Saturday, 28 June 2008

Inspirations, Illustrations, Imaginations

I THOUGHT IT TIME to pass on a few threads of inspirations that I have received from other lovely people hiding in the hills of blogland. As I have mentioned before, I'm not a keen passer-oner of "awards" and things like I'm s'posed to. But I do appreciate those given to me and in turn, I will from time to time show you some lovely things I've found on my web burrowings.
Morna, Erica, Ciara, Jo, Lindsay and Terry have all been so kind as to give me little blog awards recently, and so today I wanted to show you some artists and their illustrations that have made me smile and feel inwardly connected to them.

A little while ago Victoria Usova contacted me to ask if I fancied doing an illustration swap, which I hardly ever do.. but this time, I felt something warm and familiar in her illustrations, and so after much trouble choosing, decided that I would like this Foxy Fox watercolour original on the left to come and live with me, in return for my Button Mouse travelling over the sea to New York. Victoria is a Ukraine-born New Yorker and said of my work that "your painted world seems close to mine, but more in the evening or nighttime. Perhaps we travel to similar locations just during different times of the day." I liked that.
She has a "Chest of Fairytales" etsy shop here and flickr page here where you can see her enchanting works. For me they have a playful sunniness and very distinct Russian flavour which is delightful. This Foxy Fox will be framed and enjoyed on the wall of our truck.

Next I wanted to show you the wonderful otherworldly paintings of Yoko Tanaka. She paints a muted Other world peopled by strange beasts, surreal objects and melancholy tales. Yoko was born in Japan but moves from country to country, having been educated in the US and living at present in Thailand where buffaloes stroll around the house and cranes fly over the nearby Mosque's call to prayer. On the right is her painting Remnant. Do take a while to wander her world, which I feel very drawn to, here.

Thirdly, another Japanese illustrator, Yuko Michishita, who is currently studying in the UK. The inspiration for her fine pencil drawings dwells in an interest in folklore and nomadic ways of life and she says of her work that she has always loved "meticulous patterns of Asian traditional costumes, shades and shapes of trees, furry animals and human faces that look slightly like fish", and is greatly influenced by these likings. This illustration to the left, Apples Be Ripe makes me smile no end ... and includes lovely wonkyness, detail, colour and lettering. Do have a look at her work here.

And lastly but not leastly, Oliver Hunter, a young Australian artist whose work I have known of for a little while through Endicott Studios. His imaginative, surreal and strange mythic world gives away his obsessive and cerebral imaginations and love of tale and spirit. I find his creations extremely evocative, and a little influenced by the character of the world conjured in Terri Windling's book The Wood Wife. On the right is his painting After the Hunt. Those of you who are aware of Goblin Fruit, a relatively new online mythic poetry magazine, will have seen his work there. He also has a little "Cupfull of Oliver" website here, and there's a fascinating write up about his work, background and inspirations here at Endicott.

Thank you to all those people who have sent me words of encouragement and told me that my work makes them feel familiar strange things ... these kind nods lift my fragile self confidence enough to keep me creating. And thank you to these artists whose works make me feel these familiar strange things too.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

A seafaring door

THERE ONCE was an ordinary door
With dreams of seeing the shore
A porthole came by

And said "I'll be your eye,

Through me you'll see seagulls soar!"

This is one of the busynesses I have been up to lately (apart from writing silly limericks)... click on the picture for a larger version.
It'll be the front door at the back of our wheeled home when we've removed the tailgate.
All we need now are some nice hinges and handles and suchlike... do you think it'd be silly to have a letterbox too?

Saturday, 21 June 2008

The Visitors

SEVEN STRANGE folk have arrived at an odd little chicken-roofed house hanging in the branches of the forest, all clutching baskets for the tiny old lady. And what's in them nobody knows ...

The Visitors is my new painting for the front cover of the lovely new fairytale magazine Les Bonnes Fees. And each basket will take you to a different section of the current issue... The magazine boasts a fabulous collection of fairytale fiction and poetry and articles on such things as hair and spinning.
This way to begin your wander.
They have also kindly done a wee interview with me too, which you can read here.

