Playhouse Arts Residency, Tasarte. Week 1/5

A year in the planning with fellow artist and sister Ekua Bayunu, we were joined by other creatives during the 5 week artists retreat in the tranquil farming valley of Tasarte, in South Western Gran Canaria. Here is 1 of 5 blog entries taking you on a visual journey of each week.

Week 1.

Needing and finding safety.

Settling in, grounding.

Why am I here again?

Plans out the window, welcome in self care.

Curious and exploring with my inner child.

City ‘being’ meets nature.

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This is part of the beach where we played most days. Atlantic ocean and pebbles galore!

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Beautiful rock escarpments at Playa de Tasarte 15mins walk from our home. The colours change in different light.

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The colours, shapes, textures or the rock faces are breathtakingly beautiful. Inspiring as and of themselves!

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My playtime on the beach consisted mostly of arranging pebbles in various ways. It was delightful to see other visitors doing the same. There was always a scattering of pebble towers built up along the beach. Andy Goldsworthy will be proud!
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Black sand. BLACK SAND!!! My first time visiting a black sand beach. Its made of miniature gems and jewels. Very coarse so difficult to sand sculpt but i did my best!
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Black sand sculptures, totems to the past gazing out across the Atlantic.

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As I played on the beach (yes that’s me! Photo credit: Ekua Bayunu) I thought of past times, whether my ancestors caught sight of these islands – or even swam to them in the hope to escape  – as they were shipped across the Atlantic. This ocean holds many, many stories.

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Rainbow over the farmhouse, our residency home. I had to get used to the geography of the valley, now used to living opposite a flat dune. Im not used to waiting until 11am before I see the sun!
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The land itself brought many growth opportunities. On one stroll around the farm, I found a rusty abandoned pickaxe. I picked it up and enjoyed the weight of it in my arms. The child in me screamed “Lets dig a hole!” so I did. City boffin that I am, I’ve never used a pickaxe before. I improvised an empty tin can and bit of rock as additional tools. As I dug, it felt grounding and the well of creativity in me began to flow…
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I found myself very drawn to the rugged, rough, dead/decaying flora of the landscape. Feeling an affinity i think with their harsh tough prickly exterior. Armoured protection against the harsh environment. Yet inside still lies the potential of growth in their seeds.
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I learned that there is beauty in decay. This dead aloe had colours on it like a mother-of-pearl! I saw pinks and blues resonating from its ragged dried carcass when i hung it in the light.
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Can a dead plant become an artists muse?! I had a special relationship with this dead aloe…
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The dead aloe plant took on the role of a kind of talisman as I went about responding to the environment.
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We were well fed in Playa de Taste! The local tomato and garlic salad was delicious! As a vegan there was still a lot of the local fare to enjoy.
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The evening star (bright spot in top right of picture) greeted us each dusk as the sun melted on the horizon. Is there such as thing as watching too many sunsets? Naaah!

Creative Mornings Day 9

image Friday 16th 30 mins

Bouncing back to my Creative Mornings. Well, more like crawling. The past few days, my routines have been disrupted by final clearing of my apartment ready for builders then packing a suitcase out of which I will live for the next 2-3 weeks. I’m not used to this. Holidays and short trips are fine, but it’s a challenge making a temporary base in the homes of others I don’t know very well, who have offered to put me up out of sheer generosity and their beautiful hearts. My faith is enabling me to win through my doubts and insecurities about all this. My anxiety and stress levels are being tested yet I know I’m growing in new ways and creating new experiences for myself and those I meet – hopefully good experiences!
This morning I managed to prize my fingers away from my phone and pull out my lovely fountain pen during my commute into Amsterdam. Even if it’s just a 30min train ride, thats time enough to make it a Creative Morning😍

Creative Mornings day 8

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Saturday 10th, 1.5hrs

After taking a couple mornings break then recovering from a bout of anxiety and sleeplessness, I’m back on the creative horse. Tackled the hand in the acrylic portrait of my son. I learned a major lesson with this, my very first painted portrait: rub out the grid lines BEFORE you begin to paint!😱😂

Bottom left image is how it looked after trying to rub some lines away with a firm vinyl eraser.

Top left I applied highlighting pens to cover the remaining pencil marks.

Top right I began painting in the form and tones of the hand, doing my best to conceal the white pen marks. Applying the acrylic paint more thickly would have worked, but this paint is already very thin quality.

Bottom right image I tightened up the lightest edge of the fingers – where I painted in the background very recklessly – and covered the affected parts with the Pilot pen. Despite having a thin EF point, after a good shake the white ink flowed out very fast, enabling me to cover a big area.

