What do artists do all day?



It’s very difficult to stop working, as an artist. There is making. There is setting up making and tidying up afterwards. There is thinking of ideas (which tends to go on ALL the time!) and working them out on paper and then often Photoshop. Plus doing the accounts, counting the stock, ordering supplies, organising storage, applying for fairs and markets, doing fairs and markets, framing. Open Studios means an EPIC amount of tidying and cleaning and moving furniture etc around, plus then two full on weekends of talking to customers all day. The amount of time spent on these activities often swamps the amount I spend actually making art, and squeezes into any crannies of time I have between non-art things. Sometimes it’s exhausting.

Is it worth it?



Use it or lose it.

In the National GalleryThere are two myths about drawing.

Firstly, drawing is a magical ability that only a few people can do.

Secondly, all artists can draw. (Or sometimes, all artists can draw except the ones we don’t like.) These are both myths!

Drawing is a skill that pretty much anyone can learn, IF they practice. It’s just like playing a musical instrument (even Mozart had to put in many hours, it’s just that he started learning when he was three). Practice enough, and you may not turn into Rembrandt but I promise you WILL be able to produce a satisfyingly accurate drawing.

Historically, all young ladies were taught to draw; some became more accomplished than others, but I’m sure they enjoyed it. Before technology took over scientists drew, architects drew, garden designers drew.  So I really encourage you to just have a go. I’d recommend practising by drawing from life – a still life, a scene from your window, in a cafe, in a queue. (Photo references are great if you are composing a complicated image for a specific artwork, but less good for learning.) Look really closely at the subject, don’t guess. Try out pen, pencil, charcoal, drawing with a brush; try drawing quickly or slowly.

A great thing to do is find a local Urban Sketchers group (try Facebook) – there will be people of all abilities meeting on location to have fun, feel braver out on location by being part of a group, and learning by doing. Similarly there are also Drink and Draw groups, and Pencils in the Pub – you can guess what venues these tend to use! If you are brave enough find a friendly life drawing class – you will learn SO much, the naked human figure is the most difficult thing to draw!

And keep practising. Just like that musical instrument. Which brings me back to the ‘all artists can draw myth’. I’m an artist, but I’m not great at drawing, as you can see above. However if I draw regularly, I get so much better at it! Recently I’ve been too busy to do any sketching except for my monthly Pencils in the Pub meet up – so when I went to the National Gallery on Friday I was absolutely determined to do some. It was fun, it gave me a chance to sit down, there was a balance between moving subjects (the other gallery visitors) and stationary subjects (the artworks) – and it made me really look hard and appreciate the pictures that I included in my sketches.


Ideas – where do they come from? Everywhere! I always have more ideas for pictures than I can create. And then along comes something that I MUST do.

One of my heroes, the writer Ursula K Le Guin, died on the 22nd of January.  I have previously made textile work based on her inspirational novels, but I am now going to make a new piece probably in linocut.

I will make a donation to an educational charity from the sale of the prints. Hopefully to a project she supported herself; if I can’t do that I will find a charity with similar values in the UK.

‘Tribute’ is still in my head, so no pictures, but here are photographs of the textile works I made last year. From left to right, Islands (The Earthsea series); Winter (The Left Hand of Darkness); Divided (The Dispossessed); and Forest (The Word for World is Forest).

Cambridge Open Studios

I’ve just paid up for this year’s Cambridge Open Studios – a lot of people don’t realise that we have to pay to join, but we get a lot of help with publicity for the event, and of course the lovely free brochure costs money!

Click on the picture for more info – Hope to see some of you in July!

Castle Corbin

Tyger progress -using masks

scanned lino trimmed 1c


The Tyger Tyger print has been designed so that it uses two blocks and one reduction. This is the first block, and it was printed in a light beige colour.

The second colour – a warm brown for the tiger’s coat – is being printed as a reduction from this block. Normally you would do this by cutting away everything that isn’t going to be printed in the next colour – ie take away everything that will stay beige, and leave only the tiger’s bodies.

But if I did that there would be a number of problems. Firstly, it would be a lot of carving! Secondly, it would leave the vinyl that I use very wobbly and unstable, and it might be difficult to handle it and to line it up for the next print. Thirdly, the paper would tend to flop over the edges of the tigers and pick up too much ‘chatter’ from the cut areas.



The solution is to use paper masks. This is fiddly, but it works really well. First I cut more a wide border around the two tigers. Here is the cut lino, inked up with a light orange ink. You can see that there is quite a lot of excess ink on the pieces that I have not cut away.








So next I use torn up pieces of scrap paper to cover every single inky area that I _don’t_ want to print. (As you can see, I changed my mind and made the orange into a darker red-brown).

Then I print…










It took at least twice as long to print this layer, because of the masks, and the bad news is that the final layer will need masks too – but in the meantime here is a happy bunch of prints drying. The masks did the job in 18 of the prints, and I lost one more to a smudge. I may well lose some more when I print the final layer. I’m fussy!



To be continued….

Into the Forest


scanned lino for blog postWell before the Christmas rush, I designed a linocut based on the poem The Tyger by William Blake. I decided to focus on the symmetry part of the poem by reflecting the Tiger, and to reference the poem itself by using the word Tyger.

After much sketching on Photoshop, I came up with a design that used two blocks, one of them a reduction block. I printed an offset (that will be a post in itself some day), cut those blocks, printed a proof and… they didn’t line up. They REALLY didn’t line up. I’ve been paring away at the edges ever since trying to get them right.

First of all I tried eyeballing it, the second time I used scanned proofs on Photoshop. Better but still not right.

This is the third version. I scanned in the actual pieces of lino rather than using prints. I have now got the bottom lined up to my satisfaction, but the left hand side of the blocks (will be the right hand side of the image) is still a few mm out. I don’t have to worry about the other side; the edges are white on both layers so as long as one corner is correct I can register the blocks consistently for each print. I have made the two layers line up correctly on photoshop, and added the red box as a reference point to help me accurately trim that last few mm off the layer with the Tygers. Then I can finish the carving and start preparing the paper for the actual edition.