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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Nothing like a challenge

I get an email from a friend who works for the National Trust with an idea.  How about I make a short film for you in exchange for some drawings for a project I’m doing?

I like the film idea. To have something visual to show people how I work and who I am would be invaluable to add to my website in these days of the web being where it’s at, but could I draw an impression of a  medieval longhouse with cut outs. My gun ho attitude kicks in, ” yeah, I can do that for you”.

I’d been wanting to hone my drawing skills and had been working with ink pens making daily sketches to try and get information down quickly, but this required more precision, without it looking like bad architect had tried to draw it.

A little research ensued along with a visit to Tintagel Old Post Office to meet with Rhodri, the manager to discuss the history, pick up some information and get an idea of what they wanted.  The three drawings were to form part of a two week long interactive archaeology festival looking at how the post office would have looked 600 years ago.  No pressure then.

It was such a different project for me, I’m up for a challenge and I really enjoyed working with more intensity which required a lot of patience too. When it came to drawing a replica of the fireplace as it might have been, I used ink washes to give some depth and shadow.

I visited Tintagel today and it was incredibly interesting. Just the enormity of the age of the building, it’s history in it’s setting,  how it has survived and also been looked after. It really is a gem and North Cornwall so very lucky, which was measured by the throng of people there from all over the world.

More information here The old post office, Tintagel

The old post office, Tintagel

The old post office, Tintagel

Sketch by Sue Read Old Post Office Tintagel as medieval longhouse

Old Post Office at Tintagel as a medieval longhouse. Pen Sketch by Sue Read copyright of the artist

Byre information Old Post Office Tintagel medieval longhouse


Old Post Office Tintagel Medieval Longhouse. Sketch copyright of artist Sue Read

The Old Post Office at Tintagel as a medieval longhouse . Pen sketch copyright of artist Sue Read

Information on the Old Post Office Tintagel medieval longhouse

Garden and back of Old Post Office Tintagel as it is today


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Posted by on July 13, 2015 in Art diary


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An Italian visitor

A bonus of having the studio where the public can pop in, is that you get special days when someone really makes your heart sing.  An Italian family are staying for a week and absolutely love and appreciate what Cornwall and we are all about.

Their daughter Agathe bounded into the studio yesterday with the broadest smile and returned today for a half hour little painting session when I let her loose with some of my watercolours. I thought she might want to paint the sea but she wanted to do animals, so catto and cane it was.

She could speak some English,  we managed really well to converse with added sign language and lots of smiles, and she confidently picked  the biggest brush and we had great fun mixing colours.

She even pulled the big chair over, sat in it in front of a large painting I’m working on at the moment and directed me to paint.

What a delight to have such a lovely free spirit with a love of creating and her father said she thought I was better than Van Gogh which really made me smile.



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Losing my marbles and finding them again 

The pressure, mostly from myself; the expectations, the doubt, the self worth, the ego. Working with the creative mind is so full of uncertainty, dipping and diving , losing focus, a mist of ideas as the mind jumps around with nothing coming to the fore. Sleep doesn’t help. Nobody can help and everyone suffers. I  think madness is sinking in, but I’m stronger and better than this so I decide to go back to meditation. 

Up early, I get the rug and sit in the decking with legs crossed, arms resting gently on my open knees with the fourth finger and thumbs just touching and find some inner peace until I take a deep breath…. Cat piss!!!! Think the cats are marking their territory in our garden and the early morning sun has warmed it nicely to perfume the lower levels of the garden. 

Oh well, it was a good try and even 2 minutes meditation was enough to bring some calm and inner strength. Onward and upward. A timely post from a friends blog made me realise I’m not alone or going mad. 

I’m writing this in the studio, having had a very productive two hours painting and nearly finishing two pieces and wondering what the hell yesterday was all about ….until the next time. 😋


Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Art diary


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Putting the studio together in 2 days

Last year I was lucky enough to have some space in the barn studio at Wooda Farm Holiday Park.  I was born there and my brother kindly allowed me the space for the summer months.  Over the winter, the barns and the barn I was working in were transformed.  A lot of work took place over the whole courtyard area.

I approached the modern changes with a little trepidation as there was so much charm working in such a rustic setting, but the reality of it was there was poor light, it was draughty, cold and dusty.

The other reality was that in the end I only had two days to make a completely blank pristine space into a working studio/gallery.

Ordinarily it would not have mattered, but I had an interview and photographs with ‘My Cornwall’ magazine for an August feature to coincide with my exhibition, which was too good an opportunity to miss and this was the latest date possible. This also alongside all that had to be done for Baamfest, a local arts and music festival and our Its Not Rubbish Art Show which was happening two days later.

