Visitors and Chronology

These two things might not at first thought be connected, but I found myself considering both today, tied together…

I have started venturing back into the studio. Not just popping in to pick up/drop off materials, but to stay and work and think. I have missed it so much, that alone time. Isn’t it strange that lockdown has made it impossible for some of us introverts to find our own space and time, while seeing others lonely, and craving what we have?

I’ve been working in my sketch book a lot at home. Trying things out, almost mindless, doodling, when other thoughts crash around demanding attention. When I brought the sketchbooks into the studio (4 x A3 size) I started leafing through them. Some pages caught my attention more than others, and I started to wonder why. But inside the books it is really hard to relate from one page to another, from one book to another… so I started to tear them out.

(I smile to myself as I could list about 4 artists I know who would gasp in horror… back to that later…)

I laid them out first of all on the table, in the order I had torn them out, as if assembling another book. At first, respecting the left to right, top to bottom… until I realised that this drummed-in conformation to the chronological wasn’t what I was seeking, it was what I was trying to get rid of! Why do we do this? Paintings hung in museums in “the right order”… books alphabetical, chronological… cds by surname, then chronological, stock rotation? Some of these obviously useful. Some unnecessary. My books are in colour order…

(I smile to myself as the three librarians I know gasp in horror…)

Then I started to group them by materials… nope.

Then by colour… nope.

Then by the motifs I have repeated… nope.

By shuffling these sketchbook works I realised that there are elements that recur, colour palette is fairly narrow, the lines are similar, but there are subtle differences and break-aways that are interesting and worth pursuing, if I can be reminded of them.

Which brings me to my studio walls.

As I sit at my table the busy-ness of the materials and equipment shelving is behind me.


Directly in front of me the recent works…

…and then in the corner a sort of “sale table”hangover from open studios. It occurred to me that I’m not going to be opening my studio for quite some time to the public, and not even for the casual visitor. This changes everything. Why have I got old drawings on the wall? In the hope of selling? When they are clearly no longer the work I am interested in, so why should anyone else be? I don’t want to talk about that work!

So I took them down.

I have now blutacked up the torn out sketchbook pages. I have not attempted to tidy them up. I may well slot them back in to the sketchbooks at some point. But for the moment I can see them. Jumbled up, for me to look at, out of their chronology, in order to make connections and decisions.

It’s so good to be back. And very good to only be considering myself here.

Kettle’s on.

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Too Easy?

And so I carry on thinking…

The question that has lodged itself (thanks Franny) is the one about it feeling too easy.

This is one that has come back over the last ten years or so to haunt me frequently. It is a question about how I value myself and my work. It’s also the judgement I make about other artists’ work. Is it skillful? Have they spent a long time on it? (this might be time spent before the making of the thing itself, but it would show in some way, not be slapdash) Does it look considered, thoughtful?

I am aware these are sometimes seen as “old-fashioned” considerations, but they are mine. We get where we are, and we are who we are because of the lives we have led, the education we have had, the people we meet etc etc…

I feel in regard to my own work, whether it is stitched or drawn, that there should be some meatiness in there. I can stitch decoratively, I have skills, I can draw fairly well too. I can draw from observation so that a thing looks like a thing. But I feel that making without substance, without the meatiness, without the concept and so on… is not professional. I am a professional. I make pretty things, and they are my hobby if you like. Ironically I would probably sell more. There was a period in my life when that is what I did. I made nice things and I sold them. I make nice things now for myself, or I give them away to friends and family out of love, not for money. They are the things I do while I watch tv in the evenings, because I cannot just sit.

But the Art with a capital A I take seriously. (I hope that I don’t take myself too seriously, because that would be very irritating). It is the thing I hold my faith and belief in. It’s how I do my thinking. I owe it. Big time. It has changed my life. So yes, if I feel if it is “too easy”, then I’m not doing it properly. I’m cheating. When that happens, I sit back and think a bit harder about what I’m trying to do.

Does this make sense to anyone else?

Does anyone else feel this way?

Not that that matters. It won’t change the fact of how I feel, it would just be interesting.



