You might have noticed I draw on large pieces of paper.

Recently I spent a considerable amount of time looking at a selection of “rejected” drawings. Having decided that in some way they didn’t work, I was looking closely to see if any sections could be redeemed. Could they be saved by an edit. A couple did. A slice was taken off an edge and suddenly the composition worked. Other drawings, deemed too busy, were unceremoniously chopped into six inch (15cm) tiles. Again, suddenly they work. The slice takes away the bad, concentrates on the good (and actually, a slice of the bad can work too, taken away from the rest that it is adversely affecting). The slice, the sharp cut, implies it is part of an imagined whole: the imagined whole being much more satisfactory. So I now have a pile of tiles, that look great individually or in groups.

The internal discussion then is: Why am I wrestling with enormous pieces of paper when the small square is so satisfactory?

There’s something about working on a detail on a large piece of paper. It feels like a secret between me and the materials. The viewer will only be rewarded with this little gem if they come up close and get personal. The tiles are the microscope slides. You are up close right from the start, and there’s nothing more to see. The detail in a large drawing is like seeing the whole landscape, then noticing a rare plant under a dry stone wall… right under your nose! How come you didn’t notice it before?

In terms of the metaphor, this is buried treasure. It’s only when you really get to know someone you notice the small and beautiful things about their bodies and their minds…

The curve of a spine, the curl of their hair, how their fingers move as they play an instrument or paint, or tend the garden, slice an apple, or stroke the cat.

It’s only when you are up close that you notice that what you thought was a brash vanity is the bravado that erupts from huge insecurities. That what you thought was rude, is actually shy and unconfident. What you thought was generosity is attention seeking behaviour…

I’ve recently been posting on instagram short videos of myself drawing, while the songs are playing in the studio. The feedback I am getting from these is interesting. They are “relaxing”, “compelling”, “I listen to the words more carefully when I watch you draw” “You seem so sure about where the pen will go, I find it reassuring, comforting”

The last three are from the same drawing, different quiet corners of a piece of paper 4” x 6” / 120 x 180 cm (approx) wide. I’ve been working on it on and off for a couple of weeks now. I keep finding more to do, I turn the paper around and draw a bit more. When I turn the paper and find no more, then it’s done. Possibly another couple of weeks? I spend a lot of time with a drawing and I know its surface well. I know its bold brashness, and I know its insecurities… 

I am prone to anthropomorphise…



I have no use for a straight line

It doesn’t do anything interesting. Parallel lines are useless. They have no adventure. They’re unaffected by the world. Give me a line that meanders, takes in its surroundings. Give me a line drawn with an old pen, held in many hands. Scraped and glided along many surfaces. Buffeted by life…. give me a line that tells it’s story, that sings its song.

The line of a life that reaches a deep and profound sadness is beautiful. Some sadness is unresolvable. It must be endured. And lived with. It travels alongside you. Sometimes it’s in the front of your mind, and you can feel it in your chest, heavy. Sometimes, it drifts along, above and behind, a cloud on a string attached to your shoulder. Some days you can shut the sadness in a cupboard. But it inevitably seeps out through the keyhole and under the door. Or it comes in through the back door when you let out the cat. The line is yours. You can’t break it. Even when you die it ties itself to someone else, or is left as a trace on the earth.

Sometimes I write and then don’t know what to do with what I’ve written.

So I will let it sit here for a while… so I can revisit it and think about it.




Heart and Hope

I think there’s a point in any project where you reach a plateau, turn around, sit on a bench and look across what you’ve done. From there you assess where you are, turn 180º and look across what has yet to be done.

I also think it’s important to do that, and take time to enjoy the moment and not just sink into exhaustion.

And here I am.

I should have brought a cushion. The bench is hard. But never mind, I haven’t got long to sit

This point in proceedings can be busy, so it can be difficult to sit awhile. I’ve got three exhibitions in my head. One that I am waiting to collect work from the framers for, to be delivered next week. Two small pieces, well framed, and reasonably priced in hope of a sale. I’m spending a lot of money at the framers, so it would be nice to recoup some of the investment.

The second exhibition is the one at Royal Birmingham Society of Artists for their Candidates Exhibition. I wasn’t going to blog about it in case it all goes pear-shaped, but you know what? I told you about the six ACE rejections, so this is OK. Rejections become easier when you’ve had a few of them. They become easier to brush off, and you get over them quicker. The work for this is larger scale, and unlikely to sell, as they have pretty big prices on in the scheme of things. And they’d be rather large in a domestic situation.

