Tag Archives: Cornwall

A Creative Retreat: Part One

Discovering a visual feast for mind, body and soul.

walking across the shallows to Tresco on the low Spring tide

walking across the shallows to Tresco on the low Spring tide

I have found a paradise here on earth!  Surprisingly, I have lived in Cornwall for 14 years but this is the first time I have had the opportunity to visit the Isles of Scilly.  It’s a first for the dogs too.  First time on a big boat for them, let alone the island hoppers.  The noise of the engine is a little alarming at first but they soon get used to that.

We are staying on the small island of Bryher, based in a cottage at Hillside Farm.  My hosts are delightful and they have farmed this land for several generations.  I, my bags and dogs are collected from the small jetty, all bundled into the back of an old red Landrover for the short, bumpy ride back to the farm.

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Aptly named, this small farm overlooks its own fields surrounded by high, pittosporum-hedged windbreaks.  In the past, the fields of Bryher supplied the mainland with early Spring flowers like daffodils and anemones before cheap imports from South Africa put them out of business.  Now, the produce from Hillside Farm supplies both islanders and visitors with fresh vegetables and eggs.

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Beyond these tiny fields lying in a low sandy neck of land, is Sampson Hill, from the top of which, the twin peaks of Sampson Island can be viewed on the other side.  From my South-facing balcony, I can see the sea on both sides of this spit of land – the Atlantic on the right in the west and the island of Tresco on the left in the east.  (scroll down to see 2nd ‘pano’ below)

Birds use this area as a corridor.  The whu whu coming from the pair of swans that live on the pool in front of Hell Bay Hotel just around the corner makes me look up from my sketch books as they fly backwards and forwards on their daily comings and goings.  A young blackbird comes to my breakfast table every morning, fluttering its wings and asking to be fed.  Thrushes.  I haven’t seen these songsters for years, and sparrows. The air is just bursting with a multi-toned symphony of sound which is all overlaid with a more raucous stave of tunes from a variety of seabirds: Oystercatchers, Herring Gulls and pretty little Kittiwakes.

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They are so close, I am forever peering into the shrubbery or tops of boulders to see who is making these wonderful avian sounds.   If you are not careful, it is all too easy to stumble on a nest half-hidden in rocks on the foreshore or know I am near one by the screeching alarm calls from anxious parents.

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On our first day, we were able to walk across the sand banks to Tresco and back again, thanks to the low Spring tide.  Being brought up on the beaches of Cornwall, the dogs are in their element too.  Wading, knee-deep in the channels, Tammi wild with excitement, darting across the sand banks and jumping into the water to splosh her way across, whilst Sadie sticks to me like a shadow.  I am pretty excited too.  It is a hot, crystal-clear, perfect day.  I thought life just couldn’t get any better than this.

If ever there was a time when I wished I had a camera with a zoom lens or the ability to make panoramas, then this is it.

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I tried to make some with the ‘pano’ App on my iPhone.   They make some strangely distorted images but I like these unusual angles.  (Click on them for a better look.)  All the photographs in this post are from my iPhone camera and I haven’t ‘doctored’ any of them.

 

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These islands are only a few square miles at most, so everything is on a human scale.  Scan the horizon and most of what you see is within a single viewpoint.  There is no need to adjust the settings on your camera to ‘toy-town’ scales.  It is a ready-made landscape in miniature.  It is Les Ecrehous, Les Minquiers and Jersey, with a dash of Barbadian beach idyll, all rolled into one.

I also tried the traditional 4-photograph panoramas.

Everywhere you looked, there is some treat in store.  (spot the goat)

Either feasting the eyes on distant views (spot the whippet)

 

Or things up close and more detailed, highlighting some of the amazing colours and textures.  (spot the Cornish colours)

 

I was surprised just how often I found myself alone on these desert island beaches feeling like a castaway.  I could fancifully imagine myself as a Mrs Robinson Crusoe.  Even found his abandoned camp, complete with fire pit.

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This is a place that is hard to leave.  Physically, I have returned with an old gig-racing oar that the farmer turfed out of his barn having deemed it of no use to anyone any more.  With little thought about how to get it home together with 2 cases (one for clothes, one for art materials), a rucksack and 2 dogs, it is £2.50 worth of island history that I just had to have as a souvenir.  Plus a handful of white sand to view under the microscope.

