Do we start new things in January because we imagine its a clean slate, a step into a new position or is it because we have had time to reflect? Each year I look forward to what the other day, my friend so aptly described as perineum time, that is the space between Christmas and New Year. In this space ideas and possibilities stride about in my head, my attention tries to discern the shape and quality of these lovely new things. Sometimes the new things take form and seep into reality, but too often they dematerialize, undone by doubt, poor attention and frittered time. My intention in starting a blog is to notice.

I will blog weekly keeping to around 200 words – achievable and concise. I want to document what I’m doing , thinking and experiencing, where my work is going, where its been and what it did when it was there. As well as my creative practice I need to write about my teaching. Imagine a creativity see-saw with teaching at one end and personal practice at the other, inseparable, but conflicting, to often one end is grounded whilst the other is suspended mid-air. Play needs to be restored.


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Today finds me on a train between Milan and Basel having spent a week in Padua looking – looking at frescos, looking at paintings, looking at architecture and cake shop windows. I now feel saturated by religious art and delighted by Italian buns.

I saw so much religious art that I began to find it genuinely moving, not everything of course, but I felt better able to feel the anguish and devotion depicted. This was helped of course by so much of the work still being in situ and therefore seen in the context of pilgrims, Mass and serious devotion, in fact it made me feel quite nostalgic, two months in Padua and I would return to the devout Catholicism of my youth. It helped me glimpse something that I’d like to achieve in my own work, but seeing so many paintings, all theoretically aiming to genuinely move the viewer, I can now comprehend how truly difficult that is to achieve. Many paintings may illustrate the Passion of Christ, but precious few can move the unbeliever to tears. But what brings about the difference? Is it the skill of the artist or maybe their piety? Or is it entirely down to the eye of the beholder?

I also very much enjoyed a collection of paintings in the Museum of Popular Devotion, these gems  I think were intended to commend the souls of the unfortunate departed to the care of Saint Anthony. However what they show is a catalogue of ways to die in Padua painted from the 1850s to the 1950s, examples include falling from balconies, being cut in two by trains, road accidents involving horses, carriages and cars, smoking in a shed where fireworks are stored and being struck by lightening whilst hoeing. Great was my joy.


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I’ve previously suggested to my students that they think of the process of picture making as a conversation between themselves and the work. This week I’ve continued to labour over various versions of my preparing for pears image, that is, me lifting turf while unnoticed either side of me an angel explains to Dad that the reason I am digging up yet more of his lovely lawn, is to plant espaliered pears. Alas rather than a fluent discourse occurring, it’s felt more like a series of awkward silences interspersed with clumsy attempts to search for common ground.

I haven’t yet done the monotypes I considered last week, the image still needed further exploring and still does. I have though, been trying Pastelmat paper which despite my current dysfunctional relationship with my drawing was a joy to work on. And I finished lifting all the turf for the pears. Perhaps now I’ve done that, if it isn’t to late I could turn an apple tree pruning image.


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Just over a week ago I was at the Royal Drawing School for two days with fellow ODDY students enjoying their real life company immersed in playful collaborative drawing. Back home I m having a crisis of confidence and stress. It’s the usual combination of time available / production of work / framing time and cost, that looms before an exhibition. Theoretically I have work I could show already, but I want to show drawings that say something specific about my thoughts, ideas and concerns. Unfortunately the confidence/stress pact undermines every mark I put on the page and makes me question my thinking to the point where I can start wondering if even my ideas are valid.

Moving away from the spiral of negative collapse, I have this week, put up panels of Sundealer board in my studio, something I’d been planning to do since I started using the space at the beginning of last year. It’s good to be able to efficiently display all that work I’m despairing of.

Therefore as I look up from my desk I can see two monotypes that I was excited by when I made them and I’m still excited by now, so tomorrow when I have studio time I will endeavour to do some more.


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My year with the Royal Drawing School is both finished and unfinished, scheduled class commitments sit behind me, commitments to my own practice in front. Immediately ahead lie two in-house drawing days meeting most of the ODDY cohort in person for the first time and then a group exhibition in March. But also ahead I hope, is the continuation and enrichment of our group into a mutually supportive entity with its part played in all our future practice. 

The course imposed a discipline that on non wage earning days saw me in my studio daily from 10 – 5 and thinking about being in there, at all the other times! In the final term I began to long for time to develop a multitude of arising ideas and now I have it, or at least, I have it as much as I ever will. Participation in the ODDY necessitated a collaborative structure (isn’t that what partly attracts artists to courses?) the blocking out of hours and days for playing and thinking and doing. Post ODDY, the beginning of 2024 finds me assembling a new structure dedicated to giving those ideas life and still playing, thinking and doing.


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It’s almost the end of the spring term, and the end of the first term of the RDS ODDY. I’m absolutely ready for a break and I’m trying to desist from filling the forthcoming holiday with other commitments, commitments that is, which take me away from undirected time with my own work and reflection on the past term.

I feel my work is reassembling into a form again. I feel energised and driven by re-seeing a route to follow that I had started to move along prior to last year, but I’m also wary, a familiar journey is not necessarily a creative one. I need to explore alternative routes and encounter different terrain. Every now and then I get glimpses of where my work could go, like tiny twinkles of light through a dense wood that disappear as I change position, but I’m happy with that, it’s both guiding and unsettling.

I’ve loved being immersed in the ODDY experience, my drawing is feeling more direct and accurate to what I want to say and there’s a feeling of being wound up ready to go. Sometimes I feel as though work could come pouring out, hopefully over Easter it will. 


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