Category Archives: Professional Development

Allowing Silence to Speak

Inspired by this:

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
Mary Oliver
Today, I came up with these words:
Brollies, Balloons, Bunting and Bicycles.
In my ‘patchwork’ of words, I enjoy the repeating sound of the ‘b’s, like a babbling brook.   The seemingly random connection of their meanings.  They hint of party-time and celebration.  They are, in fact, the things that I have been working with in the training ‘room’ (which is the round pen) with my horse and I have used them as the title for a new post in my blog, Pilgrim on Horseback.  They represent the things that occupy that ‘silence’ in my days at the moment.
The words on their own conjure up colourful imagery: rounded, twirling shapes, triangular shapes, flowing ribbons and farting balloons: an expectation of fun and giggles.  I am very grateful for these words.  This is my ‘other’ voice speaking, quietly with joy.
And because these words are so full of imagined colour and fun, I have decided not to illustrate this post with any imagery at all, preferring to let the words do the picturing for you.  This last has been difficult but a first for me!  Read them again.  What do they represent for you, I wonder?

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Personal Philosophy, Professional Development

Magnolia Leaves, Copeland China & Lily Pads

By tradition, this time of year is always very busy and this past month has been no exception.  Hence no posting.  Just thinking about what I have done in that time makes my head spin.  With delight.  And to spare you the dizziness of adding to your own busy times, I’ve just outlined a few things as an aid-memoir for me or for you to dip into if any of it takes your interest.


Making a Vessel to travel into the Other World (In memoriam 1)

Result of  the Slow Poem Workshop at Soil Culture Forum, Falmouth University.

My response to the Slow Poem, Composted Thoughts Workshop led by Mat Osmond & Tom Scott at the Soil Culture Forum, Falmouth University.  Layers of notes on one sheet of paper, torn up and placed in a dried magnolia leaf before being buried.

The Soil Culture Forum – using the arts to revitalise a resource we take for granted.  In brief, the presentations ranged from a captivating performance by Fraulein Brehms on the humble earth worm, Lumbricus Terrestris, to Yuli Somme, a felt maker from Devon who makes beautiful felt shrouds.  The creative workshops were absorbing and the whole Forum was thought-provoking, not least the key-note presentation about the state of our soils by Patrick Holden, of the Sustainable Food Trust.  (Note to self…must find out if I can get hold of a transcript of his presentation, it was so good).

making paint from mud

a workshop participant making painterly patterns from mud

my notes showing the mud and water mixtures using earth pigments from Peter Ward's workshop .

my notes showing the mud and water mixtures using earth pigments from Peter Ward‘s workshop .

Making shiny mud balls on a Hikaru Dorodango workshop led by Emma  Saffy Wilson

Making shiny mud balls on a Hikaru Dorodango  workshop (the link describes the art of Japanese perfection), a workshop led by Emma Saffy Wilson.


  • ALL MAKERS NOW? conference workshop

Trelissick Gardens (In memoriam 2)

Also at Falmouth University was The All Makers Now ? Conference A two-day conference exploring craft values in 21st century production.  I was fortunate enough to be offered one of the 12 available places open to craft makers, museum curators, technicians and artists, on the 2 day workshop held at Autanomatic, the 3D Digital Production research cluster at Falmouth, just prior to the conference.

Each group of 4 people worked on an idea for an artwork to be included in the exhibition at Trelissick House, timed to coincide with the conference.

With help from the skilled technicians, we had just two days in which to see our ideas go from the initial brain-storming session to  material realisation in a finished artwork before our very eyes.  We shaped and fashioned our way through the suite of cutting edge digital production technologies including Rapid Prototyping, Lazer Cutting, 3D Scanning and Computer-Numerically-Controlled Milling and Routing machines.

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The concept our group came up with was inspired by the famous Copeland China collection which was sold when the contents of Trelissick House were auctioned off.   As the exhibition was being held in the now empty library, we decided that a book would be a suitable matrix to contain the now lost textures of remembered objects.  A Bonhams lot ticket was the template on which areas of texture were either ‘imprinted’, embossed or ‘grown’, such as a section of a fire surround in the house, a small section of leaf pattern taken from a piece of china  or a section of the topography of the river and the land sweeping up to the house.  Even the wear marks on a piece of china, all telling some aspect of the story of Trelissick House and its famous garden.

