The Red Cut


The earth at home is very dark and loamy, with great caramel-coloured ribbons of clay running through it. Here, in places - it is red and livid against all the lush green of summer.

We frequently came across great curves of cut earth as diggers and construction work opened the land. I'm hoping to develop these sketches further as I love the dynamics of such a visceral image.


Ophelia in the green

I see her everywhere - and this year she's decked out in St Annes Lace and tumbling in the verges.


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holiday sketchbook (yay!)

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Trying to remember just how long we've been coming to this beach ...

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... a day of drifting sea frets and mist


... lots of fog drawings in my sketchbook





In other news, I've redesigned my blog. On paper at least it looks good.

stormy skies and early summer



Wild and vibrant light. Greens so fizzy and sherbet. By contrast, the ever-present brooding dark skies and brilliant sun making colours almost fluorescent in their intensity. 




Can you see the fringe of blue forget-me-nots in the verge?

And then came Ophelia ...



- spinning her falling portals and sending dancing ripples into the air ...


useful things to remember


I get Artwork Archive newsletters (being a subscriber) and received one recently that was so timely and pertinent, given my squee deficit. An interview with Anne Kullaf ding-ding-dinged with me so deeply - reading things like:

Be authentic. Paint only that which interests you in the way you choose to paint it. Don't change your approach to gain sales, popularity or acceptance. You will never do your best work if you do.

... so enjoyed this interview and the six bite-size advice points - reassuring.


forest field and sky


"Dr James Fox takes a journey through six different landscapes across Britain, meeting artists whose work explores our relationship to the natural world. From Andy Goldsworthy's beautiful stone sculptures toJames Turrell's extraordinary sky spaces, this is a film about art made out of nature itself. Featuring spectacular images of landscape and art, James travels from the furthest reaches of the Scottish coast and the farmlands of Cumbria to woods of north Wales. In each location he marvels at how artists' interactions with the landscape have created a very different kind of modern art - and make us look again at the world around us."



bluebell bluebelle blue bell


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Intoxicating and compelling colour mixes - more later.




Read a post the other day that really resonated with me for a lot of reasons. This most of all:

"The overwhelming contents of my studio made me feel clogged.. Projects that were put on hold? Ditto. I felt like I lost my voice..and my freedom. It's coming back."

I've lost my squee. I feel frustrated and blocked in some ways - but also feel like a magical conduit when something I'm working on suddenly becomes an Ophelia portal.

I had planned this year to be mindfully selling stuff - and whilst I'm still working hard and putting myself about - I'm all kinds of doubtful. This is so not me lol.

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forsythia diadem, acrylic and pastel, 400 x 500mm 

It could be worse - I've had spells of thinking I just need to follow the popular people/direction, and this way or that, trying to make my work fit in. Not good - like a lovely shoe two sizes too small. Then, the self-doubt (annoying and midge-like); the maybe-just-a-hobby-yes? thoughts - this too is so not me lol.

I think a clear-out of mind and space is in order.

I'm hoping to have a diddy studio within Cross Street Arts by the end of the month - so let's see if that makes a difference to this ennui. 

In the meantime I'll be pulling out the bin bags, gesso-ing over some canvasses, sorting out frame stock and mounts and catching some early summerness. Time to regroup. Time to dodge the gatekeepers, stop doubting and make things happen by bringing the work anyway.

I just want my squee back.




It's hard to say when something is finished - I suppose to catch a piece before it becomes overworked mud is part of it. I'm struggling with these pieces because the weather and light has absolutely changed - and as usual I'm roaming about the house to get the light for a decent photo. Anyway - notwithstanding that - I think we're there.

After a tiny bit of Spring, we're back to cold, wet, sleet and even snow. Last night we had hours of thunder, lightning and hailstones like mint imperials.

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forsythia diadem, acrylic and pastel, 400 x 500mm 

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greentrees, acrylic and pastel 400 x 500mm

I couldn't go to Liverpool Art Fair PV (given the quite awful weather I'm just a tiny bit glad I didn't venture out, also public transport doesn't exist here after 6pm) - here's a photo I nabbed off their site - my 'fly up to heaven' is next to the lady in glasses on the right :) Exhibition continues over the weekend.

