Category Archives: Workshops and Meetings

OCA Thames Valley Group meeting: 15th February 2020

This was an informal group session with eight of us present. We began with Jonathan bringing us up-to-date on place for the rest of this Academic Year’s sessions; had some discussion about latest notifications from OCA re tracking of students’ active learning and then moved onto discussion of works in progress.


Has been preparing a PechaKucha Presentation on her MA Body of Work ‘Digital Afterlife’. I was amazed how much information she was able to provide with such a short time slot available. (I found a good resource here  for further general information).  Dawn also had an image in a recent book, Women – Inspiring Quotes and artistic Responses Vol. 2.  Dawn had responded to an open call she had seen on CuratorSpace asking for women artists to provide a quote from an artist or writer who inspires them, together with an artistic response to this. CuratorSpace looks very useful; it’s a project management toolkit for curators, organisers, galleries, and artists, which is designed to simplify managing exhibitions, competitions etc, by allowing organisations to create open calls inviting people to submit ideas, projects, and art work quickly and easily. I’ve now subscribed to their newsletter and they are also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


I had taken along 7×5” prints of my current choices for Assignment 5 which has H.G. Wells’s ‘War of the Worlds’ as inspiration and Horsell Common as a subject. I asked for feedback on the sequence and suggestions about suitable texts (as there is no text at the moment)also showed the postcards I had selected.  I also showed the vintage postcards I had bought from eBay as I was thinking about ways in which I might be able to incorporate them, and explained I would like to create a handmade book and have also thought of an ‘altered’ book as I have several copies of ‘War of the Worlds’.


Everyone was very interested in and positive about the sequence and the concept – one comment being “There’s plenty of meat in this”.  However questions were asked which indicated to me that I needed to be clearer about my choices/sequence and what I was portraying. Was I looking at Horsell Common from a Martian’s point of view, is it about  the Martian War itself, before it happens or when it’s ended?  Suggestions were made that I could follow the sequence of the story/part of the story which covers Horsell Common; or insert a link to a Martian tripod by photographing trees from underneath. Another suggestion was that, if it’s connected with the Martian having landed then it would be appropriate to end the sequence with the creeping tree roots.

So far as adding text is concerned there was a consensus that I should include quotations from the book.  Regarding the ‘altered’ book, one idea I’d had was to paint a watercolour overlay over my images (cf. the work of Aletheia Casey ) or even parts of the book.  Another suggestion was to convert my photographs to black and white and then paint over them which is something Gerry has done in the past using acrylic ink rather than watercolour because it’s brighter and easier to use.  Gerry also referred to a book he had seen where the pages got gradually redder.  So far as the postcards are concerned, I could perhaps paint over copies of the postcard and then insert them in the book.


He is continuing to enjoy the book design course and showed us a zine he created for Assignment 1. ‘My Life in Books’. It looked very professional and he is also planning to create a photo-zine.


Used his iPad to show us some of his work for Assignment 3 ‘A Journey’. This is on his website and he has created a map of the journey a with accompanying slideshow. It’s a very effective and creative way of presenting a walk .  We discussed whether ambient sound relative to the place would support  the concept of change over time e.g. even the sound of breathing, also a suggestion that instead of right to left perhaps  it would better show the direction of the journey relative to the map if left to right. Jonathan is also planning to create a giant cyanotype of the stones he collected on his walk. His Assignment 5 will be a project on land art, including a clever, and artistic, possible way of influencing walkers on a public right of way to stay on that as they walk through a private field.


Work for Identity & Place. A series which utilises a processing technique he developed before studying with OCA and incorporates landscape scenes with objects which are important to him. Very distinctive prints with a slight HDR effect and printed on Permajet Pearl paper.


Talked us through the process and shared work produced in collaboration with an artist – part of a collaborative group submitting work for the forthcoming Edgezine online magazine.  Each responded to work created by the other, from which new work was created.



Shared work he had done for an Assignment for the Illustration Module.  He experimented with using the cheapest possible ink and a foam brush. Really effective and a pleasure to look at.

