Monday, 28 December 2009

After Schiele - bodies

"....the urge to look is interconnected with the mechanisms of disgust and allure." From Schiele by Grange Books.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Christmas dress

Lounging on the sofa, having flicked through a book on Egon Schiele. Two more drawings followed which I have yet to paint in.

Friday, 4 December 2009

All I want for Christmas is.....

..... postcards, for my Tate Modern eternal calender, please. The pack came with lots of postcards to use, including some on the back of the months and numbers (there's a funny story about that which I'll tell another day). But they're not all my cup of tea. I already have a postcard from Gesa of her own artwork (bottom left in the calender) which is very special to me.
So I'd love more cards to use in the New Year. I'll put the address in the comments.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Lunchtime doodle

Last week I was making lunch, and sliced a tomato through horizontally. The centre core looked like some kind of muscular organ, and the seeds appeared alien for some reason. It was as though I'd discovered a hidden universe. I drew it in pencil, and ate it. Later that day I went over my sketch in a permanent fineliner, and played around with watercolour. I didn't like the background I'd painted in, so I cut it out instead. Interesting.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Inner critic,

negative spirit,

be quiet!

You're a pest,

and I have bested you.

I see you for what you are;

an attention-seeking, jealous, spiteful sprite.

I will listen to my well-wishers,

who bless me with kisses

and hugs and warmth.



Off with you now.

Monday, 23 November 2009

On the first day of Christmas...

This is a snuggly creature I've made for my nephew Tom. He doesn't read my blog, so I'm safe showing it here. My son slept with it last night, and my daughter will have it tonight. Then it'll get wrapped up safely, with air holes of course so it doesn't suffocate, ready for Christmas morning.
My son has christened it 'Harry'. Amazing what you can do with an old t-shirt and other various bits of fabric and yarn.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

When the glue dries I will mute and darken the background and map in the rest of my body and hair.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Making progress

This is going well. I switched to cool colours, a grey-lilac, a lemon yellow and an ice blue, and stopped trying to paint my nose, looking instead at shapes of colour and tone. As always, that method worked better than trying to paint my nose. I'm not worried about my left cheek at the moment as I think I want to work on the background next, and my neck and shoulders, before I faff on correcting jawlines etc. Maybe collage for the background? I may make a collage on a separate sheet then cut out my 'bust' and lay it over. That would stop the background laying heavy over the head. Suggestions please anyone?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Previous stages

I have found my earlier posts - looks like I started this in July 2008. I think I used a soft water-soluble pencil to start with. I got into a rut with it, so I scribbled over the part I didn't like. Then I started again in the corner with acrylics, thinking it would make an interesting mixed-media project. But, again, I ran out of steam. So I covered the bottom left corner with a scrap of brown paper (not shown) and left it for a while. That's where I picked it up yesterday, working in soft pastels. I'm off to do a bit more work on the pastel work now, and I'll let you know how I get on.

If in doubt....

Self Portraits are my default position. I have lost count of how many I've done just since I started this blog, let alone in my lifetime, but if you click on the 'self portrait' label at the bottom of this post it'll give you some idea.
This is a piece I started over a year ago, and yesterday I worked on the bottom-left corner in soft pastels. I only used a golden yellow, a greenish blue (peacock almost), a dark pinky-red and a creamy white.
It's still wrong - the nose it too wide, and just wrong with the shading of the bulge looking like a second set of nostrils, and the chin ends too low down. But I like the open mouth, the expression it adds.
I want to keep the top-right as pencil and not work over it, but I'm not dure how to move from colour back into black and white. Conte crayon would work, but that's a 'safe' medium for me. Oooh, maybe collage. But I need to correct the pastel area before I'll feel happy to move on.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Artists & Illustrators Magazine

Last month an article of mine was published in A&I. It's a magazine that my dad subscribed to some years ago, and he got me a subscription as a birthday gift a couple of years ago, which I've continued ever since.
A&I magazine is full of works by all kinds of working artists, and hobbying artists, and budding artists. I used to have it in my head that the only artists around were Rolf Harris, Maggi Hambling, Tracey Emin, Damien Hurst and Lucian Freud.
But here's where some of them are featured, and they're a pretty human bunch.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Bones and buttocks

Just looking at images of these forms brings back such strong memories of my making them. Some artists talk about being lost in the moment of making, an altered state of consciousness. I have painted and drawn, and looked at the piece when I was finished wondering if I had actually made it - meaning I have no memory of being there, that I was so lost in the making that I'd forgotten myself. Making these pieces was somehow different - I felt a heightened sense of being there, being totally there and totally consumed by my actions and feelings. This may be getting too arty-farty for some of you. But I am interested in the action of making, the need I feel to make, the itch I have when I'm not making, the sometimes all-consuming sensations while I am making.

