Thursday, 27 December 2012

We are all Nomads

                                ('We are All Nomads,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 110 x 70cm)

As I write my last post of 2012, the window near me frames a grey sky, and torrential rain. The television in front of me is once again showing the extensive flooding in the UK, which underlines some of the reasons for my recent painting, above. This germinated from images of Tahrir square, with its mass of tents, and the shocking videos of places in the UK which resemble swampland. Interspersed with these were reports of world recession, homelessness, and increasingly the fragilites of life flash by on that screen. The idea of tents sparked my painting, and the concept that anything can change from moment to moment.

My application for a 3 month residency in Scotland has to be finished before Monday. It is, like most of these applications, long and complicated, and I spent several hours on Boxing Day writing my statements, proposals, checking travel costs (in case I get to the interview stage), and checking out the paintings of the artist whose name titles the residency. I believe my work fits the ethos, though there will be many painters applying for this amazing, funded residency. It's my last application for this year, and the results of all three will come in late January.

As my happiest artistic event of 2012 was participating in the painting residency in Daugavpils, Latvia, I am attaching a few more photos from those incredible twelve days.

           (At the Theatre: From left to right, Peter, Minas, myself, and my good friend Anna)
          (Hotel Latgola, 10th floor restaurant at night: from left to right, Anna, Madara and myself)

This photograph was taken on 25th September, at the Daugavpils Museum of Art and Regional Studies, where we opened our group exhibition on the date of Mark Rothko's birthday. We are standing in front of my friend Anna's paintings, I am at the far left of the back row. The exhibition Opening was filled with people, shoulder to shoulder, and the speeches went on for at least 45 minutes, and during this each artist was presented with a certificate to confirm their participation in the residency. I had difficulty pushing my way to the front to collect my certificate! The Opening was also televised, and I was interviewed. I was thrilled to find that my 3 paintings had an end wall to themselves, with my largest canvas in the centre. My largest painting really shouted its presence on that wall.

As the year ticks to a close, I'm wondering if 2013 will bring any further surprises.

                                       ('Twists and Turns,' oil and acrylic on board, 60 x 45cm)
                                                   (Click on images for a larger view.)

Thursday, 13 December 2012

White Curtains

                                 (My walk through the park to the studio, September 2012)

We had our first snowfall a few days ago. So begins the curtain that separates the old year from the new, as temperatures plunge and my thoughts are on which bulbs to plant. I am remembering the walk to my studio in Daugavpils, as I deal with another rejection. It was half expected, as I had applied to a big company which showcases artists' work, but the slant was that it had to promote an aspect of scientific innovation or relate to something ecologically 'friendly.' I didn't fit the brief. As a friend posted on Facebook today that he had just received a rejection, I was not alone.

                                     (September 16th, our trip into the Latvian landscape.)
I finished my long application for the residency in Scotland, and have half finished an application for a grant, from an American foundation which helps artists. Both are a long shot, but worth the try. Before the white curtain drops and opens into the New Year, another 5 applications will make their way across cyberspace!
                        (View from the 10th floor restaurant, down to the main square at Daugavpils.)

I am closing this post with a recent painting, called 'Seasonal Echoes.' (Acrylic and oil on canvas, 50 x50cm)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Beginnings and Endings

My entry for The Crash Open Salon was unsucessful. Friends on Facebook helped put it in perspective, as this is part of the uncertain territory of being an artist. You never know what the selectors are looking for, or what the tone of the exhibition is. But I have never met any artist, established or beginner, who doesn't feel a slight wobble when a rejection notice arrives! My response is always to begin new work, and in the last week I have worked another two canvases.

I have applied for a residency in the US, and I am racing against a deadline of 7th December to complete an application for a residency in Scotland in 2013. Both of these are set in rural areas, which would be very inspiring for me, as my colourful abstractions often reflect landscape elements, and certainly I feel the energies of the land. I am longing for a period of isolation, in a studio, to focus solely on my work.

The Mark Rothko residency will soon be part of a year past. I can still remember the intoxicating excitement as my aircraft tilted on its approach to Riga airport, and the sight of endless, dark forests. I'll never forget my first night at the hotel near the airport, and the claustrophobic white drapes that obscurred all but a few straggly tree tops swaying against a dismal grey sky. Or how I just wanted to run home! I wondered COULD I cope with being with strangers all day, and would I be the one fraudulent artist among the group? (Because surely it must be a mistake that I had been chosen!) I waited for 6 hours at the airport the next day, until the bus came to collect me (and 3 other artists who appeared from nowhere). Riga shone brightly under grey skies as we walked around and met artists who were waiting there, and got to know each other.

I think that one of the highlights was the evening journey to Daugavpils, and drinking balsam for 3 hours on the bus while chatting non stop about art. I felt so incredibly happy. It's not often that you feel endorsed as an artist, and after years of struggling, I felt I was where I was meant to be. And as we neared Daugavpils in the darkest night, our hotel was illuminated green, blue and red against the sparkle of the city. We had our supper at 10.30pm, at a long table near to the band, whose loud music jarred on us in our tiredness. People were dancing a Russian kind of dance, bumping against us.

I'll never forget going up to the 10th floor for breakfast the next morning, and being told that we had to go down to the second floor for the Press Conference at I sat in the row of artists, with the journalists, Mark Rothko Committee, and TV cameras staring at us. Flags denoting our countries lined the table. One by one we were asked what we planned to paint, and would it relate to Latvia? I said that I was already buzzing with colour ideas spun by the previous day's journey. I looked at my colleagues and they all appeared so calm!

