthusiasts and those with a virtually inexhaustible insectivorous appetite.

Within a few hours, I'd received an answer. Thank you Paul K from Canada! It was a sub-species of the Great Jay butterfly - Graphium eurypylus nyctimus (Waterhouse & Lyell, 1914).

And logging onto the Atlas of Living Australia, the image of these butterflies was loaded up, and the sighting recorded.

We just have to wait 1-2 weeks for it to appear on the site. Ah well. There's that reminder that not everything can be instant. We'd have to wait for confirmation that these butterflies were indeed what we thought they were.

For now, job done! Now I've only to create the artwork...

The Great Jay, Butterfly, Darwin, Northern Territory, NT, Australia, David Dalzell, The Wandering Artist
The Great Jay - Darwin - NT

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

A Dave in the hand is worth two in the Bush...

So it was time to explore the new - down under. This was the exciting possibility before me.

I'd arrived in Australia, and was awaiting the myriad differences and similarities I'd be confronted with.

Here be Dragons

I was beginning to realise that a good amount of time would be needed to recover from the 44 hour journey I was experiencing (note to self, budgeting on the trip might have a cost somewhere else).

I had a long stop over in Melbourne though, and so had the chance to soak up some of the atmosphere, grab a bite, and sketch in my journal.

Melbourne skyline

Sitting by the river Yarra, having my lunch, I was to overhear a wee snippet of the city, and an old connection to Queen Victoria, in the guise of Lord Melbourne. A school teacher had taken all the school girls in his care to the river and was asking them what they knew about the city's name.

I was glad that I would not be relied on to answer, as my history of the Victorians in the old and new country is severely lacking. However, Governor of New South Wales, Richard Bourke apparently named the city after the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Lord Melbourne, William Lamb, a man close to Queen Victoria. As the years go by, I'm beginning to realise that a number of men could claim to be close to the Queen.

There was a vibrant air to Melbourne, and I loved being able to travel on the free trams within the city centre area. This really increased my chances of viewing more of the city.

Sights and sounds of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

After Melbourne, it was a then a final internal flight up to Darwin, and the Northern Territory (NT).

Hugely different climate in Australia's only tropical city, I was met by a beautiful, sunny, warm and occasionally stormy city as the NT moved into its wet season.

Fogg Damn, Northern Territory, Australia

I was incredibly grateful to be in the very capable hands of Dave, who had lived in the NT for over 25 years, and his scientific and tour guide background would prove invaluable. It is always better to be in the company of someone who has lived in the area, really experienced a place, and so knows its history. So I was happy to be led whilst we began the task of trying to track down some native wildlife, albeit that I was feeling incredibly out of my depth suddenly.

I had spent the last few months building to this point. All had been to get me here and experience this. And here I was. Now was the time to appreciate it, work with it, perform and produce and have a great boot.

There was a moment of panic...of feeling doubt...of not knowing what to do.

A bit of advice from Dave would help me greatly. The true meaning of NT...

'Not Today', 'Not Tomorrow', 'Not Tuesday', 'Not Thursday'...dont expect too much...and then you can be pleasantly surprised...

And bird watching proved at first to not be such an easy task...wildlife not always being well behaved, nor predictable. Couple this to the challenge of identification, our work would be cut out for us, and expectations were low.

Trying anything new of course comes with a bit of trial and error, and we found ourselves going all David "Attenborough" and David "Bellamy" as we herded some Australian Ibis in the undergrowth!

The Ibis though is quite common in Australia, and is debated as either a nuisance, or endangered. Perhaps it is both, as we as humans judge animals as they attempt to adapt and survive in a world more and more dominated by humans. In any respect, these birds did us at least the courtesy of getting close enough to take a photo, and so work up an image.

The Australian Ibis in Berry Springs, NT

I was hopeful that this would only be the beginning of the sights we would see, as I learned more about the birds and animals on this massive continent.

Dancing Cranes

There is a stately, and elegant nature to birds. They carry themselves with dignity which is beautiful to watch. In the wetlands of Fogg Damn, the Brolga, or Dancing Crane could be seen in evidence around the giant water lillies.

