Saturday, 29 December 2007

IMT - Best of 2007

From Inspire Me Thursday this week: The Best of 2007
"This week let us look back upon the past twelve months and reflect upon the best of 2007… perhaps a moment you were at your best. Choose something that stood out, something you will remember 2007 for."

I'd been having a rough time earlier in the year so I took a break to Stirling in Scotland. It was the best thing I did. Just to get away from everything and spend time in Scotland. I cannot imagine finding a more beautiful place on the planet.

There was one amazing life-affirming moment, which for me fits perfectly for the theme this week. Here is a photograph I took at that time and place. Everything just seemed okay and it was one of those glad to be alive moments. It is taken at the top of the Old Town Jail in Stirling. Its something I'll never forget and its also the moment I fell in love with Scotland. I keep this photograph in a frame in my bedroom to remind me of how I felt. It cheers me up to remember it if I'm feeling down. I've been back since and am hoping to travel there again in 2008.

For the artwork, I'm sharing 4 postcards I got when I was there. I know they are for children to colour in (!) but I really liked them and I've just finished painting the last one tonight so I can post them for this. They are the Scottish heroes William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, Robert The Bruce and Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Happy New Year to everyone. I hope 2008 brings more of these moments to us all.

Forgery or Tribute?

I've been thinking about the fine line between forgery and tribute. Attempting to master the style of another artist and absorb yourself in their work or a shameless rip off?

At school we always used to copy famous art works or the work of an artist we were studying. I read in "I was Vermeer" that Michelangelo used to borrow classic works of art in order to copy them, but he returned the copies, keeping the originals for himself.
So here are a few I faked earlier, while I was at school. The first is from Lisa Yuskavage's "Kathy on a Pedestal" and the second is my attempt at "Siamese Smile" by Chatchai Puipia.
I remember trying to decide what to paint for an exam piece and not being satisfied with any idea I came up with because it had been done before. Another artist had painted about those themes, or in that style, or about the same subject. When I explained my frustration to my art teacher I always remember him saying to me that its impossible to ever produce anything new in that sense. Everything has been done before.

So how do you produce an original artwork? I suppose it is by bringing yourself into the work. Putting a part of you - of your life - into the canvas. Anyway this is what I've been musing on this weekend and I painted this picture about it. I got the idea form one of those vintage type French posters. I have one on my bedroom wall which I bought ages ago from a second hand shop.

I Was Vermeer - Art & Forgery

I've just finished the book "I Was Vermeer" by Frank Wynne. It is a true story about artist Han van Meegeren, one of the most famous forgers of the twentieth century. His fake Vermeer "Supper at Emmaus" was a Dutch national treasure and the most visited painting in the Netherlands. In fact, when Han was arrested and confessed many still refused to believe this was a forgery as it was simply so good. In order to prove he had the skill to produce such a genuine-looking Vermeer, the courts had him paint "a new Vermeer" watched by guards.

It was interesting to read about the fascinating subject of art forgery. Firstly I hadn't realised how widespread forgery of the masters is. Over the years many paintings have been "improved upon" or doctored as fashions change. Bits are cut out (often Joseph from the Holy family to create a more saleable Madonna & child), or bits repainted.
Michelangelo's fresco on the Sistine Chapel alter "The Last Judgement", shown right, was painted with the figures naked. Pope Paul III's advisor was shocked by the "shameless display of flesh" and an artist was commissioned after Michelangelo's death to add bits of cloth to cover up the figures.

Secondly it takes an awful lot of skill and talent to forge Vermeer-type works of art. Firstly the forger must be intimately familiar and competent with the style of the artist they are attempting to copy. Many forgers are themselves failed or unrecognised artists. Van Meerger was himself a very skillful painter in the style of the old Dutch masters like Rembrandt. Unfortunately for him he was born about 300 years too late. He was painting just as modern art - Dali, Picasso, Mondrian - were transforming the art world. Nobody was interested in Han's old fashioned style.

