Thursday, 27 June 2013

The bane of my life!

This piece has been the bane of my life these last few weeks.

Really failing on all levels.

I liked the initial contrast between the simple airbrushed V of the tree and the pen and ink lines, but then tiredness, lack of time, worry and all the other stuff of life got the better of me. I've been trying to work an hour or so a night after work before doing some job or other in the garden (human v ivy = a battle of epic proportions) but it's really not working. An hour is just not enough to get into the right frame of mind for creative work, plus my eyes are not behaving the way they should. Then I had a disappointment earlier this week, i.e a rejection, and while I'm very used to these by now (years of experience with literary and art rejections, however polite terms they're dressed up in) you never really get used to them, or develop a resistance to them. So this piece then, flawed, failing, limping along though it may be, is my current battle ground.

I have to finish this piece, as much for the act of finishing as for actually creating something beautiful or good. A declaration of my intent to carry on, despite all the rest.

When I was feeling more positive last weekend I asked G to make a short film of me working. My digital camera has a movie setting, and he produced a minute or so of film, but it's just an experiment and not worth making available on-line. Still I might ask for his assistance again, as I've an idea that a little film might be a nice thing to have on my website. If I can work out how to post one there that is, I might have to use You Tube or something, I'll find out.

Anyway here's a still from the first little movie. As you see it consists mainly of the back of my head.

Thursday, 13 June 2013


I've somehow managed to do a bit of everything today. Started the day with a few garden jobs that needed doing (a list that replenishes itself so frequently the Grimm brothers could have written it) then managed to do a little work on these 2 new pieces in progress. The first is called Big Rock...

I'm working in layers on this piece, I began with a sketch on greaseproof paper, then several tracings, then cut out a stencil and worked with airbrush, then pen and ink, then a quick glaze of watercolour and acrylic ink.

I don't have a name for this second piece, but I quite like the juxtaposition of arbrushed area with pen and ink.  I really would like to explore this approach more.  G says it's quite Japanese and I agree.

One of my favourite nature writers was on Radio 4 today.  Claire Balding was joined in her Ramblings by Robert Macfarlane who climbed a tree and explored some graffiti. I've never climbed a tree.  It's on my list of to dos though.  Along with everything else Messrs Grimm and Grimm keep adding.

And whilst I post this I'm listening to Count Arthur, in which he goes on a tour bus and visits a library!  Sounds like a perfect day to me.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Many many works in progress

I've changed the way I work in quite radical ways recently.  Rather than power on with one piece covering paper until it's finished, as I do with my pen and ink drawings, I'm working on several pieces at once.  Working with airbrush and stencils is much faster than my pen and ink drawings, yet it involves much more conscious contemplation.  It's quite a neurotic way of working if I think about it, making notes about each piece, listing ideas for process, writing a 'to do' for the next day on a post-it, ticking off stages in the process as I go along.  I've been a great list maker for years now, but never in my art, until now.

I make a sketch on greaseproof paper of one of my photographs, make a tracing (or several) of the sketch, cut a stencil.  Maybe transfer the drawing onto the paper I'm going to work on (the piece above is watercolour paper, the piece below is Ingres paper) and paint out what will become highlights with masking fluid.  Then I spray a layer (or several) of liquid acrylic ink over the stencil.  Remove the stencil.  Begin the process again.

This piece above is a second version of a drawing I made a couple of years ago.  I really like the crumpled texture of the tree in the foreground.  I began this second version drawing as a pen and ink piece earlier this year and lost interest.  The addition of airbrush layers (and other multimedia elements) is an on-going experiment.

I love the smell and the light reflecting qualities of wild garlic.  I took this photo' above a few years ago and made a graphite tonal drawing of it last year.  For this new piece I made this quick sketch on greaseproof paper.  I want this new airbrush piece to be painterly and full of light and shade.  More when more's done.

The chaos of what passes as my computing work space where I plan new pieces from the pc screen, print off photographs etc...

My real-space work space.  Work in progress.  Many many works in progress...

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Monochrome airbush

I began this piece as a pen and ink drawing. The photo I was working from was full of swimming light and shade, and I was struggling how to represent this and the cluster of snowdrops nestling behind the iron fence. Almost out of desperation, and some restlessness I'd been feeling recently about my work, I had cut a very simple stencil out of greaseproof paper and dug out the airbrush I bought almost 2 years ago now. My first attempts at depressing the trigger resulted in a blot of jet black ink (I used black Acrylic ink for the tone in this drawing). Luckily I wasn't aiming the airbrush at the drawing, and managed to make a more subtle stream of ink through the stencil. I found the effect interesting, and began to experiment with several new pieces.

I had combined two photographs and made a quick drawing from them.  From this I made a tracing and cut a very simple stencil.  I masked out the area which would roughly form twigs and leaves with masking fluid and made my first airbrush impression.  I made a second tracing and cut another stencil for the darker areas of the tree images.  I liked the image so far, but have stalled a little here as I'm afraid of ruining what I've done by going forward too hastily.  I actually began a second version of this piece, which I will post about later.

This new way of working is actually much slower than my usual method, which is more instinctive and driven by a need (almost) to cover paper with marks.  I do more thinking between working on the images themselves.  Write myself lists in sketchbooks and on post-its. 

