Weeks 19, 20 + 21: Etching and Writing

This semester is mainly taken up with writing essays which unfortunately has taken most of my time away from making physical work at the moment. Even though I enjoy writing I prefer actually making, but I am definitely taking my time over this essay and trying to make it the best it can be. It is due at the end of this month so I would quite like to get it finished soon so I can focus on my philosophy practical work which is due April 4th.

Last month I submitted my philosophy work proposal which consisted of making a piece of work inspired by Sigmund Freud’s model of consciousness and the Ego. I proposed a piece of work created by stacking many layers of acrylic to create an almost 3D suspended drawing. I have just recently acquired some acrylic and I have been having lots of fun experimenting with a type of infinity mirror effect that is produced. I can’t wait to etch onto these once the writing is done!

In terms of my regular studio work I have been investing a lot of time into mirrored acrylic. There is something really nice about the reflection element of the surface that I have only briefly considered in my work before. I have also cut some wood to start constructing frames to hold my acrylic – my least favourite part of the whole process but I am hoping to get on top of it now because I seem to be making a lot of work! My studio space has stayed relatively the same but I have added a lot more drawings inspired by my second reiki session (which was as equally amazing as the first). I have finally removed all of semester one work from my space so it is all new work up on the walls now. In terms of reading I have been really getting into the work of Rudolph Steiner who saw art as a spiritual activity, it really slots in with the whole meditative trance drawings I have been making.

Hopefully next time I update the trials of writing will be over and I will have a lot more exciting work to show you – until then here are some progress pics:


Week 17 + 18: Philosophy and Colour

Hello everyone, I guess this is my first proper update since the Christmas break. I had a lovely relaxing which I feel was needed as the first semester was really intense, although in the best possible way. Towards the end of the break I started getting a bit restless (as I tend to do if I haven’t created work in a while). I began experimenting with different drawing techniques, one of which was pyrography. This involves using a pyrography tool to burn images into whichever surface you choose, I started with paper. I had a tutorial with Norman Shaw (who I am a massive fan of) and we talked about the properties of burning. There is something quite transformative both figuratively and metaphorically about burning, seeing as it is used in thousands of cleansing rituals all across the globe. The physical act of burning as well is different to anything I have tried before – the smell of the paper burning is actually surprisingly nice.   

So apart from these pyrography tests I felt a bit stuck a few weeks ago. I wasn’t really sure where to go with my work, so I started thinking about the concept of meditation and automatic drawing. That got me thinking about the concept of trance, and how it has been used in rituals to create a link to the unconscious. This led me on to think about energy fields, the concept of chakras and finally Reiki. This energy healing technique has been on my radar for some time but I always made excuses not to experience it. I thought that this would be the perfect time to try something new and maybe gain some inspiration.

The story of my first Reiki experience is quite a long one so I will try to shorten it for ease of reading. I ended up selecting a Reiki healer in Dundee that was reasonably priced and went into the session with no preconceived ideas of what to expect or feel. In short: it felt incredible. I felt all sorts of sensations from heat to vibration and saw many different visions and colours. I felt like my system was rebooted and refreshed. I went home that night and I felt as if I had all of this abundant energy in me so I tried to capture this energy in pencil sketches (see below). I like the combination of the soft and hard areas in these sketches and the feel like a natural extension of the automatic drawing work I have been doing.

After having another tutorial with Norman I started switching my pyrography to birch plywood and used the grain of the wood to guide my pyrography. As I was so inspired by colours I saw during my Reiki session I finally decided it is time to add colour back into my work. I think the last time my work had colour in was maybe 2015 and that was photography. The last time I made a drawing with colour in it was definitely 2013 – I think this change is lovely, it is signifying a new stage in both my life and my work. I decided on the colours that I saw during my experience which were mainly indigo and violet. I cannot describe how good it feels to be using colour again after so many years. It feels like a definite release from the monochrome work I have been making for the past couple of years.