I'll also never forget how, when I pulled my room curtains aside on that first morning, my only view was a puce-coloured wall just beyond a narrow ledge littered with pigeon feathers. I was on the 4th floor and up against the side of the Mall. Mario was in the next room and he asked to change his room. I thought he couldn't stand the sound of my phone calls every night after midnight, but he couldn't stand that wall.

So this post is a re-visiting of my Latvian residency, as I am feeling rather self-indulgent today!

         (Photo: The Press Conference on Saturday, 15th September - I am the 6th from the left.)

On that first day, we also went to see our studios, and chose some art materials from the art shop, which was near the hotel. I was surprised how easily we all bonded, and it was as if we had known one another for years. Sunday was our day-long trip out into the landscape (which I will include more photos from in another post), and Monday was the first studio day. My husband had bought me sachets of 3 -in-1 coffee (sugar and milk included) so I had a reminder of him, and also my own supply of coffee to take to our coffee room, which was just along the wide, bright corridor. We were also asked that day if we had decided who would do their presentation that night, and who would do it on the Tuesday.

It was a very intensive programme. We were given schedules and every evening we had some activity - ranging from Presentations, to a visit to the Theatre, to a wonderful meal in an unforgettable local restaurant (on the Saturday night). It was all within a walking distance, and I have some lovely memories of walks back in the dark, chatting to friends as colourful interiors and warm-stoned buildings vied for attention. We passed through a park one night and were shown benches designed by local artists. They were amazingly creative and intriguing, and each one provoked gasps of admiration. I thought how forward thinking these people were, that they commissioned artists and supported them.

                                          (View from the Latgolla hotel, 10th floor restaurant.)
I'll never forget our many lunches and suppers, and how some of the artists became fed up of being served chicken (usually under melted cheese) and fish (also under melted cheese!) and went out to find burgers. I was always so hungry and found most of the meals delicious, apart from the tendency to put blobs of sour cream in the soup. We had a huge choice of food for breakfast, and always unlimited access to coffee and tea. I loved to sit in the restaurant at night, drinking coffee and chatting about art, as the town sparkled around us. The staff treated us as if we were Royalty!

Before I went to bed, my husband called me. Some nights I was not in my room until, and we chatted for a few minutes before I fell into bed happily exhausted.

More to come.
(Painting: 'Leaving,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 55 x 46cm.)

Friday, 23 November 2012

Just Another Hill

Limited time recently hasn't allowed me to finish describing the residency. Instead I am going to add a few photos of places I saw in Latvia (mostly from the first Sunday, when we had an all-day trip into the landscape, and forests), and try to catch up very soon. Edges of the residency catch on me daily, and still inform my work.

Highlights, for me, were that day trip, when we went to visit a bread museum, lakes, forests, and had a picnic by the river. We also did a wonderful walk in the country, strolling through a museum of old houses, passing fields of sunflowers and gardens full of Cactus Dahlias (a favourite flower). I watched our guides picking mushrooms in an endless forest, with at least seven varieties and colours of mushrooms within a three square metre area. It all fed into the work I made in the studio. Also memorable was the night we went to the Theatre and saw a lively, colourful and very beautiful production based on a novel by Emile Zola. The singing and dancing, and stage sets are something I will never forget!

My life has become a case of constant juggling. I have applied to show work in a large office space where artists can showcase their work. I submitted four oils, including my second, large version of 'Flying into Riga Airport,' and a description of why I would like to show my work in this particular place - great space, great exposure, (and also it frees up space at home for me to paint more canvases, though I didn't add this part.)  Also I applied for the Crash Open Salon 2012, at the Charlie Dutton gallery in London. I submitted four recent paintings, and should hear by the first week of December. I felt confident about the paintings, but you never know how the selectors want to set the tone of the exhibition, so in the end one's work may not fit.

I have been stretching canvases, and working with great energy on seven paintings. And I changed my website design, which necessitated completely resizing all my images - a huge and ongoing task. It is so important to have a good website, and this is the best design I have used so far. Artists have to do a lot more self-promotional jobs than ever before!

(photos: Devil's Lake;  Mushroom picking in the forest; a house in the museum of houses; a recent painting, 'Just Another Hill,' acrylic on canvas, 45 x 45cm)

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Hectic Days

Post-Latvia, I have been busier than ever. A plethora of committments and daily responsibilities overlap with intensive painting time. Last night I went to see an exhibition of work by Ashley  Hanson at the Canvas and Cream gallery (London). Ashley studied at Canterbury College of Art, in the same year as me. I had not seen him for about 25 years! As we greeted each other, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion. Over all these years, we have both carried on, and while the memories of College days (and student mischievousness) were still clear in our minds, we faced each other as mature artists, with much to say about colour and technique. We both agreed that our 'era' at Art School had been a very rich one.

