Taratories Blog

Critique: Wales Residency

This last week we had two new resident artists come to stay.  The girl on the left is Michelle Loa Kum Cheung and the girl on the right is Jessica Raby.  

Jessica is currently getting her MA in Aberystwyth and is studying film.  She collects things from nature and isolates outside of their natural environment to film and photograph.  This is her in her studio filming a flower she picked around the area while here.

Michelle is a painter and uses a unique technique where she burns into wood and uses oil paint to paint around and inside her burnt drawings.  Right now she is doing a commission for a restaurant which is a tetraptych (painting that has four parts).  Go to Michellelkc.com to see more of her work.


And there is me.  I focus mainly on using a combination of acrylic paints and colored pencils on canvas.  I have been enjoying exploring this mixed media technique more and more and have enjoyed focusing on people as my subjects. Since I have been in Wales I have been using Welsh folklore to tell stories in my paintings and I have had so much fun trying my hand at allegorical paintings!

This week we decided it would be fun to do a critique with each other in our studios.  I haven't done a critique since college and it was so fun to be a part of something like this again!  First we gathered in the attic and watched what Jessica had filmed so far on the projector.  

We loved the flower that she had filmed slowly spinning as it hung from her studio ceiling.  The light created beautiful shadows on it and I loved how mesmerizing it was to watch.  She talked about her work and we also took a look at some of her past films.  She appreciated our input and used it to help her plan out her direction for the rest of her stay here. If you want to see more of her work go to www.jess-raby.com.

Next we looked at what Michelle had painted so far on her panels and she talked about her process and how she got into pyrography.  She talked about what kind of subjects she paints and how she is drawn to landscapes but likes to play with scale in her paintings in a surrealistic way.


The time came for my critique. I talked about my different paintings that I have painted in Wales and how I incorporated Welsh folklore into them. We talked about some of the commonalities that the paintings have with each other and the parts of the paintings that worked better than others.


Discussing art with each other was so fun and we all benefitted so much from our discussions.  Here are a few more detail shots from another painting I did.


Cadair Idris: Wales Residency

I feel slightly exhausted from painting so much these last 3 weeks.  It has been like a marathon and I feel like I need a break from my paintbrush for a little bit which feels really weird coming from my mouth!  I feel like 3 weeks was the perfect amount of time to be on a residency.  I could have pushed myself to do more art if I was staying longer, but I feel like I am ready to go home and see my family.  Yesterday I took a break from painting and did a little sight seeing.  First stop was Machynlleth again to go to the shoe shop where they design and hand craft their shoes.  They actually custom make the shoes for you to fit your feet!  The shoes were so amazing and I wanted many of them, but the ones I wanted the most were, of course, the most expensive ones in the store.  They were made with rabbit fur and cost a whopping $600, so obviously I didn't order any.  The designer and owner said that these shoes are meant to last a lifetime which I love.  Maybe some day!

I stopped at the train station to buy my ticket for my journey to Birmingham and after I bought my ticket I walked back into the center of town.  On my way down the hill I realized that the last time I did this walk was the first day I got here and stepped off the train.  I remembered how I felt while I was walking.  Exhausted, sore, excited, in awe that I was actually in Wales!  I remember taking in everything for the first time and now it seemed almost normal! I walked past this pub which was my first stop after I arrived when I had the fish and chips.  Then my eyes started welling up.  I got a lump in my throat as I realized that my time was drawing to an end here and thinking about my adventure that I have had here.  A tear trickled down my face and I had to take the moment to reflect and say goodbye.  I am so grateful that God gave me this amazing experience and I am so sad that I have to leave this part of the world that I love so much!  

I pulled myself together and Yuki and I drove to a nearby local mountain that is smaller than Snowdon but still pretty big called Cadair Idris.  This palatial tree was at the entrance to greet me.

The journey to the base of the mountain was a beautiful experience in itself!  There was beautiful streams and loads of mossy everything.

