Wednesday, 30 May 2012


I use a lot of colour – it’s almost a compulsion. I feel I’ve failed somehow if I use just black and white alone (very trendy, but I like colour.) In fact I never have.

It’s a tricky thing. There are many theories, and conveniently, various shades of white. But it’s always about the contrasts, for me anyway. Garish, bright colours: I love them. I’m not that keen on washed out pastels either. I don’t go in for realistic colour: most of my work is abstract, and even in life drawing I habitually draw green people with purple hair.

Way back, I once wrote that I had actually walked into the much put-upon and very patient art-store, and asked their stoic experts if I could please buy some green. They offered many ways of delivering the green, but I also had to choose which green: pea green, emerald, forest, olive or lime green. My head was spinning.

Then I discovered the innocent fun of the wheel of colour, used to determine contrasts and similarities. And badly named pastels: the peachy crayon called ‘flesh’ is so right off as to be unbelievable – who’s flesh is that colour (mind you in living memory there was paint colour called n***** brown.)

And then there’s symbolism. In my ‘Bunny’ series, the colours are symbolic, and represent ways of dealing with my limited vision, at a time when I could only see blue, when yellow is commonly used in hazard signs since it is deemed easy for the blind to see. Red was lost to me. It was horrible, but the blue seem extraordinarily beautiful.

Back to green. It’s my favourite - all the lovely oil paint names like phthalo green (cadmium green sounds dangerous.) I am never happier than when lining up my balls of thread and choosing the best colour for a certain word in my text samplers. Especially when it’s green.

On a tangential note, colours are amazing. Blind people sometimes have colours explained in terms of musical instruments. Violins are pale blue, trumpets are scarlet, cellos are mauve, I’d imagine.

But you can get immersed, wrapped up and lost forever in the act of deliberation, so I bought a ready chosen set of watercolours, which limited my options but did save time. I buy pastels one at a time, as needed. A fresh, vibrant pastel colour can really inspire me. I am such a wanker. I am also easily distracted by shiny things.

Colour matters: for impecunious artists, failed experiments are costly, especially when the art-pixies don’t respond to your special ‘send me a wide-range of colourful materials’ dance (it’s great – I am like a whirlwind of tassels.) Collecting your shrapnel until amassing enough to buy a few pots/pencils/pastels and then have them not work, to be too similar, or weak is so dispiriting.

But here’s a funny thing: the colour I use most and therefore replace most often in all its textures, forms and strengths, oddly enough, is white. Figure that one out.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Just before my recent group show, I arranged with my fellow artists to meet and discuss the install. Now for me, installing work is no more of a trial than finding a good spot and hanging my piece on the wall, hopefully so that it stays.

I was blissfully innocent, until I attended my first group install at the art-school I decline to name, and watched in amazement as exhibitors arrived with spirit levels, tape measures, drills, cranes, statisticians, brain surgeons, all to appease our buffoon of a course leader who still said everything was at the wrong height.

I have had work installed by curators (one separated a diptych) and another placed my work next to a piece so beautifully drawn and exquisitely framed piece that I felt horribly inadequate.

But then, for Packing and Mourning, we met. I wanted to start the show earlier, but Shelton, a more experienced artist, an expert installer, builder, measurer and user of heavy machinery put her foot down. In fact, she seemed quite vexed, and was very firm with me. ‘What’s got into her?’ I thought.

In the run up to the install, people began to approach me with caution, as if someone had died. They’d hold my hand, do the sad-face and peer empathetically into my soul. ‘Good luck with the install,’ they’d say, with tears in their eyes. What’s the big deal, I wondered. It’s only an install. My friend had her install the day after mine, and I began to join in, phew yeah, installing hell, I’d say, and bravely lap up all the sympathy.

Then, on the actual day of the install, the lovely space where were showing our work decided to let us in three after we’d agreed. Oh well…

Then, well I realised everyone else was treating this complicated and difficult task with the dignity and gravitas it deserved. Young was taking out screws and then replacing them, Eija was carefully, oh so carefully, selecting from an array of her beautiful prints, which then kept falling of the wall. Young was still drilling and things were tense when she used all the fishing line but I had some wire. These things matter.

Shelton was perched on a ladder she had ‘borrowed’ and was drilling, applying tape and helping us all. The counsellors arrived. We broke for lunch. There was more drilling, then some muted screaming and stifled sighs. Eija found a table. Shelton confiscated the drill (it’s for adults) and Young started drilling and undrilling again. Eija found and rejected one TV set for her film, then she and Shelton began to load the wide screen available in the space.

Eight men died. There was a riot. The language was anglo-saxon in origin. Damian smiled at my bunny picture. My ‘Travel Bag’ was expertly hung by Shelton. Eija had enough tissue paper to spare. The TV was being difficult, acting like a diva and  issued a list of demands after achieving full consciousness.

When we finished, somebody said innocently: ‘How was the install?’ I felt as if I had done my first marathon. ‘It was fine,’ I said. And it was. Eventually.

Life drawing again.

Life drawing again.

Life Drawing

Life Drawing
Almost human