'February's ice and sleet freeze the toes right off your feet'

And so it is, weather wise - proper cold, sort-of snow, a touch of hail and definite rain and rain and rain. I made a really sentimental decision to keep the doors from my old studio despite the fact that they aren’t double glazed or waterproof and now I regret it… I need to make a draught excluder. The last time I did this it looked like a snake that had just swallowed a crocodile… but it did work.

Less prosaically, this weather always reminds me of Monet’s snow paintings, which I first saw in the flesh in Paris and London respectively when I was doing my foundation diploma about 100 years ago, and which I’ve loved ever since. I keep poor reproductions of two of them in my studio - ‘The Magpie’, and ‘Snow Scene at Argenteuil’. I also have some Albert Marquet in our bedroom which I love.

We don’t get real winter in Brighton - the South coast of England is pretty mild - let alone anything like real snow. But on the designated, forewarned Snow Day, my children got up at 6 and scooped together enough flakes to make a snow mole before school, and were completely satisfied. Enough for me too - it was all melted by noon.

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy - only a small twist of my lovely father in law’s arm was enough to let me borrow his house in Hove (not rented out as it is usually) to use as an open house in the festival. I scrambled together six artists and makers (including me!) and we will be opening for the weekends in May at 28 Osborne Villas. Details to follow. I will meanwhile be showing my washing lines at 118 Balfour Road, so I’m really excited now to have two venues for the festival, where I have previously had none.

littlekittpics.com - a separate outlet for my illustrative work

littlekittpics.com - a separate outlet for my illustrative work

Apart from that, I had a really helpful meeting with Ellie Hipkin, and inspiration as always from Denise Harrison and Sarah Davies at Phoenix and as a result have set up a separate (as yet very basic) website for my illustrative work, www.littlekittpics.com. I think having my fine art and my illustration separate is more coherent and makes sense, but I’ll still be referring to both here in my blog.

This week, I’ve been trying to prepare a new ABC based on (pretty much) a single line, and a single colour - I used the same style for some washing lines that I did at the end of last year and it worked really well. But it is amazing how it takes at least as long to come up with something incredibly simple as it does to come up with something multilayered and complex.

Over the next weeks and months, then, I will be dividing my time between animal illustrations, a set of black and white illustrations for a book about attachment, and preparing paintings for the Festival.

I should stop waffling and get on with it. Hope you’ll find time to occasionally watch this space!

Thanks, Jo

2019 and all that

So. I’m a bit late to the new year party but Malaysian dreams and jetlag and back-to-school all complied with and I’m back in my studio and looking forward to a full year.

The world outside my studio is scary and desperate. Poverty of healthcare, education, basic dignities of living, and currently social cohesion or leadership - the B word I can’t utter, and the perfectly titled windbag in the Whitehouse all set I hope to unravel in the months ahead. Years seem so short, and yet hours so long waiting for us, and the US, to be brought in hand…

So I focus on what I can affect, and effect - I will be showing at two open houses during Brighton festival in May for the first time, which is exciting, and also - hopefully - will have two solo shows, one in Brighton at the end of the year, and the other in Co. Clare in Autumn.

Along with colour and poetry, as usual, my obsessions this year look likely to be washing lines and jungle (see below - where my two obsessions meet).

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To me, washing lines are such a great doorway into what unites us and I love painting them. Wherever, whoever and whatever we are, we all have to wash and hang our clothes. It is hard to hang washing in a hurry, and so this domestic imperative forces us to slow down, pause, concentrate on shaking out creases and pegging up, finding creative places to dry, be it in or between trees, on balconies, between posts or tables, or strung between buildings. Talking to people about washing always elicits memories and stories - of moments with dead grandmothers, out in gardens, passing up pegs; of warming still-damp vests on oven doors, to send you off toasty to school; of tears over sheets… a relentless fact of life, but part of the comfort of domestic rhythms, too.

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I’m nervous I might scupper myself or lecture others with ‘a message’ when it comes to representing what I saw in Borneo over Christmas - or rather, what I didn’t see. Through miles and miles of palm oil plantations, my children and I played ‘spot the jungle’, accidental and incidental conservation of the lungs of the planet and the wildlife I was brought up to wonder at, surrounded by crops of palm trees grown in lines, home to goats, monitor lizards and the occasional water buffalo (seeing that lone animal among the irrigation channels still seems like a dream).

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But I feel too impacted by what I saw, and anyway, I live in the world the same as the rest of us and we look away too easily. The people who once lived in jungle and whose ramshackled homes are now surrounded by cash crops can’t look away. So. This is where I’m going I think.

I hope you’ll join me for the - man, it’s so hard not to say ‘journey’… is there another way of saying this?!