‘Under a Spell’ is an apt title for this latest piece of artwork that I completed as a commission for Fishpond Woods. This is the woodland location where I recently became the artist in residence. I felt spellbound during the process of creating this art as a result of giving it my full concentration! It is a magical location where you can escape everyday life. As a child with sensory overload due to my autism, I always felt calmer amongst trees and exploring the natural world around me.
I used symbols from PECS: the picture exchange communication system to understand that my daily timetable would always include some special time outdoors in nature. I used pictures to express myself then and as I got older, this had a meaningful impact on my own artwork.
I created ‘Under a Spell’ after looking at many forms and shapes in the woodland of twisted, gnarled roots and rounded shaped fungi clinging onto branches. I took photographs for reference:
I took the canvas in its early stages to my latest exhibition at the Image Collective Gallery, Leith near Edinburgh where a selection of my other art was on display.
During a ‘Meet the Artist’ event I showed visitors how I layer pieces of recycled packaging, old leaflets and used scratch cards into my artwork.
The process of recreating the autumn shades of red and brown was not as straightforward as I had imagined using the recycled materials I had available. I wanted to avoid an angry effect with so much red and I felt in a way as if my own frustration was beginning to show through. I added bronze coloured sequins from fabric purchased in a charity shop to make the scene glisten but still I was unhappy with the result.
At a small remnants shop I found some left-over dark brown netting which enabled me to create the right finish to the tree trunk. The netting captured the roughness of the bark and pulled together the green areas of moss, paler rounded formations of lichen and growths on the tree. It managed to seal everything well together and still allowed the colours beneath to show through the netting.
The mixture of colours and textures in all my art represents many hours of work and my need to repeat the art process over and over again. The term ‘perseveration’ in autism is said to describe repetitive thoughts and actions. Perhaps this explains my art and even my thinking process about negative events in the past such as bullying. When, as a child, I managed to learn how to say a word I liked to constantly repeat it. I also enjoyed the action of lining up objects to arrange them in a certain way. I understand now why the sorting process of the materials I use for my artwork is important to me and I always say that I like to create order out of disorder! It also gives me the attention to detail that I need for my form of art. If organising things in this way helps me, then I hope that this art form can also be therapeutic to others who may have sensory processing difficulties and to become a way to avoid thinking back to negative topics.
Bold deep colour tones form the setting of my next commission of Fountains Abbey near Ripon, North Yorkshire. It is a National Trust site where I volunteered in the wildlife team from the age of 14 to 19 and also trained to be a World Heritage Youth Ambassador. I enjoyed creating artwork of Fountains Hall some years ago from recycled materials and I have been looking forward to starting my collage of the abbey. I enjoy photographing different views of the abbey for ideas.
This second photograph of the abbey inspired me to use intense shades of blue for the sky, deep greens and browns for the trees and a sandy-pink path area. The path was created from hole-punched pieces of bank notes found on scratch cards.
I spent some hours in advance hole-punching the colours that I needed, then applied them to the canvas in layers until I was happy with the colour mix. I added the smallest cut lines to represent branches in one of the trees as I felt it needed more than just the dots of colour in one area. Branches in the background are made from sections of words, jumbled in no particular order.
I am cutting some money symbols from scratch cards for stonework of the abbey as I thought this would be appropriate when thinking back to the abbey’s wealth from monks selling wool. By 1300 Fountains Abbey was said to be a leading producer and exporter of wool. For the clouds I am using good luck and other symbols.
Therefore my pointillist method is not only an art form for dotting colour but it becomes a reference to images of gold, silver, money bags, jewels, vaults and chests of treasure and wealth, even bottles that could relate to the ale or wine the monks were drinking at the time. It’s the juxtaposition of items from our modern lifestyles being used as stonework on an ancient abbey that interests me as I bring together the present day with ancient times.
My other plans for the remainder of this year are commissions of more tree artwork that I love to create using all forms of recycled materials. I am also being saved more overseas scratch cards that I hope to put these to good use for other art projects involving actual scenes in America, Italy and Spain. I am travelling a lot with my imagination these days!