It’s been quite a while since I ran any art classes and many people have asked when I will do it again. So here we go.cI have put together a programme that offers a range of drawing experiences, both indoors and outdoors. cYou can see the details of times and venues on the dedicated workshop page. You will see details of dates, times, venues and an opportunity to book and pay via Paypal. If you wish to pay another way get in touch via the contact page or email me. Any questions just ask.
Here’s a little about the choice of subjects for the courses on offer.
I have elected to do Saturdays, so that a range of people can come along. Weekday courses are tricky due to some people’s work hours, or school runs, and evenings are tricky for those with children. The short course (5 sessions for 2 hours at a time) 2-4pm – enough time to settle down without taking up your day! This will be a taster-way of drawing and a detailed programme & materials list will be provided before the course starts.
For those who love to immerse themselves in longer sessions, there are workshops from 10am-3pm. Many people ask me to run life-drawing sessions so I have booked a model in already for that. Other people asked for outdoor drawing, so I have slipped 2 of the course sessions into the open landscape and one of the day sessions too.
Outdoor carries a risk of bad weather, but I am sure we will be able to find somewhere under cover, for some or all of the time, as long as I know in advance.
So please take a look and book as early as you can. Classes will only run if they are full enough to do so. If you book and a class doesn’t fill up sufficiently, you will be refunded accordingly.
Two weeks ago I moved into a new home. Same village, different house, from a tiny pretty house with views of the Severn, to an unattractive (outside) house with double the amount of light and space and a studio at the bottom of the garden. Since lugging my life belongings across the threshold, I have been without wifi, phone signal or views of the river.
I was worried I would miss the birds from Severn Street, the clattering gangs of jackdaws; the swallows and swifts, the growing families of blackbirds, starlings and sparrows that snatched up mealworms from my garden steps.
This morning, after fourteen nights of bad nights and frustrating days, disconnected and out of touch with the world in terms of internet, messaging, and long chats, things took a turn for the better.
I awoke to a crazy amount of bird activity outside. I threw the window wide open to see what the raucous noise was and saw jackdaws. Loads of jackdaws. Chattering away, hopping around on the ground, lines on the ridges of neighbours houses, flying in from above my head.
One brave seagull stood amongst the jackdaws, looking a bit out of place.
A series of flocks of starlings whizzed up the street, from left to right, passing low, like a military fly-by, before disappearing, off to reform murmurations elsewhere.
As I write, the jackdaws clatter above my head on my roof, slipping and sliding, dropping off the tiles. Below, a sole blackbird enters the frame, followed by a turtle dove, then another (doves always hangout in pairs). Flurries of sparrows flit from hedges to ledges.
I went downstairs to make a cup of tea and brought it back to bed. An email has managrd to arrive through the tiny chink of EE’s armour, a digital connection that squeezes into my house through a miniscule gap of time and space.
A message sent from above:
Hi Carolyn, Great news! Your EE broadband services is now ready to use in your new home.
You should see the smile on my face.
PERSONAL NOTE: It would have been my fathers birthday today – he died a long time ago, far too early. He loved birds, but never had the pleasure of using the internet. Funny today to think of him, at this moment, when technology and wildlife mean so much to me and our family. He would have been very proud of my sister, Sue Thomas, who wrote books called Correspondence, Hello World and Technobiophilia.
Extract from composer Andrew Heath’s newsletter. Sign up here! Below is a pic of Andrew and I taken on Friday at Severn Worlding are SVA Gallery, John Street, Stroud.
I also have a show in Newnham on Severn in SevernsidePress Guest house, as part of farOpen Studios. Checkout exhibitions page for opening times. Visit farOpen website to find out more.
Bev ‘D’… Artist film gets selected!
Back at the start of last year, I (Andrew) was asked by Carolyn Black to write the score for a short film she was making about a night’s work for a dredger – Bev D. The result was a beautiful slow, black and white film that treated the movement of this huge and heavy machine like ballet!
I had the pleasure of attending a screening of the film last night and in fact recently heard that it has been selected for Black Swan Open in Frome out of 1000 applicants!
I have become a keen observer of the bird behaviour that I witness in my garden. And I realise that because I own my garden, it is therefore my territory.
