Where are They Now?

Leaves: Three Short TalesI haven’t been talking much about my writing recently. I have been scribbling away however and most recently at the trilogy of short stories I’m putting together under the title Leaves.

I’d thought the trilogy complete, then that the stories needed tweaking, then more in-depth editing. I usually find myself at this stage reduced to pushing words around. It’s a pattern of behaviour that’s ended up with a filing cabinet full of works-in-progress. Except that they aren’t.  More like works-in-aspic.

After an Aha! moment about a week ago, I realised that what I’ve really got in that filing cabinet are works-in-embryo. I flicked through a few. In each case was the identical problem. I hadn’t yet found the story I was supposed to be writing.

I hadn’t looked at my Leaves trilogy for some time. Out-of-the-blue I found myself thinking about it and specifically, Adam and Evelyn. Or rather, the story came to me to tell me it was time I finished it and more, how to bring that about.

The origins of inspiration are mysterious.

The message was that I needed to figure out what archetypal character each of mine represented.  After some research on archetypes, I had it. My two main characters are each on a journey. They both know they are on a journey. One of them believes he is on one journey and it turns out he is on another. The other is fully conscious of the journey she is on. Each has his agenda and these intertwine.

What archetypal character goes on journeys? I found the following – non-exhaustive – list of archetypes, compiled by Jung, the most useful in the case of my characters.

  • The Father: authority figure; stern; powerful.
  • The Mother: nurturing; comforting.
  • The Child: longing for innocence; rebirth; salvation.
  • The wise old man: guidance; knowledge; wisdom.
  • The hero: champion; defender; rescuer.
  • The maiden: innocence; desire; purity.
  • The trickster: deceiver; liar; trouble-maker.

I identified at once that one of my main characters is The wise old man (or in this instance – woman); the other is The hero.

Then, to my entire surprise, I’ve found a third main character in my tale. Surreptitious and insinuating, invisible and furtive, he is woven throughout. He is The Trickster.

“Get on and finish it, it’ll be Christmas soon!” insisted my Nudge of Inspiration.
“What’s Christmas to do with it, for heaven’s sake?”
I retorted, exasperated.
“You find out as you write the story,” responded Nudgie.

And I did and when I did, I laughed out loud.

Oh, I’ve changed the working title of my story. Instead of Adam and Evelyn, it’s Where are They Now?


Useful References:

Posted in Character Development, Creativity, Editing & Proofreading, Inspiration, Short Story Writing, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Singing in the Royal Opera House

Royal Opera HouseYes, I am. Doesn’t it sound grand? I shall be singing Christmas carols in the Clore Studio at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, alongside The Big Sing on 15 December. It will be filmed. For what I don’t know.

Well, it’ll keep me off the streets.

It’s looming up, isn’t it? Christmas. Have you started your preparations for Christmas yet? What are you going to get up to?

I’d like to know.






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Art Quotes I Like and Why II: Yayoi Kusama and the Polka Dot

“A polka dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the whole energy of the world and our living life, and also the form of the moon which is calm … Polka dots are a way to infinity.”  Yayoi Kusama

Following up on some of the mark-making potentials that developed while making Found:Unbound I, I found myself researching polka dots (and what role polka played in the expression). I came across the above quote, which drew me to another artist new-to-me.

There are links between this, my recent encounter with the work and life of the late Roger Ackling and my ongoing contemplation and appreciation of the Spirit Cloth work of Jude Hill.

There’s a whole string of You Tube videos about Yayoi’s work. They’re well worth watching.

I’ve got some drawing to do.

Hope you’re having a nice Sunday. Or Moonday, I suppose, depending on where you live.






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Ann Isik: Artworks

Source: Ann Isik: Artworks

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Ann Isik: Artworks


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Found:Unbound I

found-unbound-i-1-13-october-2016I recently finished the first little work in the series – a sort of dismantled artist book – which I’m calling, for now at least, Found Unbound.  Here it is, framed.

unbound-i-version-iii-14-september-2016Here’s the work at an earlier stage. I wrote about it in Walking the Paradox – Found Unbound with the Corinthians.

Why do I like cryptic blog titles? Because they are mysteries to unravel, like this artist book. They are a kind of glue. Not as messy.

In the finished work, to the left-hand page – the book cover – I’ve added three vertical bands of silk habotai rust-dyed with rusted flotsam and jetsam scavenged from the beach at Weybourne during my trip in August. And to each band I’ve added nine stitches, zigzagging vertically, using white rust-dyed embroidery cotton.  The whole measures 18 x 9 cms. Note the multiples of three.


