Category Archives: Creativity

Ideas on inspiration and where creativity comes from

Putting Coastscape into the Dictionary

I paint the sea and landscape, sometimes seperately but often together and  it’s mostly about where the two meet. It seems natural to me that the word ‘Coastscape’ might exist, but the dictionary and  a Google search brought no results.

We have ‘landscape’, ‘seascape’, ‘cityscape’. but I need a descriptive word to portray the view that encompasses both sea and coast which defines what I paint. So I’m going to ignore the red wiggle line underneath my new word and also adopt it as a new hashtag. It might even become part of my new exhibition title. Does it sound right to you?  Maybe it will make it into the dictionary one day .

Inspired by the North Cornish Coast

Coastscape, North Cornwall by Sue Read, cornish artist. 


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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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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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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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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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Bottle top update 

Annie and I trundled down to Rame Head near Torpoint on the 11th April and spent the afternoon trailing down the cliff side with  250 other people carrying 1 km of bottle top chain. It far exceeded Claire Wallerstein’s estimate and was no mean feat getting down a very long steep path and laid out onto the beach. a very rewarding afternoon and great to be a little part of history in the making. 



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My Mind is a Sea of Ideas

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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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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Cruel and Curious Sea II, fitting end to a perfect Summer

The warmth of September has faded into October and it seems a good time to reflect on a full on summer filled with family love, Tom home, lots of beach, social and friends time as well as a few days away. Italy, Port Eliot Festival, Minack Theatre, an art trip to Bristol and painting at Newlyn Art School and representation in a new gallery in Plymouth as well as building up my own space at the Barn studio.

The veg patch also gave us the best crop of tomatoes ever along with grapes, pumpkin, courgette, salad  cucuamelons and tomatillos and endless herbs.  Now I know why it felt like we were never just doing nothing and the tv was turned on a handful of times….. we were incredibly busy!

The last big event of the year for me was ‘The cruel and curious sea II”, and it didn’t disappoint.  Fair weather meant people turned out to Stowe Barton in their hoards and with a bar and food this year, there was a real party atmosphere. It was also larger with more artists and more space to be shown in.

I had the same pitch as last year so knew what I was working with and on the day it all came together and had amazing comments from people having doubted it  all at some times, mainly because it was so far removed from how I have painted over the past few years.  But as always, pushing myself in a new direction led to new discoveries and practices that I can put to use in  future work.

Part of the build up including being filmed at the barn studio with Rhodri from the National Trust, but suspect that the two hours filming might result in 10 secs of film in the final edit, but it was a lot of fun and as often happens, through talking about my art, it also gave me great insight into the what and why of my day to day  painting head.

Cai from Hickory Nines, and Jeff from the National Trust work so hard to make this happen, and with other help from some crew, Stowe is transformed and transported into a timeless warp of cruel and curious sea and everything else and I can’t wait to see what happens next year.





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‘Somewhere Out There’, a painting on found wood and others

Riding on the success of Cruel and Curious I, ideas had been coming and going throughout the year as to what to do for this years event. The winter storms provided me with the materials.  I picked up some lovely pieces of driftwood which had been rough and tumbled in the sea and also some pieces of the beach huts that got battered and broken.

After leaving it in the rain to wash out the salt and then priming, I started a few seascapes, but they just looked too ordinary.  The texture of the wood demanded more texture in the paint and also colour.  By chance, the changes in the beaches locally meant that the seabed was exposed as the sand had been dragged away and it provided me with a rich dark clay like pigment.


Sue Read Art

Collecting pigment from the beach

Mixed with acrylic gel medium it spread as a gritty rough texture in an unpredictable way.  During the process, I added colour with orange, burnt sienna and  yellow ochre which just added more life and depth.

‘Somewhere Out There’  was the first piece to be completed. The shape of the wood was so easy to work with. Differing colours of blue and mauve with some silver were spattered across it, sitting on top and slipping down the sides of the textured areas. I was so pleased with it, this led me to working on the following pieces too.

I worked on all the pieces at various times, the wood and mood dictating the painting.  Collision and Crash were very inspired by Maggi Hamblings wave paintings, full of texture and colour with layer after layer adding more blues and then warmer colours , corals and yellows to bring it forward and give form.


The small panels already had the shape of rock and cliff but it was challenging to get the rich depth and weight of rock.

‘Somewhere out there’ became the centre piece of my exhibit at the Cruel and Curious Art Event held over the weekend of Sept 26th/27th and sold on the first night. More photos of the night can be seen here

Sue Read, Cruel and Curious Art Event

My Stall at Cruel and Curious II

The other pieces are now part of the October Showcase at the National Trust Cafe and Shop at Boscastle.




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It’s Not Rubbish Art Show

Last weekend saw the first Bude Arts and Music Festival happen in Bude. Anna Worthington of BAAM approached Annie and I with the idea to create an arts and craft event.  For the past six months, we have thrashed through several ideas and plans which resulted in ‘The ITS Not Rubbish Art Show’ held over the two days and a contemporary craft market on the Sunday.  It involved a lot of planning, reworking of ideas and weekly meetings to get it all organised, but organise we did and pulled off a very successful event.

It wasn’t all just about us.. There was a huge marquee with kids theatre, entertainment and bands on two stages along with a skate competition and roller disco.  The crooklets beach area was transformed with colour, bunting, banners and over 1000 people. The cliff walk between Crooklets and Summerleaze was host to 50 large flags which could be seen from miles away.

It really was a community event for the people of Bude run by a small band of people and teenage volunteers who were amazing. It made you proud to be a part of it and it really said ‘Bude’ is open, come on down and join in the fun.

The Rubbish Show, came out of an idea of initially making stuff to decorate the festival. Annie and I are both keen beachcombers and this winter the sea threw tons of rubbish up onto our shoreline.  It was a great opportunity to highlight the issues of sea pollution and we got Widemouth Task Force and the #2minutebeachclean involved too to promote it with beachcleans and they judged the final show.

We made a sign that went on a tour of Bude to promote the event and held a swap shop. After a winter of beaches full of rubbish, by May they were incredibly clean, we think from the efforts of the beach cleaners.

Our plan was to make lots of unusual and large objects, but time and other commitments meant we had a couple of afternoons to make a few bits and then worked solidly two days beforehand to get Rosies play shed into an exhibition space whilst throwing everything we could find in the way of beach rubbish on the outside. It evolved over the two days with some helpers and by Saturday morning we were ready to roll.

