Falling in love with Oils

A weekend away at Newlyn Art School always motivates and gets the inspiration going, but will I make the switch to Oils?  A two day course in Oil and Abstraction with Gareth Edwards certainly lent me towards giving this medium a go, but it’s a pretty big investment in time and money.

They smell lovely, they feel lovely; I had no idea how adaptable they were and I love breaking rules. But they are incredibly messy and take an age to dry. Working st home this was really a no no, but now I have a studio space it’s the ideal opportunity to unleash a new passion , but need  to balance whether I have the patience and care for that to happen.  It would be a new challenge as I  work pretty immediately and like quick results, but I’m thinking a slowing down of the process might allow more depth and creative thinking into a piece of work.

Of course it is possible to produce work in one session, ‘Alla Prima’ , wet in wet and this is what we did over the two day workshop, but it requires a skill in not producing ‘Mud’ but colours which can resemble ‘mud’  are apparently interesting neutrals and I am beginning to see their worth as  other colours put alongside absolutely ‘Sing’.

I have used water based oils in the past and thought they were ok, but can now see why I haven’t developed a passion for them and have tended to use acrylics instead.  They feel really dry and they don’t smell. A few years ago the thought of working in a room of ten people all using turps and linseed was enough to get me running in the other direction, but I was absolutely seduced by it, or maybe ‘high’ on it!  There were indeed a few times when we all had to escape to get some fresh air.

So.. I’ve just finished a large commission in acrylics and it looks fabulous and we are off to Madeira on holiday next week.  I have my ipad with me and might just start filling an online basket with goodies to start a love affair with  Oils 

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Posted by on November 14, 2015 in Art diary


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When it comes good – a happy commission, ‘Sunshine and Showers’

Commissions are a great challenge, especially when you know the client just loves what you do and trusts in your work. There’s less pressure and more sense of what is important to convey in the painting.

This was one such case.  Money left by a grandmother and a decision to buy a piece of art. A young lady came to me with such a proposal and connected straight away with a small oil I’d painted on board called ‘ Sunshine and Showers’ but wanted something bigger. The idea of the two weathers, a metaphor on life and the connection she had with this person a defining decision.

With BAAMFEST and my own solo exhibition, work didn’t start on it until August.  With butterflies in the stomach, the first paint went on.  I soon realised it was not going to be a case of a straightforward copy and  experimented with underpainting and blending colours in oil and acrylic.

On a small scale, the subtleties of blending and soft areas worked well but didn’t translate into a larger piece, so the palette knife and shapers came out replacing most of the brushes and with it stronger colours and more contrast with impasto and a good use of acrylic mediums to get the right texture and finish. I used Golden acrylic mediums and paints and have a great feel for how they work and some of the colour mixes.

Bolder strokes with greater depth of colour and lighter areas that bounced forward, it was a good exercise in composition and making the painting work. It took several weeks of coming back to it, knowing it wasn’t working and then redefining areas so that it all came together.  The sky and getting the two atmospheres in one piece became more about expression and painting than reality, and once I realised this, it started to pull together as the yellows, mauves and blues started to work their magic sitting next to each other.

On the day of delivery, I was concerned that it was a little too far from the original,but  was happy with it myself and thankfully so was she.  I recently went back to get a photograph of it, to get a good image and it immediately rang true the instant I looked at it. On a contemporary deep canvas measuring 80cm square it makes a great impact on the room.

What a lovely way to remember someone and for them to always be there with you.

sunshine and showers small oil on board.

sunshine and showers small oil on board.

Sunshine and Showers

Sunshine and Showers

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Posted by on October 24, 2015 in Art diary


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Cruel and curious a major part of my artistic journey.

Cruel and Curious, the concept and vision of Cai Waggett of Hickory Nines, and lucky for me just up the road has just had it’s third show, ‘Hinterland’. Held in the barns at Stowe Barton, a medieval farmstead owned by the National Trust adds an instant air of mystery, but it is more about the camaraderie; a band of people that together with the  artists have created such a special event that is more about experience and atmosphere than a selling or commercial stage.

