Reflective Whisperings…

Monday finds me in a reflective mood… among a myriad of people I follow on social media, one is the artist Lucy Marks. Every Friday she posts a vlog/blog highlighting areas of interest, a topic for discussion…..and a couple of these posts have made me question myself…

One vlog was concerned with finding your own style and anyone who follows this blog effort of mine will know this is an area I struggle with. Influences abound in the art world; we have all seen artist’s work that we love, and one trap that we, as artists, mustn’t fall into is that of slavishly copying. Techniques, colour palettes, media… these can all be adapted, but it’s finding your own way of utilising them that makes your work unique, recognisable…

Bowed But Not Broken

As you can see from this small selection, finding my way is ongoing…perhaps I should think of it as ‘growing as an artist’….

….and, at the moment, I quite like where the ‘path’ is taking me…

The other vlog of Lucy’s that piqued my interest was about why we paint, what are we trying to say, what is the philosophy that underpins our work….

Now, no way do I profess to be a deeply philosophical thinker, (some of that stuff at uni, such as why is a table a table, went straight over my head…) but even I recognise that, as artists, we are all trying to say something, even if it is ‘this is what I can see in front of me’…

For my final show at uni I produced an installation that incorporated sound called ‘Connecting Threads’..

Connecting Threads…apart from the odd sketch which was more of a diagram for the aforementioned, I did no painting whatsoever….and although, I successfully justified/situated the above Threads, I find categorising my painting more difficult….or perhaps I am over-thinking things – why do I have to label my work at all?

Much easier for me is to say what interests me….

I have always loved being outdoors;  lately I have become fascinated with the literature and language we use to describe nature and the landscape…. and have found the books of Dominick Tyler (Uncommon Ground) and Robert MacFarlane a joy to read – for me, Landmarks transports me to the high mountains, the fenlands, the woods, even those in-between areas…I think I have said in a previous post about how his writings have made me stop and look at the details in the landscape, and having a language to describe it makes life so much easier…so, with all this reflecting taking place, and spring having sprung, I took myself off for a walk by the River Soar…

…the reeds stood like giant cotton wool buds….

…the warm weather had brought out the narrow boats and dog walkers, all shouting good morning – lovely how the sun brings out the best…

I sat and listened, church bells, a distant cockerel – a little late in the morning perhaps – the ‘flap flap’  silent soar of the pigeons, a lonely mallard squawking…the gentle flow of the river, ripples glinting in the sun…and as I walked along the desire path – so much better than ‘shortcut’.…I blew a kiss to the two magpies I disturbed – is that part of a song or an old wives’ tale – and watched a butterfly dance along… The path was springy underfoot, in fact, in some places it was definitely squelchy…

…but as I squidged and squelched I thought of a poem by Vicki Husband… called Desire Paths – I am never quite sure about copyright so I am not posting the whole poem, although an image of it is available on her twitter page @VicHusband – but the last lines are beautiful…

‘where every desire path reaches for its vanishing point

before heading off to shortcut a rumoured route between the stars’ ….

The poem even has its own desire path….

I am not sure that my work could every conjure up an image as poetic as that, but I keep trying…perhaps it’s the magic, ethereal, contradictory landscape that I am attempting to capture…

…and on the subject of language and words to describe features of the there a word for the seemingly silver-tipped blades of grass, glinting in the sun…..?



Learning to trust the process & enjoy the journey…


I don’t want this post to be a wallowing ‘Woe is me’ post but feel I have to fill in some of the background details so the above title becomes clear….

I have really struggled since graduating from Loughborough University to find direction in my art. Although it was stressful, I thoroughly enjoyed creating Connecting Threads, my final piece based on the canals and cotton mills of the Midlands.

Connecting Threads
Connecting Threads

A large scale installation that included sound, I found it difficult, for varying reasons, to pursue this genre of art once I had graduated. I therefore reverted to a medium which was more practical – drawing and painting; I even managed to sell two or three pieces.

Bowed But Not Broken
Bowed But Not Broken

Still, I found it difficult to define my style, subject matter and medium – I dabbled with pencil, ink, charcoal and watercolour…..nonetheless I felt lost, going from tightly drawn figurative pieces such as Bowed But Not Broken to looser interpretations of the Lincolnshire landscape and the West Wales Coast…

Fenland Memories
Fenland Memories
Cei Bach
Cei Bach

No longer in the bubble of university I felt alone, rudderless, doubting that I  would ever achieve my dreams. It’s now I have to admit to spending a lot of time on social media, procrastinating…..And it’s there that I came across the work of the self-proclaimed ‘watercolour addict’ Jean Haines. I must admit I enjoy using watercolours although I have had no formal training, which could be viewed as a good thing! Whilst I appreciate the skill of the more formal watercolour artists, I was drawn to Jean’s work because she paints in a loose manner, letting the pigment and water work together to create pieces full of life, light and energy. Suffice to say I was hooked and became a bit of a ‘Jean Haines’ addict ( or should that read stalker, in the nicest possible way I hope), reading her blog,  her books, looking at her dvds, watching her demonstrate at the Patchings Art Festival…

The icing on the cake – attending one of Jean’s workshops – came this August; an early birthday present from my very supportive husband. What is immediately evident on meeting Jean is her sheer passion for watercolour! The day was filled with brilliant demonstrations, one to one sessions, and fun and laughter all the way! Jean is a very generous teacher, spending time making everyone feel special..










imageThe above sunflower piece still requires further work, but I came away inspired…

Jean advocates starting each of your painting sessions playing with pigment to produce three individual washes to help you learn how the colours mix (or not) and I have been endeavouring to follow her advice and teachings. (I would add here, that I take no credit for the methods and subject matter – they are all Jean’s and Jean’s alone.)

imageI have practised the following exercises from her books and dvds…and posted the results, good or bad, on Twitter and Facebook..


