Turn Back Now – Keith Tyson at The Jerwood

A snapshot of Keith Tyler’s studio wall drawings

I never miss an opportunity to visit the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings. It has such a lovely location, down on the beach among the fisherman’s tall huts. And there are stunning views out over the working boats and fishing paraphernalia to the sea.


View from the top floor of the Jerwood Gallery to the beach


The Jerwood collection is full of surprises and the gallery attracts some excellent visiting exhibitions. For some reason I didn’t think I would be drawn to Keith Tyson’s studio wall drawings; I thought they would be too busy and in my face for me. And they are these things and also overwhelming because of the huge numbers of drawings and paintings and the way they are displayed in close grids. But they are clever and often profound and tell fascinating stories of life as understood through the mind and eyes of the artist.

The phenomenal quality and quantity of Tyson’s artistic output makes me feel like a sloth!

The studio drawings are the outcome of 20 years of painting or drawing on a large piece of paper on the wall of his studio every day in between and during other projects. The result is like a visual stream of consciousness diary. He says the drawings lie somewhere between a diary, a painting and a poem. In incredibly clever and beautifully executed work he explores ideas and thoughts. Sometimes about world events, sometimes about his emotions or response to everyday things or matters that are on his mind. Over time working on these drawings has evolved from a preparatory activity to a more expressive and essential practice. The Jerwood’s three ground floor spaces are filled with more than 300 of these works.

I just wished I lived nearer. If I did I would go back many times. They are overwhelming on mass… overwhelming and wonderful.

Tyler was born in Cumbria  and his life journey has taken him from shipyard apprentice at the age of 15, via art school and a degree from Brighton University, to Turner Prize winner in 2002.

Turn Back Now runs at The Jerwood in Hastings until 4 June 2017 so go on, take a trip to the seaside!

More information on the Jerwood Gallery website.


Printmaking class – experiments with drypoint

I’m feeling my way forward but liking the medium. Drypoint seems to enable a more spontaneous, looser result than  I can achieve with collograph or linocut. Early days… early experiments. Interesting how different colours and different density of the inks influence the end result. Background helps to create atmosphere. I am keen to experiment more and frustrated that I can’t print drypoint at home as this form of intaglio printing can’t be done by hand.

Printmaking class – collograph

I’m continuing to get enormous pleasure from this class and learn lots of new technique including…


I recently visited an exhibition of Norman Ackroyd’s wonderfully atmospheric etchings of the coastline around the British Isles at The North House Gallery in Mann
. Previously I’d seen just one or two of his prints in the Royal Academy so an exhibition featuring a large number of his works was a real treat. They feature great, solid statuesque rocks surrounded by swirling sea birds, crashing waves and enormous dollops of weather. I’m fond of the West Coast of Ireland so I was particularly drawn to his views of The Skelligs.

I came away feeling inspired and decided to have a go at creating a collograph featuring rocks and seabirds and a choppy sea. Believe me I soon discovered how difficult it is to create atmosphere in the way that Ackroyd does – especially using a medium that I’ve never tried before. The materials I used for my plate included paper and card, sandpaper, and skrim fabric. I also cut into the board using a Stanley knife and made marks using a biro.

My prints tended to be either too inky, losing the detail or too faint. I left just one exactly as it came off the press and then let go with inks and bleach on the rest. It was a productive experiment. I may not have achieved the perfect print but I learnt a a lot about the process and discovered that it is possible to entirely change a ‘failed’ print into something else. I’m keen to do more collograph printing as I’ve go quite a few ideas to work on now.


Choppy seas – touched up with ink using bamboo pen


Experiment with overpainting strong print with vivid colours. Good textural detail on the rocks and foreground emerged.


Lighter print overpainted with inks and then bleached in parts – the most successful of my experiments


Heavily inked print lightly painted.


Choppy seas; my collograph as it came off the printing press.

Printmaking class – monoprints and lino cuts

I’m currently studying OCA Creative Arts Today. This is my third level 1 module in the creative arts degree pathway. I have already completed Drawing 1 and Painting 1. I needed to do this theoretical module as it is filling in a lot of gaps in my knowledge of the wider art world but I couldn’t help feeling some regret that I did not get the chance to do  Printmaking 1.

Fortunately I’ve found a very good weekly printmaking class at The Wilson Marriage Centre in Colchester and I’m loving it. I had very little printmaking experience so it’s learning all the way as we work through the various techniques. It’s a great class with good tutor and a lovely group of like-minded, aspirational students so I’m happy.

Here are some of my experiments from the first three weeks:

Mono prints


Using leaves










Lino prints


Hedgerow detail first attempt – difficult to discern the nature of it


More cut away and the characteristics of the hedgerow emerge. Interesting lesson here.









hedgerow-night2-low-res hedge-row-night-low-res






More complex hedgerow detail and experiments with tonal backgrounds. I will return to this theme and experiment more. There is lots I can do with this. It’s a development of some abstract explorations during Painting 1.


Exercise: A grid of photographic images

Doors in Colchester's Dutch Quarter

Doors in Colchester’s Dutch Quarter

I am currently studying OCA’s Creative Arts Today 1 which is mostly theoretical but from time to time we get to have a go at a creative project. In Part 4 Photography  students are invited have a try at creating a grid of images.

