Posts Tagged With: Sally Scott art

The Earth Project: Skirt #4

The story of my Earth Project Skirt series continues…

By mid April 2018, I found myself at the midway point of the project and I was beginning to feel the effects of the many weeks of intense labour and the non stop merry-go-round of thoughts and ideas that swirled around my head. I was running on adrenalin and like any good marathon runner knows, this was no time to quit, especially as the finish line lay tantalisingly up ahead. It definitely was like giving birth and there’s no way one would want to stop that process midway, no matter how painful it might be.

So I kept going, and before I had even completed The Enchantress:Nomkhubulwane skirt, I had already begun the next one, partly because I needed space from the elusive young maiden that had proved so difficult to capture, but more importantly because I had received a vision in a dream of what the next skirt should look like. Not in its entirety, mind you, but I saw enough to get me out of bed and reaching for my sketchbook, scribbling down the image before it faded into the morning mist. Where that image came from is anybody’s guess, but I wasn’t about to argue when receiving a gift like this. From the sketchbook, I went straight to the sewing machine and eagerly started stitching the colours and textures, still clear in my mind. I was intrigued, but satisfied with what emerged, and accepted it as an enticing foundation onto which I could build the rest of my story.

The sketch I made after seeing this in a dream

On going through my journals whilst preparing for this post, I found a note that I had written to myself about this new emerging skirt:

“She’s been determined to emerge, despite me trying to attend to the Enchantress. She has stamped her foot and sent the little nymph to her rightful place behind her. She wants to speak first – she insists upon it and once I’m done with her, or she’s done with me, I will return and hopefully find the youthful spirit where I left her.”

After the enchantment and flirtation of the little Spring skirt, this fourth one required some gravitas and as conception and motherhood are the logical next stage of the cycle, this skirt emerged as the abundant Mother Goddess, who pours out her strength to all living creatures with maternal love and compassion. She is strong, she is confident, she is The Nurturer, the mother who takes care of her family, providing nourishment to body, mind and spirit. She is all things to all people and as any mother knows, plays the role of teacher, disciplinarian and defender. She is understood by any woman who has been a mother and known to any child who has experienced a mother’s love.

In Nature she is Summer, the season of warmth and plenty.

Amongst animals, she is found in many forms, but for the purposes of this skirt I chose the Lalibela matriarchal elephant herd to represent her.

The Lalibela matriarchal elephant herd

Watching them on a game drive, one damp and drizzling day, I was moved by an overwhelming sense of feminine power, protecting the young and holding close their community.

From the photos I had taken, I produced drawings that I then transferred onto fabric, and appliquéd them onto the skirt. They appear to be moving towards a waterhole, but it’s quite possible that this is just a sprouting seed.

The Nurturer

I thought long and deep about the qualities of a mother, looking first to my own mother and then to my experience of being one. I looked to my friends and women all over the world and then to Mother Earth, who sustains and protects us all and whose resilience in the face of difficulty seems to know no bounds. I wrote at length about her and then sought out ways to visually express her.

Thandi, the rhino who survived a poaching attempt, with her calf Thembi, provide a beautiful example of motherhood

So now to the details…

The waistband of this skirt is decorated with a pattern reminiscent of San bead work and lined with fur, representing the comfort of a mother’s love. Beneath it hang an assortment of mementos she has collected along the way; the battered, flattened metal being symbolic of lessons learnt and hardships endured in the course of fulfilling her role. She has pouches for every occasion; symbolic repositories for the many tools and skills a mother requires for the numerous roles she plays. These womb-like containers carry all that is precious and necessary for her to fulfil her numerous tasks. The bag, an important item in both San and Xhosa traditional attire, not only holds food and herbal medicine, but more symbolically contains centuries of accumulated wisdom, mythology and folklore.

Two of the pouches that were influenced by Xhosa and San culture

The colouring of this skirt, whilst reminiscent of leather aprons worn by the San and the red ochre garments of the Red Blanket people of the Eastern Cape, was in fact inspired by the cool, protective shade of dense savanna woodland and the heat of the sun baked summer of Africa.

