Experimentation…..Likes & Dislikes….

‘Taste is an evolution and refinement of one’s

personal likes and dislikes. This evolution takes

place with a constant curiosity and interest in

everything. The editing consequently refines

the choices and defines taste,’

Norma Kamali


It’s been a week of development and experimentation; some of it on a practical level, interspersed with a bit of ‘research’…(for research read social media, scrolling and Pinterest, more of which later…)

Using what is to hand in the ‘studio’, I have continued with the work inspired by the swallows and house-martins swooping over the river, the ‘tales from the riverbank’ series as I have named it, temporarily at least..

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

Created on sketchbook paper that I don’t feel so precious about, I have splished, splashed, swooped and splattered, creating work that I have then had fun cropping, finding new compositions…

Carolyn J Roberets Artist

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

Continuing to experiment I found some left over landscape 140lb Daler Rowney cold press watercolour Aquarelle paper so thought I would give it a try…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist


….and whilst I love the format, and larger size, I am not so keen on the paper surface…and that’s where the personal likes and dislikes enter into it. If we all liked the same things, we would all live in the same houses, drive the same cars, wear the same clothes and like the same art…but we humans are a diverse bunch, and our tastes differ….

…and I’m just not that keen on this surface for this particular body of work…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

I don’t like the effect the surface has on the charcoal; I much prefer using the charcoal on smooth paper…

Carolyn J Roberets Artist


So I am slowly refining my tastes, although not liking the paper hasn’t stopped me from playing around with the piece, cropping with a spare mount….

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

The next materials order will definitely be for smooth/hot press paper!!

….and as for Pinterest – well I have been upping my game with this recently; most feedback suggests that this platform is one of the most effective ways of driving traffic to your website, so I thought I had better make an effort. After only a short period, two things I have noticed/realised 1) there has been an increase in traffic to my website, although this hasn’t materialised into any sales yet, but slowly, slowly building an audience…and 2) how scrolling/re-pinning/creating boards is helping me refine my tastes, helping me to see my preferences and how this translates into my artwork. I do have boards about colour (even one titled ‘Colours I love….but am afraid to use’…!!) but the majority of the artwork I pin or re-pin is loose, expressive and of a muted colour palette. There is also an awful lot of mark making images and work with a graphic element to it…I am obviously a little slow on the uptake, but seeing the work I love pinned this way, all in one place,  has really crystallised my loves and, in a strange sort of way, confirmed that my preferences/loves/my artwork are okay – I know, I know – it’s just how my brain works…or not… Anyhow, I shall persist with Pinterest and see how it goes…

….and I shall continue experimenting, refining my likes and dislikes…

‘…the important questions are answered

by not liking only but disliking and

accepting equally what one likes and

dislikes. Otherwise there is no access to

the dark night of the soul,’

John Cage

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Dance at Dusk…

‘Just always the swallows

and their script of descenders

dipping their ink to sign their signatures

across the page of the sky,’

Owen Sheers


As I explained in my last post, I have been inspired to create work based on the river;  particularly the flight of the swallows and house-martins as they swoop, wheel and dive over the water….

‘In fluid ways, the swoops and loops of swallows,’

Michael McClintock


I begin by using charcoal; making loose, expressive gestural marks, trying to capture the freedom…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

Carolyn J Roberts Artist charcoal drawings

Carolyn J Roberts Artist charcoal drawings

Carolyn J Roberts Artist charcoal drwings

….before adding some pencil marks…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist charcoal and pencil drawing

Carolyn J Roberts Artist charcoal and pencil drawing

….and then adding watercolour, namely Indigo, and sepia acrylic ink…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

I am experimenting with colour….

