Just Let Go!

I have just come across a YouTube on Canadian Andre Desjardins Emotionnisme https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sk_LiE5FltU who starts a work by scattering, what I assume is charcoal dust, which he works until he produces a portrait of an unknown person.

I haven’t been able to copy the reference for the image.

His work could be so powerful but he errs on the side of kitsch, which is a shame, but an interesting process.   am working with chalks today.  Again I need to let go and explore organically.  What stops me?


Today I received an invitation to submit for a curated local annual exhibition, Stains & Traces, which is based on ‘representing the presence or absence of a figure as well as anthropomorphic echoes and resonances’.  I have a work that is a perfect fit

but I am apprehended by a thought and dug deeper.

Reading a review of the first exhibition http://hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk/arts-culture/visual-arts/the-figure-revisited-at-hastings-arts-forum, detailing the work of many artists that I know personally, I realised how shallow my thought process is.  I feel I am still dancing on the surface. ‘Afraid’ to dig deeper, for what I might find?  Lacking the confidence to say what I really feel for fear of ….  What?

I then read the Guardian weekly arts summary.  This week it is about the 100 most influential people in the art world.  https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/oct/20/hans-ulrich-obrist-tops-list-art-worlds-most-powerful-artreview-power-100?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Art++Weekly+2016&utm_term=196182&subid=13017126&CMP=EMCARTEML6852  I was struck that it is not the work but the idea that matters, particularly evident with the German video artist Hito Steyerl.  Oliver Basciano, deputy editor of ArtReview said “Her work goes from video to writing to theory, and these ideas can travel faster than objects,” ..“Her ideas are quoted all over the world and her theories have had quite an intense impact on art production, so she transcends her own work in some way.”

In http://www.e-flux.com/journal/15/61298/a-thing-like-you-and-me/ she argues the case for a new perspective on object and subject through her philosophical lens.  I get it, yet don’t quite get it.  I will return to her work until I get it, for there in may lie the key.

Talking to Me

I am just back from a life drawing class where Marie-Louise is trying to mess with my head.  The last few weeks we have been drawing from different perspectives, looking up, and from the side we cannot see.  I was facing the model, who was leaning against a chair.  I was interested in what her muscles would be doing in such a pose.  This wasn’t about creating a polished drawing, but equipping ourselves with the tools to produce work we could ‘experience’ but not necessarily see at the time.  The attention to relationships, to emotional mark making, to the minutiae, the way that Giacometti approached his painting.


A friend sent me details of a Canadian painter he has been looking at, Andrew Salgado. http://www.andrewsalgado.com/  https://vimeo.com/120142633


Andrew Salgado, Reds, oil on canvas with spray, 180 x 190 cm, 2014

The video gets inside the artist’s head and helps unpack where he is coming from, the raw emotion, the angst.  Interestingly, he works from a photo, but appears to paint from his soul.

Local artist Robert Sample, is coming from a similar contemporary space.

Cave Arm

The power to move.  This is exactly where I am coming from.

Interestingly Salgado’s recent work appears to be moving in a more whimsical direction, which I have little connection with.



Painting isn’t easy.  You have to dig deep, then deeper still.  Accepting this allows me to move forward and embrace the pain and everything else that comes with it.

What Am I Trying To Say?

This has been a constant question throughout the MA.  The truth is I am not trying to specifically say anything, which isn’t the answer I should be offering at this stage of the process.  So this week I have decided to consider the question from a scientific perspective, what is my work saying to me?

To do this I have analysed 84 paintings, in no particular order, ascribing words to each as I reflected on an image of the work.  There were no limitation on the words, the only constraint was describing the two dominant colours as warm or cool.

80% of the work was ‘warm’, 51% ‘reflective’, 38% referenced summer or sun, 27% used ‘lines’, 21% ‘transparent’, 18% ‘gentle’, 13% each ’empty’ and ‘bold’.  Writing about the work in this way, helps me appreciate what I am doing to achieve such a comment, and allows me to determine the intention at the planning stage, based on how I have achieved it in the past.

