Time for Change

I have now finished the mentoring course at the Newlyn School of Art. We had a very successful exhibition in the PZ gallery, Penzance, and said our farewells. Some good friendships have been made and I am sure that we will all keep in touch. Plans for a collaborative project next year are already underway with artist Mike Thorpe from Macclesfield.

Cold East Cross (Mixed media on canvas) & Controlled Burning (Burnt Gorse Installation)

Cold East Cross (Mixed media on canvas) & Controlled Burning (Burnt Gorse Installation)

What did I get out of it?

Every person on the course would have different things to say about it, as each of us was there for many reasons and wanted different things from it. I found the course difficult at times as I had to think very hard about what I wanted from my life as an artist, what my work was about, and what I wanted in the future. Once these things became clearer I found that making them happen was easier than I had initially thought.

Learning how to be critical of ones own work, as well as being able to be constructively critical and supportive of the other students, was the most demanding but rewarding aspect of the course. Overall I would say that my work has not changed direction, I was on the right path, I was just not sure where it was going and I didn't have enough confidence in myself or my abilities.

After the dust settled I spent a few months making changes to the way I live and create art. In doing so I changed my attitude towards my work and implemented ways to improve my practise. It is very easy to get stuck in ones ways and think that the current way you do things is the right way and cannot, or does not, need to be changed.

I have made three main changes: 

Firstly, we sold our house in order to downsize and reduce outgoings - we move into our new place in August. 

Secondly, I have taken on a studio away from home. 

 

And thirdly, my partner Tim has stepped in as my administrator, website manager, technician, accountant and delivery driver to allow me to spend more time in the studio. To be fair, he has been doing most of these things as best he could whilst working full time, so dedicating a set amount of time for these roles in the future will also make his life easier.

My studio is in RedPod Studios at The Clay Factory near Ivybridge. This is an emerging Artists Hub and we hope it will become a vibrant creative community. I have been there 4 months andI love it. I find the separation of home from work is far healthier. As soon as I go into the studio I focus on artwork and as soon as I leave I switch off from it. Of course it is much cheaper to have a studio at home but on the other hand, having a smaller house probably saves far more in the long term than the rent I pay.

The other huge benefit is that there are other artists in neighbouring studios providing support and friendship, we also have an exhibition space and plenty of room for running workshops.

I will be programming in some workshops dates for late autumn and spring next year. I know some of you have been waiting for printmaking classes for a while now .... I'm on it as soon as I have moved!

September - Preparing for weekend Mentoring Course

Enlarged drypoint prints - Cold East Cross

Enlarged drypoint prints - Cold East Cross

I can't believe how quickly the One Year Mentoring Course has gone, this weekend is the penultimate one followed by the Exhibition in November.

As is always the case you say to yourself "if only I had another few weeks I would have my best work". The reality is that you never have enough time to finish as you are never finished, we are all works in progress. That said another couple of weeks in the studio would have been good!

 

September - Back on Dartmoor - Got my mojo back!

Onsite sketches "Cold East Cross"

I keep being pulled back to Cold East Cross on Dartmoor. It is a pretty insignificant part of the moor. It has no outstanding features, it is not heavily visited or photographed. Maybe that is why I like it, it is just those parts of the landscape I look for, the forgotten and overlooked areas. My initial reason for working there was the large area of swaled gorse earlier in the year, since then I have visited over and over again. Each time I go I see and understand more but the resulting paintings have less in them. For me this is this is a significant breakthrough. I have most definitely overworked my paintings in the past, put too much emphasis on representational detailing and unnecessary embellishment. I have been concentrating on working  directly in the landscape and using materials found on site mixed with the paint and for the first time in months I feel I am making progress and feeling motivated to do more. 

Working outside is exciting, there is a greater element of risk as time is more limited and you have to use the materials you have with you. For me this is a good thing as it stops me having to make too many decisions and then start overthinking it. There is also the physical effort and discomfort associated with lugging your kit about and the battle with the elements that makes the place more intrinsic to the painting.

August - Lundy Island - Sixteen Hours watching the Atlantic

I felt the need to paint towards the end of the week. With only 2 days left on the island and with the threat of torrential rain forecast for the last day I decided to undertake an epic painting challenge to get my fix.

Sixteen hours, sixteen paintings. One an hour from dawn until dusk.

 

August - Lundy Island - Walking the Paths

Found materials from the paths, printed on site.

Found materials from the paths, printed on site.

There are 15km of paths on the island and I have walked all of them many times over the years. I always enjoy looking at what is on the paths. On Lundy it is largely made up of a wide variety of animal remnants, mostly droppings and corpses at varying stages of decay, feathers, hair, wool and plants. There is life too with occasional beetles scurrying across the tracks and fleeing rabbits, very strong smelling goats and wild Soay sheep.

I walked the paths again this year and every 100 paces I printed something from the ground. I recorded where I found it and what it was. One of my favourites was a sheep's ear partially decayed with its identification tag still on it. The rabbit shit prints were good too.

I made 90 mini prints which I will display together in some way..... still pondering on this.

