My flight is at 8.40pm.  I am flying with Cathay Pacific.  I arrive in Hong Kong at 4.20pm on 1st November and then fly with Dragon Air to Xiamen, landing at 6.55pm where Ineke and May will meet me at the airport and take me to my apartment.

These are the things that I know to be true that make me very excited about the trip

  • It will be an incredible experience.
  • You should do these sorts of things because they challenge you, that’s what life is all about.
  • I want to make some ambitious artwork and this kind of experience can only be a good thing to help me do that.
  • Three months isn’t as long as you’d think and I will see Andy even sooner when he comes to visit me 3 weeks before I go home.
  • May and Ineke from CEAC have already been so nice and helpful when we’ve spoken via email.
  • I am resourceful and capable and have made art that I am proud of in the past so there is nothing to say I can’t do that again.

These are the things that have gone through my head even though I know they are not true or mostly very unlikely:

  • I have got my booking wrong, and actually booked flights for Oct 2015 instead.
  • I will either miss my first flight or my connection.  I will be sat in the wrong departure lounge or get the time wrong or something.
  • I will forget something really important like my passport.
  • I will get there and discover that CEAC doesn’t exist and it is all a big hoax.
  • My apartment will be broken into and all my stuff taken.
  • I will not be able to do the research I want to do and then not make any good art and everyone will be disappointed.
  • I won’t make any good art, even if I do get to do the research I want to do and everyone will still be disappointed.
  • I won’t make any friends
  • I won’t be able to understand anything and I’ll be rubbish at Mandarin.
  • I will make loads of art but it will then be destroyed, I’m not sure how, maybe in a fire?
  • When I visit Shanghai I will get lost because I can’t map read in English let alone Mandarin.
  • The cat will die while I am away.
  • I will not be able to cope without seeing the last few episodes of Downton Abbey.

The problem is that the list of silly things that I am worried about is longer, however once I get to  Xiamen I can rule out a few.

One of the reasons I decided to visit China was because of the massive changes that are happening there, in such as short space of time and how this is ultimately having an impact on the landscape in a way that I think will be inconceivable to me as someone living in the UK.  When I became interested in scrap and the impacts of industry, it was always related to the visual effect of that, the way the landscape looks rather than questioning how that relates to people and whether it is ok.

After reading Junkyard Planet by Adam Minter the main points that have stuck with me are:

  • Scrap/waste is caused by people who are able to waste because their income allows it.  This includes an increasing number of people in China.
  • People buy more than they really need because it makes them feel good and shops/ sellers present extra waste (packaging) to people because it is part of the buying experience, which also makes them feel good.
  • If people want to keep buying in this way the manufacturing industry will continue to promote and support those behaviours.
  • Recycling is not the answer.  It causes much more harm than if the waste was not created in the first place.  The recycling processes in countries like China harm people and the environment.
  • The fact that we can recycle actually makes us waste more.  Adam Minter gives the example of two experiments that were described in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of the Consumer Psychology.  This is one of them.  He says “in the first, researchers asked study participants to evaluate a new product – in this case scissors – by cutting up paper in various preordained configurations.    Half of the study participants did the study in the presence of a trash bin and the half did it in the presence of a trash bin and a recycling bin. The results were troubling, those who performed the task in the presence of a recycling bin used twice as much paper as those who could only throw their excess paper in the trash bin.  “this suggests that the addition of a recycling option can lead to increased resource usage,” wrote the authors Jesse Catlin and Yitong Wang.”

The whole thing has made me think more about people and human nature than landscape.  I can’t see myself making paintings that don’t involve landscape.  I think a sense of place makes the viewer feel more grounded and able to understand the painting, but I like the idea that I can say something about my thoughts on this through painting or drawing.

My thoughts are that people need to be presented with an alternative to consuming so they can understand that buying lots of things, or new things for the sake of having something new will not bring lasting happiness.  It is a culture change that is needed.  This is a theory that I have been interested in for a while but it didn’t occur to me until now how closely it can relate to the landscape, especially in a place like China.

It would be interesting to create a list of things you can buy or spend your money on that don’t create waste.  For example digital music rather than CDs and that’s an interesting one for me and Andy because we’re always going on about the value of buying a real CD rather than getting music through iTunes.  Then again, buying an actual CD supports the artist who designed the artwork on the sleeve and that’s a good thing.  I wonder if we didn’t consume so much what it would do to the local and global economy?  I’ll see if I can find out more about that.

Back to Art, I’m not sure if I will paint scrap after all, but that’s the exciting thing about this residency, I’m really not sure what conclusions it will bring to my work, but I do know that am exhibiting with the CEAC from 9th January so by then I will have to produce something.