Finally, I’ve included a rusted nail. It looks like it has pierced the material, but I slotted it through two of the four holes that would have been used for the book’s binding.

I’ve added nothing to the eco print on the right-hand side except to lay it over the white plaster of Paris and encaustic book cover.

It’s a funny little thing. I’m curious about the possibilities in the additions to the work. And so, rather than, as is my nature, rushing recklessly into the second work in the series – of three, (of course) – I’m doing some further research: into piercing, into zigzagging, into Teresa of Avila, into the Lemma and into a whole bunch of other stuff.

I like cryptic.









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Weybourne, Roger Ackling and Transfiguration

weybourne-coastguard-cottages-ii-august-2016I wrote recently about my discovery of the late artist and teacher Roger Ackling. An article about Ackling in Resurgence & Ecology magazine had intrigued me; it was a review of a book –  Between the Lines –  memorials and tributes describing the artist’s life and artistic philosophy.

I’ve read the book from cover to cover; it has been added to my especial library, is one of a small handful of books in which I’ve underscored text on almost every page and will return to again and again. If you read my earlier blog, you will know that Ackling made his art by burning marks – dots, lines – into found driftwood, by directing the sun’s rays through a magnifying glass. The process typically required hours of concentrated focus, on all levels.

I learnt that Roger Ackling had had a house and studio in Weybourne, a village on the North Norfolk coast. Literally on the coast, for the house was the end house, nearest to the sea, of a short terrace of what once were coastguards’ cottages. I took the picture above in August this year of this terrace, of Ackling’s property, bought in the ’60s for a song because the sea was little by little encroaching by erosion on the group of dwellings and for certain, they would eventually be taken by the sea.

In the book, a photo of the group of dwellings shows a broad path between the edge of the cliff and Ackling’s house; in my photo, the sea has taken the path away, has advanced right up to a stone wall that marked the boundary between Ackling’s garden and the path. In time, too, the wall will go.

At the same time I discovered Roger Ackling and his Weybourne home and studio, I found I needed to go to Weybourne on personal business. Weybourne is a tiny fishing village in North Norfolk. It is of so little economic consequence, it seems, that the Government has ceased attempts to control the erosion of its coast by the sea. I cannot imagine the odds on anyone ‘having to be in Weybourne’.  That it coincided with my discovery of an artist with whom I would have found so much in common must lengthen the odds considerably. And so my necessary trip to Weybourne became also a kind of pilgrimage – to a house that, even if I’d found its situation, might have already fallen into the sea. I was going to see a house that might no longer exist, that had belonged to an artist now deceased, whose entire body of work was made by redirecting the sun’s rays through a magnifying glass in order to burn lines onto discarded pieces of wood that happened to wash up on the beach near a house about to fall into the sea.

Whether there was a house or not wasn’t important. As Ackling said, in an interview with Dr Judith Collins*, rather than the landscape itself, he was “… more interested in a mental state of mind while working.”  I deduce from this that it was not the artwork – the product – that was important, but the process, during which the artist would be transfigured. In the book I read that Ackling believed of art that it had “… the power to transfigure …” and that “… rituals performed in private can change the face of the world.” It follows that the change occurs following the transfiguration of the artist during the art-making process.

That Ackling used the term transfiguration, rather than say, transformation, I find significant. In the Transfiguration of Christ, Jesus and three of the apostles, Peter, James and John, go up onto a mountain to pray. While praying, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light.

There is nothing in the book to suggest that Ackling was a Christian. I suggest, however, that he clearly saw a correlation between Jesus’s Transfiguration, when bright rays of light began to emanate from him as he prayed, and his own artistic practice of using the sun’s rays to make his art. This is the ritual, equating to prayer, that has “… the power to transfigure …”  first the artist and consequently through him or her, the world.  The product – the artwork – is only important in that it is a manifestation of the invisible process. Said another way, the product is the process. Art as verb rather than noun, activity rather than object.  It shifts success as an artist away from the cash or other value of his or her product, to his or her transfiguration during the making of the object, and by extension, to the transfiguration of the world. Enlightenment.


* Dr Judith Collins is a curator of 20th century British art at the Tate Gallery in London. Her writings include the exhibition catalogue for Cecil Collins: A Retrospective Exhibition. This book as well as The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings by Cecil Collins and Brian Keeble (Ed) are also in my especial library.