In regards to our second module – Philosophies of Imagination – I am thoroughly enjoying it even though I’m finding it quite challenging. We have to create a piece separate from our studio work to show alongside a 1500 word artist statement/work proposal. I am really happy we have this separate project to work on as I don’t want to give up working with acrylic and lights. Now I have discovered my love of colour again I am also excited at the prospect of coloured acrylic and lights and the stacking of numerous etched acrylic panels. We have been studying a range of topics including Heidegger and animals, the sympathetic imagination and fetishism and the imagination. All of which have been interesting but I am definitely focusing my work on the subject of the last part of the module which is the unconscious, especially in Freud’s writing. Psychology is just a subject I have always been fascinated by and it always creeps into my work somehow.

Also as a last little update I joined Generator Projects which is an artist’s collective here in Dundee and am currently exhibiting one of my pyrography drawings in their member’s show (see below) which is a nice addition to the start of the semester.

So that’s everything that is happening so far this semester. I will have an update in a fortnight’s time on how things are going, and hopefully a studio space update as well! See you then… 


Weeks 11-16: 2018 Quick New Year Update

Hi WordPress, it’s been a while. I have been very busy but I figured I should post a small update on what has been happening since I last wrote.

There wasn’t much to share last semester once I had finished my sculpture, it was the last large piece of work that I made before concentrating on the humanities module essay. I don’t mind writing, but I tend to procrastinate sometimes (especially with blog posts!). I managed to shut myself in the library and write away so I was quite pleased I overcame my apathetic tendencies.

After the essay hand in our course had a small get together called ‘Winter Tales’. We displayed some work and had some drinks and festivities so it was a pleasant break from all the essay writing.

Then we had our studio work assessment which involved presenting our work in the studio to the head of our course and a few lecturers. I usually hate anything involving public speaking so I was really proud of how well I did. I think my meditation has been helping as I tried to channel the nerves into excitement and it seemed to pay off and I appeared to come across well. I ended up with a great mark for both my essay and studio work.

Still getting back in to the swing of things with this semester, so expect a very in depth update at the end of next week (weeks 17 and 18). I have some great progress that I will divulge soon… see you next week!


Studio as it looked for assessment. Finished large ink drawing included.

Weeks 9+10: Drawing and Making

These last few weeks there has been a real emphasis on drawing and making for me. I am still feeling very energised in my studio work and I am continuing to have many ideas and inspiration for creating work.

As I said last week I have been focusing on automatic drawing and meditation. The main drawing I have been working on is a large (bigger than A0) pen and ink continuous line automatic drawing. It is nice to be able to go back to it every so often and I have it up on my studio wall at the moment.

I’ve been to see a few exhibitions, one in the Art Bus that comes to the university every year and one in Perth Museum and Art Gallery. We went to see the Louise Bourgeois exhibition that was on there. It was the first time I had seen her work and it was amazing to see it in real life after looking at her work in books for so long. One of her spider works were there and it was great to see the scale.


During week 9 I decided to start working on a large wire drawing in the seminar space. I haven’t worked with wire before but I have ha a piece up on my studio wall from when we first moved in and that it was kick-started the idea. I bought some cheap garden wire from the shop and began bending and manipulating it the same way I would with the lines of a drawing. It was quite easy to twist together and I liked the idea of the piece being suspended in mid air. I finished it off in week 10 with some cellophane shapes inserted into the wire to give depth and texture. I also like the addition of blue, we were talking at the Louise Bourgeois exhibition about how colour choice is important. Blue exudes calmness which is how I feel when I make these drawings so I wanted to choose blue for the wire. It was also the colour I picked up on right at the start of the semester because of its links with the sea. I experimented with light on it and I loved the extra dimension the shadow gives to the piece.

Throughout these two weeks I have also continued to work on my essay which the main bulk of is finished and I just need to rearrange some of the structure now. I finally stopped procrastinating at the end of last week’s update and shut myself in the library until I managed to write. I’ve figured that the library seems to be the best place for me to focus when I am procrastinating, so I guess Hermoine was right!

It is almost assessment time (essay deadline December 1st and studio work deadline 4th) so in the next few weeks I’ll mostly be working on small drawings, maybe trying to build a frame or two but nothing big. See you for the next update!

Weeks 5-8: What I’ve been doing.

It feels like a very long time since I’ve written a blog post. I can’t believe it’s been a month. I really wanted to post every week but this course is so busy that I’m not sure I’ll be able to do that. I’m thinking every two weeks is a reasonable goal.

