Monday, 26 May 2014

A May Morning Quite Early

A little over a week ago, being on my own and away from home, I woke up early and went off to walk in the woods at a time when I would normally still be sleeping.

I was staying in an enormous, old and creaking house. Before reaching these woods, I crept down the long and bending stairways that traced their way down the house's three tall storeys, then I walked along a dark hallway, out into the rolling mist-covered morning landscape, across a lawn, through some incredibly tall wooden doors and into a gloriously blossoming walled garden, then across the garden, up a hill and through another gate into the shade of a mature arboretum which was like some lost kingdom of sheep with a herd peacefully reclining here and there at the bases of the enormous trees with their new lambs, then along a sweet-smelling path of lilacs and rhododendrons and even some bluebells, and finally I came to a rusted-out, sideways-hanging empty frame of a door.

Though the door had become mostly an imagined door and I could have just ducked through without opening it, I turned the knob and pulled the empty, groaning door open towards me and stepped through into this world of twisting old trees and bluebells.

I walked in the fragrant, bird-loud woods until well past the point where my feet were dew-soaked. I might still be walking now if I hadn't remembered that I had actually woken early because I had meant to get an early start painting that day, before I meandered off course.

Perhaps you are wondering why there are only photos of the woods and the bluebells, and not any of the places I passed through to get to the woods? Well you see..... growing up in Canada I had a depressive biology teacher from England who once mentioned bluebell woods as an example of a lack of biodiversity. And perhaps they are (though these ones don't seem so bad to me), but since that day it has been a small, hidden-away dream of mine to visit a bluebell wood in spring. Somehow, the past springs that we have been in Scotland it has never quite worked out (possibly not having a car is to blame), so I felt very lucky indeed to accidentally wander into a wood like this the other day.

Wishing you a good start to the week and hoping you enjoy these last days of spring!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


Well, it has been longer than I'd hoped, but finally I have a chance to share one of my new prints with you.

This new etching is 20 x 30 cm , and was made with a combination of hardground, softground and aquatint techniques. It is printed with both black and sepia inks, and the touches of green and pink were added by hand-colouring with watercolour.

I've included a lot of close shots here, since this print is so full of pattern and intricate details. There is plenty here to reward a long look!

I was also quite pleased with the way some of these close-up photos show the subtly three-dimensional character of the print. Because the intaglio printing process uses extreme pressure to press thick, dampened paper into the crevices of the copper plate (where the ink sits), the ink is actually deposited on the paper in little hills and ridges.

It took quite a while, but I really enjoyed forming all these less than fingerprint-sized faces and slowly stippling in the patterns of their clothes. And how better to spend rainy early spring days than using an etching needle to help tendrils of ivy to creep up the sides of this boat, wrap themselves around its mast, or spread out between the plants growing on this shore?

Of course, at the same time I was growing the ivy, I was sharpening the knife and sickle that would be used to cut back that ivy and possibly free the boat.

Because of the slow way in which I work, I always seem to have a backlog of ideas for things I am meaning to make but haven't yet found time for. Since at least last autumn lots of vegetal people have been creeping into my thoughts, so expect more of them in the future.

 Though perhaps this really isn't so different for me after all.

Recently I have been feeling that, more than ever before, the things I am working on have a lot of dialogue between themselves. Ideas are passed back and forth between works, elaborated on and deepened. It is a good place to be in, I think. All I need now is more time to work!!  

Anyway, with some of the things that have been making the past few months so particularly busy now out of the way, I am hoping to be able to post more regularly from now on. Which is great because I have lots of things I have been waiting to share with you!

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Sea in the Sky

Since Easter there has been a thick haar, or sea fog, sitting on Aberdeen. Time and objects disappear, nothing looks real, and going on a simple walk is to venture from one unseen pocket into another.

Things materialise from nowhere into sudden, unworldly colour -- a tiny, old woman with a scarf over her hair sitting and smoking on a low wall, a tree of pink blossoms, a path of bluebells.

Lost in all this fog, it seems I have once again let my posting slip for a while.

 In the meantime though, I have finished an etching and helped organize an art show, learned about framing and then framed three of my works, and today I have been cooking up rabbit skin to make glue so I can prepare some wooden panels for painting. I have also been learning a little about egg tempera painting and I am trying to use traditional materials in traditional ways, so that I can understand exactly what is going into the things I make.

If the sun ever comes out again, I will be able to photograph and share two new prints with you. (Or, if you are near Aberdeen you can stop by the Art Gallery from Saturday the 10th of May until the 21st of June, as these two prints will be part of the Aberdeen Artists Society Annual Exhibition.)

 In the midst of all this, one afternoon not long ago, while I was tucked away busily working, my husband slipped out with the camera for a stroll in the thick haar to take the lovely photos you see here today.

Down by the harbour these sweet brick smoke houses make their last stand against ugly glass boxes. I will miss the seagull shrieks and heavy fish smells on the way home.

In the fog, like in the snow, it is easier to see only the places you want to see. When the clouds eat the roof off of the ugly hotel behind the house I think the whole neighbourhood must sigh and smile a little.

Where have you been wandering in these heady, blossoming days?