Tag Archives: art

Honouring

The friends in our life are a true measure of success – the harvest of a life well-lived.

I am fortunate to know many talented people who I find inspiring and good company to boot. To be around them is a buzz, and their achievements mutually empowering. We raise each other up by stepping into our own power, by not being afraid to shine. I love seeing my friends do well. I praise their successes, cheer them on. Because I know something of their journey, of their struggles and sheer effort. When I am with them I feel more complete, because in some mysterious way they ‘hold’ something for me, an aspect of my own personality that they manifest in full. They are fully themselves, of course, but something in them draws me to them. I sense a kindred spirit. We share common ground – interests, experiences, obsessions, ambitions, sense of humour, wounds, or beliefs. They may just make me smile, make me feel alive, or make me feel more like me. I can be myself around them. The conversation flows. I feel listened to, received, and reciprocated. Seen. Heard. Held. They catch me when I fall, and without a second’s thought I do the same for them. I feel ‘greater than’, instead of ‘less than’, in their presence – not diminished or undermined, but raised up – not in an egotistical sense, but in an ennobled one. In such company I feel somehow things fall into place: a little piece of the universe’s puzzle slots home.

And so I wish to honour these friendships that I feel so honoured by. There are many ways of doing this – by baking a cake, singing a song, writing a letter, handcrafting something, or simply spending quality time with them. Last month I celebrated my 49th birthday in Stroud with ‘A Night of Bards’ – a gathering of storytellers, poets and singers to ‘wet the baby’s head’ of my new book, Silver Branch: bardic poems (published by Awen Publications), launched on that date. It was a special evening, brief but heart-warming and flowing with awen and camaraderie. I took photos, as did my friends, and I’ve used some of these to recreate some of the performances in what I call ‘bardic portraits’, intended to capture not an exact likeness but the energy of the performer, their presence. I incorporate a key phrase from their contribution, and have slowly worked my way through the dozen or so performers over the last month. It has been a nice way to remember the evening, enjoying it again like a fine feast, but in particular, a chance to focus in on each bard’s unique quality and talent. To bring awareness to these remarkable friends and the skein of friendships that we share.

Other friends who weren’t present on the evening but who have performed at other events I’ve organised over the years I may get around to also. They all deserve to be celebrated. Collectively they represent an inspiring microcosm of contemporary bardism. Who knows, maybe my sketches may provide a record for posterity; but more importantly they are intended to honour the subjects while they are here – to give thanks for their being vibrantly alive at this time and place in human history, and for touching my life.

Kevan Manwaring, 23 September 2018

Bardic Portraits from ‘A Night of Bards’ (Stroud, 19 Aug. 2018) by Kevan Manwaring

 

 

Earthwards by Kevan Manwaring

 

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Sketchtember

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Janey’s airstream by Kevan Manwaring (Medium: water-soluble pencil) 2017

The artist Paul Klee once wrote that “Drawing is taking a line for a walk”. Well, how about talking a line for a month-long walk, by rising to the challenge of Sketchtember (AKA ‘Septpencil’) and attempting a pencil sketch every day throughout the month of September? Sketches can literally five minute doodles or two hour masterpieces, in graphic or coloured, on any subject you fancy – the main thing is to have fun!

The idea came to me while undertaking Jake Parker’s great initiative ‘Inktober’ last year. I enjoyed the challenge of doing an ink sketch a day for a month immensely, and really noticed how my drawings improved over four weeks. I thought a natural predecessor would be a month of pencil sketching (I love the sensitivity of pencil and I’m huge fan of masters like Burne Jones and Alan Lee) and Sketchtember was born!

