All posts by Anna Liversidge

January

It’s a strange and dark time of year, does anyone like January? I won’t even mention the things we are meant to be doing this month! Who needs that? I’m very much with The Moomins who hibernate from November to April, wise, wise creatures. Though I do find beauty and inspiration in bare branches and the beautiful light we occasionally get.

Threads

So settle in, get comfy, my blogs are much like my style of talking; I always have a lot to say. 2019 I wrote Old Year/New year/Art year (blog archives) and it certainly was a big year. I became a proud member of The Society for Embroidered Work. I took part in their first exhibition at Clerkenwell Gallery which was also my first. I had an article in Be creative magazine, and was interviewed in Brighton Journal and to my great excitement also did a big Artist Takeover on Instagram for Carve out Time for Art. Somehow I managed all of that while constantly unwell, and suffering with depression and anxiety. In May I came off anti depressants after about 20 years, the withdrawal was horrific. Anyway long story short I am now strangely finding the depression has lessened by about seventy percent!! Which means I now have some control over my life.

Beneath the Surface

During the Autumn I found myself pondering my creative journey. I’d packed in quite a bit and was feeling pretty drained. I also began to see that my energy gets depleted very quickly due to chronic low grade ill health. Stress is the culprit my young doctor tells me, well this I have in abundance. My conclusion was I need more Art. I’ve learned to focus properly in the last few years. This used to be an issue as there is so much inspiration and so many things to try. I’ve evolved my work very slowly through a plodding approach. I think there’s some talent in there but, it has mostly come about by hard work and a sheer refusal to give up.

Leaf embroidery work in progress

I decided this year is the year of saying No! No to anything other than making art. I have cleared my diary, declined opportunities I’d usually say yes to. I’ve prepared for days of illness by making a list of things I can do easily and slowly and even in bed. I decided I want to be a ‘proper’ artist clocking 4 hours a day Monday to Friday. There is so much in my head that has waited a long time to get created. I want to learn new skills, I want to elevate my work to a higher level. There is a whole solo exhibition buzzing around in my thoughts and sketchbook. The first piece ‘Beneath the Surface’ was featured in the London exhibition, the others (including some installation pieces) need yet to become…

Here are some of the obstacles…

  1. Having to be self motivated
  2. The above but with instagram access
  3. Working from home (can’t afford a studio)
  4. Feeling constantly unwell
  5. Being isolated
  6. Doubting yourself
  7. Guilt! it’s not technically a ‘proper’ job even if you are self employed unless you are earning more than pocket money, or is it?
  8. More guilt, I’m very lucky compared to lots of people..

Well I’m very proud to say I overcame all the above, I just refused to let it be an issue, I got serious and got down to it on the 1st Monday of January, and then it got hard, and harder still!

Embroidered ragwort leaves

I’m also a Mum of teenagers. Tricky in itself, made more so by the fact that I was a full time Mum for many years. I cook, I’m cuddly, I listen. So week one of January my very intense 17 year old son (who can talk non stop for many hours! sounds like me, I know!) is doing everything under the sun to avoid A level work – cue talk to Mum! No is not a word he understands, anything I say is for him a chance to debate! My ‘work’ according to the wise young one is a bored housewife’s hobby. I cannot firmly shut the door in his face as the cute kitties love to rip up carpet and scratch woodwork if ever a door is closed. By the end of the week I am feeling more and more unwell, tearing my hair in frustration, but victory..I’ve done 3 hours each day and trained the toddler/ teenager to respect my boundaries.

Week 2, Velma the cat gets cystitis. Why am I telling you this I wonder? straightforward enough, go to vet, get medicine, sorted! Unless you have an especially stubborn cat. It’s Thursday night and so far it has derailed my entire week! The fight to administer medicine is on, poor kitty is not happy, she is attempting to pee on beds, sofas, is ripping at doors, running and miawing. I’m doing my best to stay calm, clean all the mess ( am I actually working in a nursing home?) My cold has got much worse, I’m feverish with shaky hands and the head is hammering. I hold onto my sanity with a firm grip. I can barely leave the bed let alone attempt working in a cafe!

