Thursday, 25 November 2021

Books, Browsing, Spontaneity, Reading, Escaping, Boosting and Kindness


this weeks post it notes, the ever beautiful James Mason (oh be still my beating heart) who I adore and who I was talking about with a chum earlier this week, my lovely fountain pen that I write my journal with and my current reading matter - and a book by an author and series I absolutely love and I am now rationing the last few pages as I have rattled through it far too quickly and there is no more Cazalet Chronicles to read after this as I've read them all and this was the last one E J Howard wrote before her death in 2014, I picked it up from the Little Free Library at the side of the canal in Rodley the other weekend.
I am still a devotee of actual paperbooks rather than reading on a kindle or listening to an audiobook as such tho I do listen to a lot of serialisations on Radio4 Extra or on BBC Sounds - I still mostly don't listen to live Radio 4 as the hourly news bulletins are just too anxiety and anger provoking. 

No matte medium transfers this week to share with you other than the ones on show here and here as I've yet to send the 35mm film off to be developed (oh the excitement of waiting in these instant digital times is both exquisite and agonising)  plus I've been concentrating on getting the xmas presents I'm making finished instead and I'm on schedule and had the concentration span to read lots too... 

It might still be too early to call this a habit again but I have definitely got a bit of my blogging mojo back and it's becoming a bit of a regular thing again. I am still hoping it becomes properly habitual again - as it both helps me formulate and gather my thoughts as well as punctuate/define the week a bit.  Not least because I am proper old school and although I do stream some tv programmes I still sit down and watch some at the time they are being broadcast. 

How very retro in these netflix, amazon prime, youtube and i-player (other streaming services are available) times I hear you say and just as Thursday is starting to become update blog day, it's also Justice day. Justice is a tv series from the 1970's currently showing on Talking Pictures TV 8pm on a Thursday night and it features the very marvellous Margaret Lockwood as a barrister and it is both of its times and ahead of its times and quite gripping and it is also fun to location spot bits of Leeds that either have changed very little and are still recognisable or are now almost beyond recognition.

It's also or rather has been as it is the finale tonight -  new Drag Race UK day - I've liked all of this seasons competitors but my favourites are Charity Kase and Chorizo May but in terms of finalists I  think I am TeamElla as I fell in love with her from her first runway which celebrated the striking women from the Ford Factory at Dagenham.  My heart however continues to belong to The Boulet Brothers and all their works and I also have a very great fondness for Peaches Christ and her very marvellous indeed Midnight Mass podcast - if you love horror/quirky cult films then give yourself a treat and give it a listen.

It's an understatement to say that the pandemic has disrupted my (and everyone elses) usual habits almost completely though at the same time I am bewildered, depressed and frankly frightened by those who seem to be carrying on as if nothing has changed or happened at all. I put this down to some people just being fed up about it, misinformed by conspiracy theorists but also down to the pisspoor lack of leadership and good examples from the government but I could rant about those corrupt selfish liars forever so I'll stop there and get back to my original point...

So some new things for me have become regular fixtures and frankly a lifesaver in these ongoing uncertain and bewildering times, things like the Arts and Minds Meet and Make Space on a Tuesday lunchtime, chatting to chums on Zoom for instance and thankfully some pre pandemic things have become a thing again - twice weekly gym sessions and going to the local little greengrocers, delis and butchers at least once a week too. 

I do the latter for various  reasons - it's a good walk, the food is so much nicer and not covered in plastic and it's also nice to see money go to a local business rather than a big corporate group plus it keeps me in the habit of going out and interacting with actual people in some way. Though part of the appeal of these particular shops is that they have excellent ventilation as they either have their doors open all the time or are mostly outside. 

One of the things I am missing most and have missed the most is spontaneity - not that I was ever a really spontaneous person but things could be done without additional thoughts and precautions like have I got a mask on me, have I got some handwash, will there be good ventilation, how busy is it going to be etc etc... and lack of fear around being inside a building with other people without visible open windows like a cinema or a theatre. Though I have managed a theatre trip I have yet to manage a cinema trip.  

