Since spending the week in the gallery space working on the Large Drawing I have retreated to home, thinking that I would be actively processing the experience, thinking deeply, making notes and plotting my next move. Instead, I found myself physically and emotionally exhausted, finding solace in a spot of baking, gardening and a little light housework. I’m sure my hind-brain has been working on it, but not consciously.  

It took more out of me than I expected. In a good way though. I have at least formed the opinion that it was good, and I’ll do something like it again. That sort of brief but positive self-feedback will do for now.

I’m doing my first voluntary stewarding at RBSA on Saturday. I’m there for the whole day, which may have been optimistic… but I’ll give it a go… I can pull back next time if it is too much. I’ve also done a bit of hole filling and sandpapering with them. On Sunday I went to a studio sale there. I bought a box of old pens and nibs for a tenner. On the way home I took it into the studio, placed it on the empty table along with two clean sheets of paper, leaving myself a gift for my next visit, so I don’t have to think too much about what to do next.

I’ve also joined a small group of artists (called Collective Brum if you want to look us up on Facebook and Instagram) who have taken a small selling space in Digbeth’s Red Brick Market for six months (initially). It’s a bit of a gamble, and a bit of personal investment… very speculative as I have no idea if the works I have prepared will sell enough to cover the investment, but we shall see. I have small works, some framed, some mounted, some naked… starting at £10, nothing over £60. We shall see. I am glad that I am riding on coat-tails for this though, as I have no mental capacity to take on anything else. I don’t make-to-sell as such, but my studio is bursting with stuff that can be sold, so I have to give it a go at least… I feel… and they’re a lovely bunch.

In the music part of my life though things are picking up speed.

I went to a gig by my friend and erstwhile (if not still-while?) mentor Dan Whitehouse. I did find it a bit emotional to be honest. Just being there and hearing and seeing, participating in that shared audience experience was truly nourishing after all these months. And just to see his real face and hear his real voice. Deep sigh…

While there Dan introduced me to a man from a local radio station who plays music that is somewhat different to the usual offering… and after much chatting about art and music, I ended up sending him some songs, and a recorded intro to Alarms, which he is going to play on Saturday lunchtime. This has given me a real boost too! 

We have had a couple of band rehearsals, just three of us, and now it looks like gradually the five pieces of us will gather together so that we can make more noise again soon.

Our EP is at the mixing and mastering stage so we will be able to plan a launch for that too… considering we did most of the recording on 29th February 2020, we feel we need to get it out there and let people hear it, and some of the songs we have written while being restricted too. 

I have promised myself that this is enough for now, I can’t take on anything else until I have worked through what I already have in my diary.  

But of course if something REALLY tasty comes up I have to say yes right? Strike while the iron is hot and all that?


This is my third day into a week-long “residency” in the gallery space next to my studio. I can feel the goalposts shifting a little already. I’ve stapled a roll of fabriano paper round all of the walls and I’m listening to music while I draw.

Day 1 I started with my own material, and focussed on one song. Because I was familiar with it I could anticipate the twists and turns, changes in tempo and melody. It’s fun! I had a really good day away from my studio table, a whole-body drawing experience. I could feel it doing me good, loosening things up. I could also hear things in the music I couldn’t hear before. Thank goodness for bluetooth headphones as I don’t think my neighbours would relish hearing the same song over and over again all day!

Day 2 I’d arranged to work with sound artist Bill Laybourne. This was a completely different proposition. This was going to be a mutual improv, reactionary sort of thing. I play what I hear, he plays what he sees, then loops it back to me, adds in texture, repetition, and also edited spoken word. This I cannot anticipate and the resulting marks on the wall are very different, they are more expansive and freer. Using contact microphones on the paper picks up the sounds I make, and he manipulates them too, and feeds them back to me. Very interesting experience. I feel much more immediately connected to the sound. And the sounds inspire a selection of marks I’ve not been using… the textures, patterns and flow is different. I can see it on the wall in front of me, and as I work I start to encroach upon the drawings from Day 1, absorbing, weaving around, riffing off them. When I have a period of sitting and looking back on it, I see areas that really work well, and others that really don’t. I have a brief internal discussion about whether those areas I am dissatisfied with should stay, or whether they should go through a sort of remix to sit them into the Big Picture.  Having landed upon the remix analogy, I decide that I can do whatever the hell I want. It’s my drawing! There are times when it is about the feeling and the experience, and there are times when it is about the aesthetic. This, I decide, is both. So on Day 3 I decide to do the remix. I look at the tonal qualities, areas that I feel need to be rebalanced, and I look at areas where transitions do not flow, and work on them. Much of this is done without music, in silence to start, and then without my headphones, but with a couple of radio plays instead. The words wash over me and I don’t really pay much attention – so I’ll probably listen to them again today.

Day 5, tomorrow,  I have another visitor, Andy Jenkins, who I write songs with for our band The Sitting Room. I don’t really know how this will go, but I think I’m going to mic up the room to capture what we do, then we can mine the recording afterwards, just in case there are any gems we can use.

