Sunday, 26 May 2013

Artists' Open Studios, Spring Fling 2013

Silvana McLean in her studio at home in Moniaive

Down in Dumfries and Galloway during the Spring Fling Festival I toured round as many artists' open studios as I could fit in before my brain fogged. It's wonderful to get a peep into the artists' studios, sometimes in their homes, and imagine the life of an artist.  There's something for every taste, from the kitsch to architectural,  brassy and bold to delicate.   Here are my favourite three:

Given my interest in Orkney and Shetland which inspires my own poetry, it was inevitable that I was attracted to Silvana McLean's work.   Silvana too is into poetry, marrying poem and art, even making poem bottles (as below), a neat reference to messages in bottle thrown into the sea.
 Poem/installations - Silvana McLean

 She has been Artist in Residence, for 3 months in 2001, in the booth at Scalloway, Shetland and much of her work is obsessed by Big Waves, huge elemental forces.  (See the notebook below). 

Silvana McLean's Notebook

She talked about the sound of the wind fluting down the hollow aluminium rails alongside the steps to the booth.  One can almost hear that wind in her sketches.  What is it that attracts her to the idea of North, I asked? It was more about living with the elements, a migratory feel - every spring she gets a pull but Silvana preferred not to analyze it for superstitious fear that inspiration would then desert her.  Having visited both Shetland and Orkney, she is now inspired by the Antarctic - the rolling mountains surrounding her home in Dumfriesshire must have something to do with her interest in glaciers and glacial erosion.

Artist's books by Silvana Mclean
Also one of her pictures is on the cover of my friend, Jean Atkin's poetry book:

Book cover based on 'Equilibrium' by Silvana McLean.

 Michael G. Clark, who lives in Alloway, was using the former Stables at Lochinch Castle to display his elusive, evocative oils.  He is interested in stripping back to the essence or romance of the object, rather like poetry, he said.  Many of his paintings are redolent of the heat and sun of the Bordeaux area which he frequently visits.  Others are painted in a cooler northern light, like the white tulips I particularly loved,  which you can see on the wall behind Michael in the photo below and an iconic little black dress (without which what would we do?)

Michael Clark giving a demo in oils in the Stables  of Lochinch Castle,
Castle Kennedy Gardens, Stranraer

 Michael gave a very helpful demo to explain the basics of oil painting, with many amusing anecdotes, charmingly involving the children present too.  One child wrote in his Visitors' Book 'I like the way you paint without using detail' which shows she had been paying attention!

Finally, a print-maker, Lisa Hooper whose work is available in post cards and birthday cards if you can't afford the prints!  I was already familiar with her work due to the inspirational book by Carry Ackroyd 'Wildlife in Print-making' (Langford Press, 2011) in which she is one of the many print-makers featured.  Pattern and simplicity mark her work.  She has an eye for the distinctive shape and mannerisms of birds, probably due to her former life as a wild-life conservationist. Not surprisingly, you will also see her work in the artists' tent at the Rutland Ornithological Fair every year.

 I particularly loved the Red Throated Diver you can see in the photo of Lisa below. This print is one of her many inspired by Japanese wood-blocks printed on Japanese paper.  Much of her other work is from  lino-cuts.

Lisa Hooper in her home in Port William

3 views of Lisa Hooper's studio - Lisa Hooper