Sunday, December 6, 2009

Waiting (iii) & (iv)

Waiting (iii)
Oil on Panel
20 x 16"

Waiting (iv)
Oil on Panel
14 x 12"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Waiting II

Waiting (ii)
Charcoal on Paper
30 x 22"

This is a study for an oil I did yesterday - I'll post it as soon as it's dry enough to photograph!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Oil on Panel
30 x 15"

I have a new muse, and an extra layer of visual storytelling has become possible. My new model is an actress, and came with a bumper box of costumes and ideas - I'm so lucky! I actually borrowed this wig a little while back from an artist friend, Ali Warren, and had been turning over ideas about how to use it ever since. It's so incredibly tall I had to really think about the best way to compose a painting around it. This was a good exercise in edges too, as I haven't really painted tight curls before. It's still hair, so can't be too hard-edged, but is also a very structured (man-made) thing, so can't be too soft and fuzzy either.

I met with fellow creatives Phyllis Shafer, Suzanne Roberts and Kim Wyatt last week for our first critique group (Tahoe Artists Network), and took this piece along with me. It was an incredibly valuable idea exchange, and I came away full of inspiration and drive to create more of these paintings.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Life Drawings (Autumn/Winter 2009)

Charcoal on Paper
30 x 20"

For sale - contact me for a price.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Life Drawings (Autumn/Winter 2009)

Seated Nude
Charcoal on Paper
30 x 20"

For sale - contact me for a price.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Oil on Panel
12 x 12"

I'm pleased with the energy in this oil sketch. The light was shifting due to a rare occurrence of clouds in our otherwise flawless Tahoe sky. It made me work faster, in a more intuitive way - whilst still bearing in mind all the valuable lessons I'm learning about edges and colour right now. I used a much more restricted palette than I have been using of late, and it really forced me to consider the relative temperature and value of each patch of colour. The big omission from my palette (which was a challenge) was black. This forced me to create dark values from other colours, which makes the temperature more 'adjustable'.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Learning to love green

Untitled Study in Green
Oil on Panel
15 x 30"

"Green how I want you green. Green wind. Green branches."

Federico García Lorca
Spanish Poet and Playwright, 1898-1936
"Romance Sonámbulo"

"Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises."
Pedro Calderon de la Barca
Spanish Poet and Playwright, 1600-1681

"He had that curious love of green, which in individuals is always the sig of a subtle artistic temperament, and in nations is said to denote a laxity, if not a decadence of morals."
Oscar Wilde
Irish Playwright, Novelist, Poet, Short Story Writer and Freemason, 1854-1900
"Pen, Pencil and Poison," Fortnightly Review (London, January 1889)

"Absolute green is the most restful color, lacking any undertone of joy, grief, or passion. On exhausted men this restfulness has a beneficial effect, but after a time it becomes tedious."
Wassily Kandinsky
Russian-born French Expressionist Painter, 1866-1944

"Green represents the dead image of life."
Rudolf Steiner
Austrian Philosopher, Literary Scholar, Architect, Playwright, Educator, Social Thinker and Esotericist, 1861-1925

This was a study I did in Phyllis Shafer's figure painting class, and was an exercise in colour. We were looking at Secondary Colours, that is two primary colours mixed together - green, violet and orange. Now, I would never usually use such a revolting combination to paint a human being, or anything else for that matter - which just goes to show how much I understood the properties of colour. I had visions of lurid fauves - type imagery, which is fine if that's what you want to create, but I don't, so I was slightly appalled at the task in hand.

Then Phyllis demonstrated the colours when mixed and desaturated (mixed with white, black or grey) - and my horror subsided into curiosity and wonder. A new visual world was opening up to me, which I had resisted partly due to my arrogance (I know what I like, and I don't like that!) and partly because I had no idea about how to use these colours in a naturalistic way.

"There are no "beautiful" or "ugly" colours. Those words describe our feelings about colours, not their intrinsic properties. "Wrong" or "muddy" colours are simply mixtures that are the inappropriate relative temperature for the area in which they are placed."

Richard Schmid, Everything I Know About Painting.

The model was posed on emerald green velvet, and despite my initial, "oh god, I actually have to use that Viridian with the cobwebs on it", I really enjoyed painting this. I took my time, used every ounce of observation skill at my disposal, and pieced together this study from all the tiny shifts in colour I now saw in the models' flesh tones - as reflected by the green velvet and the light I now understand a little better.