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

….but I am rapidly coming to the conclusion I prefer the more muted palette of the indigo and sepia, although the bottom, pale green isn’t too bad…all trial and error….but a body of work is beginning to develop…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

It’s fabulous watching the birds dance and dive, weave and swoop along the river…and it’s this freedom that I am trying to capture…

‘They dip their wings in the sunset,’

Leonora Speyer

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Sometimes You Can’t See The Wood…

….for the trees, or in my case, the river…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

2019 has been a bit of a start/stop year so far; family issues and OH’s work has meant that we haven’t been out and about as much as we normally do…so opportunities for gathering inspiration have been few and far between…

The one constant has been the river: a regular place to walk, sit with my coffee, make notes, just sit quietly and stare…

‘When I walk out into the world, I take no thoughts with me. That’s not easy but you can learn to do it. An empty mind is hungry, so you look at everything longer, and closer. Don’t hum! When you listen with empty ears, you hear more. And this is the core of the secret: attention is the beginning of devotion,’ Mary Oliver

….and that got me thinking, realising…inspiration is on my doorstep – definitely a case of familiarity and all that! I spend hours by the river; early morning, dusk, summer, winter…walking, observing, feeling…

Carolyn J Roberts artist

Carolyn J Roberts artist



Carolyn J Roberets Artist

….and finally, the kernel of an idea began to form…could I create a series of works based on the river/riverbank, a ‘Tales from the Riverbank’…?

So, starting with my favourite clump of reeds, I began…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist Charcoal Drrawings


Carolyn J Roberts Artist Charcoal Drawings

….and the start of a series was born…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist Charcoal Drawings

Carolyn J Roberts Artist Charcoal Drawings

I don’t know whether it is just me, but whatever the landscape, I find myself drawn to small elements of the whole, such as the clump of reeds… Another thing I love to watch at the river is the mesmerising dance of the swallows and house-martins, swooping and skimming over the surface of the river, especially at dusk…(and as an aside, I came across the word ‘kawaakari (n.) – the gleam of last light on a river’s surface at dusk, the glow of a river in the darkness’)….it’s a magical time of the day and I was inspired to try and capture the swallows’ dance…and, using charcoal, watercolour and ink, created these two abstract, expressive works on paper (well, I created four pieces, but as is always the way, two of the four didn’t cut the mustard…)

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

Carolyn J Roberts Artist



I love these – (and yes, I prefer the black frame…) – and am feeling so positive with this new direction; as the Mary Oliver quote states ‘attention is the beginning of devotion.’ The river captured my attention soon after we moved here; my devotion to it is growing…

‘The dream of my life

Is to lie down by a slow river

And stare at the light in the trees –

To learn something by being nothing

A little while

but the rich

Lens of attention,’

from ‘Entering the Kingdom’

Mary Oliver


I even have the gleam of an idea for a couple of the new sketchbooks I have

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

– but that’s something for another post…

And so I shall continue to develop this idea…and see how far it takes me…

‘Go forth, the teller of tales

And seize whatever

the heart longs for

Have no fear

Everything exists

And everything is true

And the earth is only

A little dust

Under our feet,’

W. B. Yeats

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As One Sketchbook Closes…

‘Wind of Change’

‘A strange wind is coming from the west. It

smells of change. As it gently blows

my hair, I feel my unanswered questions fade.

I don’t remember them anymore. Their

answers don’t matter. A tickling feeling

over my face makes my bare skin come to

life when I know that it is my very soul

that is actually awaking from a long, deep

sleep. Wind of Change…now I know I had

been long waiting for you. I am ready,’



Carlyn J Roberts Artist


Carolyn J Roberts Artist

Just as the river meanders it’s way through the year, transitioning from quiet hibernation to brimming with life, lush with growth…I too, feel as if I am in a transition period…

Regular followers will know that I have been creating collages in a small sketchbook…which I have now filled…

Creating these collages has made me question my likes/dislikes…



Carolyn J Roberts Artist


Carolyn J Roberts Artist

(bottom collage image quote by Seamus Heaney .)  Beautiful words that conjure up magical landscapes…

I am trying to simplify my life, de-cluttering ( or trying to) the house, getting rid of ‘stuff/baggage’ that has been weighing me down, making my life lighter, more ‘spacious’ – both physically and mentally – and it is  the space around the work as much as anything, the monochromatic nature of the work, the mark-making that I am drawn to…and feel this is the direction I want to explore in my work…

‘It is what I was born for –

to look, to listen, to lose

myself inside this soft

world – to instruct

myself over and over…’

Mary Oliver


So I have lots of sketchbooks waiting to be filled…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist


Change of any description is scary; who knows where this exploration will lead, if any where but, as this saying goes…

‘If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies,’ – Anon.

