I’m usually painting flat out this time of year as my solo exhibition slot at the Castle has always been in the spring, but this year I’m not exhibiting until August.

I’ve been busy gathering images and ideas for future artwork and playing around with some ideas. I had hoped  this will all come together to provide me with some direction as I feel I’m swimming in a tidal pool amongst a flotilla of wildly opposing ideas which come and go with my mood and the day.

But as I am writing this, I realise I quite like being in this pool of ideas that are swirling around me and come and go with the tide. It’s MY pool, and I’m taking ownership of these ideas.  They aren’t going anywhere.

I am very influenced by how I feel on the day I am painting and rather than try and find a focus or direction to swim in, think that maybe this is how I work best and I need to be in this pool. By experimenting and trying new things it’s all a great experience, keeps variety and interest  and motivation going and allows more creative freedom.

For a case in point, I am very taken with some photos of the past few days and want to start some larger wilder paintings.  These might have to wait for barn studio where I will have more space, so I will be swimming with them in my own creative pool for a few weeks yet and hope that they feel as alive then as they do now.

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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Art diary, Creativity


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Using Beach Rubbish to send a message to London

I had no idea bottle tops were such a beach pollution problem.  We have been picking them up as general plastic at the beach cleans for some time, but it wasn’t until we started seperating them, you realise the number there are and what a problem it is and of course the issue of where are the associated bottles.



Rame Peninsular Beach Care have had a campaign running for a while collecting the tops and threading them onto wire lengths which will all be joined together and taken to London to demonstrate the issue of beach pollution from discarded plastics and plastics washed into rivers.

The aim is to have influence on the Defra consultation on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which will be the government’s response to the EU on how it plans to achieve good marine environmental status by 2020 with one of the indicators being marine rubbish.

There was a shout out for more bottle tops a few weeks ago and rather than send them down loose, a friend organised a coffee morning where we could chat, drill and thread the bottle tops.

In all we made 12 x 2 metre lengths, which made perfect beach bunting which will be going off to join the other approx 240 m of chain bottle tops they already have.

We are hoping that after their jaunt to the big smoke, they will come to Bude in June, to be shown at the ‘Its Not Rubbish Art Show’


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Auto to Manual in an afternoon’s photography workshop

I might  have had a slight alterior motive in purchasing a photography workshop voucher for my son’s girlfriend, but knew she would love it and it was only a few quid extra to add an extra person to an afternoon’s landscape photography workshop with Gary King Photography

For Christmas I bought a voucher for the both of us to do a one to one (one to two in this case) workshop.  We spent some time with our cameras over christmas and struggled to get anything decent apart from on Auto, so we were both pretty excited about this one.

I think we both thought it would have been quite technical and possibly a generic based lesson, but Gary was incredibly intuitative to what we wanted to get out of the session and it was straight into Manual Mode.  A very experienced photographer and currently ambassador and promoter of the new Samsung cameras, he quickly gave us some great tips on using the tripod and finding our way around the camera.

We both have a reasonable eye for composition, but needed help on how to deal with the light and give the picture more atmosphere.  We learnt the basics of aperture and shutter speeds and how to check our pictures for sharpness and then went on to introduce Neutral Density Graduated Filters.  These take the glare and brightness out of the sky and increase the depth, tone and colour in the sky with quite dramatic effect.

There was a biting easterly wind which seemed to follow us wherever we went but it was bright and a perfect February day.. We hoped to get a slight glimmer of sunset and set ourselves up on the tideline waiting for the sun to drop and catch the ripples as the tide came in. We were frozen to the bone, the sunset never happened, but we learnt the technique for slowing down the water and composing a good shot so it was worth staying on.

One tip I can definately pass on, is check your white balance and experiment.  Auto isn’t always best and neither is bright sunlight.  We discovered that cloudy and shade settings instantly put warmer colours into the composition.

And do a course like this with someone else. Stephie and I are planning sessions together and between us stand more chance of remembering what we have been taught.  It was a great afternoon. Just need to put it into practice now.



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Connecting Beach Rubbish to an Art Experience

Last year I joined an art appreciation group.  Affiliated with Tate St Ives, they  have set up several groups in cornwall which run like book clubs, but instead of books, we discuss art. Last year we were approached Anna, exhibition organiser at the Castle and asked if we could curate our own exhibition.

As it turned out one of our group, Chris knew of a Schools Art Collection that had recently been given to the Royal Cornwall Museum by Cornwall Council.

Over 100 artworks from sculpture by Barbara Hepworth to drawings and paintings from many of the St Ives School are held with them and we wanted to get them out of the cupboard.

It’s been an incredible amount of work but the exhibition was up for five weeks and was incredibly successful with lots of visitors and great reviews.   For my part, I was treasurer but also helped to get the blog up and running after giving a crash course to a few people and also helped with the running of it.

