Artists’ Books

This week I had a sudden urge to revisit the poetry of T S Eliot, which I first encountered in undergraduate English Literature; I recall feeling baffled by The Wasteland and unable or unwilling to get to grips with its imagery and layered, fragmented meanings. Now, all of a sudden, Eliot’s snapshots of the realities of daily life speak to me; I don’t get the whole picture (am I meant to?), but phrases leap out at me from many of his poems which seem to articulate some of the ideas I’m grappling with and trying to represent in my work – physical presence, process, thinking made visible, fragments, memory. 

I have also been exploring the idea of artists’ books; the versatility of this medium seems to be a fitting way to capture both the fluid nature of what I want to express, and my ongoing obsession with writing by hand. 

I’m still struggling to put into words exactly what is inside my head, and I don’t feel that my writing is doing my ideas much justice at the moment; but I’m hoping you’ll stay with me whilst I try and figure it out.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened

Into the rose garden. My words echo 

Thus, in your mind.

From Burnt Norton – first of the Four  Quartets by T S Eliot.



Wow… this week has been a busy one, out training and attending meetings in preparation for launching Your Turn, our little Community Interest Company. Our company registration will be complete and ready to roll by the new year… new year, new start, as my mum said.

I have been so busy that I haven’t had much time to make art work, in fact the last piece was featured in my last post on the pleasures of scribbling; although I have managed some doodling and writing. I have been uneasy for the second half of the week; daily making has become such a part of my practice that it has felt uncomfortable not making an image of some description each day, and although I have put pencil to paper to make entries in my notebook, it has felt forced, scratchy, disconnected; a final effort at the end of an exhausting day. On Friday I felt more relaxed; before my daughter woke up I was able to get in some quality quiet writing time, and I felt my brain shift down a gear; I felt as though I was tuning back into my artistic mojo, and I began to appreciate and understand how and why maintaining my own regular artistic practice informs the other work that I do.

So this weekend I have holed it up at home with some good quality paper and some water-soluble mark-making tools, and made drawings. These drawings are muted, ephemeral, blurred, quiet; my brain unwinding on paper. I layered and sprayed, and the pencil marks dissipated and blurred; I relinquished control and let the drawings take on their own life. The movements I made became slower, calmer, reflecting the slowing of my breathing and heart rate after an adrenaline-filled week.

Inner Child

Last night I relaxed after a nightmarish day at work by completely unplugging for an hour. I put John Coltrane on the stereo and sat on my living room floor with a sheet of lining paper and some marker pens. It started off as an exercise in intuitive, expressive mark-making; but after a while I became immersed in the sheer child-like joy of scribbling. Literally. Pure process, pure freedom, not caring where the next mark went or fretting over composition. I used both hands, which I am noticing is becoming quite an integral part of my emerging practice… 

Although I cheated a bit afterwards to do some image editing.

Emergency Blanket Art

As part of my contribution to Sketchbook Circle 2016, I was asked by the organisers to make a piece of art out of the contents of a mystery envelope.


This piece of work has come about as a result of some ideas which I have been exploring and attempting to express whilst locating my artistic practice on the Artist Teacher Scheme at Birmingham School of Art. I have become very interested in making large scale drawings which express movement and energy, and which also seem to me to embody somehow the internal thought processes my mind goes through as I make them – process made visible. Elena, the course tutor, remarked that I am a ‘taker-awayer’, meaning that I put things into a piece and then move them around, or remove them, until I am satisfied. Addition and subtraction, ebb and flow, assertion and obliteration. I am now conscious of this as a valid part of my creative process, and actively embrace it in my work. This finished piece has gone through several versions and modifications as I thought my ideas through and came up with what seems to me to be a satisfactory way to express them.

The emergency blanket I received through the post from the admin team at Sketchbook Circle was smooth, shiny and reflective when I opened it and it reflected fairly clear images; however, as I worked with it, it became crumpled, torn and fragmented. These opposing qualities took on many meanings for me; fragmented memories, stories, narratives; self-reliance and self-reflection; my own image and my own environment mirrored back at me, alongside my own inner landscape. A reminder that what I need is right here, and all I have to do is look for it.

I felt the need to cut and shred the blanket, which seemed to be about the many shards and fragments of existence and experience which make me who I am; as I did so, the sunlight and the warm red of the curtains was reflected back at me.

I didn’t really know at any point where I was headed with this idea, and it’s only a stage on the internal journey. I’ve continued to pull bits off it (addition and subtraction), and I’ve photographed it and manipulated it with the (many) photo editing apps on my phone; will it ever be finished? When is a piece of work finished? I’ve put it aside for a while now, but I’m sure I will revisit it and change it again, as this seems to be an enduring part of my artistic practice.

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Show & Tell

Yesterday was the first session of the second phase of the Artist Teacher Scheme. We met at the School of Art in Margaret Street, and looked at the MA final show before sitting down in the basement to share some of our 100 pieces of work and talk.

I’m still attempting to get my head round what it is that I’m trying (struggling) to express, and I have no idea where I’m going with this, or what my practice will look like when I finally manage to locate it… all I can say is that I feel like an avalanche has been released in my brain (not that it was an tidy and uncluttered place beforehand) and I am frantically trying to capture thoughts and ideas and write stuff in my notebook and record things, and try to find ways to record things I’ve never even thought about before – trying to catch hold of it all before it is carried off like a wisp of smoke in the wind.

This afternoon I suddenly decided to wallpaper a large piece of packing cardboard that has been sitting in my living room for several weeks. Don’t ask me why. I don’t even know what I’m going to do with the bloody thing when I’ve finished it – it’s actually too big to fit anywhere. I am veering between amused exasperation with myself, and a niggling sensation that this is something to do with the emergency blanket piece that I’m trying to make for Sketchbook Circle. It’s about the physical manifestation of the process, the idea that it was inside me all along and all I had to do was look… or something.

Something below the surface is fidgeting to be let out, and all of a sudden that doesn’t frighten me. All of a sudden I think I want to take a look.