But just as we settle in to those endless Summer days, thriving on the warmth and plenty, we see the first tell-tale signs of Autumn coming in, bringing her own particular brand of beauty.

Stay tuned, as I gather up my final skirt…

 

Categories: Background, Fibre Art, Inspiration, Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Retreating to the Wild

It was May 1997, when my brother Anthony Stidolph and I set off on an epic journey from Durban, South Africa to Zimbabwe in search of artistic inspiration. It was a much anticipated trip and as we drove along the great North road, the balmy warmth of the sun reflected the grins on our faces. We had just passed through the J.G.Strijdom Tunnels when we drew up behind two heavily overloaded vehicles, one trying to overtake the other on a blind hill. Neither were doing more than 80 kph and both were packed to capacity with what looked like the contents of a house. I knew we were getting close to our destination, for sights like this are commonplace as one gets near to the border with Zimbabwe. As crazy and dangerous as these dilapidated old vehicles were, I felt a surge of affection and looked forward to crossing the border and smelling the air of home.

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The border crossing is always stressful, but once we were through and on the road again, the vehicle felt like it was flying. We made a quick stop at the Rutenga Butchery for biltong, and childhood memories of dust, heat and the slow pace of life came flooding back. Children on bicycles and old men on chairs waved at us as we pulled out of the parking lot, with a pack of biltong in hand. Back on the road, the blue hills in the distance became magnificent granite domes. We turned off at Rutenga Halt, passing a variety of modes of transport; old bent axil buses, donkey carts and wheelbarrows, all going about their business as usual.

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The mopane trees gave way to msasa trees and all along the way, amongst the rock-strewn hills, were masses of huts with silvery grey thatch shimmering in the sunshine. After Chiredzi the bush became thorny acacia scrub, the land was hot and dry and from the sky, bright, vast and open, came a penetrating light. The baobab trees became more frequent and Bateleur Eagles flew overhead. Everywhere there were Hornbills, perched on thorn trees, flying alongside the car or hopping in the sand beside the road, their quizzical expressions directed towards us as we motored past. We ploughed down the track towards the camp through thick, deep, red sand edged by bush that buzzed with life.

The camp, by contrast, was a little green oasis, with log cabins, set amongst trees and green lawns, each facing out into the wilderness. At the sound of the car, Nicky Rosselli, my youngest sister, appeared as an ethereal vision from the darkness of her hut and leant against the doorway watching us, with her paintings resting up against the outer wall. They were beautiful paintings, from which emanated light and soul.

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In that instant, I understood why artists need retreats like this, a ‘time-out’ from the routine of everyday life, a period earmarked for uninterrupted focus and engagement with the subjects of our interest, a space that allows inspiration to flower and take the form of art. Nicky, who had arrived a few days before us, had clearly wasted no time in finding her inspiration.

The place is Malilangwe, a nature conservancy in the lowveldt of Zimbabwe. As far as I know, this artist retreat no longer exists, and the area has been developed as an upmarket reserve, but at that time these small chalets were reserved for artists, where in return for a piece of artwork, one could stay for minimal cost. The chalets, set in a clearing in the bush, were thatched and cool, serviced and all meals were provided, so artists who visited there had no chores and nothing to interrupt the flow of their creativity. It was an ideal and exhilarating experience, and we had a whole week in which to immerse and respond to the wilderness.

The environment was wild, alive with venomous snakes and dangerous animals. We had encounters with all of them and to this day, I have vivid memories of my visitation from a black mamba, that slithered quietly past me, its dark, beady eyes fixed upon me as I sat on a rock drawing a group of dassies (rock hyrax) not far from the camp.

