Creative Boost for 2023

Back in 2021 I completed CVP (Creative Visionary Program). It was one of those courses I’d looked at for a while but never taken the plunge.  In part, my reluctance was that for an online course it has a higher price tag than most. But the main reason was because of the time commitment.  CVP is an intensive 3 month course, and as someone who has a full time job I wasn’t sure I could give it the focus it needed. 

However, I’m so pleased I signed up because that course has given me so much: from a deeper understanding of my motivations and inspiration, to art techniques that have really moved me forward. But more than anything, confidence as an artist.

If, like me, you work full time – rest assured. The tutorials are watch on demand and the other calls are optional and available on playback. Plus I promise you’ll be so engrossed you’ll make the time!

The programme only runs once a year and I’m delighted to say I’ve taken the leap again.  Last year I watched from the side lines as many artists I follow on Instagram enrolled and I suffered from serious FOMO. But it wasn’t the right timing for me.  Business was just bouncing back from the lockdowns and pandemic and I knew I wouldn’t make the most of it.  But I did promise myself that 2023 I’d enrol again as part of the alumni.

The reason for this blog?  Well its that time of year again.  Art2Life, who run the course, have just announced the dates for their FREE workshops.  These are absolutely free with no commitment so if you’re up for a creative boost or just curious to find out what all the hype is about why not sign up.  You’ll find all the information you need here.

Even if you don’t intend progressing to the paid for course you’ll get so much from these sessions.

Dates you need to know….. It starts on February 13th but registration is open now! 


  • Video 1 (Design) is released on Monday, Feb 13, 6am PST
  • Video 2 (Value) is released on Tuesday, Feb 14, 6am PST
  • Video 3 (Color) is released on Thursday, Feb 16, 6am PST

Hopefully I’ll see some of your work on Instagram or in the private Facebook community!

Hello 2023

First blog post of 2023.  A year full of hope and new possibilities.

I hope you all had a restful break.  I had a whole week off work. Which meant time to see and catch up with family, and more time to paint.  Double bonus!  The tree was down and decorations packed away before New Year’s Eve which is my norm.  That meant I could welcome in 2023 afresh with a de-cluttered house.

New Year Planning

So plans for 2023?  I had high hopes of having completed my 2023 planning.  I did manage to complete my review of 2022 and have the bare bones of a plan for the next 12 months. But have a bit more work to do.  I’m saving it for my next business trip later this month. That involves a couple of four hour train journeys and evenings in the hotel.  I am toying with a few different ideas for projects and series of paintings. 

My plan was to start immediately over Christmas. That way I’d have a project underway by 1st January. But I am still creating work for an art fair in March, so have a few paintings to finish off.  A couple of my Beach Life series are still available so I have decided to take those along to the fair.  But as most have sold I thought I’d create a couple more in the series in some different sizes.  I’ve opted for a couple of 20 x 20cm squares which will offer someone a little burst of colour!

Also,I had an urge to revisit some still life paintings. These weren’t on my initial ideas list – so a bit of swerve ball.  So far I’ve filled several spreads in my sketchbook with thumbnail layouts and sketches.  And gessoed a load of canvases and boards.

My plan is to make a start on a new series – ‘An Ordinary Life‘. I’ve been sketching various items that I have an home. From radios to kitchen equipment and ingredients. So this will keep me occupied for the next few weeks.

New Year, New Challenge

I also thought I’d kick start the year with an Instagram Challenge.  This one was set by Tara Leaver. She is an artist, teacher and creator of the Happy Artist Studio. It’s an easy start to the new year.  21 prompts to get you thinking and to add a bit of diversity to your Instagram feed.  It also allows you to keep posting whilst you’re in the early stages of painting.

I do like a IG challenge.  It provides a bit of structure and direction when you’re out of ideas. And the big plus on social media is that it opens you up to new accounts. Both to follow and who might be interested in following you.  Most challenges come with specific hashtags, this one if #21daysinmyartworldchallenge.  If you follow the tag you get to see the work of a load of artists you may not have previously discovered.

All Best for 2023

So just a short update from me today. Wishing you all the best for 2023!

