As this year began, I was deeply embedded in my developing practice of oil painting with cold wax medium. My work has always focussed on texture, light and mark making, and by working in this medium, my painting technique has loosened up, all the better I feel, to realise these key qualities. With a greater sense of expressive freedom, ideas bubbled up and grew and I was working with more intent and confidence.
And then of course my work life changed as it did for everyone. My studio building is now closed down. I have set up a makeshift space at home but there are restrictions on what I can make there.
My solution was to return to the sketchbook work I made while on my week’s residency at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Caerlaverock on the Solway coast last November. During that time I was drawing, collaging and gathering photographs, as well as making some audio field recordings.
Instead of prompting larger oil paintings on wooden panels, when isolation took hold, I decided to work on paper using mainly graphite and watercolours. With memories of my residency dominated by the big sky, sense of place and the beguiling barnacle geese that overwinter on the merse, that is where new work and direction follow.
The birds were so present, so distinctive in their gorgeous monochrome plumage and their yelping cries. When they were flying, I had to look up at that big sky. It was mesmerising. It was the sky of my earliest childhood and I felt connected to it. Now I sit at my table and listen to audio recordings of the geese as I strive to develop a new practice which takes me back there.
Moving colour and water around connects me to earlier bits of self too. Tearing papers and glueing does the same. A little child making pictures for Mummy and Daddy. Teenage collaged posters that proclaimed who I was in all my self conscious individuality. I am finding a different kind of freedom and connection that I wasn’t expecting.