making a painting - (part 4)

More and more paint.
Mark and mark again.
What else?

Always, especially when I feel there is a resolution approaching, I will turn the piece I’m working on round - 90 degrees, then another until I’m back where it started.
I’m looking for something better than I’ve got already.

And this is what happened this time.
Suddenly it all made sense.
A quarter turn and I sighed.
More work to do but...yes.


A bit more paint.
And a scratch here and there…

It feels a bit odd to sum up what I do in so few words…
“Well I put on the paint with a few tools and mark into it a bit until it is finished”

It can take me days, weeks, (months?)...

Sometimes I experience a freedom and lightness.
Most often it is intense.
It is abstract and I feel like my head is turned outside in trying to reach that itch.
And still I love it.
The newness of every single painting I make.
And then the fighting with it.
And myself.
Chasing whatever it is.

My artistic world is currently dominated by thoughts of sky and a…

making a painting - (part 3)

Now I have swathes of colour and a tracery of cuts and lines in front of me and the history of the piece is shaping up through numerous layers.
Making the painting now will be to work over the earlier applications of colour and inevitably I end up using a large amount of white...

But it feels like I have barely begun.

This is a good place to acknowledge the know-how of artists Rebecca Crowell and Jerry McLaughlin and their book “Cold Wax Medium - Techniques, Concepts and Conversations”.
It’s been really instructional.

Their technical input along with my urge to explore ideas and dabble curiously, (ok, what can I do with cold wax medium?), has given me fresh direction and means of expression.
Thank you Rebecca and Jerry!

I have spoken about the mark marking process itself but a lot is determined by how wet or how dry the paint is.
When cold wax medium is mixed with oils, the drying process is speeded up a bit.
Some of the most subtle effects can be made when the surface is semi-dry a…

making a painting - (part 2)

My painting has a good solid foundation now. It means I can build more paint on top and importantly work into the base layers to create texture and form.

Scraping, gouging, cutting, scoring, scouring.
Gentle rubbing.

With every action the depths can be revealed - a flash of yellow, a shadow of indigo.

It’s always inevitably early on in the making, that I find the urge to make scoring marks or draw in lines, almost overwhelming.
Sometimes I use graphite in tablet or stick form. Sometimes I choose a scratchy bamboo pen dipped in Indian ink.

I think I have said before how much I love process and where there is a process there are tools to aid me.
The photo below shows the ones in near constant use.

Making expressive marks is the whole point of my work.
The laying on of paint can make shifts and shadows of colour appear.
The scraping back and gouging of lines through layers, or the addition of graphite or ink can all create visual depth and narrative to the surface.

(detail of painting)

making a painting - (part 1)

I’ve seen other artists writing about the various processes they go through to make a painting and then showing the finished piece for sale.
I’ve always found it quite interesting so thought I would give it a go and show you here just what it is I do.

There will be a few blow-by-blow posts with images to illustrate the development of the work as I go along.
By the end of this week you will see it complete and then have the opportunity to buy it if you wish.

Ready to begin then…
...take a wooden panel
...edges covered in tape to keep them clean
...three or four layers of sanded gesso to provide a smooth surface.
Nothing much to see so far then...

But the title is decided already - “happed in sky” - so now I can set up my palette and how I love setting up my palette!
The joy of choosing which colours of oil paint to squeeze silkily out of tubes onto the glass is huge and significant.
There will nearly always be Indigo, Payne’s grey, Terre Verte, Indian Yellow, Dioxazine Purple and Zi…

Connections (or where the titles come from)

Book reading and a word pops out.
I write it down in my notebook of interesting words.
Another remembered word floats up and then a phrase, sighing inside me.
Scratchings of old familiar language and place.
A song perhaps?
I find it, listen to it.
Memories and feelings and heady exploration.
Another idea for a title of a painting is there.

