A Note to Would-be Art Students.

It’s been happening all day. The stories of exceptional students who have achieved multiple A* results for their G.C.S.E. exams in more than your usual number of academic subjects. (Much respect to those people). If you got what you needed or expected to follow your dreams, well done to you, too!

My own exam results were very ordinary. At A-level, I didn’t even do Art and doubted I would ever get into university to study the subject. But I did. And I did quite well.

If you love Art, (or any other subject), let that passion drive you. Immerse yourself in the subject, take advice, ask people for their own experience and don’t go fretting. There’s always more than 1 way to skin an orange.


Equal Opportunities.

A couple of weeks ago, Time Out magazine ran an article by Eddy Frankel. (Admittedly, if Teesside University Fine Art hadn’t shared it on Facebook, I would have missed it). Frankel slated the lack of exhibitions dedicated to women artists’ work in London galleries between September and November, 2016. And rightly so. If you want to read the article, (beware of strong language), see HERE.

Why does this happen? Are there less women artists? (I think not). Could it be (bad) habit, i.e. the way it’s always been? Is it just business; the viewing public don’t demand strongly enough to see work by women artists? Maybe it is just blatant sexism.

Last year, I wrote this blog entry about an exhibition of prominent French artist, Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. I particularly liked a comment by curator, Joseph Baillio. He was asked to address the belief of a now deceased art critic that women can’t paint.

Baillio said, “You don’t paint with your sex.”



Beware of the Angry Artist.

I start my Postgraduate course in a couple of months time. As a part-time student, I won’t get a studio space, hence the reason why I’ve been desperately looking for one. Anything that is local is very expensive with somewhere between ‘zero’ and ‘very poor’ disabled access, (which I need). I’m a student, not planning on becoming a professional artist quite yet so I couldn’t reasonably earn enough to meet the costs. I thought I would have to content myself with staying at home, making art that is small and practical on the kitchen table rather than do what is in my heart.

The good news is, I did find somewhere. The bad news is, we have had to vacate at short notice. Not because the landlord has found a suitable alternative tenant but because the local council has denied the project any relief from payment of the rates. In spite of the not-for-profit status of the artists group, the fact that they passionately pursue their belief that everybody should have access to Arts activities for free, and that the premises offer real opportunities to people from disadvantaged groups, (eg the disabled and low-incomed), they have said the business rates are owed in full.

You might not believe me but I did have a life before Art. Before the kids and mortgage came along, I worked in finance jobs in the south of England. Some of that time was spent in a high-street bank call centre. However, for the most part, I worked in local government and dealt with Business Rates.

(Don’t go to sleep yet!)

Imagine my surprise when, 20 years later, I find myself dabbling in Business Rates again. Not for payment but all fired up and doing it out of principle, (although not the boring form-filling, just helping out with a bit of advisory stuff). Personally, I suspect the Council is trying to wriggle out of any obligation they have to cover the cost of the allowance. It sure does stick in my craw! After all, we can tick all the boxes on the council’s list of qualifying criteria.

Anyway, the director of the group has submitted our appeal with a long list of all the real and obvious reasons why we should get the rates relief. Hopefully, it will succeed.

Painting practice.

Yesterday, I dusted off my watercolours to practice pushing the paint around a page. (It’s been a while since I last did any serious painting). These images have been scanned but look a bit dull compared to the originals! Still, these are definitely not destined for any gallery wall; they’re going to fatten out my sketchbook in preparation for my return to university in October.

The shapes were inspired by a recent programme about Georgia O’Keeffe. People/ experts talked about how she used naturally occurring shapes to inform some of her abstracts. Consequently, I looked at envelopes, scissor blades, the profile of a side-plate and more, distorting the paint and exploiting the granulating properties. It was a good exercise and fun to do.


It pays to do your homework.

Certain English Universities have been creating a bit of a furore by announcing an increase in tuition fees for undergraduates from 2017. What’s wrong with that? Well, Parliament hasn’t officially said it’s OK for them to do that yet! Of course, the argument from the Universities will be, “It’s a sound investment for the students’ futures”. My argument would be that it’s a much better value investment for students in our neighbouring countries…! See HERE.

Talking of the cost of education… A little while ago, I mentioned I’d successfully applied to study for an M.A. in Fine Art at another university. The cost of doing an M.A. at the new university is £4,590, regardless of whether you do this full or part-time. This is great news if you have work or family commitments, or other limiting factors such as poor health. In addition, if you get a 1st class degree from any university in the last 2 years, you get a 10% discount and a further 5% discount if you pay your fees up front.

The university where I got my B.A.(Hons) offers a discount of £750 for students who choose to continue their studies. Also, the cost of doing an M.A. appears to be cheaper at £4500. However, it does cost more to do this as a part-time student, £300 for every 10 credits of the 180 you need to study, bumping up the part-time costs to £5400. If you add that up, it ends up as £4650, (which is more than the starting cost for my new university).

Assuming both offer comparable courses, which one would you choose?

Give me Kipling! (The writer, not the cakes).

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

Rudyard Kipling, From The Elephant’s Child (1902)

All week, I’ve had the above poem by Kipling swirling around my head so I thought I’d use it as an excuse to share it. The reason is, I’ve been writing emails and lots of forms for things such as funding, a residency and an application to ask an archive to accept some films I acquired when doing my degree. It’s not easy trying to explain my artwork fully!

The aforementioned film was first featured in this blog a couple of years ago. It’s on old ciné film and is called The Art of Lipreading, giving lessons on how to lipread. It’s not in the best condition, (it will need some tlc), but I can’t find reference to it anywhere. Is it rare?

After an exchange of emails, information and forms, it will be packed off to Brighton this week for assessment. If it’s important and/ or relevant, it will join an archive of fims and images with a connection to that area of the South East England. If it’s not successful, I can at least say I’ve tried to rehome it responsibly.

In the meantime, these are some watercolour cut-outs I’ve been doing. I have no idea where this is going but I like animals and was inspired by some old TV programmes. Also, I haven’t done much painting recently so that’s a creative itch I have had to scratch. I’m considering a beetle and an earthworm, too.

(PS: No prizes for spotting the mistake in the octopus painting).

Normally, I’m a bit camera-shy but this is a special cicumstance. I graduated with a first class honours degree. It was everything I had hoped for but didn’t dare expect.

(Click on the image below for the full story).