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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!

 

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I feel the need to do a few more of these pieces. Starting the layering of letters in the background, building up the text and the texture in a variety of colours before adding the main colour over the top. It’s a great drying day today so I should be able to get a few layers done before tonight. The weirdest and most wonderful thing at the moment is that I’m sharing my shed space with an up and coming artist of the future. Our wonderful girl has got a school project about Queen Elizabeth II and she’s decided to do a clay sculpture of her head!

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She’s worked quite diligently on it with a real passion and fervour. Can’t wait to see what it eventually looks like. Just enjoying being creative alongside her. She really is an encouragement just working beside me. All of them, the boy and the man, tend to believe in me more than sometimes i believe in myself. Seems to be rubbing off though. Love spending time in my shed. Such an incredible space, and when the sun is shining….. even better 🙂

 

 

 

Anna Crook-stepping out i ii iii

Just got back from the wonderful emporium gallery in Lichfield (http://www.emporium-gallery.co.uk) after dropping off these three pieces. It was a bit of a wrench, I suppose because they are so close to my heart. It’s funny how some paintings do that to me; it’s like I’m leaving part of myself there, which I suppose I am really. I want to know where they’ll end up, that they’ll be looked after and achieve what I pray they will. Even sitting in the gallery my hope is that they will affirm and encourage. They have to me.

Anna Crook-close up beautiful and brave

They’re about taking that first step; stepping into life, and although sometimes it feels like stepping off a cliff, once the step is made we can soar.

The stitching is like a ladder vertically through the canvas, and for me ladders symbolise journeys whether psychological or physical. The stitching also naturally splits the canvas and this gave me the opportunity to make one side dark and womb like, the other more like sky. I think when the act of stepping out occurs it can initially be like stepping into nothing, into wide open space. Darkness ironically seems more supportive and solid… maybe therein lies the problem. The texture in the background is built up through painted words, words that are about courage and being brave, making that first step. These words are then scratched into the surface of the paint, transferred and written on. I used pencil for I feel the moment is not indelible but could disappear if not taken or seized. The top and sides of the paintings are brushed red. This is a reference to the last of the ten plagues in Exodus before the Israelites are freed from their captivity. The Israelites painted their door frames with lamb’s blood. “When I see the blood I will pass over you” and the plague did not touch them but instead paved the way to freedom.

Anna Crook-close up step out

The thing is, the place we’re stepping from can be like a warm safe place, womb like almost in its comfort and safety but restrictive and limiting all the same – it can be all we know. We can be stuck by circumstance, through illness, through words spoken without thought. Taking that step needs encouragement, demands courage and requires self-belief, all of which may be lacking when we’ve been too comfortable or stuck. I wanted these pieces to be a daily reminder that it can be done, that change can be better, that stepping out can enable us to soar once again.

 

 

just flicked through my posts and I posted pictures of these a year ago…. I knew then they weren’t complete, even with the red on the sides. love that a year later their perfect timing has helped me where I am now 🙂

img_5513 Not much to look at this may be but this is the first creative play I’ve carried out since September. I’ve been exploring the fact that I can procrastinate: that I let other things take up my time and that art is seriously being squeezed from my agenda. Everything else’s seems to have more importance, more weight attached to it and I’ve been choosing to do these ‘other’ things when I could have chosen to do art. Needless to say my son would be without birthday cake and my daughter may not have had the cereal boxes school required she needed, but something at some point must give. I cannot keep making excuses. What on earth am I afraid of? So face the music I must, and take a step into the vastness that is creativity I must stand. And I choose initially to do it with said cereal boxes rejected by my daughter for their smallness, plasticine and kitchen foil!! Let the creative play begin….. and continue 🙂

……. and let’s hope I can cook tea in super fast time!!!!!

anna-crook-stitched-canvas-iiI am revisiting a body of work I completed in 2014 I think (really… was it that long ago!?!) in which I used the coast line of the Lake of Galilee to form the compositions of a series of pieces. I was speaking to a Mr. Jeremy Bournon, an artist I hold in high esteem, and we were talking about potentially having a joint exhibition come January 2018. He’d looked through my past work and liked the idea of approaching a coast from above rather than from the traditional viewpoint, so here I am thinking again.

This work for me held a conceptual meaning as well. I was considering how we often pick at ourselves in an “I’m not good enough” way, focusing on our faults and failings rather than seeing ourselves as a whole. We pick and pick at ourselves until we can become undone. And yet it is often these things, once overcome, that shape us into the people we are. They can define us in a different way. The coastline is textured through using stitching and yet the perspective is from above, removing the focus from the small stitches to the bigger picture.

20160819_134319This summer we went to Malaysia and there I seemed to find myself. For me it was such a real and raw place, everything uncovered and lain bare. You wanted a fish, it was gutted in front of you. You want something mending and the equipment used was there for all to see rather than hidden in some back room. And in contrast I felt I was all hidden away, false almost. During the holiday I felt these pretences falling away and in some respects I discovered my value again. This is something I want to express through the artwork to come.

The coastline of Penang and Malaysia will be my composition but now I’m trying to work out how to create the texture so it is both aesthetically pleasing and significant to me in a symbolic way.

20160825_092123One thing that really appealed to me was the walls. They are broken and yet beautiful. They are the  background to some of the most stunning street art on the island, artist Ernest Zacharevic transforming these walls through hand painted murals. I like the idea that part of my work could be broken and yet held together and still beautiful. Time to experiment in the shed.

 

I believe a lot of people go through what I’m going through right now – a complete rethink. It’s seriously cold today and I’m kind of huddled with a mug of tea and some spicy samosas in my kitchen, looking out of the window at the rain and dankness of the day, knowing that I need to get into the shed and yet…

In the months from September I have found myself becoming a housewife, and those of you who know me will know that this is not a natural leaning! It just seems that every time I have some time freed up from my day job, life and housework keep demanding my attention and I’m not impressed. Time for action, and it does not involve an iron, nor a duster. Time to reclaim my art time and get focused.

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Today has been a good day already..in fact yesterday was rather splendid as well, in a ‘I ticked off the list of things I needed to do’ kind of way rather than in a world event way.  I’ve continued playing with rags and the idea that something discarded can become something new and even precious.

I’ve played a lot with wrapping the rags around different types of spheres and am pleased with the results, pleased enough to keep going in this direction for now. By adding the text the pieces are becoming more scroll like, unraveling a secret or a piece of wisdom. I like this, but experimenting with the type, amount and size of text now.