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Seeing Direction

This week I’ve been pushing my head into exhibition mode, planning to avoid an undignified headless chicken flap later on – although with years of practice I like to think that I am now a last minute master.

I visited Carousel in Framlingham with Val, we’re booked for May. It’s a small space hired to artists an craftspeople, there’s an easy hanging system and a good window, the best thing I’ve seen there was an automaton, which I seem to remember had a combined theme of teaching and decapitation. I like Fram, it has a couple of good cafes, a castle and Ed Sheehan, we came away enthused.

Yesterday was spent looking through paintings, drawings and prints and making decisions. This year I’m participating in a number of shows and I’d planned on a show of narrative work, a show of my Postcard Project and another of woodcuts. When I sorted through the work I saw I was looking at something else quite different, indeed, I didn’t even get the postcard work out for consideration. I’ve known what direction I wanted my work to travel in for some time, but only yesterday did I see it was on it’s way. 


Like everyone else my current thoughts are continually pulled back to the nightmare that Ukraine has become. Compassion, horror and outrage for the Ukrainians and those who have found welcome in Ukraine has created a thought structure in my head through which everything else must pass for me to know its importance and context.

This week I’ve been using the work of John and Paul Nash with my students. my plan was that they should find inspiration in  the geographic familiarity of John’s landscapes – I’m teaching about 20 miles away from Wormingford – and something more surreal and cerebral from Paul. The overview of their work presented by the library books I took into class obviously included their war work too and I couldn’t help but realise that I was seeing these images as if for the first time. A student bought in a Tate catalogue of Aftermath, an exhibition of artists’ responses to experiences of the First World War and as I flicked through looking at different images, I could feel a compassion for the people I was seeing I hadn’t properly felt before and a different understanding too of the artists making the work.

It’s impossible to know at this moment what changes this will bring to my own work, there is only a sense of certainty that there’s mo going back.


The week that’s just gone was half term here, I always think I’m going to get a lot done in the holidays and then mentally berate myself when I haven’t. I see big blocks of time and conjure them full of art making and imagine all the finished work I will have made by the end of the week. It never works like that – I set the day aside for painting or printmaking, that is creating things which will be finished, exhibit-able things (wherein lies the problem), but its the holiday, I have more time, I take a little longer to do my usual tasks then go to my workroom and decide I’ll make a cup of tea, I’ve made the tea and then remember I didn’t put the dates in my diary from yesterday’s email, I open my inbox…. a day of productive activity becomes a day of petty distractions.

The two problems I have here are failing to remind myself that actually I work better in little chunks of time, but more importantly how I prioritise different sorts of art activity. Because I have exhibitions approaching I’ve convinced myself that every moment must be spent on making work that can go on walls. But achieving quality or at the very least some sense of satisfactory completeness within my work can only come from time spent playing, daydreaming and trying.


I printed the second layer of my woodcut this weekend. The first layer a dusty rose was to be followed by a strong Kelly green with some parts of the block inked in red. At some point between printing proofs, resolving my misaligned registration and mixing some fresh ink – almost a year – I’d changed my mind, I didn’t notice until I reached for the ink. The result is much more satisfying. Formerly I’d always used the reduction block method to layer up colours, but having multiple blocks gives the option for play. This particular print started out as a paper house printed from a single block, hence the later registration issues, it may yet become a paper house again, but before it does I’ll print it in more colours just because I can and I’ll notice the changes.

I think the coming back to a piece of work after along time works for me, like solutions to yesterday’s quandaries becoming apparent on waking. On one hand I like this, a relationship with a piece of work unfolds into something I hadn’t expected as though its coming from somewhere in me that knows me, but I’m only just getting to know it.


This week other commitments have kept me away from my studio space, but I have updated my website. I need to put up images of my current work and take down some of the old projects, but I’m putting this off, I find it difficult to take good photographs, if the weather were better, I’d take my work outside and use daylight, if I do that at the moment I’ll be having an impromptu show across my neighbours’ gardens.

I’m using common themes across my teaching at the moment. Usually as term progresses each group develops it’s own identity and diverse needs, but I’m structuring each week around a list of artists chosen by my Wednesday afternoon students. The exception being the painting class, many of whom transferred from a couple of long established watercolour classes when their tutors retired. With this group I’m on a campaign to stop them copying and encourage them to use their own voice. I think this is often the challenge with new students; trying to move them away from predetermined ideas and convincing them that making their experience of life into art is valuable and exciting.