I have plenty of butterfly specimen in my studio and they are lovely to draw. So maybe it was simply the reference to "colour"? Their lack of spiky or stingy bits or just that they are not controversial and I didn't feel there was a message to share?
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Lets back track ...
Following the success of the SVAF More Than project, we decided to do it again: "More more than". The focus this time was: 'what it means to be finished' and I was sent 2 unfinished original prints by Chérie Lubbock in return for some uneditioned print experiments from my collection.
23 March - 6 April
Curated by Amanda Lynch in association with Correspondence Collective and Clayhill Arts
Initially drawn with explosive mark-making techniques on large sheets of paper, the cutting and folding process creates unexpected compositions, glimpses of textured surfaces that draw you in. As the piece grows it becomes a sculptural entity with endless possibilities for display.
The Sketchbook Project has been on my radar for many years and I was lucky to see a selection of books at the Other Art Fair in London. If you have been following me for a while you will realise that I am keen to continue to develop my drawing. Sometimes this takes me on a little sideloop but it always adds to my knowledge and experience.
Not quite a postcard!
In 2019 I joined a Kickstarter Campaign to support the creation of a mini 3D press through the Open Press Project. Long story short, it finally arrived in October and I had a wonderful day in the studio printing a pile of mini bees from etching plates made years ago. Perfect timing to join in with the November edition of #oneofmanypostcard - an initiative organised by John Pedder on Instagram.
In lieu of two postponed residencies this summer I gave myself permission to play with the graphite and created some artist books. This is a short video of the first.
Graphite is such a tactile material which needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. There are subtle nuances of colour and texture. The surface can be burnished to an almost mirror shine or applied gently as silk, a soft smoky sheen. Hidden marks create layers, a history, and trick the eye with connections to real objects, ancient landscapes or city skylines. Replicating the ripples of a tossed stone, the jagged edge of broken glass, trees whispering in the forest - listen : follow with your eyes and you will hear sounds and feel my world.
Imagine, six days at the edge of the land with permission to immerse yourself completely in art. No phone, no internet, just the vast Atlantic ocean outside your window.
This is the promise that comes with a residency at Brisons Veor, a studio set up to enable professional artists to spend a focused period of time developing their work. Its purpose is to provide accommodation and work-space to selected practitioners in need of assistance and who are making a significant contribution in the creative arts sector. Located on the westernmost edge of Cornwall (Cape Cornwall), Brisons Veor provides a dedicated live-work space for self-funded residencies of between one to four weeks.
In mid-April I travelled to Brisons Veor for a week with Leila Godden.
Amongst the Thorns
Graphite and pastel on bristol board
Andrena varians, aka The Blackthorn Mining Bee
For the second round of FiftyBees I was allocated Andrena varians, aka the Blackthorn Mining Bee. There are substantial areas of blackthorn on the South Downs and a lovely walk between Lewes and Ringmer where they are often found by bee specialists. But this is January and I really need to find inspiration more locally.
Research taught me how to tell the difference between Blackthorn and Hawthorn. In spring the Blackthorn flowers earliest and before the leaves emerge, Hawthorn is later at the same time as the leaves. So a long walk around muddy footpaths and I found a Blackthorn bush (only to return home and find we had planted one amongst our Hawthorn hedge!)
It's hard to know when an idea first germinates, what makes it grow and why it suddenly needs to flourish.
The Wasps came to a head last summer when we had a huge nest in our loft and we began to find dead ones laying around the house (and a huge number of live ones too!)
They found a way down next to the chimney and, once the pheromone path was set, it became part of their daily flight path. We ducked as they shot across the room to the window, waiting patiently until we released them. Evenings were spent listening to incessant buzzing, a fatal attraction to the lights. And so the collection grew.
During the drawing there is a need to learn more. Did you know that wasps eat spiders? they clear the detritus from our gardens? they pollinated the raspberries last year? The fluffy bee has a wonderful reputation, it's time someone championed the wasp.
In 2014 a Bufftail Bumble Bee Queen made a nest in our loft space and I spent a fascinating summer watching the family foraging my garden. After a few months we noticed extra activity as the young males waited for the new queens to emerge and the next generation was on it's way. Bumble Bees do not live a long life and I often found specimens dotted about the garden.
Drawing them was so obvious but I didn't expect it to turn out quite the way it has. There are many days when I am unable to spend much time in the studio, but for an artist it is important to draw regularly. Although detailed and multilayered, I found drawing a bee to be just the right amount of time and so it began. Posting phonesnaps of the finished bees on Social Media gave me additional encouragement, as did the number of people asking to buy one!
I do not draw a bee every day, I'm not that disciplined, but they are there for me when needed. It has been fascinating to see how they have changed, how drawing them every day for a period of time has made me look for interesting angles and deeper at the way they are constructed.
Here is a small selection. If you want to see them all, have a look at my facebook, twitter or instagram photos - try searching for "#DailyBee"
Ash blackened form Piercing eyes
Sinister elegance Scouring the earth
The light turns Rays hit the wraith
Shimmering splendour Changeling filled sky
Diving, weaving, blending A million wraiths as one
Fearsome, awe inspiring A natural wonder
Dusk falls The wraith descends
Merging with the woods Disappearing as one
Again, all is ash black
When there's something happening in the studio you might like to know.
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