Art on the Go

Now that I’m back to bi-monthly commuting for work, my studio time has taken a bit of a hit.  Especially when you combine that with the shorter days in the winter. Winter always makes early morning and evening sessions a bit of a challenge.  So, I have been playing around with ways that I can still get my art fix when not at home.

My Working Week

I generally spend 4-6 nights staying in a hotel near the office. This is split over a couple of weeks each month.  Most of time I use the evenings to catch up on emails and general admin. But recently I can feel that its taken its toll. It makes my time there feel like 96 hour work day so I need something to switch off. 

In the past I’ve taken my sketchbook. But it always feels like a bit of compromise with such limited art materials. Plus sitting in a bland hotel box room isn’t the most inspiring.  Now I think I may have the perfect ‘relatively’ mess free solution.  Grid journaling! Over the past few weeks that and the watching the world cup have just about made the bland hotel room bearable.

An artist friend (thank you Sue) posted some images of grid journaling that she had recently created.  They were beautiful little collage squares. I left a comment to say how much I liked them.  And she responded and told me that she’d just completed a free online course by Kellee Wynne of Colour Crush fame.  So of course I had to check it out.

Grid Journaling

It’s a great little course for a burst of inspiration!  Six online videos where Kellee takes you through her process for grid journals.  She touches on the various art materials she uses.  Talks about mindset and generally just gives a window into her practice.

I was a bit reluctant to start something new.  I’m still working on my ‘Life’s a Carnival’ series and didn’t want to get distracted by a shiny new thing. But it’s a short course so thought I’d give it go.  And I’m so pleased that I did.  Although, inevitably it has become a distraction, albeit a pleasing one.

You won’t get any major new revolutions but it is a great little state break to remind you not to over think.

 I started a new sketchbook that has been sitting on the shelf for a while. And whilst watching TV, filled it with lots of little boxes just calling out for some colour. As instructed I avoided the ruler and exact measurements and instead used various square or rectangular objects lying at hand.

Collage Paper

It is worth taking the time to create some handmade papers. I do like mixing these up with torn magazines, books, wrapping paper, etc. But creating hand painted paper gives you so much more control of the colours so you can get some lovely harmony.

Having completed a few spreads, mixing collage and painted. This is now my warm up exercise each weekend when I have a day in the studio.  I’ve already discovered some beautiful new colour combinations.  And best of all, discovered a great little exercise for evenings in a hotel room!  I switched my gloss medium for some good old fashioned Pritt stick, created a wad of hand-painted collage papers and I can cut, tear and stick to my hearts content. Even on the go!

Why not check it out and give it a try?

It’sssss Christmas! Well Almost

I love this time of year as we’re gearing up for Christmas.  I know many people get irritated when you start to hear Christmas tracks on the radio or in stores weeks ahead of the actual event but I love it!  If I could I’d put the tree up at the end of November to extend the excitement.  But I’m also one of the first to take the tree down after the 25th.  The tree rarely makes it through to the 31st in our house as I like to start the new year afresh.

Edinburgh at Christmas

This weekend we got into the Christmas spirit with a day trip to Edinburgh. Despite the rail companies trying to scupper the trip we had a fabulous day. We visited the Christmas market, enjoyed some good food and of course great company!

The lights were amazing! If you get the chance I’d definitely recommend a trip to the Dome. The market isn’t the biggest but combined with the shopping already on offer in Edinburgh there’s plenty to keep you entertained.

Buying Gifts

Another favourite of mine are the gift list ideas that start to appeal in magazines from November.  The ‘For Him’ and ‘For Her’ lists rarely match the interests of people I’m buying for, but there are always a few suggestions that spark other ideas.  It does however, always strike me that art rarely makes the cut.  And maybe that’s right, after all art is such a personal choice but I would like to see it appear as a suggestion.

So what do you need to consider if you are thinking about investing in a piece of art….

Buy What You Love

Ok, if you’re buying art for a future investment then I guess that’s a bit different.  I understand that for many art is a commodity like gold, but I really don’t understand those who buy pieces and then lock them away to sell at a future date.  Surely the whole reason to buy art is to bring joy to your life??? 

