Back in Salcombe

BACK IN SALCOMBE

It’s so good to be back! IMG_0147It must be something about the Devon sea air that has restored me too – my health is holding up and I’ve been able to do some lovely walks and catch up with Salcombe friends.

We arrived on Good Friday in the beautiful sunshine so we made the most of that and spent the afternoon out. We started off in Splat Cove where it was very low tide, then got on the sea tractor at south sands and took the ferry into town, then wandered back along the Cliff Road.

Everywhere I looked I recognised the views that I’d spent a lot of time drawing. This gave me the feeling that I’d climbed inside the landscape and become a part of it, so it felt a bit like a home-coming.

I had a chat with Pete who runs the sea tractor at South Sands who seemed very pleased that I’d created work of something so obviously close to his heart. He offered to put a little promotional card in the window for me so that holiday makers can find my work at Gallery5 in Salcombe. Then I met his boss Tim, who recognised my work immediately because he received 2 canvases of mine for Christmas – one of the sea tractor and old lifeboat house at South Sands, and one of the South Sands ferry!South sands ferry 20x20

As I bumped into local people, it got me thinking about how we develop connections with each other and the landscape we live in. It’s all about connection for me. It’s something that makes me feel so ‘right'; to feel like I have a connection to people and places.

I’m not the sort of person who can just go away on holiday without building some kind of relationship with the people there and the landscape they live and work in. I like to feel like I have roots wherever I go.

Today we’ve been visiting all the galleries in the area. I’ve taken new work to the Brownston gallery in Modbury, and talked to galleries in Totnes and one near Kingsbridge. I’ve also popped up to Overbeck’s to see what became of the canvas I donated to them last year.

I’ve also been taking lots of new photos with the aim of creating new work later this year. I can’t resist a pontoon with a load of boats tied up there – I’m hooked!IMG_0264

Storm Katie was an interesting experience. Luckily the cottage we’re staying in is nestled in the headland, sheltered from the south-westerly winds, but as we went to bed we could hear the wind literally roaring through the trees and the waves crashing on the rocks below. Mother nature seemed angry! I bumped into Matt from the RNLI afterwards and he told me that thankfully they weren’t called out in that!

For more images of Salcombe do visit my Facebook page here.

 

 

Slow and Steady

SLOW AND STEADY

In the first week of January this year I was diagnosed with another illness called Fibromyalgia. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry, most people haven’t! It’s another one of the weird chronic illnesses that isn’t very well understood, characterised by widespread pain in the muscles, tendons, joints, and nerves.

Most days I feel like I’ve got the flu, with all over aches and pains. It’s also quite disabling due to the levels of fatigue I have; I often wake up feeling like I’ve been beaten up in my sleep, and I get myself out of bed and eat breakfast only to feel utterly exhausted and have to crawl back into bed. So I’m learning to manage this illness with an almost ridiculous amount of careful pacing; P1030519I can only work for an hour in the morning (after bed rest) and again for another hour in the afternoon (after further bed rest). My concentration levels are quite low, so I find drawing very challenging.

So with these physical limitations, it’s very difficult to produce very much artwork at the moment, which is frustrating. But with the motto of ‘slow and steady wins the race’ I am getting things done in baby steps.

Last summer I took on a couple of commissions (one for Worthing Dome and another for views of Cornwall) and I am finally able to start them now.

After much difficulty, I managed to get some photos of the Worthing Dome; my husband had to drive me there as I’m often too exhausted to drive, it was raining so I had to take photos while sheltering in bus shelters, Ca7_ydLXEAAQ6uBand there was a bus parked up outside it partly obscuring the view! But I got the images I needed and have now created the first drawing in pencil – a major achievement!

I’m due to visit Salcombe in Devon again at the end of March so that I can restock the local galleries. I’m looking forward to seeing Gallery5 again on Island Street in Salcombe town – my work has been getting lots of attention there. I’ve been creating new canvases for this visit.

I’m really looking forward most, to spending time by the sea, watching the tides ebb and flow and listening to the waves. It will be good for my soul during this challenging time!

 

Sewing with Kittens

SEWING WITH KITTENS

Some of you who know me on Facebook will have heard about my ‘sewing machine disaster’ – the way it rather inconveniently blew up in the run-up to Christmas. It was because I was probably working it far too hard, creating a patchwork quilt for my no.1 son – and a patchwork duvet-cover for my son no.2 as well. And I hadn’t had it serviced in nearly 5 years either. That probably had something to do with it. Anyway I had nearly finished machine sewing the patchworks so I managed to finish the rest of it by hand.P1030440

My no.1 son (who knows about electrical things – and has blown up a few things of his own) recognised the smell of burning and the strange blue-grey smoke seeping out of my poor Singer – he told me it was probably a capacitor that had blown, and by jove he was right! I took it into the Brighton Sewing Centre in the new year and their sewing machine mechanic’s notes agreed with the diagnosis. He replaced it and also gave it a full clean and service. Brilliant. Now I’m ready for making things again.

