The #sackslavery exhibition is getting closer- October 18th. Yesterday I did more work on the freedom piece- adding flowers to the wings. Did I tell you about the wings? You’ll see when it’s finished.
Also since my last post I have found some music that will go with the piece. It’s from the talented composer, Simon Rodgers, who has a studio in the same building as me.
When I heard the particular track I’ll be using I cried. I also realised that I want people to cry when they see the work. Modern slavery is such a harrowing issue- mainly affecting women, who are forced into situations often involving physical and or sexual abuse.
Back to the stream about collaboration- being in certain spaces opens doors and new collaborations. This happened not just with Simon the composer but also with a tech wizard, Ashley Croome, in a different building I also inhabit- a tech hub. So I now have a ‘raspberry-pi’ bit of kit that will play the music on a loop, but only when someone approaches, as it has a motion sensor.
I have never really collaborated over my art, it’s usually a solitary activity often around painting, but this work has been about connection and collaboration, a combination of people and talents – this has all happened organically. And its not over yet.
There is still a key bit of construction work that needs to happen for it to stand up- I’ll need some help with that too. With so many wonderful people in the world I’m sure to have another collaborator soon.
’46 million people live as slaves today. Modern slavery affects every nation in the world, including Wales, and has many cruel faces including: Forced labour, criminal exploitation, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and organ harvesting.’
An independent coffee house, Manumit Coffee, supports survivors of modern slavery and has invited artists to create works on the theme of ‘Freedom from slavery’ using a coffee sack as a starting point.
At first I was unsure whether to raise my hand for this project, after all how could I create something I haven’t experienced? Wouldn’t it be patronising? After some research and reflection I decided that if I could do something to raise awareness of this hidden issue then that could only be a good thing- so today I picked up my coffee sack and my brief.
As you know I am a painter primarily, but this piece is not going to be a painting- its going to be an installation piece. My concept has two parts- a structure that symbolises captivity and the second element is wire structure of a standing, free woman. I shall start sketching this out later today.
Today I started part one. I don’t want to share the detail as I prefer to reveal the whole piece in October at the show- but creating it was a uncomfortable. I don’t usually take my art into these areas- so it was a stretch- but a stretch worth doing. The piece is now hidden in the corner of my studio, where it will stay for at least a month.
With the first stage underway I can now switch to the standing figure- the free figure. I have no idea how I am going to create it- but I have time- and where there is a will there is a way. I may need help- that’s fine.
I’m now quietly excited about the challenge of creating this piece- it’s new for me and who knows what impact it could have?
The show is on October 18th at The Sustainable Studio Cardiff, to coincide with Anti-slavery day.
Over the last few months I have allowed myself to play with my art. Instead of painting on canvas with oils I started playing around with colour in its purest form- just paint- no form- no meaning.
I made these bits of colour into an arrangement and something started happening- a new strand of art-making.
I now have small originals you can wear around your neck or on your finger.
These little creations have now found their way to a gallery along with my art on canvas.
I also started playing with natures pigments in the form of dried flowers. What a joy this has been. Pictures coming soon
I have also been creating a #LoveFrida range- to share the spirit of Frida Kahlo. You can see more and buy from my Etsy shop
At the start of her career, just finishing university. She is full of hope.
Her hair is long, straight, uncoloured- beautiful in its simplicity.
To me this painting is about her saying, or any individual saying, ‘I’m here, I’m ready, I’m excited. Bring on Life!’
I wish for everyone to have this ‘Sophia moment’ in their lives and for it to stay.
A recent communication brought thoughts of Frida back into my world.
Read more here
Why do we love her? Is it just her iconic style? I think not, Frida speaks to people at a deeper level and her fans are not so shallow.
I love Frida for many reasons. She shows us how we can rise from any tragedy that hits us. She suffered physically with her health but also in her relationship with a man she adored. But note that when her husband went astray- so did she!
I love her for independence of spirit that speaks not just to women but any individual that wants to assert their own independent identity outside gender stereotyping.
Recently I realised that maybe more than all of this, Frida showed us how to be vulnerable before it became fashionable. She lays open her life to us in her paintings: she confronts her own death, graphically illustrates what it’s like to loose a child, paints herself at times of personal crisis.
