Going back for more…

The Trinity Buoy Wharf drawing prize submission was rejected, so we trudged down to Bristol again to pick it up. My reward being brunch at Gloucester services and a box of posh biscuits.

I had a conversation with fellow submitter Ian Andrews (another large scale abstract drawer) about telling people we failed to be selected. I think it is important to be realistic here. It’s great to be successful and have congratulations and praise for that: but it is equally important to remind others that in order to receive accolades we have to apply for lots of things that don’t make it. These failures are taken on the chin, bounce off our thick hides… right up until the moment they don’t. There’s only so much I can take and then I need a break. I have one more submission in progress, the RBSA drawing prize that I’ll hear about on August 8th, then I’m having a rest from it all. No more admin, no more waiting stress, no more externally applied disappointment. (For a while.)

I’ve been ON and public facing really for the last three years. It has been undeniably amazing but now I need a break from that to just be in my studio for no reason other than to work for its own sake. I need to flick the switch to OFF.

It takes its toll really. I don’t think people get it unless they do it themselves. To be out there is to invite comment. Some is good, some is not, most of the responses are non-responses, the endeavour is met largely with indifference.

So for a while I’m going back in to work. All I want to do is draw. My fingers are itching to immerse myself in the process. The successes and failures are of my own choosing. And I am not going to show the world, other than the occasional pretty picture on Instagram… but I feel the need to keep most of it close to my chest, that’s what will build up the thick skin again.


After a period of reflection… or should that really be during a period of reflection, I find hidden amongst it all, a reason to carry on doing what I am doing. By that, I mean to not be worried about moving onto a New Thing. While I was looking at fifteen years worth of my work in the Weeks Gallery in Jamestown NY, I found myself asking “what next?” Other people also asked the same question. I said I didn’t know. I think if they asked me now I would say “more of the same”.

I know I say I don’t need a reason, I trust the process, I’ll just do what I feel like doing, and will play. I do say this, and I mean it. But I am also happy when I find an external reason, justification to do that. I shouldn’t need approval, permission, validation… but I do know that I feel better when I have found the root of it all. I need to tie my string to something before I go off wandering. That way I know where home is, I can give it a little tug, feel that it is still attached, then wander on some more, reassured.

In the massive studio sort out I did recently (which is actually all part of the reflection process) I came across some drawings I did about five years ago… maybe six or seven even… and discovered something unresolved. It never really said what I wanted it to, it was, I thought at the time, a little cul-de-sac, a diversion that didn’t go anywhere, so I left it and moved on.

So I now have found the thing to do is definitely more of the same. I shall repeat what I am doing, in the light of what I uncovered, and in the work itself, discover the change. Repetition… is a repeat exactly the same as what went before? No… it’s not. I might use the same materials, method, make the same actions, but it isn’t the same. It’s that different view from the same mountain again. I repeat, but what ends up on the paper, or being made in my hands, is mutating as I work. You might not be able to see what is changing from one piece of work to the next, but after a period of time you can… the tenth drawing is nothing like the first. I don’t expect others to see it, or appreciate it. If you ask I can point it out. But I might not be bothered. It’s like a game of Chinese whispers…

So the next drawing will look different, but also will nod at what went before, and I will tie my string to it, and move on to the next.


(Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance

Send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance)


It’s About Art

I needed a reminder really, as a way of redirecting and reordering my thinking.

My friend and fellow blogger Stuart Mayes has the sign “It’s About Art” written large and hung in his studio. This is a good idea and I might follow his example to remind myself. I might also print out the photo of myself at the Artist’s Talk afternoon for Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks at the RBSA. Approval and validation are hard to come by in the normal day-to-day run of things. They are important, not everything, but important. So while I am in the studio, away from the public side of my practice, away from exhibitions, performances, open studios and workshops, I think I need a little reminder that the way I go about things is ok. It’s not the way that other people do it, but I do need to be reminded that that is ok too. More than ok.

I keep plugging away. I have had a couple of rejections lately, since the exhibition came down, and I shrug them off with one shoulder, while they sit heavily on the other. I have another couple of submissions in. One is the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize, of which I have no expectation, having been rejected by them several times… but if you draw, it is the one to go for really. I suppose. The next will be for the RBSA, external selectors, so that’s a risky thing too. All I can do is put it in and hope. I’m quite good at hope.

The reason I do these things though, I think, is to remind myself I am an artist, that these are the things that professional artists do. It’s a huge investment gamble though. I have spent a fortune on my art practice over the last couple of years, and to be honest, not got much back in terms of the cold hard cash. But I am still doing it. I don’t know that I know how to do much else now. If I sit in my studio drawing, I start to feel removed from everyone, everything. That’s ok for a while, but I feel it isn’t healthy to just lock myself away. So I reach out to other artists. Stuart and I are plotting together, so that feels good. It’s not got to the stage where we are doing anything, but we are talking about it. And it’s about art.

I can never seem to achieve a balance, more of a see-saw… up one minute, down the next. Balance would be good I think.

I am dissatisfied with my drawings at the moment. There’s something niggling at me, but I can’t quite capture it. The attempts frustrate me, and I end up chopping up the drawings, getting rid of the sections that offend… although the ones that offend are often the bits that are getting close, but are clumsy and uncomfortable.

I just need to keep at it… keep pushing at it till it breaks and becomes something else maybe?


1 Comment