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Spiritually, this place has seeped into my being, through the pores of my skin and found its way into my heart.  The question is not if, but when can I come back again?

(See part two coming shortly: the creative journey.)

 

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Nature / Nurture Project, research project, The Artist as Pilgrim

Finding Peace on Earth

To counteract the madness that leads up to Christmas (believe me I get caught up in the excitement too), I like to take myself into the landscape to restore my equilibrium.  These are some of the paintings I did from drawings done earlier in the year.

Roundhouse Village Remains, 2013, 23 cm x 18 cm, mixed media on paper

Heartscape, 2013, 23 cm x 18 cm, mixed media on paper

Winter Solstice, 2013, 23 cm x 18 cm, mixed media on paper

Winter Solstice, 2013, 23 cm x 18 cm, mixed media on paper

Roundhouse Village Remains, 2013, 23 cm x 18 cm, mixed media on paper

Roundhouse Village Remains, 2013, 23 cm x 18 cm, mixed media on paper

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Filed under Art Works, my sketchbook pages

Two Worthy Causes: Helping Survivors of Torture or Typhoon.

Christmas.  You know it’s that time of year when the begging letters with pitiful photos of suffering donkeys/dogs/homeless people etc., flop through your letterbox designed to tear at your heart-strings, and dig a deep hole in your pocket.  They are difficult to ignore.  I’ve seen the graphic images on Facebook too.  Images of unbelievable cruelty metered out on these poor innocent creatures.  They stay with me for days and leave me weeping with anger and sadness.

Poniou by Veronica Vickery

Poniou by Veronica Vickery

But it’s the cruelty we inflict on our fellow humans that is the most shocking of all and shatter the lives of families around the world.  Not to mention the natural disasters like the recent Typhoon Hayain that shatter the lives of millions of people.  At the very least, witnessing the survivors of these natural or man-made catastrophes serve to put any adversities we may be experiencing into perspective.  Anything that we can do, however small, to try to heal those affected and suffering is surely worth pursuing.

installation of 'kisses', Drawing the Line exhibition.

detail of installation of ‘kisses’, Paul Carter and Alexandra Zierle, ‘Drawing the Line’ exhibition.

Two exhibitions opened this week in Cornwall with the aim of raising funds for charities that help others in desperate situations: Freedom From Torture and ShelterBox.  It was a coincidence that they happened to open on the same evening.  Both causes are close to my heart and I am proud to say I have had a small part to play in both events.

preparing to hang

Works by Faye Dobinson (left) and Samuel Bassett.

‘Drawing the Line’, kindly hosted by the Millennium Gallery, St. Ives, is a sealed bid charity exhibition in aid of Freedom From Torture, the medical branch of Amnesty.  The charity aims to help rehabilitate men and women from anywhere in the world who have survived torture.  The exhibition has been organised and curated by artist, Kate Walters, and as a member of the West Cornwall branch of the charity, I offered to help ‘hang’ the show.

lunch break for Janet, Kate (and me).

lunch break for Janet, Kate (and me).

Over 150 artists, not only from Cornwall but also from across the globe responded to the call-out and generously donated works with some well-known names amongst the line-up.   Kiki Smith, Tim Shaw RA, Sarah Gillespie, Lisa Wright and Pippa Young to name just a few.  With such a diverse range of work from different artists and over 200 works, putting this exhibition together has been a considerable task and not without its challenges.

untitled, by Richard Nott

untitled, by Richard Nott

However, there are some truly stunning pieces on show alongside contributions of work by a few of the people who have been helped by FFT.   The exhibition runs until 7th December so there is still time to make a bid and own a drawing by your favourite artist!  (I have donated 4 ‘drawings’).

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A drawing by Hugh Mendes

Over £8,000 has been raised so far from successful bids.  Take a look at more drawings here.

‘The Christmas Postcard Show’ is a collaborative event this year between Badcocks Gallery and Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens.

