Busy, busy being creative..!

Monday, 20 March 2017

[UK Islands Project] A Letter from the Pope

Yes, you read that correctly. I have a letter from the Pope (and a gift!)

Well, OK it wasn’t sent from him exactly but it came from the Vatican and his office!

Hang on a minute I bet you're thinking – How, why?

'zzzuuuup' rewind to December 2016 (just after Christmas and before New Year) and I’m leafing through a copy of Country Walking magazine and come across a small article about Bardsey Island. I knew that Bardsey is also known as the 'Island of 20,000 saints', but what I didn’t know was that during medieval times when pilgrimages were all the rage (have you heard – they are becoming popular again) three visits to Bardsey Island was equal to one pilgrimage to Rome and any pilgrims that went to Bardsey were blessed by the Popes of Rome!

Right then, I thought. Best write to the Pope then seeing as I’m visiting Bardsey in August.

Quick as you like I penned a letter (and added a little drawing of a wren) to His Holiness Pope Francis – and posted it off to the Vatican (before I changed my mind). 

I thought about the letter now and again wondering if it had arrived…

Then last week…

I had a reply!

Tell you what, I was so excited!

[side note: This is beside the fact that I’m not a Roman Catholic or really of any particular religious persuasion. I did note this in my letter and had checked beforehand that anyone at all can write to the Pope. I didn’t wish to cause any offence. I made sure I addressed it properly too]

What was inside? There was a lump of something!

I was flabergasted when I opened the envelope and discovered its contents...
  • letter from the Pope
  • photo of the Pope
  • photo of a 13th century painting of the Nativity
  • a rosary!! 
  • and a card saying all 'blessed by His Holiness Pope Francis'


I really do feel rather chuffed.

I'll take these with me to Bardsey. I’m only planning one trip though not three (don’t tell the Pope!) *big smile*

Have you ever written to someone that caused you great excitement when you received a reply? 

Or who would you write to? This could be anyone – someone who inspires you, someone you wish to thank or someone you just want to say hello to...

Receiving a real to goodness letter in the post is so lovely and can create skips of happiness!

Now I’m currently trying to think of an Island related reason to write to the Queen, as I’ve never written to her before….

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

[UK Islands Project] Off to the southernmost settlement of the UK

Blimey, I'm off to my third Island next week! Not sure about you but time seems to be wizzing by at the moment and lots of things are happening all around and about. Have you noticed the evenings drawing out, the bird song and the abundance of new shoots on plants and trees? And the daffodils! Ah the lovely nodding daffodils (Happy St. David's and St. Pirian's Day by the way!)

Right - then so....the next island is..

...'Drum Roll'

St. Agnes!

This small island, part of the Isles of Scilly, is the UK's Southernmost settlement – at 49°53′N 6°20′W (I'll be sure to find this point!) 

I'm flying from Land's End airport and will be returning by boat. I've been in touch with the skipper of 'The Spirit of St.Agnes' and they will be waiting for me at the harbour once I land on St. Mary's to take me across to the island.

I have no idea how many others will be on the boat with me as I'm going 'off-peak,'  there might not be very many - there is only one boat a day. 

This is my first trip to these islands and after looking at each island that make up The Isles of Scilly, I decided to focus on one this trip as I'm only going for a few days. I've learnt already from my two previous Island Hops that I need plenty of time just to 'sit and stare' so hoping to get the balance right on this island adventure!! 

I chose St.Agnes as it is the Southernmost settlement of the UK and so by default it has the southernmost Post office and southernmost Pub! The Turk's Head (I hope it's open!!) It also has lots of interesting creatives and stories to discover. I'm hoping I'll find what the 'Spirit of St.Agnes' is...

I'm also keen to find out why folks from St.Agnes have the nickname (old) of Turks. Any ideas?

As with the other islands visited so far (Portland and Sheppey - still so much to write and share about these trips) I'll be creating one-off art postcards from this island hop - If you'd like a special postcard created for you and posted from this Southernmost part of the UK - sign up here!

This will be the first island I'm visiting for this project that doesn't have a road to it, so the weather is much more important a factor than my two previous trips...

Lets see what happens...

Have you ever visited The Isles of Scilly? If you have - tell me about your adventures there!

Bye for now!


Friday, 3 March 2017

[UK Islands Project] Turner’s Sketchbooks

Study for ‘Sheerness and the Isle of Sheppey, with the Junction of the Thames and the Medway from the Nore’ J M W Turner c.1805–7. Image from Tate Britain 

My Peregrination around The Isle of Sheppey,* Island No. 2 of my UK Islands Project, began with a visit to Tate Britain.

After discovering that the famous British artist J W M Turner (1775 - 1851), visited and painted on the Isle of Sheppey, I wanted to try to ‘see what he saw’ and went in search of any paintings he had created whilst he'd been there.

This led me to discover that Tate Britain, who holds the World's largest collection of Turner’s work, had some 300 of his sketchbooks – some of which (well, three) contained sketches of Sheerness and views from The Isle of Sheppey. Much excitement followed as I found that I could make an appointment (free) with the Prints and Drawing room at the gallery to view these sketchbooks.