I had my booster jab last Saturday at the big vaccination centre at Elland Road and I am hoping that it will make me less anxious about going places, mixing with other people but for the time being I'm still being and feeling cautious and I will continue to be a fresh air fiend as well as testing when necessary, regular handwashing and mask wearing when indoors with others. 

I was rather anxious going for my booster - I don't like needles, it wasn't at my local surgery that I know well and I was slightly worried if I'd have any unpleasant side effects from the vaccine as well as the welcome actual effects. It took rather longer than I would have liked as they asked a lot of questions before administering the jab as well as insisting on a 15 minute post jab wait and I just wanted to be in and out again but all the staff were empathetic and professional.

But it was the kindness from and the conversation I had with one of the volunteers who brought me a paper cup of water after I'd had my jab as I felt a bit woozy straight away afterwards which really affected me. I don't think my feeling a little woozy was down to the contents of the jab but rather the whole situation around getting it.

She saw the book I was carrying and reading from in an attempt to distract myself and feel less anxious. It was A Single Thread by Tracey Chevalier which I had picked up from Meanwood Community Shop (aka one of the best secondhand bookshops ever) and it is the story of a woman whose fiance died in the trenches of World War One and how she makes a new life for herself and becomes an embroiderer. 

The volunteer told me that she had completely lost her reading mojo (her words) and she had a pile of unread books at home and since the pandemic began she had found it very difficult to concentrate or read for any length of time and that she could no longer read anything in which anything horrible happened - especially to children and was no longer able to read fiction in particular.

I found myself tearing up as she told me this, partly I think because I was just feeling a bit overwhelmed but also because I just felt so sad at the all the ongoing personal unseen effects of the pandemic that don't get reflected in the statistics of hospitalisations and deaths and economic impact but also because for as long as I can remember reading has been my refuge, distraction, delight and on occasion despair. 

I rarely go anywhere without a book in my bag, I still usually have 2 or 3 on the go at any time - a serious one that's either a textbook or historical, a bit of brain bubblegum fluff fiction and a serious more literary piece of fiction.

The times when my anxiety or depression has been so bad that I cannot sit and read have been the worst as I haven't been able to escape into another world or time or been made to think about something I never have before.

It made me feel so sad for her that she had lost her ability to read and transport herself, partly because I could totally empathise with that but also because she had been so kind in bringing me some water and not making me feel like I was being a wuss. When I was leaving I thanked her for her kindness and said I hope she got her reading mojo back soon.

Jabwise my arm felt like I'd been hit hard with the flat side of a cricket bat for a couple of days, didn't have the best nights sleep and was very sleepy for the day afterwards, then felt okay then felt rubbish again and had very vivid dreams and a blotchy red rash came up around the injection site but that's faded again now and I feel okay again. Let's see how I feel tomorrow... 

                                             Thank you for reading

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Promise Sticking, More Image Transferring, Colour Boosting, Boosters In General, Where Are Memories Held? Film-ness


Matte medium image transfer piece in progress - still need to remove last few bits of paper, trim and sew excess fabric, wrap outside of embroidery hoop in bias binding (possibly purple) and decide on a title - I usually draw on chapter titles from novels by my favourite nineteenth century authors - Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Wilkie Collins...this one is in monochrome as monochrome is my preferred colour-scheme to work in.
Examples of other matte medium transfers I have done can be seen here and here

this weeks notes, the nail varnish I'm going to paint my nails with later whilst watching Drag Race - I much prefer Dragula as its inclusivity and menu of drag, filth, horror and glamour are some of my very favourite whilst my heart and soul now belong to the Boulet Brothers there's still a bit of it that has space for RuPaul...also pictured is a bag of a shower cap I bought in a beautifully old fashioned chemist in Buxton in the 'before times' because its sombre old fashioned-ness really makes me smile. 

