Up The Garden Path

Up The Garden Path (30x40cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

There is nothing quite like the sheer panic of forgetting someone’s birthday, more specifically a birthday card, to truly mark the occasion.

Luckily, an artist works well under stress. As someone so often used to the pressures of meeting deadlines for clients, she quickly make haste; She grabs her art supplies and throw them down onto her work surface with an anticipatory thud.

This is no regular client, and there has been no debrief in this instance. But with her husband as the recipient, she knows him well enough to paint something of his taste.

Using a piece of paper, easily folded into a card, the artist begins to plot her canvas just in time for this important day. In her mind, she fondly envisions the summer garden.

The buzzing bees and singing birds are an orchestra in this quiet corner of the countryside. The wild flowers grow with such a vigour, they often overstep into the pathway. This is the pathway which the artist’s husband will walk after the working day. Crunching gravel underfoot, the bright bulbs are thrust forward by the wind and kiss his feet. The artist imagines his pace quicken upon his excitement of seeing balloons, or a colourful banner in the archway perhaps; His mind is animated with what surprises may be awaiting behind the front door of their home.

The artist plays out this warm and happy scene inside her head as she paints. Almost as if the mental image has been scanned onto the paper, it is complete. The artist reviews the finished birthday card, with the long, overreaching stems of the flowers and the path seemingly built around them. With dots of sapphire and rouge to imitate their swaying, she leaves the darkened doorway, as the beautiful, ambiguous end of one’s journey up the garden path.

**Article continues on Page Two**

Merriment from a Masked Invader

The Masked Invader: 47.6cm x 47.6cm

**Words by Amber L-J**

As I tend to my garden, I can make out the sound of mischievous scheming and clucking. The hens of my next-door neighbour, with their comical determination, are planning to infiltrate once more.

Their small size should not be underestimated, as these chickens are fierce, with a complete disregard of my attempts to keep the vegetable patch intact. It is a daily battle which occurs with clockwork precision.

Initially, they try to conceal themselves in the long grass. However, their clawed feet signal their presence, with their white and orange tail feathers peak over the top like sharks drawn to bait.

They near the end and realise that I have been watching them, arms crossed on the patio, with just a hint of a smile. Quickly, their subtle approach expires; They rush past me with such a brazen disregard, their eyes wide upon seeing the forbidden, emerald cabbage.

They peck at such speed, diminishing everything in sight before I am able to stop them in their tracks. It requires two people to herd these free spirits back to their home, with my neighbour and I laughing along the way.

However defiant, her chickens and their amusing antics are welcome in my garden.

**Article continued on Page 2**

White Roses, Whispering Shadows

Whispering Shadows (30 x 30cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

Occasionally, I have been allowed to see a magical world, which disappears as quickly as it arrives.

I am not able to predict when the light shines through the cluster of trees outside the landing window, and it’s beautiful outcome: a dramatic silhouette across the mauve wall. For a moment, the whispering shadows are able to speak, exclaim even, over the idyllic roses. For a moment, they seek desperately to come to the forefront; They no longer wish to be the understudy, but the main spectacle of my viewing.

I am astonished to discover a new element of these roses, purely by coincidence. I was once gifted these flowers: a timeless ritual and a kindness that will always be rewarded.

The amorous rose always speaks to someone special. The sentiment is then treasured for some time, as the flowers open themselves to us and reveal mother nature in her glory. I cup one of the roses to my nose, breathing in its pale, snowy petals.

Their purity proves to me the sincerest of intentions. I feel their loving and tranquil presence just steps from my bedroom, in the hallway.

I am also eager to get my timings right, and to see the theatrical shadows cast once more.

The pleasure of fresh flowers in my home is the gift which keeps on giving.

**Article continued on Page 2**

Inside Blues: 2020 Edition

Inside Blues (40x40cm with 3cm depth)

**Words by Amber L-J**

It is safe to say that this year has been like no other.

My home has been a haven from the invisible enemy which lurks outside these four walls. As a household of normally busy schedules, that chaos of general life has slowed down considerably. With Christmas approaching, this would typically be our annual moment of togetherness. But this year I am thankful, as this small moment has stretched over months of national lockdowns and tier systems. Whatever hardships have been faced, they have been faced as a family.

