Tag Archive for: abstract

How do you choose one image that represents all your paintings? If part of the process of painting is eliminating and refining ideas then one image simply can’t say it all.

This is what I had to consider earlier this month when the deadline arrived to choose an image to submit for our annual open studio event, Artists at Home. The only trouble is that the event isn’t until June; that’s six months away. Visitors need a representative image as they decide which of the 68 or so participating artists they will choose to visit – it’s simply impossible to see everyone so visitors use the website or the collectable booklet to make their choices.

The problem is I’m not sure how my work will develop over the next few months… and if this image will give them a good clue and a desire to see more, or will be quickly flipped over. It’s a snapshot of where I am now, not where my work will be in 6 months. And who can tell the future?

Alice Sheridan Blue Horizon: etching with chine collé. One of a series that uses collaged elements to create variations creating an invented landscape using a section of the damaged wall in the London Underground as a starting pointA few artists in the group solve this dilemma by showing some of their previous work that will be familiar to regular visitors. But my work has been very different each year I’ve shown, so reminding someone of last year’s work isn’t going to be very appropriate. Last year I was coming to the end of a period where most of my time had been spent exploring different printmaking techniques so the show was an assembling of a variety of approaches. Two years is nowhere near long enough for the sometimes painfully slow print process (so it seemed to me!). So I went ahead with the feeling that it would be a sort of “work in progress show”. To be honest I felt it wasn’t very well curated as I had been trying so many different things but I framed and presented the work in series as much as I could and felt that at least it would be an interesting show for anyone keen to see how ideas progress and transform. Over 300 people came in one weekend and it was a great weekend with lots of interest, and sales too.

So what to expect this year?

Alice Sheridan sketchbook drawing of Scorhill Down, Dartmoor

The sketchbook drawing done on the walk

Well, not so much printmaking for a start. I realised that I was trying to split my time too much. Working over the summer in sketchbooks had re-kindled my love of colour. Yes, I had been including colour within the prints I was making, but not that lush mixing of glorious colours as sage green turns to grey and is offset with the soft yellow of dried grasses…. Theses were the things my sketchbook is full of and the essentially monotone blackness of etchings is not the right thing. For now.

But as with any new series, it takes a bit of time to jump from sketchbook to finished paintings and much of my time in the autumn had been spent working on a large commission. So I just picked something I liked; a small progress painting done after a sketchbook walk through Scorhill Down in Dartmoor. I suspect it is too traditional, it still feels too straightforward. I suspect by June that my work will have changed. I know it won’t appeal to everyone, but as always that is fine.

Alice Sheridan abstract landscape painting showing river in blue colours

This is a section of the painting which was done as a steping stone to a much larger piece

Thankfully there will be a mini-site on the Artists at Home website where I can also show newer artwork. I hope previous visitors will return to see if anything tempts them into buying art this year. But however this series develops; into purer abstract colour forms, with added graphic elements, this is one of the starting points. Rather appropriately it shows a running river cutting through the landscape, making it’s own progress. Which is what I shall be doing too. I hope you will check back to see how things develop!

Artists at Home 2015 will take place in Chiswick, Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush, London from Friday 19 June to Sunday 21 June. Work is displayed within the artists homes and it is a fun and relaxing way to discover new artists and a great way to buy new artwork directly.


Anyone who says painting is easy has clearly never tried. Each mark is the result of a myriad different decisions, some are conscious and some are led by intuition. Which builds through knowledge and practice. One of the hardest things when I started painting was getting over the idea that I had to know it all to begin with. I’m a conscientious person; I like the idea that effort and organisation brings its own rewards. Maths and physics tests with well defined answers were a dream for me at school. But in art, there is no right and wrong.

…actually that’s not quite true. While we all have different visual preferences we do also have a sense when something is ‘off’. I’m sure you’ve felt it; a painting is too heavy on one side, the tonal balance isn’t correct, a certain area just jars. You may not be able to put your finger on what it is, but you know if it sits well or not.

I’ve been working on a new painting this week – it’s the largest size I’ve ever worked at and it is bringing me plenty of new challenges! I’ve had to scale up all my brushes, I’m still not mixing enough paint, I’m using acrylics and the drying time on such a large scale takes some getting used to. I posted a detail on Facebook earlier this week mentioning that feeling when you have left something and the next day you return to it with a nervousness that it is not as good as you remember… Between Day 1 and Day 2,  I  was pleasantly surprised. But yesterday I mucked it up.