At this point I know I need to be kind and 4 hours is impossible just now. I begin to feel the universe is giving me a very clear message, this is not meant to be. Yes , I’ve had an intense couple of weeks and it will pass, but I know full well there will be something new around the corner, maybe several new things sent to derail me.

So the thing that I am learning very early into this year is – I only have control over me! How I act, respond and behave. Stress is a part of life, and it bombards me constantly, I’m also highly sensitive and don’t brush things off easily. I picked up Full Catastrophe Living, dusted it off and settled with the illuminating words of mindful guru Jon Kabt Zinn, the king of stress relief. After that, and an uplifting pep talk from a fellow artist I got to it. In bed, ill me, ill cat, a litter tray on the bed with us, a cup of tea and I did an hour of work on my art. Is it good? not especially, but its mine! It’s my promise to me, I will listen to the voice within calling me. Sometimes it makes no sense, and has no logic but it it is important and needs to be heard.

So I await the next day with whatever it may bring, but work on my art I will!

If you’d like to comment or tell me your art journey adventures you can find me on instagram @annaliversidgeartist or email anna@annaliversidge.co.uk or comment here (sometimes temperamental)

Pierre Bonnard

 

The plans for a monthly blog post have gone awry! Where does the time go? I actually have a fair bit of it, but I still cannot fit everything in. The last few posts have taken many hours to create, this one is going to be a quickie. I figured writing a basic one would be better than none at all.  So please excuse the imperfections.

I almost missed this exhibition as the last few months have sped by. Sadly it was very overcrowded which did effect the experience.  I’ve studied lots of paintings through art history but know little about the practicalities of the medium.  What always stuns me though, is the power of a painting. Some can be almost perfect and realistic; while others more raw and less accomplished, yet more moving.

The colours, oh the colours, like nothing I have seen before. They are just beyond beautiful, and speak their own language that is difficult for me to express. I would say that  Bonnard’s work is all about feeling.  It was like stepping  into a new world with softer edges.

 

 

‘The Studio with Mimosa ‘1939-46

“In a classic interplay between interior and exterior, the mimosa blossoms provide an explosion of vibrant yellow through the studio window.  As ever, Bonnard’s observation of nature was just a starting point. His heightened combination of colours was guided by what he called ‘the first emotion prompted by the scene’ The transcended reality achieved in this painting bears testament to Bonnard’s vision.’     (taken from the Tate’s information booklet)

As it was so crowded I approached the exhibition a bit more like a stealth attack, zooming in to focus on those paintings that drew me in and appealed more.   This painting dazzled me, its light and quality pulled me in deeply, but when I stood closer it was a very different experience. I found stepping back and looking at it from an angle changed its impression greatly.

 

What I came away with is how stunning and moving pure colour can be. I know little about it so have just ordered myself Colour Confident Stitching by Karen Barbe.

I’m currently working on a collection of pieces based around seaweed. I would normally approach this just visually but since I have been growing and developing themes are arising. There is  meaning involved in these pieces. I have not worked like this before. It’s a little like going into the dark with a destination in mind but one where  there is no map, only trust. I’m just feeling my way through.

Bonnard in conclusion filled me with feeling, emotion and the pure wonder of colour, and reminded me of the power of art. Have you seen the exhibition? What are your thoughts?

Anni Albers at Tate Modern January 2019

I hadn’t planned on visiting this exhibition, as weaving is not something that has interested me especially. I kept hearing how good it was, and it just goes to show how valuable it can be to go along even if you think it’s not for you.

Ironically Anni was not initially keen on weaving either, and considered it ‘sissy’. Not dissimilar to myself thinking textiles and embroidery boring before I fell in love with them.

Anni Albers wanted to paint, but she was discouraged by teacher Oskar Kokoschka and in her day womens options were limited. She was pushed into pursuing weaving ( a suitable female occupation).

