Tuesday, March 22, 2011


This painting is around A3, mixed media on paper. I called it 'Mothering'

Its a mixture of a dream, a story, a whole lot of memories and feelings. There were many decades where i didn't carry a camera or phone, how the world has changed. I saw some crazy amazing sights, many of them with my posse of children in tow. One Glastonbury festival i was working at we got caught in a bottleneck surging to see a wicker man burning, i carried two of them ( another one in belly ) swept along in a dark tide of people, surging towards the dancing flames.

UK society has a really family unfriendly attitude, children are still to be seen and not heard. Mothers too get a raw deal, even middle class, well incomed, married, ones with clean shiny 2.4 children. I was not one of those, as if raising children isn't hard enough, try doing it alone, with no support network,  add poverty, social exclusion and homelessness to the mix. Even in the most 'free' and tolerant social groups, on the road and hanging out with hippies I felt like a threat and outcast. I could fill a book with horrible things that were said, the number of times i was accused of 'sinning', how my children were bullied. Our societies expectations of women is still barbaric, we are to be the virgin mary, katie price, career power dressers, yummy mummies, domestic goddesses, laddettes, strong, nurturing, chaste, sexy and completely in control of our wombs at all times, yet still subservient to our males who can treat us how they like & get a slap on the back for doing so. I saw a young mum at an event recently with small children in tow, their little family were in a bubble of their own, alone in the crowd.

When you see a young mother with children on the street, think, do you smile or sneer judgmentally?

That of course is just part of what was in that painting. I hope that it carries other stories? My own stories are only relevant if they resonate with other peoples.  what do you see in it ?

The Rock Trust fundraiser

'The Rock Trust is a charity that works in Edinburgh and West Lothian with homeless and socially excluded young people between the ages of 16 and 25 years.'
every couple of years they run a charity fundraising Art postcard auction. The exhibition opens next week and features work from all sorts of big names, including the wonderful comic artist from 2000AD and Elephant man- Boo Cook. Previous contributors have included John Byrne. I will post links to the on-line auction as soon as the site goes live.
above is my small contribution ' Running Free' 6" x 4" mixed media.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

'Joyful company'

This is a wee watercolour I've been working on during some quiet moments of art classes when the students are wrapped up in their own work and don't need me poking over their shoulder. Watercolour is not my preferred medium as I get richer colours from a combination of inks and other paints, but its always good to keep ones hand in.

I haven't drawn the wee girl in a while as its the more grown up version who's been adventuring. I'm not sure if the Puma/ Panther is a safe companion, but our wee girl is enjoying the play too much to bother with such things. This came from some dry spring days the joy and energy that comes from good company to run with.

Next composition is emerging, a slightly different angle from a different bit of the brain. When I get time as I've  a squillion other things happening.

( all pictures are of course for sale- make me an offer! )

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

chapter break and re-boot

I'm inclined to start every blog post with an apology as to why I haven't done more art, Art is a harsh driver!  I have been slogging away on the BP portrait the last couple of weeks and also teaching with the West Highland College 3 days a week. I had to step in rapidly to replace another tutor, so it has all been a bit frantic. However I love teaching, it makes me question my own assumptions about art, it stimulates ideas, the students enthusiasm rubs off on me, and when they struggle it challenges me to find a better way forward with them. If you are interested in any of these courses drop me a message! Next one planned is 'locational drawing'.

There was a time when I felt I wore so many hats & nothing connected or made sense, fire fighting, comics, youth work & art ?! But now I feel very privileged to be able to dip my toes in these different worlds and transfer the lessons & skills from one to the other. The dots are starting to join up. I wish there was more time for my own personal squiggly art though  as I feel like I'm still struggling to break onto the right path / technique / subject. I dip into dreams, allegory, metaphor but there is no time to execute the images effectively.

If I'd had more time I would have blogged about the International Womens day event I attended. It was wonderful, emotional, empowering.