In addition to artistic skill the forger must have an excellent practical knowledge of the canvas and paints which would have been used. Han bought genuine old canvases which he painted over. He couldn't use the new paints which were now available in tubes but had to mix them from the raw materials like lead or lapis lazuli, as Vermeer would have done. There is also the problem of giving the aged appearance. The craquelure is almost impossible to artificially produce. Simply baking a painting would produce cracks too uniform and would distort the paints and canvas. Han experimented with this for years and eventually built his own oven, using a complicated system of varnishing and baking the paintings.

Friday, 28 December 2007

More Sketches

Just another page of quick sketches, done without lifting the pencil, of my surroundings today. I coloured and paitned it in tonight.

Photography Fan Two

Here is a photograph by Monica Ford which I love. I think she is an extremely talented lady and when I came across her work on the Internet at a random hour in the morning a few days ago I was just dumbstruck by the visual impact her images posses. You can read an interview with Monica Here.

At the moment I'm becoming more and more keen to, without wanting to sound pretentious (!), experiment with and explore what it means to be a woman. I'm starting to develop a real sense of inner strength and pride from being a woman and this is something I want to try and develop in my own paintings. The thing I like about Monica is that she creates these characters herself, and uses them, it seems to me, to delve into what is it to be a woman and the many roles we have. Whether we contrive and exploit them ourselves or if we are put in that position by others. Its an interesting area.

Aside from all that stuff I am just struck by the genius way Monica captures the beauty of women. The way she photographs the female body. Truly there is nothing like the female body for artistic perfection. Or is that just me? Maybe! I do tend to go through random phases of becoming obsessed with painting "the female nude" much to the embarrassment of my parents and art teacher who censored my end of year show! Maybe I'll paint a new one now just for you Mr Jones :)

Photography Fan One

I met photographer Andrew Helm at a craft fair in Saltaire this year. I loved his work and as I become more interested in and appreciative of photography myself I wanted to share it with you here.

I especially liked this photograph "Petals and Leaves # 1" because I find the random shapes and colours make such a natural and beautiful composition. Andrew does not stage the photographs but just captures things as they are, this one from the forest floor. I think because these are dying petals people wouldn't usually stop to notice the beauty in them but photographed in this way I find it mesmerising. I think Andrew has a great eye for spotting this understated and hidden beauty and that's why I'm a fan.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007


I'm trying to start doing more simple, quick sketching. Just sitting down with my sketch book and a pencil with no big plans in mind and sketching objects around me or whatever comes to mind. I've been using the book "Art Escapes" by Dory Kanter as inspiration.

Here are a few examples I've been doing over Christmas. This first page was sketching without lifting the pencil of the page. From starting off drawing a teddy bear I filled the whole page and then added some colour with watercolour, adding more definition with a black ink pen. From nothing I like the way this gathered its own momentum and made a nice random page in my sketchbook.

This is a great exercise in "Art Escapes" when the prospect of just sitting down and starting sketching (anything!?) is a bit daunting. Draw lots of little two inch square boxes and fill them with quick two minute observations of your surroundings. Then you can go on to add colour, or develop some off the boxes into paintings or whatever.

Monday, 24 December 2007


This study of a rose, painted in acrylic, formed part of my 2003 A-level exam in art. My mum now has it on her bedroom wall. After 4 years I have just now felt like I could sign it. I'm a bit weird about signing paintings and can't often .. but I really regret not dating them. I'm going to start doing so now.


Painted this tonight in watercolour.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Cranberry Dancing Pearl Necklace

Here is a last, last minute commission for a festive red necklace.
I've made it mainly with cranberry coloured freshwater dancing pearls. There are also Swarovski crystals, lampwork glass beads, Goldstone beads and golden leaf charms.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

IMT - Open Topic

Because its an open topic at Inspire Me Thursday this week I'm posting something totally different. Not something I've done but some Christmas cards my mum painted for my dad and me back in 1993! I've treasured them all this time.