With no stressful commute each morning, I no longer rely on a booming alarm but wake up at the first sign of light. I love the peaceful innocence of mornings, and the potential of what the day may bring, however limited.

My festive and fluffy socks muffle the sound of my feet down the stairs, so not to wake my snoozing family. I see the remnants of the night before, and with the kettle at a dull roar, I fill the sink and get to work. My soapy hands squeak over the dinner plates.

As I lift the plates from the sink to dry them, I look upward and am dazzled by the golden sunlight seeping into my kitchen. I am half-asleep dreaming of the world outside, post-pandemic. The high whistle of a rather impatient kettle presses on for some time before I realise.

I sit down and switch on the television for company. As I watch the morning broadcast, I clutch the warmth of fresh coffee to my chest, lifting my once-heavy heart.

With the rest of the world awakening to the news of a vaccination, this has been the most memorable moment in a year that, to most, would be one to forget.

**Article continued on Page 2**

The Hens of Homecoming

The Homecoming (30x30cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

Everyday, the hens come home to safety before dark.

I call for my hens in high whistling tones, bent down and patting my thighs eagerly. With a bucket of chicken feed in one hand, and a steaming camomile tea in the other, I wait on the pathway at the bottom of the meadow.

The yellow rose bush grows outward, distinguished from the verdant landscape. Reclining upon the railings of the fence, they welcome me back whilst refusing to be ignored. The warmth from their open petals cause my smile.

I soon see red feathers and orange beaks peak over the top of the hill. The chickens find happiness in their freedom to roam far in these fields, with the exception of feeding time.

These hens leave their haven and rush towards me. With the wind entangled in their feathers, thrust backward and creating resistance, some fall behind. However, a steady stream flows downward.

In the low sun, my squinting eyes make out dark shadows on the green pasture, with their legs strutting at such a speed they seem to disappear.

With their initial stealth achieved on the soft grass, the pitter patter of their claws is soon heard overlapping on the concrete path.

I scoop one of these hens in my arms, both of us making mutual noises of glee. Once she is placed down, I reach into the bucket.

I tentatively hold my hand out, with a pile of chicken feed cupped inside, to be gently pecked at by the hens at all directions, encircling me.

**Article continued on Page 2**

Underground Communication: A Floral Fantasy

Underground Communication (100 x 100cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

The garden roses are more sophisticated, and social, than meets the eye.

The sun breaks through the misty morning sky, awakening the roses. As perfect chaos ensues, they strive for sunlight, their twisting stems climbing higher and higher. Once on equal footing, the bursting rose buds turn to face each other. They are planted lovingly by human hands, in hopes of the garden becoming enriched with pink and red hues, infused with their sweet perfume. To the human ear, there is only silent compliance between them, their roots entwined in the same dirt.

The soil beds may be quiet on the surface, but I hear whispers of a community beneath the Earth. A summer romance ensues, with the rightful privacy of underground communication.

Each feathered, dark root is a lifeline and the will to survive, as a neighbourhood of roses share information; Each message is sent with care, with warnings of environmental change, appeals for lost family members, and the distribution of precious nutrients before their timely deaths. As one dies, another rose takes their place, as a near-identical reminder of what once was.

Hours move slowly in their world, so the human eye merely witnesses small actions suspended in time. It fails to see the valuable words exchanged and the important relationships formed for survival.

The community of roses give endless performances of joy and colour to their viewers, blooming bright.

**Article continued on Page 2**

Reminiscing in the Warm Fields of Autumn

Warm Fields (63 x 63cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

My boots crunch on the autumn leaves as my light-footed companion rushes forward eagerly, his lead pulling me in tow.

As we reach the top of the hill, he pulls me toward the creaky gate. Our decision is finalised as the gate swings abruptly shut behind us, with a loud clang.
We are now down on the tow path which follows the canals as eagerly as he does; With his tail in the air and his nose on the ground, he traces my route ahead.

