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Patterning Jays

I love the relationship of cousins – they’re family without the politics!  So, it was good to catch up with my cousin the potter who lives in Leeds, Yorkshire, at the weekend. There is virtually a generation between us because of the differences in ages of our mothers, so her sons are actually a lot closer to my age than she is. Not that that matters, we all get on, and all share in the ease of being in each others company, because we have the family tie, and I’m always in awe of the pretty pottery she makes and her creative streak.  On the day of arrival, after a leisurely lunch, my cousin suggested a walk, and I happily agreed, as I love walking, and love seeing new areas. She asked where I would like to go and I impulsively said “Somewhere pretty with dramatic water!”, to which she reponded “Ok then, that’s Knaresborough!”. Ok, I was intrigued, I’d vaguely heard of it, but had never visited, or even knew anything about the background of it. The journey was long enough to see some of the lovely Yorkshire dales, without it being too onerous a trip, and we duly arrived in the small town, dipping down the step hill to cross the river at the bottom of the gorge (best place for it, I always think!) and a sharp turn down the narrowest of roads brought us to a virtually empty car park. We left the car there, and explored on foot- my cousin and her eldest son, and my man and me. The latter two with cameras in hands, as is our normal state when visiting a new place.  And what a gem it was!

Knaresborough view from the castle

 I can’t think I’ve been anywhere like it in this country, but I certainly have in France. The little town was on two levels, the lower half following the line of the dark peaty river Nidd, and huddled against the stunning backdrop of sandstone cliffs, with cottages and their tiny gardens doing the best they could to cling onto the rock formations, one even being built into the vertical cliff face itself!  But, the higher part of the town was able to spread itself out with relative ease I found as we walked up the  meandering road joining the two parts of this fascinating town, which had a long sense of history judging by the sight of the first English chemist shoppe and other ancient buildings, including a number of  individual art galleries I was delighted to note. But the best view was from the old castle ruins standing on the bluff overlooking the river and surrounding countryside. Only a few battered stone walls, old doorway and ancient archways remain, but its a happy relaxed place, offering some stunning views to take photos of. Point, and click, point and click whirr of cameras capturing atmospheric river, viaduct, town, and surrounding trees.  And the fact it had a petrifying well certainly added greatly to the fascinating of the place, so it certainly fitted the description of “dramatic”!

Knaresborough viaduct over the river Nidd


The following day, we went for another walk in the park behind my cousins house, more of an arboretum than a municipal park, with rills and  tumbling brooks, dark forests of rhodededron and fir trees, goyt, and river tumbling over blackened rocks and mossy weirs. And again I took my camera to capture the fairytale images I walked through, twisted trunks, mossy dells, ancient forests, rocky outcrops. Fair maidens and dark ghouls would surely walk these paths. I certainly found it very inspirational, and wanted to paint all I could see before me. On returning to the house, my cousins other son had turned up to greet us, and we chatted over coffee, swapping tales of creativity, his photographic exhibitions, my art exhibitions, taking pictures of  people who don’t like having their photo taken, and using ease of personality and gentle humour to put clients at ease. He’s a wedding photographer, and my cousin had amused me the day before when she had said “He takes a lot of photos at the weddings, and then puts them in the computer, so he can touch up the bride” Which made me burst out laughing when she said it, but then I’ve got a dirty sense of humour, and she was saying it in all seriousness, so I had to explain why it had amused me so. When I retold the anecdote to her son the photographer, he grinned and said “It’s the only reason I do it, to touch up the bride!” which made me grin even more at his  twinkly eyed cheek!

Two days before I went to stay with my cousin,  my friend the muse rang for a chat, and invited my man and me over to see her and her man over the weekend,  but I had to regretfully decline, because of the pre-arranged-months-ago visit to see my cousin. But I know, as well as she does, that we’ll see them in the near future. And, I hope, I’ll draw her again.

And the day after I got back I had a lovely long email chat with my new friend, the artist from Kent. She and I are enjoying finding out more about each other as female artist friends, and both find the other upliftingly inspirational and bright company. We both know we can chat to each other for hours on the subject of artistic creative output.

And last night I caught up with friends over a drink, in a local bar, and was able to have our usual in depth conversations about all things, but art was in the background as my friend is an artist, and her boyfriend is fully helpful with his insights into art in general. The thing that stood out mostly from that conversation was when we were talking about teaching and learning about art, and agreed that learners don’t know what they need to know about art. They need to be taught it from people who do. But, once they’ve learnt that, then the new learning doesn’t go onwards, as such, it goes outwards. That, I felt, was a very profound concept, and agreed whole heartedly with him.  My art is going ever outwards from the challenges I get from the paintings I create.

So, its been a week of Jays.

My cousin the potter, her name begins with J.

Her son the photographer his name begins with J.

My friend the muse, her name begins with J.

My new arty friend’s name begins with J.

My friend the artists boyfriend’s name begins with J.

and so does mine! 🙂

And ok, you’re going to say that Knaresborough doesn’t, Leeds doesn’t, and a million other things don’t.  But, I felt there was a pattern, with the Jays, from north to south, and like the connection of it. What Joy!