It’s beauty lies in the undiscovered; the knowledge that there is so much more; and  that the depth of creativity  is bottomless. The show  held over two days at the end of September has had exposure but remains a somewhat elusive event that you have stumbled across and feels very special and almost humbling.

The huge walls and lofty barns give shelter from the Atlantic coast; the smell of rum fuelled coffee, music and the magic of film projected onto the old stone walls makes for a laid back unpretentious atmosphere as artists mix with friends, family and make new acquaintances, bringing their own unique take on the theme in individual spaces side by side.

On a personal level, the artistic journey with cruel and curious over the past three years has been influencial  to say the least. It has been a time of experimentation, fresh materials and endless ideas with enthusiasm that knows no end.

The first year was about finding my feet with a mix of paintings and 3D work using mermaid purses in light boxes. Last year still going with the sea theme, ideas were driven by the huge Altantic storms of the winter which gave me endless pieces of driftwood including broken beach huts and loose pieces of ancient petrified forest that I mixed with resins and painted over.

This year the theme of Hinterland, with the valleys, the trees, impressions of the land behind inspired a direction of total contrast and I used aluminium panels to apply paint. The image of a caravan overgrown in a hedge sparked the idea of ‘Home’.

Most of my work is focused on the coast. It’s where I’m drawn, always to the sea, but when I go inland I love the pure feeling of nature which feels it still has the upper hand and not us, where people are living in harmony with it.  This is their secret to a simple life and they do not always need to find a home in bricks and mortar.

The time of day when you feel this harmony most is at sunrise and sunset or dimity as the light fades.  The wind stills and your other senses are more heightened as you are aware of smells and sounds and not just sights. Another year done, it is one of the highlights of the year and is a meeting place for some of the area’s more enlightened characters.


Next year’s theme is a secret, but lets just say I’m already planning and without wishing to wile time away, can’t wait.


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Hinterland Trailer…

Sue Read Art by the Sea:

It’s nearly time for #CruelandCurious ‘3’. Another great inspiring collaborative exhibition of which I’m proud to be part of .

Originally posted on North Cornwall National Trust:


The third annual instalment of the Cruel and Curious Art exhibition, that we co-host with Hickory Nines, is fast approaching, in association with:

Finisterre | Harbour Brewing Co | Fear design

Friday 25th September 2015   5:30pm – 9:30pm
Saturday 26th September 2015   4pm – 9:30pm
@ Stowe Barton, Cornwall ~ EX23 9JW

Rum & Ale Bar | Food | Refreshments

Free admission
(donations appreciated)

Now the third event of it’s kind, Hickory Nines and the National Trust once again team up to bring together artists, photographers and makers to the atmospheric 18th century stone barns of Stowe Barton, North Cornwall, for the region’s most conspicuous pop-up art event…

Following two years of celebrating the murk & myth of the sea, The Cruel & Curious exhibition takes an about turn, casting its gaze inland, with over 25 artists and photographers – some new, some returning – each subjectively embracing the…

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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Art diary


How long does it take to paint that?

The age old question.. “how long did it take  you to paint that?” 

It’s a very valid question and often the first and most obvious thing people want to know when striking up a conversation, but it’s taken me a while to formulate an answer.  

I could just think about it in terms of physical painting time and this probably wouldn’t be as long as people think, but what they are less aware of is the hours spent mulling over ideas, the space in between, the walking away and letting it sit for a while while I work out where to go next. 

 I now work on more than one piece at a time, and whilst some think you need to keep the focus, it works better for me. The downtime allows my subconscious to sit with ‘the other piece’,  develop new ideas, methods and direction which I find far more exciting.

In the lead up to the exhibition, I spent many nights going over plans, thinking up new paintings and often had to get up and make notes for fear of losing the connection. 

