Spring of Hope

SPRING OF HOPE

Standing proud yet somewhat sombre, a single bloom of a daffodil signifies for me the start of Spring, the time when the daylight lingers longer. It is a symbol of brighter things to come.

There seem to be a number of different meanings attributed to the daffodil – from these I choose Hope, Rebirth and Rejuvenation. Perhaps this is because I associate Spring with when my mum used to spring clean our whole home from top to bottom. I don’t know how she managed it being a working mum with three children to look after but our home was always spotless and tidy yet at the same time a comfortable home with an array of ornaments.

I was fortunate to grow up with hope for the future. I had positive experiences at school that instilled in me a desire to seek out opportunities in the world of work. I wonder how much that good experience has led to my enjoying a lifetime of learning which has enriched my life.

I never realised before today that there is a Daffodil Society set up originally in 1898 as The Midland Daffodil Society in Birmingham to promote the breeding of daffodils and they usually hold an annual show in Warwick. For me, I have always loved the simplicity of a bunch of daffodils and the golden joyfulness they bring when a jug of water brings them to life, standing proud together.

When I decided to take a photo of the single daffodil in bloom outside my back door, I didn’t realise it was going to take me on this path to a famous poem by William Wordsworth written in 1804 and inspired by a walk with his sister Dorothy around Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater in the Lake District. This painting by J M W Turner in 1819 is of the same area.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

By William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

At a time when we may not all be able to walk with the daffodils, I felt the need to search out a virtual walk. I was not disappointed. I found a beautiful and peaceful visit to the daffodils at Gunby Hall and Gardens set in the midst of the Lincolnshire countryside. (You will find Gunby Hall and Gardens on Facebook where there are a number of different videos of their gardens which I am looking forward to enjoying.)

Drawn by the Sea 2020: Scottish Coastal Communities

Tobermory. Copyright Stewart Morrison 2020

I am excited to report that the second art book I have created with Scottish artist Stewart Morrison has just been self-published using my Waves and Pebbles Publishing imprint. If you are lucky enough to come across Stewart in the historic Artists’ Town of Kirkcudbright you will have a chance to buy one of the first copies. You may also come across Stewart as he starts to revisit some of his favourite places nearby.

Artist Stewart Morrison

It has been quite a journey and the book is very special. The idea originally came from Stewart in January as an idea for a follow up to our first book that was about a collaborative art project involving Stewart creating art inspired by the beautiful Thanet coast where I live. By March we were well into the third draft of the book on Scotland with friends offering to provide written contributions. Then lockdown struck and there was uncertainty.

The Book!

I was much relieved when Stewart agreed to continue and it has provided a welcome focus. The book covers an artist’s journey in mind, starting in Kirkcudbright, travelling up the west coast and down the east coast before returning across country to Kirkcudbright. I decided to work out how long the journey was and surprised to discover it was around 2,500 miles and 100 hours of car travel – so it is my dream journey when I can take off for a few months and have a very extended holiday. Perhaps a working one doing life story writing workshops along the way! It was lovely to discover such a variety of places, each with their own character. The book includes Stewart’s art over the past five years and written memories of his own going back over 50 years to his childhood. Friends have shared special poems and memories of the places that the journey takes us to, roughly 20 East and 20 West coastal communities.

I hope you may get a chance to see a copy soon. I have a small supply myself for when I am getting out and about more near Broadstairs in Kent, England and we have plans to publish an online version. In the meantime, I am including a few photos here. If you have any questions either for myself or Stewart, please let me know in the comments or email me kay@wavesandpebbles.com.

Scalpay. Copyright Stewart Morrison 2020

en plein air – my little piece of country by the sea

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My little piece of country … Copyright Kay Underdown/WavesandPebbles 2018

I’ve just discovered this unfinished post that I left hanging around in my WordPress blog waiting to be finished back in 2018. I had only just started the words but the title and photo are very relevant to me now, in June 2020 during the UK lockdown. This is now where I spend most of my time when I am outdoors.

I painted this picture back in 2018 when my artist friend Stewart suggested I go to the local beach and paint en plein air. Not being a painter, I was somewhat horrified at the suggestion, the thought of people watching my childlike attempts to paint. Yet I loved the essence of painting outdoors. So I set up a table in my garden, retrieved paints from the shed, a cheap canvas I had purchased with good intentions some while back and sat down to paint.

I became totally absorbed for what must have been a couple of hours. I enjoyed selecting and swirling around the colours and actually seeing my garden from a different perspective. By the end, it gave me a good feeling and now sits in my conservatory, a happy reminder of that time and maybe the picture will remain with me as a memory of where I lived whenever I may move on in the future.