The viewing of any artworks not currently on display is open to anyone. All you need to do is request an appointment detailing what works you want to see, and when you arrive (it’s in a secure, temperature controlled room near the Clore Gallery) show some photo ID and a very helpful member of the team there will show you to a viewing desk and depending on the artworks, show them to you. 

Alice was the member of staff who helped me and who unwrapped the sketchbooks I’d come to view. Even though I wasn’t permitted to handle or photograph them (they are actually available to view online) it was exciting to see the actual books that Turner had used, to see his lines and tone and to get a feel of the paper and kinds of books he'd taken on his many travels (Turner loved to travel). Turner’s sketches were very light, fluid and quick. He was able to express what he saw in just a few lines. Inspiring.

Some sketches were nothing more than a single line, others contained so much movement and drama that they seemed to leap out of the page. I felt very lucky to be sitting there looking at these ‘behind the scenes’ works that were the starting points for Tuner's exquisite large scale paintings. (I really liked Turner's sepia sketches and as a result have ordered some sepia ink for my own drawing pen).

I had hoped to be able to get an idea of where he’d been standing in Sheerness so that when I went I could stand ‘roughly’ in the same position. Unfortunately, Turner hadn’t included any GPS coordinates on any of his sketches so it was very difficult to tell exact spots as there were no real landmarks. They were all pretty much looking out to sea from Sheerness. 

Well, I thought, that still gives me a rough idea...

Once my allotted time in the Drawing and Prints room was up, I went for a wander around the Clore Gallery which has a permanent exhibition of Turner’s work and it struck me how I was drawn to certain parts of paintings.  Prior to this research I can’t say I’d ever really been a big fan of Turner’s work – but looking at it now and seeing the light, colour and texture I developed a new sense of appreciation.

Looking at the overall painting was one thing, and then a totally different experience when I focused in on parts that really caught my eye. (Getting up as close as I could with out setting of any alarms. I did that once, set off alarms in an Art Gallery in New York. Oops) These were the parts I ended up taking the most photos of (you are permitted to take pictures, no flash, in the Clore Gallery of Turner’s work. Makes a nice change not having to try and avoid the gallery guards!)

One of Turner's most famous paintings - The Fighting Temeraire, has a clear link to Sheerness and The Isle of Sheppey. This painting is actually held at The National Gallery, so wasn't one I saw on this trip.

The 98-gun ship 'Temeraire' played a distinguished role in Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The ship remained in service until 1838 when she was decommissioned and towed from Sheerness to Rotherhithe to be broken up. You can view that painting and an interesting film about it here - The Fighting Temeraire

What do you think of Turner's work?

Next stop….The Isle of Sheppey!

*The artist William Hogarth wrote about his 'Five day Peregrination Around The Isle of Sheppey', basically a 'lads night out' in 1732. It makes for fun reading! 

To view Turner's sketchbooks online visit: Turner's Sketchbooks - Sheppey

To request to view artwork at Tate Britain: Prints and Drawing Room

Some really interesting information about Turner: Five Things to Know about Turner

Image Credits: Turners Sketchbook - Tate Britain
All other images are authors own. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

[UK Islands Project] Portland in Pictures

Feels like I only just scratched the surface of Portland when we visited last weekend (no pun intended, what with all the quarrying that took place here!) It was so much bigger than I expected. 

On the Friday when we arrived the rain was hitting hard and the wind was up. The weather report had promised sunshine on Saturday so keeping that positive thought in mind we arrived at the Portland Bird Observatory where we were spending the weekend with a feeling of excitement. (I think me more than Mr CA as he was still a bit poorly from having the flu. I thought a bit of fresh air & adventuring would do him good though...;-)

I'm still crafting my copy about this island experience and will write about the different discoveries and inspirations of this island (there are quite a few!), so whilst I'm finishing that, I thought I'd share some photos from the 'Isle of Slingers'...

Pulpit Rock

Walking around the coastal path. Breathtaking views (around the edges, all built up in the middle it seems) plus lots of kestrel sightings.

Quarry markings. I didn't manage to find Wren's hourglass this time..

St George's Reforne. A fascinating church - I could see this being a great film set!

See. It is an Island!
The Olympic Rings and view of Chesil Beach behind.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Making Things Smaller (And More Do-Able)

Tout Quarry Sculpture Park & Nature Reserve, Isle of Portland

Last weekend I visited my first Island as a part of my UK islands Project. Hurrah! I’ll be writing about that adventure in another post, as this post is about the fact that I’ve realised I need to make this project even smaller in order to keep it fun, creative and do-able!

Let me explain.

I love research. I love finding out quirky and interesting facts but I also get stuck and can spend hours and hours in the research stage and then not long enough in the creating stage (are you like this?) I jotted in my notebook today that 'I'm spending more time planning and researching the islands I’m visiting than I’ll actually get to spend on them!' Which is kind of inevitable really. Thing is this leads to frustration on my part and wishes of ‘I wish I could live on each island for a month’ which as I’ve said before isn't feasible this year.

