It’s the immersion that’s the key I think.

To totally surround yourself with something and work with nothing but that. For me at the moment it is the ever increasing pile of twigs. I’ve collected them; arranged them on a range of surfaces; stitched them to canvas; taken photographs of them, drawn them with ink, painted with watercolour; wrapped them in muslin bandaging, white cotton sheeting, blue linen, printed cotton lawn and silk. I’m grouping them in families and trying to find sympathetic collections and arrangements. They are in groups of five/six/seven… then in groups of three: parents and child.

I think the wrapping is interesting, particularly. The fragility and brittleness of the dry winter twigs and their crumbling lichens finds a place in my heart. Metaphor is strong in me, I always search for the analogy and the “what if this was like this?” “What if this twig was like this person?” Our elderly neighbour has recently moved into residential care, and we watch as his family remove his beloved and well sharpened and oiled woodworking tools and dismantle his workshop and the collection of Very Useful Items from his garage. I find a bent and brittle twig and wrap him up. I see families ripped from their homes in Ukraine by fire. So I collect the family of twigs and wrap them up in blue and lay them straight.

This activity of course, in practical terms is all useless, but it does help me to process. I see the small child swinging from her parents’ arms in the park and whooping with joy. I have a bendy fresh twig with a little tiny bud trying to open… Does everyone see this or is it just me? To hold close something manageable, then find something within it that echoes the world. I can’t cope with the world, but I can manage this box of twigs.


There has been an unexpected return to fabric and stitch…

I have now drawn more than 100 twigs. They fall onto the ground and I pick them up as I walk. My eyes are often downcast, unfortunately, to spot unevenness of surface, potholes, and loose gravel. I would rather be looking at the sky, but there it is. I need to look out for hazards that would throw my knee off the straight and narrow, render me unable to walk, the pain striking me like a knife in the centre of my joint, and all the blood rushes to other places, and I need to stop, and preferably sit, until it subsides.

But I have found something purposeful to do with my downward gazing. The selection of twigs. If my husband is with me he might pick them up for me, or select one and ask ”this one?” Sometimes it is, but mostly not. Sometimes I say yes anyway. 

When I get them home, I lay them out on kitchen roll to dry, and for the little beasts to make their escape. Then I put them into satisfactory little families and draw them. In ink, fine lines on white paper in a large sketch book. These are the rules. 

They are families. They have different qualities, surface texture, peeling bark, lichens, injuries and breakages and scars and I draw them all.

I think it is these scars that led me to the idea that I should mend them, look after them until they heal (which of course they won’t). So I cut clean bandages. The width of a child’s finger, from an old linen dress the colour of the sky.

Then like the arranged twigs and the subsequent drawings, I place them on the white paper to capture the images.

Today I think I will start drawing these bandaged forms.


I am often interested in the ways other people manage and organise their lives. One day I might do pie charts or something. Person A spends 14% of their time washing up. Person B spends 26% of their time gazing out of the window. Guess which one is me?

(I am fond of a diagram.)

Anyway… My friend Nicki is able to sort her time as if it was a school timetable. It can include lovely art-related things, but it also includes work, meals, exercise, reading… a very organised daily routine. I couldn’t do that. I’m more:

  1. Wake up, shower, breakfast
  2. How come it’s already 11:00?
  3. Look at my diary, panic, supposed to be in Wolverhampton by 11:30
  4. I will do it, because paradoxically, I hate being late.
  5. Swan about doing all sorts of other stuff which will definitely contain some art-related activity
  6. Remember I need to cook a meal
  7. Eat meal
  8. How come it’s already 11:00?

I have been talking to the always busy Stuart Mayes recently, and something he said has really stuck with me. People say “oh I must make time to sew/draw/chit my potatoes!” But actually you can’t make time. We all get the same 24 hours. By changing the phrase it makes things more manageable. I must USE my time in order to cook/exercise/prune the raspberries. We USE it. And we can choose how that happens. We can choose how long to spend on some things. I am a speedy washer-upper. My husband is a slow, contemplative washer-upper. I don’t want to use my time doing that. It is important to me to make sure I use that 26% with my feet on the table.

Feet on table time is crucial to the safe and healthy working of my brain.

But I think I will take a little bit from Nicki’s book. I shall start looking at my diary the night before.



I’ve become obsessed with the humble twig.

So far, about a hundred humble twigs. Picked up from wherever they fell, in the park or on my way to and from the park.

I have an A3 sketchbook I am slowly filling. On average around six twigs per page. Drawn with ink. With fine line technical ink pens. Just black on white. The more I do the better they are! The sheer quantity of them a thing in itself. Like drawers of specimens.

Of course every one is different because they’ve come from different branches, different trees, they’re different sizes and shapes. To me, as I draw them, it’s like they have different personalities. Ridiculous I know, but there it is. I know I’m going to fill the sketchbook, all fifty pages. And then I will probably stop and do something different. This book has a hard black cover and crisp white pages with fine black lines. I can’t contaminate that by using colour or charcoal or pencils.

I’m driven by the self-imposed rules.

But yesterday, before leaving the studio, for the first time for ages, I unrolled some of the bockingford watercolour paper and sliced off three pieces. I mixed up some Payne’s grey wash, some yellow ochre, my old favourite combination. I sprayed the water to  relax the rolls, and got out my biggest brush and painted on some branches, and sprinkled on some salt. Then I walked out of the door and left it to do its thing. I don’t know what it will look like when I go back. I already know I’ve painted the wrong thing. The marks I’ve made aren’t twiggy enough. But I’m hoping the ink I use on top will change that.

It feels really good to do whatever I please.

Which brings me to the next thing….

As a freelance, self employed artist, there is often the temptation to say yes to things, because they have funding attached. A couple of things have arisen recently. One I said no to, one I said yes to. I’m already regretting the yes. So I’ve decided to pull back from it slightly, and not do quite as much of it as originally proposed. I don’t need the money at the moment, and I have other things I’d rather spend my time pursuing.

It is a luxury to be able to pursue the things I want to do, with interesting people in interesting places. Try things I’ve not done before… in the post-project slump, this is what is exciting me! To do things that are easy, just for the cash is not going to get me anywhere really.