Conversations

Not quite finished yet but this is my bespoke Belfast sink unit for the studio. I thought I was fastidious about finish but have someone who is more so! I was just going to have the sink on a couple of brackets! Mind you he’s a maker after my own heart. Showed me the shelves on the left, size Is perfect measure to take a wine bottle!! Not sure if it’s just the creative in him or if (having been my downstairs neighbour in my old studio) he knows me too well!

Before this sink unit was made and relating to it I received a phone call: ‘Linda, the cupboards. Spray them white outside?’ Me ‘Yes. ‘What about inside, white or lacquer? Me. ‘White’ ‘But they are oak inside!’ Me ‘OK, laquer’. ‘Are you sure?’ Me ‘you please yourself, yes lacquer’. ‘OK’ Me: puts phone down and wonders why the question when it was always going to be lacquer on the inside! Lol.

Another conversation: ‘For the surface, I have this lovely seasoned oak’ Me: No, this is a work space and while oak is lovely, I will get it messy!’ ‘No, look I am recycling it, there are wormholes, (all treated) but I will fill them so they look black dotted and lacquer the whole top very well.’ Me: But I will get it mucky when I wash my brushes or paint containers etc and you won’t see if it’s the original surface or paint splatters etc.!’  ‘Pah’ Me: ‘OK but don’t complain if you happen to visit and see a mess when I’m working in the studio! ‘Pah’.

The maker of my sink unit told me he was asked by his occasional helpers why he takes so much care with something that is going into my working space, he replied ‘Because it’s Linda, you need to understand, she is a perfectionist and it’s a creative thing, it has to be right’.

Thank you Oleg, for caring about how the studio is going to feel.

20190427_150623

 

Trolleys and a feeling of hope

My new studio build is progressing, albeit slowly, though more quickly than it was. After a long time I can now see a time when it is mostly complete. It’s going to be a lovely space as I always knew it would. I was spurred on to get it finished when an a good friend said she had a friend from abroad who saw some of my paintings and really wanted to come in Spring and see some in the flesh. I sort of panicked, said to my friend I hoped to have the studio finished, didn’t tell her about my panicky feeling because I had nowhere to show paintings and my studio contents are all under wraps in storage. Hauling out paintings to hang them in a couple of spaces I was offered for that purpose just wasn’t an option until I move all the contents to the new studio.

If you’ve read my previous blogs you will know that my attention, sadly, has had to be focused elsewhere and for some considerable time. Now my focus begins to return to the studio. Apart from other, much sadder things, any studio focus I’ve managed has been mainly to do with the studio-build itself. Recently, in an oddly serendipitous way my focus moved to how the studio will function for me.

I’ll come to the serendipitous part after I’ve mentioned the size of my last studio, which was truly humongous. It was a room with a full sized marked out Badminton Court plus space left over, it had 10ft (3.05 mt) high sash windows, a very high ceiling into the roof space, and was situated in a group of historic Napoleonic buildings. Because of the available space I was able to dry the acrylic paint skins I’d started using as a medium, by just laying them on plastic around the floor to dry.  The problem with this method was the old building had quite a fly problem, especially in Summer, and they tended to die and bomb the skins, so I’d be having to pick them off the skins rather regularly.

I knew I’d prefer a different way to dry and store the paint skins and had been looking for a second-hand catering tray trolley, but discovered they cost about £200 each even for used ones, so I’d sort of given up on that idea.

Except I hadn’t really given up, I’m nothing if not persistent.

From the time I’d first started to look for a trolley until recently, I’d joined fb. Through fb I found local selling sites and through those sites, Marketplace. I love Marketplace, I’ve sold things through marketplace and I’ve bought things. A couple of weeks ago I was checking my items for sale posts when up popped new items for sale Marketplace and yes, you’ve probably guessed it, there was a tray trolley, not only one but two. The price was £50 for the two and included the trays. I agreed a price of £40 for the two and went to collect them from about 20 miles away. They just fitted into my car and the friend who came with me was gently amused at how thrilled I was at getting these trolleys.