The Mini one is for me. I don't know why but I used to always burst into fits of uncontrollable giggles whenever I saw a yellow Mini car. One of my teachers at school had one so I think that's where it started. Even now whenever I see one I have to have a sly smile. :)

The motorbike one was for my dad. Always a biker and a Harley was the dream bike, so here is Santa on one. I think he can totally carry off that look too!
Happy Christmas everyone!


I'm not sure about them but my dad really likes these beaded Christmas baubles so I've stitched him this one as a gift this year. It is with a kit from Spellbound Bead Company.
Hopefully he'll be able to keep it and put it on the tree each year.

It took a long time to make but I'm happy with it now its finished. I've tried to send as many handmade gifts as I can. I'm glad its all now finished and I'm really looking forward to people opening the presents. Only 2 days to go .. yey!

Dusty Scrapbook

Here is another special Christmas gift for my mum which I have just finished. Its okay I can post it here because she doesn't read this.

She is a really big Dusty Springfield fan so I have made a Dusty scrapbook. I've used the K & Company Neapolitan Accordian Mini-Book set. This is a picture of it above plus some other ribbons and bits of pieces I started with.

It has 10 pages so I've devoted a page each to mum's 10 favourite Dusty songs. There are snippets of the lyrics and mum's favourite Dusty photographs too.

I've also made a compilation CD of the 10 songs (which fits really nicely in the round tin).

Here it is altogether. Hope she likes it...

RSPCA Christmas Present for Mum

This is a Christmas gift for my mum. I usually get mum a cat or kitten calendar for Christmas. However when I was shopping for one I saw this RSPCA Photo Memories calendar where you use your own pictures each month.
So I have made mum a special cat calendar for 2008 with pictures of our own beautiful cats! What a great idea.
This is a picture of our cat Mora posing for January :-)

Thursday, 20 December 2007


I have today finished the male version of my art sketches - I did one of women a while ago. The idea was to take famous examples of men and women in art and put them all together as simple sketches on a page like this.

The male one is based on paintings and sculptures by Picasso, Bacon, Da Vinci, Raeburn, Munch, Michelangelo, Reni, Rubens, van Gogh, Masaccio, Warhol, Rembrant & Toulouse-Latrec.

I have stuck the two pictures together to make an A3 sized finished piece. I really like how this one has worked out. Its a good addition to a series of works I've been doing about the artists and paintings that have inspired me. I might even put this up on my wall!


This is a follow up piece to the collage I posted for the theme of "Ice" last week at IMT. Thank you to everyone who posted such nice comments, you inspired me to do this new collage.

Here they both are together. Bellow is a photograph of a painted window in my art classroom. I wanted to show it here because it inspired me to do the first winter-scape collage. I think its really pretty.

Strawberries & Nettles

This is about school. Definitely not a happy time for me.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

IMT - Giving

For "Giving" at Inspire Me Thursday this week I am sharing some work from my final art therapy class where the theme was also giving. We all made a picture for each other member of the group. On it we painted two gifts we wanted to give them. One was an actual gift we could physically give and the second was an abstract gift idea. Then we actually gave the paintings to that person to keep.

The picture at the top here is a page in my sketch book where I have glued in the gifts from Michael and Eddie. From Michael the gifts were the path towards the sun and happiness and the gift of a degree and career in the area of art. From Eddie the gifts were the path towards happiness (:-)the same! ) - the yellow brick road and for my family to be together on my birthday - which was the next day.

Here are the gifts I painted.
Gifts For Carol

A good venue and lots of people to come to our next art course (hopefully there will be one!). Secondly a kind of mirror with which to see through our eyes the huge benefit and joy Carol has brought us with this art therapy class.

Gifts For Michael

A train ticket to go and visit family who live further north and in Ireland. Also the gift of connecting with a sense of roots when he plans to go back to where his family came from originally. Secondly a sense of feeling "home" and heritage in the landscape of Ireland.

Gifts For Eddie
A sketch book. Plus the gift of artistic creativity and inspiration. This is because after doing the course Eddie has really found a passion for art and wishes to develop it further as a hobby.

