Search This Blog

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Drawing prize to rock star via a shed

Being on the Jerwood Drawing Prize shortlist is an organic experience. As the exhibition tours the country its both perceived and received in different measure. The new Hastings Jerwood Gallery is currently hosting this diverse and fascinating show until January 6th.

For me, at a relatively early stage in my career its been an essential endorsement of my ability giving me that extra measure of self belief that opens new doors and not only seizes opportunities but anticipates them too. To see my work exhibited in professional spaces such as the Jerwood Space, London , be written about, check out CQ magazine Winter edition and be taken seriously face to face is both amazing and invaluable.

Its a bit like making a really good hit single which needs to be backed up with an album. So in order to achieve rock star status I have stepped up my attitude and am taking myself seriously, getting myself a specific place to work, setting a 12 month plan in motion.

Ok I've bought a shed. The process of raising the money to buy a studio shed was incredible. I had to get all my work together from the last 25 years (oh am I that old?) completely empty and clean out our flat living space, (do not underestimate this task I live with 3 boys under 9 years) display it, price it, advertise the whole kaboodle and then bake mountains of Brownies. It was like having my own un-curated retrospective  Scary (because you don't always want to show a diverse range of work all together) but also enlightening because I could see a progression and maturity in my work, common themes, some fantastic observational drawing and experimental work. I saved a few pieces back to work on in my next phase.

The next phase is more drawing.  Big lumps of charcoal and square formats. Using the landscape as my framework I am developing a Creeping Buttercup illustration for a lovely friend who has been patiently waiting for this work for 2+ years! But its right that its being done now. Blog on Creeping Buttercup to follow.

I have been overwhelmed by people's support and their compliments. My three boys also spotted an opportunity to become the next young apprentice and made over a tenner selling their own drawings and painted shells for 10p each. This was fabulous and really broke the ice for everyone.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Shed-ding light on a new work space

I have been contemplating how I can finance a garden studio (a shed to most people). From researching several varieties of sheds it seems that a potting shed might do the trick as long as I insulate it, put a skylight in the roof, get some electrics to it and put a tap in the garden. (I would love to throw some old palettes together but just don't have the skills, time or physical build to do it methinks). All this is very possible but will cost over £1000. So after a meaningful discussion over the bathroom threshold with the software designer we decided I must sell work in order to finance the project... In my defence I have already begun with 3 exhibitions in Lewis and Eastbourne most notably the Towner Gallery cafe where I have sold this one so far.
But the niggling question 'what if nothing else sells?' remains and thus a strategy was born fuelled by a need to have a better place to work away from washing draped everywhere and the usual family detritus  Using my status as a Jerwood shortlister this year, I am pursuing contacts and galleries which I think will be suited to my work. 

My first research trip to Rye Art Gallery was very positive and Sarah was very warm even remembering my name and work from the Rye Contemporary Art Fair back in 2011. She was willing to set a date to look at my work despite being in the middle of curating two shows and expecting a new grandchild. 

The plot for a potting shed thickens: now I am having a studio sale to raise shed funds on 24/25th November 2-5pm in Bexhill, have been accepted into axisweb so now have this webpage, I am looking into crowd funding and an arts council hear goes

Friday, 28 September 2012

Feel it don't think it.

this is not a horizon, 'Drawing Now' Linchpin Gallery, Eastbourne from October 6th -26th 

Disconnect shell collage 1
Drawing is a language we should all practise. If you do it often enough it becomes a natural extension of you. Distance yourself from ideas that drawing should be this or that. Drawing is mark making, expression, thought.

If I apply this same freedom to other areas in my life I can get a better sense of myself unconstrained by what other people or groups think. Without judgement. This in term allows for a stronger integrity and truth.

My disconnect series continues with work based on reflecting a state of mind, a psychological self portrait. Investigating my history, my reaction to influences in my life such as faith, family, culture, education and location. Black graphite is something I strongly identify with and use a lot. I am using a combination of  representative forms such as triangles and landscape as a structure for thoughts, feelings and emotions.

It feels clumsy and shaky but I think drawing gets more interesting the more vulnerable I feel, I often feel very nervous while I'm drawing. As I'm doing it though, strangely, there is a transferral of confidence and strength. As if another force is at work and that is my logic letting go and instinct becoming dominant I have to feel it not think it.

