Thursday, April 28, 2011

Me and the Sea - Thailand Correspondence Pt. 2

Growing up in Calgary I was often met with a raised eyebrow when I made the statement, “I miss the ocean.”

“How can you miss the ocean? You were born and live in a landlocked Province.”

Now that I live in London the ocean is in closer proximity but still not easily accessible, and still I will say, “I miss the ocean.”

I don’t think you need to grow up with something to be able to miss it. I don’t actually have any tangible memories of my first encounter with the sea. I was about four and there are photos taken on a family vacation in which I am a happy little fish frolicking in the waves. But from that moment on, the ocean and I became best friends. I have an affinity with it and anytime I take a tropical holiday, no matter the country, culture or food I may encounter, the single thing I look forward to the most is playing with my dear, old friend.

From the moment I can hear the gentle shifting of sand as water slides in and out, the flowing of the current and changing of the tide, I can think of little else about my surroundings. I will explore the hotel, wander local shops, and all the while my mind will be on the first moment when I can set foot into those beautiful waves calling me to play.

I will walk down to meet my friend, enjoying the warm sand beneath my feet, the way it changes from soft to firm as I move from sun baked and dry to ocean soaked and mucky. The sand squishes beneath my feet and oozes up between my toes, all the while the waves rush up to meet me, asking me to join them. And then I can’t help but run, to splash into the water and feel the layers of it - the sun warmed surface and the refreshing cool of the incoming tide. I let it splash up my legs as I gallop through it and then I fall, collapsing into the wonderful liquid, tasting that intense saltiness on my lips, feeling the swell of it play in my hair, pushing against its ebb and flow with my arms and legs.

Oh and the toys it has. The delights and discoveries to be found! Swimming under the waves and exploring the abundance of colourful and strange creatures never ceases to amaze me. Glorious parrot fish, neon anemones, shoals of squid, foreboding barracuda.

And then, out of the sea, the things it has pushed forth, the little discoveries to be found on an evening walk lit by a burning bright orange sun. The delicate remains of creatures that seem almost otherworldly. The unusual and almost sad blob of an unfortunate jelly fish. The perfect daisy shaped dots on a sand dollar.

Or the things which live at that edge of the sea, living off the land and waves in equal measure. An intricate and beautiful shell which is home to a hermit crab. The odd and delightful little sand crabs which make stunning works of art as they filter food from the sand and discard it in little balls. An equally as odd crab with spinning fins which can bury itself deep into the wet sand in a matter of seconds.

Then there is that smell. That fresh, salty sea air which blows in over the waves. Invigorating, enlivening, gorgeous.

How can I miss the ocean?

How could I not?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Steam Punk Inspiration - Thailand Correspondence Pt. 1

I arrived in Thailand three days ago. The plane journey was knackering, as an eleven hour flight is expected to be, making the arrival in such a gloriously humid and lovely location all the more wonderful. Stepping out of the air-conditioned airport into the stunning Thai heat, my whole body relaxed. The humidity wrapped itself around me like a warm, damp cloth and I wanted very badly to be instantly rid of the jeans and t-shirt I'd worn on the rather chilly plane.

A van scooped us up and took us the relatively short distance to the Indigo Pearl, the hotel where we would be able to rest our feet at the end of each day.

Where I stay when on holiday is of little importance to me. As a child, many family vacations were taken in a big blue Chevy camper van my dad had kitted out with a double bed and an overhead storage cupboard which could be opened up as a 'bunk bed' for my brother and I. Being a girl guide meant camping weekends in tents. Family holidays to more exotic locations were usually in the hands of my dad and could range from a pretty decent condo to a hotel room with so little space that the double bed my parents shared and the single bed I got had about an inch between them.

Either way, I've never been too bothered about where I was staying. For me, it's about the culture, the food and when it's hot - The Ocean.

As it is, my partner likes a nice hotel. Nothing too swish, but she does go for a higher star rating. In the case of this holiday we found a package deal of flight and hotel all rolled into one with breakfast included. Food is very important to me so a guaranteed meal at the start of the day was a huge bonus.