I just want to say happy Christmas to everyone at IMT and anyone else who reads this. Thank you all for your kind comments and inspiration. Best wishes for the holidays and I hope you all enjoy sending and receiving lovely gifts.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Studying Mammals

I just got my exam result back this week for my Open University course "Understanding Mammals" and I passed! :-)
Just for the "aww" factor here is a picture of one of my favourite mammals - the red panda.

I'm very happy because I enjoyed the course which is a companion to the BBC series "The Life of Mammals". Hugely interesting and very challenging - much harder and more in depth than I thought it would be. It was very rewarding though - totally worth it. I wish David Attenborough was my Grandad a little bit now!

I'm very interested in learning about animals and how to care for them. It is something I'm hoping to learn more about in the future. I'd like to get more hands on experience doing this.

Speaking of which, here is a picture of my hands (honest!) holding William the cat. It was taken when I did some volunteer work with the RSPCA in Halifax.

As you can see he was very poorly and lost his eye after being knocked down by a car. His jaw was also wired shut but he was back on the mend when this photograph was taken - just having his stitches out with the vet. William made a full recovery and was adopted into a caring home by a member of the public who fell in love with him in the cattery.

Lovely happy ending!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007


These pictures are from my art therapy class. The subject was "silence". In the first one I'm trying to show an idea of keeping an inner sense of calm and silence amid all the hustle bustle of those around us. It helps to block the rest of the world out when needs be but things can still get through and you can chose to become aware once again.

This quick sketch was a picture of the exact moment in my class. I am the yellow and white circle in the centre. Its like peripheral vision I suppose with sounds. Each of the interjecting colours and lines were sounds or people around me at the time. People talking, music playing and a digger outside too. I enjoyed doing this one a lot because it was so current. Every time I heard another sound I wanted to add more to the picture.

I think next week is going to be the last session due to small class size. I'm really down about it because this group has really been a terrific life line for me. I've been feeling so creative these last few months. I usually take the class on Tuesday as a jumping off point and build on the themes myself during the week. I've been painting so much recently- more so than I have ever probably done. I've also had confidence to try new things - photography, collage.
I just hope I can keep it up if the class is going to finish. Its so much easier when you are in a group with people and have a tutor to encourage you. It can be so easy to sometimes slip back into old habits and not be bothered to get up and do something. So I'm feeling quite worried today.

I don't want to lose what I've been working at.

Stretch Gemstone Bracelets

Here are some new bracelets I have made. They are strung on elastic so they can come on and off without fussing with clasps. They are quite a flexible fit for people too.
Here I have used tiger eye, jade, rose quartz and onyx.

Monday, 10 December 2007


This is a painting I've just finished. The idea came to me because we were asked to bring in something to art therapy class which makes us feel inspired. I thought of the painting "Wheat field With Crows" by van Gogh. My favourite painting ever.

But I didn't want to stop there - there are so many paintings, sculptures and artists that have fascinated me at one time or another. So I've made a collage here of some of the key works of art and artists to inspire me and make me want to learn more about art.
I've cropped little pictures so I can identify them individually here. They actually look better like this I think!

Sarah Lucas "Black & White Bunny"

Lucian Freud "Portrait of Francis Bacon"

Vincent van Gogh "Wheat field With Crows"

Tracey Emin, still from video "Why I Never Became A Dancer"

David Hockney "Nude 1984"

Martin Creed "Lights Going On & Off"

Edouard Manet "A Bar At The Folies-Bergere"

Jenny Holzer from "Inflammatory Essays"

Arnulf Rainer "Wine Crucifix"

Armand Fernandez "Condition Of A Woman"

Rineke Dijkstra "Julie"

Marlene Dumas "The Banality Of Evil"

Here are photographs of the collage as I made it. The first stage was to glue down the pictures and apply a layer of Gesso. I then painted onto the page. Filling in the gaps between the pictures and doing a little bit of painting on the pictures too to tie it all in. The final stage was to add some words, which you might be able to see on the finished picture at the top of the post.