The whole process was extraordinary and every aspect new to me.  The question we posed was: Can objects produced through the use of digital technologies (over the course of a two-day creative workshop), recapture the character of artefacts that have been displaced?

The Work for inclusion in The All Makers Now Conference Exhibition,

Trelissick House, Truro.  10th / 11th July, 2014

Title:  In Memoriam, 2014

materials: paper, acrylic, hardwood, plaster, ABS, canvas, card

processes: laser cutting, CNC milling, 3D printing, laser etching, (clay cast? if time)

Makers: Armando Chant, Barney Townsend, Rebecca Skeels, Caro Woods



A workshop delivered by Katrin and Shauna of MzTEK, a non-profit organisation with the aim of addressing the imbalance of women artists working in the fields of new media, computer arts and technology.  This workshop thanks to Creative Skills, Cornwall.

The idea was to build our own wearable synthesiser by programming a small ‘lilypad’ computer to output movement data as sound using the freely downloaded Arduino software.  Over the two days, some truly weird and wonderful inventions were created.

Finally, I managed to combine a few days of family time with the search for my horse.


Rose has taken a liking to Tammie’s bed

Plus an unexpected and last-minute invitation to spend the weekend at Womad thanks to someone who had  dropped out of a party of friends because of ill-health.  Wasn’t I just the lucky one?  Three days immersed in a cauldron of melting heat, a rich array of costumes and heart thumping beats.  A mass of chilled-out humanity soaking up all the colourful sights and sounds.   I loved it.

I also had use of the 'posh' loos.  Luxury.

I also had use of the ‘posh’ loos. Luxury.

So that’s me up to date.  I’ve scarcely drawn breath and I’m off again tomorrow for the next 6 days with Richard Dealler (Mary / Michael Pilgrim Route) and crew walking over Bodmin Moor. The forecast is for rain but I’m a seasoned camper now.  (She says brazenly but without conviction).


The good news is, when I return, I will be welcoming my new horse, Tommy, to Trezelah.  This is him being vetted on Monday.  (see my blog for more details of that).  Exciting times.


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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Professional Development, The Artist as Pilgrim

In Genial Company

A 16mm Collaboration

What could be more compatible than a group of artists working together on a project?   In this instance it was the making of a film on the workshop (see A Weekend with Bolex).  This film was put together by Stuart (one of the participants) from his ‘phone footage and is the result of that collaboration.   What is evident in the film is the obvious playfulness in the visuals and the delight in the ‘chatter’ as we watch the results.  What could be more companionable than that?

See how other people view this weeks’ photo challenge: ‘companionable


Filed under Films, my sketchbook pages, Professional Development, Studio Practice, The Artist as Pilgrim

Quarry Dot Drawing

drill holes in granite

drill holes in granite

On Friday, found myself in Bosahan, a disused granite quarry not far from Falmouth.  I was with a mixed group of environmentalists, artists, researchers and academics on a seminar jointly delivered by Andy Whall (CAZ) and Misha Myers (UCF, Rock Jam: Landscape Sandpit).  The trip to the quarry was partly in response to a request from locals who were wondering how best to preserve it as part of Cornwall’s industrial heritage.  It was also part of the Being IN [Landscape] 2 seminar.

holes were drilled into the granite prior to splitting the rock into more managable chunks

these holes were made for depositing the dynamite (or was it black powder?) for splitting the rock into more manageable chunks

The quarry is a monumental rock sculpture, its angular edges now softened by disuse and creeping vegetation which disguises a potentially treacherous environment.  On this day, in the sunshine, it felt benign enough as we explored salient aspects of ‘quarryness’.

