Thursday, 9 December 2010

Drawing to a close.

This has been really strange year for me, since starting a new job back in March I've been slowly paying off debts and struggling to remain creative. I think Blue Tree is the only thing I've done this year that I really feel pleased with, since starting working full time that is. I've certainly not achieved anything near the quality of PW PW 2001, which was the last thing I completed before starting working full-time.

I'm trying to finish off a few pieces at the moment. First, my most recent piece in progress, which I'm calling Long Winter for the time being.

Then 1947 Ford, which I'm not entirely pleased with. It started off well, but there are more things that I don't like about it than those I do. I've tried to diffuse the pink coloured pencil by adding a little yellow and splattering it with more white gouache. I do like the textural effects of gouache layered over pen and ink and gesso. The coloured pencil goes with this combination better than I had expected.

And here's something I dug out last week, it's a drawing of snowdrops which I abandoned earlier this year. I like the juxtaposition of ink and gouache and the softening effect of the Ingres paper it's worked on. Maybe I'll try and finish this too, but I don't know if I'll do it before New Year's Eve.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Lost camera, Open All Media...

Work in progress. I've had to scan my drawing (or a part of it) because I've lost my camera!

And on the reverse of my current work in progress is this abandoned one.
Last week I had a drawing accepted for the RBSA's Open All Media exhibition. It's the last drawing I made right at the begining of this year, before I began working full time, and it's the last good thing I've done. I exhibited it earlier this year at Worcester, it's called PW PW 2001.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

1947 Ford

I'm having all kinds of problems with my computer lately, so I'm tending to avoid it. Lest I go around breaking windows with flying PCs.

I've got to try and finish this today...

Out of frustration I've layered some red and white coloured pencil on top of the pen and the gesso I'd painted the paper with. The gesso is mixed witih gouache and acrylic paint, and it's not such a comfortable surface to work on with the dip pen as I'd hoped.

I popped into the only art shop I can walk to during my lunchbreak from work on Tuesday - High Town Art Shop in Chapel Ash. I bought a couple of nibs and my own stock is quickly diminishing. The lady in the shop told me that they were still manufactured by a company local to where I live, they're based in Oldbury. Birmingham used to famously produce steel pen nibs years ago, the Museum and art gallery have a huge display of pen nibs from one of the old firms there and I believe there is (or used to be) a pen museum. But it's good to know that these nibs are still being produced. Don't know what I'd do without them.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Black and white to colour

More progress on my new drawing, which I think I'm going to call 1947 Ford.

I'm playing around with a colour version too, this is the start of it.

My working title is 'long golden'.

I've been trying out ideas for colour work in my sketchbooks, I've an idea of calling this one Golden Stretch, or something like that. The foreground tree has the presence of a figure for me, which is something that happens quite a lot with my tree drawings.

Both of the colour works are pure colour pencil, using Coloursoft and the wonderful Luminance.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Two out of five...

Yesterday was bookended between 2 visits to the opticians, an early morning contact len check and a late afternoon eye test. My contact lenses have been blurry for some time, and now it turns out that the slight astigmatism in my right eye needs correcting. Also to help bring the close vision into focus my optician weakened my prescription so the distances are no longer crystal clear, but I stand a better chance of reading my own palm in dim light. Oh yes, and it turns out I'm also allergic to my new contact lens fluid. For the past few months my palms have resembled lunar landscapes all crusty and cracked. Hopefully have all that sorted soon.

I had a real shock today when I went to buy some of my favourite perfume. Smell really locks into emotion for me, especially the emotion of memory. There was a programme on Radio 4 about this recently, how even smells you can't name connect with memories, mostly childhood memories, so they reckon. But I feel that I'm constantly laying down these memory recall points, kind of like the way your PC makes reference points to roll back to if you have a problem. Givernchy's Very Irrisistable (a present from Mum a few years ago) gives me a good wintry feeling, luxurious and cool. I didn't realise it was so expensive though! Nearly £30 a squirt! Think I'll have to wait for Christmas again to access all those happy feelings.

