I’ve just taken time to catch up on what everybody else has had to say and it is genuinely reassuring to recognise similar patterns of emotions in all of us.  The last time I felt so exhausted was when I foolishly undertook a week’s blacksmithing course.  Then it was sheer physical fatigue; this week it has been sleep deprivation and hyperventilation that have qualified me to join the living dead.  Thankfully, today has marked the onset of normality: supermarket shop, a quick read of the Indy arts section, leisurely walk with the dogs, pondering what I’ll make next…relief!

I managed to get my Opus book finished.  I wish I’d had a little more time but I really don’t think it suffered much.  I still want to make a foldout insert for the back of the book about an allegorical poem, The Vision of Canon Ripley.  It’s all about a toad who eats too many grapes and explodes.  (The computer wants me to refer to the toad as ‘which’ but I won’t.)  That’s this weekend’s job.  The real trial of endurance was printing off my research dossier.  It was such a huge file because of all the images that I eventually had to programme each page individually, even though I was double-sided printing.  I only realised what the problem was after literally hours of feeding the printer, which continually told me my paper was incorrectly loaded.  At one point my lovely new printer nearly made it’s way through the study door to printer eternity.  As the day progressed and the usual landmarks of Sunday came and went without my participation I was face to face with the Churchillian black dog, I can tell you.  When eventually I did resolve it (relief and fizz all round), my darling M pointed out that the last full stop on the final page had shifted – *** it, that’s how it stays.

So, we were assessed on all but our Final Show yesterday.  It’s a strange feeling to be coming to the end of such a long commitment.  One of my fellow part-timers said today that he felt it was ‘a relief’.  I said ‘what a shame, I’ve really enjoyed it’, adopting those limp platitudes one does on such occasions but I HAVE.  I’ve loved it, not every minute but overall I know it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Enough of the emotion.  Tuesday sees the beginning of show preparation.  I’m thrilled with my space.  I finally managed to track down my electrician who’d forgotten he was meeting me – he does a lot of hairdressing salons so I hope I’ve chosen the right chap!  His remit is to flood the space with light without shining directly on the paintings (because they have varying glossy areas and direct light will distort the colour and texture).  He went away muttering that he’d be in touch with ideas and I’m a little concerned, to be honest…  That’s probably the next problem but who knows; I still have the ceiling to contend with, not to mention hanging the monster, Quintessence, or even getting them all to Burlam Rd.  M is eventing again on Sunday so Monday is Vernon’s valet-day.  Vernon is the horsebox – we called him that because the friends we bought him from described him as ‘looking like something out of Heartbeat‘.  They’re right.  Well, here’s to Vernon and next week!


It’s going to be a quickie today – I’m absolutely exhausted. I’ve wrestled all day with my computer – I’m meant to be an artist for goodness’ sake! My research dossier has taken me 4 days, my kid-skin has only just arrived for my book and everything must be ready for assessment next Thurs. Shut down time. Speak again on Friday. 


It’s been a strange old week, one of those that seems to stretch back forever when you try and recall it but has flashed by while you lived it. That’s probably because I’ve been hunched over the computer for a greater part of it, working and printing the images for my book. I’ve just finished them but it has been a taxing process; computers and I share a natural antagonism – it always seems to take so much longer than anticipated to sort things out, not helped by my fairly rudimentary skills in Photoshop. Anyway, they’re done and now all I need to do is bind the book once I’ve sourced some leather and taken delivery of some photographic details of my paintings. All nice and easy…

I’ve also taken on the duty of VIP/Press invitations for our degree show. We have 2 private views, one press etc., one friends and family. The reason that prompted me to add even more to my workload was my connection with our main fundraiser, the art auction held under the auspices of R’s firm last March. If I hadn’t done so much work for that, I’d be all done and dusted by now. It raised just short of £4000, 1/3 of which we donated to charity, so was pretty successful. I was a little disappointed with the turnout on the night and have made notes for future reference but, along with other funds raised, we should have enough for our needs. Anyway, I want to make sure that all those who supported us get VIP invitations, the donors, the purchasers and the hosts so tomorrow’s job is mailing lists.