It may not be a work of art, and I should have known when to stop as I decided to add more layers, but if you have never tried painting or drawing in your garden, or even indoors in your home (there is another blog on here when I started sketching my lounge) then I do urge you to have a go and see how it makes you feel and it is a wonderful way to capture memories.

Only this week I had a one to one art class for the first time on Zoom. I was amazed that I actually managed to draw some fruit that resembled in some way what it was. Using the Zoom platform worked really well. It took some thought beforehand how to arrange everything so my teacher could see what I was doing and I could watch her but it led to a very relaxed and enjoyable session. Towards the end we explored a fun way of mixing watercolours to result in a visual guide to the different shades that could be achieved.

During my lesson, I showed my new teacher a small piece of art I created that is very special to me. It is what I consider a childlike picture of a house on the beach, a depiction of a dream I had some years back of wanting to live by the sea (now achieved in 2017). The picture led her to talk to me about the genre of Naive Art, a term I had never heard of, that is described by the National Association of Naive Artists as “a simplistic charm and humorous vitality … created all over the world, by men and women from all walks of life, who have had no formal training” (www.britishnaives.co.uk). She also showed me a wonderful book of such art and I am now intrigued to discover more about it and maybe it is something that I can aspire to. Membership of the Association is by a submission process but there is a Facebook group which I believe is open to anyone to apply to join.

My seaside dream Copyright Kay Underdown 2020

I have found the lockdown to be a time for reflection, an opportunity to explore different avenues and to focus on what is important to me. Having said that, it has not been the easiest time to concentrate or to be creative with my writing. I believe in taking this time day by day and realising what is most important in life. A time to live in a way that reflects your values.

Sending good wishes to everyone who reads this post and I hope you stay well and are able to find ways to live your life in a way that brings you contentment during this difficult time the world finds itself in.

Kay

Patterns in time

Today it went through my mind that I was gaining some kind of pattern to my daily life. There is much advice that routine is good for us during this surreal time but a belief I have held for some while is that I don’t much like routines … to me it feels like too much predictability whereas I like to bring spontaneity into my life, to allow time for those creative moments. Yet without some kind of planning, at the moment those creative moments haven’t quite been happening. Slowly perhaps we are adapting to the changing nature of life that has been sprung upon us. For now, life as we knew it has seemingly been put on hold and people are affected in such contrasting ways across a whole spectrum of experience. So for now, I am enjoying accepting a different pattern into my life. One that is evolving yet can adapt and change as the rhythms of the day change with the weather and external commitments that spring from a different source that is changing the nature of how we live in this moment and maybe in the future to come.

Today, to go with this post, I wanted some kind of pattern, so I started with a photo that I love and thought I’d see where it went. I used Affinity Photo software on my iMac and just played around with it until I discovered something that I felt was right for this post. It is a photo of a place that I love that I don’t get to see at the moment but is held close to my heart. It’s so beautiful that it deserves a post of its own – Kingsgate Bay.

Beloved Bay

Version 2

Once again it has been a while since I blogged, no real excuses, it just hasn’t happened.  Last November a distant artist friend challenged me to 30 days of drawing lessons on Facebook.  My involvement was a bit of a disaster, I had every good intention but even though the time was there, it evaded me.  Yet for me, the challenge was worth it because I produced the above!  Believe me, this is far superior to anything I had produced before and it is now proudly framed and hanging in my downstairs cloakroom.  It was based on  a photo that I took whilst walking along my favourite bay.  Every time I enter the cloakroom, it reminds me of that beautiful place and how I love living by the sea.  It may not be a work of art but I enjoyed the process and it brings me joy whenever I enter the cloakroom.  Not only does it remind me of  the bay but I recall the kind offer of a friend to help me improve my drawing skills.  Do you have something you have painted or made that reminds you of something and makes it extra special?

The unfinished picture

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I was at the start of a challenge.  A challenge I had brought on myself one morning when I had asked a friend to encourage me to do something each day for 30 days to enhance my creativity, to get me doing some painting or drawing.

I am in no way an artist but I do enjoy the process of getting lost in time creating something, exploring different shapes but especially colours.  I feel that I experience ‘flow’ when I truly allow myself the time and space.  My thoughts drift in and out of the day, to and fro between the past and future, with everything in the now focussed on my creation.