The whole festival was a huge success, and our little show had 42 entries and we reckon around 700 visitors through the doors over the two days, which in a shed of around 6m x 4m was quite phenomenal. Here are some of the entries.



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Going Abstract

Its been a full on month, May. Everything happened at once; the exhibition, the trip to Italy and then a weekend booked at the Newlyn Art School for ‘Colour and Abstraction’

And in some ways I was looking forward to this more than anything.   My artwork has become looser and my appreciation for abstract  greater.  As I have grown in awareness as a person, I have also grown as an artist, and feel a deeper and deeper meaning and connection to the mark making and colour and the whole process of painting which in turn has made me less focused on what I see and more focused on how I interpret it.  I know though that I’m not ready for pure abstract just yet.. feeling a need to keep something slightly figurative or realistic. But after working on this last exhibition and gaining more confidence with my medium  if feel less precious about pleasing others and more willing to take risks.

So the timing was perfect to go away for the weekend and work with as much paint as I wanted quickly and vigorously using a range of tools.

Gareth Edwards our tutor actively encourages breaking rules and mixing things that you know don’t really like each other such as with oil paint, turps and pva glue and using colours I’d normally shy away from or feel uncomfortable with.

Very quickly peoples own way of using the brushes and paints developed and although I came away with three totally different pieces, they somehow felt connected.  It’s all about developing your own language with paint and I’m definately in the middle of this process.

Absolutely loved it!


Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Art diary, Creativity


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Beauty in the Contrast. A tale of two sculptors

While running the risk of seriously offending William Peers, I love the juxtaposition of two discoveries yesterday from the world of sculpture.

The first was on the walk at high tide.  Someone had chosen this rock to do their own free balancing stone sculptures, all lined up looking out to sea.  On their own not that impressive, but as a group, they added something unique. I looked up rock balancing and discovered there were four forms.

  • Pure balance – each rock in near-point balance
  • Counterbalance – lower rocks depend on the weight of upper rocks to maintain balance
  • Balanced stacking – rocks lain flat upon each other to great height
  • Free style – mixture of the two above; may include arches and sandstone.

The second discovery was a video on local sculptor William Peers. Not many people will have heard of him or know of him locally, but his work is internationally known

I was lucky enough to visit his workshop a few years ago when he was doing a project, 100 days making one sculpture a day out of marble. Through friend Jane, a local headteacher at the school his children attended, he was allowing people to go and see them before they went off to the bright lights of an upmarket gallery in London.

These bigger pieces leave me speechless and I have tried to find adjectives to describe his work, but none give enough meaning or weight to how they make me feel, so watch this short film made for an upcoming exhibition and decide for yourself.



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Sea Paintings blown in by ‘Hercules’

As a huge winter storm called ‘Hercules’ powered across the Atlantic from the U.S. it sent huge swell  hitting the Cornish shores these past few days.  It’s lovely to see but is also very destructive as we have seen across the newspapers and social media sites. In Bude, there has been damage to the breakwater, the entrance to the lock gates and the beach huts at Crooklets with stones and all sorts of debris being tossed and thrown around in the surf.

I could take photographs and use them for reference, but there is nothing quite like painting spontaneously, with the energy of the sea and wind in your head, grabbing visual references, where are the whitiest whites, what colour is the sea today, the fast ever changing movement and mood as the waves race in.  Yesterday was rain and low cloud, whereas today there were beautiful seahorses and luminious lights on the foaming waves.

To make it feasible and afford some shelter, I cleared out the back of the van to make a makeshift studio. Lifting the boot, I had a great view of the sea and if I just rested my foot against the edge of the canvas, it stopped it being whipped up by the wind and being sent twirling into the raging surf below. I did forget a knife to open my paints, but a with a little thought, the seatbelt clip made a great alternative.

Two hours of painting on two canvas’s produced two very different pieces of work which will be finished off in the studio along with the two I started yesterday. Four paintings inspired by the storm and more ideas in the pipeline, this could be forming the basis for my next exhibition in April .


Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Art diary, Creativity


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The Idea of Stories in Objects and Space in Art

I’ve just finished reading “The Hare with the Amber Eyes” by Edmund De Waal.  A potter by trade, he inherited 264 netsuke. They had been in his family for 150 years and he set out in the book to trace the life of the netsuke and the stories of the Ephrussi family.

One theme from the book is the idea of objects having a life and absorbing stories, loved and handled by unknown people before, journeys as they are bought, sold and travel the world; the fact that many are bought for a reason, a love token, or to make a wedding, a birthday a gift with meaning.  This is very true of the netsuke; small  objects created out of ivory,jade and wood by japanese craftsmen in the 1800’s.

It was a happy coincidence that having just finished the book, there was a BBC ‘Imagine’ programme on Edmund, the story of the netsuke and a his new project ‘Atemwende’.

The new project links his love of poetry and music to pottery. He explored the music of poetry and importance of the breath, the space, the hesitation, the spaces.  Akin to negative space in art, these still moments are so important. and once you are aware of them, very beautiful, meditative.

I’ve been thinking about new ways to make pauses, spaces and silences, where breath is held inside and between each vessel, between the objects and the vitrines, the vitrines and the room. In working with the vessel, working with porcelain, and with colors that express the great history of Oriental ceramics, but also the colors of modernism and minimalism; this seems to be enough material to be getting on with.
—Edmund de Waal

edmund de waal atemwende

I love the installation and you could stand and look at the 3000 little pots each made by Edmund for hours, the eye moving from group to group.  He sees them as an expression of poetry and some of the pieces also as music, but for me it’s about the objects, and particularly about the spaces and the way the objects displace space around them.

There’s a lot more  I could have written here.  The ‘Imagine’ programme might not be available any more, but there is lots of information online  from the Gagosian Gallery in New York and Edmund’s own website here.

All this reminds me of  Allyson Hallett’s poems, ‘The Stone Library’, but I will save that post for another day.


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An unusual Chandelabra, A Sea Relic and Mans Epitaph to the Sea

The more I have worked with Mermaid Purses, the more I love and admire them.  If you don’t know what they are, read my previous post Mermaid Purses

This is what I created for The Cruel and Curious Art Show at Stowe Barton last weekend.

Lighting was potentially going to be difficult at this event, but having a window in my bay meant I could put it to good use… a chandelabra!  I only really used the term Chandelabra because a friend always gets chandelier and candelabra confused and mixes it up.  Simply lit with LED’s and hung by a rusty chain, the purses are arranged in concentric cirlces of different height and adorned with twisted wires to replicate the twisty tendrils from the dogfish egg cases.

