Looking….and Seeing


, , , , , ,

The weekend has been one of taking stock and making plans……more of which I will tell you when they come to fruition….(note I said ‘when’ not ‘if’… how’s that for positivity?)

I have also been reflecting on my art practice – having to write an artist’s statement does concentrate the mind – and where and how I draw my inspiration from…

I have always been an avid reader and at present I am enthralled by the writings of Robert MacFarlane. I love the countryside and wild places and having devoured The Old Ways I am now reading Landmarks.

I like these because, not only does MacFarlane have a wonderfully descriptive prose style, he has a love of language, for the forgotten words, the archaic turn of phrase, for local dialect. I too love words and learning the etymology of words….

How can you not be inspired by such descriptive terms as:

summer geese – steam that rises from the moor when the rain is followed by hot sunshine (North Yorkshire) or

ammil – ‘The icy casings of leaves and grasses and blades and sprigs were glowing and hid in a mist of sun-fire. Moor folk call this morning glory the ammil (Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter 1927 Exmoor…)

(both of the above were taken from MacFarlane’s ‘Landmarks’)

Last night I read this excerpt from Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain quoted in ‘Landmarks’..

(Apologies for the wonky camera angle…)

These writings are making me stop and think about how I look at the world around me but sometimes don’t really see….

With these thoughts ringing in my head I took myself out for a walk…now I don’t live in a wild place, I live in middle England, Leicestershire where the drone of the A6 is a constant….

….but at the end of my road is the River Soar

..so I walked, I sat, I listened, I made notes….







Now I don’t profess to have the same turn of phrase as Robert MacFarlane but these are some of the words that sprung to mind as I sat, watched, listened, searched for the details…

reflection, glinting, ripples, sunlight, flow…

…although you can’t really see in the above, there was a wonderful ribbon of silver between the river and the far bank..

Reeds, shadows, pale, leaning, swept against the bank, seed heads..

Celandines (I think…correct me if I am wrong) and lichen..

and wonderful furry stars…

A country girl born and bred, my ability to identify birdsong is shameful…but I did hear the caw of the raucous crows, a magpie and the odd, ubiquitous gull amongst the ‘whee, whee’, chirrups and calls, some more strident…

..even spotted a lone crow atop a tree…perhaps on the look out for a nest site. Most of the trees are still skeletons..

..but their density provides a solid delineation between land and sky..

There was one however, a willow, clinging to the river bank, which was beginning to show signs of it’s green, sweeping curtain…

Con trails criss-crossed the sky, the church bell called the hour, the distant neigh of a horse, the honking of nearby ducks…

The difference between looking and seeing….detail, and with that I think the essence of the place comes alive…

..will be fascinating to see how the above develops in my work…watch this space..


What To Do Next……..?



Those of you kind enough to read my blog and follow me on social media will know that I have started doing my ‘Six in Twenty’, six images done in a variety of media and spontaneously….just to get me started….




I keep these studies in sketchbooks….which I am filling rapidly…..

I am however, finding it increasingly difficult to take the next step and develop these studies into something more serious…. What to do?

Six in Twenty….


, , , , , , , , ,

My name is Carolyn Roberts and I suffer with ‘white paper syndrome’…..

Talking to friends and fellow artists…(although I still find myself feeling extremely self-conscious when I refer to myself as an artist…but that’s a subject for another post..),  I know that I am not alone…Faced with that lovely sheet of white paper, or a beautiful new sketchbook – have just bought two Seawhite ones from Jacksons Art – I feel panic setting in and at times this paralyses me…I find myself procrastinating….one of the down sides of working from home is that it is easy to be side-tracked, there’s always a job that needs doing…

I am sure all artists have ways of overcoming this ‘syndrome’….Last year I was lucky enough to attend a Jean Haines workshop and she advocates various exercises to remedy this – see her blog/books/DVDs. There’s also all the warm up exercises when you attend life-drawing classes…..non-dominant hand, continuous line drawing, not looking at the paper, holding the charcoal or pencil at arms length…

From these experiences I have developed my own little warm up exercise for me to overcome that feeling of panic every time I go into my ‘studio’ …(back bedroom)…I set myself the task of producing six images on six pieces of paper in twenty minutes…. The paper is whatever scraps I have lying around and are of varying sizes, although not too big owing to the time constraints. The medium is whatever I have to hand, be that pencil, ink, charcoal, watercolour…. I consciously try not to have to have set images in mind…I’m just concentrating on getting marks on paper, getting the creative juices flowing, overcoming the fear….