“I used the threads themselves as a sculptor or painter uses his medium to produce a scriptural effect which would bring to mind sacred texts.” Anni Albers

“Six prayers 1966-67” was commissioned by the Jewish Museum, New York as a memorial to the six million lost in the Holocaust.

Six Prayers

 

 

My friend and I took a seat to fully take in this series. We had no idea of their significance. We were only aware of how they dazzled us. They are described in the guide as sombre, which was surprising as they glowed with a calm beauty. They glittered and shimmered in a subtle yet powerful manner. We sat transfixed marvelling at their complexity which was hidden by their initial simplicity. The colours are limited, yet the warm golden tones drew us in. How could beige, silver, black and white be so  mesmerising?

 

 

Six prayers (detail)

 

 

Her energy and prolific work was astounding! To see that she had sat and painstakingly drawn tiny triangles filled with dots in her mid seventies, the sheer concentration and manual dexterity that took was inspiring. Her career and life were long, and when she found weaving to be a strain in later years she began printing.

 

 

 

 

Another element of great interest was how her mind worked. The process of weaving is both creative and methodical. She excelled at both, whereas I struggle with the methodical aspects. What she has managed to achieve in her career is phenomenal. The meticulous planning, and details, the deceptive simplicity of some pieces in their colours, revealing so much depth upon looking closer. Her commissions alone are impressive. These include room dividers for Harvard dormitories,  a light reflecting drapery for the Rockerfeller guest house, and a sound proof hanging for an auditorium which resembled a vast piece of metal.

 

Embossed metallic print

 

 

“To let threads be articulate again and find a form for themselves to no other end than their own orchestration, not to be sat on, walked on, only to be looked at, is the raison d’etre of my pictorial weavings.” Anni Albers

So much of the exhibition is a love song to life, the joy of making, the tactile qualities inviting you in.

 

 

Pictorial weaving

 

 

Her use of materials also intrigued me, how she pushed them and danced with them creating such innovation.  Not only wool was used but cotton, metallic thread, cellophane, nylon, and jute.

Raffia

 

Metallic thread

 

 

An over riding feeling from the exhibition was one of wanting to sit down with Anni and question her. What an interesting life she led. The exciting commissions she got to work on, how her life could have ended brutally if she had stayed in Germany like so many others. Black Mountain College, North Carolina where Anni and her husband went to teach in the 1930’s was a creative and intellectual community. It encouraged experimentation and communal living. Materials were explored and taken to new levels.

I especially enjoyed seeing her necklaces constructed from everyday objects such as washers, and ribbon, drain strainers, paperclips and hair pins. From a distance they were stunning, and only revealed their mundane origins upon a closer look. It took a long time to get around the exhibition, as each object had much to reveal on closer inspection. We needed a tea and brownie break half way through. There was just so much to really study, her typewriter -character pieces were fascinating as she used ordinary symbols like dots, percentages and forward slashes to create patterns on paper.

Necklace of plastic washers and gross grain ribbon.

I highly recommend a visit to see this exhibition if you get a chance before it closes on 27th January 2019. The Tate has done an incredible job. You may enjoy the article below.

https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/anni-albers/seven-life-hacks-anni-albers

Coming up next on the blog in February is the subject of drawing. I hope you can join me then.  Please leave a comment. Have you been to the exhibition?

Old Year/New Year/Art Year

 

I have never been a fan of New Year. It’s forced jollity or expectations,   ( I find Winter tough and often suffer badly with depression) Society tells us New Year- New You. My husband said let’s try Dry January this year, my youngest child suggested Vegan January. I have said a firm NO to both! If I want to do anything at all this coming year it is to be a hedonist! Now I bet you are thinking.. oh she’s a party girl! Far from it, I much prefer an early night, a good book, and some knitting. Candlelight is sparkle enough for me, good wine, close friends and cats.

