2020

January

This year has been weird to say the least.  It started like any other and I was blogging about my usual Christmas and New Years activities.  In December I had visited Jordan.  This was a holiday where I encountered actual people, in normal environments like crowded shops, restaurants and at one point a bus full of Italians.  As usual I drew what I saw and wrote about it.

Remember normal life?  It continued that way for a short while into 2020.  Straight out of the blocks I did a lino cut of the Mari Lwyd for a series of prints

I also started making a new piece of work. An original print in an edition of 75 designed by artist, activist and troublemaker Jamie Reid.  I screen printed and stamped parts of the design onto prepared paper.  His solo exhibition, ” Dragons Revenge, Political Work, 1970-2020″ opened at GS Artists at 217, High Street.

One the 11th husb and I went to the Gower Wassail festival today, which included a parade of Mari Lwyds by torchlight, with lots of music and shouting to ‘wake up’ the apple trees in the orchard, and to anoint their roots with cider. 

On the 19th husb and I went to a Plygain celebration, a very traditional Welsh singing event.

On the 17th we took our nephew to see a fabulous exhibition at the National Trust’s Newton House in Dinefwr near Llandeilo by Cardiff artist and printmaker John Abell

So many people in so many enclosed spaces, jostling around paintings and buffets, mingling and chatting.  I remember one particularly geeky conversation about the pricing of a dry-point print and how, because of the technique, it was rare compared to any similar etching.  There were about five of us crowded around the artwork, all giving opinions in a narrow hallway as other people brushed past and said excuse me or tutted beneath their breath, a wine glass in one hand, a canapé in the other.  Intimate yet lively evenings like that soon became history as the UK slowly realised how dangerous 2020 was going to become?

February

This saw the last days of freedom.  I was still going for a Sunday carvery or two, still having a relaxing coffee in Waterstones and sketching people at leisure.  I went to the opening of the new  exhibitions at Elysium which was linked to the other side of my creative life.

I work part-time for the homelessness charity, Crisis, as a fine art tutor and I really appreciate how lucky I am to be able to go to my own home which is safe and secure and warm and dry.  The insecurity and stress of not having anywhere to call your own, not being able to close your door onto the outside world and feel safe, it is awful. To find out more about the work done by Crisis, please click here.

When lockdown started the nature of my work with Crisis changed but the organisation stepped up to provide support and I had to adapt to a new way of interacting with people.

Many charities, alongside the statutory services, are working flat out to develop different, safe and effective ways of supporting the most vulnerable people in society. If you have some time to spare, please check out some of their websites to see what they do.

The larger gallery was devoted to work by the resident artist Mark Folds, called Crises, while the smaller gallery had three large-scale pieces made by members of Crisis, the homelessness charity, called “Benchmarks”.

I continued my work on the Jamie Reid piece and planned an exhibition for International Women’s Day in March.  As it turned out this was to be the very last public event I or pretty much anyone else attended for the rest of the year.

March

In early March I fulfilled a prior commitment to host the International Women’s Day at Cinema & Co which featured my work and that of Patti Mcjones. I also finished off a piece of artwork for the cinema bar which will be on display when they open up again, hopefully early next year. 

The last normal public event I attended in 2020 was on the 13th of March at the Glynn Vivian art gallery this evening for a talk by the artist Bedwyr Williams.

Over the following two weeks everything began to close down and while I got out and about, drawing, Husb and I settled into a pre lockdown routine of DIY and cooking in anticipation of what was to come.  On March the 23rd the starting gun went off on the national lockdown and I think it’s safe to say, life hasn’t been the same since.  

April

I tortured myself through the later part of March because I thought I had lost my creative mojo.  It had been weeks since coronavirus reared its ugly head and I retreated into survival mode.  Gardening, baking and sorting the house out were my default activities and I had no thoughts of creative work. 

Eventually in early April I started a new project, related directly to the pandemic featuring what was to become one of the more controversial symbols of 2020, the protective face mask.

