Elevate (and Enlighten)

The only certainty about me and my art work is that we NEVER stay the same for long. We move in cycles. Something excites me and I am compelled to express it until its energy subsides. Then there might be a period of quiet evolution before another surge. These less outwardly productive times can seem rather long. I often wonder… if I’d dedicated my life to expressionist creation, would my output have become more frequent?

Now, perhaps, it’s time for me to know. My IT-related work is falling away, and alongside that, I am now the grand age of 60, and tired of staring at computer screens. I want to make new things, even though I’m not sure of exactly what. BUT, all you can do is start where you are, and take a small step on the path of your heart. The next will come clearer. The road will unfold.

I always choose a word for my year, and this year it is ELEVATE. No pressure. Just a nudge upwards in my attitude towards ageing, in my physical abilities, in my creative practice, in my self belief. In everything! So far I’ve acted on my word and done these things:

  • ridden another road to Chile, the Argentina Ruta Nacional 60, through to the almost 5000m high Andean San Francisco pass, with my fellow adventurer, 2up on our 150cc motorbike; I got my body up to the highest point I could reach on the planet to kick off my 60th year
  • taught myself to do a headstand
  • faced the fear of actually riding a motorbike myself… I’ve taken my UK Mod 1 test twice so far this summer on a 650cc, and have not passed, but now I really WANT to; I’ve upped my skills and believe I will succeed; this is huge progress for me (update 11-11-23, aha! I passed my Mod 1, 3rd time lucky! Now for Mod 2, the final frontier…)
  • begun writing about my Andes motorbike crossings (another book could eventually be born!)
  • created eight paintings, and they are these…


In a self-expressive January playtime, one night in the foothills of the Andes, I make a small sketch on a medicine box because it is all I have. A cat called Gala accompanies me. (You’ll have to pop over to Instagram if you want to see the videos.)

SAL playtime for Journeys paintings collage

Back in Buenos Aires, I create six paintings over several months from this initial impulse. I begin with the energy of the magnificent lands I’ve ridden through and sense where figures want to emerge. With the sketch on the cardboard, I had written these words from which, I feel, the paintings come:

We are the lands we ride through
Lean into the wind so not to fall
Celeste (blue) lakes the call
That drives us higher
Than what’s been possible for us before
We trust the mountains
Will be our safety net
There is nothing else

Elevate (Plush Hill Longmynd)

Returning to England, the energy of the mountains dissipates, but I retain the memory of placing a figure in empowering landscapes. On the outside, I’m caught up in family life and well, just… life. Until, one day at the end of August, my sister takes me and dad to sketch on the Shropshire hills, and I do a headstand in the view. My own lands. My aliveness. I feel the urge to paint rise.

SAL Elevate, place and details collage

Elevate (Plush Hill Longmynd) 50x50cm mixed media (acrylic & Intense pencil) on canvas, £375.

SAL Elevate (Plush Hill Longmynd) painting 2023

Enlighten (St. Just Cornwall)

In September, I visit Cornwall to stay with my wonderful full-of-bright-energy printmaker friend. She takes me to St. Just Church, a hidden sanctuary by the water. To reach it we walk steeply down through trees. It’s autumn but, in the micro climate, the leaves are still so green. The sun is strong when my friend says, ‘Sal, do one of your poses!’ We’re in the graveyard. I say, ‘Oh gosh, I better do a kind of spiritual one.’ And she takes a picture of me. When I see the image, I gasp. The light is behind as if the whole universe is shining, and I feel it as a blessing, a good sign.

SAL St. Just in Roseland churchyard 2023, inspiration for painting
SAL Enlighten, place and details collage

Enlighten (St. Just Cornwall) 50x50cm mixed media (acrylic & Intense pencil) on canvas, £375.

SAL Enlighten (St. Just Cornwall) painting 2023

What I love about making both these paintings is that they come completely of their own accord from surges of soul. No forcing it from human me. One contains gold paint. One contains silver. Both have the spirit of the places that ignited them. The figures are melding with the landscapes, but in a gentler form than earlier in the year. Perhaps, there is more peace.

Other forces

Something else happens in September to push me on my self-expressive way. My mum (who sadly died in 2011) is celebrated by our creative local Coleham Primary School inaugurating a new permanent art gallery for the children’s work, in her name: The TOWNSEND ART GALLERY.

SAL Townsend Art Gallery, Coleham Primary School grand opening 2023

Dad and I are guests of honour at the grand opening, and I am overwhelmed both by the beauty of the occasion, the gallery and the fresh realisation of mum’s legacy. Remembered for passing on the joy of artistic creation to others: children, adults, her whole community. So much so that people who haven’t ever met her speak as if she has enhanced their lives. It stops me in my tracks. ‘Bloody hell mum, you are a hard act to follow,’ I secretly say to myself. But it’s as if a portal opens up, and she is present with us all and talking directly to me. ‘Sal, don’t falter. You have to create what YOU can and share it how YOU can. You never know its impact. Keep going!’

So, here I am.

A final thing. Soon I’d like to start sending out a little 🌟 in occasional Notes. New paintings, stuff I’m thinking, inspirations. I’d love you to subscribe so you can be in my creative loop. Here’s the sign-up form to make it happen: http://eepurl.com/iAUwZQ ~ thank you! Or scan the QR code:

Notes from SAL sign-up form QR code


*2nd to 14th October 2023, Bear Steps Gallery, Shrewsbury 10-4, closed Sunday
#thejoyexperiments #SALchemy

I’ll be super-happy if you share my creations. Please use short quotes from the piece if you like, but always always link back to this page. For any other use, please ask me first.

See the journey of my paintings and drawings over the years here.

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© Sally Townsend Blake 202

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