It's still early days but as this is the third blog post I've written in the last three weeks I'm feeling cautiously hopeful that I am getting my blogging mojo back. I'm certainly finding it a good way of marshalling my thoughts again in these ongoing uncertain and frightening times, and aside from it helping me I've also had positive feedback on it which is also a boost.

Boosts of whatever kind are still very welcome as anxiety is still kicking my arse. I've not got back my going out to indoor places with lots of other people mojo as yet but am hoping getting my anti covid booster jab is going to help with that along with still taking things slowly but surely - baby steps, baby steps.  

Speaking of boosters - my current mood boosters are: watching or listening to the Boulet Brothers, the rather wonderful selection of ghost and uncanny stories on BBC Sounds and I-Player, going for a walk, reading a book that completely distracts and transports me - currently enjoying A Single Thread by Tracey Chevalier very much and painting my nails. I love nail varnish and tho I'm not especially skillful about applying it but there is something very mood lifting looking down to see shiny colourful unchipped nails.

Due to being a dyed in the wool old school goth almost all my clothes are black and often the only pop of colour about me is my fringe which is blue or my nails (if I've painted them) or my lips if I've got make up on. I don't find black a miserable colour to wear or look at or be surrounded by but I'm reminded of reading something Brix Smith Start wrote about bright colours being a form of prozac for her but annoyingly I cannot find the quote. I don't have to surround my self with colour to cheer myself but a bright pop of it somewhere along the line is nice.

Houseplants also brighten up the space around me and my mood - a chinese money plant I bought during lockdown has produced many offspring which along with spider pants (also very bountiful offspring from one plant) a few prayer plants and a very exuberant boston fern make me smile lots as do the constants of Spongebob cartoons at the weekend and daily glimpses of Hacker T Dog and his handler's other characters. As ever being able to walk in the woods and go to the gym also helps massively.

I'm also really enjoying podcasts - be it the Boulet Brothers Creatures Of The Night or Peaches Christ's Midnight Mass or No Heathen Lands eerie stories of Yorkshire. 

But back to nail varnish - my Nana always said that nail varnish was the sign of a woman who didn't do any housework and chipped nail varnish was the sign of 'a slattern' and painted toenails were a sign in her opinion of very dubious morals and the person with painted toenails was likely to be a sex worker tho she would not have used that term. I doubt she could have countenanced the idea let alone the reality of men wearing nail varnish like a few of my friends do - I think she'd have connuptions like the time she went to see Hinge and Bracket and was appalled that the man sat next to her had a handbag. I don't think she realised Dame Hilda and Evadne were actually characters played by men. 

So whilst I don't miss her sheltered and restrictive views I do miss her and frankly would give anything to be able to talk to her again and I'd get her to teach me how to crochet whilst making sure that my nails were as impeccable as I could make them and I'm not sure whether or not I'd paint them bright red - which was according to her the sign of 'a harlot'. 

Knitting is more of a mood stabiliser for me tho really as I find it quite meditative after a while and sometimes I pick projects because they involve quite a bit of just plain knitting. Though at the moment it's less meditative as I am currently working my through various projects that are destined to be xmas presents for family members. I've got 5 that I want to finish before the start of December so that there's plenty of time to get them posted off in time to arrive for Xmas. So far I've finished 3, made a start on one (a nice simple one thankfully) and then the last one is a little bit more complicated and so will require a lot more concentration. Am being deliberately vague on the offchance that one of the recipients might come across thisblogpost.

One of the things I've been thinking about recently is memories, both reliving them or what we think they were, where they are held - are they in the object, diary entry, a space somehow embedded into physical structures and my/the fear of losing them if I lose the objects that are associated with and evoke those memories and how photographs are (their lack of smell and noise aside) such excellent memory holders/provokers. 

It also makes me think and wonder about matte medium as a medium (every meaning and association of the word intended) for transferring and holding images and how I want to work on refining the physical process of working with it but also reading more about the philosophical implications of it.

