Category Archives: inspiration

Are you with me now?

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Broughton Street with fluffy cloudsby Cassandra Harrison

Listening to Cate Le Bon (and hey here’s a link for you should you care to hear and see Are You With Me Now?) somehow makes me want to swim around in my memories a bit and think over the past 12 months.  Not that the first of a new year had anything to do with this feeling. Or the fact that I am three days into my personal new year of being.  Or the fact that in the last year major changes have turned me onto new, unimaginable paths.  I found me a nice fella (the previous year).  We had ourselves a pretty baby.  And now we live in a new town in a house that is older than the country of my birth.  And so.  How can you not sit back, drink a cup of tea and think ‘Bloody hell, my life sure isn’t boring.’

I’m currently in the happy place of being on maternity leave.  Did you know freelance creative types could do this?  Neither did I, but it’s somewhat enforced as I don’t want to be fretting about work whilst Lottie is learning to grab stuff (like my hair!), teething or giving out the biggest, bestest smiles that would melt the coldest of hearts.  But in a few months, the reality of being a working artist will rear its pleasant but alarming head and I need to ‘hit the ground running.’  I don’t know how that is going to happen as Lottie seems to have a sixth sense.  Food is put before me.  She cries and needs attention.  The gentle whirring sound of my computer turning on…she wakes up from a deep sleep.  Hm.

My plan (a very lose one, not even written in pencil it’s so lose) is to get Lottie a playpen for my studio.  I’ll  need to eventually sort out her naps so that I can work during her quiet hours.  I would rather not give up my sleep at night; I’m a horrible person when I’m tired.

My projects need to be ready to tackle in small chunks of time which means a bit of planning to have my materials and space ready for those minutes that are free.  Now I seem to spend any spare minute tidying as I wonder what to do with the spontaneous bit of freedom that just happened.  I’d like to tackle one more artwork for Stockbridge, this time to include people, like the ones I did for Broughton Street.  There is also Berwick upon Tweed and some interesting views I’d like to recreate in my style.

And hark.  What is this I hear?  Lottie needing me.  I don’t mind.  In fact, I love it quite a lot.

 

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Next Phase

A comical optical illusion

A comical optical illusion

As you can see, I am large with child.  Well, getting larger by the week with this creature that insists on growing and growing and growing (which is a good thing as this is what should be happening).

I haven’t blogged about this next phase yet, and in fact, I have hardly blogged at all as I hardly know what to write about anymore.  Do I write about this and what it’s doing to my life or do I carry on as if nothing happened.  Seems a shame to not mention the impending life that is about to rock our world – the world of Jimmy, Cassandra and their two unsuspecting dogs Josey and Seal.

It is interesting what other artists have to say about becoming a parent and what that has done to their lives.  I have spoken to two gallery owners/artists about this new adventure.  One has suggested that I just be a mother, don’t even worry about the creativity.  Enjoy all the moments that you can because they grow up so fast and before you know it they are living on the other side of the world and God knows when you’ll see them again.  Oh.  Some of that could be MY parents’ experience of what I’ve done to them.  Another artist said that the bursts of creativity she had whilst she was a new mum took her art in an entirely new direction – one that she was excited about and others had commented.  She said it was because you get these small small bites of time and what you create is very spontaneous.  I have to say, I like the sound of that as I feel my own works are heavy with planning, work and re-working.

I found an online article ‘Will having kids ruin your creative career?‘ which, man, sounds negative or what?!  There is a paragraph in there about a woman that went back to work two weeks after her baby was born.  She works as director for a theatre company in New York and just sort of strapped her baby to her and carried on as if nothing had happened.  Hm.  I somehow don’t think that’s going to be my style and have my own opinions about how healthy that is for both parties involved.  In that, well, it can’t be good for neither.

My plan is…to have no plan.  My work life has certainly slowed down to a pregnant crawl into comfortable sitting positions.  I’ve been getting lazy.  Sleeping in.  Napping.  Snacking every two hours.  I’m in the final stretch now and should certainly not feel guilty about all this glorious downtime.  I am still making work and have three more original prints to create before I disappear for a month or two.  Or three or four.

I’m just wondering, though, what kind of parents are we going to be?  So far we have gathered for the new addition to the unit: two hand knitted hats, two small plush bunnies and a print of two bears and a robin.  It certainly won’t be short of beautiful things to look at.

