Hello and welcome. Displayed here are a selection of artworks, photographs, mixed-media and collages created by Sheree Angela Matthews; artist + teacher + creativity enthusiast. Visit the store to find out how to buy.
I’m nearing the end of #100daysof blogging, my first 100 days project of 2020. Last year I managed to knock out three different 100 day projects and I definitely feel the benefit of such daily practice this year. There is more of a flow to my practice; less friction, more ease.
With this in mind, with about two weeks to go on my blogging challenge, I have decided to continue with the blogging for another 100 days. With April just around the corner, National Poetry Writing Month, I think it would be remiss of me to not pick up this challenge and explore my poetry skills here.
So come the beginning of April, get ready to see 30 days of poetry, based around the theme of nature. I’m excited about this as this has been something I’ve been exploring in my personal and professional lives for the past few years. It’s a pity that my access to the outdoors will be limited for the foreseeable future with the Coronavirus but this could be a way to keep the spark alive; the connection with nature alive and present.
I might even bring back in my practice of creating haibuns. But I definitely want to emulate, ‘ The Country Diary of a Black Women’, something I created years ago after being inspired for Edith Holden’s books and made it my own.
I was talking to a dear friend, last night via FaceTime. We hadn’t connected with each other for months. Our schedules just didn’t coincide. But now, as the outside world slows down, we managed to connect and spend an hour or so catching up. With her living out in Washington State and me in the North of England, over the last ten years of our friendship, we’ve managed to stay in touch pretty well. Sometimes in person too.
We both feel that what is happening in the world now, with the pandemic is awful and worrying. But we both recognise a shift in the pace of life, that this has brought about too. Closing our doors, literally to the outside world, not going to work, not socialising with people face to face, has meant a change in behaviours. We’ve gone within and have started to appreciate all those little things that were right under our noses all along. We’ve started to experience gratitude for the lives we’ve created and are still able to enjoy.
For me, this time has given me the space to purposefully lean into my creative practice. I’m not pushing it, striving for productivity like I have in the past. And I’m not beating myself up when I don’t happen to complete my to-to list for each day. I mea, whenever have I managed to complete that never-ending to-do list? But still there’d be that voice at the end of the day berating myself for what I didn’t accomplish instead of congratulating myself on what I did do. Now I’ve taken my foot off the accelerator and it feels weird but it also feels right. I’m settling into the self-isolating with my family, and trying to take better care of myself. I’m fixing my own oxygen mask first and that feels weird but right also.
Things are not good at the moment. Especially when I do venture outside for the essentials and see the empty shelves in supermarkets. Also when people seem to not understand the concept of social distancing and still stand up on my arse as if we’re in a packed train carriage. Step away from me, man. I want to shout. Use some common sense. When I have to be out there, it soon annoys me with how some people are reacting, and my panic levels start to rise as a result. This is when I choose to walk away and find some space in nature. Walking outside is still possible and so is going into the sea. Thank goodness. Small mercies, I’ll gladly have for now. Out in nature, watching the waves, listening to the birds, seeing buds bursting on branches, my mind soon calms down, my breathing deepens, and my smile reappears.
So yes, things are not good at the moment with the Coronavirus but things could be a lot worse. And I think things, the situation and the way society operates at the moment, are going to get a lot worse before better. Here in the U.K., each day sees an increase in the number of deaths from the virus as well as the number of confirmed cases. We haven’t hit the peak yet, as we’re lagging behind such countries as Italy and Spain. And this isn’t me wishing the worst on us or anyone else. This is me being real.
Spending time catching up with my friend, was needed and beneficial for us both. Yes we caught up with what’s been happening, but we were also able to see each other. See that we’re okay and send out hopeful vibes that one day we will meet again. Who knows what the future holds. Who knows how this social isolation will end, if ever. But we can have hope and we can make the best of a bad situation. Gratitude helps immensely here, believe.
Beware the trees, they said. A sure way to your soul, they said. It was far too late for me to listen. The trees had me at their straight green-grey hello. At their bare scrunched heads, balled up waiting for fresh buds. They had me at their mossy sides, their swaying branches and deep, ancient roots.
