Plane Trees

Man in shop : Are you local?
Me : Yes

Today I walk through London Fields with Molly. Overcome with the beauty of an avenue I try and draw the plane trees again, as I did this time last year.

To think I could draw them, understand them in a matter of hours when they have been here doing their stuff for three times my lifetime. Their history is rich and deep, they sit together, making patterns on the grass but I feel relaxed because I think I will have time with them.

They think the land we walk through at least twice a day is called London Fields because it was on the main footpath from Essex to the City of London. When you crossed this field you were only 2 miles from the City gate. It was one of the many ‘commonable lands’ of Hackney where the commoners of the parish could graze their livestock on the fields from Lammas Day to Lady Day*. This arrangement was known as Lammas Rights and was protected by law.

Campaigners saved the land from ‘predaceous developers’ who were nibbling at the edges of London Fields claiming the ‘Lammas rights as little used and of no value’. They won, it was made into a park and fresh grass seed was sown and the trees planted.

One hundred and fifty seven years later this same land holds huge trunks that split strong into wide yearning branches ending in twisty reaching twigs whimsically projecting last years seed which hang like tiny babbles silhouetted against a dense blue sky. Parakeets pootel about on their patterned boughs and their calls fill the air and take me to Barcelona, our last adventure.


43 | Dandelion Seed

‘Today is mine. I feel severed. Like most of me has been hacked off and the remainder rises under a canopy like a dandelion seed, I waft about wonderfully with no apparent direction. Yes I am still a couple of stone overweight but I feel light. Not confused, and so free it makes me want to cry.’


But this adventure is different. London’s veins run deep and have echoes from my past. This move is heavier, feels more permanent.

Time has been traveling super fast as I shuffle boxes in-between Bristol, Wales and London. But as the boxes begin to settle it seems London will be my heavy space. My getting stuff done space. The plinths, the shelves, the logistics, the finishing, the shows.

Maybe people’s perception of artists is they are like dandelion seeds but being a sculptor with ambition does not make you free. Excited, exhilarated and sometimes scared, yes, but free, seldom.

It’s been an unsettling and frustrating time of making no sculpture. But today is Sunday, it’s quite and things are becoming clear. I realise how lucky I am. My hypochondria is on high alert only because I am so excited about what is to come. London is my heavy space and also my learning space, my input space. Wales, the chapel with it’s white boards and lofty room, the Olchon valley, Hay’s Bluff …that’s my light space. That’s where I can be a dandelion, safe in the knowledge I have created my own breeze, where I can make, I can woft, I can be free.

Man in shop : Are you an artist?
Me : Yes
Man in shop : You look like an artist.
Man in shop : I meant that as a compliment.


Reference (pdf)

*from Lammas Day (Anglo Saxon for bread mass), August 1st, celebrating the first loaf after the crops had been harvested, to Lady Day, March 25th.


I went and got myself lost.

I was swinging away merrily on my trapeze, I could do all sorts of tricks hanging from my strong tree with a sturdy branch for me. Apart from a temporary perch in London and Barcelona that tree had been home for 25 years.

Swing swing.
Swing swing.

Then a plan is hatched…exciting.
Love a plan.
Love a life plan.

Swing swing.

Pack up my still life tableaux’s, my shelves, my studio, my identity. Rip the images from the walls, rip down the walls and floors of our home, our handcrafted work live, (also on a shelf) Put them all into a skip.

Place the salvaged remains in boxes labelled with marker pen, ‘open now’ or ‘archive’. Put all the most precious memories of tiny bits into the wrong type of box so it smashes and spills your life over the inside of the hire van.

It’s only stuff.
I literally don’t care. Swing swing.

Let go of the trapeze.

Carol let go of the trapeze.


Can’t really see the trapeze the other side by the way?


Most of my life goes into storage. Move into my new space, a chapel, a different architect, a different sensibility, still cant see the other trapeze by the way? Deadlines don’t move so work surrounded by mess and boxes with no time for gravity.


Then this morning I think about the labels for my show, my upcoming solo show… in my new tree. The one I was SO excited about. The tree that I wrote all those things in. The tree where I made those paintings and sculptures.

I see that I was in fact here all the time.

There are strong trees in Llanigon and London. And I also see its not necessarily the tree that has to be strong.

Swing swing.
Swing swing.

My Hackney Holiday

Reaching out for knowledge is a funny thing.
It would be good if by doing so the image of yourself stayed the same.
But it doesn’t.

It shifts and grows and shrinks, as if you are sitting in a train
looking out at yourself standing on a platform.
And the train comes in and out of the station.

Your form, like your ego shifts.
Often it is so small it’s
like a pin.
A stripe of figure with a head.

Even from a distance we can recognise this as human.
A little closer the stance is particular.
Closer and you see yourself again
but with knowledge you are altered.

Like gathering candy floss, images come with you.
Jewels float from Victoria and Albert’s stained glass
(which you hated at the time)
and from a tapestry with mad eyes.


I could hardly see myself when I arrived,
The tiredness from a years working on adrenalin,
a new space to live, new studio, 2 months of nothing mapped.
But I walked on roots.

The planes outside our window grow on common land.
Their foundations must reach to the edges of the park
so at turf level, below the branches,
we are enveloped in wood.

Days spent in low sun and the patterns of branches,
the unfamiliar becomes the regular
and you find the right route,
the super highway.

And like Barcelona it makes you break into song while riding your bike.
Its January, its raining and cold
but from the cycle path the outlook over the river is awesome.


One week in the national gallery
is enough to alter the currency.
The anxiety of a workaholic
switches to self investment, to enquiry.

I went medieval.
I went baroque, I even found Jesus.
And Mary.
And Venice.
I could go on.

The great masters like route planners,
they handed a baton,
they said yes.

After a couple of beers your ambition swelled
to be as great as Amadeus
and ‘so lofty you shat marble’.

Yes, you could be as good as Raphael.
Given the time, the space.


The equation is a third.

I am only working to a third of my ability.
(ok so add two thirds I admit Raphael and Mozart may still be a reach)

But as you stared close up at your mad and excited face
the train pulls away.


Back in class, learning.

I always said drawing was humbling but then add a tutor’s
knowledge, even just their power to retain names makes you small.
Eating out, drinking, growing physically larger makes you small.
A weakness is exposed, a chink,
and you go for self destruct.

The train moves out and even the pin starts to haze.
You need help to get back into the station.

You reach out by email, ‘I need a guide to help me see myself’.
I check my website to make sure I don’t look too shoddy
and realise that I am back on the platform.


I am suddenly back in my body.
The equation is still two thirds
but I have a strong third here.
I am actually a painter after all.





Graham says ‘it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you don’t give yourself a hard time about it’
Yes, correct Graham.

But Graham,
it does matter.
It does matter what you do.
2/3 rds Graham,
that’s how much it matters.