Saturday, 22 July 2017

The anatomy of a painting

I have just completed a new painting using plaster and paper on board.

I thought it might be interesting to log its journey to becoming what it has finally become.

The origin of it - the genesis if you like, began a few weeks ago on a walk from Hawes in the Dales to Hardraw Force.

To understand where an idea for my paintings comes from I must explain that it involves the whole experience of being in a specific physical place but also what is going on in my mind at that time.
I see life and life experiences as being part of a journey, a story if you like so one experience is not divorced from another, indeed past experiences inform the present.

Moor Rig in glorious isolation

I had been enthralled by the wildness of our lodgings for the 2 weeks, the cottage was very remote and it felt like a bulwark against the elements, a safe haven. The wildlife in the immediate area was abundant, especially the bird life. I had also been reading a books about garden making, and the painter Graham Sutherland and 'H is for Hawk' by Helen Macdonald.

Bookshop find in Hawes - Graham Sutherland

The captivating but challenging read of H is for Hawk

So I had images, sounds, and words. I have been grappling with mortality in the midst of the abundance of life. I felt the passage of time and a visceral sense of being flesh blood and bone. I saw a Hen Harrier hunt through the tall grasses, and later found the legs and feathers of a dismembered grouse chick.
You feel small in wild places.

The waterfall Hardraw Force was awe inspiring. The steep sided gorge forms a bowl or cup shape receiving the narrow fall of water from above. You feel enclosed and vulnerable - on the edge of life.

I thought of grief, of loss and of the speed of the human life span in contrast to the slow processes of geology. I realise that humans need other humans to feel comforted and secure. But sadly there is so much that separates.

I thought of Christ and his separation from God in order to break down the barriers we build between us and the spirit.

I made a sketch there at the waterfall - I was not looking for an exact copy of what was before me, I wanted to capture the sense of enclosure. I did take photographs as a reference point in reality.

I wrote a lot in my diary about the experiences of the place and the books I had been reading.

Bringing that all together - on a fine and warm day in my garden I finally put pencil to the paper I had glued on to thin board. This is a fraught and vulnerable time as it could go wrong, but there is also anticipation and excitement. From the base sketch, roughing out the composition and feeling the cup shaped space of the waterfall in heavy line, I added the wet liquid plaster with a brush, building up the walls of the gorge.

Once dry - pigments including watercolour, charcoal, ink, oil pastel were added in layers. I roughly framed the result, then left it for a day or so - so that I could see it properly.

I decided that there was more plaster needed, and a darkening of pigments and the background.

A title emerged from the whole experience - take the cup.

So there it is.


Monday, 3 July 2017

Dales diary

Hardraw Force

I have just returned from 2 weeks in the Yorkshire Dales - wild and wildlife rich uplands. I took my sketchbook diary to record my thoughts and responses to the landscape, but began to wonder whether I really am an artist. I do have the paper that says I gained a Fine Art Degree but does that really make me an artist ? Does it really matter ? Probably not - what matters to me is that making drawings and writing help me to make sense of the world.

I found a book in a second hand bookshop documenting the work of Graham Sutherland, I love his works on paper - shapes found in the landscape translated into drawing and painting. I've glued some paper to board in preparation for more experimental work with plaster , charcoal and acrylic ink based on the landscapes of the dales - just for the joy of it.


Monday, 5 June 2017

More work on paper

Having managed to get two works of plaster on paper into Oriel CRiC
I have been encouraged to continue making them and experimenting with mark making. I owe much of this freedom to experiment to

We are slowly and steadily building up a body of work for an exhibition early next year.

Not all the work will end up being shown - but I am enjoying making them so much.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Art in gardens

Two gardens

Last week I visited and spent a pleasant afternoon in the company of my friend and walking buddy Charles Hawes. Charles along with the garden maker, author and journalist Anne Wareham have made the most amazing garden over many years in the beautiful county of Monmouthshire. I got to know Anne's writing first through her columns in The Telegraph gardening section, then tweeted to her about her book 'The Bad Tempered Gardener' and not long after found myself invited to the garden ! There I also met Charles and a friendship grew.

I tentatively muted to Charles a month or so ago the idea of us doing some kind of project together as he is a garden photographer, it was at this point he suggested that I place some of my work alongside his photography at Veddw.

My intention is to create some paintings of the garden itself - but currently there is some work depicting my garden, and other gardens I have visited hanging with Charles's photography in their small gallery area. Go to the web link above to find opening times of the garden, it is worth the visit, I guarantee you would not have seen a garden like this one in the UK.

Next Saturday I am at in the marquee - where there will be a display of beautiful orchids and some original and stunning botanical art by Polly O'Leary and some frescoes by me. I'm still trying to decide which to take though !

Please come along and say hello.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Out of limbo

I have been quietly working on a series of new drawings and paintings on a larger scale for a collaborative exhibition/installation with Eleanor Flaherty coming up at the beginning of next year at Oriel Lliw Pontardawe. This is a challenging, exciting and different project - the like of which I haven't embarked upon since my Fine Art Degree.

I am really pleased and a little surprised that two of these drawings have been shortlisted for Oriel Cric Crickhowell open competition in May 17. (these are featured in the previous blogpost)

During the past few weeks I also took part in @twitrartexhibit exhibition in Stratford Upon Avon. This amazing collection of postcard art from all over the world has raised around fifteen thousand pounds for this years charity called

My card is still for sale on their website.

Finally I have been asked to be Artist in Residence at The Veddw . I am really excited about this, potentially working with Charles Hawes photographer and co - maker of the garden. I am waiting to see which direction this will take and will update on the progress.

So quietly breaking out of the arty limbo of the last 30 years !


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Walking the hills, connecting and bearing the soul to light

Light has a disarming effect -it lays me bare and highlights my imperfections.
It does the same to artwork
I need light.

I have been walking the hills, there is a physical and spiritual element to walking, and the beauty and solidity of landscape can have deep and profound effects. The landscape seems to mirror my interior landscape.

The uplands of South Wales have layers of human history carved into them.
I walked the hills above Blaenavon on Wednesday and have written a poem in response to them and what was going on within my own lanscape.

Like a prophecy the Iron hammer pounds my bones to dust.

I cannot hold on to the bright flower of the hills
I have to let go
To let the silver waters glide like glass
Between my fingers - the sharp cold imbolic stream
To let the blonde grasses curl away from me -
To coil and spiral like a distant universe.

I have to let my heart grow colder
The coals to dim
The ember die.

The dream was only ever of stars and heavenly places
The Twrch's imaginings
A contemporary legend.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Making pictures for an exhibition

I am currently working on some images for a collaborative exhibition at the end of this year with the film maker and artist Eleanor Flaherty.

Eleanor is a qualified mountain guide and an artist with soul - she leads guided walks into the hills locally.

A couple of weeks ago we followed the valley of the Twrch, and walked in an amazing landscape which transformed from post industrial to wilderness.

Our exhibition will be in the form of an installation based on this journey - it will consist of drawings and paintings along with photography, constructions and sound in order to invoke the sense of history of this landscape in the year of Legends.

I have begun some works on paper - the following piece is based on the red kite that we encountered wheeling above us in the post industrial landscape of hills with ancient large boulders dumped by glaciers 10,000 years ago.

I have used a series of symbols to represent our modern landscape - a form of hieroglyphs.
It is a start.