Oddly enough articulating this phenomena involves thinking not feeling it. Which lies at the heart of writing an artists statement. My conclusion is that I should see writing as drawing and get practising.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Juddering through my internal terrain

Internal terrain #1 

Yesterday I went to a very interesting talk by artist duo Annabel Tilley and Rosalind Davis at the De La Warr Pavilion. 
The A to Z of surviving as an artist. 
Annabel and Rosalind are founders of ZAP or 


What came across was passion, drive and 'can do' attitude. This duo is dynamic and entertaining Rosalind and Annabel seamlessly tore through the alphabet of do's and don'ts a lot of which were good old common sense, but who doesn't need a bucket full of that tipped over their heads now and again? It never ceases to amaze me how I can be thinking of doing something but just never really actually DO it. So I picked up a few salient points.

Be ambitious and audacious! This is strong stuff, sometimes I feel very ambitious and strangely guarded at the same time. But once broken into small enough chunks most things become reachable so I aim to grow into these characteristics and be more myself.  
Research doesn't just mean reading. It also includes (and thank goodness for those of us bad at and easily bored with reading web based text) visiting, talking, tweeting and building relationships face to face. 
So yay! I CAN do that after all. 

Set aside 10 mins each day to check over a few relevant blogs rather than try and read them all and then instantly forget everything.

Being an artist is a job like any other, you need to put in the hours and work hard at it. This is common sense GOLD. I reckon there are several other people out there like me who are still struggling with the inherited notion that it's a vocation and something to do in between other things ....but if we don't take ourselves seriously and develop strategies for all the blocks and hurdles that we encounter then who will?

Following that little revelation is the small matter of choice. I have a choice (ta da!) and need to practise using that right and become skilled at communicating it well, focussing my choices to make the most of opportunities for my artistic career. 

The 5 P's 
Persevere - keep on keeping on. 
Plan - research and use direct experiences 
Pick wisely - be aware of choices and agendas
Pernickety - agree to some things not everything and get details right. 
Posterity - what am I laying down for the future and how will that future be nurtured?

The reality is I am not emerging as an artist. I am juddering on as an artist....forwards a bit and then stopping before something spurs me on again. Does that resonate with you? 

I my next post: more of my latest judderings and some further explanation of the internal terrain series. 

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Jerwood drawing prize

I entered along with over 2000 others for a place alongside 70 in the London show of the longest running drawing prize just daring to hope I might be accepted.

I was!

This is the drawing. 1x1.5m in graphite and charcoal called Longman.

I did have another one of a different section of the same hillside ....but I tore it up in anger. Was that wise I now ask myself?

Thursday, 28 June 2012

In the Studio - work in progress.

I have spent a long time living with and looking at this first piece, as often happens it has been influenced by the progress I made with the second piece. The second piece was an outworking of the ideas from the first. Almost like the subconscious as opposed to the former conscious. The construction process is interdependent and has now developed another spur in a third piece. This is perhaps the abstract subconscious !?

The work is evolving from abstract landscape towards self portrait. Retaining identity from within the landscape there is now a new space beyond this where my internal psychological terrain is becoming a visual language. I am represented by shapes and forms and their relationships, colours are significant.

The narrative
Piece 1 Disconnect.
This piece is all about division, separateness, segmented parts of a whole within a context, the context is the land and the incoming tide spreading over the space between. The triangles are blocking, cramming and perhaps suffocating the connection of a wider sense of calm brought in from the larger free moving forms appearing from the right. In order for connection and flow there must be destruction.

Piece 2 Disconnect 2
This piece has a strong naive presence, holding back, repressing or simply containing fragility depending how you look at it. Protected or held back. Bold or vulnerable.

Piece 3
This is simply a self portrait I am not even sure I can articulate why other than to say it's language is visual so words don't seem to work. It's more about getting an abstract sense of me and how I see myself at this point in time. If it helps I identify strongly with the black triangle though I wonder if both the White square and the Black triangle are two aspects of me, their placement is significant the White square moving in from the right.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Getting on with life...

Today I have visited the Blue Monkey studio in Eastbourne to consider a space and it's implications, registered this drawing called Longman for the Jerwood drawing prize, submitted a proposal for the De La Warr Pavilion's Big Draw in October and visited my work in Hailsham at Gallery North soon to come down at the end of the month.

Next month I will be selecting some work to hang in the Towner Gallery cafe space and hearing whether my submission to the Hop Gallery Open, Lewis, has been successful.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


Internal terrain 1

Internal terrain 2

Internal terrain edge 3

External terrain
Wet, dripping. Heavy green trees, mud and blue bells a steam flowing fast and big drops of rain falling on the page. Cold and slippery ferns uncurling, birdsong and drops.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Accidental triangles

I love work when I discover edges, events that were not planned. Spontaneous results of creativity or openness. These triangle collages are just this, they are glimpses of movement, of colour, lightness, playfulness, geometry and a little puzzling. like catching something from the corner of your eye.