I'm hoping that some of the pictures I took on film with the very lomo camera will be good enough to make into transferred pieces. I finished the roll on Monday whilst walking through the woods, I also had the usual 'ooh will I get more than 36 pictures out of it' as you often get 37 or or rare occasions 38. The camera I was using is very lomo but it does have an anti double exposure feature and so as I continued to frame, click and wind on past 36 I was at first 'yay more pics' and then 'oh no, maybe I didn't wind it on properly in the first place - all those potential photographs lost' when I clicked without really framing and it really was the last on the roll and then of course as is always the way I saw what would have been a beautiful image opportunity. Oh well.

                                            Thank you for reading.

Friday, 12 November 2021

Mirror Mirror, Matte Medium Transfers, Lomo Film Cameras, Proustian Computer Paper, GI Blues And That Kind Of Thing

Post it note-ness, camera am currently using and a piece  'Story Of the Past Part V - as on show as part of the 2021 Arts and Minds Network Online Exhibition (which can be found here ) and which was made using a photograph taken with the (very) lomo camera pictured next to it.

I am trying to live up to my promise in my last but one post that I would try to update this blog more regularly and so I tried to get back into my old MA habit of writing things that I had done, thought about or encountered on a post it note which I keep in front of my computer in my work room in the hope that will prompt me to write more regularly.

I also wanted to make sure that there was something up to date for people to read if they came here via my instagram account (which can be found here ) in turn via my inclusion in The House of Smalls current exhibition Mirror Mirror On The Wall which can be found here.  Plus one of the things I find the biggest compliment as an artist aside from someone wanting to buy a piece of my work and live alongside it in their home is that they want to go and see a space for themselves after seeing my images of it or hearing me talk about it or want to try out a technique for themselves. 

A couple of weeks ago I loaded a camera (the one pictured above) with film - 35mm ISO 400 b+w  Kino film from Lomography. I had primarily been using lomo digital over the last 12 months or so using either a kids watch camera or my non smart phone camera so I had forgotten how exciting it is to tear open the cardboard box, flip the plastic lid and get that faint chemical whiff from the unexposed film. I did however struggle a bit at first to remember how to load this camera - as it has no auto windo on features at all.  I'd forgotten I needed to pull out/up the wind on bit as well in order to fit the cartridge in. But after some fiddling and worrying I'd break a nail but I didn't I got the film loaded and I am currently on  shot 24 of a 36 film.

I decided to use one of my most basic film cameras that I bought from Primarni in the before times as I wanted something to use something with no electrics that only needed me to have wound the film on properly, enough light to make a picture, a press of the shutter and a wind on and was easy to fit in a pocket and light to carry round.

It has no film speed setting, is fixed not very sharp focus and the daft passion fruit pattern makes me smile every time I look at it. You can't do accidental double exposures with it though as you can only press the shutter once before you have to wind the film on. I forget how much it cost exactly but think it was either £6 or £7 and I have taken it out of  the waterproof casing it came with as I won't be using it underwater for the moment.  It was an impulse whilst standing in the queue kind of buy.

Tho I haven't used it underwater I have used it next to water - all being well  I will have captured with it views of the Seven Bridges Valley* near Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Meanwood Beck, the canal near Bramley Falls Park which I am looking forward to seeing once I've finished the roll and developed.

I won't be developing it myself in the garage aka pop up meth lab as a) it's far too cold and damp and miserable in the garage at the moment and b) despite my best efforts I always end up with either waterspots or cat hair on the negatives so my plan is to give it to someone far more competent than I am and hopefully I will have lovely clear albeit not very sharp focus negatives to then print from and make matte medium image transfers with. Plus I hate scanning negatives - it's one of the most boring processes in photography for me and if I can avoid doing it I will. 

I suffer from imposter syndrome at times when describing myself as an artist as I primarily use a camera as my paintbrush rather than actual paint and paintbrush, so in part to assuage this doubt I do use an actual paintbrush to transfer an image I have taken and printed onto another surface. The one above is a transfer onto canvas but I also use fabric of various kinds including poly cotton, muslin and coffin lining material.  The doubt re materials and methods used and a hierarchy thereof is not one I apply to other artists of any genre but I find it very hard not to apply it to myself at times. 