Roger Ackling: The Ingleby Gallery
Roger Ackling: Annely Juda Fine ArtBetween the Lines: Occasional Papers


Posted in Aesthetics, Art, book review, Creativity, Drawing, Inspiration, spirituality, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Space of Possibility

I was supposed to write about Weybourne in this blog but in the meantime visited the Georgia O’Keeffe and Wilfred Lam exhibitions at Tate Modern.

Encaustic and plaster of Paris panels

There’s a difference between viewing art in real life and online. The Internet has made it possible to view, be inspired by, get ideas from the works and philosophies of current artists living and creating in just about every nook and cranny of the world. I’ve bought or exchanged artworks with artists from Alaska to Australia. I get a kick out of being able to participate in the global online art scene.

Viewing art in the flesh is more dynamic than viewing art online. The reaction to an artwork viewed face-to-face is more visceral.  More senses are brought into play. This must be in part due to the artwork’s environment, normally a gallery or museum, where an encounter with other people is unavoidable. Bodies have to be manoeuvred round and the danger, however slight, of being in public places, has one on guard, alert. Alert to overheard remarks and a smörgåsbord of scents, from sweat to socks to Chanel. This state of alert – state of expectancy, hope of adventure, too – heightens the engagement with the art itself and through it, the artist. Looking at an artwork is an adventure.

I was drawn to Lam’s sketches – sketches and sketchbooks are more intimate, more revealing than larger finished works. A bunch of collaborative sketches for playing cards animated me. These were created when Lam was sharing a villa in Marseille with a group of artists which included the surrealist André Breton, all having joined the mass exodus to the port from Paris in 1940 at the outset of the Nazi occupation of France. Each artist involved in the Plaster of Paris Accordion Book II 29 September 2015making of the cards contributed something to each card. An adventure within a more serious adventure (Breton’s writings were to be banned by the Vichy Government). I was also drawn to Lam’s ceramics, in particular some flat plate-shaped pieces. The clay had been cut through in  places, into dart shapes then these lifted out above the surface of the plate. I was reminded of Haitian vodou cut metal work.

I’ve seen O’Keeffe’s artworks only online. Truthfully? While noting the sensuality of her flower paintings, maybe more so, her landscapes, aside from that they left me flat. (I much preferred the works of Arthur Dove). In the flesh her paintings were smaller than I’d imagined. I was drawn to a painting of day lilies in a vase and while studying this, a thought came to me in the form of a question. “Why do book covers have to be the same size?” (Meaning the backs and the fronts). The cascade of of linked thoughts triggered by my viewing of the painting happened so fast I haven’t been able to trace.

Pile of Plaster of Paris Prepared Panels and Canvases II 3 December 2015I felt the question related to Found: Unbound, the series of encaustic and eco print artist book I’m working on. And yes, in response to the question of book covers there is no reason why the front and back covers ought to be of the same size, since I’m equating my book covers in Found: Unbound to the palimpsest and the tabula rasa and to the musical pause and space of possibility. And I think, in O’Keeffe’s painting of day lilies, there is the palimpsest, the tabula rasa, the musical pause and the space of possibility. More so in a much later works during the period O’Keeffe was inspired by the sky – clouds looked down on from an airplane. One in particular struck me, largely consisting of an area of blue and below, an area of white. Nothing else. The white struck me in particular as a space of possibility, space of potential.

Artist Book in Progress Plaster of Paris and Encaustic

Artist Book in Progress
Plaster of Paris and Encaustic

A pause. A place of waiting. Expectancy. And a book cover holds those qualities. Maybe that’s why I like books with illustrations that have protective pages of tissue in front. These covers make the illustrations extra precious, important and they are. I have a large old family Bible whose illustrations are protected in this way and over the years the pictures, through the weight of the Bible, have imprinted themselves, in ghostly fashion onto the protective tissue. I like the idea of ideas being impressed in ghostly fashion upon the reader through the power of the words. And images.  Such protective films over illustrations make the book extra mysterious.

Yes, book covers are waiting places. Moments of expectancy. Hope. That the book will change one’s life. Isn’t that why we read books?



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Walking the Paradox – Found Unbound with the Corinthians

unbound-i-version-iii-14-september-2016I’m following-up on my blog of 1st September – Adventuring with an artistic adventure I’ve been having. I’m calling it Found Unbound.

Found Unbound is about an artist’s book. Found halted in the process of being unbound, or found in the process of being bound together – the viewer who chances upon the book cannot know which. It’s a mystery.

