Friday, 5 October 2012

October!  The month of drawing! I'm really honoured to be 'drawing big' this year at High Cross House.
It's going to be great.  Lines, marks and modernist space..... yum yum. Tell yer mates! It's free to TQ9-ers.....

I'm also bubbling over with excitement to be enrolling on a print course at the Dartington Print Workshop with Louise Scammell.  This has been an ambition for a long time to get to grips with some print techniques and take things in a slightly different direction.  I love learning new things and I feel at the moment I need to absorb and discover quietly rather than expressing out.  Keep seeing Squirrels so maybe there's some squirrel medicine at play somewhere....storing for the Winter and all that.

Last week found me giving a little help to an amazing woman called Katheryn Trenshaw and her mammoth project IN YOUR OWN SKIN Check it out - and the Kickstarter site which has blown me away........
So here's to Autumn, enjoy!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Goodbye High Cross House

This week I cleared out the studio at High Cross.  It's been over six months and spanned three seasons since I moved in.  I saw a whole field get ploughed, planted and harvested with massive corn plants over my trips to and fro.
These two images are some of the last that came out.  They really have the essence of my experience of the residency.  I'm going to miss it tremendously.  Not least because the project I was going to has fallen through so I am without a space to work again.  But in a deep way the house has moved, inspired and motivated me.  The whole of the legacy of the Dartington Estate has affected me to realise my own potential and also to remember the power of progressive thought.
A collection of like minded, expansive thinkers has the energy to create such an amazing environment and the ripples are continuous.
I could have used the space more inventively, I thought in retrospect - some of the more experimental sculptural ideas didn't come off - but to be honest I am happy with the journey I took. The time there encouraged me to actually go inside myself and find the natural voice and let it to resonate quietly between the walls and out of the window around the amazing trees and sky and fields.
So now the challenge is to keep the momentum of this work and create some new opportunities.  I'm looking for a studio, embarking on a printmaking workshop to learn some new things (so excited!) and cooking up some little ideas for happenings to explore.  When one door closes another couple open.....

Friday, 20 July 2012


Following a harrowing few weeks of emotional turmoil I have tentatively been putting myself back together again.  The Blog has been neglected so I thought I would begin to talk again, slowly.  It seemed my work had flatlined slightly, or my feelings about it had.  There have been immensely deep changes in my soul and it simultaneously dislodged debris from my over-academic-over-analysing-aspiring-ego.
Take time, I told myself.  Let the work flow.  Look at the work already made.  See it with fresh eyes.  So I stopped, looked and saw that my emotions are ever present in the work.  That it speaks of that space in all of us where tranquility and serenity hides.  The best thing is that the work itself shows me where to go. I don't have to THINK...... I am just feeling now.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Off the page...

Am planning an experimental collaboration with voice artist Shelley Hodgson
It will take place on Wednesday 11th July from 10am on Shelley's radio show on
More info to follow.

for some reason the link to Shelley's blog won't work but I'll get it up asap because she is well worth getting to know, I promise you!!!!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Recently began thinking about landscapes, internal and external.  I've been drawing some fairly ordinary observational sketches.  It's cool to get back to meditating on something, letting it speak for itself.  I have been holding on too tightly to ideas and theories lately but in letting them go I think they are coming back more comfortably.
Lots of pressure is not a good thing.  Sometimes it forces me to focus but at the moment it is pushing me under.  Having an open studio raises a few pressures and hurdles that I have managed to avoid in the past.  Like when to sell and what to sell and how to feel if it's not selling......  I haven't made work to sell for a long time and suddenly it has become an issue - surely I should be making a direct living out of what I do.  Two minutes into this mindset and I unravel.  When someone approaches me to buy something I kind of talk them out of it.  I can't work out why.  Inferior frames, lack of self worth, attachment to my work which is somehow part of myself.  Artists are notoriously bad business people but I am astonishingly rubbish!!!!  So I am going to work on this over the next few weeks, any tips gratefully received.....

Friday, 25 May 2012

A test version of a piece that I want to make. I want it to be about 8ft tall by 8ft diameter.  Working out the materials and fabrication is a bit frustrating...... It has to be outside but I want it to have the thinness of paper. And I need to get in and out to do the drawing as performance.

This old pianola roll fluttered in the breeze today.   To hear it making a noise after its time spent silent was beautiful.  I often wonder about the sounds it used to make.  It sits there with all the potential and expectation of movement and sound but I usually have to imagine it.  