Some of the work was by artists that are no longer here such as Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton and Borlase Smart, but there were a few contemporary works by Naomi Frears and Andy Hughes.

Andy Hughe’s artwork was a photograph which had been worked over when he was the first artist in residence at the Tate St Ives.It became one of the focal points of the exhibition with a question label, asking the public for their interpretations. I was familiar with him but it wasn’t until I saw a copy of the book Dominant wave that I was hooked.

Dominant Wave Theory Book

Dominant Wave Theory Book

Beach rubbish and collecting it is a passion. What with the “It’s not Rubbish Art Show” and #2minutebeachclean and Widemouth Task Force and now bottle top strings with Rame Peninsular it is quite a focus of daily life. I ordered a second hand copy of the book and the images are outstanding,  but when I read the foreword and essay I realised there was much more to it and I could see it as an art form.

Andy Hughes sees the objects in their pure form and links it to the light of St Ives and the sculptures of Barbara Hepworth.  They are beautiful pictures in their own right, but as he says it’s a double edge sword and for the viewer a constant struggle between appreciation of the art form and the monstrosity that afflicts our modern life  with the huge amounts of plastics that end up in the sea and washed up on our shores.

This book was published in 2006 and has excellent images I haven’t shared them as not sure of copyright issues)  Andy has done some amazing expeditions and work since with lots of groups highlighting the plastics in the sea with a new book due out this year called ‘Gyre’.  For more information see his excellent website. Andy Hughes

This is just a small part of the exhibition experience and I learnt a lot about many of the artists and their work, but this connection and further investigation of Andy Hughes will influence what I do next and the possibilities for new projects.

If anyone is interested to read it, the blog for the Your Art exhibition is at




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Hunting out the Jubilee Rock on Bodmin Moor

One of my ‘ideas of living’ is to make sure we get out and explore more. A beautiful morning after some pretty grim winter storms was the catalyst to getting the ‘Wild Guide’ out. I bought five of these brilliant books for presents and ourselves last year.

We plumped for going to Blisland to find the Jubilee Rock and wended our way down the valleys and country roads where signposts are few and far between and the roads criss cross in every direction. The book said it was hard to find, so when I saw a friendly face standing outside the pub in Blisland, I knew I had my man. Always best to ask a local and his directions were invaluable. A couple of turns in the road, we crossed a junction  up an unmade no through road to a little hamlet called Pendrift where we parked the car.

Wellies on, we stomped up the lane, an ancient sunken byway. You could feel and hear the footsteps and carts that had passed along it  through its history.Through the gate, we were suddenly catapulted up onto the open moorland, ferny, wild, stunted, colourful, mossy with large granite boulders  everywhere.The views were stunning, right out to the coast, the camel estuary in the west and north towards Roughtor and Brown Willy. It was slightly wet and boggy underfoot, but with no wind, we wandered around exploring the pathways admiring the ancient windblown hawthorns, the naturally bonsai’ed gorse bushes and a very upright holly tree.

The Jubilee Rock is one huge granite stone which looks like it has been dropped out of the sky. Lieutenant John Rogers did the original carving in 1810 to mark the Jubilee of George III, and in 1897 it was engraved by  to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and restored in 2012 to mark the Queens diamond Jubilee and is now a listed monument. I thought we were going to have to hunt for the engravings, but you couldn’t miss them.  A large Britannia, a coat of arms, the cornish emblem, a plough, a ship and a beehive are carved into the sides and on the top.  There are two steps on the top side, so it’s easy to climb atop.

The sky was becoming heavy with large clouds building up and we could see rain coming down in the far distance, so we retreated to the car and stopped off at the pub in blisland for a pint and sunday roast. Great atmosphere and lunch was fine, but not the best homecooked roast we were expecting, so would not recommend. But if you are that way, the pubs at St Mabyn and St Tudy are excellent.


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Start the Year feeling like a Happy Bunny.

It’s January, the start of a new year and I have a desire to create a bucket list, but there is just something about it that makes me feel uncomfortable.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, so typed into google  “Is a bucket list a good idea?”

I found some very wise words from psychotherapist Philippa Perry, the wife of Grayson Perry who said she thought it fed consumerism. she continues, “It can be useful to have defined goals, of course, but the lists seem to encourage a strange blend of highly individualised behaviour and conformity, a situation in which everyone is hurtling, alone, towards similar goals….

There’s a consumerist, acquisitive vibe to many of the lists, with the experience they replicate being the writing of a shopping list, says Perry. Instead of building on what you already have, “to make a good life,” she continues, “it’s really an attempt to fill an existential void”.

There’s also an innate air of competition to bucket lists, of striving to best yourself – but also others. In some ways it’s no surprise that they have risen in popularity in an age when we are all encouraged to brand ourselves, to treat our Facebook pages as a shop window for our achievement-rich lives. Psychologist Linda Blair, who is writing a book called The Key to Calm, to help people deal with stress and anxiety, says chasing big experiences is worthwhile if you enjoy the whole process. “Saving up the money, planning it with friends, and then the moment as well. I’m all for that,” she says. “But if you’re constantly living in the future, ignoring what’s going on right now because you’re shooting for goals, which happen so quickly that they’re over, and then you have to chase another one, you’re not really living.”