Blue trees just feel so right to me at the moment. I've got to find a way of making a presentable image of one. I'm enjoying experimentnig with textured grounds, layering colour and texture (mainly gesso and white gouache) on top of each other. I'm not certain how to bring it all to fuition though.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Dreadful photographs...

For which I apologise. I will attempt to do better in future.

I slashed the watercolour paper with white gouache before begining my drawing and splattered the paper with diluted gouache. I'm torn between making this a black and white or a colour composition, I've made preliminary sketches for both.

I've also begun another long drawing, another graffiti tree. This one's from a photograph I took earlier this year at Clent. The trees have quite a confrontational, soldierly look, the foreground tree wearing its graffiti like battle scars.

I slashed the paper with gold acrylic then dragged gesso over it. I'm interested in ways of making texture at the moment, though as I mixed acrylic with the gesso it doesn't make a particularly nice ground for the pen and ink to work on.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Benthall Edge Woods

I don't know why, but despite the glories of autumn I'm drawn to turning the usual world of colour upside down at the moment, blue trees for instance...

...unstable trees especially, trees that are teetering, or appearing to teeter, drunkenly off the edge of the picture...maybe the tree has become a substitute figure for me, a human figure that is. And walking through a wood is like entering a fairytale world in which everyone has become instantly inanimate.

Of course woods aren't inanimate places at all, they are places of sometimes ravishing, often subtle beauty, noisy and quiet at the same time. Today G and I have visited Benthall Edge Woods, near Ironbridge. Country Living listed them amongst their roll call of idyllic autumn woods recently. They were truly magical and, luckily for us, G and I had them almost entirely to ourselves.

I love standing beneath a canopy of trees this time of year and just listening to the leaves and seeds dropping to earth, a bird's wing fluttering, or the crack of a twig as some unseen animal moves in the undergrowth. It's the very opposite of the kind of empty sensory overload you get in a town centre, this is sensory bliss, gradually as you stand there a whole world of sound, smells and sights come alive around you. You feel both insignificant and blessed. For me it's like being a child again. Both exciting and a comfort.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Little Shop

When I went to pick up the drawing I had included in August's Wolverhampton Open exhibition, Belinda, one of the organisers of the exhibition and one of the artists involved in The White Tree Studios, asked me if I would like to put some of my work in her 'little shop', an empty shop in Farmer's Fold, Wolverhampton. It's a real cornucopia of art with lots of styles and approaches on offer, though a little chaotic and bohemian looking at the moment. It's very much an artist's gallery, where as well as keeping shop when she can, Belinda is busy working on her own work.

Co-incidentally I just discovered that Belinda also exhibited at the Worcester 2010 Open at the Pitt Studio. Small world.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Waxing eloquent

The drawing board I'm using for my blue tree is actually the top of an old coffee table that collapsed a few weeks ago. It's very heavy, and the rounded corners aren't practical (it wouldn't sit still for me when I photographed it, hence the wobble in focus) but as I'm short of boards for new pieces I'm not complaining.

I would really like to begin several pieces and work on them side by side, but I've not got the space to do this. In fact, for such a huge place this world seems to offer less and less space in which to manouvre, I've lost so many pen nibs lately by sweeping them onto the carpet. They bounce and come up with crooked Concord noses. Which is annoying as these fine pen nibs are really difficult to come by.

On Saturday G and I went to Westonbirt, a wonderful place this time of year. Autumn is an annual 'event' and you're rarely alone with the trees, except if, like us, you linger 'til the very end (well as near to it as light allows). There was a lovely moment beneath a canopy of softly yellowing leaves listening to the pine needles and seeds dropping into the mulch around our feet. We were being watched of course, by an absent minded squirrel. Wonder if he'll remember where he's hidden his treasure?

I came back with treasure of my own, including this curious seed case, which was bright red when I found it on the ground. I think it came from a magnolia tree, which was aflame with these peculiar things, held upright like candles which gradually split apart to allow hard orange berries to peer through, like so many alien eyes.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

True blue electric blue

I don't know why but my blue tree seems quite edible to me. Maybe it's because the white speckles make me think of icing sugar...