Incredibly effective, it was greatly admired but unfortunately didn’t sell on the night, so is back in our house, but hopefully not for long. Love it.

Project number two was a little more challenging. The name, Mermaid Purse made me think of them as  little containers to hold treasures, like the relics of old that are revered and held in churches.  So after cutting out a section, gold leaf was applied on the back and two tiny found bones set in a resin.  At the same time a single LED bulb was inserted to light it in a box.

Project number 3 was to highlight the amount of fishing net and plastics washed up on the shores.  Here’s a link to a previous post The Starfish Story

The title was easy “Man’s Epitaph to the Sea”.  It appears to be so wonderful, colourful and all that we associate with the sea, but is in fact totally manmade and destroying our oceans and wildlife.  Found objects on this include a bubble wand, shooting cartridge and fishing tag that threatens imprisonment if not returned.


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Mermaids Purses

Mermaids Purses

Have you come across one of these on your beach strolls?  We found lots in the Spring and am using them for an art project. Was it because I was looking for them, or was it pure chance that on that day I went looking, we picked up around forty.  I hadn’t spotted one for ages before that and didn’t expect to find anything.  Thankyou beach!

The mermaids purse is actually a fish eggcase,  a tough leathery case that protects the embryo of a shark, skate or ray. Each eggcase contains one embryo which will develop over several months into a miniature version of the adult. These amazing feats of nature are heavily camoflaged and  incredibly resilient, hence the tough leathery shiny cases.

I have discovered there are over ten species of skate and ray, and only a few species of shark in UK waters that reproduce by laying eggcases on the seabed. Each species’ eggcase is different in shape and size.  Eggcases remain safely on the seabed or in the case of dogfish attached by long curly tendrils to seaweed until the juvenile has hatched, and then the empty eggcases often get washed up on beaches and can be found amongst the seaweed on the shoreline.

Click on an image to see the name of the shark, ray, dogfish

Here is my collection.  I am going to make you wait for a couple of weeks before I share with you what I have been doing with them.  All in the process at the moment for the Cruel and Curious Sea Art Exhibition at the end of the month.

Mermaid Purse Collection

Mermaid Purse Collection

A great find was this website!  The Great Eggcase Hunt   I’m going to join up and become part of the eggcase hunt and help map numbers of shark cases found. No better excuse to be out on the beach beachcombing.


Posted by on September 12, 2013 in Art diary, Creativity


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Fun in the Sand , Beach Sculptures

A laid back Sunday was planned. Lazy breakfast, maybe a swim and then singing with the choir at the Surf Club at 4pm.

But after a couple glasses of wine with friends the night before, Jane and I were inveigled into a beach sculpture event. Organised by Bude Arts and Music at Northcott Beach, the plan was to build Bude out of sand..or at least the best bits. We did get a bit overexcited and ambitious with our plans but decided to start with the breakwater and let it build out from there.

Up early, four of us grabbed everything we thought might be useful from watersprays, shovels, scrappers, brushes, pots and buckets and arrived at the beach.  We paid our £2 entry, and found a great spot to start excavations.

And I mean excavations.  Jane and I had brought cornish shovels which meant we could move large amounts of sand pretty quickly.  Once clad in stones, the breakwater was taking shape and we had a natural harbour as there was a stream and rockpool on one side.

Annie arrived after finishing cleaning her rooms.  She is one of Budes leading Bed and Breakfast Landladies and very particular with her rooms.  I think she was pretty impressed with what we had achieved, though I’m not sure  it fitted her vision.  It was after all her idea initially anyway.  But once she saw the general layout, she got very involved in building the seapool.  The only problem was keeping it full of water.  Sand likes to drain away and her plastic bag had a hole in it.

We only had two hours and always knew we would have to leave before the finish because of other committments, but the time flew!  Finishing touch was by Jane.. #bigupbude

Winning team of girls

We had a quick chat with Sarah, one of the organisers and admired the trophies she had made from driftwood and other beach material.  We had actually won, but couldn’t stay which meant we had to forfeit our prize, but  because there were no children on the team, really weren’t worried. It was after all just for fun, and fun was what we had.

Sarah with her brilliant trophies

After a quick cup of tea and a spruce up it was hot foot down to the Surf Life Saving Club at Bude to sing in the choir, as part of their 60th Anniversary celebrations.

Choir singing at The Surf Club

What a inspired fun filled but really worthwhile day to spend with friends and play .. even if  3/4 of us are in our fifties.


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Driftwood Days and Arty Cards

It’s been a winter of driftwood collecting.  Rough seas, winds and high tides have all been conducive to washing up lots of driftwood. From worn rounded pieces to longer flatter pieces, we have collected various shapes and sizes and put it drying by the woodburner. Locals have all collected a stash of 2 x 1 that washed up and put to various uses.

We have a great beachside cafe here called Rosies Kitchen. It is the perfect place to display my cards. They suit the location perfectly and having seen some samples, Tom and Lisa were more than happy to have them  displayed there. We are also very good customers too. A sunday morning social with a  fab  large coffee  or just to get out of the weather to  admire the sea out the window needs no excuse at all!

Don got busy making up a couple of display units and they looked wonderful. Using the flatter pieces at the back and twiddly bits to keep the cards in.  Not having done it before, he did a pretty good job from the kitchen table.


Today, we took them down to Rosies Kitchen.  15 different Art Cards are displayed for sale, all images taken from original paintings I have done over the last two years.

Cards on display at Rosies Kitchen, Bude

If you are down this way, pop in to take a look and don’t forget to try the coffee.  The best around!



Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Art diary, Creativity


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Kids love Art!

I haven’t been in a classroom for 15 years since I helped out with my own children at primary school, but when asked by a friend Carole to spend a morning inspiring 8 and 9 yr olds with seascape painting, I didn’t hesitate to accept.

I arrived at Holsworthy Primary School with a seascape painting. The class were ready for my arrival, Carole having shown them my work via the computer on the white board which was scrolling through my blog gallery.

II wanted to inspire them with a story of how my love of the sea began and told me how I grew up on a farm and whenever the weather was good and it wasn’t harvest time, we went to Widemouth Bay for the day, and set up with windbreaks and a picnic.  The connection must have been made in these early days and as Mum did farmhouse bed and breakfast too, I often went off with the visitors to the beach too.

