Monday, 13 January 2014

Creative inspiration

People often ask where artists get their inspiration from, how and why do they start a piece of work and why do they choose to draw or paint the things that they do.  

When it is asked of me, I am always struck dumb (temporarily)because the answer is so complex. When people stop to look at my work while I am drawing in the landscape they sometimes as - "how long did it take you to do that?"  Should my answer be "three hours" or should my answer be "fifty years"? As to the 'why' - well that is much more difficult. Every one of us has unique experience of life. Each artist has a unique perspective on the people, places and events they encountered or experienced in a lifetime. Here are my thoughts about how the artist develops from childhood.

When a child starts to draw at the age of two or three, every single mark made on the paper is of equal importance. 

By five they see that people look different and so give them different features like long or short hair but houses are still all the same. By seven or eight they will include landscape and weather to give context to their characters but the houses are still the same.

By nine the young artist is drawing on their own observations and start to create recognisable compositions of places and things that they know, have seen or, maybe, in response to recent events. 

Now that the young mind is taking in everything that is going on, they are gathering image and sensory memories . They are interested in the creations of others and become fans, or followers of different styles. These influences are also stored in the memory banks of the mind.

With every drawing, a path is being carved between the eye, the creative corridors of the mind and the hand. They start a conversation that is sometimes led by the hand and sometimes by the mind. 

Sometimes the hand makes a mistake or 'does its own thing' and the mind quite likes the result. other times, the hand is a slave to the mind's intent. 

As the young artist experiences more emotions. the heart also become part of the conversation.  

When we mature we seek the input of others and they too become part of the conversation.  All the while, the artists is storing away images and sensations that can be drawn on at any time.  The memory banks are growing in size every year. 

As the artist ages, the memories of images become more detailed and the banks grow every hour and minute. It can become overwhelming.

So how do artists draw on these memories and inspirations?  Memory banks are not like a library; you cannot  do a search by subject because the categories are infinite and the languages used to store them are those of the hand, the eye, the heart and all 19 senses. The only tool that can sort them out is the subconscious and this seldom works on command.

I access my subconscious every morning in that precious time between waking and rising.  As I become conscious, I lay on my back and stretch my spine and limbs as if on the rack. I use a small pillow of seeds and perfumed oils to support my neck. Sometimes I am naked, sometimes my sheet has to be perfectly smoothed over me. I don't decide - something inside decides.

Now I start to think about the task for the day ahead and soon my imagination, directed by my subconscious, takes over. They talk for about an hour and then it is time to start work while the inspiration is fresh. Breakfast can wait.

Alexndra waking by Laura Lacambra Shubert

Monday, 6 January 2014

Those ubiquitous little boats

Last month we had some beautiful mornings which found me down at the beach by 7am. This is about the time some of the in-shore fishermen bring in their tiny catches of silver fish.

They use coracles made out of bamboo, woven with palm leaves and coated with tar.  Just like the coracles used in Wales and on the River Severn, they are steered with a single oar.

In Vietnam, they can be seen in almost every river, estuary and on most beaches. They use them as tenders to the larger fishing boats and also to set nets and collect  catches.  Vietnamese fishermen go out in all kinds of seas and are highly skilled at riding the surf back to shore. I can watch them for hours.

The painting at the top of this article shows the young fishermen picking up the boats with poles and carry them back up the beach until they go out again at dawn the next day.

These scenes were captured in December at the end of the rainy season.  Mornings are chilly and the seas are rough. The fishermen wear balaclavas to protect their faces from the harsh weather and then roll them up into beanies at the end of each trip. 

Once ashore, the women arrive with bowls metal dishes to collect the catch and take it straight to market where they will clean the little fish, gut and fillet them for customers. There can hardly be fresher fish than those available at seaside markets  along the long, Vietnam coastline.

These fibreglass blue and green boats are from Phan Thiet  where I went last November. There are larger than the Hoi An boats and have metal rods on one side to take a small outboard motor.
  The coracle has, very much,  become a symbol of Vietnam and is central to a cultural show that's is staged regularly at the Opera house in Saigon. 'The Ao Show' encapsulates, in about one hour, the culture, history and street life of Vietnam that has a lot in common with the stage show Stomp with its rhythms, energy and athletic dance. Don't miss it if your are in Saigon.