Untitled-Scanned-08pswebI was focussed and calm, enjoying the sensation of the graphite marks on paper, when I became aware of a movement a metre from where I sat. I looked down and made eye contact with an impressive, sleek, fat olive green snake that undulated along the base of the rock below me. I quietly called my brother, who was also drawing among the rocks somewhere not far from where I sat. Detecting no urgency in my call, he took his time in coming and it was only when he saw the snake and in hushed tones told me to stay still, that the enormity of the occasion began to filter into my consciousness. We stood rigidly together for a few moments and then glanced about for the quickest escape route, which happened to be a drop of several metres off the granite dome. My camera and pencils were still between me and the snake, so they would have to stay behind and in a moment of decision, we both leapt off the rock, scrambled through the thick leaves and branches and hot footed it to the camp. We waited there for an hour or so and then Ant and Nicky returned to collect our things. When they returned, they told me that unbeknown to him, Anthony had been sitting on the well worn snake path not far from the snakes hole. Things could have turned out very differently had I not called him away to come and look!

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That experience was one of those moments where death appears so unexpectedly, looks one squarely in the face, but the danger doesn’t register until after the moment had passed. I still shudder when I think how close I came to meeting my end, but I recognize that it was my stillness, my being completely absorbed in the moment, that gave me a sense of oneness with everything around me. I did not recognize the danger, nor feel any fear and the snake sensing no threat, was able to pass right by me. A profound life lesson was learned.

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A pencil colour drawing done at the scene where I met the Black Mamba

Well, as if that bit of excitement wasn’t enough, that afternoon Nicky suggested we visit a hide to view the game as it came down to the waterhole. We packed our sundowners into the truck and headed off along sandy roads through thick bush to the hide. Leaving the car some way off, out of site of the hide, we clambered up the wooden steps and settled ourselves down with drinks and dried wors and waited for the animals. I was sitting on the top step, sketching the veld, when Nicky’s husband, John spotted a herd of buffalo moving towards us through the bush. I carefully laid down my crayons and sketchpad and eased myself into the hide. The buffalo had seen us and paused for a bit before deciding to come down for a drink. Slowly they made their way down to the waters edge, but a small group hung back, looking uncertain, milling around in the bush. Once the main herd had finished drinking and ambled back into the trees nearby, several others stood around, sniffing the air and looking up at the hide. Despite us sitting stock still, they definitely knew we were there and when a couple of them lay down to sleep directly beneath us as if settling in for the night, I began to feel a bit uncomfortable. What if they didn’t leave? By now it was getting quite dark and with our car some distance away, as per the camp instructions, we weren’t sure what to do. Nicky suggested we should sleep the night in the hide, but John wanted to try and get to the car. The risk was definitely quite great, with the herd so close and restless, so we waited a little while longer. Eventually, John decided to move, so eased himself quietly down the steps and stealthily walked through the bush towards the car. Several buffalo, alerted by his movement, moved in his direction, so to distract the creatures, Ant perched at the top of the stairs and I bashed my crayon tin against the railing. The most menacing buffalo stopped and looked at us, giving John the gap he needed and soon we saw the headlights moving slowly through the trees, pulling up alongside the hide. We made our escape and Ant and I travelled to camp in the back of the bakkie, the air washing past us in warm and cool patches, the smell of warm, dry grass in our nostrils. Up above us the dark sky was clear and filled with stars, not a cloud to be seen anywhere.

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The next adventure we had was with a lone buffalo. Nicky, who had arrived a few days before us, wanted to take us to see some bushman paintings that she and John had found on their explorations. We parked some distance away and walked through bush to a hill that had a cave. As we followed Nicky through the thick grass, I anxiously scanned for any sign of wild life. There was plenty of evidence of elephant dung and broken trees, and the smell of wild animal permeated the air. We found the cave, admired the paintings, below which were rocks stained with fresh blood, presumably from a recent leopard kill. We wandered up on top of the hill to admire the view and then decided to take a shortcut back to the car through the gap in the hills. We followed my brother-in-law through the waist high grass, crunching msasa pods underfoot, silent and lost in thought, when suddenly John jumped backwards with a shout for us to “Get back!” He had surprised a buffalo as he came around a bush. Alarmed, it leapt up and swung around. I was aware of John turning on his heels, the stamping thud of buffalo hoofs, a flash of its dark body and I turned tail and headed for the rocks nearby, as did Nicky and Ant. I scrambled upward as fast as I could, heart pounding in my ears, and glanced anxiously back expecting to see the buffalo in hot pursuit and wondered if buffalo could climb rocks. Fortunately for all of us, the beast hot-footed it in the opposite direction and I caught a fleeting glimpse of it disappearing into the grass between us and the vehicle. After that it was nowhere to be seen and we tentatively edged forward wondering if it was safe to proceed to the car. We made it and relieved, launched off onto the dusty road in search of more game. It had all happened so fast and felt slightly surreal, so I felt a strong sense of elation to still be alive!

