Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Truth About Art and Love

Coming Out of the Closet about Creativity

I have stretched the boundary of this ”travel blog” many times before – and I’m about to do it again. I’ve always advocated that blog’s are at their best when they are up close and personal – and whilst I have shared the death of my mother, blogged whilst depressed or scared and under fire in Iraq and even Tweeted my wedding – there is somewhere I haven’t gone yet.

You may or may not know that I am an artist. I wear the label like an alcoholic wears Johnnie Walker (hidden in the drawer or tucked into an inside pocket) . I was born with the affliction (it was a genetic disorder handed down from my grandfather via my mother), and whilst it does on occasion cause joy, in the main it is more akin to a frantic compulsive obsessive disorder. It is only by associating my creativity with healing, provision of comfort for others or political meaning that I have felt comfortable even talking about it. Usually I feel self indulgent and a bit mentally ill when the passion to create takes over. Hence I barely talk about it. At least not in any depth.

Last year I was turned down for an Arts Council grant – largely because I presented my proposal as a community cohesion project and neglected any reference to my own artistic development. They must have viewed me as someone trying to meet a cold political aim with technical application of my skills.  I said nothing about myself.   The project may have been about  tolerance and diversity, but it said little about what I, as a living breathing artist could contribute or about my mental approach to my craft. Perhaps because, like a drug addict, I am loath to admit I am a “user” (of the paint brush).

My creativity does relate to my travels – so perhaps safe to talk about it on my anonymous travel blog. In the 36 countries I have visited, I have painted or sketched in every one of them. A nomadic closet-artist. On occasion I have exhibited my work – the British Council kindly sponsored a solo show of my self-indulgence in Slovakia in the 1990s. And my beloved Sri Lanka has been host to more than one of my exhibitions (along with other “users”). I’m getting used to the whole humiliating ritual of painting in private and then hanging things on the wall for friends and strangers to look it. It feels very “show offy” and I liken it to an AA session. My name is Nomadic and I’m an artist.

So here is the bit that I missed out of the Arts Council proposal. A few weeks ago I was approached by a retired ballet dancer and asked if I could paint his portrait. He asked me about the process – what was involved. I’m not used to sharing this, but once I started talking you couldn’t shut me upnd I realised I had a need to share.

If I paint a portrait of someone I don’t ask them to sit in a pose for hours as I stand pompously before them with my canvas, stroking my chin and squinting at the subject. Rather I spend time with the subject, watching how they move, how they talk, what makes them laugh, sometimes witnessing uneasiness, sensing flaws, and understanding what moves them, what makes them tick. I listen. I look. I may record the encounter with a couple of sketches and photographs, but this is more of a record to jog the memory of the empathy and intimacy discovered.

Then I return to my studio (a room at the back of my garage with paint spattered cheap carpet and the faint odour of nicotine from smoking times past). I will probably do a fair amount of thinking and “sleeping on it” before I begin. I usually begin with a basic layout plan, although this may change. I alternate between sessions using a thick pallet knife, a broad brush, a fine brush and sometimes fingers. I rub paint onto canvas, scratch into it, or daub it. The wonderful thing about oils is the freedom to move it around the canvas – it’s fluidity. I use fine washes and I use thick blobs. Some paintings will take months to complete, and each session of work will have a different mood, a different feeling, another layer. My work is very much about the process and the emotion involved. By the time I am nearing the end, I have very much fallen in love with the subject. I feel I “know” them better almost than they know themselves. This is the creepy, stalker-bit, which I usually keep covered. It’s not a sexually or needy love – but a love of that person as a human-being. So yes, it’s true to say I love Derrick Ashong, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham and even John Humphrys although I have never told them so.

After my mum died it was a good few months before I could contemplate creating portraiture and I turned to nature and began looking at trees and all things growing. I felt completely “in tune” and empathetic to my environment – as I believe extreme stress and mental disturbance can generate. I found pretty quickly that the process of expressing this feeling on canvas was pretty similar to when I painted a portrait. I began to fall in love with the apple tree in my garden, with the grass growing and my son’s potato plants (even though we planted them too close together).