Over the years I’ve bought art by many different artists and despite owning many for years I still love each piece.  When we moved into our new house back in November 2019 my favourite job was deciding what paintings would hang in each room.  So if you’re thinking of buying some art for yourself or your spouse buy something you love!

Mix It Up

There are so many great artists out there I’m a big fan of having lots of different styles of art in the house.  Unless you really want to display sets of art, which do look fantastic, I would encourage you to go for different styles, different mediums and different subjects.  Difference gives you contrast and that grabs attention.  I love the fact that I have weird and wonderful sculptures alongside more classical figurative paintings.  Abstracts alongside portraits.

Be Confident

I know that buying art can be daunting.  The first time I bought an original piece of art I umm-ed and agh-ed about it for a few weeks.  Unlike buying an IKEA print it is a long term investment.  But if you love it you’re unlikely to tire of seeing it each time you walk in the room.  And that cost, for years of pleasure, is a lot easier to justify.   An original piece is also unique.  You can be confident that you won’t walk into your friends house and see the same piece.  And as a unique piece it is guaranteed to be a talking point. 

A painting can absolutely transform a room – even a small piece can add a pop of colour or change the mood.  So if you’re tired of the same old prints and you want to make a statement buy some art!  Plus you can be proud of supporting the arts.

Do Your Research

If you’re nervous reach out to the artist.  Almost every painting I have sold has come at the end of a conversation, either in person or online. 

I guarantee no artist will object to you asking them questions about their painting – what was the inspiration?  What is the medium?  Is it part of a series?  Where have they exhibited?  Etc.  And if online and you can’t see it in person ask for more photos or videos.  Many of us artists use apps to showcase how a painting might look in a room.  They are a really useful tool but they don’t always give you the best feel for how the painting looks in the actual frame so ask for more photos.

Take it Slowly

If you’re not ready to dive in with a big purchase ease yourself into collecting. If you really want to build up a collection of art there are no rules. You don’t need to kick off with a hefty price tag. Why not treat yourself to a small piece. Maybe pop along to a local art fair or check out some artists on Instagram – there are some fantastic artists around.

Here’s a few to get you started…..

  • Mixed media artist Sue Johnson creates some fantastic collage pieces
  • Check out the beautiful work of Julia Weston at Shed Studio
  • If you love atmospheric landscapes then Paula Dunn‘s oil and cold wax paintings are stunning
  • If like me you love energetic paintings then Karen Stamper‘s work might be just for you
  • For those who love stylised nautical paintings Stuart’s work in worth checking out
  • and finally you can’t go wrong with a colourful collage from Emma Davis

I could go on and on – so much great art out there!

Starting a New Series of Work

I’m feeling really excited about my art at the moment. And much of that excitement has to do with a new project I’m working on.

After finishing my Beach Life series, I was in that frustrating phase of exploring lots of ideas. The exploration is a lot of fun!  But I was struggling to settle on what to focus on next. 

I started a few still lifes. Played about with a few limited palette abstracts. And even started some new smaller works on paper. But nothing felt quite right.  Then I started working on some really old boards that I abandoned around the time I did CVP in 2021. 

What has emerged has given me that boost of motivation.  So much so that I’m even back to a ‘little and often’ practice through the week.  If you’re an artist and you haven’t tried this I’d thoroughly recommend it. Little and often makes me braver with the mark making!


At this stage I don’t know if these paintings will actually turn into a series. I have one painting that I think I’m happy with – which I’ve initially titled Kaleidoscopic.  I still need to live with it for a while to see if it’s finished. But I like where it is now. 


Another painting which is getting there but needs a bit of calming down. Again a working title at the moment – The Merry Go Round.

The Merry Go Round

And a further 3 pieces that are starting to emerge. Although they are still very much in the chaotic and ugly stage. So no photos just yet.

The idea for Carnival was sparked by my dipping back in to the Breadcrumbs challenge. I reminded to focus on something personal.  Something that had meaning to me. So I revisited my inspiration board. I originally started pursuing a Wonderland theme but this quickly morphed into Circus. And then Carnival. 

Bizarrely I’m not a fan of a circus. Nor am I particularly bothered by an actual fun fair. But I do love the imagery surrounding both.  There is something really seducing about the balance of the fun and the sinister associated with carnivals.  Maybe it’s the clowns or just too many creepy films but whatever it is I’m embracing it!

