New Expressions: Developing Sky

Harriet kicked off today with a beautiful poem inspired by John’s reading last week from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal, describing a memorable journey in the rain. We also sang Happy Birthday to Martin, welcomed Peter and Rosa, ate flapjack and explored the map! Geoff and Joan particularly enjoyed looking closely at moments within the map from recent weeks.

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Geoff found a moment from last week at Grasmere, his first glimpse of Uta’s blue sky in the rain.


Harriet read an extract from AE Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad – ‘From far, from eve and morning / And yon twelve-winded sky, the stuff of life to knit me / Blew hither: here am I’. And this led into working on the inner panels for the parasol……


The studio was full of beautiful shades of blue, and we very quickly got busy mixing colour inspired by the range of cloudscapes collages. Painted and printed pieces will be layered together and stitched into the inside of the parasol.

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And throughout the afternoon, the parasol itself began to be transformed into the sky….


We ended the afternoon with a display of cloud paintings and prints and a discussion about the day. John had worked expressively in paint and with words – ‘in clouds of joy’. Mandy described feeling like a real artist, forgetting herself and just working really intuitively. Jack had struggled through a question about how to do it and resolved it! Geoff had brought photographs of him climbing in the French Alps and painted a mountain side reaching into the clouds. We talked about high walks and low walks and being out ‘whatever the weather’. Martin said he has always loving walking and described in detail a walk to Keswick many years ago. Annette communicated immense pleasure, and not just the pleasure of the moment of creative activity, but throughout the rest of the week she finds herself noticing more – looking up at the sky, looking at colours in nature. Pat was happy to be there, enjoying the buzz of conversation and activity. Nita worked on the parasol with great energy, at one point holding a paintbrush between her teeth as she used another to work paint into the cloth, maintaining a commentary throughout! Pat watched her with evident enjoyment.

At the end of the afternoon, Harriet crawled under the parasol and opened it up and we could see more of the sky that was growing – and have a look at the inside….lovely to see stains of painting flowing through. The parasol will find its way to Penrith on Tuesday for further transformation!

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Harriet listened as we talked and created a poem from fragments of the conversation. Lovely to have creative activity and engagement reflected back to the group so beautifully. A wonderful afternoon.

New Expressions Weather Report: Preparing for Friday


We’ve been busy getting ready for the first practical session on Friday. The map now has a cover made with many of the sky photographs the group have taken over recent weeks….but take a look inside…..


Sections of the map have been opened up and the places we have visited can be untied and unfolded to create a visual narrative that describes moments from the project so far.

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Images concertina out to overlap and connect. We took some photographs in the gallery on our first day and so several images of the eggs can be unfolded from Hawsewater, and these intertwine with images from Kendal, Orton Scar and Grasmere. Similar threads of imagery will unfold from Penrith and Carlise when activity begins there and a lovely feeling of creative connection across Cumbria will feel tangible! The map will provide an important moment at the beginning of every session. Maps are full of resonance and symbolic meaning, inviting exploration and recognition. Our map will help return us to previous experiences and locate us all in a moment of new activity.


Cloud collages have also been created which will form an important stimulus for creative activity.

And the square of fabric that covers the crown of the parasol has been used as a sample to look at how it takes paint and printing ink. Really looking forward to In the Moment on Friday!


Building New landscapes

The artist and designer Rachel Kelly led the session, beginning downstairs in Abbot Hall’s period rooms where the decorative cornicing on the plush red and sage green walls frame traditional oil paintings. She drew out a discussion about how the rooms have been designed to display these paintings, creating very particular spaces.


We moved through these “roomscapes” towards the watercolour gallery where we thought about perspective in dramatic landscapes by Turner and Ruskin and in townscapes full of people on market day. We thought about how these paintings were great descriptions of the world.

We went upstairs to Taking Flight and to very different paintings! The group began to think about how paintings can represent ideas, feelings and a sense of place and we chose our favourite works to describe. Some great words! The paintings were “fast”, “exciting”, “hypnotising” and “elemental”.  And from these descriptions we began to work in card, making 3D artist’s tools for drawing with. We tore and cut fluid shapes and made patterns inspired by the paintings to a jazz soundtrack, filling the gallery with rhythm and a fluid improvisational atmosphere.


These artist’s tools helped us to make impressions in soft pastels adding colour to the shapes we had created in the gallery.


Initial studies provided inspiration for everyone’s individual 3D landscapes. Lorna made a landscape space that she could inhabit! Alice created sculptural sea waves. Jem created a large boat in which to sail the St Ives seas. Iona made a music themed collage and a beach house with a firey roof. Nico made a landscape in which the four elements ran into one another – water quenching fire making smoke rise through the air into the leaves of a tree growing from the earth.


Individual landscapes made each painting come to life in 3D form. Imaginations took flight! Exciting objects and shapes that could exist within the abstract paintings. A very busy creative day!