During our lunch break Jonathan told us about a YouTube film which shows a 3D printer in the desert using solar energy and making glass Dawn showed us some work by Songwen Chung who has created a robot that will draw with her ,and also some wonderful work by Helen Douglas on Weproductions . There’s some ‘Poempondscroll’ (2010) a 5.7 metre x 21 cm scroll, printed on Chinese paper with ultra chrome inks. (out of print unfortunately)

The reflective expanse and circle of the pond at Deuchar Mill inspired Douglas to explore the scroll format, and gave Valerie Gillies the idea of writing a poem in Chinese form using couplets to encircle the creatures which live in the pond. The result, poempondscroll, is a horizontal hand scroll over 5 metres long, which visually evokes light and reflections on water, with an integrated text that merges and disappears within the rendered details of water insects, rushes and the pond itself.

 Evolving out of the first scroll was ‘The Pond at Deuchar’ 14 metres x 27cm, continuing Douglas’s exploration of Deuchar Pond in deeper and richer colour and at greater length. This is also out of print but there was also a digital version of this and, if you have an iPad it can be accessed from here  .

It got me thinking that perhaps I could create a scroll book for Assignment 3 ‘Silent Pool’ must discuss with my tutor.


A very useful and supportive meeting demonstrating, once again, the value of sharing work with fellow students and asking for feedback.  For me it’s actually more useful than online sessions because I can see the physical prints and books etc.

Actions for me are:-

  • Reflect on my overall concept for Assignment 5 to make sure is it links coherently with the images
  • Find suitable text from the book “War of the Worlds” to add to the book
  • Do some experiments with watercolour paint or acrylic ink as a layer over some of my Assignment 5 images
  • Discuss the idea of a scroll book for Assignment 3 with my tutor
  • Richard created some beautiful handmade books when he studied Landscape so I will get in touch to ask for more details on his process.




Thames Valley Group Meeting: 18th January 2020

Print Workshop with John Umney – “Having a relationship with your printer”


John is an OCA Photography Graduate, currently studying for an MA with Oxford Brooks University.  He has many years of experience with printing his own work for Exhibitions and also ran a Print group which met monthly for a decade. Notes below on learning – all of which was achieved through discussion of prints we’d taken along with us – ones we were happy with or ones which didn’t turn out as we expected:-

  • Having a relationship with your printer includes a human printer as well and it’s important to get to know them; see how they work; explain the outcome you’d like to get and, if possible, show a test print to them.
  • Calibrate your monitor screen
  • Always clean the ink nozzles before you print
  • If you achieve a print you like you also need to know how you got there and how to reproduce it
  • The context for a print is important. How will it fit in a series; where will it be seen – book, gallery wall etc. Think about the distance from the viewer and also how it will be affected by lighting types
  • Re b+w – if the image has warm tones then it will show better on a more ivory coloured photo paper
  • If you have to have a margin on a print (e.g. for OCA assessment) bear in mind that the margin becomes a part of the print. I hadn’t thought of that before.
  • Use test prints which needn’t be on the exact same photopaper so long as you know they provide a good approximation of the final result.

Technical  aspects and practicalities


  • Use genuine inks rather than compatible.
  • Always use the same paper for prints and the same paper for test prints. John uses Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique 310 gsm – Satin for prints and the HP Everyday photo paper 200 gsm gloss for test prints
  • Use ICC profiles for the paper you use
  • If you use a laptop have a separate screen for it so that calibration will be more constant

Effect on the viewer:

  • A high contrast print can be ‘didactic’ – is that because the brain links with the notion of either/or I’m wondering.
  • A low contrast print adds ‘ambiguity’ – illustrated very much by one of John’s prints from his BoW where the low contrast (which John prefers in his work) has a slightly ‘otherworld” sense to it. What always surprises me is that low contrast work appeals to me yet my eyes always seek clarity.
  • John showed us a large number of his prints before his Degree, which he regards as craft rather than ‘art’, and we discussed this distinction which is something I often tussle with. I decided to do a web search and the first  statements that came up were, “Art is for aesthetics. Craft is for function and they often criss-cross venues. So the answer can be quite subjective”. and, “Craft is about producing a product. Art is concerned with the process of making something and not the end product”. Looking at it another way it’s Art when someone says it is perhaps.

This was a really useful session for me good to meet up with everyone in the group again after the Christmas break and see how they were progressing.  It was also particularly good to see John as he was one of TVG’s founder members and attended from the start until he graduated.


