I discover we are having ourselves an arty week this week...sometimes it works like this, posts that have been under construction for a few weeks as I gather my thoughts and think about pictures are then ready to go 'live', and suddenly seem to fit like a nicely themed jigsaw.
Do you find an artist’s work can creep up on you almost subliminally??
Out of the corner of my eye I kept seeing a style I loved, which slowly became recognisable and increasingly familiar. Then I would seek it out, spot it a mile way and home in. It’s happened with Orla Kiely and now, over the last year or so, it has happened with Angie Lewin’s distinctive and much-loved images of plants and grasses, leaves and seed heads.
Initially a couple of book jackets…
Some notelets spotted in the Tate Gallery shop…
A small piece of Liberty Tana Lawn from Erika in Delaware which said Angie Lewin to us both but some investigation proved perhaps not…but still that distinctive style. Then the armchair (which I no longer covet because....) upholstered in Mark Hearld’s fabric design, but which led me to the St Jude’s website,
Then that discovery about Random Spectacular which brought the designs and my love for them sharply into focus in a journal which I have read and studied cover to cover and will continue to do so…
And now the book…Plants and Places which in the end I just had to buy, and how inspiring it is proving to be.
I have always felt that I am rubbish at drawing. This goes back to school art lessons and those days when an accurate reproduction on the paper of a vase or a cup was the bench mark. If you couldn’t crack that first you were sunk and you sank quickly, right to the bottom of the class (because you were going to be a nurse so art didn’t matter) while the art college potential rightfully took their place on the display boards around the room, in the school magazine and through the corridors of the school. There was little manoeuvre for offering something impressionist, or cubist or Mondrianish until you had passed that first hurdle of proving you could draw, and I never surmounted that one.
Victoria Finlay touches on something similar in my other very inspiring book of the moment Colour...
'...my school did not offer the kind of creative environment where children without drawing skills were encouraged...'
And I couldn’t and still don’t think I can draw… ‘not for toffee’ as we would have said, and then we’d add ‘can’t be good at everything’ and go and get changed for hockey.
And perhaps that’s a fine example of how a door closes on an un-nurtured skill very early in life that you never quite have the courage to open again.
But what to do with all that creativity??
I think my mum sorted me out with sewing, embroidery and knitting so I have probably poured it all into being creative in other ways, textiles and wool as my mediums and generally making things just because… because something is begging to be adorned. Witness my £1 book-sized hot water bottle received as my Christmas gift from Offspringette, in line with the Simple Gifts Christmas we have just enjoyed. Well it had a cover on it by Boxing Day and it is wonderful for keeping hands warm..
But I have browsed and read and browsed and re-read and studied Angie Lewin’s book very carefully, and I can feel the stirrings of some art coming on. Now Bookhound will tell you this is a very dangerous time because I tend not to do these things by halves and will want a set of Cotman Water Colours and some sable brushes of my own before the week is out...
In fact, as you can see, it didn't take a week.
But I love the lines and the shape of the drawings, seemingly simple but of course detailed and complex in their own way. In Angie Lewin’s words the focus is on ‘plants that are often considered weeds’ so I’m onto a winner with our garden for a start, and the plant’s depiction…
‘not with botanical accuracy but by capturing its distinctive characteristics… scale is not important. I rarely draw plants in flower, but instead look at the framework of the stems and shapes of seedheads and buds…concentrate on the features that I see as unique…’
Now that really cheers me up, because this accuracy thing has kept my artistic hands firmly tied and dormant. And perhaps it is that uniqueness that Angie Lewin talks about that has quietly filtered into my consciousness and made this seem possible, representation of so much that I see around us here as I walk and as I look closely… the umbrels of the cow parsley as it fades into autumn, the oak leaves, the curled ferns…well I could have a go.
And then there’s the wood engraving.
I was sensibly talked out of that after I had read Frances Spalding’s wonderful biography of Gwen Raverat, so I haven’t gone there, but I’m looking at Angie Lewin’s lino cuts and thinking… yes, did that at primary school, surely I could have another stab at it?? Somewhere there must be a copy of my legendary scarecrow. Remember how we’d sit there with a piece of brown lino… remember the smell, and we’d be armed with a selection of weaponry that would be banned for health and safety reasons now, and we’d carve out our pictures. Then there’d be all the ink and the roller palava, heaven knows what sort of a mess was waiting for my mum at the school gates.
And of course I am never going to produce anything that will remotely worry Angie Lewin’s reputation, but aren’t books like this about being inspired to have a go; perhaps about seeing something with your mind’s eye that you recognise as ‘very you’, and that you would like to try for yourself??
Don’t watch this space because this isn't about display, I doubt I’d have the courage to put anything on here… blame Miss Richardson the art teacher for that and laughing at my attempt at a picture drawn according to the laws of Golden Section (remember that) but I think I am going to have go, just for me.