...yes, if I could eat this picture it would taste very sweet and have a crisp, slightly greasy surface, dusted with icing sugar like an expensive French pastry.

I've been playing around with ideas for more colour work...

My use of colour here is purely instinctive, maybe a little emotional. But there's nothing intellectual about it at all.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Aristocratic Trees

Here's another attempt at using colour with my pen and ink work. I think it's coming on better than my last attempt, which I'm considering filing in little pieces in the recycle bin.

I don't know why but I'm compelled to make blue trees at the moment. Almost ice trees. Well I do know, or at least I analysed my own impulse - I think it's to do with wanting to thaw this creative hiatus I'm stranded in at the moment. The will is still there, but there's so much interference - both my own and external forces.

Or the blue tree is like a rare vein, like those in an Elizabethan portrait, a rare blue vein of freedom.

And here's something I picked up from a few weeks ago. A tangle of colour that I'm not too displeased with.

Friday, 24 September 2010

If at first you don't succeed...

...keep waving.

I'm perserving with this drawing even though I'm cringing at the results. Well, parts of it I quite like, and if I could isolate those parts and magically transform them into semi-abstract landscapes I might have something I could live with, but as a whole...'s a bit sixth formish I think.

Trying not to feel too downhearted though. The trouble is my lack of time. Time is one of the many ingredients (blessings, you could say) that separates the hobbyist from the professional as much as financial payment. Though the latter would be nice as well.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

One brief cry of thunder... what we've just had about 20 minutes ago. No more than that. It's a humid day, lovely earlier but now slightly sufforcating and grey.

But today has been my first glimpse of freedom since returning from a holiday in Scotland on Saturday. I've been suffering a cold since, but feel a lot better since today I've been able to work on my artwork, which is this...

...a second attempt at a composition I tried out last year. Last year's effort was in pure coloured pencil, a medium I obsess over, though never perservere enough with to produce more than junior scribbles. This time I'm attempting to mix it up with pen and ink. I'm semi-liking progress so far. But tommorow it's back to work and I'll no doubt be exhausted when I get home in the evening and I'll ruin it.

Pessimism, you see, is the mother of all achievement. At least for me it's always been that way.

Friday, 6 August 2010


Since my disappointment at being rejected for the RA Summer Show back in June I haven't entered my artwork in another open. As I'm not producing much lately I feel a little unmotivated. But I did see the Wolverhampton Open advertised during a series of exhibitions in a disused shop in the Mander Centre, Wolverhampton, an innovative idea and a varied show. The Wolverhampton Open is being organised by White Tree Studios at Chapel Ash. The piece I'm exhibiting is the piece rejected by the RA. Which gives me a little comfort, at least.

I wish I was escaping in that Jeep! A photograph I took on the island of Kerrera where G and I had a lovely day walking in September 2005. As I remember it there was only 1 loo on the island, so will power came in very handy!

Sunday, 1 August 2010


It's becoming ever difficult to keep up my creative work while working full-time, work on polishing my novel ground to a halt back in March and my artwork is a bare trickle. I began a new drawing about 6 weeks ago and this is as far as I've gotten with it.

My problems of concentration and motivation (and exhaustion) are so difficult to overcome at the moment that I've turned the drawing upside down and am drawing the foliage in this topsy turvy fashion in an attempt to, I don't know, spark SOMETHING.

At least I managed to produce a sunflower from the seeds I planted back in March. I mistakenly bought the giant variety instead of the dwarf kind, and then read that these aren't suitable for container planting. I started off with about 10 plants, and these have dwindled down to 6 (4 eaten away 2 mysteriously snapped in two overnight), 4 of which show signs of blooming. This one is beautiful though, thankfully.

Sunday, 6 June 2010


I'm extremely pleased to have 2 mixed media pieces accepted for this years's Prize Exhibition at the RBSA. The 2 pieces I've had accepted are Still Much To Offer and Chocolate Tree, which I'd fretted and frowned over through April. I seem to spend most of my life fretting and frowning over something. Here's my current face creasing exercise.