Anything else was just icing on the cake. The fact that the hotel is in a nature reserve, set away from the main cities to be found in Phuket, and therefore less touristy, was a nice plus too. We both looked at their website a few times, reading about the history of the grounds. Tin and rubber were two key industries in Thailand and this hotel used to be an old tin mine.

I didn't realise how very cool this would make the space until we arrived.

As we got off that van we were both bleary eyed and sticky. We were too early to check into our room so the staff sat us on lovely large pads with big comfy cushions, brought us the most delicious spiced iced tea and wet scented cloths, and did a little orientation of the grounds. As we listened to Aon, the lovely woman who patiently explained where everything was situated to our sleep deprived and heat addled brains, I began to notice the distinctly quirky art around us. The twisted chandeliers, tin lined tables and restaurant signs all had an industrial edge to them. Near the main entrance is a TV screen set in what can only be described as a Steam Punk display.

But it was when we finally saw our room that I became so delighted I actually had to do a little dance of happiness. This is by far the best hotel I've ever stayed in simply because of the style. Unlike the sterile boxy rooms of so many hotels I've been in before, this place has character and history. The tin mining theme runs throughout, with delightful little details and finds that inspire a lot of ideas.

It's like staying in a giant art project, all Steam Punk themed and tin mine inspired. As a result I now want to do some Steam Punk of my own, just for the fun of it.

Chair back in restaurant
Box in hotel room
Wicked cutlery
Girly Boy Tin Miner sculpters
My favourite - The Nut and Bolt toilet paper holder... it unscrews to change the roll.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Becoming whole

People seem to spend a lot of time separating their lives into categories according to what they think defines them and what they definitely don't want to define them. I know I do it, at least. I like to say that my job, what I do during the day, is something I'm good at and pays the bills, but it's not 'me'. My career, my calling, who I really am is an artist, a writer, someone creative.

So I go about my life downplaying my day job, excluding it entirely sometimes, to such an extent that people don't even realise what I do.

Recently that all began to change as a new line manager was hired. This man is incredibly good at his job. I think he could teach people how to manage if he wasn't so busy doing it himself.

He read my CV, listened to me when I told him this is not my dream job and there are no ladders I wish to climb in the charity sector. I've done my not-for-profit time. I gave my heart and soul to a brilliant organisation which has gained an unstoppable momentum. I've been there, done that. I'm ready for something different.

But my CV is now full of years of not-for-profit work and it was that which got me this job in the first place. What's kept me at the job has been the slow (sometimes agonizingly so) but steady changes to my role which have allowed me to be more and more creative. At first it was little things - designing a 'merchandise' catalogue, creating a layout template for a registration form, having input into the website. But recently, thanks to the best manager I've ever had the good luck of working with, those changes have been more significant.

As a result, I've been starting to think of this job less as something separate from me, and more as a place where I can express my creativity and earn a pay cheque for it.

This change in my usual resistance came to light on the weekend when I attended the London Marathon. This is arguably the most famous marathon in the world, albeit one I'd never heard of until I started at the charity. Of course, why would I? My athletic interests include things like Belly Baseball, Kick The Can and Dodge Ball, stopping short of anything truly competitive or physically demanding. The entire idea of running 26 miles, never mind on concrete through the streets of London, makes my legs hurt and my lungs twinge. A runner I am not.

But an artist, and someone with great enthusiasm, I am. So, this Sunday, for the first time, I incorporated my art into my work. I attended the marathon to cheer on those running in aid of the charity, to show support and gratitude for the money they've raised and the months they've trained, and I went in costume. My zebra costume, to be exact. And it was fun to be asked about what I was wearing - a vest supporting the charity and a costume I made myself for Mardi Gras some years ago. I handed out my business card to a few interested people, shared details about the team running for the charity and felt quite whole. Quite a lot like me, as I am. Not like charity Kait or professional Kait, nor even just like artist Kait.