I also didn't get to blog about the Highland-Russian Art exhibition with some of my work thats out in Siberia just now... maybe another time.

this is what happens to the spare room/ art room / 'studio' when I'm 'in the zone' working on one project. It looks like chaos but trust me I can locate the prussian blue, my favorite brushes or that receipt from last october no problem.

So the portrait eventually got finished literally minutes before loading it to take to the collection depot at Coatbridge ( over 200 miles away ), I don't have photos of the final final final version, but it is probably only me who could see the difference that those last brush strokes made. As well as being so stressed from not having any rest at all in a fortnight, there was the problem of my van being on its last legs and only running on 2 cylinders. We managed to jump start it and lo! despite the snowy conditions it made it to Coatbridge! It was rather weird handing the painting over without much ceremony & seeing it disappear to be stacked with 120 others. We await to find out if it gets selected.
We popped over to Edinburgh to visit my daughters and deliver my eldest girls worldly goods while I still have a van to do so. After all the work & stress it was great to just zombie out with the aid of wine & pleasant company!

Before heading home in Saturday we went to visit the National Gallery. We couldn't afford to go and see the main Vermeer exhibition, but for free was an exhibition of French drawings from Poussin to Seurat. and a display or 3 of Vermeers paintings he did as a young man. Wonderful! reminded me why I should visit galleries more often, food for my exhausted art mind. Context to place my obsessive two weeks brush work in. The drawings were particularly interesting as its unusual to see drawn work, I feel drawing tends to be valued less in art these days than painting ( or ideas without any skills or technique ) and wrestle with the different categories art gets put into.  It affirmed that simply capturing realistic representative reality does have value, the historical and social details in these drawings were amazing. I'd have loved to have shown my students these exhibitions. On that note, I'm going to go tidy the studio & draw something.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

'Fire Fighter'

This painting is 80cm x 120 cm , acrylic on canvas.
Its why I haven't got any other artwork done, why I haven't slept much, eaten a decent meal, tidied the house, blogged or sat down in the last two weeks.
Its for the BP National portrait award. from the outset I figured I was punching way above my weight entering this, i deliberately announced and told everyone I was entering it, so there was no backing out. I'd hoped to get the work done with enough time to make sure I'd done my best... but life gets in the way and here I am at the last possible minute exhausted and frazzled. Deadlines and Self-Doubt, torture & torment, but where would artists be without them?
It's got to that stage when I have no idea what I'm looking at, what needs changing, whether its a disaster or brilliant ( more likely the former ). My goal is to be selected for the exhibition. If I'm not, well I hope that my Model is pleased with what I've done and that the picture will help promote women in the Fire service and the values of strong working women. We can be strong and feminine too. I hope the picture says a little of that.

No rest of the wicked though- Its started snowing heavily and I've got to get this submitted to Coatbridge near Glasgow tomorrow, in a van thats about to breathe its last any mile now.....

Thursday, March 03, 2011

'Don't look Down'

Not many art blogs at the moment. I'm a little snowed under with teaching, support work, comic strips and the big portrait project. All the time my own art itches away below the surface, that characters carry on adventuring where I draw them or not. Last week a whole pack of wolves were nipping at the heels of the lady, she didn't seem to mind as she was distracted, was it the ship in the distance or something in the sky?

Any way as it was my Birthday yesterday indulgent treats were on the cards, So i put the worky work aside for the evening & let a squiggly picture out. I used paint to try & add some colour & texture to speed the process up with not too great results. The white ink I've got some horrible things near other ink or water. My new Birthday Rotring isograph pens are fantastic, but my pentel brush pen is not behaving ...
I had a crazy discussion & theological debate this week, on top of watching a lovely Russian film about atonement - this set me looking up various myths, stories and the roots of certain archetypal figures. The grim reaper type figures across various cultures was interesting, and there was some Sufi ideas about the tree of life and leaves on the tree withering and dying 40 days before a persons death. All of which may seem far removed from the above picture, but its all in there- plus being another year older!