Another aspect of the lockdown which quickly became ever present was queueing outside shops.  Of course I took my sketch book to record Swansea folk at their most British as the decidedly un-British weather allowed people to stand outside for long periods of time. 

The rest of the month was taken up by developing the idea of the masks and throwing myself into home cooking.  Looking back, the home cooking and my obsessive practice of blogging produced some very nice images featuring a sort of chiaroscuro for the digital age.

May

In May I started joining in with an online painting session on Facebook, hosted by the Cheese and Wine Painting Club.  I have been doing it most weeks since then and it has massively boosted my interest in painting as well as my abilities.  The first one was A cat and goldfish by the Fauvist painter Henri Matisse.

Quite early on the national broadcasters stepped up to provide culture for the masses trapped in their homes.  BBC did a Life Drawing live program and there was the Grayson’s (Perry) Art Club on Channel 4.  Of course I took the opportunity to do a little sketching.  

The BBC also started broadcasting the Bob Ross “Joy of Painting” series which is both fascinating and soothing.  Again I did some sketching.

Because parents were at home with their children a lot of people started putting rainbows in their windows.  These showed support for NHS workers but also gave children something to look at on their daily walks.  If you had children home from school, you’d get them out of the house as much as was legally permitted.  I went a bit further and painted a psychedelic version of my cat Sparta along with an encouraging message. 

Another thing I did in May was started a sketchbook of charcoal drawings featuring the outside world.  One of the permitted activities during lockdown was an hour of outdoor exercise every day. 

This usually took the form of a walk but also could include a visit to the allotment.  We were issued a special pass, signed by the council leader and the chief constable which could be produced if challenged by police on our way to the allotment. We were never challenged but it did feel a bit like starring in Casablanca, needing letters of transit to go and do a bit of gardening.

June

June was a, cheese, baking and jamming month.  We make jam every year because no matter what anyone tells you, you cannot buy decent jam in the shops.  June is when the loganberries ripen as well as gooseberries and early raspberries.  We also started to get some black currents.  

Like seemingly everyone else I also got a little obsessed with baking.  Chelsea buns were my thing and focaccia.  Takeaways started to open up again and the fantastic weather allowed us to sit outside and enjoy a cup of tea in glorious the parkland of Kline Gardens.  We sat on a picnic table near the Touring Tea Room, a lovely vintage caravan serving tea, coffee and home made cake (lemon sponge cake glazed with lemon curd) and chatted in real life.

Of course I drew everywhere I went, continued working on my lockdown project and painted fake after fake most Fridays.  Sparta also fell under the spell of my new obsession with charcoals. I also sent for a massive amount of cheese from The Welsh Cheese Company.

July

This month I was experimenting with the abstract beauty of chance and a digital painting program.  I’ve been meaning to experiment with collage for a while. I’ve got a load of hand coloured vintage papers in my plans chest so I got some of them out and laid them at random, first onto a sheet of white paper and then onto one I’d coloured with my home made walnut ink. 

Inspiration can be a slow process for me. I heard a poem performed by Welsh artist and rapper Rufus Mufasa back last year which featured a raven and it’s been buried somewhere inside and emerged a few days ago. As a female raven, as a manifestation of the ancient Welsh goddess Brânwen and now, today, as a white raven. None of this is being consciously directed by me, I’m just getting on with it and seeing where it leads me.

I had a go drawing her on my Samsung Galaxy tablet today, with a free drawing app called Markers, which is the only drawing app I’ve ever used. In this format she’s come out as quite feisty, almost perky, which is nothing like the tragic history of Brânwen

Looking back I can now see just how beautiful some of the photographs of food I took were.  Although I was trying to make them look presentable I hadn’t really thought of them as the dark renaissance style still lives or frantic pop art they now look like.