Working in a Series

I’m sure if you google working this, you’ll find long lists of do’s and don’ts. Rules that you’re supposed to follow when working on a series.   I don’t really know the official do’s and don’ts but here’s my take on what’s important.

For me a series is a cohesive body of work. By that I mean that it feels like each piece belongs together. Maybe it’s the theme. Maybe it’s the colour palette. The same technique – if you’re doing something unusual. Or maybe, a combination of all three. But there is something in your gut that tells you that they are a set.

I didn’t set out with the intention of creating a series although I have enjoyed working on Beach Life.  When working on a series I’ve noticed I have a sense of momentum. And I think this is down to having a consistent theme.  I don’t have that awful stage of starring at a white canvas or cradle board wondering what to do next.  When I was working on Beach Life, I actually struggled limiting the number of paintings I was starting. As the ideas seemed to just pour out.  And this is really important to me.  Firstly I’m impatient. Secondly, I have a full time day job, so my time in the studio is limited to evenings or weekends.  When I do have time to paint I like to just dive in and get started. 

Selecting a Theme

Having a theme helps me focus. But its important that the theme isn’t too broad. What I need from this is direction.  Equally it can’t be too narrow so that I run out of ideas after the first couple of pieces. 

I also like being able to do a bit of research. I often start with sketchbook scribbles.  With Beach Life it was biomorphic shapes. With Carnival it was shapes and patterns.  This also makes me feel less guilty when I’m watching TV, after a full day at work. Spending a bit of time researching ideas or scribbling down thoughts makes me feel more productive. 

Oodles of Doodles

My initial thoughts on Carnival were to capture the feel of a vintage carnival.  Playful and fun but a bit shabby and jaded.  I wanted to avoid the sharp colours that you’d usually associate with this. Bright reds, white, black and a golden yellow and look instead at more muted tones.  Not that I have anything against black, white and red – in fact I love these colours together.  I created a bold abstract about a year ago and still have this on my studio table.  And am considering whether this could lead to a body of work.  So it is a colour palette I may return to.  But for Carnival I definitely felt more drawn to complex pinks and blues.

Combining Contrasts

I also wanted to play with some contrasts – not just in colour and values but also in shapes and marks.  I love loose, undefined marks but too many and the painting lacks focus.  With Carnival I wanted to combine the loose with more defined elements. I have chosen to play with traditional circus-like typography. As well as more defined shapes associated with the theme.  As you can see diamond patterns and circles play heavily in those I have already painted.

No Plan, No Problem

Although I have a plan around the theme itself, I try to avoid focusing on what each painting will eventually look like.  I have in the past tried to sketch out compositions for paintings. But when I do this the finished piece tends to look a bit lifeless.  I miss the happy accidents that seems to happen when you just go with the flow.  There is an energy that you get when you just allow a painting to unfold.  Planned pieces feel (and look) a bit like painting by numbers.

Whilst I don’t have a plan I do follow a process of sorts.  Stage 1 is to ‘mess up’ the board. Scribbles in crayons, charcoal, or even ink sticks. Which I then smudge with water so it looks like a drippy mess. Followed by a few sessions of play.  For me play is usually laying down paint. And just responding to what I see without any real thought to how the finished painting might look. 

After a couple of weeks of play, I generally have a base layer that I’m happy with.  Most of this will end being painted over. But every now and then you get some beautiful little areas that survive in the finished piece. Or spark an idea.  And even if it doesn’t make it, the depth you get with this approach really appeals to me.

Watch This Space

So, still in its infancy but I’m hopeful that this will evolve into a set of new paintings.

Art Workshops

It has been several years since I had the pleasure of attending an in-person art workshop.  I had booked a workshop during that weird time post lockdown where COVID was still high. As a result events were cancelling and postponing. When the invite popped up in my diary for ‘Atmospheric Landscapes’ it was a lovely surprise!

So last weekend I was feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation.  What if I couldn’t do it?  What if everyone was brilliant and I was rubbish?  The usual sorts of self-doubt.  Not helped by turning up at the venue a day early due to a diary mix up but of course it was fantastic!

