Category Archives: Creativity

Art for the downstairs loo :)

We redecorated the smallest room recently and I have been trying to find exactly the right art piece for it.  I commissioned myself to produce a new piece of art for the loo.  After much playing and a lot of fun,  I have designed a tryptic, based on the expressive life drawing classes I’m taking with @chriswoodartist at the moment.

At the classes I go large – A1 – but these are tiny, about 5″ square, so I can mount them in a particular frame.  They look great!

Watercolour, oil pastels, wax crayon and acrylic inks. (Click for a larger version).

It’ll do… won’t it?

The last few months have been an incredible learning curve – learning about the art world and what sort of art I want to produce and attempting to find my feet in this very new place.

I’ve continued to develop my work for the summer exhibition – and yesterday on a train to Basingstoke I suddenly had an idea for a fifth 3D piece that I am very excited about.  It involves about 500 business cards!

On Friday was the opening of our Interim Show which went really well.  I have exhibited a series of nine found signs called “Do not crush the daisy”.    We live in a world of negative signs.  These signs do not nurture us or keep us safe, they seek to control and carry a strong emotional message that tells the viewer they are not wanted or not free to express themselves.   These signs act like injunctions and stab at us as we go about our day.

The exhibition continues in Eldon Building, Winston Churchill Avenue, Portsmouth until 2nd June.

I have also been busy entering open calls and preparing work for exhibitions in June and I have learnt a lot about how I want to present my work.   There is nothing worse than walking into a room and seeing your own work and being disappointed because you didn’t present it in the best way possible.

I am prone to cutting corners, either to save effort or money, and a common phrase of mine used to be “it will be all right” or “It’ll do” – and of course it seldom is.   Cutting corners shows and I am learning, even if it costs more or takes longer, that I have to do my absolute best to show my work in it’s best light.   I don’t want that feeling of being disappointed again.   And of course the result of cutting corners if often far more effort and cost as I found out this week when I had to rehang my entire exhibition late the evening before!

As an artist it is extremely tempting to save money wherever you can!

Mindfulness has helped in this regard immensely, enabling me to step back and see what needs doing and to observe how I am feeling about some aspect of the work.

This week I realised that there is a huge difference between “It’ll do” and “It doesn’t have to be perfect“.   Striving for perfection might be a hard sometimes (and overkill), often all that’s needed is the best available solution under the circumstances and knowing what’s required without going overboard is a great skill to cultivate!

Next time I catch myself thinking “It’ll do” I will step back and ask “Will it really?



Art and therapy – can they work together?

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the start of the Art Therapy Conference at Goldsmiths Uni in London.     I stumbled on this last week and bought a ticket to listen to the key note speakers without really realising what it was.   In the event I found myself surrounded by highly qualified doctors and psychotherapists from around the world who had travelled to be there.   There were some art therapy students, but I am thinking I might have been the only art student there!

I went because I have always seen my art practice as personal therapy and was interested in learning more.

Grayson Perry

I have long been an admirer of Grayson Perry and his work.    Until yesterday I could not quite put my finger on what it was I liked so much, beyond his willingness to speak his mind and say what others don’t.    Listening to his Reith Lectures was very influential in my going to art college because he demystified the art world for me.

Grayson was at the conference to talk about the importance of therapy in his  work.   It is well documented that he uses his art to work through his personal issues (from a “colourful childhood” as he put it) but hearing him talk about his therapy was a joy.   He loved being in therapy and spent many years doing so, he said it was the best money he ever spent.   On talking about worries some artists have, that if they sort themselves out too much they won’t be creative, he dismissed that completely using the analogy of an untidy tool shed – if you tidy up, you still have the tools and no mess!

He also gave some advice in passing to art school graduates which I was particularly interested in of course:

  • Get therapy (he thinks it should be taught in art schools, so that artists can get on with their careers without their issues slowing them down)
  • Ask Who am I?
  • Ask What do I want?

And get on with it!

Grayson took us through a few of his artworks over the last 30 years and explained at what point he was with his therapy at the time and what issues he was working through.  He basically sees his artistic practice as a “career length psychotherapy project on myself” – he gleefully makes breakthroughs on a daily basis.   It was wonderful to see someone who is so evangelistic about personal growth.

He described therapy as a clarifying lens to look at the world and (crucially) to be aware of the distortions.    I couldn’t agree more, we all see the world through an incredibly distorted lens and the trick is to realise that that’s what you’re doing!

I particularly liked his maps of his inner world.  They were wonderful and I had not come across them before.  It is something I’d like to try myself.  I found them very moving.

Grayson Perry, Map of an Englishman

Grayson spoke with such passion and humour about his work and other historical artifacts and artworks that move him and I will be processing the talk for quite some time.

Patrick Casement

I had not come across the work of Patrick Casement, psychotherapist, before but I knew from his biography that he is a leading practitioner and author in the therapy world.