I was just me, through and through.

And I have to say the best bit, the bit of the day which really put a grin on my face, happened as I was walking up the street to my house.

I'd left for Tower Hill at 9:00, a trolley loaded with supplies in tow. I stood for hours along a crowded street in direct sunlight in a plaster mask. I shouted my throat hoarse. I walked through the thousands of spectators and caught crowded busy tubes, all the while towing a cart. I didn't eat well. I left to go home at 5:00, to endure more crowded tubes.

As I was finally nearing home, the contact lense in my right eye sticking and burning, my feet screaming to be released from my hot, sweaty Doc Martens, a man driving past pulled over. He leapt out of his car and crossed the street and I became aware that he was talking to me. I turned and looked at him, bleary eyed and dazed, "Sorry?"

"Did you come from the marathon?" he asked again.

"I did, yes."

"You didn't run in that, did you?"

"No, no," I laughed, "I didn't run in this. I was cheering."

"Well you look bloody fantastic. I just wanted to tell you," he grinned, shaking my hand with both of his, the compliment genuine and heartfelt. And then he turned, walked back to his car, got inside and drove away.

And I grinned through all the pain and exhaustion and hunger (and by this point, a very full bladder) because I looked bloody fantastic, enough for someone to stop their journey to come tell me so.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Self Portrait in Abstract - imaged

'Self Portrait in Abstract'
Limited Edition prints available for as little as $50CAD
Email for details

When I finished painting this I didn't actually like it very much. Not because I thought there was anything wrong with the technique, colour or design, but because it felt a bit too raw for me. A damaged canvas gave me an idea for a painting of myself, an interpretation done in colour alone. I could visualise what I'd do almost instantly and throughout the weeks in which I worked on this piece I tackled it with an almost impersonal precision. I was simply getting the image down on canvas. Transferring an idea into a reality.

But then it was done and it got me thinking about why this was how I saw myself. A dark place in the middle of me, something I try to cover up with bright colours, or try to make separate.

Try as we might, we are whole beings. Our failings, shortcoming, illnesses, aches and pains, they're all just as much a part of us as the parts which are easy to love. This painting is about more than just how I see myself. It's what I know I need to work on. It's about taking those dark parts, those parts which feel broken, and embracing them.

It's about true compassionate love for myself and learning to give myself time rather than forcing myself to a place I'm just not ready for.

Now that I've had it imaged I really like it. I love it, actually. I think it's more accurate than I intended it to be and that's something I'm quite thankful for.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You're Invited!

Graphic Designing!

I'm always a bit dubious about mentioning my day job on this blog because what I do to the pay the bills has little to do with my personality, other than doing the best job I can simply because it's in my nature to. But as I said some months ago, I have a genius Line Manager who has recognised the fact that, whilst I can and will do administrative tasks, they're not what I'm passionate about and if he's going to keep me sticking around he needs to give me some creative work in the office. This was how I acquired CS5 and became the unofficial graphic designer in the office.

I'm very pleased to say that my first two bits of work for the charity have officially been made into printing proofs and now I have physical copies of the layout and design work I did. Something to add to my portfolio, anyway. My bag of tricks for future job opportunities.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dance you fools, Dance! - Instalment III

Location: Regent's Park
Present: Abby - Photography/video
Song: Born This Way, Lady GaGa

London does not generally lend itself well to spontaneity, especially on a weekend. My weekends are usually spent at home, working on my art. If I do venture out it's to write in Bertie and Boo's, a coffee shop in Balham. This is a location near enough to me that the usual mayhem of weekend train line closures and bus re-routing won't effect my ability to get home at a reasonable hour.

But when the weather is good a certain level of spontaneity seems doable if only because of the invigorating energy the sun provides.

Yesterday, in a moment of spontaneity, I 'crashed' a picnic a friend was having in Regent's Park. I brought some nougat and blueberries to earn my place on the blanket spread on the grass near the main gates to the Inner Circle. The four of us were one cluster of many who had seen the day as an ideal opportunity for a picnic in the park. Around us people were kicking footballs, tossing Frisbees or lolling in the sun.