Atmospheric Landscapes

The class, hosted at The Biscuit Factory art gallery, was led by artist Paula Dunn who made everyone feel incredibly welcome. She took the time to explain and demonstrate the products and techniques.  And having viewed some of her work at the gallery and on her website she is clearly a master of this!

I’ve always wanted to try oil and cold wax but never got round to it so it was a perfect way to try this out without investing in a load of new art supplies.

What I love about Art Workshops
  1. I learn something new.  Even if they are covering art techniques I regularly use I always pick up new ideas or approaches. 
  2. Opportunity to learn from a professional. I’m a sucker for YouTube artist videos. But they really don’t stack up against physically having someone show you how to do things.  And having the opportunity to ask questions, get them to review your work, etc is priceless
  3. I leave with a finished piece.  It might just be a diddy piece of paper but there is something so satisfying about leaving a session with pieces you have created
  4. Efficient with Time.  If you have a day job, as I do, finding time for art can be a challenge.  With workshops you make a commitment. You pay your cash and pop it in your diary and make sure that diary is free to really focus on the task at hand.
  5. Mindfulness. It’s good for my state of mind to be completely focused on one thing, rather than my usual juggling
  6. Build connections with like-minded people. Ok I may not have left with everyone’s phone number. But I did make a few extra IG connections. And as Newcastle isn’t a big place, hopefully I may bump into the other attendees at art fairs or future workshops.
Finished pieces

So if you haven’t already, why not check to see if there are any workshops at venues near you that grab your attention!

Summertime and the Living is Easy

It’s been a while since I posted a blog so apologises if you’re one of my followers.  Since starting my monthly newsletter programme I’m finding it a challenge to keep up with social media, blogs, newsletters and website updates.  Sadly my website and blog have missed out as a result.  But over the next few months I plan to change that and get a bit more focus on my website.

I hope you have all enjoyed the gorgeous hot weather we have had this summer.  As we head towards September it feels like summer is coming to an end.  On the plus side that means we can look forward to some amazing Autumn skies – one of my favourite seasons!  

Love the Summer Months

Sunshine, bright blue skies, busy beaches and long walks what’s not to love?  But I do find it a weird time for my art. 

There is so much inspiration, and the longer and lighter days seem to give me more time.  However, the conflict between locking myself away in my studio and getting out and about, as well as indulging in a bit of sunbathing is a constant challenge.  I need to get better at sketching and painting outdoors – maybe one for the ‘To Do’ list for summer 2023!

One solution I’ve found is immersing myself in art books. Reading those that I have only flicked through previously – I have a lot of these on shelves around the house!  And looking through others for ideas and scribbling copious amounts of notes in one of my sketchbooks is a great way to spend a lazy day in the sun, but still feel a bit productive.

Alice Neel
Sketchbook Play

What I do tend to do during the summer months is a lot more sketchbook work. My sketchbooks are completely overflowing. Spending so much time working like this during the summer is not only fun, but also really helps me learn and experiment.

I used to worry about how my sketchbooks looked. I’m sure we’ve all been influenced by videos on Instagram and YouTube of pristine sketchbooks where every page is a mini master piece. I feel that I’ve overcome this fear this summer – #WIN. I can tell you now, my sketchbooks certainly aren’t pristine! There are a few sections that are neat and tidy. Generally where I’ve glued in pieces I did on loose paper. But the majority of my books have pages I love; pages that have been a lot less successful; pages of scribbled notes and all are usually ink or paint stained.

My sketchbooks are a safe place where I can experiment with new techniques and are also where I can plan and practice. I’ve also started doing a lot more writing in these this year.

This month I also created a few mini concertina sketchbooks so have been having some fun playing around with these. I have bought a few sketchbooks in this format but I find I am looser in the handmade ones. The fact that its just scraps of paper that can be easily replaced seems to help me take a few more risks.

Whilst I’m not usually a huge fan of video this format does lend itself well to reels so I posted a couple on Instagram. Check the Stepping Stones one out here.

Out and About

Summer is also a busy time for visiting new places, or revisiting old favourites.