I adore trolleys, they are such good items for studios, they make the space more flexible. I bought library trolleys some years ago that I use for my paint. I wrote about those trolleys in an earlier blog.

I was inordinately pleased at acquiring the tray trolleys, not only was it the outcome of having patiently waited to find what I sought at a price I could afford, it represented something much more.  Even though it was a temporary seismic shift from the last sad years to a feeling of hope, it was the fact that I could, even if temporarily at first, feel that hope again. It meant I was thinking of being in the studio working rather than worrying about how it is getting finished.

On the next warm spring day I will wheel the trolleys out of my garage and give them a good clean down (they are a bit greasy from their last reincarnation.). It will be a labour of love.

Tray trolley - Linda Sgoluppi

Taste The Night

Sleep is a variable thing for me. I’ve nearly always woken in the middle of the night. It doesn’t matter what time I go to bed I know I will wake before morning arrives.

I’ve come to realise that if I didn’t wake, I’d feel deprived of the night time. This is a revelation for someone who has tried so many methods to get back to sleep. The main reason I usually want to go back to sleep is because fears love to insert themselves into the swirling cells of my consciousness. I think I recall a time when I felt really safe and fearless, but I’m not sure.

Time at night is of a different order to time in the day. It feels very different, in many ways I prefer the night. However it is the time when mind demons like to test the waters, to see just how many worries, how much stress they can prod and poke loose. It’s like each demon has its pick out of a hat. A hat that includes, strain, pressure, tension, worry, fear, anxiety, trouble, difficulty, distress, trauma, suffering, pain or grief, then vies for the chance to be the top dog, or Demon, for that night.

I’ve learnt many techniques for shutting my mind, just as I’ve learned others to open it. I’m still not sure which one is the most difficult, or indeed the simplest.  I cannot be bothered to list what those methods are, mainly because I now prefer to split my night into two sections, the section before my first sleep then the second.

It is night-time awakeness that becomes an addition to my being.

Sometimes I step outside to taste the feel of the night. I do that at home as well as when I’m away, I especially love the taste of night when I am in one of my favourite places.  In Snowdonia near the sea the night has a truly wonderful taste.

It has been just over a year since my husband died. During his illness my sleep was altogether a rare thing therefore I adjusted my times to his as far as possible. I would go to bed very early. Now my personal sleep pattern is re-establishing itself, but I have continued to go to bed early.

I’ve written about sleep before, see: Not the Insomnia Drawings.

Now I am writing about it again, it is about drawing in the night. I draw in the dark, I draw with the lamp on, I draw not caring if the drawings are seen or not.

It’s only relatively recently that I’ve started night drawing again so perhaps some of the exhaustion of the last few years is easing, we’ll see.

I don’t think the night demons like drawings, they know that the activity of drawing loosens their tentacles. What is drawn does not matter and often has no apparent connection to any obvious studio work. Night drawing does not demand any particular image, any particular subject, it is merely a movement of the pen-holding hand on paper. Sometimes what comes out in a night drawing begins to be some image that the mind can’t resist making into something else.

Interesting, boring, pretty, ugly, good, bad, It does not matter what the drawings are like, what matters is the activity, the directness. It is what it is.

 

Ghostcoat

The new studio has been a long time coming but it is getting closer. The build has been very stressful in itself and came during an extremely stressful andpainful period of my life. Yesterday I managed to ghostcoat some of the new walls. There is still a way to go but perseverance…….Ghost coating the walls of the new studio. Image copy - Linda Sgoluppi

Spoons in Books – (Culling Books)

When my studio construction gets finished to a workable state, I intend to house my personal library in there. Although that state is not imminent, I’ve been thinking about culling the many books I have.