This time the book is “The Old Ways” by Robert Macfarlane.
The word is swathed.
The remembered word is “happed” - Scots for wrapped up, enfolded or clothed.
The song is “Happed in Mist” by Michael Marra.
The title for the painting is “sky happit”.

I expect that one day soon I will make it just as a few years ago I made
“path from wanchancy"

Spring Fling words

Spring Fling, busy flow

familiar and unknown faces
questions: "damar resin?",
"make it up as you go along?"

explanations offered

hot and cold wax comparisons
talking layers: cutting, gouging, revealing

talking air, sky, transformation,
mental health, flow visualisation

kind words
deep words

people carrying work away

A hot or cold painting

I was thinking that it’s been a few years since I offered a painting for a prize draw at the Spring Fling open studios event.

It’s a good idea so now I have the dilemma of which one will it be.
Encaustic or cold wax?

Painting with molten beeswax and resin and fusing with a blowtorch is dynamic and exciting.
I can build up numerous layers.

For most of the last few months, I’ve been exploring working with oil paints and cold wax medium using scrapers, squeegees and palette knives.
I can build up numerous layers.

A tricky decision then, but I am keen to introduce my new work so I’ve chosen a cold wax piece.

It is called “when air moves” and if you come along to my studio this weekend (25th - 27th May) you might like to have a chance to win.

I hope you think I have made the right choice!

Spring Fling time

Next weekend, Saturday 25th - Monday 27th May, will be the Spring Fling open studio event across Dumfries and Galloway, SW Scotland, when artists and makers welcome visitors into their studios from all across the UK and indeed the world.

This is an exciting time.

I stopped making work about a week ago, which is quite extraordinary for me. My inner voice commands “More, more, more!”
But with only a few days left now, all thoughts turn necessarily to a chaotic "getting the studio ready".

All the obvious tasks are involved here: sweeping a floor that doesn’t want to give up its accumulated detritus, tidying waxy paint encrusted work benches, patching and painting bits of the walls where too many nails and bluetack have made their indelible marks.

Paintings have to be edge painted and strung for hanging, even before I can decide where to hang them for optimum effect.

Then there are arcane considerations of how to make the studio look suitably “working artist’s studio”- like, as…

Whatever happened to Box?

As I start again with a change of title and more regular postings, I thought it would be more than timely to catch up with where I left off.

Oh how time does pass!

"Box" became part of my solo exhibition, "Orchard", at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries last year. I showed six large scale wall pieces and each was accompanied by an assemblage work (six boxes).

I was thrilled at the way it all worked together.

To create a kind of narrative stepping stone from my last post to now, I've decided to show images for each of these boxes.
I am listing the pieces in the order they were shown in the exhibition.

"nestling breath"

"but she hadn't realised 'til much later what had been lost"

"the conveyable burden"

"creation and reduction"

"for nervous and other diseases"

"realising the Queen of Sheba's jewels"

Box (part1)

Here you find me on the threshold of a whole new body of work that has been scratching at my bones for so long. 
All the while I have fairly delved with some pioneer spirit into painting with melted beeswax, resin and oil paint, destroyed so many old pieces that no longer served me and played with rust printing on paper and fabric and stitched the same. 
At the same time a growing pile of boxes in various states of vintage and disrepair has been occupying my studio. If you've ever visited me there and noticed, you might have considered the pile just another aspect of general studio storage clutter. Inquiries as to their meaning have usually been answered with mutterings of a new arcane project, in planning, but not actually doing it yet...
I write copious notes, look at old photographs, make drawings, read and read and find references to ...well ...everything really. Somehow it all seems relevant. This work is the BIG thing that I feel I have been revving up to since I started all th…