Standing still in the armchair-shaped crater, the quiet is broken only by the alarmed call of the kestrel disturbed from her nest as she circles in the eddies above the cliff’s edge, and the intermittent, rhythmic tappings of David Paton’s chisel being hammered into a small lump of granite he has placed on a sturdy wooden plinth.  I tasted the dust on the air and heard the sounds reverberate around the steep walls in waves, bouncing off surfaces at variant angles.

We also banged small  rocks together in unison setting up an improvised wall of sound; we mingled, we dispersed; covered our palms with chalk and ran them over rough scratchy surfaces, pressing finger tips into small divots and dimples in the rock.

We used the space to play with our creative imaginations, working fingers into lumps of brown clay that Natalia Eernstman had brought with her from St Austell, whilst enjoying the warmth of the sun on our faces.  We chatted about the possibilities for the future of the quarry and smelt the sulphurous sparks flying from the point of the chisel as it pierced the granite.

I gazed into a peaty-brown pool covered by patches of elongated leaves and the bloated body of a dead frog; squelched across boggy ground following Andy Whall’s chalky bouldering ‘line’ through the scrub and up onto the escarpments whilst some of us (which didn’t include me) crawled and slithered cat-like over its boulders.  I photographed the rusty metal doors of the largest building on the site where I heard what I at first thought to be people working inside.  Squinting into the gloom of the interior through a gap in the rust, I realised it must be some loose shuttering banging in the breeze (or was it?  I’m really not so sure).

We also sat in a small abandoned building listening to recorded noises from a working quarry: a disembodied orchestration of harsh, industrial sounds seeping back into the fabric of the building.


Some of the later discussions centred around the notion that as sentient beings, being present IN landscape, you could just as easily be an intrinsic part of the landscape, itself.  BEING as LANDSCAPE.   Supposedly, much in the same way that the native creatures that inhabit the quarry might experience it.

some holes have water in them, some are shallow and some are so deep you can't see the bottom.

some holes are filled with water, some are so deep you can’t see how far down they go, not like this one where rubble is clearly visible in the shallow pit.

The over-riding sense of the quarry for me was its scale.  The sculptor, Cornelia Parker, describes her sculptures as drawings, and I experienced some of that same sensibility in this quarry.  The fault lines that traverse the rock faces assume graphic drawings on a grand scale, and if you linked up all the drill holes (as illustrated) that remain in the boulders that are scattered on the quarry floor you would create a massive version of a child’s ‘dot’ drawing.  The imaginary connecting lines would probably criss-cross in all directions forming an invisible 3 dimensional web, which would span time, place and space much like this quarry, now merging back into the encroaching vegetation, has done.

the granite surfaces have been colonized by natural accretions.

the granite surfaces have been colonized by natural mossy accretions.

My quarry experience?  I witnessed a moment in the dilapidation of post industrial Cornwall; heard the quarry workers but felt their absence; imagined the grit and toil of their labours and heard the grind of their machinery.  I made a large quarry drawing by joining the dots.   Saw some dazzling white granite from a quarry in India in a film made by Radhamohini Prasad, and heard about the ‘migration habits of stone’ by Alyson Hallett, a poet and Royal Literary Fellow at the University of Exeter.   Overall, rather than being impoverished by neglect, being ‘quarry landscape’ has been a seminal experience.

The consensus in the closing stages of the seminar was that this is not so much a landscape that is scarred as one with a ‘scab’ because it is already in the process of healing itself.  Note of caution: scabs are wont to be picked.  Perhaps this is a golden moment in the story of Bosahan where it is in a perfect state of suspension before it is either turned into a public playground or left to be reclaimed by nature.  I remember such a moment at Geevor before it was ‘made safe’ for a paying public.  It is worth savouring this moment of innocence because once gone, it can never be regained.


Filed under my sketchbook pages, Nature / Nurture Project, Professional Development

The Plight of the Bumble Bee

Phacelia seeds impregnated into hand made paper flowers ready for planting. (Tamar Organics)

Phacelia seeds impregnated into hand made paper flowers ready for planting. (Tamar Organics)

Bee is the new buzz word.  (as in Great British Sewing).  Our poor honey bees have had a dreadful winter with many producers opening up hives to discover dead bees.  With questions about certain intensive agricultural practices, indiscriminate use of pesticides, parasites, diseases and long, harsh winters, it seems our bee population is in crisis at the moment.  And that has consequences for us all.

thumb-print bees, part of the 'bee happy' collaborative community art project raising awareness of the declining population.  The kites became part of the 'swarm TV' project.

thumb-print bees, part of the ‘bee happy’ collaborative community art project raising awareness of the declining population. The kites became part of the ‘swarm TV’ project at AIR Pressure, (see below).