The inspiration comes from husband and wife team Bernd and Hilla Hecher who are known for repetition of subject matter, often exhibited as a grid of images.. The images appear to be the same yet are all slightly different which has the effect of emphasising details. See Water Towers 1980.

This afternoon I photographed about 60 doors while wandering around Colchester. I snapped ancient doors, new doors, decorative doors, peeling paint doors, open doors, closed doors, every kind of door. It’s not as easy as it seems as doors are often close to the road so it’s easy to get run over and pedestrians get in the way too.

I wandered back through Colchester’s Dutch Quarter and realised that these doors would work better than the random collection I had photographed so far. Many of the Dutch Quarter’s doors share common features including a barred window, wooden slats running downwards, door knockers and letter boxes and many of them are painted red and green which I thought might be the colours of the Dutch flat but they are not. If any one can explain the red and green please do get in touch.*

While I am  pleased with the outcome of this project, which was assembled in Photoshop, I am conscious that to achieve a professional standard I would have needed to go back and photograph the doors in the best possible light and work at getting the viewpoint and size and positioning of the doors relative to each other much more consistent.

Nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed this project immensely. It is something different that I haven’t tried before and I will definitely have a go at again.

Mystery solved! The word ‘Dutch’ was used in Colchester (the doors are in the Dutch Quarter) to describe all foreigners who arrived in the town in the 1500s when they fled religious persecution in what is now Belgium, Holland and France. So in fact, the refugees were mainly Flemish.

They built homes in a similar style to houses in Flanders in that period – with doors and other woodwork painted red and green, window frames painted white and rendered walls a light green.



Sketching at the Southrepps Classical Musical Festival


Sketchbook: Martin James Bartlett, pianist

I’ve just experienced seven days of pure bliss at the Southrepps Classical Music festival in North Norfolk. It’s a programme of 10 ambitious concerts put together by directors Ben Johnson, Tom Primrose and Daniel Goode. Now in its seventh year, the festival has gone from strength to strength and this year was undoubtedly the best ever.


Martin James Bartlett, pianist in rehearsal


Some highlights for me included a breathtaking piano recital by BBC Young Musician of the Year 2014 Martin James Bartlett; classical guitarist Sean Shibe who produced music like I have never heard before from a guitar he cradled like a baby; the Southrepps Sinfonia with the specially formed Southrepps Singers in their perfomance of Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Susanna Hurrell’s exquisite poetry recital in ‘Talking to Hardy’ a sequence of songs and poems designed by Iain Burnside. You hardly ever get to hear a countertenor (the highest male singing voice) as there aren’t many but at Southrepps we had two, Rupert Enticknap and Tim Morgan.  What a week it was… and I’ve not even mentioned the superb performance of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas…


Artistic Director Ben Johnson leaning on piano talking to Martin in rehearsal

Each year four young musicians take part in a masterclass and receive lessons and support from the pros throughout the week. It’s wonderful to see their progress.

I can hardly express how good this festival is. You will think I am exaggerating but it is truly world class music in an intimate village church setting where both audience and performers are close. You feel and experience the music in a way that simply can’t happen in a huge, formal concert hall.





Classical guitarist Sean Shibe’s intense concentration


My artist friend Elda Abramson and I  had a go at sketching during some rehearsals and performances. This was incredibly challenging… but it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect a violinist, guitarist or pianist to stay still would it?! Most of my sketches are incomplete scribbles but a small number of them began to capture what I was seeing and feeling. It was an exhilarating experience and a privilege.

I’d like to thank everyone involved with the Festival (the directors, performers, young musicians and all the villagers who give their time and energy, and their homes to accommodate the musicians) for a most extraordinary and uplifting week. What a very special time it was. I didn’t want it to end.

The Southrepps Classical Music Festival


First violinist Agata Darashkaite


Young musician Magnus Walker (tenor)

Martin Parr: Work and Leisure – Firstsite, Colchester

martin-parr-firstsiteThis is a first class… actually world class  photo exhibition at Colchester’s Firstsite gallery.  It was a must see event for me as I’ve been a fan of Martin Parr (born 1952) ever since listening to him speak at the Voewood literary festival in Holt. The show covers his work from his early days as a photographer through to the present day.

Parr’s vivid photos are full of wit and irony as well as nostalgia and laughter. They are also a social documentary, a kind of state of the nation record of our modern, global, consumer-driven lives and  they left me with a great deal to think about. Parr is the leading photographer in the UK today and pioneered the use of colour in art photography.

I always combine a visit to Firstsite with a tour of the Minories Galleries which are a hop, skip and a jump  away. The Minories is home to the Colchester Art School (Post Grad) and its regularly changing exhibitions include the work of students and wide ranging professional artists, as well as items from the Victor Batte-Lay Foundation’s excellent collection. At the back of the Minories there is a truly lovely tea garden where you can sit and reflect on what you’ve just seen with a cup of tea and a bun.

If you like Parr’s work and would like to know more about how he operates and how he developed his style, there is an very good video exclusively available on Vimeo of his final workshop. It includes plenty of insight into his own techniques and motivation and critiques of  participants’ work. It is of interest I feel to all artists, not just photographers. It costs a few dollars to download but is worth it. See link below.

References / useful links

Firstsite Gallery – http://www.firstsite.uk.net/page/martin-parr

Victor Batte-Lay Foundation – http://www.vblfcollection.org.uk/

The Minories – Colchester School of Art – http://art.colchester.ac.uk/about/the-minories/