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Returning to process + intention

The autumn opened up space to reflect and explore as I embarked on making new work for shows in the spring this year. Thinking about what has worked, what is missing, what I want more of / what I don’t want to make and so on. I have been looking at the work of John Virtue and David Tress. Enjoying the visceral gestures and expression in their work. There is an underlying power that emanates from and underpins the paintings. One feels as though they are alive.

To complement this studio research, in recent months I have returned to a daily routine of walking. Stomping up the hill first thing with a sketchbook and scribbling till my hands cramp with cold, or marking thoughts with quick snaps on my phone to be used as mnemonic triggers back in the studio. The practice has many benefits, including a key impact on health and wellbeing which I find essential in the dark winter months.

I love the quiet solitude of walking and the gentle companionship of hedgerows, birdsong and rolling fields. Returning to the same spots has become a ritual. I notice a longing as I greet favourite places like friends. We spend moments together. I keep meaning to take someone knowledgeable with me to find out the names of different crops.  There is a patch on a hill that looks like reeds but isn’t. They are dried winter gold, and rustle in the wind.  Meanwhile hedgerows glow aubergine, dark red and onyx green. Like a dog – I am essentially happiest when walked and fed, and especially if there have been interesting sights, smells, sounds or sensations whilst out. The difference then being that instead of curling up and sleeping (as would be somewhat appealing in January), the studio clothes go on and I walk down to the shed, clean brushes in hand. (I am often greeted by people in the village who see me wondering around covered in paint holding a pot of brushes).

The aim of all this is to reach something essential.  To create paintings that are not specific representations of place, but rather say something about the raw experience as it was lived and is then remembered. The thought is half seen in the mind as the starting point. At the start I never know what they will eventually look like, but through a process of playing with materials something emerges. the intention being that this will unlock a similar memory or sensation in the viewer.

So new bodies of work have returned to mark making, drawing, and process. Some pieces are more successful than others. Some make me queasy. Others are just right. There is work to be done…

New works will be shown at

  • The Affordable Art Fair, Battersea with Byard Art 7-10 March
  • The Other Art Fair, Truman Brewery where I will be showing a curated collection with Hermione Carline on a shared stand to celebrate our 10th editions of the fair. 14-17 March
  • Fresh Art Fair, Cheltenham with Byard Art 26 – 28 April


Red Morning II, 2019, ink, gesso and pencil on birch with aluminium subframe. 120 x 100 x 2.5cm.
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Winter mornings

A born and bred Londoner, in 2014 I found that my work was getting faster and faster. It seemed to be rushing forward towards something. I already had a studio as part of a 5 year fellowship with Digswell Arts  and commuted daily to Digswell. Then one day, the thought popped into my head, “shall I move to St Albans?”, within the month I had found a shared house and moved. At that time I had been drawing dancers and performers in rehearsal, then creating paintings from those drawings. The works had a symbolic language. At the time, I had a forthcoming two person show with Ross Loveday at Watford Museum and I watched in horror as the figure in my work danced out of it. Having explored the figure through sculpture, painting and drawing all my life, I had no idea what to do next…. except that when I closed my eyes, the sky and horizon dominated. My body told me to run, so I did. Getting up on winter mornings and heading out in the dark, I paced my new surroundings, pounding its geography into my muscles through the soles of my feet and breath. It felt as though overnight my practice changed. I had my first show with The Other Art Fair in autumn 2015 and debuted the new collection of works. I was blown away by the response. I discovered that our common experience of land and sky is immensely powerful. I loved the stories that emerged from those I talked with.  Three years on I am still inspired by land, sky and weather – and crave to be outdoors every day. The conversations with viewers and collectors continue to nourish, inspire and motivate.


Detail of Sepia Morning, ink and gesso on birch, 50 x 90cm. 2018

More recently, I have returned to that early process of walking and drawing first thing. Stepping out into the dark is magic – the world envelopes you in blue and grey, gradually becoming sepia and gold as the day emerges from night. At first it is silent, just the rustle of feet, the breath and an occasional owl, then comes the clough of pheasants, the cars, the rustlings and peeps of other birds.

The featured image is one of the first from that early collection of works. It holds the rawness of new experience in the early push and play of gesso, woodcarving tools and sandpaper.

In thinking about new work, I am acutely aware of  a tension between abstraction and figuration – the tightness of working with representation versus the looseness of gesture and the emotion of marks. Those early works hold the simple rawness of my love of the natural world. I hold them in mind as I create new pieces for next year and try to take more risks, to hold space.


Winter gold, 2018, ink and gesso on birch, 50 x 90, in progress in the studio.


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Feeling like a five year old in New York City

Ever had that feeling when you’re in a new place and you know the rules are basically the same but it’s all at a tilt? The simplest activities such as figuring out how to get from a to b, hopping on a bus or entering the subway can leave you feeling entertainingly confused and utterly incompetent. Of course, give it a couple of goes and you’ll no longer shout ‘ooo’ in surprise when your weekly subway pass is eaten by the ticket machine (to be spat back out a few seconds later). The process of being in unfamiliar surroundings, out of your comfort zone, can be personally revealing and creatively valuable.

On a recent research and community building trip to New York, the first few days I felt as though I had landed from Care Bear land and was still accidentally sprinkling clouds of fairy dust every-time I moved. Although a born and bred Londoner, I have been living in a small village in rural Hertfordshire for over a year and the urban thrum of New York took a little while to get into the bloodstream.

First, I needed to face a fear of the unknown and lean in.

There are people who are unfazed by travelling solo. I am not one of them. In advance of the trip I came up against a number of self imposed limitations and fears. When setting up meetings in New York City,  I worried about getting lost, being late and making bad first impressions; I worried I would miss the opportunity being in the city represented; I worried about failure; my worries had worries. Friends and work colleagues were incredibly helpful furnishing me with information, places to host meetings, apps to use and more.  Then, it was time to go.

Arriving in New York, I became a five year old – both incompetent in the adult world and full of wonder. Everything was two steps to the left of familiar. Observing this process, I noticed that when facing irrational fears one by one they receded. It was like discovering a new room in your house – personal boundaries stretched as different possibilities and connections emerged. Whereas on day one, a run round the edges of Prospect Park in the dark and rain seemed an act of terrifying stupidity, by day four, taking a longer walk home late at night was a common sense delight.

When discussing fear with a wise friend, he shared some personal inspiration: “the fear of failure is worse than failure itself”.

With words like these, one has only to face oneself and stride forwards like a bold five year old – eyes wide open and head held high.

Which fear will you challenge next?