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Making space for new connections

Slowing down, new influences and an upcoming opportunity


It’s been nearly three weeks since I dismantled my solo show ‘Playgrounds’. During these weeks, I’ve taken advantage of the slower pace of summer to pop down the paint brushes, camera and laptop, and go on holiday. A real holiday, a proper holiday, where I didn’t even do any sketching (ok well maybe just a little bit…but still!)


I can’t tell you how good it was to have a reset. To do other things outside thinking about work. It’s only when you stop and find space again, you realise just how much it requires of you. Now, I wouldn’t swap my job for the world - but no matter how much you love it, everyone needs a break sometimes.

My partner and I packed our bags, and headed off to sunny Crete. Here, we fell in love with the landscape, the history, the food! I’ve left with this holiday with two take aways: the world is a whole load bigger than I’d felt before, and that the history of human creativity is awe-inspiring. The things that informed these take-aways was learning about the history of Crete, and discovering the underwater world properly for the first time.


Exploring the mountains of Crete


On return from my holiday, new inspirations, ideas and connections came flooding in. Seeing the progress in engineering, artwork and architecture created by the Minoans was truly mind blowing. From flushing toilets, to five storey buildings, and the most exquisitely painted murals and ceramics. It made me think of where Scotland was at in terms of creative development during a similar time period, recalling the Westray Wife which I visited on Papa Westray, Orkney. Intriguing to compare contrasts in development to our global world. I always love learning about the history and human connections to places, when I’m exploring places for painting inspiration. Sometimes these historical artefacts, signs and symbols feature in my work, and sometimes it’s just for me; to position myself in the context of our past, to better understand the ancient places we love today.


Pottery, Heraklion Archeological Museum


For the love of the Sea


If you’ve followed my work for some time, you will know of my life-long love for the sea and open bodies of water. Up until this summer, my intrigue has been with its power, spirituality, history and stories, all tied to above the surface. The most immersed I’ve been is swimming in my local lochs and sea - with my head firmly in the air. I first became intrigued by the underwater world this year, when I visited Skye’s Magic Mountain Festival, run by Third Ridge climbing wall in Portree. Part of the festival showcased films and talks exploring nature, activism and conservation, with a video & talk by Our Seas Scotland. The film ‘The Limit’ sheds light on Our Seas petition to bring back the three mile limit to Scotlands coast and fishing industry. It does a brilliant job at showcasing Scotlands diversity of marine life - and my take-away was that I just couldn’t - and still can’t - believe how much life had been there, and is now under threat.




Perhaps subconsciously inspired by the videography from ‘The Limit’ - I took an open water scuba diving course during my holiday in Crete this summer. It’s safe to say I’ve completely fallen in love with the feeling of being underwater. It’s opened up a whole new form of adventure for me, and I haven’t stopped dreaming of these underwater scenes since. I couldn’t really believe my eyes, looking at the diversity of plant and animal life down there. It’s one thing to see photos, and another to physically be there and feel the scale of space, the movement of the water, the contrast and vibrancy. I’ve discovered that diving holds the same meditative experience for me that painting has, and I quickly found a flow state exploring this new world.



Scuba Diving


As serendipity would have it, my friend & brilliant printmaker Abbie Lois - go check out her work here - sent me a link to apply for a residency opportunity. I was just home, and already craving being back under the waves, when none other than this snorkelling residency lands in my dm’s. I’m delighted to say my application to the residency was successful, and I’ll now be taking part along with 8 other artists. Together we will be learning about Scotland’s underwater life, conservation projects and ways to draw and create underwater - all at Argyll Hope Spot this August.


To help navigate the twists and turns of freelance life, I am often found telling myself that I am where I’m meant to be - and it really felt true in this situation. I’ve always felt that art is a brilliant non-verbal communicator and means of storytelling - and that I could use its power in a way to share a message bigger than myself. I think that through this opportunity, I’ll be able to build on my message and mission: to help people to connect to nature. I can’t wait to explore where this learning, sharing and collaborating will lead my life, paintings and design work, but watch this space!

If you’d like to learn more about the conservation efforts of Argyll Hope Spot, please check out their site and socials here.


For now, I’m going to continue to let ideas from my solo show percolate - I’m looking forward to exploring how the work from Playgrounds will merge and translate through the experience of this underwater residency.



See you outside,


Orla


P.S - If you would like to explore drawing outdoors yourself, I've been developing a series of videos on youtube. Check out my latest one, exploring nature in the city here:




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