The ripples from Latvia still prompt new work. I miss my studio so much, and the company of all the artists. My only complaint was that we needed a longer time. But it was wonderful getting up each morning in the Latgolla hotel, going up to the 10th floor restaurant and choosing from an enormous selection of cooked foods, cereals, juices, and coffee. We ate while overlooking the town with flat, luminously green landscape beyond, and discussed art and artists. It was a fertile ground from which to head to the studios.
I loved the short walk across the main square and down through the pretty park to the Art school. The trees shimmered with shades of gold and yellow, and the fountain sparkled in the sunlight. Though I was often very tired, the sight of the studio gave me instant energy.
Yesterday I worked on 'Flying into Riga Airport,' version two. In the photos we are carrying the first version to the exhibition venue, on September 24th. Though it was resolved, I had an idea to start a second version, to explore some other possibilities. This new version is the same size, 100 by 140cm, and of a similar format, but I am allowing other marks and colours to seep in. Seeing Ashley's series of paintings 'City of Glass,' in which he explores the same format across 6 huge canvases, confirmed that I am right to make this a series.
Shortly after I arrived back from Latvia, I wrote an article for THE JACKDAW, on the invitation of David Lee. My copy of the magazine arrived last Friday, and I was very pleased to see that I have a whole page for my description of the painting residency, and its affect on my work. If you are interested to read this, it is in the November/December issue, available through The Jackdaw website.

(Photos: Taking the large painting to the exhibition venue:
The Opening evening of the Mark Rothko residency, when we were all presented with Mark Rothko umbrellas, and a bag of goodies. There was an amazing presentation, with dancers clad from head to toe in skin-tight colour, their faces hidden. I will add photos of this in another post. Photos by Vladimir Vatmahter.)
All photos in this blog may be viewed large by clicking on them.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

My Studio.

These are a few photos of my studio. This was my half, which was quite large, and I was able to work on the 4 paintings with enough space to lay them on the floor. I shared the studio with Heidi, and we are both artists who work very intensely and don't like to talk! So the only noise was my palette knife as it slid across the surface of my canvas, some traffic outside, and a soft buzz of music from Heidi's I-Pod. Such is the perfect environment  for painting!
We both laid plastic on the floor, because though we are not messy painters, you never can tell where paint can end up. I worked without my shoes on most of the time, and my pink socks ended up with paint splatters.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Lost in the Forest

One of the aspects of this residency that I really loved was that they gave us tastes of our environment before we set foot in the studio to paint. Our first Saturday was full, with the Press Conference (and there was an article in the paper), and with the allocation of studio space, and in the evening we had the official Opening of the event. (More on this later.) Sunday was a day to explore the landscape. We started off at around, and did not arrive back at our hotel until about 9pm. It was a day I looked forward to, as a painter who is inspired by landscape.
Latvia is fairly flat. There are endless forests, and curious paths that disappear randomly into their thick lines of verticals. We had trips to several locations. First there was a long walk down a forested hill to a wide river. We explored the river banks, went up a very tall, wooden tower to get a panoramic view, and then had a picnic by the river. We also visited a Bread Museum, which I will write about in detail in my next post.
As the light began to soften, we went to see Devil's Lake. The bus let us out on a dirt road leading into a forest that seemed to engulf the world. Our group ambled along this road chatting away, while our guides gathered mushrooms. (This is a national pastime.) I was amazed that within a tiny patch of mossy ground, you could see 6 or 7 different varieties of mushrooms: red, black, yellow with frills, yellow round ones, grey and domed, puffballs, flat beige, spotted. As our group were slowly walking along, I stopped with Anna to go to the toilet. (The strong vodka-like drink we'd had at the Bread Museum had created a sense of urgency!) We didn't take long, and hurried up the road to find our group. They were nowhere to be seen. We reached a fork in the road, by a large sign marking the lake. We had a choice, to take the road on the left (which went up a slight hill), or turn right and follow a very narrow, mossy path alongside the lake edge. The lake was in front of us, a crystal clear expanse, with the dark, serated reflections of pine trees. Still we could hear no voices. The forest was silent, not even birdsong punctuated the rhythmic verticals.
A car passed, and men stared out at us. For sure, two women alone in nowhere was very odd. We hoped they wouldn't come back! Were there bears, I wondered?
As evening was sapping the light, we had to make a decision. I said let's go back to where the bus left us. Anna was worried that the bus was collecting everyone from another point. But everything seemed to be saying to go back to our starting point, and just wait there. They would be sure to come back to look for us there.
The ridged, earthy road back seemed to go on forever. We passed the same groups of mushrooms, which were the only points of reference in a forest without signposts. Then, as we rounded a corner, there was the white bus. Our relief sent us into hysterical laugher, which began to echo around the trees. As we neared the group of our friends, our hysterical laughter grew even louder as we realised that no one had missed us! They were all busy drinking some more of the Vodka-like drink, and talking about Devil's Lake. Anna and I were passed small cups of this clear fluid, and I drank mine in one go. No one asked us where we'd been, and we were rather relieved. The talk was about Devil's Lake, and some related spooky or paranormal events, and how beautiful it had been.
Next day I began to mention to the other artists that we'd been lost. They all said, 'We didn't realise!' I guessed that they'd taken the mossy path by the lake, and somehow returned to our starting point on a road parallel to the one we were on. This painting is about that experience. I began it on my first day in the studio, but did not finish it until 2 days before the end of studio time.
('Into the Forest,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 90 x 60cm)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Latvian Journey

