Letting Go….

Three years study at Loughborough University culminated in Connecting Threads….an interactive installation piece based on the cotton mills and canals of the Midlands and Lancashire. I lived and breathed this piece for the best part of 2 years; researching, developing ideas, learning new skills…

It was later displayed at both Cromford Mills in Derbyshire and Charnwood Museum in Loughborough…

Connecting Threads

I loved this piece; I loved all the research, the history, the experimenting, the frustrations….and even though it has long since been dismantled and packed away, it still feels like mine…

On graduating, and without the back up and support of the university, the equipment, technology and skills of their technicians, I found it very difficult to carry on with this type of installation; funding was a big issue and it seemed to be the usual story of ‘needing a track record to get funding, but you need to create to get a track record’ – chicken and egg stuff….

So I returned to my first love of drawing, painting, mark making…I love making marks, experimenting with mediums, trying to imbue my work with a sense of energy along with my emotional response to a subject…. and I am starting to feel as if I am finding ‘my voice’. I am always surprised when someone else likes my voice too….. Slowly, very slowly, I am making a slight inroad into making my art pay for itself…and that means selling work…and therein lies a dilemma….

Some work I am happy to sell, but others, the ones I really love…. I find it such a wrench…

‘Bowed But Not Broken’ was one of the first pieces I sold through Blue Owl Art – I had an real emotional attachment to this one, having gone through some difficult times so it was hard to say goodbye to it…

‘Norfolk Memories’ was another work that I loved, along with ‘Cei Bach’…

….and again, it was hard to see them go…

Now, preparing for The Melbourne Festival, I am faced with the same dilemma…letting go of the work I don’t just like, but love….

How do you cope with letting go….?






A Creative Show & Tell Night….

Friday (28th July) night was ‘Show & Tell/ A Creative Talk Night’ hosted by Modern Painters, New Decorators (MPND). MPND started in February 2017 and is a not-for-profit organisation based in Loughborough, Leicestershire; art and community are at the forefront of their aims, one of which is to give artistic people the chance to come together for workshops, advice, talks, as well as provide artists with the opportunity to exhibit and sell their work.

The ‘Show & Tell Night’ is the second event they have staged, the first being their ‘Top Dollar Affordable Art Sale’ in June. Held at loc8me in Ashby Square, ‘Show & Tell’ brought together three guest speakers – all Loughborough based creatives working at both local and national levels.

The first was Chloe Hardisty who runs Cotton Clara; she designs, makes and sells colourful, bright, craft décor. On Instagram under the name cotton_clara as well as having an etsy shop, Chloe’s talk was about how she has finally taken the plunge and handed her notice in to go full time as a designer, maker and craft writer. Very honest in what she has sacrificed to get to this point, and making no bones about what a commitment the work entails, she then provided six tips that she had had to learn, sometimes, the hard way…. The one that really struck a chord for me was ‘just to start – forget about your perfectionist tendencies’ -(I got a nudge from my husband along with a knowing look at that point…)… Other tips included arranging a mentor/business advisor, developing your brand, saying yes to things as well as researching successful businesses, listening to creative podcasts and practice, practice, practice….

Second speakers were Kev and Gill, (apologies if incorrectly spelt) members of a consortium trying to regenerate (apologies for the pun) The Generator Building, Frederick Street, Loughborough. Originally owned by Loughborough College and now by Loughborough University, at present, the building stands empty, decaying…. The aim is to create an artistic and creative hub; a place that has workshops, studios, offices, café, exhibition space – a flexible space to provide maximum opportunities for the arts in Loughborough. This is the third time that an attempt has been made to gain funding for this – and the present climate of uncertainty doesn’t help – and both Kev and Gill were open about the hoops they have to jump through, the time and money it takes along with the frustrations…

It would be fantastic to have such a space in the town centre; there is such a vibrant art scene in the Charnwood area – Charnwood Arts being the local community arts and media organisation – and if this project came to fruition, it would be a real focus of attention where the multitude of artistic,creative people and endeavours could come together in one inspiring space….fingers crossed.

Last to speak was Liz Clark, Artistic Director of Turned On Its Head; Liz, along with Oksana Tyminska, created Turned On Its Head, a dance company specialising in creating creative movement and dance opportunities for young children and their families both in the community and theatre settings. The hearing loss of her young son, drove Liz, a dancer and choreographer, to look for alternative ways that he could engage with his surroundings. A workshop with Oksana lead to a light bulb moment and the rest is history as they say….