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more on green trees


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... and this one has a name 'forsythia diadem' and a companion piece ...

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... and this one doesn't have a name yet - the detail I'm very pleased with - but it isn't showing well here - so here's some detail images!

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WIP later that day!


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beautiful light and lime green trees


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... so, so beautiful with great fountains of forsythia in the foreground; and as the sun went higher, this bronze-y green

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... just glorious. So I went back indoors for a mug of tea and this (underpainting) - more later ...


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private view invite


MiGRATE poster .png

liverpool art fair


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29 April - 2 May 2016, The Gallery Liverpool, Stanhope Street - FREE

Liverpool Art Fair is an exciting open submission selling event, designed to connect local artists with new art buyers on a large scale, break down barriers, and make affordable art accessible to all.

Liverpool Art Fair was launched in May 2012 as part of the inaugural Liverpool Art Month. Since then we have showcased almost 1000 new artworks by some of the region's most talented artists, to thousands of art lovers, providing a unique insight into the region's creative talent. 

Delighted to have two works included (and for sale!) his year.


clearing gold 19.5 x 24.5cm (28 x 33cm framed) landscape acrylic on board 


fly to heaven 40 x 50cm portrait acrylic on canvas 

The fifth Liverpool Art Fair will take place over the May Day bank holiday weekend, from Friday 29 April to Monday 2 May 2016 - more at





Delighted to be exhibiting as part of the forthcoming A6 dialogue/Cross St Arts show 'Migrate' - more info from





The raggedy forsythia hedge to the side of our house is just about to flower. I've spent a happy afternoon scribbling and trying to capture the tangle and whoosh of fit to burst buds and first flurries of yellow.









five girls and the sycamore collection


Can't find an image with any kind of copyright detail for this image - but a google search pointed me at this - one of my favourite pieces currently on show at Bolton Museum & Art Gallery - who are displaying prints from the Sycamore Collection. 

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Five Girls John Copley, lithograph

I always call in to see this exhibition when I'm in town - it's on until the end of May. And if this doesn't butter your crumpet, there are works by Gwenda Morgan, Eric Ravilious, Henry Moore, David Michael Jones, John Craxton and many other celebrated printmakers included. So lucky to have such a great resource on the doorstep.


possibly wandering off topic



Yes - a petition. But given that so much of our social history is at risk by lack of funding closures - it is important. And if we're looking for a specific suffragette - then make it Annie Kenny or Alice Hawkins.

"The law may be stronger than I am, but if I may not change the wicked law that holds in bondage the smitten womanhood of this country, I will at least die in the attempt to change it’."

updated | Overcoming barriers to artists’ residencies



Nicola Smith: Overcoming barriers to artists’ residencies
Artists' talk and panel discussion.
Old Fire Station, University of Salford

Nicola set-up this event, with support from the University of Salford, as part of her research for developing a fully supported artists’ residency opportunity for those who feel unable to participate within existing programmes. Nicola’s research and development project is funded by Art Council England.

This event was aimed at artists interested in undertaking an artists’ residency and particularly for those who feel they maybe unable to pursue a residency (for whatever reason). Artists who have taken part in residencies were also encouraged to come along and share their experiences.

Artists Nicola Smith, Helen Knowles, Jason Wilsher-Mills and Pool Arts talked about their individual experiences of residencies and some of the barriers they overcame to undertake them including: undertaking an international residency in Qatar from your sickbed; going to Santa Fe to work with indigenous native American midwives; with your partner and baby in Finland or in a shed on an allotment in Manchester.

In 2014, Nicola participated in a 2-week artist residency in Finland with her husband and then 6-month old baby in tow; an opportunity she found rare given that most residencies tend to cater for the individual, with few accepting partners let alone children. As a result this got her thinking as to “who else feels unable to participate in artist residencies?”. She is currently developing an artist residency opportunity in Tampere, Finland, in partnership with Islington Mill, Salford, and the Artists Association in Tampere.

