Working in clay

Life has got in the way of art for the past couple of months, but I have begun new projects, among which are small clay figures. It’s early days on these and the time it takes to do them is not in proportion to their physical size. The first one is a representation of one of the mummies I saw in Palermo (photos show work in progress and the finished figure).clay mummy 1

The final effect will depend on the surface treatments. I won’t be using ceramic glazes but intend to use various forms of paint and collage.

clay mummy 2

This worked out pretty much as I intended but I wasn’t satisfied with it. It seemed too clean, too organised, compared with the way I paint. At the end of my work session I created a very rough, simple form based some watercolour drawings. Although it’s quite crude, I feel it’s the more effective way to go, just squidging the clay roughly and using hands as much as tools. Again, the addition of colour will be part of its evolution.strange little


Catching up

Can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted on the blog, partly it’s because I’m working on 3D pieces that take a long time to start to look like anything. At the same time, I need to get a sense of spontaneity into them that reflects my processes in painting, I want the development of a sculpture to represent its making history, rather than to be disguised as it may be if only a technical means to an end. But I am learning technique at the same time as image-making.

For now, I can post a painting and related small sculpture, inspired by a mummy I saw in Madrid, in the Museo de America. The painting is gouache and oilpastel. The 3D piece is a relief made of thick card, overlaid with fabric and paper collage. It’s fine, but doesn’t quite do what I intended, so more exploring of medium and method needed.001

mummy 1

New images

Following a different strand of ideas lately, although in my own mind they are all connected and will eventually cohere visually. Tempted to continue with 3D work, which is very time consuming, and at the same time feeling the need to work with paint and collage, which are my familiar territory. I am also still working quite small, whatever the medium, and now able to envisage scaling up on both the 2D and 3D strands.

The first of these images is one of the postcard paintings, in watercolour and drawing inks, the second and third are gouache and paper collage on A4 size, one squared off and the other using the full dimensions of the paper.


Second step

On September 18th I posted a picture of some small clay figures, which I had meant to colour and collage with fabric. Having decided I would like to keep the raw clay versions, I made a second set and started to add fabric ‘clothes’. The question was then whether to add paint to colour the faces, arms, hands and feet. I rather like that the figures themselves remain white within the fabric collage, so perhaps there is a case for making a third set that completes the development. Or to make a start on larger interpretations.clothed mantelpiece men


Thinking aloud

Some people like to use sketchbooks, I tend to do my visual thinking on random pieces of paper. There are always a few versions of things I’m working on that take them through the development of the image. Often the final outcome is a large piece of work. My current ideas are not coming from specific or individual sources, I’m taking all sorts of visual and verbal references and allowing them to collide.  All the pieces shown here are on watercolour postcards and combine ink drawing and writing, painting and collage, and printing off card. As they are visual thoughts, I’m not editing much at the moment, just seeing how they turn out. There are eight so far, these are in order of making, numbers 1, 2, 4 and 7.004003006002

Trial and error

When I started blogging, I presumed I would add something at least weekly, so am somewhat daunted to find it’s over a month since my last post. I have been quite busy with random non-art activities, but also quietly progressing some new ideas. So I’m making a random post, to include a bit of non-art together with things I’m currently working on. If I wait till they are finished, it could be months.

This is a piece of party decoration that took up a lot of my time last week. I was quite happy with the way it worked out. Three different people had parties, and I made some giant letters of their names, plus a message for one of them who is leaving us, made of hand-cut paper lettering. The large letters are paper collage on mountboard.Photo0177










The drawing is first of what may be a new series, working title Everyone Who has been in my Paintings. It’s oil pastel and watercolour.everyone who 1

I am also making some small cardboard figures. One set are drawings on thin card, the others are thick card with fabric collage. I have an idea for these that I’ll explain at a later date, and it’s also the start of moving (tentatively) into card figsselect fabric mummies

And I’ll be grateful if anyone can tell me why I have never taken a decent photo with a digital camera. Convenient it is, quality – not so much.



Beginning at the end

Usually, when I’m exploring a subject, I do a number of small and medium sized versions and typically end on a larger scale, at which point I will most likely feel I’ve gone as far as I can go. The painting I’m showing here came out of a desire just to work large, which I hadn’t done for a while, so some of the exploration that I do in the smaller scale work, which includes trying different techniques and mixing media, took place on this single piece of paper, which is approximately 4ft (1.2m) square. The photo shows some distortion as I just snapped this with my phone, and it’s hanging from clips on the studio wall, so you can see a distinct curve.Photo0067

The theme is, broadly speaking, remembrance, and it draws together various motifs and images from earlier work, also from newspaper clippings and the cemetery photos I took in August last year (see blog posts for July and August 2013). It’s a complex and, I think, somewhat unsatisfactory piece. It evolved rather randomly and as it developed there were awkward spaces and a lack of colour coherence. Frankly, it was a struggle. But these shortcomings rather recommend it to me, as I can’t be coasting on something I know too well where this is concerned. I am working on a smaller watercolour painting based on this (the large one is acrylic and collage), and I’m looking forward to more work aimed at solving some of the problems this presented.


The family photo used as the basis for the images I’m posting here was first shown on the blog in April last year (Family photos: starting points). As with other recent work, I’m producing a lot of smallish pictures – usually A4, all on watercolour paper. Using the railway station photo, these are versions 1 and 3 of the latest images and, with the original gouache and pastel, I now have four versions. So it’s probably time to tackle something on a much larger scale to enable a greater shift in the reinterpretation of the image.img053


Why tidy up?

This painting has been a struggle, it still isn’t right but  there are fewer bits that bother me now and more that I like.  When doing interpretive work from photographs, it’s interesting to consider why I sometimes worry that something ‘isn’t right’. For example, the arm and hand on the right of this image are ‘wrong’, but I liked the way they turned out just with the simple watercolour washes, they are expressive of the gesture in the photo. The arm and hand on the left were ‘wrong’ – meaning located and shaped differently from in the photo – and for some reason I felt the urge to correct that and eventually resorted to drawing in charcoal pencil, then adding more paint. I’m not quite comfortable with the solution, but in a way I like the wrongness of my attempt to change it. There are various deliberate technical inconsistencies in this piece.img061

Of course, when you are using collage, there is always the option to stick something over the bit you don’t like and carry on from there. I didn’t want to overload this painting, as a lot of it consists of very simple early wash layers. It’s from a peculiar and complex original photo so most likely I’ll do another version rather than go on tinkering with this.

Good question

This is a really odd photo, giving rise to some equally odd paintings and collage. A friend looking at the recent work asked, ‘what is it you are trying to say about it?’ – ‘it’ being the fact that the people in my paintings are almost always dead – older relatives, ancestors, mummies. I’m giving this some thought, meantime questioning whether it is necessary that a visual art piece does have something to say?img004

Incidentally, there’s a non-dead person in there – on the right is my mum, currently still with us at 92. The others are my father and a friend (centre) and my uncle (left). I have three recent paintings based on this photo. I think I prefer the third, for its ambiguity.img052