Although I use a daylight lamp most of the time, in the evenings I've been taking my work into my bedroom which gets the full evening sunlight. I open my window and try to concentrate on the birdsong rather than the incessant traffic noise, booming car stereos, shouting kids and general suburban mess. I'm enjoying watching my plants grow too; mint and tomato seedlings on my windowsill at present. Occassionally I'll pinch the leaves of the mint for a burst of uplifting zinginess (that reminds me of my childhood, instant transportation) or the pungent scent of the baby tomato plant leaves.

Thursday, 20 May 2010


I'm working on a few things at the moment, here's a little detail from a small (smaller than A4) piece...

But I've been concentrating most of my energies on this new much larger piece. It's about the same height as the piece I exhibited at Gas Hall recently, but not so wide. So it's about A1 near enough in length. Here's where I'd got to at the begining of this week...

I made a few pencil sketches of this piece before I began it, and I despaired at its beginings, as it doesn't fit as comfortably as I'd wanted into the format of the page. I wanted to give the impression of a column of energy, starting with the roots of the parasite clinging onto the base of the tree, and crawling up the trunk...

...or maybe it could be draining into the ground, draining the energy of the tree. Depends on whether the glass is half full or empty I suppose.

There's a really gorgeous Nick Drake song called Parasite. For some reason I associate his intricate moody music with my drawings. That music is so English. When I hear the quick, delicate guitar phrasings I can smell the rain on the soil, hear it prickle the leaves and see the light filtering through the branches. Trees are brilliant chemists without knowing it. But then knowing a thing I think is sometimes overrated. You can be a thing without knowing it, in fact knowing what you are can often be totally detrimental. To be without knowing. Sounds like a kind of bliss to me.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Worcester Open 2010 - Part Two

When I'm out visiting exhibitions (or shopping, or anything really) I'm a lot like Philip Larkin's character in Church Going. I'm nervy about going in somewhere where I'm going to get pounced on (I was actually asked if I needed help in Argos looking at their catalogue the other day! I think not...). I don't know if I'd have had the courage to visit the 2 smaller venues of the Worcester Open if I hadn't been driven by self-interest. If it had been in a huge cavernous space, or a smaller one with not a soul about (apart from the audience), I would have definitely stayed longer, absorbed more, instead of having my usual out of the body experience of extreme self-consciousness.

On the other hand, I would not have had chance to meet Nathaniel Pitt, organiser of this year's exhibition. Apart from being very kind about my drawing, which is exhibited in the small but light and sunny Pitt Studio, he made some very interesting comments about the presentation of my work which I will very much take on board. He asked me how I choose the frames for my work, and commented that a frame should be almost invisible, that the work should be the main feature not the frame. I understand entirely the point Nathaniel was making and am very grateful for his opinion. I actually dread framing my work, partly because my decision is almost always affected by financial constraints, or by the simple geographical (and temporal) constraints of my not being able to drive! So when I'm frame buying I'm generally tied to the bus route, or to begging favours of G to drive me somewhere to look for a frame. It would be nice to be able to hand my work over to someone else to frame for me, I wish I could.

Nathaniel's own work currently invoves performance art. He told me how each of the 4 Worcester based artists at the Pitt artist-led project space are taking it in turns to direct a project, and the Worcester Open this year was his own project. Next year's project sounded very interesting too, I really look forward to seeing it.

One final word about the website of the show, which is beautifully presented and extensive. I only found this by accident while Googling links for this site, and I've enjoyed looking at leisure at images from the show. There's a nice feature for participating artists to add a comment or a statement beneath their piece, which I'd have certainly have done earlier if I'd known it was there! Maybe an e-mail to participating artists from the webmaster inviting them to do this would have been useful.

Please go and see this exhibition if you've time, it has so much to offer. It runs until 26 June, check either the website or the Art Gallery for specific opening times of all 3 venues.