For more information:

Contact Nicola Smith: email:  
Twitter: @family_resident

I went to this talk last Friday. Strange to be back in a familiar venue (the former Viewpoint Gallery) - a photography gallery - which then closed some years ago . However, very nice to see the building back in use - and a brilliant venue at that - excellent facilities/refurbishment and really easy to access by public transport. The speakers were varied and the whole event cracked on at a good pace - presented by Paul Herrmann (director of Redeye, the photography network). 


Wonderful and uplifting


I was listening to Radio 4 this evening and Susan Calman. In it she explored going to galleries and looking at art with Phill Jupitus (from 14:55).  It was one of the most gently humorous and touching things I've heard in ages; listen here - which led me on to ...

" ... I couldn't visit Edinburgh and not come to see her. Even if it was only for a few minutes, just to say hello. A few years ago she was moved from her usual spot. And I freaked out. I scurried round and found an attendant, "Where's Lady Agnew?" I blurted in a manner that was borderline panicky. The long-suffering staff member recognised the fever in my eyes, smiled, arched her eyebrows, looked over her glasses and said "Oh... you mean the hussy?"." Phill Jupitus on  'Lady Agnew of Lochnaw' by John Singer Sargent.

Both the radio programme and the article are just so uplifting and wonderful. Best things I've heard/read in relation to art in ages.

Bonus clip!: Phill Jupitus at The Whitworth


last two for today


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edge work on paper, pastel and acrylic

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stand work on paper, pastel and acrylic


more works on paper


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 work on paper, pastel and acrylic

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spate work on paper, pastel and acrylic

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pollard work on paper, pastel and acrylic

More drawings for today from reference - lots of snow - so a scramble about not really advisable :)



lost in light


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find the water acrylic on canvas 40 x 50 cm 

In this piece I'm trying to capture the feeling of being 'contained' by undergrowth and the odd quality of sound when surrounded by the trees and banking on the near side of the ridge.

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find the water
 acrylic and pastel on paper 18 x 24cm 

find the water
is a reference to the brook that runs under our house and emerges down the far side of the ridge before being carried away under the road. Given the amount of rain - it is now plainly audible if not visible, roaring softly. The brook when it appears is glinting and dark - only flashing silver where the sunlight catches it. It follows an old boundary line alongside field edges, the road and hedgerows.

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fierce thorn acrylic on canvas 40 x 50 cm 

In fierce thorn I'm trying to emulate the curves and coils of bramble and briar that wind into elegant frame shapes and waves. As beautiful as these arcs are - their thorns are vicious and claw-like against the dreamy shadows of back-lit undergrowth.


... and that makes four


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spring birch - lapis then dusk acrylic on canvas 40 x 50 cm

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spring birch - dawn burn with frost acrylic on canvas 40 x 50 cm

And this series is now loosening up and becoming what I'd wanted it to look like.

Bought a big canvas (for me!) this afternoon which I'm going to use for this series (prolly a metre square or thereabouts). Will also take these two outdoors and photograph them again in natural daylight.

Need to crack on next week to get work prepared for Cross St/A6 Dialogue and Liverpool Art Fair - March deadlines are looming ...



the start of another tree series


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I could almost feel this coming on - for the last week or so I've been grovelling under hedges and clearing verges - my neighbour and I have embarked on a mighty litter-pick. Not to 'clean for the Queen' but more of a 'not wanting to live in a shithole' kind of thing. The amount of crap that gets thrown out of passing cars is disgusting. Tossers is exactly the epithet for it. We won't even speak of the fly-tipping in the field ditch (hello flooding, you effing MORON).

So - getting close-up with nature (including a freshly-shot, abandoned dead rabbit which probably made an excellent supper for local foxes) - the extraordinary clarity of the skies and quality of light has brought me here. The first piece being a total pig to photograph as it includes metallics.

