Here I am after 11 days of this project and I am running up against a problem. It’s not the problem of lack of discipline: with a history of success in two year-long serial art projects in the bag I’m unlikely to falter or forget. It’s not the problem of lack of ideas: quite the reverse I’m overflowing with ideas already. It’s the problem of the rules! I have said I will “create a fresh artwork from scratch each day for a year” and that I see it as “distributed art”, one piece of work owned by many individuals over time and space. That makes it a conceptual project which the audience is taking on trust: people are willing to accept that my act of posting an image of the day’s piece on Instagram and Twitter before the end of the day equates to evidence that I produced it that day. People I have talked to about this have said I should not take things so seriously and to stop making difficulties for myself. Most people seem to just be enjoying it in a light-hearted way, but I need to make it clear to myself and anyone interested that, for the project to be a success, there have to be rules that I abide by and success can only be achieved by measurement against those rules! So, the problem I have is what do I mean by “from scratch”?

The mere fact that I have started the project is enough for my brain to generate all sorts of ideas for it. I am also doing other work and have in the past done work in the area of “Black Squares” so I cannot avoid whatever I do in #BlackSquares365 being influenced by all that. I am not aiming to create a new, unique idea each day only a new, unique artwork each day. I am more interested in developing themes and refining ideas rather than being completely different each day. So I may end up doing runs and series of pieces, but they will be made freshly within the 24 hours of each day. So for clarity here are some of my thoughts about the rules:

  • My aim is to have no plan in advance what any day’s piece might be be, but that doesn’t stop me being able to look at my sketchbooks or notes and using an idea from there or even something I steal from others.
  • If I create more than one piece to the format in a day I cannot use the spares for some day in the future (though I could use the unused piece as collage material for future pieces)
  • I am allowed to cut paper to size in advance and make collage material in advance.
  • My aim is to create work of good quality and integrity. I will not allow a “that’ll do” attitude. I will continue to make work until I am satisfied that the result is of a quality I would be happy to spend money on framing and put on my own walls.
  • If I make prints they will be the product of a single day – but I may use surplus prints as as collage material or overprint on later dates.
  • If the piece is a photograph it will be taken on that day but I can use it in future days as collage material or as elements within a  digital work.

That probably covers it for now, but I would welcome any thoughts or challenges to this.

I have included a gallery of the pieces up to yesterday


I am not intending to post every piece I make in the #BlackSquares365 project on this blog on a daily basis. I will reserve that for Twitter and Instagram. Eventually, I hope I will be able to document it all on my website and possibly a site of its own where people will be able to safely buy on line. As for posting on a-n, I’ll aim to only post every week or two with an update unless I have some interesting thoughts or meet interesting challenges.

As the project is new I will probably post a little more often to give some background . Today I thought I would mention the piece I made a couple of days ago. This piece is my take on where it all started. The oldest image of a black square as a complete subject in itself that I have found is an illustration in Robert Fludd’s “Utriusque Cosmi Maioris” from 1617. That engraving is a  depiction of the nigredo in alchemy and, at the same time, the chaos of unformed matter at the start of God’s creation. A conversation on Twitter about it a few years back reconnected me to the work I did on alchemy more than 40 years ago and spawned my last series of #BlackSquares work. Black squares have often make fleeting appearances in my work in the few years since the series I showed in “Black Lines, Black Squares & Black Magic” at Black Swan Arts, Frome, towards the end of 2015. Until recently it has been a flirting, but my interest in re-engaging with 3D work has rekindled a passion to explore the idea in myriad ways. I studied sculpture and printmaking at college and much of my degree show work was rooted in alchemy and my final year thesis was about alchemy too. It’s fascinating to me that the subject keeps nagging at me. A few years ago I heard David Nash give advice to young artists to the effect that they should make a note of every idea they have and that he was still working out ideas he had first started as a young man. I guess that’s what has happened to me. David Nash was one of my visiting lecturers at college.


Yesterday I launched a new personal project, #BlackSquares365. Each and every day for the next year I will create a small artwork from scratch and post it on Instagram and Twitter before the end of the day. Each piece is available directly from me for a bargain £40 including worldwide postage* (email me for details – hopefully soon I will be able to create a safe online way to buy them).

I’m calling it “distributed art”: lots of people can own an individual, unique piece of art and at the same time hold a share of one larger artwork spread across time and space; no one person will own it all, nobody will ever see it in its entirety!

The idea that it’s a work that is deconstructed and scattered to the four corners of the globe (hopefully) fits the themes of erasure, redaction, forensics, geology and landscape that run through much of what I make. Little traces of #BlackSquares365 will be lodged far and wide: the dispersion making it harder for it to ever be completely destroyed.

Selling small pieces at a price within the reach of ordinary people appeals to my democratic sensibilities. I see it as a bit of an antidote to the high-end art market where art is a trading commodity: works of art gain prices that have little to do with the level of pleasure or intellectual stimulation they engender becoming, instead, conceptual currency notes. In that world only wealthy individuals and institutions can own large works but anyone can buy into #BlackSquares365 and get their own small piece that is itself a part of the much bigger community-owned art project.

Each piece will be 8” (20cm) square and will be signed on the reverse with date and number stamps and a brief description of the materials used. Despite the much-reduced price each will be made with the same quality materials that I use normally, such as artist’s paints and acid-free professional papers and will be made with the same care and attention as any of my work. I will use a simple quality control measure throughout which is that only work I personally would be happy to frame and have on my own walls at home is acceptable. Talking of framing, 8” x 8” will fit into standard off-the-shelf frame available from Scandinavian lifestyle superstores and other outlets (though it always pays to have things professionally framed. I will not be giving titles to anything (the prices would have to rise enormously!) If you fancy the idea of reserving a piece made on a special day that’s fine. I would expect full payment with the order. You can rest assured that I won’t let you down – I have completed two year-long projects like this before – but in the unlikely event that I gave up or was prevented from continuing I would fully refund your money.

So why Black Squares as a subject? Well that is a long story which I will weave in and out of further posts, but those who know my previous Black Squares work will know that “black is not the only colour” and “other geometric plane figures are available”!

*I can only afford to post work at the most basic postal rate and cannot be responsible for any taxes or customs duty when posting to other countries. If you require a faster or more secure delivery I am happy to arrange at cost.