The transfer is created by painting a layer of matte medium (I use Windsor and Newton's Galeria range) on the printed image (reversed or flipped so that when transferred it is the right way round) - printed using the printer I have at home which is just an ordinary domestic use Hewlett Packard kind that I often find myself swearing at a lot. Once I have printed or photocopied the image and it's dried I then decide what surface I'm going to transfer it onto. I then paint a layer of matte medium onto both the surface and the image and then sandwich the two together making sure there's no air bubbles, letting it dry completely (usually by leaving it overnight)  and then wetting the paper and rubbing the paper away gently and hey presto the image has transferred itself...hopefully.

Sometimes it lifts off a bit, or has patches where an errant air bubble has escaped my attention but  I think this adds to it, making it more of an accurate material recreation of a memory which is basically what a photograph is. 

The more keen eyed amongst you may have noticed that the post it note, piece of work and camera have been photographed against a background of proper old school computer paper, the kind that has a smell all of its own, an ever so slightly furry texture, sprocket holes either side and numbered green and white lines, the green stripes being made up of 6 thin green lines.

This was the kind of paper I made revision notes on when I was studying for my exams and most proustian of all this was the kind of paper my Mum used to bring home for me when she was a cleaner at IBM back in the early 70's. On occasion she'd let me go with her and I'd sit and draw on it whilst she emptied bins and polished tables. A friend of mine had inherited a big pile of it from a relative who never throws anything away and kindly sent me a huge pile of it - it makes me smile every time I look at or write on it. 

Happy memories brought back as were the ones that watching GI Blues (1960) on Talking Pictures TV yesterday afternoon brought back. My Mum loves Elvis and had this album which she played on rotation with Johnny Cash's Live From San Quentin on a portable orange Dansette until early December when out would come Perry Como's Xmas Hits and an album of xmas songs by others including Andy Williams and which was probably some kind of K-Tel compilation. 

I'd forgotten how much I loved GI Blues as a soundtrack and I might have to ask Santa for a copy for Xmas...and by copy I do mean actual physical copy as although I do listen to some streamed music I'd far rather have an actual copy. Though as it's only an old secondhand copy complete with some slight scratch noises and hissing and creased cardboard cover that would make its proustian capabilities strongest.

Talk of the dreaded c-word (ie xmas) makes me think of the only acceptable xmas album namely the John Waters Xmas Album which is packed full of the most gloriously twisted and bizarre xmas songs ever. However despite the adverts assaulting our ears with xmas songs from before Halloween I won't be playing it until at least the start of December. That's a reasonable time to start playing that kind of malarkey I think - not months before. 

Thank you for reading. 

*misnamed as it only has 5 bridges apparently - I think I crossed them all on the walk and also got as far as Sam's Seat which has a beautiful view across to Ripon Cathedral in the distance. 

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Online Exhibitions, Creative Collaborations, Sketchbook Challenges, Photoshoots, Podcasts and Musings...


'The Hidden Dread' 2021
matte medium image transfer - on show as part of the Volatile State at The House of Smalls
- can be found here  

a collaborative piece made with my friend and 'Man Ray' person Jon - some of whose work can be found on his insta and you can read about how this collaboration came about and what it signifies here

one of the single line drawings I did as part of the Sketchbook Challenge online class at Swarthmore Centre in September 
although I mostly use a camera as my pencil/paintbrush I enjoyed the challenge of using pens, pencils and watercolour and drawing my skull topped pens made me smile 

Portrait of Joel - taken earlier this year, it's his reflection on the bonnet of his hearse, you can hear some of the music he makes in his solo project Bryronic Sex and Exile by clicking here 
I really enjoyed this photoshoot as it was a very different thing for me to do as I don't often take pictures of people (and their hearses which I got to have a lift home in after we'd finished) plus Joel was really pleased with the pictures I'd taken too - result all round :-) 

Also got work in Mirror Mirror - another House of Smalls online gallery project which goes live this weekend   

It's quite a while since I last updated my blog, updating it used to be part of my weekly routine as I used it for my research journal, but once I graduated from the College of Art it stopped being such a regular part of my routine, and I know I have said this before but I do intend to update this blog more often as it's a good way of marshalling my thoughts - especially with regard to creative matters. The images above give an idea of the kind of things I've been up to over recent months.