The degree show starts on June 7th, so after mailing lists, completing the book, collating and compiling a research dossier and generally finishing everything off for assessment on the 25th, it’s down to the nitty gritty of getting our spaces sorted out. I have bagged the gable end of the mezzanine floor, probably the only space suitable for a set of large paintings so I’m very fortunate that no-one else needed it. I think my main problem will be concealing the crumbling ceiling plaster – I don’t think I dare touch it in case it falls off! I’ve booked the electrician both for me and my fellow part-timers who are exhibiting in our ‘hut’, now euphemistically named the ‘outdoor studio’. It’s a shame I’m not with them but the ceilings are just too low in there for my largest painting so I’m mixed in with the full-timers – strange after such a long time together.

It will seem even stranger when all this pressure is off. After 6 years, I’ll probably drown in the free time. We’ve had a couple of talks on MA courses available locally – one Fine Art and one Curatorial Practice. I don’t know what I was expecting but I must confess to being more than a little surprised at their content. Perhaps our course is one that is unusual in its emphasis on both contextual/work links and independence of development, which is why the two courses described so far appear to be less challenging than I expected. I’ll just have to do some more research, I suppose.

Oh, yes, if anyone actually IS reading this, you’ll be glad to know that football is off the menu from now on – unless of course the management search gets very exciting. I can’t say that many Boro fans mourn the loss of Mr. McClaren, with one publicised exception he and they did not make happy bedfellows. Good luck to England, they’ll need it.


I’m writing this on Sunday evening.  R and M are off with the horse, eventing at Ivesley (apparently she’s doing very well) while I’m slowly demolishing a delicious bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc; I can recommend it highly.  It’s not the only thing I’ve been doing but it’s probably the more pleasurable.  I’ve finished off the images I need for my book, finalised my NLP (Negotiated Learning Plan), sorted out my Professional Practice folder and now I’m writing this.  An untypical Sunday, I can assure you but then most of my days are becoming un- or even a- typical.  Oh, and I’ve listened to the football.

At the beginning of these entries I mentioned the deluge at Burlam Rd.  Burlam Rd. is the CCAD site for Fine Art and, in the last few years, Photography.  It’s a Victorian warren, crumbling from neglect because the college would ideally like to remove to one central site (there are 2 others at Green Lane down the road and Hartlepool).  Rumour has it that not only was it once an institution for bad boys but that it’s also haunted.  But, as I said to one of our external examiners who asked how we coped with the idiosyncrasies of the site, you don’t notice it after a while: it becomes the norm and you get quite fond of it.  So when we were told not to come in because of flooding, M and I nearly hit the nail on the head when guessing the reason for the flood.  We got the blocked sink but not the faulty boiler – it flooded for 24 hours, down 3 floors, ruining the 3rd year studios and particularly the printroom on the ground floor.  Any printmakers out there will wince because our printing facilities are out of action until October at the earliest.  The best and only alternative is Northern Print at North Shields, a fabulous set up on the fish quay but a good hour plus journey away.  My mate S who’s a brilliant printmaker very kindly offered me the use of her own press but, again, any printmaker out there will know it’s not that simple.  So how do I make my book?

The answer is by trawling the depths of my creative ingenuity by using monotype and monoprint techniques from the dark past.   I think printmakers are the most dedicated form of artist.  To observe a print artist examining every mark, tone and registration is enough to scare the daylights out of most normal people.  That’s why printmaking will always be an ‘also ran’ in my portfolio; I just do not have the temperament.  My workshop this week has been littered with monoprints that haven’t worked, one of the reasons I was so fed up last week.  But eureka!  I’ve finished now and it’s the serendipity that wins through in the end – that’s the secret of printmaking, the mistakes can be better than the plan.  Well, I say I’ve finished but I only have images that I’m happy to use.  The next challenge is adapting them digitally – oh joy…

Anyway, I’m free from the trip to the Netherlands at least which will save me some time (J’s tutor kindly re-arranged his oral, lucky boy). The whole town is buzzing with Eindhoven excitement; I don’t think Middlesbrough has ever had such exposure or such empathy.  Fingers crossed…..


