IMG_5710On returning to these in the spare 30 minutes I had, the backgrounds were not as solid dry as they seemed when wet. Two more layers and some scratched text later, they hopefully will visually seem solid enough when dry. I’ve again added the red round the sides and top and suddenly, just as before, the colours seem to resonate. Pleased that those 30 minutes were spent in the shed.

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IMG_5684It has been just lovely to write words of truth over and over onto these pieces. Even though the individual words and letters cannot be made out, I know they are there: words that lift my heart and make it soar, words that I believe, words that remain when all else is uncertain, words that I can stand on. And, although it is so obvious, it takes me by surprise how my thinking changes and shifts when I focus on truth. My gaze lifts from myself to Him. My thoughts become clearer, hopeful and joy is near.

IMG_5699And as these thin layers build, it just confirms to me how, even though the layers of paint are fluid and in themselves translucent, together they form something more solid and substantial.

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IMG_5684For the first time in maybe eight years we had an evening without the children’s and therefore a morning without them too. And so nine o clock this morning found me in the shed, dousing the paintings with white and sharpening them with black. They are becoming different from that I expected, not as calming and more colourful, which is a surprise, but it is only the first few layers so anything could happen.

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The last few days have been really beautiful. As a family we have spent a lot of time together and it shows. All of a sudden we are listening more and understanding more, kinder even. Yesterday the kids and I copied an idea from a New Wine artist, making a cross from barbed wire. Fitted with gloves and armed with paint brushes I was not only humbled by their concentration and focus but also by their conversation. Both of them know Jesus and love Him. Their matter of fact statements, their faith unfaltering, speaks deeply to me. They trust. They have faith in Him.

I am currently rereading ‘A Beautiful Mess’ by Danielle Strickland and in it she makes this observation….. “The trapeze artists are really only free to take the risks they take if they know the catcher is reliable enough to catch them. It’s the trust in the catcher that enables them to be truly free.” This has resonated with me as it links perfectly with the work I’m doing about stepping out, stepping into. And it has occurred to me today, and it is so blindingly obvious, that the more time you spend with someone, the more you know them and the more you know if you can trust them. Blindingly obvious. It’s the same with so many things: family, marriage, church, friends, Jesus. I’ve been challenged today to look at what I invest my time in. In a moment of solitude on this beautiful day I am once again throwing myself into the arms of the Catcher and listening to His reassuring voice as He nudges me in the right direction.

IMG_5665I love these layered stages. Although the drying in between each layer can sometimes take an age, the pieces undergo changes very, very quickly and it is really satisfying. Layers of colour that were bright and vibrant a moment before can become muted and then calm. Colours that sat quite comfortably next to one another can suddenly become more intense due to the colour splashed next to it. Things can change so quickly in a moment.

Anna Crook - found things collection

Oh my word. I’ve gone back through my posts and realised I didn’t post any of the pieces that resulted from my experimental play with plasticine and kitchen foil!! Ironically the final pieces didn’t include any of these experiments but instead led to something completely different. Don’t you sometimes find that…. that playing with one material actually enables you to make progress elsewhere in your practice?

I love the ‘Thursday Next’ series by Jasper Fforde in which the main character Thursday Next goes in and out of novels to solve literary crimes. I wanted to take this concept a little further and imagine I could step inside a book myself and select an everyday object or garment which features in the book.  Accompanying the item is a piece of prose which is supposedly written by the character who came by it. Parallel to this narrative is my own story as to how I came across these items.

I loved doing these pieces, it was so completely different from anything I’d ever done before and yet it felt so familiar. I suppose they drew on the elements of my practice but came out in a different format. The finished pieces and explanations are below:

Anna Crook - found things i

Found items i – burnt nightdress

Down came the great staircase. There was a great crash as all fell. I, Richard Mason, came upon the said place where she fell and found, amidst the ruins, this piece of sad, torn cloth that came free as her body was taken and lain aside.’  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (written by Richard Mason, Bertha’s brother)

I could just imagine Richard Mason visiting the place where his sister fell, lamenting on her whole sorry life and, as standing there deep in thought, the fragment of material catching his eye. I imagine him picking it up and gazing at it with recognition and sadness before placing it in his breast pocket.

I came across this incredible Victorian garment in Second to None in Walsall, in fact they had a variety of near perfect Victorian night dresses. Due to how I was going to treat and distress the garment I asked if they had any already torn or worn pieces I could buy. She had one or two which exactly suited my needs and I progressed without guilt, tearing, burning and smoking the piece until it could realistically be taken for the torn and dirty fragment of Bertha’s dress.