I then considered my process.  I record what catches my eye with a photo.  On a recent trip to St Ives in Cornwall it was the light.  I wanted to immerse myself in the landscape that so inspired Paul Feiler, his son Matthew, and so many other artists, including Sandra Blow, whose flat and studio, we were staying in.


My photos are filed away and only referenced, when I am seeking a base image to work from.

I was expecting to be able to paint in Cornwall.  I had the studio, the sea view, I had the famous light, but it didn’t happen.  I have accepted that this is OK, that absorption is part of the process, but the physical painting can only take place in my studio at the moment.  Elsewhere I need to draw, contemplate, anything but paint.

When I start a new painting, I reference my photos until one speaks to me, reflecting how I am feeling, tapping into the emotion I experienced taking the photo.  It is then a matter of capturing that feeling on paper or canvas.

The process of mark making and layering of thin transparent washes is a meditative one, with the paper revisited 20-30 times over a period of weeks.  Each revisit brings subtle changes in my relationship with the work.  Music is part of the equation, classical for the quieter work, rock for the bold pieces, or when the work has passed through the deep absorption stage and is safely within sight of the finish line.

Three changes have taken place recently to this established way of working.  The first is my realisation of the importance of working on a series and not flitting from one work to the next.   This will allow me to build on previous successes and to learn from what didn’t work.  Analysis will be a necessary part of this stage of the process.

The second is the need to plan and document the mood, the time of day, of year, the temperature of the work.  As a discipline it is also useful for me to set a research question for each work in the series.  This will help determine the colours I choose, rather than my selecting them as I paint, on instinct, allowing me to have much more control of my process going forward.  The third change is the consideration of mixing colours from a limited range, two reds, two blues, two yellows, a warm and a cool of each primary.  I have been exploring this idea in acrylics.  I have yet  to translate to watercolour.

By unpicking the process I am getting closer to the heart of what I am actually doing.  The analysis of existing works together with the incorporation of planning and subsequent analysis of new works, will provide a more scientific approach to my work, and if I am able to successfully incorporate the proposed changes into my process, will allow me to be one step nearer understanding how I work and what my work is saying.



Has the Penny Begun It’s Journey?

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

Artists, financial advisers and software developers, (there may be others, but this is my very limited experience), enjoy mystery.  So to find an artist that is prepared to dissect  their process is a delight.

Artist and designer Marie-Louise Miller is such a person.  Her process starts with a life painting, which provides the form for her work going forward.  She then sets a research question for the series of paintings.  Then she determines the moods that she wants to explore, plotting the colour distribution for each mood in her sketchbook.

Stacks Image 277221 paintings

Woman in the Mirror series from a series of 12


Stacks Image 278379

Fragmented views series, an ongoing series


A colourist and clearly influenced by Paul Klee, the development of her work from Mirror to Fragment series is evident, together with the benefit of exploring an idea through a series of works.

Set a question to explore, provide some structure by way of colour choice for each painting, work from a base image.  Apply to my own practice, NOW.

How and Why?

Liang Quan, born in 1948, paints with torn strips of rice paper stained with tea or ink, creating pale empty collaged spaces, filled with detail.  His materials clearly reflect his Chinese origins, his Zen Buddhism is evident in the calmness of his work and the meditative nature of his process.  His work is the embodiment of who he is and where he comes from.

‘tranquil sea’ ink and rice paper collaged on linen, 125 × 95 cm, 2010


Born in Korea in 1961, trained in Australia, lectured and practicing in America, Hyunmee Lee explores her cultural journey through her work, seeking to understand who she is.  Influenced by  Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, her meditative practice of repetition, and contemplative gestural mark making, fuse her East/West influences, a balance between spontaneity and restraint.

Bill Lowe Gallery:



Her process includes several hundred preparatory drawings before beginning a series of work.  She painted with yellow for three years, before moving to blue.

