Monday, March 30, 2015

liner notes

To add to the inspiration I find in poetry, literature and song lyrics, I've recently been rediscovering liner notes - a treasure trove of beautiful writing I had almost forgotten about.  Most of the music I buy these days is digital, and it occurred to me that I was missing very much the experience of listening to a new album while reading the thoughts of the songwriter from the CD booklet or album sleeve.

Fortunately, these thoughts can be often found online.  Glenn Richards of Augie March wrote eloquent notes to accompany the poetic, melodramatic lyrics of his latest album. I enjoyed reading his thoughts on finding your own, hard to express feelings echoed in another's writing:

"It shouldn’t have surprised me, my favourite writers become my favourite because in a seemingly tossed off sentence they will communicate in simple, elegant terms one or another of the big "feelings" I’ve had hovering over me in my waking hours and mocking my honey-slow reasoning. Incapable as I so often am or afraid even to try to reach up and grasp in the aether for a solid - it’s not just that it requires an intellectual flex I can’t make but there’s that songwriterly fear that if you tangle too directly with the nebulous and look to strip it back to what is almost always just a common idea you also strip it of its mystical song birthing power."

I  discovered the music and writing of Joe Henry via a very interesting On Being conversation.  He has some wonderful music, but I've been appreciating his liner notes even more. Sometimes I feel self-conscious about the recurring themes in my work, and he helped me realise that it was ok to continue to use my own faithful imagery; to have a thread that connects individual pieces, just as a great album may be "...singularly of a piece: ranging, though all cut from a single bolt of coarse cloth."
(Joe Henry, from his Invisible Hour liner notes

Which leads me to this painting.  It could have been included in my last blog post, as it is most certainly cut from the same cloth.  That persistent breeze is passing through again.  I posted it, nearly finished, on my Facebook page recently, and asked for help to come up with a name.  Its companion piece had the unwieldy title of I have set sail on a fast mountain, from a favourite W.S. Merwin poem, but naming this one I have set sail on a fast mountain II just seemed silly. 

My dear friend Ngaire suggested Still I Rise, and as soon as I read the Maya Angelou poem she shared, I realised it was the perfect title.  I spend time living in each small landscape as I am painting it, and this one had felt like a joyous place... a celebration of the human spirit. 
May we all keep rising, just like the moons and the suns.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Still I Rise, gouache on cotton rag paper, 73cm x 53cm framed

Still I Rise will be hanging in the Southern Downs Regional Artists Exhibition at Warwick Art Gallery, from 2 April - 3 May, 2015.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

like something is brewing


There seems to be a lot of  weather in my paintings again lately.  It's not uncommon for a weather system to move in while I'm working, bringing clouds and wind and rain, and completely changing my original plans for the artwork.  I wonder what changes are in store for me when it passes through?

Sweet Unrest II, gouache on cotton rag paper

December, gouache on cotton rag paper

Festival II, gouache on cotton rag paper


Oh My Stars, gouache on cotton rag paper

As usual I've been finding inspiration in other people's beautiful words, and I have gathered quite a collection of weather quotes and poems in my art journal.  Every book I have enjoyed lately has provided a new one... here are a few of my favourites at the moment.

I could tell the season was changing because in daylight the air moved, moved ceaselessly, not what you would call a wind, but restlessness and unease which were delicious to the bones and skin.

Helen Garner, Monkey Grip 

Ah, not to be cut off,
not through the slightest partition
shut out from the law of the stars.
The inner - what is it?
if not intensified sky,
hurled through with birds and deep
with the winds of homecoming.

Rainer Maria Rilke
This memory moved like a weather system through my body.
Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

It was dark outside, and spring chill was in the evening air. He breathed deeply and felt his body tingle in the coolness. Beyond the jagged outline of the apartment houses the town lights glowed upon a thin mist that hung in the air. At the corner a street light pushed feebly against the darkness that closed around it; from the darkness beyond it the sound of laughter broke abruptly into silence, lingered and died. The smell of smoke from trash burning in back yards was held by the mist; and as he walked slowly through the evening, breathing the fragrance and tasting upon his tongue the sharp night-time air, it seemed to him that the moment he walked in was enough and the might not need a great deal more.

John Williams, Stoner

Friday, February 06, 2015

Little Trees Growing

My little "test pattern" trees have been digitally remastered and re-released!

Way back when I first created these paintings (click here for the original blog post), I had a small edition of prints made.  These prints have all but sold out, so it was time this week to create a new edition of 8x8 inch prints.  I adjusted the colours to be as true to the originals as possible, and I'm so happy with them - they're very vibrant and pretty, and each print has handpainted gold touches that sparkle in the light.

Friday, January 23, 2015


I have been seeing lovely examples of crochet dreamcatchers everywhere lately, so I decided to try making one as a gift for a friend.  It was fun and quite easy to make, so I thought I would share it here.  I used free patterns found online (I have included links within the text), and items from my craft cupboard.