How honest have other painters been in their work? Below ‘Henry Ford Hospital’ Frida Kahlo 1932
On a personal level I love Frida the artist. She spoke to me and called me to pick up the paintbrush again and follow my dream of having an exhibition of my own one day. The level of pain I saw in her life spoke to my own sense of loss- no one else had shared so openly before for me to relate to. When I paint her she teaches me- challenges me to capture her ever elusive spirit.
But todays question that occurred to me as I look at her staged photographic portraits is what does Frida ask of us? Rather than dress like her- perhaps she is asking. inviting us to ask
‘Who are we?’
How do we present ourselves to the world as she did? She took time to craft her appearance to represent all she stood for- her return to traditional Mexican dress, the colours and patterns she chose to wear, the jewellery…
How about we not wear flowers in our hair as she did. How about we consciously be who we are. If you had to one photograph or painting that was to represent you when you are gone- how would you be?
I have an idea to have my own project where I invite people to truly represent themselves. I shall be in a room with my tripod and camera waiting for anyone who would like to sit or stand for me in all their individuality. That would be my kinda Frida project!
What if she is also asking us to be honest? Like really honest about what goes on for us?
With mental health on the national agenda – this would be a timely call.
Food for thought….
Paintings has been many things for me: a release, a form of self-expression, a way of capturing moments in time, creating beauty, getting to know myself, coping with grief…but now it has also become a form of prayer.
A way of being with someone, thinking about them, focusing on their healing and sending all of that into the air waves. My Mum has been unwell these last few weeks and is currently recovering from a serious operation. At 85 she has lots of people who love her and are praying for her. In my world I am painting her back to health- this has become my form of prayer.
Thank you Art, what would I do without you?
This painting is about my gorgeous friend Lisa who recently fell in love- although it almost didn’t make it through.
Lisa is one of the most kind hearted people I know – she is an artist- ceramicist, illustrator and maker of things.
I had painted a few of my friends and it occurred to me that I wanted to paint Lisa too- so I asked her. Lisa doesn’t even like her photo being taken so a portrait was a big deal. Luckily she accepted my invitation to be painted.
We often meet for coffee on a weekend morning, so that’s where this painting is set. I’m usually just out of bed but Lisa has already done the weekly shop and few other jobs. We meet, we chat, we laugh- but this time I take photographs too. This time she’s also in love- young new love- you know the kind.
I wanted this painting to be special for lots of reasons- firstly I love her and wanted to paint her as the beautiful woman she is. Secondly, I wanted to capture this special moment in her life, as I had a sneaky feeling ‘he may be the one’- the energy of that is amazing.
Apart from capturing the person I purposely included the coffee cup and coffee shop environment. Life is so busy nowadays that real conversation, in person, away from work and other distractions is now becoming quite scared. The coffee shop, however commercial, is thus a special place.
I worked on the painting over weeks- getting the finer details of her face and laugh line- I thought it was one of my best. I let it dry and then wrapped it up and put it away.
Lisa didn’t see the painting until my recent exhibition a couple of weeks ago even though I did it in the summer. She did approve I think – although we have yet to chat about it properly.
It would be great if the story ended there- but it doesn’t. As I was preparing for the exhibition and took out the painting- their was something slightly off- the shoulders looked too small and a little awkward. I decided to work on it some more.
This is always a very risky thing to do as you can wreck a painting. But I asked myself- am I proud to hang it on the wall? With the bugs that I could see the answer was no- so it went back on the easel for another 2 days. What I thought would be a some small adjustments grew into something bigger- as you change one thing you often have to change another. I thought I had wrecked it- but I brought it back. This second painting was a little different to the first- but not enough to warrant a renaming. Also no one else had seen it.
Sometimes I wish I would just leave things. I wrote in my studio journal that evening ‘I think I try too hard. Appreciate your art more. It’s good as it is’ So in the end this painting wasn’t just about Lisa it was about me too. I have a few things to learn: being softer and kinder to myself and my art for one. This painting almost didn’t make it through- but I am so glad it did.
Today I found out that both my art works had been accepted into a prestigious open art competition. I was thrilled. This is my first ‘yes’ by a gallery.
