As I stated on Tuesday I had bought oil paint and now I have made an oil painting.

This has been a desire bubbling around in my belly for a while now. It’s the reason I chose to borrow a watercolour set from my younger sister to be a part of the small pouch of art materials I brought with me to Italy. (The other items being a biro, a pencil, gold leaf, black block printing ink and an ink roller – the latter two items not touched yet).

First I used the watercolours to draw with, inky lines, and then larger blocks of colour, leaning more and more in a painterly direction, mixing it with the thick crayon marks, joyful in my new found use of colour. And now I own oil paints.

A few things instantly struck me. Firstly, I neglected to buy a palette. Secondly, my choices of colour; Pale Cinnabar Green, Light Vermillion, Reddish Naples Yellow, Chrome Yellow and Ultramarine, were perhaps not the.. most practical.

However when I first took my brush to the paper the smooth viscous feel of the paint and the marks that the brush left in the colour delighted me. I became aware of the unfamiliar ability to wipe away a mark or colour; things are less… permanent with oil paint.

My instinct tells me to work quickly, in the same manner of my drawings, where I produce them in a burst of motion and notion. But with painting I am coming to realise that if after a layer of paint has dried, I permit myself to return to the painting to work on it further I will be able to push the medium further. Let’s see how I do with that.

My other problems are practical. I now have to deal with Turpentine. I think it might require a trip to one of the art schools here in Firenze to make use of their turpentine bins. I’m also becoming very aware of the light temperature and intensity where I am painting. Without a natural light I can’t see colours properly, too much light and the wet paint reflects the light also making the painting hard to see. I’ve found tilting the paint at an angle solves the latter problem. This explains to me why painters have an easel; I have made my own makeshift one out of a hairbrush and a pack of playing cards.

As I started my first painting I had this nagging feeling like I was doing something wrong by starting to paint, as if what I’m doing is offensive to painters, that I just don’t have the background reading and understanding of painting history to be allowed to paint*. I thought back to last year and Damien Hirst’s embarrassing ‘No Love Lost, Blue Paintings’ and fretted a was about to make a similar error. (Luckily for me I am an artist at the very beginning of a journey with a far far smaller audience – these are just for you a-n blog readers).

After writing my initial feelings of apprehension after my first painting, I have relaxed into feeling like what I’m doing is ’o.k’, it is ok to want to paint, I have granted myself permission to continue to explore, and enjoy, this new method of image making.

*I am right about one thing though; my knowledge of painting and painters is minimal. I have no images of painting filed in my ‘Inspirations Folder’ so I will gratefully accept any suggestions of painter’s work or theory you think I should be aware of.



Transmutation into Gold.

I always felt a particular affinity for the alchemist; half scientist, half magician, glass bottles, coloured smokes, working away into the night, purification, unification, treading between the myth and the reality.

Last night I created a series of images out of film photographs of Fools Gold I captured at the Specola crystal exhibition. I should very much like to develop these images further through printing.

Thinking about Alchemy inspired me today to get down to the Galileo Museum.

And I’m so very glad I did. It been one of those days that’s just be fantastic inspirational wise, feeling a rush of warm tingly ideas and notions filling my head as I admired and inspected all the archaic scientific instruments. The thermometers were particularly wonderful.

And I bought paint today. Oil paint. And turpentine. Does a painter lurk within me after all?


I have just been catching up with Susan Francis’s blog, ‘Flesh on the Bones of the Belfast Child’ and I came across an entry where she had quoted myself:

…Now if I was to create a representational image I use my camera, I reserve my drawings for notions, suggestion and whispers

Reading back my own words there seemed something mildly fraudulent to them, as over these last few weeks I have been making 100s of observational drawings, and while they as not realistic per se, they certainly dawdle close to representational. Although the majority of the museums in Tuscany do forbid photography so a drawing is only way I have available to record the objects and artifacts that catch my eye, so perhaps not a change in the philosophy of my practice after all. But she asks an important question – ‘why do we draw!

Something else has been on my mind. Every day tourists see me sketching away and keenly lean over my sketchbook expecting to see Di Vinci-esk drawing, most walk away with a look of confusion, and a few have uttered ‘I don’t understand abstract art’. Abstract Art. Am I an Abstract artist? It certainly not a title I’d apply to myself, but I better double-check this. I listened to a 5 hour podcast of the ‘Abstraction Study Day’ that ran at the Tate for some advice.

My conclusion? Well firstly let me say that I write this query in mild jest, as I have little desire the title myself at all. But what did stand out to me in the Tate Talk was the discussion about how the art of non-western cultures, Aboriginal, Navajo, African tribal arts, is not considered Abstract art.

Considering my notions behind my drawings, the ideas of meditation, subconscious narratives, mark making as a ritualistic response to my surroundings, perhaps my drawings are more closely aligned with the work of the cultures I’ve been studying at the Anthropology museum than that of an Abstract artist.

But then again I am not of these cultures, I am an artist working in the 21st century, where the decision to make a non-representational image has a different function.

Ponder ponder..