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Being invited into someone’s home is always a treat. So I was thrilled when I was invited to join a group of local artists and makers to join their pre-Christmas art show.

It always takes a fair bit of effort to bring these events together: designing and printing flyers, letting local websites and ‘What’s on?’ guides know all the details and persuading them to help you publicise it and last but not least the dreaded but essential door-drop… Are we junk mail or a local event?

And you never know what will bring the results; who will come? Will anyone come at all?

The room was an amazing space and with 3 ‘wall artists’ and 4 ceramicists it was always going to be interesting mix of work with lots of Christmas present appeal. After a day of allocating space and hanging the room was transformed, the wine glasses were out and we were ready for those who braved the chilly night to come and visit.


I was worried that with many people sharing their work it could be a bit intimidating for visitors who wanted to browse but felt seven pairs of eyes trailing them around the room. Not that we would do that! In practice it meant that there was always someone to chat to, someone to help with drinks, someone to cover for you and gave a great convivial atmosphere which we all enjoyed, and it seemed we weren’t the only ones….

 

Thank you to everyone who came (we guessed around 220+ but we couldn’t keep up with the clicker counter!), enjoy your gifts and purchases, and much thanks to a fabulous group of art friends; Annie Jennings, Keith Davidson, Peter Dockley, Louise Mock, Simon Taylor and Alicia Stroud.

This is not really what you want to see when you peel a print back from the press…

blank plate.JPGOops! Practically a blank page.

The plate had been inked and wiped, rolled with a second colour and fine paper cut and glued for chine collé… and yet for some reason the glue didn’t take and the paper didn’t stick. Not exactly the result I was hoping for!

And yet anything experimental has a degree of failure. If we know the end result before we begin then we are just going through the motions. I don’t wish to work to a tried and tested formula.

This is the hardest thing about art. For it to be exciting and rewarding, you always need to be pushing the boundaries of what you already know.

On Mondays I try and work through my domestic tick list. Pre-determined jobs with a defind outcome; change the dentist appointment, sort out an online bill payment, change the sheets. Tick, tick, tick. Easy.

But ask me to write a list of what I am going to tackle in the studio this week? I still find this very hard to do. I can promise to turn up, but I can’t promise what the result will be.

I give you:

“I am trying to work with the same plate to get different results each time. Some elements are the same, but other things shift. How much is pre-planned and how much is left to chance? Does the planning help the journey towards the end result or take away the joy of creating? Control and freedom and how do these things fit…?”

Not exactly precise is it?

Because there is no pre-determined, defined outcome.

I’m not sure if anyone gets to this stage with art. Maybe that’s what I’m searching for when I talk to other artists or read their biographies… Does anyone really know what they are doing? Or is it just me who has doubts?

Moving past the blank page I kept going.

Alice Sheridan 365create_Day 94 monoprints.JPGAnd the next prints ‘worked’.

Things stayed stuck – in a good way! Something about the structure was right. There is enough variation to be interesting.

My Dad will still look at them quizzically and try and find something nice to say but for me they feel ‘right’.

I’m not alone in this – last week I went to the Richard Diebenkorn exhibition at the Royal Academy – he was always searching for ‘rightness’. Not the easiest thing to determine, especially if we can’t really put our finger on what we are searching for.

So I’m celebrating blank pages. In fact I may even pin this up on my wall; a small reminder that the ones that go wrong often lead to the ones that go right. Even if we don’t quite know what direction we are going in.

Maybe especially then.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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

AliceSheridan_6canvaslayers

 

This project is 98% logistics and 2% creativity

said artist Joshua Sofaer on Radio 4 this morning.

He was talking about his current project ‘The Rubbish Collection’ which is one entire month’s worth of the museum’s rubbish laid out to demonstrate its inherent beauty. It is estimated to be over 28 tonnes of material.

The first phase is just documenting; scientific equipment, oil from the deep fat fryers, cardboard from the gift shop, edible food waste… even the sewage is being measured and will return as inert earth in phase two which “invites the materials back”….

Artistic intent and merit aside, it was the comment above that caught my attention. Admittedly 28 tonnes of rubbish is a big logistical nightmare – it makes my weekly recycling and debate over what goes to the dump look like chicken feed. But there is no doubt that a great deal of art is about the logistics.

Possibly not viewing it, although you still have to be aware of what exhibitions are on, see if you can schedule them into your busy diary, queue, jostle for viewing position.. you get my point.

Actually making any form of art is also much about logistics.

This isn’t something we often think about. We have a vague idea that art is instrinsic genius; that it just ‘happens’. The reality is that without the correct logistic support you are limited in what you can make. You need working space, brushes, paper, cleaning rags, canvas and stretchers, panels to be cut and primed, purchasing of materials online to source sensible prices, visits to specialist suppliers and then finished works to be presented; mounted, framed, hung. The list is endless. If I kept a list of how long all this takes it would possibly be quite depressing!

Realising that the actual creation is only part of creating is liberating too.

If I expect 100% of my working time to be creatively productive I am only going to be disappointed. Often we tell ourselves that we just need to ‘get on with it’. But you also need to create a framework for yourself to begin:

Set up your own logistics; sort out your materials, consider if you need to buy anything, how can you work within the space you have? Do you really need more kit or just have a better system of working?

Don’t be frustrated if every moment you spend towards creative output isn’t actually productive.

Make allowances and build in some time for the ‘artistic housework’.

98 logistics 2 creativity

The display will be on show at The Science Museum in London between 25 July and 14 September and you can read more about the exhibition on their website.

The full interview is available as part of this Radio 4 replay (until 2 July 2015)

PS. “One thing I’ve learnt is don’t give your children lunch” on a school trip – there are a lot of sandwiches and apples with just one bite. Maybe that will help your fridge logistics!