Tuesday, 31 December 2013

What's in a word ?

I like to read other creative's blogs, not only for new ideas and inspiration but they are an endless source of wisdom, joy and sometimes sorrow. At this time of year artists are beginning to think about work for the following months and where their inspiration may come from. We are all thinking about how the new year may change the way we think or work,  some may have resolutions to keep, some of us may do nothing new at all and I have to say I fall into the later group. I tend not to make promises to myself or vow to change something in my life. What I have done in the last few of years though, is choose a word that I use as a starting point for work. For example, two years ago I chose 'pilgrimage'. If you want a run down on how this influenced my work, you may like to visit my previous life and have a look - Notes from the studio - in fact I carried this on for the following year too as I felt the word had so much to offer me.
For a glimpse on how other people might utilize this same method in their lives, have a look at Zendotstudio and also QuinnCreative for some ideas.

So, choosing a word isn't easy. It takes some thought (though I have to say, one shouldn't over think it) , quite often a word will be 'snagged' by your imagination and you won't let it go. Or a word may have some inner meaning to your current situation. Half the fun is in the choosing. I like to mull over what the word may mean to me for a few days, before I make a final decision. The word that keeps rising to the surface for me now, is 'uncertainty' . My life is quite uncertain at the moment and I am rather reveling in that. Unnerving as it it is at times it makes each day an adventure. Now, this word has endless possibilities in relation to my art and I will list a couple of quotes that resonate with me and influenced my choice.

The quest for certainty locks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.
Erich Fromm

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. ...live in the question.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

Nobody knows how things will turn out, that's why they go ahead and play the game...You give it your all and sometimes amazing things happen, but it's hardly ever what you expect.” 
Gennifer Choldenko

Uncertainty is a quality to be cherished, therefore – if not for it, who would dare to undertake anything?”
Auguste de Villiers de l'Isle-Adam

So where do I go from here ? Well I am uncertain ! I'll see what comes up. 
Leave me a msg with your 2014 words and why !

In the meantime a lovely New years eve walk down a very steep hill to San Blas bay this morning blew a few cobwebs away.


Friday, 27 December 2013

The importance of journaling

Normally I spend a great deal of time putting ideas down into a journal or sketch book, though I have been a little lax of late. I do feel it is of great importance to scribble things down. They don't have to be formal or neat, really just flashes of ideas. Something I have seen in a book that sparks a thought, a colour combination, a pattern or something of architectural interest. Anything really that I think might be useful. Another reason for keeping a journal is to keep a note of thoughts, things that will be useful in updating an 'artist's statement'. Why I paint or make the art I do, where my interest lies. How doe my art reflect the person I am etc etc.

Words play a very important role in my art, whether it is in the form of illegible calligraphy - José Parla is a great inspiration for that or the use of second hand books in my work. I love Book Art and Anna Mavromatis makes some stunning works incorporating recycled books and much more.

The stars on a clear dark night look like letters dancing in the sky. I can make up words that fit the astronomical shapes and this led to a thought about using words or letters on a page of an old paperback.

My map story, a thought about joining the dots of my life- It hasn't always been clear as to where my path is leading. I just need to take the next step. looking back I can see the map.
Benoit :  'We are terrified of 'ruining our lives'. In reality there is nothing to make a success of and nothing to spoil '

Single letters picked out to make a continuous flow. S E A . all the rest blacked out. In the next some seagull shapes swoop over the sea.

Stormy seas today.

Watercolours produce a swirling mess. By tearing the dried paper and then pasting into my book, the gap gives the impression of turbulent water. Just an idea !

I am still finding my feet here, maybe I never will. But nothing is wasted and in time all these notes will be useful material. Try keeping a journal yourself, it's fun apart from anything else.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


Christmas is quite a different affair here in Gozo. None of the over merchandising and hard sell tactics, as seen in the UK. Such a refreshing change. It is a joy to be in a country that actually celebrates Christmas for the right reasons. There are seasonal popular tunes played in the streets of Victoria and the odd santa standing in the 18c sunshine but mostly the shop displays are low key and have only been visible for the last two weeks. (not since September). Every village has a nativity scene displayed in the square and pop up shops sell carved or sculpted nativity 'sets' for the home. Carols have been sung in the main square and there have been many other concerts for the public all over the island.  As a predominantly Christian country, Christmas is very much about a family celebration for one day only, giving thanks for the birth of Christ.....and frankly, that is how it should be. The overload and over indulgence we have to endure in the UK is sickening, Anyway enough of that. Rant rant !

My family have been out here with me this last week, and we were blessed with some fantastic weather. Even warm enough for a swim, well not me , but my children thought it was warm enough.
Sunsets are really fabulous here in Xlendi, as the bay faces west, and most fine evenings a walk up to the cliffs to view the setting sun, is a must.

Joy to you all and wishing you a very happy time with your families.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Just sitting

The weather has been glorious for the last week. Chill mornings and evenings but well up to 18c/19c during the middle of the day. A far cry from the December chill back home. The house faces North and sometimes feels cool compared to outside. So in order to catch the warm sun and sit out of the wind I like to spend as much time sitting down on the quay as I can. People watching has always been one of my fave pastimes., the fishermen come and go, 'tourists' (said like I am now some kinda native) lunch in the many waterside bars, always something to watch. Often I have a book but sometimes I like to paint, sometimes I like to just sit. I'm not too keen on people watching me paint a 'proper' picture. I invariably make a mess while someone is standing over my shoulder. 
So I have re hashed my gratitude stone idea. Pebbles of varying sizes are plentiful on the beach and all I need is some while acrylic paint, a tiny 0 brush and a small water carrier in the shape of half a plastic bottle and away I go.