The birds have a different perspective, literally, because they arrive and leave from the sky, not a door. They visit the garden – not me. All because I have been putting food out for them regularly. So they now see it as a good territory to visit, in their own tribes.
Some breeds work as a collective, such as the very vocal gangs of starlings that arrive and try to take over the space. They shout and yell to make their presence known and line up together, discussing when to make their noisy dive in the confining area of my garden steps that rise from my back door. The sound of them ruffling their feathers is quite ominous. They forage aggressively, they chatter and gossip within their social group, but scare off any others that dare to eat their mealworms. Presumably they only have empathy within their breed and see all others as attackers.
The adults are shiny, colourful and beautiful. The youngsters soft grey brown, leggy and curious.,
The only birds I have seen them ignore are pairs of sparrows, usually one of which is a fledgling. Maybe they are ok with other birds that are smaller than them physically, that aren’t a threat. They are terrified of me, the moment one spots me, they all take to the skies en masse, flying as a group. Sometimes they depart completely, other times they fly up to a safe space and watch, waiting for me to leave the garden. They fidget about, cawing and grumbling in neat lines. As soon as the door is closed they go down again.
The blackbird families are so different. The males are often bombastic and very territorial. The larger one always chases off the smaller. The weaker. But all blackbirds would rapidly head for the exit when the noisy starlings arrived.
Blackbirds sing, starlings squawk.
The blackbirds and I have developed ways of communicating. It began last year with a female bird, who later brought her fledglings for feeding. She and I developed a calling engagement process. She shouted when she arrived, I mirrored her calls. She was not phased by me at all. She called, I came and nurtured her. And watching her life unravel gave me much joy. I filmed her, she came into the house if she ran out of food and needed more.
Before the little ones left the nest she came often, packing her beak with mealworms to take back to her young. The males later help to feed the hungry toddlers, taking an active part in raising them. Beaks wide open demanding to be fed, the fledglings tend to rule the roost, so to speak.
As I consider these bird dynamics I see my garden as a microcosm of a street, a village, a city. Where humans are the dominant species. I can control the personal dynamics between me and the birds in my garden. I would never attempt to control anyone else’s garden.
The streets, parks and footpaths in my village belong to everyone, and everyone is different. Like the birds, some people attack others, mostly vocally. Some form distinct groups and try to scare the others away. But ultimately the village belongs to the community. It IS the community. Just as the blackbirds take off to avoid confrontation, others behave like the starlings. At the end of the day, they are all negotiating their presence in the world.
In my garden, I can mediate the level of bullying the blackbirds are subjected to by the starlings. I can stand at the back door and verbally reassure the blackbirds they can eat, while my presence is known to the starlings. The sparrows are ok if I am there too.
I clearly upset the starlings, they are wary of me. But I have noticed some of the young starlings are less scared and will come alone. Maybe, naively, these pale young things have not yet learned to hang with the pack?
I only put out mealworms, whilst other bird feeding humans offer a wide range of seeds and fat balls. Some cafes serve one thing, others have a different offer. Same for books, films, pubs, clubs. I love diversity, it makes life rich and textured. This Jubilee week it is great to see people coming out of their houses and celebrating together. The Newnham Arts Fayre has done the same. Some of us enjoy one thing, others another. This should not create divides, there is room for everyone to follow their interests.
Society is mixed and varied, as are birds. But we are all in this together regardless of personal preferences
Tidying up my studio, listening to one of William Kentridge’s lecture as part of the Norton series, on YouTube. As I tidy up my studio, I listen and watch, though listening is priority as I need to look at what I am keeping, and what I am throwing away.
His lecture, In Praise of Shadows, is framed by the thinking behind Plato’s cave – raising thinking around what is real, what is not. How important drawing is. His voice and thinking is so fascinating, this is not the first time I have heard this. I find a pile of old notebooks and flip through them, one opens on the page of the notes I made about the lecture last year. I will probably read more old notes this evening.
I find images of my very early films, in the 1990’s, made during my MA in Fine Art.
As I take photos of these old works, I hear Kentridge make a reference to the Bunuel film “Un Chien Andalou”. I remember it was that film that influenced the work “A Case of Vanity”. I was fascinated by the gaze at the time, and the corporeal and digital body. It showed the reveal of an image of an eye, that I had printed on a sheet of animal gelatine. It had shock value like Bunuel, but humour too. All of those works contained a sense of humour, which I have largely lost in my art over the years.
