Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Hosting a creative retreat with nature: Wild Art 2016

Two weeks ago I realised a dream I had held for a very long time; I hosted an art retreat on a beautiful nature reserve in the Dorset countryside.

Along with the wonderful Lisa Wright I welcomed a group of beautiful creatives to the Kingcombe Centre in west Dorset for a weekend of art, nature, good food and great company.

We explored the meadows of the nature reserve, looking at the many different plants that grow there, and the insects and other animals that depend on them. The reserve is managed with careful grazing by a herd of beef cattle at a very low density without adding artificial fertilisers to the land. This is the traditional method of farming before the advance of modern intensive agriculture and allows a huge variety of plants to flourish on the reserve, from grasses and medicinal herbs (giving rise to the term "wellground" as the medicinal properties benefited the animals grazing there) to several species of beautiful orchids.

1. Meadow flowers, Lisa Wright. 2. Grasses, Sue Lloyd. 3. Selfheal, Simon, Flickr. 
4. Common spotted orchid, Sue Lloyd. 5. Bee orchid, Sue Lloyd.

Part of the reserve is also managed as traditional hay meadows, these are left until late in the summer to give the flowers and grasses a chance to set seed before being cut for hay. These fields are literally buzzing with insects on a warm day, it is a sound, and sight, from the past that is hard to find these days. Although it wasn't the best insect weather (typical British summer really!) we saw several species of butterflies and moths, lots of hoverflies and even a few bees.

1. Meadow brown, Lisa Wright. 2. Common blue, Catherine Mason. 3. Scarlet tiger moth, Aah-Yeah, Flickr. 
4. Large Skipper, James Pratley, Flickr. 5. Six-spot burnet moth, Lisa Wright.

The studio at Kingcombe is a beautiful, light space that is perfect for getting creative after being inspired by the colours of the countryside. We created some easy no-sew journals based on this tutorial to turn into a record of the weekend interpreting the landscape around us. Gradually, over the weekend the pages were filled with paintings and prints, as a colourful reminder of everything we had seen.

Lisa also taught everyone the basics of iphonography and how to edit pictures using various different apps to create new works of art from our photographs. This is something I haven't really tried before and it was lovely to learn something new that can give such quick results.

In the evenings we gathered around a bonfire to tell stories and sing songs. We used the storybowl method devised by Andrea Scher to give everyone a prompt that they could use to inspire a story. It was such a special atmosphere of connection with like-minded women, and I feel very lucky that I was able to help create the space for this to happen, and to share the experience which such lovely people.

I hope this is just the first of many retreats and workshops I will be running. Please get in touch if you would be interested in a small workshop for you and your friends, or if you have a suggestion of a suitable venue for a larger retreat. You can also sign up to my mailing list here to hear about future opportunities.

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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Making jewellery from beach finds

Towards the end of last year I sold some of my work in person at a craft fair. It was a lovely experience to get to meet some of my customers in person and to be able to get feedback on the items I made from people who could see and touch them. I also ran a competition to win a £10 gift voucher for my shop for anyone wanting to sign up to receive my newsletter. It has taken me a long time to post the winner but without further ado...
Congratulations Karen Fearnley! Your name was picked at random by Baby Barnacle and I will be sending you an email shortly with your prize.
If you would like to sign up to receive occasional updates and special offers just go to the 'newsletter' tab above.
As the weather has been starting to get a bit more spring-like (even though the Easter weekend itself was a bit hit-and-miss!)  we have managed to get down to the beach a few times recently. I love the chance to do a bit of beachcombing, and found quite a few tiny treasures among the surf. 

Most of these will probably find their way into future art works in one form or another, with a few being suitable for jewellery. I have finished a few pieces made with some of my previous beach finds, and they will soon be available in the shop. Until they are do let me know here or via my facebook page if there is something that speaks to you.


Have you been enjoying the warmer weather after the storms of the last few days? Hopefully they are over now and spring is here to stay!

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Sunday, 7 February 2016

Collaborative painting with my toddler

The most recent Lifebook lesson that I've completed was by the wonderful Annie Hamman featuring her daughter Tallulah. I had seen the trailer for this lesson (you can watch it here) and it was one of the reasons I signed up for Lifebook this year, it looked like so much fun and I would love to be able to paint like that with Baby Barnacle (BB) when she's a bit older.