Beware of the trees, they said. Too late for me to listen. Or to care. The trees have already laid a deep furrowed path through my wild, wild soul.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been itching to come to the canvas. To crack open the paints and create the images that have been streaming through my head usually when I put my head down to sleep. But in all honesty, I’ve been too mentally and emotionally exhausted to pick the paintbrush up.
Then I cut myself some slack and said to myself, you don’t have to get the paints out, just pick up a pencil or pen and draw something. So I did. And after the pencils came the charcoal and then the chalks and oil pastels and ink. Each stroke of line moved onto another and another medium to pick up and use. And before I knew it I’d created a body; a black woman’s body.
To support me in this task, I’ve also signed up to Connie Solera’s Painting the Feminine again, which is always a rich space to create images from daily. Looking forward to exploring where these black women want to take me this year. Stay tuned.
There’s been signs but I’ve chosen to not pay attention, to not listen. But now I’m taking heed and acting accordingly.
Coming down our street there was a van packed up with the sign ‘By-Safe’ splayed across it’s backside. Okay I get the message.
I pulled the Lizard card today from The Wild Unknown, Animal Spirit, oracle deck. The Lizard is sensitive to the subtle, almost like a sixth sense; hearing what is yet to be spoken, seeing what is yet to be seen.
The Lizard’s energy and essence can be quickly worn down by big crowds, lots of travel, bright lights and over stimulation. The Lizard has shown its face today to tell me it’s time to pull back, to go within, seek my inner artist and start that creative project.
As I said, I was feeling the signs. This week saw me cancelling planned events and activities in relation to my nature projects. I’d started to self-isolate and have the inclination to draw my family in close. Not just for our own safety but for other people’s safety too. How do I know that I’m not carrying the virus? It’s amazing how much one person can stop the spread of the Coronavirus by self-isolating sooner rather than later.
Usually, the belief is what can one person do? In this case a hell of a lot. I’m working from home. I’m turning inwards and listening to my soul, my inner wisdom and I’m hanging onto my creativity.
1. Her hands. I remember her hands. Calloused and worn. Working hands. Like mine. Her nails were pretty. Always had some length on them. Even if discoloured yellow. I blame the onions. Or tobacco. Her hands would take mine and squeeze them. She was there for me the squeeze said. The patting wrinkled light beige coloured hands. I’m here for you, they said.
2. I can just still catch her voice saying Sheree. It was a Geordie twang and not. It had an undertone of music. Of laughter. Of a joy for life. It was beautiful. Like she was; inside and out.
3. I haven’t forgotten her potato fritters. She made the best potato fritters. Golden discs of potato fried hot until edges crisp but centres, soft and buttery. I do make them now. In the oven. For health reasons. But they’re not the same. Nothing. No food tastes the same as she made.
4. I remember the beat of her heart. The way she’d pull me in for a cuddle. I could lay my head on her ample chest and listen to the hearty rhythm. How my arms circled around her warm plump frame and how I just melted into the moment, into her flesh. I was home and nothing else mattered.
5. I haven’t forgotten the arguments. The harsh words said. The way I dismissed her wisdom, her thoughts and feelings because I thought I had grown. That I knew it all. I’d lived in London. Had a profession. A standing. She returned to her village as a widow with two kids, needing the help of her parents. What did she know?
6. I know she ran from grief. Or is that me?
7. Grief is just love with no place to go.
8. But I remember her hands. Warm and calloused. And always giving.
Kielder Forest and Water. Partaking in training to become a volunteer who will Osprey watch over the summer this year. It is an interesting gig, learning about the birds as they come back to the forest after wintering in Senegal or The Gambia.
Kielder has become the home for 7 mating pairs of Ospreys for the abundance of space and fish to raise fledglings. Our job will be to set up the scopes for viewing the nesting pairs. To talk to visitors about their behaviours and raise the profile of our birds as they work together to build up their chicks for becoming independent birds over the summer months.
There are also Osprey watch cruises upon Kielder water to check out all the nests along the reservoir.
In the past, I’ve volunteered for certain things, indoor jobs, like manning phones for charities, running creative workshops, talking to kids about writing etc. I’ve never volunteered for anything out in nature as I never thought I would be of any use. Or there was the underlying feeling of not belonging there. Bit by bit this self-limiting attitude is changing.