Tag Archives: Karakoram Mountains

Little Leftover

26 Mar


Today I packed up an edition of fourteen little lino prints to send to Boise, Idaho, USA to the lovely Wingtip Press for this year’s Leftovers print exchange. The Director, Amy Nack has been organising this for five years now and attracts miniature prints from all over the world. This year’s deadline is April the 15th.

This linoprint is based on some small sketchbook drawings I did of petroglyphs, paleolithic rock carvings, in the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan a few years ago. The original carvings are possibly 10,000 years old . The petroglyphs are mostly of animals, mainly the ibex.

The image is 10 cm square and printed onto handmade Japanese lightweight paper with black oil-based relief / litho ink.

Nearly There

11 Mar

R. Davies 'Let Peace Prevail'(Above: The Afghan Border from Mitchni Post in the Khyber Pass)

Yesterday I made a 300 mile round trip to Birmingham to submit my documents for a visa to Pakistan. I’ve been offered a residency to work with a group of international artists to produce a group show, culminating in an exhibition in Islamabad.  I visited Pakistan about 7 years ago and I absolutely loved the place! It’s beautiful, cultured and the people are so warm and friendly. It was one of those life-changing experiences and I’ve been keen to return. Oh and the food is fantastic.

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I did some drawings in my sketchbook while I was there and made a series of landscapes in full-colour monotype when I came back. They’re all based on tiny sketches except for the one of the Afghan children, which is based on a photograph taken in the Khyber Pass. The other three landscapes are based on drawings done at various places on a road trip up through the Karakoram mountain range to the Hunza Valley.

It’s been a difficult process applying for the visa, the amount of documentation has been enormous, I’ve made the trip to Birmingham twice (600 miles in all) and it’s expensive. Still, it’s reassuring that the checks are so thorough given the extent of terrorism across the world. The paperwork is now with the consulate where the final decision will be made.  Fingers crossed. I just can’t wait. I’m so excited!

A Work Of Sadness

18 Nov


I don’t normally draw landscapes but I always take a sketchbook with me when I’m travelling. Here’s a sketch I made from the window of my bedroom at the hostel in Bisham, Pakistan. It was my first sight of the Karakoram mountain range – spectacular. More people should think about holidaying in Pakistan – the Northern Territories are fairly safe and the scenery is out of this world. The people are also incredibly friendly and it’s so cheap. We were en route to the Hunza Valley, high up near the border with China.

When I came home, I produced this unique monotype using the 3-colour reduction technique I learned from Indian/American artist Vinita Voogd.

Bisham was unfortunately affected by the dreadful earthquake of 2005 that left almost 80,000 people dead in Pakistan. We arrived in Bisham when it was dark but when we woke up and strolled around the village we were horrified to see much of it still under many feet of rubble, two years on, knowing that people still lay beneath the earth. It reminded me of a local tragedy in my childhood, when a tip in the nearby village of Aberfan collapsed onto a local school, killing most of the children and teachers. Despite the bright colours, when I look at the monotype, I am overcome with sadness.

Chalk Nude [parental guidance]

25 May

I spend a lot of time doing life drawing and studying anatomy because my practice is figurative and representational, although I take some liberties: I like Egon Schiele, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh and the German Expressionists so taking liberties comes naturally. But now and again I take a BIG liberty and head towards the abstract. It happened during this particular drawing session. The model, the pose, the brown paper sketchpad I bought in New York, the set of conte crayons; all were in the right place at the right time to scribble this little abstract nude. It reminds me of petroglyphs I saw high up in the Karakoram Mountains when I visited Pakistan. They’re over 10,000 years old, picked out of the rocks with primitive tools, but they contain the essence of humans and animals, despite their abstraction. I’ve tried to work in this style since, but it’s very hard. people often look at abstracted art and say, “a child of six could do it” – they have no idea how difficult it can be.

A Bit Like New York?

17 Mar

Yesterday was the official opening of the new Elysium Artists’ Studios on Mansel Street. We’ve all been working on the building for the past couple of weeks to get it ready for the public and I did my best to tidy up my own studio and get work up onto the walls. It was good to spend some time going through my work and decide what to put out and also to rediscover pieces I’d forgotten about.

Here’s the view through my North-facing window after I’d tidied up. The old plans chest is one of the most invaluable pieces of furniture I’ve ever owned. During the opening, I used it for serving mocktails and home-made cake, assisted by my poor long-suffering husband.

Here’s the view from the window end, facing the door with some of my work displayed in the corridor outside. Later on that evening the place was jam-packed. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere so crowded. It was brilliant. Someone said it was more like New York! I don’t know about that, but I haven’t been to anything quite like it in Swansea before.

Here’s some of the work I displayed; on the left a series of blockprint portraits done from my travels in Pakistan a few years back, along with some linoprints of petroglyphs carved into the rocks of the Karakoram mountains. On the back wall, two more recent full-colour monotypes. It was a terrific night but so busy that I didn’t have enough time to speak to everyone, so if you’re one of the people who came along, thank you ever so much and I’m sorry I couldn’t spend more time with you 🙂

Jeeps Up The Karakorams

5 Jan

Ink and wash drawing: jeeps in the mountains.


