Being Found

Yesterday I was found, and what a difference that makes and will make going forward.

Being selected for the East Sussex Open at the Towner Gallery, by the distinguished judges, Jenni Lomax, Melanie Manchot and Brian Cass is a very satisfying conclusion to MA2.


Happy Families, Watercolour 58 x 78 cms

I have also been ‘found’ by a fellow Blue Monkey network member who steered me to an amazing drawing group, just when I needed direction.  I have been contemplating the work of Alberto Giacometti and his approach to form, but have been unable to connect my own endeavours with his practice.  I now have the perfect tutor in Marie-Louise Miller,, who just happens to teach a few minutes from my home.  She comes from a balanced Chinese perspective, where the vocabulary for mark making is developed through association with the elements and full body movement.

Figure drawing from a model, pencil on A2 paper.

Looking back whilst selecting the journal pages for submission, I have reflected on just how far I have traveled this year.  The anguish, the confusion, the uncertainty, the trauma of letting go, not of individual outcomes, which I am happy to do, but of the bigger picture, and at times, it felt like, my sanity.  I was, however, reassured by Sarah Thornton, in her book, 7 Days in the Art World, that this feeling is normal and necessary to achieve transformation.

There are also the influences, Celia Paul, Giacometti, Marlene Dumas, Silk Otto-Knapp are all evident in Happy Families.  The lines and mark making of artists as diverse as Roy Oxlade, Paul Feiler and Kitty Sabatier are bubbling under the surface.  The emotional vigour of Frank Auerbach, Peter Lanyon and Hughie O’Donoghue is being processed.  Such an exciting time to be me.

Reaching into the darkness and trusting the process has been as essential to the outcome, as an inherent belief that all the research is ‘in there somewhere’ and will surface, when the time is right.  I came into this process with that belief, I have engaged with the work of 300 historic and contemporary artists,  I can physically feel the process working, the change is palpable.









It is rare to find an article on the subject of gallery representation and how this most mysterious of worlds works.   James Loks’ research reveals a number of interesting points, the need to be committed to your practice, the support networks offer, the shop window available from artist led shows, the futility of trying to fake it; but more importantly, it reveals that there is no easy way to becoming an ‘overnight success’.

Shara Hughes interviews a number of artists about how their representation was achieved

Long ago I was warned against approaching galleries, as they like to find the artist. These articles confirm that advice.  They also confirm the need to be seen to be found.

Daniel Palmer considers the investment emphasis developed by some emerging artists and cautions against this approach.  Admittedly writing in the US, he is also sceptical about the value of a contrived, expensive MFA qualification (average $38,000 per year) producing product-based demand fulfilling artists.

Andrew Berardini argues for the ‘amateurs, dabblers, dilettantes’ rather than the artist as financier. ‘Stripped away of institutional validation and the pressures of the market, we are free to be human, to be artists, to be unprofessional.’

Having reflected on all the options available to me during the preparation of my Personal Practice Plan, I still feel that the gallery, with all the issues of control, is still the best route for me.  I am currently exploring the hazardous route of the Open competition with recently produced work, testing the water.  This path is fraught with danger, a pageant.  Who are the judges?  What is their practice?  What did they have for breakfast?  There are, of course, the practicalities, am I around to deliver, to collect, is the venue a realistic distance away?  It has worked in the past with the RI and RWS, but it has equally failed more times with these august establishments.

I recently submitted three works from the series Happy Families to the East Sussex Open at the Towner in Eastbourne, and Night Workers, to the Marmite Prize.

IMG_0868  Watercolour on paper, 78 x 58 cms

IMG_0871 Watercolour on paper 38 x 38 cms

Two very different works, two very different competitions, chosen after researching the judges and visiting the Towner’s selection last year.   The outcome will be announced in the next few days.

It is all part of the process and practice of being an artist.  Finding an authentic balance between product and project is key.


TYB Reflection

This project has challenged me in a most unexpected way.  I have been forced to look in the shadows and been surprised and happy with what I have seen.  Normally I would have avoided looking, just in case, and remained in the dark.

Where could my practice sit?  Where might I find new audiences?  Where indeed?

Rightly or wrongly I decided exactly how I wanted this project to develop, right at the outset.  I had two objectives, to engage the public and undertake something dramatic.  I have reflected on these objectives from a number of perspectives, projecting my work onto the white cliffs of Dover, hanging whole or sections of floral paintings in woodland or a local park, but each time I gravitated back to my original idea of three huge posters (3 x 2m) on a hoarding on the street where I live.IMG_0863

To say nothing happens here would be to dismiss the recent stabbing, and the person knocked down when a car deliberately mounted the pavement, but it would be true to say that nothing particularly uplifting happens in this street.  My project would change that, will make a difference, and even when the posters weather, or those that know no better want to make their mark, that will also be part of the project, an engagement of sorts, but also a reflection on the cycle of nature and life.

Indian Summer

Blue Iris

Alexandra Leaving

How do  I feel?  Eager to get started, excited by how the work will look in such a space, curious about how the work will be received.  The unexpected blossoming of a confidence I never knew existed.

What this project has also highlighted is that my boundaries are not ‘out there’ but internal, an academic core that can only be accessed and revealed, by a continual process of deeper and more focused reflection, and the translation of that cerebral activity that manifests as my personal journey, through my chosen materials of watercolour and paper.  I will continue to push this boundary, long after this project has weathered on the hoarding.