I was very keen that they remembered how they felt when they were last on the beach to get some of the feel and energy that I like to convey into my paintings, and to instill in them that they can make no mistakes and there are no rules…. the best piece of advice I ever had which allowed freedom of creativity and gave confidence.

Delicate watercolours being undertaken

Good old Poster Paints!

Holsworthy is about 10 miles inland and I wasn’t sure how ‘into‘ the beach these kids would be, but over half were very familiar with the Widemouth Bay, Bude beaches, Northcott and Sandymouth which are my stomping ground.

After a lot of very thoughtful questions and the usual obsession with kids on ‘how much money I make’ … which isn’t a lot, (but they had already put me on a pedestal as an ‘artist’ ), they set about rotating around five tables  of media producing the most amazing artwork.



They were such an enthusiastic class, incredibly well behaved, and Carole’s style of teaching held them captive the whole morning.  The watercolours in particular stood out, delicate and thought about which produced some lovely results. At school, I loved every opportunity to do Art,  and nothing has changed.  They revelled in the opportunity to do a whole morning of Art  and will probably remember it for a long time.  This shows the value of Art for everyone when you see how relaxed, enthusiastic and focused they were given the hance for some freedom of expression

The morning ended with a prize of some of my cards for Ellie, who had worked quietly, but was incredibly  focused on what she wanted to achieve with great observational skills and use of colour.

A fun rewarding morning!



Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Art diary, Creativity


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Creativity moves into the Kitchen

September always flies by. There was some lovely late summer sunshine and it’s always a dash to collect the autumn berries to make a few preserves especially when a basket full of fallers (apples) are starting to look a bit jaded.  Love anything that is free!

We don’t eat a lot of jam, so I prefer to make jellies.  More versatile, they can be used sweet on toast, scones, cakes, or with savoury; great with cheese and meats, cold and hot. Apples was chopped, cooked and hanging in the jelly bag overnight to collect the juice to make the base. The morning was spent collecting whatever we could find.  The afternoon spent creating.

Chinese Spiced Hawthorn Jelly, Thyme, Lemon Verbena and Mint Jelly, Rose Petal Apple Jelly and Sloe Jelly

Rose Petal Jelly – Leaving my mums house, I saw some shrub rose flowers flopped in the rain. She wasn’t in and didn’t think she would miss them ( sorry mum!) .  I’ve never made it before, but surprisingly the jelly did take on a lovely gentle pink hue and adding some rosewater enhanced the flavour.

Thyme, Mint and Lemon Verbena Apple Jelly – A favourite is the mint jelly with cold meats and especially lamb.  My mint was looking very raggy and leggy, so I made a muddle of herbs from what I could salvage from the garden.  The smell in my hand was good, so thought it would make a good mix with the thyme giving it a bit of depth.  Will still be good with lamb.

Sloe Jelly – Usually our sloes go to making Sloe Gin.  This will still be the case, but  with so many picked I found a recipe for sloe apple jelly and the result was fantastic.  It has an almost alcoholic smell, reminiscent of sloe gin. Sloes have no smell when picked but release a lovely aroma when cooked or steeped.  And the colour is so rich.  This jelly has a lovely tartness and will be great with game and cheeses.

Chinese Spiced Hawthorn Jelly – I had never made Hawthorn Jelly before, but with the lack of blackberries this year, it  was time to give it a go.  The juice was bland and bitter and only slightly coloured, but they are packed with vitamins and minerals and  very good for you. I had nearly two litres of apple juice remaining and didn’t want a bland jelly, so went through the spice cupboard to find something which might complement it.  Star Anise was the obvious choice because it wouldn’t cloud the jelly and would look pretty floating in it.  I then added a stick of ginger for more flavour and two chopped chillies to float like jewels.  The resulting jelly was amazing and would be lovely with cold meats or any pork dishes.  It could be melted into sauces too.

Oh… and just to keep the Art theme going and to remind me what this blog was supposed to be about, here is my latest painting, inspired by autumnal weather.

Maer Low Beach, Dodging the Showers


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Marketing, Networking and New Prints

Facebook, Twitter and  Pinterest are now vital parts of my marketing strategy.  Oh.. hear me say that!.  I’m no businesswoman;  I like to paint and create; but for a few minutes a day, I can get in touch with the world and the web is the way to get your work out there.  And .. I don’t mean just nationally. Most interestingly, most of my followers are people in and around Cornwall, but who access me via the web and are great at promoting what they see if they like it through sharing and tweeting.

Through facebook, I was contacted by an interior designer about producing a range of prints for some very high spec holiday cottages.  I hadn’t ventured into the area of prints before, but with the help of a great printer, I now have  around 18 images available as limited edition prints up to 60 cm x 90 cm  printed on bockingford and fabriano papers.  They look absolutely stunning and I am so pleased.

Here I am at the Framers signing and titling 14 prints ready for framing.




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Words of wisdom created in 3D Collage

A while ago I was contacted by a teacher keen to develop the creative talent of a 7 year old pupil.  Rather than inspire with paint, I hoped to inspire with words of encouragement.

Here is an excerpt from Devon Teacher Blog on WordPress

“On a recent trip to Cornwall I was looking for some inspiration for an art project. I have a seven year old child in my class who is gifted and talented in art. Her family regularly visit Cornwall and so this is a real passion for her. 

At school I had already given her a special art book where she can do drawings and try out various techniques but she is always aiming higher. She wants to create something on a larger scale. So I needed inspiration…

So I took to the streets of Padstow (combining it with some much needed relaxation time over Easter) and visited art galleries and exhibitions. I found a lot of beautiful paintings which did inspire me but it was still hard to relate them to a Year 2 child.

I took down the names of my favourite artists and googled them, which also led me to find more cornish artists. I decided to email them explaining what I wanted to do and out of the few who did reply I found some true words of wisdom:

Painting is easy … have in your mind that there are NO mistakes. Be instinctive about where you put colour and what colours you use and the results can be great. Don’t judge your painting or let anyone else make a judgement… I/We should have done this or that. If it looks wrong, it just needs more work. Keep going with it. As adults we feel constrained by what we think it should be like or by convention, but there are no rules. Try spraying, dripping water into acrylic paint on canvas. Leave to dry, or rub some out before it dries to create waves. Scratch it out with a knife and then spatter paint over. “

The above was my advice and I was delighted to receive an update email from her with a photo of the resulting piece of work.