On Wednesday, when I posted a link to my previous posts on facebook, Franny posed these questions and I said I would get back to her…

Why do I feel the need to question the work?

I am driven by the ideas, the thoughts about how one thing touches and reacts to another. Specifically I suppose, increasingly these days I’m down with the nitty gritty and how my own body is reacting to the world around me, its capabilities, and incapabilities. What makes life difficult? Or easier? And what makes me forget the body, what absorbs me and distracts me even?

I do have processes and “rules” that I follow. And I move between media and method maybe not seamlessly, but more easily than I used to.

I feel the need to question the work when I feel directionless. If I have played with the process and the rules to the point where I’m no longer achieving something, or even feel I’m getting close, so maybe flabby is the right word? Easy is another… if it is too easy I feel I am degenerating into style over substance, it might look “pretty” but it isn’t feeling strong, doesn’t mean anything much. 

And then, yes, I get bored. It does feel like a dead end and I back up a little, look back at things I’ve done and try to find a different thread to pick at.

If I don’t question the work, or myself in this way, I’m coasting. Not doing my job properly.

I’m not necessarily bothered about projects. When I have got to grips with something I will take a space and have another exhibition, but otherwise I plough on…

Does that answer the questions of questioning Franny?


One thought I had is that it’s all becoming a little more SPECIFIC.

Yes, it probably is still about touch, influence, cause and effect and so on… but the morphing continues.

The morphing of materials and the morphing of thoughts.

Chicken and Egg.

When I look at it honestly this morning I am actually seeing things more figuratively. It’s like a life drawing. It’s like a botanical drawing, a biological diagram. (An engineering drawing?… no… too soft)

It’s a nod to where I was two years ago.

I’m modelling the internal landscape of an ageing body. It’s a map to my creaking joints and disintegrating cartilage. It’s a sort of endoscopic exploration of things going wrong. It’s an expression (or an illustration?) more and more, an investigation on paper of why I feel like I do.

I said, when I started talking about abstraction in the Cause and Effect podcast, that it was allowing me to dig deeper. I thought I meant intellectually, but I’ve never been particularly intellectual, so is it more physical, experiential?

I’m not operating on myself… but I’m imagining what it might look like if I did. I once watched my own carpal tunnel surgery. We are just a bundle of plumbing and electricity.

So am I drawing the imagined schematics? Perhaps I think if I draw the faults and failings I can also engineer the remedied and fixes? Or as if visualising the bone-on-bone action of my knees I can also imagine, draw, and stitch the impossible regrowth of cartilage cushions?

As I look at the wall of drawings on paper, I’m also looking through the cages of wire drawings. supporting, shoring up, tying together, holding still and safe…

There’s something here to do with mending.

Draw the fault, plan the fix, medicate, adapt the appliance…


(Written 07/06/2020)

I’m going to ask a question.

Am I still thinking about the same things or have I been seduced by the methods and materials?

This may be a rhetorical question, or it may be an exploration. I may end up where I started, all fine, or I may set off in a different direction.

But I find I’m at a stage where I have to ask myself the difficult question. It’s the sort of question that could derail everything. But I still feel the need. I’ve felt this coming on for about a month I suppose. It might be a lockdown state of mind thing, and will pass.

My work is changing, so I need to check in with it. It’s physical appearance is changing. So am I still thinking it’s about those same things? It’s always (well for a decade at least) been about the touch of one person on another, influence, effect.

I’m also wondering if the change happened ages ago but I’ve just noticed?

It’s obviously a gradual thing… did it start when I began drawing, abstracting? Was there a shift happening around the time of the Cause and Effect exhibition? Was that body of work, all up on the gallery walls the point of shift?

I am definitely concentrating on materials at the moment… wire and ink and watercolour.

The ink lines… less sensitive to the paper than graphite, the lines glide over the surface, they don’t dig in, they pay little heed to the texture. So where’s the Cause and Effect here? The watercolour and ink react, and the water I spray also does. But I’m not getting the sensitivity of feedback that happens between paper and fingertips.

I may have taken a diversion along a cul de sac… perhaps a step back is in order here?