As we walk, the sun comes out from hiding behind the cloud-covered sky. With one hand gripping the dog lead, I extend my other hand in front of me, the daylight bouncing off my painted talons.

It is all so familiar as I stop briefly during our walk, out of habit, and begin to reminisce.

We are at the place where, in the spring, I had admired the resting swans.

During the summer, they would sit on the bank and I would eagerly throw food offerings in their direction. Both fearsome and beautiful, the swans glided across the water, their long, snow-white necks snapping into the water hungrily. The surrounding trees now appeared to make space for the absent swans, arching outward, with their near-empty branches eclipsing the water.

I look behind the trees to see the wind sweeping up their fiercely orange leaves in the field beyond, further saturated by the low Autumn sun.

Blown forward, as I am now, into Autumn, I imagine the field that was once lime green with its new Spring growth.

I pull up my collar and forge ahead, focusing on the crunch of the leaves and their golden hues.

The abundance of summer, in all its forms, will return again.

**Article continued on page 2**

The Great Advantages of Painting Later in Life

I knew I was a painter for many years before I started producing paintings at the age of forty-eight. Before that, I read all I could about painting & established a social media presence in preparation for what I knew was coming.

I thought about it, between a full time occupation of transporting & nurturing our three sons, spread over twenty years. My husband was completely immersed in building his own business. He left at 7am & returned at 7pm in time to say “goodnight” to them when they were young, and cook for us as they became older.

Once I started painting, the great advantage was that I knew myself & had a lot of pent up energy!

I enjoyed the process of it, & what it did for my state of mind, so much that I really wasn’t preoccupied with what other people wanted me to paint. I haven’t stopped painting since.

The Hen House (30x40cm)

From my wealth of work & life experience stored up (with feelings of anger, sadness and joy), I knew what I liked & disliked, following my own mind’s natural revelations. I created my own world where I was truly happy, & no one could touch me. I found that I could paint such joy from experiencing such sadness.

I also resolved the anxiety surrounding mortality within myself; My paintings will far outlive me &, having suffered the life changing experience of friends’ deaths, this was really important for me. When I paint, this is one of my main motivations.

Petals & Shadows (61 x 100cm)

I picked up from where I left off working in the fashion industry (‘pre-computers’), but having children had changed my view of the world; I felt protective, & the fashion industry seemed immoral to me now. I originally went into this vocation because my Dad was a knitwear man, before I knew myself better. But I’m glad I did it, because my experience all feeds in to my paintings now.

I tried out other people’s painting styles, experimented & evolved my own thoughts through failings until I found a unique artistic style that I wanted in my own house. I had looked for similar paintings & I couldn’t find them elsewhere.

My friends & family were, & still are, so supportive. They were also, frankly, surprised that there was more to me than they thought, which came out in my paintings. I’m really gobby when drunk but learnt from an early age, growing up as a little girl in the Sixties & Seventies, to keep my thoughts to myself. I am fairly quiet as an adult, as a listener, a reader, an observer. I tend to see the best in people, until crossed.

Whispering Shadows

Painting has helped me release & reveal myself, connect with kindness & like minded people, divert thoughts & anxieties of external beauty to channel internal beauty.

I will paint until I die. It is is an ageless occupation which makes sense of my entire life. The ground colour flickering throughout my paintings is my life weaving itself in, to make a whole of something that is fractured & sensitive.

Sophie Waiting

‘Tones of Velvet Bohemia’

IMG_6091

My second solo exhibition, ‘Tones of Velvet Bohemia’ will be taking place at The Alfred East Gallery in Kettering mid November for 4 weeks, so I am working hard towards that at the moment. There will be around 20 new paintings on the theme ‘Tones of Velvet Bohemia’ in a variety of different sizes – the challenge was to decide on the name for the exhibition before I’d done the paintings!!

Neutral Buoyancy

A moment in time – Foxton, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, England

IMG_6425

A quick painting last week on paper of the canal close to my home – I wanted it to sparkle with light and the weather was dull so I had to use my imagination quite a bit!!

This painting is now framed and for sale in the ‘On Paper Exhibition’ at The Open Door Gallery on Church Street in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.