I’ve been thinking about my emotional attachment to my books. In fact, since the death of my husband, Alberto, I’ve been thinking about my attachment to other goods and chattels but that is a different story.

Each book I own has its own story other than the story or content in and of itself. Its own story is how it came into my possession, and whether it had a life before finding a home in my hands, in my consciousness, and on my bookshelves.

I say each book I own but that is not strictly true, for each book had it’s time of owning me and some still do. Books are like that, they have certain qualities that are not all the same but that are definitely common to each other, while some have qualities that set them apart from the others.

New books, and second-hand books. The term second-hand has now largely been replaced by the term used. Those two terms alone could have a book written about them. In my head I still use the term second-hand. Second-hand does not mean it really is only second-hand, it has probably gone through many owners, many hands, yet still it remains second-hand.

New books, so many bought personally in bookshops in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, the USA and Australia while others came through the post. Before the internet, browsing in bookshops was little bit of heaven for me. It still is. Bookshops in Oxford, London and other cities each had their own aura as did, and do, many of the books.

Second-hand bookshops were and are treasure islands, especially now in this internet age. When my sons were young children my mother had two Second-hand goods/Antique shops. One had a substantial book department and was in the shop that I ran for her. Not only did the shop have a book department but it also had a playroom and garden so I could have my boys there after their school day finished and until I closed the shop each day. It worked well as the other shop was just a short distance away so at times one or two of the boys would spend time there with my mother and stepfather.

The second-hand book department was a bit of a danger to a book-lover, people would come in to sell books and I was on the front line, that’s all I’m going to say about that!

My collection of books has already been culled in the past. It had to be done because books can also overwhelm a space, the fragile balance of ‘ownership’ tips too easily into the books owning me.  House moves often make us think about what we ‘need’ to keep or not, so that is a good time to cull.

Death of a loved one is another time to ‘take stock’. In the year since my husband of 54 years death I have been through the bookshelves and sent books to continue their journeys out into the world.

The books were mine, my husband wasn’t a reader or collector of books, even so we shared many nuggets I found in them. My husband made the bookshelves that the books reside on. They started life much larger than they are now but sections were left behind as fixtures of a home we sold. At one point he cut the remainder in half horizontally when we had to get them from upstairs to downstairs on our own. That alone gave us a feeling of achievement, the shelves are long and heavy yet we got them over our then balcony and down to the ground without damage to them or us, he reconnected them and the books were returned to their allotted place. In our last move the shelves had to be cut again and they still show the cut. My husband suffered with Alzheimer’s by then so they did not get repaired as they would have done before, there is an ugly fracture line still waiting to be made complete. The shelves look somewhat sorry for themselves as the only place to accommodate them until their move to the new studio is in the hall although they had started off in this current home in a room that eventually had to become my husband’s accommodation. I often wonder about his connection to the books, during his illness one day I found he had put spoons almost as bookmarks in many of the books on the shelves. I shared a photo with an Alzheimer’s support group that helped through the stress and heartache of the illness.

Books on my shelves include many art-related books, history, geography, science, biographies and autobiographies.  They are books that helped me as an artist, a teacher, a person. But now is the time I must reduce the number of books that stay. It is easier to do that with some books knowing I have access to the internet. Others are just such lovely friends to turn to at times that they will have to stay. Some books were of an age, an age that I was when they were more relevant to me, but it will be like waving goodbye to a friend I may not see again.

I found the list of questions on line about culling books, I think those questions will be a stating place for my book sort out. It is not a definitive list of questions, far from it but it is a start, what would your question to yourself be?

Have I read this book at all?

Do I have multiple editions?

Am I only holding onto this for sentimental reasons?

Would someone else I know enjoy this more?

 

 

 

 

On not making art, The Sound of Sleat and other Musings.

It has been a long time since I wrote anything to publish on my art related social media outlets. I am often reminded of that fact by the non-human masters of those sites. Automated messages can be so annoying, they remind us that we can feel guilty in the stasis the human condition can put us in.

