‘Synesthesia’ workshop on music and poetry

CCRI (sea cry)university of Edinburgh is running some workshops under the name ‘Synesthesia’ they are using different modalities to inspire writing. There are five in all unfortunately I can only attend 2. Yesterday was all about using Music to write poems.

We listened to a variety of pieces including some Bach and a Gaelic song.

The workshop was led by Lindy Barbour a lecturer and poet. We were encouraged to write about the music in three ways – free writing whilst listening to the music, then to make ‘cluster’ images which are very similar to mind maps. Lastly to write continuously for 5mins. After we had repeated this exercise several times and discussed our thoughts. Lindy asked us to choose some writing to use as the basis of a poem. We had to produce 5 couplets.

The first piece of music was for a string orchestra written by Bach in A minor. I was immediately taken back to my childhood. My sister and I used to attend a music school where we went to Saturday morning lessons for choir, and quartet practice – I played the viola and she plays the violin. Then Wednesday after school we had orchestra practise-in a gym.

This is my free writing to the music seasons I haven’t edited anything rain pouring hitting leaves, waves,dancing, fabric twirling, dancing , harmony

beats underneath, layers, repetition, winding up like a spool, stomach tightening, Saint Seans- children playing, wind blowing, piped music , garden centres.

Continual writing -I am taken back, to childhood string orchestras and violin lessons. Sitting in a gym playing my viola. The beats and harmonies whilst the violins twirl and dance above us, the cellos below. My sister playing, sight reading, fluently, jealousy at her fluidity. The wind blows dancing leaves and the rain batters the window.

Still she plays the tension winding me up like a spool. A minor key. Her fingers fly, my beat plods. With hindsight it’s a necessary layer holding and giving space to the fluidity that soars above. At the time not good enough, not skilled enough pounds in my head.

Taken back to childhood jealousy’s to Jon and her singing at the weekend, my tantrum as I refuse to play along with their harmonies.

The fabrics are twirling on the dance floor, the bows and fingers, feet in time, out of time. Dipping in and out of emotion. Winding that bobbin up and then throwing it out into the wind. The thread loose to catch on twigs and leaves in a park

And then my 5 couplets

Sitting in a sun lit gym playing harmonies

Whilst violins trill and float above me

My sister sight reads with a fluency

The wind catches leaves, the rain batters the window

And still she plays

Strings wound tightly

My beat a necessary layer, holding the ground

So her fingers can dance

Stretched thin by emotion

In time, out of time, in a minor key.


Image blender

I haven’t been making digital images as much recently. I woke up this morning with a series of images in my head that illustrated a poem I have written about playing my viola as a child.

I had a image of playing in an orchestra practice in a school gym

Wind and rain through a window

Violin playing

Very annoyingly I forgot to keep track of what I searched for to find image references – if you know please tag me


And an orchestra of children

I layered these in the Images in the blender App trying to evoke the feeling of my poem:

‘Sitting in a sun lit gym playing harmonies

Whilst violins trill and float above me

My sister sight reads with a fluency

The wind catches leaves, the rain batters the window

Andstill she plays

Strings wound tightly

My beat a necessary layer, holding the ground

So her fingers can dance

Stretched thin by emotion

In time, out of time, in a minor key’

In the Blender App you choose 2 images and then filter them choosing a filter and the % of images on a sliding scale. When you Save you can choose to flatten the image and then layer this image with another – building up translucent overlays.

First go- with an orchestra added

Violin added

I messed about with the colour balance and filters and added the hand with vibrato

Final image cropped to add a more abstract feel

Happy mail envelopes

One of the things I love about all the mail art swaps I do is receiving the mail. Jon complained at the start about all the lovely envelopes that kept coming through the door!

My letter journal group are particularly inspiring

Here are a few of my recent sets

Mandalas and stencils …..

I decided that I needed some orange and pink this morning

And then my friend Jade posted some of hers on FB with women on and I was inspired to add some to mine

I tried biro, sharpie and uniball eye – they looked ok – but needed the messy indigo shading to stand out

I think Uniball Eye pens are my favourite – I just wish they would do a refillable one to cut down on the plastic …….. Pilot do one, but the ink is not quite the same. In the interests of the environment that is what I am swapping over to as my stash runs out.

Rubber stamp carving

I have always liked Lino cutting and really enjoy the feeling of cutting into butter that you can get when carving rubbers. I use Lino and wood cutting tools. Last year ‘The ‘Flying Tiger’ stores sold kits. https://uk.flyingtiger.com/ which were very reasonably priced.

I have been wanting to add to my Edinburgh building collection – I have a stamp of the Scott Monument that I have used regularly in my art over the past couple of years

I wanted to do an Edinburgh Castle. I found a view without too many crenellations. I always draw designs on the rubber with biro- it’s easily removed if you make a mistake and is a good sized line to cut.

The problem with making stamps is that they have to be a reflection of what you want printed …. the Scott Monument is symmetrical …..

I now have a fab back to front stamp of the Castle. I decided to leave the back ground in the stamp and to carve at an angle so that it looks like rain …..