So now I understand a little more about the properties of green, and how it affects the colours around it, I'm learning to love it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Earring

The Earring
Oil on Canvas
50 x 40"

So this is the painting I posted as an underpainting a while back. I tried really hard not to lose that energy in the markmaking that I loved so much. It was hard because I've been working on wood for so long, and then painting on canvas again is completely different. I primed it 6 times, but it was still more absorbent than I wanted it to be. I'm torn now, because I like the texture of canvas, but I like my paint to slide around on the surface more than my canvas will allow. Perhaps I just need a finer weave? If anybody has any suggestions, please let me know.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Oil on Panel
49 x 24"

Fabula and Sujet (also sjuzhet, syuzhet, sjužet, or suzet (сюжет) ) are terms originating in Russian Formalism and employed in narratology that describe narrative construction. Sujet is an employment of narrative and fabula is the order of retelling events. They were first used in this sense by Vladimir Propp and Shklovsky.[1]

This painting has been sitting in my studio waiting patiently to be finished for a few months now. I really dislike leaving pieces half completed, but moving house just meant that certain things couldn't get done normally.

My ideas about the body telling a story really came through with this painting, I think. I'm becoming more and more interested in the emotional value of 'unfinished' brushstrokes, when juxtaposed with more 'refined' areas of interest in a painting. I think it adds a raw quality to the piece, an energy which I've been looking for to balance the new things I'm learning about the more technical aspects of painting.

I've got a lot more work to post, and it's interesting for me to compare this piece - which was really at the beginning of the change I'm seeing in my work - with the paintings I've done over the past few days. I'm still working my way through Richard Schmid's 'Alla Prima', and right now I'm very preoccupied with edges. And colour.

Sometimes I feel like my head will explode with all this new awareness of the visual world; other times, a lesson I learnt just appears in my mind at the right time, and I get to try it out for myself. It's very satisfying but I'm very much out of my comfort zone right now, and it reminds me of learning to drive.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bragging Rights!

"There is an ancient enmity between daily life and the great artwork"

Rainer Maria Rilke

So after a rather lengthy on/off hiatus due to housebuying, and then adding a new roof in the nick of time before the first snow hit Tahoe, I'm back on track (I think). I 'interviewed' one of my new models this morning, paid what must be my 100th visit to Meeks this month for studio essentials, and then (with a little glee) came across this issue of Tahoe Quarterly in which I appear alongside some pretty heavyweight 'Tahoe Masters'. It's their 10th Anniversary Issue, and they published a list of artists who'd been featured in TQ over the years, as artists, "who have mastered their craft."

Excellent ego boost for me at a time when I was starting to wonder if I'd ever feel like an artist again. Thank you Elizabeth Korb and Tahoe Quarterly!

In the spirit of reviving my dormant artist-self, I've also posted an invitation on my Tahoe Artists Network Facebook Group to a critique group on November 5th. If any locals are interested, drop me an email - I'm looking for professionally minded creative people to share and discuss your creative practice. I've also posted a discussion starter on the board - Influence & Originality, so if you're not able to make the meeting, feel free to throw in your ideas on the subject.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Charcoal Study

Danielle (i)
Charcoal on Tinted Paper

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Underpainting #1

I'm ridiculously excited about this painting - I've been learning a lot about edges and values from reading an amazing book: Alla Prima: Everything I know about painting, by Richard Schmid. I've been reading it and making notes for the past few weeks - and although there's an intimidatingly large amount of information, I think some of it is finally going in. My friend, and new boss Kim Wyatt (of Bona Fide Books*, a brand new small press in Tahoe) referred to what I'm doing as 'composting' - that is, reading some, and then allowing it to settle in my brain before going on to the next chunk.

I'm enjoying my new mode of working; Without the pressure of chasing shows and sales, I'm finally on the path I wanted to take when I left the UK - which is painting for the love of painting - not trying to second guess what other people might like in order to make a living. My new job is giving me the money to contribute to our income, and buy paints - and is a nice enough job that it doesn't suck all the creativity out of me like a bar job would. When I'm satisfied that I've got a decent enough body of work to show - then I'll start sending out artists packets to galleries.

The other important reason why I'm able to do this right now, is that I was awarded the Jackpot Grant from the Nevada Arts Council for the second year running. This time, the budget is for models - so I can produce a body of figure paintings from life over the summer. This means a huge amount to me, and I'm very grateful to receive a grant in these hard economic times. Thankyou, Nevada Arts Council!