As the evening progressed a breeze picked up and around us the groups began to thin out. Half of our little group had to go, their presence required at a dinner party. Comments were made about the chill in the air, that an April sun wasn't warm enough to keep the evening chill from creeping up.

"I'll just dance. That'll warm me up."

"You go ahead and dance then," Abby remarked.

"Will you take pictures if I do?"

She looked confused.

"It's this thing I'm doing." I explained the idea of 'Dance you fools, Dance!' and showed her how to film with my little point-and-shoot. I already knew which track I was going to use. I'd been listening to it that morning, thinking it was a really uplifting fabulous song to dance to.

Once Abby was armed I chose my stage. And then I danced, like the fool that I am.

And it was amazing.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dance You fools, Dance! - Instalment II

Location: Paternoster Square, next to St. Paul's Cathedral
Present: Marianne - Observer of Reactions Clare - Photographer/video
Song: Ooh La La, Goldfrapp
April has arrived bright, beautiful and with the promise of a hot summer to come. After a chilly start to the week, the sun broke through and the skies have been blue and clear, the sun warm and welcoming. Perfect weather for public dancing.

To warm up I walked with my 'Observer of Reactions' from Vauxhall to St. Paul's. This walk took us along the Thames Southbank, past the houses of Parliament, through the throngs of tourists at the London Eye, up past the graffitied riverside skate park to Blackfriars Bridge. The nearer we got to our monumental and stunning destination, the more my excitement built. Dancing in Raglan Castle had been a tester, a good launch in a populated but uncrowded area.

Just next to St. Paul's Cathedral, Paternoster Square is not crowded but definitely has more foot traffic than my first dance stage. Because of it's location this square is a commuter pathway, with Suits heading to catch that infamous Central line or the very populated Northern line. I chose this square because I knew it would be busy, but I shouldn't be in the way. My intention with this piece is never to irritate or annoy by getting in the way. I don't seek to inconvenience anyone. I just want to challenge them, entertain them. Make them think, make them wonder, give them something a little different.

I donned my headphones, found a patch of sun, and let the music do its thing.

when I'm dancing I don't really notice anyone around me. I quickly forget that only I can hear the music to which I'm moving my body. I glanced a few faces - one being a scowl from a Suit - always smiling at those who's eyes I caught. I smiled for the glory of being drunk on the sun, having brilliant music flowing through my headphones into my very blood. I smiled for the beauty of London when it's lit up by Spring sunshine. And I smiled because dancing is one of my favourite things and I love that I can do it anywhere I want.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Imaged and looking marvellous!

"The Sun" 24X36 Inch Acrylic on Canvas
Prints available. Starting at $50 CAD/£30 GBP
Email to order

The studio in Bethnal Green where I take my paintings to be imaged is not an easy place to get to. I've always had to take a minimum of two trains (one being the ever dreaded commuter line, Central, aptly coloured a vibrant red) and once there the walk to DigitalArte is a good ten minutes if I keep my pace up. This is compounded with the fact that I'm carrying at least two canvases with me, usually 24X36 inches in size. Light, but large, making for an awkward load.

But I love it. I love it because every time I've had to make the trip the weather has been stunning. After a generally grey and rainy start to the week, this morning dawned bright, blue and full of promise. The office where I work during the day was warm when I arrived, a highly unusual happenstance. Usually the room is frigid, a cold breeze blasting from the vents which run along under the nearly floor to ceiling windows of the corner office. Magazines are used to try and block this near constant chill and my first task after turning on the light is to run around the room switching on the strategically placed space heaters. Usually the office doesn't warm until noon, if it manages to get warm at all.

Today the sun, which was quite fresh in the sky, was already warming the room. I removed layers, relishing in the bright yellow glow. My brain was distracted, finding the role of my day job nearly impossible to focus on. In the corner sat two paintings, the final two to be dropped off.