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Between all the excitement of mambas and buffalos, our days were largely spent in a state of creative bliss. Each morning we would wake to the sound of birds, raise ourselves and head to the dining area for breakfast under the trees, overlooking a magnificent dam, where the shimmering, silver surface embraced the surrounded hills. From here we collected our art equipment and peeled off in our different directions in search of things to draw and paint.

Our visit to the Malilangwe Conservancy marked the first stage of our journey and by the end of that week we felt we had truly shaken off the shackles of the mundane.  Our senses had been awoken, we had reconnected with our environment, and were finally listening and responding to the artists within. The road that lay ahead was exciting, for it was to take us forward to Inyanga, and back to the ranch on which we grew up.

This will be the subject of another post, so in the meanwhile, if you would like to see some of the work that has arisen from my travels, visit my website www.sallyscott.co.za

Categories: Drawing, Fibre Art, Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Retreat

In May last year I was invited to join a group of ladies from Gauteng for a weekend of art making at Ann’s Villa, a self catering early settler Victorian mansion, that stands alone in the rugged terrain at the foot of the Zuurberg Mountains in the Eastern Cape. Helen Lunn, owner of the villa, had met me over the telephone when I had inquired about renting her space for my big birthday celebration a couple of months earlier. After the party, when she learned of my involvement in the arts, she asked if I would like to join her group of friends on an art retreat at the villa. It was an unexpected invitation and a bit of a risk to accept, given that I had never met her or anyone in the group, but I was curious and the thought of having another weekend in that beautiful environment, was enough to make me take up this opportunity. After all if I didn’t fit in, I could always return home to Grahamstown, a mere 88 kms away. That, as it turned out, wasn’t necessary and it wasn’t long before we had all settled in like old friends. It was a great weekend and so much fun to work alongside people whose experience, interests, talents and skills differed from my own. I learned much and came away from the those few days in the outback of the Karoo, wishing that I could have stayed longer, but feeling enriched, relaxed and inspired.

 

With the limited time available, my output was fairly minimal, but I did manage to produce a few sketches.

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Outside the blacksmith’s shop, Ann’s Villa 2014. Charcoal.

 

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An ink sketch of Ann’s Villa 2014

 

Ink and wash drawing of the rear view of Ann's Villa 2014

Ink and wash drawing of the rear view of Ann’s Villa 2014

So what is it about retreat that is so enticing? The idea of it is filled with possibility. For me it’s being able to legitimately withdraw from the madness of modern living, to step out of the predictable and well defined grooves of daily life, to enter into a space where anything can happen, where I can take time to intimately explore the outer environment and free fall into my inner world to see what’s going on in there. It’s having the time to express myself in an honest, uncompromising manner, knowing that what I produce doesn’t matter because it’s the process of doing it that counts. I love having no responsibilities and minimal expectation, where I can do pretty much anything with my day and take my time in doing it. I love the fact that I can indulge without the slightest whisper of guilt in the pleasures of making art in an environment that offers so many possibilities.

Over the years, I have been on several such retreats, and in my next post I will share another very memorable occasion when my sister, Nicky, brother Anthony and I took ourselves off to a beautiful conservancy in the low veldt of Zimbabwe.

Categories: Drawing, Inspiration, Landscapes | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Recent Work

One of the best things about going away is coming home.

After a few days exploring the antique shops of Port Elizabeth, and a couple more roaming the hills of the Winterberg, I open the door of my art studio and feel my heart soar.  The break has done me good and now I stand in the doorway looking at the artwork on the wall as if I’m seeing it for the first time.  I am satisfied with the four large aloe paintings that I have been working on for the past six months. Tomorrow I must sign them and take them to the framer and then work must begin on the exhibitions I have planned for 2015.