I was intrigued by the then news about Dolly the Sheep and made work about that. I used Liquid Light to transfer patterns of various skins onto a sheep’s skull, it still sits on my shelf. While I am typing this, Kentridge is referring to skulls in his talk. It is a very odd synchronicity.
He is talking about how important the studio is to an artist. I have stopped tidying mine up, to write this, as I listen to him.
He has influenced my work hugely. He inspired me to teach myself how to do drawn animation. I love the fact that he merges text with image, music, film, sound. And his scale is huge!
I am not sure where I will go at the end of this day, but it is intriguing to keep finding links between old work and new. I have prints made during my post-graduate printmaking course, and drawings made in school. I am hoping to move house soon, so I can have more studio space. I just can’t wait.
Firstly, blackbirds. Last year I wrote a blogpost about my relationship with a female blackbird that grew over summer 2021. By the end of the year I rarely saw her, but a young male with a slash of white on the edge of his left wing began to visit the garden looking for food.
Last week, he returned! I had stopped feeding the birds for sometime due to a rat popping in (thankfully my neighbour dispatched with that). But when I called tut tut to the male blackbird, and he came down to look for food, I couldn’t resist. Out came the mealworms.
The last couple of days he has been here regularly and is now accompanied by a very large, dominant hen. She screams at him to feed her, with her beak wide open. I confess that, last year, I privileged the females over the males, because the females packed their beaks with mealworms to feed their young. The males just fed themselves. I suspect I was wrong, as it seems both males and females feed the fledglings. Maybe today she needed feeding by him because she has to build up her strength for incubating the eggs?
Anyway, I am pleased they are back.
Update Sunday 24th April: this morning the birds called with their tut tut tut as soon as I opened the back door. I responded, we did this for some time. They occasionally altered length or tone of calls and I mimicked them. Like audio pingpong. As soon as I came in and shut the door, they swooped down and peered around curiously, looking for me, then ate the mealworms.
And Blackboards? The two words have been in my mind a lot and it makes sense to put them together. I have been depicting future flooding areas of the Severn by creating reduction lino-prints. The action of erasing the land where the water covers it was rich for me. So I decided to use a similar technique using chalk and blackboard. I need to experiment, play a while, before committing to a large intense drawing. So I bought a blackboard instead of paper and set to.
I have started tentatively, I want to do my best to get the most out of the materials. Then rub it off and start again. It takes me back to a course I went on last year, Drawing Breath, with Tania Kovats and Chloe Briggs. We drew, then erased, and redrew the same thing again, and again, repeatedly. Looking, really looking, is addictive and meditative too.
I am loathe to show you the drawing until it is finished. But here is how I started it. It began to get dark so I had to stop, it is impossible to see the nuances in artificial light.
Blackbirds, blackboards, both keep my attention, settle me, engage me. They make me smile.
One visit stands out as being different. It was 20 years ago today, on 21 March 2002, and was the swansong of landscape architect Paul Walshe, who was retiring as the agency’s head of special areas. The event, which he organised, was a celebration of the arts in the south west.
After a walk around the National Trust’s Sherborne estate in Gloucestershire on 20 March, we crossed the A40 to the trust’s Lodge Park. This is a fascinating doll’s house-like building, erected in the 1630s as a place of entertainment for John Dutton.
We had dinner here, noisily entertained by the Oxford Waits, with guests from the artworld. I was sitting next to Nancy Sinclair of Aunehead Arts, whom I had not met. Reading her label I immediately thought of that wilderness in central southern Dartmoor. Nancy was surprised that I knew she came from Dartmoor since…
Very rarely have I been involved in two exhibitions on both sides of the Severn on the same dates! Both end on Sunday 27th March – the Old Passage exhibition in Arlingham and, across the river further along the estuary, the Severn Sisters show at 7Q in Chepstow.
So whichever side of the Severn you live, you have an opportunity to see my work. So much better than Instagram!
Both are group shows and offer a diverse range of works for sale, at various prices. From unframed prints to large canvases and everything inbetween.