It still gives people an excuse to come over and see what I am doing and more importantly (it seems to them) chat. How people like to chat ! A few have asked if I sell them, but for obvious reasons I can't do that, so I have been giving them away. A thank you for stopping to tell me their news or life story ! (Yesterday an elderly Australian/Gozitan gentleman stopped to chat and it turns out he was born in the house I am now living in.) I tell them how gratitude stones are a reminder to be thankful and they seem to go away pleased with their pebbles. More than that, I find painting them are a kind of mandala, a meditation. I'm not doing something with an end goal insight, other than just doing it because I like to do it. It doesn't matter if they all end up back in the sea.

Lovely orange floats.

Another Indira's net of flotsam.

Just like the colours here.

No need to say anything about this.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Finding a palette and Winter storms

 We have had some ferocious storms in the last month and in true Mediterranean style they arrive unannounced and disappear just as quickly. This is island living at it's best.

I thought my palette would be different here than in Essex but actually I find it isn't. With exception of an addition of a brighter green and blue, it is pretty much the same. I just vary the balance a little. I have in my six, Raw Umber, Payne's Gray, Yellow Ochre, Ipthalo Blue, Cerulean Blue and a touch of Viridian Hue.
The yellow and browns of the rocks are important as are the ever changing skies. So here are a few sketches done in order to find my palette and to work on stormy skies.

The salt pans are a pretty major feature of the landscape.

This sketch below was treated in a slightly different way to the others. I scrumpled the paper up first to give a little texture. I think visually it enhances the rocks. How it would sit when mounted I'm not sure, it's a bit lumpy bumpy.

The all important six. Restricting a palette means that there is some kind of link through all my my paintings. Even if the style changes slightly the colours stay pretty much the same. It gives a coherence to my work.

Some coarse salt sprinkled on the wet paint can give a nice effect, though I am not sure it has worked particularly well here ! It's a bit trial and error.

The colour of the sky can change dramatically in the space of a few minutes and is not always what you might expect.

Oooh the family are coming out next weekend  .... excited :0)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

No Christmas shopping today.

You may well be wondering why I am not showing you any paintings....well.... I haven't done any, that's why. I still feel I need to immerse myself in the Island and the scenery before I can really feel what it means to me. The best way I know how to do that is to walk with a camera. That way I take take lot of pictures then when I get home sifting through them begins to gel it altogether and I get an idea of what I want.
Today I intended to walk the coastal path from Mgarr to Xlendi, about 10k. My '10 walks on Gozo' book suggested I followed a route that took me further inland than I wanted. So I ignored it and chose to follow my nose. Easy...keep the sea on my left and follow the path. Hmmm said path ran out some 2k past the turning 'inland'. I scrabbled my way over rocks as best I could but found that a particularly sheer drop prevented me from crossing a ravine. Rats, meaning I had to double back and follow the suggested path. At which point, hungry and with a sore toe (walking in wellies is not recommended but my walking boots are still in blighty) I gave up and rang for mountain rescue in the form of Pugwash. The last leg will have to wait for another day.

Malta in the distance.

Something to do with the Knights Templar, or at least this 17C tower was built on the spot of an earlier model.

The very charming inlet of Mgarr ix Xini reputedly a harbour used by the Knights galleys

Looking to Camino.

The only live stock I have spotted in the open air (an  EU directorate.) Apparently all livestock have to be under cover....! Like goats are not used to the heat...
All in all a lovely walk on a warm December morning, without a thought of Christmas shopping in my head.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


A cliff top walk to blow away the cobwebs, led down to Xlendi point. The salt pans waiting for the waves to do their stuff. I sat and watched for some time, feeling the spray on my face, aware that if I was too close I could be swept into the sea by the next big wave. It seemed the whole of life was on this point. After coming home I happened upon this piece below. How apt.

Suddenly, for whatever reason, while walking down a familiar path, you notice that the destination has become more important than the journey itself. Your urgency to reach the goal has pushed every precious step out of focus. You have been walking blindly, unconsciously, not really present to your walk, mesmerised by a future, disconnected and alone, walking down a familiar path.

The focus then shifts, from the imagined future scene of the movie of your life, to the present scene, here, now. From what is not present, to what is present. You feel your living body again, the thumping of your heart, the breath going in and out, the softness of the ground underneath your feet, the gentle breeze on your face; you hear the rustling of trees all around and the barking of dogs in the distance. You feel supported, again, connected to everything and everyone. Life has been exploding everywhere, but you were focused elsewhere, in some other time and place. You notice tension and tiredness all over your body, tightness in your shoulders and chest. You forgive yourself for neglecting yourself. You bring warm, loving presence to these neglected parts, and this allows the tension to relax and dissolve in its own time. You are relieved to be Home again, present to your walk. Your hopes and fears about the future pale in comparison to this immediacy, this aliveness.
You will get to your destination, perhaps. But right now, the walk is everything. Every step is reminding you how to live. Every breath is a little guru.
- Jeff Foster

Looking to Gibraltar ! some way off.

Looking to Libya.

The erosion caused by the sea reveals fossils and shells that had been hiding for millennium. Now waiting for a passer by to notice them.

A necklace of line and debris.

An intricate pattern evolves as weather washes away the sandstone from around what I guess is fossilised coral ??

A sea urchin shell emerging. Still held fast by the stone.

....and this carved into a massive boulder clinging to the edge of the cliff........Indeed.