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Monday, April 1, 2019

A tale about happiness

I left England at the tender age of 18 and have lived in other countries since; in fact most of my life now I have lived outside of the UK. I left because I was a working class kid and was offended by the class system in Britain; felt powerless to do anything about it and chose to go and live in New Zealand for few years. And then Africa, America and so on, settling finally in Italy where I have lived mostly now for 35 years.
Why am I writing this today?
Because today is what the press is calling Crunch Day in British politics.
It is the day, the first of April, 2019 when the UK could disappear into the sink hole of history.
It is All Fools Day (such irony)
And it might be sunk by the very class of people I despised as a teenager.
I never write about politics. That world is a nest of vipers and I have always attempted, often with great difficulty, to create a parallel world, if you will, for my life, my family, my friends and artist colleagues. One of optimism and happiness
And today is also the day, almost in contradiction, when I have been collating images for some publicity for our workshops this early summer in the mountains close to where I live in Le Marche.
And looking at them lifts my spirits, because they are of last summer, in a part of Italy, high in the Sibillini mountains, where we were able to cleanse our minds of the cares of the world and instead to live and work together in a carefree atmosphere where we created art together. Where we laughed and walked and talked and gave our attention to those things that matter in that altitude, the sky, the circling eagles and swooping swallows, the waterfalls and mountain streams and the fragrances of flowers and the flowing of myriads of butterflies and bees in the gentle breezes.
But these are just words
I'll leave you with some images from last summer, and they speak more powerfully than words on a day like today.

























































































Feeling a little happier now I've written that


Michael at Starstone

Thursday, March 14, 2019

How we start the day




At 7 am we are at the poolside in Cittadella immersed in a majestic arena beneath the magnificent Monte Vettore, at 2,550 metres in altitude, an extinct volcano that contains the twin glacial lakes of Lago Pilato, remnants of an ancient sea which once covered this land before the Appenine mountains pushed themselves up through the spine on Italy.
Here, by the pool we prepare ourselves both mentally and physically for the day ahead with Ci exercises and Tai Chi followed by the creation, each of us individually, of a bubble of abundance, which will contain everything we want of our day and from which we can discard that which we don't.
Interestingly, just this year, I have heard of professional athletes, particularly tennis pros, using this term and we use it to prepare ourselves to be grounded within the very moment of time in which we are breathing, to become aware of the sounds and fragrances around us. The birds singing in the trees , the swooping swallows and the cry of a circling falcon above; the howl of a distant wolf and the snuffling and grunting of a passing bear. The tinkling of a mountain stream, the crashing sounds of waterfalls and then the gentle caress of a light breeze on our faces and the sheer beauty of mountains flowers. And butterflies and bees are in abundance at this altitude because the air and water are pure and clean.
Because, you see, it is in this state of full absorption that Creativity finds us. It is our garden of now if you will. It is where Creativity whispers to us. It is where she gives us gifts of song and dance and music and images and is where she wants to dance with us in this Tango of Creativity.
And she is searching for us every second of the day and how can she find us unless we step into this garden of now.

And we are part of this dance, part of this cycle of creativity
Because Creativity needs us to make manifest these gifts she sings to us
It is where we learn, at last, to create beyond ourselves.

And so, whether we are on a painting retreat or photography or poetry, it is the same.

It is, above all, about Creativity pure and simple, because, you see.....
After all, the object isn't just to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable

And so...
After chatty Italian breakfast, we meet together to discuss the adventures awaiting us amongst these breath-taking mountains.
Our days, from then on, are conducted in the natural wonders which the abound in the Sibillini National Park. We foray out to sketch, to walk, to photograph, to write poetry, to accumulate material during the day to haul back to our studio base at Cittadella. There to disseminate, talk and share and enter more deeply into the realm of creativity with a fuller understanding of its wonders and gifts to us.
Finally, during much of the final day of the workshop, we collate all our work into a process of finality, whether this is a painting, poetry or a series of photographs which celebrate the manifestation of the experiences that we have shared

There are two Spring workshops in May and mid June



And you can find fuller information on our Starstone site, of travel, costs etc

Monday, February 11, 2019

The man on the bridge


It was on a humpback bridge and he was struggling up as we were passing him on a fresh early morning in Algarrobo. He was pushing an old bike stretched over which were two huge conga eels which he told us he'd caught that night. We helped him push his bike up to the top of the bridge and he went on his way, hobbling along on his wobbly legs and angled feet.
As we walked away, my daughter told me that he is an artist and that a few days before that he had fallen on the bridge and that she had helped him to his feet and that he had asked her not to mention the incident to his mother that he had taken a spill, that she was against him going out onto the street because of his unsteadiness and that she was tired of always having to fetch him when folks called her out to take him home.
And so,over the days I spent there, my daughter told me more about him and we would pass him every now and then and always found him full of stories and happy to share our company if only for a brief while.
I learned that his name is Jave and that he had lived in Algarropo all of his life and that he was also a fisherman, one who supported his art by selling the fish he caught. He would fish at night and sell his catch to buy art materials.
I learned too that he suffers from Parkinson's disease and I was humbled by the courage of this brave man who did not simple just sink into his illness; just give up, but that he pushed himself almost to the limit of endurance to keep his creativity alive.
His output was prodigious and the images and sculptures he makes are of his fascinations for the sea;in painting and sculpture, drawing his living and his art from this same source. My daughter and I took a walk along the seafront on the last evening of my stay and passed his studio where we found him making art objects from pieces of cable he'd found on the beach that day. And one of these he gave to her as a gift for her kindness to him

This is a tale of courage, but it is also about the a state of creativity,
'That wonderful state which makes art inevitable', to quote Robert Henri.
It is a story of a unique human being and it is a sharp reminder of life's truer values, a sort of wake up tonic-thought, ideal to kickstart the day, I would say,

To seize the day.


                                 Jave and his concha shells




                 Jave and his musical shell

She told me that on News Years Day at sun rise he laid out his collection of conch shells on the wall, from the smallest to the largest and as he did so he polished them, at lunch time he took them down again and that evening as the sun went down he blew a huge conch shell and the noise floated across the ocean...She wasn't quite sure what that ritual was but it was beautiful.


For Jave, life is continuous action, despite his health issues. He is creating beyond himself.
I found it to be a humbling experience to have met him and to witness his incredible output and energy

Look out for our creativity workshops in Italy this summer; photography and painting