January 11th 2020 – A “Happening in the South West of England”

The idea for this day came from OCA graduate Anna Goodchild who issued an invitation to join in a collaborative group day at her home in Devon. Her overview of the day can be found here  and here  .  Most of those involved were members of OCA South West Group but some were artists and photographers from Anna’s local artistic network.

Anna provided the inspiration, venue, some artistic resources and a gentle framework for the day that allowed spontaneous art to emerge through a theme, randomly chosen from a dice, which was then turned into collaborative art by three randomly ascribed groups of four. The them was ‘Poverty’ and, to be honest, my heart sank a little at hearing that but I managed to stop myself from a quick descent into, “I can’t possibly think of anything artistic about that” by taking a deep breath pushing the thought aside and joining with the other members of my group.


We agreed a brainstorm around the word and then moved into discussion around the results.  At one stage I began to worry that we were spending too much time on discussion without moving into action but, in retrospect, the amount of time was necessary given our different experiences of and views around that whole topic. Eventually we reached a working consensus that there are many different ways in which people find themselves living in poverty and no one is immune to it happening to them. The process flowed from then onwards as we gathered together the available resources, both inside and outside, that seemed likely to act as visual metaphors for our ‘performance’ – the weighing scales, checks and balances, leaves and feathers that clung, floated or were blown away by the winds of change.  Each stage was documented with short videos which were then edited together by Anna.  Something else was needed to complete our concept and, slowly, a brief dialogue emerged as soundtrack.  Amazingly we had also finished on time and joined the others to listen, watch, present the art from the day and then burn it – the ashes to be preserved as a start to the next ‘Happening’, whichever and whenever that might be.

Further thoughts

I’ve admired OCA South West group from afar as their meetings are just that too distant for me to travel to for a day, so it was great to be able to meet with some of them, and others, for what proved to be such a spontaneous and collaborative event.  I also enjoyed being with a group of people who bring creativity and ideas from different artistic disciplines from my own and I was very interested to see how their ideas emerged and experience the challenge of different ways of looking at life.  I’m already looking forward to other opportunities to collaborate in this way.



Meetings of Thames Valley Group in September and October 2019

Thames Valley Group Meeting 21st September 2019

A few thoughts:-

Documenting someone’s life – person and place – how much the photographer’s choice of view, composition, and resulting images affects the viewer’s perception of the subject. How does that compare with the subject’s perception of their life.  What happens when the subject is allowed to choose. (Barry)

A more unusual use of the word ‘insinuation’ (in Jonathan’s blog  ) – how the path insinuates its way into the brain.

(NB Robert Macfarlane, author of “The Lost Words” has a regular ‘word of the day’ on his Twitter feed . )

(Cecelia) Ways of integrating landscape images with portraits (e.g. Helen Sear) ()

Overlaying symbols of a country over photographs of it (Kevin)

Re family albums – we’re co-creating identity with the dead (Dawn).  My other thought on this is that we’re still ‘alive’ in some way until the last person who can remember us dies.

One image from the day – An example of the imaginative ways in which Dawn create a ‘family album’.


NB – an ethnographic approach to the family album. This book is very useful . Have it on my bookshelf.

Thames Valley Group Meeting 19th October 2019

Richard and Pauline talked about the freedom of not doing a degree because you can go in a direction that interests you.  Richard has started on the book-making Course.

Pauline studying Visual Culture but still taking photographs. She has become interested in words in the landscape with that underlying question of how words can strike at a glimpse. We discussed some recent examples – agreeing that these are more in the street photography genre. We moved the prints around, discussing which worked well together.

Really interesting to hear how Dawn is finding the MFA at Farnham. They’ve gone straight into creating collaborative work in large/small groups.  Dawn had created a tissue dress from an old pattern – linking with part of the theme of ‘generation’ . How they curated an ‘exhibition’ and then re-curated.  How crits work and the kind of questions asked – e.g. “What would you take away; what would you add?”. Dawn is also doing an online Art course. Showed us a way of ‘letting go” – masking-off four rectangles on paper and painting over the tape (see below)

Sue showed us her work on Creech Wood and how she’s experimenting with slideshows with and without audio. Discussed use of ambient recordings and difficulties of obtaining ones free from wind noise.

