Books and Bookmarks

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” Louisa May Alcott

160 Quotes about Books and Reading

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An Art Challenge: Day 1

Art2Life Creative Breadcrumbs Challenge: Day 1

Limbering up, loosening up much as a dancer or a singer does before a performance, with nothing in mind but a single word. For me this was EXPLORATION. I explored acrylic inks, watercolour inks, graphite pencil, felt tip pens, a couple of the brushes I made last week, kitchen roll.

I was interested in some of the forms that turned up and will be exploring those further. As well as the word exploration and finding sub-words to explore, for after all, you can’t explore without equipment: compass, map (or in the case of terra ingnita, means of making a map), markers, flags, … And their metaphysical equivalents. So, it wasn’t just limbering up; it turned out also to be a mining expedition.

I like it where one colour over another has created a third. Some of the forms are revealing themselves to me as seed pods, seedheads and there are some three-pronged forks. I do do a lot of gardening! One of the forks is clearly a trident, I see. I shall need to dive into some research on all those marine divinities (pardon the pun). And I read that the Hindu God Shiva carries as a weapon a trishula (three-pronged spear); I’ll need to know what that’s all about.

This was only about an hour and a half’s work, while at the same time watching and listening to the accompanying video. I’m going to do this every day I get to do some art from now on, before I do anything else. Fill the well on a daily basis.

Curious. This is a seven-day challenge, with different breadcrumbs in the form of questions to answer, emailed out every day; it’s like a treasure hunt. There’s also a daily video to watch while working. And you write answers to questions around a sketch of a compass. I’m being given my compass. It’s been a long time coming. But at least I’ve some hope now of getting out of the woods, which I haven’t been able to see for the trees.

Do you limber up every day? What’s your practice?

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A Third Art Project

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11th WordPress Blogging Anniversary

Reif Larsen Quotes

  • A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected.

The Selected Works of T S Spivet

That quote defines why I write. When I started to write this blog, I didn’t know that was why I write. It whets my appetite for mapping to have two (or more) seemingly disparate events occur and to know – and I don’t know how I know – that they are connected. And then, “… the game’s afoot,” to steal a phrase from Henry V – according to Shakespeare, that is. Call it the firing of subconscious synapses if you will, but to call it coincidence and walk on by is a scandalous loss of a mapping opportunity. And we must lose no time in getting back to the source of the river.

This excerpt from Spivet might be going in the direction of explaining the phenomenon:

The Resilience of Memory

“… I suppose even these torqued moments of import could only disappear if they happened to occur next to the black holes of our lives. And yet the synaptic composition of a memory was such that it could weather the pull of the black hole and reappear months later, just as the image of Benefideo’s circular frames now snagged upon the baleen of my recall as I ate my cheeseburger in Pocatello.”

Like, when it rains showers of frogs?

Why do you write?

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Handmade Paint or Dye-Paste Brushes

I’ve been dying (and dyeing) to hand-make some brushes for a long time.

The drawing – below – is part of an ongoing exploration of the pond in my garden. This was initially for textile work, but since my return to painting this year, I’m also going to be producing some ‘pond’ works in paint. It came to me to place the pond in its environment so with this in mind have been doing some exploratory drawings. And trying out some new tools. These first are line drawings, mapping drawings, looking for objects, their positionings, and the patterns and their energies that describe them.

I was trying out some graphite pencils and acrylic pens.

It’s a long time since I’ve worked in this way, but I’m enjoying the discipline of sitting still for longish periods of time, just looking and being completely absorbed in trying to make marks that represent what I’m seeing.

As you see, there’s the house at the top of the drawing. At the bottom, there’s the pond.

The house looks like a pagoda. I don’t live in a pagoda.

Or do I? This is the second project I’m working on that involves a pond as subject matter. Curiously, the other pond – in France – sits in front of a pagoda. Make what you want of that. I am going to make quite a lot of it.

I’ve blogged about this quite a lot. so feel free to search my site using the word ‘pagoda’.

