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One big love in

Autumn is harvest season and Keats’s ‘mellow fruitfulness’ has been playing in my mind for weeks; not applied to the natural world but used instead as a metaphor for human relationships. Since The Other Art Fair at the start of the month, I have been thinking a lot about abundance: how best to write about the richness of human relationships; their importance as part of the creative process; and my sense of gratitude during and after the fair.

I have spent recent months in comparative solitude, head down in the studio doing the work. The art lies for me not in the paintings themselves but in that addictive moment when someone else sees a painting and, through the lens of their own life story, provides the catalyst which conjures meaning. In those moments one finds mutual understanding and creative connection.

Art Fairs are unique and intense experiences. They are a strange ecosystem in which one has hundreds of interactions on a scale from ordinary to highly personal, intimate and raw.

As an artist on the stand when you first meet someone, that person is a comparative stranger. What happens over time is that those individuals, who were once strangers, become followers, clients, repeat collectors, friends. They enter and become part of a community.

At this fair I made many new connections (hello) and welcomed new collectors (thank you).

I was also visited by individuals who I think of as already comprising this creative and growing community. People who like and are following my work, collectors, friends and colleagues in the industry. This includes other artists, service providers, writers, curators and gallerists. These individuals made special trips and spent a long time on the stand engaging with the work, discussing changes in colour, technique and mood.

With one artist friend, I talked about what it means to survive as an artist, how one adapts and makes specific choices in order to continue to thrive. Reflecting on that conversation now, it strikes me that above everything, human relationships are what drive my practice. It is through this community that I personally gain a sense of belonging, nourishment and inspiration.

At a time of national and industry change, this fair felt like autumn – an abundant harvest where the bounty was community and connection. Long may we listen to each other and grow together.


Thank you all. X


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Skin sense

I have been thinking a lot this year about process and subject matter and intention – oscillating between looser, more gestural works and tighter more illustrative depictions of landscape.

“Oh so you do clouds then” is an often heard remark as curious people walk into my studio. I don’t really encourage this but my door is normally open to maximise daylight and I am yet to get round to some signage. “Beware of the Artist” is increasingly tempting although I imagine I will eventually organise something slightly less grumpy sounding – I am partially tame afterall even when painting. (Side Note: guests are always welcomed by appointment).

I want to say – “I am trying to catch and communicate experiences of being in the world – to celebrate the dizzying glory, peace, everyday magic, or solace of it and the paintings just happen to be land and sky when you stand away from them. Up close they are skins of marks. Layers of time and a process of adding and removing.  Some are quiet, others loud. They are the thud of heart, mind and breath; the beat of feet. My intention is to invite you to pause and be and be immersed. To remember. To reconnect with your own experience of land, sky and weather… The moment of art for me is where you bring your meaning to the painting. I am entirely addicted to that transformation of a painting through your eyes.” But I suspect that most people sticking their heads into someone’s studio don’t want to have a ‘deep and meaningful’, nor be reminded of their own impermanence, and I try not to growl or howl at them.

The paintings evolve from a combination of visual experience as well as smell, touch, hearing and taste. I call this skin sense. The question is how one communicates a sense of air, sunlight and rain on skin; leaf mould, mist or the dry heat of summer crackling in your nostrils; the scree of a red kite, the clicks and chatters of swallows or the roar and rustle of leaves. In creating landscape or skyscape inspired works these elements seem even more important. They are not found in the literal depiction of the curve of a hill, or a specific scene. They are caught in the inbetween: the buzz of colour, the unsaid or obliterated, the layering of marks. They are completed by what the viewer brings to the painting of their own imagination and experience. I am not there yet, but each painting is a step on the journey getting closer (or sometimes further away) from intention.

I look forward to sharing new works with you at The Other Art Fair next week – 4-7 October. Here is a sneak peak…


Studio shot. From left –
Red Kite Calling
Towards the dying of the light
Sky Mind.
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New paintings, new processes

I have been using a traditional gesso ground for 4 years. The medium never fails to surprise and I love the challenges it throws up during the making process to prevent ‘tightness’. The gesso is a way of maintaining a freer and more expressive process, and helps wrestle a painting away from the control of the critical mind. More importantly, the traditional ground absorbs ink so that the painting feels as though it is embedded and doesn’t just exist on the surface of the panel.  The featured image is an example of this way of working.