I didn’t have any coursework to show but talked about my ideas for Assignments 4 and 5 on landscape.  For Assignment 4 Critical Review I’m thinking of writing on the notion of “Home”.  I explained how I got to thinking about this as a result of the continuing Brexit debate and comments about nationalism and patriotism. What is it that makes people feel patriotic towards their country; what underlies this feeling – something about attachment to home which, of course, links with feeling homesick and nostalgic.  Is it possible to evoke such feelings through a landscape image – conceptual or traditional as opposed to a pure social/documentary approach?  I’ve done a fair amount of reading and note-taking and also collected together some examples including work I saw last year at the Brighton Biennial weekend. With 2000 words I need to keep my essay quite focussed whilst acknowledging links with culture and identity.  Two suggestions were to have a look at the Museum of Migration, London    and also to research District 6 Museum in Cape Town, South Africa . I was also reminded about my project on my dad’s letters, sent to me when he was in the Army in Egypt. I hadn’t thought of them in this contex so was very pleased to be reminded and talking about this also reminded me of my dreams of Sheffield in the past and how these ended once I had been back in more recent years and seen how the estate has deteriorated.

My current idea for Assignment 5 is a project based around “War of the Worlds” written by H.G. Wells when he lived briefly in Woking. Wells refers to many local places and nearby towns and I could re-trace these in the present.

I went away feeling very supported and with much more enthusiasm for coursework than I had when I arrived at the meeting. I also decided to try out Dawn’s experiment with painting.




4. Mini-experiment at Thames Valley Group Meeting – Process


Reviewing Progress so far: A few thoughts/Ideas

I’ve written before about my efforts to find the right photographic approach to Silent Pool. I’d also been jotting down ideas for presentation, including the use of text – something I’ve written about previously, here  and here . Joel Colberg wrote an interesting piece about the role of text alongside photography in January 2018. His view was that one has to look at what the two do together, but this approach didn’t seem to him to be very common in photography. “Here, photographs are almost always taken as being in the driver’s seat, with text riding shotgun (at best).” He also refers to captions in photojournalism and documentary photography incorporating, “[… ] often very elaborate pieces of text that, however, often are produced by a different author and that usually almost lead a life of their own.” This contrasts with fine-art photography where images might not even have titles. Colberg queries this, wondering why omit text when it could elevate the work beyond what the pictures are able to do. To me that’s a very interesting question because I sometimes think along the reverse – at what point do the photographs become mere illustrations to a narrative?  For me, this is compounded by the fact that, in this student world, we’re expected to write a fair amount ‘about’ our photography plus we have a lot of discussion about captions and placement of text. Having looked at different ways in which some photographers use text Colberg recognises that there isn’t a single model of how pictures and text work together so this has to be figured out in each particular case – how will one inform the other?

This came home to me at a recent visit to Moving The Image,  an Exhibition at Camberwell Space, London.  When we walked into the Exhibition space it struck me as light and spacious but sparse – really minimal.  I then realised that there were no captions or titles, no pieces of information informing me about the photographer or the work.  This meant I had to spend quite some time looking at the work and trying to comprehend what it was all about in some cases; which was a good thing.  It turned out there was actually a list of works handout , with a diagram as to where they were – numbered in such a way that you didn’t follow an organic flow with it. There was also a printed pamphlet containing a quite lengthy essay by the curator, Duncan Wooldridge, with references to the pieces of work and photographs of some of them. I felt pleased I hadn’t known about them to begin with because the lack provided some additional learning and realisation.