The frantic making of large patchwork things was also a lesson in ‘how to make large patchwork things with the keen interest of two curious kittens’. Kittens that think it is fun to jump all over the pieces I’ve just pinned together and bite the pins and unpin it all while your back is turned. But I kept forgiving them because they are so cute.

And I still forgive them when they try and catch the threads as I’m sewing a canvas. And when they think it’s fun to jump onto the canvas. Or even when they raid my sewing basket for my best cotton threads and carry them off downstairs like recently killed prey, and roll them across the hall floor, picking up dirt. It’s just as well they are so cute!

I’m posting a couple more photos of the kittens on Facebook here so check them out!

New Studio

NEW STUDIO

I was expecting the move to our new home (and new studio) to be quite an upheaval but nothing really prepared me for the enormity of the job! P1030077It was overwhelming at times, and it put me in bed for 2 months afterwards, but we’ve done it.

 

I’m loving my new studio, it’s much more spacious with a big north facing window, so it gets lots of light without it being too dazzling on sunny days.

 

There was quite a bit of work to do on the room before I could set up my studio: the ceiling needed stripping of wallpaper and painting, the walls got a fresh lick of paint, I pulled up the old carpet and painted the floorboards, and I had a desk and large wardrobe built in to store all my materials and stock.

 

I’m loving the challenge of creating a new feel to the house and I’m getting a lot of inspiration from Pinterest – see my interiors board here.12301472_989861014404593_4666505426752281022_n

 

I’ve begun to tackle the backlog of commissions and I’m really enjoying getting back to work. I’ve completed an order for lavender pillows and sent them off to a shop called Sixty Seven in Sevendials in Brighton, which are always a good seller at Christmas.

 

I created some new canvases of Salcombe views and sent them off to a gallery called Gallery5 on Island Street in the heart of Salcombe, who’d been waiting for some of my new work to show. They the sold one of the Sea Tractor and Old lifeboat house at South Sands immediately (bottom right) which is always a good sign!11223994_899377436797931_8030555972475099968_n

 

I’m so glad we had the opportunity to move to a new town and start our new life here In Lewes. It’s not much further from the sea but I can’t see it from my window anymore. That’s a little adjustment to make. But I can still walk straight up onto the South Downs which is so lovely.

 

I’m really enjoying being able to walk into town and buy my fabrics from a little shop I’ve known for years called Depodex. It’s a family run business, and they have a small fair trade factory in India where the fabric is woven. It’s all good quality cotton and linens, and you’ll be seeing more of it in my work in future!

 

If you are still waiting for a commission from me I’d like to apologise about how long it has taken to get it started, but be assured that I will be getting in touch with you very soon – either before Christmas or early in the New Year. And you can keep up to date with my latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s wishing you all a very happy festive season! 

Cornwall

CORNWALL

Once again, I have been very fortunate to be offered a little residency in a holiday cottage, this time in Cornwall. I have to say that this is my favourite way to work! P1020730I get a chance to absorb the landscape over my time there, create sketches and take photos in preparation for creating some new work for the person who owns the cottage.

I fell in love with the cottage immediately, with it’s stunning views over the sea. It was built at the Hendra beach end of Praa Sands in the 1950’s and has belonged to the same family ever since. It is full of 50’s charm, and right by the cliff. We were soothed by the sound of the waves breaking on the beach every night – it was so relaxing that I slept 12 hours a night! What a tonic.

P1020797We were able to spend a few days out too, so I made the most of our visits by taking loads of photos in order to create new drawings of the Cornish coastline, with it’s harbours and fishing boats. I particularly loved the harbour at St Michael’s Mount; what a stunning and unique place that is! I can’t wait to create some new work featuring this view.

We also enjoyed being tourists for the day at St Ives. We went to both the Tate Modern and Barbara Hepworth’s museum, as well as some galleries around the high street. It was wonderful to spend a whole day there and watch the tide coming in, gradually floating all the boats in the harbour. P1020914It was a particularly low tide due to the new moon, but it seemed to come in fast, stranding some beach-goers on a sand bank half way out. They ended up wading back to shore with their belongings held high, creating fond holidays memories I’m sure.