For Elena Thomas with leaking biro n’ all



I need to spend less time sat in front of the computer so I’m writing this on paper by hand first.  I am not sure it will actually save computer time actually.  I remember my Mum doing this, writing on a plain bit of A4, when she did letters to the Quilling Guild Representatives across the country and then she’d just photocopy the letter and send it out in the post to everyone, because those were the days when you didn’t have email.  It is nicer handwriting it I think.  I could do this and then just take a photo of each page and that could be my blog post, save me typing it all out.  Anyway I won’t do that, of course.

I am going to Xiamen in 7 days.  Today I got together all my favourite artist equipment and materials that I will be bringing with me because they are either small and worth more not to have to buy again in China or they are the things I would like most and won’t do without.  Here’s a list and picture.  Budding artists take note, this is what you need to get your hands on to be a professional artist:

Pencils 3H – 8B

Conte crayons and chalks

Brown pencil crayons

Fluorescent pens

Fine liner pen

Really nice brass pencil sharpener that my friend Anna gave me

Pencil sharpener that holds the sharpening

Retractable rubber, like a pen but a rubber

Perspex cutter

Scalpel (am I allowed to pack one of those in my case?)

2 x etching tools

Graphite powder

Normal rubber

Big graphite stick and nice contraption that you can hold it with

Super glue


I am using my last days before I go to accomplish my final to do list which includes trying to find gadget insurance for my laptop, ipad and camera, that I can use worldwide for more than 90 days.  It seems that every insurer only offers it for exactly 90 days and I will be away for 92 days.  I might just have to risk it for the last 2 days.  I also need to evaluate the work plan I made and see if I can update it maybe with a timeline that will help me make sure I get everything done that I want to get done while I am there.   I am afraid I will have to do some Mandarin cramming on the plane as I’ve just not had time to learn and practice half as much as I wanted to.  In fact there is tonnes of research I wanted to do that I haven’t done as well.  Anyway it will always be an endless list like the endless list of art projects I want to pursue.   I think it is the same for all artists.


1 Comment

I go to China on 31st October.  That is in about 3 weeks, which is not long at all.  I feel like I have lots to do before I go but maybe I am just panicking a bit?  I think actually it’s really not that big a deal going away for 3 months, lots of people go away with work all the time and some people go off travelling for a year with a rucksack and not much else.  The main worry for me is not actually going away and living in another country, I think it is actually the concern that I won’t deliver on the things I set out to do.  What if I make rubbish paintings?  I said this to Markus Soukup (the artist who is exhibiting in my studio’s gallery at the moment) and he said that artists make rubbish artwork all the time, so it would still be ok if that is the case.  I will try and bare that in mind.  I wonder if really experienced high profile artists worry about making work that is no good?  Maybe they are so focussed on their amazing ideas that they don’t really think about it and they have practiced making art for so long that they are confident that they can deliver every time.  It would be nice to feel like that.

If you are in Liverpool in the next couple of weeks you must come and see Markus’s show in Arena. http://arenastudiosandgallery.com/2014/09/19/markus-soukup-exhibits-in-the-arena-gallery-from-10th-october . I really like the exhibition but maybe because it is relevant for me at the moment as it touches on stress (!!).  He’s made a little video which I like a lot.  It just shows very simple moving symbol s and words in black, sort of making patterns as they move about the screen.  It feels like you are being bombarded with meaningless distractions, but actually it is quite therapeutic to watch, almost the opposite of what it should be. Markus’s video is like a minimalist view of the assault of information he feels that he receives on a daily basis, living in London.  For me it emphasises the outcome of this, which is that when you are overloaded with information it becomes meaningless.

Markus is very interested in what people think about his work.  I think that approach is very commendable.  Not only that he is interested but that he actually asks the question and isn’t scared of the answer.  I don’t ask people if they like my work much.  I used to think that it was because I didn’t care too much but then I read a book called ‘The Undervalued Self’  (http://undervaluedself.com) that my sister leant to me and realised I was minimising the importance of what people who see my work think about it.

Sorry digressing as usual, yes China.  I am going to use my time there to consider the landscape and how it is affected by the people who live there, but I will spend more time than I do at the moment considering the bigger picture.  When you are in the UK and you look at the landscape there are few factors to consider compared with a country like China where everything is increased massively in size and number and then in turn, magnified in terms of its global impact.  And the more elements there are to consider, the more confusing it all gets.  The question for me is, when I make a painting in China, do I try to describe that confusing experience I am having or do I try to unpack it and make work that has more of a political value.  Maybe I can do a bit of both.  Nothing is that straightforward.  Maybe I won’t have a confusing experience.  I think I probably will actually.

No pictures this time sorry!  Oh I will add a picture of Markus’s exhibition when I have one.