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The exhibition is taking place in the Lime Tree Café at Tremenheere, with part of the proceeds going to ShelterBox, a charity set up in Cornwall delivering emergency relief to people around the world.  (Typhoon Hayain in the Philippines is still so recent in our memories).  The show which this year has a ‘botanical’ theme, runs until Sunday, 15th December.  You can see the works here  (I have contributed 3 small drawings which I did from a recent visit to the Gardens in November, see one below).   The café is worth a visit in itself.  A slice of their home-made coffee and walnut cake is highly recommended!

Collecting Seeds, mixed media collage, 23cm x 18cm.  Inspired by the knowledge that the owner of the garden is a modern-day seed collector and visits foreign parts of the world to enhance his garden.

Collecting Seeds, 2013, mixed media collage, 23cm x 18cm, by Caro Woods.  Inspired by the knowledge that the owner of the garden is a modern-day plant collector who visits foreign parts of the world to bring back seeds to enhance the garden at Tremenheere.

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Filed under Art Works, Exhibitions, my sketchbook pages, The Art Business

Mindfulness in Sky Space

It is indeed strange and a source of wonder how life can often take sudden twists and turns.  When I began this particular venture I didn’t realise it would reveal to me the rainbow of Chakra colours in all their magnificence (only the orange being noticeable by its absence!).   The full extent of this would only become apparent during the process of writing up this post.  Such is the nature of blogging.

Mindfull Meditation in James Turrell's 'sky scape'.

Poster advertising Mindfull Meditation in James Turrell’s ‘sky space’.

It all began when I saw this ‘poster’ on one of my trawls through fb.  Now, I am not particularly feeling the need to join a meditation group at the moment but Richard Ballinger’s image just grabbed my attention.  I have always thought that James Turrell’s rotunda – open to the sky – would be a unique place to meditate.  (Some have even called it a ‘camera obscura’)  I was also aware that the ‘still small voice’ within (that I like to think are my collective guardian angels) was urging me to go.  I was sufficiently intrigued enough to make a mental note that come Sunday, if it wasn’t raining, I would go along to the Sculpture Garden for a bit of quiet contemplation.

an early morning walk through the gardens

my early morning walk through the gardens, a symphony of luscious greens, greys and blues

I have meditated on and off all my adult life.  I remember when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi first came to the attention of the world back in the 60’s.   My real induction began in my early 20’s when my first husband, Graeme, was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer.  This devastating news began a period of deep enquiry for him into the ‘how come’, the ‘why me’ and the struggle to understand the meaning of life / death and his place in the scheme of things.  It helped a little but in the end the only real solace for him was listening to classical music, such as this Chopin Nocturne, and the only time I ever saw him at peace with himself throughout this difficult time.  Sadly, he lost his fight and died at the age of 24.

The light catching an iris showing off its magnificent bee attracting patterns.

near the entrance to the sky space I found this beautiful purple iris.  I have included it as a tribute to Graeme because the colour represents psychic development and the release of grief – the yellow for learning – as I’m sure his journey continues in another spiritual dimension. Then I decided to delve a little deeper.  In Greek mythology, Iris is the personification of the rainbow and messenger of the gods. She is also known as one of the goddesses of the sea and the sky. Iris links the gods to humanity.  As a goddess, Iris is associated with communication, messages, the rainbow and new endeavors.  Was this a message for me also?  Of course I was not conscious of any of this at the time, just remember vaguely thinking why had I been drawn to these irises?

The spiritual quest that Graeme had begun lived on in me and over the years I have taken several paths down the esoteric route in my search for the ‘meaning of life’, embracing alternative healing, psychic enquiries, aspects of Eastern Mysticism and philosophies, and dowsing (earth energy lines and sacred sites, see elemental energies).  I have come to the conclusion that they all spring from the same source and that dowsing is the key to unlocking the spaces between the material and the spiritual.  The space that quantum physics is trying to explain.  For me this is the liminal space, the pause just before a new discovery is about to take place, or a ‘sub’-conscious thought hovers before becoming conscious.  A place which holds the space of ‘nothingness’ yet possesses the potential for everything.  It is also the metaphysical area in which I have chosen to focus on in my creative practice, so relevant to me at the moment.

the yellow 'flag' iris, another one I found on my way to the sky scape.

the yellow ‘flag’ iris, another find on my way to the sky space.  (I was surprised it didn’t have its feet in water).  Chakra meanings: yellow is the colour that represents the Solar Plexus, assimilates experience and has the power to manifest goals. (Also, in the art spectrum, yellow and purple are complimentary colours).