I’m not sure what to do with this love but channel it through art and for the first time, talk about it here. The power of it scares the hell out of me – but it is very passive. At most I may shed a tear as I paint (a recent painting of Mary/Maryam mother of Jesus/Isa generated many of those, for she is in everywoman and I am she).

You probably find it very odd that this passion (or “Junoon” as a new friend would call it) is more difficult to write about than the loss of someone close, romantic love of my husband, or my own mortality. These things I write about, usually because I know that other people share this. I know that by sharing my own grief, love and fears that I will be providing comfort to others. But by sharing the intense-up-closeness-generated in the act of painting I feel I am stating my difference. What marks me out from others. I may appear a bold individual soul, but inside I really do just want to be like everyone else. I anticipate readers will mutter “huh….that’s wierd” or “bit creepy, I hope the freak doesn’t want to paint my portrait”, but I hope, just maybe, that there is someone else out there who shares this spiritual high.  Someone who gets what on earth I am talking about. Who can weep with joy and understanding at a tree, or a face or the wind.

So, Arts Council, yes it is about the process. The meaning. The feeling. The insanity. The high. Don’t expect me to be putting into a turgid funding application any time soon though.

This boundary stretching travel blog will be back on course after a short interlude of non-travel. A few weeks should do it.

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Comfort in a picture at a time of great loss

“And in a picture I want to say something comforting.  I want to paint men and women with that something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize, and which we seek to convey by the actual radiance and vibration of our colouring.

So I am always between two currents of thought, first the material difficulties, turning round and round to make a living; and second the study of colour.  I am always in hope of making a discovery there, to express the love of two lovers by the wedding of two complementary colours, their mingling and their opposition, the mysterious vibration of kindred tones.  To express the thought of a brow by the radiance of a light tone against a sombre background.  To express hope by some star, the eagerness of a soul by a sunset radiance.

And in a picture I want to say something comforting.”

An extract from a letter written by Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo – read out at the funeral service of Marguerite Clapp on 5 March 2010 by her grand-daughter.

I thoroughly intend to let both artists guide me from this point on.

Nomadic on Speed

Early on a bleak Sunday morning I was clocked by Cambridge Constabulary speeding through the streets of Madingley.  My heart sank as the flash of the speed camera told me I had potentially another three points on my licence.

But when I tore open the letter from said police force I was delighted to see that instead of a fine and a punishing endorsement,  I was offered the chance to be re-educated.   I swiftly booked myself onto the Speeding Awareness course. It meant giving up four hours on a Friday evening – but it has taken me on a deeper journey altogether.  A slower journey.

Most people that know me, will tell you that I operate at 100mph (I hasten to add it was only 35mph through Madingley).  My brain likes to skip between portrait painting, conflict transformation, being a good wife, an innovative parent, a blogger, not to mention holding down a full-time all-absorbing job.  I whizz through airports, speed read novels, and want people and technology to “work quicker”.  I have lunged through Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Pakistan (and very often France).  One week I want to write a novel, the next run for election, and the next embark on property development in Bulgaria.  My life, it could be said, is a confusing rush of energy.

Asking me to sit down with 19 other “offenders” for four hours to contemplate my need for speed was therapy in more ways than one.  I realise now that I was lucky to have been caught by a speed camera and not by a 13 year old pedestrian distracted by a text message.  But I wonder whether I have caused other fatal collisions in my swiftness throughout life.  I have told myself I am dynamic and driven (pardon the pun) – but perhaps I am simply superficial and impatient.  Fact is – my love of life makes me see that there is simply too much that interests and excites me and in an attempt to “do it all” – I may well be living without due care and attention.

So.  I am slowing down to (just) within the legal limits.  Those who know me may not notice an external change for as usual I will wear a mask of calm – but know that inside I am more measured, more reflective and less agitated.

