Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tread Softly

Throughout the Autumn I have been exploring abstract figurative images on paper, effectively a sketchbook in loose pages.  The aim was to find a way of incorporating my exploratory drawing work into paint.  I am still a long way from achieving this, but I am pleased with the outcome so far.  The works are all 20x20cms.

I now need to live with the work for a while before deciding what to do next with this project.  I would like to explore more expressive mark making from the drawings, and maybe use theses images as the basis for larger works, but for now I am content that the figurative work is feeding through to the painting in an unconscious way, after all that was the basis of my exploration during the MA.

Alongside the smaller works I have been battling with a larger work on canvas, revisiting again and again over many months, finally resolving after suggestions from our new crit group, set up to support such a situation.


Tread Softly  watercolour on canvas 100×100 cms

Details from the work.

The work evolved from a visit to Nunhead cemetery on an icy January day.  The visit was preparation for a print course to be run at my son in law’s studio.  The peace and observation gave time for reflection.  The snowdrops offered fresh hope that the year would be different.

Nunhead Cemetry (2)

I am now working on a second large image to follow on from this work.  This series is about hopes, dreams, realisation, acceptance or otherwise.  I have little idea how this work will develop but I know it will be emotionally charged.




What Now?

15 July

A strange in between place, no pressure, no deadlines, no running track.  Launched like a bird into the wide blue yonder, qualification trailing my name.

I am sitting inside.  Outside the faint breeze has reduced the temperature to a more modest 30, down from 35 yesterday.  The time away lying by the pool has given me time to reflect on what happens next.

I have submitted recent MA work for some Open competitions, a long shot, but if accepted, comes with a feel good boost and hopefully, wider recognition.

In the meantime I have been reflecting on how to move my work forward.  I like the idea of working in series, building on the knowledge of work and self, gleaned from the previous series, but this time there will be more planning, exploration of form/ mood/colour/support/size.

More planning has the potential for more procrastination, so it will be important to be honest, but  working within such a structure feels right for the orderly me.  This will not preclude the more decorative work, which will offer light relief and balance to the more intense and emotionally draining series.

So what to paint?  I am working on two ideas.  The first abstracting the figurative drawings and mark making from the exploratory drawing group, revisiting older paintings, to create a historical trace of the journey from decorative to figurative, an exploration of the luminal space between.

The second, a more demanding and emotionally charged project based on historical family letters that I have yet to read.

I want to work with the academic year to have the body of work developed during the Autumn/Winter months, and I will be scheduling the work once I have had a chance to read the documents, review the timings of the submissions I plan to make and quantify the volume of work I need to produce for the Opens and local group shows.

To support my self imposed academic year, I have joined a local crit group run by Paula McCarthy at the De La Warr Pavilion.  I will be presenting my work in December to the group, with the focus on the experience of undertaking an MA in later life on a distance learning programme.  I have never spoken about my work in public before, but I feel now is the time to push myself and be uncomfortable.  In the Autumn I will also be forming a local crit group with some fellow members of the experimental drawing group, with a view to a joint exhibition in 2018.


50 Shades of Grey

I have been back to basics regarding colour, to enable me to move forward from a knowledge base, rather than intuition.

Starting with co-primaries, prismic colours, cool red, blue, yellow, warm, red, blue, yellow, warm advances, cool recedes.  Cool red moves towards violet, warm red towards orange;  cool blue moves towards violet, warm blue towards green;  cool yellow moves towards green, warm yellow moves towards orange.



Fig 1

Hue – name of the colour

Value – Lightness on the grey scale

Saturation – richness of colour

Overtone – colour temperature, leans towards

Analogous – adjacent on colour wheel

3 ways to change a prismic colour into muted tones (second circle fig 2), adding white, adding grey, or adding a complimentary colour (secondary triad fig 1).

Chromatic grey (third circle fig 2), discernible hue, eg bluey-grey


Fig 2

Achromatic grey has no discernible colour, fourth row in, fig 2.