*Website coming soon!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Oil on Panel

I was really pleased with this one - but I think I'll be a lot more cautious with the colour of the background cloth in future. The highly saturated red was really difficult to reconcile with the model's flesh tones. The porcelain-skin effect is definitely aesthetically appealing, but treading the fine line between 'china' and 'undead' is challenging. Oh well, art's supposed to be a challenge isn't it?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Website

This is why I've been wondering around with a glazed look for the past couple of weeks. I'm happy with the result though, all shiney and new with a proper guestbook, thumbnail portfolios and everything! It's made with an online program called FolioLink, which I really like. Any feedback would be much appreciated.

Figure Painting Class

Kirsten (i)
Oil on Panel

Here's one of my recent paintings from Phyllis Shafer's Figure Painting class. I didn't get to finish it unfortunately, but I was pleased with most of it - especially the face. Isn't it always the way....the section which took the least amount of time and effort was the bit which worked best.

In my opinion anyway.

It's easy to overwork something, or overuse a trick I've picked up that works. I feel like I'm still very much finding my way with these figure paintings, but the common theme of my practice seems to be: Stay loose, stay back, take breaks. The minute I start 'noodling' or trying to use a small brush when a bigger one could be used to make one clean, precise mark, is when I need to have the discipline to stand back for a few, take a breath or two, and look properly at the entire painting. Then I look at the painting upside down (head rush!), and also refer back to my subject by flicking my eyes back and forth between the painting and the model. This often reveals the mistakes I need to correct (i.e "oh my god the head is tiny!! how did I not see that?!!")

Then back to work.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Drawings...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Three Pastels

Untitled Nude (i)
Pastel on Rives BFK Paper

Untitled Nude (ii)
Pastel on Rives BFK Paper

Untitled Nude (iii)
Pastel on Rives BFK Paper

These are some of the drawings I did last year whilst on my mission to do thirty drawings before I started painting again. I've never worked with pastels before, so it was a bit of a revelation. This process really helped me to start understanding colour - both in terms of temperature and composition. I found myself 'weaving' the colours together to achieve the hue I wanted in that particular area. I had a lot of fun!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Oil on Panel
24 x 48"

I'm teaching a class at Lake Tahoe Community College called 'Portfolio Development', which is great for me to do because it's forced me to take stock of my portfolio, resume, artists statement, etc. I've deliberately taken a step back from the more 'commercial' aspects of making art for a while to focus on painting for the sake of painting - which is a luxury. However, I felt that in order to teach the students, I had to undertake all the exercises and assigments I'll be giving them myself.

It's been good, it's helped me to verbally crystallise what I've been working through visually. I still felt like a rabbit in the headlights when I had to give them a Powerpoint presentation of my work, as a model for their final. Eww, I hated it, I have to say.

I've given presentations before in all kinds of different environments - usually a tipsy crowd of rock climbers, or other artists. I 'opened' for climber/author Paul Pritchard at the Ape Index lectures many years ago. Niall Grimes had organised this cool series of lectures at a pub in Sheffield, and it was a big honour for me. I was nervous as hell and drank several strong G&Ts before I went up there. It probably showed, which was bad, but it took the edge off. This time I had no such veil, and the experience was startlingly real.

Details of The Illusion

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Illusion

The Illusion
Oil on Panel

I haven't been posting much of my art lately because I've been working on paintings I wasn't sure I was ready to share yet. But I am now, so here's the first of three I'll share over the next few days. I've become very interested in mark-making as an expression of the inner workings and experiences of the mind. I wrote this in my sketchbook:

History is indelible:
It is written in hard lines on our bodies
and on our faces.

I'm using a combination of oil paint and pencil, with sandpaper to scratch or expose layers. I'm also using a knife to distress the surface in parts. It's an interesting process, moving between layering and revealing - pushing and pulling the medium until I'm satisfied with the surface - and then standing back to assess the results - perhaps then going back in to rework.

From a distance, the paintings look quite smooth and traditional; closer inspection reveals flaws, scars and unsightly marks.

Also - this is handy - I think I've found out what kind of art I'm's called Expressive Realism. I found a lengthy description by another artist, and although my work looks nothing like his, the ideas are the same. It's about treading the fine line between realism and expressionism. I'm a big fan of the German Expressionists, but I was never entirely happy with that extra step away from representation. I love abstract art, and the Renaissance is the root of everything I feel about art, but I've never been entirely comfortable with either of those schools a combination of everything I love about all of those styles is what I'm working towards.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Body Image

I found a really interesting blog this morning, by film maker Jesse Epstein - The Body film Project.
She produced a video op-ed piece for the New York Times called Sex, Lies and Photoshop - well worth checking out. It's about how magazines re-touch models bodies in Photoshop, and are actually aware that they are damaging people's perception of body image. Sinister stuff.

