Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Stepping into freedom

 Not yet quite finished

This snowy weather has put me in a new mind set. I can no longer paint fish, despite the fact they have been selling like hot cakes. So for the moment the very fishy fish have been side lined.
I was reading a poem the other night, one that accompanies a Zen koan, it goes like this:

Lonely and deep
In the cloudy valley
Still the sacred pine tree
Has passed through the 
Cold of many years.

The point of koans are that they should permeate every cell of your being, until you are able to grasp an understanding. And then when you think you have an understanding, you somehow have to find a few words to describe that which is indescribable and convey it to your teacher. The point being, one eventually digs deep enough to realise the absolute. 'When you hear music your body just dances and Zen Koan meditation is like that. You can step into freedom in just one step, without working out how to do it. It can be as simple as just turning your head.' John Tarrant.

Anyway I love this poem and the analogy it makes between the tree and our own lives. The tree is just being a tree, standing steadfast through whatever nature throws at it. Just 'being'.
It has formed part of my daily meditation as I walk around the lake each morning. And every day I see something different in it. Soooo I had to make a painting. Not for any one else, just for me.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Onward & upward

Carrying on with the fishy theme, these are a few more I have been working on this week. The 2 small ones are painted on some found wood, using a combination of acrylic and pencil. The larger 70cm x 100cm on canvas has a collage base with acrylics and pen. They yet to have the finishing touches and varnish applied. The two small ones 30cm x 50cm ish, will be going with some other tiny works to The Waterside Marina at Brightlingsea this weekend. The other into Level Best Gallery next week. That's if I don't sell it first! someone popped into the studio on Friday and is umming and ahhhing! Infact I've had a good few weeks with sales. One of which sold before the exhibition up in Leicestershire had even opened!

I have also been having a bit of a recycling time. Wabi sabi and all that. When I'm not happy with a piece or it goes wrong, the offending canvas is pushed into a corner of my studio and forgotten about. A sad place for the unloved to hang out. Most of these works had reached the varnished stage and therefore couldn't be painted over, in the grand tradition of old masters who did this all the time....waste not, want not....or something like that. Then I had a flash of genius.....not before time LOL. To cut up the paintings and reuse them in another collage. Then I would be able to recover the frames and hey presto more new canvases..... and new art works to boot .... Brilliant!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


Here's one just completed....... And a reminder the Winter lights show at Cuckoo Farm Studios is on this weekend and next.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Blustery day

Wind roars through the trees
beyond the office window grime
golden leaves spiral

What I love about Haiku is that it captures a moment. There it is.... then it's gone.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


Oh I don't like these gloomy afternoons. The light in my studio is rubbish and without the sun shining in, I can barely see a hand in front of me! Anyway making a start on a new work. I had in mind I wanted to do another bowl one. I found a fab shaped bowl in a shop that I took a photo of, and had every intention of using it. But first things first I had to lay the foundations of texture on the canvas.

 News paper and tissue always work well, then a couple of layers of a fairly neutral colour look good behind a vibrant ceramic.....  Idly flicking through a sketch book, waiting for the pain to dry, I came across some scribbles of some fishyness! I have loads of sketch books, stuffed full of things that grab my attention. Colours, shapes, textures, pictures torn out of magazines....anything. I find them an endless source of inspiration.Anyway the bowl idea went out of the window and fish and chips were in. Which goes to prove my theory that creativity only starts to kick in once you start working. No amount of planning will come up with the stuff that finished pieces are made of. Things evolve as paint and collage is applied. Be prepared to change your ideas as a piece moves along.

I was reading an article the other day by a gallery owner. He was giving advice to artists about approaching galleries to show work. One of the points he was making was that galleries like consistency in an artist. Sticking to a theme and a medium. Now I can understand that galleries have to sell the work and that they stick to a style in order to develop a name for a certain type of art, but boy is it dull for the artists to have to be so rigid. Some artists probably like to work like that, but not me! I have the attention span of a flea on a good day. I do what I love and variety is the spice of life. Once I have worked through an idea, which usualy takes about 5 or 6 pieces, I like to move onto some thing else......

