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and the sky was the land and the land was the sky

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Since I set up a table in our living room, locked out of my studio, oh it must be years ago now, I’ve been getting used to new ways.
Moving water and paint around in fluid flows across comfortingly weighty papers has been my distraction.
Making a fresh familiar.
Trying not to listen to any predetermined directions that I offered up, I have splashed and poured and spilt and stroked.
Torn boundaries. Isolated eddies. Dried markings.
Swirling and coalescing into the beyond.
I see worlds that are watery and sky. Land that is undefined and one. Sky and land together, inseparable.
And so began a new series of small works on paper - collages with watercolour, India ink and graphite on textured paper.
About the wholeness of our environment.
No separation.
Made slowly.

This narrative thread trails on along many paths and ideas.
And there will be many workings on the theme as I try to make sense of their meaning.
For me.
And for universal connections too.

From time to time I may post finished piec…

caught in a trap

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Early this morning, as every morning for the last days and beyond, I was sitting yet again in my makeshift “studio” space trying to work - make something out of the mess inside my brain. Water paints, graphite, brushes, pencils, sketchbooks, ink. Twirls and tearings of scrap and good paper. All damaged now The entrails of my endeavours…
The guddle on my table was no kinder to my crazed head state.
Water and paint then soluble graphite marking? Or soluble graphite lines etched into the untouched white before adding colour?
I feel there is something there to chase. But I can’t catch hold of this illusory creature that is gone before I can make focus and name it. Whispering out of sight and sniggering. Slipping away, sidling off.
I am a feart beast caught in a snare. Tormented as thoughts constrain and cut in…
But this is just messing about with paper and paint, isn’t it? It’s not life or death or anything. And it’s not a piece that anyone would be interested in.
But tightening the more when I think abou…

a new way of being

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Sitting now in the middle of isolation, it’s sometimes difficult to connect with life before necessary constraints took over.
I miss my family and worry for them with physical achings.
Human need for physical and emotional contact is universal after all.

But I have my husband and youngest daughter here with me.
I am so grateful and count myself lucky.

These important things given, I miss painting in my studio.
A short bus ride away to that place of dreams (and I don’t say this lightly) which now may as well be on the other side of the world.

Just as we were going into self imposed isolation we carried out a frantic gathering of materials from the studio; useful drawing and mark making stuff which didn’t include any oil painting paraphernalia.
Paints and wax and boards and easel and palette and knives and squeegees and gougers and scrapers were “studio” things.

At home I might do some sketching, exploring and playing, but that wouldn’t be proper work.
For in my studio I felt I was be…

exhibition musings

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exhibition at The Whitehouse Gallery Kirkcudbright (finishes this Friday, 28th February)


Lots of things happen when paintings are taken out of my studio and are shown to the world (even if it’s only a very tiny bit of it).

Most of it too has very little to do with whether they are sold or not. This is maybe surprising as there would seem to be a direct relationship and a purpose to hanging the work on a gallery wall with a price ticket on it and then someone handing over money for it.
(Though satisfying that can be)

I think it has more to do with how it makes me feel about my work and about myself as the artist.

When I am working away from day to day with familiar mess, paints, tools, boards and sketchbooks around me, the paintings are absolutely an extension of me. I strive to make my emotions, memories, thoughts and impressions visually available. It can take a long time - days, months…. Never?

Finally I seem to find some kind of resolution.
I draw breath and leave the painting t…

a treat of the unexpected

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Change happens and I can’t ever predict what it might be.

One day just before Christmas as things were calming down a bit in my studio and I was mulling over what I should do next, I received a phone call from Lynne at The Whitehouse Gallery in Kirkcudbright.
Would I like to show some of my work there for a week in February?

Well, yes.

This popular, contemporary gallery is a smart, light space with a reputation for exhibiting quality art and crafts and I hadn’t ever shown my work there before.

I didn’t expect they would ever show my paintings there.
I don’t have a great story to tell of commercial galleries and my success.
I don’t seem to make the kind of work that sits well in a crowded space of disparate work.

My paintings seem to fair better when hung side-by-side, with as much or as little space around them as they need to communicate their collective story without interference.