As a schoolkid drawing was my superpower, the art room my ‘Fortress of Solitude’ – well, not quite, as I’d often hang out there with fellow scribblers, away from the rough-and-tumble of the playground, the dark sarcasm of the common room. I flourished at art – it was great to have a subject I was good at, but more importantly, I sketched at home for enjoyment. I drew everyday; it was as natural as breathing. I made up comic strips with friends, and used my illustrations for the world-building of roleplaying games. It was perhaps inevitable that I ended up at art college, but although I got a great deal from the creativity bootcamp of my Foundation degree, three years of Fine Art was like aversion therapy. It made me too self-aware, as an artist, to the point of paralysis, and made me realise how pretentious and vacuous the art world can be (back then the cult of the personality that was Brit Art was very much in vogue – and the art of the sacred that I was into very much wasn’t). Instead, I turned to community arts and, apart from the odd poster, left my sketching behind. One by-product of my degree was writing – the dissertation taught me something of the discipline, but it was during a gap year that I started to write poetry. Poetry is an act of perception, a way of seeing the world, and I soon realised my art-training enriched my writing, and vice versa. Use of imagery, symbolism, detail, and close observation of the human animal – all of this fed into my poems and stories. And when I started to create pamphlets, and then eventually found and run a small press, the art and design skills really came into their own. They hadn’t gone away. But perhaps I had lost some of the joy. I no longer sketched for fun.

Over the last couple of years, during the intensive process of working on a PhD I have rediscovered the joy of sketching (cue 1970s manual with interesting poses…). After a day on the computer, working exhaustively with words, it is very soothing to just push colour around on a page … shapes, tones, shading. I found it actually enhanced my mental health – one becomes absorbed for an hour or two and all the voices, all the white noise of the day, fades away. It is no coincidence that the colouring-in books have become massively popular in recent years (although creating your own sketch is very different from just colouring in someone else’s). So, for that reason alone – for the ‘well-being’ factor, I recommend having a go. See it not as another task on the ‘to do’ list, but a bit of self-care. Don’t do it for anyone else, to compete or compare – do it for yourself, because it’ll make you feel relaxed, even good about yourself.

The blank page is a gift of freedom – a doorway for your imagination. It invites you to step through.

All you have to do is post your sketch, however embryonic, each day on Twitter, using the hashtag #SKETCHTEMBER  Encourage friends to join in, even those who say they ‘can’t draw’ (everyone can make a mark – we’ve been doing it since the dawn of humankind). Follow other sketchers – support one another.  And feel free to share inspiring pencil art to motivate and inspire. There must be a world of great pencil art out there. The classics of Western Art are to be admired and studied, but outsider art, and art from other traditions and cultures is waiting to be appreciated too.

Of course, racist, sexist or offensive sketches are not welcome in Sketchtember, but you know better. Let’s celebrate our creativity and use Twitter for something other than the Trumposphere!

I’ve decided not to create a list of prompts this time – I’m going for (mainly) portraits and animals this time. If you need some ideas, then look for ‘the 30 day drawing challenge’.

Let me know how you get on. Remember to use the hashtag. Happy Sketching!

Kevan Manwaring

31 August 2018

If you need tips and techniques the best place to start is with Betty Edward’s classic Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence. There are many other books, websites, youtubes clips, etc, out there, but this one worked for me when I did my Foundation in Art and Design back in the late eighties!

A month of sketching not enough? Keep going, in ink with Inktober! Jake Parker’s site: https://www.mrjakeparker.com/inktober-1/

In Praise of Friendship

dorset-rainbowEmpathy born of good will is often the only genuine communication between individual consciousnesses, and must be nurtured as an antidote to loneliness.

Introduction, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Laurence Sterne

 

In an age where aggressive competitiveness, isolationism, and rapacious use of shared resources (aka a Neoliberalist agenda) seems to have won the day, it is more essential than ever that we celebrate our communities, our connections and our camaraderie.