It’s nearly time to pack up my studio in preparation for moving. I’ve been able to complete two commissions this week which feels great; just 3 more to go, but they can wait until I’m in my new place. I just had a very successful show in the Guildford Arts festival, which was fortunate because very view pieces were returned and so I’ll have less to move when the time comes!

I’m so looking forward to setting up my new studio and creating some new work about Cornwall. Watch this space!

 

All Change

ALL CHANGE

I felt the urge to write about the huge transition that I’m in right now.

DSC_0267As you might know, I lost my father last November to a horrible disease – Parkinson’s and Dementia. I am still mourning him, and trying to come to terms with the suffering he went through in his last few months. It was truly tragic.

But life goes on, and one positive thing that has happened this year is that he left me an inheritance, which means we are finally able to buy our first house. We have not been happy living in our present rented house for some time now and we are so relieved that we’ll be moving. Both losing my father and feeling stressed and unhappy in my house has led to a bad decline in my health. This has meant that I’ve not been able to work very much at all and have had to spend long periods of time resting in bed. I am looking forward to moving to a new town this summer, and then taking some time to recover my health.CE-KbjEWEAAUSFV

Because I work from home, this also means that I am moving studio too. I am hoping to complete the large commissions that I have already started before moving my studio. Any new work will have to wait until I’ve erected my new work space in my new house! I have lots of plans already and I hope to share some photos with you as I pour my creativity into my new interiors.

This month we are going to stay in a cottage in Cornwall for a week, so that I can create some new work from my sketches and photos I’ll be gathering there. Once I feel well again I will be creating a new body of work about Cornwall and I have plans for a solo show next year.

I look forward to sharing my photos of Cornwall with you, and any new sketches I manage to produce while I’m there.

Parkinson’s UK

PARKINSON’S UK

I wanted to write about the success of the silent auction that I was holding in order to raise money for Parkinson’s UK. As you know, I lost my father to Parkinson’s disease last year and I wanted to give something back to the charity that had helped me and my family through such a difficult and painful time. c7vL73KAjfnoRvY_GJWisIxImT_Zre8FhcmbXPPXdxsThe three canvases that I exhibited in Infinity Foods cafe during March and April were all open for bids, and I’m pleased with the attention they received. On the website ‘TripAdvisor’ one reviewer mentioned the “..interesting changing art on the walls upstairs”.

I was particularly pleased with the auction outcome. Two of the canvases were won by the same bidder who had a touching reason to take part; he’d lost his grandfather to Parkinson’s disease.

I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who took part in the auction and to KXX46sgHcXTXFgQksAKdvK9zm7VLxQW1d2-bDlQejVwthose who donated money to the charity through me. We raised £350.

Parkinson’s UK said in their email:

“Thank you so much for your gift of £350.00 made in memory of Michael Snook.

A donation in memory of a friend or loved one is a particularly special gift. As well as supporting the vital work we do, you are honouring the memory of someone close to you. So thank you for thinking of us at this difficult time.

We will put your donation to work as we reach out to people living with Parkinson’s and continue our research to find a cure. Because we’re here, no-one has to face Parkinson’s alone.”

It feels very empowering and gratifying to feel that my artwork is able to help make a positive difference in the world in this way. To find out more about Parkinson’s UK and the work they do, follow this link.

1BP auction   2DJ auction  3WP auction

 

Coastline magic

COASTLINE MAGIC

Did you know that we Brits have more coastline than India or even Brazil? I love telling people this amazing and surprising fact. coastline cushionsHere in the UK we have so many estuaries, inlets and islands that as far as shoreline goes, we totally outrank these enormous countries.

Another amazing fact is that ‘Coton in the Elms’ in Derbyshire is the village that is further from the sea than any other human settlement in the UK, but at only 70 miles away from the coast, it is still possible to visit the beach in a day out.

As you know I’ve been spending a lot of time in Salcombe on the tip of South Devon, which is situated on a very interesting and distinctive estuary, and provides a very good example of why our shoreline is so extensive.blog5

Today I’ve been doing a little bit of research, and I found that the Salcombe-Kingsbridge ‘estuary’ is actually a tidal inlet. It was formed as the sea levels rose after the last ice age, flooding the river-cut valleys. These flooded river valleys are known as ‘rias’ or in this instant a ‘dentritic ria’ because each creek is itself a ria. The original rivers have long gone, leaving all the creeks fed now by small streams. It’s fascinating to me to watch the estuary (sorry, ‘inlet’!) almost empty of water at very low tides, to the point where you can start imagining what the landscape might have looked like before it was flooded.