 

I don’t want to just ramble on about myself.  So I am hoping that you will tell me what you think and feel in the comments space below. I’ve been thinking about re starting my blog for some time, and so I got to thinking, why? If it’s just a personal journal I can write it in a private notebook, who wants to hear about me anyway?  So I’m going to write this blog for me, and for people a bit like me. I really love and value the great instagram community of creative people I am part of. Many have encouraged, supported and inspired me. I have been told by friends that I have many skills to share. So I am hoping here to share my stories, creative process, ideas, inspirations and life lessons.
 

 

 

 
A little bit of background, I live in Brighton and my flat looks out upon the sea and beautiful communal gardens. ( Something which never fails to delight me daily, as I grew up on a rough council estate) I have a strangely posh accent ( picked up at the girls convent grammar I attended) My childhood was incredibly sad and traumatic and as a result I have suffered with anxiety and depression most of my life. I am a wife and mother, somewhat plump with good cheekbones, and I’m forty three.
 
Seaview from the undercliff
Now onto the important bit. In September when my youngest started secondary school, I gained extra time in my day and was excited about all I was going to do. I wanted to do more exercise, put in more hours on my art, have a great routine going, and basically do it all. Instead I got ill, anxiety worsened, and I found myself doing no art. I was frustrated, angry and disheartened. Did I wait patiently for this to pass? No! I forced things, I argued with my body, I tried this and that and was horrified by the mess I found myself in. One morning in Autumn I took myself out into the garden with a cuppa and sat in the sunlight. I looked all around me and saw mess. The mess of all the Autumn leaves, curled, squashed, muddled, crisp and beautiful. I saw very clearly the message nature was giving me. Life is messy, it’s meant to be messy, you can only embrace it.
   
winter foliage used to make monoprints
Nothing changed overnight, but my attitude. I started to see there was a different way. I am not a fan of mess, or slow. I would like colour coded plans, and a whistle to push things along. I would also like to still look thirty and have a perfect beach body. The biggest and best lesson I have learnt is acceptance and trust. Pushing and forcing has only led to failure.
   
I didn’t think much was going to change but it has. I really decided to start trusting myself, and getting quiet and listening to my intuition. I started to look at success and failure and what they mean to me and to question what is truly important and valuable. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t creative recognition, or getting paid to do textile work. What made me happiest of all was the process, the actual doing of the work, and finishing the work and learning and being part of a community of like minded creative people. Teaching workshops and being here when my children came home. At one point I decided I needed to get a studio, but I found that the idea of a studio was enough to shake up my attitude, and then I realised how much freedom I have working at home if I treat it like a studio. (money saved also, bonus!)
 
Hand stitched and mono printed card
I noticed how much I was living in my ‘story’ and not really living. Worrying, and apologising for being me, and feeling not good enough. So that is why I think it’s more important for me to be a hedonist this year.  I’ve begun to feel at ease in my skin at last, and having been someone who is always in my head, I’ve begun to live fully in each moment instead.

 

Dreams and goals are strange things, important and complicated. Going to art college I felt sure that my path was clearly laid out. You may not be surprised to hear it was messy, and complicated and not remotely how I hoped things would go. I didn’t specialise early enough as I couldn’t find my medium. I had fully imagined myself a photographer, jeweller or ceramicist. Though none of them clicked, and much as they interested me I was lost.

 

 

I headed off to do an HND in design crafts after art foundation having been told I could do an extra year top up to get my degree, which turned out to be false..

 

By then my grant was finished having done 3 years full time education after A levels. At a later date I did another 1.5 years ( half a degree in visual culture ) before  illness put an end to that. All in all I’ve done enough time in education to have an MA behind me but have spent years feeling cross that I don’t even have a degree.

 

Velma and Benton who think it is their bird watch post, not my studio space!

 

Funnily enough the learning really started when I left education behind me. The greatest thing I’ve learnt creatively has been recently. It is  FOCUS!

 

Suffering with depression gave me a foggy overwhelmed brain, relentless viruses and the anxiety pretty much finished me off. So I flitted around here and there, distracted, always inspired, full of ideas, never finishing very much. Also very frustrated.