The Old Passage has the works hung on the walls of their lovely restaurant, which serves up fabulous cakes and wonderful River Severn views. Whilst over in Chepstow, 7Q is only a few steps away from the bank of the Wye, and not far from where both rivers merge into the Severn Estuary.
I am stewarding on Sunday 20th March, at 7Q, 1.30-4pm, and the weather is going to be fab! The perfect day to visit Chepstow, such a historic town on the border of Wales and England. Steeped in history, there is a railway station there too, so popping over from Bristol, Cardiff and Gloucester is fairly simple. Parking is easy.
If you are on the other side of the Severn, a trip to The Old Passage is a different day out. You need to drive there, plenty of parking. Walk along the river banks, eat cakes, or maybe enjoy lunch and sit in the sun reading a copy of my book (also on sale at both venues). What a perfect way to enjoy the day. I live on the opposite bank so do wave!
I shall be over at The Old Passage on the 27th to collect works, so let me know if you will be around.
I hope this finds you well and life is returning to a semblance of ‘normal’ since my last newsletter over a year ago. Lots has gone on over that time both outside and in my studio. Here’s a general update split into Flow, studio practice & exhibitions coming up VERY soon.
My studio practice:
I have also been making new works using video, drawing, print and writing. I plan to write a new book too. My studio practice is exploring future flooding of the Severn near the Arlingham Peninsula. If you visit there do pop into the Old Passage Cafe for coffee, cake and see some art – including prints by me. (Embarrassing note – apparently my newsletter said poop not pop!)
I plan to run some drawing workshops in the future – just waiting to complete a house move first!
Join Cine Sisters SW for an evening of artists moving image by womxn artists from across the SW. Hear all about our plans for 2022 and how you can get involved.
My film: Earth Crumbles – a film about the fragility of this earth. Soundtrack by Eva Rune.
10-27 March 2022 The 7Q gallery, situated along The Back, Chepstow, is open from 11-4pm, Thursday to Sunday.
A group of local artists have come together in an exciting collaborative exhibition to be held at the ‘7Q’ Gallery in Chepstow. The ‘Severn Sisters’ are a new collective of artists all inspired or living by the River Severn and surrounding landscape.
“We are a mixed group of contemporary art practitioners working in drawing, print, pottery, jewellery, furniture restoration and textiles. Living alongside the mighty Severn we are all influenced by its beauty.”
As the Stroud Film Festival comes around this year, what a treat to be able to see and share stories on the big screen once more . Stories from all over the world, eclectic and original, mainstream and off the beaten track, and in venues that are as diverse as the programme itself: Stroud Brewery, a Mill (the Long Table’s new home), the Trinity Rooms and Minchinhampton Market Hall become temporary cinemas.
THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID – launch event Friday, March 11, 2022 7:30 PM 10:00 PM SVA John Street
An evening of short films completed in the last two years by female directors working across the South West. Curated with the intention of celebrating female talent, this collection of shorts offers fresh perspectives and unique, creative visions articulated amid these unparalleled times. From cosmic voyages to genre bending documentary interrogating our reality, our hidden worlds and identity. Prepare to have your senses stimulated.
My film: Together Apart – a film made from a Walking the Land First Friday Walk. Parallel landscapes from May Hill, Gloucestershire and Sweden. Soundtrack by Eva Rune.
Also online of Stroud Film Festival website, When You Call, I Shall Come – Severn Bore during lockdown. Shown as part of Earthphoto2020 & Wells Contemporary 2021
I have been delivering as Flow Contemporary Arts on:
Weymouth Sculpture Trail I was involved with is now in place, you can view images here. (Funded by Weymouth Council). I was a consultant for b-side at the beginning and it is great to see this finally completed. I’ve also been supporting Denman & Gould with their commission to create new work responding to Lydney Harbour Development (coastal Communities Funding). And commissioned films from Steve Geliot for FEP Biosphere Reserve Project (ACE Funded).
PLEASE NOTE: I am still delivering projects as Flow but have merged the two websites together (Flow and Carolynblackart.com). This is to make my life easier! I am available for consultancy work, curating, project managing and mentoring. Just get in touch. Flowcontemparts@gmail.com will no longer work soon, so please use firstname.lastname@example.org