And for those who feel inclined, The Visitors can be carried off in a basket from my shop here.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Lost Things

THE GREY LIGHT of a shivering Scottish June day is trying its best to make its way through our deep set windows and cheer the house as best it can. There's a faint flappity-whapping sound outside of coloured bunting strung up for a village gala, and I am indoors with a hot water bottle and the warm feeling of a just-finished-book.
This book is one that called to me from the bookshop shelf with its thorn-silhouette cover and a quote by Picasso that I had coincidentally just recently painted:

"Everything you can imagine is real..."

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly is a delicious delve into the world of fairytale, imagination and books. It is the story of David, a quiet boy who is trying to come to terms with the death of his mother, and the new family that takes her place. He retreats into a semi trance-like world of his own creation peopled by crooked men, knights and beasts, enchantresses, wolves and worse-than-wolves. Written like all good tales, there's a quest and all sorts of encounters along the way. I was particularly delighted by the more gruesome aspects of the story, where Connolly has drawn upon pre-sanitized versions of fairy tales for his inspiration. Particularly dreadful was a huntress who made child-animal hybrids so that they would be more challenging and swifter hunting quarry, and The Crooked Man who is an incarnation of Rumplestitskin and who makes terrible bargains with children before plucking out their hearts and eating them, and then storing their souls in a jar on a shelf in his lair in order for him to remain alive.
Included at the end of the book is an excellent collection of notes by the author on the various fairy tales that were woven into his, and on the meanings behind them.
The dedication at the beginning concludes:

"For in every adult dwells the child that was
and in every child waits the adult that will be"

Today, too, there is another lost thing: my painting Soup & Pipe is winging its way to a new owner far across the seas and I am a little sad to see it go. It was painted last year on a lovely slice of wood found in a jumble sale, and these two bent old friends might be Tui and I holding hands by a log fire one long-away day...

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Orla Wren Films

ORLA WREN as you may or may not know is the name of the beautiful music that Tui makes.
Indeed, his second album, The One Two Bird And The Half Horse, the making of which took him through two years, around tender sounds, over hoorays and in and out of sorrows, is now complete and ready to whisper into ears far and near, and an astonishingly beautifully crafted creation it is. I am full of admiration for this work that I have seen in its birthing, and I will write more about this one day soon when this music is available to be heard, and glad the world's ears will be then.

In the meantime... we are making films for the music. My cut-out wonky-handmade stop-frame animation will be for one track - The Fish & The Doll, and it is emerging slowly up in the animation attic day by day. Another film is just about ready, made by Tui for the last track The First Born Daughter of Water from little pieces of film from my childhood.

Here you can see some tiny snippets of stills from the first scenes of the animation and stills from Tui's film where layers of inklings of glimpses of my younger days are merged delicately to compliment the music.

We would like to ask if any folks out there might have some old footage that they would be happy to send us to be used in a similar way. A unique collection of hints of people's stories would be woven together to make a wonderful film or two to go hand in hand with this music. Please drop a word to if you can help. Thanks muchly.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

The Concertina Eggcup Song

A BROTHER for the Button Mouse, sitting in an eggcup, playing the concertina ... and why not indeed!

The Concertina Eggcup Song
... balancing deftly here in the shop.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

A barrel stove day

OUR WHEELED HOME is growing bit by little bit into itself. While I sit at home in the animation attic moving little bits of paper and making paintings in between, Tui spends his days down in the sun and wind and horsebox, sanding and sawing and hammering and building and making a home.
Since the acquisition of this Bedford, we have been collecting some lovely ebay finds for it, including the recently fitted round window, a copper kettle, a little belfast sink, some lovely old leaded windows from a demolished chapel in Wales, and a brand new barrel stove!
So yesterday was spent admiring Tui's lovely new door and "seasoning" the new stove outdoors with a little fire made from the offcuts of wood.
It is lovely to finally have this vital ingredient, every home needs a fire! You may notice that we have no chimney yet... we need to put down the floorboards before we know the length of stovepipe needed.
This is a long slow process, and expensive... each time we make a little money, it goes on wood and screws and silicone sealant and sandpaper. But bit by bit, it is feeling more and more like ours. We've developed a little rather old-fashioned routine where midmorning I bring a pot of coffee and two cups down to the spot where Tui is working and we sit on the tail gate discussing our mornings' works, and looking down the hill towards the stream where goats peck and chickens bleat.

