Blog

This section contains a commentary on my recent work. For more examples of my work see the galleries.

When Time Stood Still

I love my garden which consists of several rooms on different levels. Throughout the seasons, the garden fills me with such pleasure whether when reading, painting or just gazing at the wonder of nature. Such a fabulous, visual retreat.

I started this painting in early January  when snow was falling, so much like stars filling the dark pine trees, that one could imagine nothing more than the sheer beauty of it all. I began with collages of papers and photos, together with various mediums to create layers.The focal point of this painting is one of our garden tables which provides the only notion of realism.

When Time Stood Still

There is so much going on. Contrast, tone and depth are perhaps the key. As many of you are aware now, I do love texture. Here, it adds shape and balance to help guide your eye through areas of interest. The famous gardener  designer, Gertrude Jekyll, was a great fan of using warm and cool colours to highlight different areas. Hopefully, this artwork has achieved that! I keep tinkering but decided last night, it was finished.

When snow falls, nature listens….

Online Dating

I don’t usually paint birds, but hey, it’s World Wildlife Day! I love the playful title whilst the irony of it addresses a serious need for awareness of declining species in wildlife. We have an elegant pair of magpies that grace our garden all year round. I love their distinctive black and white colouring with a long tail.

Yes, they’re not everyone’s favourite birds and are often branded as pests or even portenders of doom.

Acrylic and Mixed Media on canvas paper 51 x 40 cm

Researching the mythology surrounding the Magpie is really interesting. The Magpie was a very significant,mythical bird in history before the Christians came along. This is evident as there was a concentrated smear campaign against the Magpie after the Christians showed up on the scene. It was said that the Magpie represented the devil as it didn’t mourn the death of Christ. Both it and a dove sat on the cross.  The dove caught the tears of Christ, while the Magpie seemed indifferent.  The church also started a rumour that the tongue of a Magpie contained a drop of blood from the devil. From this, it was theorised that if you cut the tongue of a Magpie to let out this drop then it would be capable of human speech.

Who knows how many Magpies were mutilated as a result of this myth the church created!

Ah, well….

One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told

Covid Constrained Compositions – 2

“The plague Bacillus never dies or disappears for good: it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen chests”. From The Plague by Albert Camus.

Camus’ novel encourages the readers to ponder on the meaning and values of our society, on the lack of humanity of its social roles when in times of crisis. Are we able to preserve ourselves and each other when the worst descends?

Long before Camus, literature has reflected on social confinement e.g. Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year, through to Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom”.

Have you ever wondered whether you are truly protected from infectious diseases ranging from the common cold to more deadly threats like rabies or bird flu? When you travel, are you protected from the many infections abroad?

According to most histories, the Spanish Flu ended in 1920. This is wrong: it did not end, and the virus did not stop killing. Spanish Flu’s descendants, in fact, are still with us, with different variants; each year carrying the potential to kill.

The reality is that over the years this is likely to lead to coronavirus becoming just another of the seasonal viruses we experience every year. This is not meant to sound morbid but to paint a picture of the “new normal”. Our social interactions have changed already. Even a simple greeting of “How are you?” carries the subtext: “Are you infectious?”

Bacilli

Series C3. 2: Bacilli reflects the bubbles we create to protect ourselves from the ever-present-mutating virus. The image is also positive because, in epidemiology, the aim is to reduce risk as much as possible. I suspect that in creating this work, my recent reading about the pioneering, yet neglected, Swedish abstract artist , Hilma af Klint had a strong influence.

Recently, I overheard someone utter the acronym, BC, which I have always playfully used to represent, “Before Children”. In this case, it translated into, “Before Covid”.

So, returning to the way we were before COVID-19 is not an option. The challenge, and I think the opportunity, is to start the process of thinking about a “new normal” now.


C3 Series – Covid Constrained Compositions

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but having new eyes” Marcel Proust

Introducing the C3 Series – Covid Constrained Compositions

I had intended this series to be a geological reflection of the Jurassic coast, referencing the Durdle Door. However, all I could think of was the enforced stasis we’re in and the inability to plan ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic. Restricted choice presents challenges to us as our physical interactions are limited and our daily routines have been curtailed. I felt I wanted to record these times.

Previous plagues such as the Black Death or 1918 influenza pandemic had huge ramifications for the world afterwards. The aftermath of this coronavirus pandemic will also see myriad changes, from personal adjustments to global shifts.

Behind all the suffering and disruption and economic hardship of the coronavirus pandemic, an even larger global crisis is lurking: climate change.

When the world stays home, the planet benefits. There’s nothing good about the coronavirus, but with a ban on non-essential travel and some countries in lockdown, we’re able to witness what happens to the Earth when we’re largely absent for the first time.

The first painting in the series represents the division between Hope and reality but also the consequences of reduced travelling whether locally or abroad. I enjoyed playing with the textures which subconsciously evolved into a reverse image of Cornish landscape, reflecting the reversal of our hopes to spend time there before Christmas.

Stasis

Acknowledging References

I finally tracked down the artist for the reference I used 4 years ago for a practice snow piece in acrylic. I found it today by putting a photo of my work in Google. Then contacted the artist on Instagram and had a lovely chat with him.

I explained that I had originally found his work on Pinterest which was posted several times without any acknowledgement of the source.

It’s so important to get permission when you can, whether or not you intend to sell the artwork. It’s been bugging me for years because I don’t like to use references when I don’t know the provenance. I know there are several free sources available but this one appealed because of the composition and palette, though I shifted the latter.

The artist ( @sergeioussik on Instagram) sent me his original 2006 painting (Bottom photo) which is in pastels.

