Being Authentic, an Exploratory Journey

The end of year essay and I realise I haven’t written an essay since 1967!  Time to research how it is done.

2000 words by the end of May.

I started with degree planning, structuring and writing skills.  I have a lot of catching up to do.

Then the expectations of a Masters essay.

Which pointed me to this excellent resource.

Home Page

This is all starting to feel quite scary, not the essay writing as such, but the scope of the reading round the subject.  2000 words is not arduous and could probably we physically written in a day or so.  What is coming through is that it would be easy to over research, go off at tangents, become subsumed in the essay, at the expense of producing art, which is after all the reason for the course.  I accept that everything I learn is feeding into my ultimate work, but it is so easy to get lost in the research, particularly as I am so enjoying the learnings.

In accordance with DMU’s guide, time to create some structure and assimilate What I know, What I don’t know and my initial response to what my Summary might be.

Initial Research

I started by googling ‘Being Authentic’.  This led to a number of articles:

Becoming More Authentic by James Park, which opened the door to a number of Existential and Absurd philosophers and the derivation of their views.

Brene Brown TED talk on Youtube – the Power of vulnerability.

On Being Authentic by Charles Guignon

Thinking in Action, Coaching the Artist Within by Eric Maisel

The 5 characteristics of authentic people.

Psychologist Brian Goldman and Michael Kernis, the unimpeded operation of one’s true or core self in ones daily enterprise.

Corporate trainer Mike Robbins – it allows us to connect deeply with others because it requires us to be transparent and vulnerable.  It liberates us from always trying to be perfect.

Self awareness is the cornerstone.

Creating an authentic Life – Polly Campbell

  • Be clear about what I care about
  • Be open, keep an open mind
  • Be introspective, share. It’s ok to feel scared and vulnerable.
  • Note when inauthentic. Explore fears and beliefs when insincere.
  • Trust intuition. Notice physical sensations when not genuine

Dr Thomas Oden Drew university – ‘anxiety and guilt prevent us living in the present.  Guilt is usually to do with the past, anxiety, the future.  Mastery of the present reduces guilt and anxiety.  Simply be yourself.  Be non judgmental.  Genuinely appreciate yourself.  Be in touch.  Be self-confident, secure.  Speak at a normal pace.  Don’t be defensive.  Talk positively and kindly about yourself.  Be benevolent about myself and others.

Reflection on initial search

By this time I had a reasonably clear definition from a broad spectrum of opinion and some insight into the origins of the phrase.

I needed to look deeper into a more academic perspective, so using Google Scholar I searched for ‘Authentic’ , ‘Creative’ and found Marina Claessen’s Mindfulness and Existential Therapy.

The Sensory Intention – Art, Motif and Motivation: A Comparative Approach – Yves Millet

Symbolist – Oxford University Press

Other sources

Notes of a Painter (1908) – Henri Matisse

The Spiritual in Art – Wassily Kandinsky

Drawing and Painting People a Fresh Approach – Emily Ball

Art & Instinct – Roy Oxlade

You tube videos of Rose Wylie and Gary Goodman.

Supporting information from the internet.

Reflections on constructing the essay

A daunting task.  The work is disjointed with constant interruptions for citations and footnotes.  I decided to write each page as a separate file so that I could control the word count.  It has taken 3 days to produce the first draft of 2077 words.

Doubt and self doubt is a constant problem.  Am I on the right track?  Is the subject matter appropriate?   Have I proved my questions?  Answered appropriately?  Should I be referencing history?  If I don’t it won’t really make sense.  Who knows?  I need to reread afresh tomorrow.  To map against Angela’s comments and any other supportive material I can.

Reflecting on the Outcome

After 10 days and 5 drafts I have finally arrived at a honed essay.  Have I achieved what I set out to?  Yes, I feel I presented a well constructed argument, reflecting a broad breadth of research and some answers to the question posed.  I this what was expected?  Not sure.  Hopefully there will be an opportunity to discuss with a tutor at some point.  An interesting exercise in academic writing.


The Primitive Artist

Running alongside my research for my essay I have also been exploring the work and seeking to gain an insight into artists who paint in a primitive style.  They are achieving high public recognition with prizes such as the John Moores, so it is important that I understand why.

What is their motivation, why this particular style when I am sure they can all paint ‘properly’?  What is it that I am just not getting?

Roy Oxlade, an artist painting in just such a style, writing in his collection of essays, Art & Instinct, 1, ‘For the adult student to begin to take part in a primitive language forming programme would require what, for him, would amount to a suspension of common sense, in order that fresh insight might be aroused.’

This is the first time I have come close to understanding.  As someone who has spent their entire life being sensible with an over reliance on common sense, it is no wonder that I am struggling to comprehend the work.

Oxlade continues ‘Art is an extended autobiography featuring man himself in relation to his objects and his space.  For many artists this has taken the form of an expressive search for  poetic or metaphysical equivalents for life as it is experienced . ‘

Quoting Matisse in the same essay, he say ‘Exactitude is not the truth, and students must be helped to understand that ‘getting it right’ in relation to image is entirely different to ‘getting it right’ in relation to model.’

Referring to the philostine society he perceives today, he suggests ‘What has been lost is the capacity to respond intuitively to fresh experience together with the imaginative ability constantly to revitalise that experience with new insights. ‘

In his essay Some Thoughts About Rose Wylie’s Painting and Drawings 3 Oxlade offers this insight, ‘Her paintings are representational insofar as they have clearly defined and recognisable depictions of her subjects.  While her intention is to create a certain likeness it is necessary to understand that likeness here precludes realism, portraiture or exactness in the conventional sense.  She draws a lot.  She draws to achieve a certain likeness to the subject;  she paints to achieve a certain likeness to the drawing.  In the context of Wylie’s work, Gaston Bachelard’s ‘naive consciousness’ 4, is best understood as unaffectedness.’