You can never have too many post-it notes...

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Airbrush Experiments

I've been experimenting with other ways of making art, of putting marks on paper, of introducing colour into my work. I love making my pen and ink drawings, but I need to stretch myself in other directions. I've been experimenting with an airbrush I purchased 2 years ago now, and hadn't got round to using yet. My first experiment was with a black and white pen and ink drawing which was dying on its feet. I'll post that image later. What I'm posting here is a later experiment. It's based on a failed pen and ink drawing I made earlier this year. I really wasn't happy with that. But something made me begin this new experiment. I began by making a quick sketch on tracing paper. Then I made a tracing of that. I cut my first stencil from that tracing and applied some acrylic ink with the airbrush. I masked out some areas using masking fluid then I made a second tracing, cut a second stencil and applied a second layer of ink with the airbrush. I then made the mistake of applying pen and ink to the foreground and hated it. So I painted this out with gouache and made another stencil and sprayed ink, then another, and another 'til I got this.

I carried on with a few more layers of watercolor, coloured pencil, gouache and stencil applied acrylic ink and I'm at this stage...

I'm working on several pieces at once instead of working intensely at one pen and ink piece. I need to do this as I'm scared to death I'm going to make the wrong decision. I need more thinking time. Here's another piece I've been working on. It began as a straight pen and ink drawing, but I started messing about with colour, layering stencil applied pigment, watercolour, ink and coloured pencil. Here's where I'm at with this piece.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

RBSA Open All Media - Spring 2013

This drawing is more about my efforts to continue working at my art than it is any real aesthetic achievement.  G says 'keeping your eye in' and I don't really like that phrase because there's more than just an eye (or even 2) involved in creating a piece of visual art.  This one is about 30% visual, 10% ambition, 5% design and 55% will power.  (Think that adds up just) 

Today me and Mum took the train to Birmingham then the wind chased walk to the RBSA's gallery in the St Paul's area of Birmingham's jewellery quarter.  My drawing 'Blossom and Wire' is very lucky to have scrounged a place on the wall of this sunny gallery.  There is some very fine work on display at this year's Spring Open All Media.  There is much variety, from abstract painting to beautifully realised stone sculpture, there are artists books, a lovely concertina sketchbook, some beautiful textiles and textile sculpture, gorgeous painting in various media and some superbly accomplished drawings in media ranging from delicate graphite to an print from a drawing made on an ipad.  My drawing, not my best I am aware, is very lucky to share this space.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Cranberry Sauce

No words today, just progress.  And an old cranberry sauce jar full of ink and water.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Through my glasses blurrily

Progress on 3 Red Trees.  It's small enough to fit on my scanner, which is smaller than I usually work.  Partly because of this I've had problems seeing my work today.  I'm short sighted so I have to get close to my work to progress with it.  Converseley I'm mid 40's now and I have Presbyopia developing - so although I want to get close to my work I have to take my specs off to see it clearly.  Without my specs I have to virtually have my nose against the paper, which isn't the most comfortable position to be in for long.

I'm considering ways of getting round this problem.  I don't want to go varifocal (it's bad enough having one frame around the world, splitting that frame in 2 again would be just unbearable).  On a more positive day I'm sure I'll think my way through it.  Just wait for that more positive day then I suppose.

I'm enjoying listening to the Cazalets on R4.  Such a sensitively acted piece, the sort of thing radio drama does beautifully.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

3 seems to be the number

On Sunday morning G kindly took a few photo's of me to put on my website. I shy away from this kind of thing generally, but I think I need something to show who I am as well as what I do, to personalise the site a bit more. Anyway, this one makes me look like a chipmunk, but the others were worse, believe me! My favourites are the ones that don't show my face, or only show part of it. They're probably the ones that I'll use.

Work in progress - 'Three Red Trees' - I want to experiment more with combining color and black lines in my drawings. This one is just small (I'm actually using an old table mat for a drawing board).

The drawing below is another 'momento mori' type drawing - blossom and rushing water, which I realise is quite Japanese - a haiku of an image. Just beginings at the moment - not sure if I'll develop either really.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

I always seem to be rushing things these days.  So for me these drawings I'm making of fenced in spaces have real psychological and emotional significance.  I'm also interested in making more blossom beside running water drawings, for similar reasons.  

I have no patience when I'm photographing my artwork by the way.  I REALLY rush things then, hence these mediocre results.

I'm having this drawing professionally framed by Creative Framing. They framed a drawing I exhibited at the RBSA last year. I'm collecting it tomorrow, and looking forward to seeing the result. 

In the meantime I'm trying to update my website. I had a scare at the beginning of this year as some unscrupulous individual hacked into my coding and inserted something nasty my browser didn't like! Luckily I keep a copy of my website so I took down the entire site and uploaded my own clean pages and that seemed to do the trick. 

But haven't these people anything better to do with their time?


Thursday, 31 January 2013


I'm amazed that it's been almost a year since my last post.  This doesn't mean I've not been working, I have, but I've been trying to conserve my energy and time for my work. 

Since last April I've completed just a few pieces, and exhibited in several opens.

I've been experimenting with colour lately, using coloured acrylic inks in my dip pens, as well as a coloured pencil and watercolour.  Here are a few of my on-going experiments.