I found a crochet pattern for a Snowflake ornament to use for the centrepiece of the dreamcatcher.

I crocheted Snowflake B, using Tahki Yarns Cotton Classic, which is an 8 ply (DK) yarn, and a 3mm hook, so my snowflake turned out quite a lot larger than the ones in the pattern.  I ended up attaching it to the inside ring of a 12 inch embroidery hoop.

I found an easy to follow free feather pattern on Ravelry.  This creator of the pattern was inspired by these lovely feather pendants.  Using the same yarn and hook, I followed the pattern for the larger feather, although as I was using quite a firm yarn my feather developed some interesting curves.  I adapted the pattern a little to create two smaller feathers (the feather on the left wouldn't behave for the photo, so you'll have to imagine that it looks similar to the one on the right!).

Other additions were some hand-dyed silk ribbons I had in my craft cupboard, and some felt balls from Colour Streams.

Many other items could be used to decorate these dreamcatchers... vintage buttons, interesting fibres, ric rac, beads... it's only limited by your imagination.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Perfect Tassels Tutorial

I love adding tassels to my crochet projects, and the best ones are plump and luxurious.  Here's the technique I use to make mine... it's very easy.

1.  Decide on the length you want your tassels to be, and cut a piece of card a little longer than the desired finished size.  Around 12cm - 15cm is usually pretty good.  I sometimes use a small book to make tassels, or a piece of strong card that won't bend easily.  Wrap the yarn around the card about 40 times.  You can vary this, depending on the thickness of the yarn and how plump you like your tassels.  The yarn I am using in this tutorial is 8ply (DK).

2.  Cut a piece of yarn a little longer than twice the length of the card.  Thread it through the top of the tassel twice as shown.
3.  Tie the piece of yarn in a tight and strong knot.

4.  Carefully remove the yarn from the card, and cut through the looped ends at the bottom of the tassel.

5. Take another length of yarn around twice the length of the tassel.  Wrap it tightly around the tassel as shown (I usually wrap it twice), to form a ball at the top.  Tie a secure knot.

6.  Using a yarn needle, thread the ends into the centre of the tassel.

7.  Tidy up the tassel by trimming the ends, and you're finished!  The two yarn ends at the top are used to tie the tassel to your project.  After attaching, these ends can be threaded down through the middle of the tassel as in step 6.

Here are some ideas for using your tassels.  I always attach them to my bunting, and love adding them to the corners of cushions.  You can create a luxurious fringe by attaching an entire row of tassels.
The more you make the easier and faster the process becomes.  Have fun!


Friday, April 11, 2014

the rivers know

Loretta Grayson  The Rivers Know  Vintage maps, gouache on cotton rag paper, 2014 

It's a funny thing, the creative process.  I had this sketch in my journal for quite a long time before I finally got around to doing something with it.  It was inspired by reading Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient last year, and this quote in particular.

“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.

I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography - to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.”

The image in my head was all bright greens and blues, clouds and water... but when it came to actually getting it onto paper, this is what happened... something a little quieter, softer and darker.  

The title comes from a poem by Anis Mojgani that I have written about before, and seemed very appropriate as I was once again finishing work for the same show at the last minute... just as I wrote about then.

I finally finished it in the early hours of the morning it was due to be delivered to the exhibition, and went to bed at around 2am hating this little artwork with a passion.  But somehow, in the few hours sleep I managed before looking at it again, it grew on me. 

I could see that although the idea I was trying to pin down originally had eluded me, another one had appeared in its place.   If rivers can know to find their way to the sea, I can learn to let go of control and let ideas flow in the direction they need to go.

... and hopefully one day learn to stop procrastinating :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

sweet unrest

detail of Sweet Unrest by Loretta Grayson  Gouache on cotton rag paper, 200mm x 300mm

I posted about this painting last month, and it's finally finished.  It came together slowly, but I don't mind... working on these small, detailed pieces is the closest thing to meditation for me, so I don't count the hours. 
The title comes from one of my favourite Wind in the Willows quotes, but the imagery started coming together after finding this line in Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Love in the Time of Cholera.
"... ideas that had often fluttered around her head like nocturnal birds but dissolved into a trickle of feathers when she tried to catch hold of them."

Sweet Unrest by Loretta Grayson  Gouache on cotton rag paper, 200mm x 300mm
They're tricky things, those ideas.  I have some of my best ones when I can't sleep in the middle of night, but capturing them again in the morning can prove to be challenging. 

I posted about bird tracks in my artwork a little while ago, so I was excited to discover the work of Dennis Hlynsky recently.  He creates the most beautiful and fascinating films of bird flight paths.

More videos and information about his creative process can be found here: