Studio Build THREE

Week Two in the new studio.

Monday 12th November, built a step and a 80mm platform to allow me to work up high, stretched forty metres of nylon cord across the space just off centre, to the right of the entrance. Tightened some of the hardboard with extra screws.

Wednesday14th November, started the drawing in the big space, outline first and then charcoal.

The charcoal sections treated differently for each one.

Also put the heating on in the little office to dry out the stretched paper. The electricity usage went from 283 KWh to 299 KWh and the board was still not fully stretched after that. That’s £3.20 worth of heat, it was like a sauna in there. It means I won’t be doing any drawing on stretched paper here.

Friday I worked with blackboard paint and white emulsion to build up the interior. I also made a light fitting for the space as it gets dark early.

whole drawing expanded

whole drawing expanded

The whole drawing, as near as I can replicate it, looks like this. In progress, there is a long way to go, collage elements next.

This last video has the emulsion sections added with the light on. There is still a long way to go before I begin to add the interactive elements.


Studio Build TWO

Studio 071118

A full day at the studio. A full day means arriving at 11:00 and leaving at 15:50, I am retired after all.

First off I stretched the paper in the foreground, I’ll be interest to see how this dries given the lack of heating and fabulous ventilation. The time is an hour ahead on this photo, I couldn’t be arsed to change the time when the clocks went back. I moved on to constructing the panels for part one of the installation.

I cut all the wood first, twenty eight short lengths and then moved onto assembling the panels. I got the timing down to fifteen minutes a panel when my portable drill finally charged up. Before that I was putting the screws in by hand, each panel has eight 100mm bullets and fourteen 25mm bullets. The photographs illustrate the very simple production line approach.

An aside for today about the electricity. The supplier is e-on and their standard tariff is around 15.75 pence per KWh. The meter read 277 when I took possession and read 283 after today’s work. The advantage of having only one socket to power everything from.

The video is here so you can hear the noise the rain makes on the corrugated roof.

Friday 9th November. Arrive at 10:45 am with a view to completing as much of the structure as I can. Obviously someone has been in on Thursday as the lights come on when I enter the building. As it’s Axisweb’s rental I have to accept access by them and the landlord without prior notice. This could be either and maybe I won’t see the visitor I’m expecting today.

I made eight frames today to add to the six from Wednesday, each frame uses 4×2.4m C16 CLS 3×2 (48x75mm) at £3.10 each length and one sheet of whiteface hardboard at £7.75, so £20.16 per frame plus screws. Eight 100mm bullets costs about £1.70 and sixteen 25mm bullets are 23 pence. So £22.09 x 14 is £309.20 for the whole assembly. You could say £310.00 including the electricity.

I’ve got one spare frame to test the surfaces for the internal finish and I’m still toying with having a door. There are also a few spots that will need extra screws to lie flatter. You can also see how dark it is, 15:30 in November.

Here ends week one of the new studio!

Studio 091118

Studio Build ONE

This is the new studio I got through Axisweb. A 2,800 sq. ft. light industrial unit for £30 per month. Obviously it’s not only my studio but I am the only one in it at the moment. The space is the biggest I’ve had access to for a good while and has come at a good time for me.

I have been working towards building an environment, with interactive elements, since 2005 when I completed my MA. I was always stymied by the need to earn a living leading to a lack of space and time. Now that I’m retired I have the time but didn’t have the space and couldn’t afford a commercial rent so I applied for an Arts Council grant under their Develop Your Creative Practice strand. I was unsuccessful in the application but then the Axisweb studio came up and I thought why not do it anyway.

The project can be seen here where there a series of developmental animations of 3d models. I will write more about the space itself in a different post, this series will plot the physical and practical process involved in building it and its more open companion piece.

As a reference point for the studio space artist groups in Doncaster are offering spaces through the council that measure 4.5 x 2.5 metres, that’s slightly bigger than half the blue tarpaulin in the close up picture, for £15 per month.

Spaces like this have limits you accept and work around. This space is essentially a fifteen metre square with a 5x4mtr corner office. The corner office has motion sensor triggered lighting and two wall heaters that have timers attached. It has four double wall sockets and is carpeted. None of this useful for me at all. The rest of the space has no lighting and one double socket next to the electrical consumer unit. There is no heating either. The space is well lit by six large skylights, clear corrugated plastic by the look of it, and is usable during daylight hours. I have had to invest in extension leads and adopt a very considered practice – never leaving anything plugged in that’s not being used, taking time to put away equipment between uses as I move the sockets near enough to the work – to be able to build. The other downside to AxisWeb spaces is that you have a 21 day notice period from either side, so if the landlord rents the space you have to leave quickly.

I took the keys on October 26th , and moved the equipment in on Tuesday 30th. Materials were delivered on Monday 5th November and I built the bench in the picture below that afternoon (yesterday as I write). Stay tuned for more as time passes.

Drawing Towards Sculpture [THREE]

[ONE] talked about the development of collage drawings from site specific drawings and notes, [TWO] took a diversion to discuss drawing as an act of translation and touched upon the drawing dictating its own ends, [THREE] examines the transition of the drawings to two new forms, stand alone 3d entities and an environment.

To start this post I have to step back to before the first post and talk about the reasons for addressing the thing that has sat at the back of my mind for years and is now asking to be experienced. I have always found gardens important. I can track my life through these outdoor spaces where I first experienced a simulacrum of freedom. Where I first daydreamed, projecting myself into a smaller world, that was at once battlefield, farmyard, football pitch. Where I buried hamsters, birds and cats. A space that has remained a place for play while the nature of playing has changed. Where the past is always drifting just out of sight bar the shadows in the corner of your eye. I have continually created gardens, or parts of gardens, since the 1980’s.

BA Final Show Installation 1982

This view of my BA final show in 1982 shows a selection of sculptures built from the observational drawings of storms and landscapes that are displayed behind them. Response to nature has always been there in my work. I was introduced to art in the late ’70’s as a way to explain rather describe, but increasingly I have come to see it as a way to suggest. To render an implication rather to only evidence an event or place.

Continuing with the translation of drawing into sculpture it is relatively easy to see the change from these collage/drawings

Collage Drawings 2018

Collage Drawings 2018

To this sculpture

Ptolemy's Garden 1

Ptolemy’s Garden 1

Or this one

Ptolemy's Garden 4

Ptolemy’s Garden 4

There is a clear line of, for want of a better word, progress between these small sculptures and the earlier ones.

The process through drawing to sculpture is led through the development of a repertoire of marks that are refined as the pieces develop. The pieces are stand alone but are always placed to accentuate their edges and to articulate empty space through their proximity.

The work also develops into environmental pieces – the installation of the exhibition illustrated above as an obvious example – or the piece I made for my MA at
This particular range of work is growing into this environment.

3D model view of proposed geranium project installation

3D model view of proposed geranium project installation


Drawing Towards Sculpture [TWO]

How a drawing progresses through thought and action is what I thought I wanted to discuss but as I began to write I found that what concerned me was how the thing made is understood, what expectations I had of an audience and how and whether my intentions could or should be communicated by that thing. In continuing to think about the act of drawing as a symptom, or as a consequence or corollary of sculpture in part one of this post, I brushed against the idea of making a drawing being the subject of the drawing. This is too simple an explanation of process. The two drawings below for instance were made before the collage drawings in the first post but survived the cut, as it were, as they help explain the spaces I’m interested in. There are changes of viewpoint across the picture plane, working to no particular plan, disrupting the perspective to reflect the way that memory disrupts experience. Isolating objects in instances that refer to other things.

The creative act is perhaps best described as an act of translation. The ‘change or conversion to another form, appearance, etc.; transformation:’i Translation is notoriously difficult because of changes to understanding between one state and another. Linguistically this is demonstrated by obvious loss of sense or meaning with literal change, just try google translate to explore it. In artistic terms the same things apply, the nature of a mark implying three dimensional space is different to that of a mark occupying a space and that may imply a different meaning. I have often seen maquettes that fail to translate an appropriate sense of scale for instance. In Greek Poetry Translations M. Byron Raizis discusses these difficulties in translation and steps the translator needs to take to overcome them. In particular he cites anaplasis, transposition,padding, omission, inversion, correction and adjustment, and says ‘by anaplasis we mean a remoulding, a recasting of the words, expressions imagery etc., of the original into new and different but more naturally corresponding lexical features in the target tongue’ (Byron Raizis, 1981)ii This seems to me apposite in describing the act of drawing.

The drawing below (I say drawing advisedly, I have never really thought of myself as a painter and I can’t see a difference in the activities other than their existence as an end in themselves.) illustrates this recasting for me. The scene is the garden of a house on Coronation Crescent in Preston, Lancashire in 1991. The garden is viewed from the front door in the centre of the end wall of a two up two down end terrace property. It had been emptied of plants the previous winter and planted up in the spring. It’s now the end of summer and the garden feels like the whole of the world at this point. The intention is not facsimile, photographic or even technical, it’s not an illustration. The garden is deliberately sparse and the shadow heightened. The desire is to present visual analogies to memories that are always questionable. iii

Today I read an article about an art class in Sydney in which Professor of Fine Art Paul Thomas invited 14 participants from UNSW’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) to examine Bell’s theorem (1964) via their still life drawing of a simple wooden chair.

‘Irene Fernandez, who is doing a PhD in Quantum Computing at the School of Electrical Engineering, said the workshop inspired two ideas.
“The idea that when you make a trace, you statistically determine the reality of the object that you are trying to measure,” she said.
“I could see the chair as the reality that [Albert] Einstein believed in, and my hand as the tool of quantum mechanics.”
“[Secondly] the idea that the material memory makes this interesting effect where you no longer control your drawing, but it is the drawing that starts driving your decisions.” ‘iv

The second point neatly sums up what I have been trying to get at.



ii. Byron Raizis, M (1981). Greek Poetry Translations. Greece: Efstathiadis Group. In the introduction – The Nature of Literary Translation. I am indebted to Mary Jacobus’ book Reading Cy Twombly about the artists use of poetry in his paintings and in particular the Introduction that discusses translation as part of the creative process. Jacobus, M (2016). Reading Cy Twombly. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

iii. There is a good article about this idea on The Conversation blog, “Research shows that we don’t actually access and use all available memories when creating personal narratives. It is becoming increasingly clear that, at any given moment, we unawarely tend to choose and pick what to remember.” Mazzoni, G. 2018. The ‘real you’ is a myth – we constantly create false memories to achieve the identity we want. 19th September. The Conversation. [Online]. [27 September 2018]. Available from:

iv. Nazaroff, D. 2018. UNSW Newsroom. [Online]. [24 September 2018]. Available from:


Drawing Towards Sculpture [ONE]

Establishing a repertoire of marks to explore an imagined space. That’s what I imagined myself articulating when I set out to write a blog post about a set of collage-drawings I made in June. These drawings are a transitional stage between sketches made in the garden and an imagined/virtual space. I make sketches and take photographs in the location, make bigger drawings from these in the studio, tear these up and use them as the base for the collage-drawings which are then transferred to virtual spaces as a preliminary to being recreated, and thus further altered in a manufactured physical space.

Drawing is about looking. Looking at the object or scene and looking at the paper or ground (or should that be support?) and looking at both simultaneously. Drawing is translating your feelings in the presence of the object/scene into a surface that communicates. Henri Matisse stated that his ‘…line drawing is the purest and most direct translation of my emotion’ and Picasso that ‘To draw, you must close your eyes and sing’ (Worsdale et al, 2007)1. Something beyond draughtsmanship creates a drawing that makes connections with an audience.

These drawings are a means to an end, or rather a step on a meandering journey, the end is vague like the horizon, affect not effect. The translation of feeling is semi-conscious in that occasionally a further use for the mark you make occurs and in doing so conditions the next mark you make, sometimes to its detriment. Sometimes the things you imagine as you copy become the things you copy and sometimes you don’t want this. This is why I make drawings to destroy or recreate in three dimensions. Even where a drawing is an accurate enough depiction to be recognised, either generally or specifically, this is not the whole of its intention. I note to myself at this point that if this were drawing as a cure for cancer it would be homeopathy.

Cézanne writes to Emile Bernard on the 23rd October 1905 “I owe you the truth in painting and I will tell it to you”.(Derrida, 1978) 2. Derrida uses this as a departure for a series of musings on the nature of truth in painting. Here are four interpretations of the meaning of ‘the truth in painting’ I found in a breakdown online at Kent State University. 3. They address the questions I’m trying to ask, albeit considering painting.

(1) the thing itself (truth as unhiddenness, disclosure, presentation; unveiled with no disguise whatever).
(2) an adequate, accurate representation of the thing itself—Heidegger’s secondary sense of truth.  These two concepts of truth enable one to generate four possibilities: a presentation of a representation (see, look at this photograph, here); a presentation of a presentation (“Behold, the man!”); a representation of the presentation (a painting of the situation in which the presentation just mentioned occurred); and representation of the representation (a slide of the painting).
(3) the truth in the sense proper to a picture (whatever that may be—a play of possibilities opens up here), as opposed to truth in the sense proper to an essay, for example.
(4) the truth about painting.

These potential revelations are always present in an encounter with an artwork, what it presents itself as being, what it copies, the context in which you encounter it, the truth it tells as you interpret it, what is open to you from your contribution and what is closed to you through your ignorance. They apply equally on all occasions to the artist as much as the audience especially if you follow Picasso’s instruction.

So these drawings are made to be a staging post, a base camp, before the assault on a greater challenge. They explore the nature of the spaces between the branches and twigs of the trees, the sky and the ground, the garden and the gardener, the now and the remembered. The space between the intention to make a mark and the making of that mark.

This is one of the drawings the others were made from, in this set there are 41 A1 collage/drawings. They can all be seen in this gallery

1. Worsdale, G et al (2007). DRAW Conversations around the legacy of drawing. England: MIMA. These are quoted by Gordon Burn and Jennifer Higgie in short essays in the catalogue to mima’s (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) inaugural exhibition. They are unattributed there and I have been unable to find a source so may be apocryphal.
2. Derrida, J (1987). The Truth in Painting. (Translation Bennington G, McLeod I). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
3. The Truth in Painting. 2007. Aesthetics Notes for Students. [Online]. [19 September 2018]. Available from:

Being in the moment

Dogwalk 2008 Twigs, pins, paper


I’ve always felt the worst thing you can do is think. When I’m making I need to dissociate myself from everything and act automatically if the work is to be any good. Clearly this is not axiomatic, there is too much evidence to the contrary in my drawers.




Dogwalk 1 2008, Twigs, paper pins


When I moved to Doncaster I had limited space to work and certainly no space for sculpture. I continued a habit of collecting ‘stuff’ as I walked my dogs, twigs, bits of detritus, feathers, etc., and kept a bag full of it in the garage. Periodically I would spend time joining these bits together. The model for this activity for me was David Smith’s residency in Italy at Voltri in 1962.



Dogwalk 2 2008 pins, paper, twigs


Smith was invited to make two sculptures for the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, and given the choice of five abandoned welding factories around Genoa. He chose one in the small town of Voltri. Inspired by the wealth of material available he made 27 sculptures in 30 days. The Wall Street Journal has a good article here.



Voltri VII

David Smith Voltri VII, 1962 Photo: © The Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


Finding an array of parts, wheels, girders, tools and so on, Smith just built. I can imagine the energy generated by the sheer joy of combining these objects.

I adopted this approach when I discovered it because that kind of energy can only work when decisions become intuitive. I find that I work best when I have progressed beyond careful consideration into try and fail, try and fail, try and accept. I won’t say succeed.



Since then I have had a working practice, that I’m still tied to, that means I can work for an hour or so each day before I have to stop. The next day I need to be able to pick up the traces quickly, contemplation is not an option when time is limited. So I built small sculptures at a rapid rate, developing the ideas quickly, each responding to whatever I pulled out of the bag, and began to notice connections rather than engineering them. The ‘dogwalks’ maquettes, never to be realised as sculpture, are my effort at generating this kind of energy


Voltri VI

Voltri VI, 1962 Steel, 98 7/8 x 102 1/4 x 24 in. (251.1 x 259.7 x 61 cm.) Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Dallas, Texas 1978.A.0 .


reference for Voltri VI

reference for Voltri VII

Woman Walking with Hand to Mouth

Four views of a work in progress.  This is four views of a single figure, about one metre tall, made from hardboard and fixed with a glue gun.  The figure is from Muybridge– ‘Woman walking with hand to her mouth’

Woman Walking Downstairs

The desire here is to get the kind of movement you find in Duchamp into the single figure, or to simply have the movement apparent in the static representation, so it’s very much a first version, and very much unfinished.

That may be a characteristic of my work on reflection, the ‘unfinished’ quality. I won’t claim it as deliberate, but then I do stop.

Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase

The process I try to follow when I work is to work without reference, to try to let the object dictate it’s own result.  There are some other examples here


wikimedia commons Eadweard Muybridge

Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 – wikipedia 21/04/12