“What we should be doing in our bucket lists,” Perry says, “is learning how to be open with our own vulnerabilities so that we can form connections with other human beings … I think, for me, what’s wrong with the bucket list is that it’s individualistic – the idea of the isolated self goes very deep in Western society – and I think it’s a red herring … It’s a distraction from the business of being human. We don’t all like swimming with dolphins but we are all made to connect to each other. That’s the really fun thing to do before you die.”

‘Existential void’ kept coming back to me and looking it up it is describes as ‘The existential void is characterized by
directionlessness, paralyzing hopelessness and a pervading sense of emptiness.’. Whoa!!, that ‘s pretty heavy stuff but awareness brings with it some acceptance.

I have things I want to do, places I want to go but they are now on my list of ‘Ideas for living’, or ‘Making Time for Special Treats’.  No pressure of time, of looking constantly forward. This is where my anxiety lies. So I now have a happiness jar, where I pop one lovely little thought or happening every day, the simple things, the little things and I have a list of special places and treats I would like to experience with no particular time scale.  One happy bunny.

To help start the year, there are no resolutions and  the bottom line is don’t over think and keep it simple.  I did however like this.

8 things to give up motto




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Making friends with Aluminium, a new painting surface

Aluminium is not the first painting surface that would naturally spring to mind, and had I not seen it painted on, would probably never have considered it.  In fact, I have realised that most of my new directions have been borne out of requests or challenges from other people, exhibitions or commissions.  I know now that this needs to change. It’s far too easy to stay in the comfort zone with what you know, but it’s so much more exciting to break into new territories.

This story started in August which was good timing, as I had the space and the better weather for this project up at the Barn.  I was approached with the idea of commission for a new restaurant.  Tailoring the piece to the space, I took photos of the colour scheme and a perfect size was decided on.  Long and quite narrow, the artwork measurement required was 1700mm x 170 mm.

A large canvas would be needed and bespoke made and this was when I had the idea of aluminium.  It’s light, contemporary and has no chance of warping or moving and would be ideal in this situation.  My clients at the time were not convinced and I needed to convince myself too,  so I took off a friend who has is a  metal fabricator and he gave some advice on how to prep it and a small off cut to practice on.

I needed to use acrylics as there was not enough time to let oil dry.  Mediums helped to give it body and gloss but it just stays on the tops.  In one sense it’s not forgiving at all as it almost slips around and discovered that once on it was best untouched. Brushes felt alien on this hard surface, but sponges and rollers were perfect and picking up several colours, they blended into a harmonious though unpredictable sweep when laid down on the surface.

(The preparation is slightly boring, but for anyone reading that wants to know,it is also imperative to get it right.  The metal needs to be etch primed to hold the paint and to do this you have to rub the metal down with fine grade wet and dry sandpaper and household soap to thoroughly clean the surface and provide a key. You can see where you have done it as it takes on a brushed aluminium look and quality.  Then you apply etching primer evenly over the whole surface right to the edges.  Best done with a mask and outside, it’s pretty innocuous stuff and incredibly fine. I also had trouble finding it in anything other than grey. Once a couple of coats have been applied its touch dry pretty quick and after leaving to harden overnight, you are ready to go.)

Like most of my work, I find it hard to work to a specific idea with a strong framework of design. My art comes from within and whilst I can work to a certain colour idea, it has to be something fluid and able to change and evolve.  What started out as something quite abstract, it evolved into a semi abstract seascape with dark waters and a distant coastline to give some perspective with strong light added for contrast and to draw the eye in lots of brights.

I was working on the Cruel and Curious at the same time, and think this slightly influenced the painting which in hindsight was probably inevitable as I get so drawn into it, and it didn’t get finished before our holiday to Portugal or indeed before I left the barn studio, but like most things, it needed to be left to come back to, to stop getting focused on detail and overworking .

There is more scope for working on this surface and I am very keen to give it a go. The paint can be moved around and wiped off in an instant. Texture provides a tension in the surface and once dry it is very durable, so could be worked over and over. Alternatively you can work with the smoothness and keep some of the almost enamel qualities of working on metal.   Plenty of thought for the future in trying to work out how I and this surface become intimate friends.
iphone image of hot summers night

In the meantime, here is the finished painting.  The story in one sense didn’t have a happy ending.  The restaurant didn’t quite work out, but both my clients, nor I have regrets.  We both learnt a lot which added to our experiences and will take us forward in new directions and I’m sure I will find a home for it somewhere. Oh.. and the new title. “Hot Summers Night”
Nomada commission (800x318)



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