Skill Sharing

I wanted to share this article from the Creative Glass Guild blog, an article written to discuss the issue of artists skill sharing and teaching. Three artists share their thoughts, me being one of them. Having read it, I'm not sure myself if I shared clearly. It's a tricky issue to unravel and a very personal one too. But I'd love to know your thoughts...





Today I was determined to not work... So we grabbed the sunshine moment and discovered by accident a little wood, called Wraxall Piece...

I say by accident, actually we were looking for a Public Footpath and happened to drive by the sign for this place.

It was lovely, blue sky, sun shining down and through, crunchy paths, lime green moss. And a great big buzzard circling in amongst the trees.

Not much sea to be seen but then I've been at the seaside all week...in my imaginings...



A tree or two, deer, and blue.

Took a stroll through the deer park nearby, kind of marking the approach of a new season.
The trees shout the loudest. Some single. Lots old.
A few new. Skinny ones. Gnarled and grumpy ones.
One or two from far away. Three or more in a gang.
And the royal types, aloof, unmoved.
All on a stage, with deer and backdrop of blue.
Jostling clouds pushing and shoving to get to the front.
But the trees win.


The surprise.

The surprise

Today I've been driving around Cornish edges. Where the Atlantic touches land. It was the opposite weather wise that I'd hoped for, cloudy not clear, wet not dry...and the isobars were tight! The seas were restless and stroppy. But I'd come a long way and now had the time to watch and wait, to see if the weather cleared.

And actually, as I got accustomed to the muted, the lovely washed out layers of landscape, I was surprised by it. The skies were every shade of mauve/grey/ mustard/indigo/peach...and then that momentary elusive transparent baby blue, a flash of the true colour of the sky, behind the crazy patchwork of cloud.

The rain we have been under for so many weeks seems to have revealed a kind of wise, old beauty in the land, the sea and sky. We are so desperate for 'good' weather aren't we? It's such a longing that we miss whats under our nose, some awesome colours and a freshly exposed composition in the landscape... It really feels as if the rain has washed away whats been visible to reveal what's hiding beneath.

And the sea. Maybe my eyes, in just 24 hours, have become accustomed to the light, the Haar mist, the visible wind! The depth of saturated colour in the sea I watch from my friends house, is changing constantly. It looks alive, restless and fervent.

As I drive up from Lands End, around the Cape to St Ives Bay, then on up to Chapel Porth and St Agnes, a journey I have done a lot in the last few years, I was thinking about 'desire paths'... The unintended, pedestrian short cuts that over time become permanent footpaths. Perhaps I am creating my very own 'imagined' desire path here on the Cornish edges. Of course it's meaningless to anyone else really, but it has it's purpose for me. It's my short cut when I really need access to the source of the inspiration for my painting. Not living here is tricky sometimes. I need that desire path! And today as I trod 'the path' again, I was surprised by the way the weather revealed a fresh track of inspiration.

I guess it prompted me to remember that there is always something in the landscape waiting to surprise us... We just have to be there to see it. To be positioned to see whats there. It bubbles up into my thinking that many things in my life work in a similar way. That idea of being in the present moment. Positioning myself to see with clarity what really matters. Finding beauty in the ordinary. Not minding the rain because it reveals another way of seeing. Stepping off the concrete path and treading a new one, all on my own! And the idea of being positioned to see the unseen too, for example, what does faith means on a day by day level. The stuff of life can clutter the view of what is sometimes difficult to see. How can I access that rich source of meaning and depth when life is flying by?

Being on a three day trek to the Cornish edges is showing me something I've seen before. But like the surprise of the land and sea seen in different weather and light, it's reminding me that in every area of my life I mustn't forget to remember the Surprise.


Before January

January seems to have become the quiet month in my calendar. Well, quiet in that all gallery work generally slows down, allowing me time to think about last year and the coming year in a vaguely more strategic way. It's hard to be self employed and strategic but somehow making lists and talking a lot about hopes and dreams seems to sort of work. I also try to get down to the sea, usually on my own. I have become good friends with my sat nav. And taking hundreds of photographs, exploring and walking and watching, collects a little pool of inspiration... Something to draw on in the weeks and months ahead when I am back in urban surroundings.

And being alone is important. Without the interruptions of home life, the superficial things sink under the surface and the deeper stuff rises. It's important. So yes, January is quieter in some senses, but actually it's the springboard for the year ahead. I think it's one of my favourite times of the year. There's an expectation.

But before January arrives... I thought I'd give myself the task of distilling the past year into images. Kind of tidy it all up, label and store it away. So much has happened that it would take too many words and too much time to write it down... Supposedly a picture paints a thousand words so it makes more sense to use images. The images carry lot of meaning, whether or not you know or understand what they are. So here goes...

Beautiful blue skies in Greenway, near Kingswear, Devon.