As I said earlier, Jean is a very generous lady, and even though she is super busy and very much in demand, she always finds time to comment on my efforts, giving encouragement and suggesting ways to improve.

Initially I struggled, but gradually I have become more confident, trusting myself more and, from just being pleased when I managed to produce ‘something’, I have found myself seeing areas for improvement, and more importantly, knowing what needs to be done….

I shall endeavour to chart my progress in subsequent posts but suffice to say I am learning to trust the process and …yes I am enjoying it!



Walking backwards, moving forwards…blog update

I have always loved reading: as a child I was a voracious reader, thinking nothing of reading a book from cover to cover in one go (kept me quiet for hours!) This love has stayed with me; there’s nothing quite like opening a book for the first time to discover the delights within! I will probably have two books on the go – one quite ‘deep’, whilst the other will be somewhat ‘lighter’ in nature – my mood determining which I read!

At present, I am reading just the one – Robert MacFarlane’s ‘The Old Ways’.

The Old WaysIn his book MacFarlane combines walking and the landscape, with history and discovery, all told in such descriptive language that I am loathe to put the book down! Following paths, tracks – holloways made by man or weather – he investigates the landscape, learns the stories of our ancestors and meets the people who walk these paths, who have such a connection to the landscape that they are not just in the landscape but part of it.

MacFarlane describes his travels in a poetic, lyrical way, reminiscent of the rhythm of walking, and the language and terminology he employs is a joy in itself. His use of local dialect words, be they Gaelic or Arabic, adds another layer to the book -and I find it particularly interesting when he explains the derivation of some of our common English words (book being a case in point!)

I too, love the landscape (and history and words….), and although I cannot profess to be as seasoned a walker as MacFarlane, i do like to go for a wander now and then – and yes, walking does help me think, to meditate…

Following paths and trails, I find myself focussing on the ‘lines’ of the landscape (MacFarlane does reference Tim Ingold’s book ‘A Brief History of Lines’ – a source of inspiration for my Connecting Threads!); in particular the ‘anticlines’ – geologically, an axis or line from which strata slope or dip down in opposite directions.

Quick sketches whilst out walking have become the possible basis for a new body of work; I have been playing around with ideas whilst trying out some samples of Stillman and Birn paper from Jackson Art Supplies. (I also tried Jackson’s Handmade at Two Rivers watercolour paper – fabulous!)

Drawing boardIt’s these lines and anticlines that interest me, the strata that provide a history of the landscape. I have an idea in my head of how I want these works to look – now I just have to experiment and see if I can achieve it!

Talking of words, I came across a fabulous one the other day – obambulate – meaning to ‘walk about’ or ‘wander aimlessly’ – I have been known to do quite a lot of that in my time!

Am I an artist now?…blog update

Been a little quiet recently as we have been enjoying a wonderful two weeks in a quiet corner of Majorca. Lots of sunshine (with a few spectacular storms thrown in!), swimming in the sea, tapas….you get the picture. A great way to re-charge the batteries!

The exciting news on my return home was that I had actually sold a piece of art work! Although I have exhibited the installation Connecting Threads around the UK, I have never sold an actual piece before so I am thrilled to say the least – I know , little things and all that!

‘Bowed But Not Broken’ was one of a number of works I have in the ‘Make Your Mark’ exhibition at Blue Owl Art, Grantham – thanks to Jette and Belinda for all their support! Check the link to their website for more info regarding the exhibition and future events!

Bowed But Not Broken

I am positive that those of you who are artists can vividly remember the first piece you sold and I am sure I will do likewise! Of course, that raises the question, now that I have sold a piece of art, does that make me a ‘proper’ artist? Why do I need someone else’s validation to make me consider myself an artist? I would be really interested in hearing your views!

Drawing Near…blog update

Although the last few days have seen blue skies and sunshine there is definitely an autumnal feel to the early mornings. Sad as it may be to feel that 2014 is slipping away, I do love the changing seasons; blue skies, crisp brown leaves, and, just lately, we have been blessed with skeins of geese flying to and from their nesting/feeding grounds, honking loudly as they go!

The ‘drawing’ in of the evenings also means that the ‘Making A Mark’ exhibition at Blue Owl Art is ‘drawing’ closer – apols for the pun overload! The invites for the Private View are being sent out and the delivery and hanging of the work is in full swing!

