For details about my work have a look at my website,

I am currently working on large prints combining water based woodblock techniques with oil based linocut: nothing if not a challenge! I'm also doing some teaching and go back to school myself in the spring to qualify as an adult education tutor

Friday, 29 May 2009

What's in a Name?

The three weekends when I open my studio to the public are fast approaching (do come if you can, just go to the Open Studios link on my website for times and a map, though I excuse my faithful internet visitor from Guatemala who appears so gratifyingly on Google analytics) and this means a frenzy of framing, sign painting, packing of greetings cards and last minute printing. In among all this frantic activity I have to think of titles for my pictures to be printed onto little bits of card along with prices for the exhibition.

Most of my landscapes are an unravelling of reality, patched together and sewn back into a satisfying shape by me, usually in a mess of pencils and old fanfold computer paper. I would love to say that my considered drawings are complied in a series of dated and numbered sketch books, but we’re mostly talking about a couple of wonky lines on the back of a till receipt (the tax office will have an archive of my early work if they ever audit me). The upshot of the way I work is that it’s usually impossible just to title a print by location; not unless I wanted to combine a variety of place names and arrive at a new one in the manner popular with house names in the seventies and still so with beach huts (you should see the ones at Sandown). The upshot is that my work mostly appears under titles like ‘Winter hedge’ and ‘Fen Sunset’ – not very exciting, but honest.

The honourable exceptions and almost my favourite prints to make are those attributed to friends and family. You’ll see ‘Andy’s beach’ along with ‘Vicky, Kev and Ben’s landscapes’ on my site. These are a result of my pinching landscapes from other people’s descriptions of places they love. I never ask for these: that would kill the images stone dead in a welter of self consciousness. To take ‘Andy’s Beach’ as an example (, it is a very simple print and a direct reflection of Andy’s pleasure in walking with his family along the beaches on the Isle of Wight on weekends. I was aiming at catching his very British ability to relish a bit of sunshine, the possibility of brewing some tea in a beach hut and maybe pushing the boat out later with an ice cream…

Thursday, 21 May 2009

First Impressions

The new press arrived yesterday in the care of Jeremy and Giles. Jeremy owns a company called Antique Machinery Removal and together with old school friend Giles, he travels the country ferrying all sorts of printing presses to and fro with no fuss and a lot of love and care. We were agitated, to say the least, about the logistics of getting more than a tonne of press out of an upper story art room in Barnet and across a long garden in Buckinghamshire. We shouldn’t have worried. I’ve seen more bother caused unloading a week’s worth of shopping than AMR made delivering my Albion.

Getting the bulk of the press into the studio was really only the start. The men then sat in the garden and carefully cleaned and oiled (not greased, we know now that grease is a big mistake) every component part before reassembling everything. Then we started on an extensive round of test prints to check the press was correctly adjusted. The testing was, well, testing to say the least: both Jeremy and Giles being expert printers. I began to feel like a mum caught by social services raising a child on turkey twizzlers and the odd nip of gin, my inks and rollers being bad enough to distress both men considerably. They were far too kind to be cross about it, but Jeremy urged me to ‘treat yourself to a couple of good rollers and replace that ink’ in a way that suggested ‘for the love of God woman, get a grip!’ would have been more in line with his feelings.

Having sorted out my new press, they cheerfully set about my old one ‘as we’re here’ and rebalanced and repacked it beautifully, managing to teach me more about printing in a couple of hours than I learnt in four years at art school. They cost a third less than our original quote and I would urge anyone who wants to buy or move a press to use them (there’s a link on my web site). Apart from anything else, I can’t imagine there are many people like Giles; a man prepared to buff a whole press to gleaming with baby oil, just to do it justice.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Poor Little Rich Girl

I always knew there would be some sort of trouble over the enamels for Great Western Street. It’s a perfectly correct saying that you can’t please all of the people all of the time and I never had any expectations of being a universal success. What I hadn’t expected was that my local newspaper would rocket me to dubious fame for charging the best part of half a million for my artwork. Oh Bucks Press, I wish it were true…

It’s a pity the journalists didn’t come and ask me, but I’m guessing they thought I was away on my yacht playing drinking games with Damien and Tracy. I could have given them the straight truth: I came pretty cheap (less than one of the street’s several bus shelters) and we worked out a way of producing the landscapes in a fantastically cost effective manner. To forget the aesthetics for a moment, I cost a lot less than a team of blokes power washing graffiti off blank white enamel every few weeks. This wasn’t art for art’s sake: it was a witty and engaging exercise in cladding a public space and I’m more than happy to stand by the superb practicality of the product and my added je ne sais quoi.

There have been lots and lots of ‘why oh why’ angry letters as a result of the article; understandable given the misunderstanding over cost and the implication that I’d whipped bread from the mouths of local orphans and shelter from the aged. My favourite was a lady who said ‘I honestly thought it was a temporary hoarding’. Now I said I’d be happy to do it all again like a shot, but even I wouldn’t throw quite so much energy into something so ephemeral. Though I would be enchanted to paint a landscape onto a hoarding in real time so the passersby could see an artist at work – anybody need one doing?

Sunday, 3 May 2009


A week or so ago we had the official launch for the Great Western Street enamels. It was organised on my behalf by AJ Wells and Sons and Aylesbury Vale District Council who between them did me proud and managed to pick a day of glorious sunshine.

I'm not really very good at doing stuff like that to be honest, give me an early start in an unseen corner of a factory any time, but I think it went well. Accounts manager Andy has since scarily told me that he filmed my speech. I sincerely hope he was joking. My dear husband made an animated gif out of photographs of the event, making me look like a recently escaped and soon to be recaptured maniac. The best things really were the commemorative coasters organised by Ced Wells which have one of my decorative trees on the front and are each signed as a numbered edition. They are brilliant and were a smash hit - the council cabinet member left with ten for the Aylesbury Vale Council board room (so he said, though I'll be watching Ebay) and the rest have been snapped up.

In an effort to prepare for the big day I went and had my nails done. A first for me and a bit of a disappointment I think for the nail technician as all I wanted was 'something that doesn't show much'. She improved my hands to a degree amazing enough for me to wave them excitedly at Andy before the launch. He handled this with the kind of urbane charm that suggests interestingly to me that admiring a subcontractor’s choice of nail polish is all in a day's work for accounts management at AJ Wells. I'm afraid it didn't last long as I've since broken two nails in a badger related incident (and there's not many women can say that of their first manicure). Our local badgers have been digging up our lawn in their annual hunt for cockchafer grubs and I tripped in a hole, flung out my hands and promptly smashed both thumbnails on our Worcester Pearmain. Like the enamels - nice while they lasted, but over with far too fast!