Friday, 18 May 2012

the sound of it all

One of the experimental digital sketches exploring marking of the sound of the words collected by visitors in response to High Cross. 

and on a Friday morning we have a drink and draw (nothing stronger than coffee I'm afraid to say) and Sarah gently got us all sharing drawings........ bliss.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

I like this blur.  It started life as very precise, intense drawing.  I'm hung up on the blogging thing.  I don't seem to be able to get down to it often enough.  And when I do I'm not sure it's my true voice anyway.  It's ironic that someone who is concerned with the visual and also with the language of the mark and expression struggles with a few words and images published on a blog.
It often feels like a diary, a reflective tool for myself, which is fine but then why would I show my diary to everyone willy nilly?!  This whole process makes me feel more vulnerable than sitting in my studio with 40 people passing through daily....  and I can pretend to be whoever I like on the blog, I can photo shop, edit, re-invent, big-up, pretend.
There is also the confusion of how far to go - I intended this to be a professional information site, yet I find myself divulging personal thoughts, feelings, ideas.  Perhaps this is because the work itself (oh yes, how could we forget the actual work itself....!)  is me.  And perhaps I am pretty blurry anyway.  Professional and personal for an artist are surely blurred yet some artists remain detached from their public presentation.  The work speaks for itself and the surrounding information merely that - information.
Which brings me to conclude that my discomfort with blogging perhaps lies in the fact that I feel less professional.  In an attempt to follow the appropriate 'professional practice' guidelines (promote, promote, promote) I have in fact become less professional.  Ha!

Saturday, 14 April 2012


I'm struggling.  It's been a long, hard week or two....  time is passing quickly and there's this panic in me that I'm not using my time well.  I have sense of time being marked in some of the sketches.  They come from the trees and they are made of trees.  This cycle of things keeps emerging as does the attempt to order it.  Drawing is ordered is it not?  Nature is ordered too.  One of the visitors last week mentioned Fibonacci, I hadn't thought of it for a while so it was a gift to be reminded that there is this underlying system to the apparent randomness of things.  I get many gifts in the studio; a pencil enthusiast the other day; a wordsmith who tripped me off on a whole debate in my head about language and then back again to the language of the mark; a wonderful blind lady who taught me the 'feel' of the building.  How do I make a piece with all this?  How do I mark these ideas and conversations.... 
Found this very encouraging:
there's light at the end of all this tunnelling....

Friday, 16 March 2012


the furrows driven into my brow
are deeper than yours, field
both of a similar hand
yet yours will heal
you will mend
grow new skin
from good strong stuff
will I

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


Pencil power by my eldest boy Tom.  We found a hole made by teenagers and their trusty lighters.  Tom put the pencil in there.  He's good.

word soup

Today's list
Marks recording the rhythm line quietness (type of marks: line, modernist blocks of tone) The grid
Space and time response to space environment
dialogue with drawing breaking conventions
Shadow work (daily ritual/time passing...)
Rubbings of trees (daily multiple)
carbon paper
order over chaos order over nature (seeds individually drawn)
INDEXICAL skin of the house (also conversations recorded) /archictect plans
House home machine for living ornament as crime (take some craft back in?) drawing stitch?
Wire outside. Crotched wire... in shape of shadow. Stitched paper sculptures, inside of window reproduced etc.
Use something specific in the house to work from - stitch wise
Language of mark (calligraphic enquiry) mark verses calligraphic code

Sound shapes.  Wind in trees movement animation and car slicing through


Sylvia journal (is a blog in any other sense) Honesty, no secrets or editing

Feet walking enquiry into walking maps footprints sketches of feet walking in time marching pace rhythm collecting marks of footfall.

And trim with a sharpened pencil the branches
that serve no purpose

head full of stuff

Friday, 9 March 2012

In the (National) Trust we trust....

A simple, serene space defined by lines and light. For a few days I responded to this. I found the dead bird on the terrace. I drew some preliminary sketches. I pondered the language of the mark. I imagined the 'text' as a mark representative of function, code and order as is High Cross House; and then I considered the gestural mark, or the trace, as the outside space - unfettered, unpredictable and natural.

I met a fantastic, wonderful, genius, artist the other day who works as a performance writer. Excitedly listened to her describe any mark, including text, as drawing... whole world of dialogue around this opening up to me and low and behold it was born in Dartington..... Serendipity or what? Probably more about this another time.....for now I have to focus.

Something will happen on this terrace. Something will happen that involves the visitors. They come in droves and they are amazing. Full of knowledge and opinion and interest and STORIES. They tell me their stories. National Trust folk - wonderful folk. So I need to respond to them as much as the building.

For now though there is little opportunity to actually draw (because of all the story telling..)
Even less time for quality blogging. So apologies for the unedited random rambling....