I finally made it down to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  So left with lots of ideas and scribbles in my little guide for artists I wanted to look up afterwards.  I have to be honest, I didn’t enjoy this year’s exhibition quite as much as previous ones.  It somehow felt less joyful.  I appreciate it was a serious theme but in previous years with similarly important themes the work has felt more subtle.

And we also had a day at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  If you haven’t visited I’d definitely recommend it!  Unfortunately we visited on a day when it was crazy hot so didn’t get around as much of the 500+ acres I’d have liked but it is a fantastic day out.  I love the mix of works on display, there really is something for everyone.  From the classical to the weird and wonderful that just makes you smile.

I was particularly drawn to the Barbara Hepworth pieces which are deceptively simple looking, but beautiful and perfectly composed and the Robert Indiana works they currently have are stunning.

And it was an absolute bonus to be able to see an exhibition from an artist I admire and follow on Instagram – Janine Burrows.

Work in Progress

Despite the glorious weather I have found time to work on a couple of bigger paintings over the summer.  I started out with three but one has fallen behind a bit.  My inspiration started back in May when we were on holiday in Italy.  The colours of the Amalfi sea were intoxicating!  So different from the sea I stare out at each day.  Bright turquoises, brilliant blues, warming greens and even muted yellow tones.  I mixed up a range of colours and started to play.  But I didn’t get too far.

During the particular hot patch of weather we had in the UK I started to see those colours in the North Sea, along with richer, darker blues.  So, I now have two paintings in my studio which I’m still contemplating.  I think the smaller one 60 x 60cm may be almost finished but the larger 1m square needs a bit more work.

If you like my work and would like to follow my studio progress, don’t forget you can sign up for my monthly newsletter here.

Art Commissions

In April’s studio newsletter I talked about the fact that I had recently finished some commissions.  Selling a piece of your art is always such a buzz. But commissions are very different from selling something you have already created.  There is an element of risk that kicks in when you know you are creating art for a specific buyer. Will they love it?  Can you translate what’s in your head onto canvas?  How will the collaborative bit of the process go?

I’ve been lucky to have had a few commissions over the past 12 months. And the only thing I can say is that every single one of them has been completely different. Just like the buyers!

My First Commissions

The first commission I did was terrifying.  My buyer didn’t really have an idea of what they wanted beyond the size, colours and general feel.  In reality it should have felt very liberating but I think as with any ‘first’ fear and self doubt kicks in.  In the end the painting was a success and the buyer loved it!

My second went so much smoother.  It was one of my harbour paintings and my buyer (who also happened to be my cousin) just wanted a painting similar to others I’d completed but incorporating numbers and colours that meant something to them.

Latest Commissions

Both of my latest commissions have been more representational.  One is sitting in my living room waiting to be delivered next week.  The other came about when the buyer spotted a painting I posted on Instagram that I had created for my new kitchen – innovatively titled ‘Blue Kitchen’.  It was a still life of various kitchen paraphobia and out of the blue I received a message on Facebook asking if it was for sale. 

Blue Kitchen

After messaging back and forwards we agreed that the painting wasn’t right for them.  ‘Blue Kitchen’ is a 60 x 60cm and they were looking for a smaller painting as they had a clear idea of where it would be hung.  We agreed that I’d produce a 30 x 30cm and the process started!  With more representational work I like to have a bit more of a plan so stage one was agreeing composition.  I love this part of the process as you can really get the buyer involved.

After a few months of painting and sharing various work in progress photos the piece was finished. 

Here’s a close up photo. I use the VOUN app to get an idea of what they’ll look like framed, although the frames I use are better than the options on the app. I just don’t have much wall space in the house where the daylight is good.

Anyone for Sugar
Shipping Your Art

The next challenge was packing and arranging delivery. 

No matter how many times I do this I always have a few stressful days until I get the email from my buyer letting me know that it has arrived safely. I don’t know why as I’ve never had any problems but you still get those nerves.  I’ve watched so many videos from other artists on how to package your art. My approach is to over pack with layers of cardboard, tissue and filler.  

In my day job I’m responsible for our sustainability initiative so I have a sense of guilt in terms of environmental impact.  Because of this I always reuse packaging materials. The downside of this approach is that my studio is littered with Amazon boxes and various packing materials.

