Watching the Imagine programme on Tracey Emin this week… love or hate her work… there’s no denying the power and importance of it, of her.
She has been, and still is, brave and brazen, outspoken and outrageous. I find her compelling to watch… I relate… and then I don’t. Maybe to open yourself to the world you need to have been in a position where things can’t get much worse?

I lead a comparatively comfortable and privileged life. I’m hidden in my work: scared to lose that privilege. So I’m not brazen. I’m cowardly and conceal my confession. No confessional box, no priest, no robes, no blessing, no divine forgiveness and no penance… except the self inflicted.

My combing over the thoughts in my head… like Emin, reliving, re-evaluating childhood and the life up-to-now… and again like Emin, previously on the fabric, but now… returning to drawing… we are a similar age. These things are translated into what happens on the paper. But only I know the codes. Only I know what makes these marks.

I think…

I do hope though that on some level, someone will see them as not just marks, that they say something.
To me they are more than the marks. That’s why I keep making them.

Whether I one day reveal, remains to be seen. Maybe when I’m 80 and have nothing to lose?


I’ve been writing a lot in my sketch book lately, but not necessarily the sort of writing fora public consumption. Don’t get excited… that’s mostly because it’s boring.

As part of the preparatory work for the Study Days and Course I am delivering with Sarah Goudie I am trying to get myself “match fit” if you like to call it that… I can’t think of another phrase that puts it so succinctly!

So I am exploring through my writing the whys and wherefores of drawing from my own personal perspective. I have hung the drawings up in our studio’s ever improving gallery space (keep an eye out, exhibition soon!). And then I look and try to cast my mind back to where these strange and mythical beasts have come from. I’m calling them strange and mythical beasts, but they’re really not.

These drawings have grown from me and my life as naturally as a buddleia on the roof of a derelict pub. They are the portraits of long lost interactions with long lost lives and experiences. They are as familiar to me as my children. But, like my grown up children they still have the power to surprise me (Panama? Really? When? WHEN???!!!??)

So the content of the writing is not interesting to anyone but me, and of course some of it is deeply personal, as it should be when digging deep, but the reasons for doing it are ok to put out there…here…

It is important for me when asking others to dig deep and find out about their own creativity and where it might live, to know what happens when you do that. when I do that… Sarah and I have experience of these activities, and digging deep can be exposing, it can make one feel vulnerable for a while… it can reveal things to oneself that a part of the brain has kept hidden, probably for good reason. These study days can have a profound effect sometimes. Sometimes that happens on the day, sometimes a few months later. What I have found through doing it myself is that we are never really that far from ourselves. I don’t want this to sound like some ageing hippy nonsense, because I am not that sort of person. But I am the sort of person that likes my interactions to be real… whether that is with other people, or with myself.



This post follows on from comments here and elsewhere, about self-hijacking, and rule breaking.

Sometimes we set ourselves up to fail.

We hijack our own progress by setting limits and rules:

“I’m going to write in my blog once a day/week/month”… in my brain rules like this are always doomed to failure because they become aligned with work, duty, obligation… I’ve never had much of a work ethic. I shirk responsibility wherever possible. I write when I feel like it. Sometimes this is twice a day. Sometimes two months goes by. But if I write and post you can be assured it is not out of duty, but interest, because I want to say something.

I have looked at when I blog, and more interestingly when I don’t. I don’t blog if I’m waiting, or in some sort of limbo… in a changing state. Unless it is a brief post to say just that – a sort of “Out of Office” post?


Sometimes we set ourselves up to succeed.

I do set rules for the way I work with others. These might be professional ways of engagement rules which I have discovered I break at my peril. I have seen others around me crumble too under the weight of the unprofessional “Lets just do it, it’ll be fine/great/amazing… this time next year we will be millionaires!” Because in my experience, unless you establish professional rules of engagement, and expectation, of who is doing what, and how payment (if any) happens, it ends in resentment, unkindness, and murderous levels of sarcasm. It does not end in people working to their best. Failure happens through a failure to set up how we care for each other, and ourselves. Self defeating.


I set the rules for my making too. I work to them. Then I look behind me to find I have broken them and something interesting has occurred!

I’m sure I’ve laid out such rules here. I remember some of them.

The 8B pencil. The flat layout of drawing like botanical specimens. No colour. Limited colour. No colour again. The 6H pencil. Watercolour paper. Not watercolour paper… and now again the watercolour. I set the boundaries and keep going. Prolific amounts of drawing and painting.

Each material throws up a new set of qualities, and therefore a different set of boundaries and possibilities. For example, I have been working on the large roll of paper, developing a sort of narrative across it. Then I made the decision to cut the paper, limit my colour choice to alizarin crimson for one piece. It worked well. I ran out of paint, so for the next couple I used single colours. This naturally drained my stock of particular colours, so off I went to buy new. I bought a few tubes of high quality watercolour paint. I loved the Payne’s grey. And the Indian red. And then I used the yellow ochre. I was initially annoyed that it didn’t work like the others. Of course it didn’t. In a good quality paint with real pigment, the colour isn’t just about colour, it is about a material quality. I am currently in love with yellow ochre. Yellow ochre is rough, and grinds down my pencils like sandpaper when I draw over it. Payne’s grey doesn’t. When I paint Payne’s grey over the ochre it resists… oh my that is exciting. The decisions then about what I draw and where I draw become very complex indeed. And HERE…. RIGHT HERE… is why I am drawing and not stitching at the moment (will I ever go back?)

My work themes for the last ten years, (probably longer than that, but less deliberately perhaps) concern touch. How we touch each other. Physical, emotional, social, intellectual… each person touches another, a reaction happens, explosive, or slow burn, passion, hatred, or as above, murderous sarcasm.

Now I have it in the materials. Yellow ochre has no time for Payne’s grey… shrugs him off… Payne’s grey is gentle on my pencils, allows the 6H to groove across it in a ghostly fashion. The ochre is violent and aggressive… but Indian red does the bleeding… runs hurriedly across the page, making panicky changes in direction under the threat of my hairdryer. Payne’s grey dries in a beautiful naturally occurring fractal patterned manner. So there. Spiteful and sarcastic? Am I really anthropomorphising the paint?

Hell yeah.


Who needs them!?