Knowing what to leave out…

harbour houses

I have been working on some more of the little harbour houses in the last day or so and the thing that I am finding most fascinating about them is the way in which they are teaching me what to put in and what to leave out.

harbour houses

Not everything needs to be there for the message to be conveyed.

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Also – it is how I edit  the images that makes my work completely unique to me. If we were all painting the same scene it would be the things we would choose to leave out as much as what we choose to include that would make each piece unique to us.

harbour houses

I am working from photos for these studies. It is not ideal as I would really rather be there working from life (but perhaps soon) but in working from these images I am making conscious decisions about

– which houses to put where (I am using the photos as inspiration rather than copying them),

– how many houses to include (sometimes one in the right place says everything I want it to say)

– drawing a suggestion of other pieces of the image

– choosing to work more on the atmosphere rather than every window and line

– creating random gestural marks that  add to the piece making it more what I feel rather than see

harbour houses

I am really excited about discovering more about this and will blog about it as my thoughts develop further!

You can read a little bit more about my work, inspirations and process here at this blog for this weekends upcoming Art Market.

The Book Collector

(photo from here)

I can’t help it. I love books. My husband dreads the day we ever have to move house as they are spread over all three floors of our house. I do have a kindle after a long period of resistance – this is kept strictly for books with oodles of text that I have to keep because I will want to read them time and time again.

  The glorious thing that I realised about moving over to the dark side of paperless paperback reading is that over a period of time, the lack of paperbacks on my shelves leads to more space devoted entirely to picture books – specifically Art Books (said with not a small amount of reverence).  Art Books are my addiction. They are to be leafed through in any spare moment, sat on the floor of my studio, page after page of images and text of paintings that I perhaps will never see in real life (although one can always dream), I peer at them closely to drink in every brushstroke and study the light and atmosphere of the artists I love.

The Book Collector

So in our three day break away to Northumberland last week it is not surprising that 2 whole, precious afternoons were spent in the haven that is Barter Books (just go to the page and wonder at the photos of all the gorgeous shelves and seating areas and log fire with sofa’s for reading).

The Book Collector

In truth, two afternoons were not nearly enough and I did not venture much past the Art and History sections but we shall go back someday. I was also quite restrained being on a budget but still managed to pick up these few favourites (excuse the photos, tis a dull and dreary day here) and I cannot wait to immerse myself in them.

They are (should you be interested)

Top photo left to right

Ana Maria Pacheco in the National Gallery

Scottish Art since 1900 – National Galleries of Scotland

Goya by Robert Hughes

Bottom photo clockwise from left

Oils by J M Parramon

Hang-ups – Essays on painting (mostly) by Simon Schama

Seven-Tenths by James Hamilton-Paterson (which fuels my other addiction to books about the sea)

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

I may try to blog about them as I read them along with some of the other art books I have.

I would also love to know what your favourite books are – especially books on Art!

PS we did venture further afield on our away-break including a trip to this magical place but all photos turned out badly so you would be better to view the website.

x x x

Progress of a Painting …… part one

It always starts with a seed of an idea, something that sparks my interest and a story begins.

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Lately I have been drawn to trying to create a sense of time and place, a certain atmosphere. Something that will draw the viewer in and encourage them to think that they may have been there at some point in the past. These photos are from my recent visit to Calke Abbey, a national trust property that has gone to wrack and ruin over the last decades but that is in a constant process of conservation to keep it as it is rather that restoring it to its former glory. There are lots of dark corridors with peeling layers of wallpaper and paint and it has an incredible beauty and atmosphere.

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Of course there always has to be a character, someone that could be me, could be you or someone you know or have read about or have imagined.

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I never tire of drawing and painting faces. They are a combination of self portraits, images of friends, from inspiration but also from my own imagination.

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With this painting I wanted to create a real sense of light and shade so took lots of self portraits with the light the way I wanted and sketched from those.

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The image started to come together in my large moleskine sketchbook that I use for painting in (someday I will do a slideshow of all the pages). Here I can work big, with no expectation, just enjoying the texture of the page and the feeling of the paint.


I prepared a lot more for this painting that I ever have before as I wanted to paint big (well bigger than my usual at 60 x 80 cms) and wanted to get the scale and perspective just right so I worked on yet another drawing and played with light and shadow too. Then time to start painting – but that is for another post!

