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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Happy Tuesday!

I can't believe it's now Tuesday and I haven't been in touch for 4 days...

It's been a funny old time. Sharing a house with someone for a month, you do get to know their good and bad points. (I am certainly not immune from this and I'm sure Sofia and Ell have tales to tell about my washing up the very least)

Anyway, Ell left on Sunday and it certainly left a big Bostonian shaped hole in my heart. I've never had such animated and detailed discussions about the USA and have learned so much about a liberal 20 something's views on everything. I have learned about:

  • Gun laws and why (it is perceived) that they won't work. Particularly as the Americans take their constitution so seriously and think that if the police/army have guns, then so should they. (Oh and also, all the gangs and drug lords have illegal weapons, so would still shoot each other all the time...
  • There is a significant mistrust of those in power and most Americans certainly didn't vote Trump. (50% didn't even vote) However, if my friend is correct - and I wouldn't dare doubt her - people totally didn't trust Hilary, so the opposition was negligible. (Echoes of Brexit, anyone??)
  • Boston has the most wonderful thing artistically, where galleries have a party once a month on a Friday (with lots of galleries that means a party a week!) This not only means that artists get great exposure and the chance to network, but that the shy ones (obviously not Ell...) get to get a bit tipsy whilst attempting to schmooze curators and gallery owners. The 'do's' include wine and food and performances of music, dance and other general exciting stuff.
  • I now know that all the American teen films about 'Spring Break' are watered down. The truth is far far worse.

The most important thing I have learned from the first month is that a 50+ year old English (Northern English at that) woman with 2 kids and a totally different life experience, can learn from everyone and can have a beautiful friendship with a 23 year old, opinionated, (in the best sense of the word) bright, beautiful, talented amazing artist from Boston MA. Watch out for Eleanor Mary Cepko. I believe she will be exhibiting in the MOMA within the next few years.

Ok, enough of the sycophancy. I'll pay you later Ell!!

So, that was Sunday. I then moped around for the next 2 days, being a bit pathetic but loving having the place to myself. I cleaned from top to bottom (not difficult as it's a bungalow) and enjoyed a clean sink and washing up done as soon as made. I have the very annoying habit at home of washing up before sitting down to eat sometimes.... (OCD??)

I didn't realise that the official cleaner was coming yesterday, so I made her job a lot easier.

I found an amazing rubbish tip, which reminded me of the rubbish dump on the Store field at Whitehill Road when I was growing up. I also remember that the children's home around the block would often chuck things away which were not needed, or the batteries had run out and I would go and take them. I remembered the time I found some Walkie Talkie phone (with a wire obviously....) and they only needed batteries. We played with them for ages until the street thief nicked them. anyway I digress. The thing that reminded me of that time was this:

It just looked so forlorn. A bit like how I was feeling.

discarded nets

No idea about this lot. There was assorts of stuff. No tellies or fridges though, which is what you find thrown away in the UK.
I also found this amazing shed, which is quite a way from the sea, but had bits of seaweed tangled in its door. It could be the wind blowing it about, but this also looks very forlorn.

So to today. The snow is completely gone now. It's quite warm outside - for Iceland. I took my hat off today and went without gloves for at least half an hour. Seriously though, all the locals are saying how unseasonably warm it is, but that the winter will start in February. That's tomorrow then. Better get the Long Johns out again. 

This is the ice which comes down the valley and runs into the sea just along from the studio. Last time I was here it was walkable on. Now it's all cracked up and floating to the sea. You can't tell the scale from the photograph, but some of these were about 7 feet long. 

I'm not sleeping very well. Could be because of the vast amounts of coffee I'm drinking, but I generally stay in the studio until between 10.30 and midnight, then go home hoping to sleep. Last night I went to bed at 12 and was still wide awake at 4am. Then slept until 6 and back to sleep again until mid day. I can't seem to get into any kind of routine. 

I forget to tell you that I saw the most amazing aurora the other night but didn't have my tripod as I'd left it at the studio... I stood on our porch and tried to hold the camera steady. Luckily, the lights were so bright, that I didn't need a long exposure:

I love this one. It's like an angels wings

So today, I wanted to enjoy the 'me' time a little more so went to the cliffs. This is becoming my 'South Shields' here in Iceland. I spent time just sitting watching the waves crashing in and made some nice pictures. I miss everyone at home. I'm missing Steve and the kids so much. (and the dogs) Today has been the worst so far. I am also missing my Tuesday nights so very much with my best friend, and she's ill, so I would have loved to be there with her tonight. I've been sending the most positive vibes I can muster, but I think the fog and rain in the UK is preventing them getting through. 

