Wednesday, 1 May 2013

'Bolt from the blue' paint laboratory

Yesterday was Blue Monday at Fabrica. For each exhibition I run a day workshop doing something that for me relates to the show and that I think other people will benefit from in some way.
In my workshop for Kaarina Kaikonnen's 'The Blue Route' I set up a laboratory to stretch the limits of paint making. Blue pigment was my starting point because of the theme and the connection to Amiens and woad production (see Fabrica website for more info).

I realised that experimentation in making paints and grounds to paint on has been a strong characteristic of my work for many years. Wanting to know why you had to do things in a particular way was always in my mind as I substituted other materials to try things out, instead of buying shop bought tubes and tubs. I've done everything from using bars of chocolate instead of water colour pans then using it to paint with my tongue, to the more traditional egg tempera on homemade gesso. With egg tempera I love the bit when you have to roll the yolk on your hand to dry the sack in order to empty its treasure with the prick of a pin.

I like to try textures and mixes based on how people throughout time and across cultures have mixed substances to carry colour to draw with. I usually start with wanting a certain type of mark, a thin shiny smear or a dry rasping scumble. It's a very intuitive process.

One of my all time favourite books is Robert Massey's 'Formula's for painters', it's a straight forward recipe book for sizes, grounds, mediums and everything I could ever need for painting or drawing with. This book is where I find out about the 'proper' way to do it and learn a lot about how and where I can afford to adapt the ingredients for my own use.

So setting up a laboratory in Fabrica was a way I could share a certain kind of approach to understanding something about paint, and how it works and how you can make it the way you want it. How exciting and surprising it is to spend time experimenting and what you can get out of an old jar of hand cream if you have woad and vegtable oil to mix with it.

Thursday, 21 March 2013


I introduced Dolores to the life drawing group this morning, she made a big impact.
Dolores comes from Paula Rego.
After I went to see Rego's show at the Marlborough recently I was struck on seeing her work this time, by how fluidly she moves between 'real' and 'unreal', how everything and everyone is material in her story telling. Characters come from stories into reality and back again the other way. History, politics, society, family, all of it passes back and forth across her canvas, glaring out from it.
The thing I wanted to share from my trip into Rego's world was the experience of drawing from life with rigour but without the ball and chain of dogged life study mentality. I often look for ways to encourage a more encompassing perspective on drawing from life, and the development of each individuals imaginary world as part of all drawing. Introducing Dolores was a way to bring Rego thinking into the gallery this spring in the hope that part of her will stay.
Here are some of the drawings done of Emma and Dolores this morning, the work was intense and changed by the new dynamic, and very different from when we've had two live models working together. You can see for yourself how exciting the work is, and how much potential for further development of work is revealed.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Karina Kaikkonen, "Are We Still Going On?"

I like this film of Kaarina even more because she speaks about the fear involved in making her work, a refreshingly honest description of how she feels and why she works in this particular way.

Kaarina Kaikkonen

This is a nice video I found with Kaarina Kaikkonen, the artist showing at Fabrica from 6 April - 26 May talking about her work:

Sunday, 3 March 2013

something to dream about

just before going to sleep I discovered Fabienne Verdier and watched a short mesmerising film (2 mins) of her wielding a massive chinese brush suspended from the ceiling of her studio (hydraulically by the sound of it). The physicality of the act of her drawing is intense but strangely meditative, the weight and the wetness of the brush incredibly sensuous.
have a look at her website here:

Paula Rego

I went to see Rego's show at The Marlborough Gallery on Friday.
I still feel full, and quite overwhelmed. It's well worth going to see.

There's a good article about her by Simon Hattenstone in the Guardian from a few years ago.
See link below

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A Fabrica atmosphere

Something about being in Fabrica makes it possible to be free to experiment, there's an amazing feeling of liberty here which encourages exploration...
Also there's something about the generosity of the space that feels so good to work in.

a spontaneous comment from someone drawing this morning.