The idea is to paint collaboratively with your child, each taking a turn on the same canvas, and "you get what you get and you don't get upset"!

I love the idea of this way of working, because art brings me so much joy and I can already see the beginnings of that enjoyment in BB when she has a crayon or paintbrush in her hand. I decided we would have a go at the lesson, even though she is quite a bit younger than Tallulah, and just see what happened.

To begin with I sketched a quick face loosely based on a picture I found in a magazine. I added a little bit of paint in a few bright colours quite quickly; I thought "It doesn't matter what it looks like, it's just going to be painted over anyway". This is exactly the point of this type of "Fearless Art"! It is so freeing! There are no mistakes! It can all be painted over, and probably will be, again and again.

Once this had dried I put a few colours of acrylic paint on the palette and let BB loose with the brush!

This was the result...

It was at this point that the fear returned. How was I supposed to turn that back into a face? And did I even want to? Who was I to paint over my darling girl's expressive brushstrokes? Honestly this was far harder than letting her paint over what I had done to start with!

Eventually, I just started by adding a few of the details back in, the shape of the face and mouth, the eyes, adding some hair. It got a bit easier after that but I wanted to leave some of her marks visible. This was easy enough around the outside of the face, I just painted in a dark wash of Paynes Grey for the background, but it was much harder in the face itself. I wish now I'd left more of her marks in around the chin and jawline, but it was just a first attempt, I'm sure we'll be trying many more collaborations in the future!

I really learnt a lot from this way of working with her. If you have a remotely tame little one who can hold a paintbrush, or can borrow one for an hour or two, I'd definitely recommend trying a collaboration. You never know where it might take you, and that is half the fun! Let me know in the comments if you do have a go.

For more inspiration, check out Tallulah's website.

Annie and Tallulah are also running an online workshop beginning at the end of February. You can find all the details here.

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Thursday, 21 January 2016

A peek in my art journal

I love art journalling. For me, it is a great way to give myself some creative time. I can be more free in my journal because it is just for me, I don't have to show anyone if I don't want to, and it does not ever have to be a finished product to be admired or sold.

A lot of my pages have never been seen by anyone other than me. Having said that, I'm happy to share some of them in journalling groups I belong to, usually when a page is a response to a certain theme. I also love seeing other people's pages and discussing different techniques, and I've found the online art journal community to be a wonderful, friendly place. Online sharing is a great way to encourage other people to have a go as well, so I plan on sharing some of my pages on my blog this year. Hopefully it might encourage any of you who want to begin an art journalling practice but don't know where to start!

There are loads of great online resources to help you get started. These are a few of my favourites.

Julie Fei-Fan Balzer - tips for getting started

Teesha Moore's 16 page journal (first in a series of videos)

Art Journal Wisdom, free course from Dirty Footprints Studio

Kristal Norton's free e-course Art Journaling 101

I also have a journal board on Pinterest which you can find here.

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Friday, 15 January 2016

Starting 2016 with some art

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and were able to celebrate exactly how you wanted to. We had a lovely time with family and plenty of good food and drink, walks along the coast, Little O enjoying her new rocking horse, a bit of festive telly (some still waiting for a chance to watch it on catch up- no Downton spoilers please!), and now I'm feeling ready to go and excited about the year ahead.

I really want to thank everyone who supported my charity art auction for the Boat Refugee Foundation. (To read the background of why I decided to set it up read this post.) We had over 30 donations of art works and courses and in total raised just over £2,300. It is a cause that is still very close to my heart and I will continue to try and support them in whatever ways I can throughout 2016.

I have signed up to Tamara Laporte's Life Book this year, which I am really looking forward to as a regular art practice. I did take the course a few years ago, and I thought it was brilliant, and excellent value for money, but I only dipped in and out of the lessons as I never seemed to find the time. I'm hoping I will be able to at least try most of them this year, but I know myself better than to make any promises!

This is the page I created from Tam's warm-up lesson. If you are also taking Life Book this year and are posting your work online anywhere then leave me a link in the comments and I'll come and say hello!

This was partly inspired by reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, well worth a read if you haven't already! I think it is going to be my mantra for the year!

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