I could have listened to Patrick’s gentle voice and wonderful humour all night.  His anecdotes were amusing and deeply touching – reducing many to tears at points.

As an aside, Patrick recently survived a long cancer battle where he was given almost zero chance of survival – I have since read his incredible account of that here – well worth a read.

Patrick wanted to urge the audience of therapists to think about how they interpret a clients art – he was cautioning against the (presumably quite common) practice of looking and listening for a theory or past experience the therapist can attach to the current client in order to appear to understand.  But of course, they are not understanding, because they didn’t listen to the client with a fresh ear.

He pointed out that any interpretation of a client’s art work could only ever be your interpretation – and to do so was very damaging to the client’s recovery.   It is enough for the client to do the work and share it with the therapist, explaining what they want to, without having to have theories and ideas forced back onto them.

He talked about how some clients may present art work that is extremely violent or distressing to the therapist.   But it is only distressing because the therapist assigns their own meanings to it.

Patrick (and Grayson) both came across as compassionate and passionately believing in respecting others deeply.  Although it wasn’t put in this way, I would suggest that they are both wonderful examples of “I’m ok, you’re OK” thinking.

Suffering for my art….

I have just spent half an hour standing calf deep in the sea (with my wellies slowly filling up), being buffeted by the freezing wind in order to have a trial run for an art piece I am preparing at the moment.

The piece is based in the liminal space between the high and low tide points on a beach.

I am just getting the feeling back in my hands (which were underwater for a while!).    (What’s worse is my poor husband froze as well and it wasn’t even his art piece!).

Still, the preliminary footage looks very promising but next time I must chose a warmer, sunnier, calmer day!

Seaweed at the high tide mark, Forton Lake, Gosport. 

Humour, simplicity and dedication….

Last term we had several guest speakers (that I have blogged about) and I have tried to visit as many exhibitions and galleries as I can.  Plus I have been discovering artists online too.

I decided to write three words that each had taught me and thought it might be fun to make this into a wordcloud.   I have made my own artwork from their finest attributes 🙂

Humour is the biggest thing I took from the artists I admired – keep it fun, play.

I was always struck by the dedication and passion shown by the artists and in the amount of research that went into their work.

Each one has changed my practice in some way and it has been a pleasure learning about them.

Can you guess which artists inspired what words?!

[They are: Susan O’Malley, Tanya Wood, Katayoun Dowlatshahi, Clare Strand, Paige Bradley, John Hoyland, Mark Anstee, Bruce Williams, Mandy Webb, Catherine Harper, S Mark Gubb, Suzanne Moxhay, Anthony Gorman, Grayson Perry and Rebecca Bauman. ]

Mandy Webb – subversive artist

Mandy Webb

As part of our course we have visiting artists who come and chat with us and talk about their work – I have found each and every one an inspiration.    Last week it was Mandy Webb, a Portsmouth based artist who makes intensely personal and shocking pieces broadly around women’s issues and social issues, particularly dealing with and educating people about her HIV status.

Mandy graduated from Portsmouth a few years ago and it was interesting to hear about the progress she has made in that time.     Her work is so deeply personal and raw and in that there is also great beauty.   Like many artists her work also contains a great sense of humour.

The works ‘Fucking Kettle’ and ‘Too many pricks for my liking!’ deal with the wholly inadequate response by Social Services to her serious illness.  There is nothing subtle about Mandy’s brand of subversion!    The works make you gasp and laugh and then make you see the point she is making.   They leave you feeling a deeper understanding of the issues she addresses.

The dresses are incredible feats of imagination – the most famous is the “Red Ribbon Dress” which has been exhibited widely in order to bring awareness to HIV in this country. 6000 red ribbons commemorate the people who have died and the people who are surviving and coping.

Mandy will make art out of just about anything, condoms, bed pans and sanitary towels – she has no qualms!   Nothing is what it seems.   She showed me that art takes commitment, passion and flair – and that whilst it can be about deadly serious subjects, it can be handled with sparkle and humour too.

Mandy is opening her latest exhibition in Bristol from 05/03/2016 to 02/04/2016 called Addressing the Situation at Grant Bradley Gallery.

For more information see:  Saatchiart , Facebook and

All images © Mandy Webb

Course update

My work is going well, I keep feeling anxious about everything I have to achieve but actually it is ticking along.  I finished my series of photographs on the Gosport Ferry this week, I have 72 small pictures of people occupying themselves on the journey across Portsmouth Harbour.   My aim now is to be mindful on the trip myself. I tried this for the first time on Friday, on both crossings and it was such a relief to sit and be still for 5 minutes.  I felt really refreshed.  Since this is the raison d’etre of my research, it’s a good job too!

Did a portrait anatomy class this week – wow, unexpectedly hard work but great fun.   Only half finished but fascinating to learn how the muscles on the face build up our features.

2016-02-26 15.31.04

Featured Image

The featured image is part of an occasional series on negative and parental road signs.