Here's my offering from today:

And my two favourites:

This goes out to anyone feeling a bit forlorn. (three forlorns in one blog - serious stuff) 
Especially to Rachael Pinks, my brilliant Chris,  Steve, Lizzie (especially massive hug coming your way) and the amazing Matthew Danger Jackson. Send me some positive thoughts as I'm feeling sorry for myself. I'm sure I'll be back to me tomorrow.


Aly x

Friday, 27 January 2017

It's all coming together now.


Good Afternoon on the most stunningly beautiful Icelandic sunny day. 

It truly felt like spring as I walked to and from the studio with no gloves.... yes, this may seem a small and unimportant detail in the big scheme of things, but it's the first time since I arrived that I haven't been out in thermals, hat, scarf, gloves, boots and with my hood up!

last bit of sun today on the beach
I had a lovely lunchtime with 2 girls from the local school who are looking at some photography techniques over the next couple of weeks with me. After my dismal efforts at pronouncing their names (which I failed..) we decided to work on painting with light. They got the concept and method so quickly and were making images within half an hour of our initial discussion. I'll put them on here once I've asked for permission.

I have spent the rest of the day walking and making abstract pieces using only my camera. I am trying to get it 'right' in camera so I am reducing and reducing the editing time. For both purist and aesthetic reasons. I'm not there yet, but I am happy with around 5 of those I made. Here's a couple. The only editing is exposure and crop.

I really like these and would love to see them printed big. There's so much detail to bring out. Quite interesting to paint as well - if I could paint...! They are much compressed, but you can see the possibilities. Comments more than welcome...


It's jumped to Friday and I am just about recovering from too many wines.... Having hardly had anything to drink since arriving, the assault on my body, my mind and to be honest, every fibre of my being of alcohol by the truckload, has had, shall we say, a detrimental effect. 

Firstly, yesterday began as a bright and beautiful day for walking. The mountain was glorious with a cotton wool halo moving around for most of the day on its head. Some artists walked virtually to the top, but alas, the ice was too slippery as they got above the snow level. I wandered for hours along the coast, trying to replicate the feel of the image above. I decided that the only one worth having is the third one. The others are not good enough. I wanted to recreate the detail, subtlety and complexity of it and that's what I walked and photographed for 4 hours. I got maybe 2 images I was happy with, but none that I feel matched this one. 

These are the best abstracts straight from camera yesterday:

These are just from my phone to give an idea of how idyllic it was yesterday.

Then last night happened......

At 6pm I had a message that the aurora were out and they were amazing!! Really bright and not what the prediction said at all. I didn't have my tripod, but quickly grabbed a few hand held shots. This was one of those occasions where just watching them was enough. This is a picture from the back of my camera. It shows how bright they were.

And then.....

Toti, the local (and only) restaurant/bar owner did a fish and vegetarian buffet for a group of around 10 of us. It started quite nicely around 7pm and the food was exceptional. For Iceland, the price of around £17 per head was very reasonable, but as we had to then pay for wine/alcohol on top of that, I thought I would be measured, careful and mature.

I wasn't.

I can't even begin to own up/work out how much it cost, but for those of you who know me well, imagine how many wines I can consume over a long evening or at a party, then throw in a few more for fun and then add into the equation the fact that I hadn't been drinking for most of January. So once you have this number in your head - of glasses - times it by 7, and that's the number of pounds..... Suffice to say I have suffered all day, even after drinking gallons of water once home and lying on the kitchen floor unable to move. 

The highlights were:

Sophie's singing (on her birthday!)
Me beating the local Neo-Nazi (self declared) at pool (I didn't know this when I agreed to play)
having amazing conversations with weird and wonderful people
hearing someone sing karaoke who had backed BB King and Stevie Wonder
meeting a Scandinavian running an artist residency in upstate New York
spending good quality time with some fabulous artists
Walking back along the coast, freezing but happy

Gives new meaning to the old insult 'specky 4 eyes'

The Wonderful Michael and Sophie. It was Sophie's birthday today

Luccia beautiful and amazing Slovakian artist and me before I was palatic  (as they say up home)
It's always good to know that someone else is at least as bad as you....
Introducing: Eleanor,  room mate extraordinaire. Bostonian, minimalist, liberal, funny, mad, cat lady and all round good egg. Can't believe she's leaving Sunday....

Today is another day.