I feel something needs to unhook within me to allow me to fully comprehend.  Angela, in my tutorial, suggested I step back and explore more, that I suspend my way of working with the sole purpose of exploring the subject rather than focusing on producing an end result.  It is amusing that in trying to work differently I am actually sacrificing the spontaneity and intuition that normally guide me.  Back to basics, but this time with more of an insight into the direction that I may be going.


Task 4 – Exploratory Project

Task 4

Now it all starts to get even more serious as this task, which we have 12 weeks to complete and will be formally assessed in Barnsley.  The task needs to something relevant to my practice, but one which requires experimenting and suspension of usual judgement, with an emphasis on taking risks that are personal to me.

I have decided to explore the scaling up of my work.

At the moment the largest work on paper that I can produce is 78 x 58cms, which gives a framed work of 98 x 78cms.  I have tried painting with watercolour on canvas, and whilst that is always a possibility, which I may return to, to achieve the intensity of colour that I would like, required the use of acrylics, which wasn’t quite what I wanted to be doing, because it seems to lack the sensitivity and translucency I am seeking.

I will be looking at watercolour paper stuck to canvas, to mdf and any other surface I discover.

The process of scaling up has other issues.  The work will need to be on the floor or a large table, which might be a squeeze in my studio.  I will need to size up my painting implements, mixing pots, brushes.

Lots to think about, but an interesting challenge.

Chain Events

Visited the last day of the Hastings Museum The Eyes are Listening exhibition.  A beautiful and forgotten building greets you, with something for everyone including Grey Owl, a local man who spent his life as a Red Indian attending to environmental issues, an African beadwork display, a trip down memory lane in Hastings, and an exhibition of six local artists, Nick Archer, Matthew Burrows, Gus Cummins RA, Kathe Deutsch, Tom Hammick and Andrzej Jackowski.

A surprisingly (why should I be surprised?) rich experience.  The rooms were rather dark for a modern gallery space and all the works quite ‘earthy’.  I was drawn to Nick Archer’s work.

Nick Archer, Ice 2012, oil on black sandpaper.

Ice 2012 is painted in oils on black sandpaper.  The haunting fluidity made me want to dream into the work.

I believe this work is painted in oils on copper, which creates an interesting haunting glow.  Both interesting surfaces that I would never have considered.

I found this image on his gallery Long and Ryle’s web site.  This in turn led me to Sophie Benson 

The Sea  2014, pigment, graphite and acrylic on paper, 102 x 150 cm.

What is interesting about Sophie’s work, apart from being beautiful, is that she paints on a sheet of paper 1 x 1.5m mounted over stretchers.  Further research revealed that she uses Khadi paper.  So at 3am (I couldn’t sleep) I ordered a pack of 30 x 30cm Khadi papers.  If I can work with this paper, then this could be a viable option for scaling up my work.


I have started with old canvas prints, 60 x 60 cms, sticking 330gms  watercolour paper to the surface that has been partially obscured with emulsion.


If this is successful then the next step would be painting on a larger canvas, maybe unstretchered, then partially obscuring and concealing with paper.

I have also just received the pack of Indian Khadi papers, 320gsm, which, whilst creamier and more textured than I am used to could produce interesting results.


This brings me back to the other area I am grappling with in general, what is authentic for me.  The answer to that question is probably the reason I am on this course, so I am not expecting a lightening-bolt solution, more an awareness rising up through the mist.

To assist with this I have been reading Emily Ball’s Drawing and Painting People, A Fresh Approach.  Emily records of her own work ‘I became aware that new ideas were not coming from the work itself.  I regularly felt numb and blind to the and important often trivial things that make an ordinary subject into something extraordinary.  I felt that I rushed my work.  I was impatient, had tunnel vision and was without the courage to be playful enough in an irreverent way.  This work was to be my leap into the unknown through the familiar.’  I could have been speaking.

She chose to set aside the way she had been painting and refocus on the subject, which she decided would be a series of bath paintings.  She also chose to scale the work up to  6ft x3ft, (my decision to explore scale had been made before I read about Emily’s, and is for completely different reasons), to remove all unnecessary marks and use unfamiliar colours that she found ‘aesthetically uncomfortable’, to reveal her bad habits, and to stop the inclination towards grand painterly gestures.  ‘There would be nowhere to hide.’  With every motif relevant, resulting a new way of seeing and playing.

Emily concludes ‘An image that unsettles our experience of the way we think things should look requires us to spend longer with it.  Looking at the work becomes more engaging and perplexing.  Its unfamiliar qualities make us search the surface and dig around in our experiences to find other ways of connecting to it.  Reading it as a narrative does not work so we have to resort to an emotional and tactile approach.  It can be as much about contemplation for the viewer as it is for the artist’.

I need to reflect on exactly what I am experiencing here.  I know something profound has happened.  I just don’t know exactly what.

Returning to Surface

Mathew, my MA colleague suggested Daniel Smith’s Watercolour Ground, which can be applied to almost any surface, to enable the use of watercolour


He also suggested Dibond aluminium composite board.

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The first image compares the texture of my normal Bockingford 140lb not paper and the Watercolour ground surface on the Dibond.  The second image is a close up of the Watercolour ground surface.

After talking to Angela, I am also considering using a roll of Somerset Velvet Enhanced 330gsm (approx 154lb) Watercolour paper 44 inches (112cms) wide, double imperial.  My misgivings had been to do with how to protect in the absence of glass.  She suggested spraying to protect, and the acrylic matt varnish appears to do the job, with only the slightest hint of colour change, which is acceptable.

So, my final choice is between

Paper enhanced canvas

Somerset roll Watercolour paper

Khadi 400gsm rag paper 110 x 160 cms

Watercolour ground on Dibond board.

Now I need to evaluate the options before making a final decision.