Monday, 5 March 2012

Haven't uploaded any new drawings yet.... crazy busy and the universe seems to think now is a good time to pile on the challenges (ie HUGE LIFE PROBLEMS).
This amused me though and I can't seem to post without an image - it seems too naked - so I just tucked it in bad as it is. I did my crossword on the dining table and it accidentally printed out! I have been messing with text and carbon paper.... so this was a delicious discovery. It spoke of grids and random words and language and incidental marks.....
I am at the studio right now. First time I have been here before midday. The sun is beaming right through and it feels completely different to the afternoon light. Need to document the daily shift I think so I'm going to start playing with the shadows in a minute. Also the sounds are strange. The window is sealed really well so not much noise gets through but this quiet sound movement animates somehow. The pulse slow and flowing and then the occasional car slices through down the lane. Trying to respond with marks but I keep reaching for words.....
Quite tempted to play with the digital sound drawing thing again. I really want the response to come from my hand, for it to be my mark but the beauty of employing technology is that you can circumvent the conscious ramblings of the mind and intellect.... they get in the way of a natural response.
Rambling now.... must go and attempt some unconscious mark making...

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Getting a grip.

Too much going on in my head and in the umpteen sketchbooks on the go. Attempting to filter out some of the common threads and actually pin down the direction they're going in..... Admin basically.... I've got an awful feeling it's going to involve lists.

Keep returning to these lines. These are of the river (Dart). Keen to explore this control, order over the unpredictability of nature. Also the repetition in a daily rhythm. At High Cross House there is a quietness. It is full of lines. The order and repetition of the line create an emotion almost undetected in its coolness. Whether to go with this or challenge it and pick up on the tension with the outside (rambling, free, curved, squiggled, movement, life...). It's a start.

The first day at the studio was short because there is still a lot of work going on with the building. I was able to be there long enough to freak out. I have not really anticipated how much of a public space my studio will be.... The last time I worked like this I had a similar freak out I remember now! I think the pressure I pile on myself is huge and I know that is the way I work, unfortunately. The space here needs to be set up. Ideally I need a body of work to display whilst I work on the current stuff. In reality I don't have a body of work. My old pieces don't exist only in bad photographs. I don't really want to have it around me necessarily! I go over old work and I see what it lacks. Where I went wrong. Sometimes I am philosophical about it and kind to my old self. Like a fond parent I see the limited, naive, work as part of her development, learning curves if you like and that it is a constant journey. Then I have horrid days when I almost give up. The inner critic rises like a putrid poison to infect me with self doubt and shame; how could I ever imagine that silly drawing was valid? It's basic and rudimentary. It lacks rigour. It is so undeveloped.... and so on.

Nevertheless I keep going and the next step is to make a list of course. That will help me get a grip. Control over the chaos within whilst the drawing takes control of the chaos 'with out'.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Preparing to begin working here on Tuesday (see article below). I have a lot of ideas to pursue and really didn't need to diversify anymore when lo and behold I discovered another.... The imortance of selection and focus and development is abandoned again in favour of greedy overstuffed ideas, desperately vying for attention.... But this one just came accidentally and begged to be noted down..:
I have worked with the idea of drawing time or marking time before and then I found a test used for diagnosing dementia. The patient is asked to draw a clock face. From this a series of conclusions are used to diagnose the full extent of the dementia.
It struck me because of the cognitive and language research into drawing that can be extrapolated but also in a poetic sense the age of the patient and the passing of time is being forced on them, they are facing their own passage of time.

Any road up. The project at High Cross House will be heavily influenced by the rampant nature surrounding the house and the tension between this and the Modernist 'line' of the building itself. I'm hoping to blog a little more regularly, if not for my own sanity (reflecting thoroughly on my drawing research) then for a document of the work which I am notoriously lousy at. It will be interesting to work in a domestic house, I have wondered if the work I made on the theme of home will resurface. Especially in this environment 'designed for living' where 'Ornament is crime' and where the canon of modernism, the masculine, emotionally phobic lines and shapes of minimal expression reign over the concept of 'home'. Have I had enough of this subject? Maybe I will just let rip with a mark making response to this space without the ideology surrounding it. As always context will be content but there are umpteen contexts to look at.........Overstuffed? Bursting!

National Trust to open modernist High Cross House to public

Devon property designed as a simple and sleek 'machine for living', is one of the UK's most important modernist homes

High Cross House in <span class=Dartington, Devon" style="padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; border-collapse: collapse; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">
High Cross House in Dartington, Devon. Photograph: Chris Boden/PA

The National Trust, best known for its lavish mansions and sprawling manor houses, is to take over the management of one of the UK's most important modernist homes.

High Cross House in Dartington, Devon, a former headteacher's home designed as a simple and sleek "machine for living", will open to the public from 7 March.

Designed by the Swiss-American architect William Lescaze and completed in 1932, the house was built for William Curry, the first headmaster of the progressive Dartington Hall school.