I think I fell off the blog bandwagon in week 6 because that was our reading week and I read so much I thought my brain was going to explode. The last thing I wanted to do was write. 

Every time over the last month I sat down to write a blog post I realised I could be doing something else instead. Something more productive towards the course. The course has been ridiculously intense so far but again, I’m loving every second of it.

Here’s a short list of topics/authors I’ve been studying these last four weeks if you are interested to look up any of these texts:

  • Theodor Adorno – ‘Trying to Understand Endgame’ – Samuel Beckett
  • Jacques Rancière – ‘The Future of the Image’
  • Maurice Blanchot – ‘Literature and the Right to Death’
  • Mieke Bal – ‘His Master’s Eye’
  • Jacques Derrida – ‘Before the Law’
  • Susan Sontag – ‘Regarding the Pain of Others
  • Also various lectures from artist’s such as Audrey Grant, Laura Donkers, Graham Fagen,

Some of them I thought I would never be able to understand but the seminars are very open and the discussion is great so there is really never a wrong answer to something you want to say.

In particular there have been three key aspects that have been keeping me busy.

1) We have had to produce a short film for our course.

This is instead of a presentation at the beginning of the year because there are so many of us it would take forever. This way we can learn about each other’s practices in our own time without it taking up precious studio time. We were given the option to have one of the postgraduate students film this and edit it for us, but me being my overly eager self wanted to have the challenge of doing it alone. I created a short film for my Panmure series back in 2014 and I remember really enjoying the editing process. This took a couple of weeks though I filmed some of the footage during reading week (week 6). It was a bit strange getting used to hearing your own voice but by the end I was pretty happy with what I created. I’m hoping to be able to share the video with everyone that follows my blog in the near future once it has been uploaded to Vimeo. I can probably share a screenshot just now though:

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 11.55.13

2) My creative practice.

My creative practice has been practically exploding in the last couple of weeks. Every time I went to write a blog post my mind said NO! Go and create something instead! I was speaking about this with a couple of people and it is strange how I could take some photographs even if I wasn’t in the mood to. In contrast when it comes to drawing you definitely have to be in the mood to draw, and you can’t really force yourself to create anything if you don’t want to. The last time I updated everyone I wrote about the transition to using a hand etcher from the laser cutter. My studio definitely looks different from that time too:


As you can see I’ve moved back to a more monochrome palette. This was just a natural transition from using inky materials. I’ve been doing a lot of printing, ink studies, pen sketches and just generally enjoying the making process. This is something that I mentioned in the film. I’m enjoying the process and not worrying about what the final outcome is going to be. I think this is allowing me to be far more free in my work than I have ever been. Not only am I enjoying hand etching but I am enjoying just ordinary drawing. I have been looking into meditation and automatic drawing, being really present in the work and that is the direction I’m taking it in. Abstract automatic drawing is something I never thought I would be interested in but I am really loving it. Here is a gallery of some of the projects I have been working on. Most of these are on my Instagram which you can click here to see and follow if you haven’t already. 

3) Essay

The dreaded E word! I don’t really mind writing essays but I tend to procrastinate. A lot. I guess I feel a bit of pressure in writing this one as it is my first postgraduate piece of writing and there is an expectation that it will be higher quality than undergraduate writing. I’m not sure how much I’ve improved over the summer seeing as I came straight from an undergraduate course so I guess we will see how it turns out. The topics we were given were quite interesting though and I’m writing about how the Humanities modules have influenced my creative practice, specifically assisting in my transition from photography to drawing. So a great subject but again I tend to put off these things until last minute… speaking of which I should probably get back to writing.

I finally managed to do some form of update! I will definitely try and do two week blocks from now on (although don’t hold me to it) so next weekend I will be discussing weeks 9 (this week) and 10. See you then…

Week 4: Drawn to Light

It’s hard to believe that I am one month into my 12 month course already. How time flies! Thinking back to how quick my final undergraduate year went, I imagine this will be exceptionally fast too. I am enjoying every day of it though so far!

On Monday I decided to have a reading day as I had some philosophy reading to catch up on. We were reading Fredrich Nietzsche’s first book ‘The Birth of Tragedy’. I didn’t find it particularly difficult to understand but it was pretty heavy going and there were more pages than I anticipated. I also spent Monday re-reading the blog post from the previous week. I was going to book the laser cutter on my laptop for the week ahead but something stopped me.

