Reflecting on MA1

I started this journey an innocent, seeking guidance on how to be a better painter.  I had no experience of academia and no particular expectations regarding outcome.

So what has happened?

I have been led into a world of wonder.  Woken from a deep sleep, after a lifetime of just getting by, to find exciting, challenging, thought provoking ideas wherever I look, whenever I listen.  Learnings are piling in, like grains in a jar, each one jostling, making way for the next, and yet my jar is never full.  I am guided by intuition and the benefit of age, to follow clues, to dig deeper, to trust the process.

Immersion has taken it’s toll.  My head and shoulders feel detached from my body, travelling too fast for my legs to keep up.  Cobwebs billow in the draughts, noticed but patient.  Shopping is undone.

All of this of no consequence compared to the discoveries, the ‘got it’ moments, as my truth is slowly revealed to me.  As Michelangelo said ‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’  I am just beginning to ‘carve’.

WEEK 4 – Reflexivity in Practice

Reflexivity in Practice

I am now into my 4th week.  I was comfortable with today’s hangout for the first time from a tech perspective, which was good for me.  Last week I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit warren.  Confused and overwhelmed, struggling to understand what was going on around me.  Some things made sense, a lot didnt.  I don’t think Julian Stallabrass’s Contemporary History helped.  That said, I know something is happening, so I need to be not quite so demanding of myself, and accept that this is a long and exciting journey, and I have only just left the departure lounge.

On Friday I decided to revisit the Visual Enquiry questionnaire.  As a master practitioner of NLP, I am well aware that it is possible to shift thought processes in a short space of time.  Rereading my answers, I could sense that my plane had already taken off.  Some answers appeared naive, after only three weeks.  I could see I was already in a different place.  I am already aware of artists, curators, art critics, historians and the context in which they are working, that three weeks ago I hadn’t even heard of.  I am gaining a greater understand of what is happening around me, and whilst still confused, still waiting for the penny to drop, my progress is tangible and with that comes an element of ‘not having to hold my breath for quite so long’.

I am so pleased I am on this journey.  Exciting to see what the next three weeks will bring.  Hopefully I will have caught up by then and my work will be starting to flow.

Anselm Kiefer

Reserched Kiefer’s work.  My daughters are keen to see his work.  I had never heard of him.  I can really relate to some of his work.  Organic, textural, in muted tones.  I have pinned some work from 1974.  It is interesting to see how his work has developed.  We will be going to his exhibiton next month in London.  It will be interesting to see what influence he has on my work.


Todd Henry says ‘It’s often not the circumstances we learn from, but our response to them. Identifying limiting narratives or patterns of self-destruction can help us spot them when they crop up, then nip them before they cause us to implode or obsess needlessly over critique.’

He suggested ‘see if you can identify why that feedback elicited such a strong response in you. Is it possible that there is some defining story that’s affecting your engagement?’

‘Don’t allow limiting narratives to run your life and rule your work.’ Sound advice.

Emily Ball

I started reading Emily’s Drawing and Painting People many years ago, promising to return when I had more time.  That time is now.

It was also interesting to learn that John Skinner painted the front cover of her book, which in turn set me off to research John’s work

I feel I am like a sponge at the moment, poised to march off purposefully in a new direction with my work.  Confused but certain that I am internally processing all that I read and see.

As part of that process, and in part because Angela thinks quite highly of Emily, and because attending Emily’s regular classes was my plan B, i am working through the exercises in her book.

Conversation Exercise

A simple mark making and responding task for 6 images.  Should have been A1, but mine are 20×20 cms, because I am feeling more comfortable with small (what is that saying!).

Conversation 1Conversation 2Conversation 3Conversation 4Conversation 5Conversation 6


A simple exercise, so why do I find the results so unsatisfactory?  Colour choice?  Placement? Overall structure?  Chosen marks?

I will revisit Albert Irvin, Cecily  Brown, John Skinner, Ivor Hitchens, Bruce McClean to see if I can better understand.

Touchy Feely

Again, simple, draw by touch.

