The Red Wool

My personal practice continues to be preoccupied with internal journeys, and a term I found in Robert Macfarlane’s thought-provoking book ‘The Old Ways’:

The word Wittgenstein used for ‘thought’…

‘Denkbewegungen’ is a coinage that might be translated as ‘thought movements’, ‘thought ways’ or ‘paths of thought’: ideas that have been brought into being by means of motion along a path (weg).

I’m continuing to make long narrow books, which seem to me to depict these ideas. They always seem to turn out tied up in the same red wool, sent to me by a fellow Sketchbook Circler. I am fascinated by this wool and cannot say why it features so strongly in this body of work.

Yesterday I started making photographs of the wool itself. I am reminded of Magritte’s painting of a pipe entitled The Treachery of Images. This isn’t really a pipe, it’s only a representation. The images of the wool aren’t really the wool either, they are just images; but the wool has begun to take on a more loaded meaning, a subtext or meta message. It’s a representation of something that represents a whole raft of other ideas, if you follow me. It’s the continuous thread running through my life that represents the persistence of identity, my continuing personal narrative, the enduring trace throughout all the reframing, reinventing, rethinking, reconsidering. 

It’s not just a piece of wool.

Another Circle Closes

It’s that time of year again… I’m working for the last time in the book I have shared over the year with Ben, before I post it back after Christmas. I’m feeling a sense of achievement as I look back over the pages we have shared, and the visual conversation we have had. I have been lucky enough again to share with two talented practitioners who have made me think, and have challenged my own practice.

My experiences on the Artist Teacher scheme have inevitably found their way into my sketchbooks this year, and vice versa, reminding me how different aspects of my practice all inform each other and are influenced by each other. Having the sketchbooks on the go alongside the ATS enables me to put ideas on the backburner and work on something else, or try things out in a different way, allowing me to explore and experiment in different contexts.

I have sent my sketchbook back to Louise for the final time, and I’m excited to see how she responds to my final additions. I have signed up for another year of the Circle, hopefully one sketchbook partnership and one digital partnership; I am already excited about where the experience will take me next.


Liminal: adj, technical, i) of, or relating to a transitional or initial stage; ii) at a boundary or threshold (Oxford Concise English Dictionary).

This is a word I have come across fairly frequently of late; it appears quite a lot in artists’ statements in degree shows and galleries, and I’d read it a few times before I happened across it in this post by Andrea Liu. I looked it up, forgot about it, forgot what it meant, and then it cropped up again a couple of days ago on the WordPress inspiration site, The Daily Post. So I looked it up again. This time the word resonated; I don’t think I’ll be adding it to my artist statement any time soon, as my style is a bit more down-to-earth that that, but I’m definitely at a transitional phase in my personal and professional journey as an artist.

It’s also another transitional phase in the Sketchbook Circle cycle; I have made my last contributions to the book I have shared this year with Louise, and will be sending it back for her to put in her own final additions; and Ben’s book will soon be on it’s way back to me for the final time. I’ve signed up for another year’s collaboration, and am hoping this time to push myself out of my comfort zone and enter into a digital collaboration as well as a sketchbook partnership. Sketchbook Circle has and continues to be a pivotal experience in my artistic and professional life; the group is vibrant, creative and supportive, and I have connected with some amazingly talented individuals. It has inspired me to take my work in new directions, and combined with this year’s experience on the Artist Teacher Scheme, I have been motivated to take my practice out of a sketchbook and work in new, and sometimes surprising ways. This excites me and scares me in equal measure, but I continue to put myself in situations which challenge me. I have been inspired to leave my regular job in order to pursue a freelance career, and I am making connections and discussing projects with new people. I look back on my first hesitant pages in my first shared sketchbook two years ago and reflect on how far I have come.

This Week

This week has been another busy one; I finished my regular job so I can concentrate more fully on our Social Enterprise organization. I’m signed on with an education agency so I can get flexible work as I need it for cash flow, but essentially I am now a freelancer. I have a nervous knot in my stomach, wondering if I am going to be able to survive and pay the rent; at the same time I know I have to at least give it a shot.

I seem to have been exploring lots of different media recently; last weekend I made clay houses with the 4MAT UK artist teacher group on the Birmingham canal; and this week I had the opportunity to participate in workshops and an interview for a CPD opportunity with a regional arts and health organization. Sadly I wasn’t selected to take part, but it gave me the opportunity to meet and work with some really interesting people working in lots of different media; drawing, ceramics, photography, performance; sculpture, weaving, collage. I used to do a lot of collage work, and have books filled with it (my own work) on my shelves in my studio corner; however, my practice at the moment seems to revolve around drawing and mark-making. I love to draw; I have spent hours drawing things – portraits, objects, and more recently I have begun to draw in a much more abstract way, inspired by such artists as Cy Twombly, and by books such as Steven Aimone’s excellent Expressive Drawing. I love water-soluble media, particularly graphite, which responds in such intense yet delicate ways to different ways of applying water.

Today I have worked on some old packing card, combining gesso, water and soluble graphite. I like the freedom that keeping the work wet gives me; I can move the paint and graphite around until it pleases me, block out parts I don’t like so much and do something else. Assertion and obliteration. I also like the idea that a piece of work is an organic, living thing, and that it’s OK for it to change. I never have a fixed idea of what I’m trying to achieve in mind; I find that if I do, I feel tense and I am rarely pleased with the outcome. I prefer to work in a more process-oriented way, and leave the outcome to be what it is.


I have also been adding bits and pieces to Ben’s sketchbook ready to return to him this week; my contributions have largely arisen from a continuation of his circle theme, which happily fit in with my own work as I was cutting circles out of my drawings prior to making them into tubes. I’ve also added in some interesting bits of masking tape, rescued from the edges of some larger pieces I am working on at the moment to further explore 3D drawing, and spotted by my eagle-eyed daughter.

My emergency blanket piece, made for and through the Sketchbook Circle, was featured in this month’s newsletter, which you can view here. I made a post about it too, which you can visit here. I await Louise’s responses to my sketchbook with anticipation; in the meantime, I will continue to write, and draw, and think, and find new ways to share my inner thoughts and ideas about what it means to be me.

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.