One in twelve people will reoffend after taking the course – but this compares with one in four who don’t take part.  If you get clocked speeding I thoroughly recommend taking part (if you are offered the chance).  It might not change the way you live – but it might change the way you drive.

http://www.ukmotorists.com/awareness_course.asp

http://www.driverawareness.com/

https://www.drivetechsas.com/news.htm

Arctic French Monkeys

I’m back in France.  Actually I was here for new years too – but felt crappy and ended up in bed, sober, by 11.30 on New Years Eve.  Gotta say I enjoyed the ferry crossing in both directions (despite floor sleeping on blow up mattresses).  My daughter – “is this the Ryan Air of Ferries, mum”?  Yep, it was cheap – £120 to get five of us all the way across the channel and back – plus car – but it did the job.  Snow on deck, naval vessels out of Portsmouth, and not a lorry driver in sight.  Nice.

Now I’m back.  I already have dirty finger nails and an aching back after a hard days graft on the house.  Today we made a second bedroom, with the cunning use of stud walling.   It all looks rather lovely (to mine eye), although a tumble of junk awaits us downstairs in the morning.  Arriving in darkness (with Landrover and trailer), my other half didn’t notice the splendid redesign upstairs has meant that all building materials have been scattered like an upturned biscuit tin of goodies onto the ground floor.  I hoping to manage a major clear up before heading for Ikea in Rennes tomorrow afternoon, and the MAIN REASON for coming to these parts and staying in a freezing freepart-renovated building in mid-winter – the Arctic Monkeys.  Les Singes Arctiques better be good!

The Art of Travel

Portrait Artist, Caroline Jaine grew up in the west of England in a creative household and expressed herself through drawing and painting from an early age. After studying Art & Design in Bath and Cambridge her professional career took her overseas, where she has spent much of her adult life.  Caroline continued to paint and exhibit wherever she was assigned, worked under the mentorship of renowned artists Anoma Wijewardene in Sri Lanka, and was sponsored by the British Council for her solo show in the Slovak Republic in 1999.

Caroline’s move to portraiture coincided with a particularly tough spell living in Iraq and her recent moving collection shown in London, features Iraqi journalists alongside Sri Lankans and Afghans and a significant number of BBC correspondents and broadcasters that Caroline has worked alongside.  She is currently working on single protraits of prominent British figures that have “made a difference” and has a keen interest in portraiture for social cohesion. Caroline is also a published photographer, writer and founder of an organisation that promotes the use of the visual and descriptive arts in conflict transformation.

Caroline rarely accepts private commissions for portraits – but feel free to contact her directly to discuss this further.


Pakistan Photo Album

A photo blog posting this time.  with little time for words – a few glimpses of my time this week in Pakistan – Islamabad and Rawalpindi in the main, with some out of this world images along the Afghan/Pakistan border.  For more and higher resolution images visit these FlickR pages.

Flash on colour in Islamabad

Islamabad street at dusk

Fabric shop in F7 Islamabad

F7 market street

street scene Rawalpindi

Islamabad airport departure lounge

By far the best set of images were taken from the plane – as we were lifted up above Rawalpindi, we saw snow capped mountains to the north and then flying south along the Afghan border, we saw the awesome sight of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas for ourselves.  We were speechless at their majesty.

1500 miles to London Town

train photo

I’ve been sooo excited preparing to take my 4Nomadic travel blog readers  on a trip to Pakistan in the next few weeks, that I totally neglected to blog about perhaps the most crucial bit of travel in my life at the moment.

Considering many of you are off-shore readers (IE investing your time outside of the British Isles) I realise that my daily trips to London town may be worth sharing as something of a foreign commodity for you.