There’s a lot of pattern in this scene, because of the different types of trees and vegetation. Differentiating between one tree or bush or plant and another I find and have always found quite difficult. Generalities have to be found to express what I would call the differing patterns of energy. I’m not sure generalities is a good word, but it’s okay for now. A pencil, or paintbrush, can be limiting and fail, as a tool, to do this.

There are many other kinds of drawing, of course, which might be better for exploring for instance volume. Or weight. Which I will be considering.

And so I’ve been having a lot of fun making my own brushes, from my stashes of materials awaiting transformation into … something, sometime. These materials have been found, scavenged, beachcombed, swum-snorkelled-dived for, excavated, picked-up on walks, dug-up, cut-off, snipped from, …

I had to try the brushes out as soon as I’d made them. The slideshow above demonstrates a very quick first try-out. I tried them out using black acrylic paint on paper. I hope you will see there is huge potential in hand-made brushes, for finding those identifying generalities needed to express natural forms and their individual patterns. And also as mark-energy-makers in non-representational art.

And each of these brushes is quite the personnage, I think.

Have you made your own brushes? I’d love to see some works made by other artists using handmade brushes.

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Food and Art

Stuffed Home-Grown Marrow

“I always think if you have to cook once, it should feed you twice.”

Curtis Stone

Another meal, from this year’s marrow harvest. There are many veggie/vegan stuffed marrow recipes online. To be quite honest, I’ve forgotten what I put into this one. I think it’s leeks and cheese and tomato. And fresh herbs. Two were eaten, two frozen for a warming feast at a later date.

Otherwise, red circles inside yellow circles, inside green circles, all inside a square with rounded corners, manifested as a thick blue line.

Manifested. Manifeasted.

I’m feasting like this at the moment, art-wise, on lines, shapes and colours.

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Four Last Songs

“These mournful flowers
Rain-drenched in the coolness are bending,
While Summer cowers, …”

Herman Hesse

These Four Last Songs are Richard Strauss’s. The above quote is from what is generally listed as the second, September. The first is Frühling (Spring), the third Beim Schlafengehn (Time to Sleep) and the fourth is Im Abendrot (At Dusk). The lyrics to the first, second and third are to poems by Hermann Hesse. The fourth, to a poem by Joseph von Eichendorff. Follow the hyperlinks to find out more about Strauss and the songs.

I’m studying Four Last Songs with soprano Lucy Cox, to the piano accompaniment of Tom Jesty, as one of the courses run by Choir of the Earth (formerly the Self Isolation Choir). At the end of the course, participants (if they wish) record themselves and the recordings are combined into a virtual choir and performance. I’m working through the pre-recorded master classes in advance of the live sessions which begin on 8 September. There’ll be a performance in November.

This course is different in that for the first time for Choir of the Earth, the singer receives a recording of his/her own individual voice accompanied by Tom.

If it’s any good, I’ll post my recording. But it probably won’t happen. This is very challenging singing. Certainly, I’m biting off more than I can chew. But I love Lieder and have already had a go at Schumann’s song cycle Liederkreis. And, oh, what the hell.

Last Four Songs is informing an art project I’m currently working-on. Music and visual art crossing over, under and passing through each other.

I think my favourite of Last Four Songs is September, closely followed by Im Abendrot. It might be the other way round. Here’s the amazing Barbara Bonney’s interpretation of Four Last Songs:

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Rhubarb Cake 2021

“Flowing on by,
the leaves of rhubarb.

What Swiftness!

With apologies to Takahama Kyoshi, who actually wrote, in the above haiku, radishes not rhubarb.

Another year has swiftly flowed on by. Almost. There’s been no time for ennui despite Covid-19 and the poor weather that destroyed my entire potato and some of my tomato crops. And it looks like I’m going to have to find a recipe for green tomato chutney.

It seems like yesterday the rhubarb was only just pushing through the ground.

And now I’m making rhubarb cake. It’s vegetarian, of course.

