Homesick Swifts.

I haven’t had much time of late to ‘blog’ but finally some time and also something to say.

I started reworking some old prints, which has led me to a new series of work on small pieces of paper. I call these works; books, but they are books in the loosest terms. Literally, loose pages. Designed to look like they are torn from the pages of a book. Impermanent, throw-away and if they are discarded.

However, this isn’t the only association I want this particular book to have, I am printing pages on very thin Japanese rice paper. This is because I want the quality of the paper to reflect the qualities of a Swift; a bird that is not only incredibly light in weight, (Swifts only weigh a few grammes) but also spends it’s whole life on the wing, constantly moving and soaring the skies, but not only that, Swifts are also a migratory bird and are in another constant movement between continents. Between homes. I hope that by combining images of migration patterns, maps and my own drawings of swifts in flight, as well as the lightness of the paper that I hopefully start to communicate the story of these birds.

Here are a few pictures from today’s work, it’s work in progress and I look forward to seeing it grow over the next week or so.

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I’m also starting a dry point etching of a Jay this week, as well as finally finishing a lino cut of a Rookery that I started months ago.  As well as Letterpress training on Monday!  A lovely poet friend of mine has also give me some words about Swifts to use, I will again post a few pictures and a few words on the process.

Tomorrow, a rare day off.

Please feed the birds.

Martha

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Posted in Art

Thank you, and now, for something completely different.

Well, that’s the end of my first large group show in a good long time. Bucks Open Studios is over for this year and what a great exhibition it has been.

I’ve had some excellent feedback from some lovely people, many artists and makers themselves as well as that, I’m able to call it a success as I did manage to sell quite a few pieces. Which as anyone out there, who is attempting to sell their own work or craft will know is a huge compliment and affirmation of what you do and what you think that it is worth.

This leaves me with a wonderful dilemma however, as most of the work that I felt I was able to sell and show to people is now gone! I have to make more! Thankfully, I have two weeks booked in the staff studio at work this week and next and so after hours and in the little spare time I have available, alongside my last remaining post grad assignment I will be making more, new work. Foraying into the stack of new ideas that I have lined up for ‘when I have time’.

So, for my next group show, I make this public commitment, that all of the work will be from my new collections/series and direction. Expect to see more of my beloved family of Rooks, more slighly ominous yet protective Ravens and perhaps some Red Kites, or Jackdaws, or even Jays.

In light of this statement, I’m now also making a commitment to sell off all of my old work, to make space for new! So please see my gallery for new pictures and added prices. Knock down prices! Roll up Roll up!

This is also my opportunity to give a huge public thanks to Stewart Clough who tirelessly organised the show for us at St Tiggywinkles and pleasingly had some sucess himself as part of the show. I am very grateful to him and the staff at Tiggys for their work and tireless efforts to look after us and accommodate us all.

And thank you to you, you wonderful people, for all your endless support. It means the world, it really does.

Please feed the birds.

Martha

Bucks Open Studios – 8 June – 23 June

I love the saying ‘If you want something done, give it to a busy person.’ Today I have luxuriated in the fact that I have had to stay in one place, that is not my work desk, all day and even better than that – had to do some art work! I have and continue to be very busy of late.

Currently, I have an exhibition up at Bucks Open Studios at St Tiggywinkle’s Wildlife Hospital Trust which is one of my biggest shows in years. I’ve not had the time, or indeed confidence in my work in recent years to exhibit, and while I haven’t sold much yet (but I have sold some!) this has been hugely important to me, personally. It’s a milestone in terms of my practice and standing on my own two feet as a practicing artist.

If any of you are local, and able to come and see, I am doing a demonstration of monoprinting at Tiggys over this weekend starting at 11:30am each day and hopefully printing until at least 2pm each day (with some breaks!). It would be great to see some of you there if you’re able to come – you can get directions here.

Here are a couple of phone snaps, with more to come of my own and my fellow artist’s work!

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Free studio space – but what to do?

I’m very lucky where I work, the Programme Leader for Fine Art (an eminent curator, writer and blogger herself, Tracey Warr) has arranged for one of the studios over the summer to be available for staff within the school to use. I desperately want to take advantage of this offer of space, something that comes at a premium in our small end terrace house, and use the studio to make some bigger work. I very rarely get the opportunity to make bigger work and I have some huge paper tucked behind a wardrobe as well as some large rolls of paper that could be utilised. This has certainly got me thinking about the possibilities of what I could do, but I honestly am at a bit of a loss. Which is silly, I was burning with ideas just a few short weeks ago.