There is an excellent video called Gesture & Flow by Shawn Rossiter on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_S_hd_WgDI

At the other end of the spectrum is New York based American Jose Parla, born in 1973, whose work at the World Trade Centre is the result of a journey that started as a graffiti artist.



From graffiti to gallery and back to outside space, his journey has always been about walls, the passing of time, the layers of history, of memories, of mark making.  Colour and the written word are fundamental to his work, which is meditative and gestural, recreating reality in art.  Mark making is full bodied, energetic and includes jumping off ladders with a loaded brush to create bold, gestural sweeps.

Youtube In the Studio with Jose Parla https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXI64NOzTOg gives a real insight into the philosophy that drives his work and his process.

Three very different artists each working in a meditative way, spiritual way.  Lee and Parla employ bold gestural, almost calligraphic marks, in response to inner emotions (Lee) and to replicate history and memories (Parla), whilst Quan’s delicate marks also reflect his inner being.  Each clearly reflecting their cultural journey in their work.

What attracts me specifically to their work?  Colour?  Mark making?  Meditative quality?  Calmness?  Order in chaos?  Focus?

They appear to be speaking to me, reflecting aspects of my work that may or may not already exist.  They are challenging me to look and work more deeply, to be honest and authentic.

So what of my cultural journey?  Limited to the South of England, and whilst I have lived through extensive western cultural change, I have never been at the centre of that change, always an outsider.

An interesting word, particularly in the context of art!  Is that really where I feel I sit now?  My work lacks cohesion.  Is that my definition of outsider?  Someone called it random, and I can understand that.

I keep returning to Lee’s immersion process, to Hashiro Kanno’s tea ceremony, to releasing the spirituality within.

Will I have enough time?  This a slow process, there are no short cuts.

Mark Making

I am busy researching mark making, the intention behind them and the materials used to create them.  Hachiro Kanno, a Japanese calligrapher who has lived in Paris for many years, creates a work as a ‘performance’ at the Kunststation Kleinsassen.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSqeFqEOIVQ  The energy and use of his full body in his work is clearly evident.  The immersion in the process, the mind preparation tea ceremony, the ritual, the zen state required to create such work and the huge mop-head brush have raised many questions that I will be reflecting on.

"N 573" by Hachiro Kanno #hachirokanno #art #artist #painting #peinture #artwork #pieceofart #canvas #toile #asia #AsianArt #japon #japan #calligraphy #ink #indiaink #abstract #minimalism #blue #black #contemporary #contemporain #contemporaryart #artgallery #online . . =====> View more on Artistics.com <=====

“N 573” by Hachiro   Kanno http://www.imgrum.net/user/artistics_com/1396074407/1064299998747091092_1396074407

My life drawing group is currently exploring immersion in the mark making.  We undertook a number of exercises to eliminate the mind from judging the marks as they were being created.

img_1193 This image was drawn with my non dominant left hand with the easel positioned to my left, the paper out of view throughout.  The model was kneeling on the floor with an open fan in her hand.  Whilst the resulting drawing lacks the clarity of a conventional drawing, its success for me is in the quality of the marks, which whilst intended, come from a place rarely accessed within.

img_1194 This drawing, the final of the day,was in sight but drawn with both the left and right hands.  The confident marks with the right hand, the hesitant, fragile marks with the left.  A revelatory  experience.

I am also in the process of making some cola pens to enable me to make calligraphic marks within my work.

Getränkedose + Essstäbchen + Klebefolie = Cola Pen


A selection of marks using 3 cola pens, a Chinese brush, bamboo pen and angled brush with watercolour and ink.  Early days.  The cola pens produce exciting but difficult to control marks, which may be useful with more practice, particularly the thin lines.  The bamboo pen flows for a surprising time without refill.  The angle brush marks, bottom left, allow control, flow and wide range of marks.  The Chinese brush is about sensitivity to the marks being made and its use requires serious practice.