Finished inspired seascape collage by a 7 yr old

They thoroughly enjoyed working on the project

“She  loved using your art work as inspiration. She did some super sketches and paint work based on your advice. Her Mum loved seeing your blog post. She  then copied her sketches onto a big canvas and just let her creativity take over. She decided she wanted to make something 3D so built a collage like effect on top of her sketch. I have included a photo of her final piece – not bad for a 7 year old!

We had a brilliant time with this cornish art project so thank you for being a part of it.

There is a great use of materials and I love the layering effect with the fish motifs underneath.  I think she has a great natural eye for composition and colour and hope that she will continue to be creative and work without judgement or self criticism in all aspects of her life.


Posted by on August 5, 2012 in Art diary, Creativity


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Port Eliot Festival – You are the best ever

Our fourth year at Port Eliot Festival and don’t think we will ever tire of it.  The whole place resonates with a happy friendly vibe in the most glorious beautiful setting there ever could be.

From first thing in the morning, all the senses are delighted.  Our eyes to the wonderful fashion and flowers brought to Cornwall from London, our ears to cultured conversation and talks, from the small tent of Andrews Arcadia to the bowling green and beyond, our taste buds to venetian tapas and aperol spritzers from Russell Norman of Pulpo and the tequila tasting sessions, our noses to the smell of the estuary mud and good coffee, to dancing in the Boogie Round at two in the morning and to the peace and stillness of the campsite in the first light of the morning.

Port Eliot Festival has something for everyone and without writing a book it is difficult to convey everything, but the following words capture something of what it is about.  Beautiful, Quirky ,Inspiring, Friendly, Arty, Totally Magical.  Music of great contrasts, from the Staves in the church, to the lift you off the floor sounds from The Bees and Toy.  Bloody Fantastic!


River reflection



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Creativity moves into the garden


A sunny morning inspires me to get some photos of the garden. We have a small cornish garden on the North Coast of Cornwall, a mere 400 yards from the sea.  Anything that dares to put its head above the parapet of the garden wall gets battered and shredded by the Atlantic winds which can come at any time of the year.

The colour palette changes all year round, but the high summer provides the best colour when the foliage is at its best, providing a perfect foil for the dark blacks of the aeoniums, the magenta pinks of the lilies and the merest hint of deep blues emerging from the agapanthus.

An artist can learn a lot from a garden, seeing how height and size of objects alters the scale and leads the eye between plants on a journey of discovery as well as great colour combinations and contrast.


Spot the heart shaped stones.  We have found these on the beaches locally over the past few years, varying in size, but beautifully shaped by the sea.  They are a rare find, but will always be brought home or given to someone else.

Bits of found driftwood scatter the garden providing perches for the birds and I have even interplanted tomatoes this year, but with little sun, they are suffering

I take photos this time of the year, because may of these plants die down in the winter and I need to move them, so a pictorial record is very useful.

I have dabbled in a few watercolours of the garden, but until I get tired of painting the coast and sea, it will never become my main focus.



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“Tom’s Wave”

“Toms Wave” has been delivered to my son, so its safe for me to post it here now. He had no idea I was bringing it with me on my last visit and was really chuffed.  He loves it and it looks great in his airy flat.  It really was a loose painting, dripping, smudging and dragging using big sweeping arm movements which needed to be very confident and bold.

“Toms Wave” – a promised piece of Art for my son

Part of me thinks I could have taken it further, but it would have become much tighter and lost some of the freshness and energy in the movement.  Up close there are lovely areas where the ink had mixed into the wet acrylic and where the drizzle had left its own marks after I had left it outside. (forgot to take photos before I left it.. sorry!)

Phalto Blue  (green shade) has become a favourite addition to my colour palette but I have to be careful not to use too much.  It really lifts all the other blues into a beautiful turquoise but gives lovely contrast to darker blue mixes.


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Making a Mess with Lovely Paint

making a mess outside with lovely paint

Not painting for an exhibition or a commission gives renewed freedom to explore and experiment.  I always approach every painting with this mantra but the pressure of producing a finished piece of work always has some sort of impact.

So with another large canvas (120 x 100cm) still blank and a dry day ( well… a couple of hours in the morning at least, we have had the most horrendous summer so far!)  I laid the canvas on the decking.  With some selected paints and inks all in blues with white and a little lemon yellow I started splashing on the paint with large brushes and plenty of water.  A large wave/seascape was always in mind and it started to emerge from the white canvas.  Continually adding more paint and more water with either a spatter technique or a spray bottle, the colours started to merge and give some lovely effects.

Happy with the first layers and leaving it to dry, I had to rinse off some of the nearby plants and give my feet a good scrub.  I had the sense to take off my flipflops, but afterwards decided I really should have worn my wellies!

This one won’t be for sale.  It is for my son who has a flat wall crying out for a large painting, so hope he is pleased with it.  I will post a picture once he has got it,because I want it to be a surprise.



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The Icing on the Cake

What a month!  The Mordros exhibition was a great success.  The icing on the cake was to go in on Monday and find that Summer Storm, Bude Breakwater had sold to a couple who had got married at the castle on Saturday.  I was lucky enough to meet them and they were a lovely couple who feel in love with the painting which provided a lasting momento of the day.  Fabulous!!

Many people left comments and included ” Something to aspire to”,   “very representative of this beautiful coast”, “really liked the use of colour and beautiful freeness and movement of the sea”,   “how lovely to see such a body of work, absolutely wonderful stuff”,

Special thanks to Johnny the Pirate “Great… keep up the good work”  and Lord St Germans ” Paintings have captured the light in the Port Eliot cocktail bar. Beautiful! ”  I think I know who you are under these pseudonyms and thankyou, they made me smile.

So.. what next?  How do I top this?  Elizabeth Gilbert’s  TED talk comes to mind. I rewatched it and tried to take some summary notes to pass on, but she speaks so eloquently, I recommend you watch it yourself.

If this video doesn’t work, here is the link 

So, refreshed after a holiday in Spain, I am ready for new ideas and am not going to be commercially driven, but to paint what I feel and as this is what seems to connect people strongly to it, it has to be the way forward and if it sells, it sells, but this must not be the driving force.


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aagh!!  ….. didn’t know what else to add to this title.  Maybe I will at the end of writing this post.