The views on the way up were incredible and we walked up hundreds of rock steps and pathways weaving all the way up.

I loved this awesome slate bridge over the stream.  We sat and took a break and caught our breath here and watched the water flow down in front of us.

As we got closer to our destination there were more expanses of land in sight.  Every direction I looked in was absolutely breathtaking.

Then we finally arrived and it was so calm and quiet.  The mountain was so beautiful from all angles and the lake in the center of it was so placid.

And we found more red mushrooms!  There is no short supply of fungus here.

And of course there were more sheep...

It was an amazing three hour hike and I am so glad I got to experience more of God's creation and the Welsh landscape. I have really gained a new appreciation for nature since I've been here and I can't wait to do more exploring when I get home!

Fears and Fairies: Wales Residency

This week I thought I would try again to conquer my fears and take a walk through the scary forest.  Along the way I said hello to this sweet kitty on the stone wall.

The wind wasn't blowing which meant the trees weren't swaying and creaking this time which made it seem less scary. Even though I was nervous I took a deep breath and started to walk down the dark tunnel of trees.

As I walked through I realized that I was being silly and that I had nothing to worry about.  I enjoyed the perfect rows of trees and mossy stones along the path once again. This time I discovered an amazing mossy waterfall with a mossy tree going out of the side of it.

I sat down at the overlook and noticed some bugs flying around me.  I don't know if is the welsh folklore I have been reading, or the magical toadstools I've seen, or the storybook forests that have been getting to my head, but I felt like these bugs were fairies.  I was looking at them and thinking that they really could be fairies...

I am incorporating some fairies in one of my paintings and I saw this photo on the left on the internet captured by someone in England in his garden.  I don't know if it is legit, but I took a photo of the bugs that were hanging out with me and I felt like there was a kind of similarity.  I know you probably think I am crazy, but there are moments where I feel like I do believe in fairies.  If you were in Wales you would too :)  

My last stop was hanging out with the sheep who I love so much. This sheep was all about getting a selfie with me!  I really want Santa to bring me a lamb for Christmas haha!  I am so glad I conquered my fears because it ended up to be a beautiful adventure full of mossy waterfalls, ruins, an overlook with fairies, and selfies with sheep.  

Here are some detail shots of another painting I am working on.  Lots of greens in this one like the green landscape here in Wales.  There are mossy greens for days here...

These are photos from another walk I went on this week. I just loved the soft texture of the grasses and moss all along this path through the trees.

And I love this interesting character I encountered.  Every walk here is a different kind of adventure with its own kind of personality.  I love it and I am going to miss all of it when I leave this place.  

Listen: Wales Residency

The last few days I have been glued to my canvas from morning until night.  I think knowing that my time is drawing to a close has given me an extra dose of motivation to use my time to my advantage.  I know that when I go home time to create will look very different.  I have painted 4 paintings and I am finishing up my 5th one now.  Having this kind of time to work has been amazing.  No distractions, no schedule.  The only sounds I hear are the footsteps of the other artists on the old wood floors, the jets flying low above Corris, the sound of kegs being hauled up from the basement of the pub next door by the owner and his sons, the chatter of people inside the pub at night, little children on the street running home from school, and my spotify playlist.  I will miss these sounds.  These will always be the sounds of Wales in my memory. What sounds have you heard today?

This pub is not like a typical bar in America.  There are Grannies in their sweaters, children, babies, families that hang out in there.  For Halloween yesterday they had a little disco for kids with games and hot dogs and candy!  They were so cute dressed up in their little costumes.  We had some trick-or-treaters knock on the door but we had nothing to offer them unfortunately.  

I am keeping my art to myself while I am here until a show that I will be having at the end of the month but I am going to start to sharing a few detail images on this blog and eventually I will show the full works in their entirety.  Here are a few details from one of my paintings that I did...

Discussions: Wales Residency

A few things we have discussed while here.  along with some of our opinions.  These may be up for debate!