Having been focussed on my teaching course as well as my job for a few weeks has taken the wind out of my art sails a bit, but I am determined to huff and puff some back in there.

I’ve got my copy of Esther Woolfson’s ‘Field Notes from a Hidden City’  here beside me and it is creaking at the edges with page markers.

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Perhaps, I could make a series of drawings that visualise these passages that I’ve marked to be digested at some un-known time, perhaps I could start the project with a series of large mono printed landscapes. Perhaps, perhaps, I’m driving myself a little mad with the lack of motivation to just bloody well get on with it. I need to adopt the Taoist mentality that I continuously advise in my own teaching, ‘First thought, best thought’. Not, because necessarily, the first thought is the best thought, but because it is the thought that gets us moving, making, creating some work.

Time to get the sketch book out and take some motivational inspiration from my busy, ever present, garden birds.

Please feed the birds.

Pensieve

I wish I had a pensieve, for those of you who aren’t fans or readers of Harry Potter, you won’t know what I mean. A Pensieve is a wonderful object, it is a bowl of your thoughts, wishes, fantasies, wonders, passing ideas. When your brain is over loaded with many things, you put your wand point to your temple, remove the thought (it comes out of your temple in a silvery strand) and pop it into the bowl, to be mused and thought through later on. Fantastic. I only wish it existed in the real world and not one of J K Rowling’s imagination.

This is a long winded way of stating that I have a lot to say. I want to write a blog that is dedicated to the BACubed exhibition that is currently showing at the Glass Tank Gallery and the School of Arts at Oxford Brookes. I will write a proper review of this show and credit the artists who are showing work next week, but for now, if you are anywhere near Oxford in the next week then I urge you to go and see this show. It is nothing short of gob smacking in so many ways.

I’ve been mostly concentrating on my teaching course this week, as well as taking a bit of time off before things start to get very busy again. The summer school that I lead at Oxford Brookes will kick off with aplomb very shortly, as well as assignments to hand in, Bucks Open Studios to take part in at St Tiggywinkle’s and I am thrilled to announce that I will now be associated with The Tube Gallery (Once the gallery manager and I have managed to meet and I can show her some work!) and will be taking part in two Travelling Tube group shows shortly. There are more group shows and auctions to come and I will say more about that soon.

For now, I continue to feed the birds who are now becoming used to my presence in the garden. I’m thrilled by this, it’s also led me more to muse on how our relationship is so mutually beneficial. The birds are relying on me for food that they desperately need at this time of year to feed their own young and keep themselves going. I am relying on them for joy in the most simple of terms, the joy of being close to them and being able to observe them and their behaviour at such close quarters. Laughing at the wood pigeons wobbling about, the sparrows taking their chances and the gorgeous starlings dominating everything that is going on. They’re eating me out of house and home though, no sooner have I filled up the fat feeders with home made fat balls, the seed feeders, the peanut tray and the bird table they are empty again. (Some within half an hour!) I don’t care. I get immeasurable joy from helping them. It’s mostly left overs that are going over, old cheese, old apples, stale bits of bread!

You too, can have this.

Please feed the birds.

Posted in Art

As busy as the birds.

Everybody’s busy at the moment, and I’m not talking just about human life. The birds have thrown themselves into the busiest time of the year; building nests, finding a mate, raising a family, collecting and eating copius amounts of food to keep this frenetic pace going. It’s extraordinary. As predicted, Spring seems to have raced to finally meet us after getting the battery replaced in his watch. Last week, I saw Barn Swallows (Hirondelle) for the first time this year, I yelped with joy.

I too am very busy, since I started this blog and galvanised myself I have gained confidence. Both the positive feedback I’ve had on my blog and my facebook page has really overwhelmed me, so thank you!

I’ve sold work, I’ve been comissioned, I’ve been approached by a gallery and have drummed up the courage to apply for proposals. Something that I wouldn’t have ‘found time’ (a.k.a. courage) for six months ago. I’m cock-a-hoop to say the least.