Returning to Subject

I am starting to read around the subject of my essay, which has a working title of Being Authentic, an Exploratory Journey.  I almost need to have completed my research and drawn the conclusions before I am able to tackle the issue of subject for task 4.  Not exactly a practical approach, but it feels right at the moment to start reading and researching in detail, to try to clear and clarify the direction I want to go for task 4.  I feel I am working in a muddle at the moment, with regard to this aspect of the task, not a good place for me to be. I am aware the difference ‘mind dumping’ in Mapping  the Territory made.  The way the space was somehow freed up in my unconscious mind.  I feel in need of doing the same regarding subject and the authentic me.


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Watercolour ground on Dibond board

The first image is a close up showing the effect that brush strokes, (subsequently sanded back), have on the way that the paint flows.  The second image shows the effect of wet and dry painting.

Would I use these products?

The obvious advantage is that board is static, there is no possibility of unpredictable pooling, which may or may not be useful to the work.  On a larger work this could be a great advantage.  There is also a slightly ‘dreamy’ quality about the way the paint responds to the surface.

The disadvantage is that the surface is all.  A brush just doesn’t work to apply the ground.  The traces of repressed brush marks are evident in both images.  I have yet to try a roller.  In certain circumstances this issue could be used to advantage.  The feeling I get from this material reminds me of the effect that Nick Archer achieved in Ice painted, surprisingly, on black sandpaper.

Nick Archer, Ice 2012, oil on black sandpaper.


The surface is also a slightly grey white, which, with watercolour preserving the surface to create highlights, may slightly deaden the work.

The other, less tangible, result was that the process didn’t feel as authentic as painting on paper.  This may be due to a lack of familiarity with the materials, or it may be due to me being ‘too precious’ in adherence to traditional methods.


Ink and watercolour on photographic paper.

Definitely a no go.  Crude and cartoonish, it doesn’t show watercolour to advantage.


Watercolour on dry 320gsm Khadi paper.

This paper has more of a feel of watercolour painting than the ground.  The scaled up work would be on 400gsm.


The advantage is the size 110 x 160cms with the beautiful decal edge all round.


The work would need to be painted dry, rather than my usual very wet approach, which resulted in the paper acting like blotting paper.


Working wet.

The paper is also creamy white, which again will influence the feel of the work.

Materials Update

Most art materials suppliers do not stock the largest watercolour tubes, 37ml tubes but do, so really pleased to have unearthed them.

Huge sheets

400gsm 122 152cms £11.50 122 x 152cms £10.22

Khadi 100x140cms £23.14/sheet

110 x 160 £28/sheet min 5 sheets

70 x 100cms 320gsm Rough or Smooth (double elephant) 10 sheets £43


Arches 300gsm (140lb) roll Not 1.13 x 9m £125

Bockingford 300gsm roll Not 1.52 x 10m £84

Fabriano Artistico 300gsm 1.4 x 10m £114

Eco 200lb Extra Rough 39 x 55 inches £19.80/sheet

Sanders 300gsm Not 1.52 x 10m £153

Somerset 330gsm 1.118 x 20m £260

I decided to go with the huge sheet for a number of reasons.  Most importantly it is the largest heavyweight paper I can find.  I don’t tape the paper down to restrict its movement.  As a consequence it ruckles and water pools, not necessarily in the right places.  300gsm is ok for standard sheet (78 x 58 cms) work, but any larger and it will be even more problematic.  Working with the Somerset 330gsm has highlighted the problem for me.  Secondly it is quite difficult to flatten paper this size from a roll, further adding to the problem of controlling the large amount of water I work with.  Finally, I haven’t been able to find rolls of paper heavier than 330gsm, presumably because they will be difficult to roll.

Watercolour paint naturally dries over night.  Wrapping in cling film is just not practical or particularly effective.  My paint dishes are too small for the larger work.  I haven’t been able to source any suitably sized porcelain dishes, which I think is probably good, because I have decided to use clear lidded food containers, which have the added advantage of being able to label the pots, which particularly with blues, are sometimes difficult to identify.  Thus far, this seems to be working, they are portable and less wasteful.


During contextual research, I was heartened to see how Barbara Nicholls copes working in watercolour.  I don’t have the luxury of space, so I have to file the paint in large plastic pots by red, yellow and blue.

Test painting on the Somerset Paper 44 x 44 inches

I have decided to work by balancing the paper on the largest canvas I have, 1 x 1m, to give the paper some rigidity.  This also allows me to work on a table, and minimises further back problems.

Having just reread the packaging, I think I am working on the non coated side.  Not sure how much that matters.  The paper responds well to glued tissue and paint, although it is completely unforgiving of mistakes, which cannot be ‘lifted’.  This may be the result of using the wrong side of the paper

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Work in progress on Somerset 330gms

The experiment with Somerset paper glued to canvas is not working as well as I had hoped for two reasons, both of which can possibly be improved upon.  The PVA may be too thin.  When the paper is re wet it is lifting.  The torn edges are acting more like blotting paper, which may be the construction of the paper.  003

I will try again using torn Bockingford 300gsm and stronger glue.

Returning to Subject

My recent tutorial with Stewart Geddes has given me the confidence to believe that I am on the right track, and that subject will develop over the course of the MA.

Having seen my website and without being aware of my intention for task 4, he felt that I needed to scale my work up.  He mentioned ambiguity of size and space, referencing nature, or maybe not, colour as expressive.  His guidance through colour history is something I will be looking at more deeply.

He articulated that ‘the invitation into the space’ and the physical process are what is important to me, and that I should focus on materiality rather than producing a work.

I have decided that I will continue to use a photo as a starting point, which may be floral, may be an old family photo, and see where the paint and surface take me.

In Summary So Far

I am happy with the way the research and experimenting is progressing.  I have discovered materials that I probably wouldn’t have found.  I can see that each has it’s place and their use allows me to expand the scope of my work in subtle ways, Khadi for dry work, Dibond and ground for more expressive work, and perhaps even non conventional painting (See journal post What is a Painting?), where I could use the ground to surface an existing object, say a box or piece of furniture.  I need to do more work with paper and tissue on canvas before I am certain that this is a viable option.