Disconnect is progressing slowly ....I like it but I don't know where it's heading yet. Playing a waiting and looking game now.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Disconnect series 1

Back painting again, this time a series called Disconnect, these are self portraits (in the sense of reflecting a state of mind). The series is an accumulation of knowledge, thought, memories and identity. I identify with the black form at present though my guess is that I may transfer..... only time will tell. Triangles are my hidden identity.

There are hints of landmass, tidal movement,standing water, space, height, air, lightness, colour, playfulness and naivety.

These are works in progress.

Looking at one of my first abstract paintings Galley Hill, there is a force pushing from the right onto the space the black form inhabits. Its edges cover and recede in the space between. Connecting and disconnecting.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Art that disappears into thin air...

In my research to find out more about ready made art, I have come across an artist called Heubler * who in the 60's made work which was at first known as minimal but then progressed towards conceptual. He was interested in a fusion of language and made pieces called Location and Duration. He would follow rules laid down arbitrarly in advance according to which events, spatial or temporal relationships are documented and are not accessible to direct perception.

He was one of three artists who challenged Greenbergs opinion that art should be visual. The three, Heubler, Weiner and Barry all focussed on a reality and a view of language expressed.

A thought.....The flag pole is a ready made, is the transparent flag?

Weiner understood language as a 'transitionary vehicle' and as a material that takes on sculptural qualities when it is read. He developed work in 'series', the series became more important than each individual piece. Pieces he identified in series were such as a mark of water on a step or a wall, 1969 or an object secured on a threshold.

In 1969 Robert Barry made art that literally dissolved into thin air for 1969 march 1969, an exhibition which took the form of a catalogue, Barry announced that on 5 th march he would release 5 cubic feet of helium into the atmosphere, before this he had exhibited audible radio waves.

I like this idea that art is visual but is more than this, meaning can be extended beyond the piece itself. It is also a happening... one that only happens in the viewers mind, it might be tangible or it might be a 'physical chemical reaction, imperceptible but actually present. So the person performing the art work ie the releasing of the helium, knows it to be a reality but anyone watching or reading about it has to suspend normal notions of logic and reality as they can see nothing hear nothing feel nothing.

A bit like spiritual experiences where on lookers feel excluded and don't 'get it' while the person experiencing it feels what they identify as God/the spirit or whatever named deity they believe in.

Art is a spiritual experience. Except when you feel excluded.

* I was reading Conceptual Art by Daniel Marzona.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Lighten up!

Your work isn't a high stakes nail biting professional challenge.

It's a form of play. Lighten up and have fun with it.

Sol Le Witt.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Identity 4 - the fear factor

The fear factor
Up till recently heroes were celebrated for their ability to go the distance and to show exceptional qualities including humility, chivalry, selflessness, intelligence, persistence, wisdom and bravery. Nowadays it's more about being famous, muscular, bold, rich, talented or fantastic by or just for themselves. We are losing sight of a rich vein of character, of meaning of life or resonne d'être. We are becoming 2 dimensional, observers unwilling participants. I have often organised an activity and asked people to take part; mostly children are fine with this but ask parents to do something alongside and it's nearly impossible. Is it because there is no previous experience of risk taking? Perhaps past histories of failure and bad learning experiences put people off. We inhibit ourselves, build strong walls as fortresses against the attack of participation, against being exposed or looking vulnerable. This isn't a class thing either it affects everybody.

I did an art workshop once about 'edges' we were simply making marks using edges of paper, card or other materials rubbing chalk ,graphite or charcoal on them. All the participants were fine with this except one woman who simply would not and could not make any mark on the paper at all. What is it that prevents someone from being able to make a mark even when friends are doing it all around? She was very hostile and her emotions were clearly very raw. This changed the atmosphere of the workshop completely. Instead of fun and lack of judgement there was suddenly a need for making her feel better and normal, and the others began finding meaning or pictures within marks....the logical side of the brain took over the creative right side and the left brain limiting walls started going up.