My anxiety about my Silent Pool photographs and thoughts on text and image came to a head when I was in bed, unable to sleep, the night before the OCA Thames Valley Group meeting. What if I could do a mini experiment to test out my work; how would I go about it? Eventually I worked out a possible process in my head.  I could present some of the photographs without any explanation other than they were part of the Assignment, give group members a card each and ask them to write words or a brief sentence on anything that came to mind when looking. It would be the images themselves that spoke rather than explanatory text. Next I would tell them about Silent Pool, its history, the story by Martin Tupper and the Distillery and ask  if there was any point at which each of them became more interested in the photographs.  I did manage to get some sleep after that but got up early and printed off some of the photographs at A4 size. I used  Permajet Titanium Lustre paper for most of them as I thought this would be appropriate for photographs of water as it has a slight texture and metallic sheen. Otherwise I used Epson traditional photo-paper which is quite a heavy paper and with a slight satin sheen. I included a photograph of tree roots – kind of like a wild card but it reminded me of hanging on, clinging to the roots of something, existing over time – and also a composite image of the pool and a girl leaning over it.  The girl was from a copyright- free Victorian painting but I had distorted her figure slightly so that she leaned over further and also added a reflection.

Thames Valley Group Meeting – 18th May 2019

There were seven of us, slightly less than usual but good too as it meant we each had more time for presentation.  I presented the Silent Pool images and went through the process of my mini experiment as planned. These are the images I chose:-


After cards were written, I narrated all the events and story of the Pool then, during the following discussion, I also showed some small fabric prints.  I had been thinking about the work of Noemie Goudal, and her installation of a fabric waterfall and played with the idea of something similar as a small installation. I used Contrado for the printing as I had used them previously for the mini-project I collaborated on with Dawn.  I chose satin for one and crushed velvet for the other:


Dawn kindly made notes for me on points that arose during the discussion, which was so helpful because it enabled me to listen and concentrate on what people were saying.

Peer Feedback:



Discussion Notes

  • Looked at images individually and then interested when they were all together – before the Pool (history etc?)
  • Thought of word ‘silent’ then it looks like Silent Pool
  • Myth – a story of warning people
  • Reminds me of another story where a girl goes in a pool, goes round and round and drowns – Mill on the Floss?
  • Looks like a peaceful and romantic place. Interesting how all the layers of story-telling have built on top.
  • Permanence and fluidity. When told story I felt it was not true. I’m just too cynical. Like the monasteries who invented relics to get people to visit.
  • Like King Arthur – nobody know who or where he was.
  • From romantic landscape to commercial merchandise
  • You could take the water into your own bottles and photograph them. Produce your own
  • To me it’s wondrous; the pure pool
  • Had different histories. I thought of above and below.
  • There’s something about woodland pools that are very attractive; innately attractive.
  • These images could have been evidence from a court case; they could be forensic evidence.
  • All these elements building around the same place
  • Addition of the figure (manipulated composite image) turns it into a Victorian landscape. Conceptually I’d like to see the outline of the painting to highlight the concept.

This was all such helpful feedback for me.  I was pleased that the images did mainly seem to evoke the sense of place I’d been trying to achieve. Interesting as well about the comments regarding from romantic landscape to commercial merchandise which is very much about how we harness, own and make money from them. This led to comments re the fabric prints, including that I could make tea towels as well as bottling some of the water in a bottle I designed.  Those are also useful in thinking about eventual presentation.

Many thanks to Dawn, Miriam, Richard, Kevin, Gerry and Michael for their feedback.





Collaboration with Dawn Langley

I felt in a slight limbo after the “Time” Exhibition was taken down in February so I was delighted when, Dawn Langley, my student colleague (and co-curator for the Exhibition) emailed me to ask if I’d be interested in working with her on a mini-project.Dawn is studying Digital Image & Culture and her latest work concerns digital afterlife for which she created an intricate décollage project from her own photographs and the physical collages were then photographed, distorted and glitched digitally.

Dawn wrote that she had had further thoughts on this project after feedback discussion with her tutor, where they had both agreed it could be pushed further.  I think bringing them back to digital has lost some of their depth.  I had a thought this morning that maybe I’m not the person to do it, particularly as in my digital afterlife I won’t have any control over what others do with my images. Dawn asked if I would be interested in doing some work on them – whatever came to mind – and I could do anything I wished with six of the digital prints. I said “Yes” straight away and we agreed the deadline would be the end of March which was great for me – enough time to create some work and not so much that I would get carried along too many avenues and lose myself in the process.

Digital images are quite flat and, bearing in mind Dawn’s comment about depth, my first action was to print them, thinking it would be interesting to experiment with different types of paper to create tactile/textured prints. The one on Innova Canvas paper worked the best, bringing out the deep colours. Still with the urge for something tactile I wanted a three-dimensional object and so created a folded box, which I then repeated with thicker paper (‘Traces we leave (door)’ and ‘Traces we leave (glitch)’).