The Atlantis 4 x 5 feet paper has just arrived.  I am a bit disappointed because, at 100gsm heavier than the Bockingford, I was expecting it to feel heavier.  Perhaps I don’t understand how gsm works.  I will investigate.

It seems I do understand so it must be illusorary due to size?  It just doesn’t feel it.

Nearly There

002Support surface for 4 x 5 ft paper


New wheeled trolley with sealable pots of paint.

The scaling up has forced me to rethink the layout of my studio and how I store paint.  Such an improvement and so much more economic with the paint, which is now labelled and easy to work with.



Scaled up photographs on 4 x 5 ft 400gsm paper.



So pleased with the ease of working.  The hardest part is balancing on the top of the ladder to take the pictures!

Reflections on  my Tutorial

This piece has caused a serious dilemma for me, which I discussed with Angela.  The crux of the problem is my way of working.  I don’t repeatedly draw in the manner of Rose Wylie, making the final work from the drawings rather than the original image.  I had also lost the likeness with no real way to redeem in watercolour.  Angela felt that the piece was placing unrealistic expectations upon me, no pre drawing, working with enlarged images to ensure correct proportions but thereby sacrificing authenticity and emotional attachment, no margin for error.  She suggested I suspend work and repeatedly draw the image until I can draw without reference.  I totally understand why she has suggested this, and this approach is endorsed by Roy Oxlade in Art and Instinct, but it just isn’t how I approach a painting.  I stopped to write my essay to give myself some head space to reflect on how I am going to approach this final task.  All I want to do is paint, but the proposed idea moves me even further away.  To develop I know I need to make changes and explore other ways of working.  So why is this proving to be so difficult?  My first drawings are likeness driven.  I know I need to suspend common sense and ‘free the form’, that draughtsmanship and likeness are not the purpose.  I know the theory! Stop procrastinating!

Thoughts on this Process

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The first drawing is in pencil.  The second image is the fourth in charcoal.  The third is the eighth in charcoal.  By this time I felt that I wasn’t really achieving anything above and beyond the pencil drawing.  I used the enlarged photocopy as a guide for this one as I was becoming so disillusioned.  The purpose, as I had understood it was to create an emotional response to the subject, as Bomberg said capture ‘the spirit of form’, but nothing seems to be changing and I am still attached to likeness.  The last image is the ninth and this time I drew it from the eighth drawing.  It needs more work, but for now, I want to paint.  I have bought The Natural Way to Draw by Anne Nicolaides and will work through the exercises and those in Emily Ball’s book Drawing and Painting People, once this task is concluded.

Reflection on Tutorial with Caroline

Now that my essay is complete I can focus on my exploratory project again.  My initial intention was to scale up my work and that I have successfully achieved.008

Now  I have some time to work with what I gleaned from researching my essay.  What I want to do is to ‘contemporise’ my work.  Not necessarily taking it into the realm of naive but using the Bomberg’s ethos of ‘spirit in the mass’.  I know that Emily Ball has achieved it with her own work and I am now embarking on that journey.



Capturing the gaze – Ball               A2 works in ink, watercolour and                                                                               charcoal

005The mouth – Ball



Single image – Ball                              Ink and Watercolour


003Making day, watercolour 78x58cms



Roy Oxlade and Rose Wylie

I am curiously drawn to Roy Oxlade.  I first encountered him through the writings of Emily Ball, a local tutor and painter.

As part of the preparation for my essay I am trying to understand the work of a group of artists that are associated with Emily, who are clearly highly accomplished and much acclaimed.  Roy and his wife Rose Wylie are part of that group.

Roy Oxlade Olympia's Trolley

Olympia’s Trolley, a 1989 work by Roy Oxlade

All members of the group, which includes John Skinner, Gary Goodman and Georgia Hayes, paint in what could be described as a naive style.  The sort of paintings that attract the comment ‘my two year old could have done that.’.  And yet Rose Wylie won the much acclaimed John Moores Prize, so there has to be more to their work, which set me on a journey to discover what it is that I am not seeing.

Rose Wylie’s painting, called PVC Windows and Floorboards, has won the John Moores prize. Photograph: Walker Art Gallery

Roy Oxlade studied at Goldsmiths in London, and was a student of David Bomberg for two years at the Borough Polytechnic. He received his PhD from the Royal College of Art. His PhD thesis was on David Bomberg and titled, Bomberg and the Borough: An Approach to Drawing.

His writings in Art & Instinct are very readable and reveal a man completely dedicated to his art, art education and the practice of making art.  It also reveals a man frustrated with the art establishment, particularly what he calls ‘the BritArt  phenomenon’ 1, the power wielded by the few over the many.  He is also unashamedly outspoken with regard to artists he considers unworthy of their lauded position, ‘I have been unable ever to find anything of value in the work of Jackson Pollock.’ 2

I much admire his intellect and I am slowly being drawn into his way of viewing the world, with the hope that in doing so I will understand his, and this type of, work more comprehensively.

Writing about Rose Wylie he places her work in the context of Gaston Bachelard’s phenomenology, that ‘is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness’.3  On drawing a robin from life he explains ‘that she seems, without effort, .. to be able to give her total attention freshly, without prejudice, to whatever it is that attracts her eye and be totally absorbed by its unique qualities.  Knowledge – and this includes the background of art history as well as observation of the physical world – has been assimilated but somehow completely overtaken by the impact of the new experience.’  That feels like an almost a childlike departure from the world, as constructed, into an immersed world of now.  This total trance-like immersion may go some way to explaining the response to the immersion.  Interesting.

1 Art & Instinct 2010 p55

2 Art & Instinct 2010 p54


Project Evaluation

Project Evaluation

I am really pleased with the ease of working at this scale and the improvements I have made to my studio, to accommodate the larger working area.  By replacing my support table with a wheel able trolley and storing wet paint in lidded and labelled clear containers, which are large enough for my largest brushes, I have not only maintained the amount of space I have to move around, but I will also not be wasting large quantities paint.

