What has Abby been up to?

I have been working hard on subversively bringing creativity into my day. As many creative people who find themselves in 'normal' jobs will attest: managing to stay true to yourself and keeping your head together whilst leading the most double of lives comes down, in the end, to sheer willpower and dogged determintation. A DAR strip which always comes to mind in some of the darker moments is Be An Artist.  Frame Three, in particular: It will be worth it one day!! It will be worth it one day!! 

I have been visiting a few exhibitions here and there too. North East Open Studios across Aberdeenshire, Phyllida Barlow at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Kwan Young Chun at Dovecot Studios and Futureproof15 at the Peacock Visual Arts

Now onto what I have been spending my time making. 

In addition to Sisters: To and Fro - the first phase of which we completed mid-August - I have been pottering on and experimenting with my abstract drawing/doodle project Clouds from which I have compiled a small series of four pocket-sized books.

Why clouds?

Clouds are a myriadal contrast of every possible angle on the world. Great floating masses of frozen ice and other particles they can be dark and dangerous: acting as the herald of an oncoming storm; or they can be gentle and light: something simply beautiful to look at. Or perhaps more like a great big toy as you lie on your back in the grass on a summer's day with a friend - searching for clouds that look like things.

As I write, the sky outside my window is a contrast. The top of the Pentland Hills is cloaked in a heavy mist, a wall of dark and heavy rain-cloud (Nimbostratus) rests like a thick curtain behind the Braid Hills. The wind is high and strong. Yet the sun shines bright and bold - beaming in from the West. The rain may yet pass over and shed itself further North. Watching the clouds whip by brings excitement, hearing the wind whistle down the chimney and shake the windows brings fear. A desire to be curled up in bed, warm and safe with a hot drink.

Used as an device by both visual artists and writers, we project our own human emotions onto the ever-changing sky. The mention of what is happening up above, or simply taking the time to look upwards, can chime with or change our whole mood.

In the UK, we are great beneficiaries of the Gulf Stream for our mild winters (and even milder summers!) but are ever at the whim of the Jet Stream. That great weather front looping back and forth across the Northern Hemisphere - deciding if we shall be shaking at the mercy of Arctic Winds slicing across from Siberia or basking in Mediterranean Spring-heat. In Scotland especially, there are endless days where the world above us is only cloud from horizon to horizon and so, in the philosophy of  The Cloud Appreciation Society I strive to love them. And I would recommend a visit to the Cloud Appreciation Website for some meteorological information and impressive cloud information formations from around the world.

As for clouds in art, the first clouds I think of are those of John Constable (Tate Page) and J.M.W. Turner. Vast, immovable, emotional beasts set forever in oils. In some paintings acting simply as a backdrop, and within others - the whole story.

 The second artistic renderings of clouds I think of are the kind you see on the weather report every night: that graphic Cumulus shape. I have referenced it many times in my own work, most recently in The Sadness I Carry Everywhere. This Graphic is so pleasing and simple to draw with it's gentle curving mounds and so immediately recognisable - the mark of a very successful design.

More recently I have discovered the work of Leandro Erlich: Single Cloud Collection and Berndnaut Smilde: various works. Both artists have taken the form of the cloud and portrayed it in unique way. Erlich seems to have cemented and captured the cloud - packing it up and sealing it - setting it out, dissected, like an old medical lecture for all to see, ponder over and scrutinise. Whereas Smilde has captured a wayward wanderer, picturing the cloud in an unusual and contrasting setting. Now it's here, now it's gone. Captured only in the lens of his camera.

My Clouds are about emotion and intent. (Warning: this may sound slightly over-dramatic) The clouds are the frustrating/captured/caught feelings, representing the artistic spirit trapped and bound in the bureaucratic system. As someone who has spent a lot of time not knowing what to do - but knowing they don't want to do this: the Clouds represent hope, too. Even while I sit in a room with no windows, unable to see any green or nature, faced with endless spreadsheets and ticking clocks, the sky outside is still rolling. And one day I will be out there. The differing colours of ink used represent the varying facets of frustration, feeling and time. Some days are not as bad as others - but some days are the worst you think you will ever experience - the stress coming over you like a tide. But, like the tide, the stress will dissipate again - or you can learn, somehow, to sidestep it. These books are as much a reminder of that as they are a place to put the frustration - a way to let it flow out of me and lock it up.

Compiling my own pen and ink versions of these great sky-beasts into small abstract books was an idea brought about by a few things. Firstly encouraged by the enthusiasm of a close friend who enjoyed the form, secondly my desire to experiment with bookmaking and thirdly my belief that any true artist will continue to create no matter what the tools around them - they just can't help it. So using available materials and not waiting or feeling the pressure of having to have "the right equipment" or "the prettiest paper" these books are drawn in biro, made from scrap paper and glued together using pritt-stick. As rough as the final form is, I like to think of the earliest print presses; revolutionaries hand printing and photocopying; rough-shod zines. Once the message is there – the story of the form can become part of the work.

I posted some of my earliest clouds before the book series on my tumblr here

In other news.. 

I joined Instagram! I have been having great fun with it - capturing little images and sticking them out there for the world to see. Check it out here and of course follow me if you have Instagram too :) I am loving how quick and easy the format is for sharing little glimpses of my day and currently am trying to upload one photo a day.

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