Looking Back!

I like to look back on paintings I made years ago as you may have noticed, I also like to research the work of other artists,  I find elements in the work of others which I have been pursuing, often their work has an entirely different theme and looks nothing like mine but I like to ask myself the question “What exactly is it about this that I would like to see in my work?” it may be the sense of isolation or confidence, energy, the quality of line, tonal structure, colour palette, often the way in which a painting becomes a contemplative space, so that I can spend time unravelling it, getting drawn into it and working out what it is communicating to me…and that will be a very unique thing because I have had a unique set of experiences and I take those along with myself to the work when I view it… if that makes any sense!    It helps me to push my work to where I want it to go…hopefully. Of course it can be a little like a washing machine going round and round if I don’t then get into the studio and start painting.

British Saanen Goat Painting

To look back at paintings of my own…is slightly different but I ask the same question, at the moment this paintings called “interior Goat” is interesting to me.  When I painted it I was considering the way in which all our experiences of animals have a contemporary overlay, of domesticity, urbanisation and consumerism, in farm parks and zoos animals are a commodity, in farming they are a crop…in our homes and smallholdings a pet, even wild they tend to be ring fenced and often fed or encouraged to an area to be viewed.  I think of these animals being intelligent sentient beings with concerns and a purpose of their own, a language and social structure, relationships etc. alongside humans who generally don’t really understand or concern ourselves with their (real) needs but keep them for our own purpose. I could (and have) write a very long essay about this but in short the point is, that this painting communicated a bit of that to some people… My ideas have shifted a little and the idea I want to communicate is similar but not the same, apart from the quizzical look on the face of the goat and the pink patterned background are the only elements which lead to a different meaning than purely a goat in “Bucolic Splendour”, pasture or seemingly wild landscape. The pattern stands in for this, in that it represents contemporary society and people and the goat is a 21st century goat trying to navigate its place in this world.

I am sure that is as clear as MUD!

If you would like to further contemplate “Interior Goat” you can find it here as a greetings card.


Making it hard for myself.

Making it hard for myself

I have again been ‘practising’ my painting, trying to raise my skill level again…like I did when I began the 30 Day Challenge in June, but then I started thinking about what I am actually doing, and its not raising my skill level in the traditional sense.  It is actually improving my ability to make my paintings look effortless or confident and actually be effortless, partly because there is no room for mistakes on my new backgrounds, I have to get it right (ie the way I want it) first time.

When I teach I am often asked how to paint feathers or the sea, but in reality I am not sure anyone can teach these things exactly.  We can teach tricks to make sea like marks or feather like patterns, convey thoughts about how to tackle an idea, but what we are actually doing always when painting is finding our own personal fictional marks to represent of our subject.  On the other side of this I often hear people say that they are self taught and whilst I understand what they mean,  the reality is I think, that we are all really self taught, by trial and error, by working out what is right for us and what we like about the marks we make. We maybe encouraged to practice or experiment more because we have module criteria to fulfil when we are studying but nobody is teaching us step by step exactly how to draw or paint. We teach a whole range of valuable skills for the students to pop into their toolbox and pull out when they have a concept to apply it to and offer support and analysis but that is really as far as it goes.

Anyway back to me…I used to work really hard to make paintings which looked as similar to a photograph as possible whilst remaining a painting…in many ways I feel like this is in fact achievable by anyone (and I know a lot of people will disagree, but if have the time and inclination to stick at it and you can hold a pencil you have the skills!).  There is no self expression involved, no stamp of the individual and no personal visual language.  Those paintings could have been made at any time in history, there is no real reference to the 21st Century and many paintings (particularly wildlife paintings) seemed the same, highly skilful depiction of the subject but I couldn’t look at them and say ‘oh I know that work that is a …..???’