We arrived at our hotel at around 10pm on 14th September, and had a very late supper. My room was spacious and comfortable, and I sorted all my clothes and belongings before I went to bed. The next day was a busy one. We had a Press Conference at 9am, followed by a visit to the Art School for the allocation of our studios. I found that I was sharing a very large studio with an artist called Heidi P. Next came a visit to an Art Shop, to choose our materials. I was glad I'd brought my own paints, brushes, palette and palette knife, as the choice was limited, and the funds also limited. But I was able to buy some wonderful Russian paints called St Petersburg oil paints.
On the Sunday we had a long trip out into the Latvian landscape, to get a feeling for our new environment. I was glad of this experience because I wanted this sense of place to enter my work. The trip took us to a river for a picnic, to a bread museum (where we tasted homemade Rye bread, and had a huge supper of organic food from the area), and to see the lovely church at Aglona. We walked along a road, lined with sunflowers, and admired ornate, old houses that were part of a museum, and it was like going back in time. Crimson, orange and yellow Cactus Dahlias were bright accents against deep brown earth, and Apple trees encircled small wooden homes.
We were out until late in the evening, and the luscious greens of the landscape were indelibly imprinted on my mind. It is a landscape without fences (unlike Kent, where I live), and colourful houses are scattered across the flat, grassy land like dice thrown across a luminous, green tablecloth. This is a painting inspired by that day's experience.
My next post will describe getting lost in the forest!
('Latvian Journey,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 80 x 70cm. Part of the Mark Rothko Foundation)

Monday, 1 October 2012

Mark Rothko Plein Air Residency Exhibition

We set up our exhibition at the Daugavpils Museum of Regional Studies and Art (Daugavpils, Latvia) on Tuesday, 25th September (in commemoration of Mark Rothko's birthday). 15 artists took part. I painted 4 canvases but 3 were hung due to a lack of space. I was very pleased that they hung my largest canvas, (pictured with me here). Entitled 'Flying into Riga Airport,' it was all about my excitement as the aircraft tilted on its approach to the airport, and I was suspended above dark forested areas, estuaries, a wide river (the Dauga) and various colourful houses. The swing of the dark shapes interested me, and I worked hard to get that green exactly right. It had to be a very particular green, as I had been impressed by the green painted houses, and the same shade of green was on the Latvian money notes!  One of the Directors came into the studio and found I had a 5 Lat note next to my palette, which made him smile.
Shortly before the end of our studio time, I tried to enliven this green curve by adding another shade that was entirely wrong (too dense), and spent the next day wiping it off with rags soaked in turpentine! My hands were green for some days afterwards, but eventually I was able to re-work the green and it ended up better than it had been. A huge sigh of relief - it was, of the 4 paintings, the one that was a new direction for me, and I was determined to be able to show it! It was also the one chosen for the catalogue.
Unlike most of my fellow artists, who came equipped with laptops, I was unable to update my blog day by day. I will over the next week describe the experience of being on a painting residency, and what I gained from it. For now, I'm including a few photos of this largest painting.
All 4 paintings extended my vision.  I worked on 3 over a course of 4 days, as studio time was very intensive and I was pulled into multi-layered, unfolding arenas. Then on day 5 I had an idea for a 4th painting, about flying over Latvia, and to my surprise I was able to finish this one on our last day of studio time. We had 7 days altogether.
('Flying into Riga Airport,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 100 x 140cm)
It was an amazing experience, and I wish it had been longer. It is the first time, since college, that I have had such a large studio space, and it allowed me to expand and reassess my ideas.
More tomorrow!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Residency in Daugavpils

This is being typed on a friend's computer as I could not find the internet cafe in the end! It was a bit of a fiasco - I went to the University to ask where the internet cafe was, and was directed up to a classroom. On hearing voices inside, I decided not to open the door.
It's been one of the best experiences of my life! The evening I flew into Riga airport, it was raining and rather grey. I took a taxi to the airport hotel and my initial amazement at being in a new place was overtaken by sudden anxiety. I felt rather isolated in that hotel, with miles of forest all around. It was further accentuated by the strange drapes hanging from the sloped ceiling of my room. I had no view at all, only the yellowing tops of silver Birch trees.
The next day I felt more settled. I went back to the airport and had to wait about 5 hours until the minibus came to collect the artists, at 5pm. My first words to the others were, 'Did you bring paint?' It turned out that most of them did, and it's just as well because the paint shop here has limited brands of paint.
Only 4 artists were collected from Riga airport, and we went the short distance to Riga to collect some other artists who were waiting there. The bonus was that we got a walking tour of old Riga.
We began the long journey to Daugavpils at about 7pm. I will never forget that journey through endless forests and green expanses, scattered with houses of all colours. We were passed cups of Balsam, an alcoholic drink, and began to get to know each other. I realised that nearly everyone had brought laptops, and I had views of their work. I was very impressed. The journey took about three hours, and we arrived in darkness. Then we were allocated rooms, and went upstairs to have supper on the 10th floor.
The time has passed very fast, and I am rushing this piece as I have to get back to the studio, but I am going to write more another time. We all have incredible studio spaces, and every artist is working with different themes and issues. I am quite worried about my work, as it is not coming together yet - but I have two more days. What is especially nice is getting up in the morning, putting on Euronews, and having breakfast on the 10th floor, with a panoramic view of the city. Then I walk to the studio, which is only a few minutes down the road, through a park.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Residency in Daugavpils

This is the second time I have started this as the University computer I am on seemed to throw me out. So I lost all my writing! Tomorrow I will try to find the internet cafe. No one spoke English to tell me where it is.
  I am having a great, time packed time. I have a huge studio and am working on 3 paintings. Everyone is stressed as we have to finish them by Sunday! We have had our days filled from 9am till 11pm some days. last night I went to the Theatre! Now I am going to paint.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Interview on Studio Critical

I have just finished doing an interview for a wonderful blog which interviews artists about their work, practice, ideas and studios. I really loved doing this interview! Here is the link:

This may be my last post until my return from Latvia, on September 26th. I hope I can get internet access over there, and then I can write some posts about the residency as it is happening!
('Spring Valley,' oil on canvas, 40 x 30cm)

Monday, 10 September 2012


In around 72 hours I'll be in the air, and on my way to Riga. I am running around doing last minute jobs, terrified I'll forget something. There were lots of unexpected, extra expenses (when are there not, when travelling?), and I have been sorting my husband's travel arrangements too, as he is not computer literate. All of this has meant little time for painting - but the exciting thing is that soon I will have plenty of studio time!