So now when someone asks me how long it takes to paint a particular artwork, I usually say something along the lines of ’50 years, lots of sleepless nights and sitting on a beach gazing out to sea’. 

 I truly believe my creativity is in part a gift, but also 75% thinking and probably only 25% putting paint to paper, and of course some technical ability and skills and experimenting which have been learned over the years. 

I think this is where having the studio space at Wooda has been such a rewarding fruitful experience. The peace and calm has given me total focus, sometimes to the point of obsession and not having to think at all about emptying the dishwasher, how much laundry is in the basket etc.  Thank you Don ;-) .



Posted by on August 17, 2015 in Art diary


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Bamboo pen and Indian Ink

When I was  in Italy last year, a parting gift was a bamboo pen from Marcus.  It has proved my absolute best tool for drawing and complements my style perfectly.  It doesn’t hold much ink but picks up water nicely to give a variety of tone and breadth of stroke.  It scratches and  flicks dots of ink as it catches on the paper.

It’s impossible to hold like a real pen as it is chunky, thick and long, but hold it near the end and it encourages loose drawing marks and random hit and miss.

This can be further exploited by dipping it into water, or spraying water, dripping, flicking and using a watercolour brush over the surface.

Quick drawings in situ can be completed in ten minutes or take half an hour with more time spent looking at the subject rather than the paper.  It forces you to decipher the scene; pick out what is important and leave the unnecessary.

This was one such day at Northcott Mouth and the resulting work hanging in the exhibition ‘Colours Of A Tangled Coastline”

  northcott mouth . suereadart  


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It wasn’t just the coastline that was tangled!

Seven weeks ago I thought I was going to have to call in past commissions and sold paintings to help make up the numbers for the exhibition at the Castle. The  Willoughby Gallery is a large space with lovely white walls and huge windows, but for the meantime this was just the back up plan.  I had to see how the next few weeks panned out.

I never saw myself as the temperamental artist, but the strong focus distorted my usual day to day life as the guilt of not pulling my weight at home against the pressure of time and sorting the tangle in my brain took over.  However what did really work for me was having the new fresh uncomplicated space at the barn studio.  It is impressively lofty and incredibly peaceful, so when there I could entirely focus on the job in hand.

Another dilema.. this isn’t supposed to be a job. I didn’t want to paint to please the public, but remain true to myself and paint what I felt but as someone pointed out, it’s a vocation and Graeme letting me use the space has helped me fulfill this and I DO KNOW how lucky I am. This deliberate stance to paint what I felt mattered to me at that moment meant there were lots of varied styles as well as different surfaces, sizes and framing and this all sort of came back and bit me on the bum when it came to hanging, but after four solo shows I’m getting the hang of it now.

What some might call pressure I think I might call, shutting off the world for moments; letting others take responsibility and allowing myself  the time to really focus the ideas; work out solutions and let new ideas breath and develop.  And boy did they come!  I have to say at this stage that my husband might not agree with this as I certainly put a ‘load’ on him, but it needed to be. I now understand the solitude of art practice and how the creative mind is so underused but also so vast if it’s allowed to breath.  It really felt like it was 75% of my brain in a very physical way.

It was still very important to me to get the full experience from my surroundings, so I was up some days with first light and out with the ink sketches which enables me to lose the unnecessary, but focus on the important structure of the painting and sift through the finer detail.  Having the ideas, I needed the studio space to work how ways of how to express what I saw and felt and each piece required a different approach for me which kept it fresh, lively and exciting. I used oil on board, acrylic like watercolour mixed with inks on canvas, bright flourescents,  lots of different mediums, sprays, rollers, sponges, and of course my hands.

The resulting exhibition was made up of over 20 originals, some ink sketches and a selection of my art prints.

Read more about this in following posts to come. Purposely omitted any pictures here. The words were too important.


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