Amongst the lillies

And I did have a burning wish to see another familiar, yet different variety of a familiar wee bird. The Fairy Wren. Only time would tell....and I'd try to remember...keep my expectations low...

A dash of blue, the Fairy Wren

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Oz is calling...

So seven months have passed now since I returned from New Zealand, where my life changed significantly and projected me forward to build my business, find temporary work, and to plan my next Antipodean adventure, whilst following my heart to Australia, and Darwin in the Northern Territory.

The last seven months had been challenging, fraught, productive and also hugely satisfying and rewarding.

The double need to plan, and to act spontaneously was continuously present. That feeling of constantly living on the edge of a cliff, knowing that now is the time to leap. To leap, and leap again. Just as the house martin does each trip from the nest, the risk of the fall transforms into the supportive movement of the feathered wing. Hopefully growing stronger with each journey.

Plunging and hitting the ground, although avoided, does not mean you don't deal with turbulence and obstacle. But then the thrill is often at the edge.

This summer the business definitely took a big step forward. Two of the flights took me to two new galleries and shops. Bass Rock Gallery in Dunbar and 17Reasons in Moffat.

Carol Bowman's expert eye at Bass Rock Gallery

Going rural in 17Reasons, Moffat

Both of these creative ventures are run with a resonant joy that is both uplifting and inspirational. These people just radiate a wonderful energy that helps me on this journey. Craft and arty people themselves, they have been successful at growing their passions into successful businesses, and I am very grateful for that.

If art could be created whilst constantly in the presence of these people I'd be a happy chap...alas the work often calls for solitude and focus...but there are ways to bring people around you whilst producing.

A second summer trip saw me return to Scotland, and Edinburgh, to demonstrate one of my latest techniques in crafting.

It is a great experience to chat to people and show others how my particular style reveals itself and the crafted items are made, where the ideas come from, and also potentially encourage others in their creative endeavours.

A blissful afternoon

The great thing about demonstration is that it helps me reinforce my own learning as I describe the process and also learn from people too with their feedback. I aim to carry out workshops in the Art & Craft Collective in June 2018, so watch this space and stay tuned to either Facebook, or Twitter, or this blog.

It also became a time to begin making new contacts in my home county of Norfolk and selling art and craft at Fakenham Makers Market with the kind help of my sister-in-law Christine Good, who has begun to show me the new world of jewellery making...go team!

Setting up stall in St Andrew's Church, Fakenham, Norfolk

This had become a time of, art and craft making, seeing friends and family and planning and organising my 6 month trip to Australasia. So much to organise I realised and an enormous amount of discipline, planning and decision making needed. There would be many moments of feeling frayed at the edges.

Now the countdown is on...back to wandering, but this time with a very strong pull, and goal in mind. Although events can take you to unexpected places, and although Australia is of course a fantastically wonderful country to path is guided not by place, nor by wanderlust, and perhaps not even by my artwork, but by a much greater pull of the heart.

It's time to take to the wing once more.

And so this brings me to October, and as I turn my eyes to the autumnal sky, the soft lonely cry can be heard.

The geese are flying south.
And the air is calm.
Still and cold, with melancholic notes
Of twilight shards.

The geese are flying south
And I stop and stare,
Alert to the cusp of coming winter;
Reflecting the deep indigo shine
Of the orb's gentle curve.

The geese are flying south.
The geese are flying south, at last.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Transitions in wood

Busy-ness growing your business is fine to a point.

A pause for breath is sometimes necessary, although not always possible. Events and opportunities come along at uncontrollable times, and decision making becomes intense, quick and harsh.

The last few months have seen me become busier and more challenged than usual.

Dreaming about a potential goal, and then taking action to fulfill it, makes your perspective change radically. Everything can suddenly appear either a help or a hurdle to that goal...if we let it.

However, having listened to a lot of people over the years, I have begun to change that mindset. A massive paradigm shift to my belief system. The growing awareness that everything helps you to your goal once you begin that journey,and once you truly commit to the goal that you know, deep, deep inside is yours. Because you will stop at nothing to realise it. And your emotional responses can be trusted,to enable you to act in such a way to keep you on your path. I suppose the trick is to realise what your goal truly is.