They now run workshops and classes in Loughborough, Leicester and Nottingham as well as performing their shows up and down the country, from the Drill Hall, Lincoln to the Barbican in London…

Question and answer sessions followed each speaker, and as the event was well attended, there were quite a few questions…..

The next event for MPND is the Sun Goddess Crouching exhibition, a solo show by Loughborough alumni Colette Griffin. The show opens on August 12th in Unit 33, Carillon Court, Shopping Centre, Loughborough….everyone welcome.

Modern Painters, New Decorators are on Facebook and Instagram (mpndprojects) – definitely worth a look!!


Monday Musings….

Had a break from painting over the weekend, I went to visit my old stomping ground of Loughborough University. The Postgraduate Arts Degree Show was on so I thought I would have a peek. I have toyed with the idea of doing a Masters since graduating, wondering if it would provide me with the direction I feel I am lacking at the moment. ….However, I have to say I was a little disappointed in the exhibition. Remembering how, as undergraduates, we were expected to produce a ‘professional’  show, the Postgraduate Show appeared to me, to have been an afterthought, shoved in a corner (& I realise this might not be of the students doing), whilst the university gears itself up for the start of term and an open day. I realise art is subjective and I don’t know the full requirements of the course but I must admit to feeling a little underwhelmed and as undecided as ever!

And so it’s Monday and back to my 3 washes….


The LH wash is a mix of Amethyst Genuine and Rich Gold Green, the middle is Rose of Ultramarine and French Ultramarine with another attempt at salt effects, whilst the RH wash is Perinone Orange and Cascade Green and clingfilm effects. All the colours are Daniel  Smith apart from the French Ultramarine. As I said in an earlier post, I am obviously a slow learner and today is no exception, not leaving the clingfilm on until the pigment is completely dry, and that green and violet produce a muddy colour, or, as in the above example,  don’t combine at all…..

Following Jean Haines advice in her fab book, ‘Paint Yourself Calm’, I proceeded to attempt her exercise of positive, negative painting, thinking of all the obstacles I put in the way……biggest of which is my lack of confidence….

imageimageThey really feel like a case of the Wash Day Blues….. matching the weather….

So, in order to end on a positive, I started a wash of roses in Rose Of Ultramarine on a larger piece of paper……


I will add to these tomorrow whilst working on overcoming my obstacles….

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 watercolourswithlife.blogspot.co.uk,  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!



Opening Night – Inspired by Nature…blog update

Well Thursday 30th April saw the Private View of ‘Inspired by Nature’ at Blue Owl Art, Grantham. Lincs. For ages it just seemed like a date on the calendar but last night saw the materialisation of everyone’s hard work!  The exhibition features the work of nine artists in a variety of mediums, sizes and all importantly prices! And even though the exhibition was themed ‘Inspired by Nature’ – this too, saw a wide variety of responses to the subject.

imageMy work sat alongside that of photographer Peter Roberts, artists Mary Jane Alexander, Jackie Berridge, Jackie Cheetham, Daniel Goodchild, Kate, Robotham and Sue Rowland, and jeweller Sheila Kerr.

imageMary Jane Alexander’s work depicts both landscape and still life in oils. Large and small, the work is rich in colour and texture and possesses a movement, almost rhythmical in nature, that draws your eye around the paintings. I particularly liked The Cherry Orchard and the one of the Downs (the name eludes me for which I sincerely apologise).

imageimageAlongside Mary Jane’s figurative work sat Daniel Goodchild‘s more abstract landscapes. Daniel explores the materiality of the paint, thickly applied (is the term ‘impasto’?) layering marks and textures to produce an abstracted response to the landscape. Standing back from the work, one got an overall feel for the topography and form, but the work drew you closer to explore the textures and colours, to see the detail in each of the marks – luxurious and opulent were the words that came to mind to describe the richness of the oils.

imageimageSue Rowland has a passion for textiles and surface patterns and where better to look for inpiration than the landscape. From her prints and textile piece, you can see she has an eye for the details of the flora and fauna of the natural world – the little things that often get overlooked. The wall hanging was rich in detail as well as colour and textures. My own sewing skills are negligible, so I was hugely impressed with the work and stitching in this piece. Again and again, you were drawn back to the work because you had suddenly spotted another gem – a leaf, a flower, an egg…

imageimageKate Robotham and I studied Fine Art at Loughborough University together so it was great to catch up and hear all the news!

