My latest series of illustrations for Donald S Murray's new book 'The Dark Stuff', to be published by Bloomsbury on the 4th of April, 2018.
Watch out for more posts featuring information about talks, exhibitions and reviews featuring the work form the book and our other collaboration projects.
Following on from the post of Angela Topping's poem 'Noost', from her collection 'Five Petals of Elderflower', I'm pleased to host another guest poet Lucy Anderson and her poem, also titled 'Noost'. As Lucy explains below, the poem came from a poetry workshop in Wales, with my friend and acclaimed poet Pascale Petit.
This was written whilst on a’ Working with Myth’ workshop at Ty Newydd Writing Centre
Thinking in particular of family myths, myths of origin, I had been thinking of the myth around my very premature birth in 1969 and the myth my mother has upheld that the big nurse told her ‘I was strong and to be treated that way’. In the workshop, I was given a postcard of the art sculpture ‘ Noost’ and this poem was born.
And what if the midwife had spoken
a different language – a Shetland tongue
to my mother,
when I weighed as a bag of sugar
in my father’s butcher-hands.
What if she had said
this baby girl,
though carved and curved, is softwood,
don’t let the bilge water fill her,
keep her moored on dry land.
As I said in the previous Noost post, it is wonderful when another piece of art is influenced by a piece of work you have created, and I felt very honoured when Pascale asked if she could use the wee assemblage to inspire the poets in her workshops to produce new work, especially when she first used it at Ted Hughes' former home in Mytholmroyd.
Lucy's poem will feature in her forthcoming pamphlet, 'Legacy', which will be published by Cinnamon Press in February 2018. To find out more about Lucy and her work, follow this link to the Cinnamon Press website.
Very privileged to be able to share a poem with you on The Net Mender by Angela Topping.
Angela was inspired to write the piece after seeing my small carved assemblage 'Pocket Noost', pictured above. I love when a piece of work that I have created inspires another artist, poet or musician to produce a new work.
It is always interesting to see how others interpret your work and use what they have experienced to continue the thread. Angela's version of the noost idea, with the lovely image of the sound of the gulls and the smell of the sea being there when you open the tobacco tin is wonderful.
Here is the poem as it appears in Angela's recent collection, "The Five Petals of Elderflower'.
‘Pocket Noost’ by Douglas Robertson, a miniature landscape in a tin
I have moored a small boat
in a sheltered Shetland bay.
Your name is painted starboard.
The wood is bleached by salt;
oars stowed under the bench,
ready for you anytime.
Push it into the water, step aboard.
Row where your will takes you,
into the green, towards
distant mountains you long to climb.
The cool blubber of waves
laps and sucks in rhythm
as steady as your heartbeat.
Sea birds thicken the air as you beach.
You are drunk on sea smells,
damp scent of mermaid’s purse.
This is the life you were born for.
Not that narrow place, where you are
pinned like a bug in a specimen drawer.
Carry my gift in your pocket.
When you open this rusty tin:
the gulls’ shriek is deafening,
water moves and tumbles,
your feet are bare on ribbed sand,
your hands calloused; the sun
is on your back, soothing, soothing.
When you close the lid again
that world winks out, is gone
but stays within; sea, mountains, sky,
that place of quiet I bring you.
If you would like to find out more about Angela's work, click on the link here.
Copies of Angela's latest poetry collection is available from the poet, £8.99 plus £1 p&p.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am proud to announce that I have been chosen to be the resident artist for the 2018 issues of The High Window poetry magazine, edited by Anthony Costello and David Cooke.
Art work and poetry collaborations will be appearing in the four issues of 2018. It will be interesting and exciting to produce new works for poems appearing in each issue, and to showcase some of the current collaborations I am working on with poets Isobel Dixon, Gordon Meade and Donald S. Murray, plus a few new poets that I am planning to work with.
The Current Resident Artist is Angela Smyth, and you can see some of her latest work by clicking on this link.
Alice Major's review of Les Animots on her poetry blog.
'There are more allusions to contemporary culture in Les Animots. Meade’s grasshopper is introducing a new dance craze. Jackdaw loves the buzz of a mainline train station. The dolphin is practicing a new form of “hydrotherapy” where “Some clients leave having had / a proper spiritual experience, / others with just a thrill.” This is a dolphin stuck in an environment of human commerce.'
