Balancing the negative …

person walking on road between trees

Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

I hope it’s not too late to wish you all a peaceful and healthy 2020. It’s a heartfelt wish, even though I realise that parts of our world (and often people we uknow) are experiencing such difficult times to say the least. In such times it’s easy to fall victim to despair, feel helpless … or we can do what we can and try to carry on.

I like to believe that exposure to art and nature can help bolster us against the many crises that can bombard us. I’m not saying they ‘cure’ us, I wish it was so easy, but I do think they can help strengthen our ‘mental immune system’, as it were, to help balance the negative aspects of life.

Atmospheric abstract landscape

Stubble fields, Winter. Mixed media on Duralar © Mari French 2019.

This thought came to me on a walk around the local fields and lanes the other day, when I was feeling low, worrying about the fires in Australia, conflict around the world and so on. I suffer from S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), so my mood can plummet in the winter months anyway, particularly in the overcast, gloomy, damp days after Christmas. Bright and cold are easier to deal with.

I suddenly made myself stop and take a good look round at the stubble fields, the inky brushes of trees against the horizon, the glimmer of light pushing through the banks of clouds, a cascade of small yellow apples scattered around a wild apple tree. I realise it’s easier to find beauty in the countryside, but if we were able to make it a goal to notice at least one thing of glory, however small or unlikely, each day, who knows, perhaps it could have a positive effect on our mental wellbeing, on our inner strength to cope.

man and woman looking at wall decor inside building

Photo by Matheus Viana on Pexels.com

How can art help though? It can be accused of being frivolous or unnecessary. However, like music, it can be a reprieve, a space in which to allow our fraught minds to explore or relax, to be stimulated or calmed. Whether on the walls of our home, or in a gallery, or online; take time to seek out those images that ‘speak’ to you personally.

I like to think it’s worth a try.

Meanwhile, I finally got back into the studio after several weeks away from art-making in the run-up to Christmas and New Year. After a frenzied bout of sweeping and tidying (procrastinating!) I sat down with my workbook, some homemade markmaking tools, inks and my ‘dip-in collage bag’, with the aim of just loosening up, getting something started but without the pressure to produce a finished piece.

Collage and markmaking example, in a Seawhite Sketchbook.

Workbook practice. Mixed media on paper. © Mari French 2020

I’m itching to start on some bigger canvases, now that I have my ‘painting wall’, but I know I need to stretch my dormant creative muscles first. So messing about is what I’ll be doing for a few days yet!

Thank you for all your support, likes and comments in the past year, I hope you continue to enjoy my blog and my art.

ochre clay, pale stones, rusting metal…

Coastal erosion abstract, acrylics on paper, 18x18cm. © Mari French 2018

Almost chickened out of going to the studio today seeing 2 inches of snow outside and plummeting temperatures. But I’d been looking forward to painting having been busy doing other stuff for much of the past week.

So, quilted overalls on (of which my hubby is very jealous) and calor gas heater going full blast I actually had an enjoyable few hours working on 3 small pieces on paper I’d started last week. When fingers got a bit frosty I blasted them with the hairdryer I use for drying off acrylics.

Coastal erosion abstract, acrylics on paper, 18x18cm. © Mari French 2018

These three works continue the series I’m currently developing in response to coastal erosion on the North Norfolk coast (mainly around Happisburgh), which I wrote about in my previous post. I’m attracted to the colours of the crumbling cliffs and broken structures littering the shore – ochre clay, pale stones, rusting metal, concrete etc, set against the shadowy land slips below the fields above. For these small paintings I used acrylics, gouache and inktense pencil on watercolour paper – I sometimes use a smoother paper or board support, but here I like the grain exposed by the dryish edge of the dragged paint.

Coastal erosion abstract, acrylics on paper, 18x18cm. © Mari French 2018

My solo exhibition, from 24th March for one month at the Grapevine Gallery, Burnham Market, North Norfolk, will feature these three works alongside other larger pieces in the series and several new reedbeds paintings. Below are a few of the earlier stages of these small paintings.

Early stages of painting, coastal erosion works. © Mari French 2018Early stages of painting, coastal erosion works. © Mari French 2018Early stages of painting, coastal erosion works. © Mari French 2018

winter marsh…

Creek, Thornham saltmarsh.

Creek, Thornham saltmarsh. © Mari French 2016

I read in an anthology this week, one author’s opinion that saltmarshes are one of the bleakest places in winter. Well, although they can be perceived like that in very poor weather, on a jewel of a day like the ones I experienced this week, they can be surprisingly beautiful.

This sketching trip was to one of my usual haunts, Thornham on the north Norfolk coast. It was too cold to sit about for long but I got a couple of rough watercolours done. Sat by the coal barn sketching the small boats on the creek against the sun, I was almost blinded.

Boats on the creek, Thornham. Sketchbook spread © Mari French 2016

Boats on the creek, Thornham. Sketchbook spread © Mari French 2016

Reedbeds are an important part of the ecology on this coast, as with many such places in Britain. Their soft pewter feathered seedheads ripple like an inland sea. The stems are pale burnished gold in the winter sun and I find them hypnotic. I keep coming back to them recently, both physically, mentally and in my work.

The other motif that keeps catching my eye, are the cradled pools and creeks of azure blue – reflecting the sky but much deeper in colour. They sit like brooches on the bronze brocade of the marsh. I feel the stirrings of an abstracted response to these with simple layered colour and texture.

Reedbeds, Thornham. Sketchbook spread © Mari French 2016

Reedbeds, Thornham. Sketchbook spread © Mari French 2016

 

Rope and seaweed, staithes, Thornham. © Mari French 2016

Rope and seaweed, staithes, Thornham. © Mari French 2016

 Reedbeds, looking towards Holme from Thornham. © Mari French 2016

Reedbeds, looking towards Holme from Thornham. © Mari French 2016