I am still not entirely happy with the weight of paper, or more importantly, the robustness of the 400gsm paper I am using and I will try the Hoxton sheet next time, just to gauge the difference.  I will continue to experiment with the 30 x 30cm sheets of 320gsm Khadi paper to see whether I can live with a cream white, because the large sheets of 400gsm Khadi have four decaled edges, which would really work for me going forward.

What I have achieved has clearly been a risk but it hasn’t felt like that.  My logical brain, normally a hindrance when I am in need of imaginative, exploratory skills, has been an asset when researching possible materials and reflecting on their success, or otherwise.  It has enabled me to be methodical in my approach, and be confident that I have explored all available options, with the result that it just feels like a natural progression for my work.

This task has made me think more deeply about how I work and my subject matter.  I decided to continue my exploration of working with family photos, particularly as it continues from Task 2 and the making day, but also because the work is so different to my previous process.  Taking the lead from Emily Ball and ‘suspending my commonsense’, I have approached images from an exploratory perspective, using charcoal, ink and watercolour, seeking to achieve the essence of the image rather than the ‘draughtsmanship’. Not always successful, the motivation for likeness being hardwired, but I can feel a small shift.

Have I explored enough, have I been playful enough?  No, but I have learnt a lot about myself and with that will come fresh ideas and a loosening of the reins of control.  I have achieved far more than I ever thought I could, and the summer will be all about reflecting and continuing to push against my self-imposed boundaries, seeking to use the learnings from my research to develop a more contemporary approach to my painting.  It won’t happen overnight, but it will be at the forefront of everything I do and will feed through my unconscious.

I now have everything I materially need to move forward, leaving me free to focus on the direction I wish to travel.  Where that is going to be is still unknown, but that is what is so exciting.


Making Day 11 April 2015

On reflection, I don’t think I gave this day enough thought.  I focused on wanting to paint a companion work to Task 2, without thinking through the practicality of where I was working and how I was going to get it home.  Also, as I learnt during the review at the end, it was more about experimenting.


The starting point, a rare picture of us all together.  I plan to do a number of these paintings, which may or may not, ever be exhibited.  I hadn’t realised before I started task 2 that they are very much about my emotional response, the revisiting of the assumed memory, and it is about my response to events on the page that is so important to this particular process.

Emma a fellow student kindly invited me to her ‘studio’, the art department at Sevenoaks School.  As it was only an hour away, I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet Emma, and that was as far as my thought process went.


Not the best picture in the world but I was trying to show my process, which is just visible, of outlining the people with clear water using a pipette.  This gives a measure of control as to where the paint goes, because whilst it is possible to mop when paint is unwanted, on something this ‘precise’ it will still leave a shadow.

The other aspect I hadn’t considered was concentration.  In my usual way of working there are only a few moments when mistakes cannot be rectified.  There is usually too much going on, as in this nearly completed current work, for mistakes to matter.




With the monochrome work this isn’t the case, as is evidenced by my lack of attention to the dark ‘u’ shape in the lower half.




Too much chatting!

The other aspect I didn’t think about is that I like the paint to fully pool in this type of work.  The paint is a mix of Indigo and Alizarin.  The Indigo creates wonderful ‘frilly’ edges if allowed to dry naturally and mopping would detract.


By 2pm I was conscious that the work needed to be completely dry in order to get it in my mini (not the most practical car for a painter who wants to scale up their work!).




The benefit was that I could watch Emma photo litho printing her work, and got to have a go with a black and white (fortuitously, as it happens, I had run out of colour cartridges) photocopy of dead roses, a subject I have also recently painted.  Is there a theme?




001 (3)


For some reason I couldn’t get  the shadow to photocopy, so I might hand paint onto the photo litho, but maybe I will save for a painting.  The image reminds me of bull fighting and Lorca.


A great day.  Thank you Emma!

What is a Painting?

The idea of a painting being anything other than an image on the wall had never really occurred to me until I looked into the work of Stewart Geddes, one of my  tutors.  He describes his paintings as objects.

Coming across the exhibition Painting in Time, currently on in Leeds, added a further dimension to the question What is a Painting?  The artists in this exhibition aim to push the conventional boundary.  Yet more food for thought.

Sarah Kate Wilson has curated the Painting in Time exhibition at the Tetley in Leeds.  She has been shortlisted for the Jerwood Painting Painting Fellowships 2016 and nominated for the inaugural MKCF 2014 New City Prize for the Visual Arts’ in partnership with MK Gallery.

‘The artists participating in Painting in Time are simultaneously pushing the boundaries of painting at this particular moment in time, whilst the medium is in its most expansive state. These artists destabilize the idea of painting as a static object. They bring time into their paintings by sidestepping away from making ‘finished’ paintings. Rather, time is inscribed in the work from the beginning through a variety of strategies, which allow the works to evolve once they exit the studio. Presented within the context of The Tetley’s ethos of curatorial and artistic experimentation, these strategies are manifest in the employment of specialist technology,
ephemeral materials, timed performances and audience articipation.’

Sarah Kate Wilson, Zumba, 2015. Photo: Jules Lister; Courtesy: the artist and The Tetley

Zumba – Sarah Kate Wilson

A Q&A with… Sarah Kate Wilson, artist and curator

Claire Ashley, Limes and Bricks Suck Pink Your Tasteless Hunk, 2012; Another Tasteless<br />
Hunk, 2013. Photo: Jules Lister; Courtesy: the artist and The Tetley

Clare Ashley – inflatable paintings at The Tetley, Leeds

A Q&A with… Sarah Kate Wilson, artist and curator

Happy Collaborationists

DATE: “Friday, October 12, 2012 :: 5-7PM” LOCATION: “Roaming” PERFORMANCE: “Simultaneous Narrative” “Simultaneous Narrative” is a one day performance art walk curated by the HAPPY COLLABORATIONISTS, with featured artists, CLAIRE ASHLEY, ERIK PETERSON, JESUS MEJIA & RUTH,SHANE WARD, EJ HILL and ANDREW MEYLERperforming concurrently throughout the Wicker Park / Bucktown neighborhood, emphasizing how multiple artists interact with and alter the same space.