Spent most of last week ‘buzzing’ backwards and forwards from Falmouth attending some events at the AIR Pressure Conference at UCF, as well as catching up with some old friends from my days at Higher Spargo and revisiting familiar walks with dogs in between events.  This was a week of exhibitions and activities responding to and communicating changing climate with presentations from artists, scientists and academics on communicating green agendas.  I even managed to get a seat in the full house to hear Cornelia Parker‘s MA Lecture (not part of AIR Pressure) which was brilliant.  As weeks go, they don’t get much better than this.

footpath around Argal Resevoir

footpath, Argal Reservoir

Performance by Verena van den Berg (choreography student) in the old orchard, at Finissage event.

Performance by Verena van den Berg (choreography student) in the old orchard, at Finissage event.

“As we continue to listen to the stories of our bodies, we recognize both body and earth as home”.  Andrea Olsen

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The Saga of the Newlyn School Legacy.

Had a call from Alex Wade.  Alex is a writer and freelance journalist who lives near Sennen Cove – you might know him from his writings on art in Cornwall Today.   He is preparing an article for Saga Magazine (aimed for the over 50’s) about The Newlyn School of Art.  The proprietor, Henry Garfit, asked me if I would like to give them an interview (sadly I meet the demographic) – from a ‘student’ perspective.  I was happy to oblige.

a TAap course.  (see Poster-Making Day)

a TAap course. (see Poster-Making Day)

The Newlyn School of Art is not to be confused with the Newlyn Society of Artists or the renowned Newlyn School‘ and Lamorna Group artists (1880-1930) represented in Penlee House’s collections, which feature artists such as Stanhope Forbes, Walter Langley, Henry Scott Tuke or Dame Laura Knight, and the like.  The School that Henry set up a couple of years ago with help from Arts Council funding, perpetuates the legacy of the famous art colony in the now iconic harbour town of Newlyn, the original home for many of these artists.

IMG_9127 cont

Having moved into the old school buildings at the top of Chywoone Hill, the newly formed School of Art now “provides inspiring art courses in painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery and printmaking taught by many of the best known artists working in Cornwall today“.  The building also accommodates several studio spaces for practising artists and has become a thriving hub of artistic activity.

I was booked onto the 2 day course, Colour & Abstraction run by Gareth Edwards, an engaging and dynamic teacher.  (see his current exhibition at the Millennium Gallery, St.Ives).

Briefly, the intensive weekend went something like this:

  • Day one:     Differences in the Language of Painting (mark-making).

About abstraction, Gareth argues that a painting of a cow in the field is more abstract than a blue square on a canvas because the blue square is not pretending to be anything other than a blue square painted on canvas.  He quotes Andre Derain, (French Fauvist painter, 1880-1954) who defines abstraction as “a series of marks and coloured patches on a flat surface“.

AM.  We started off with some pre-cognitive mark making exercises, like ‘improvised jazz’ with no considerations for composition allowed.  (Difficult)  An attempt to make each section different from the other and to differentiate between mark making and pattern.


I couldn’t resist using collage in an attempt to find a different way of beginning a work. (Gareth said no one had done that before!). I then turned it upside down and worked on it again.

recognising a certain trope emerging with a nod  towards St. Ives School of Painters. (unintentional)

recognising a certain St. Ives School trope. (unintentional)

PM.  Exercise One:  Process Painting (as mechanical / ‘masculine’)



The process I chose was holding 4 loaded brushes together which were repeatedly swept across the surface in a waving motion

Exercise Two:  Grids (versus narrative)

I chose multi grids of circles, squares and rectangles.  (detail)

I chose multi grids of circles, squares and rectangles in a bit of a mash-up. (detail)

Exercise Three: Edges (as fictive spaces)

A definite nod to Cy Twombly.