So Sunday dawned with a limpid sun but no rain.  Living just a 5 minute drive from Tremenheere, I was the first to arrive and walked up through the garden to the top, startling a pair of buzzards (although they looked bigger than buzzards?) that flew off into the woods.  (The eagle represents wisdom in ancient cultures).  The view from the top of the garden takes in the sweep of Mounts Bay with St Michael’s Mount standing sentinel in the sea but which only a couple of days ago, because of some strange optical illusion, had appeared to be hovering in space.  I entered the sky scape space and took these photographs.

the view of the sky through the oval

the view of the sky through the oval opening : blue represents communication

Soon, the others arrived and Chris Priest guided us through a beautiful ‘mindful’ meditation.  At one point, he talked about being in the ‘now’ and ‘the space between’.  (I thought that’s a bit of a coincidence as ‘the space between’ is what my research is all about.  Perhaps I will have to make this my new title).  I am getting vibrant, pulsating circles of colour in my third eye area above the bridge of my nose: indigo and ultramarine blues and vivid magenta tinged with a brilliant pink glow around the edge.  And then  a sort of vintage yellow – like the tint on Richard’s poster – which brought to mind ‘old’ learning / knowledge, or previous grief now in the past.

the 'eye' of the sky

the ‘eye’ of the sky

This is how Chris described it afterwards in an email.  ‘What came to me primarily was this ‘space between’: space between sound, sensation, thought and breath, which was something we touched upon after our sitting practice.  It seems that this is almost the only space that gives rise to a pure awareness.  I believe when we connect with space we are in fact connecting with the vast and profound emptiness / nothingness that only love can exist within.  I believe this ‘space’ is a wordless state of awareness / being.’

This is major Tom to Ground Control....

This is major Tom to Ground Control….

Over coffee, cake and chat in the cafe afterwards, it dawns on me that all the participants are artists (let’s face it, who in Cornwall isn’t?) and like-minded people.  From that moment, all the unanswered pieces in the puzzle just seemed to tumble into place.  Why I had come: the conducive gathering; The Space Between; the Chakra colours; the irises; the reminder to be mindful; the sea, the sky.  So many little synchronisaties making me believe they have a meaning beyond a series of mere coincidences.

the space between the sky and the beam of light on the wall

The Space Between the sky and the beam of light illuminating  the wall

So you see, this little episode has revealed a host of things that I might have completely overlooked if I had not become ‘mindful’ of everything that was going on.  It’s like a game of hide and seek.  If you stop your ‘babbling’ thoughts for long enough these things will be revealed to you, because they are meant, especially for you.  In true Greek mythological fashion, messages from the Gods.  And I give thanks, wholeheartedly, for these simple, brilliant gifts.

the space between 3

the space between 3 (dark matter)

The next meeting is planned for 9th June.  If anyone is interested in joining the group the contact numbers are on the poster above (enlarge the image).

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space between 4

As a finale to the synchronicity, have a listen to Martin Cook talking about his mindfulness garden at the Chelsea Flower Show on a ‘learn to be silent’ blog post.

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Nature / Nurture Project, Paths of Enlightenment

Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape: A Circular Walk from Kestle Barton via Frenchman’s Creek

This week, I decided to take up WordPress’ weekly ‘photo challenge’ with the special subject, ‘escape‘ – and see if anyone notices!  My escape is walking: it costs nothing (except travel costs, perhaps), the exercise is great for clearing the cobwebs, its ideal space for ‘dreaming’, and the dogs are especially grateful.  An ocular feast for mind, body and soul, in the company of special canine friends who are soon lost in their search for squirrels / rabbits, and don’t need to be engaged in conversation!  What better escape from the normal demands of everyday life can there be?

A Circular Walk from Kestle Barton

Of course it’s not just one photo but a sequence of photos that follow the linear route of my walk.  I decided not to doctor them to make them look pretty but to keep them in tact as a ‘working’ document.  The most challenging thing about this particular ‘challenge’ was picking just 20 or so photos from the 136 that I took!