I'm staying overnight at a hotel, near Riga airport. A minibus will collect us the next day, then it's a 280km journey to Daugavpils. We will arrive there sometime after 9pm. The next day we choose our materials and get to see our studios.

It is a big responsibility, as we have to do a presentation, and paint two canvases, but I work well under pressure. There will be lots of art discussion, conferences, lectures, and total immersion in art. I am looking forward to meeting the other participants and have already contacted a few of them via email. I am very impressed by their paintings, and can't wait to exchange ideas.

I have been asked to write a description of the residency, and my experiences, for The Jackdaw, (November/December issue) and also have just been interviewed for an artists' blog, so the residency has already sent out ripples.

It's a world away from that dark, wet January night, when I found my Axis membership had been cut. I was trying to renew my subscription to this artists' database, and found a note saying that I'd failed the review (in spite of being a member since 1999). Tears rolled down my face, and my husband rushed over to see what was wrong. He was, and is, very supportive. Since that time, I've produced a whole new body of work. So my advice to any artists reading this is: Don't be defined by rejection!
('Untitled,' black paint on paper, 29 x 21cm - 'Symphony of Choices,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 80 x 40cm)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Getting Ready to Go

I am starting to panic, as there's so much to do before I go to Lativa on 13th September, for the residency! Jobs include updating my website, re-writing my CV and Statement, and creating a CD of images of my work for a presentation I will have to give on my work.
Today I received the postcards I ordered, which promote my website address. I designed them myself, (with a full colour image on one side) and they came just in time for the residency.  I'm still waiting for some paints I ordered online. We will be given materials but there are certain colours I like to have with me. I've also ordered the largest brush I could find, because I will be working on large canvases.
I am very excited! I'm taking some sketchbooks with watercolours and black and white paintings, as I want to have reference to some recent ideas with me, as a starting point. I also need these to show during the studio visits we will have from critics and artists. But I may end up being deeply affected by the scenery of Latvia, as we will be having excursions out into the landscape, and also Daugavpils may inspire a painting. I may make further watercolours in my hotel room at night, as there will be many ideas from my new environment and there won't be time to put everything onto my two canvases. Some will be kept for my return home.
It will be so challenging. I expect it will change my work in many ways - probably unexpected ways. Being with 14 other artists in a studio is going to extend my way of working, and thinking. I still can't believe I got this residency, and I'm itching to go. I will miss my husband, of course. (He will be going to Cyprus for a few weeks.)
('Inscape,' watercolour on paper, 29 x 21cm)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


I am very honoured to find out that I have been selected for the Mark Rothko residency I applied for in June! It is a marvellous opportunity to have intensive studio time, meet artists from around the world, and live art 24 hours a day for 12 days. I simply can't wait! Fifteen international artists have been chosen for the residency which takes place at the birthplace of Mark Rothko in Daugavpils, Latvia.  We will have hotel accommodation and meals provided, and tours, conferences, art debates, studio visits and a full, artistic programme. It all culminates in an exhibition and catalogue. My obligation is to contribute a painting, and I hope I can leave behind a painting that is worthy of the wonderful experience. All artists have to make 2 paintings and I have already chosen my canvas sizes (large ones), and our materials are provided. I may end up making more than two, as I like to work in series. I am very excited as I realise that this will be a whole new arena, and the experiences of working with other professional artists, with different approaches and ideas, and spending time in an art oriented environment, are going to have a profound affect on my work. I will be flying to Latvia on September 13th and returning on September 26th. The link is below:
I have already booked my flight!
('Paphos walk,' watercolour on paper, 8ins x 11ins)

Friday, 17 August 2012


I arrived back from Cyprus on Wednesday, after a very refreshing and inspiring trip. While I was there, I made a large series of watercolours, black and white paintings, and drawings, from some evolving ideas. Somehow being out of my usual environment allowed me to feel quite liberated. This is one of them. ('Vista,' watercolour on paper, 8ins x 11ins) I can't stop drawing at the moment, so am going to just follow where it takes me - which seems to be into watercolour. Next week, once I've done all the tiresome, post-holiday jobs (washing, tidying, etc), I'll take some of these ideas onto canvas. I do feel incredibly inspired right now, and that something new is emerging.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Summer Sun

As my first wedding anniversary approaches, I found that my latest painting evolved into a memory of my Paphos honeymoon.  We spent many hours walking along the coast, with the lighthouse visible from most of our pathways. It stands like some kind of beacon, and gives you a sense of direction. As I painted, scraped off paint, wiped paint, slashed paint on with my palette knife, gradually I felt the rocks under my feet, and the razor-sharp grasses, and the sparkle of the sea shimmered in front of my eyes. 
My painting became all the more intense as I am going off to Cyprus tomorrow, to celebrate my anniversary on August 5th at this exact place. This painting needs time to sit, as I'm unsure whether I will work on it further. I may come back from Paphos with fresh eyes and make changes, or even start another. That's the wonderful thing about painting - it's fluid, you can change your mind at any time and take a new direction, or not!
('Paphos Lighthouse DeConstructed,'  oil and acrylic on board, 61 x 91cm - in progress)

