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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?


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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”