Not bad for patching up a beginners mistake😊🙌🏾

Creative mornings Day 7

Monday 5th 2 hours

IMG_4571Today was a struggle to get started. I had ideas but couldn’t decide which medium to use. Began with charcoal then used watercolour as I was looking at figures painted in watercolour the night before. Working from just my imagination (so excuse the weird proportions!) I wanted to capture bodies experiencing the pleasure of just being. 5mins into the watercolour painting, I remembered about the need to stretch the paper beforehand. Lol!😂  I also need a smaller easel where i can lay the board more flat. This standing easel was fine for these small studies but it was still a challenge stopping the watery paint from drooling down the page! The water-like backgrounds came as an afterthought. As I painted, I began thinking of the pleasure I get swimming clothes-free in the sea. The sensation of the water flowing over my skin and how alive my body feels. These are just preliminary sketches for ideas, to develop further. I will need a place where i can go study some sea creatures. Is there something like the London Aquarium in The Netherlands?

Gremlins were on my shoulder the whole 2 hours. I ignored them chattering in my ear, but didn’t allow them to influence me. It slowed me down somewhat, but I did not give up. Thats the key I realise. Keep doing the thing! 😉

Went to art shop this afternoon and bought decent erasers and white gel pens for highlighting drawings. Taking a couple days break before I do day 8. Watch this space!

Creative Mornings Day 6

Sunday 4th, 3 hours work.

Spent first hour completing pencil sketch portrait. Here’s what I learned from doing this drawing:

  • keeping going kills the gremlins.
  • paper texture is REALLY important when working with pencil.
  • I need decent erasers!
  • Its ok to decide a piece is complete even though it’s unfinished.

Next 2 hours I returned to a portrait painting I began about 4 months ago. I’m not used to painting on this scale, nor with brushes. I’m persevering to complete this painting though as I know I am learning a lot through the process. Painting is something that cannot be hurried!

 

In todays 3 hour session I paused to make some sketches and notes for another big project idea. Even though the work I’m making during these creative mornings are not part of the bigger project ideas I have, working in this way is oiling the wheels and revving up the engine. I’m seeing it like the daily work outs and training sessions, preparing me for the big marathons. Those I will begin when I have my work room set up by mid October. Until then, I will continue with these small projects. I feel much more confident about my abilities as a whole after just 1 week of doing this Creative Mornings exercise!

 

Creative Mornings Day 5

Saturday 3rd Sept 2.5hours work.

This morning I set up my easel. I was resistant since I moved over a month ago thinking it’s not worth it, I won’t have time to do anything worthwhile. Well my lesson learned today is using this way of working – spending 1-3 hours making art first thing in the mornings – I get shit done!!!

My living room has double aspect Windows making a perfect light filled corner for working. I astounded myself with the quality of my drawing! Not sure I can express the transformation I experienced today. Despite making art and good drawings of many things, from a young age I convinced myself I was shit at drawing portraits. Not sure what happened for me to entrench this belief so deeply in my psyche but it runs DEEP! Maybe being constantly told ‘But it doesn’t look anything like person A’ or highly critical art tutors. Photo realistic drawings made me highly uncomfortable (sheer jealousy I think!), entrenching the belief in my own inabilities. Well something seems to have shifted in the past year. About a year ago I started nervously to draw selfies my friends had taken. I resumed this a few months ago by starting s painting of my son. It’s still unfinished but it revealed to me that I can push past my deeply entrenched lack of self belief. This morning watching the sketch of my baby daughter unfold, it took my breath away! I just couldn’t believe I’m the same person drawing this who spent decades believing that I could never draw a portrait to this standard.

The technique of scaling up I’m using and working from smaller studies, predates the invention of the camera. It’s used by countless portrait artists over the years whether using studies, photos or live models. Kehinde Whileys huge paintings are made from scaling up photos.

Technique, modern technology and quality materials produces nothing of any value if the hard work of ‘practice, practice, practice’ and endurance is missing.

Creative Mornings Day 4

imageThursday 1st September

Another early morning that I wake at 3.30am! Likely tension related to new job as its only happening when I have to go there. Perhaps a coincidence. Despite my mind racing I managed a short snooze before beginning an hour of creativity. Armed with 1 litre of hot water and lemon to sip, I sat to work. It was deathly silent at this early hour so I put on a couple of tracks from Signs an album by Badmarsh and Shri. I hoped to begin a portrait but couldn’t decide on which medium or paper to use. After adding a scaling grid to the photo, I turned to a watercolour postcard pack and used them to make watercolour studies of the mini orifice pieces I made in clay a few weeks ago. A good way to practice my watercolour skills. It was fun and soothing because the gremlins slept through the whole hour. I got a bit stuck with regards to colour – as always with me – but am happy with the outcomes so far! I may consider texture and pattern with the next ones.

After my hour I had 50mins left to prep for my day. I got everything done and even managed to squeeze in 15mins of calisthenics! 😀

I mentioned to a friend that I would still do an hour of creativity on the days I do my teaching. She was shocked that I would wake so early for that purpose. I thought about this and came to realise it’s most important for me on the days I am in an employee role. I am an artist first and foremost even if I choose to do this day job. After nearly 2 decades of pushing my creativity far down my list of priorities and responsibilities, I made a huge change to transform that. This exercise is enabling me to see that my creativity can stay a priority, even when time is limited.