At the start of each day I have been making word collages to get my brain in gear and to try to minimise the impact of what’s going on in the rest of my life for the day. This works well, and I hadn’t thought that the exercise would have much more purpose than that, but it has occurred to me that these could also be mined for lyrics, or at least starting points.

I feel a sort of opening up of possibilities here, and it is really exciting!


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The boundaries we draw as artists I think are essential to our well-being. Whether that is space, or time, or privacy… even a sense of gentle respect… They mean something. They enable the work to happen. I need to be able to choose how I interact and who with, on some days. Some days that might mean no one. Silence. The right to be at one with my thoughts… to let them wander as they will.

Of course this doesn’t often happen. Even when you plan it. The real world encroaches.

Today I realised something though… it is possible to forgive the breaches of the boundaries… if the circumstances are in my favour.

I have planned for this week to be just me, in the big space, with big paper, exploring the music and the drawing. Just that, for a week. A Big Ask as they say. Over breakfast and before I even left the house there were several interruptions to my peaceful, preparatory thoughts. I left the house resentful and bad-tempered. But I determined to start the day as planned. Made tea, of course, in the insulated cup that would keep it hot for longer. Then set to.

I have gathered around me materials, charcoal, pastels, pencils, pens. I have covered the walls with a large roll of decent quality paper. I had charged my bluetooth headphones, and prepared a playlist. I have just a couple of books with me: Tim Ingold’s Lines, and Tania Kovats’ Drawing Water. I also have my collection of pages torn from Oxfam-rejected paperbacks, some glue, and some felt pens. And the last three completed sketchbooks.

I don’t know where this week is going to lead me so I wanted to gather everything around me so that I didn’t have to break out, or have the excuse to break out. (Although I did have to go home late morning to get a different pair of glasses.) I also have my laptop, phone and iPad. Device overload really, considering I want to be alone. But this is where the music is, where the lyrics are, and the recording technology, whether that’s sound or video.

Having had the disruptions, I wanted to start off by just getting myself centred. Try to shake things off and let myself slip down a little…

So I put the playlist on shuffle, just to see what random song it would throw at me to start. Alarms. So this was the song to start me drawing? Still feeling unready to make a mark on this huge expanse of paper, I started off by tearing words out of the pages, while listening. I found myself drawn to the negative, naturally, feeling unsettled… but allowed it to happen… then found myself selecting some transitional words that helped steer me out of my mood, and soften my demeanour. I glued them to the paper hanging by my table, and decided I could face the drawing paper. If you have new sketch book freeze, this is a killer! 15 (ish) metres of paper stapled to the wall. But all you need is a spot. The sweet spot from which to venture out with the lines.

Alarms is a weird song… of two halves maybe… a song of introversion, of boundaries. It has an internal and an external. If you believe in coincidence, or fate, or even God, this was a good choice for the shuffle mechanism to come up with.

As I drew to it, and as I wrote new words and collaged old words, its meaning expanded to include my mood, my morning, and allowed me to assimilate and absorb the negatives. I put lyrics and music to work. I found new harmonies. The barricades had been breached, but through them I reached out, drew another line and found some peace.



Under a blanket
Made a den inside my head
Piled the chairs against the door
Barricaded in my bed

I’m not playing these silly games any more
I see them for what they are
I can see you coming through a hole in my guilt
You’re not getting very far
I see you for what you are

I hear all the old words that used to work
Rebounding off all my defences
Can’t believe I thought it was all my fault
I fell for all of your pretences

You set off all the alarms
All the alarms
All the alarms
Don’t rattle the door
Or knock down the walls
Inside my head
Inside my head


And relaaax…

It’s been a really busy month!

Band rehearsals have started again, and we have some gigs booked. The EP we started last year is now being mixed.

I’m recording and reflecting on the Drawing Songs songs. I’ve recorded a couple of podcasts. I’ve had a joint article on a-n with friends and fellow bloggers Stuart Mayes and Kate Murdoch about the benefits of long term blogging

I had work in the RBSA Friends exhibition, the Drawbridge exhibition, and then the biggie: I had been nominated for Associate membership of the RBSA (Royal Birmingham Society of Artists), so had that exhibition too!

Then this week I heard that I have been elected… I’m in!! I’m so excited about this. The process has been really great, The exhibition was fantastic too. But I think the icing on the cake of election has to be that I am the first member in the society’s 200 year history ever to be elected having included sound in their Candidates show! This actually feels like a meaningful contribution already. I submitted five drawings and one song. I’m really grateful to my nominators Steve Evans and Ed Isaacs for their support and guidance. I was aware that submitting a sound piece might be risky. But also it is a huge part of my practice. To NOT include it would have felt very wrong. 

I’m not yet sure what membership of this august body will bring, but I have already experienced a new burst of interest in my work because of it – just in a few days! In my head I am planning new workshops, and I will also have the opportunity to exhibit in a beautiful light and airy city centre gallery. I have new people to meet, new alliances to forge and so on. 

I have likened this experience to standing on a new rock, from which I can take in a new view, after having had a year or so wading through treacle. 

I feel rather tired today. But it is the best sort of tired.

(please forgive poor quality photos of the Candidates’ Exhibition)


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