.........And then I became distracted by pink jumpers and wellies in the mirror...Oh dear...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Hsin-Hsin Ming

Whilst pondering on what to use my 'found wood' for, in my studio this afternoon. I saw a copy of the ancient poem *Hsin-Hsin Ming lying on the window sill, I picked it up and re-read the insightful words....This is my theme I thought! So here it is, started and completed in less than three hours, .... and varnished !
The poem written out in pencil, an Oryoki bowl and some characters in chinese ink ......wabi sabi art!

Hsin-Hsin Ming
The Great Way is not difficult,
for those who have no preferences.
Let go of longing and aversion,
and it reveals itself.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth.
If you want to realize the truth,
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
Like and dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning (of the Way) is not understood
the intrinsic peace of mind is disturbed.
As vast as infinite space,
it is perfect and lacks nothing.
Indeed, it is due to your grasping and repelling
That you do not see things as they are.
Do not get entangled in things;
Do not get lost in emptiness.
Be still in the oneness of things
and dualism vanishes by itself.
When you try to stop motion to achieve quietude,
the very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you hold on to opposites
you will never know the One Way.
Those who do not understand the Way
will assert or deny the reality of things.
Deny the reality of things, you miss its deeper reality;
Assert the reality of things, you miss the emptiness of all things.
The more you think about it,
the further you are from the truth.
Cease all thinking,
and there is nothing that will not be revealed to you.
To return to the root is to find the essence,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the Source.
The moment you are enlightened,
you go beyond appearances and emptiness.
Changes that seem to occur in the (empty) world,
appear real only because of ignorance.
Do not search for the truth;
only cease to cherish opinions.
Do not hold to dualistic views,
avoid such habits carefully.
If there is even a trace of right and wrong,
the mind is lost in confusion.
Although all dualities arise from the One,
do not cling even to this One.
When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
everything is without fault.
When things can no longer be faulty, it is as if there are no things.
When the mind can no longer be disturbed, it is as if there is no mind.
When thought-objects vanish, the thinking-subject vanishes.
When the mind vanishes, objects vanish.
The arising of other gives rise to self;
giving rise to self generates other.
Know these seeming two facets
as one Emptiness.
In this Emptiness, the two are indistinguishable
and each contains in itself the whole.
When no discrimination is made between this and that,
how can you prefer one to another?
The Great Way is all-embracing,
not easy, not difficult.
Those who rely on limited views are fearful and irresolute;
the faster they hurry, the slower they go.
Clinging, they go too far,
even an attachment to enlightenment is to go astray.
Just let things be in their own way as they are,
and there is neither coming nor going.
Be in harmony with the Way
and you will be free of disturbances.
Tied by your thoughts, you lose the truth,
become heavy, dull, and unwell.
Not well, the mind is troubled.
Then why cling to or reject anything?
If you wish to move in the One Way,
do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to accept them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment.
The wise attaches to no goals,
but the foolish fetter themselves.
There is but one Dharma, not many.
Distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
Using mind to stir up the mind
is the original mistake.
Peaceful and troubled derive from thinking;
Enlightenment has no likes or dislikes.
All dualities come from
ignorant inference.
They are like unto dreams or flowers in the air,
the foolish try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong,
abandon all such thoughts at once.
If the eye never sleeps,
all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
all things are as they are, of One-essence.
To understand the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen without differentiation,
you return to the origin and remain what you are.
Consider the movement in stillness and the stationary in motion,
both movement and rest disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist
even Oneness itself cannot exist.
This ultimate state
is not bound by rules and descriptions.
For the Realized mind, at one with the Way,
all doing ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and the Truth is confirmed in you.
With a single stroke you are freed from bondage;
nothing clings to you and you hold onto nothing.
All is void, clear, and self-illuminating,
with no need to exert the mind.
Here thinking, feeling, knowledge, and imagination
are of no value.
In this world of “as it really is”
there is neither self nor other.
To swiftly accord with that,
only express nonduality.
In this nonduality nothing is separate,
nothing is excluded.
The enlightened of all times and places
have personally realized this truth.
The Truth is beyond time and space,
one instant is eternity.
Not here, not there,
but everywhere always right before your eyes.
Infinitely large and infinitely small,
no difference, for definitions have vanished
and no boundaries can be discerned.
So too with “existence” and “non-existence.”
Don’t waste time in arguments and discussion,
attempting to grasp the ungraspable.
One thing and everything
move among and intermingle without distinction.
To live in this Realization
is to not worry about perfection or non-perfection.
To put your trust in the Way is to live without separation,
and in this nonduality you are one with the Way.