And with rising sea levels happening now due to global warming, how long will it be before river valleys like Cuckmere Haven in East Sussex turn into estuaries themselves? I wonder if this classic view of the Seven Sisters, with it’s stoney beaches and river mouth, will eventually become the mouth of an estuary?FLS0027-B-sevensistersA 75dpi It might even happen in my children’s’ lifetime.

Already the cottages in my drawing are threatening to collapse into the sea; this recent spate of coastal erosion has been caused by our increasingly stormy winters. Recently I was approached by a charity called ‘Cuckmere Haven SOS’, who want to raise money to attempt to save the cliffs and cottages (and this historic view) from collapsing. In their campaign they explain:

“The funds, expertise and effort required to secure this historic site is not great but because of The  Government’s policy of “Coastal Retreat”  will allow nature and the process of gradual or even sudden erosion to take its course, it has now become greater than local pockets can afford”

We may be able to hold back this natural process with our sea defences for a little while longer, but eventually, as it becomes more and more expensive to keep this up, nature will win. Although I support this campaign and will feel terribly sad to see this view literally crumble into the sea, I feel a strong sense of inevitability in Nature’s power; we can challenge her only for so long.

Living by the coast always reminds me that Nature deserves respect. She is ever-changing, relentless, and awesome.

 

London and Charity Auctions

LONDON

I’m just recovering from a very busy week and weekend. I was exhibiting at the international Parallax Art Fair in the Old Chelsea Town Hall on the Kings Rd in London.

11018800_10205777948475414_97004846932239204_nOn Friday, I had to carry my work to the venue by train and taxi, so I was enormously grateful to my wonderful friend, Ali who not only helped me do this, but also offered her expert hanging skills to help me hang my show efficiently. The show required that we hang each piece by mirror plates, so we had to remove all the D-rings and replace them with mirror plates before hanging. We made a good team! In this photo I am adding my finishing touches; painting all the mirror plates white to blend in with the white wall (thanks to Ali for the photo!).

The private view was busy and hot, but it was lovely to meet other artists from all over the world, and to catch up with old friends too who made it to the show. I also met a Facebook ‘friend’ for the first time to discuss drawings for his emerging website.

After the show I took my work to the Northcote Gallery in Battersea. It will be hung at the Kings Road gallery alongside two other artists from 13th March 2015.

 

CHARITY AUCTIONS

Other exciting events happening this week are centred around a Charity Auction that Art With A Heart westpier canvasI’m taking part in to raise money for the Sussex Children’s Charity ‘Chestnut Tree House’.

I created this new 30x30cm canvas especially for the auction, of the West Pier after the Winter storms of 2014. You can view it at the ‘Big Heart Auction’ exhibition at the Dome in Brighton – doors open from 10-5pm on 4th, 5th, and 6th March. The exhibition is FREE.

If you wish to bid on this canvas, you can do so here. Bidding ends on March 7pm on Sunday 8th March.

I am also holding my own silent auction to raise money for Parkinson’s UK, which is a charity close to my heart because my father had Parkinson’s disease and died late last year. Find out how to take part here.

 

 

Adventures in Salcombe

ADVENTURES IN SALCOMBE

AnchorWatch sketch1I’ve been spending the February half term week in Salcombe, staying in the wonderful Anchorage House once again.

I’ve now put some new canvases featuring Salcombe views into a gallery that will be opening in March, so if you find yourself in Salcombe this year, do pop into Gallery5 opposite BangWallop on Island Street.

I’ve had a new commission to work on and so I went to visit a beautiful penthouse apartment with magnificent views up and down the estuary, so that I could make some sketches and take photos.

SandyCove sand spitI also caught the ferry across to the other side with friends, so that I could photograph the house itself from that angle. It was a very low tide, so we were able to walk all the way along the sand to Sunny Cove.

We walked along the sand spit on the southern edge of Sunny cove and watched kayakers surfing the swell. The views from there were stunning. Walking back along the headland through the woods with a few hints of Spring such as emerging wild garlic, and around Mill Bay was a real treat.

I was also lucky enough to meet up with Andy, the RNLI mechanic, who gave me a tour of the lifeboat.

RNLI Feb2015I was surprised and dazzled by all the high tech equipment on board, and it was very reassuring to know these very competent people are ready to risk their lives at a moment’s notice to help people in distress at sea.

The RNLI still have my canvas that I donated to them last year, and they are planning an auction to raise money this sometime this year. I’m really hoping that it raises lots of cash for such a worthy charity!