'This viewpoint creates a nice counterpoint to the wonderful pencil drawings by Douglas Robertson that accompany each poem and give the book much of its pleasure. Robertson creates not so much illustrations but metaphors—not the snake but the snake’s tracks in the sand.'
On Sunday night I was proud and honoured to be part of the performance of Stand and Stare, an evening of music, song, poetry and images inspired by the poem 'Leisure' by Welsh poet W. H. Davies, at the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, as part of this year's Celtic Connections Festival.
The performance featured many of Scotland, Wales and Canada's talented musicians, singers, actors and poets. The cast included former Welsh national poet Gillian Clarke; musicians Liza Mulholland, Charlie McKerron, Alasdair Taylor, poet and expert harmonica player Gerry Cambridge, and Canadian cellist Christine Hanson. Further performances were by Donald S Murray and his daughter Eileen Scott, actor David Walker and singer Kathleen MacInnes.
The entire enterprise was the work of musician Liza Mulholland. It was a big thank you from all those involved to Liza for all her inspiration, hard work and organisation that brought the whole evening to fruition.
As part of this year's Celtic Connections Festival, I'll be creating background images for the premier performance of 'Stand and Stare', a music and literature event devised by singer/songwriter and musician Liza Mulholland, that takes W.H.Davies' poem of the same name as it's start point.
The drawings will mainly provide a background for the poem 'The Ship of Fools', written by my dear friend and collaborator, Donald S Murray. Follow this link to find out more about the show, and how to book tickets.
Stand And Stare show premiering at Celtic Connections 2017 on Sunday 29th January in the Strathclyde Suite of Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, also selected to feature as part of the Festival’s Scottish Showcase.
Stand And Stare
Stand And Stare, a unique marriage of music and literature, takes as its starting point the poem, Leisure, by Welsh writer, W.H.Davies. One of the world's best-loved poems, it asks, 'What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?' and exhorts the reader to take time to stop and look; to marvel at and appreciate the beauties and wonders of the natural world, the small things and creatures which go unnoticed in our hurried lives.
Although the poem was written over one hundred years ago, it is possibly more pertinent than ever; in an urban age of over-saturation of imagery, all-pervading noise and musak, constant connection to electronic gadgetry and short attention spans, we perhaps require to be reminded of the need - for our souls as well as our mental well-being - to slow down from our hectic, high-tech lives, and contemplate, and reconnect with, nature.
Now in the selfie-era of instant posting of every random thought and moment of our lives to social media platforms, we are losing touch with how to be in the moment and simply connecting with what we see, hear, feel and smell. Leisure has touched a chord with readers across the generations and its message resonates more strongly than ever in today’s Britain, where we work longer hours than in many other European countries, leaving far less free time to unwind, be outdoors, go out into the countryside to enjoy nature and what remains of our wild landscape.
W.H.Davies was prolific in his output, and as well as gaining acclaim during his lifetime, enjoyed some colourful adventures. After a somewhat troubled youth, he left his native Wales to seek his fortune in the USA, spending a number of years as a wandering hobo, before heading to the Klondyke goldrush in the late 1890s. Attempting to jump a train with his drinking buddy, Three Fingered Jack, his leg was crushed and had to be amputated. This was, in a way, the making of him, as he returned to England and began writing; his work quickly came to the attention of George Bernard Shaw, who championed him and brought him to public attention. Davies wrote extensively thereafter, one of his most famous works being his memoir, Autobiography Of A Supertramp, which decades later inspired the eponymous supergroup’s name.
Three eminent, award-winning writers have been invited to offer a contemporary response to the poem, reading and performing their own poetry, prose and monologue, and each has chosen to write new work for the project. We are honoured to have a prestigious Welsh connection in the form of Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales 2008 – 2016, who, as well as being one of our foremost contemporary poets, has a personal link to Davies in that a distant relative of hers tramped with the poet in his hobo days. Gillian will present Leisure, elaborate on her own connection to Davies, and read her own work.