My husband says that it is then that they can sing to each other.

Happily Lynne gets this and decided t…

And now it is live!

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At last then, with great excitement, I am happy to announce that my online exhibition catalogue is live at this link:

https://issuu.com/maggieo/docs/maggie-ayres-brochure-2019/

My huge thanks goes to my amazing husband who has really worked hard to bring it all together for me.

It’s great to see my work brought together like this.
There are quite a range of pieces to see with accompanying context in situ shots and detail images.
I have also written a little bit about each one.

I hope these give you a good sense of my paintings.

And of course if you are interested in buying anything, then please get in touch.
All my details are in the catalogue.





Online Exhibition Anticipation

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Since I returned from my residency at Caerlaverock last week, it’s been a whirlwind of getting things in place for this year’s forthcoming online exhibition.
I will be writing more about my inspirational week with the geese and sky in blogposts to come, but for now it is finished work that is taking centre stage.

I am more than a little excited.

I only had to make the work and write a bit about it, but my wonderful husband Kim is the one who makes it all look good and presents it to you enticingly and irresistibly!
He has put in so many hours away from his own practice and I wouldn’t have known where to start.

Subsequently, this year I have a full colour catalogue to be perused at your leisure.
You will be able to choose from a mixture of some encaustic pieces and more oil and cold wax paintings.
At the moment I have no plans to make more encaustic work, so you might consider this the last chance to buy.
There is also the anticipation of showing fresh work which Is taking me down dif…

Beguiled by barnacle geese

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from my Caerlaverock sketchbook


Out on my wanderings today around Caerlaverock, I was much more aware of the big sky down here than I have been so far.
That is a surprise to me since “sky” is what I thought this project was really about after all.

Birds are important, but I thought that was so much to do with their necessary relationship with that big sky.

Of course it’s all to do with the geese effect and in particular barnacle geese.
After all I am here at this time of year especially, to witness at least a tiny part of their overwintering.

They are so present, so distinctive in their gorgeous monochrome plumage and their yelping cries.
When they are flying, I must look up.
It is mesmerising.

I am beguiled by their return each year from breeding grounds in Svalbard.
2716 kilometres they fly.
I love that continuity and constancy.
And that’s the bit that resonates so much.

I have returned to this place too, though I’ve not travelled so far in distance.
But I was only five years old w…

Splashing in Puddles

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It was raining all night.
I know because it was lashing on the skylight windows of my bedroom.

Cosy and comforted, it reminds me always of childhood.
It’s the same sweet recall when I open the window wide to watch for the geese and feel the chilly blast of the wind on my face while I am cocooned in warmth.

It’s only a short walk from the cottage to the WWT site and there’s not much traffic in the lane.
I am accompanied all along with birds rustling and calling in the hedgerows and the near constant background “Goose Music”. (Aldo Leopold’s essay from Round River).
Then I see them.
Black, silvery grey and white wonders beside me in the field.

There are puddles all along the roadside and I take a diversion at every one.
Why would I risk getting my feet wet?

I wander along the main avenue of the site.
Wind is picking up.
Rain can’t be far away again.
The feeling is joyous but still I make a zig zag route around so many large muddy puddles.

But I have wellies on here, not my leaky wal…

It’s important to rise before the dawn

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A rough night’s sleep but happily I was awake before the sun came up.
It’s important to rise before the dawn...

As the sky changes colour emanating from the left of my direct viewpoint, the movement begins.

A flurry of crows land on a nearby tree, each one turned to where the sun is about to appear.
It seems like it must be inherent in their bird consciousness - the wonder and expectations of new day beginnings, for all time.

Then I start to see the dotted trail lines away in the distance, appearing apparently from the inner sky, threading through the brightening light.

I watch and open the window wide to listen.
The geese calls increase, crying the dawn.
Mesmerised, I watch their fabulous mark making in the pink light.

Then the lines move in tangles right over where I am leaning over the windowsill.
I can see the bellies of them - gorgeous shapes as necks stretch out and the constant beating of wings.

The air shifts and the day has begun.



Just how much graphite will I need?