To tell you the truth, I’d been looking at my test pieces from the laser cutter and having some doubts. The ones that shimmered I still liked, but I discovered when I placed more than two layers next to each other it ruins the shimmering effect. I don’t always know how I achieve the shimmer effect either, it seems to be a random combination of several factors and I think I just got lucky with my degree show work. I became frustrated at the time the laser takes to finish – when I draw or paint I am a very fast worker so this slow pace doesn’t sit very well with me, I think the energy is lost in the work. Also the laser cutter requires booking at busy times which was always a bit of a pain.

I asked myself the question- ‘Do I need the laser cutter anymore?’

A bit of a scary question but the answer came to me as a definite ‘no’. I enjoyed using the laser cutter for my undergraduate course, but I think it’s important to go with my gut instinct here. With all my little test drawings and experiments I am definitely feeling something more instinctual and organic. We have been talking a lot about ‘mimesis’ the idea of representation in our art and this has made me want to be a physical part of the work again. I felt as if a lot of myself was taken away when all I do is press a button on a machine.

My project ‘Enso’ came to mind. I had really enjoyed this project – I would say it was definitely one of my favourites throughout my entire undergraduate course. I started flipping through my sketchbook to try and come up with the solution when I began to notice all of these little line doodles (see below) I had been drawing unconsciously in the middle of my notes. Drawing. I wanted to draw.

I felt a little sad then because truly, I have never felt a connection with a material more than I have acrylic and light. It really speaks to me in a way that no other technique has managed to do before. So I started to think of a way I could combine the two and then it hit me – hand etch into acrylic. It allows me the same technique but a different process. That night I ordered a hand etcher and hoped like mad it would work. I knew acrylic scratches easily but you need a proper power tool to etch like the laser.

On Tuesday we had our philosophy discussion on Nietzsche’s book and I liked the concept of opposing Appolistic and Dionysiac forces, the former being this veil to mask the true world and the latter being primal urges and truth. It was almost this push and pull that I had been experiencing within my work – the primal carving methods were calling to me!

In the afternoon we had a lecture from Professor Mary Modeen, this time on ‘Modes of Representation’. If anything this lecture only made me surer of the abstract route I wanted to go down, though as we learned in the lecture – ‘everything is always an abstraction of something.’

On Wednesday morning our Humanities seminar was on ‘Las Meninas’ by Foucault which is a very intriguing piece of writing, I would recommend you to read it if you haven’t. I already knew the painting (I think it’s one of everyone’s favourites as it’s so enigmatic) and so it was great to hear Foucault’s opinions. Afterwards, I received an email telling me the etcher had arrived (thanks Amazon Prime) and I rushed home in the afternoon to try it out. Little did I know the book I had preordered – Caitlin Doughty’s From Here To Eternity had arrived, so I said the usual which was ‘I’ll just read a couple of pages’ and ended up reading almost the entire thing (review coming soon!) You can see my post on her other book here if you haven’t already read it.

Anyway finally during the evening I got around to the etcher and wow it was strange to get used to it. It kind of looks like a drill with a pen attachment and it was very difficult to control and hold. After a lot of practice I managed to get the hang of it. I really blew me away as there are different attachments, one like a pen, one that makes marks like charcoal etc. Of course I am sure they are all for woodworking and metal uses but nevertheless I like to repurpose tools to my ideas.

I don’t think I have mentioned this before but I have taken up meditation within the last couple of weeks and I am really enjoying it. I tried to incorporate this mindset into my drawing, almost letting the machine draw for me and just emptying my mind of all thoughts or concerns about the final outcome. I feel like this is an integral part of the work, kind of losing my preconceptions about the piece. To my delight I discovered the the etcher not only ‘draws’ but can also carve into the acrylic, therefore the final outcome is something of a hybrid between sculpture and line drawing. It looked like thread or neuron tangles and I like to think I was drawing thoughts or feelings as they came to me.


Test piece to try out etcher.

First attempt

First proper attempt at hand etching

During Thursday’s Lecture with Mary Modeen on ‘Contingency in art’ it reinfored some of my thoughts, like the process becoming part of the artwork and ’embracing the aleatoric’ something that happens a lot with this technique as I never feel like i’m fully in control of the machine. I love the feeling of creating something physical again, of getting covered in acrylic at the end of a etching session.

