09 Feb ICELAND: THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE TRIP
In my earlier blogs I have mentioned that self expression is hugely helpful in life. Fortunately, (for me but not necessarily for others!!), I have found ways of expressing myself through painting, storytelling and verbal diarrhoea. I can’t dress it up any nicer as there is no other way to describe it really. When something catches my attention I practically smother it with words or paint! A frequently heard statement in our house involves my husband or children putting a finger on their lips to say “Mum! Ssshhhhhh….. too many WORDSs…….Sshhhhh!!!!” I just seem to have a need to say things as clearly as I can in as many different ways as I can to ensure everyone knows what I really mean.
For example, when I am asked to explain any of the paintings I have delivered to their new homes the one thing I can never be criticised for is too few words at my disposal. I hope this is simply the result of loving what I am invited to do and loving being able to find meaning in so many aspects of life. Let’s face it if I can find meaning in a piece of rubbish that washed up on the beach or finds it’s way in to the rubbish bag then I think you will have to agree that my inspiration is insurmountable. Phew! I would hate to think one day nothing will inspire me. Fortunately, I am inspired by so many people and experiences.
I was particularly inspired by the conversations I had with the patrons behind the Iceland trip and forthcoming Iceland exhibition. We talked regularly about what an impact the Icelandic landscape had had on them and I mentioned that it was top on both my bucket list and also my husband and daughters’. As a family we had fallen for Sigor Ros’ beautiful interpretation of Iceland in music. This band had captivated us quite some years ago with their made up language and mystical, haunting sound that was mesmerising. Many summers ago I was attending a summer school run by Cardiff University in Howard Gardens campus. One of the workshops involved painting to music and I was really pleased when one of the pieces was Sigor Ros. We were invited to freely translate sound in to brush strokes or marks of any kind and whilst I found it incredibly hard some of the students seemed to effortlessly achieve something beautiful. I found I could only really access it through charcoal but kept thinking too hard and thus the pieces of work never felt truly authentic but rather contrived and formulaic. It did make me realise that using the sense of sound as the main focus does involve many a challenge. I could translate sounds in to shapes and marks but struggled to express them without hanging them on some other recognisable form. However, one student in my opinion had captured almost the movement of sound in colour and speedy, wispy marks. It was quite beautiful and uninhibited. That’s quite an unusual thought to suggest “Me …. inhibited …… in my painting…” of sound as I usually paint so freely. What a conundrum!
Request for feedback: Could anyone add to this subject? It would be interesting to hear of others who have been able to access sound and painting both happily or with difficulty.
The layers of inspiration behind this trip were growing all the time. Hearing from others how the landscape had impacted on them, about how we as a family had built it up as an almost spiritual place that would be absorbed in if we ever visited thanks to the music we had listened to all contributed to the conversations and the decision that it was imperative that we go and paint it. Even more inspiring was my patrons’ depth of understanding of what mattered. I am referring to their instinctive appreciation of the need for me to interpret it not simply paint it. How insightful are they? As an artist this was one of the moments when you realise that you have a responsibility to impart something not simply re-produce or even produce something. This was to be an experience that needed to be explored, considered, seen, touched and felt, smelt (and boy does Iceland smell!), tasted and heard. The outcome of the experience needed to interpret it in such a way that others, some of whom may visit and some of whom may not be able to but everyone will get a window that looks in at this beautiful, serene and quietly haunting landscape.
Oh and I nearly forgot! Whilst I have not formerly undertaken an ancestor DNA test for anyone in my family I know I descend from the Vikings. I base this on my grandmother and father both having the Viking Claw gene that causes their hand to deform considerably. Many a friend and fellow creative has observed my textiles and asked me if I have ever been to any of the Nordic or Scandinavian countries. I have practiced sustainable textiles for a long time simply because it mattered that I used what I had access to primarily. I avoid using patterns and the internet for ideas. I rely predominantly on how materials present themselves to me. No I have never been to these regions and until quite recently as a creative artist I had never realised that my textiles in particular share so many similarities with these regions. Never have I felt more content than when I allow myself to believe that there may be a reason for this that goes way back to my Viking descendants. So there was another inspiration behind this trip. A tiny weeny Viking cell that lives inside me wanted to go home.
- We have talked about Motivation already so now let’s focus on Inspiration?
- Think about what inspires you to do anything creative.
- Is there Someone, Something, Somewhere that inspires you?
- Get to know yourself by understanding what gets your creative juices flowing.
- Start today and make a record of where that inspiration starts and where it takes you. It could be a sketch book, a diary, a photo.
- Acknowledge the inspiration behind our work and give it credit!
I had gathered so much from so many people the only thing left to do was decide what we wanted to see and what we would have to leave for another time.
Key places and notes to consider:
- *Thingvellir National Park (The tectonic plates. Try to get to them by sunrise so as to witness the impact of the light on the rock faces which is starkly different once the sun has risen fully)
- *Geysir Hot Springs
- *Gullfoss water falls
- Kerid crater
- Blue lagoon (Take your own food!!!)
- Macapaca towers (Stone linked with gods, elves and folklore)
- Northern lights (BOOK TOUR AS SOON AS ARRIVE to get best chance during trip to witness them. Experience the alpha male madness of the jeep trips. A convoy of jeeps and quiet lull before a frenzy of activity and drive across the island in search of the sighting)
- *Golden Circle (Thingvellir, Gullfoss, Geysir)
- Reykjavik (Mount Esja dominates the skyline. Visit the visitor centre)
I was interested in the wildlife and asked friends about it. For some their memories only recalled Puffins known to the island but no recollection of seeing bird life or anything else just a very quiet atmosphere. The travel guide suggests some sea birds may be seen and Whales and marine ducks (including long tailed or old squaw and scoter) Godwits, red-Throated Divers and Hobbys, Iceland’s smallest bird of Prey. The guide book states that it is the North of the island that has a Glut of wildfowl and rich in wildlife. I had also heard about the beautiful ponies with their long manes and the hairy sheep!