Recently however I have been exploring the use of an acrylic gesso as an alternative surface medium. The process is the reverse. Rather than carving into the surface, I build it up to create ridges which the ink can be pushed into. It behaves very differently. The ink doesn’t sink into the surface but resists it. I am experimenting with an absorbent ground to see how this will change the surface. Seaside Dreaming I and II are examples of this new way of working. I think of them as transitional or way finding paintings, important as the first stepping stones on a tangent of practice. I don’t know where this process will lead yet – but there are paintings lining up to be let out and surfaces illuminated when I close my eyes.


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Running and creative practice

Running is an important part of the creative process for many artists. It is a space in which to think, breathe, be embodied and inspired. During the hot weather, my own running routine has shifted once more to early mornings three or four times a week. It is a return to the underlying process of some of the earliest landscape pieces (which I made after moving to Hertfordshire in 2014). These early pieces were inspired by running towards morning light in the depths of winter. They came out of getting to know my surroundings and the desire to connect feet with earth, to become rooted.

Work in progress – part of the Blonde Field series for Artichoke Gallery.

More recently I have been working on a series of “blonde field” pieces for the Artichoke Gallery in October. They are still very much in progress and may yet change drastically. This series again connects with rooting and discovery. I have now lived in my current home for coming up to a year and there is endless delight to be found in connecting up and discovering new pathways. The landscape is similar and yet different. It has more hills so one is held and can see out to the horizon in a different way. The most recent paintings reference hot skies, hazey blue field edges, and burnt grasses. I am trying to make them buzz and pulse.”

This week I will exhibit at The Other Art Fair in Bristol. By a lovely coincidence Louisa Crispin, artist and one of three Directors of Artichoke Gallery (with whom I will show in October – December), is also exhibiting. Her work is quiet, sensitive, beautifully drawn and observed. I discovered that she also has a movement practice.


She says:

” I walk, every day, first thing. It’s a sort of “wake up” for the night owl in me as it gets my body moving and ready for the largely sedentary job of drawing.
It may be the meadow route to the shops or the footpath through the woods or simply the winter circular dog walk route along the roads. Whichever, it’s a time for inspiration, for counting how many swifts have arrived this year, how the light falls differently each day. Sometimes I simply enjoy the environment and other times its a planning time. Ideas for compositions or words for a press release. I often resolve that tricky bit of drawing,enabling me to finish with a flourish.
This simple time, largely solitary, centres me for the day ahead. “
Visit Lousia Crispin and I at The Other Art Fair, Bristol THIS WEEK – book your free tickets using comp code MCINTYRECOMP via the ticket link:
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The benefits of practical navel gazing

Since a rush of exhibitions, sales and projects earlier in the year, which followed on from a very busy 2017, I recently planned in time for reflection  and to make new work. The process feels like the stages of a snow globe. One shakes everything up, and observes fragmented ideas swirl. As the movement of the globe slows to stillness,  thoughts glitter, gather order, float and (hopefully) gradually settle into a new and useful sort of clarity. There is a return to drawing, walking, running and seeing exhibitions – as well as many many conversations with artist friends, clients and galleries/ art consultants (thank you).

Preparing for Open Studios recently helped this process by offering an opportunity to think again about space: the relationships between paintings and space and the viewer’s own physical experience.  In the early stages of my career I made sculpture. Creating the vertical landscapes (and other large works) has been a return to thinking about the importance of an embodied viewing process.

Having set up the studio in July 2017 I have developed ways of inhabiting space when making. For example, I habitually paint on the right far wall, which means I can view a painting from the distance of the doorway. I spend most of my time hovering on the threshold, with paint brush in hand, and then pacing back and forth. The painting will be moved up and down, laid on the floor, turned upside down and sideways, viewed in different lights at different times of day. I know it is finished when it feels right. This isn’t conscious, its cellular – felt in skin, and gut. Sometimes, the conscious mind interrupts too much. I battled with a painting recently for a few months until one day, it shouted its name loudly back at me. I thought best at that point to send it to the framer immediately before I was tempted to attack it again with wire wool.