The comfort of studios

On any given day, I can cross the road in front of our house and travel by bus for ten miles or so to my studio, located in the small fishing town of Kirkcudbright, here in South West Scotland.
The journey is predictably and reassuringly familiar, promising a non-judgemental welcome as my square key turns in the lock and reveals ever present delights within.
Here I am. Breathe internal calming sigh. Light, smells, materials demanding touching. Work still in progress from last encounters. Potential.
I work in various states of chaos. 
Then I declare there is no space and there must ensue ordering, sorting, rebuilding of rust-printed paper piles, sweeping and rearranging.
Reasoned activity offers fresh breathing rhythms.  There will be time to catch ideas and help them settle before the muddling happens again.
And then there’s my chair to cocoon me offering yet more time - “to sleep, perchance to dream”. And I do sleep sometimes - delicious permitted opportunism for afternoon naps wrapped in my kni…

Waxy papers and a piece of cloth

Whether the next project is boxes, bowls or as yet half formed ideas for something yet unspoken, each requires a bit more imagining, free-form exploring, sketchbook developing and journal musing before I actually feel I am committed to a new body of work.

In a way this is quite a novel way of working for me. Leaping in and seeing what happens is more my style in the studio but in the current spirit of change, I’ve been feeling the need to act like a “proper artist” and do a bit more exploratory preparation so I can at least pretend that I know what I am doing.

I have started doing a bit of experimenting with encaustic monoprinting, using a makeshift system of baking sheet heated over an electric hotplate as my printing bed. Here I make marks with encaustic wax pigment bars melting unctuously directly on to the tray before laying down paper on top to make the print. It is a mesmerising and compulsive activity and indeed much paper and wax is used in just observing obsessively as the mo…


Now I'm launching myself off the precipice with hopeful intent - no free fall with terror this time. The studio awaits, seemingly also keen to get started on a new adventure...

Where will I begin?

I survey the space.

Mmmm - there's a devilishly alluring gathering of rusty metal shards on the table. Some printing with them onto a variety of papers and cloth would be a fruitful use of time, I think.

Ahhh - my attention is drawn to the group of encaustic bowls I was experimenting with. To make another would be a pleasing rhythmical activity, curved layers of paper and wax combining into a satisfying just right for cupping-in-the-hand structure.

Ooh - but there is my collection of seen-better-days wooden boxes. Part of me can't wait to start transforming them into the still mysterious project I have named "Box".

But not yet.

Choice can be like change sometimes - excitingly attractive but potentially ever so scary too. What if I choose the wrong thing? All too clearly…

Flowing Forward

Depression and anxiety have been daemon accomplices breathing in tandem with me. They translate their warped view of reality into my subjective experience, silencing my anguished cries, leaving me feeling powerless to act.

My work pattern has been dictated by the rhythms of my daemons; they rage rabidly and I am left fearfully paralysed seeking shelter; their bad-wolf snarling calms unexpectedly and I might try to express some emotion, to expunge the voices with some creative endeavour before the fury starts again.

And so it has been for so long.
But with seasons turning and with much time given from those who care about me, there are changes.
I know how lucky I am.

These days I try not to heed the harrowing whisperings. I work more often to my own rhythms.
New ideas for finished pieces are emerging.
I detect new flows.
And that is hopeful.
More than that it is tentatively exhilarating... and I breathe.

Letting go part 3 (or transformative space)

Clearing space is a much under glorified way of spending time.

There is an obvious usefulness in the activity of course, creating tidy, uncluttered areas in which to work without the distraction of too much muddling stuff.

But that’s expected.

Almost without fail whilst a-sorting, I will find a vital mislaid scraping tool or fabulously marked paper fragment that might enhance the next piece I make.

Fortuitous but not life changing.

This time though, this super deep clean of my studio left me feeling elated.


The act of destroying my work was not some frenzied attack of self-loathing. (I know too well when that is the deal.)

This was mindful purpose.

I had created these pieces. I discovered, explored and honed skills. I developed narratives, questioned and challenged myself. All that could not be destroyed just by the act of cutting up, by removing the work from being.

It is not lost - I absorbed it all both good and bad. I made the commitment to progress during all the time…