I am having a wonderful time and am not complaining!  The weather has changed for the better, we have had weekends filled with parties, wild weddings, and friends, but NOW I must get down to the nitty gritty of promoting my exhibition.  Paintings have been completed for at least three weeks, although a couple have had a last minute tweek; some are still at the framers, many still need titles, but I really, really need to get all the promoting stuff done.That used to involve putting out a few posters and a press release in the local paper.  Now, I have to create a facebook event page, email contacts, send invites to friends and people who have bought from me before, make leaflets for hotel drops, update my blog, contact all the websites that have events pages, send out press releases and I have relented and set up a twitter account.

And this has been the thing that feels most alien.  Is it a generation thing?  I just don’t get it?  I joined initially so that I could hear first about TED events in Exeter and the latest gin and tonic tasting sessions at our local off license, but do I have to be checking it every two minutes in case I miss something? I will tweet to promote my exhibition, especially as other tweeters have offered to retweet, but don’t think I will become an addict.

Well, I’ve got to the end of the post and whereas previously writing posts has given me clarity and meaning, I still want to go AAAAAARRRRGGGGGG!!





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Take it on the Chin Girl

Having prepared a lot of paintings for the “Mordros” exhibition, I decided it was a good opportunity to have a go at getting into the Westward Ho and Bideford Art Society.  6 paintings had to be presented for selection and scrutinising in front of a committee of RA members.

“Work submitted in application for Exhibiting membership of the Society should show a consistency of quality in all pieces, as well as a clear understanding and appreciation of the chosen media.  The Committee looks for a clear artistic identity running through all the work”.  Ok. With two seascapes and four panoramic seascapes, I think these fit the bill.

Having left them in the judging room, we returned to discover my fate;   either a big A (accepted) or big R (rejected).  Mine had neither?  I was  really disappointed to find it had been a split decision over my acceptance.  Don was absolutely gutted for me as I was told I had not been accepted.  In other words rejected…. this time; but encouraged to try again!  I went having no expectations and decided that whatever, I would take it on the chin as I had already heard the standards were off the scale of being high.

Artists are given feedback and ‘constructive criticism’ by  the secretary in front of everyone, whether you agree or not, going into great detail about presentation of work and that the mount cuts had to be absolutely perfect.  What’s being judged here…. the art or  the framing?  I knew my framing from Ian and Sally at Kilk was of the highest standard and shows my work off to its best.  Apparently, I am tackling one of the hardest subjects to get right i.e. seascape with the correct perspective and light conditions.  The paintings I thought I had got spot on were the ones they had issue with which was surprising to say the least. Other artists leaving the room listening to the feedback I was being given, were all saying what amazing work it was.Whether out of embarrassment for me or  trying to bolster my confidence,  I think they genuinely could not see why I hadn’t been accepted and agreed that the whole thing is very subjective to each judge.

So … did I set myself up for a fall just before a major solo exhibition. In one way, putting work before a panel of judges goes against everything I believe in and tell others to do.  To paint with your heart and let your instinct lead.  So that begs the question – Why did I do it.?  Having thought about this, I think that because I am self- taught and have not had the formal training of many artists, I wanted some recognition and to be a part of something.   Will I try a simpler approach and subject?  NO!!  I will carry on painting what I love and feeds my soul.  From the feedback I get I know it connects to other people too.  It’s not a case of stuff them either though.

No sour grapes.  I might try again next year. I have set my self a challenge now.  And I think through painting practice you do discover new things and are learning all the time, so maybe it will make me strive for that perfection and beauty.  As the saying goes, ” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, so perhaps next years judges will have a completely different opinion.


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A bigger picture, a bigger message.

I am painting my largest canvas to date!  120cm x 100cm.  Having put the initial washes on outdoors, I have been working in acrylics, building up colour to give the painting depth. I often get a virtual painting in my head, inspired by a photograph I have taken.  This virtual image is of  the sea on a windy day looking down a very steep sheer drop into the sea.  It suits the theme of Mordros , “the sound of sea” very well as the waves crash against the cliff and the wind almost draws you over the edge as it eddies around the cliff edge.  This bigger picture will give a bigger message as you are enveloped in the expansiveness and depth of the sea with the wind around you.

Below are three taster sections of the painting measuring approx 30cm x25cm





This throws up various challenges as I try and convey the wind and movement of the sea in a larger scale.  Being such a large canvas, I have had to move it from the easel where I can barely reach the top, to the floor and even outside. Anyone who thought painting was relaxing…. well it can be…. unless you are painting such a large piece!  From straddling the corners to moving away from it the whole length of the hall to get a perspective on it,  Having created the dark areas I am not concentrating on bringing the light back into it and using oils which have greater weight and light reflective qualities. But enough for today.  I am sitting on the sofa writing this with a glass of red wine and bed is beckoning me.

But… I can’t wait to get up tomorrow morning and get going again.!!  I am finding that I get my best ideas when I first wake up, so after a quick cup of tea I will get going straight away as I am finding  the early morning  the most productive. It has helped my painting practice that I am working towards an exhibition and this one should just be dry enough to be hung, but I am finding it increasingly obsessive, wanting to go back to it frequently to move it forward as I get inspiration for colour and how to convey movement. It’s like a lost friend who is in need of a direction.


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How to inspire a 7yr old to create their own seascape?

An email from a teacher sparked some thought from me on how to inspire a 7 year old to create their own seascape . Teacher and pupil  have been looking at several cornish artists for ideas and inspiration.  These might provide a starting point, but I wanted to provide them with words of encouragement to guide them through the creative process.  Because often it is all about the process.  Often the end result is very different from the first imagined idea.  For a painting to be magical, individual and feel worthy, you have to be focused and give something of yourself to it.  So…..

There are no rules.  Don’t confine yourself to convention or what you think it should be like.  Have no expectation of what it will be like.

Choose colour and make marks instinctively.

You can make no mistakes.  Don’t judge your painting or let others criticise it.  Keep going with it even when you feel like giving up.  If you feel stuck and don’t know where to go next, step back and feel excited about the next move.  Make it instinctively .   I can promise you won’t regret it.

Happy painting peeps!!




Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Art diary, Creativity


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Colours of Winter

I have framed the first of my paintings for the forthcoming exhibition, so here is a sneak preview.

The unseasonally warm sunshine has pulled the landscape out of winter and truly into spring and summer.  Leaves are on the trees, the gorse is in flower and everything looks fresh and lovely.

But…. I love the colours of Winter.  If you truly look at your landscape, far more colour is there to be seen than you think.  The low sun softens the shadows and reflected light warms the greys. The sea in winter can be very grey, but on a sunny day warms to cerulean, one of my favourite blues.