PS .. the spiders have blown off!!

Also today, I was pleased to catch an interesting programme on Radio 4 about one of my favourite albums: Just Another Diamond Day by Vashti Bunyan, who made it whilst on a horse-drawn waggon journey to the outer Hebrides in the 60s before choosing to disappear into obscurity. For me her wobbly gentle songs and guitar tell lovely tales of a simpler life with a strange warmth that obviously comes straight from the feelings that went into making it.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Little Yellow Stowaways

WHAT IS THIS strange yellow bundle clinging to the wheel-arch of our Bedford?

This Scottish June has brought us yellow all around.. yellow gorse along the roadsides, yellow buttercup-blanketed fields and these little yellow stowaways on our truck.
This silken nest of new scuttling spider babies is just one tiny corner of the arachnid population that has taken up residence in our home on wheels. In between fixing down floors and mending fuel tanks, Tui has had to wrestle with his spider terror every time one of these lodgers is disturbed by his screwdriver!
For some reason, spiders love our Bedford!

(click on that picture for a closer view!)

I leave you with a superstitious spider rhyme in German:

Spinne am Morgen

bringt Kummer und Sorgen
Spinne am Nachmittag
bringt Freude am dritten Tag
Spinne am Abend
erquickend und labend


Spider in the morning
brings grief and sorrow
Spider in the afternoon
brings joy on the third day
Spider in the evening
refreshes and nourishes)

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Myths & Magazines

I HAVE BEEN on the lookout lately for a good magazine. For me this is quite a difficult thing to find... It needs to have amongst its pages some or all of these things: well written stories, strange ephemera, book reviews, art that is not arty, old objects, interesting articles about interesting people, nicely designed pages, non-mainstream music, geekily obscure academia, lots of good photographs, enough reading to last a few weeks and delightful inspirational things that can be savoured! I have found some excellent contenders recently, which I would like to share with you.

Firstly, there is the wonderful Illustration Magazine, a quarterly publication of all things illustration-y: interviews with artists, book reviews, articles on historical illustration, book arts, and introductions to newcomers to the field. I was particularly excited about an interview with Wayne Anderson in this spring's issue, a very favourite illustrator of mine.

Next in line we have an intriguing magazine that has been around for some time I believe, and yet I had not until now discovered the treasury of visual delight within. Raw Vision magazine is a journal of outsider art, "art brut" and contemporary folk art, which is to say, art that has been made by those who on the whole do not consider themselves artists. Spring's issue contained strange woodcarvings, hand made gothic follies made from found materials, "devil houses" painted by a prisoner, drawings and paintings by outsiders and madmen and many many more visual wonders. It is a real find.

Lastly another new discovery: Cabinet Magazine. This one's hard to categorise.. a quarterly that covers art and culture but resides in some quirky corner. This issue boasts articles and images about such things as sloth, opals, victorian fitness machines, clockless time, snowflakes, nineteenth century female naturalists, and the mysteries of stones. And there you have it!

Online magazines are another beast altogether, and becoming increasingly popular. I was saddened indeed to read today of the closure of Endicott Studio's Journal of Mythic Arts. Written by Terri Windling and Midori Snyder, this magazine has been a real library of myth and magic to inspire tale-lovers and dreamers like me who had no place to sit and read like this before, and I would like to thank them for supporting my work amongst the other delights that graced Endicott's pages.
In their final farewell post, Terri and Midori pass the torch of online fairytale and folklore journaling to a host of wonderful places, which I look forward to exploring.

This brings me to introduce you to Les Bonnes Fees ~ a brand new fairytale and folklore magazine which will be launching in June with one of my paintings on the front cover.
And here it is in progress....