I love taking photos but there is something different about taking a blank piece of paper that transforms in minutes with just pencil, pen, felt tips or paint.  It is very personal, not something I would usually share with the world.  But what I wanted to share was the story of my experience.  How this 30 day artist’s challenge on Facebook (because that is what happened!) really got me thinking about how little sketches captured a fragment of my life at a particular point in time.  Sometimes we may think that art is only for those who have the gift to create, but we are missing out on so much if we never venture into this special world.

Just by looking at this picture now, done back in November, there is so much that can spring from it personally for me.

Each little mark or object can be the starting point for a different story.  To start with, it reminds me of a long-distance friendship that has developed from a brief encounter on a road trip in the Summer.

The border lines marked at intervals remind me of the sharing of knowledge by a very talented artist, which led me to create viewfinders from cereal boxes to help get everything in the right place in the picture.

The fireplace is one of the features of the lovely home in which I am currently living and only in the past week found out more about its history and that the place where I sat drawing this picture used to be a hairdressing salon.

The little plaque above the fireplace was a gift from my dear mum and dad when they visited Las Vegas, and the little wooden plate below the wall lights another gift from them when they visited Austria.  This reminds me of fond memories of a holiday with my parents in Austria in the snow when I was just 16 years old, staying in Mayrhofen when I had the opportunity to learn to ski-bob and what fun that was.  I later went on a cheap coach trip to the same place and had a wonderful summer holiday, getting a chairlift up into the mountains.  I recall the magical feeling of being literally on top of a mountain, the amazing peace and sense of freedom.  This turned out to be the calm before the storm, realising that zig zags on the map of a real mountain equate to a very lengthy and exhausting ramble downhill which left us painfully achy the next morning!

All this from an unfinished picture, and that is just the start …

I must admit I didn’t complete the whole challenge but really think I have benefited from the experience.  I may share one or two more of my pictures if anyone is interested.  The one I am most proud of is one that is very childlike in nature – a painting done from a photo – but for me represents so much that is important to me.

All it takes is some blank paper and your choice of pencil, felt-tips, paints etc.  Have a go and see where it leads you, what stories come to your mind from what you create.  If you are used to writing as your medium for creation, see how this can bring a new layer to your life.  Go out into the world and see what draws you in, or sit in the comfort of your home and let the memories drift onto the page.

The Peace Garden and The Friars, Aylesford, Kent, England

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Walking around the grounds of The Friars, I came across the Peace Garden and nearly didn’t go in … a long strip of walled garden and rain was threatening.  So glad that I did, it felt really special.  The flowers and plants were beautiful and I loved the mosaic artwork.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

The Friars is a great place to visit and just have a quiet wander around the grounds and some of the chapels are open to visitors.  There is a pottery, tearoom and restaurant to have lunch, as well as a conference centre set attractively within the grounds.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles



Beauty amongst Chaos (3) – more abstract art from photo

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

I am enjoying this!  Surprising what comes out of a visit to a garden nursery … (read my previous 2 posts for more info!)  Once again, I am using a photo and selecting a portion of it to play with.  On reflection, maybe this isn’t ‘abstract’ as it can be seen that it is a flower petal and leaf?  Kay

Beauty amongst Chaos (1) – creating abstract art using a photo

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

It’s early Sunday morning and I’m playing around with a few photos I took in my small garden, which is in dire need of a makeover.  I had given up on it completely this year and then I visited a garden nursery and decided to splash out on some sale goods – three pots of herbs and two hanging baskets – so that I had a bit of colour.  I’m having a go at putting together a small slideshow just to see if I can technically manage to get it on my blog.  I then decided to edit one of the photos which was too blurry to use.  I cropped the photo and used the basic editing facilities available on an Apple computer.  I love the colours and the abstract shapes created by the lines of the yellow flower.  To me, I look at it and see deep blue sea and turquoise sky in the distance.

An African Jewel amidst Ruskin Park, London

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Yesterday I posted about my visit to London which included my discovery of Ruskin Park. This painted picnic bench was an unexpected find. I wanted to find out more about it before posting these photos.

This art picnic bench was created as part of the Camberwell Arts Festival, the longest running visual arts festival in the UK at 21 years. 10 artists were commissioned to decorate picnic benches which would be used during the festival and then be placed within local parks. The bench located in Ruskin Park is an African design created by Nkiruka, a creative fashion, arts, crafts and textiles design partnership and is called The New Yam Table.

Information about the festival which was held at the end of June is at http://www.camberwellarts.org.uk.  Information on Nkiruka is at http://www.makerhood.com/nkiruka.

(If you believe the information I have provided is incorrect, please let me know.  Information on the bench was limited and I could find no images online.)

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles