Chill & Enjoy!

I was talking to someone a while a go about that feeling – the one where somehow everything aligns. It's not about skill or perfection and it's not about any specific action or measurable outcome. It doesn't happen very often, is completely unpredictable and it can be really fleeting but it is an amazing, indescribable sense of invincibilty and cohesion and connection and everything just fitting together and working.

During that same conversation I mentioned that - outside of my art work – the only other time I remember feeling it was when I played the violin as a child. It was a bit of a shock when I said this as it wasn't something I'd consciously thought about before. I only played for a few years, I wasn't very good and I don't remember when or where it happened (but I do remember it happening). It must have actually been the first time I experienced it. I stopped playing at 11 (I felt my time was better spent concentrating on boys :)) but as a result of that conversation I started playing again about 6 months ago. It seemed to me I should have as many things in my life as possible that had the potential for putting me in that place.

The flip side of being 'in the zone' is being completely out of it – feeling disjointed and seperate and everything seeming pointless and puerile. An overwhelming feeling that it is impossible to move forward because there are too many options at exactly the same time as there are none. A place I currently inhabit art wise. I know objectively this is temporary and I will find a way through (and I know it will happen again at some undeterminable point in the future) but subjectively it seems like this time it is never ending. All the normal strategies I have honed over the years for moving forward haven''t helped.

What is helping is playing the vioin. I'm finding it difficult, really difficult. I can't remember anything from when I played before. I am struggling to get a feeling of connection with the violin, the bow and the music. My timing is terrible. I am overthinking, over analyzing, getting distracted, feeling frustrated and expecting too much too soon. I shake intermittently for no reason (not in a good, vibratto way), find it difficult to play in front of anyone (including my music teacher), find it impossible to stand still and pull some really weird faces! I don't think I'll be playing anything even remotely decent for a very, very long time and my fingers are really, really sore. Yet I am also really, really enjoying it, look forward to my lessons, love practising and feel really positive about finding ways to tackle all of the above (albeit slowly).

There is obviously a difference between my art and playing the violin. Being an artist is part of who I am, it's like breathing – playing the violin is something I do, so it isn't as important to me. Some of the things which are stopping me moving forward and progressing are the same though whatever I am doing and I am recognising that maybe I need to stop thinking for a bit and just do.

I don't want.....

I'm still working on what I do want but these are some of the things I don't want:

I don't want to make work which is all things to all people,
I don't want to make work which which has no intent
I don't want to make work which showcases skill over content
I don't want to make work which communicates nothing
I don't want to make work which is derivative
I don't want to make work which is decoration
I don't want to make work for the sake of it
I don't want to make work that stands still
I don't want to make work that plays safe

Reality Check...

My work is currently in turmoil (maybe slightly over dramatic but not excessively so). If I were to liken it to writing - I have no idea if I need a new sentence, a new paragraph or to start again from the beginning. I might just need to insert a comma or a semi-colon? I've been coasting, treading water, playing safe, avoiding, ignoring, and generally making excuses for a complete lack of engagement. I've managed to find some time for making but I have spent no time at all thinking (apart from thinking about what I'm not thinking about!). I have stopped challenging myself or thinking critically. I have forgotten where I was going and need to find my way again. It's time to stop feeling sorry for myself and start being a bit more honest.

Studio log - October 2018

So this month I've concentrated on a couple of large drawings. They're all 'hybrids' - hand drawn digital & physical - but as the changes are slow I've just done x 1 studio log this month.

I currently have x 4 'in progress' and I am prioritising getting them finished (expecting it to take te rest of this year and a large chunk of 2019). A big undertaking but important as I think once they are complete I'll be able to do a much needed reassessment.

one of the hybrids in progress

Best Diary Ever...

In my ongoing quest to be uber-organised I've just purchased a very special diary for next year.

I've kept a standard paper diary (January - December) every year for a very long time - as well as normal timetable/ appointment stuff I also keep notes on events, bills, payments in & out etc. The problem is that  any increases to household expenditure (council tax etc.) tend to take place in April and all my business accounting also runs from April - March. This can make it a bit confusing when trying to marry any transactions, events etc. across one financial year and 2 standard diaries. I decided the answer was to also run my paper diary from April - March to remedy this. Sounds simple but pretty much impossible! Can get student diaries that cover 12 months from June/ July but I couldn't find a 'financial year' diary. Then I came across this fantastic site - Toad Diaries. They do lots of different combinations of covers and content (and free personalised embossing if you want it). I got an A5 15 month diary which will start in January 2019 and run through to March 2020 - perfect!! Covers the remainder of this financial year and the whole of next - and from April 2020 I can get 12 month April - March ones.

Sunshine, my studio and a seasonal timetable?

I'm lucky enough to have a lovely big studio (at least for now) - the whole downstairs of a (now closed) pub. In the winter however, it is freezing - really, really cold. There is some heating but the space is so big that it's impossible to get it at any reasonable temperature unless I spend the fortune I don't have. I'm often seen in finger-less gloves, jumpers and scarf, shivering and running upstairs for a warm up in the kitchen and a hot drink!. In the summer however - it's fantastic. Warm, but not too warm - so in the amazing hot weather we've been having recently it's the perfect place to be.

I also run 'the day job' from home - it involves designing, printing & making personalised products - cards, little keepsakes, cuff links etc. and I found the cold was a serious problem. My paper and vinyls just weren't printing properly as they were getting damp -  so last winter I moved the bulk of it upstairs. 

I've been self employed for a long time and one of the hardest things is time management. I'm constantly juggling my timetable to try to balance both areas. My ideal would be to spend all my time on my art/ exhibition work but I also have to pay the bills and the day job brings in the money to do that so I do have to prioritise that and spend the majority of my time on it. As a result studio time is always being squeezed and I struggle to find time for it. I am thinking though that during the summer months it makes sense to spend a bit more time on the artwork and then more time on the day job during the winter. Instead of thinking daily, weekly or monthly -  having a seasonal overview?

week beginning 2nd July

week beginning 04.06.18

week beginning 28.05.18

A reading review...

I've had a lot of time restraints over the last few years (don't we all!) and the temptation is to just draw, draw, draw when I am in my studio. A couple of weeks ago I decided to take up the violin again. I haven't played for almost 50 years and I honestly can't remember a single thing. Attempts to channel the 8/9 year old me haven't worked - so in effect, I am starting from the beginning. Part of this has involved a realisation that it's not just the picking up and playing but I need to work on strengthening my fingers, improving my posture etc. and the time I spend doing that is just as important as the time I spend playing. I'm also very chilled about it all - I see it as a very, very long term project so am not worried if it takes years (or even decades) to get to a reasonable standard.

The experience has made me review my studio time. I've decided it's time to be a bit more relaxed about my drawing and get back into some regular reading. To get back to a more balanced approach. I have lots of lovely drawing related books and I've picked a few out to make a start with. I've been a bit lazy regarding this recently and I need to start setting some time aside regularly. I am still really interested in drawing as mark/ gesture/ trace but alongside that I want to continue this journey I'm on regarding physical vs digital drawing (and how an audience encounters and responds to this). It feels very complex so I need to start breaking it down a bit more. I think timetabling some short but regular reading/ writing sessions is a good way to start.


I've just set up a 'studio log' page to track what I'm doing each week. It will hopefully serve as a sort of visual diary. The knack of course, to make it representational, is to keep it up every week....

Hybrids - trials & tribulations

Draw : ballpoint, pencil, wacom pen/tablet
I'm currently working on my Hybrid drawings (ballpoint pen, pencil & digital combined).Currently 'Clap 1' which has bee in progress for some time. It is a large drawing (usual 1016 x 1372 mm) and will take hours to complete. Even I struggle to work out which bit has been done by pencil and which bit has been done with wacom pen/ tablet (printed) which can make for even slower progress. I'm working from two different source 'inky hand prints' - one for the digital drawing part and one for the second pencil layer and it can be really tricky to tell which is which.
Clap 1 (detail): pencil, wacom pen/ tablet
The only real way to tell is to look at it at a certain angle when the 'sheen' of the pencil is more visible - particularly in the darker areas - so I'm constantly having to stop drawing and move around to get a better view of what/ where I'm drawing. Much easier of course when using a ballpoint pen.