 

June - Studio. Prints for Devon Guild Summer Exhibition

Conveniently the weather took a turn for the worse so trips up to the moor were less frequent and I had an enforced period of time in the studio. 

One of the problems with constantly gathering information is that you need to set aside a good body of time for assimilation and experimentation and play. I tend to alternate between research, play and making and  have learnt that you have to just go with whatever mindset you are in at the time, even if that does not fit in with deadlines and commitments. With this in mind I started working on ideas dating back to the beginning of the year.

The swaling of the gorse on the moor has always been a subject that intrigues me. I spent two weeks working on images from Cold East Cross. The resulting prints will be my submission for the Devon Guild Summer exhibition. 

These are monoprints with drypoint and carborundum plates overlaid. Making these prints during the Summer was a good antidote to the green landscape and I realise more and more that I prefer the autumn and winter months on Dartmoor.

"Escaping the Gorse"   Monoprint, Drypoint & Carborundum print

"Escaping the Gorse"   Monoprint, Drypoint & Carborundum print

May 2016 - Studio

Some initial plans for larger paintings. Time spent getting to grips with canvas, runny paint and brushes as opposed to paper, sticky inks and brayers. I am starting to see a dialogue between my painting and printmaking that I felt was absent before. 

April 2016 - The Blank Canvas & Painting BIGGER

After a weekend back in Newlyn with Gareth Edwards looking at Colour & Abstraction I have started to enjoy painting on a larger scale.

I collected my canvasses from St.Just and have looked at them a lot....... thought about putting paint on them a lot......... and finally put them in the spare room. I made a commitment to Gareth to have started them by the July mentoring weekend.... watch this space. 

May 2016 - Spring has finally arrived.

It is such a relief when spring finally arrives. In Devon it seems to appear overnight. The flowers  are at their best here in early spring, the bluebells are particularly abundant this year. Took a late evening walk up to Holwell Lawn. This was a totally sublime experience, surrounded by a purple - blue carpet with a sweet and delicate scent rising in a warm haze as the sun was fading.

Depicting bluebells is a challenge, most attempts seem so predictable and overdone. I made some monoprints back in the studio using imagery that has been developing from the Dartmoor walks, there is a hint of the flowers in them.

April 2016 - Abstract Landscape course at Newlyn School

I went back down to Newlyn School on a 2 day course with Gareth Edwards 

A great couple of days, first day at Lamorna Cove followed by a day in the studio. 

February 2016 - time for thinking.

It was a slow start to the month, undoubtedly due to the mental fall-out from my first mentoring weekend. Having your work critiqued by professional mentors and fellow students is a daunting process, but something, that for me, has been long overdue. I had become very firmly stuck in a fur lined rut. The mentors are fabulous, critical but considerate, and by the end of day 1 the class of 2016 were bonding with a sense of mutual understanding. We were all there for the same reason, I predict at times some of us will fly and others will be totally root bound - this will happen at different times and for different reasons.

I spent a huge amount of time looking back at previous artworks, sketchbooks and journals in order to take stock. Then,  thinking about what I would do next, I was reassured by the fact that my practice is still firmly rooted in place. I am at my happiest when out in the landscape. So with this in mind I set out to collect images and sketches to bring back to the studio.

The ice provided a stunning array of textures and colours, I braved the -8 degrees at first light to get these photographs. I am not yet sure how I will use them - maybe they are already complete.

Seven Lords Land near Haytor

Oil painting in development,  this piece is a response to a Ted Hughes poem - extract below:

Feeding Out – Wintering Cattle at Twilight

The wind is inside the hill. 
The wood is a struggle---like a wood
Struggling through a wood. A panic
Only just holds off---every gust
Breaches the sky-walls and it seems, this time, 
The whole sea of air will pour through, 
The thunder will take deep hold, roots
Will have to come out, every loose thing
Will have to lift and go. And the cows, dark lumps of dusk
Stand waiting, like nails in a tin roof. 
For the crucial moment, taking the strain
In their stirring stillness. As if their hooves
Held their field in place, held the hill
To its trembling shape.

A New Year, new ideas and creating a gap in my diary.

The most significant event for me this year is undertaking a One Year Mentoring Course at Newlyn School of Art. I have decided to invest time in myself and reduce my teaching commitments. I felt the need to develop my practice further, especially in terms of the philosophy and meaning behind my work. 

In the past I have found myself being too prescriptive about the aims of my projects, this is often due to gallery commitments where the marketing material is released before the work is produced. I would then find myself bound by these first, undeveloped, ideas and deny myself new possibilities. This prescriptive approach was also a safe place to be, knowing exactly what to do and knowing I could achieve it, not taking risks and going with initial ideas - rather ironic when I spend a lot of my time teaching the exact opposite to my students!

"We give advice by the bucket, but take it by the grain"  Tom Stoppard

January 2016 - A Year on Dartmoor

After spending 4 years working on the South West Coast Path I have decided to head inland and work on Dartmoor for a year. What it will lead to is uncertain, I have started to paint again, had thoughts of film,installations and 3D work, my head is full of possibilities. It is a strange sensation, being totally open to new ideas, a mix of excitement and trepidation with a sprinkling of self doubt and expectation.