The gorse in contrast has no flower and some no leaf either as it has been battered by the Atlantic winds.  It is a tangled mass of grey and brown which in the sunlight give an overall pinky purply hue.



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Who is Sue Read? Case of mistaken identity

I am Sue Read…. but I am not the only Sue Read. The telephone rang this morning “Hello”.  “Are you Sue Read, the artist?”. “Yes” I said. He added,  ” I am actually speaking to the artist?”.  “Yes”.  I am getting quite excited at this point. Whoever is on the other end of the line is quite surprised and in awe!.  He continued  ” I bought two of your paintings 15 years ago, a bowl of grapes and …”  Oh!  He’s not really looking for me, because I have never painted a bowl of grapes.

I had a similar phone call about a year ago from a gallery asking me to collect a painting.  So the other Sue Read is quite elusive and a bit of a mystery.  The gentleman who phoned me this morning said he was told that she was a very fine artist and her work was worth quite a bit, so he must have thought he had hit the jackpot when I answered his call.

My own internet research found that she is a very fine artist indeed, painting still life in watercolour and is a member of the Royal Institute of painters.  Perhaps one day I will be as illustrious and the person on the other end of the line won’t be so disappointed.


Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Art diary, Creativity


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Bongo becomes a makeshift studio

I have been wanting to paint outside for a long time.  Photographs just aren’t giving me what I want and the memories are not held strong enough for detail, so I emptied out all the camping gear and pushed the seats as far forward as possible. This made a space just big enough for me to climb in the back, have some shelter from the elements but also a great view into the open when the back door is up.

Bongo studio


With a flask of tea made I drove to Widemouth Bay and positioned myself in the viewpoint carpark.  It was then I discovered I hadn’t packed any yellow paint.  I had grabbed a selection of umbers, blues and white and siennas, thankfully including raw sienna which would have to mix to provide some dull yellows.  It was a grey day anyway,so although somewhat challenging, I was up for it and managed to mix most of the colours I wanted.

The light was perfect, slightly misted in the distant, with a grey sea which set off the blue greys and pale ochres, and burgundys of the brush and grasses on the cliff, and I managed to also get several good photographs for future projects.

Although a bit tight for space, it worked fine.  I could jump out to refresh the water, spatter paint if needed, or keep cosier in the confines of the back of the van which was much more comfortable, painting out of the very sneaky cold wind.  Just as well you can’t see the middle of the van…. thats where all the junk from the back has been thrown!




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Is Art a Struggle? No… it’s exciting!

Every painting experience is full of emotion.  The anticipation, the vision, the joy, the disappointment, the frustration ….. the struggle.  Hopefully it turns itself around at some point and you end up with something you are pleased with.

” Working spontaneously can be tiring because you are struggling with your instinctive urge to control everything.”

My greatest inspiring Art teacher, Rosina taught me to throw away the rule book, play and have no judgement, but instead to follow my instinct and intuition.  The result was totally freeing. There are no mistakes.  It taught me to keep going with a painting. Though there is almost always a crisis point, a point where you want to stop or throw it away, it always results in something much much better.

“If art is hard, it’s because you’re struggling to go beyond what you know you can do”

Never give up on a painting.  Ok…. walk away from it, leave it for a few days and come back to it with fresh eyes.  All is never lost.  Art is not a struggle – see it as a point where you are entering the unknown and be excited!!

p.s.  the above has been written after one such dilema today.  The solution was take my canvas, run it under the shower, merge the paint, rub some away and end up with a totally new spontaneous effect that was perfect  and has led to fresh ideas and a new direction. 



Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Art diary, Creativity


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A Bigger Message – hand, eye and heart

When I first saw David Hockney’s paintings of his home territory in Yorkshire, I wasn’t sure about them. This is a very generalised statement as I don’t think any art can be judged unless seen in the flesh. Was it their simplicity?  Their greenness!!… that almost pure viridian than seems unreal.  But then I realised what the landscape meant to him and I could totally relate to that.  Although my surroundings are very different, the connection to the landscape runs just as deep. This may be heightened in the artist eye seeing the landscape in colour and form, peeling back the layers.

I am a great believer that things come to us at the right time – “the law of attraction “as many call it and this is one such instance.  I came across a blog called “When the light gets in” – a collection of musings on all things art. I have only followed it for a month, but the most recent post caught my eye.

“A Bigger Message – Conversations with David Hockney  , Hand, Eye and Heart.”  in which Hockney is quoted as saying ” I have always loved this part of the world, I have known it for a long time” ….. exactly how I feel too.

The book is ordered!  and contains a collection of conversations between the artist and art historian and friend Martin Gaysford.  I think I am going to learn a lot from this and it might begin to help me understand why I feel such an emotional connection with my landscape and why I feel compelled to express it through the medium of paint.

Here is the link to the post ” A bigger message”


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2012 will be a Painting Sensation

With thoughts of making the New Year resolutions, my head is full of fresh ideas for paintings.  With the festive season now done, I can focus on the future and my mind is very much on a solo exhibition (my first!!) at the Willoughby Gallery at the Castle in Bude, North Cornwall.

I have flashes of inspiration, sometimes sparked by words I see written or by views and images while out walking. It’s the sleepy hours that my creative mind starts to come to the fore, as the rest of the days workings start to filter out and dissappear until the morrow.  This idea is described in the TED lecture  


Elizabeth Gilbert describes the notion of having ideas as images or words that flowing around the world and come to you but you have to grab them by the tail and hold on to them and put them down on paper otherwise they are gone and travelling on to someone else.  I love this idea and rather than letting it slip from memory, try and make some notes or a quick drawing.

So plenty to get on with.  I won’t be revealing too much about final paintings for the exhibition until nearer the time, but will share some of the thoughts and processes with perhaps little glimpses to tempt the curiosity so please come back and take a look.


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Finding colour in the winter hedge

I have written about the brilliance of gorse before.  It really is the emblem of Cornwall, as it seems to be in flower all year around.  The leaves were late falling this year, and now that the hedgerows are bare, when the light is low, it brings out all sorts of colour in the different barks, twigs and shadows.  Not just grey or brown, you can see lilacs, burgundys, siennas, ochres and grey blues.  This is offset by the gorse, that  saffron buttery sulphurous yellow which is so heavily saturated.


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My painting has been put on hold for the holiday period, as my studio is also my eldest sons bedroom when he is home.  It has been a good opportunity to review work and ideas and have a sort out of dried up paint tubes and throw out worn brushes.  The toughest job was scrubbing off the paint spots on the floor…… in fact many are still there.  It has given me a chance to do other creative things.  I am a great fan of Kirstie Allsopp and her Christmas craft programmes, so much so that I had a go myself.