Other fascinating insights from our conversations described memories of how distorted distance felt. The vast landscape and endless horizon was confusing as things in the far far distance looked really close but were really not close at all. The colours of moss on the ground was different in colour and nature than anything seen elsewhere. Colours were going to be so exciting and in the weeks building up to the trip I naively began to think I could prepare a palette before seeing it for myself. Oh how wrong I was. Below is some of the effort I put in:
Thursday, 28th September 2017
Today I am focussing on exploring colours. I will need primary colours that have the capability to mix colours that suggest Iceland’s palette. I started with a google search and was quickly guided to a helpful site Dunn Edwards paints. These are not artist paints but the thinking behind them helped me enter in to the mind-set of seeing and noticing colour in the pictures I was looking at of Iceland and also helped me appreciate a bit more some of the artists’ work I have begun to explore. That reminds me I need to share the name of the artist I had chosen for my “Artist of the Week” in my art class on Wednesday. Thorgrimur Einarsson had caught my eye for a bit of drama and I like his alla prima approach but more importantly I loved his outdoor paintbrush holder which consisted of paint brushes stuck in the ground hahah.
Dunn Edwards have created a colour range of household paint to capture the strongest colours of Iceland. I wanted an insight in to artist colour and found their choices helped me clarify what primary colours I could start mixing with from my own paints. I have used colour charts from DIY stores in the past for tutoring art students as they provide an incredible indication of just how much colour is out there! I make lots of colours from my palette but the colour charts will show how tinting and toning with white and varying combinations of primary pigments causes an endless array of colour to be available.
For example, I use a lot of:
cobalt blue, indigo, ultramarine, Prussian blue for my blue palette;
alizarin crimson, for my red palette
From these colours I will develop a mass of secondary and tertiary colours. The ultimate aim is always to find a good GREY. Grey is the best colour of all in my mind. I will find my grey first usually from lemon yellow, alizarin crimson and cobalt blue and then a small amount of white. Using my palette knife it will offer me a colour range within which all other colours can sit. Grey never has to be just black and white! Grey is beautiful, vibrant and very harmonising in a picture.
The colours I was referring to had lovely names well with the exception of BLACK DEA187. Others were called Below Zero, Droplets, Frost proof, Tinted Ice, Asparagus Fern, Charmed Green, Dark Engine, Heart Throb, Whisper, Red Power, Fuzzy Duckling and Safe Harbour. The reds that Dunn Edwards had mixed were to match the reds of the built structures in the landscape, the lighter blues were reflecting the cool, glacial hues of the water and ice, the darkest blue was also liked with built structures as was the Fuzz Duckling yellow. The greens were linked with the mosses and greenery but had a magical quality I could only relate to books about fairies and goblins. The cream/whites were so delicate and fragile. However, one was slightly more warming than the other.
This is very helpful because the blues are more cyan and cobalt so already I need to explore these colours more than I would usually. The reds are more cadmium and orange than the crimsons that I use but the yellow is both lemony and cadmium. The greys/blacks and white more complex than perhaps I have worked before. The problem I will have with blacks and whites is they are very unforgiving in their mixing. I will need to do a very delicate tonal hue chart for these colours and mixing in large quantities is going to prove a challenge. Yey!!
Check out the page I was looking out to see how Dunn Edwards matched colour to environment.
Friday, 29 September 2017
I have spent the morning scanning the books for an insight in to the sights and to ascertain distance and timescales for travel. There is so much to see and have 5 days that I think we can achieve plenty if we have a focus. In addition to places suggested above, I know have additional places listed below that are scattered East West and North of the Island. Food for thought!
Other places listed from various Guide books:
- the West fjords. Heading North from Reykjavik the western coastline is famous for its stormy weather!!! Gylmur falls home to the Viking Egill Skallagrimsson. Lots of fishing villages north west of Borgarnes and a conical icecap covering a dormant volcano. The Snaesfellsjokull National Park. Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls.
- Lots of reference to Saga sites wasn’t sure what they were so here’s a definition:
The Sagas of Icelanders (Icelandic: Íslendingasögur), also known as family sagas, are prose narratives mostly based on historical events that mostly took place in Iceland in the 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries, during the so-called Saga Age. They are the best-known specimens of Icelandic literature.
- East Fjords (river valleys, boggy plateaus surrounding the Vatnajokull icecap and national park. Route 931 passes fields full of sheep and Icelandic horses before woodland springs up)
- Natural thermal pools since Viking times. Landmannalaugar –Countryman’s bathing pool, southern Iceland, surrounded by a stark snow streaked mountains, ancient 15th century lava fields and glacial river valleys. Most of here has been shaped by Heckla-2nd most active volcano
- Boat tour from visitor centre at Jokulsarlon (a broad lagoon south eastern coast where the glacier edges down to sea, a black sand beach behind you and mass of Europe’s largest icecap on horizon.
- North Iceland Skalfandi humpback whales in summer!!!
So there you have it. The thoughts feelings and preparations that went on before we arrived at destination ICELAND. The next Blog will bring you right in to the road trip. It will be bring in places we stayed, visited and music we listened to as we toured the West coast of Iceland.
Thanks as ever,