I think I’ve resolved the Walton landscape.

Just enough detail to nail it to a place but verging towards the abstract. I managed it by allowing my mind to disconnect and following the dictate of the medium. Tentatively pleased with the result.Think I’ve got the crumbling, weather-beaten cliff. Hope that doesn’t sound too smug. I’ll probably change my mind tomorrow.

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This image resulted from a failed painting which I obliterated with the paint left in the palette. It suggested an image of found objects which I had sketched on Walton beach a while ago, after a period of stormy weather. It’s an interesting place which I return to often for inspiration. Letting the paint lead me frequently ‘works’. Why do some paintings just happen when you least expect it? I quickly capitalised on this discovery with a second more considered image.But already it had elements of figurative images which began to scare me.

It made me return to my concertina sketchbook drawings of the beach and I wondered if I could pull off a landscape of the area to act as an anchor for a new series. I began this but straight away it started to become laboured. Not sure where to take it next. It’s in danger of becoming figurative, loosing the energy of the first two.

Art is such a funny old business. There’s no straightforward path or formula for success. Every painting becomes a leap of faith, a conundrum to be solved and the route is never the same. You have to reinvent the wheel every time.

Never mind. Maybe I’m thinking too much. I need to let go and give in to the paint again. I’ll keep going and something , I hope, will click into place. I don’t know how else to work out what to do… just keep ‘doing it’ Somehow blogging helps I think. I forget that people will read my thoughts. I’m really just talking to myself on paper…. well on my Apple actually.


Sketchbooks- a piece art in it’s own right?

I recently delivered a workshop entitled The Magic of Sketchbooks. I enjoyed researching the sketchbooks of famous artists – Henry Moores’s Sheep Sketchbook is a joy. Van Gogh’s letters, Picasso’s myriad of books. I still cherish the wonderful catalogue of ‘Je Suis le Cahier’ by Picasso. Then there are the drawings of Monet, Eardley, Smithson, De Stael and so many others. Pure magic. I loved sharing my examples and thoughts about these. We went on to examine ways of using these drawings in practical ways – working out a composition, referencing shapes, colours and textures. Just developing ideas. There seemed to be so many methods of putting the information gathered to good use when moving on to a painting.

Visual aids on my Workshop.
BUT there are many artists who eschew the use of a sketchbook and launch straight into a painting. Lucian Freud swore he never drew first. And actually gave up drawing at all for ten years. Then I remembered my teaching years when I had to cajole Year 10 and 11 students to do the statuary ‘2 sheets of Preparatory work before their ‘Finished Piece’. Many found this impossible and we would simply do the required preparatory work in retrospect, choosing images which loosely looked as though they came first. Such an unnecessary, soulless occupation.I wonder how many creative spirits were thwarted by these senseless rules? But that’s education for you – constant changing the goalposts and to hell with creativity and intuition!Don’t get me on that soapbox!

My Thursday group and I visited a beautiful spot by the River Stour last week with our sketchbooks. This week I planned to talk to them about how they could use their sketches. So in preparation I diligently began using my own few sketches. I had concentrated on a lovely spot where a small glade of trees made a dark mysterious canopy with a view through to a sunlit bank of the river. Looking at a couple of drawings and one blurred photo of this scene I began a small painting. It was awful and did nothing to capture the atmosphere of the view. Only when I let go of the drawn information and thought myself back into the space did I come close to the image I had planned in my head. I realised that although it was imperative to have had the experience of being there and even of attempting to record the view, ultimately it was the feeling of being there that mattered. Drawing it simply imprinted the visual impression on my brain to be recalled in combination with the emotions and sensual experience of the place.

So I am now revising my ideas about sketchbooks. I still love them for the visceral intrusion into an artists mind….how can you not be moved by looking at van Gogh’s little drawings in letters to his brother Theo? But as reference for subsequent paintings they are not necessarily useful and can even inhibit expression.

I shall continue to keep my sketchbooks and to use them for thoughts, images, recording moments in my life and various other purposes but as an adjunct to paintings they are not the most useful tool, I have concluded.Many of my older sketchbooks are diaries or visual journals already. Some sketchbooks are simply pieces of art in their own right and maybe this is their best function.

Just some of my visual journal notes from Australia and Dorset.


I’ve been re reading my initial blogs on a-n. Trying to discover some progress, development in my thoughts and achievements in art and life.

Some aspects remain constant – lack of self-belief both in life and my art but there is recent evidence of progress, I think. Really? Why add, I think? Well It’s progress not achievement.

Have been thinking a lot about what I paint and why recently. It’s no longer connected with Reflective Journals, Criteria, Deep thought. It’s just what grabs my attention and …dare I say it…. what I think might turn into a painting I could exhibit and hopefully sell !!! Shock horror.

The added incentive to sell has had a positive side-effect in that I look critically at my work and if I decide it’s not good enough to attract a sale then it’s also not good enough to keep and must be destroyed or reworked. So using this self-inflicted criteria I reworked my Clematis painting by actually doing two more on the same subject and then coming back to the first one.

It went from this….

To these three….

By doing this I think I’ve actually made some painting progress and have not lost sight of my aim to push my artistic progress/ability forward in the process of creating a (hopefully) saleable image. I sincerely hope I’ve maintained integrity in my work. In my next blog I’m going to elaborate on more thoughts I’m having… serious doubts about ‘The Sketchbook’. I’m not abandoning sketchbooks but drastically reconsidering their purpose and value.


Well I said last time that the Clematis painting had worked and I thought it had. But after walking away and coming back two days later, I hated it. A BAD painting too fussy, too figurative too awful. So it’s back to the drawing board. Made some more pencil observational sketches; thought about the composition; looked at a few flower painting artists? Why am I painting flowers??? I don’t even like flower paintings. What’s going on here???


Watch this space