Yellow/Violet – greatest difference

Blue/Orange – best grey

Red/Green – opposite and equal, can interchange

Triadic is the triangulation of colours across the colour wheel.

Colour range:  Same family, oranges/red;  Complimentary – yellow/violet,  blue/orange,  red/green;  Organisation – triadic



Mixing muted and chromatic colours from complimentaries


Repeating above with slightly differing proportions in the mix


Of particular interest is the second row, cool.  All other attempts to mix a grey have had a bias towards mushroom or lilac.  This mix produced the closest to achromatic grey.

From a slightly different perspective, I have been reading about the history of colour, human response to colour and anecdotal stories about colour.

Bright Earth and Colour -Travels Through the Paintbox, were both recommended by recent MA graduate Alexa Cox.  Both are must reads.

In Bright Earth, Philip Ball traces the history of each colour in painstaking detail, to create a surprising page-turner packed with insights into the derivation of the colours but also their application through history.

Victoria Finlay is like an intrepid detective seeking out stories in remote parts of the world in Colour -Travels Through the Paintbox.  Her determination to route out the truths concerning colour is highlighted by her trip to the depths of the Aboriginal heartland, with the patience and permissions that that entailed, to uncover the secret of a particular white, used exclusively by a particular Aboriginal painter.  Her writing is engaging and so informative, from de Menonville’s determination to break the Spanish stranglehold on the red dye market, to the pencil museum in Keswick, in the Lake District, built to celebrate the area’s graphite deposit.  Not content with visiting the museum, she travels to Seathwaite looking for the unmarked mine in the depth of winter …pure delight.

Faber Birren has written many books on colour and is referenced in others.  I was therefore surprised by the weakness of Colour & Human Response.  Drawing on the research of others, he condenses and repackages the information for a wider, non-academic market.  The work dates back to 1978, which perhaps explains the irritating illustrations accompanying the start of each chapter and the weakness of the work.

Ball, P, 2009 Bright Earth, the Invention of Colour, Vintage

Finlay, V, 2002, Colour -Travels Through the Paintbox, Sceptre

Birren, F, 1978, Colour & Human Response, John Wiley & Sons

Digging Deeper

The net has been flung too wide and I need to focus on exactly what I am trying to catch and why.  Sounds easy, but I feel as if I have been on a silent retreat since I read this, trying to leave the space for the answer to float to the surface.

Am I starting at the beginning and letting chance play its part, or at the end and making the evidence fit the ‘crime’.  Is it about process and the decisions, perceived or otherwise on this journey?

Is it possible to make work without intention, or is intention always lurking in the murky waters?  If it is lurking, by what means could I, do I access this intention?  What is the actual intention?  If there is no perceived intention, is it possible for others to imbue such on the work?  A letting go of outcome, only a need to release.

I talk of emotional  connection with the work, with the viewer, which implies an intention, yet if it exists, it is within the forth dimension, wordless.  If there are no words, how do I describe what happens?

So what is driving the work if not intention, if not wordless communication?  How do I access this ‘essence’ and direct to the outcome I am questing, if in fact this is the purpose?  If it isn’t, what is?

Am I any nearer the true question?  Not sure.  Maybe a mind map to help clarify.  More digging.


A Room of One’s Own

Caroline suggested I read this slim volume by Virginia Woolf.  The work is in the style of a journal, where Woolf muses on the lot of women in the centuries prior to 1928, and how a modest income (then £500, more likely £20,000 today), and a room for solitude would have painted a very different literary landscape.

The  gentle ‘stream of consciousness’ certainly made me pause for thought.  Indeed why were there so few women in the arts?  Woolf surmises how it might have been, the lack of education, the betrothal at an early age into what could be considered servitude, the lack of privacy or funds.

I have written before that I have not experienced sexual discrimination in my working life.  Had I been blind to this?  I asked a friend who had also worked in IT since the early 70’s and she echoed my experience.  Perhaps we made a lucky choice.  However, I am more aware now that there is still a long way to go.  Will this feed into my work?  Maybe.