Donald S Murray, acclaimed Lewis writer and poet now resident in Shetland, and author of The Guga Hunters (Birlinn) and Herring Tales (Bloomsbury), will offer a distinctly Hebridean take on the concepts of leisure, work, nature and roots, in the form of Ship Of Fools, dramatic monologues presented by himself, David Walker (actor and writer) and Kathleen MacInnes (Gaelic singer, actor, and presenter). We are delighted that artist and illustrator, Doug Robertson, who has previously collaborated with Donald on a number of book projects, is creating unique drawings for Ship Of Fools which will be projected as overhead visuals.
Nature poet, photographer, and writer, Gerry Cambridge, author of Nothing but Heather! (Luath Press), The Shell House (Scottish Cultural Press), Brownsbank Writing Fellow 1997 - 1999 and editor of The Dark Horse literary journal, will take us on a detailed exploration of startling forms and images to be found in nature and life. The beauty and fine construct of the smallest organisms and creatures, when viewed close-up, can offer us a different perspective on our own place in the world. Gerry’s photographic images will feature in key use of overhead projections, the aim of which will be to draw the audience gaze to the stillness of the visual image, and let the music or words settle, allowing listeners to reflect, focus and contemplate.
A house band of accomplished musicians will play new, specially-composed instrumental music and provide a soundscape to the spoken word, featuring: award-winning fiddler and composer, Charlie McKerron of Capercaillie and Session A9; Canadian cellist, Christine Hanson, creator and composer of the acclaimed show, The Cremation Of Sam McGee, and cellist of choice for many Scottish artistes; Kathleen MacInnes, one of Scotland’s best-loved Gaelic singers; Alasdair Taylor, guitarist and mandolin player with The Trads award-winning young band, The Elephant Sessions; Liza Mulholland, singer/songwriter and musician, award-winning TV producer and accordionist with female band, Dorec-a-belle
Stand And Stare will offer diverse creativity in response to W.H.Davies' poem, resulting in a show of cross-artform collaboration that promises to be illuminating, beautiful and thought-provoking – perhaps a timely reminder and evocation of the natural beauty all around us, at a point when land, environment, and ecological balance are becoming issues of supreme importance.
The show was devised by Liza Mulholland and for further information, interviews or images, please email email@example.com or call 07919088099.
January 1st is always a day for resolutions and making a new start, and for me it is always a tidy up and move around of the studio space. With several different projects ongoing at the moment, involving both drawings for new books and making assemblages for exhibitions, making the best of the available space is the New Year challenge.
Shifting the furniture around can be both mentally therapeutic and help you view the work you've been doing from a new angle. Making the best of the winter light with my drawing desk by the window is also vital in the annual studio roundabout.
So today is about putting down the pencils, lifting and shifting, and rearranging the space, taking a fresh run at the coming year's work.
I'd like to wish everyone a creative and fruitful 2017, and here's to new works taking flight.
Anyone who works in the arts, whether it is for instance in a studio painting or at a desk writing, will understand that every now and again you need to escape from the solitude of the studio to recharge the creative batteries (or just get some human contact!) and there are many and various ways of doing this depending on how your artistic soul needs fed.
I’m writing this, sitting with a pot of tea and my sketchbooks in a wonderful Hampshire seaside cafe; it’s an ideal spot to sit and sketch and recharge the creative batteries, with the sound of Brent Geese passing over and the wind bringing in the smell of the sea.
As an artist it is possible to spend hours on a piece of work without looking up or surfacing for air, and the isolation of the studio can creep up on you. Before you know it, days have passed and you haven’t set foot out of your studio and its confines. That’s when you need your creative recharging spots!
Over the years I’ve built up a good working collection of such places, all with different settings and facilities: museums and galleries which stimulate the visual senses and often help to solve problems of composition or stubborn subject matters; libraries and bookshops (usually second-hand) full of wonderful texts and treasures firing the imagination with new ideas and possibilities for new paths to follow.
But often it is just getting out into the open air, stretching your legs, and enjoying walking along a wind-swept shore or over the hills with miles of uninterrupted views. Wherever it is you go to recharge the batteries (I know where my favourite places are) it's as much part of the creative process as sitting at your desk or standing at an easel.