Thursday, 23 February 2012

Thoughts of Fruit Grow on Bare Branches

   I keep meaning to write here.  The days get longer, the window ledges are overwhelmed by flowers, then life hands out gifts like a few days off work and paintings that come back from the framer looking lovely.  There are so many bright little moments in the day recently, that the hours pass almost too quick to catch.  It has been so warm here, we have been able to throw all the windows open until evening.  Though the one day that we decided to hike up a nearby mountain with a friend, it got very cold the night before and everything was dusted in the palest whisper of snow.  We brought our camera, but left the batteries at home.  I was sorry not to be able to capture a little bit of the frosted landscape stretching off around the foot of the hills, and the bare bog expanse of the wide top of the mountain with a few snowflakes falling.  It has been a while since we've been out picture-taking. 


   I have been trying to take advantage of these last, lingering dark evenings before they are altogether gone, and so I set about trying to piece together a little website.  I thought it might be nice to have a place where I could put my paintings and prints and things all together, so that anyone who might be interested would have an easier time of finding them.  If you visit the site and see anything amiss or something that could be improved, please do let me know.

   I think I can almost feel my legs growing longer and longer with the days, wanting to take bigger and bigger steps out into the world.  Spring, for me, is always the season of restlessness and wanderlust. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Of Ruins and Full Moons

    We are just back from a  bright full-moon lit stroll to the sea and all along the coast.  We walked for almost three hours in the wind and seafoam roar, with the the strange undulations of bright light to dim night when clouds massed over the moon.

   Earlier this evening I thought I would start to write here, but now I am a little moonstruck from too much time watching the silver curls of the waves and the moon sitting full above powdery white clouds, so there will have to be two story lines running through this post.

Elgin Cathedral

The roads are glittering with ice and silver light tonight.  We met a fox in the street and passed a hill in a graveyard which looked like it had warmly lit windows looking out from under the ground.  It was only a trick of the light, the street lamps reflecting off the graves, but it put us in mind of stories of fairy hills and troll parties where the hills are raised on pillars and bright lights shine out from underneath them.

But what I meant to tell you when I started pasting photos onto this little piece of your screen, is that in the past couple of months we have gone a-wandering a couple of times.

Our little trips brought us inside the bellies of ruined cathedrals, where the last bits of walls stand like huge old bones, patterning the sky beyond.  We looked up into the worn-away faces of bishops turned to stone, or peered into little nooks in the walls where stone men stretched out in sleep, their arms folded across their chests.

In the centre of Elgin Cathedral we came across an old Pictish stone, its carved symbols just barely visible in the dusk.  On the other side of the stone there is an elaborate Celtic cross.  The light was falling out of the sky as we tried to take a picture, so I'm not sure how much of the carvings you will be able to see.  At the bottom is a hunt scene, and at the top there are some of the designs that are found on a lot of Pictish stones, the meanings of which remain rather mysterious.

Inside one of the church towers monster heads grimaced at us from above.  The wind whipped around outside and night fell.  But that was not our only visit to a skeleton cathedral.

Looking down the old pier into St. Andrews

We also spent a fine day in late December in St. Andrews, with its splendid ruins of a huge cathedral as well as the ruins of a castle that housed the area's bishops before the Reformation. 

That day was not so different from tonight: we spent hours on the wide, endless beach there in the wind and the twilight and the oyster catcher cries.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

A Book of Sleep & Seven Remembered Dreams

   A few months ago I won entry into the Sketchbook Project through a giveaway at Pikaland.  The book arrived in the post one morning and it had a theme: "I Remember You". 
    I started trying harder to remember my dreams.  My husband made me a little book from leftover cuttings of the thick rag paper I use for etching, tied it up with yarn, and left it beside the bed. 

I saved up dreams for a while before I started drawing anything at all.  It turned out to be a funny thing to draw out a piece of a dream.  Of course, it was not possible to draw a whole dream, so instead it became an odd compromise.  Sometimes it made more sense to draw parts of the dream that only existed by implication, or parts that must have taken place before the dream started. 

I got lost in the book.  I thought of things I had heard about hypnagogic hallucinations where streams of faces flash past dreamers in the space between sleeping and waking.  I thought of the strange menaces of sleep apnea.  And then I thought about all the vagabond ideas that run all through sleep and into the spaces before and after it.  

And so a troupe of thoughts runs along the bottom of every page, intersecting dreams and winding through the blank spaces between them. 

In the centre of the book there is a sort of out-of-body experience where these ideas can be seen running down the pillow and into the mind of the dreamer.  It seemed like the book needed a bit of an explanation, something to anchor it a little.

This sketchbook is small, only about seven inches tall and the paper inside it is very thin.  Pencil is the only medium that such thin paper could hold up against, and even pencil shows through the back of the paper.  Yet the more I drew, the more involved I got.  

The book developed a weird sort of logic that had to be respected, a balance that had to be maintained.

Unlikely little memories and personal references began to sneak in as well.  There is a little reminder of the time we were stopped by a man in India who opened his long trench coat to reveal rows of fake beards that he was trying to sell.  Then there is the lamp that hangs above the bed and looks to us like a girl floating down from the ceiling, her skirt billowing out like a parachute. 

The other day, as I was putting the last touches on this book of sketches, I decided to read through the dreams I had written down in the little book my husband made for me.  Even after so much time I could remember all of them, all but one.

The forgotten dream:

    "Strange, lovely bird - sort of like magpie - appears in our house, is very tame & friendly.  And we wonder how it came inside.  It tells us it followed us home & how it snuck in past us.  Turns out to be a strange boy.  He has one or two objects that are with him.  A sort of container that is bigger when opened from one side than from another & other sorts of unbelievable things."

So I think I will continue to record my dreams in the mornings when I can, to see what surprises might be lurking there. 

I used to do that a lot when I was growing up, filling up spiral-bound notebooks with the chicken scratch of early mornings.  I remember that it became easier with time.

Because this sketchbook is so small, I thought it would be wiser just to post some details from it here, since they risk going unnoticed on a small photo of the whole page.  There are still a lot of things that are not photographed here though, and so I have posted photos of the whole pages on flickr.  That will also give a better sense of the sleep cycle structure of the book.

Oh, and this sketchbook, along with many, many, many others will be touring through parts of Canada, America, and also over to London starting this spring.  There are tour details on the Sketchbook Project page.  There will also be a permanent home for the exhibition in Brooklyn and a digital sketchbook library for those who can't see the books in person.  I love the idea of being able to leaf through all these books, and think it is fantastic and thrilling that so many people have given so much to this project.