At two I bid farewell to my co-workers, abandoning my thick wool coat on the back of my chair, to be brought home later this week. Outside the sun greeted me, the heat of it shining down from above and rising up off of the concrete below my feet. It seemed a shame to have to slip into the dark, stuffy enclosure of the underground but the idea of taking my canvases on a bus and risking bringing seven back during rush hour spurred me on. Besides, I knew I had the lovely, long walk from Bethnal Green Station to the tall studio filled building next to Regent's Canal.

Indeed, when I emerged from the underground, tucking the canvases under an arm, the sun greeted me happily. By the time I reached the studio I was drunk from it's rays.

I gathered the seven canvases I'd dropped off the week before, neatly wrapped and secured to the trolley I'd used to get them there. I switched them for the two I'd brought, the last two left to be imaged in preparation of my show on August 19th and 20th, and went back out to enjoy the sun.

Nothing like a kick of vitamin D combined with checking something off a rather daunting To Do List to give one a fabulous high.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

To Do Lists

I really like making lists. I get a great sense of satisfaction from writing a list of everything that is bouncing around in my head, putting little squares next to each item and then ticking and crossing everything off as I finish it all.

Here's a new To Do List. It's one which is very organic. It seems like, as quickly as I tick stuff of of it, I have to add something new. It's my To Do List in preparation of my gallery show, which isn't until August. This may seem like it's a long way off but I can hardly believe it's already April, this year seems to be whizzing past so fast.

  • Pay balance of rental cost for rental of gallery space
  • Do more dance performances
  • Get footage of dance performances which can be put together as a presentation at the show
  • Write statement for dance performances
  • Pick up paintings from being imaged
  • Drop-off two more paintings (Forgot some...oops!)
  • Get remaining un-imaged Tarot Paintings in Canada imaged
  • Research cheap option for getting postcard sets of Tarot cards printed
  • Get postcards of tarot cards printed
  • Promote gallery showing on twitter, FB and through Blog to increase attendance
  • Develop a solution to website (Ability to sell prints)
  • Make a form to take orders for prints at gallery show
  • Develop raffle of cool prize everyone who attends the gallery will be entered into
  • Finish art description cards for all of the pieces I'll be displaying at the gallery show
  • Come up with a playlist for background music during show
  • Print art description cards
  • Figure out how to get 17 canvases to Brick Lane
Four and a half months to get this all sorted. Time to prioritise.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dance You fools, Dance! - Instalment I

Location: Raglan Castle, Wales
Present: Clare - Video, Zabine - Observer of Reactions
Song: Upside Down - Paloma Faith

Spring days hold such wonderful promise. A cool breeze may cause a shiver but the warmth of the sun hints at the baking heat on the way in just a few weeks. April 2nd was such a day. The fields were green and through the trees all lack leaves, buds are beginning to show and the energy from all that growth flowed through the air. Exploring the grounds of Raglan Castle, I found myself feeling a wonderful sense of care-free calm. I lay on a wooden bench, basking like a lizard on a rock, soaking up the bright rays of the sun. The grass seemed particularly green and extremely inviting. Inviting, I thought to myself, for dancing.

The choosing of my playlist has probably been the greatest motivator for me to just hurry up and do an installation. Each time I pick another song the excitement builds and I suppose the combination of glorious Spring weather, good company and ancient stone walls made me reach that point where it just had to be done.

I pulled off my hoodie, prepared my music, and did a little speech for the camera. My partner did a smashing job of videographing with my rather run-down point and shoot, capturing a brief introduction to my performance and the point of it: We should feel more free to do what makes us happy and sometimes I just really want to break out into dance, anywhere, simply because I love it and a good song has just come on my headphones.

I took my place in the centre of what was once a fountain courtyard and pressed play.

It was an incredible day for it and I had an incredible feeling from just doing it, letting go and dancing. It's not difficult because the music just takes over. And now that I've done it once, I can't wait to do it again.

Now to choose the setting for instalment II.