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Another Art Exhibition…Negatives & Positives…

Carolyn J Roberts artist

Another exhibition, another disappointing weekend sales wise…I won’t lie, I came home very downcast, again… However, time is a wonderful commodity for getting perspective….(the glass of wine helped as well…)

The exhibition was a new event, in a lovely village setting overlooking a reservoir – but apart from this one space, there were no other ‘draws’ to bring people in to the area, unlike art festivals, trails or open studios…I am also unsure how much promoting was done, apart from in the immediate locale, to encourage visitors from further afield…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

Footfall over the weekend was intermittent and, although I realise you should never judge a book by its cover, the demography of the visitors was such that they were mostly drawn to the more representational artworks as opposed to my more expressive, abstract style…

That’s not to say it was all bad; I met some lovely people, and had interesting conversations and compliments about my work, and art in general… A few people asked if I ran workshops or did demos – I was asked the same question last year at the Melbourne Festival, Derbyshire – so perhaps this is something I should investigate e.g. workshop content (???), venue, materials provided or not, costs…

Once over my initial disappointment, I realise I can take positives away from this experience as well as pointers for future events; research venue/event/likely audience beforehand…(rather than just ‘be grateful’ someone ‘allowed’ me to exhibit) – think about whether my work will ‘fit’ within the criteria of the space/exhibition/alongside other artists work…? Who’s the target audience? Expected visitor numbers?

Other factors to consider are making certain I have a range of work; different sizes, mounted, unframed as well as framed…displayed creatively…as well as having space for sketchbooks, perhaps WIP…along with some information about who I am etc…where people can see my work i.e. future events and how they can follow me on social media or on my website….which brings me onto another point…

My present website is powered by Clikpic and if I am honest, not being the most tech savvy person, I find it difficult to navigate and create…plus it doesn’t allow for promo codes, for example if I wanted to run a sale… I have also thought for some time now that the images of the work need to be better…so I am considering redesigning my website using a different system e.g. Squarespace, WordPress…any advice would be appreciated, what platform do you use?

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

My positivity and determination is returning; I find myself looking for the sunshine –

‘Keep your face towards the sunshine

and shadows will fall behind you,’

Walt Whitman

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For now, it’s a case of onwards and upwards…



I’m sure I’m not alone in loving the landscapes of both the mountains and the coast; the soaring splendour of the peaks as opposed to the big skies, flatlands and somewhat bleak nature of some of our coastlines…Indeed, one of our favourite games of the ‘when we win the lottery’ scenario is deciding where we would move to…(a definite pipe dream as I rarely play the lottery…) But there’s something about these opposite landscapes, their elemental nature, that draws me to them both…Maybe it’s that realisation of how tiny and insignificant we are when in these landscapes, maybe it’s the feeling of isolation and wildness, that sense of freedom, or maybe it’s the contrasting shapes and colours….I just know that I could spend hours, days, months etc in both and never tire of looking…

….and ‘contrast’ is a word that aptly describes my work at the moment…I love mark making, getting my arm moving, flowing, gestural…

Carolyn J Roberts artist

….and experimenting with loose watercolour and ink washes…

Carolyn J Roberts artist

….but after my recent hiatus, I am returning to my creativity via my small, collage sketchbook… and finding that, in contrast to all the flowing, loose marks and washes, the collages I prefer are the more minimalist, starker pieces…

Carolyn J Roberts artist



Carolyn J Roberts artist

…and the latest…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

…all straight lines, or circles, black and white…(with a hint of colour)..

And I even began dabbling on paper, thinking of creating a small series…and these were even more on the minimalistic side…

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

Carolyn J Roberts Artist

I will continue with these and see how they develop…but will also continue with the watercolour and ink…maybe have another stab with acrylics…

I think as humans and artists we can appreciate differing landscapes and styles and ways of working, taking elements from each into our work to make it uniquely our own…

What differing things attract you…how do you incorporate them into your work?

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