I am now half way through my month long residency at Oriel y Parc in St. Davids. It is wonderful to have such a beautiful big studio in which to begin to process the material from ob•serve, the project I have been researching over six months at Skokholm Island Bird Observatory. The work I am doing will develop over the winter and will be the basis of an exhibition in The Tower Gallery, St Davids, next summer.
I decided to focus particularly on my sketchbooks and the colour “transect” studies. I chose eight sights around the island which I visited every month from April to September and recorded the colours I could see, this now forms the basis of a series of canvases I am painting in oils.
The residency is teaching me some unexpected things: the benefits of having a studio away from home, of having people around and a context to work in which is less isolated (and has an excellent cafe!), the importance of having clear space and the value of having a routine of going out to work and stopping at 5pm. As a result I have resolved to have a clear-out of my studio and gallery and to reorganise my workspace at home, especially to make space for painting. This means that I will be having a massive sale of work this winter which will (hopefully!) free up space.
I will be giving a public talk about this work at Oriel y Parc on Friday 16th October at 6pm, and also welcome visitors to the studio 4-5pm on Thursdays and Fridays (other times by arrangement). On Saturday 21st November I will be running a one-day painting course focussing on colour at Oriel y Parc. To book phone Oriel y Parc on 01437 720392.
I am immensely grateful to The Arts Council of Wales for funding this project which is allowing me to take the risks necessary to develop my work, to The Wildlife Trust, South and West Wales and the Skokholm Island wardens for giving me the chance to work on the island, and to all the staff at Oriel y Parc and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park for making me so welcome in St. Davids.
Finally made it to Skokholm Island early this morning. It is years since I was here and I am in seventh heaven! The red of the sandstone is amazing, I am collecting some to use in my glass work and paintings. So far I have set up my studio and orientated myself, spending a while with the seals in South Haven to chill out and adjust to being here.
The accommodation is newly renovated by volunteers last autumn and is absolutely lovely. The chemical toilets have been replaced by compost ones and the rooms have sinks (although water has to be brought up daily from the well!). Everything is spick and span.
I will update this blog with photos when I get home because this BlackBerry is pretty useless for pics.
I presented my week’s work on Skomer to all the inhabitants and occupants of Skomer island on Thursday evening in a show in my temporary studio space (better known as the Volunteer’s Lounge and Sue`s Potting Shed!) on the island. Everyone came and the opening was probably the best attended, noisiest and most friendly I have ever had!
Thanks to Chris and Sue for letting me use the space, to Mary Jo for the delightful canapes, and to everyone who came along and made the event a success.
My Skomer Bluebells painting course is under way and today we spent the day on the island sketching and making notes to bring back to the studio tomorrow.
I have been coming to Skomer for 18 years, I even lived there for a while when Den was Assistant Warden, but it was the first time I had been to the island this year and Skomer was resplendent in its cloak of bluebells and campion. The island has been so influential on my work and holds a special place in my heart. The colours, atmosphere and wildlife of the place are amazing. I am staying on the island next week to paint and am really excited about it.. Next year I really want to run a residential course on the island – anyone interested?
The season is two weeks ahead of normal schedule due to the warm weather in April and there was a lot of Puffin activity all around the island.
Congratulations to Kenny Gainforth, the boatman,who has just won the individual European Federation of Sea Anglers Trophy in competition in Ireland. Although somehow he didn`t have any mackerel to spare today! Well done Kenny!
Thanks to everyone who came to my New Year Show. We are now back to visits by appointment until April, so I am venturing back to my studio for some concentrated painting time.
No New Years Resolutions as such, but I know I need to be selective about which ideas to pursue if I am to do anything well this year. It is probably good to have lots of ideas and projects, but it is definitely NOT good to try to do them all!
I am constantly torn between painting and glass, and expressive and conceptual ways of working. I need to make some decisions and stick to them.
Last year, facing the recession I said “yes” to a lot of things I would normally not do, showing in other galleries, being part of a group exhibition in Swansea, teaching etc…and teaching is the one thing I will take forward this year. My autumn courses went really well, my students were lovely, I enjoyed teaching them and they brought me some income at a quiet time of year.
This year I have decided to see the recession as an opportunity to do exactly what I want with my work!
Another exceptional walk in a transformed landscape today, this time at Newport, Pembrokeshire. We left the grumpy teenager in Mor Awelon Cafe sipping hot chocolate and nursing a dental extraction, and walked Alfie round to the beach. It was amazing to see frozen spume and piles of ice shards on the sand and sheets of ice draped by the falling tide…
Again the ice is an inspiration, covering and revealing the landscape, layering texture and colour.
It is almost too much visual excitement! It will take a while to process it all, let it gestate and emerge in my work…
I am thinking about my glass casting and embedding landscape detail all the while…
Then there is the colour, the frozen foam like a river of marble flowing to the distance… as you can see it is difficult not to get carried away!
After warming up with a fine parsnip soup back at Mor Awelon, I collected three paintings to complete my New Year Show which opens on 27th December for one week.
Join us for a glass of mulled wine anytime until 3rd January at the gallery in Maenclochog in the Preseli Hills.
Fantastic wintry walk this afternoon. You can really feel the year turning on this, the shortest day. Sheets of ice on the river like glass fibre.
Den was very excited to find Barbastelle bats hibernating. Barbastelle bats are very rare and it was his first sighting despite the fact that he has been out checking bat roosts for nearly 2 years with his trainer! He is passionate about bats and is currently training to get a license to enable him to do bat surveys.
Yesterday I had another gorgeous day over on Skomer Island painting and researching for some big paintings that are in the pipeline. The bluebells and campion are at their very best now and it was a perfect day – overwhelmingly beautiful, almost too intense to work with!
Back in the studio now I am trying to get over the stunning blues and pinks and work on some of the ideas and inspirations with the benefit of a bit of distance.
Some of you know that Skomer holds a special place in my heart and I have been visiting, staying and painting on the island for 17 years now. I am thinking of running a painting course on the island in September. If you might be interested send me an email!