I’ve had a wonderful few days in the shed, something that has been a long time coming, but sometimes there simply isn’t enough quiet to stop still enough to see and to create. This week there seems to be a level of stillness that has allowed creativity to occur. I have been working on this piece of work for nearly two years, a ridiculous amount of time, and since the gauntlet putter-downers have now completed their course as much as they could do, I feel a responsibility to complete my side of the deal – to try and paint as realistically as I can.

The piece is slowly taking shape, and the layers of colour building slowly – the last 24 hours especially has been simply joyous. At this rate it may even be done before Christmas!!!

Although this slide show goes from what it’s like now backwards to how it was, you can get the gist of what I’ve tried to do. The colour of the skin was all over the place, but in trying to rectify this I lost the eyes. I’m in the middle of trying to recapture the eyes now. More pleased with the tone of the skin although potentially not ‘smooth’ nor ‘realistic’ enough for my A-Level student’s gauntlet challenge. In my defence I think I may soak stain the whole skin again like I did in the beginning.

Also realised that the forehead is way too high but can rectify this when the hair is added …. goodness knows how I’m going to do the hair! Aiming to get into the shed at least twice before next weekend now virtual school is starting again tomorrow. But pleased with progress so far.

Progress so far in situ

Space space and more space

Only been in the shed for 40 mins today but made more space…. largely by piling all the junk in one tiny area, but that works for me right now. Just so great to get the space back to a point where work can begin.

Shed as was…

So today found me back in the shed, and boy has it been a long time. It’s become a bit of a dumping ground since I started the job so it needs a little bit of a sort…. do you think?!?

Such a phenomenal privilege to be able to have such a space. I forgot. Stupidly forgot. But being back in that space, even just sorting out the bags of school work and books and art work from the dead spiders really changed something in me, or moreover connected something back up within me, healed something I didn’t even know was broken. Excited about what the next few days and weeks will hold.

Work station for gauntlet piece
Work station for more flat pieces

acrylic painting of ylena

…. that I’ve been working on this piece of work on and off since March 2019 and it’s probably at the worst state it’s been in for a while, so much so that I think I may white wash it and start areas again. I was so pleased with it around June but that’s sometimes the way a painting goes. You lose momentum, you try something new and in the course of one brushstroke you go from a piece of work that is working well to one that has lost all sense of the subject matter.

This started off as a challenge set by my Year 13 class. I was encouraging them to paint with much more freedom, more expressive marks, more concept than refinement…… and in return they challenged me to paint more realistically, and so the gauntlet was picked up, then set down, and picked up again, then set down! But now is the time to pick it up again and get this piece resolved once and for all. The Easter break and the ‘surreal’ness of the current situation could actually provide me with a chunk of time for the first time in 2 years.

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During the summer I was fortunate enough to catch the Vincent Van Gogh exhibition at The Tate Britain. I was initially a little disappointed as the first section was literally other artists’ work and van Gogh’s attempts at trying to copy or emulate them. I was struck by how similar his painting apprenticeship was to the A-Level course: looking and being influenced by other artists in such a way that it develops your own voice.

Now in full time teaching I am finding it incredibly difficult to find time to do my own art but the A-Level and GCSE classes are moments where I can use ‘mock ups’ or ‘examples’ to keep my creative expression alive. Creating a portfolio to enable the students to see the process, the structure and the type of work needed has been a real privilege and working alongside these amazing young artists has also been a real inspiration.

The piece above is based on the work of Joan Dumouchel, her paleness of face, the use of gold in the background, in the hair and on the lip, the soak staining of the background and placement of colour – all these elements contributed to the formation of my own work. My plan is to look at three or four other artists and see how I can glean skills and processes and ways of seeing from them, and then pull it altogether in a series of work. Looking forward to creating again.

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So, it’s the perfect timing to start six new pieces of work when I’m starting a full time job on Monday! It’s as if I’m having a bet with myself – ‘Ok determined one, see if you can hold down a full time job and still be creative. Do both!’ After spending the whole of the Easter break mainly twiddling my fingers trying to find something creative to do in Dartmouth, I’ve come back knowing that these pieces should have been started a few weeks ago. Where does the time go? But life seems to have taken a complete turn over the last month and what seemed like a potential opportunity has become a reality. Hysterical that I land such a commission in its wake.

Sitting in the shed for the first time in what seems like an eternity I suddenly feel incredibly at home after feeling restless for so many months. It’s as if my head is saying, ‘Right, now is the time. It’s seems so utterly ridiculous but now is the time.’ I’m beginning to realise that I like being busy, that I suit being busy. My brain after feeling so dormant except for excuses is now starting to brim with ideas and colours and creativity. Before it seemed so barren. We shall see. A new chapter and multiple challenges but feel already, on the brink of all this, that I’m closer to myself than I’ve been for a long time.