Also, this short documentary on making mannequins I found fascinating - especially the interviewee's comments on fashion being the 'new religion'.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Oil on Panel

So I am reminded again that timing is indeed everything. It turns out that when I was painting this earlier this week, that my lovely artist friend Melissa Gregory died. Melissa was my first artist friend here in Tahoe, and she introduced me to almost all the artists I know here. I will remember her through my relationships with my women friends, my continued commitment to art, and through a critique group with other artists to share ideas and support each other.

I can think of no more fitting tribute to our friendship.

Melissa's sudden death has come as a wake up call to make more effort to not allow everyday busy-ness to interfere with the important contact you have with the people who love you.

I've been thinking about all the women I have been friends with over the years, and how geography, life, work and family has been allowed to divert our contact. I want to let any of you know that I haven't spoken to in years, that I still think about you, and that my paintings are embedded with memories of you and the fun that we had.

If Karen Rozier, Alex Franklin, and Sophie Hold are reading this, or you know them - please get in touch.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Timing is everything...

How bizarre..after writing my blog this morning, I came across this little video via a blog I just subscribed to: Art Studio Secrets

I came across Lisa Gloria's fabulous work whilst perusing You Tube for artist demos...check her out, she's amazing.

In this video,
Jill Bolte Taylor gives a talk on TED about what her stroke taught her about how her brain hemispheres function.

The Price

The Price
Oil on Panel

I'm not going to explain, or reveal the full title of this piece, I'd rather leave some room for imagination.

Lately, my poor old brain has been working overtime, even when I'm painting - which is sometimes a rare respite from the 'mind monkeys' throwing around ideas and dialogues. It's nice to have artist friends who I can talk to about this, who go through similar mental assault courses in the pursuit of art.

It's funny, I Googled 'busy brain' recently, and found that lots of people from all walks of life have an internal theatre going on, which they can't really control, but can result in lots of creative energy and ideas.

When I'm a bit calmer, doing Yoga, meditating, climbing, that sort of thing - I still tend to have an internal monologue giving me a running commentry on what I'm seeing, hearing and remembering. This is annoying when I'm meditating - something along the lines of "I'm concentrating on my breathing, oh yes I'm, I'm not thinking about anything, yay that's great, I'm not thinking about anything..." which defeats the object really.

Right now, it's less of a monologue and more of a forum. I wake up with a different song playing in my head every night. It's like someone left the TV/s on and I can't find the remote. My heart races and my neck aches.

However, I'm feeling artistically charged in a more consistant way than I've ever done. It's a common thing among artists, and I can take a stroll down the corridors of art history to confirm that I'm not alone. Lots of creative people have 'mind monkeys' of some kind, to greater and lesser extents, and this is what fuels the restless urge to make art. I know I should be grateful - when I'm too content and calm, my art goes down the pan. A quiet night's sleep would be nice though...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Three More Oils

Oil on Panel

Oil on Panel

The Future
Oil on Panel

Charcoal Drawings 9 - 10

Charcoal on Paper

First time drawing again for a while, feels good!

I didn't get to finish this one, unfortunately. I thought I'd post it anyway - it was a great pose, very challenging!

I'm looking for female models in the Tahoe area - either portrait or full body. No cash involved I'm afraid, but I'll exchange your time for a free portrait in charcoal. Email me at for more details.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Group Critique at The Rock

Mixed Media Artist Carol Sesko hosted a group critique last week at The Rock in Truckee, where she is currently exhibiting her paintings. It was my second critique with Carol, and I loved it. It's soooo helpful to be amongst creative people for a couple of hours, talking about your processes, hopes and fears, marketing, exhibitions, techniques...and so much more.

What's interesting is the diversity of our output doesn't make a spot of difference when we're discussing the emotional and practical aspects of making a career in art. We had a poet, a few painters of different styles, a couple of mixed media artists, and an illustrator.

The format went as follows: we each bring a piece of work to show the group, which we might need help or encouragement with. Each member introduces their work, and the group gives feedback. That's it. And it's great.

This blog actually helps me to organise my thoughts about my practice, more so than a private journal, because I have to consider my audience, as well as dig into my own soul to provide some sort of context to my work. I know a lot of artists don't agree with talking about the 'craft' of art, but I've found the internet to be immensely helpful in improving my technique and studio practice.