I have long been inspired by creative fellowships and artistic communities, and here in Stroud, Gloucestershire, my home since 2010, we seem particularly blessed by such an eco-system (the natural analogy is intentional, for I believe that by drawing upon examples from the natural world we can learn to survive and thrive in a sustainable way).  The town and its surrounding valleys has a long tradition of creative activity, one I was aware of stepping into when I upped sticks and moved thirty miles up the road from Bath, which, despite being beautiful, steeped in heritage and lively with creativity activity, lacks the community feel of Stroud (a fault of cities more than the individuals who live there). A small town mentality can, of course, be stifling, but here the risk of provincialism is countered by a ‘Think Global, Act Local’ ethos in its Farmers’ Market, Transition Town and Green Party conflux, by lively arts festivals, and by the cross-fertilisation with artistic and intellectual nodes elsewhere in Britain and beyond. That feeling that ‘everyone knows everyone else’s business’ can be claustrophobic, but also instils accountability, mutuality and a sense of collective ‘holding’. We look out for each other. Few are allowed to fall through the cracks, unlike in a city where you can die in your bedsit and not be noticed for months. A death here is like a great tree falling in a forest, with devastating effects on the community. The unwell are showered with healing, the infirm with practical care, and the bereaved are supported. New arrivals, unions of love, anniversaries and achievements are celebrated joyously. Funerals are transformed into moving ceremonies of deep beauty. In Stroud’s many circles and support networks feelings and thoughts are shared – through movement, word, art, prayer, food and fun.

On a personal level I feel the need to celebrate the creative circle I am part of – you know who you are – all very talented, intelligent, witty, open-hearted individuals.  With hand on heart, I salute you all! But wherever you live, you can enjoy such creative camaraderie. Create the circle you want to be part. Open your heart, give something to your community, and it shall be returned threefold.

The tribe and the gift are separate, but they are also the same – there is little gap between them so they may breathe into each other, and yet there is no gap at all, for they share one breath, one meal for the two of them.

Lewis Hyde, The Gift: how the creative spirit transforms the world.

The Green Wave

A rainy Sunday after a shower of creativity this week. Last night I took part in a group book launch, organised by Peter Please of Away Publications. He invited twelve artists/poets to create mini-booklets sampling their work – in a unique format Peter calls ‘concertina books’: high quality, limited edition art books, quirkily collectable. I contributed two poems for a collection I called ‘Wildblood’ – Roebuck in a Thicket, and Wolf in the City – exploring the animal in the human and the human in the animal. I performed these at the launch – the wolf one is always fun to do (it brings out my ‘inner lycanthrope’). Peter, Skip (who typeset the books), Helen Moore (fellow Bard of Bath), John Moat (co-founder of Arvon) and others performed. Wine was quaffed and people mingled. It was a charming event, held at Widcombe Studios – and it shows what you can do collectively. I said to Peter afterwards, paraphrasing the African saying: ‘A man by himself can go faster, but a tribe can go further’. This seems to be the way things are happening more and more these days – the way ahead. While the big companies and financial instutions collapse around us, we get on with things at a grassroots level, taking the power into our own hands – no longer waiting for the blessing of the powers that be to make things happen. The creatives have become the producers. With advances in technology (DTP, internet) the methods of production and to an extent, distribution, are now in our hands. It is also so much more enjoyable collaborating like this. We can go so much further, and enjoy the journey at the same time.

The previous day Jay Ramsay visited and I went through the proof copy of his new book (Places of Truth: journeys into sacred wilderness) with him. It’s due out on the 20th March with an ecobardic showcase at Waterstones, Bath – so the pressure is on, but deadlines make things happen (they say a poem is never finished, only abandoned – basically, you can only do what you can in the time given). It is looking good and it’s been a pleasure working with Jay, a fine poet who gets my vote for the next Poet Laureate. On the 20th I am going to host an evening of poetry, storytelling and acoustic music with friends and fellow performers. The focus of the evening is ecobardic – and one of its core principles is this idea of creative collaboration.  Working with Fire Springs, with Away, with Phoenix, with Cae Mabon, with ARC, with David Lassman (with whom I co-run the Bath Writers Workshop) … it feels like a movement is growing. It’s exciting – although times are difficult it feels like there’s all kinds of creative possibilities out there, and there’s hope. Perhaps it’s the optimistic energy of Spring – ‘the force that through the green fuse drives the flower’, as Dylan Thomas put it. A creative surge – intoxicating, exhilarating. One has to ride the wave or go under.