What next? Still pursuing materiality I had the idea of printed fabric, so I bought two sets of swatches from Contrado  and ordered a small sample print on silk, thinking this would best bring out the vibrant colours of the image I chose (Traces we leave (Ripple) – originally ‘Rose and Fern’), having created two copies, and ‘twinned’ them.

Roses and ferns began to preoccupy me. I set a rose to dry out for a few days

and, whilst waiting, plus with some sunshine, I decided to create miniature lumen prints with nine of a pack of 5×7 cm expired Ilford soft, glossy photographic paper I had bought from eBay. For this I used some small dried fern leaves and flower heads, arranging them in the contact frame so that, hopefully, they could act as jigsaw blocks.  As it turned out, three of them exposed much darker than the others – the pack must have included a mix of paper I think.


I still liked the idea of being able to rearrange them though, leaving them ‘unfixed’ so that these ‘unique’ prints would need to be kept in the dark. Otherwise they would fade – unlike digital prints.

At this point in the collaboration Dawn and I shared individual progress on the project at an OCA Thames Valley Meeting in March.  To be honest I felt slightly anxious regarding how Dawn would react to my responses but she was very pleased.  In some respects, we had been travelling along similar lines too, as Dawn had also been experimenting with introducing more materiality, including printing on a different type of fabric from silk.  During feedback someone commented on what the feeling might be like in handing over one’s work to someone else.  This hadn’t concerned Dawn because the premise of her project had been concerned with Digital Afterlife.  The idea of ashes in a box also struck her,

I created further work during the next couple of weeks; still absorbed with roses and ferns.


Two polaroids of a maidenhair fern from two different renovated camera.

An 8” x 10” lumen print of dried rose flowers and fern leaves (exposed on Ilford Multigrade Warmtone Photographic paper) – again unfixed.

Cyanotype print of fern leaves – actually double-sided, the other side being almost a trace of roses.

With time running short, I wanted to offer a painted rock.  My rose didn’t turn out quite how I wished as I just hadn’t realised how intricate roses are!  I turned it into a rose tree instead.


Dawn and I met together on the 3rdMay and I handed the completed work to her. In our discussion on the process we touched on appropriation and trust plus the ongoing effect on my own thoughts/feeling on photography.

I had realised at an early point that I was actually involved in a process of ‘appropriation’, but it didn’t feel quite like that because Dawn had invited me to collaborate with her and offered the images to me. Also, I think I would have responded differently if Dawn had offered me actual photographs.  I know I just wouldn’t have been able to cut them up to make collages for example. I already have sets of photographs purchased from eBay which I haven’t done any work with so far but don’t feel able to either throw away or destroy.

I also think that trust is needed on both sides where handing over personal work is concerned and also in collaborative work.  I had already collaborated with Dawn, enjoyed doing so and felt confident to work with her. We’re both members of the same regional group and used to giving each other feedback in meetings. I know I would need to engage in some preparatory work before collaborating with someone new.

During the project I didn’t feel any pull towards creating further composites/layering – indeed I was aware I was looking underneath the layers to reconstruct hidden elements.  Much of my working life was concerned with working through large amounts of sometimes conflicting information to uncover patterns and histories and I think this is reflected now in some of my creative work.  This realisation was further strengthened when I attended the “Interpreting Landscape” Workshop with artist Clare Wilson in April.

The collaboration with Dawn on her project also strengthened my growing desire to be involved in more than just digital photography. I’ve been dabbling around the edges for quite a while now by using polaroid cameras and creating lumen and cyanotype prints, with the intention of seeing how I can use them in coursework Assignments. During March though I also began teaching myself to draw using the book You Can Draw in 30 Days, by Mark Kistler (2011). It even has a chapter on drawing roses! During April I signed on for a free online Sketchbook Revival Workshop – hosted by Karen Abend and with sessions from several different artists using all types of media.  I really enjoyed this but have had to take a break from it because I was neglecting coursework.

