a study of natural colour / the beginning of third year

I've had a full week back at university after a break of almost five months. It feels great to be back in a studio space again and I already feel settled and inspired, ready to push myself with my making this year.

Over the summer I have been spending time on an exciting commission that has kickstarted my new series of paintings made on and about the beach at Durgan in South Cornwall.

The coloured shapes on the finished canvas' have been painted with hand processed rock-powder pigments sourced from Durgan beach. They mimick the natural shapes from an aerial point of view of the coast that curves around the Helford. The colour on the right panel of the diptych comes from pine cones and needles, from which I produced a mushroom-pink coloured natural dye that re-maps the topography of the woodland foliage at this time of year.

The frottage rubbings on the 'Durgan' panel came to be through tracing the rock faces that hang over the beach, surfaces that are partially immersed by the sea water at high tide. The frottage from the Headland came from a tree at the highest point of the hill, from where you can see glimpses of the beach at Durgan, the origin of the trip - the heart of the works.

The finished pieces sit together as a diptych, telling a story of a journey from Durgan beach to the headland that overlooks the Helford river.

It has been hard to keep quiet about this project over the past few weeks as it has been such a joy to work on, but I am happy to finally publish the pieces online now that they have been received by their new owner for her birthday.

It has been a challenge to be learning about a new medium whilst putting together a commissioned piece, but the challenge most definitely helped me push my ideas and stretch my use of materials ahead of the start of my third year.


Since I've been in my new studio at University, I have thrown myself into making pigment from rocks that I have collected at Durgan. The rocks are crushed, ground, sieved and then mixed with rice starch or gum arabic to thicken before being used as paint.

With these pigments I have been cracking on with the first piece in the Durgan collection. I am working a lot bigger than I ever have before, stitching my hand-processed rock powder pigments onto the canvas. 

The extra space within the frame allows me to push the minimalism in the work, something that was suggested in my final hand-in feedback last term. Shapes, block colours, lines, textures and negative space all combine in the new paintings. The round, stone shapes on the canvas' relate to my earlier sculptural installations and also refer to the origin of their pigmentation.

Unfortunately when I stretched the piece, parts of the edges of the canvas frayed (school-girl error) and thus the stitching didn't remain in tact... I documented the piece then moved on with it; it was unstretched and pieces of canvas were cut up and 'saved' ready for use in my next painting. I deconstructed the painting into it's component parts, with the intention to bring a collage element into the next painting.

I am wholeheartedly trying to do my best to learn from the making process and not get discouraged when things don't work out the way I had planned in my head. A documentation of what didn't work, what did and what could be improved upon will help me to make my best work. 'Failure' is a part of the process, dwelling on said failure is not...

I decided to view the earlier piece as an opportunity to re-think my conceptual ideas. I'm looking to push the minimalism through the use of basic and fundamental shapes, taken from motifs found within the natural world. The inclusion of negative space within the frame of the canvas alludes to the vast and open environment we find ourselves within when out in the landscapes of Cornwall. A nod to the sometimes overwhelming sense of 'being small' in a place so expansive and immeasurable. 

I have been tracing the outlines of the rocks I make pigment from into my sketchbook to use as abstract shapes to inform my next and further paintings. These shapes come together in a non-pictorial composition to form conceptual landscapes that are both wildly non-representational but also quite literally a depiction of the landscape from which the form and material of the artwork was derived.

From these preliminary sketchbook drawings, I have been playing around with composition ideas by pinning the shapes of rock pigment painted canvas onto my studio wall. This week, I am hoping to complete at least one finished piece for the collection, whilst also working on some newer works on paper and trying my hand at making printing ink from my pigments.

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