For open studios then, hanging a body of works together created an opportunity to think about what was working, what was missing, where the frustrations are, how the paintings operate in space and call forth a physical response from the viewer. They don’t need to be enormous for this to occur. Sometimes small works are just as punchy and surprising.

In last months blog, I spoke about a queasy feeling – if something is too representational with not enough poetry or breath, then it will make me feel queasy, irritated, restless, until it is destroyed and something else is found. And then, that’s where the magic of transformation occurs – the thing that is surprising, that comes together and announces itself. This recent body of work feels transitional somehow, way finding pieces enroute to somewhere.

What seems important for now is that some aspects of the physicality of the making practice translate for a viewer experiencing a painting – to speak to their skin-sense – because that is where the moment of art really lives –  in other people’s personal, emotional and embodied reactions.

To view a selection of Alex’s new works, download a pdf – you can view them in person at The Other Art Fair, Bristol – 26 – 29 July.



Spring Sky, 2018 light fast acrylic ink and traditional gesso ground on birch, Alex McIntyre

Restless Sky, 2018 light fast acrylic ink and traditional gesso ground on birch, Alex McIntyre

Photos – Graham Matthews.

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The Relief of Spring

The winter was a while ago now yet I still can’t believe the blissful prosperity of sunshine, flowers and an abundance of green – everywhere. The result is a series of paintings emerging in the studio called, ‘The Relief of Spring’ – one features the acid yellow of oil seed Rape, others relish hot blues, greys, whites and greens – I am trying to capture the freshness and dizzying joy of colour and the luxury of warmth (Come and see them first at Open Studios on the 9 and 10 June).

The search to capture the sublime in a way that doesn’t make one want to instantly retch (at the cliche of a landscape too close to representation) continues (thank heavens for sandpaper).  The exhibition, ‘Scaling the Sublime, Art at the Limits of Landscape’ at the Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham explores the challenge of working with landscape and the sublime.   It is one of the best exhibitions I have seen in years. I soaked up Rebecca Partridge’s exquisite oil paintings of sky and am still haunted by Simon Faithful’s film showing him in a fluorescent suit tracing a sand island as the tide comes in. Eventually he is submerged and a final photo shows him seemingly swimming with no land in site. I watched the film 3 times.

This inspiration will continue to percolate.

Meanwhile the Relief of Spring series of paintings balance the tension of sensuous delight and abstraction with some semblance of representation.

View some cheeky films of work in progress:

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The importance of people + feedback

Exhibiting at The Other Art Fair, Victoria House recently (March 2018), the feedback I received from visitors (including existing and new clients, friends, art professionals and artists) was gratefully received. What you may not know, is that it is also essential to my creative process.

Working as an artist can be a solitary existence and building a community of professionals, friends and peers is vital. Conversation is key. Think of us as bats. Without echolocation we would be lost and unable to fly properly – or feed ourselves. Artist fairs are an excellent way to meet other artists and connect with visitors. This helps to nourish and expand our community whilst gaining sales and exposure.

More than this, visitor feedback is also my fuel and drive to create the next body of work. It is through feedback that I understand whether the paintings have relevance  or meaning beyond my own desire to make them.

This may seem a strange thing for an artist, who spends days and weeks in varying degrees of isolation, to admit – but- I don’t make paintings for myself. I make them for the moment when someone else sees a painting and connects with it – when, through another person’s eyes, a painting is re-created, and gains a deeper, more profound meaning than I could ever have intended. It is my hope that a viewer will have the sense of being viscerally or emotionally transported to another place or time in their life as they experience a painting. The underlying invitation is often to pause, breathe, be and be absorbed – to have space and shift perspective. Landscapes are felt through the skin and the muscles as well as seen through the eyes so the paintings sit in a delicate space of abstraction – enough world, but not too much. It is only by sharing the paintings that I know whether they are working (and have merit) or not.

The key ingredient in this process, and the one I cannot control, is you.

Thank you for sharing your ideas with me.