August

By August, recurring themes had emerged.  Charcoal drawings, painting on a Friday, cutting lino blocks, abstract experimentation and food.  Always food. I often beat myself up for being unproductive but looking back it is difficult to see how I could possibly do more.  This month, I continued going out with my sketchbook and charcoal.  The annual sunflower bloom down by Worms head was there for all to see this month so husb and I took ourselves down and they did not disappoint.  Of course with my bleak expressionist eye they were reduced to an ominous black and white gloom fest hemmed in by a glowering sky and a stark headland. 

During my Friday painting sessions, I’ve taken to scraping the paint off my palette and onto nice paper.  It’s very good paint, Liquitex Easy Body acrylic, onto Bockingford paper. The early 20th century Surrealists  used to do random stuff to get inspiration. I don’t know if I’ll be inspired to take this one further, but at least it can be ripped up for collage. 

My face mask project is still moving forward.  I’ve cut almost a third of the little blocks. The whole piece will be made up of text printed onto fabric.

I made a cake for one of my young relatives who got his – good – GCSE results today, a three layer lemon sponge filled and covered with lemon buttercream. I’ve no idea what it tasted like, because I rarely eat cake, but he seemed happy enough.

September

A return to semi normal.  It was the first session since lockdown began in March and it was so good to be back. Because of the current restrictions, we were only able to have 5 drawers plus the model and it was fully booked straight away. I managed to get a place at the last minute after someone pulled out. It’s so much better than drawing from the televised and Zoom sessions that have been available. They’re ok, but there’s something missing. Our model has grown an enormous lockdown beard since we last saw him so drawing that as well as a mask was new! 

Husb and I went picking the very last of the summer blackberries earlier this evening on a housing estate on the outskirts of the city. I’ve been doing a lot of charcoal drawings into my Khadi sketchbook throughout the lockdown but mostly of parks and trees, occasionally the beach. Today I thought I’d draw a view with some modern architecture.

October

This month I combined two of my lockdown activities.  Watching Bob Ross and painting fakes. 

I found and old sketchbook and started experimenting with collage.  I thought I’d start cutting interesting images and pieces of text out of the papers and stick them into the sketchbook, as reference / source materials. I’m not sure where it’s going to lead, I haven’t done this before, but it’s already generating some ideas. Let’s see ……..

My life drawing has progressed quickly and I am now using black paper with a limited pallet of pastels.  The effect if very striking, especially as the model’s costume now has a 2020 plague theme.

I also began prepping paper specifically for life drawing. I’ve got some large rolls of Fabriano Accademica paper hanging around so I thought I’d stretch some of it on the wall, seal it with acrylic gesso and then colour it with some of my home-made walnut ink

November

Lockdown relaxation. Drawing the mines. I did this sketch while Husb and I were driving back from Devil’s Bridge, via the mountain road to Rhayader. We stopped for a while at these old mines going back to the Bronze Age, near Cwmystwyth. The earliest miners about 4,000 years ago extracted copper, but from Roman times the hills have been mined for lead. 

Recently, the fabulous GS Artists have been organising free art tutorials, a mixture of Zoom and on-site (observing safety protocols of course). It’s part of the 9-to-90 art events programme in Swansea and there are plenty coming up – click on the link to find out more. Today’s was a portrait class run by Tomos Sparnon and the subject was ‘Gavin And Stacey’ actor Rob Brydon. It isn’t a good likeness yet but I’m getting there. I’ve made his nose too long which makes his face too long. 

December

I am continuing to develop my practice as Crisis gears up to support vulnerable people over the Christmas period.  It’s been a strange year to say the least and all aspects of my life and work have had to change to adjust to what is the greatest international threat of my lifetime.  Now that the vaccine is with us, things will hopefully return to normal over the coming months.  Here’s looking forward to a much more open new year where we can meet whoever we like and go wherever we want.

As Christmas looms I am doing more craft instead of art. I iced my Xmas cake which I made from scratch and I’ve been shown how to make a psychedelic origami Xmas tree by my lovely colleague from Crisis South Wales. 

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