Wednesday, 26 August 2009


I'd really love a dedicated space where I can do my artwork. Instead I'm chasing the light, or crippling myself sitting crouched over on the bed to draw. As summer draws to a close there's going to be less opportunity to take my drawing outside or to sit in the verandah to get the light (our verandah's freezing in winter, there's no heating and the wind finds every gap and whistles through it, sometimes our verandah sings and rattles like a living thing comforting itself). The past year has seen my eyesight deteriorate, I'm well aware of it, it's one of the things that's driving me to make the most of my talents while I'm still able. There might well come a day when I can't make these detailed journeys and recreations on paper, and I've wasted enough time as it is.

Finding enough light to work comfortably by this evening was difficult. A dismal day shrank away to a gloomy, drizzle bothered evening. I turned my back on my bedroom window and worked for a while under artificial light, in front of my PC (I was listening on-line to the wonderful BBC listen again site while I worked). During a break I noticed how the light flung the shadow of the plastic basket I keep my ink and pens in at the foot of my drawing, almost like a shimmering extension of the drawing itself. I thought this made an interesting counterpoint to the drawing itself.

There are things about this picture I like, and things I'm disatisfied with. I'm worried that without the contrast of black on white the ink loses impact, also that the image loses definition in places, and that it might be difficult to see what's going on, that there's water in the background for instance. On the positive side, I like the contrast of shiny and matt achieved by overpainting the acrylic paint with gesso (I don't know how this will age mind, it's probably a reckless pairing, like thin on fat), I also like the sparkle of gold on gesso, and I enjoy the sensation of working on smooth then rough surface with the dip pen, reminding me even more of how much each new drawing I make (even a drawing from one of my own photographs) is a journey. A journey, in this case literally, over rough and smooth terrain.
I'm also pleased (and provoked) by the contrast and interplay between the abstract/formless blobs of ink, paint and gesso, and the defining lines made by the pen. I'm interested in ways of experimenting with making my pen drawings more 'painterly' and of course, of introducing colour and further layers of texture. I think in this drawing, if nothing else, I'm at least groping towards new ways of doing this.

Friday, 21 August 2009


I'm working on a small mixed media piece at the moment, having just finished the Shap Abbey drawing. I wanted to try and stretch myself a bit again, and try something new. I'd already painted a small piece of acrylic pre-primed board with gold acrylic and acrylic ink and begun drawing on it with dip pen and Indian ink. Then I overpainted the shiny acrylic with acrylic gesso (the ink rubs off the shiny acrylic surface really easily, which is good for amending bad lines, but not good for permanence).

I like the contrast of shiny and matt between the glossy acrylic and the gesso, though I'm not sure how this type of layering will age. I've made a point (as always) of using only the best quality materials with best ratings for permanence and lightfastness, but there's always the element of the unknown with any experiment.

When the gesso was dry (it dries fairly quickly) I flicked gold liquid acrylic with a stiff brush, then began working again with pen and ink.

I'm pushing on with this piece, though I think it's a touch bitty and vague at the moment, there isn't much drama. But I do like the constrasting textures of shiny and matt, and it's making me think about how I can use this in future.

Thursday, 13 August 2009


I've spent most of this week (and last) attempting to finish my Shap Abbey drawing and also making the little sketches I've been uploading to my Flickr pages. Drawing in public is not easy for me, and I don't think I'll ever make a good drawing (certainly not a polished one) in public, unless I'm in total private and entirely relaxed, but facing this particular fear can only be good for me, both as a person and as an artist and creative individual.

Although I have drawn in public before (many years ago, when I was a 6th former, and later, as a student) it's never been something that I've been comfortable with. I envy and respect anyone who has the courage and the single mindedness to stand in a busy town centre and draw what's around them, as the artists in the Urban Sketchers Blog and Flickr group do. There's some really great work being done by the artists in this group, and there is a great deal of fine work on Flickr as a whole.

I don't think I'd have made the 'outside my comfort zone' drawings if it hadn't been for Flickr, a photo' sharing site ideal for artists, both budding and experienced. Nothing motivates better than an audience, and Flickr is a great way both to see other artists' work (usually sketches, quite often 'Moleskins') and also to put your art forward for criticism, though mostly this appears to be less analytical criticism and more uncritical praise. Still, if you're an artist who usually prefers to keep your artwork to yourself and who perhaps lacks the confidence to dive straight in and exhibit your work in a library, gallery or other public place, this might be a good way of sticking your toe in the waters of publically displaying your artwork. It's free to register and costs nothing to upload your artwork using the extremely easy upload pages. You can add a profile and group your pictures into folders, ideal if you want to upload themed work or a sketchbook. You can then submit your work to relevant groups, so people who are interested in that subject matter, style, gentre watever, can find your work and maybe, find their way back to your photostream (your gallery, in other words).