*The Hsin-Hsin Ming is a verse attributed to
the Third Zen Patriarch. Written in the 6th century, it is considered the first clear and
comprehensive statement of Zen.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Small dog, vast sky

 A drive out to Harwich, well Dovercourt to be precise, on a cold and blustery Autumn day. The clouds were racing across the sky as if they were late fore something. The tide was in, leaving not much sand to walk on. How I love his coast line . Not pretty like the west country, but big and open and woolly. It holds no prisoners and only those brave enough to feel the lashing east wind on their faces, appreciate fully the vasteness.

The sand was littered with shells and with every step I took, I bent to collect yet another. each one resembling an animal skeleton. The more I picked up, the more I wanted to make some sort of  'land art'. But the wind was keen and small black terriers feel the cold when they have been surfing. I wondered how I could use the shells when I got home. Possibly in a sculpture or maybe just pick up on the colours for a painting.


There is free parking at the end of West End Lane, near the rec. I wonder if I could walk south, all the way to Kirby Le Soken...I guess not...it looks pretty marshy!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Open sesame

I'm lucky enough to be showing work in a number of shows in the next couple of months, the only down side is trying to decide what work to put in what show! 
I am getting more and more into assemblage, incorporating painting with an over engineered use of found objects. I love to use great big hinges and rusty nails to hold down a very delicate feather for example, or a rusty chunk of metal used to bind two bits of wood together. It's all a bit girlie in execution, and all you DIYers out there, would be tutting at my use of nails instead of screws....and not even ones that match!

These two 'fishy' works I will take down to Brightlingsea at the weekend to be part of the annual winter show at the Coach House Coffee Shop down near the harbour. Alex always has a great selection of artists showing and it's an exciting mix. 

Some more assemblage recently made. 
The one below is called Open Sesame but I've used the Arabic word simsim. The words open sesame are spoken as an unfailing means of gaining admission....the word 'Inshalla' ....if Alla wills, are on the door....and 'what lies within' serve as a possible warning! Read into it what you will.

Words of wisdom encased in cotton. Click on the pic to enlarge.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Studio visit

Today I have been to visit Gilly Burrell's studio at Cuckoo Farm Studios. Gilly works with textiles in a truly imaginative way. A wonderful collection of organic sculptural pieces line a shelf. Crocheted with dishcloth string. Gilly explained how the shapes just evolve while she crochets away. The stiffness of the string enables them to hold their shape.

Tiny jewel like bags hang on the walls. 

Pieces of amazingly intricate textiles like this one, belie the amount of work that has gone into them. Many pieces of fabric, sewn, cut, re-arranged, embroidered and re-worked end up giving great depth to the piece.
Gilly's studio just fills the senses with colour, sweet jars filled with buttons, fabric scraps and all manner of magical bits to enhance her textiles. Coloured cottons all neatly standing on a board like something in a North African souk.

Cuckoo Farm Studios are hosting a Winter Lights show in November, which I am hoping to take part in. I'll keep you posted. There will be a wide range of artworks for sale, from ceramics, textiles, metal work and paintings. Just the place to find some unusual Christmas presents. 

Monday, 11 October 2010

Call of the sea

Ten myriad stars
Suspended in the dark sea
Silently beckon

That's it..I think I have exhausted the haiku and sea theme now! Back to work


Waves washing over
Ten thousand pebbles kissed
Slow breath....aaah

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Ebb & Flow, Flow & Ebb

Ten thousand bubbles in flow and ebb