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Saatchi Online surprise

I was very surprised and happy last week to find out that a painting I'd entered into the Saatchi Showdown competition has gone through to the next stage,  a recent painting entitled 'Swings, Roundabouts and Ceanothus.'  I've entered work before into their regular Showdown, where paintings are chosen by the public and 300 go through to another stage, but never had any success.  From almost 3000, I got into the next 300! Now it's the turn of the Saatchi judges, and I have to wait and see. From there, 30 are selected for the final round.  At that point, an artist will select two artists, and one will get the top prize. I'm doubtful I will make it to the next thirty, as I'm not sure my work will be seen by the judges as truly Surrealist (the category of the competition).  It is Surrealist in a way, as I've overlapped and embedded swings, roundabouts and the lovely blue Ceanothus bushes into the painting, and the underlying theme is the swings and roundabouts of life - with the blue Ceanothus of hope.  But it may merely be seen as a mix of impressionism and abstract expressionism.  But at the least, it is lovely to know that people voted for my work.
Life has emulated the theme of my painting this week as it's been a textured mix of good and bad. I was turned down for the Cork Street Open Exhibition. My husband said, 'I told you not to bother, they only want realistic work,' but I'd been tempted by seeing abstract-type paintings in previous exhibitions there. What was truly disgusting was that they didn't even email me the results. My understanding was that we would all be informed by email (this is what they had notified us), and in the end I had to go on the website to find that my name was not included in the chosen ones.  The fees were the highest of any (even higher than the Royal Academy submission), being £38 for two works. I'd submitted two of my best, and I was furious that they didn't respect artists enough to email the results. In no other area of purchase would you pay and get dropped entirely. It's a kind of theft, in my opinion. No one asks you to enter, and it's always a subjective (or biased) process, but any other open submission I've entered has always either emailed or sent the results by post. I am thinking to write an open letter to an art magazine on this theme of the way artists are being taken for a ride!
('Swings, Roundabouts and Ceanothus,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 80cm)

Monday, 2 July 2012


There are no signposts saying 'This is the right way.'  I have often wished there were, but that would take away from the broad, exciting sense of journey!
I worked on three new canvases this past week, and in the arid, unposted landscape I found some beacons of encouragement. Friends on Facebook left positive responses to some new work, and noticed glimmers of a new direction. I never wonder am I a good or bad artist? but as the oil paint congeals into a colourless, meaningless paste, support can help you to at least feel positive enough to scrape it off and start again. A Facebook friend, who used to be a dealer/gallery owner left me a comment saying not to be upset by selection committee's responses to my work, and added that he thinks I am 'a brilliant artist.' I will hold on to this when I finally get the courage to open the email from the Cork Street Open Exhibition selectors, saying whether I have been short-listed for the next stage! I received an email from them last week (a circular to all artists who submitted work), saying that we must remember that responses to art are always 'subjective.'  In other words, the £38 I spent was like a throw of the dice!
I am still waiting for the results of my submission to the Latvian residency.  I sent a large number of emails regarding the submission, as I do not have Powerpoint on my computer so couldn't send a Powerpoint presentation, and though I sent 10 images in an email, and a CD of images by post, I was told that this wasn't enough. So I spent hours finding out how to put together a rudimentary slideshow, and attached this to an email. They received it and praised my 'persistant efforts,' and within such a competitive arena I can feel that I did my best. A year ago I wouldn't even have considered applying for such a residency.
My application for funding from Artstap came back negative. No matter - there are plenty of other funding opportunities out there.
('Edges,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 50 x 70cm)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Distant Horizons

My mind is full of thoughts of travelling, both in my work and physically, so I am adding a painting which encapsulates my sense of urgency to move forwards.
Travel and change dominated my week. I have just applied for a residency abroad, which sounds incredibly exciting, and would allow a big development in my work, and also open up new horizons. It is at the Mark Rothko residencies, in Daugavpils, Latvia. It involves making two paintings there, for an exhibition, and includes the use of a studio (great!). Materials and accommodation are provided. Of course, with these international residencies, competition is huge, but I feel in a stronger, more confident position to apply - so we will see what happens!
I have also applied for an art award, with the intention to make a series of large canvases to exhibit in London. My streams of drawings and compositional ideas are crying out to be explored on a larger arena, and while I believe I put forward a good statement, there again competition is stiff! I am currently very restricted by lack of funds.
The exhibition at the Llewellyn Alexander gallery is now open (and my watercolour is on their website), and the Kings Hill Project is also open. So I am working on three new paintings, and finishing two that feel unresolved.
You just have to self-promote, and I have put my work on two new websites, and put work for sale on the saatchi online website (as prints and originals) With my net cast wide, I hope new opportunites are netted.
('Nicosia Evening,' oil on board, 122 x  61cm)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Jubilee Celebrations and Dreams