Looking back, I still don’t know quite how I pulled it out of the bag and would not have been possible without the help of family and friends. In fact Don (husband) and Annie (sidekick for INRAS), I couldn’t have done it without you both.

Preparation was key too and I had already mapped out the space. The end for the studio, prep area and the front as a gallery space. Graeme had acquired some old trestle tables made 80 yrs ago. Reminiscent of the french market communal eating tables you see, they have a wonderful aged patina and at over 4 metres long were perfect to fill the space.

A small storage unit was transformed by Don with nail heads for paints, tin cans for brushes and castors making it a moving work station. A large stirling board mounted on the wall means I can add ideas and drawings with a pull down roll for quick notes and sketches.


I have to confess that dust sheet at the back did have a quick flicking paint job in the back garden the previous weekend to give a little authenicity along with some dirtied and coloured jars of water to make it looked lived in and used.

Phew!  Done.

Sue Read Studio Bude

Barn Studio completed


Posted by on June 21, 2015 in Art diary


The ‘It’s Not Rubbish Art Show’ 2

From initial meetings and planning in January, BaamFest 2015 in June was always going to be bigger and better.  We had a new location,booked a big top marquee, some great music acts and a comedy night with Kernow King.

The ‘It’s Not Rubbish Art Show 2′ also has a new venue within the Bude Castle and Heritage Centre, a small side gallery that was to become our underwater aquatic display of Creatures of the Deep,all made by the community.Everything was made from beach finds in the local area over the last winter.

The irony of it all is that it was beautiful and colourful, yet so harmful when it’s in the water.

The idea was simple. Annie Creo and I at the helm, we spent the winter beach combing, gathering ideas and from May, it was full steam ahead to make it all happen from promotion, designing the room display, to getting judges, prizes, forms and arranging the entries.  We even had a mention on BBC springwatch and my instagram picture made an appearance.

The idea is to spread the message of cleaning the beaches and the problem of marine litter, whilst celebrating local peoples creativity in turning beach rubbish into ART.

We did a workshop with two classes at the local junior school in April and this provided some momentum for other classes, children and adults to partake and lobbied friends to have a go, providing cake and materials in the garden one sunny morning. We went to local beach cleans with Widemouth Task Force and #2minutebeachclean and organised a very unsuccessful swap shop, but the idea was fun and it was good promotion. Katrina Slack, an artist from Penzance also contributed a large porpoise piece she has made with the WWF.

A large ‘cod end’ net still with it’s plastic rings and colourful rope became our personal project; to be a centre piece of a large fish outside the gallery. Still unnamed she is beautiful with a wellie boot fin, frilly eye lashes, lighters for teeth, an inner tube for a mouth and she was filled with rope and other ghost gear which spills out of her mouth into a weaving littered with other items, all found on local beaches.

I also made a large sphere from fishing string over an inflated beach ball which when removed left me with a lovely light see through sphere which resembled the world.  It’s addictive, working with this beach rubbish and I stayed up until 1 am one morning making small plastic fish to put around the outside of my fishing string world.

The day arrived, the show opened and we had over 600 visitors in the first day. Annie cleverly devised a walk around the room to guide people, which meant they didn’t miss a thing.  The show was judged by Widemouth Task Force and #2minutebeachclean with extra prizes for the winners of the ‘peoples vote’.


Local artist Karen Gimlinge also made a lovely large seahorse to display and ran a very successful childrens workshop creating a large seascape with our left over rubbish.

On for two weeks, we hope many more will see it and more importantly go away more aware of beach rubbish, pick it up and spread the word.

(thanks to Bob Willingham for the festival pics)


Posted by on June 20, 2015 in Art diary


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Reworking some old boards with surprising results.

Last summer whilst at the barn studio, I played around with oil bars. Big thick chubby sticks of solid oil colour that were cumbersome and either too soft or too hard. I used them by scraping off colour with a palette knife and applying it directly to the board.

It was what I called painting interludes, the little play paintings with colour and ideas that required little concentration or thought and I was quite pleased with them at the time.

After Christmas to get back into the swing after quite a break from painting, I looked at them again and had completely fallen out of love with them.  They didn’t reflect the quality of the oilbar and looked contrived, so I mixed some traditional oils and reworked them.

What a refreshing start to the year!… new ideas, new approach and looser work.  I’m thinking it might have been inspired by what was underneath, so it wasn’t time wasted and that this approach works well for  me.  It’s like the foundations or scaffolding to a controlled idea in which I then have the confidence to lay over something far more painterly.

I had trouble finding the reworked version of lightness and fullness as it had changed so radically. I hunted everywhere before I found a little glimpse of green that suggested it’s previous life.

So here they are, the before and afters. (left = before and right = after)



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