Studio snaps No.1

Studio snaps No.1, originally uploaded by gilfling.

As ever I am dashing out the door (to go on a photography course for the afternoon) but just thought I would quickly blog a new series of studio shots that I am taking. I love my studio and as I was working there the other day I was looking at all the little treasures and collections and corners that make it the inspiring space that it is. So I thought I would take some snapshots to show you …one…by…one….

This is a wee boy’s coat … so beautifully made with smocked details and beautifully sewn cuffs and collar with embroidery. Perfect in ever detail. I even love the age spots that dapple the front and back. It is around 60 years old and was actually my fathers from when he was but a wee smidgen of a boy (around 2 I think? correct me if I am wrong dad) and it has hung in my various studios over the years. A precious thing to me and I love looking at it every day that I work in my studio.

*I just wanted to thank you for your lovely, supportive and encouraging comments regarding the TV show – I have loved reading them and am so glad you enjoyed watching it.

** I will begin writing properly about the show tomorrow when I will have more time so stay tuned for that!

Preparation for painting

Whilst I have many other things that I should be working on at the moment (not least of which is blogging about and linking to my recent tv appearance) I have been spending as much time in the studio. Excited about working on new paintings, it always takes what seems like a long time to get to that stage. I spend a lot of time writing – stream of consciousness stuff – even more time flicking through books and my huge collection of imagery which have gathered over the years and I also of course work in journals and sketchbooks – drawing and painting. So creating new finished paintings is never a quick process, particularly when I am working extra hours at my part-time job at the moment.

Still, I love this part of it. The endless possibilities, the dreaming a d allowing my thoughts to wonder. The freedom of working on pages with no specific finished imagery in mind. I like to see what unfolds.

(I will write that blog post soon!)


Beginnings ….


I have been successfully staying off the computer (in order to concentrate on work) but that has meant that this space has been more than a little neglected. So I am going to give blogging another go and am planning lots of short, snappy posts with an image and a few words so that I can update on my phone (yaaay for smart phones!) with the intention of a weekly or bi-weekly more detailed update on what I have been doing and exciting things coming up.

Right now I am nursing a sore back that is threatening to get worse and trying to treat it with hot water bottles and rest to see if it will pass.

I am also working in the studio – writing lots and gathering thoughts and ideas for new paintings. I am never short of themes and possibilities but it can all be a little overwhelming and the trick is to organise what is in my head and pick out one or two things to develop further. I am planning on trying to work on a collection of new paintings and see where they take me.

So that is where I am at today.

x x x

There is always a flicker of hope – process of a painting

At last I have been able to make time to put the progress of this last painting together into a mosaic. I am pretty sure she is done but will keep her on the easel a few more days just to see. It is an interesting process looking at the progress shots and seeing all the changes that were made – also to remember the times when I thought it was going nowhere or that I had ruined it.

I took a bit of drastic action after photo number 7 as I wanted to push the background further back so that she would stand out a little more so I covered the whole background with a glaze of blue oilstick and I think it has worked – I know that I prefer it now anyway.

As for her story – well I guess that is for the viewer to wonder about. But for me, she harks back to some previous paintings I worked on 2 or 3 years ago where I had read ‘In the heart of the sea’ for about the tenth time and was thinking about these sailors off to sea for months and years at a time, sometimes never to return. The wives left at home, forming strong communities of their own – some were possibly quite happy with this situation but I am sure there were others who would always wonder whether they would see their husbands again. Others, such as this sorrowful lass would know that their love was lost at sea, but might always keep a small flicker of hope that one day they would return. She wanders those hills and narrow streets with a lantern to light her way, hoping that it would guide him home too.

So there we go! The rest of this week is a sculpting week but I will be starting a new painting next week and I can’t wait to get back to the easel again.

I need to get some better shots of this painting but hope to release it as a print soon.

x x x

My Inspiration…

Inspiration…, originally uploaded by gilfling.

Just a real quickie post today as it is my day for working my part-time job so time is short. But I just thought I would show you a photograph I took of my painting board. At the top you can see print outs of some photographs I took a couple of years ago at Robin Hoods Bay in Yorkshire. It is one of my favourite places and I really hope to go back there soon.m I had been meaning to use these as inspiration for such a long time but as is my way, it takes me a little while to get there. I like to think that these last couple of years, these images have been resting in my thoughts and dreams, just waiting to make an appearance.

Robin Hood’s Bay is a tiny coastal village perched on a really steep hillside and it is filled with quirky and interesting doorways and ancient stone walls and this amazing set of steps that disappear to who-knows-where. I could imagine Captains and Fishermen and their wives and families roaming the tiny streets, telling stories and sharing tales of hardship and strong communities.

I am always inspired by tales of the sea and seafarers and these doorways really make me wonder about the stories of the people who live there. I guess that more than anything this is what I want to translate to the viewer of my paintings. I want the viewer to wonder what the stories might be of the characters I am creating. I am hoping that you will feel the history and the atmosphere; to wonder where these characters have been, what are their thoughts and worries and charms and hopes and dreams.

I guess more than anything, in my own small way, I want to be a storyteller, with you the viewer joining me on a journey.

More tomorrow!


On my table today, originally uploaded by gilfling.


– noun

1. place or source of origin

This week, I haven’t spent as much time in the studio as I would have liked but when I have been there, I have loved every second. I wanted to give myself a new challenge this year in terms of creativity and I am feeling increasingly drawn to the idea of working with lino prints and wood-cuts. This is a challenge as my artwork and drawings can be quite sketchy and often depend on soft graduations in tone and texture as well as loosely drawn lines. In my mind, lino prints are defined by quite bold and graphic shapes whilst wood-cuts can involve more texture and graduations in tone. I am only beginning to research other artists work, inspirations and techniques so have alot to learn. (More on that in my next blog post)

So where does the word ‘provenance’ come into all of this? Last week I showed this photo of The Victory which my great-grandfather made before I was born. He carved and made many model ships, some in glass cases, many more in bottles, every detail created with his own hands.

A few years ago when I was teaching myself how to carve with leather, my dad gave me my great-grandfathers carving tools which you can see in the photo above. The wooden handles are worn so smooth with years of use, the blades a little rusty and in need of sharpening, the edges worn down. They have been sitting in a box, unused for around 4 years but I often look at them and think of my great-grandfathers hands working away on one ship or another as he did in his shed at the bottom of the garden. My father has a photo of him somewhere that was used in an article in the local newspaper many years ago. Next time I am home I shall have to make a copy to show you.

My family has an interesting story, possibly not one to be told here but my great-grandfather was an incredibly talented craftsman. His son (adopted) was also a talented artisan, moulding and remaking ships badges as a hobby. His son (my father) is also an incredibly talented artist and craftsman who has over the years in his spare time worked on leather carvings, wood carvings and paintings. My father retires next year and I am really hoping that he will get back to creating with all the skills that he has. So with these carving tools that have been handed down to me through 3 generations of men in my family, I have also been gifted with a passion for art and craft and the skills and desire to create every day for all the rest of my days. The source of that passion lies with the gifts and talents of my great-grandfather and the crafting of those ships; the worn down handles and blades of these tools; and perhaps even further back in my family than I know. I will always be grateful for the origin of my creativity.

My witterings…….

Aubrey, originally uploaded by gilfling.

Hello again!! Blogging two days in a row after such a long time away….you can tell I am still bedridden! I have so much to do and yet I am being forced to stay still and rest, which is not me, at all. Tomorrow I am going to try some sculpting and see how I get on…

In the meantime, I thought I would try and catch up on telling you of a few things I have been up to in recent weeks. The show I exhibited at, last weekend was Holmfirth Art Market and was a really wonderful day for me in terms of meeting previous and new customers and chatting to folks about my work and inspirations. These events are always tiring and hard work but the contact with people who show an interest in what you do is so gratifying.

The wonderful Fiona from The Art Markets recorded a podcast with me the week before the show and asked me some really interesting questions about my work and inspirations which really worked my brain! So much of what I do, I just ‘do’ so it is interesting for me to have to think about the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’. I can’t for the life of me work out how to embed it into my blog but if you are interested in listening then you can find the interview here.

Thank you so much for all your good wishes regarding my accident – I really can’t believe how incredibly kind and supportive folks have been towards me and I have had so many lovely messages and offers of help that I feel quite overwhelmed. So thank you.

x x x