Seeing the Old Year Out

At midnight on New Year’s Eve I always like the idea of letting the old year out of the house to make room for the New Year to come in and be welcomed. I feel that I need to do that with my studio, even if I’m still in the middle of a work. 2021 brought a dramatic change – this was our first year of living and working in Cornwall. It was also a year full of covid restrictions, so no travel abroad, very limited social opportunities and worst of all, no studio for most of the year. We had bought a B&B to turn back into a family house because it would give us plenty of studio space alongside the living space. The downside was that it took all of 2021 to do the necessary building work, so we couldn’t move in until near the end of the year.

I made two large panel pieces that I’ve very recently finished. The first uses monotypes of the Mermaid of Zennor woodcut and is called ‘Mermaids catching the Moon’. I’d watched the moon throwing a moonpath across the sea to the rocks on the shore where sometimes the moon was caught in a rockpool. I wondered if the mermaid’s mirror might be used to catch the moon and perhaps keep it in a rockpool. I collaged monotypes (Akua inks on Japanese paper) of the mermaid woodcut and monoprints (Akua on Arches 88) made from an etching of rocks to build up this image on a 4 foot x 18 inch ply board. I worked into the image with acrylic paint and will complete it with a clear acrylic varnish when I’m sure it’s completely dry. I’m pleased to have caught the ideas within a strong image in such a vertical composition.

The second large panel was the same dimensions and developed from a traditional Greek story about Moonspinners. I read a lot of books last year, including re-reading most of my Mary Stewart novels. She tells the story of the Moonspinners in her novel of the same name. These are three maidens who walk along the shore with their spindles, unwinding moonbeams out along the moonpath to enable the new moon to grow to become a full moon and then winding moonbeams in to reduce the moon to allow a few nights of complete darkness. I had an image of three ancient Greek women that I had used in May 2021 (discussed in my blog ‘Not in Florence’) to make some monotypes of this Moonspinners idea, but I hadn’t been happy with the finished prints because they seemed to need more moonpath, probably more scale. I laid two of those prints on the panel and liked the repeats, the changes of tone and the sense of sequence. I needed more monotyped pieces for the moonbeam threads running down both sides and gradually refined and added to the image with acrylic paint.

I finished this panel just before Christmas, just before the stairs to my studio were taken out, so this is a good time to pause to review, reflect and to find a way forward into 2022.

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Week 2 Not in Florence

Two new monotypes and three that I’ve changed quite a lot since I posted them before. There are several themes here that I want to develop now, perhaps in a larger multimedia work.

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Week 1 Not in Florence

Slow progress, but five prints that all need further work. These are all around ideas of Moonspinners making the moonpath as they spin the moon down and mermaids catching the moon in their mirrors. These are all monotype with some relief print and some chine colle.

I need to go to the beach again and draw stones and seaweed to develop these images.

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Not in Florence

This is the second year when we ought to be in Florence, making prints in a workshop with our international group of friends – but we must wait! So once again I’ll try to work to the Florence workshop timetable for two weeks. I’ll start from where I am and I’ll try to experiment and develop ideas, as we do there.

I do, thankfully, have some studio space, but the house it’s in is being renovated for us to live in and is a building site now! From my window I see the concrete mixer and several old, broken chimneys that have come down from the roof (destined to become plant pots). I look over these and have a lovely view of Mount’s Bay.

My starting point for this workshop is a painting that started one night when the full moon cast a path over Mount’s Bay that led to the rockpools below my window where the moon was caught neatly in a rockpool. I thought of the Mermaid of Zennor a few miles from here and imagined her catching the moon in her mirror to keep it in a rockpool.

This painting is almost finished. It’s quite big, 4 feet tall by 18 inches wide. There are monotyped rocks and mermaids from a woodcut, collaged onto board alongside acrylic painted elements. I’m not at all sure what I’ll do next, but I’ll report on progress in a few days time!

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Moving on

We’ve seen the end of a very difficult year and feeling hopeful in 2021. We’ve moved to live and show our work in Cornwall, where both Paul and I find so much art inspiration! Here are my last three paintings from this year – all about the Merry Maidens stone circle, where girls were turned into stone because they danced on the Sabbath!

Each painting has a paper layer in the centre which is a monotype. It is layered in with acrylic paint and clear varnish, all on board. I’ve been interested for a while in how to combine monotypes with painting and these are the first three successful ones.

It feels positive to be developing new techniques and moving into a new location – roll on 2021!

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