Welcome to 2020!

When I began writing this Blog, it was to share ideas about my own work. Lately I’ve become aware that it’s also become a kind of ‘Art Diary’ for me – an aide-memoire about exhibitions and things I’ve seen. I hope you will forgive this – I’ll shortly be posting something about my recent trip to Australia! I hope you will find something of interest in it…

In September, I wrote about my idea to make a mosaic sculpture for the garden from the cracked and chipped crockery in my parents’ house. Well, I’ve made a start.

On Thursday, I had my first mosaic lesson with Michelle Greenwood-Brown at Voyage in Teignmouth. What joy! A small group of people at different levels, working on their own piece with individual attention from Michelle. I’m a complete beginner and spent two hours just playing with the tile cutter and learning how to mix the cement. Baby steps! Lovely to be back creating something after the Christmas break…


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Last work of 2019/ Happy New Year!

Wishing you a Very Happy (remaining) Christmas Season!

I finished my final commission of 2019 in time to deliver it for Christmas; a double portrait of the great(s) Laurel and Hardy. (I recommend the brilliant film Stan and Ollie to anyone who’s not seen it)

This year has been a strange one. I have made fewer art works, struggled with commissions not going well, questioned what it means to be authentic, questioned my artistic direction and seen some marvellous work by other artists. Summer seemed to pass me by as I cared for my father who died in August.

Then I read Art and Fear (twice!) (by David Bayles and Ted Orland) and certain passages from The Artist Spirit (by Robert Henri). Wonderfully inspiring! I am ready for new challenges in 2020. Happy New Year to you all!




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Another Wonderful Book!

I’ve recently read a wonderful book which I would recommend to any practising artist – or indeed, anyone struggling with their work. Called Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, it came out in 1993 but I’ve only just discovered it – and have been giving it to, or recommending it to all my art friends!

Art and Fear is a non-fiction book written by artists for artists. The point of the book is to help the young and/or struggling artist survive in the art world and to conquer the various difficulties, obstacles and fears that the developing artist faces. These difficulties come in two varieties: internal and external.

I found the book to be encouraging and life-affirming. (Many of the pages seemed to be written just for me!) From it I have taken three helpful points – that every artist needs:

  1. A goal
  2. A support network with other artists
  3. To keep making art. (Don’t stop!)

I cannot recommend it too highly!

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Father Christmas

For the past few years around this time, my Father Christmas picture has been shared on social media, generating an annual flurry of requests for prints and cards. I am posting here to say (with regret) that I cannot produce any.

The picture I made in 2010 was adapted from a painting by a contemporary US artist, Dean Morrissey. I made it for my own home (it comes out every year!) and also printed Christmas cards for my personal use. I do not wish to breach copyright laws and have tried to contact Dean (who has no website of his own) through galleries which sell his work, to ask for permission to reproduce my version of his painting. As I have received no reply, I will be unable to make reproductions.

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Authenticity? I Think I have the Answer!

I’ve been preparing to lead a session on Street Art at our village art group (a very low-key affair!) Reading about a pioneer of Street Art in the 1980s called Keith Haring (USA) , I discovered that Haring had left art school to follow his own artistic path after reading The Art Spirit by Robert Henri.

Henri (1865 – 1929) was an American painter and teacher who first introduced the work of Manet, Degas, Goya and other European greats to the USA. Henri was an inspired teacher with an extraordinary gift for verbal communication. Amongst his students Henri had almost a cult following.

I bought the book!

The Art Spirit records Henri’s lecture notes (mainly on painting) as well as his views on Art in a broader sense, and what it means to be an artist. It is full of wisdom.

Now I think I get it. Being Authentic is not about the final product but the joy in the process of making.

Henri: The best art the world has ever had is but the impress left by men who have thought less of making great art than of living full and completely with all their faculties in the enjoyment of full play. 

When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature. He becomes interesting to other people… He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and he opens ways for a better understanding. The world would stagnate without him, and the world would be beautiful with him; for he is interesting to himself and he is interesting to others. He does not have to be a painter or sculptor to be an artist. He can work in any medium. He simply has to find the gain in the work itself, not outside it.

(By ‘outside it‘, I understand that to mean external gain: sales, exhibitions, esteem by others etc.)

Museums of art will not make a country an art country. But where there is the art spirit there will be precious works to fill museums. Better still there will be the happiness that is in the making.

How has this affected me personally? I feel liberated! I can stop worrying about trying to think of a fantastic new idea or create something amazing (like a nest!) I can enjoy making what I make. I feel excited about the new commission and am enjoying the process again.

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It’s OK to be ‘Good Enough’

I’d like to Blog about another interesting artist I visited during Devon Open Studios…

Selby McCreery opened her home, Landcove House, to the public in September as “a celebration of wonder.” She was not exaggerating. This was not a selling exhibition but a display of enormous creativity – every room and outbuilding containing an interesting installation, art works or sketchbooks. One room in particular had the Wow factor – a huge nest of branches, hay, moss, sheep’s wool and herbs filled the room both literally and with its scent. It’s one thing to think of an idea like that and even more amazing to execute it.        Another cause for my Art Envy! How wonderful would it be to make something so impressive, unexpected and astonishing??!

I started to wish that I could produce something amazing and noteworthy…                   Then I remembered something I’d read about the French artist Gericault (1791 – 1824). His (now famous) work The Raft of the Medusa (1819) was a political statement aimed at the corruption and wrongs of French society under the restoration of the monarchy. To paraphrase… The work was greeted with indifference by the French government in what was probably a calculated reaction. Gericault had sought an extreme reaction, either of outright revulsion or passionate praise, and got neither. From this moment he sank into a deep disillusionment for his stated aim had always been “to shine, to illuminate, to astonish the world”. What a waste of his amazing talent.

This is where authenticity comes in.  We can only be who we are and we have to live with being ‘good enough’. Not many people astonish the world and that is OK.

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Sunflowers Finished with Joy

After going through a creatively dry patch this year, it was wonderful to discover that constructing the new Sunflowers was just what I needed to get back into work mode again. (Perhaps when ‘stuck’, one just needs to do something?) I’ve rediscovered the joy in my work. And in the process of making, other creative ideas are beginning to emerge, which is an exciting feeling…

This work will soon be on sale at Words and Pictures Gallery, Teignmouth.

I have one (long awaited) commission to make before Christmas and then???

Already I have some new ideas I’d like to try…



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Mosaic Frida

One of the lovely people who collects materials for me (Hello Loren!) sent me this wonderful image of Frida Kahlo in an inspirational mosaic by Susan Elliot. I love it.

Susan Elliot is a mosaic artist based in Hastings. The tag line on her website is:




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What does it mean to be Authentic?

Ever since the conversation I had with Cornwall artist Ken Spooner (see Blog Sept 16)    I’ve been mulling over the need for an artist to be authentic. What does that even mean?

Here’s what good old Google has to say:

Being authentic means coming from a real place within. It is when our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values. It is being ourselves, not an imitation of what we think we should be or have been told we should be.

So I guess in Art, authenticity is when we produce something that flows from within, rather than trying to please someone else? The trouble with working to commission is that the worry that the buyer may not like the finished piece inhibits creativity.

And does it mean that it’s unauthentic to create something because one thinks it will be commercial? True – it is so much more satisfying to create something just because you want to and you like it. If someone else likes it too, then that is a bonus.

What is authenticity in a person? (Google again:)

Authenticity is about presence, living in the moment with conviction and confidence and staying true to yourself. An authentic person puts the people around them at ease, like a comforting old friend who welcomes us in and makes us feel at home.

I really like that!

During Devon Open Studios (DOS), I saw some wonderful work by other artists which made me think “I wish I’d had that idea!” And it’s since DOS that I’ve been feeling unsettled about my own work and feeling that I need to move it on, to have some new ideas.

It has gradually dawned on me that I’m suffering from what I shall call Art Envy!

This came particularly after my visit to Mary Maguire’s studio in Buckfastleigh. Thirty years ago, Mary had studied textiles at Goldsmith’s College and some of her work from that time was on display. I absolutely loved a set of 4 painted boxes, each with two opening doors like religious icons. In each box was a famous portrait from Art History and a piece of jewellery which Mary had made for the sitter. For example, for Botticelli’s Venus she made a brooch in the shape of a uterus, filled with tiny pearls (eggs). For the wife in the Arnofili Wedding there was a gold cloak fastening in the shape of a placenta and embryo. Sooo clever! The boxes combined all my loves – Art history, religious icons, bling, brooches as Art. I wish I thought of it!

But maybe what I do is already my authentic self?? When I am working on a collage, I lose myself completely in the process.

While clearing my work room recently, I found a base and frame ready to make a new Sunflowers picture. I can’t waste it and have started work. Working on it is like being with my comforting old friend who welcomes me in and makes me feel at home. So, for now I am just going with the flow….

Has anyone reading this ever struggled with thoughts like these??


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In Limbo Land (and a brooch)

Many hours last week were spent in a ruthless re-organisation of materials I’d had in my work-room for years and not used. The room was in need of a major overhaul – I could no longer  walk across the floor! Now things are tidier, and my headspace feels clearer too.

I want to move my work forward – but HOW? (That’s the million $ question!) My mosaic course doesn’t start until the New Year. I feel in Limbo Land, awaiting new inspiration!!

In the meantime, I reverted to an old idea and have just finished making a brooch as a commission for a wedding present. I am really happy with it. The brooch is decorated with broken jewellery, and mounted on a weathered background – in this case an antique wooden frame from Italy. It hangs on the wall as a piece of Art, can be removed to be worn and replaced. (I made pieces like this for my degree show called Weathered and Worn back in 2006, and still make them occasionally.)

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