Half has been eaten, half frozen. We are stocking-up in this way. Supermarket shelves stand half-empty, because of a shortage of lorry drivers. And other reasons.

The half of the rhubarb cake we ate was delicious. It flowed down the Alimentary Canal – all nine metres of it – very swiftly.

The colours are nice, aren’t they?

The recipe is courtesy BBC Food.

If you make one, let me know.

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A Return to Painting II

L’Isle-Adam IV © Ann Isik 2021

This is the second in my series of 12″x12″ (c30xc30cms) acrylic painting series ‘L’Isle-Adam’. (Despite the fact it’s labelled ‘L’Isle-Adam IV’!) It isn’t as grainy as this but it has been enormously difficult to photograph and this is the best I can do.

There are many layers to this, consisting largely of lines, marks and coloured glazes, as I’ve struggled to develop the forms and composition. I’ve learnt a great deal by way of techniques that I can carry into future paintings so despite its shortcomings I’m quite happy to move on from this. I may come back to further adjust it. But I think it needed to have been done using a bigger panel. But I’m calling all of my new paintings studies.

I’ve been looking at the work of Cy Twombly recently. The 2008 exhibition of his work at Tate Modern is listed on Tate Org under the heading of Process and Energy. I was drawn to this in the description of his work:

“He incorporated graffiti-like pencil scribbles onto the surfaces of his early paintings, introducing elements of hesitancy and fragility into the confident physical gestures of abstract expressionist painting.”

It has occurred to me that my studies could perhaps be better described as coloured drawings. In this one, I’ve used soft graphite pencil and acrylic pens, as well as scoring instruments. I’ll be taking a closer look at what different kinds of marks might be brought to represent. And how other artists use their marks.

2021 has brought me to new crossroads from which to explore and record my discoveries on new poetic maps. It’s been quite a surprise.

I’m thinking of the Buddhist proverb: “When the student is ready, the Master appears.”

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A Return to Painting


The above image marks a surprise return to painting after a good number of years during which I painted only sporadically and without much success. Life and all that.

An email arrived earlier this year, out-of-the-blue, inviting me onto a 12-week intensive painting programme. The course was principle-based, meaning the content was applicable to any of the art disciplines. A ton of techniques were included, the better to apply these principles. There was also a very supportive private Facebook group.

It was certainly intensive, the programme. And difficult for me in a number of ways. I was to be painting in series, using acrylics and on small 12″x12″ wood panels. I’ve not been accustomed to working in series, have never worked on wood panels and was accustomed to oil paints, rather than acrylics. Add to that I’d lost dexterity after so long an absence from painting (it felt like my fingers were arthritic throughout a lot of the programme). Gradually, I got the feel back.

I wasn’t able to complete all the modules by the end of the programme. I wasn’t the only one. Thankfully, all the modules, which include the many videos originally presented live via Zoom, are available for a full year.

A bonus for me is that the paintings will transmigrate into works on fabric.

Another bonus was getting to know other artists on the programme. Though international, several other artists are based quite near to me in real life and so I’m enjoying making new friends with similar enthusiasms.

Acrylic paints today are more eco-friendly. And one of the video presentations dealt with the disposal of acrylic paint leftovers in eco-friendly fashion. One method was a foolproof way of not ending up with any leftover paint at all, leaving only the very diluted paint in the pot of water used to dilute the paint and clean the brushes. I’ll go into this in detail in another post.

The painting above is one of a series of three. I have several series on the go. For me, that’s prolific!

It seems to be a year for series. Just before my invitation onto the painting programme dropped into my email box, I started another kind of series. I’ve not posted much on the blog this year. In respect of eco-printing and natural dyeing, I decided to start a series of writings taking a single plant and exploring it in detail – from as many perspectives as I could find. I decided to start with Nettle. In my research, I dredged up so much information on nettle, however, that it’s threatening to become a small book! And is taking a lot of time to finalise.

I was busy earlier this year studying and singing Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, which is a sort of series, of songs and choruses.



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