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spring birch - copper over silver acrylic on canvas 40 x 50 cm

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spring birch - the golden gap acrylic on canvas 40 x 50 cm

I have a couple more of this birch series to complete - and then I'm totally going hedgerow. We have some ancient hedges pertaining to old county boundaries close by - and I'd quite like to adopt them as a theme. They are quite beautiful but very wild and fierce (THORNS).





loosening up


5So I've had this Emily Ball book for ages and I remembered it this morning whilst clearing the decks in my studio - and I thought I'd have a go at some of the exercises. It's a brilliant book - and I understand there's another one in the making about landscapes which sounds like it will be brilliant. Here's the author's website.


21Now - this kind of thing is a bit crap to do on your own - so wasn't as much fun/effective as it could have been if there had been the oppo to run around squeaking at what others had come up with. But, it has given me some impetus to pull out all of those not-quite-working canvasses and get to working over/reworking.




12This exercise was all about creating a mark-making 'conversation' and cropping-in on any interesting bits. As I'm an impatient person I've used 'dry' media (marker and pastel) rather than paint and something else wet. I've cropped in Photoshop (rather than overpainting - and probably destroyed the entire point of the exercise lol. 



Nevertheless, I've got some great jumping off points from it.








... rescanned in daylight and stood in mulling-over-corner for mulling over ...

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I'm in the sky - bliss


oh how I'm loving these colours and textures



I'm thinking these are pretty much done (for now). It has been so cold today but beautifully opalesquent - the light, pale and golden, the sky full of vapour trails and little pillows of cloud - just delicious.


instant gratification


Using up leftover paint to create small works on paper - then having a lovely time spinning them around trying to decide which way is 'up'.

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I really like these - but once again, I think I need to scan them to get rid of the grey.


bounce that light


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.. love this bit


just about there I think ....


Oooh look at my gallery-like setting (en-route to taking photos outside in natural light)

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I think these are pretty-much done (I even have titles! Oh yuss!!)

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This one - not so sure we're there yet ...

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Busy putting smaller work under mounts and in frames. 




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OMG EXCITED!!!!!!!!! But which way up? ....


sketchbooks and diaries


Panic. Deadlines. Retreat into sketchbook.

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In other news - fecking fly-tippers - 2 tyres, 1 vacuum cleaner, 1 office chair, 1 strimmer, 2 fridge fittings, 1 pop up garden bin, multiple bits of tarpaulin, 2 traffic cones, a hard hat, 11+ bin bags of crap. Welcome to the green belt lol.





So much for painting small - this is about 500 x 700mm.
I think this is done - I'll try and leave it alone for now at least.
It has a sketchy quality that I like - and the textures are strong and quite graphic.

The verticals are where I've worked the paint hard against the underlying stretcher bars - and I was going to remove them but on reflection I really like them as tree 'ghosts'.


I also liked these fragments. Quite skeletal - beaks and claws and scapula.


work for sale


I have two pairs of small paintings on paper available to buy from Standish Library.

They are nicely mounted and framed, and designed to sit on a shelf, window-ledge or tabletop. One set is inspired by blossom (pretty) and the other - stormy skies (meditative). I'll have further small works available to purchase directly from my website later this Spring.

These small pieces are a lovely way to collect and display art without banging holes in your wall (although there piece of hanging hardware on the back too, if banging holes in your wall is your thing).




planning and plotting




Planning work/visualising in notebooks/sketchbooks/workbooks is something I tend only do sporadically. This time of year I’m usually filling up my Sketchbook Project book - so maybe doing this again for 2016 has sparked another spell of planning/noting thoughts. I'm also going to say it's because I'm trying to use up my sketchbook stash too (but only because I just thought of it lol).

I’m trying to take my time with this process and not PANIC at impending deadlines for things occurring later this Spring. I’ve also really got into small-scale work - so no big canvasses - but at this scale there is framing and mounting to consider. All of this is an irritation when all I really want to do is make art. Which is akin to a two-year old having a tantrum - yes - I know. However, the intimacy of leaning in to view a small work, in contrast to stepping back to view large work is just such a gorgeous dance.