 

Anna Crook - found things ii

Found items ii – locks of hair

‘I told Mr. Lockwood that I enclosed the black lock and the curl of light hair within the locket that hung around Catherine’s neck. Within the locket I’d twisted the two together, but instead I secluded them in my apron and stole away, intending to give them to the child when she was grown.’  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (written by Nelly, Ellen Dean)

Nelly had quite a complicated relationship with Cathy so maybe she could have done this. The scene before as Heathcliff hovers by Cathy’s bedside as Linton arrives, Nelly petrified for all their safety, evokes deep emotions. She may have taken the two locks and kept them, not only for the newly born Catherine, but to protect herself and the part she had played.

I have got into the habit of keeping hair after haircuts, especially when the children were young. I have also kept my own and the variety of colours it has progressed through as I’ve aged. The hair in the piece is my own and my daughters. In researching for this piece I discovered the world of Victorian hair weaving which was incorporated into jewellery pieces. It can be quite intricate, but in reading the book and with the haste in which the hair was removed and replaced within the locket, I cannot see there being time for more than a twist of the two locks, curling them together.

 

Anna Crook - found things iii

Found items iii – burnt veil

‘The great cloth, with its heap of rottenness and all the ugly things that sheltered there, mended with her veil. As it became like patches of tinder a piece separated and fell, floating in the smoky air. Every vestige of her dress was burnt but this.’  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (written by Pip)

Pip could have potentially kept this but I doubt it! However I loved the idea of the once beautiful veil being singed and covered with cobwebs, dust and dead insects. I work in a large shed in the garden and create alongside insects of all shapes and sizes, especially spiders. Every now and then I give the place a good dust, and this time I using some worn and dirty chiffon to collect all the detritus. The result was perfect and only needed burning and smoking slightly for the piece to be complete.

 

Anna Crook - found things iv

Found items iv – soap

‘To speak of such things, I dare not. What’s done cannot be undone, I am sure of that. Troubled with a mind diseased therein, I minister to myself. Hands scoured will no longer ease my brow. Thinks me a purging deed to undertake. I seize sweet oblivion.’   Macbeth by Shakespeare (written by Lady Macbeth)

The thought of someone, after discovering the soap used by Lady Macbeth to wash her bloody hands over and over, hiding it somewhere, intrigued me. This soap was handmade in Cornwall.

 

Anna Crook - found things v

Found items v – feather and horse hair

‘On my Father’s bench amid spanners and wrenches and oily rags was the most perfect pheasant feather. I gently picked it up and twisted the remaining horse hair around its base. I hung it alongside the fire balloon, the boomerang, the kite and the bow and arrow, against a wall in the workshop, for another day.’   Danny the Champion of the world by Roald Dahl (written by Danny)

Danny describes two wonderful events he had with his Father, the fire balloon and the kite, and both hang in the workshop. I thought it would be probable that Danny would select a pheasant feather to remember the most magnificent day of all.

This particular pheasant feather was retrieved from the floor of a large open stable, after I watched a gamekeeper pluck a dead pheasant ready for the evening meal. We were at a manor house and using the sports facilities there. We couldn’t miss the gamekeeper as we walked through the stable area into the sports hall. It was quite surreal watching this man transform a beautiful bird into a main course and a pile of feathers.

 

Anna Crook - found things vi

Found items vi – thimble

‘Called to give prizes, and the comfits handed round one a-piece, the elegant thimble was all that remained. After being gravely presented it went to where it had come and became the companion to mushroom morsels and cake crumbs in her pocket.’  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (anonymous)

There were many and varied memorable items that could have been taken from this book but I think the thimble is one that could be overlooked and makes the viewer work harder to guess the book. Such a non-descript item, it is mentioned and then forgotten almost as quickly. Something about this appeals to me: that even though its function was unnecessary at the time, it had a moment of redefinition and then became itself again.

I trawled through several antique shops to find one that would potentially have been used during the time which Lewis Carroll wrote his Alice book, and this is the oldest one I could find hiding amidst coins and buttons.

 

‘Danny, Champion of the World@ is at Emporium Gallery, Lichfield (see outlets for address)

Commissions taken. If interested please email artannacrook@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

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I love my work at the very beginning because it bears absolutely no resemblance to how it will look at the end! The colours are random, the texture starts as being readable and, with the layering, becomes less and less so as the letters overlap and blur into one another. The frustration though is the waiting… waiting for the paint to dry before I can do the next layer. Today they are taking a long time to dry so I’ve only got two layers on the big canvas which is annoying. Saying that I’ve baked some Kladdkaka, which is much nicer than it sounds (a Swedish sticky chocolate cake, not unlike Chocolate Brownies) posted on Facebook and now on here, done some shopping and dyed my hair to cover to grey! There’s nothing like multi-tasking!!! Might take the pieces outside now the sun is out. It’s just so lovely when the sun is out. A mug of tea sitting outside with a chunk of Kladdkaka…. what’s not to like!