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Packing list for going to Caerlaverock tomorrow:

many layers of clothes
my new fab stripey ankle wellies
bobble hat and gloves and scarf
enough vegetables to make plenty of tasty soup
seed bread from Earth’s Crust in Castle Douglas (and maybe just a bit of focaccia - please?)
far more books than I will ever be able to read in just one week but how can I leave that one or this one or that pile behind?
map
camera
binoculars
sound recorder
every nuanced kind of sketchbook, in various weights and textures of paper, I could find including that gorgeous concertina one
pens - bamboo and other assorted and necessary
pastels
Indian ink
watercolour sticks
brushes with useful water reservoirs

and so much graphite in different formulations that there may well be a global shortage!

Did I ever say how much I love graphite?


just a smidgeon of my packing...

Dreaming of a residency

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The Solway sky was the first sky that I looked up and saw as a tiny infant.
A sky big and open and I was imprinted on it.
My sky...

All last year, I had been dreaming of spending time on my own in some isolated bothy somewhere off the west coast of Scotland in order to feed my work, but then I visited the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site at Caerlaverock here in South-West Scotland.

And so it was, that just over a year ago, with breathless revelation, I started mulling over the possibility of making an artist’s residency for myself, down there on the Solway coast, no more than a couple of miles from where I first lived as a child.

Why had this certainty not occurred to me sooner?

I must have been seduced by romantic ideas of rugged west coast wildness, transforming soft graphite lines into dramatic Hebridean mark making.

But when at last the relevance of the sense of this place slotted into my vision for my practice, there could be no more reckoning.

By the end of 2018 I had devised a …

making a painting - (part 4)

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More and more paint.
Mark and mark again.
What else?

Always, especially when I feel there is a resolution approaching, I will turn the piece I’m working on round - 90 degrees, then another until I’m back where it started.
I’m looking for something better than I’ve got already.

And this is what happened this time.
Suddenly it all made sense.
A quarter turn and I sighed.
More work to do but...yes.


(detail)

A bit more paint.
And a scratch here and there…



It feels a bit odd to sum up what I do in so few words…
“Well I put on the paint with a few tools and mark into it a bit until it is finished”

It can take me days, weeks, (months?)...

Sometimes I experience a freedom and lightness.
Most often it is intense.
It is abstract and I feel like my head is turned outside in trying to reach that itch.
And still I love it.
The newness of every single painting I make.
And then the fighting with it.
And myself.
Chasing whatever it is.

My artistic world is currently dominated by thoughts of sky and a…

making a painting - (part 3)

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Now I have swathes of colour and a tracery of cuts and lines in front of me and the history of the piece is shaping up through numerous layers.
Making the painting now will be to work over the earlier applications of colour and inevitably I end up using a large amount of white...




But it feels like I have barely begun.

This is a good place to acknowledge the know-how of artists Rebecca Crowell and Jerry McLaughlin and their book “Cold Wax Medium - Techniques, Concepts and Conversations”.
It’s been really instructional.

Their technical input along with my urge to explore ideas and dabble curiously, (ok, what can I do with cold wax medium?), has given me fresh direction and means of expression.
Thank you Rebecca and Jerry!



I have spoken about the mark marking process itself but a lot is determined by how wet or how dry the paint is.
When cold wax medium is mixed with oils, the drying process is speeded up a bit.
Some of the most subtle effects can be made when the surface is semi-dry a…

making a painting - (part 2)

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My painting has a good solid foundation now. It means I can build more paint on top and importantly work into the base layers to create texture and form.

Scraping, gouging, cutting, scoring, scouring.
Gentle rubbing.

With every action the depths can be revealed - a flash of yellow, a shadow of indigo.

It’s always inevitably early on in the making, that I find the urge to make scoring marks or draw in lines, almost overwhelming.
Sometimes I use graphite in tablet or stick form. Sometimes I choose a scratchy bamboo pen dipped in Indian ink.

I think I have said before how much I love process and where there is a process there are tools to aid me.
The photo below shows the ones in near constant use.



Making expressive marks is the whole point of my work.
The laying on of paint can make shifts and shadows of colour appear.
The scraping back and gouging of lines through layers, or the addition of graphite or ink can all create visual depth and narrative to the surface.


(detail of painting)