Unless you have a really big house, in which case why not buy a pair? 

But even if unsuccessful, I have the opportunity to show work in a really great city centre gallery space. Not to be sneezed at that’s for sure! And I can always try again!

I’m having these dry-mounted instead of framed. This will be cheaper (except I’m getting loads done) but they look really crisp and sharp and fresh – love em!

This is for the beginning of July.

The third thing is the exhibition for the Facebook group I started during lockdown. The Drawbridge.

This one, while I’m not doing all the admin, I shall be co-curating, collecting, invigilating etc. That’s from the middle to the end of July, and overlaps the other.

Anyway… from my bench I can see all that I have done so far, which is fantastic, and a huge amount… but also what I have yet to do, which is also fantastic but a little daunting. I have a note book and lists… so I’ll be ok.

The songs are coming on a treat! A couple are finished, or at least parked until the others catch up. A few are very nearly there, we know what needs doing so we can pick away at those. Then there are a few that need more attention, we will deal with those after these we are working on are parked.

This afternoon I found myself getting a bit wound up about stuff to be done… so I went for a walk down into the town and mooched along the high street. As I approached the entrance to the shopping centre I was stopped in my tracks. A Busker. A Lone Busker. Singing loud reggae and playing guitar as if his life depended on it. JOYFUL. I can’t tell you how this made me feel. The first live music I’d been in the vicinity of for 15 months. How my heart leapt! It was fantastic to hear. I scrabbled in my pocket and gave him all my money. (well… all the real money I had with me, a few quid) If he wasn’t in the middle of a song I might have told him I loved him.

I’m skipping all over the place in this post… but there is a point to it…

I’m also preparing for a radio thing…

When I got back and made my cup of tea I made a list of the new songs that I would like to play when it happens. I had a quick listen, so I could jot down a quick sentence of what each song is about…ish. This is for my own mind, not for any explanation for others. I started thinking they might be a bit grim, miserable… but as I listened I realised that what most of them were about was hope… and having heart… an inner strength to cope with the grim, and triumph even! They might sound a bit sad, or dark, but they’re really really not. I am eternally optimistic, and so it seems are my songs.

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There are good days and bad days, but most days are a combination of both. Some swing wildly from one extreme to another.

The project is going well, and for that I am grateful. Chuffed to have had the Drawn In exhibition at Glitterball Showroom, and to have it so well received…especially the songs! Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to listen.

Work in my studio is going well. 

I’m not having a moan, but I am observing that just when I need my body to feel fit and well, it does not (yes, I know it could be worse, but it is what it is). I am exhausted by the constant activity in our new house since we moved in at the end of January. Gardeners, decorators, electricians… blah blah… an imminent load of carpet and flooring to be fitted means loads of boxes have to be shifted from one room to another then back again. And yes again, I know I am fortunate, but acknowledging my privilege doesn’t make my body work any better. It might be tiredness from all the activity, or the getting up early to receive the workers, or the fact I’m not eating properly because half the time I can’t be bothered to prepare properly, but my arthritis is bloody shocking at the moment. Anyway… I’m not saying this for sympathy, I’m fine… 

I’m saying it because it is having an effect on the way that I’m working. Unrolling the large paper is difficult and painful, so I have ordered some large flat sheets instead. It’s also having an effect on the colours I’m choosing. In the last couple of weeks I’ve moved away from the soft and smooth Payne’s grey watercolour. Instead I’ve been using ink not just to do the drawing but to lay down some initial colours too. I’m using leftovers (hate wasting materials) so the ink is smelly and bitty and grainy. It feels appropriate. The gritty bits feel like the bit of floating debris in my joints. I draw around them, draw attention to them. The colours feel right too. Yellow ochre mixed with black to give varying tones from the sharp but dirty yellow through a sickening green to grey and black. Today I have a selection of jars filled with dilutions of carmine and black. The colours feel sore and inflamed. Bruises. Today I am using large brushes to sweep these branches of colours over wet paper, then half dry, then completely dry… my painkillers kick in as the paper undulates, then starts to dry and straighten out. In about twenty minutes I will be able to hold the slender pen to dip the nib and draw some lines and marks…

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