What make art good? 

Liz said something that I think was a really cool answer.  She said, "It is good art if you see it and later can't stop thinking about it.  You may not even like it."

What can we do after art school outside of the classroom to keep learning and growing?

Go to art exhibits by long standing artist in museums.  Attend workshops, lectures, or life drawing sessions, etc.

What makes an artist professional?  

Yuki was wondering if you have to be living solely off of the money that you make from your art.  We all agree that that is not the truth because most artists never are able to live solely off of their work, but if we strive to live solely off our work and do art as our career then we are considered professionals.  

Is it true art if the artist hires others to do their work for them?

It was interesting to hear about a job that Yuki previously had where she worked on another artist's art.  She and many others would airbrush oil paint over the large canvas in sections until it was completed.  I don't know how I feel about this one.  Is it just the idea behind the art or the actual implementing that makes it the art come from the artist? What do you think?



Here are my two fellow resident artists here at Maelor in Wales.  Liz on the left is standing by her large canvas, and Yuki on the right is next to her smaller circular flower prints.  We have had such a great time having art related discussions since we have been together during my stay. Liz leaves tomorrow and 2 new artists are arriving tomorrow to stay.  

Silence: Wales Residency

Yesterday I started off the day with a scone.  It was fresh out of the oven at Andy and Adams coffee shop next door and it was so delicious!  What made it amazing was the clotted cream and jam on top!  I have never tried clotted cream before and to tell you the truth, the name didn't sound very appealing.  After people at the cafe convincing me to try it I gave it a go and it was dreamy!  It was more like the consistency of butter but sweet and different. It changed my life.

On Sunday's in Corris they run their old victorian train through the town so I figured I would hop on while I was here!  It didn't go very far but it had some pretty views. 

At the end of the ride the train conductor gave us a tour of the place where they work on the trains and gave us a little history lesson.  This railway dates back to the 1850's.  The line was initially built as a horse-and-gravity-worked ramrod to carry slate from the quarries of Corris to other places.

It was a very cold day and by the end I was ready to warm up to some tea... AGAIN!  I have never drank so much tea in my life!  I am normally a coffee drinker but you can't drink coffee all day with all that caffeine and that is why people turn to tea to warm them up throughout the day.  Tea, soups, anything warm is all that sounds appealing.  Even when you are indoors it is cold everywhere.  I worked in my studio with a hat, robe, and house slippers on and I looked ridiculous but you will do anything to stay warm around here!

After my little train ride I spent the rest of the day working on my art.  I was not feeling very motivated to work on art but I pushed myself and ended up finishing up my third painting.  Creating takes such discipline.  Anyone who says that it doesn't is fooled.  After I was done it was evening and evenings are when I tend to feel a bit lonely.  I have never had this much solitude in my life and it is really bringing about some personal awakenings for me.  Last week I was taking everything that was new and processing my new surroundings and my new mission.  It took a week for me to unravel in a way.  The fast pace of my life back home needed to transition into this slow paced life I am in right now.  Now that I have slowed down I have been doing a lot of soul searching.  Sometimes the silence is so strong it brings a kind of buzz in my ear.  At home I am never in this kind of silence and it can be uncomfortable at times.  But I am learning to embrace it and see what it has for me.  

It is so strange to have such few options.  When I am alone in the house, I can either do art, read, listen to music, pray, write, or stare at the wall.  I have done all of the above but there are times when I feel like I need to fill the silence with noise such as wifi (which we don't have access to), or other people, or distractions.  When I am forced to be alone without those things it is very revealing.  What has been revealed to me so far is that even though I care about my art so much, I care more about the people that are in my life more.  Without them nothing else seems to matter.  I feel like i had art up on a pedestal where it shouldn't be.  The need for time to do art has been satisfied since I have been here and that has brought clarity.  I want to bring art down a couple rungs down the ladder when I go home even though I will always strive to find time to create.