I reach for my camera in order to record the moment.

Looking across the studio to the four recently completed commissioned artworks

Looking across the studio to the four recently completed commissioned artworks

The desert scenes in my art studio

The desert scenes in my art studio

Scenes of the Okavango Delta and the Eastern Cape

Scenes of the Okavango Delta and the Eastern Cape

Two recetly completed paintings of Asante Sana, a nature conservancy in the Eastern Cape

Two recently completed paintings of Asante Sana, a nature conservancy in the Eastern Cape. Each artwork is 60cm x 98cm

My most recent work, two aloe paintings, scenes from the area around Grahamstown

My most recent work, two aloe paintings, scenes from the area around Grahamstown. Each artwork is 60cm x 98cm

These four aloe artworks will soon be on their way to Cape Town and though I will miss their company, I am happy to know that they have found a good home.

Categories: Landscapes, My Studio | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

Inspiration & Anticipation

To be an artist is not as simple as it might seem, for making art is a complex process that requires the artist to have large quantities of sensitivity, awareness, empathy, insight, vision, imagination, courage, determination, stamina, endurance, perseverance, more courage, good humour and an ability to deal with rejection and criticism.
When viewing the end product in a casual stroll around a gallery, the uninitiated viewer can be forgiven for not recognizing the many hours of work that go into the making of each piece, not to mention the struggle, the blood, sweat and tears that are invariably a part of the art making process. In the words of Sean McNiff “Creation… demands that we take the plunge into new territory without knowing what will appear.”
However, the execution of the art is just one part of the equation, and is often the easiest part of the process. It’s finding the inspiration that can prove to be more challenging.
So what is inspiration, exactly? That magical, slippery word that ducks and dives in and out of sight, often arising unexpectedly and disappearing just as fast. It’s that moment when a good idea hits you like the proverbial light bulb moment, leaving you rearing to get going before the idea fades. However, it can also be a quiet awareness that something in your consciousness has shifted and that you are looking at an idea that slipped in so silently, you are not quite sure where it came from. In my experience, I have found that those are the best ideas, the ones that come in a whisper, and beckon you to take note. If you’re not quiet, centred and alert, those magical moments, those gifts from who knows where, can disappear into the fog, or not be seen at all.
Perhaps the worst thing for an artist is the thought that one’s ideas might dry up, that you may have just done your last painting, or that you’ve lost your spark. I find that I have to create an environment around me that is supportive of my art, and that means surrounding myself with positive, interesting people as well as an inspiring physical space. I also need to get out, for as wonderful as this little town is, I occasionally need to see what lies over the edge of the bowl. I need to experience new sights and sounds and to break my daily routine. This sharpens the awareness and allows new ideas to flow.

The view from my studio across the town

The view from my studio across the town

So it is with this in mind that I have made plans to travel to Botswana and Limpopo with a creative, kindred soul. It’s a pilgrimage of sorts and whilst we travel the dusty roads in the midsummer heat, attending a traditional wedding, visiting creative arts centres, exploring ancient ruins, heritage sites, and caves for Bushman paintings, I am hoping that in the breeze, I will catch the whisper of some new ideas. One can never be certain if or when the Muse will appear, but I will be ready, with camera and notebook in hand for the possibility of it’s appearance.

To heighten my sense of anticipation, my brother, Anthony, otherwise known as Stidy, has sent me some pictures of the area into which I will be venturing.

The confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers

The confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers

Mapungubwe, Limpopo, South Africa

Mapungubwe, Limpopo, South Africa

The interesting thing is that it’s the anticipation of the journey that is really getting my heart racing and so in a way the journey has already begun. Like starting a new artwork, I face the blank canvas with a vision of where I want the work to go. It is lightly sketched in and I can see it in my mind’s eye, but will the end product look like I imagine? Unlikely, for if I hold the reins lightly, it will take me to places I hadn’t envisioned and show me things I didn’t know were there.

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On the road…

Categories: Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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