I will leave this here I think. Tomorrow we have Open House, which is an informal exhibition of work in progress. I can't put anything up as the ink and paper I ordered hasn't arrived yet. I'll probably project some images and just chat to people.

Thank you for reading. Just as a ps, I'd like to add that drinking copious amounts of alcohol, also creates bad food cravings, and after being really good and eating healthily, so far today I have consumed:

3 slices toast with 3 eggs, avocado and feta cheese (with the mould cut off...)
5 cups of coffee
5 cups of tea
2 massive bars of Milk Creme Caramel
1 large fries from the garage
1 bottle of tango

and I'm not finished yet...

Sleep well,


Aly x

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Happy Tuesday!

Good Evening,

In the grand tradition of the British, I will start by talking about the weather. It is miserable. Dull, rainy and snowless. This is not what people expect of Iceland. I'm not sure that I will have a very interesting blog today as nothing very much has happened these past couple of days. Much of it has been taken up with sleeping, walking back and forth between the studio and home and messing around with mono prints - none of which have yet led to any decent layered images. I have been photographing these in monochrome and will hopefully include them in something, not sure what yet. They are all based on what I have seen/am seeing around me, with a bit of artistic licence in the colours.

After my jaunt up the mountain I ached so much the next day and today that I had a full body inspection in the tiny mirror at the house. I found a massive bruise on my leg and back so at least now I understand why I kept hitting pressure points when I was trying to sleep. 

One of the housemates (sounds like Big brother...) decided to leave early and went today. I feel that this may alleviate some tension and enable me to get on with things a little more. It's always difficult when there is any type of conflict. Anyway, tomorrow is another day....

I am really looking forward to working with three students tomorrow who are able to access the artists at nes rather than do other school subjects for one lesson a week. I am working with them for a couple of weeks and am hoping to complete a short light painting project with them. If the weather holds, we can practice in the freezer tomorrow and then go onto the beach next week, armed with home made light sabres. I made one today to practice with , out of some old battery Christmas lights and coloured plastic. It is a truly beautiful thing...

You may mock, but look what it made....

Really looking forward to experimenting and getting the girls to make their own wands, ideally with the lights a bit closer together, then going out onto the beach, or even better, into the snow. 

I had a fabulous trip to the lighthouse up the coast, thanks to Arnar and was able to make some great images. It was a bit like a horror movie for parts of it though as apparently mink and Arctic foxes are rife up there and we found a number of half eaten birds. Bypass the following couple of photos if you're squeamish...

one of around 5 'wings only' remains

one of again, around 5 gored birds

It was very isolated and windy up there - no one around and could have easily been the set for some murder mystery crime thingy. 

I did also make some lovely black and white shiny ones....

The lighthouse at Kalfshamarsvik, near Skagaströnd 
Oh, and the obligatory seal. Very friendly he was too.

On the way we were treated to a waterfall which is not visible from the road. It was so powerful, rushing into the sea. The only way to get a front on shot is to be in a boat as the coastline is inaccessible. It's difficult to get a scale from this, but the image of Amanda and Arnar in the foreground of the image after the waterfall gives an idea.

I am so very tired tonight, so am leaving the studio soon and getting an early night. sorry for the short blog, but I don't want to have too big a gap again.




Sunday, 22 January 2017

Greetings on a 'warm' sunday evening in skagaströnd.

 Hello again from the desk at the far end of the studio, at the far end of the village.

It's become much warmer in Iceland over the past few days and all the snow has melted. Considering we were sitting in a hot bath with outside temperatures at -17 eight days ago, it's very odd. Today has been around 6° and there is vegetation appearing from under it's icy blanket which is green and yellow . I didn't see anything like it last time I was here as the ground was constantly covered in snow as I remember.

I have been sleeping an enormous amount. I usually have between 6 and 8 hours at home but here, it's never less than 9. I'm not sure if that will change as the mornings become lighter, but it's a strange phenomenon to wake up at 9 am, nip to the loo and go back to fast asleep for a couple of hours. The sleeping patterns on an artists residency are weird anyway, with many night creatures doing their arty thing until 4am....

So to the last couple of days. I have slept, walked, fallen down, had a G&T, got half price sweets from the garage and been on a short trip to the elusive lighthouse. But, first. These were taken 2 days ago in the snow.

The walk back to Manabraut

Very calm sea and twinkling harbour

Sea Cliffs about 10 minutes walk from the house

masses of seaweed, which Eleanor tried and found disgusting to eat

The water is so clear and tempting, but freezing..... One of the artists, Sophie really wants to swim, but I'm not sure I have the bottle. Apparently there's a monthly sea swimming club...Hmmm.