This week has been a very busy one; my last week of teaching for this academic year, I’ve been printing a comission in my spare time and getting ready for a group show called ‘Art on the Hill’ that I took part in this year.

I put in some framed pieces from The Book of Birds and also these prints here:

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As it’s a new show to me, and I wasn’t sure what sort of work they would like I do think I took the safer option, but still I do like these prints and I hope that people have at least enjoyed looking at them. I’m yet to find out if I have sold anything or not. I guess we will find out shortly as I’ve got to go and pick up the work today. STOP PRESS : I just returned from my collection with three framed works and an empty print browser! All the rooks sold!

I’m putting in a proposal today also for a wall in a hospital to be hung with a permanent collection of my work. I’d love to do it, livening up these spaces is something that is near to my heart, hospitals can be such sublime places from an emotional perspective. We deal with birth, life and death within those walls. It would be great to bring something positive to that envrionment.

I’ve also made some more of my Raven’s wings work, so check out my gallery for updated work!

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Please feed the birds.

Martha

Slowly Spring comes.

It’s Sunday 14th April. By now, the trees should be in bud and leaf, baby birds (particularly Rooks/Jackdaws) should be calling for their mothers and food for all should be becoming plentiful again.

In wildlife terms, spring is dangerously late this year. Friends have been telling me of seeing Red Kites sitting on garage roofs and only yesterday one took off from the garden opposite my house when I started my car. I’ve taken to putting food out for these huge birds too, covering my shed roof in bits of left over bread, the remains of poached eggs and sinewy bits of meat that are no good even to my frugal eye. These poor birds are hungry, I see them and other scavengers hopefully circling over roads and hedgerows, looking for a small meal to help them to eek out their winter existence a little longer. I wonder how many of them have perished. However, this is something that we as nature lovers must come to accept in regards to the weather. We cannot save them all.

I have volunteered at and have family and friends who work at St Tiggywinkles, Wildlife Hospital Trust, this is a marvellous place that strives to save animals from death or damage be it by human hand, disease, starvation or accident. I’ll be exhibiting my work there again as part of Bucks Open Studios and will be happily resident at the hospital for some of the time. (Making the most of the opportunity to draw the permanent Ravens…) So there you go, you know I’m an out and out animal lover and saver of animals, but I do accept that there is a natural balance that is achieved by weather events such as the ones we have been experiencing. That a lot of my beloved birds will and already have died as a result of the harsh winter and what seems like even harsher spring.

I predict that this spring will be a rushed one, plants racing to bloom, birds and other animals fervently raising families, building nests, digging out setts and dens, gorging on the suddenly abundant food. But also that it will be a difficult one, all those little babies who would have liked a little longer to grow up, to become strong, will be pushed to the limits of their capabilities. Again, I worry that mortality rates will be high.

But for now, the sun is finally shining, the wind is finally warmer and the plants and trees stir. As do I, with ideas for development, work and all the possibilities that spring hope brings.

Please feed the birds.

Corvus Cornix

Corvus Cornix

A friend of mine took a photo of this handsome Hooded Crow for me in the centre of Berlin. He is definitely going to be making an appearance in my work. A right regal chap we both thought….

Onwards, ever onwards. Motivation vs Rest.

The great ‘To Do’ list looms over me at the moment.

I’ve got loads on, I must take photos this weekend of my work and submit an application for a show that I’ve been invited to take part in, (times two! – very exciting to be offered so many shows!) I’ve got to finishing cutting a plate I started weeks ago (it’s complex and I’ve been putting it off) Imageplus reading, assignment writing, practising my piano and getting my head around a few things. I also want to do some walking and some cycling. I love walking or cycling in the countryside, I adore the different landscapes that are available to us. 

Looking at the landscape at two different paces like that really excites me. I see it in different ways. Driving through a landscape is okay, but it disconnects us from it. We aren’t in it, we’re beside it. If you’re not outside feeling the wind, (the rain…) the air temperature, tasting the air, hearing the birds and the rattling of the branches of trees then you cannot take it all in. You can’t connect with it. Having the ground beneath feet or the wind blasting across your cheeks as well as the sights (and sounds!) of the landscape brings us back to the roots of our being. There is something connective and utterly freeing about it, being in all that space. 