Over the past month I have travelled over 1,500 miles (2,414 km) making regular, sometimes agonizingly early treks from my sleepy village home on the Cambridgeshire/Hertfordshire borders into the heart of the city of London.  Since the clock change, I invariably tip toe out of my home under the cover of darkness (only once waking neighbours as my wing mirror hooked a forgotten wheelie bin and dragged it noisily down the drive way).  My children, in various states of awakeness suffer my departure with sleepy kisses, “can I borrow your hair dryer” or by pulling a duvet back over their heads.  My other half usually keeps me plied with green tea and kind words and then deposits me at the station (perhaps better he drives given the wheelie bin incident).

The trains run to several an hour and are generally on time (if they are delayed, early morning commuters tend to tut quietly – is all).  The ticket itself is bloody expensive – to buy an annual pass to cover my train miles costs £3400 ($5400, EURO 3780, 37,800 CNY, 262800 INR).  I know this is more than some of you earn in a year, let alone spend on trains.

Aside from the occasional tut, my fellow fare payers are generally wrapped up in their Blackberries, books, work papers or if it’s really really early are fast asleep (see picture taken this morning).  They travel alone and avoid eye contact and small talk.  occasionally work colleagues will travel together, generating passive aggressive sighs from fellow commuters as they break the dull silence by daring to talk.  And if it happens to be school holidays and you should decide to use rail travel with your talkative young, expect people to blatantly move seats to be at a distance from you or huffily plug their ears with headphones.  If you are American, it’s strongly advised that you remain mute, less you should offend – something about the tone of voice that carries and will disturb this sacred silent time.

The journey home on the same train is a little more animated.  A similar group of commuters, but this time wrestling under a sea of free newspapers handed out by low paid masses who thrust said paper in your face at every  train and tube station in London.  I sometimes can’t resist and after a hard days strategizing with government, I find myself drawn to  know more about Jude’s relationship with his illegitimate child, a Winehouse breast falling out at a party or Paris’s British Best Friend.  Actually I cheat, I pick up discarded papers from seats not from touts and consider my actions one of ethical recycling.  Besides I feel very uncomfortable with myself  straining to read tabloid filth over someones shoulder.

Sometimes when I arrive at King’s Cross in the morning I decide to walk all the way to the office.  Like I did this morning, taking far too long (50 mins) and generating bloody blisters on the backs of each heel.  Sometimes I wear proper shoes, fit for purpose – like many a suited officer walker, and can manage the distance in a 35 minute march.  The journey clears my head and I love to glimpse shop owners preparing for the day, and get wafts of Great British fry-ups from cafes, or encounter jet-lagged tourists awake far too early for anything to be open.  It reminds me of early mornings in Sri Lanka where people stretch and stand in the street brushing their teeth from a communal tap.  Seeing a place wake up is an intimacy not to be taken for granted.

Not far from the British museum I usually come across groups of labourers gathered over steaming polystyrene cups and cigarettes.  Their laughter makes me envious, as my own work colleagues aren’t as colourful or at ease with one another.  Walking through Convent garden, which seems entirely recession-free and littered with stupid boutiques selling quirky things that nobody needs, and onto Trafalgar Square where I quietly nod  a hello to an alledged relation on top of his column and head down towards Big Ben and the powerhouses of British Government.

Sometimes I don’t walk, I get the tube (subway), which unless I time it right involves some very close bodily contact with complete strangers (who still manage to maintain the silent no eye contact thing despite being an inch away from your face).  It’s a fear of loosing dignity thing I think – we simply pretend not to be there.

The good thing about the commute is the amount I read.  As  a mother of three with a full-time job, reading is an absolute luxury, so to have been able to fill  my heads with the mountains of the Hindu Kush and Britain’s immigrant community in the east end of London, as well as Winehouse, Jude and Paris as the shadows of British countryside flash past in the dusk and dawn light has been a thrill indeed.

So, just a glimpse at my daily travels.  I realise that if I had travelled 1500 in a straight line would have reached Azerbaijan by now.  But I like it this way, close to home for now.  See you in Pakistan in a few weeks!