On Friday I spent the whole day etching a piece of mirrored acrylic I bought in the art shop, and discovered it was almost like painting as the metal reflects and reacts differently to the tool.

Mirror test

Back of mirror of test piece

Phew, so a busy week then all in all! Check out my Instagram and my Facebook as I am planning to put a lot more photographs and video updates this year than I have done in the past. Catch you all next week!

Week 3: Learning to Laser Cut…Again

This week I decided my priority was to get back on the laser cutter. It’s been a good few months since I’ve created anything so the thought of getting back on and familiarising myself with the machine seemed like as good a plan as any.

Monday was spent reading Aristotle’s Poetics for the Tragedy’s Figures philosophy module. I decided to have a go and audit the philosophy module as I like Professor Mark Robson’s style of seminars. Monday afternoon I was back in the laser cutter and had an attempt at laser etching some of the textures and prints I had created. It took a while to become accustomed to the process again, but kind of like riding a bike I hadn’t really forgotten although it took me longer than usual.

On Tuesday I audited the philosophy lecture. It was strange because I really thought I would be out of my depth reading Aristotle and participating in the discussion. It turns out though there isn’t really a ‘wrong answer’ in philosophy and I really enjoyed the exchange of ideas. It is something I am getting used to and beginning to really look forward to. I think instead of sitting in a two hour lecture and falling asleep it is a really great way to become engaged with the topic and ultimately remember it.

That afternoon we had a lecture followed by a seminar from Graham Fagan. He talked about his work and the idea of ‘form’. It was great to hear him speak about his work and his process and I found the part where he discusses consciousness particularly intriguing. The seminar afterwards was slightly difficult for me to follow but it was fascinating to hear everyone’s points of view on ‘form’ in relation to their artwork.

Wednesday was my humanities lecture day and we discussed Walter Benjamin’s work ‘The Work of Art in Age of It’s Technological Reproducibility.’ This particularly interested me as I work with digital media so it was great to see all the differing opinions Benjamin had as to what constitutes an artwork and how in his opinion it’s ‘Aura’ gets lost in the act of reproduction. It was also great to discuss how works of art remain so when they are reproduced – the Mona Lisa for example – and why as humans we have this need to collect things like postcards with the artwork on.

Wednesday afternoon the laser cutter was fully booked for tutorials so I took to the library to read ‘the Search for the Real in the Visual Arts’ by Hans Hofmann. At the weekend I had been walking down by the city quay and was inspired by a sculpture there. It was layers of stone when lined up right you could view the river Tay through. I thought of an idea to layer pieces of acrylic up like this – maybe just a few to start with and then more as I figured it out. I began editing photographs of some birds I had taken to try it out.

Sculpture Installation that inspired me.

Thursday afternoon we had another lecture with Professor Mary Modeen, this time entitled ‘The Agency of the Artist.’ We had to ask ourselves what agency meant and we learned that it can be many things including power, the ability to affect change, intervention and taking action. In the seminar we discussed the Hofmann reading and I particularly liked his use of the words ‘magical’ and ‘spiritual’ in art as it related back to our readings earlier on Tuesday and the idea that art has a physical presence or ‘Aura’.

An idea was brought up in the lecture was the concept of the ‘Anthropocene’ – ‘the proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change.’ This really intrigues me and I would like to explore this idea in my art practice as I work with a lot of digital media and we live in an increasingly digital age. After the seminar I had a little mooch around the art shop and bought some acrylic that I felt would work really well for my layering experiments.

After a few trial runs of etching that didn’t turn out so favourably on Friday morning, I finally managed to get the etching working correctly. The machine had to be set slightly differently as the acrylic was 3mm instead of 5mm. It took a while but I managed to get a test piece of work finished. I’m not sure it came out entirely as I wanted it to, I need to play about with more defined layers and contrast next time, although there’s something about the hazy dreamy quality that intrigues me.

All in all it was a good productive week and I am looking forward in particular next week to more philosophy discussions, we are reading Fredrick Nietzsche’s ‘The Birth of Tragedy.’ Will update you all next week!