 

Getting rid of rigidity with adventures in Monoprinting

As this is the year of experimentation, this old goat (Capricorn…not that I give much credence to that stuff) decided to try to introduce new ways of mark making into her artist’s life. There is the fun side project that is Tex and Bonnet, which is a collaboration with Jimmy and our friends Super Fun and Fantastic. It’s an outlet for collaborative creativity and we’ve already started rolling out some new designs.

I have unearthed my massive sketchbook and am commiting myself to adding to it every day. I have failed 12 of the 14 days of January so far, but my intensions are good and I at least know where the massive sketchbook is.

Today was my first firm step into the realms of rulerless-drawings-of-buildings-and-things-on-buildings. I have tried to do this with pencils and paper but no matter how hard I try to quickly and energetically lay down my line, the rigid, rule-follower in me, the person that practically faints at the sight of a vertical line that is NOT perpendicular to the bottom edge of the page, persists. I’m clean. My paper is tidy. I have several sizes and types of rubbers at my disposal. (Sorry Americans, that would be ‘erasers’ to you and yes, I realise you are practically weeing yourselves with laughter right now).

Monoprinting‘ was my word for the day. A brayer was purchased, as were papers and inks. I’d read a book and saw some helpful Youtube videos and now it was time to commit. The thing about monoprinting is that you cannot rest y0ur delicate hand on the paper because if you do too much of that, you are going to smear the heck out of the image side of your paper. So. Lines must be laid out decisively and quickly. Look at your subject, then commit. There is no erasing unnecessary or ugly line. You may be able to fudge it with a scribble and call it a ‘tree’ or ‘foliage’ but there’s not much to hide something errant.

It took a few tries to lay on the ink correctly as too much ink turns the entire paper, erm, inky. But even that mistake wasn’t too catastrophic. The unfortunate thing about monoprinting is that, as indicated by the prefix, it is a one shot printing adventure. I do have ideas, though, on what I can do with these monoprints for the future. I haven’t abandoned my print on fabric artworks. In fact, these monoprinting adventures are going to segue into developing my process. I’m really digging this monoprinting lark as it challenges me to create artwork that is so very different from what I’ve been doing the last three years.

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I remember reading an excerpt from an article about Tracy Emin. Emin and her friend travelled in the states. I can image her in some desert, dust clouds kicking up and the heat beating down. In my imagination, she’s wearing aviator shades (when they were tragic) and sitting in an itchy, fold out, lawn chair – you know – the kind with the plaid design, woven in plastic, frame made of cheap metal.  Actually, it was rather a different kind of chair in which she sat.  And as a matter of fact, here is a link to the photo that feeds my imagings.

As for this blog and my joke that it is ‘relentless self-absorted chat about what I do,’ I find that for me, the writing about making art and inspiration is as important as the making of it. It almost feels as if I can’t have one without the other.

The Seal and Josey show

Possibly too much fun is being had chez Steel and Harrison.  We have gotten our mits on a device that will make many fun products for our crazy imaginings.  Three different designs were created today, two of which are featured below.  The third design may need some re-thinking as to how we want to present it to the world.

Both images began as rough sketches in my sketchbook.  Jimmy then added the necessary colour and zing to make them more fun than my black-ink-on-beige-paper markings.

find me on a pocket mirror

find me on a pocket mirror

and me, too

and me, too

 

Excursions and experimentation

It should be illegal to procreate between March 20 – April 10.  Because if you do your basic maths, you are going to land that child right in the middle of the Christmas and New Year festivities.  Not nice.  That poor mite will be born on a short, dark, cloudy day and who knows what that’s going to do to their personality as they develop.  They might grow up to be moody, a bit gnarly, much like this tree I snapped whilst on my birthday jaunt.  (Snapped, not in anger, but with my handy small camera).

gnarly

gnarly

Being born this time of year is like being hit twice with the ‘What should I do with this new year’ dilemma.  You get it on the slow crawl up to New Year’s and then again when you look at your shiny new year of you.  What to change?  What to improve upon?  What to keep doing more of?  I suppose if you make a decision for the New Year and don’t like what’s happening, you can quickly change tack on your birthday.  That would give me a couple of days for dithering.

