Busy, busy being creative..!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

[UK Islands Project] Don't be Scilly

The sand bar between St.Agnes and Gugh. The place on the island that I kept returning to

I've gotten the bug. The Isles of Scilly Bug

My short visit to St.Agnes last month has developed into a slight obsession with all things Scilly.

I stayed only three nights on St.Agnes and yet this Island trip felt as if I'd been away for months - such was the 'magic' of the place. 

It was all a bit hit and miss if I'd even get there as a number of flights had been cancelled that week due to the weather. I drove down to Cornwall the night before I was due to fly and there was hail and rain on a rather epic scale.

Wednesday dawned and so did the blue skies and the sunshine.

I knew then, in that instant that it was all going to be grand. Just grand

And it was. On so many levels

The people I met

The beauty of the place - the light, the colours the wildness

The tranquility

I loved it

With all the notes and photos I'm taking, boiling it all down to one blog post just isn't happening (as you may have noticed!) and I think this is, I expect, influenced by the fact that I am going to be writing all these Islands explorations into a book.

Seeing that my posts are random I've just added an Instragram feed to my blog as that's where I'm sharing more 'live' moments from these island adventures, so if you'd like a more interactive part in this project - instagram is the best place to follow me @morwhennawoolcock Do come and say hi! 

The next Island I'm visiting is Lundy. Would you like to receive a special art postcard from Lundy Island? Click here

Hanging out with The Old Man of Gugh. Going 'Off-peak' meant I had the whole Island to myself

Friday, 7 April 2017

Up your courage

Have you done anything recently that you’d considered had ‘upped your courage?’

Or is there something you are thinking about doing that requires you to ‘up your courage?’

Do tell

I’d been thinking about how I could up my own courage recently and the thought came to me about giving talks, like, in public.

This is something that gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I really don’t relish the idea of being up there on a stage in front of people all looking at me.


I know that if I want to move forward with my ideas and plans for my Creative Adventures and to encourage others to either join me on mine or help them in creating their own, this is something I feel I need/and actually want to do.

Once I’d kind of decided this was something I was going to explore further a curious thing happened - An opportunity plopped right into my lap – almost the next day.

The charity, Creativity Works, who I work part-time for, have been in conversation with Bath Spa University and Dr Samantha Walton, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, about her current research programme on Nature and Wellbeing and this interested me greatly (as you can imagine).

I decided I also wanted to attend the event but with my ‘Creative Adventurer Hat on’ and so emailed Dr. Sam to ask if I could. I briefly explained my interest in the subject and pressed send.

Her reply was along the lines of ‘would you like to contribute to the talks? These can be between 5-15 minutes and involve an introduction to your work and interest in the theme.

First reaction was - YES!
then - ah but I'm not an expert or a professor or such
then - hmmm how will I be perceived by others there
then - what if I make a twit of myself
then - AGHHH I need to do this

Come on now I said to myself (and after sharing my fear in the mentoring group I’m in)

didn’t I ask for this?

So I replied

‘Yes Please – I’d love to do this, thank you for asking!’

Once I’d sent this reply I thought – YES! This is going to be great! Also feeling pleased that I'd 'felt the fear and done it anyway' (Not before having a slight panic that it was going to be in a massive lecture theatre with 100s of people staring at me) I checked and it will be a group of around 35, in a semi-circle and there will be cake.

Well I thought – If there is going to be cake – it’s all fine!

The event is taking place on the 8th May and there will be some very interesting speakers there. If you’d like to know more about it please follow this link: Cultures of Nature and Wellbeing

So do tell me about your own courage upping that you’ve been doing – or that you want to – maybe I can help you to take that next step?

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'!