1500 Miles  to London Town

I’ve been sooo excited preparing to take my 4Nomadic friends on a trip to Pakistan in a few weeks, that I totally neglected to blog about perhaps the most crucial bit of travel in my life at the moment.

Considering many of you are off-shore readers (IE investing time outside of the British Isles) I realise that my daily trips to London town may be worth penning as something of a foreign commodity for you.

Over the past month I have travelled over 1,500 miles (x km) making regular, sometimes agonisingly early treks from my sleepy village home on the Cambridgeshire/Hertfordshire borders into the heart of the city of Londoan.  Since the clock change, I invariably tip toe out of my home under the cover of darkness (only once waking neighbours as my wing mirror hooked a forgotten wheelie bin and dragged it noisily down the drive way).  My children, in various states of awakeness suffer my departure with sleepy kisses, “can I borrow your hair dryer” or by pulling a duvet back over their heads.  My other half usually keeps me plied with green tea and kind words and then deposits me at the station (perhaps better he drives given the wheelie bin incident).

The trains run several an hour and are generally on time (if they are delayed, erly morning commuters tend to tut quietly – is all) but they ARE bloody expensive.  To buy an annual pass to cover my train miles costs £3400 ($) – I am guessing more than some of you earn in a year.  Aside from the occasional tut, my fellow fare payers are generally wrapped up in their Blackberries, books, work papers or are asleep.  They travel alone and avoid eye contact and small talk.  Occassionally work colleagues will travel together, generating passive aggressive sighs from fellow commuters as they break the dull silence by daring to talk.  And if it happens to be school holidays and you should decide to use rail travel with talkative young,expect people to blatantly move seats to be at a distance or huffily plug their ears with headphones.  If you are American, it’s strongly advised that you remain mute, less you should offend.  Like the Norther Irish, your voice carries and will disturb this sacred silent time.

The journey home on the same train is a little more animated.  A similar group of commuters, but this time wrestling under a sea of free newspapers handed out by low paid masses who thrust said paper in your face at every  train and tube station in London,  Even I pick them for a read – after a hard days strategising with government, I find myself drawn to  know more about Jude’s relationship with his illigimate child, Winehouses breat falling out at a party or Paris’s British Best Friend.  Actually I cheat, I pick up discarded papers from seats not from touts and consider my actions one of ethical recycling.  Besides I feel very uncomfortable with myself  straining to read tabloid filth over someones shoulder.

Sometimes when I arrive at King’s Cross in the morning I decide to walk all the way to the office.  Like I did this morning, taking far too long (50 mins) and generating bloody blisters on the backs of each heel.  Sometimes I wear proper shoes, fit for purpose – like many a suited officer walker, and can manage the distance in 35 minutes.  The journey clears my head and I love to glimpse shop owners preparing for thday, and get wafts of Great British fry-ups from cafes, or encounter het-lagged tourists awake far too early for anything to be open.  Not far from the British museum I usually come across groups of labourers gathered over steaming polysterene cups and cigarettes.  Their laughter makes me enious as my own work colleagues are far less colourful or jolly.  Walking through Convent garden, which seems entirely recession free and littered with stupid boutiques selling things nobody needs, and onto Trafalgar Square where I quietly nod  a hello to an alleged relation on top of his collum and head down towards Big Ben and the powerhouses of British Government.

Sometimes I don’t walk, I get the tube (subway), which unless I time it right involves some very close bodily contact with complete strangers (who still manage to maintain the silent no eye contact thing despite being an inch away from your face).  Its a lack of dignity thing, I think we simply pretend not to be there.

Good thing about the commute is the amount I read – as  a mother of three with a full time job, reading is an absolute luxury, but I have been able to fill my heads with the mountains of the Hindu Kush and Britains immigrant community in the east end.  Shadows of British countryside flash past in the dusk and dawn light ).  Realise that if I haad travelled 1500 in a straight line would have reached x.