 

I have started to say NO a lot more in my work which has moved it on considerably. Trust and intuition have become good friends and I am finding out where my skills really lie, and choosing which ones to commit to working harder on.

 

So much to see when you look up

 

Yesterday I had a funny chat with my teenage son about looking up. We were discussing balconies and how people don’t often look up. I’m always looking up and down and often at weeds in pavement cracks. “Yes, but you are weird” he said! “No I’m an artist” I replied.

 

Well you are not making lots of money selling your work he reminded me. This used to be my downfall. No degree- failure, no regular income from art- failure!  Not this year my patient reader!

 

To conclude, I’m stepping out of the story of my life, I’m leaving failure like a heap of clothes on the floor. I delight in my weirdness, I celebrate who I am. I am an artist, something I was too afraid to say for many years.

 

My intention is to live as much as possible in the present moment, to keep trusting myself and following my intuition. To draw and make marks and learn and make art everyday.

 

It is the beginning, there is hard work ahead, but what an adventure it will be!

 

 

So I wish the same for you. That you feel free, and alive, and realise how wonderful you already are. I wish you a happy, healthy and beautiful new year. Please tell me what your hopes or plans are for the the year ahead. I am hoping this will be a space for chatting and sharing and not just me writing long essays.

Just Do It

I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking, as do most of us, always in our heads. I have written so many blog pots up there, scribbled notes on them in my sketch book, and very few have actually appeared here.

Life often just passes by while we are waiting to do something. So today I’m just going to do it. The fancy pictures, professional layout, they will come, with time. The aim of my blog in general is to inspire, discuss the creative process, and show snap shots of a creative life, to connect with others, those who are creating, and those who wish they were doing it more.

 

 

I have learnt so much in the last year, about the creative process, being an artist, perfectionism, and what really matters to me. I still feel like a beginner though, and that’s a good place to be as it keeps you striving, and moving forward, but hopefully with a little more balance.

When I want to make a good drawing, I panic, I avoid it like the plague, I do nothing! Yet when I decide I haven’t much time, and I will just scribble something fast, the result is I have before me a drawing! A simple, imperfect one but somehow it feels more personal than the hundreds of photographs I have captured on my phone. I feel a connection, I have learnt something about what I am observing, I have found a quieter, calmer part of myself. It’s a lovely thing, try it!

 

 

You may be wondering why there isn’t an image of one of my quick sketches here, well I said I was learning about perfectionism, but it’s still there, saying nope that will not do. I guess that is what makes you a better artist, always striving, and trying harder. That balance is a tricky thing.

 

I have read, and re read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and I love that book so much. Her quote “perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat,”  is wonderful. I highly recommend it.  In fact it’s probably time for me to read it again.

The photographs I have used are not especially relevant, I just find I’m addicted to taking these shots, loving shadows, greys and textural qualities. I have no idea about photography, I just try and capture the essence of how I see the world. Mostly in details, colours, textures and blurry shadows.

Art and creativity are about connecting with others, something I have found so valuable on Instagram, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Get in touch on Instagram or email (contacts page) as my comments section is closed due to spam, but will be reopened soon.

 

 

 

Lace vessels

Before I discovered textiles I was always interested in sculpture and 3d shapes. I still like to bring this aspect to my embroidery. Working with water soluble fabric is so playful. These bowls are inspired by the sea, its colours, by shells. The shimmering of light on the sea is picked out by the hand sewn sequins. I’m currently exploring seaweed for my next textile pieces.  I have long been fascinated by what comes out of the sea, knotted fishing wire, ship wrecks, stories of lives. There is something ghostly and mysterious to it…

Linen pin cushions

I love working with linen, and chose a large piece which I machine embroidered with a an abstract landscape theme. As I don’t like to have idle hands I carried it with me in my bag and hand stitched into it whenever I could. On the bus, chatting to friends, in the garden. It was random and unplanned but had a unique quality. It sat in a drawer for a while until I decided to turn it into some pin cushions for sale at Sewmance Festival.