So, I’m now more firmly focused on following signposts to different creative paths and just need to find the right balance for myself. I know I’m already thinking photography in a different way too.  Many thanks to Dawn for inviting me to collaborate with her and, so, facilitating a firm though gentle push towards multi-disciplinary work. PS – Dawn’s own write-up on the process can be read here






Interpreting Landscape: OCA Workshop 14th April 2019

Interpreting Landscape : 14thApril 2019
OCA Workshop with Clare Wilson, OCA Tutor 

The aim of the workshop was to focus on ways of interpreting place. How the experience of making relates to the place itself and to memories of that place. And how, as artists we can offer abstractions of the experience and the shifts in time and space – making work that suggests a place visited, experienced or imagine.

Seven of us met with Clare in the Tabernacle,  which began life as a tin evangelist church in 1869 before being transformed into the Romanesque red brick and terracotta building it is today. It was closed as a church in 1975 and there’s an interesting timeline here  describing all it went through before becoming the thriving place it is today.

After brief introductions Clare talked about her own working practice, where her paintings evolve slowly, allowing space to settle,  through a process of layering, erasing and re-working the paint; leaving traces on the surface which provide evidence of the evolution. She was only able to show us some of her paintings on her laptop due to a problem with connection to the wall monitor but I looked at her website afterwards (see below).

We then moved on to a discussion of landscape and what it means to each of us. For some it was to do with form and shape; how humans use/abuse the land and how they inhabit and shape it.  For me, at that moment, it was about being in a space, absorbing the atmosphere/environment and how the landscape carries layers of time, history, and the stories we carry and pass on about those spaces. I also mentioned my idea for my next Assignment, about space to place and how a story made a place of a pool.

We then went straight into experiential mode. Each of us had been asked to bring along two photographs – a place we felt connected to in some way and a place not visited but that we felt intrigued by, having seen an image of it.  The latter needed to be non-precious as it would be lost in the photo transfer process and a photocopy would be fine.  We were also asked to bring a small object that relates to a place that holds memories.

I had brought a photograph of our garden, an image of a Japanese garden and a small soapstone statuette of mother and baby. They all had special meaning for me – the apple still lingers in my mind as a potential photography project one day whilst reminding me of a Bonsai tree with its stunted miniature growth. I have always wanted to visit Japan, and a friend gave me the African soapstone statuette many years ago as a gift, something that has travelled with me through the years and several house-moves. It’s a tactile object, pleasant to hold and soothing to look at. Interestingly it also reminds me of some of the small Japanese objects I have, with its impassive gaze into an unknown place.

After each of us had talked about the meanings of the pieces Clare then asked us to spend some time drawing the object. I enjoyed attempting to capture the curves of the statuette in this warm-up exercise.

Time then to choose from some images provided by Clare and cut and collage a picture

This was where I went into self-critical mode. My sense was that there’s something about me that doesn’t incline towards collage as I didn’t want to stick one piece over another  – something was stopping me.  It isn’t that I don’t appreciate those created by other people because I do, and I could see some wonderful ones being created before my eyes around the table.  There is something in my psychology that doesn’t want to pile on layer after layer, scraping through and creating something different in that way.  I always seem to be seeking clarity. Having thought more, I can see how this followed on from the photograph of the apple tree and also the statuette. I had cut out a face that appeared to have two different sides (like Janus) and it was important that I added tears. The arms are encircling yet I placed an eye in one of them.  The chair is a place to sit whilst having stories read to me, the truck is a boy’s ‘toy.’ I realised that, for me, it’s more about separating out the complexities that are already there so I can see the differences and similarities – separating figures from ground.  I always seem to be seeking clarity on something half-known to me.

Clare encouraged us to do more as we had some time left and, as I didn’t want to add to what I already had, I traced the tree lightly and coloured it in my own way – adding the two faces.  This was something as a follow-on really – what gets passed down the generations, things girls can and cannot do, well, were not supposed not to do!

Before lunch Clare quickly showed us how to apply medium to the frame canvas base ready for image transfer so we could start on this as soon as we came back. For this she used Kremer 76000 (prev. Plextol D 498). A thin glaze of medium was applied, then image placed thereon face-down and smoothed out;  a wait to set then we removed the top (back of print) with a rough sponge.