The Helford River taken from OS Explorer 8

The Helford River taken from OS Explorer 8

In the 13 years since I have lived in Cornwall I have never visited the village of Helford on the Lizard Peninsula.  I wanted to see Jessica Cooper‘s paintings that are currently showing at Kestle Barton and in the process discovered there was a 2 mile circular walk from Kestle that takes in a couple of coves along the Helford River.

IMG_9439Taking my very battered Lizard OS and the map that Ryya kindly gave me from the gallery at Kestle Barton, going clockwise, I began my descent into Frenchman’s Creek. Pretty soon we are into the woods that run down the valley.

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The smell of wild garlic is pervasive after a sudden hail storm.

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One of the National Trust signs. Not too sure what the ‘permissive’ means?

on the footpath now

on the footpath ‘proper’ now

a first exit into the creek itself.  It all feels very secretive and obviously a perfect setting for smugglers to ply their trade.

a first exit into the creek itself. It all feels very secretive and obviously a perfect setting for smugglers to ply their trade.

catching tantalising glimpses of the creek along the path.

catching tantalizing glimpses of the creek along the path.

Now this is getting interesting for me.  The path is so worn the roots of the trees are showing.

now this is getting interesting for me. The path is so worn the roots of the trees are showing.

The sun has just come out and the creek is sparkling.

the sun has just come out and the creek is sparkling.

but my focus has gone back to the roots

but my focus has gone back to the roots

and the steps they have created

and the steps they have created

in contrast to the man-made version - less hazardous, granted - but not as interesting

in contrast to the man-made version – less hazardous, granted – but not as interesting

coming out of the woods and away from the creek

coming out of the woods now and leaving the creek behind us

looking back the river looks small and the sky suddenly seems looming

looking back, the river estuary appears small and far away but the sky suddenly seems looming – must press on

reassuring to know we are on the right path

reassuring to know we are on the right track

coming into Penarvon Cove

coming into Penarvon Cove

well, this place is a well kept secret!

well, this place is a well-kept secret!  A place that time forgot

rejoin the path at the top of the beach where the upturned boats are stored

rejoining the path at the top of the beach where the upturned boats are stored

this would have been a little 'pop over' if i was on a horse.  Tempted to hula but manage to crouch underneath

this fallen branch would have been a little ‘pop over’ if I was on a horse. Tempted to hula but manage to crouch underneath

a sneaky peek through the window of the Shipright's Arms in Helston village reveals the creek beyond

taking a sneaky peek through the window of the Shipwright’s Arms in Helford village reveals the creek beyond

this place is so chocolate box I am spoilt for choice so home in on the thatch that abounds

this place is so ‘chocolate box’ I am spoilt for choice so home in on the thatch that abounds

I need to cross this bridge turn right and I'm back in the woods

I need to cross this bridge, turn right and I’m back in the woods

another right turn in the path and I will have completed the circuit

another right turn in the path and I will have completed the circuit

but not before I have stopped to enjoy the reflections in the stream

but not before pausing to enjoy the reflections in the stream

and the bluebells!

and the bluebells!

Writing this up, I suddenly realise I didn’t pass a single person on my walk.  Not even a smuggler going about his business.  I decide to add this walk to my list of favourites.

To see more responses to this week’s photo challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/photo-challenge-escape/

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Walks

Note to Self

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As my working space has shrunk to a small kitchen table, I have cut my (table) cloth accordingly.  Thus, the humble post-it note has become my scaled-down sketchbook for the time-being.  These images all began with pencil drawings arranged on a grid of post-it notes.  Layers have been added to build up images with overlays and digital media.  The inspiration comes from the recent landslips on the beach at Praa Sands.

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Filed under Digital, Drawings, my sketchbook pages

Poster-Making Day

I’ve just spent a wonderfully intensive day at Newlyn School of Art, cutting up and pasting bits of collage to make original posters with TAap Artists, Jesse Leroy Smith and Richard Ballinger (currently exhibiting at Cornwall Contemporary).  I have been wanting to include more text into my work for a long time and I found the day very liberating.  Here are some of my initial results.

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