In 2014, an illness left me feeling like an empty vessel waiting to be filled. I, myself, was like a blank canvas.  While there were things I needed to remember and reconnect with, there were also things I needed to let go of, start a fresh and discover. 

This gallery shows my first painting exploration after twenty years away. They’re not only about embracing treasured memories, but also about going deeper and gaining a greater respect for loved ones I hardly knew.


Vicky
(Acrylic on canvas 12x12)

Vicky was born in 1945 to George and Elsie.  When she was a teenager she wanted to pursue modelling, but her mother wouldn't permit it.  
She met Peter and married in 1965.  Peter was a keen photographer and Vicky made for a beautiful subject.  I could paint many wonderful pieces of art with the photographs he has taken of her. The central photo here was taken on their honeymoon. I was spoilt for choice.
I had an amazing home-life as a child, full of warmth and happy memories, always feeling secure and loved. That was important to Vicky, as she wouldn't describe her own childhood in that way.
Vicky loves to take care of people; she worries about them.  It's one of her greatest strengths, but can also be one of her weaknesses. When she was a teenager, she went on holiday to Blackpool with five friends.  I love the set of photographs I have of that holiday; seemingly carefree, playing the fool with her girls, especially a set they had taken in a photo booth.  
Recently, I came across another photo booth strip taken with my brother and I, in Blackpool circa 1975.  I wonder if it's the same booth....? 

 

 


New York
(acrylic on canvas 12x12)


The strange city felt comfortably familiar. 
It was our adopted home for two weeks and we took to it immediately.
 
The view from our apartment in the village takes in Lower Manhattan and the newly finished freedom tower. On 9/11 our host stood on this balcony and watched the twin towers fall. That day now feels shockingly personal as I fall in love with this city. 

Two things returned to me in New York. 

The first was my love for running and the benefits it brings. I would don my trainers first thing in the morning, plug myself in to my music and join the locals in the friendly race around Washington Square Park,  then join my husband for a guilt free breakfast at The Grey Dog.

The second was my love for art. The vibrancy and innovation of such artists as Robert Rauschenberg at the Museum of Modern Art, stirred something in me I'd long since forgotten about.
I look at these photographs and I am instantly connected to recovery, strength and creativity. 
I'm transported to a happy place.


beach 1950
(acrylic, mixed media collage on canvas 12x12)

My dad has so many wonderful photographs from his childhood. I adore this set from a holiday they had as a family in wales in 1950.
There are about a dozen photos in all, these are a few of my favourites.  I love how well-dressed they are for a day at the beach!


cyril & madge
(acrylic on canvas 12x12)

Cyril and Madge met in school.  They married in 1931 at the ages of 22 and 20 respectively.
Madge had a highly skilled job dyeing thread for the carpet trade.  She gave this up when she had their first child in 1933. 
When the war broke out in 1939, Cyril was not allowed to enlist due to his asthma. instead he became a fireman. 
They were always surrounded by family. With four children of their own, eleven grandchildren and a growing list of great grandchildren, family get-togethers were never quiet affairs. 
Madge inspired me as a woman of great faith, always committed and strong; a smile on her face. In fact, looking through the hundreds of photographs I have seen of her, I don't recall even one where she doesn't have that sparkle. 


GEORGE
(ACRYLIC ON CANVAS 12X12)

George was 24 years old when he left his young family to fight in the second world war. It was 1939. his first son had just been born.
George was the radioman. with the equipment on his back, he would move ahead of his troop and report the location of the enemy.
He survived the horrific d-day landings in 1944. many of his friends fell.
In the years that followed, he would talk very little about his time in the trenches.  He rejected the medals he was awarded saying nothing would bring back the brave men who were lost.
There was one story, however, that he would tell. Every soldier was given a prayer book. George kept his in his breast pocket. one day he was shot.  The bullet lodged in the pages of the book and saved his life.  The last page in the prayer book reads: "O God, our help in ages past", the corners of the pages torn where the bullet hit.
I hardly knew George, my grandfather. He died when I was five years old. But I know that he loved his family more than anything else. His bravery and love inspires me. 


ELSIE
(ACRYLIC ON CANVAS 12X12)

Elsie has been one of the biggest characters in my life. I could fill a book with the stories she has regaled about her childhood and her supposed thirteen siblings (I say 'supposed' because, on reflection, we can only account for eleven...) 
I knew her as a vibrant, generous and elegant lady who cared deeply and laughed often.
I took this central photograph one summer's evening after school. She was 'acting the goat' as usual. It is how I remember her.
However, from talking with those who knew her when she was younger, I learnt of an underlying sadness, dissatisfaction and need to escape that I have identified in myself.  There are no photos of her when she was young. There are no wedding photographs either.
She was always the biggest cheerleader of her grandchildren, so proud of everything we achieved.  I don't know how she would feel about being 'showcased' here, but I hope that the words she wrote on my card for passing my GCSEs still stand. 


Madge (acrylic on canvas 12x12)

Mum and Dad (acrylic mixed media on canvas 12x12)