Oddly though I haven’t felt guilty about not publishing, instead I seem to have been focused on looking inwards. I feel perplexed at what I see when I look inwards. I try to map the landscape being formed inside this mind from the seismic shift of loss caused by death, loss and dismantling of solidity from before death to the alien landscape of after.

It’s an odd place to be, in the gaps, the interstice of the place I was and the place I will be. Externally it must look as if I am still the landscape of before with just a few external changes, but the seismic shift and re-ordering of the internal landscape is huge even if it is hidden.

Oddly I get markers for my map every now and then. One of the latest markers is from a web site that allows it’s ‘members’ to ask questions and anyone signed up to the site is then invited to answer. I cannot recall how I ended up signed up to the site but that’s a different story. However, dropped into my email box was a question about what an artist does with all the paintings they have made and not sold as the artist reaches their later years and start to think about what happens to their lifetime works. I’ll come back to that later.

I’ve been without a physical studio for some time now. It is another transition that has landed me in the need to project manage something I never ever intended to project manage, but that is also a different story.
The content of my studio is in store and is accumulating dust, paintings are well wrapped up, but still their wrappings are gathering dust. The dusty content of my studio store, the tools of my trade, the stock of paintings, sometimes feels like a metaphor for what is happening to me.

I’ve recently been to Skye. For years I had wanted to go and the desire to go increased exponentially around the Millennium after I’d bought a used book titled The Sound of Sleat, An Artist’s Life. It was about the artist Jon Schueler (Sound in this context for those who may not know, is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, and wider than a fjord; or a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land.).

I recall that when I bought the book it had been more to do with the way the title played in my head, after all there is quite a distinct sound when it sleets and I loved the poetry of it.

When I’d taken the book home and showed it to my husband, Alberto, eventually mentioning to him I wanted to go to Sleat one day, he said he’d also like come with me.

It didn’t matter to me that the artist Schueler had lived on the mainland overlooking the Sound, he knew Skye and I wanted to see Sleat from Skye.
Years went by without a visit to Skye and eventually Alberto was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Any travel became difficult so I for him so the choice was made to take Alberto back to where he was born for the last time, where he had lived until he was eleven years old and where his sister still lived in Tuscany Italy. Alberto died in January 2018.

Suddenly from being Alberto’s full time carer (caregiver), there was only space: time seemed to take a shift sideways and I felt and still feel I’m a disconnected observer of a world where humans invest in so much dross, often seemingly without the realisation of the futile pathos of it.
At times I function very well, other times not so well. I am still passionate for what I think is right or against what I think is wrong so I must appear as I’ve always appeared but… there is a difference.

I wonder if the disconnect I’ve tried to describe is a permanent one? I’ve asked myself, is it purely the result of losing a lifetime companion or is it age? I’m officially old, 70 but am told I look more sixty (ha, seems I have some remnants of vanity!) yet there is a difference in my internal perception.

I’d like to have people queuing up to buy my paintings and maybe if I were to do more (or even anything) about marketing I might be able to make that happen but alas that is not where my interest is. My paintings are already in private collections in different Continents so at least I know that I won’t die without ever having sold anything. In the art world nothing is as romantic as the myths people like to imagine, poor Vincent and all that. His work did not suddenly become a must have after his death until an astute marketing campaign swung into action.

Whether I do or do not find people beating a path to my studio door (when I have a studio door to answer) their part in the proceedings is not the raison d’etre for my paintings. I make the paintings because each one is a voyage of discovery and is part of my making meaning. Externally that reason might seem futile but is only as futile as life itself. Making my own meaning works better for me than searching a lifetime for some supposed Nirvana.

Please do not misunderstand me, I love it when people see something in a painting I’ve made and want to buy. It means I have connected with another in some fundamental way, and it means I do not have to store the painting. That brings me back to the question about what an artist does with all the paintings they have made and not sold when the artist reaches their later years. There are many answers to that question, many of them inherently also full of pathos.