This took quite a while and lots of wet balls of paper residue to deal with. I had already acquired some Amsterdam medium a while ago to experiment with , although, based on my results with the Japanese garden, I’m now not so sure whether photo transfer might be a good method for me to use! It was like a faint facsimile of the image and looking at it I felt at a bit of a loss as to how/what to work with it. In the event, I added more watercolour to some of the green and blues and then added words around each side although the painted words bled on the still damp surface.  Clare then suggested I experiment further by extending branches beyond the frame of the image, which I did.


Now, I’m not going to beat myself up about it because this was my very first attempt and you have to start somewhere but it looked vague and messy to me.  Thinking more on this now, I could instead print on watercolour at 50% opacity, say, and use that as a medium for paint, drawing, collage etc. I think that’s it, the transferred image – a paler version of itself – is the first layer and other are then added as with layers of pencil, paint etc and also the layers in Photoshop and composites etc. Probably, some images are more conducive to this kind of process.

In our final session we laid out and walked around all the work achieved which was so interesting and varied.

This was followed by a discussion on the day itself plus any OCA related queries.  Research was a topic that came up and I felt reassured that I’m not the only one to find it tedious at times – not the research itself but the amount of writing-up. Clare acknowledged this whilst strongly putting the case for research and how it can inform one’s practice –  which is what  assessors want to know about.

Overall this was what I gained from quite a full day:-

  • Clare Wilson was wonderful to work with, conveying personal interest, enthusiasm and a non-judgmental eye.
  • The whole day felt very immersive and, as ever, it was good to be sharing the workshop with artists from other disciplines and to realise that, although our artistic processes might differ, we experienced similar feelings towards our environment and continually attempted to portray the way we are affected by it.
  • Everyone was interested in the work produced by others.
  • I now know how to undertake a photo transfer
  • I gained more understanding of the process of allowing space for an idea to develop by using this method.
  • It reinforced my continuing desire and efforts to try out multi-media methods, to avoid self-criticism whenever possible and allow myself time keep on practising. Alongside coursework.

I had another look at Clare’s work on her website too.  The blue shades of her recent paintings reminding me of the sky and water and leading me to wonder in what ways I can present/process my photographs of the pool.  There’s an essay   on Clare’s website (by Cherry Smith )– referring to the sense of misty luminescence and the light in her paintings often being veiled. Very interesting reading for me as well in relation to writing about art – a personal response in terms of what’s evoked; exploring how the paint is worked upon the canvas; shifts between lightness and darkness; recurrent motifs (such as horizon, the investigation of border) and how the surface of the painting is layers, thinned and built upon.

I also looked at the work of Prunella Clough (1919-1999), mentioned by Clare as a reference point, and there’s an interesting article on WeAreOCA written in July 2012, on a book “Regions Unmapped” written about her by Frances Spalding. Clough has been described as a prominent British artist known mostly for her paintings of the urban landscape although she also made assemblages of collected objects.  Her work became larger scale and more abstract in her later career and, again, her images were combined and filtered through memory, evolving through a slow process of layering and re-working. I noted that Clough used more earthy tones which fits with something she said in an interview with Bryan Robson in 1982

I think that having a tonal basis for the work is as much to do with the English wind and weather as anything else. In other words, geography and climate. I work from the subject matter, things perceived, and things that I see tend to be somewhat murky.

I am currently slowly working through another book, Textile Landscape: Painting with cloth in mixed media (2018) written by Cas Holmes  who is interested in the liminal ‘in between’ spaces connecting land, place and environment.  There are several reasons I bought the book; I’ve been searching for more tactile creative methods recently – alternative photography methods, attending an introductory hand-weaving day and even started knitting again.  I have also been learning to draw through books and videos.  This is not necessarily to say that I will use such methods as part of my ongoing photography work but that they involve different thought processes and approaches which I think will encourage me towards more lateral thinking. Cas Holmes’s book is a wonderful find for me, particularly because through a collaborative mini-project with Dawn, a student colleague (more writing on that will follow), I decided as part of this to experiment with having a photograph printed on silk. – just think about a river or pool of silk.  It was a small sample piece but the satisfaction I gained from that was what led me to find the book.


Homes, C. (2018) Textile Landscape: Painting with cloth in mixed media. London, Batsford