As well as colour and texture (the usual obsessions) - weather conditions have been on my mind. The skies this winter have been extraordinary. Weather maps have been inspirational. I need to know much more about wind patterns and clouds. Look at this screen grab (© either the Met Office Twitter feed or BBC Weather - I'm hopeless) - so, so beautiful.







I’m also looking into bird flight patterns (inspired by geese flying overhead and the departure of swallows and martins). “Starlings may simply be the most visible and beautiful example of a biological criticality that also seems to operate in proteins and neurons”. Isn’t that just quite the thing to think about?


So - lots on my mind.


storm bleak


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... rain, bleak, wind, blimey.


willow | stars on canvas 2016



Just waiting for this little canvas to dry before returning it to be part of this - was lucky enough to even get a sample pack of acrylics! It's not just for stars (obvs I'm not a star and I'm doing it) - so why not give it a go. Willow supply the canvas and postage both ways - your donation is a piece of art for them to auction on eBay. Brilliant concept that has funded 11,500 special days for seriously ill young adults (16-40).

Submitting artists get 25% Discount on orders to Royal Talens online.

Stars on Canvas 2016 is supported by Royal Talens and Trinity Arts




Dear Weather

Thank you for the snow. I didn't expect so much really - and it is supposed to thaw and clear over the next few days - so forgive me for thinking that the huge goose-feather snowflakes currently drifting past my window are something of an overkill/showing off. Unless of course, there is someone on my roof plucking geese. In which case - sorry.



E xx

why having a clearout is good


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Don't be fooled - it may look tidy - but those tea containers are full of sea glass - so I obviously need a sea glass project.

I hate clearing out and tidying up - but sometimes you find things like ...

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... monkeys ...

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... lost chums ...

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... and enough supplies to keep (several) travel boxes raring to go.

I've also got a huge bag of books to donate as I've been through the bookcases - so that's pretty much 2/3rds of it done. At the end of last year I subscribed to artwork archive in an attempt to create an inventory and sort out canvasses and framed stuff. Smashing software and site.


clearing out, but still finding time


... the weather has gone cold and the light has turned sharp.


.... and more poppies - trying to capture vibrancy and staccato using magenta, red and orange. 

I'm clearing out my studio inbetween times and finding scads of hoarded supplies and sketchbooks still. Looking forward to finishing that up and using some of the beautiful A2 pads of heavyweight paper that I got from papermill direct before Christmas (they all seem to have gone from their website now).



sketchbook spreads 18 - on




... nearly there - looking to put it on the post by the end of January


getting a wiggle on


David Bowie died. Such sadness.

And now I need to get a wiggle on. Spent a while yesterday putting shows and exhibiting oppos in my diary - and bloody hell I need to get some focus. First off I need to find the floor again in my studio (which is the usual repository for household crap that hasn't found a place yet - lol). 

One of my goals for 2016 is to #usewhatyougot - and for me so far - there have been a lot of donation bags and recycling. I was HORRIFIED to see how many sketchbooks I have stashed away unused. Many of them are Moleskines which I don't even like - so why I have so many is a puzzle. I like a thick, white uncoated stock - Moleskines are just - not.

Anyway - time to get over that and stop being a special snowflake. While we were in Liverpool just before Christmas we spent time here at the Weeping Window.

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"Weeping Window is  from the installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ – poppies and original concept created by artist Paul Cummins and installation designed by Tom Piper – by Paul Cummins Ceramics Limited in conjunction with Historic Royal Palaces, originally at HM Tower of London 2014".

Loving the gorgeous wave of colour and have been steadily filling up a sketchbook sparked by this visit.




... and this finished piece.



sketchbook spread 16-17

The DRAMA. I bled hairdye all over one side of my sketchbook and I don't like it on my head either. Cue frantic email to hairdye shop for more of my usual colour. Sticker off a cd I've found down the back of a chest of drawers. Its v good.