Kate’s work aims to capture some of the mystery of the world around us, encouraging us to investigate further and to take pleasure in our sometimes mundane surroundings. Using composition and texture, her works are rich in colour (I think she has a penchant for blue..) and although two of her pieces in this exhibition were large scale, you were still drawn to take a closer look – just as Kate wants you to do at your own environment….

imageSitting amongst the figurative and abstract works was Jackie Berridge‘s pieces. From a distance they appear naive, childlike even.. but when you investigated further you saw they portrayed a darker side…. Set within imaginary landscapes (inspired by Italianate gardens and English arboretums) which include anthromorphic figures – animal heads set atop human bodies, the work explores relationships both good and bad. Unsettling is the word here…..


Now for some apologies…..


Apologies to Peter Roberts – I haven’t got any images of your work – but as you know I think your landscapes are wonderful – loving the Seaton Carew sunrise and the Beacon Hill Snowy Rocks (not that I am at all biased…)

Apologies also to Sheila Kerr as I haven’t got any images of her jewellery (my photos didn’t turn out well – I’m blaming my Ipad, glass cabinet and spotlights.. nothing at all to do with the Prosecco!) However, she produces the most beautiful pieces of jewellery; bracelets, necklaces, rings… Well worth a look! (Get saving P – got my eye on a bangle…)

Finally apologies to Jackie Cheetham – no images of your work (second glass of Prosecco and lots of talking…) Jackie works in oils and is experimenting with colour and this shone through in her works on display; Magpie – black and white, and another one of daffodils, vibrant and rich in colour!

Also taking place last night was a performance by Lincoln based artists GAST. Take Heed was a piece concerned with the invention/development of the game of tennis – well the gallery is set within Grantham Tennis Club! Everyday is a school day so they say and I certainly learnt a thing or two about the game. Did you know that the scoring system originated from the winning player taking an egg from a basket at the side of the court. The wiiner was therefore the player who had all the eggs in his basket  The french word for egg is l’oeuf which got anglicised to ‘love’….

These artists must be very fit because they ran around for the whole evening…

imageimageI heard lots of positive comments about my own work and the exhibition in general which is always good! Many thanks Jette and Belinda for all your support and hard work. Now if I could just sell some pieces….


Working towards my goals…blog update

As I said in my last post I found the Professional Creative Planning Workshop run by Creative Leicestershire to be a liberating experience. I had found myself at a crossroads, in a vicious circle if you like, where I was so desperate not to compromise all that I had learnt at Loughborough University, to focus solely on looking for/creating installation work, I almost felt that by producing watercolours and drawings I was in some way ‘letting the side down’. I had therefore put drawing/painting on the back burner so to speak whilst I looked for opportunities for the next installation. However, installations, whatever they comprise of, require funding and by not producing work of any kind raises the question of how I am to fund my art practice. The Workshop enabled me to see that the two areas of art do not have to be mutually exclusive – I can use one to fund the other (unless I am lucky enough to obtain funding from an external source for any installations).

To that end, I have again been experimenting with watercolours and also producing drawings that will, hopefully, be included in the Blue Owl Art exhibition in September – part of The Big Draw event.

Here are some of my drawings – some framed and ready to go – some still with work to be done!

Silver Birches Carolyn J RobertsSilver Birch Carolyn J RobertsCarolyn J Roberts








Silver Birches II Carolyn J RobertsCarolyn J Roberts






I enjoy the mixture of mediums and styles – I like to experiment with the marks I make!




Equally with the watercolours I am trying hard to produce loose, almost abstract landscapes, and, although I like to experiment, I am finding that at the moment my favourite colours are Winsor & Newton Indigo, Quinacridone Gold, Raw Umber, Violet, Prussian and Cerulean Blue!

Carolyn J RobertsCarolyn J Roberts






Carolyn J RobertsCarolyn J Roberts






Carolyn J RobertsCarolyn J RobertsCarolyn J Roberts






Carolyn J RobertsThink I went a bit mad with the cling-film on this one!

So for now, it’s on with the drawings and working some of the watercolours up into paintings in order to sell them (thus achieving one of my goals) – in that way I can fund my practice and that’s surely all part and parcel of being a professional artist isn’t it?