I set myself a time limit, one day it was ‘Six in Ten Minutes’ as I had lots of tiny scraps of paper, and I find this time limit stops me from ‘faffing about’…and it also removes that pressure of thinking I have to create a masterpiece every time….the marks are spontaneous….and sometimes, just sometimes, I get some images that I quite like or I think are worth developing….


img_0091How do you begin your studio sessions? How do you overcome ‘white paper syndrome?’

…….That Is The Question….


, ,

While today’s ‘Six in Twenty’ were drying…



I used the time to tidy the studio (back bedroom between you and me)……size wise, the words swing, cat and around spring to mind…..

Anyway…I found some offcuts of mountboard so decided to try a different surface…..


After initial marks using charcoal and ink washes….I added hints of colour with watercolours…


….and now the question is….do I add any more…..

i think I will put it to one side whilst I procrastinate….

One Step Forward, Two Steps….


Whenever I have a break from my attempts at ‘art’ I always feel as if I am back to square one when I pick my brush up again…..such has been the case this week. Family visits/visiting meant my brushes have lain idle …not that I would swap family visits for anything!!!

So today I started with another ‘Six in Twenty’….only to find myself ‘faffing about’ on the first four meaning I had to rush the last two…








I find myself remembering what worked on previous occasions and I try to re-create those works….and therein lies the problem….when I try to deliberately re-create, the work loses all spontaneity…. Another lesson to remember….

I’ve also been trying different watercolour paper surfaces…


I don’t this one works as well as previous attempts….but I like the one below on smooth paper…


….I love all the ‘cauliflower’ blooms and marks….think I will call this one ‘ When Sky and Land Meet’….

Slow progress…hence the one step forward, two steps backwards..

Shades of….Grey…


, , ,

it’s been a grey, dank day so far, although as I type the sun is trying to make an appearance; there’s even been the odd snowflake…..so the ‘Six in Twenty ‘ reflects the weather…..I have been attempting to improve my tonal work….


Using charcoal and inks, some studies were more successful than others, but that’s the point of experimentation….

I felt the following three merited further exploration….




So, on slightly heavier watercolour paper I tried….

img_0022img_0021I used a lot of water so it’s obvious the paper needs to be even heavier…

Not sure if these pieces are that successful but I’m enjoy the process….

A Hard Lesson to Master….


, , , , , ,

I am using my ‘Six in Twenty’ studies to experiment with different media – watercolour, inks, pastels etc as well using various implements to apply said media; brushes, wooden sticks, pegs, bits of twigs….you get the picture….

….these studies are done on old sketch book paper so I know the effects will be slightly different on heavier paper but I am learning nonetheless….

From today’s Six….

img_0009…I am learning what I like and what I feel works well….and more importantly, how I achieved these results….as in the following two studies…

img_0007img_0008…and the not so good, that hard lesson to master…..not fiddling…


I didn’t like the original washes….so I persisted in fiddling….and fiddling….until..too late… the study turned into a splodge…..

i will keep plugging away but I’ve a feeling this lesson is a hard one to master!!

Gathering Inspiration….


, , ,

After a gloomy week, Saturday saw the sun make an appearance…leading to a walk around Burrough Hill, the ups and downs all part of an Iron Age fort….




….and these views inspired a few of my ‘Six in Twenty’ today ….


….quite liking the colour combination and minimalist feel to these…


img_0006…..I am also still drawn to the palette of Payne’s Grey, Raw Umber and Prussian Blue…

img_0003…..and, keeping with the theme of gathering inspiration…..a present to myself…


Haven’t fully digested these yet so will leave my thoughts for another time…

Progression….or just learning..

Still playing, this time with watercolour……

A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit Venice….a high tide took place and we had to walk on the raised boards…. One morning we rose before dawn, to visit the markets….well worth the early start….. And it was the watery light and colours that was in my mind with these studies….

The first two don’t work….



….but I feel with this last one that I am getting closer to what I have in my mind’s eye…


….not wonderful but definitely progression….

Today’s Six in Twenty….


Another day, another six in twenty…..no fussing, no faffing, just six quick studies in various mediums…..


…and what have I learned…..

..that I like the ethereal atmosphere ink produces…



….the more delicate ink studies could be worked over..



..and I need to learn to be more patient….sometimes….


…and some I like for their simplicity…