The goal of becoming an artist is very close to me. The past few years have seen that develop. Finding a balance between my artistic life and my family and social life has always created a tension. It's difficult to get that balance right, and I often struggle. This summer, with having to balance nurturing my art business with friends and family and with working ad-hoq in temporary work situations for various employers to help finance the venture hasn't always resulted in an easy-osey flow!

One success of note though was my chance to combine things. Spending time with my nephew, Daniel before he left home for University and I left for my next six month art venture in Australia and New Zealand resulted in a joint art project. Taking old items to be thrown away or discarded helped us both be creative, and helped me guide Daniel in the creative process, and helped me spend good family time. And Mother got a garden picture in the bargain!

Dragonfly close-up

Installation in situ


Daniel in action

Fun painting in the sun
Another nice interlude was gaining the company of dogs in my life by dog sitting. This year has seen me look after Juno and Toby and so couple my Wandering Artist work with house-sitting. Two lovely dogs to look after and such great fun to be around. I have really enjoyed the walks and the cuddles.

Me and Toby...a shared happy pant

Juno, ready to play

And house-sitting gave me time to develop new artwork, and this time to change the medium. To use wood as my canvas. Small pieces of ply-wood, that would otherwise have been used for firewood, I have been going through a research and development phase to get them to a canvas I can use in various ways.

Scottish Terrier on wooden block

Scottish Croft on wooden block

New Cosy Croft range

Working with wood has become more and more of my medium of choice lately. Finding wood that would otherwise go to scrap or be burned or generally left unused is a growing fascination.

And again, I have been able to combine this with temporary work as well as pursuit in art and craft. This time working for a wood pallet company. My daily tasks...sort and stack various wooden pallets. Various sizes, weights and condition. Who knew there were so many pallets! Standards, Standard Longs, CP2s, CP3s, EPALs, medium Euros, heavy Euros, Sevens, Nearlies, Blocks...the list goes on...and either good or bad all this plays to my need for order by sorting and stacking into relevant piles. A mindful day's work and one almighty workout! Hopefully my muscles may soon appear!

New uniform - safety first!

To make this work though meant giving up Maude!

Yes, the time had come to wander on without my motorhome and switch to a more work efficient van...called Red.

Farewell to Maude...a year's adventure...hope you have many more!
It was a bit of a wrench when she was driven up the road. We'd had many adventures together and it has been a fantastic year of transition...good and bad times. And for a while, she was my home and haven.

I recommend motorhoming to anyone considering it. To look at the horizon. To wonder what's over the hill and go there...without having to pack.

So during this phase of various work and artistic pursuits, what is my goal?

Part of me believes that I know it, but I also have a very intuitive side to my nature so a lot that drives me is perhaps unconscious.

I know there are a number of drivers in my life. To help people. To be creative. To improve myself and learn. These things happen no matter what I do or where I am (though learning is sometimes slow). But there does come a moment when things just click. When circumstances happen and your ability to choose becomes easier...where it no longer feels like a choice, but a necessity.

I have wanted to be many things in my life. A biologist, an artist, a graphic designer, an actor, a friend, a husband. These are all goals, but at the same time they could be described as the same higher goal. To succeed.

Now of course, being older, I also know that it includes not succeeding. But again, only if I keep the same mindset in place that restricts things to being separate. Or rather an either/or. To succeed or fail at something is pure illusion.

You are either something or you are not. Once you've decided to begin, you are simply on the journey, and so are already there. You are that thing.

So that old adage is true for me. The only true mistake is not to do it.

Or in a much more fun and new age way of quoting:

 'Do, or Do Not. There is no Try.' Yoda, A Galaxy, Far Far Away.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Elders and Elderflowers

It's been a while since I posted. In the last few months, I've had many a challenge. It has been a more focused period of my artistic life, as I have geared up to promoting my work more, and heading towards exhibition, as well as travelling around the country, making a living to help balance the artistic production.