Blue Owl Art Invite

I feel very honoured to have been asked to take part in this exhibition, one of eight artists showing their work as part of The Big Draw event. My work will hang alongside that of Steve Dargavel, Amir Ghazy-Noory, Linda Holloway, Barbara Karn, Mary Romer, Kate Robotham and Sam Smith – hoping I’ve got all the links to the correct sites (apols if I haven’t!) Have to admit to feeling more than a little apprehensive. My previous exhibitions have been big site-specific installations; this one feels much more intimate and personal.

Silver Birch TriptychSilver Birch I





The Private View is on the 19th September, 7-9pm at Blue Owl Art at the Grantham Tennis Club, Gonerby Road, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG31 8HU. The exhibition runs until mid-January 2015.


In other news – I was highly delighted to be selected as Creative Leicestershire‘s ‘Artist of the Week’ for this current week! An image of my work appears on the header of their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages!

Creative LeicestershireIn contrast to my charcoal drawings, I am, at present, really enjoying working with pastels and……colour(!) …something I haven’t done a lot of since my Foundation Course days!

AuchencairnI have now framed the view of Auchencairn – I will get around to taking a photo… Mmmm, I feel a series of pastel landscapes coming on…watch this space!

Professional Creative Development Planning Workshop…blog update

This morning I attended a Professional Development Workshop organised by Creative Leicestershire. Led by Cathy Grindod, herself a practising poet and author, the workshop is intended to enable you to reflect upon where you are at present in your artistic career, where you would like to be and the steps you need to take to achieve your aims. Free to attend, I took the opportunity to participate in the workshop, not only because it provides a chance to network with other artists and professionals, but also because I felt I had reached a crossroads or stalemate following the end of my Connecting Threads exhibitions.

ConfusedIt’s all too easy when being reflective to concentrate on the negatives so it was useful to have to list your achievements to date and the times you were most happy in your artistic career – and to consider why. The subsequent exercises were designed to help you determine your own personal goals, and how you were going to achieve them; identifying any obstacles, what you need to overcome them and by setting realistic goals. To some of you this all might seem fairly obvious or just common sense, but sometimes it helps to have a fresh viewpoint, to have someone question what it is you really want. Suffice to say I have now set myself a list of goals (and dates by which I hope to have achieved them!) – I must pin this list up in the study so that I see them everyday!!

One of my stumbling blocks was that I was undecided as to what path my practice should take; do I concentrate on installations/sound etc or develop my drawings/painting? This course helped me to realise that the two do not have to be mutually exclusive – one can help the other. This realisation is hugely liberating – it’s almost as if I have given myself permission to do both without feeling guilty.

As I said, one of the reasons for attending the workshop was the opportunity to network – the chance to meet other artists, to acknowledge and discuss issues that are affecting you, and to know that you are not alone in doubting yourself – and today was no exception. Today’s group was a mixture of those of us just starting out on our careers and the more established artists. Cathy was very astute, asking just the right questions to focus the discussions. She also had some great words of wisdom such as ‘Never compare yourself to someone else’ and suggested that we keep a diary to note what we are doing and when, to keep a record of our progress and to see how far we have come!

If you do feel as if you have reached a crossroads, or are unsure as to how to push your artistic practice forward, then I would recommend attending this workshop. Creative Leicestershire are in the process of developing their autumn schedule so keep an eye out on their website for further details. I will definitely be looking to attend more of their events and workshops! Hopefully I will make more new friends to go with the ones I met today!

For now I need to concentrate on my drawings ready for an exhibition in September at Blue Owl Art, Grantham.

Carolyn J Roberts





Tidying up loose…dabbles…blog update

I can’t believe that there is less than a week to go before my Connecting Threads exhibition at The Charnwood Museum, Loughborough comes to an end. This time next week all the elements will be packed away in boxes and the bobbins returned to Sir Richard Arkwright’s Masson Mills Working Textile Museum! How time flies! It was fantastic to see the work displayed in the museum and I have received lots of great comments! Thanks to all the staff at the museum for their support and help!

Connecting ThreadsConnecting Threads








The rain this week seems to match my mood – I am trying to write two residency applications – something I really struggle with! Some of my proposals appears to be rather airy-fairy because unless I am successful in obtaining the residency it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the work would be! Catch 22…

On a positive note – and this might be small fry compared to some of you out there – but I am really pleased to have had over a 1,000 views on my blog! A big thank you to all those who have helped me reach this figure!

The rain has been a hinderance this week as I really wanted to get out and about sketching more trees in order to submit some work for an exhibition at Blue Owl Art later in the year! Instead I am indoors, framing work whilst sorting out others that I need to re-do, do more work on etc.

I have continued dabbling with watercolours, experimenting with washes, techniques and adding different mediums. Inspired by the landscapes that I love i.e the moors here are a few of my dabbles!

Inspired by the moorsInspired by the moors






MoorlandAutumn hedgerows






Evening moorlandEvening sunset






I am really enjoying all this experimenting and am trying hard to keep the work loose and more abstract. I am tempted to work some of these dabbles into larger pieces – what do you think?

Okay I’ve procrastinated long enough – on with the applications…..