Jessica Warboys, Box Painting (3), 2013. Photo: Jules Lister; Courtesy: the artist and The TetleyJessica Warboys, Box Painting (3), 2013. Photo: Jules Lister; Courtesy: the artist and The Tetley

Jessica Warboys

Jessica Warboys (1977) was born in Wales and works between London and Paris. She received a Master of Fine Art from Slade School of Art in 2004 and a BA(Hons) from Falmouth College of Arts in 2001.

Recent solo exhibitions include A painting cycle at Nomas Foundation, Rome (2012), Victory Park Tree Painting at Cell Project Space, London (2011) and Land & Sea at Le Crédac, Ivry-sur-Seine, France (2011). Her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany (2012), Camera Britannica at Centre Pompidou, Paris (2012) and Los Pasos Perditos at Galerie Andreas Huber, Vienna (2012).

<i>Sea Painting, Dunwich, 2013</i> installation view. Photograph by Stuart Whipps


‘In contrast to the structured Ladder Ladder group, the large scale Sea Painting, Dunwich, 2013, part of an ongoing series, was made by throwing mineral pigments directly onto a canvas that was submerged in waves at the seashore and then dragged along the sand. The process is a physical one and is strongly related to performance, a discipline Warboys sees as central to her practice.

Time and landscape, literally embedded in the Sea Paintings, are invoked visually in her films. Ab Ovo (1) (2013) and Ab Ovo (2)(2013) are autonomous films with distinct and intermittent soundtracks, yet operate here as a diptych. Each presents ancient landscapes — standing stones or sandy beaches — as the backdrop for the animation of idiosyncratic yet familiar objects. The use of such emblematic landmasses, or the egg referred to by the Latin title, brings prehistory into dialogue with modernist abstraction.

Weaving has been used as a metaphor for Warboys’ practice: throughout her work, themes and motifs are threaded together, building a structure of visual echoes. This operates very much in the way that words might in a poem, intensifying images to create a rhythmic, temporal experience.’

Hayley Tomkins

English, born 1971.


Jerwood – Chantal Joffe and others

Chantal Joffe

The main room at the Jerwood in Hastings is a light and airy contemporary space.  My first impression was that I was entering a scene from the film Shaun of the Dead.  The most arresting feature of Joffe’s portraits are the eyes.  They stare but don’t stare, as if drugged.  The work is painted with confident, minimal strokes, but for me lacks soul.  Siri Hurstvedt in her book Living, Thinking, Feeling suggests that it isn’t possible to relate to a painting in a few seconds, so I stood and looked and waited for the connection.  It didn’t happen, I just became more aware of the brush strokes.

I know I am missing the point.  She is a highly acclaimed artist winning the £25,000 Charles Wollaston Award in the 2006 Royal Academy summer exhibition, for the “most distinguished work in the exhibition”. 1.  Interestingly the exhibition was curated by Rose Wylie, winner of the equally acclaimed John Moores Prize, 2014, who I am also struggling to understand.  Their naive but educated style is troubling me.  Why?  Perhaps my research for my essay on Being Authentic will help with this dilemma.

My dilemma is not shared.  In 2006, an editor of British magazine Latest Art described Joffe’s large paintings as “simply exquisite representations of femininity”.2.

‘She is known for her arresting portraits of women. Working from photographs, she uses broad, fluid brushstrokes to animate her protagonists. Ranging in scale from a few inches square to monumental canvases, her iconic depictions, which are often intimate and imbued with humour, testify to the concerns and mores of women from diverse walks of life.’

2015 02 03 14.14.501 300x225 INTERVIEW: Beside the seaside with Chantal Joffe RA

Rose Wylie

At the exit from the Joffe exhibition there is a small room which contained a curious mix of work by Joffe and Wylie.  Everything looked like Wylie’s work but a laminated note suggested some was by Joffe. It was difficult to tell whose work was whose.

Silent Light (film notes)

Edward Burra

Upstairs there was a small exhibition of work by Edward Burra.  I have written about Burra before, whose work I much admire.  Two pieces stood out for me.  Both have an abstract quality, are complex, narrative and thought provoking.

Artwork by Edward Burra, Ropes and Lorries

Ropes and Lorries – pencil and watercolour
43½ x 30½ in. (109.9 x 76.8 cm.) painted in 1942-3.

Edward Burra (British, 1905-1976) Hastings Pub 68.6 x 102.8 cm. (27 x 40 1/2 in.)

Hastings Pub – pencil and watercolour 68.6 x 102.8 cm. (27 x 40 1/2 in.) painted in 1971

David Bomberg

Also upstairs were works from the Jerwood collection including two works by David Bomberg, who was the tutor of Roy Oxlade (husband to Rose Wylie, a small world), and about whom Oxlade wrote his Ph D.  The brushwork on this oil portrait of Eunice Levi is captivating and can only be appreciated in the flesh.

David Bomberg, Portrait of Eunice Levy, 1953

Anemones 1937 Oil on canvas 56 x 41 cm

Bomberg proves with this work that the subject is merely  a vehicle for the paint.  I could have looked at it for hours.  The palette knife stokes, the colour, the pain I knew he felt at the time of painting this work.  It is all there.

‘Bomberg produced a number of flower paintings during the later years of his career, principally in two specific periods. The majority of the works were produced in London in 1943, but a significant smaller group were produced in 1937. At first, it is hard to reconcile Bomberg with this particular subject matter, which is so often used for purely decorative means. However, in Bomberg’s hands the floral still life loses its botanic meaning and becomes another exercise in form. He approaches his subject matter as a sculptor would, producing an evocation of structure and mass. As such, these often very beautiful paintings are entirely in keeping with the rest of his oeuvre. This painting was produced after the artist’s return from Spain in November 1935.’