Confusing celebrity or even just survival (terrorist attacks or accidents) with heroism is common, but what impact does this have on our children, I have just been to Disney with mine and am trying to encourage them to think of their traits and characteristics rather than simply killing each other in mortal combat! I want them to understand there is more to life than just being a hero in terms of the superficiality of Ben 10 or a power ranger or even a disney character, like a dashing prince. That these characters do more than win every battle, they leave home, journey, encounter fear and failure, have to overcome these feelings of hopelessness and believe that they can win through by their actual experiences. Just like the famous Greek myths and legends.

Good modern stories or tv cartoons do still pay lip service to these character traits, though perhaps it's too hard to see this through the cheap computer graphics that replace good old fashioned animation, the new Fireman Sam or much worse American cartoons who's faces do not move and only the lips do (apologies for no example here but I refuse to watch them and therefore cannot remember their names and my children are in bed) but our culture does not encourage us to develop these traits for ourselves, we may borrow them from screen or computer games where we do not face reality. But nothing beats the feeling of conquering your greatest fears or completing a quest where you have been the hero. It's those feelings and that knowledge gained through learned experience that will get you through the fear. Not empathetic crying or cheering through the X factor!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Memory cloud 1

Back garden steps

The rocky bit of lawn ( where the Anderson shelter used to be so I was told)

The smell in the cellar

Coal damp a cooking range

Coats steps coal hod


Box rooms

Warm dry hidden

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Identity through memory, just blow the bloody doors off!

Lose your memory and you lose who you are. This is true to us all on a daily basis, we momentarily forget things, why we have walked into a room, what we were saying (in my case often as I am saying it!) For a sharp intake of breath we are a blank, an unpainted canvass, we are only as we are now in this second.

Memories create our self image and reinforce it all the time.

This image was taken randomly on the I - pad I have no memory of it and cannot work out what it is, it seemed appropriate!

Images become our memory print but feelings, smells and touch contribute too, in fact our senses are like burglars to our memory vaults they blow open the doors and expose the contents. Memories of ourselves in certain places with certain people create our personal references, without these our brains cannot identitfy with ourself.

I read in the Guardian that memory is our past and future. To know who you are as a person, you need to have some idea of who you have been. And, for better or worse, your remembered life story is a pretty good guide to what you will do tomorrow. "Our memory is our coherence," wrote the surrealist Spanish-born film-maker, Luis Buñuel, "our reason, our feeling, even our action." Lose your memory and you lose a basic connection with who you are.

Memories can be treasured and used for learning. Exploring social history we can look to the future with wiser eyes. So the creation of a memory flag transmitter is key to the Big Flag project.

I want to preserve the jewels of what REALLY makes us who we are by capturing and polishing them till they shine. Local people from local projects will be interviewed, talked to, heard, observed and respected. Their collective identities through memory will become a flag which transmits prophetic wisdom to those who have a heart to listen.

A Visual Recording the White noise of random memories between moments of time.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Printing at the DLWP 3

Printing 3

Bring in something of personal significance, a text or mirror for portrait or a drawing relevant to yourself.

Ink up table top for a nice big print!

Concentrate on getting a fixed register so you can get colour and subsequent prints off the same one.
Well with all that in mind I just about managed to bring something in! I brought in some drawings of wilf's. He's been drawing volcanoes for a while now and some of them are lovely. In my sketch book I am exploring triangles as a way of representing myself. A triangle is strong when on it's flat base but a triangle upturned on it's point becomes vulnerable and unstable, it needs to balance very carefully. Wilf's volcanoes are essentially two triangles.

I am still at the stage of just experimenting with print its been a long time since i printed much and the ink we had was very variable in quality so I got as far as one print each time rather than building up colours.

Apologies to the others on the course I completely forgot to photograph any work this week! So it's just my own. I'll catch up on the rest of the work on the next blog!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Poptastic Printing at the DLWP wk 2

This week we were printing using ink, sticks, brushes to achieve the blobby style of printing that Warhol was keen on using. By taping the top layer of paper to the bottom which had a sheet of plastic attached we could make marks with ink and build up prints covering and recovering keeping the exact same position on the paper.

I am using the triangular form to represent my sense on self identity in my current work. I like the solidity of a triangle but also the precarious nature of resting on a point.

Using self portraits or representations of ourselves as starting points we made 100s of prints!

"keep everyone" cried Leslie ....our poptastic printing tutor.
Leslie is one half of Aardvark on Sea. Based in St Leonards.

Here are a small selection. We presented our work by choosing one or a few prices and then explaining why and how we had arrived at the end image.

I love the crits at these sessions they are a great way to get used to articulating your visual language. A great tool for professional development.