'Artists are gnostics, and practise what the priests think is long forgotten.' - Hugo Ball

Friday, 19 December 2008

Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives.

Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Gandalf the White

Gandalf the White
© Sue Wookey

Finally, another Tolkien painting. I was very struck by the passage below on my latest re-read of The Lord of the Rings. It comes afterGandalf returns to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in Fangorn. Gandalf has been talking about the Ents and Legolas asks what they will do:

I do not think they know themselves. I wonder.' He fell silent, his head bowed in thought.

The others looked at him. A gleam of sun through fleeting clouds fell on his hands, which lay now upturned on his lap: they seemed to be filled with light as a cup is with water. At last he looked up and gazed straight at the sun.

It seemed to me to be a very beautiful image for a painting and also a way to depict a more vulnerable side to Gandalf, who has returned from unimaginable terrors in Moria that the others, as yet, know nothing about. It also reinforces the idea that his return is like a miraculous blessing. It's one of those small moments that keep me going back to the book because I will always be struck by something new.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

And now for something completely different.... paintings that AREN'T SQUARE. I can do it, I really can. I've been mucking about painting standing stones and flinging the watercolour about just for the fun of it. This one has turned out very red and firey, with those strange cup and ring carvings you see on some stones flying up into the air. I don't know where the fire came from, it started out as gorse but it just got redder and redder until the whole painting was ablaze. I like the way it makes it more dynamic and sort of primal.

© Sue Wookey

This next one isn't quite so wild and has got the usual spiral in it because I can't seem to stay away from them, no matter how hard I try. It's an imaginary prehistoric landscape. Very imaginary. I expect any prehistoric shaman happening to wander through it would be wondering what the hell it was all about:

Prehistoric Landscape 1
© Sue Wookey

Coming soon - Gandalf in a very unGandalf like moment....no spirals....

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Finally a new artwork to post - I've been away so much lately that this blog and my painting have been really neglected, but I'm busy catching up.

The Midnight Tree
© Sue Wookey

This didn't start out like this but sometimes these paintings have a way of taking their own path. So a tree on a hill became The Midnight Tree. Don't ask me what a Midnight Tree is or does. I suspect only the Tree knows. But it's got to be something deeply mysterious....

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Oxonmoot 2008

Tom Quad, Christ Church
© Sue Wookey

Well, I've just come back from exhibiting some of my paintings at the Tolkien Society's annual Oxonmoot gathering at Christ Church, Oxford. This year's exhibition was really packed with some fantastic art to enjoy. There were two new Ted Nasmith's including a wonderful scene with the eagles viewed from above, a new Ruth Lacon of Mr Bliss in his car with 'exploding' cabbages plus another chance to see the amazing 'Niggle's first site of the Tree'. There was also another chance to see Jef Murray's vividly imagined work (which needs to be appreciated as originals to get the full effect of his use of oils), some amazing blue/green beaded jewellery inspired by Ulmo, new portrait drawings by Anke Eissman (I loved the Gollum) and a lovely intricate drawing from Becky Carter-Hitchin inspired by the Riders of Rohan, plus much else besides. Becky also organised the exhibition, for which I'm very grateful. The highlight for me, though, were two original Cor Blok's brought by their owner 'Fangorn' (lucky man) showing marching ents and Treebeard in his Ent House with the Hobbits. The marching ents were extraordinary - as always with Cor Blok they were totally original, humourous and full of his incredible imagination. An amazing privilege to be able to see them.

I exhibited 'Old Man Willow', 'Telperion's Children', 'Tom Bombadil' and 'Goldberry', which was a quite a weight to lug along with my suitcase! But it was worth it as they were well received, giving me a lot of encouragement. Very daunting to exhibit in such company! I also now have giclee prints of 'Old Man Willow' (also 'Silbury Harvest' - see below) and was able to take a sample.
It's great to finally have prints to offer - it's been a long haul getting to this point and finding the perfect place to have them done but they look wonderful, so it's hopefully been worth the wait!

Of course, Oxonmoot is much more than an art show and I'll be writing a much fuller report soon..

Telperion's Children
© Sue Wookey

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

© Sue Wookey

Check out the cover of the new Amon Hen Tolkien Society Bulletin which features my Lothlorien painting. So nice to be in print. Thank you Andrew!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.


Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Silbury Harvest
© Sue Wookey

I've had a completely mad week re-painting all the mythical/symbol inspired paintings I do. I've been trying to source a printer and looking at them again I realised that a) they were too small to make the size posters I want and b) they are pathetic and I can do a lot better. So I've reworked every single one of them - 7 paintings in 7 days. A bit like creating the world only with more angst and no Sunday. In the process I've covered everything with paint, lost my dining table (AKA my studio...) under a sea of debris and pretty much forgotten to eat at any time that I should. And I've hardly been out of the house.

Yesterday I thought they were all wonderful. Today I realise that they are all c***. Such is art....