I look out for rubbers in office supply shops and Paperchase sales have been a great source they reduce their’s in different shapes and sizes down to 50p regularly.

I was so fed up with my back to front Castle, that I had a go at doing a variety of smaller stamps

I wanted to try a mandala – this is quite tricky because you have to decide what you want black/ white/ line etc – instead of just solid shapes. I am not naturally neat enough to do very neat complicated designs, when cutting.

I was pleased with this one so I did another. Remembering to take some prints when it was just an out line, so that I could do two colour printing

I also really liked the bird design so I added it to a pen and ink mandala

The bird worked so well I decided to carve a larger design with 6 birds

This uses the Flying Tiger rubber blocks – which look like liquorice Allsorts from the side – they are layers of colour so that you can see how deep you need to carve. Which is very handy.

The blocks come in black and white or blue and pink ( when you can get them ….)

Below is a selection of prints. I used acrylic paint applied with a paint brush ……..

Below is a collage of some art journalling pages I added the stamps to

A New Era – Scottish Mod 2 1900-1950

I visited this exhibition yesterday. It is on until 10th June 2018. It examines the history of modern art looking at a variety of examples by Scottish artists in response to the movements of Fauvism, Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstraction. ( I was interested to read in the blurb that a lot of the artists visited Paris and studied under Ferdinand Leger after my recent visit to his exhibition in Brussels). The New Era of the title refers to a group of artists who exhibited in 1939.


The exhibition consists of over 100 pieces of work produced by 50 or so artists. The work is displayed in 4 rooms. I loved 3 rooms, the last exhibiting stuff from the 1950’s was less appealing to me.

I particularly liked the modernist sculptures which were mostly in wood and small scale. Lots of female nudes and a striking bronze head.

These are by John Duncan Fergusson


I think one of my favourite pictures was a futurist one by Stanley Cursiter

It’s very busy, but the colours were fab and the shading on the ladies face is a lovely teal


However I was completely arrested by Frances Campbell Boileau Cadell’s ‘The Blue Fan’ every so often when I look at an image – I get a physical reaction. All buzzy and tingly. I don’t know if it was because I was feeling emotional (see last post) or the complimentary colours.

As I was having a physical reaction I was amused to find that I was also being annoyed by how the objects were not anchored in space with shadows

This image is the closet in colour that I can find- it’s not really doing it for me electronically or on this scale. It’s 60cmx 51cm in real life.


Visiting emotional triggers

2 years ago my son was in a road accident in South Korea – this week my daughter was poorly with asthma and flu and had to go to hospital. I am doing an initial counselling course and found it very difficult to do an empathy exercise with another student.

My irritable bowel has also been playing up, so all my emotional stuff is roiling around my stomach. I wanted to see if I could work through all the rubbish visually to see if that helped

I started off having flash backs after Face book reminded me that I was in Korea 2 years ago. My son was not really in any critical danger but he did fracture his skull in 3 places. So I went to Korea. It was a difficult time as you can imagine.

I came up with this image as a starting point after searching for flash backs in google images


Thinking about PTSD – which I don’t have, but being a visual animal and sensitive to being over stimulated – I thought it would be interesting to have a look at what images came up for PTSD

I love this one but it didn’t resonate with me at the time.


Here are some more I found interesting



I decided to start messing about digitally with a couple of these to see what I came up with – this is how I usually work. I liked the scribble and the spiral

Unfortunately when I worked in my journal I didn’t do a step by step, but after a series of layers this is what I came up with.

You can’t really see the resemblance to the original images. I started off with a spiral clock doodle and then added layers of pattern, text , and a big loose scribble. I tried adding a lady in the middle but it didn’t seem to convey what I was feeling. however I liked the phrase ‘in the eye of a storm’ so an eye seemed more appropriate.

After lunch I doodled while waiting in a cafe, for a friend. Typically I forgot paper, but I had a pen. A few companies produce nice weight paper advertising leaflets which were on display at the cafe, so I decided to appropriate a diary to work on.

It helped to situate the doodle in a time frame of Feb/ March to anchor my thoughts. I like the look of asemic writing – what I use is technically not that – I write on top of my words a couple of times to hide the meaning from the reader – so I write out all my feelings but you can’t read it.

Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means “having no specific semantic content,” or “without the smallest unit of meaning.” With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret’ (Wikipedia)

Making ‘zine’ formats

I can’t remember if I have written about these before. I like working in a ‘zine’ format because of the 3d element. My friend @dar63 on Instagram started making some recently and I loved her lush layers and jewelled colours do I asked her if she fancied doing some collaborations. We have worked together in the past.

You can tell which pages are mine because of the black ink doodles 😂😂

I have been experimenting with using water soluble pens and spraying my mandalas so I used some of these as a base layer.

I added designs to the front and the back and added gesso to surface to seal it and add texture

I added a variety of things to the surface

Strips of typed text, large text, more gesso, stitching, white pen , spray ink and magazine images.

I like drawing of the inside of the zine. So that when they are standing up you get an interesting juxtaposition of the two sides

The bottom design in the above pic includes a zine designed by a friend Fran that is based with me in Edinburgh.

I hand stitched the edges in this case