Pulp – Loughborough University Fine Art Degree Show 2014…blog update

One year on from my own graduation I returned to Loughborough University’s Finals Show this weekend to see the culmination of 3 years work by the class of 2014 – where did that year go? Walking around those familiar studios it was great to see a wide variety of mediums and subject matter on show – a great advert for the range of opportunities the university has to offer. This diversity, ranging from abstract and figurative painting, photography, print-making, video work, sculpture, sound and installation plus a number of works in between, meant there is something for everyone to enjoy!

Sixty seven students are participating in the exhibition and below is a selection of works that caught my eye for one reason or another, but this is by no means an exhaustive list!

Chloe Allen’s work ‘Just South of Heaven’ is a series of mixed media pieces that focus on the nature of volcanic activity – the delicate nature of the work and the marks juxtaposing the violence of the eruption, the hardening magma, with the ephemerality of the ash clouds. It was the colours and marks, along with the delicacy of the work that drew me to it –

Chloe Allen - Just South of Heaven

as was the case with Alberta Pessao’s mixed media work in the Liminal Group exhibition. I liked the way that she had utilised the discarded oil paints of other students to make a whole micro-world of insects; the oil and turpentine fusing together to create the most wonderful organic shapes.

Alberta Pessao BichosArtists’ Victoria Margeson, and SoMin Kim have created art from the mundane. The shirts that Victoria wears to paint in have provided the subject for her work; her simple yet elegant drawings, with their crisp lines and soft marks capture the essence of the fabric whilst her obvious passion for the medium shines through in her oil paintings.

Victoria MargesonSoMin Kim’s work caught my eye because her use of cable ties to produce delicate sculptures reminded me of the conker installation my group produced in our very first weeks at university. The obsessive nature and intensity of labour required to produce the work brought all the memories flooding back – I think I got RSI from drilling all those holes in the conkers! It’s not the first time I have seen cable ties used in art and I’m sure it won’t be the last – they do connect to create delicate and fluid forms!

SoMin Kim

Also utilising material for a very different purpose to that which it is intended, and portraying how beautiful it can be is Hannah Bollard. Sculptural forms of dried glue drips doesn’t sound like everyone’s idea of Fine Art, but the black glue does provide the most elegant of marks – 3D drawing almost. Hannah’s work challenges us to look beyond the everyday – to see art in the most unlikely of places – to open our eyes.

Hannah BollardOf all the painters’ on show it was Sarah Wilson’s work that really caught my eye. Her ‘enquiry into the physicality and material possibilities of painting’ has produced the most wonderful abstract works; the marks and the colours hold your gaze and everytime I returned to look at them I saw something new – glorious!

Sarah WilsonI had to include Michelle Onwurah’s work if only because it was a site-specific installation using…threads! Obviously a totally different concept lies behind this work – think nightmares and dark places – the work provides the viewer with the physical embodiment of such ‘dreams’. Difficult to negotiate, the angles create dark masses of thread that threaten to trap you in this netherworld.

Michelle OnwurahLeah Downing’s work combines science and art, and highlights our misconceptions regarding space and the cosmos. Inspired by the images form the Hubble telescope Leah uses photography, chemical reactions and manipulation to create landscapes – beautiful, romantic – yet false. The colours are amazing and the ethereal quality of the landscapes are beautiful – again, they are works that you can stand in front of for ages and see something new everytime.

Leah DowningThere was the inevitable, but nonetheless interesting work commenting on the digital age. Mark Cleary focusses on the image-saturated world we now live in and how it can be manipulated to miscommunicate events whilst James Poyser’s work comments on the ‘digital generation’ and how they communicate through the use of social media. Being a member of the pre-social media era, it does sadden me to see people sat at the same tables, focussed solely on their phones, i-pads, etc. Interesting, thought-provoking work.

Other work that caught my eye was Katherine Loudoun’s photographs and prints, Abigail Harris’s mesmerising video and Vanessa Lewis Jones’s Lines of Sight with its crisp, clean black and white imagery.

There was the almost now obligatory work commenting on the art education system. Mike Jones’s work did make me give a wry smile, remembering all the aims and objectives, boxes to tick…

As I said at the outset, these are only a few of the works that caught my eye – there were others, but that could be another post. I’ve tried to include as many links to the artists’ work as possible but failing that pop along and have a look – Pulp is open until 15th June (10am-5pm)..

All in all a great show – congratulation class of 2014 you’ve done it!