These images again are different views of one piece, about 4" tall. These sizes are guesstimates.

Saturday, 17 October 2009


These are all views of one form. As I was making these objects I was handling them in my hands, as opposed to carving them sat at a table. I was aware all the time of how they looked and felt from all angles. They evolved, as I'd form a curve I liked, then move the clay round until another interconnecting shape felt right, that 'worked'.
I've never created something out of nothing before, I always paint or draw, from life, or from other images. But I love these little figures that have come out of my imagination. In fact, while making them it was more like I was making them from memory. This is about 6" tall.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Venus of Roker

Only this wasn't made in Roker, it was made at my sister's studio in Poynton. It was intended to be a 'Venus' though, in as much as I was playing around with making small forms in clay, loosely based on male and female body parts; bellys, belly-buttons, breasts, bottoms, curves in the lower back, necks and shoulders. This is one of about a dozen I made over three days, roughly 7" tall and, as yet, is unfired.
I'm visiting Melanie again soon, and I hope I'll be able to get them all fired, and think about what finished surface this should have.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Through blogging I have made many friends like Gesa, Vivien, and Chris. Casey Klahn is another person who has mentored me over the last couple of years. He is an award winning artist based in Washington State, USA, and he has honoured my by featuring my sunflowers on one of his blogs, Pastel.
In the mean time I have been getting on with painting the rosehips I gathered on Monday, and re-organising my studio space. It's becoming a place I like to retreat to, and I'm managing to grab what time I can in between all the other demands on my time. For example, last night I did 40 minutes painting straight after the school run, and painted the two top-left rosehips shown here. Then, after cooking tea and dropping my two kids off at Karate practice, I had another 45 minutes to add the bottom-right rosehip, and fix and re-position a book case in the studio. During which I listened to a recording of Mendelssohn's Elijah. Stirring stuff.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

a poem by Fernando Pessoa

To be great, be whole: don't exaggerate
Or leave out any part of you.
Be complete in each thing. Put all you are
Into the least of your acts.
So too in each lake, with it's lofty life,
The whole moon shines.

14 February 1933. Translated from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith

Monday, 28 September 2009


rosehips 1 We have been scouring the local hedgerows for fruit to put in our hedgerow jam. These hips from Dog-Roses just cried out to be painted. So now my studio has a pile of cuttings in the sink and is crawling with small spiders.
rosehips 2

rosehips 3

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Taming the rose

I decided to see if I could loose the overall scribblyness of my previous paintings yet still keep the rose lively. I love the structure I've managed to capture, but I think this rose lacks umph. Back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

More time in the studio

I'm having a great time finding I can use grey and purple to get deep shadows within the creamy rose petals. The neutral grey-green ground is a fantastic foil for the subtly warm whites. I only bought the roses because sunflowers are at the end of their season, and I was looking for something to paint to continue the flower theme. There are some deep crimson roses yet to come. Unfortunately the florist didn't know the names of either variety, which was a shame.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Ivory white roses

A second outlet has been found for my sunflowers. so that's all seven of them up for sale. A huge thank you to my sister Mel who's been doing lots of running around getting my work accepted and mounted ready for sale.
So today I spent some time clearing space to actually work in my studio, instead of it just being used to store art materials, while I find a place to work elsewhere in the house. ivory rose #2 ivory rose #1
ivory rose #3And here are the fruits of the labour that followed; three roses of the pale variety.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Karl de Vroomen

I visited Newcastle Upon Tyne today to see the Newcastle University Master of Visual Arts show at the Hatton Gallery. I have to admit that I was not grabbed by any of the work there, much to my disappointment, with one exception. The exception being Karl de Vroomen. His work was mighty and majestic. Very simple and strong and quite compelling. I especially loved Old Oak. His statement for the show was;

"The imagery for my paintings comes either from personal memory or is chosen in order to articulate a universal concern. On all occasions I am inspired by man's fractious relationship with the natural world. These paintings are borne out of a mixture of anxiety, hope and love of paint."