© Sue Wookey

This is ironically called 'Sleep' something I've had very little of this week with all these paintings floating around in my head.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Well, I've reached the point where I'm trying to sort out the products - posters and cards - that I want to sell on the website. Up until now I never seriously considered that this would be difficult compared to all the techy and business stuff, but I've been in an agony of indecision ever since I started. How big should the posters be? A3 A2? Are they really posters or art prints? What text should go on them? How big should that be? How do I solve the square picture (why on earth do I always paint square pictures) on a rectangular poster riddle. I could of course make the posters square but it's a bit hard on buyers looking for a cheap ready-made framing option. So far the poster design has gone through 4 incarnations and I'm not done yet, but here is how one would look so far....

© Sue Wookey, Galley Hill Art

Watch this space. It could be anything by the end of the week.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Not only am I still stuck in Middle-earth but I seem to be drawn back to the Withywindle like the poor Hobbits, unable to turn right and north! Here are those Hobbits with Old Man Willow who is singing to them of water and sleep:

Old Man Willow singing
© Sue Wookey

I've always wanted to paint Old Man Willow (good practice for the Ents) as, like Tom Bombadil, I've never really seen a painting of him that I really liked or seemed creepy and frightening enough. I wrestled over whether or not to give him a face but decided in the end that a) if he's to look like he's lullabying the Hobbits he needs a mouth and b) every gnarled old tree you see has got a 'face' somewhere, sometimes several!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

So much for easing back on the Tolkien stuff and doing something different. Try as I might I keep getting dragged back to Middle-earth. This time it's Denethor who somehow managed to pop into my head more or less complete. What is going on? Maybe I'm channelling Gondor or something. Anyway, it's another one in the series of cross-hatched drawings. They don't reproduce very well on screen, I'm afraid:

© Sue Wookey

And there is more Tolkien coming soon as I'm working on Old Man Willow. It seems Tom Bombadil and Goldberry can't do without him.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

My Gandalf (see my post of 8th May) has appeared in the latest issue of the Tolkien Society's Amon Hen magazine (issue 211). It's come out very well, I'm pleased to say, despite all the dense cross-hatching. But it's not alone. There is Ruth Lacon's amazing Niggle's First Sight of the Tree in all it's glorious greenness and also one of Jef Murray's fabulous dragon pictures - Glauring with Niƫnor - and I'm trying hard to not feel too overshadowed by their skills...

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Ditto my previous post - I'm still painting Tolkien, but I just had to paint Goldberry to go with Tom Bombadil. I've concentrated on the first time he sees her, after she's pulled him into the river (what larks...). Lucky for me that my giant yellow flags are blooming in the pond and I could use them for reference before giving them the chop (they really are too big for the average garden pond).

© Sue Wookey

If you look squinty eyed at this from a distance you can see that her body and sleeves form the shape of a large waterlily. Wierdly, it wasn't intentional - it was just there...

I'm intending to exhibit both Tom and Goldberry at the next Oxonmoot at Christ Church.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

I seem to have done nothing but Tolkien art for the last month! I've now tackled Tom Bombadil and tried to capture the moment the startled hobbits see his bright blue eye looking at them through the Ring:

Tom Bombadil looks through the Ring
© Sue Wookey

I've also given him the circlet of autumn leaves that replace the hat he wears when the hobbits first see him. Tom is a very difficult character to capture, so much larger-than-life, and I've never really seen an illustration of him that's really satisfied me or quite caught the spirit of him. At least in my picture there are no distracting oversized bright yellow boots!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.

Francisco Goya

Thursday, 8 May 2008

I've been experimenting with some Tolkien inspired pen and ink work - it's years since I used this medium so I thought it was about time I gave it another go. The result is some over-obsessive cross-hatching but it's been fun to try and capture the characters of Gandalf and Aragorn and, at the same time, try to stay away from certain film actors who've burned themselves on my brain!

Here is Gandalf the Grey on one of his many journeys:

Gandalf the Grey
© Sue Wookey

And here is Aragorn at the moment of decision when he realises that must look into the palantir:

Aragorn and the Palantir
© Sue Wookey

I'm hoping to add other character portraits to this series. Maybe they'll make nice cards?

Thursday, 17 April 2008

The Redesdale Hall, Moreton-in-Marsh
© Sue Wookey

Castles in the Mist Exhibition, Moreton in Marsh

I recently travelled with a friend to the lovely, yellow-stoned Cotswold town of Moreton in Marsh – just north of Oxford – to visit the Castles in the Mist JRR Tolkien and Fantasy Exhibition. This is held every year at the Redesdale Hall, a wonderful mid-nineteenth century building that dominates the market town. The exhibition is organised by ADC Books owner Andrew Compton. This year, as well as art by Ted Nasmith and Ruth Lacon, there were paintings from Jef Murray (familiar to many Tolkien fans for his many vibrant covers for The Tolkien Society’s Amon Hen and Mallorn) and Roger Garland.

We both decided to take the train rather than face a long drive. The Cotswold line is lovely, taking you through everything that Tolkien loved about the English countryside: gentle hills, winding rivers with overhanging willows, old villages built in the distinctive warm, yellow stone of the Cotswolds, little country stations which still had their old black and white station signs, lambs running around the fields on black knobbly legs. It was a great way to arrive in Moreton in Marsh – almost like journeying back in time.