Usually, I am good with a plan.  Ideas fly – too many to do something about – but usually there are a few good gems in there.  This year I felt uncharacteristically befuddled.  And now that I am thirty plus a handful of years, I do feel that I am entitled to use the word ‘befuddled.’  Whilst staring into the bleak winter day, clouds low, silver-greys looming, I thought to myself that perhaps it was time for a nap.  My other thought was that I needed to be kinder to myself, take it down a notch, rest well and use that extra space to contemplate new ideas.

And experimentation.  This is going to be my year to explore new ways of creating.  I’ve bought a whole lot of art gear from the states and am waiting in antici…pation for their arrival.  There will be new printing techniques to explore, and not just those involving fabric.  Yeah.  I know.  What a diversion.  Subject matter still yet to be decided.

There will also be excurions, facilitated by fellow adventurers Jimmy, Seal, Josey, and who ever else wants to come along for the ride.  Excursions to also be made wonderful by a lovely green, brown, and cream coloured thermos bought for me by the lovely Adrienne.

And so, that’s me, this me, moving into the new year of 2013 and *mumbles current age.*  Wish me luck.

Me and a little dog named Seal

Me and a little dog named Seal

 

Artists in residence

Pencils to the right of me, coffee to the left.  Here I am.  Stuck in the middle with a view.  Of some rooftops.

Yesterday saw me ending my short-lived art teaching career at a certain high school.  The pre-appointed appointment will be rocking up next week.  Oh if only I had grabbed that job first.  I was just filler.  I had a great send off, though.  A very nice, glowing little send off with my favourite treats.  A couple good things have branched off of this experience, so those poor little kids at Unamed High School will not be seeing the last of me.  Mwhahahahaha.

So here I am, looking at Edinburgh receiving a light shower.  There is much work to be done in regards to an upcoming exhibition featuring work by Jimmy Steel and work by me.  It’s been amazing watching the work develop from the mind and hands of my partner in the creative fight against ugly.

A number of years ago, I read a mediocre book (okay, there have been several mediocre books) where the main character and her friend had a cushy little set up in her home.  She was an interior designer and her friend was a maker of cushions or home decorations of a comforting sort.  I thought to myself:  How lovely is that set up.  Two creatives working together, chatting together, sharing ideas and working towards a goal.  How flipping groovy would that be.

And here I am.  Living that groovy set up.  We play records, 6 Music or Spotify playlists.  We make coffee with our friend Gaggia circa 80-something.  Our studio mascots, Seal and Josey, lurk around our feet, thinking that every time we stand up from our chairs that it’s their cue a Walkie will soon take place.  When I feel stuck or lack of direction, all I have to do is turn around in my chair and ask Jimmy to cast an eye over what I’ve done.  And vice versa.

Anyway, I must get on with work for this next show.  Jimmy is currently shaming me with his artistic output.  His colourism is simply glowing.  I shall take my inspiration from the palette and create pieces that complement what he has done.

 

 

Skyfall and the Istanbul chase scene – behind the scenes

Awhile ago, my little Swedish friend Anna and I went on an adventure to Istanbul.  The trip was full of gorgeous scenery, amazing architecture and food that made me change from ‘Mexican is my favourite food’ to ‘give me mezze! Mezze! Mezze!’  But no baclava.  I ate so much of the stuff whilst I was in Turkey that my stomach now turns when I catch sight ofthe gooey mess of syrup at my local Turkish restaurant.

Unbeknownst so us (can something be ‘knownst’?), the part of the city Anna and I visited, the Spice Bazaar and the area surrounding the New Mosque, were that very day being used to shoot scenes for Skyfall.  Our first clue was when we spied the heavies and their 007 security badges.  Initially, we thought it was a very unimaginative security crew, naming themselves after a British institution.  When we ventured towards the New Mosque, this is what we saw:

Not sure what kind of food this is supposed to represent.

Pots, pans and painted foam posing as food

The Skyfall set behind me

It seems that months and months have passed while I have waited in antici…pation to see where Istanbul featured in the new Bond flick.  The throngs of people and the buzz of the streets were brilliantly captured in the movie.  The fact that it starts with Istanbul then swoops over the hard cut hills of the highlands of Scotland firmly placed this movie in my top three of the Bond franchise.  It didn’t even need to have a plot.  The settings did it for me.