Monday, 19 December 2011


This image was made in November 2011, the heavy bedroom curtains opened just enough to admit the pale light of early morning.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cy Twombly

I had not known that Cy Twombly had died during the summer of this year. He was the same age as my father.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Gerhard Richter's clouds

I had not been aware until now that during the late 1960s and 1970s, Gerhard Richter made paintings of clouds.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

a greater grief

The feeling of having failed as an artist, which throughout my waking hours lays siege to my sense of self, is strain enough. But a far greater grief assails my heart. The death of my father has left a yawning chasm in the lives of my mother, my sisters and myself. It is as though a stabilising force has vanished, the lynch pin holding us together withdrawn, so that without my father's calm and tolerant presence we find ourselves riven by misunderstandings, lost in a welter of confusion and emotional upheaval.
We have lost our pole star and thus without, careen about wildly, cast hopelessly adrift.

the impossibility of return

It is as impossible to return to the making of drawings of clouds as it is to return to Garstons Lodge.
On making an attempt, although not in the most conducive frame of mind, I find that I have forgotten how to draw; my skills have departed, my hands and fingers cannot perform the task I have set them. I begin to rub graphite powder into the surface of the paper, but the shape I make is not right, and I cannot find the patience within me to resolve the problem. My heart is simply not in the work.
I had hoped that I would find a way to emerge from the impasse of not being able to draw, by making a return to a subject that I had pursued with a small degree of success. ( I have three drawings remaining that I still feel comfortable with). But one cannot repeat oneself, or at least, I cannot. Perhaps it would be a retrograde step, not a step beyond the morass of self doubt and frustration in which I have become enmired, to attempt once more to draw clouds. Or perhaps I am pursuing an inappropriate method. Perhaps I should take paper, and sketch clouds from observation. Perhaps I do not wish to make drawings of clouds at all; I had just lighted upon making cloud drawings to save myself from the sickening sense of personal failure as an artist, that gnaws insatiably at my self esteem.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

two clouds almost the same

This drawing also dates from 2006, and is another of the drawings to survive the purge I exercised upon a good many of the cloud drawings made during the years in Hampshire, drawings made whilst living at Garston's Lodge, and at my parent's home. It appears to me now to be a lighthearted drawing. I cannot remember exactly when I made it, but I can remember where I would have made it. I was very likely to have been sitting at the elaborately carved and inlaid table that my partner and I used both as a dining table, and work table; we sat each at either end, engaged in our respective pursuits; I would be drawing, my partner working at the computer, which was set up at the other end of the table.
To my left was the bay window, with a view of the front garden, the copse and the field falling away just beyond the garden boundary. The field dipped to the river Whitewater which curved around the bottom of the field, before winding through the private woods which we could just see in the distance.
I had time during the days in which to draw, to gather wood, to tend the garden, to look after the house. In the Autumnn and Winter we burnt wood from the surrounding copses on the grate in the front room, and gathering wood was a routine of everyday life. I took pleasure in this task, and I would usually be accompanied by our three cats, who enjoyed the procedure of wooding, and the warmth of the fire when our labour was done.
My most favourable time for drawing was in the afternoon, when my mood was lightest, and the tasks were completed. Then I would settle myself at the table, knowing that I had several hours of uninterrupted time in which to work, the cats in the adjoing room for company, before my partner returned home. I have never before, nor since experienced such a sense of rightness about my work, and life, as I did during those drawing afternoons at the lodge in Hampshire, which is when and where the drawings I still have were made. Apart from my parental home, it was the best place in the world.

Sunday, 2 October 2011


Is it possible for the soul of a deceased person to have entered into the body of a bird, and to issue forth from that body a stream of poignant musical notes?
In each of the gardens belonging to my mother, my youngest sister, and myself, a robin sings, delivering a song of such vibrant sweetness, such tender lyricism, that we each, in our gardens, experience a flood of emotion, a reawakening of the passionate longing for the gentle man who was our mother's life partner, our father.
Yet, during these moments of unspeakable loss, there is to be found consolation. In the bright tumbling notes of the robin's song can be heard a refrain that pierces to the heart; "I am here, I am here".

Saturday, 1 October 2011

nimbostratus I

This drawing was made in 2006, whilst living in rural Hampshire, and is one of only a handful of cloud drawings remaining from that period. I drew clouds from remembered observation without distinguishing acceptable work from poor, and without thinking very much, just producing a goodly number of drawings. I remember experiencing a sense of exalted self belief, which I subsequently came to understand as having been most spurious. Later, overcome by embarrassement at having produced much work that was bad, or at best mediocre, without recognising it as such, and suffering a consequent devastating failure of self esteem, I destroyed most of the drawings, just retaining a few.
This survivor was made on Somserset Velvet, a cotton printmaking paper, soft and yielding to the touch, satisfying my particular desire to use materials that have distinct tactile qualities. Making the drawing was a sensuous experience, as I used graphite powder, in tiny amounts, gradually smoothing and rubbing the glossy, mobile powder into the surface of the paper, before using a pencil to draw in fine , short lines.
I am hoping that it is now possible to rediscover that sense of self belief, whilst yet retaining an insight into the the true qualities of the work being made, recovering also the feeling of sensory pleasure I experienced, perhaps to return to making drawings of clouds, this time with greater discernment, and purpose.
I think that I need to have an idea of the finished work, whilst allowing the drawing to develop in its own terms; I need to be watchful, mindful, and yet flexible enough in my approach to allow for, and to harness the unexpected. Above all, I must not expect perfection, and must be prepared for failure. I have a desperately uncomfortable relationship with both of these extremes, always striving for perfection, yet always regarding myself as a failure. Perhaps a resumption of the making of cloud drawings would be therapeutic, affording me an escape from the impasse in which I find myself.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

wall painting

Part of a still extant medieval wall painting at the church of St Thomas, East Shefford, Berkshire. I was captivated by the rich colour, and the delicacy of this fragment, and in awe of the piety motivating it's origin. I would that I were able to piant with such strength of purpose, and such skill as the painter of this work.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

chain link fence 2008

These drawings were made on tissue paper in the Autumn of 2008, whilst I was in hospital suffering from depression. I made tracings of a chain link fence from a photograph in a book, preferring the easily crumpled, fragile texture of tissue paper to the more robust smooth surface of tracing paper.
The photograph showed only part of a fence; I made tracings of only part of that photograph, moving the tissue paper as I worked, each drawing different from the one before it. Held in the hand, it is possible to see through the tissue paper to the drawings beneath, thus they have a cumulative effect.
They have never been exhibited, shown solely to members of my family, and my partner, and remain wrapped in a piece of rice paper in a drawer. At the time of their making, I was otherwise unable to work, and visiting the Occupational Therapy room, where one was encouraged to use paints, pastels, pencils and charcoal freely by the therapist, remained an impossibility for me. To retain at least a vestige of my drawing practice, towards the end of my period in hospital, as evidenced by the chain link fence drawings, was of vital importance, even though they themselves are slight in appearence.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Chapel of Rest

In my father's cold, still beautiful hand, my mother placed a small posy of Rosemary, Lavender and Forget-me-Not, gathered from the garden, their stems bound together with a scrap of the blue wool she had used to knit one of my father's pullovers.
In death, my father appeared to be utterly at peace, with a suggestion of the faintest of smiles playing about his lips, as though he had been amused, and had registered that amusement with the ghost of an expression.
I realised, with an excruciating intensity of emotion, that his lovely eyes, eyes yet as innocent as a child's, would never open again, that we would never again hear his voice, never share the the substance of what had left that fragile smile traced upon his lips.