I’ve been thinking this week about my “being” an artist. By which I mean how I do it, how I exist as an artist.

The crucial thing here is the fact that I don’t do it like anyone else does. And that’s not just OK, it’s absolutely the right thing. The problem happens when some people think that artists are all the same, and have to have a perfect linear trajectory that ends up somewhere “important” in order to be valid. The bigger problem happens when artists think this. I am lucky that I have only met one or two of these… they exist but are thankfully rare.

I have come to it slowly, this “being”. I started, faltered, had a big sidestep, returned after decades, then had a big rush. There is no way that I can catch up on those years in terms of my art education, or experience, in the time I have left. But I do have time left to just get on with it from this point. Consequently I have gaps in my knowledge, knowledge that some people think I should have. Sorry… not sorry… but I don’t. If I come across something that interests me, then I will seek it out and try to learn more. But quite often I don’t, because, after writing a note in my sketchbook, I get distracted from the reading and researching and I just want to make. I spent a long time out of the studio doing wonderful things like living my life, having glorious children who are now glorious adults. I only want to get on with what I want to now, and I don’t want to feel I have to do anything, certainly not because of someone else’s expectations! I have a life full of experiences that are only mine, and my art is worked out of that life, it is valid, authentic and true and all mine. Consequently I enjoy meeting other live, working artists that I can converse with. I am less interested in the dead ones.

I have recently had the absolute pleasure and privilege of selecting a group of graduate artists for the exhibition at RBSA. Fifteen artists, all with completely different histories and stories and lives and experiences. Together they are rich and wonderful. Together they are strong because of this diversity.

Along the way one does get rejections, uncomfortable, or even hurtful criticisms, even cruel comments at times, from people who are just unaware, or sadly, aware of the upset their words can cause. The trick is, I have realised at my mature 62 years is to develop a thick skin, to gather around me people who are generous spirits and energy creators, not consumers (Thank you Charles Weston)… and just get on with it. By surrounding myself with the good stuff, I can shake off the less good more easily. I can also see things and people more clearly for what they are, and ignore them, not take it personally… even if the person doing it is doing so deliberately, I can see it as more about them than me.

While I spend the rest of this year recharging myself, I intend to put myself out and actually visit these wonderful people I know…starting with the UK, but I am also saving up to go further.  The trip to America has emboldened me. I shall talk to the live artists while we are all alive… so be warned folks… I’m coming!


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I do feel quite sad.

I was really pleased with the work, pleased that the RBSA had approved my proposal and supported me so well in the run up and installation, and enthused about it on social media.

I met some lovely people, some of whom I hope to continue the conversation with.

I’ve had the most amazing six months, but of course that doesn’t mean that there will be instant or even any follow up. So while I am optimistic, I am also a realist. This might be the best six months I ever get, so I have to soak it up, and be thankful that it all happened, just in case it never does again.

So I think I will leave it there for now… with thanks for all those who have helped me to get to America and back, and to Birmingham and back. You’ve made my life amazing lately!

Here are some wonderful photos of Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks by Kathryn Sawbridge, fellow ARBSA colleague and friend…


Last day…

Today is the last day of Five Six Pick Up Sticks. Tomorrow I set out the tissue paper and bubble wrap and put it away somewhere. God knows where… why do I work on such a grand scale? I should investigate working in miniature perhaps…

Anyway… that’s my problem. I’ll find somewhere. 

The process of conceiving, making, curating, hanging and then reviewing and assessing this work hasn’t really taken very long in the grand scheme of things. I started in January 2022 when the ACE funded Drawing Songs project came to a close (blog post The Slow Start).

 I sent the proposal in to the RBSA about a year later, and it was accepted with enthusiasm. I finished the main bulk of the work before I went to America, and then came back to the logistics and the curating and organising. Tomorrow I reassemble my team in order to disassemble the installation. I wish now I had booked the space for another week or two, but hey ho. Actually I am ready to take it down. I’m ready for the rest. Since I started applying for the funding for Drawing Songs in 2018/19 I’ve not stopped. 

Now I need to stop. The last few months have been physically tough. The combination of arthritis, menopause, moving house and pandemic have taken their toll. This project was an unexpected bonus, but the beginnings of it lay in a need for rest, that I never actually got!

I intend to go back to the drawing. Sink myself into it… Bathe in ink and graphite… Wallow in watercolour…

And I might spend some time in my garden, catching up with some veg planting…




It seemed fitting that I share my PV with the group of artists I helped select for the exhibition on the second floor for the Graduate Artist’s Programme at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA).

It also meant the evening was busier than it might have been just for me on my own, and that my installation was seen by a new audience that might not otherwise have seen it, possibly a younger audience, who are used to viewing contemporary art. 

It is good to be in a crowd where I can talk about the work without having to explain everything all the time.

It was a good evening. Busy but not overwhelmingly crammed. I had some good conversations, with people new to my work, and reconnected with people I hadn’t seen for a long time too. 

My measure of the success of these occasions is always the quality of the conversation.

What makes a good PV conversation?

Admiration of the work (of course! We all want to feel good, right?); curiosity about the motivation for making it; feeling I have expressed myself coherently and articulately; humour; a sense of where the work came from and where it might go (geographically and physically as well as conceptually and developmentally); feeling an emotional connection with the viewer…

I could tick all of that list at the end of the evening, so I’m satisfied.

I firmly suppress the voice that is forever asking “What next? What next?”. I need a break from being up front and visible and productive. I need feeding now. 



After three years of work on the Arts Council funded project Drawing Songs; the American adventure Full Circle; and being in the midst of the installation of Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks, I am now back in the studio with nothing to do!

While the work is out and hung, I am taking time just to tidy up and clear the decks. I currently don’t have any Real Work on, so as I tidy up I am taking photos of the piles of things that please me. I have nothing in mind except that pleasure. It is refreshing.

I’ve hung some ink and watercolour drawings from 2019 (ish) on the studio wall and I’ve done some more twig drawing, but at the moment it feels a bit like homework, so I have stopped. I am piling up little bits of fabric that could be embroidered, and I have found some old transfers that were my mum’s. I might do something with them. I am taking a leaf out of Kate Murdoch’s book, and Stuart Mayes’ by arranging colours, and making patterns with the things that surround me.

It’s like taking a deep breath and expelling a slow sigh…

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