Being an artist often means balancing what we love to do, with what helps to pay the bills. That means juggling alot. To build towards an exhibition means devoting alot of time that is not instantly rewarding, and also means I have to invest in product, and risk it not being profitable. That's part of the game.

New work development for market

Proud  Watchful Scottish Ram

And hence finding other work to help support my passion. The trade, to support the art, whilst I continue to develop, hopefully sell, and refine my current style.

The energy and resources needed to do this felt enormous, and we all have our limits. I often met mine this time! And I began to rely heavily on the people around me. For a listening ear. For advice. For sounding boards. Or perhaps just to witness the tears of frustration and small deaths that happen each day. The steps forward and the two back...that old cliche.

"Elders" is a word that began to resonate for me during this time. People in my life that although have walked different paths, have experienced life to an extent that they can advise, and in such a way that helps me grow, rather than to talk direction and tell me what to do.

My elders are not always older than me, although that is often the case. They just tend to be the person that I happen to be around, and when I listen closely to them, their advice can help. Perhaps not immediately, and perhaps not all is actually helpful in my specific case. However, there is always a sense of support, love, care, and compassion... and endless encouragement.

I rely so very heavily on these people. My mother, my aunts, my uncles, my sisters, brothers and their partners, my cousins.

Enjoying the sun with Mum in Cromer...searching for the goats!

My friends this time the advice I have received from my lifelong friends Karen Roberts, Mary-Alice Lloyd, Steven Ahern and Anita Sauvage, have bouyed me up, kept me sane, and kept me going, as well as people I have worked with before, with Linsay Given-Black's timely calming couple of words at my first market experience at the Art & Craft Collective's monthly pop-up exhibitions. Big challenges have come and with them a feeling of what's important, what's right and what it means to truly love and care for someone when they go through difficulties, as well as successes.

Mary-Alice and me in the garden!

My nieces and nephews, although younger than me, are often times able to give young seeds of elderflower wisdom too.

We flower so very briefly, and these days I wonder about how I use, and journey through, my life. I can lose perspective at times as I go on with my goal and passion for art, and I reflect on remembering to enjoy the fruits of my labours, which are the people's friendship and experiences around me...and as my new antipodean friend Dave is apt to say...the rest is just bric-a-brac.

Sometimes the letting go of a goal helps to let us see where we get to whilst persuing it.

Alot of my blog may appear very positive and upbeat and very adventurous, and yes it is, some of the time.

Then there are the darker, scarier, fear-filled and lost times. The introspective times. The times when you doubt things, and lose things. Like friends, family, opportunity, keys to the motorhome, artwork, your temper, your perspective, your emotional control. Without the elders in my life, those that have lost these themselves, and so know; without them, I could not be writing this blog now.

So I got back to the UK in early spring, and during that time planned, worked, drove from place to place, and made elderflower cordial.


Elderflowers don't last very long. You get a burst of sweet scent, and a window of opportunity to gather them, place in boiled water with lemon and orange slices, and perhaps too much sugar for our own good, and hey presto, as we go into summer, we can keep the taste of it through the months, and if you freeze it, into the winter months too.

Journey along the canal in Muston, Leicestershire

It was one of the seasonal paid jobs I got to help finance myself during this time, and I have to say that it was one of the most joyous jobs I've done. Foraging in the Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire countryside in woods and beside canals, I was of course lucky to be doing it in full sunshine. You get paid by the kilo, and so you do have to pick an enormous number of flower heads, but during my cycling to work as an invigilator for schools, I'd noticed them growing along the canals, and so I was armed with fore-knowledge.

After elderflowers came the cherry, and making home made (and my first, and extremely frustrating attempt at) gluten-free cherry pie..I have my sister Louise to thank for my growing expertise with this "so-called" pastry ;-). Again, the cherry tree is fleeting, and you have to take advantage of the season, and I loved that aspect of reconnecting with nature.

Cherry tree view

I'm hopefully going to develop my ability at growing things. Creativity comes in all things, and in growing vegetables I have found a highly rewarding pursuit (although at this point I literally only have 4 baby cucumbers, so whether I actually have green fingers or not remains to be seen...only time will tell...

In the undergrowth!