October 28th, 2011 Doug
I have often said on my blog that I feel privileged as an artist to be given some fantastic texts to work with by some of the countries finest writers. And no exception to this rule is my current collaboration work with Donald S. Murray. The Guga Stone has been a fantastic source of images and ideas for me, and I have had a very enjoyable time interpreting the poems and prose into visual ideas that will, hopefully, compliment Donald’s writing.
Sketchbook notes for Storm Petrel
The sketchbook notes featured here are for Storm Petrel. The poem, one of several with the tiny seabirds as its subject, has as its central theme the birds being attracted to the island by the sound of psalms being sung by the church congregation. But with the abandoning of the island by its inhabitants, there is no longer the attraction of the voices to guide the diminutive sea travelers migration;
Instead, they fluttered blindly,
sight dark as small heads,
the furtive tips of wings,
Hoping to catch an echo
of sermons, lost sound-waves
from dead elders precenting
Lines for a faithful congregation
that might stop these seabirds
( extract from Storm Petrel )
Sketchbook notes of Storm Petrels and a design for the final image
As with the other images I’ve been creating for Donald’s writing, I’m trying to produce work that will sit alongside the poetry and enhance the viewers experience of the texts.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be developing this and other images which will be forming our book and exhibition for The Guga Stone. Again, many thanks to Donald for allowing the reproduction of his poems and prose on The Net Mender
October 26th, 2011 Doug
MACKAY’S LAST SERMON
After visiting the homes on Main Street,
Mackay’s mouth was awash with the best Lipton’s tea,
that brown liquid swishing round his tongue
while he preached on Exodus that morning,
the fine words of his sermon flowing
over the heads of worshippers till he spoke
of the Red Sea parting,
when the dam of teeth gave way
and, complete with grains of tea-leaves,
that sweet infusion spilled from lips,
gushed from throat,
trickled from his finger-tips,
till flooding down the aisle.
it swirled around his pulpit,
swept up an unused baptismal font,
the bowls used for collections,
and Gillies and MacKinnon took
the polished wood of pews
and hammered out a vessel
that sailed through the open doors of kirk
sending him into exile,
out the mouth of Village Bay.
Sketchbook notes for Mackay’s Last Sermon
October 25th, 2011 Doug
A new book and exhibition collaboration with Donald S. Murray, author of ‘And On This Rock’ and ‘The Guga Hunters‘
SMALLPOX EPIDEMIC 1727-29
And we thought we were in danger
with seas snarling below us,
winds buffeting like gannets’ wings
while we tore their flesh for food.
And the cold that racked us
as fingers smashed at stone for shelter
was sharp as spume; a blitz of white
that stung us with each storm.
Hirta on the horizon during cloud
- yet when skies were clear,
Conachair sharp with sadness,
Oiseaval a clenched fist out of reach.
Where were the people
who had abandoned us.
the souls who had condemned us
to endless exile on this rock?
Yet when we had heard all they had suffered
- the scorching heat of fever -
we felt half-glad to have been stranded on that stac,
to have endured the chill
Of spring and winter on its stone
while they lacked strength to even dig
graves for those who were not there to greet us
when we returned to Village Bay.
Sketchbook studies of Hirta and Boreray for the poems Smallpox Epidimic 1727-29
Over the past few months, I have been working on a new collaboration project with my friend and poet Donald Murray. For anyone who new to the blog, Donald and I have worked on several projects in the past, including one where i designed the cover for his book ‘Small Expectations‘.
For the current collaboration, I have been creating images and ideas that will form not only illustrations for the book, but also an exhibition to showcase both of our works. As with previous collaborations, it is a pleasure for me to be working with Donald’s writing. His work is full of wonderful imagery, and is a gift for an artist such as myself.
The book has a subtitle, ‘Lies, Legends and Lunacies from St.Kilda’, and you can take it from that that the stories, though loosely based on fact, aren’t always ‘true’. The story is told through Calum, an ex-islander returning to St.Kilda and visiting the empty houses of the former inhabitants, and his experiences take the form of a series of poems, prose and short stories. During his visit, Calum starts hearing stories and talking to the people who used to live on the islands Main Street.
“It wasn’t long, however, before the people in the houses started talking to him again. At First, it was the women peeking out of the tartan shawls they wrapped around their faces, sqeezing out a word or two. ‘It’s a fine day, Calum…A fine day.’ After that, made bold, perhaps, by their wives and mothers talking, it was the turn of the men to begin using their voices…Or others talking about how they had lost sons on the cliff-faces, trying to capture the sea-birds that still reeled above his head. They were the ones who had coped. they were the ones who had survived in this place. Slowly the tales and verses began to echo, the words he had heard in all the different houses Calum visited on the island…”
It is Calum’s (or should I say Donald’s) stories that i have the great pleasure of working from, trying to create art work that will do justice not only to Donald’s fine writing, but to the mood and spirit of the islands.
Over the next few months, I will be posting notes and sketchbook ideas illustrating how the project is developing. We are hoping to have the book published sometime in 2012, and the exhibitions of the work should take place in 2013. Please make sure you pay a return visit to the blog, and follow the progress of the project as it develops.
Sketchbook study for the Prologue
‘After all that, some sheep and Fulmars had even succeeded in getting into number 12 and fouling the place. The birds had built their nests where old men and women used to perch for hours, chatting about all that was happening in the narrow confines of the world.’
The poem and extracts above are reproduced by kind permission of the author. To find out more about Donald’s previous books, follow the links at the start of the post to view the Birlinn website.