Rose QuartzRed BoaRed Boa detailFascinator

This exercise was more satisfying.  No outcome expectation?  No decisions to be made?


A friend of a friend was telling me how he passed out from the overwhelming red in a piece of music by Ravel.  Debussy has a similar effect on him.

I wondered whether listening to music that moved him so deeply would have any impact on me.  The above work was created with Ravel in the background.

Too early to comment.

Stot love the boldness of his work and ries of Art by James Elkins

What an interesting read.  A lesson in how to look dynamically with fresh eyes.  Unpretentious, clear and hugely  informative.

Artists Discovered

Rose Wylie, a favourite of Angela and Emily Ball.  Not sure I understand her.  The Tate Shot gave an insight, but I need to research her influences, her story.  I know I would really enjoy meeting her.  Fascinating lady.

Roanna Wells, what a gem.  Extraordinarily beautiful textile work.

Albert Irvin, just love his uncompromising use of colour.

Amrita Sher-Gil, mentioned by Elkins.  Extraordinary women, successfully combining Eastern and Western cultures.  I wonder what she would have achieved if she hadn’t died at 28.

Maurice Utrillo , contemporary of Sher-Gil.  Classic Parisian feel to his street scenes, but of more interest for me, was his self-taught mother Suzanne Valadon, whose bold portraits and floral images I found more exciting.

Norman Ackroyd’s etchings are so atmospheric.  The BBC3 programme What Do Artists Do All Day? was such a pleasure.  I hadn’t appreciated the process.  Extraordinary.

Shani Rhys-James, another What.. programme.  Such a priviledge to watch the artists at work and to follow their process and the development of their ideas.  Her portraits are bold and uncompromising.



Reflexive Practitioner

I spent much time this week reviewing VL1 and researching the people mentioned in the video.  I spent a lot of time writing up the points raised to ensure that I am fully understanding .

Laborious and slow but I feel essential for me, at this stage.

Contemporary Art by Julian Stallabrass

I have nearly completed this book.  It may be a very short introduction, but it is a very dry read.

For someone aspiring to develop their work for a wider stage, I found the contemporary art market, as described, far removed from the world where artists really care about what they are creating.

It is evident that the contemporary art market, at this level, is a commodity, a global brand, but without the regulations that stock and commodity markets benefit from.  A game, where it is in all the players interests to keep the stakes unaffordably high.

13 Oct

I have now finished the book.  I will need to reread and I have decided to Mindmap the book as a means of making sense of what I am reading and to give me a framework to visualise.

I have just started Stories of Art by James Elkins.  I wish I had read this first.  I wouldnt have felt that Stallabrass’s book was the absolute truth and quite so daunting.




Alison Watt

It is interesting how chains are linked and connections made.  Jack Knox, a Scottish painter and teacher died this week.  He trained and taught at the Glasgow School of Art.  He openly ‘borrowed’ from other artists.  His work is not what attracted me.  What did were the names of his former students, Jenny Saville, whose stunning and challenging work I saw at the Ashmolean in Oxford, and Alison Watt, who I hadn’t heard of.

john knox

Detail from Seafood Stall (1980s) by John Knox. Photograph: Gerber Fine Art & Compass Gallery

Watt’s work is sumptuous, sensual and unforgettable, suggesting the life form by its absence.  Watching her at work as the seventh Associate Artist at the National Gallery is illuminating.  She works painfully slowly on her huge canvases, up to 10 x 14 feet, a brush stroke at a time, up and down her ladder.


Sabine  –

She talks softly and eloquently about her work and her inspiration, referencing the white knotted cravat in the portrait by Jacques-Louis David of Jacobus Blauw, for Pulse and Echo.

Alison Watt, Echo

Pulse –

Watt says that ‘painting is a way of being’ and it is her way of ‘creating order our of chaos’.

I have spent the morning reflecting upon the emotional effect  her work has had on me.  Unexpectedly moved to tears, I watched Watt outline the folds then painstakingly build the gradation. a brush stroke at a time, just like I define petals.