It’s special for many reasons. They are portraits of my friends- also both black women- so there will be 3 of us on the gallery walls!
Apart from that though I feel its more about recognition. I have been painting for a while and have entered competitions twice before and didn’t make it- so today’s yes was most welcome. It was a ‘yes we think you have something’ kind a yes.
One of the paintings, Nicolette, I am particularly proud of. With this one I went over the edge- what do I mean by that? I got to a point where it was perfectly fabulous but for me there was something missing- something not quite her- so I carried on- almost wrecked it- but something came through- something that was her. She was less defined but more beautiful, more raw, more spiritual- as she is.
I didn’t realise this completely until I looked at it again a couple of weeks later. I remember unwrapping it, putting it on my studio wall and I could feel her energy in the room with me. This person is very dear to me and I don’t see her often so having her on the wall in my studio was a treat.
And now she will be part of a larger wall, with other paintings.
Painting is a solitary pursuit and takes up a lot of time- so when someone gets it- gets what you are doing- it’s amazing!
Some people feel uncomfortable at the thought of a portrait of themselves.
‘I don’t look good in profile’ ‘My nose is too big’ ‘Please make me thinner’ ….
My current subject was a bit like that. She didn’t want a painting of herself ‘Can you paint my daughter instead?’ she pleaded. ‘No, I want to paint you.’ I replied. I can be firm sometimes!
Eventually I was able to convince her to give me 2 minutes of her time for a few photos. Usually I take over 100 shots on my mobile and choose the one that speaks to me. This time round I had 6 photos, two poses: side on or front facing. This particular person also constantly smiles, so having a non-smiley picture (as required for a portrait), was also tricky. But luckily I found something to work with.
This is the beginning – it could also be the end- but I want to add some colour as the woman in question is a very colourful soul. It’s done using a watercolour pencil which I then work into with water to soften and add tone.
I happened to show this drawing to a few people who had never met the person in question.
‘What do you see in this?’ I asked?
‘Strong, focused…is she a business woman?’ came the reply.
If you know Tracey, Creator of the hugely successful Introbiz (business network) you will know how accurate that is. This image just flowed. Maybe because I started it after a few hours of painting or maybe because it needed to be drawn.
I really like it, it seems to capture something of a woman who is always busy and has little time for herself or to reflect. I’m hoping this portrait acts as a mirror for her so she can see the all the wonderfulness that she is. Daughters will have their time- as Mothers we have to celebrate ourselves too!
I shall keep you posted as this painting develops.
Portrait commissions welcome. Email me here to discuss.
In a couple of days my next exhibition will open. Today was all about fixings, name plates and tidying up edges of the paintings ready for hanging tomorrow.
I am looking forward to showing the work as for the past few months they have been wrapped up in my studio. I often think its unfair to them- they need to get out once in a while. Also a little part of me thinks- if no one sees them do they really exist? So out they are going.
The exciting part is that some of the subjects of the work, my friends, have not yet seen the finished peices- some just on social media others not at all. It’s such a great moment to watch someones reaction when they see a portrait of themselves- at first it’s surprise then they take a closer look and start seeing parts of themselves reflected in it…other than that I don’t really know what else goes through their minds. I hope they see themselves as the gorgeous people that they are, as I see them. I think in that way having a painting done can be quite empowering.
Also showing will be a new Frida portrait that has not yet been seen- ‘Spirit of Frida’ (Frida Kahlo). This is bright, bold and big. She looks back at you with wide beautiful eyes- almost granting you any wish you take to her. This is Frida in the sky, passed on, raher than a depiction of her alive.
Together I hope it is a wall full of gorgeous women talking to each other silently. I thik its going to be a pretty powerful vibe as the women are all beautiful and inspiring. Did I mention Nina Simone is in there too?!
Nina Simone I love for her music, her politics, her bravery, her conviction. She traded her career to stand up to the brutal racism in America. ‘Strange Fruit’ is a powerful track- and a reminder to this day of what went on. She was also, undiagnosed, bi-polar for much of her life.
So- lots of powerful stuff I’m hoping it’s going to harmonise beautifully. Let’s wait and see…
P.S. I had considered putting in one of my early self portraits- but they are so sad and heavy I don’t want to inflict them in the audience- another time for those.