Robyn Brown, of the National Trust, said: "It is one of the top five modernist houses in the country. It is fantastic, brutalist architecture, very clean lines, very machine-like and indeed that is what it was designed as – a machine for living."

High Cross is still owned by the Dartington Hall Trust but will be managed as a tourist attraction by the National Trust. The building will be turned into a "local hub for contemporary arts", where visitors can see artists at work.

Vaughan Lindsay, chief executive of the Dartington Hall Trust, said: "We hope the partnership will bring many new visitors to the estate to enjoy High Cross House, explore Dartington's glorious grounds and gardens and find out more about our charitable programmes in the arts, social justice and sustainability."

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Graphite :)

Had a marvellous day this week, think it was Wednesday? With Gillian on the stereo and the sun shining through the window I let rip with the pencils and the graphite and tried all the little ideas that have been bubbling frustratingly in my head.
The material culture. This phrase struck me. It was in reference to museum archives being material objects. Capturing the history of culture in a physical sense. Don't know how this links entirely but whilst I was drawing I was so conscious of the materials. What they tell me. How they speak. They capture the sense of idea. This thought process needs to brew before unravelling because I can't even begin to explain this and in a way this is a note to myself. The concepts are so immaterial that to make them solid with words almost destroys them. Something happens that transcends the physical.

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Ego

After attempting to paint "how I feel" onto canvas it became patently obvious how difficult this was going to be.
I haven't painted for ages. I haven't painted how I feel since I was a teenager! Bearing this in mind there are also lots of levels to this difficulty.
Being averse to imagery an abstract sense of my emotions emerged and perhaps it's a little too vague or subjective to access. When I look at what I've made I can't make any judgement of quality. I have no reference points for this. When I'm drawing I am researching, it is ongoing and temporal and in process. Painting on to a canvas with oils is so determined before you begin. I am constantly searching through the painting activity but it's all so finite and there is the end product contained in that dreadful, ominous, rectangle.
It would be fair to say I am struggling. Struggle is good, however, today I am reeling from reading a very old review that I hadn't seen before and it wasn't a very generous one. The woman reviewing my work and the event it was part of was incredibly dismissive and complaining, almost whiny. I abhor that sort of criticism. It's difficult enough to read glib comments about contemporary art being pretentious when it's written by Daily Mail bigots but from one of your own, a fellow artist, well that is harsh. I took it completely personally, naturally and have been obsessing about this badly written review based on opinion rather than sound reasoning all day (incidentally, uploaded onto a forum at least a two years ago.... get a grip Heaney).
It does leave you open, this art malarky. Not everyone is going to approach the work with the same integrity and dedication that it was made with and it would be impossible to reach all audiences (first lesson in self preservation). And maybe it's ok for folk to hate it. But hate it with style - PLEASE!
As a small consolation there also exists a very thorough, intelligent review of the work in question so I might just go and read that again to boost my ego.........

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Brand new year. I woke up with ideas about drawing feet and walking and a buzzing need to research. My new obsession - Sylvia Plath. It's so funny that my teenage self was so absorbed in her journals and letters and word craft that I completely missed the importance of her passion for visual art.
I've rooted around a little. Trying very hard not to get too excited and carried away lest my enthusiasm peaks too soon and the 'what's the point' voice chimes in... I've found a bit of writing about how wide her creative method was. She combined visual responses with lyrical expression, she plundered her own teenage drawings for inspiration and sourced ideas from favourite painters.
I'm experiencing a real familiarity with the dilemma between following art or literature. I often have to be strict with myself about using text in my drawings (and have attempted to explore a wider concept of how text speaks more directly than marks....a later discussion of this might arise from this research?). The other startling discovery was, as I returned from a cold, unyielding Dartmoor visit with the dog was (apart from her poem - New Year on Dartmoor) a quote - which I'm afraid I can't provide any reference for - in which she discusses another dilemma of mine: the use of the personal in a work and how to refrain from making this a turgid, indulgent navel gaze.

“I think my poems immediately come out of the sensuous and emotional experiences I have, but I must say I cannot sympathize with these cries from the heart that are informed by nothing except a needle or a knife, or whatever it is. I believe that one should be able to control and manipulate experiences—even the most terrific, like madness, being tortured, this sort of experience—and one should be able to manipulate these experiences with an informed and an intelligent mind. I think that personal experience is very important, but certainly it shouldn't be a kind of shut-box and mirror looking, narcissistic experience.”

I think this is the tip of a lovely big, interesting, engaging ice-berg for me. I don't know if you're reading this anyone but right now I am soooooooo happy. Sylvia Plath has given me a project.

I'm currently blogging over on It's a repository for my developing PhD research The Graphic M...