Starting from Scratch – Part One

Ukiyo-e UtamaroLast week I was reading round some great blogs and noticed some people have really beautiful top banners. They have beautiful photographs capturing a sense of place or images of their own art or pictures of the inspirational work of others. Of course, some people are amazingly savvy about coding and I take my hat off to them, but for folks like me it’s a case of uploading jpegs. Anyway, it has inspired me to make a change.

Usually my creative process starts with a single inspirational photo and in this case I’ve started with this pink hollyhock which I took and uploaded last week.
Pink Alcea, Hollyhock

Then I put together images with a similar feel, colour and tones, a bit like a mood board. And, as the process continues quite often shape and pattern themes develop.

I tend to do this over several days, leaving it, returning to it, making adjustments, adding and erasing.

Then finally I sleep on it!

Summer Evenings

Breathing in a warm, relaxed summer evening despite being a romantic cliché, is hopefully available to everyone. A city version is pavement café tables, customers spilling out from the pub and a spot of evening window shopping.

Hampstead, London
Flask Walk, Hampstead, London – A fine summer’s evening.

(A brief aside, Flask Walk has often inspired those with a visual sensibility especially when decked out for a celebration – see http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/ginner-flask-walk-hampstead-on-coronation-day-n05276)

A summer evening home version is a garden terrace perfumed with lilies.

Trumpet lily, Pink Perfection
My favourite lily, the trumpet lily – lilium Pink Perfection.
Lilium regale
This summer’s white trumpet lilies.
Showy, but still beautifully scented.
Lilium regale

Meanwhile, back in the city, the sun has gone down on Hampstead Heath. Hey, let’s see if we can synchronize our mobile phones? How long are the summer holidays??

Mobile phone flash photo

A Quiet Sunday After Lunch

Everywhere else in England this weekend they’ve had sunshine, but here in East Anglia all yesterday and again this morning it’s been mizzle. Mizzle – a great word I first came across when I lived in Devon for three years. My first experience of mizzle was driving down the A38 on the southern edge of Dartmoor when I thought I’d hit fog, but it was mizzle. It is a cross between mist and very fine rain. If you glance out the window it looks like mist, but step outside and you see it is amazingly fine rain and you get wet!

Sunday newspaper magazines
The interesting sections of the Sunday papers.
Well, that’s only in my humble opinion.

This afternoon has been better weather, but not good enough to put the Sunday newspapers down or even transfer to reading in the garden.

Reading on a Sunday
Three generations reading the papers.

Meanwhile in my head I’ve been modelling for a Russian artist.

Girl reading artist in mirror
Me in another life – am I the sitter or the artist?
Oil on canvas. Aleksei Harlamov (Harlamoff) 1875

Side-tracked at the Bus Station

Sometimes as you go about your everyday life a common place vista suddenly reminds you of something entirely different. For me it was the random arrangement of colourful buses parked between the trees at the bus station in the afternoon sunshine.

Blue and yellow buses
The City Bus Station

Of itself not exactly a remarkable photo, rather mundane really, but it is the colour combinations that caught my eye. And I am always on the look out for interesting colour combinations. This time I know I am treading a well worn path.

Iznik pattern blue/green
Pomegranate Design

Blue/green ceramic
Iznik Dish

William de Morgan tiles.
William de Morgan tiles possibly designed by William Morris.

Furthermore, it’s not just museum pieces that have this beautiful palette, you can find modern tiles in very similar colours and designs.

Blue peacock tiles.
Bathroom Tiles.

Ah yes, I nearly forgot . . .

Back view with rucksack
Bye bye.

An Abundance of Foliage

It’s very easy in the middle of summer to be blinded by all the flashiness and spectacle of an abundance of colourful blooms, yet it is also when the garden is in full leaf. Green foliage, green grasses, green buds, sometimes green flowers and even green seed heads as they gently fade to their natural bleached shells.

acanthus
Acanthus mollis leaves and new flower spike.

Some leaves have been inspiring artists and craftsmen for centuries and acanthus leaf motifs can be seen all over the ancient world of the Mediterranean.

Carved capital acanthus
Acanthus leaf detail.

And, of course, William Morris was inspired by acanthus leaves too.

Detail Morris wallpaper
Morris Acanthus Wallpaper

But, there are plenty of other plants with superb foliage to admire and get us designing.

Finally, it is only the second week of July, but all the aquilegias are setting their seed and providing another interesting, sculptural shape for our visual delight.

Aquilegia seed heads.
Aquilegia seed heads.

Girl with a Pink Scarf

This photograph was snapped, opened on the computer and surprise – it just felt so familiar. My daughter looked over my shoulder and said “Looks like ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ to me”, and I said “Ah yes, it does, doesn’t it”. I had no intention of reconstructing a picture in the style of this famous portrait – it just happened.

Vermeer - Girl with a pearl earring
Girl with a Pearl Earring – Vermeer, c. 1665-67.
The Mauritshuis, the Hague, Holland
PInk scarf
Girl with a pink scarf – June, 2013.
Scarf by Agnes Ashe

It is fascinating how images get lodged in our visual memory and then become markers or signposts without our conscious effort. Thinking about it, I suppose when you view a fair number of photos some are bound to spark wider connections and as I prepare to launch my online shop (agnesashe.co.uk) I have looked at a lot of photographs!

