WE ARE FROGS crouching disgruntled at the water's edge of a doubtful Summer. So far, this June feels like Mr Jeremy Fisher's slippy-sloppy larder; the air hangs damp and grey; we nip out between downpours to do late things in the garden, and nip in again to light the woodburner in a most unsummerly fashion, and to work at our desks in the warm. There were predictions of parched earth and hosepipe bans here in the South West, but standing under huge wet trees, their barks black with rain, we listen to the the drip-drip from the points of the green glistening leaves, and shake out our webbed feet, and disbelieve the weather forecast.
Here are a few painterly-printerly goings-on, some new, some past, some blue...
This old man in a wooden boat on a green garden sea is the Ancient Mariner, painted for an exhibition at the Imagine Gallery based around Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem. I chose to paint the old man himself rather than any scenes of ghostly stormy torment. And for canvas I found a piece of Sequoia redwood amongst the offcuts from the chainsaw carving at the wood fair, which had the heart of a branch-knot like a spear running through it. How perfect, I thought, to make this into the arrow with which the Mariner shoots the Albatross; and the slice of wood was boat-shaped too. So I fitted him into the shape of it, the albatross hung around his neck, so that the redwood arrow ran through both the bird and the Mariner's own heart.
The original painting, in oils, is for sale through the gallery now should anyone like to own it. The Mariner's right hand holds an anchor rope which winds around his boots... echoing a sad and true story in my ancestry: My great grandmother Elsie had a sweetheart when she was young whom she called "Blue" ... but she lost him away at sea - he was drowned when his foot got caught in the anchor rope, and she never really forgot him. I still have a tiny elephant made of ivory which belonged to her, into its flank she scratched his name.
And talking of the Imagine Gallery, I'm mighty pleased to announce that there's a limited edition (of 33!) of fine quality giclée prints of a few of my works available for sale there now too... they're hanging handsomely framed on the gallery walls, and the paper and print quality is so good, even I could hardly tell they weren't originals!
At the moment prints have been made of Baba Yaga, Snowflight Under the Seasky, Anja in the Horse Chestnut, A Girl Mad As Birds, Father Christmas and The Goods & Chattels Man, and they've all been hand embellished (i.e. signed, titled and numbered) by me. This edition of fine prints is all roughly at the size the originals were painted, which in the case of Anja in the Horse Chestnut means almost A1.
I also intend to start selling smaller giclée prints through my etsy shop soon for folks who would like a posher and more knobbly paper quality. Any recommendations of companies who offer this print service with good results would be most welcome - I've been sending off for sample packs from various places, and can't decide.
There've been quite a number of interesting jobs over the past months... some of which I've waited for apter times to tell you about. This is one of them. Tess Giles Marshall, (a hearty cheerer for my work who has commissioned a clock from me before) asked me to paint a banner for her superb new site Pilgrim's Moon - a celebration of cronehood and all that that enfolds. It is a "countercultural path for women, ageing on their own terms" and it's gathering crones and crones-in-waiting left right and centre: Women who rage against the madness of trying to look younger as they age, women who are interested in the wisdom-knots and fascinations that greater numbers of years bring them, and best of all, women who have chosen to take back demeaning old-women words - crone, hag, harridan, witch - and reclaim them for the power-words they are.
These are pictures of the painting in progress - from pencil beginnings to watercolour end. A small band of motley pilgrims make their way from one village to the next under the blue of a wide wild white moon and the strains of a fiddle tune along the way. Do go and sit round the fire that Tess is building...
As with all commissions involving people, it isn't a portrait of either Janey or her cat, but rather a painting of her sadness and of a girl and a cat that might be Janey or someone else. I rather liked it in its blue circular simplicity. The original hangs on her wall in Australia now, but you can buy prints from my shop here.
And whilst I painted a tiny ragged moth came to rest on my thumb, and then flew off again.
I don't know whether the sun will come back again, I hope it does - we are planting vegetables, and thinking of warm evenings of summer adventure and bare feet and songs under the stars and golden picnics in August.
Even frogs like to bask from time to time don't they?