Rust Never Sleeps: A Renaissance

The challenges and joys of restarting

After a pause which began in February 2020, Art In The Sun restarted last night. There have been plenty of times in that pause where I thought the art would never come back – and right now, I must want to pay thanks to the good people at The Sun for their gentle, repeated encouragement. Thank you.

The day started with a rush of nerves, and doubt. What if I have forgotten how to do this (at no point did I stop to ponder what ‘this’ might actually be). I pottered around at home – putting off going to the studio to prepare.

I eventually headed to the studio to get ready – opting to go a little out of my way to queue for petrol – whoever thought that would be preferable to doing the work? At the studio I packed the kit, unpacked the kit, faffed about, repacked the kit, worked on a piece of art, wandered in the woods, unpacked the kit, repacked it, went home, realised I’d forgotten stuff, went back, repacked, and came home.

Early evening arrives, Carole is home from work and I confessed my nerves to her. Calmly – Carole spoke with me about those first day back at school feelings she experiences at the start of each and every term. They happen, you do the work, they pass. I headed off to work – a little reassured but honestly -still not 100% convinced.

Setting things up before people arrived – I still feel a bit scratchy, uncertain about what to do. Then guests start to appear – familiar faces and new ones. Conversation beings to flow, and from that, come pencil marks, ink, paint, rollers, mess, laughter – and we’re there. Doing the work.

Some of the results were expected, some not so. Some we liked, others, not so much. We had a good time, and in so doing, I remembered that curiosity and experimentation sit right at at the heart of Art In The Sun. Someone who hadn’t joined us previously said they did so because of the offer to try new and different things. How lovely. We parted in good spirits – looking forward to next time. Thank you to everyone who joined in.

I guess that if you are super confident, these feelings I’ve described won’t mean much to you – but I now realise they are simply (and importantly) part of the process. We took a long break and now we’re back. Doing the work enables the confidence to return. Rust never sleeps.

Living In A Fisheye Lens

The hermit and the performer, working alone and working out loud.

The title of this post is a line from the song Limelight, by Rush. The song is about life as a performer. It’s a great piece of music which tells a good story, I encourage you to have a listen.

As a visual artist I am sometimes a hermit, sometimes a performer. With Carshalton Artists Open Online Studios fast approaching – I’ll be switching between the two a lot in the coming days, as I flip between making art in my quiet studio space, running live workshops, and (weather permitting) developing a new street art project too.

Since lockdown – I’ve been focusing on drawing as my main creative practice. Drawing is accessible – endlessly adaptable, and it’s great for my wellbeing too. My Chalk And Talk sessions arose from a knee jerk response to ‘do something’ as the country ground to a halt – and here we are some 13 weeks later, having built a really interesting varied body of work using different styles and techniques, while conversation gently ebbs and flows between us. I’ll write more about these experiences another day – for now though – it’s enough to know they’re proving to be great fun and great learning. The preparation is the hermit, the live session is the performer.

Coming back to the online open studios event – and we’ve been invited to consider the theme of water for 2020. We live near The River Wandle, and some of my earliest paintings are a nod to walks by the water.

Door To The River : Close Up. The original acrylic on canvas now resides in the USA.
Flash of Blue : The original of this piece was my first ever art sale on Etsy, and I released a limited edition postcard print as a free art drop for the first CAOS in 2017

I find water a tricky subject to play with – and it’s not something I’ve tackled for a while. Despite my new found interest in drawing – I felt pulled back to my more familiar world of stencil art. If I’m to tackle a tricky subject – then maybe I need to build from a tried and trusted technique. I got to work – and an idea around a fish in the river quickly formed. The hermit does his thing – and several hours later – two stencils emerge into the light.

I’ve not cut anything fiddly for a while and although I now have very sore fingers, I’m happy with these. The next step is to bring the stencil layers together and test them out.