We had no trouble finding the Redesdale Hall which dominates the centre of the town and as soon as we arrived outside we bumped into someone I’d met at Oxonmoot so we got a very friendly welcome. The exhibition is free and there is a sort of genuine fellowship at Tolkien events that springs from the Fellowship and Tolkien himself. I’ve felt it at everything I’ve gone to and it really is remarkable. We went in as soon as we learned that Jef Murray had already started talking about his art. The whole hall was full of colour with Gondorian and Rohan banners hanging everywhere and had a magnificent high pitched wooden roof.

Jef Murray is from Georgia and his work is very vivid, textured and glowing. He has his own website at Mystical Realms. In his talk he explained how he uses oils because he can keep manipulating and blending the paint on the canvas. This is every different from Ted Nasmith and Ruth Lacon who use faster drying acrylic and gouache. There was some chat between Ted and Jef about this technique which was very funny with Jef acting out the panic of trying to get something right before the paint dries. Everyone has a medium that they are personally comfortable with and one they hate. Ted gets round fast-drying acrylic by meticulous planning, Jef goes more with the flow by using oils and seeing where the paint takes him as he moves it about. He described how paintings often go in unexpected directions, becoming things the artist never expects them to be. To Jef, painting is very mystical. He prepares with carefully selected music, candles to create atmosphere and readies himself for the muse to take him – being open to inspiration which may come or not come. But there is a discipline in being ready, giving painting a regular allotted time, so you don’t miss the moment because you’re not attentive or because you’re off doing something else. He likened paintings to a window to another mystical or mythical world, and the act of painting like being in a sacred space which is out of time with our busy lives. He made a comparison with Icon painting (which is done under specific, prayerful conditions with the part of Orthodox Church where Icons are displayed being regarded as a sacred realm beyond our own). To Jef, painting is a spiritual pleasure and you can see from his site that he does, indeed, do some paintings that are in the Icon tradition.

His talk was very inspirational and also funny, describing the moment when you are so absorbed in a painting you completely lose track of time and get brought back to earth with a bump, and the moment when you are so into a painting that you fail to notice some mammothly big error until someone says – ‘hey, is her arm really supposed to be as long as that?’. Ted Nasmith recommended holding your painting up to a mirror to get a different view – which I know can give you the most horrible shocks – and Jef described turning one of his paintings upside down because he thought something was wrong with it only to discover that all the towers where leaning sideways.

View of the Exhibition
© Sue Wookey

After the talk we went around the actual exhibition, heading first for Jef’s stuff as we were so interested in what he’d been saying. He’d completely emptied his studio (his wife had said it was like losing a lot of old friends) and there were a huge number of his paintings on display. They are all quite small in scale and like bright jewels. From a distance they made an impact like a huge stained glass window. I loved his painting of Smaug looking both smug and evil in one go. He does terrific dragons!

We then had a look at prints of Roger Garland’s paintings and it finally gave me a chance to see his fabulous panorama of Middle-earth on a large scale. There was also a wonderful painting of Tom Bombadil leaning over a stream looking at a dragonfly. It was exquisite and detailed, and was one of the many paintings there that I really wanted to own.

Then it was on to Ted Nasmith’s paintings which were a mixture of prints and originals. Most of his newer originals are sold almost as soon as they come out. There were lots of his smaller gouache studies for sale (done as prep for his bigger paintings). His set of new paintings of fantasy castles are just amazing. I was fascinated by them. Ted’s paintings, especially his extraordinary landscapes, are whole worlds I could lose myself in and his technique is simply stunning.

The final artist was Ruth Lacon, who is inspired by medieval art (like Tolkien’s favourite artist Pauline Baynes) and Persian miniatures and carpets. Her view of Tolkien’s world is filtered as though the stories have travelled to far away parts and been retold through Eastern eyes. It’s a very distinctive vision and very, very beautiful. I could look at them for hours and if we hadn’t been fainting from lack of nourishment I probably would have. Her newest painting is a large scale one of ‘Niggle’s first sight of the Tree’. It’s wonderful – even overpowering – with birds of all colours and squirrels in the tree and with every leaf painted in. I think we were both transfixed and it’s just as well the original was already sold otherwise I might have gone completely mad and reached for my cheque book. She left the border at the top left unfinished in the same way that Niggle’s Tree could never be finished. I also fell completely in love with her Mumak of Harad.

It was a fascinating exhibition with a wonderful opportunity to talk to the artists involved. Boy, have I got a lot of work to do and a long way to go!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Gateway © Sue Wookey

Welcome to the Galley Hill Art Blog. After years of painting for myself and hardly letting anything escape the house, I've finally decided the time has come to take it all a bit more seriously, create a website, do the Blogging thingy, exhibit more, sell stuff. How will I get on? Who knows. But I think there is a lot of fun to be had in the trying. So this is a blog about trying. Indeed, it could be very trying....! We shall see.