About 4 years ago we visited Pakistan, an amazing country, and travelled around in a minibus. We did an incredible 2 day trip up the Karakoram Highway, from Islamabad to the North East mountain region – Pakistani Kashmir. We managed to avoid altitude sickness because our journey took so long, we became acclimatised as we slowly travelled higher and higher. The Karakoram range has eight of the nine highest mountains in the world, including K2. Only Everest in the Himalayas is higher.

We stayed in the lovely village of Karimabad, around 5 thousand feet and built around the ancient fort of Baltit. One day we piled into jeeps and travelled to ‘Eagle’s Nest’ a holiday complex much further up the mountain – about 9,000 feet. The road was punishingly steep and the jeeps crawled slowly, but much faster than we could have done. There was an incredible view of the valley below us, coloured pale pink by the blossom of hundreds of thousands of apricot trees in full bloom. I sat on a rocky outcrop to draw the jeeps, opposite the restaurant where we ate a delicious meal; the cuisine is a mixture of Pakistani and Chinese, we were only about 40 miles from the border with China.

Afterwards we travelled to the tiny village of Altit where the local head teacher had arranged a banquet in our honour. We were expecting tea and biscuits but the entire village had laid on a wonderful spread in the village hall, the only building large enough to accommodate our group and even then it was a tight squeeze. Their generous welcome was so touching because the standard of living in the area is very low compared to Western standards. Everyone has healthcare, education and employment but there are no frills, none of the things we take for granted in the West. For example, the village hall had the only television and video camera in the village, no individuals owned one.

The jeeps had left us in Altit and we all walked back to Baltit, only a couple of miles but at that altitude it was punishing. Elderly people whizzed past us, their lungs used to the thin air, and put us to shame. The garden walls were made of rough lumps of white quartz. As I looked closer, I saw tiny flecks of brilliant colours, green, red, blue, purple – emerald, ruby, sapphire and amethyst. I was incredulous. These rocks are rejected by the local gem mining and cutting industry because the fragments are too small to bother with, so people use them in their gardens.

An Ancient Fort in Shangri-La

13 Oct

I was lucky enough to go on an amazing trip round Pakistan a couple of years back and spent a few days up in the mountains in the North East of the country, not far from the Chinese border. We stayed in Karimabad, a small village thousands of feet up in the Karakoram Mountain range. Our lovely little hotel was set at around 4,500 feet and we craned our necks as we sat on the verandah to see the mountain tops, at around 30,000 feet. It was Springtime and the entire valley was smothered in the pale pink blossom of tens of thousands of apricot trees; a staple crop, Oxfam sells them in Britain and they’re delicious.

The Hunza Valley is reputed to be the inspiration for the novel Shangri-La and it was an exhausting journey to get there, two and a half days on the Karakoram Highway, the little minibus struggling slowly as we climbed up the Indus Valley towards China. The sense of scale is staggering. There is nothing like it in Britain. Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales and England, is 3,000 feet, lower than our Karimabad hotel. I sat on the verandah in a little wicker chair padded with beautifully embroidered cushions, in the Spring sunshine, sipping green tea from delicately painted china cups and drawing with ink and wash.

Ink and watercolour: Baltit Fort, Hunza.

I don’t usually do landscapes, but I had to try and get something of this glorious country into my sketchbook. This is the view I saw; the ancient fortress of Baltit built on a precipitous rocky outcrop at least another thousand feet up again from my hotel and the ‘Lady’s Finger’ peak towering above. The area is glacial so there is no rain but snow lies on the mountain tops all year round. Villagers grow their crops by careful irrigation and an ancient technique of ‘seeding’ the glacier, which encourages it to spread down the mountain towards the villages.

The drawing is done in Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens and coloured with watercolour washes, using Windsor and Newton artist’s half pans into an A3 Cotman watercolour sketchpad.


Tiny Art in a Venetian Plastic Sphere

31 Aug

Had a week off and back to the studio today. Strangely I worked better this morning; I’m usually at my best after lunch. I’m a bit tired because we spent most of last week travelling, entertaining, running and digging and now it’s catching up with me. I spent my time finishing my entries for the ‘100 artists’ installation at the Venice Arts Biennale Fringe. It’s a chance to get two tiny artworks into vending machines situated in galleries in Venice. The work will be put into little plastic spheres [smaller than 10 centimetres] and collectors will have to take a chance on what they get for their money.

Drawing / print construction: Pathogen

I’ve made two drawing / print constructions based on a traditional children’s game. ‘Pathogen’ is drawn from dangerous bacteria and viruses that attack the human animal. With the population of the planet increasing to huge numbers it becomes more likely that our species will be slaughtered by these or similar pathogens. The central image of a skull is a lino block print developed from original anatomical drawings. Cheerful aren’t I?

Drawing / print construction: Pathogen interior.

‘Petroglyph’ is based on sketchbook drawings I did during a trip to the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan a couple of years ago. They are ancient rock carvings, picked into roadside boulders by people at least ten thousand years ago and they mostly represent local animals and hunting scenes.

Drawing / print construction: Petroglyph.


Their existence is now threatened by the proposed development of a hydro-electric dam in the Indus Valley which will drown this extraordinary monument of early human art. The central image is a lino block print developed from a drawing of an ibex petroglyph.

Drawing / print construction: Petroglyph interior.



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