  1. “Prizes and prizewinners 2006 – Summer Exhibition”. Royal Academy of Arts. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  2. Meacher, Colette (Autumn 2006). “Phenomenal Women”. Latest Art: 24. Retrieved 12 December 2010.

Artists’ Practice – Griffin Gallery

The following artists all work in watercolour and are artists working with the Griffin Gallery in London, who run an annual Open competition.  Nearly all their artists have an MA.  This may be co-incidence, but maybe not.  I need to be on their radar.  I have started by following their twitter account and their curator Rebecca Pelly-Fry’s account.

Emilie Clark

Emilie Clark has inserted herself into the works and lives of Victorian women scientists and naturalists.

Treating her studio like a laboratory, she literally restages much of the research these women undertook. This accumulative process tends to turn the studio into an embodiment of each historical project she takes on. Transformation is one of the underlying connections across the projects—even before Emilie began working this way, her work had involved liminal states, things in the act of becoming, de-familiarizing and non-linear narratives, close observation and the questioning of categories. This investigative activity and her archival research and writing inform a practice that involves painting, drawing, installation and sculpture. The practices of these women and Emilie involve careful testing sustained empirical inquiry, structured interaction with daily life, and ultimately world building.

Exhibited at Griffin Gallery in Water + Colour in February 2014.

BORN 1969, San Francisco


MA Fine Arts – Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, 2010

BA Fine Art – Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1991

Laura Ball

Laura Ball’s works combine incredible her technical achievements in watercolour and an on-going part-psychoanalytical, part-environmental project she has explored over the last ten years. A recipient of numerous awards and grants, Ball has exhibited in galleries across the United States and internationally, and her work is in important private and public collections.

Exhibited at Griffin Gallery in Water + Colour in February 2014.

BORN 1972


MFA – University of California, Berkeley, 2004

BS – University of California, Davis, 1995

Luke George and Elizabeth Rose

George and Rose are the winners of the Griffin Art Prize 2013.

George and Rose, who are both a couple and united artistic force, have investigated  the particular properties of the madder root and its use as an artists’ pigment. They have experimented with madder pigment development to create a new body of work that captures the physicality and explosive nature of the precipitation process.  Smoothly sanded gesso surfaces collide with violent splashes and drips of pink, red and brown, crystallised into intricate filigree patterns across the surface of the canvas. George and Rose have allowed the process and the material to dictate the direction of the work, yet taking control of the final product – much in the way Winsor & Newton have developed the unmatched Rose Madder pigment for over a hundred and fifty years.

This body of work is as much an exploration of history and tradition in colourmaking as it is a vision of the future – these two young and extraordinarily committed artists carry the canon of art history on their shoulders, but they wear it lightly, delicately picking their way through the stories of others to create a new vision of their own.

‘We see painting as a means to discovery.

The act of painting together allows us to create beyond ourselves, entailing that we relinquish our individual sense of control.  Through our practice we translate our shared experiences into a poetic visual language played out in painterly exchanges across the surface.

We use matter that forms a part of our heritage such as earth, plant and metal pigments, natural glues and gesso. We find the ritual of preparation important in that it allows us the opportunity to understand the properties of the medium prior to application.’

This image from their site really appeals

Solo exhibition at Griffin Gallery ‘Madder’ in September 2014.


BA (Hons) Painting – City and Guilds of London Art School, 2013

Barbara Nicholls


“My work operates across a broad range of artistic categories, employing a wide span of processes and techniques to address a number of engaging critical issues: questions of aesthetic form, surface and depth, chance and order, the handmade and the readymade, the archaeological and the cartographic, and the relations between work and play. My approach, both to the subject matter with which I engage and to its material rendition is allegorical or metaphorical, rather than literal or mimetic.The objects I produce be they primarily two dimensional or three dimensional forms, may thus be regarded as translations or complex developments with their own internal logic, structures which have, to a considerable degree, moved away from their original sources whilst nonetheless connecting to them through inference and analogy.

An individual work can display several, apparently contradictory methods of “inscription”, of technical know-how within its frame: drawing, painting, routing, folding and unfurling, tracing and tracking, sanding down and sharpening up. The result may be a multilayered, overly physical cluster of densely packed substances or, conversely, something minimal, neatly stripped down.

More recently since 2011 I have exclusively used watercolour on paper. These works continue established themes of geology, mapping and topography. The watercolour paint settles onto the thick sheets of paper creating a geological terrain, climate and topography of paint and ground. They are in part investigations into the scientific properties of watercolour whilst also being instinctive reactions to the process of using watercolour. The paintings are poured, cajoled, blown and left alone to become records of colourful events reflecting the relationship between myself and the materials.”

Exhibited at Griffin Gallery in Water + Colour in February 2014.


Doctorate in Fine Art – University of East London, London, 2006

MA Fine Art – University of East London, London, 1998

BA (Hons) Fine Art – Goldsmiths College, 1986

From her web site:

My Approach

I take as my point of departure systems of archaeological and geographical mapping, accumulations and isolated portions of material remains, the convoluted territorial alignments of the city (its physicality and historical layering), and the malleability of the actual materials out of which my work is made. I draw upon a substantial (though not arbitrary) armoury of technical processes and devices, bringing these together so as to produce works of a coherent yet open nature which ask that the viewer respond to them in an active and engaged way.

An individual work can display several, apparently contradictory methods of “inscription”, of technical know-how within its frame: drawing, painting, routing, folding and unfurling, tracing and tracking, sanding down and sharpening up. The result may be a multilayered, overly physical cluster of densely packed substances or, conversely, something minimal, neatly stripped down. My works might sometimes be better described as “accumulations” rather than as conventional paintings; they are certainly situated somewhere between or adjacent to conventionally established categories, this hybrid status being one of their most intriguing and seductive features.