Half-term week coincided with the Jubilee celebrations, which meant painting was squeezed right out of my day. Though I didn't take part in any street parties, I was still finishing off party food from my birthday on 31st May (a party prepared by my husband). The past few days passed in a haze of juggling housework with looking after my niece, interspersed with colourful images of the Jubilee events on the tv. Wistfully, I wondered what it must be like to have the world at your feet, and to have the potential to go anywhere and do anything you dream of.
I liken my flat to a station platform, as my sister and her daughter drift in and out at all times of the day, my husband prepares our food early in the afternoon to avoid the first meal sitting (my mother, sister and niece), and then my other sister joins in the noisy dance in a cramped space. My tiny,temporary painting space disappeared.
Thankfully, my painting materials arrived on my birthday, so I stretched another canvas and began a new painting yesterday - an 80cm by 40cm paintscape. My husband remarked how much happier I always seem when I am able to paint - and then on our walks (in torrential rain this week), we scheme and plan for the money we must find for our many creative projects, and of course a studio! In darker moments I wonder if we will make it, as the news is full of gloom and doom, and our dreams seem far away. But you have to keep on dreaming.
('Taking Flight,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 81cm by 45cm, 2012)

Monday, 28 May 2012


This past week has been so fragmented, with the builders requiring that we move all the potted plants into the centre of our patio area, so they could re-paint window frames and whitewash the walls, and I have not been able to continue my large canvas or finish several that need more work. Added to that was a diagnosis of Tennis Elbow, which has slowed me further! But on Saturday I went out into the land and painted. My husband kept saying, 'Go carefully, you are only making two paintings,' as he was worried I'd over-exert my arm, but it was a delight to work in situ and on such a glorious sunny day. My watercolours are always a bit different in character to my studio work, but I see them as a gathering of visual elements, which then get digested and absorbed into my inner world. Then when I start one of my 'Paintscapes,' these elements re-emerge, though not always with a direct connection.  At that point of departure, the colours and forms become a re-invention, and I find myself surfing on meanings.
(Top: 'Summer Colour,' watercolour and gouache, 16ins by 12ins. Bottom, 'Shadows,' watercolour and gouache, 16ins by 12ins)

Monday, 21 May 2012


In the same way that matter has an attraction to matter, there seems to be a similar magnetic force to events, dates and situations. Why is it that dates so often collide, or form sticky groups within an otherwise unworried filofax? An artist friend suddenly found two Private Views of exhibitions his work is in have popped up on the same day in different parts of the country, necessitating a choice of which to attend. Random groupings seem to have their own underlying energies and life. (It's something I like to think informs my artwork too.)
For the first time ever, I've found myself preparing paintings for delivery to two separate exhibitions in the same week. The dates for delivery to the Not The Royal Academy Exhibition (London), are 21st, 22nd and 23rd May. Today my 10 paintings are being collected for the Kings Hill Project, and on Wednesday I have to fit delivery of my watercolour in between other obligations in a busy week. I'm hoping the attraction of these growing numbers will increase, and pull more opportunities my way!
As I will have more room space, I began a larger canvas (120cm by 80cm), hoping to expand my approach and challenge myself as an artist. I love working on the smaller canvases, but the large ones demand a lot of consideration and 'holes' show up more. In the past I have painted very large canvases, but space restrictions prevented this for a few years. I hung the new, untitled canvas in the bedroom, to surprise my husband on his return from Cyprus.
Top photo: My new in-progress canvas, on the right, with a Blue Baths painting. Below, a close-up. The colours are deeper - but I'm looking forward to tackling it further this week.

Friday, 11 May 2012


I was delighted to receive confirmation of my inclusion in the Kings Hill Project exhibition. This is one of the paintings going on show, probably from 21st May. (That is also the date I have to take my watercolour to London, for the Not The Royal Academy Exhibition.)  Meanwhile, I have been unable to do much painting this week due to scaffolding going up very noisily around our block of flats. My tiny patio area is now full of fat metal poles, which straddle my pots of plants and stretch up four floors to the roof.  The three foot wide planks have blocked most of the light into my bedroom and living room. This, in combination with days of torrential rain and continual greyness, made it impossible to judge my colours.  When I lie on my bed, I am now looking out onto a forest of grey poles. I look in vain between the chinks for the unfolding spring leaves I know exist in the outer world.
Today I will try to paint, as men walk past the window carrying more metal poles and planks.
('The Hill,'  Oil and acrylic on canvas, 80cm by 80cm )

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A Viewing.

     I was up at 6.20am, as usual. I helped dress Alice (my niece) and took her up to her waiting school taxi at 7.15am. A group of men arrived to put scaffolding up around our block of flats. As the clink of heavy metal poles echoed outside the window, I was running around with canvases in my hands, placing them in positions around the room, in preparation for viewing by my art agent, June. I assumed that the three hours I had before her arrival was ample time, but it was scarcely enough! I selected 25 canvases, and after trimming off rebellious strands of canvas, labelling them, whitening a few unprimed edges, and displaying them against tables, on sofas, and in front of the TV, it was with a few minutes to spare.

June chose 10 paintings. We made a list of the titles and measurements and prices. I realised that I need to paint more large canvases, as June likes my larger paintings and feels that they really suit a corporate environment. I am also very happy working large, as the scale suits my use of colour. I felt rather awkward explaining why I couldn't part with the two huge canvases on the living room walls. One is about the memory of Nicosia and my late partner Tom, and has huge sentimental value. The other, a large (140cm by 140cm) canvas about women in the Turkish Baths in Nicosia, I had promised my husband I would hold on to!  But the positive aspect is that June knows I will be painting some more 'biggies' soon.

Now it is a matter of waiting for confirmation that the work will go on show at the Kings Hill Project.
(My paintings, scattered around the living room this morning!)

Sunday, 6 May 2012


Life is incredibly busy right now! My art agent is coming to select paintings for the Kings Hill Project on Wednesday. The selection will be awaiting approval from the people at KHP, and I hope my work ends up going on display. But it's one step nearer to exhibiting. It's also very positive as it means I will clear some space and have a place to start the large canvas I'm about to stretch up.
I have found two more galleries which are interested in viewing my paintings, so I will be preparing the images and my statement, and emailing them this week. I'm also submitting two paintings to the Cork Street Open exhibition, again an online submission. Last year I was turned down, but I feel more confident about the paintings I'm submitting this year. Of course, it all depends on the selectors.
Then at the end of this month I have to deliver my watercolour to the Llewellyn Alexander gallery in London, for the 'Not The Royal Academy Exhibition.'
I've also found out that I can publish my Cyprus novel on Kindle, once I have formatted it and prepared it digitally and met their requirements. I have tried to get my novel published, but nowadays Publishing Houses are not the only option. The internet has opened up many more opportunities for artists and writers. It has immense creative potential and means that there will be a wider range of talent on display.
So, I am approaching this week with a lot of optimism and energy.
('Square Choices,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 45cm by 45cm, 2012)

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

It Goes With The Job!

I'm still waiting! Silence is never good. From past experience, when you are accepted for a show, the answer usually comes quickly. In this case, the selection is not up to my agent, and it's some comfort to know that she likes my work enough to put me forward  for this exhibition. It's often a case of selectors choosing work that 'fits' together within a theme or style. When I lived in Cyprus, I helped set up shows, so know how important the positioning of paintings can be. Also, in exhibitions which are narrowed down to a few artists, it's important that the works complement each other.
It all goes with the job, of course! Recently I read an interview with an artist I admire, and I was jolted by his remark that if you weren't getting at least 15 rejections in a year, you weren't trying hard enough! Being restricted by time and commitments is a familiar cry, one I made on reading this, but you have to keep sending off applications, waiting, and trying over and over. To any other artists reading this, who are feeling disheartened, my advice is 'don't give up!'
So, with this in mind, I found some more links to galleries on my friends' Facebook pages, and re-wrote my art statement (a good thing to do regularly, as one's work evolves), and photographed my latest work. Three more applications will go off this week. Only another ten until I've filled the year's quota.
('Symphony of Choices,' 2012.  Oil and acrylic on canvas, 80cm by 40cm)

Saturday, 28 April 2012


It's been a tough week. My husband went away to Cyprus for a fortnight, to visit his sick mother. I told myself that I could fill the loss of his presence by painting more hours than I already do. Then my arm injury flared up, causing intense, relentless pain. I couldn't paint, I couldn't even wash the dishes. Most depressingly, I was unable to stretch up 2 new, large canvases that I was longing to start. Drawings on scraps of paper and envelope backs are scattered around my flat, waiting to unfold onto canvas in glorious technicolour! But the positive aspect (and I always try to see the positive), was that a troublesome painting I was forced to put aside suddenly shouted out at me a few days later that it was finished!
So with copious quantities of painkillers in my system, I trawled the internet for potential galleries. I found a number of new galleries in the UK to approach, and (most exciting) several New York galleries that will look at your work and hold it on file, for future group shows. It's so much easier to communicate with galleries nowadays, and to send images, and this week I will be applying to all the galleries on my list. Sometimes I believe that my colours will fit the States better than they do here, as there seems to be a tendency towards a dry, grey realism. I have given up applying to local galleries, as inevitably my cards go in the bin, no matter how polite the owner is towards me. Generally, colour is not seen as a 'serious' subject, but merely as adornment.
Now I'm waiting to hear if my work has been accepted for the Kings Hill Project, another corporate show. I'm really praying for this one, as it would be great exposure, and their website would have links to mine. My agent asked me recently if I have done any new work, since the Gainsborough House show in December. I have around 18 new paintings you can select from, I told her. I'm checking my Blackberry every hour, hoping to find a confimation email from her.
('Permission,'  Oil and acrylic on canvas, 45cm by 45cm.  The painting I had to put aside.)

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Art of Showing.

As more shops and companies close daily, galleries too are affected by the economic uncertainty and it becomes harder in the UK to show your work, if you are still an 'emerging' artist. But I have begun applying again to London galleries, ever optimistic that I will find gallery representation. It has to happen very soon! I need homes for the endless stacks of canvases that we manoeuvre around daily. Our space resembles a labyrinth. I'm always saying to someone, 'Be careful, that picture's wet,' as trousers or skirts hover in front of lines of new paintings.

My work was viewed by an art agent a year ago, and in December she chose 11 paintings for a show in Crawley, at Gainsborough House, for DMH Stallard (Solicitors). I've begun painting predominantly on canvas (which I stretch myself) as they can be hung without framing, which is so terribly expensive and has prevented me from taking part in many shows. My agent had suggested I stop painting on boards, as she could collect canvases at short notice. She took the paintings that day, and hung them. The great advantage about this kind of show is that people in such a busy environment will pass your work every day.

My husband Thanos had never seen my work on show before in the UK, and we made the journey to Crawley with some excitement. One of my large paintings greeted us in the main foyer of the very plush, large office complex. As we wandered around, my paintings lined the corridors, decorated the large conference room, and were dotted around several offices. It was a perfect environment, and the lighting was great. Two other artists shared the space, but my work alone adorned that conference room.

The show was on for a month, and I agreed with my agent that next time she takes work, she will get a larger vehicle to carry my 2 metre canvases. Three huge, colourful canvases in the conference room would have had maximum impact.

(Photos: My paintings on show - Thanos with some paintings, the conference room, me in the foyer.)