I hope to visit the Newcastle Gateshead Arts Fair in October, and I'm drawing up an art calender so that I don't miss out on future exhibitions in the North East.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

My work is now for sale

My wonderful sister Melanie has found an outlet for our work. A gallery/cafe in Poynton, Cheshire is exhibiting six of my sunflowers and eight of Melanie's still lifes. This is a very exciting time. We drank champagne last night to celebrate, and this feels like the beginning of something. It took me nearly 30 years to get to this point, and it's taken Mel about 3 weeks of intensive tutoring from me. I've taught her all I know, and it only took 3 weeks........
Melanie and I have had an absolute ball this last month, living our art every waking hour, and even dreaming about it too. You know how intense and all-consuming it can be when it's this good. Now we're taking bets on who gets the first sale.
Time to say thank you to you guys; you have been my mentors and peers these last two years. I am so honoured to have found you, and that you've stuck with me.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Sunflower #1

Soft pastels on a dark brown gound.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Oak Tree studies I, II and III

charcoal on cartridge paper

pastel on cartridge paperpastel on ingres paper

Abstract studies

Expressive shapes
Variations in shape
Geometric shapes
Working from Rolina van Vliet's Painting Abstracts; ideas, projects and techniques.
I was excited when I found this book, and it was amazing to find myself considering the each piece as a whole from very early on, ie how the shapes are relating to each other, choosing and adjusting colours quite critically. All this was amazing, considering I didn't have a goal in sight for any of these pieces.
I don't think that any of these deserve hanging space, and yet, more so that when I was doing the still life exercises, I feel like I'm learning in great leaps about composition, rhythm, variation in scale, and colour relationships.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Life studies

Working in charcoal on A2 paper, these backlit figures suggested shades of gray, rather than line drawings, so in I plunged.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Exercise 5 - blending

The teacher is wrong. He advises painting in the pears, then adding the background. But he's wrong. Also, after I'd done some fine blending in shades of green and yellow, I decided that it was all to tame, so I livened it up with some impasto in reads and blues. Then I worked over that with the yellow again.
The background was a flat grey, so I made it purple, to zing against the green, then worked over in a chilly blue to send it all backwards again.
At some point I stopped looking at the pears and just looked at the painting to see if it was all working as a piece, and I think that's when I made leaps. I am very, very happy with this piece.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Exercise 4 - Impasto

Why did I paint a cantaloupe? Because the watermelon was too heavy for the hand basket. The texture was hard to capture, and I'm much happier with the pomegranate.

Impasto was great. I found it hard to lay on the pastel thick enough first time, due to my lack of certainty about the final placement of colours. But I enjoyed going over it all with a thicker layer, slightly adjusting the shapes as I went. I wish I'd used stronger under painting to build up a depth or red and green to work over. I will definitely use this approach on future subjects.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Exercise 3 - Linear technique

At last I get into the swing of pastel painting, then I get a tummy bug (for the third time in a couple of weeks) which puts the kibosh on getting anything done for a while. Plus we're off to the in-laws caravan for the weekend (illness permitting) so, though I may get some sketching done, I'll not be working on these exercises til next week at least.

So here's last night's offering. I didn't think there were legs on this technique but now I'm not so sure. Maybe it's a good way to play around with mixing colours before committing. I found the nectarine difficult, the apple was quite easy, and the orange was a trial but I think I conquered it.

After work yesterday I went into Newcastle and stocked up on pastel paper, hard pastels, and fixative. I also chose two boxes for pastels, as I'd cracked the Ferrero Rocher box I used to use. Actually, the unfinished wood would take well to pyrography. That's a project for another month, me thinks. Don't the pastels look amazing in this box. They cry out to be picked up and used.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Exercise 2 - colour

This was harder than I expected. but I enjoyed looking at the reflected colour in the fruit - the orange light cast onto the lime, the yellow of the lemon reflected back on the orange. I'm also surprised at how much reflected light there is underneath from the table top.
I didn't like the background he suggested of random cross-hatched marks, so I ended up using my trademark squiggle to fill in the blanks. I think it works here because the fruit are so solid.
This time I was stood at the kitchen window in late afternoon, so no messing around with bedside lams on kitchen units. But the light is fading, so the next one may be by candlelight.

Exercise 1 - underpainting

Here's the finished exercise. It was meant to be done all in hard pastels, with a view to learning how to create the tonal structure to paint over in soft pastels. But I only have a limited number of hard pastels. I feel a shopping trip to Details in Newcastle coming on.
I enjoyed working this way - it sounded similar in some ways to the tonal underpainting Mel did in acrylic glazes over grisaille.
Anyway, I didn't expect to enjoy this, I thought it'd be a chore. but I'm looking forward to getting home after work & getting my teeth into the next exercise.
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