But by far the best part of completing a commission is when your buyer loves the piece!  The joy you get when you open that email or DM and see the words ‘I love it!’

Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

This month was lovely as I received this photo from the buyer of my painting ‘Anyone for Sugar?’  Who is also a fellow artist

I love seeing my work in people’s homes. It’s such an honour to know that someone likes what you have created enough to put in their home.  No matter how many painting you sell I don’t think you ever get bored of this.

Art Competition and Dealing with Disappointment

But April wasn’t all positive – I received two rejections from the RA Summer Exhibition. Something I was used to receiving each year but having been successful last year there was a glimmer of hope.

Sadly it was not to be this year and whilst I’m disappointed I think I’m not thick skinned enough not to take it personally.  There is such a buzz about the Summer Exhibition.  I love seeing the work of other artists who have made it through the first round on Instagram.

If you’re not following the hastag on IG its worth checking out the feed – #rasummerexhibition. You get such an amazing variety of work – it’s so inspiring!

If you are one of the lucky ones to get through the digital judging round – good luck! The whole submission process is very special and if you’re lucky enough to make it all the way Varnishing day is just magical.

Don’t forget if you’re not signed up for my monthly studio insider newsletter you can do so here.

Timing is Everything

Its been quite a few months since I posted.  I have been painting regularly but have been devoting all my free time to the studio so haven’t written any blog updates.  As I am in the final stages of completing a mini series of works I thought I’d pause and take a few moments to reflect on a challenge I did earlier this year.


I spotted the campaign on Instagram and had heard great things about its creator Cheryl Taves @insightcreativecoaching.  Cheryl apparently was a coach on CVP a few years ago so I thought I’d give her Sketchbook Challenge, a go.

Playing with Black
30 Day Sketchbook Challenge

It is a relatively inexpensive course at $59, c£44 depending on exchange.  And is, like many courses of this type, delivered via pre recorded videos and online guides.  It has been designed to help artists get into the practice of using their sketchbooks on a regular basis and to strengthen your artist’s mindset through reflective writing.  The pro’s of this kind of course is that you can complete it at your own pace, no live broadcasts that you need to dial in to in the evening so its easy to get it to fit around your everyday life and commitments.

Playing with Pastels

For me the course was a real light bulb moment.  I have always kept sketchbooks but tended to use these for drawing rather than anything specific to my art.  This course provides you with prompts and importantly reflective questions each day along with examples of Cheryl’s own work.  The prompts are very varied, some give guidance on different techniques you can try, others are more conceptual, for example on day 11 you are asked to think about how your sketchbook could become your sidekick in your art practice. 

Letting Go
Time is Everything

I don’t know if it was just serendipity but this course landed for me at just the right time.  I’d recently suffered from a bit of creative block and was struggling with how to get my art back on track.  Having had months of frustration this intervention was the perfect solution.  It isn’t like other workshops where you have a very clear brief to complete as homework.  Although it does follow a similar structure and maybe that was what I needed.  I was never one to skip homework at school so I know that I do have this inner value set that forces me to complete set tasks.  But its more than that….

Unlocking Your Inner Most Thoughts

The thoughtfulness of the prompts and questions helped unlock something.  I’ve never been a diary keeper or had any great revelations from reflective writing so it isn’t something I have much experience of.  I’ve always struggled when people asked me questions about my art.  Sure I can talk till the cows come home about the mediums and techniques but the talking about the meaning is a whole other thing. 

Be Bold

I was inspired by some of the other artists taking the course and for the first few days spent a lot of time reading their comments on Instagram.  I was amazed by how open they were about their struggles. But more than that, amazed by the number of comments and replies they got.  I realised that when Instagram works best is when it is a genuine conversation between people.  And when you post more insightful comments alongside your workpeople are more inclined to respond. 