For interest @ajalper on Instagram did a recent post on the minefield of copyright, etiquette and permissions. Worth a look.

Simple Snow Scene

Is it only a week ago that snow carpeted the SE of England? For many young children, this was the first real snowfall they’d ever seen, Those of us in the countryside gazed out of their windows with admiration for the Narnia landscapes that emerged within hours.

A Kind of Magic

What is it about snow that makes people regress to their childhood, casting aside any inhibitions and inciting a sense of play?

Winter without snow feels grey, dull and miserable. Yes, there’s beauty in any weather, but it’s not quite the same as a landscape coated in white. Yet nature seems so fragile, too, as I’ve depicted in this painting. Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.

The first snow is like the first love. Snow falling soundlessly in the middle of the night will always fill my heart with sweet clarity. There is something so peaceful about watching the snow fall. It’s like we’re all living in a snow globe and someone just gave us a real good shake!

On mornings when I felt weary after staying up late marking student essays, I used to play upbeat tracks in my car to energise myself for the timetabled day ahead. “A Kind of Magic” by Queen would change my mood dramatically as I drove through the school gates, remembering to lower the unsociable volume just in time!

This was a big song on Queen’s 1986 Magic tour which was the last with the original members, since Freddie Mercury would be diagnosed with Aids the following year and was too sick to tour after that. Remember the white slacks and yellow jacket combo, which became his signature look!

Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year

“The only journey is the journey within”. Rainer Maria Rilke

Yet another well kept secret in the eventful Linney 2020 archives, but not as exciting as the December entry. I can now reveal that I was selected as Reserve for the pods in tonight’s first Heat of “Landscape Artist of the Year.”

Miss James’s Walk – My entry that caught the judges eye

All the contestants turned up so, to my relief, I wasn’t needed, as the reality had made me very anxious for days!

This meant I could participate as a Wild Card. There are so many Wild cards who participate in each heat, that it may be the one time being Black, but short, may serve as an advantage for a “Where’s Wally” moment in tonight’s episode!

All said, it was a huge privilege to have been selected, considering the number of applications. And I submitted my application with five minutes to spare before the midnight deadline, whilst downing Malbec by the glass!!

The whole day was an amazing but challenging experience!

“Contentment” – a commission

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you”

An IG artist told me last year that I should accept Commissions and stop rejecting them, and to regard the mission as a way to improve my skill, build an audience and share my developing talent with others.

It’s easy to become swept away with flattery, but there is a lot to keep in mind before accepting a commission. Historically, I don’t handle flattery well but making my account public in May has helped me to accept praise with more gratitude rather than suspicion.

Logic cannot explain why I decided to accept this commission for an ex-colleague’s 40th birthday present from her mother.

A commission is a personalised experience that is different for everyone. In my case, I was lucky. I was pleased that the painting needed to be reasonably large to provide a focal point in the room. I struggle with smaller artworks. This is BIG for me!

My client’s main specifications were twofold: the painting should be a landscape to reflect the walks she enjoys; to include some of the purple found in the curtains of the recently renovated lounge.

Contentment

Close to me, is an area dear to us – The National Trust’s “Devil’s Punchbowl” where the heathland and light change with the seasons. I opted for a view of the early flourish of heather on one of the hillsides. Once, I did some planning, to my surprise, I found I was enjoying it. I had also been given free rein to employ any style I wished.

I slipped between my two eclectic stools. I had thought the end result would be an abstract but knowing my client’s more conservative leanings, the palette knife instinct prevented me.

“Where the waters do agree, it is quite wonderful the relief they give.” Jane Austen

“And Breathe …..”

We have been lucky to see so many stunning water features, lakes and seas both here and abroad. I have been thinking of many of them during this lockdown, particularly those in Central and South America – some carry wonderful myths.

As a child, I devoured myths from all around the world. Myths are “fictitious stories or half-truths, especially ones that form part of the ideology of a society”. There are many myths in which we can see the vital role that water had in people’s lives. Since ancient times, people aimed to be close to Gods and this affected their lives at a high level; that’s why they honoured water and the Gods that were related to it.

While I was painting this imagined coastal scene, I began to think of my children’s love of water. My three year old granddaughter’s post lockdown wish is to be able to return to the swimming pool.

There are outlandish theories that Black people can’t swim due to their supposed inability to float. Some blame it on laziness or Black women being too afraid of getting their hair wet.

Before swimming became the symbol of relaxation and tranquillity it is today, municipal swimming pools also served as a reminder in the USA of its fraught racial history. For decades during the 20th century, many pools were segregated, and relatively few were built to serve Black communities. Lower socioeconomic status has also played a significant role in the lack of swimming abilities throughout the Black community.

So swimming never became a part of African- American recreational culture and somehow that myth has stuck in European societies.

Altered States

Altered States is also the title of a Sci-Fi  film in which a research scientist experiments on  states of human consciousness, using hallucinogenic drugs. But soon his mind-altering experiments get out of control.   

Altered States

And so, as the days countdown to Christmas, I reflect on the dramatic year, 2020 has been and at times, surreal. It might not be the year you want to remember but it will be one you’ll never forget. Perception management has become one of the defining issues of our age, heightened by periods of detachment enforced by Lockdowns What is truth? What is reality? The pandemic has highlighted existing injustices as well as generating injustices of its own.As the footballer, Rob  Burrow once said: “In a world full of adversity, we must dare to dream…” Rob was the Leeds Rhinos player who was diagnosed a year ago with motor neurone disease (MND)It’s been a messy, tragic year but we’ve seen hope and resilience.