Xmas heart garland with tinkly bells


Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas.  Different cultures and countries all celebrate in different ways, but in the spirit of Christmas, we all hope for peace and joy. so I hope that this is true for you too.

Crafty Christmas

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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Art diary, Creativity


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A Brief Fling

I am sure you will have noticed that I have not posted for a while.  I have also not painted for more than a few weeks.  After a fab holiday in Ibiza, I really need to find some inspiration, so thought I would have another dabble with the Artrage programme.  Because you are not wasting paint or paper and only wiping a few pixels when you make a mistake, you can really let loose and all sorts of images start to appear.  Don’t ask me where the one above came from?… hopefully some deep creativity unbound from the constraints of the costs of raw materials!!. It does have its limitations ie, lack of control, as my finger slips and slides over the touchpad, but maybe that is also the beauty of it  – its looseness, imperfect lines and mismatched proportions.

Is this a brief fling to get me back into painting or will it become something more?


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New Venture; paint greetings cards – if I have the time!

August has been a month of dipping in and out of summer events, beach, coffee with friends and catching up with family and extended family.  I haven’t picked up a paintbrush with my hand, but in my head have painted a thousand pictures.  This spawned the idea of creating quick vignettes on blank cards for two close friends as I was struggling to find a card among the thousands that are now out there, and even the funny ones either didn’t hit the spot or had been done before and all cards now seem to be incredibly expensive.

So… in an hour with my first cup of tea in the morning, I have painted a couple of cards in acrylic for close friends which have unwittingly made perfect presents in themselves.

Card for Annie - It's ok. she's already seen it.

The whole idea of painting something quickly first thing in the morning reminded me of the paintings that David Hockney created on his ipad from his bedroom each morning and sent to friends which were turned into a massive exhibition.  Maybe I am onto something here!!


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Roll on Port Eliot 2012

We have been back from the Port Eliot Festival for four days and are already looking forward to next year.   There is so much I could write about and so many photos I could post.  Someone said of Port Eliot that “if you asked 1000 people for a story of their experience of Port Eliot, you would get 1000 different stories”, and hereby lies the problem.  I can only say you need to go and experience this festival of ideas yourself.

Me and Don enjoying a Bloody Mary Elevensees

.  What sets it out from others is I suppose the mix of literary talks with the mix of music, cinema, food, fashion, comedy, cabaret and of course the beautiful setting, which allows all the different aspects to be laid on without really being aware of the any of the  rest of it.

Taking in the magnificence of the Round Room

One thing for sure is that it could be summed up as “London meets the Cornish”, where you see the “Beautiful people” strutting their stuff, the families whose children are called Tabitha, Henry, Hector and Aerial trying to organise themselves miserably alongside the often badly dressed cornish who always appear stouter and rounder and just love beer tent hopping. This of course is finding the extremes at both ends of the scale and in between there are the most lovely people who are genuinely there to soak up as much culture,and music as possible.  One of our favourite parts is “Caught by the River”, the inspiration of three music producers who also have a love of nature, their ethos summed up by the words “An antidote to indifference”

Chris Yates, Jon Berry, John Andrews and Charles Rangley-Wilson talking Words on Water

My festival diary is written, full of memories of everything we saw, the chance meetings with new people, the inspiring talks we hear and the great music from Ahab, to banghra band RSVP, blues from Hat Fitz and Cara, theatre from Bellowhead, dance your heart out to Trance from The Egg and the mellow sound of Louis Eliot and many other great acoustic acts.  It really is a smorgasbord of creativity and inspiring thought, washed down with some good ale and great cocktails.

Suggs (Madness) at the Boogie Round , 2 a.m all singing "Lets go fly a kite"

Another post on my new heroine to follow very shortly!!


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Off to Port Eliot Festival to feed mind, body and soul

For the third year, we are off in the Bongo for a four day festival at Port Eliot, St Germans.  It started as a literary festival, but has now grown into cornucopia of culture and music, with wild swimming, great bars and an amazing atmosphere which I can summarise as London meets the ‘Cornish.

I have already earmarked a cooking demo by Peter Gorton, wild swimming, a talk by Wilma Johnson on surfing at 50 at the Idler Academy, late night secret dancing, a printmaking workshop, and several bands and musicians, some known and others who just sound plain quirky or great.

I have treated myself to a new camera, so if all goes well, will post some of my best photos.


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Creative Mojo

Where’s my mojo??  A bad back – my own fault, too much dancing.  Winter in June – can you believe this weather!!  and Wimbledon, all mean I have had a very uneventful week.  However, it was brightened today by having coffee with two artist friends at the gallery where I am part of the “Eye to Cornwall” exhibition at the moment (see previous posts for details).  It is very refreshing to get a different viewpoint from other artists and Gabrielle, by name and by  nature is a real Angel.  She has such charisma, intelligence and love, she lights up your day whenever you meet her.  Encouraged by her comments, I came home, researched how to make my own canvases instead of buying ready made and started playing around with a newly discovered paint programme online.  It is called ArtRage. . This link will take you to a download which gives you a whole month to play around with it for free. After working hard to get the exhibition pieces together, I realise the importance of play, new experiences with art, and taking time to try new things which are all working to bring back my “creative mojo”


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Another new painting which is in the exhibition “An Eye to Cornwall” at The Willoughby Gallery, The Castle Bude. EX23 8LG

This painting has been totally reworked as I was not happy with the original.  But some of the old painting has been allowed to show through and created wonderful scratched out lights and texture.  Peek- a – blue is a bit of a pun on peek-a-boo as it was quite a grey day and just a little blue sky was peeking through.


Peek -a-Blue. Oil painting framed 30cm x 20cm

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More Paintings- “An Eye to Cornwall”

Dimity, Widemouth Bay

It takes time to get all this internet stuff sorted, so sorry for the unprofessional disjointed way I have presented it.  Its a case of finding time to edit, crop and present pictures of my paintings.  Some of the following are some of the smaller paintings on show, but with no less impact.  One is the largest at  I wonder how they reproduce in your eyes and how they compare in real life.

Windblown Gorse in a Cornish Hedge

Summer Warmth

Incoming tide

Dancing Surf on an Incoming Tide 100cm square

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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in All things Cornish, Art diary, BigupBude, Creativity, Exhibitions, New Paintings


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