Autumnal Colours
Stuff I Learned

Ok here’s a few of my key takeaways …

  • I need to really question the pressure I’m feeling when it comes to my art making and work out if this is self imposed (it is!) and why
  • I’m not a natural rule breaker!  It was ridiculous how difficult I found day 2’s prompt to break the rules.
  • Greater contrasts and more defined shapes make for better paintings – a no brainer I know but I do tend to go for more muted colours and texture
  • Taking a break from sharing really helped push me more.  The fear of posting something ugly definitely holds me back when it comes to experimenting.  But when I do push myself the combination of fear and excitement can be liberating
  • You don’t need loads of stuff to keep up your sketchbook habit – a few pencils and some crayons are enough
  • Sketchbooks are a great place to work through composition ideas
  • I have a weird relationship with the colour yellow
  • I need to be bolder with my mark making
Getting Messy

So if you fancy a short course to kick start your art check this one – you won’t be disappointed!

Well, hello 2022!

I hope you have all eaten well, enjoyed time with loved ones and generally had a break.  I had a whole week off work and feel so much better for the downtime.  The break also meant that I could get a few days in the studio which was a real bonus.

New Year, New Me (well I’m trying)

I’m not a huge fan of New Year celebrations and haven’t had much success with the whole resolutions malarky. As a result I tend to avoid them completely.   But I wanted to start this year a little differently. 

I am incredibly organised In my work-life (i.e. full time day job) . Probably irritatingly so for those who work for me, but at home this isn’t the case.  I decided in 2022, I will be more organised with my art.  This was in part prompted by Alice Sheridan’s ‘Celebration & Planning’ call in December. But it was also something I had on my ‘to do’ list last year.  Sadly not something I made much progress with!  Also, since finishing CVP I am aware that not having a clear structure on what to work on next has left me feeling a little lost at times. 

Alice’s ‘Get Organised’ toolkit provided the perfect prompts to get me off on the right track.  I have completed the review of 2021. Worked on some visualisation exercises as to where I want my art to go. I even started to pull together a longer term plan.  With a new notebook full of scribbles, a plethora of post it notes and a lot more determination to get my butt in gear.  I even have my next few projects mapped out.

First New Project of the Year

One of the surprising things this exercise surfaced was an itch I needed to scratch.  Earlier last year I created a painting I titled ‘Nemesis’.  The title was inspired by the process of painting as this piece was a challenge for me.  The piece was revised and reinvented several times before completion.  I was over the moon when it was accepted by the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhibition and even more excited when it sold at the star studded preview event.

Unlike the other boards I created during CVP, this painting was a stand alone. I always intended coming back to the theme  (I even mentioned this in a blog back in July.)  So this is now my first project of 2022.

Beach Life Series

Nemesis was inspired by a walk on the beach during the warmer summer months.  The organic shapes and muted colours of the rocks have such a textural feel.  And they have both a solid and yet fragile sense, worn down by years of tidal movement and I find these fascinating. 

In complete contrast, during summer when the beach is frequented by families you get these eye popping colours from man-made materials.  Wind breakers (a must on the North East coastline); beach towels, cool boxes and, of course, buckets and spades.  It feels like such an odd juxtaposition yet makes complete sense as the two elements co-exist perfectly.

I wanted to convey the feeling of the beach and combine the bright, dynamic colours as well as some softer pastels, like ice cream with soothing biomorphic shapes and that is how Nemesis emerged.  The painting also contains very quiet dotted tracks which you only see close up.  These were my interpretation of the trails of footprints you get in the fresh sand after the beach has been cleaned.  Having completed my review of 2021 I realised it was a theme I needed to return to.  So, I am now working on four boards which follow a similar theme.

I have started 4 new pieces, two of which are a little more advanced.

work in progress
Other Things on My List

I have a few ‘things to do’ which I’m hoping to get sorted this year from a studio tidy up to getting better lighting.  I have parked the tidy up for a bit as I had an enforced tidy up after a shelf collapsed over Christmas.  It’s a job I really dislike, as it always feels like wasted painting time but is satisfying when it’s done.

I am also determined to finish my pooch sculpture. I’ve posted work in progress images of this but its presence on the studio floor is now irritating me.

Finally, I also have another commission I’m working on which is more semi abstract – I’ll share more in a later post.  And I’ve decided that this year I want to explore some more figurative or portraiture pieces.  No idea what these will look like so for now just playing on paper.

And of course the ongoing kitchen renovation – still no weather proof roof and now no floor….

Coming Soon – A New Kitchen (Hopefully)

That’s all for now.  Take care.