Bill Traylor is one of my favourite artists. Labelled as an outsider artist he never had formal training and didn’t pick up a pencil to draw until he was in his 80’s. He was born 1st April on 1884 on a slavery plantation and continued to work on the land after the absolution of slavery.
It was in his 80’s that he left the rural lifestyle and headed to the city of Montgomery. Whilst there he drew on scraps of paper vingettes of the people and animals he observed during his days.
It is thanks to the painter Shereen that we are able to see his drawings and paintings today as he avidly collected Bill Traylor’s work once he discovered him drawing on the streets.
There is a raw almost crude viscosity to his paintings, their simple but deeply expressive forms echo the essence of cave paintings, African textures or shamanic ritualistic drawings. There is a starkness to them, the thick dark marks of paint seem to hold a cavern of secrets.
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It has been a couple of weeks now since I have updated this blog, so today I will be posting a bit extra to make up for the two week silence. I am currently sitting in the cafe of the Northcott theatre in Exeter, in the background I can hear a live concert pianist. In a couple of hours a charity christmas fundraiser gig is about to begin to help fund the costs of the theatre. financial pressures become more and more tricky for small business and cultural institutions it’s worth considering how communities can continue to bring artistic and interesting niches in a growing monotone corporate world. Sadly I don’t have an answer but it feels connected to the same questions I explore in my recent paintings. How can we balance the wild, creative and spontaneous with the logical, preplanned and organised.
The past three months have been an interesting time exploring painting and my process with it. I spent three weeks working on a body of work which was quite different to anything I had ever tried before. As I come from a background in illustrating I can have a very pre planned and detailed style however I love allowing the medium dictate the images; be it paint, ink or charcoal. This spontaneous and messy style is both fun and exciting to do as long as one can trust the process. I have wanted to try and merge these two, somewhat paradoxical sides, my experiments began by working on very small 6inch x4 inch pieces of card. I now have over 30 of these images. They reflect narratives and dreamlike qualities drifting between inner and outer realities.
While I was painting them I was reading an interesting book about women’s relationships to animals which led me on to pick up the book Feral by George Monbiot. My somewhat personal concern of harbouring both my neat planned self with my spontaneous wild messy side, is echoed in Monbiot’s book as a collective problem. How can we exist in nature without controlling it. He calls for rewilding.
Ask any good herbalist about the wild plants that have appeared in the unweeded garden and they will have a good idea of the nature of the illnesses inflicting the homeowners. Our wild edges are important. Pulling the roots away may create a prettier garden in the the eyes of suburbia but what are we undervaluing in the process?
I like the weeds, sploges, stains and distortion in my paintings especially if they surprise, confuse or perplex me. Then I feel the painting is living beyond what I have conceived. Although the painting remains in relationship to myself, it is no longer of me.
Below are a few examples of my recent miniature paintings, each began life as either a single or simple palette until more and more layers were added. Some images emerged quickly while others slowly took form. I hope to exhibit them together and am currently attempting to build mount backs and buy in some frames for them. Although they are individual pieces they are (like ourselves) all connected.
It’s been a cold day here on Dartmoor which makes me thankful for the warmth of wool. Although not a felt maker myself I do enjoy making the odd thing with it now and again. One of my favourite felting moments included the fun activity of felting some slippers straight onto the feet of a small child (fun- if the little one does’t mind ((a)) getting soapy feet and ((b)) are very good at sitting still.
Anyway this brings me to the much more sophisticated felting work of Gladys Paulus which I discovered recently. Paulus is a Dutch-Indonesian sculptural felt maker, currently living in Somerset. Originally a painter she became fascinated by the countless possibilities of transforming felt.
I particularly like Paulus’ masks photographed by Bella West. The haunting images seem to point towards folklore, animal symbolism and childhood memories.
Odilon Redon is best known as a French Symbolist painter although he is often described as being one of the first Surrealists. His popularity rose during the 1880’s in Paris. Redon was adept at using colour and he explored his emotions and psyche through the process of painting. Diving into the murky landscape of the subconscious, strange and ghostly worlds emerge; creating unique and eccentric motifs of classical mythology.
“My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined.” Redon
He predominately used oils which are bursting with colour and depth. Here are some beautiful examples below.
Winged Old Man with a White Beard
Death of Orphelia
Joan of Arc
Animals of the Sea
The Eye like a Stray Balloon Mounts towards Infinity
Sadly these images are very small, if I manage to find an online source which means I can make them larger I will at a later date. In the mean time I can link you to this website. Odilon Redon
Welcome welcome to the inky forest blog. I am a painter, illustrator and musician and whether songwriting, painting pictures, or drawing I like to use image and narrative as a means of crafting connections between the world within and around us.
My winter challenge is to write a new post every week (and if I’m really on it-on a Monday morning) which will include artists I am currently exploring through my work, books I am reading and perhaps even some musings on my own current creative process.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy.
As it is the dawn of this new blog I thought this painting by Odilon Redon the French symbolist artist (1840-1916) would be the perfect beginning.
Odilon Redon, Aurora . Circa 1910