I write much more regularly of much more personal matters in my journal but that is for my eyes only plus that has the benefit of being portable too as it is of the paper kind which I write in in fountain pen, however with the advent of Covid I haven't written it anywhere other than my workroom or the dining room for months. I have dared to venture  to the local library recently but I have yet to feel comfortable enough to spend longer than the time it takes to return books and check out new ones. To sit at a table in the library and write feels beyond me at the moment. I've still to venture into the city centre to go back to either of the libraries there - despite missing being in both of them keenly as the thought of being in a people filled busy city centre and the bus journey needed to get there practically brings me out in hives. I had hoped being double jabbed would help with that anxiety but although it has diminished my fear of dying from Covid it hasn't diminished my fear of catching it in the first place. 

One of the central beliefs of the Arts and Minds Network is that creativity promotes mental well being. I have been a member of the network for well over 10 years now and it is thanks to them that I have met and made new friends, I've also been able to take part in projects which have taught me new techniques, or new places to show my work. This year like last the annual exhibition of members work is online and you can look at it and my piece 'Story Of The Past Part V' here 

Creativity and being creative is absolutely central to maintaining my mental health , whether it's the ability to enjoy others creative output in the form of films, programmes, books, photography, paintings made by others or the ability to create and make my own. In terms of my own work it's primarily in the form of images made with various kinds of cameras and some of them I either print or have printed directly onto fabric or transfer them onto canvas, fabric or other surfaces using matte medium. I have also been trying to write poems and longer prose but have yet to create a piece I consider finished and am happy enough with to share just yet.

Over the last couple of years I've found I've often been so distressed or anxious that I've been unable to concentrate properly on creating anything myself or I start something and then get distracted and cannot finish it or sometimes along the way I lose confidence in my ability to create the thing. At other times though I've been able to make and finish things either despite feeling depressed or anxious or because I have been feeling relatively okay. 

In order to make the times of feeling okay enough outnumber the times of not feeling okay at all one of the things I've been doing is to make sure I get out regularly for fresh air and I am so very grateful that I have a peaceful mature garden I can sit in and the woods nearby to wander around, and that the plantar fasciitis that had been so painfully limiting my mobility continues to be in abeyance. I continue to go to the gym regularly too - deadlifting and strength training makes me feel so much better-er as my beloved Hacker T Dog would say. Watching his glorious nonsense also never fails to make me smile  -  see also the work of The Boulet Brothers and Spongebob Squarepants - they are also a vital part of my self care routine.  

I've been knitting too - as long as I am comfortable with the pattern I find it quite a meditative and relaxing process and my go to default destress things to knit are booties or dishcloths. I have knitted quite a lot of those items over the last few months. Some I have kept and some I have given to friends. 

 Along with taking and making photographs, I also ventured out of my comfort zone by doing a  portrait photoshoot  really enjoyed doing it as I don't often take photographs of people so it was a challenge. 

 I was also very pleased to be asked to be guest on the rather marvellous podcast No Heathen Land earlier this year. The podcast looks at  talking about my love and passion for St George's Field as a space and two of the women buried there and you can hear the episode I'm in by clicking here  and give yourself a treat by listening to the eerie and disturbing tales in the other episodes too.

I've really got into podcasts over the last few months - along with No Heathen Land I am also really enjoying the ones from The Leeds Library, The Uncanny on R4 and the Battersea Poltergeist one was completely compelling. 

So that's a round up of things I've been up to recently and my plan is to keep on doing more of the same whilst trying to keep well and safe in these ongoing frightening and disturbing times. 

                                                 Thank you for reading.