I made four test sprays on vintage sheet music – work in progress. Having invested several hours in the preparation, I’m a little disappointed with the first results. I resolved to play with different colours and effects to try and improve the work. Often when we see the art – we’re only seeing the finished piece. For me the process is really important. I shared these rough drafts online and the variety of responses was interesting and useful for me. Some folk like them as they are – some offered hints and tweaks, and some people simply chatted with me about the process – about doing the work necessary in order to attain the goal, the thing some call a ‘Hard Won Image’.

Carole and I spoke about the stencils – the possible layers and effects, and I realised that although my intention is to see the fish in the water, rather than on top of it – the way I apply the paint means I don’t necessarily have to follow a fixed routine. For example- can control – the way I let the paint leave the can and arrive on the surface – has a profound effect on the finished piece. Having had the chance to reflect – I revisited the work.

The same, but different

Here we see the same fish, and the same river stencil – but the finished piece is quite different. I’ve abandoned the sheet music – it felt too busy with these detailed stencils. Now I’m working on slightly textured cartridge paper – with an initial splashed coat of silver paint as the base. It’s not that easy to see in the photo – but silver is a great highlight colour – it makes the image come alive as it catches the light – and adds interest to the design without dominating it. Next comes the river – lightly sprayed using a mix of blue and green paint. Two colours helps to suggest movement and once again, adds more interest. Finally – the fish – sprayed much more lightly than before. As you can see – even though the fish stencil is the top layer in the image – the fish appears to be submerged in the water.

I’m really pleased with the work – and I’m also pleased I first chose to show it in an unfinished state. For me it is important that art is seen as something accessible, and sharing the creative process is as much a part of the art as the finished piece itself.

This design is titled ‘The Fish Follows The River’ and is available to purchase during Carshalton Artists Online Open Studios. The price is £40 plus £5 P&P in the UK, or £10 P&P internationally. £5 from each sale will be donated to Sutton Counselling. As each art work is handmade they’re all unique and slightly different. Each piece will be signed by the artist prior to dispatch, and will be sent unmounted and unframed. You can send money via my PayPal link or contact me for my bank details – whichever suits you best. Thanks in advance for your support.

Not For Me, Not For You, But For Us

A review of the London LnDcowork visit to ScratchHub, a beautiful coworking venue in Battersea

Along with Gill Martin and Gaëlle Watson, I am one of three London LnDCowork hosts , and we are always looking for interesting new places to introduce to our network. Recently, we were fortunate to be given an introduction to ScratchHub, the coworking space at Battersea Arts Centre.

Battersea? Who coworks in Battersea!? Most of our London LnDcowork sessions take place very centrally – and we were interested to see how things would shape up if we moved out a bit, and (shudder) drifted away from the tube network. Any doubts we had were quickly dispersed; the venue is a short walk from Clapham Junction station and for many of our guests that day, it was as easy, if not easier to get to than the centre of the city. One of our guests travelled over from Cambridge, several overcame their ‘South of The River’ syndrome, and I think I had one of the most straightforward trips, a 20 minute train ride and a ten minute walk.

We were greeted warmly at the entrance to ScratchHub, located at the rear of the main building, and given a great space to work in. Battersea Arts Centre is a beautiful place – and a sense of being in a creative space is evident in the ScratchHub coworking area. As well as some theatrical symbols, the walls are adorned with prompts and ideas to encourage personal reflection, and a sense of engagement too. The place has a community feel about it, with a time bank on offer, and some board games. Play is an important part of what makes us human and it’s great to see playfulness being encouraged in a working environment.

‘Non mihi, non tibi, sed nobis’ reads the beautifully painted motto adorning the walls of ScratchHub. Not for me, not for you, but for us.

Beyond the hygiene factors (wi-fi, natural light, good acoustics, and an abundance of plug sockets) coworking is about two things; people and place. Both were spot on for this visit. 10/10.

Jayne Davids, one of our coworking guests, has put together a great short video which showcases both the beauty and creativity of ScratchHub, and why LnDcowork matters. I hope you enjoy watching and we look forward to seeing you at an LnDcoworking session soon; dates and locations of future sessions are available here.