So what do I do?

Well, I’ve been thinking about that this weekend and having one Island visit under my belt and knowing that I’m only really able to scratch the surface with these snapshot visits I’m going to pare down my research to match (this will be a challenge!!) That’s the bit I’m making smaller. Otherwise I run the risk of having mountains of research but not really creating anything myself, which wasn't the plan. Now that I’ve noticed this and decided what to do I feel much calmer and more focused again. *Phew*

How about you?

Do you need to take some time out and reassess where you are at the moment? Is everything feeling too big and needs some thought about how you can make it smaller – and more do-able?
Let me know if I can help
Happy 'making things smaller and more do-able-ing'!


Monday, 23 January 2017

[UK Islands Project] Off to the Isle of Slingers with ya...

This week I’ll be visiting my first Island as part of my UK Islands Project.

My destination? The Isle of Portland

I am excited

I am a bit nervous

I am nervously excited

Are you the same when you are about to embark on something new?

The Isle of Portland is a 'tied' island. It is connected to the mainland by a thin stretch of beach and since 1839, a road. During fierce weather it can still become completely cut-off. I've chosen this island as my interest was piqued after reading about it in 'England My Adventure' by Ethel Mannin (published 1972). A book I’d picked up at the second-hand emporium Bookbarn as I was intrigued by the title. Well, it had the word Adventure in it...

In addition to the chapter in Mannin’s book, I’ve discovered some interesting facts about the Isle so far:
  1. Thomas Hardy’s book The Well Beloved is set on Portland. Although he calls it the 'Isle of Slingers' (hence the title of this post)
  2. There used to be 100 quarries on Portland, now there are three
  3. Portland stone was loved by sculptors Henry Moore & Barbara Hepworth
  4. A seamonster once washed up on chesil beach. Turned out it was a camel…?!
  5. Marie Stopes – the pioneer of family planning - loved Portland and used to live in the lighthouse. Stopes was also friends with Thomas Hardy (see how I’ve linked that fact with the first one? Nice.)
That’s just a tiny snap shot of what I’ve discovered so far…I haven’t even mentioned the Olympics or Broadchurch yet…..or the fact that Portland stone can be found in buildings as far away as New York - it’s used in the UN building. Or that saying the word ‘Rabbit’ on Portland is considered massively bad luck. There's an Aardman 'Fact or Fiction' with regards to their film The Curse of the Ware-Rabbit and Portland that I'm waiting to hear back on from their head archivist... Will let you know...

Seems that there is a lot for me to explore and discover on The Isle of Portland!

If you’d like to be a part of my UK Islands Project, one way is to sponsor a unique art postcard, or if you’d like to support it/me in some other way – drop me a line!

Question for you: Where is your nearest island? Have you ever been there?

Here’s to Creative Island Adventures!


Saturday, 31 December 2016

Following the Crumbs of Curiosity

What dream, goals and adventures are you thinking about?

If you’ve seen my previous blog post and follow me on facebook or twitter no doubt you’ll have already seen my plans to visit one UK Island a month. My own Creative Adventure for 2017. 

How do you find your own adventures? I follow the Crumbs of Curiosity.

This is how I pretty much find my Creative Adventures (or they find me)! It all starts with a crumb...

Eh? You may ask – what are the Crumbs of Curiosity?

Well, they are those little hints that spark in your brain or create an inner feeling of excitement when you notice them. Let me give you an example (yes it is islands related)

Looking at a map of the UK I noticed an Island near Canterbury. Hmmm I thought – what’s this? Sheppey it said on the map. The Isle of Sheppey…A fission of interest stirred in my gut.

That was crumb no 1

So what do I do next? I follow the crumbs – on to google

I discover it’s known as ‘Kent’s Treasure Island’

My interest increases

I discover that the ‘painter of light’ Tuner used to go there and some of his sketchbooks of the Island and paintings are in The Tate

I discover a ‘Creativity on the Isle of Sheppey Map’ and order it

I discover the marshy landscape inspired Dickens in his book Great Expectations - which happens to be my favourite Dickens story.

I discover (after posting on FB about Sheppey) that someone I went to school with lived there for 16 years and it’s an island full of history, also one that’s rather run down (apparently)

I also discovered it’s not what I’d consider the usual perception of what an Island is (mine is wild and rather romantic!) it’s gritty and if you were born on Sheppey you are known as a ‘swampy’ (which is an accolade).

I discovered I wanted to add it to my list of Islands to visit in 2017. It didn’t feature before.

I followed each crumb of curiosity and uncovered a whole treasure chest of discoveries, links to old friends and new and a plan to visit The Isle of Sheppey via The Tate.

If I’d just shrugged my shoulders and discounted this Island because you can actually get a train there (Is this the only UK Island you can reach by train?) I’d have missed out.

So if you don’t have any adventures yet planned for 2017 – why not play the Follow the Crumbs of Curiosity game and see where it leads you? Be curious.

I’d love to hear from you if you do and what evolves! Of course if I can help you at all with your own Creative Adventures do get in touch.

Love & Creative Adventures