There were three deer in our front field as we drove home from the Riverside last Thursday night, their eyes reflecting red and gold in the headlights.  This spring has seen an explosion of wildlife in our garden and fields, probably because our old Spaniel and her feline predator-companion both left us for the great hunting ground in the sky a few months ago.  Not that the land around our home has been short of wildlife, it’s just that now we’re awash.  The moorhen on the pond sunbathes on the grass in full view.  The heron doesn’t even twitch when the car horn is sounded and only begrudgingly flies 20 yards down the field if you chase him, silently adopting a stare out with his human hosts.  Hares are meant to be rare, well not here; they are finding our new fences a challenge but are hell-bent on overcoming them as their little pals the partridges waddle, penguin like, up and down the drive.  The wagtails are back along with all the birds I just cannot identify.  As for pheasants, well they know they’re safe from the guns and have decided to stake land claims.

My garden used to be my creative outlet.  To the untutored eye, it is still lovely to observe but to me it is neglected and stagnating, in desperate need of creative attention.  Farmers and gardeners are the closest observers of the natural cycle that so informs my work; the earth is coming to life again after its long sleep and it is simply wonderful. 

Speaking of coming to life again, I presume Lazarus did die eventually but, not being a biblical scholar, I don’t know if or where the Bible records the fact.  The Lazarus that is MFC, however, is alive and literally kicking its way to the UEFA Cup Final in Eindhoven.  Poor J has a German oral scheduled for the day after, so unless his tutor is sympathetic enough to re-arrange it, it looks like yours truly will be visiting the Low Lands to keep R company!  Well, it’s better than watching The Bill…(local knowledge necessary…).

Exams have started here.  Notwithstanding that it is Bank Holiday Monday, M has her last Art exam this afternoon.  She’s a day girl at a boarding school and in common with many such schools, the May Bank Holiday is too inconvenient to observe so soon after Easter.  From my point of view, suddenly there’s so little time to get so much sorted out.  We have our pre-show assessment on the 25th, which, in some people’s perception, is three weeks but to me it’s a maximum of 12 days if I’m lucky.  I’ve been told by experienced hands that feeling fed up is par for the course at this stage and, boy, am I fed up.  At least I’ve finished my paintings which is some comfort but I have only just started on Opus, the artist’s book to accompany them.  I suppose it is an indulgent ‘extra’ but having branched out in the book direction last year and found it so rewarding, I really wanted to include a book in my show work.  So I only have myself to blame for extra pressure.

Last ‘blog’ I described Quintessence, the pivot of the 3 degree show paintings.  It encapsulates the transition from base matter to perfection in terms of colour sequence.  The 2 accompanying pieces are based on 2 of the transitional phases; the first, Aurora Consurgens, from black through red to white; the second, Cauda Pavonis, the multiple colours or ‘peacock’s tail’ that emerge before true whiteness.  I won’t analyse here in any depth the range of ideas that inform these paintings but just provide a perfunctory explanation of sorts.  Aurora Consurgens takes its name from a mystical, spiritual text attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, written on his deathbed.  In common with a number of great minds in history, he was profoundly interested in alchemy and in the text allegorises the attainment of perfect wisdom (Sophia) with the eponymous rising dawn; black to white, ignorance to wisdom.  Cauda Pavonis, to my mind is an allegory of the spectrum from which white light emerges.  Once again, Sir Isaac Newton was an alchemist.  As I also mentioned last week, their numerical composition is not coincidental either.  Paracelsus defined the Philosopher’s Stone as being comprised numerically out of 1 (the prima materia), 2 (the two-fold nature of mercury), 3 (the principles of all things, i.e. body/soul/spirit), 4 (the elements) and 5 (quintessence). Quintessence represents numbers 4, 5 and 1; Cauda Pavonis, 3; Aurora Consurgens 2. 

So there you go.  Just be grateful that I’m too fed up to go into the symbolism of May Day and how contemporary culture assimilates the festivals of the past in its own guise…..