Pale pink roses
Colour inspiration from a cluster of pale pink roses.
Rosa ‘Narrow Water’

With my own work I find shape and colour gradually gets distilled from primary experiences that have been captured first in my photographs.

pink clematis
The opening flower of Clematis Proteus.

This beautiful flower of clematis Proteus, saved from relentless slug attack by being dug up and replanted in a large pot near the house, is one of my favourites. Its intriguing shape has contributed to my work.

Flowers and foliage in the garden, architectural details I’ve spied and sometimes the inspirational works created by others, all goes into the melting pot during the design process.

clematis venus fly trap
Aliums, pomegranates, clematis and Venus fly traps have all contributed to this scarf.

Peter Grimes – Sea Mist, Sea Breezes & a Suffolk Opera

Sometimes people have grand ideas that never come to fruition, but luckily those amazing people involved with the opera production of ‘Grimes on the Beach’ for the 2013 Aldeburgh Festival brought us a dramatic and memorable evening. Despite the myriad of difficulties associated with staging an opera outside on a beach, seeing ‘Peter Grimes’ on this specific beach where the fictional action takes place, was mesmerizing.

Grimes stage setting left
Grimes on the Beach – a dramatic yet poetic staging.

Our evening was enhanced by arriving in a thick sea mist that came and went during the performance when the weather changed as dusk turned to night.

Sea mist Aldeburgh
The sea mist engulfs the coastal path walking into Aldeburgh.

Britten’s music evoking the sea and the Suffolk coast, a particular coast of shifting shingle, has always been significant for me especially during my time living away from East Anglia. I am a girl of the grey sea and the huge skies, and hearing the waves breaking on the shingle in the quieter passages of this tragic opera was enchanting.

Grimes Stage Right
Grimes on the Beach with the North Sea as the backrop. Aldeburgh Festival 2013

It was a brave decision to mark the centenary of Britten’s birth with this ambitious production and I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing to thank and congratulate the soloists, chorus and orchestra members, and all the production team for this spirited and successful work. Bravo.

Valentina – Rocket Girl

Sunday, 16th June 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. She was working in a textile factory with a passion for her hobby of parachuting when she was selected for the Soviet space programme.

Valentina Cosmonaut
Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in 1963

I don’t remember this world event, but I do remember watching the moon landings.

Astronaut
NASA Astronaut in full spacesuit.

And, as a child of the space age I’ve been reminded of all that 1960s energy for the ultra, ultra modern, space-inspired fashions. There were strangely sculptured white outfits and various mini dresses of silver and white most notably by the French designers Courrèges and Ungaro, and the Spanish designer Paco Rabanne. I think zany was the word.

Oops there is a little person here looking up to space, but not too happy about being dressed up in head to toe silver twinkle. Fast forward a decade into the future and she will be a science fiction fan enjoying her A Level Physics Project – “From Black Holes to Wormholes”. Ah, the mysteries of life!

Inspiration from a Moche Mask

Much of everyday life can be the source of inspiration for a creative piece. But every now and then a splendid object can catch your attention and you simply have to keep looking at it until a new interpretation crystallizes in your mind’s eye. Just last week I saw this photo of a Moche mask and I was captivated by the colours.

Moche Death Mask
Stunning Moche Mask from Peru
(photo by Prof. Steve Bourget)

The Moche were a pre-Columbian peoples from Peru who were highly skilled in metalwork, ceramics and textiles. It is believed that their civilisation failed during the eighth century when particularly harsh environmental conditions prevailed as a result of a severe ‘El Niño’ period. Nowadays, it is a privilege to see their beautiful creations. And, some of us are lucky enough to live near the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts based at the University of East Anglia where an amazing Moche fox head, fashioned out of copper, is on display – you can also see it here.

Fascinatingly, in real life despite its smallish size (12.7 cm) the fox head has an unexpected potency.

Anyway, inspired by the mask I have mixed up some colours and have been painting these scarves.

Silk scarf painting
Work in progress.
Silk scarf painting
Close-up of Moche mask inspired design.
Moche Mask inspired textile.
A second piece inspired by the Moche Mask.

Elizabeth I Portrait – Inspiration For All Ages

Elizabeth I glove puppet
Proudly exhibiting Elizabeth I glove puppet with my sister holding flowers for her teacher.

I expect like me you have various memories of childhood, some of them more vivid than others. Floating around in the back of my mind there has always been a memory of a glove puppet I made at my primary school in East Anglia. The puppet was left at school and the memory took on a kind of mythic quality. I even wondered years later if I’d made it up and then last weekend whilst going through my late Mother’s photos I found this picture – a somewhat grotesque version of Queen Elizabeth I as a glove puppet. I vaguely recall messing around with papier mâché, but that’s it. I’d like to think that my teacher had shown us this postcard as I think it could have been my inspiration!

Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I, The Darnley Portrait unknown artist c. 1575 at the National Portrait Gallery.

I have always loved the rich and intricate portraits of Elizabeth I for their visual impact, but as an adult I truly admire the skill and intellect of the Queen, her artists and her courtiers who together fashioned such great, yet beautiful propaganda pieces.

More about Elizabeth’s life with her courtiers can be found at Elizabeth I

Fancy dress Elizabeth I
School Fancy Dress Competition
First Prize
Model – My Daughter
Costume – By me