I don’t know why – maybe I kept working at it when I should have taken a break, or I wasn’t clear about what I was trying to do. It doesn’t really matter. I haven’t been up to the studio today to look. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised ( that would be nice!) but I doubt it. You know when somethings is not right. It’s working out what needs changing that is the hard bit. So it was amazing to find this quote yesterday evening:

“Art is longing. You never arrive but you keep going in the hope that you will.” Anselm Kiefer

Funnily enough, even though I knew it wasn’t going quite as planned I haven’t been frustrated. In fact the moments when it felt most wrong were the times I made most progress. When I sort of shrugged and just went for it: working fast with the colour, mixing directly on the board, making more sweeping brushstrokes. I don’t know all the answers yet, but I’m really enjoying figuring it out.

It’s as if for the first time I have allowed myself to admit that I don’t know where I’m going. Yes, there’s a longing to get it ‘right’, but I don’t have to have all the answers in this one piece. No artist ever does, so where did I get the notion that this on ehas to be my masterpiece. It is one more step and I do have faith that this painting will ‘arrive’. There will be a moment when it is, like Goldilock’s perfect bowl of porridge, “just right”. I just have to hope that I have the presence of mind to recognise it.

And then keep going on another one….


Art is longing_ws



Sometimes it can feel a big jump making the transition from a sketchbook up to a ‘proper’ painting. So what to do when you want to get from zero to hero? One of the ways I have used in the studio to bridge the gap is to work on a set of ‘improper’ paintings.

Having been out of the painting flow for a while and using ‘page ready’ media like pastels and pencils, I just wanted some time to play with the paint, mix and add without any sense of “this has to become something” which can be so crippling.

Start with something improper

Choosing 6 small canvases which were cheap so couldn’t be ‘spoiled’, I laid them all out together and began with some pastel marks and white gesso. I added some collage elements I had in the studio. You could use newspaper, maps, book pages or torn up old drawings for this. This will create a different texture to the canvas which can give added interest and prompt some starting points. Some pieces may show through and some may be obliterated as you progress.

AliceSheridan_6canvas start2.jpg

Just starting on 6 ‘improper’ canvases: begin by making marks with pastel, adding gesso and collage to build up a base layer.

After this stage it all got a bit haphazard. The aim is to work quickly, without too much thinking as you apply the paint. Look at a sketchbook page or out of the window or an image in a book to get you started but then try and work with your intuition:

  • change marks from big to small
  • switch brushes
  • move the brush differently

Lots of this was painting direct from the tube: the mixing was happening on the canvas, not on a palette. This can be a good way to ensure coloured areas have some life to them – variety within each area of colour.

I was thinking simply of creating an underpainting layer and deliberately using much brighter colours which would show through the top layers and not appear dull.


Carry on adding instinctively. Theses are much brighter colours than I usually use to create a lively underpainting.

Carry on adding instinctively. Theses are much brighter colours than I usually use to create a lively underpainting.

At the moment I’m not sure on the boundary between figurative and abstract in my work. I’m reading a lot about it while I try to figure it out and often feel myself going in circles. But this exercise reinforced the idea:

the learning is in the doing…

Before long I was reminded how areas with a strong contrast jump out; sometimes this is helpful and sometimes you need to knock it back. Working over one layer using a contrasting tone or colour create some interesting effects especially if you want to scrafitto through with a pencil to reveal some of the underlying area.

20141005-090811-32891331.jpgSome canvases had an arrangement of shapes and colours that seemed unbalanced and playing with composition in this way, wrestling with the decisions of what I needed to change to bring it back in line is useful. Different moods were created, through colour and shape. It’s funny how things emerge: without any planning one set of marks seem to suggest a jumping grey horse at a circus.

I am not thinking of these as finished pieces; I think I’ll use them as ‘warm up’ pieces at the start of each session. Or just to test out colours as I paint on another piece. The layers will build as I work over and over. It will become a mess, and then get resolved. Perhaps…

..and the hero? The hero is a larger painting that has been waiting in the wings but which is now well on its way to being finished.

I often post work-in-progress on the Facebook page where it can be easier for people to comment (and quicker for me to post immediate updates than write full blog posts!) so if this is the first time you have been to this site please head over to the Alice Sheridan Facebook page and ‘like’ for an easy way to keep in touch.

Best wishes for a creative week,

Alice x