I have heard people say they would like this or that artwork but could not afford it. Value is a funny thing, we have many different ‘values’ in the many meanings of the word value. How do we value something? Cost? Or something precious such as a love of another person? A painting is a luxury item if we consider we can do without it in our lives. Is a car a luxury item or any of the other accoutrements of modern living, (I’d personally hate being without a car as it represents the freedom to when and where I want).

I’ve taken this from http://mentalfloss.com/article/82874/10-writers-and-artists-who-wanted-their-work-destroyed : ‘During his lifetime Kafka only published a handful of shorter works, which gained modest critical attention. Plagued by self-doubt, Kafka burned a huge amount of his own writing and, aware that his fragile health was failing, he asked his good friend Max Brod, who was to be his literary executor, to destroy any unfinished manuscripts on his death, unread. Kafka died from tuberculosis at the age of 41 in 1924, and Brod, feeling that Kafka’s writings deserved to be shared, went against his wishes. Thanks to Brod, Kafka’s most important works were published, including The Trial in 1925, The Castle in 1926, and Amerika in 1927.’
If you haven’t read The Trial by Kafka I recommend it for reading in the current crazy world we inhabit.
I also recommend the above web site to see what others have wished for their work.

I took my copy of the Sound of Sleat to Skye with me, it seemed the right thing to do It was a Pilgrimage.

Whether Jon Schuler is remembered for his paintings or for the book, or is not remembered is not relevant in this context. What was relevant for me is that a connection was made because of it. I had found reading his account rather depressing but it still touched me. We have the ability to be sad for lots of reasons. We also need to recognize the reasons to be happy.

A friend came on the journey too and we had many laughs, it was like having a sat-nav with built in bon mots for the poor driving mistakes we saw on too many occasions (she says we only see them, not make them!).

I don’t know what will happen to any work that survives me, let’s face it, I won’t know and won’t be in a position to care. It gives me huge satisfaction that some of my work is ‘out there’ and enjoyed by those who have it. It’s rather nice to have some recognition for the efforts one makes in life but it isn’t the thing that ends up bothering me too much. What bothers me that I need better storage and will continue to do so because I will be making more paintings! I want to go on with work that was interrupted when I had to leave my old studio.

Thank you for understanding

I am determined to smile, to laugh when something amuses me, I show photos of those times.

The other times are there but they aren’t the ones that are photographed, they are the times when sudden tears seem to come from nowhere even when I’m having a great day, the sudden feeling that I can’t cope even when everything I’m doing, is coping. There is fear, I’m so scared at times, the night anxieties and bad dreams even when I know I appear to be strong.

One thing I decided for this year is that I cannot ‘be there’ for everyone, I can only really be there for a very few and even that isn’t as much as I would like, I’m having a job to ‘be there’ for myself.

My psychic reservoir is so depleted so most of the time I’m running on empty. This does not mean I don’t care, or love, or want things to be better for the people I’m connected to, it just means I am running on empty.

I am so very grateful for all the care and love from people that have an understanding of how it is. At the same time I know there are some that want more from me, I’m sorry that I cannot give you what you want. I spent years caring for Alberto, then after he died I promised myself a year before I made any major decisions. Decisions such as do I want to stay living in this house (have to anyway until it’s finished to a degree that it could go on the market), or not?

I know I do want to continue working at my painting but even that has been thwarted for a while. I’ll get through, not around, not over, not under, just through. I guess I’m saying please don’t be too upset if you wanted something from me I couldn’t give. I’ve also had disappointments and have to square those away, life really is too short.

I’ll be 70 next month and like so many before me I think how the heck did I get to be that age?! I’m tired but there is a little energy rising and I sure need it and will need it as the days of this year roll inexorably by. Thank you for understanding.

Studio roof in the early morning sunlight.