The first image here is of the front and back covers of this Found Unbound) and one page of content. The content is an eco print – one of several I made from plant matter from my garden, bound into bundles of silk pongee (silk chiffon) then steamed for an hour or so and unwrapped straight away (as opposed to my custom of leaving them to mature for a week or two).

It was a mistake to use silk pongee, which is too fine for printing or painting uses. I should have used silk habotai (8 or 10 – whatever these numbers mean).  But my ignorance resulted in subtle yet distinct images that reminded me of fossil remains. Fossils are also mysteries – we might know a great deal of the species fossilised but little of the specific life of a particular fossil.

I found these images, which I also made. A paradox if ever I wrote one. And I love the paradox. Like the quantum particle which exists only when looked at, a paradox is an impossible truth (in the sense of a logical paradox – there are others). The logical paradox exists only in margins, the outermost edges of known existence (my observation).

Healing Scroll Artist Book Pages Before Compilation 12 March 2016The book covers are developments of the little butterfly book shaped plaster of paris and encaustic pages I made a while back (see right).

Paradoxically, the term butterfly book has nothing to do with butterflies. It is the so-named shape of a book of illustrations of furniture designs I came across in the V & A Museum (London) a few years ago. The shape has nothing to do with the shape of butterflies either; the book was landscape- rather than portrait-shaped, but longer and thinner than the norm.

Pondering my urge to twin the eco prints with these plaster and encaustic pages, two – paradoxical – concepts came to mind – the tabula rasa and the palimpsest.

Tabula rasa translates to blank slate. In philosophy, simplistically, it is about the idea that the individual is born as a blank slate on which life experience is writ. The Tabula Rasa philosophy goes back to Aristotle; then turns up again in John Locke, notably in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Want more? Google it. 🙂

Of the palimpsest: “A palimpsest (/ˈpælɪmpsɛst/) is a manuscript page, either from a scroll or a book, from which the text has been scraped or washed off so that the page can be reused for another document.”

I like this Oxford Dictionary definition: Something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

I can identify with the idea of human development as a continual erasing and starting over. My conviction was confirmed when I read: “The Ancient Romans wrote (literally scratched on letters) on wax-coated tablets, which were easily re-smoothed and reused; Cicero’s use of the term “palimpsest” confirms such a practice.”

For my butterfly book covers are indeed wax-coated tablets – of plaster of paris bandage, coated with alternating layers of oil colour and encaustic wax, the oil colour being laid down then wiped off to leave only a residue of the colour caught in indentations and cracks. They have been used and wiped clean.

I also like the idea of a continual erasing and starting over. It makes logical sense to aim for that as a lifestyle concept and practice, on a daily basis, even. Here’s a bit of confirmation from Corinthians 4:16 (which is also a paradox): Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Thought bubble: all religions, in their mystic traditions, are about renewal. Got some quotes for me?

Either way, my Found, Unbound pages laid out here, tiny as they are (the whole measures 30cms x 9cms) encompass vast beginnings and ends of things, from the clean slate/palimpsest state, to fossil state. And some fossils are millions of years old (sorry if I offend some Creationists in this statement. It can’t be helped).

I’m going to be doing a triptych of Found Unbounds from this particular eco print batch. This is in part because numerologically, all measurements are curiously boiling down to the number three. That’s another tale for another time. And I will continue to pursue the curious concept of incompleteness (and its paradoxes) in respect of The Artist’s Book.

It’s Friday. I hope you have a paradoxical but nice weekend.

Next up in my Recent Adventures series: Walking Weybourne.




Posted in Art, Artist Books, Christian writing, Collage & Assemblage, Eco/Natural Dyeing and Printing, Encaustic Art, Inspiration, Mixed Media, Printmaking, spirituality, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Walk through my Blog – Treasure and Trash

I received a trophy from WordPress the other day, to acknowledge my sixth anniversary as a WordPress blogger. I’ve written 560 blog posts. That’s a lot of words.

This has become a year of big walks – big changes. Well, the decision to take big walks – make big changes.

It’s also become a year – I realised this only just recently – of consolidations; at least, regarding my artwork. It’s that time of life, you know.

My WordPress trophy tells me it’s time to consolidate my writing, too, so I’m about to take a long walk through my blog, see what’s there worth consolidating. Sort the treasure from the trash.

Anybody out there walking his/her blog? Already done it? What treasure did you find? What did you do with it?

I’d like to know.




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