More recently since 2011 I have exclusively used watercolour on paper. These works continue established themes of geology, mapping and topography. The watercolour paint settles onto the thick sheets of paper creating a geological terrain, climate and topography of paint and ground. They are in part investigations into the scientific properties of watercolour whilst also being instinctive reactions to the process of using watercolour. The paintings are poured, cajoled, blown and left alone to become records of colourful events reflecting the relationship between myself and the materials. Through the long process of evaporation, sometimes with the assistance of a breeze from an electric fan, this systematised use of colour mixed with a chance element merges colours to create a soft blending of geographies.

Isabella Nazzarri

Isabella Nazzarri creates ambiguous and abstract paintings obsessively “feeding from images and retaining a memory of them”. She gets her inspiration from a wide range of different types of images, and works around the idea of mutation, in their depiction and in their meaning.

Exhibited at Griffin Gallery in Surfacing in October 2013.


Visual Art & Painting – Brera Fine Art Academy, Milan, 2014

BA Painting, Drawing and Photography – Florence Fine Art Academy, Florence, 2011

Kim McCarty

Like blurry afterimages drifting past closed eyelids, Kim McCarty’s watercolours hover between presence and absence, innocence and wisdom, and past, present, and future. Working rapidly, at times using only a single colour and at others a haunting, bruise-inspired palette of acid yellows, greens, and browns, McCarty’s portraits evoke the sense of uncertainty, ambivalence, anxiety, and loss with which we view today’s generation.

Exhibited at Griffin Gallery in Water + Colour in February 2014.

BORN 1956, Los Angeles, US


MFA – University of California, Los Angeles, 1988

BFA – Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA, 1980

I found Marzena Lavrilleux on twitter

French.  This painting has an edginess that reminds me of Raymond Hains’ work.

a cup of coffee

a cup of coffee, acrylic and collage on canvas, 97 cm x 130 cm

All these artists have a contemporary connection with their materials.  I need to let this seep into my unconscious.

Tutorial with Stewart Geddes


I really enjoyed my tutorial.  I felt that Stewart understood where I was coming from with my practice and was able to articulate it for me.  He has validated what I am doing and where I am going, which has given me the permission and confidence to start believing in myself.  Thank you so much for that Stewart.

Initial Impression of my work from my web site

Transparency, fluidity, colour as expressive, autonomous properties.  Ambiguity of size and space, macro/micro, referencing nature or maybe not.

History of Colour

The Greeks and Romans had a perception of colour.

Newton identified light wave lengths and reflection.

Johannes Goethe identified that the viewers subjectivity and life experience were an essential part of communicating directly with the viewer.

In the 19th century Michel Chevreul, a colour scientist to the textile industry, developed ‘The Theory of Simultaneous Contrast’, which was fundamental to the Impressionists and post Impressionists.  A downloadable version of Georges Roque’s work on Chevreul

In the 20th century Johannes Itten teaching at the Bauhaus wrote The Elements of Colour.  His teaching was to influence Josef Albers, who wrote The Interaction of Colour.

Albers taught at the Black Mountain College in the US from 1933 to 1949, teaching Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg.

More recently Scottish artist David Batchelor has written Chromophobia.

Artists to Consider

Sam Francis, abstract expressionist

Sam Francis

Click to access SFCR_PaintMethod_Essay.pdf

Helen Frankenthaler

Albert Irvin

John Hoyland – watch ‘6 Days in September’

Paul Tonkin – watch ‘The Rules of Abstraction’ by Matthew Collings  Paul Tonkin

Mali Morris

Richard Diebenkorn – current RA exhibition, which I have seen and really related to.

Claude Monet Waterlilies at the Marmottan in Paris, which I have also seen.  Embedded image permalink

Stewart compared Monet to a jazz musician where they invent around a theme.


Stewart determined that the handling, the ‘invitation into the space’  and the physical process are what is important to me.  The surface, the decol edge.  My work needs to be bigger, maybe A0.  This may be too expensive in watercolour and perhaps I need to consider Lascaux acrylics mixed with acrylic medium and water to give the translucency I need.

He mention Emil Nolde and his forbidden works produced during the Nazi occupation which reference flowers, and also the late Turner paintings.  He recommended Imagination and Reality by Gowing

He also suggested I look at the work of Dennis Creffield and the essays of Roy Oxlade, Art and Instinct.

We discussed why I was looking at the work of Oxlade and my starting point of Emily Ball and her book, Painting and drawing People, a Fresh Approach. the cover of Emily’s book.

We talked about Albert Irvin, who I have been researching and I am aware that Stewart has interviewed.  Sadly Bert died last week at the age of 92.

Angel by Albert Irvin (2003). The artist used a floor squeegee as a kind of huge palette knife, pushing solid bars of colour across his canvases.

Angel by Albert Irvin (2003). The artist used a floor squeegee as a kind of huge palette knife, pushing solid bars of colour across his canvases. Photograph: Advanced Graphics

Stewart also described how Irvin painted flat, elevating the canvas on industrial paint cans.

We talked about the sensuality of Marlene Dumas’ work, her inventive use of paint and the ambiguity she introduces through references to porn and sensitivity.

I need to look at the work and practice of Cecily Brown, not for the subject matter, but for her approach, her brush marks and her energy. 

Skulldiver IV, 2006-07. Oil on linen, 216 x 226 cm. All images, courtesy Gagosian, New York/Los Angeles/London/Moscow/Rome. © Cecily Brown.

Stewart suggested I continue with my practice of using a photo as a starting point and then working with the materials, but I need to make it more so and more informed, locating my own visual identity and maximising my potential.  I can’t force the subject to happen I can only tease it out.


1  Scale up

2  Focus on materiality rather than painting to produce a work

3  Consider acrylics possibly from a cost perspective as much as scalability

4  Research unorthodox processes, Hoyland and Tonkin and others

5  Immersive surface.  Consider is it wonderment at nature or my emotional response to the subject.  Consider my past as an emotional response.