My experience with Flikr has so far been a positive one, not only is it helping me to motivate myself into facing one of my fears, it has also got me drawing from life, something which I am apt to neglect in favour of the comfort of working from my own photographs. It's also leading me down avenues along which I'm quite happy to be lead, for instance, today I found myself adding words to my drawing, something which I've not really done to a great extent before, even though finding some way of meshing my written and my artwork is something I've fretted over for a few years. I don't know why it never occurs to me that fretting is the least productive way of working out problems, especially problems of an aesthetic or creative nature. In art it's best to work your way through dilemas through doing. Maybe the Flickr environment (or the motivation it provides) can act as a catalyst for things that I might just have mulled over for weeks before? We'll see.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


I was so chuffed this lunchtime to see the article about the Patchings Exhibition in The Artist magazine. There's a little photo' of my Scottish Beach picture and my words about it.

Really I feel extremely lucky to have won this prize, I'm in fine company on this spread, I can't help feeling that mine is a lucky picture rather than a very good one.

Here's one of the drawings I've been making in one of the lovely little sketchbooks I won as part of the Derwent Prize. I decided to use it to make drawings 'outside my comfort zone' that is, make drawings out there in public, rather than safe in the confines of my little room. They've been rather hit and miss so far, but I've enjoyed posting them to Flikr, which is a great motivator.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Tree near Shap Abbey

I've pogressed quite a bit with my pen and ink drawing of the tree near Shap Abbey. I've been posting work in progress at my Facebook page, and also at Twitter.

This is the pen and ink drawing I'm working on at the moment.... on Twitpic

There's just a little more to do, I go a bit lost in all those leaves, and confess to making most of them up. I'm quite pleased with the texture of the tree, but the water needs knocking back a little I think.

I've also begun another drawing, another experiment so I'm not sure how this will progress. It's pen and ink on a small pre-prepared board (for acrylic or oil) which I've liberally coated with gold acrylic paint.

I've been away for a few days to Minehead with my good friend Mr G. We spent most of our brief time there walking on Exmoor and in the Exmoor National Park, which was bliss. The colour of the moor in full bloom was stunning and I took loads of photos for inspiration and to base future artworks on. While we were away Mr G bought me a book, it's just a light read really but it's a favourite subject of mine, a novel about an artist. It's called An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay, and I'm quite enjoying it.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


I often wonder why I go through these periods of being more visual, then cycling back again to writing again? In the past, when I was relatively guilt free, it was easier to free-wheel these periods of creative flux. Now that I am increasingly aware of time’s elastic growing taut I worry at my own lack of sticking power.

I wonder if some frenzied, over stimulated part of my brain simply wants a rest? I imagine it steaming away like a broken television (of the old cathode ray variety), while another rested area of the brain takes over for a while. I generally feel less emotional, more reflective and neutral when I draw. I can listen to talk radio, music, songs, words, I can listen to conversation, I feel generally more happy when I’m doing something visual than when I’m writing, then I need silence; I’m tense, fraught, the slightest noise winds me up (though noise in general, other people’s noise, tends to wind me up). I guess it must be those opposing halves of the brain having a different effect on my behaviour.

On Sunday afternoon and evening I enjoyed giving into this impulse to draw. While listening to the Cricket I worked on my pen and ink drawing, and then I drew a little outside. At the top of our garden, where the shed and garage used to be is a raised platform of grey and brittle concrete. Dad dismantled both shed and garage about 20 years ago, when he made the garden gates. I remember how we found a family of dead rats crushed beneath the shed after it had fallen, their feet sticking out from under the rubble, perfectly clean and pink, like victims of a bomb blast.

A few years ago the people who own the houses that were built (again, about 20 years ago) at the bottom of our garden planted conifers up against the dividing fence. These have grown and now their roots are breaking up our concrete. Weeds and grass spurt up in the cracks, eroding the concrete even further. It’s annoying, but also the textures of the aging, mossy, slowly decomposing concrete has its beauty. I enjoyed making a few small drawings of them and the old flower pots that have become abandoned up there over the years, where only dandelions and weeds flourish.
The roots edging their way into our garden, crumbling the edges, seems an oddly appropriate metaphor. Thoughts too have their way of impinging on peace of mind (the territory of composure). It’s difficult to fend off these subtle intrusions. Perhaps the best medicine for my fretting and anxiety is simply to draw or write the blues away.