Halfway through… to what?

I am through to that place of flatness again, have begun working with the ideas and some may well work, but the buzz has quietened to a hum. But I remember that I like hums.

I collect ten leaves from the town and take ten pebbles from the beach. The sea is marvellous, grey with white tops and full of life.

Life seems to be the theme for this residency.

Book of the week: Art and Fear – Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland was written in 1993.

On page 1 they write: ‘making art is difficult‘. On page 2 they advise: ‘making the work you want to make means finding nourishment within the work itself,’ and on page 10: ‘art is all about starting again’ This chimes with my experience as I struggle with the ideas and how to bend them, make them speak.

For me the first stage of making art is about pushing from the comfortable known into the uncomfortable unknown, harder than it sounds. I have to push, shove, wheedle (in dictionary it says this term may be from the German wedeln to wag one’s tail), trick and bribe myself to move outside my usual channels. But when I do, I have a warm feeling inside like a woolly jumper in my stomach. Is this the same for others I wonder?

The second stage is finding a way to look sideways at something, so that it opens or widens my eyes. That’s the kind of art I like to see too.



I selected readings on silence and solitude for the Artist Retreat Day I am running at St. George’s Arts, Esher, this Wednesday. Noticed the importance of nature to artists and writers. Simplicity.

Went down to the sea to collect some water. The sun was out, the wind was blowing, the sea was lively. I trampled over the shingle banks and down to the water’s edge. Watched the waves sweep in and out for a few minutes. As the sea washed out I went forward with my bottle. The sea whooshed back and covered my feet up to the ankles. I managed to scoop up half a bottle of Hastings seawater including a single pebble. Spent the afternoon back at my desk with wet feet. Art is fun.

Today’s quote: “Artists are people who have developed their seeing muscles by constant, disciplined use.” Corita Kent – Learning by Heart.

Halfway through the residency. I am through the worst fog and into working with the ideas that arose. Did the discipline of regular time in a studio help? Have the weekly exercises made a difference?

Drew ten leaves.



Drew a stem of at least ten leaves.

Drew another hen helmet. Started to make a pattern from an old white sheet, pinning and checking, rather floppy, will be different in felt. Tried to get a rough sense of the shapes and I will cut out a sample in felt at home. When I visited the Henry Moore Foundation last week (well worth a visit: www.henry-moore.org), I found out about his series of helmet heads that he made in the 1950s and 1960s. He explained that these sculptures were about vulnerability and protection and he often had a figure inside.

I went up in the East Hill Lift this morning with my turf and took some photographs. Looking from up there gives a different point of view – changes your perspective. Hastings was laid out below, idyllic in the sunshine, the tide out and sandy beach exposed. I will look up Cornelia Parker and her Edge of England pieces.

Need to look at Hiller and Beuys as I collect my water samples and research bottles and think about display.

Word plays – practice how to film this, try out stills. I think about live, alive, leaf and this space that has no natural light and so it is not a place where you can grow anything. I continued to read The Gift by Lewis Hyde and picked out this quote from Flannery O’Connor: ‘The eye sees what it has been given to see by concrete circumstances, and the imagination reproduces what, by some related gift, it is able to make live.’



Drew ten leaves.

Thought about up and down and below and underground. About life and living and not living.

On this third day I began to feel under, low, slow, lethargic. I remembered a similar feeling when I did a residency in an underground gallery in Hastings three years ago.

Later from this low point and a sense of stoppedness, ideas began to arise, to come up, ideas about up and down, ups and downs, hills and lowlands. And the East Hill Lift. Rather peculiar. Especially as I had been thinking about roots and growth. Makes me think of Freud and the Interpretation of Dreams, puns and the many meanings of words.

Played about on my beloved blackboards, rubbing out and rewriting. Another idea comes up. Out of nothing, something can come. I have to learn yet again to ‘trust the process’. To trust the inner workings of the brain, the mind, the whatever it is inside us/outside us. If you wait and play with an openness then new ways to take the world/our surroundings can arrive. I can be mixed up, even feel devoid of any useful thoughts and from the confusion, the emptiness, the empty mess, something slightly different can come/become. I can take a sideways swipe at making something of the swirling mess inside myself and outside in the world.

READING: And then equally surprising, appropriate, peculiar as I dip into The Gift by Lewis Hyde I find:

An essential portion of any artist’s labour is not creation so much as invocation. Part of the work cannot be made, it must be received; and we cannot have this gift except, perhaps, by supplication, by courting, by creating within ourselves that ‘begging bowl’ to which the gift is drawn.


The imagination is not subject to the will of the artist.

see this review of the book: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-gift-by-lewis-hyde-424028.html

Now I have to make these ideas work.



EXERCISE: draw ten leaves.

THOREAU: ‘An honest man [and woman] has hardly need to count more than his [her] ten fingers, or in extreme cases he[she] may add his [her] ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity, let your affairs be as two and three… keep your accounts on your thumb nail.’ WALDEN

ROOTS – I shine a strawberry root, a leek with its roots onto the wall and draw them. Something grows into this barren underground place.

RADICAL – can these 10 days be a time for delving to the root and coming up different, stretched, expanded. Radical political, economic and social changes are taking place presently – I find them disturbing, distressing. They seem ungrounded. I see grounds for drastic turnabouts but in radically different directions.

I turn to Jeanette Winterson and I am calmed:

‘I like to live slowly. Modern life is too fast for me… One of the casualties of progress is peace and quiet.’

‘Art is large and it enlarges you and me. To a shrunk-up world its vistas are shocking. Art is the burning bush that both shelters and make visible our profounder longings. Through it we see ourselves in metaphor. Art is metaphor. Metaphor is transformation”.