Here

I was brought up in the hills of North Yorkshire. Based in Bristol for 25 years and having surfed in Cornwall and Devon I was looking for the hills in Exmoor, but one trip to the Black Mountains I realised they weren’t hills at all, just beautiful bumps on a downy devon duvet.

I don’t believe in god or ghosts, or the movement of stars but there is something about the mountains… even if it’s just within the perimeters of my skull.

We found a tiny one up one down cottage with a lean-to studio and a really big garden. I fell in love. On closer inspection however, it had fallen out of love with the land it lay on. It had feet of clay. The clay bed it perched it’s stone on was slipping down the rock of Vowchurch Common. We could have secured roots to the stone and tried to stop the land slipping but we ‘didn’t have that sort of money’.

So instead we went on a 6-month adventure to Barcelona and came back to Autumn in the UK. In Barcelona we had spring early and autumn late, we had swimming in the sea and dancing and roller blading along the beach, but it turns out I am hefted to the UK.

So, within weeks of our return to Bristol we were looking at a rental property above Longtown. It was a day of damp rain and low cloud. She said come back when you can at least see the mountain. It’s brilliant we said, we will take it. We had months of mud and I fell so deeply in love that by the time spring came up through the ground I thought I was going to burst with the beauty of it all.

They needed to sell it.

My father said on his death bed ‘don’t buy that big place’.

And we ‘didn’t have that sort of money’ anyway.

We had looked about south east, east and north east of the black mountains, our tether to Bristol and work being still strong it didn’t seem to allow us straight over the hill.

So, we looked at one place over the other side of the hill and it is now home. It has a tiny garden and a small shed to work in which Graham and I fought over until we found the Chapel on Newport Street.

It was Molly dog who introduced us. We were walking up the road with the cottage particulars, we only ever really needed to see the outside of a place to make a decision as it was which way it was facing that mattered. Molly said hello to Diva dog, so we said hello to Diva’s owner Sue. Turns out she was a sculptor herself and knew my work, turns out her husband Tim was one of our best friend’s Uncle, turns out we have landed in the best place to live in the world with the nicest neighbours you could ask for.

Oh, and then there is this funny unique Hay place. Well that’s a rather superb bonus!

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.

 

 

 

p.s.

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.

 

 

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Daubers Trip Feb 2017

So for me it seems everything needs a reason to be, a reason to do.

Although the time away from the studio unsettles me, I allow myself ‘painting holidays’, but I still angst about them being a ‘waste of my time’.

But looking at my Tenby attempts to respond to all that sea and sand, although they didn’t capture the seagulls, the warm breeze and sun as I sat on cold morning sand they did make me think of colour. They made me look. They made me look at colour and learn. And while learning their can be no angst there. That is not a waste of my time.

So when we daubers meet for another painting holiday, when they come up to Wales to paint landscape in 2 degrees and a northern friend, the lazy wind, blows from the north east, from Yorkshire, I decided I want to paint ‘my figures’.

I knew if I was going to start the sculpture for my 25 Year Show next month I needed to immerse myself in form. As discovered in the life drawing class on the monday, an elbow, a thy could be my landscape.

So we painted and ate and talked, and painted and ate and talked…it goes like this. The rhythm. Its really very good. The daubers left, having commitments in Bristol and I remained cramped over my little table, the fire crackled and the dog snored and as the eastern breeze took hold, bringing white snow and sleet, here was my opportunity to play with colours. All over the place was colour. Yellows from Barcelona, oranges from Loas and this blue green that seem to come from nowhere.

Then, out on my bike, the white winter sun exposed blue and purple hills and I realised that the landscape is the colour. Llanigon Green at home out the window and on my bike ride, Herefordshire Blue, Whitney White on the bridge over the river Wye who was the deepest dark blue purple.

So yes to looking, yes to walking, even yes to painting holidays, and yes to Laos because they all appear in my work. And most of all I need to chill out about it, as Graham says, ‘it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you don’t give yourself a hard time about it!’

 

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The logistics manager.

There have been tensions in the camp this week.

The logistics manager has got very angry with the sculptor.
The sculptor has been ignoring the logistics manager.

The pr lady is impatient to show the new work off
but she is waiting on the photographer,
as is the person who updates the website.

The accounts department is struggling to cope
under the hours they have been allotted.
The person who orders the materials is getting anxious.

The writer who seems to be always allowed to do what she wants
and has now taken up precious time
so the finisher/polisher/packer
will have to work the weekend.

The finisher/polisher/packer is now miffed.

The painter is sulking.
Someone let her see the light,
she managed to open the door,
just a crack.

Look! Look!
Its really very exciting through there…
very exiting indeed.

But here comes the logistics manager.

No. No. No.
One week is all you get my dear,
come back my dear.
Your time will come.

But she has broken her promise.

Badly.

So the painter is sulking.
In fact the painter is very upset indeed
and tears well up in her eyes as she tells the writer.

The draftsman is more patient, she knows the sculptor cant work without her.
She is waiting for her day.
For monday life drawing class,
all day,
she hopes.

If she is allowed to go.

But the logistics manager is not sure at the moment.

The logistics manager probably won’t let her
and then the draftsman will also be sulking.
And next week she will mess it up for the sculptor,
on purpose.
Just to strengthen her case.

The sculptor is the most challenging for the logistics manager to control.
Because she cant manage without her.
“But this is the most important thing” she shouts.

She turns her back on the logistic manager.
She can feel the logistics manager’s eyes boring into her back.

But the sun is on the sculptor’s side.
It’s also strong.
It shines hot light on the clay forms.
Who can blame the sculptor for moving into that light
to play with the darks and lights of the silky clay.

Fundamentally it’s the events organiser fault.
She got a bit excited because its her 25th year.
She has booked a lot of things.
Quite big things.

Eventually, by thursday,
the only person who can solve the quarrel,
the upset, the swollen eyes…
is the social secretary.

She organises a few beers for the whole team.
The CEO swans in, takes the credit
even though it was the social secretary’s idea.
But the CEO does pay for the drinks
and the accountant doesn’t mind the expense.

They all laugh at and with each other,
they respect each other.
And on friday they wake up happy.

They are all resolved that
this is just how it is running a small business
on your own.
And they all get on with the job
a little less fractured.