Here are a few visitor comments:

“A wild British wilderness vibe”

“Thank you for reminding me to breathe”

“You can lose yourself in these paintings”

“Images to fill the soul with peace and wonder”

“Moments of reverie and the finding of sanctuary”







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The importance of running

When I paint or draw, I am trying to catch at and communicate experiences of being in and moving through a landscape. These experiences are rooted in all the senses and understood as sensations in the body through skin, breath, nose, feet –  and, of course, the eyes.  Less interested in the literal representation of specific places, the works are a sense of these visceral journeys and responses to weather, light and time of year. Most often they are UK based –  Hertfordshire, Cornwall, Yorkshire, East Anglia and the Isle of Wight feature.  One painting referenced 5 hours watching light change on a mountain top in Sri Lanka.

I love it when a viewer encountering a painting forms their own relationship with it. When I am ready to show paintings, what they mean to me and the story behind making them is far less important than the viewers’ experience. I think the truth of a painting is where what I intend and what the viewer sees intersect – like a Venn diagram.

Running, walking, journeying, adventuring and exploring are essential to making paintings. If I don’t do this – then it is as though a spring has run dry and the work becomes tighter, clunkier and more laboured.  Long distance running in particular is fuel for the non-sight senses. After mile 8 one crosses over into a different space – a space experience through skin and air, the beat of feet and breathing.  I recently trained for and then ran a half marathon as a means to maintain this active practice of discovery. The next half marathon will be in the South Downs in June. It sounds hilly and exciting.


Paintings from top:

Wild Woman II, 150 x 110, ink and gesso on birch ply with aluminium subframe, framed white lime waxed wood £2300 (2nd hang at The Other Art Fair)

Pause, 2018, 154 x 100 x 5.5cm, ink and gesso on marine ply, framed white lime waxed wood, £2300

Wild Woman I, 150 x 110, ink and gesso on birch ply with aluminium subframe, framed white lime waxed wood £2300 (2nd hang at The Other Art Fair)

Breathe III, 2018 – is the third in a trio of vertical landscapes which will be launched in the first hang at  The Other Art Fair, 22 – 25th March on stand 63.

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Sneaky peaks of new work to be launched at The Other Art Fair, March 22-25 2018



This year I have been playing with a vertical landscape format – exploring a minimal snippet of land at the bottom of a painting and a vast expanse of sky leaping upwards. You have to view these pieces from a distance – or up close with your  head in the clouds.


Click on the links below to see video clips two of these – 150 x 100 x 3.5cm – (framed dimensions 154 x 104 x 5.5cm)






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Gesso: the memory of being a liquid

Gesso is rabbit skin glue and whiting (effectively chalk) which is made into a thick creamy liquid (soaking of glue + water baths + electric stoves are involved). I squeegee it onto the surface of a sealed wood panel and leave it to dry – repeating this process up to 7 times, often sanding in between each layer – although sometimes choosing not to.

I love gesso because every tiny bump or ridge or flaw responds. It is as though it remembers being a liquid and speaks through ink. I can carve it, sand it, push ink into it and lift it off. I don’t control the image – it evolves through a process of intuition and a willingness to destroy (to ‘kill the little darlings) in order to discover an essence of something else. I don’t know what this is until the painting ceases to irritate me and I no longer need to fight with it.

I first discovered traditional gesso ground not through art history (as perhaps I should have done), but instead, by experiencing the work of artist Rod McIntosh during a visit to his studio. His delicious surfaces, polished smooth with beeswax and milk, held an ink gesture that seemed at once both on the surface and yet embedded into the ‘being-ness’ of the art work.

At the time, I was making figurative sculpture using modelled and carved plaster  and wanted to translate the visceral sense of these works into drawings and paintings. I fell in love with gesso’s ability to hold and reveal the work as though from within itself. That was back in 2011 – ish. I played with indian ink + oil using gesso on board, with drawings, pencil on gesso, dancers, drawings of movement and gesture. Only a few pieces from this period remain unsold.

In  2014, I left London and at this point my practice changed. After 10 years working with the female figure she left (quite literally – danced out of a painting one day) and I was left with the unknown. My dreams were of landscape and sky so I followed them. Gesso became a companion in this continued visceral conversation between memory, lived experience,  and the desire to breathe.