The sunrises and sunsets are usually stunning. It's almost expected and I have become somewhat blasé about it. Well actually, no. I still get really excited and say 'eeeeee it's brilliant' in a higher voice than my usual one. But hey, I make no apology for gorgeous natural beauty.

Yesterday I set out early (11am) for a walk to the valley between Spákonufell (our mountain) and some other less wonderful mountains. I had already wandered around this area a little bit before but hadn't discovered the valley, the river, the waterfall and the trail up Spákonufell .. I had stupidly decided to carry my camera bag with a massive extra lens, my tripod and a load of other stuff 'just in case'. Interestingly I forgot to bring any water and was so dehydrated by the time I came off the mountain that I was prepared to climb down the side of a gorge to get some from the stream - that was after actually trying the door on a house to use their tap..... (which I discovered later is a hireable venue for partying in isolation of anyone or anything). Anyway, back to the story....

This is the river running through a wonderful valley about 45 minutes from the village 

High up, looking into the gorge
 It was down this gorge that the first 'happening' happened. I was setting up the camera ready for a artsy moving water shot when my bloody lens cap popped off and rolled down the rocks towards the water. My first thought was that I can do without a lens cap and that I shouldn't do anything stupid. I could always get another one. My second thought was: Take a photo of where it landed, then walk around and down to the gorge to retrieve it using the photo for reference (I knew I'd have to go around 200m to get down safely). This was the decided plan of action. I carefully left my camera bag and tripod on a rock and started down the ice covered and somewhat precarious side of the gorge - knowing that the features in the photograph would become my beacons for finding the precious Nikon cap. I managed to get to within around 30m of the spot and realised I'd taken the 'siting photograph' with my Nikon and not my phone. The Nikon was at the top of the gorge...... The next thing I did was to record a little 'sorry' video on my phone just in case I fell into the icy water and got carried away into the sea, never to be seen again. I was just about to go back up lenscapless, when I spotted it sitting there mocking me. Hooray!!! I felt a rush of happiness and satisfaction. Pathetic, I know. This is 'said' gorge:

 Very gorgeous it is too (See what I did there?) (tired now..!)

Looking up to Spákonufell  summit
 After the euphoria of finding my lens cap, I decided to climb the mountain. There was some snow still on top and it was relatively wind free when I set out. I didn't have a map, compass, water, walking boots, a head torch, whistle or any food of any kind. I'd had a coffee before setting out but realised that this probably wouldn't suffice for what was to become a 5 hour jaunt with no water.

Ah well, I was always within site of the village and I'm sure my green parka would have shown up on the mountainside if I'd got into any trouble, particularly against the - greenish vegetation.......

Steve and the kids are now at this point thinking I was reckless and taking stupid risks, but I wasn't, promise gov. It's artistic licence, that's all.

This is me about half way up and having decided that I wasn't fully equipped to go to the top. Plus having just gotten over bronchitis, I felt a bit ill.
After this lovely sit down on the side of the mountain, I got up full of life and decided to try a few more steps up. Well I got to the scree and had in my sights the first 'false summit' (Helen Reed will totally get this), but alas, in the words of the Mighty Bruce Springsteen himself, I took 'One step up and two steps back'. I was slipping down and couldn't get any grip - plus there was a distinct possibility that anyone below me (absolutely not a soul in sight all day...) would get bopped on the head by a big stone. So I decided that I had to come down.

Easier said than done. I found this fabulous strip of ice/snow, about 50m long and decided that the safest and most efficient way to get down would be to slide. I had even brought a carrier bag for this specific purpose - who needs a sledge who you have a carrier bag? Anyway, I got myself settled on the bag - my camera bag on my back, my feet out in front and my precious iPhone 7+ in my hand, ready to ride the exciting, dynamic ice path down the mountain. My phone was so excited, it decided to go without me - in video mode. I did capture it's journey, and it survived but for a few scratches. It's on my Facebook page if you want to see it.

 I also fell down a few times on the 'ride' back down, but it was worth it for the look on the Icelandic ponies faces....

I found an iced up river and some pylons on my walk back to civilisation, where I rewarded myself with a large G&T.

very icy river

very interesting pylons
More exciting stuff today, including falling over in the bathroom this morning.... but you can wait for that. I have been messing with making 'Toytown' images of the village, These are from the sea cliffs. I will speak to you tomorrow, (possibly!)  but until then, sleep well.

Night night,


Aly x