Whiteout! The tree opposite my house heavy with snow.

A poor photo snapped from my car of my perfect little gallery, somewhere near Port Isaac!

Utterly stunning.... A sea mist over Trebarwith Strand.

Celebrating our wedding anniversary with my sister and her husband. Double wedding 23 years ago...

I loved painting these Widemouth Bay pebbles.

River Dart painting. This was such a beautiful place.

I was so excited and proud about this. What a privilege.

Summer in my front garden park!
A surprising sight one gorgeous evening in Lucca.

Seed head watercolours....painting in the French Alps.

And finally... One of the most enjoyable events of the year when I get to meet

Bristol friends in my open studio. And have a good tidy.

I love my job.


Unravelling the Art Trail process

I am in the middle of a mammoth studio sort out and clean up. All in preparation for the North Bristol Arts Trail this weekend. It's been marked on the year planner (my security blanket) since this time last year, so there's no surprise that its upon me. And I've been working for it for the last two months.

And it has got me pondering... The process of getting ready for an exhibition in your own home is very different from preparing for a gallery led event. The most obvious difference being that its all down to you, the work, the space and the curation of the exhibition, and of course the manning of the event itself. You do it all, with the help of whoever you draw in to be involved.

I actually really enjoy the whole process, in particular the more reflective side of it all, considering the work, what I want to say or how I want I visitors to feel as they come into my home. It is a very vulnerable place to put yourself. But I think that's a good place. It encourages a quite brutal assessment of your work, what path you have been following and if there is any value to others in presenting them with your 'journey'...

And you have the opportunity to share with them the background to the work, the inspiration, what made you arrive at this point in time with this work on display. I hugely enjoy curating the space to reflect these things. It helps me unravel the days and weeks and months of work, distill ing the process down to a studio that's tidy for once and filled with current work, the important work, hung on the walls.

Mixed up in it all is the sometimes confusing question of whether or not visitors will want to pay for this expression of 'your' journey, does it ring true with them? Can they connect in any way with what you are making? And what value does it have to them? When a living needs to be made, it's not always a simple thing. In the end it's often advice from friends that helps to clarify this part of the job.

Coming at the end of the year, this weekend is a great way to process the last 12 months. What is the important work, how did I get here? What has poured inspiration in? What has sapped me of energy? What do I need to invest in next year? And over the next few days I need to listen to my visitors, hear them out and respect what they say, as they reflect back to me what they see and feel as they come right into my space!

What a very real privilege, one I don't take lightly.

I'll let you know how it all goes after the event! Here's a picture of my nearly ready studio...



Home and holidays

During one of those long insomniac nights recently I got thinking about home and holidays, as you do... I was born here in Bristol, grew up here, and now live here. My children have been born here too. And we love living here, for all sorts of reasons. One of them being that the lovely counties of Devon and Cornwall are easy peasy to access for holidays.

When I was growing up we had a caravan on a hillside site in Romansleigh near South Molton. My memories of that place are a bit other worldly... Country lanes packed with wild flowers, woods and streams to explore and incredible night skies. Pretty perfect in retrospect. And nearly always sunny!

Then I went to St Ives when I was about 19, a student at art college. It took me and my friends hours to get there on the coach. I still have a photo of me on Porthminster Beach, taking pictures of waves! Something about the place got under my skin. Since then on we have been many many times. Nowadays, after 24 years of family holidays, the prospect of needing slightly smaller accommodation again is around the corner. A new season. I like change, so that's ok.

More recently we have got to know and love the area around Padstow. Partly because of a brilliant gallery relationship but also because the coast is utterly beautiful around that little town. Especially in the winter time. I spend time there in January, a kind of retreat, on my own. It's time to explore the bays and beaches, also the inland winding lanes that may or may not lead to a cove or quiet view. For me it's a great time to breath deeply and have time to plan, imagine, and draw and paint. My camera comes too, and usually captures 100s of moments that will hopefully inspire in the coming months...back in Bristol.

Bristol. A safe place, a known place. Where family and friends are. Different to those holiday places. Its where the stuff of life and all it's ups and downs play out. Real.

If you breathe in deeply when away, on holiday... Then home is where you breathe out, where you live life and get ready for the next deep breath. Both make sense because they are both real. I can't imagine living anywhere else. I can't imagine holidaying anywhere else.

Well, apart from Italy. France. And those, as yet, undiscovered places.

“All of us, I believe, carry about in our heads places and landscapes we shall never forget because we have experienced such intensity of life there : places where, like the child that 'feels its life in every limb' in Wordsworth's poem 'we are seven', our eyes have opened wider, and all our senses have somehow heightened. By way of returning the compliment, we accord these places that have given us such joy a special place in our memories and imaginations. They live on in us, wherever we may be, however far from them.”

Roger Deakin