A conscious nod to Cy Twombly.  An attempt for minimal mark making.

  • Day two:     Differences in the Language of Colour (where the ‘stabilizers from day one come off!’).  As a former designer who worked with colour in a professional capacity, Gareth has a keen sense for colour and talked about its theories and practices.

am. exercise:  Working with a golden section grid format, (‘the tuning fork of the universe’) we experimented with harmonies and temperatures of different colours in close proximity to one another.


I particularly like the way you can build up layers of colour and by scraping back some of the top layers, underlying colours can ‘peek’ through creating a more textural, 3D effect.

pm. exercise:  Working in a larger format, it was ‘free-flow’ time designed to bring together all the elements we had been experiencing over the two days.   We were offered a selection of key ‘triggers’ to choose from:







wilder shores of lurve (sic)

peace / conflict.


I chose gravity and movement (detail)

Represented by a good mixture of ages and abilities, this course was illuminating and inspiring, as I am sure they all are.   It showed me a completely different way of thinking about abstraction to the way I normally work (gestural, intuitive).  You might think I have come away even more schizophrenic than before but it has in effect served to highlight how I don’t work!  One thing I will try to do in the future is slow down my process and allow more time for reflection between marks made before attacking my work like a demented chicken.  More slow burn required, more pared down, minimal mark making.  The concluding message for me is that I must calm my mind like still water so that it can more easily reflect what is really going on.

A big thank you to Gareth for his generosity of spirit and enduring patience!  (And thanks also to David for looking after my dogs).  I applaud what Henry is doing with the school and as if that is not enough, his latest venture is the opening of a new gallery, The Bucca (formerly Badcocks in Newlyn Coome opposite the old fish market) and now runs it jointly with artist and curator, Jesse Leroy Smith.

Keep an eye out for the article in Saga.  Hope it provides the Newlyn School of Art with plenty more willing students – zimmer frames and all!


Filed under my sketchbook pages, Professional Development, Studio Practice

Carpe Diem

IMG_7822Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Since I can remember, my clothes have never been so threadbare as they are now.  I wrestle with what I am prepared to give up from my budget to squeeze a couple of bottles of wine into my weekly food basket as an essential to fuel the creative juices you understand!

The working area in my studio has become a repository for my household furniture and collection of books which means out of necessity a very small kitchen table in my hobbit cottage has become my new modus operandi.  The crown on my tooth has been glued back to save the expense of a brand new one and to top it all, the bridge of my spectacles snapped last week and they now balance precariously on my nose patched with sellotape.  And yet, despite these circumstances, I feel I am on the brink of a real transition and feel ready for whatever challenge might lie ahead.

IMG_7815I have already begun sketching out ideas for a completely new body of connected work.  Of course, these ideas have been brewing for a long time and have finally come to the boil.  So to honour the start of this new phase, I am going to give it a title: The Nature / Nurture Project.  Naturally, everything related to this project will be categorised accordingly!

Rocks and Rust

Rocks and Rust

Nature / Nurture Project

Briefly, this is an umbrella title for a series of new work to highlight contrasts between the untamed, natural geography and how we have used / abused it for our own purposes.   My purpose is to explore a more visceral approach to landscape  / nature and in particular, our deep emotional and physical connections to it.

At this stage I envisage this project unfolding in three separate but interlinking sub-sections:

  1. Tracing / Tracking Movement through Landscape (including notions of time and space).
  2. Spiritual Associations with Nature and the Sublime (as well as looking at archetypal models and the male / female principle).
  3. Nourishment and Sustenance through Nature and Nurture (looking at cultivated as well as foraged fodder together with mythical and metaphorical associations of nourishment).

In the same way that I have come to realise that writing (and this blog in particular) is an important part of my practice, I will naturally be charting the progress of this new phase in my story and as always welcome any thoughts or feedback that might crop up along the way.

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Nature / Nurture Project, Professional Development, Studio Practice