I've become especially fond of YouTube artists demos. The main thing I've learnt from that is that it's OK for a painting to go through a period of looking a bit crappy, because you work through that, and your 'ugly duckling' can become a swan if you stand back enough, evaluate your painting, correct the mistakes, be willing to wipe it down, and have faith in your ability to make it the best painting you've ever done.

Something which came up in the critique which was a relief to me (to know that others share my slightly schitzoid tendancies), was that looking at other people's work, often we go home and try out their style. If that happens often enough, it gets really confusing, and suddenly you don't know who you are any more. I wrote about that recently on this blog, illustrating it with my unmovable image of Derek Zoolander looking in the mirror going, "Who am I?"

The conclusion I've come to, is that if you're not disciplined enough to maintain your style in the face of all the other exciting styles out there, just incorperate a little tiny bit into your work, and see where that goes. You can't not have influences, we don't live in isolation from the world, history, other artists, etc., so I think if you're particularly chameleonic, (like me) the best you can do is try and stay true to yourself - having learnt from others, and absorbed the best and most relevant lessons to you, go back to the drawing board, and forget everything.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Vienna influence

Oil on Panel

I was really trying to capture the delicateness of this model - she's tiny. I've been lucky enough to have two models with this kind of girl-woman physique. I've also been reading a great book I scored from a hidden second-hand book store on the art of Vienna at the time of Klimt, Schiele and Kokashka - some of my favourite artists. I think some of the emotional weightinness of those artists came through, which I'm happy about. I'm intrigued by the somewhat abstract narrative which emerges when I let myself go in a painting. If I don't try too hard, and just focus on a strong image, allsorts of things come out.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Another Portrait

Oil on Panel

I'm really into this format - widescreen!

I've been reading a useful book: The Simple Secret to Better Painting: How to immediately improve your art with this one rule of composition by Greg Albert.

The rule is short and sweet: Never make any two intervals the same. The rule refers to composition, value, marks, everything - and is incredibly effective. It has really made me think about what I do (I've been doing a lot of thinking lately), and has helped me solve some of the issues I've been scratching my head over in my work.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Four great arty stores in Truckee

I love this place - it's an artist run gallery in Truckee, California. It's a hip, happening place full of creative energy and very well made objets d'rte. I have a few little paintings there too! check them out:

And this little gem is right next door! They sell gorgeous jewelry and clothes, as well as some very unexpected arty items (I got my husband a great Christmas pressie there)...brilliant place.

A fine place to discover handcrafted goods from all over the country. Many of our artisans specialize in sustainable, recycled, and all natural materials.

Organic skin care products, recycled metal & glass work, furnishings made from FSC certified & reclaimed wood, finely crafted jewelry, vintage findings, and healthy gifts for kids. Just some of the fun you will find at The Feather's Edge.

Located in the Downtown area of Truckee, California, Fair & Green's goal is to be a center for responsible consumerism by providing unique, quality products of a fair trade, organic and/or ecologically sound nature.

Fair & Green looks to serve consumers who want to look beyond the chain stores and who are looking to make a purchase that help people sustain a better life through Fair Trade. In addition, Fair & Green will strive to educate their customers on Fair Trade and Green Trade practices.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Finding yourself

I had one of those eureka! moments watching Finding Neverland the other night. I often get inspired by particularly 'painterly' films, like The Piano, and Girl with a Pearl Earring. This is inspired by a still from Neverland, of lovely Kate Winslett. I got my sketchbook out as soon as the film ended, excited and impatient to capture the image with seemed to be a crystallisation of what I've been restlessly striving for.

I've been struggling with this concept I have for portraits of women - they've just been coming out crap. I think I was confused about what I wanted to achieve - I wanted 'feminine' and I painted 'girly'. I want to paint something which speaks about women as people - emotionally and psychologically different from men, but also I want to capture something of the human condition, in an unspoken narrative.

I've also been stuggling with my 'style', such as it isn't. I've had this rather unappealing image of myself as Derek Zoolander standing in front of a mirror, going "Who am I?"

I want to paint loosely, and then I get all uptight because I'm all excited about ideas, and forget to let it flow. The studies came out great, nice and loose, lots of energy and clean paint - and then when I try and transfer that to the real thing...well, not good. Maybe I shouldn't do studies, I never used to. Maybe all the energy is spent after I've painted it once. I have learnt a lot though, about colours and the type of space I want to create, so all is not lost.

Anyway, I'm really happy with this Kate Winslett painting, and I think it's opened the door to a lot more. Yay!