I’ve been reading Field Notes from a Hidden City of late. Esther Woolfson’s latest nature based tome. It was her book Corvus, which basically inspired my entire body of work that I made for my M.A. She seems to neatly and cleverly describe all my thinking about birds specifically and currently I have at least 10 references marked this this book and I’m only 1/4 of my way through it. I’m reading it slowly, trying to concentrate and take it all in. Reading for research is very different to reading for leisure. It is for me anyway, when I read for leisure I take what I want from a text. When i’m reading for research, I take it all in (or as much of it as I can!) and try to analyse what is important and what supports and agues against any concept that I’m trying to develop or support. 

I’ve filled up the feeders, filled up myself. Now time to get off the sofa writing about it and actually do it. Let’s hope the resulting drawings and photographs lead me down another exciting snicket of nature, art and space. 

Please feed the birds and enjoy your bank holiday. 

 

Exhibitions down, Weddings done, hopes up.

Both of the recent group shows that I’ve been in have now come down. My dear sister currently has my prints from the British Wildlife Art Exhibition in her car as I was too shattered after coming home from Wales on Sunday to pick them up! It was a busy but wonderful weekend. A dear school friend got married to her lovely long term partner. She’s a birder like me and as such her wedding venue was chosen appropriately!

The Welsh Wildlife Centre is just outside of Cardigan and they have numerous bird hides about the place where you can see all manner of lovely birds. We didn’t have long to spend and still managed to see many blue tits, chaffinches, starlings, a half tame crow and a little egret! We also saw a lesser spotted woodpecker in the garden of our b&b, run by a lovely man called Godfrey (and his spaniel, Sally). We were well looked after in this fab little place which is as eco as possible without being worthy. Godfrey is a lovely, caring man who loves the area and all the living beings within it deeply. While I don’t necessarily agree with all his approaches, I loved his passion and sincere attachment to the Teifi Marshes and the area as a whole. Plus, he sent us on a fantastic little walk! It was such a beautiful morning. a really good time to take stock and study the landscape, slow down and recognise those songbirds that I love. Of course, I liked the half tame crow the best. Just as an extra link, the photographer who did the wedding was seriously shit hot. He doesn’t use flash, he’s a man after my own heart photography wise: Krystal and Neil King’s Wedding

It’s made me think about how these birds (Corvids) live along side others that we recognise as ‘more beautiful’ ‘more interesting’ and ‘sweeter’. I’m starting to focus on all the anthropomorphic associations that we make with birds (and animals more widely, but that would be getting ahead of myself) how we see some as ‘cute’ ‘sweet’ ‘cunning’ ‘evil’ ‘adorable’ etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, I adore birds. They are fascinating and wonderful creatures and I use those words without any association. They are literally fascinating and wonderful. But I know birds, I know that the Robin Redbreast can be a vicious and violent defender (or invader) of land, I know that Starlings are incredibly competitive over food and I know that Rooks and Jackdaws live in large family based communities and are actually quite, caring, to each other. (there’s safety in numbers and Corvids are great team players when it comes to defence) Crows and Raven’s are more solitary, but they do ‘partner for life’. It’s these thoughts and theories that I’m going to try and tackle in my new body of work. I want to hold up each association and examine it from my own visual perspective. I’ve got some stuff to look up and some drawings to do.

I also took down the work that I had up in the WOODSHED exhibition at the School of Arts at Oxford Brookes today. Here are some better photos of the work, so you can also see the hanging method. I wasn’t entirely happy with these (the left hand one, in particular, I put it up as a last minute decision and it didn’t have time to relax out of it’s curl) I hang them off 2inch box steel so they ‘float’ away from the wall, referencing the feather.

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So. I’m pretty happy with these drawings, but I think that if I am still going to draw using this method, that I need to find a way to scale it downImageI want to find a scale that I can use that is more accessible to everyone, that can translate through different display methods and on different types of paper surface too. I’ll have to work on it. ImageImageImageIf anyone out there has any suggestions on scale for these drawings, then let me know. I’m a bit lost at the moment!

Once i’ve picked up the prints from the BWAE exhibition, then I will take some better photographs, but for now, a little taster of those too. ImageI sold a small mono print of a Rook – I guess I should make some more of those too!

For now, that’s it. I’ve gabbered enough. Please recommend anthropomorphic papers relating to birds if possible!

Please feed the birds.