The lecture from our third visiting lecturer, Les Bicknell, was riveting.  He was speaking just to me.

Les is a lecturer at Camberwell and Norwich.

(It is very difficult to continue with this blog because I spent 2.5 hours typing up my notes and researching items mentioned by Les and when I return to complete the blog it has all disappeared.)

Defining Research with Practice

What do I like doing?

Why do I make work?

What’s my work for?

What do I want from my work?  Attempt to make sense of the world, strategies/planning/research/audience

What do I get from my work?

What is my work about?

Who is my audience?

Where does my work go?

What is it that I do and why?

Write a verb list of all I do and don’t do.

Research my own practice.


Les commented that if he had to rent work space then he would feel obligated to make money from his art and that would influence his work.  I can understand that.

Your work is informed by where and how you are working.  Size of space, location, noise factor.

Making Connections

Use what you love in your work.

Where is the research strand?

Art history

Music – instruments / scores / collaborative

Dance – negative spaces

Writing – thinking / reading / space / sound / theories / thoughts

General history

Geography, place

Contemporary practice – methodology / sampling / sketch book / role as an artist in society       Science – problem solving / lateral thinking / sharing

 What is my role as an artist in society?

Contextual Framework









Recognise that I am changing to accommodate the course.

Influence of childhood on what you do

What is influencing me?  THINK ABOUT THIS IT IS CRUCIAL.

What is the project about?

What don’t I know about?

Research has to start with my practice.

Reflective Practice

Mind mapping to get the ideas out of my head.  Starting point for research.

Frank Gehry sketches.  Sketch ideas.


Decide on what an idea should become.

Look at what exists already.

Look at the work of others.

Reflect on my initial intention.

What is it for?

Where does it go?  Weatherproof, scale.

Who is it for?

Copy existing writing or art work to get a ‘feel’ for the artist.

Look at Kenneth Goldsmith, founder of ubuweb.

Kenneth Goldsmith (born 1961) is an American poet. He is the founding editor of UbuWeb, teaches Poetics and Poetic Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a Senior Editor of PennSound.

Design Thinking








Linear interaction

Fluid way of thinking.


Record -thoughts / ideas /  observations

Reflecting – gain an understanding

Analyse – who researching

Conclude – setting out what you have thought

At library take the book to the right of the one you want.


carry means of recording with you.

Write often

Record dates/time

Without hesitation

Even if not relevant


what happened?  Why?  What do I think?  What should I do as a result?  How do I do this?


Lateral thinking

problem solving

Material understanding

experimental investigation

research skills


testing (colour theory/perception)-

sampling (series of paintings within set of parameters)

designing (articulate/explore)


Reflect – why didn’t I?  Back to research.

Where to star?

Film – Mark kermode podcasts

in our Time – Melvyn Bragg

Bibliographies- check influences



When does a book end?  What is it for?  How do you disprove it is not a book?

Made of mirrors?  Bound together?  Bricks in a wall?

Order, control, power.

Role of book in relation to order, containment, knowledge.

Writers write text not books.

Is FB an episode of you.

Covers of books-roofs.

Stacking, ordering, layering

.British Library- palm leaf bindings.

David Nash sculpture

Christo’s Valley Curtain

Text on body a book, tattoo?

Pub sign read history of place.


Hamish Fulton

Read a knotted rope

Nathalie Meibach

Role of book in relation to order, containment, knowledge.

Architecture relative to book.

Les Bicknell’s work.

Collect with no purpose.

Smocking relative to landscape.

Folding, meaning.

Categorisation research.

Pitt Rivers Oxford

Work informed by Morning crepe fabric.

Change materials for a different perspective .

Diverse exhibition spaces.  Libraries, foyers.  Giant images.  Artist info archives.

Materials that make a shift, B&Q, electrical wholesaler.