So in order to find my own very personal visual language, and allow it to change over time and communicate an idea, it is necessary for me to put obstacles in my way…you could also call them constraints… but essentially they prevent me from getting too wrapped up in fine detail, ie using only large brushes, sticks, fingers, collage, scribbling, a feather cut to a point, a rag, time constraints, multiples (ie a painting a day, hour etc.   and here I am doing that again, this time not a painting a day to get me to free up and gain confidence but using large brushes, mark making and a bit of scribbling to achieve the energy, immediacy and confidence I need to paint birds on to my abstract, tumultuous, frenetic backgrounds… with this little robin I may be getting somewhere…

hopefully to make paintings that could only be made by me in the 21st century!  My influences and ideas are still essentially the same as when I was 12, I still make Wildlife and predominantly Wildbird Paintings but my visual language has changed in that it has become more representative of the way I experience the world and its wildlife not just a picture of a bird.

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you can see further examples of my work on my website www.suzysharpe.co.uk




Process, practice, ideas

Me, me, me, me, me….

No matter how much I have tried to escape it my work has always been about the same thing, me!  I think this is essentially true of most creative people we write, paint, make music about the things that are important, interest and inspire us, it is what makes us unique.

In my current body of work I am trying to capture the relationship, I have with the world, my experience of the countryside in which I live and the non human wild birds and animals who in habit it., I am considering on the one hand those magical momentary glimpses of a Barn Owl, the barely heard hoot of a Tawny Owl or the distant flock of lapwings whilst passing an estuary, whilst on the other,  standing under a cloud of 200,000 starlings and trying to ignore the roar of the busy rush hour road…

The backgrounds I have been creating are derived partly from the visual information around me and partly from the noise that seems ever present.  These photos partly describe this

the power lines, hedges, roads, houses etc which are always also in view when I see birds, but have chosen to ignore when I paint them, until now!

I quite like some of these as abstract landscapes in their own right but because its my work it feel like there is something missing…. BIRDS


In these the pattern kind of represents contemporary culture and the modern world, also the noise and the man made… I like that it adds another dimension







So the challenge for me now is how to fit in my birds without them being completely overwhelmed by the background…. (maybe that is also the challenge the birds face?)

This painting is actually a digital collage of a water colour painting and one of my new backgrounds so it exists only as a digital print at the moment, but this is what I am aiming for…

This painting was the reason I started the 30 Day Challenge… because my drawing /painting of birds was too self conscious to hold its own against those backgrounds… I lacked the confidence I needed, this is a real painting …

So watch this space!

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I had a fantastic day @kestle_barton yesterday listening to a talk by Mark Cocker and Jem Southam for The ‘Representing Nature’ as part of the exhibition ‘Birds Rivers Rain’. Mark talked about how we must start to see ourselves and nature as one, so that we are part of nature and also the way in which we always underestimate the effect of nature on our wellbeing.

#30dayswild day1 I have done lots of lovely wild things today but I was going to share with you a nest box filled with great tits … however they had other plans and have all fledged! Which is great but means I am sharing my snail wall with you, for some reason this bit of wall, is always full of snails … a little snail hatchery, or nursery maybe? I also had a butterfly and a bee but have not managed to Identify them…so they will have to wait until i can.. as always with nature (and most other things, I find) the more i know the more i have to learn, but that’s the fun of it I think…keeps me constantly interested!

@thewildlifetrusts are running their #30dayswild campaign throughout June and over the summer I set my students @artdesigncornwall a project to do a drawing or a sketch book page a day in order to create momentum and build on their year of study.  So for June I thought I could combine the 2 and make a painting a day for 30 days, from my wild encounters which I will also photograph.  I have done this before and you can visit my website to see how it went … I should have given myself a slightly longer lead in but no time like the present! If you are doing the #30dayswild do let me know I would love to see how you get on and it will help me to stay on the bus 😂

I was looking for this wonderful quote “never heard the solitary whistle of curlew on a summer noon without feeling the elevation of soul” Robert Burns 
But also found this,😣 I know that so many of our birds are threatened and I look at this so often it is one of my main focuses but somehow this news passed me by … According to the @wwtworldwide Britain holds a quarter of the world’s curlew population and the @RSPB_love_nature report that the population has at least halved and in some places dropping by 81% raising awareness can help hopefully 🙏 but more can be read more at  RSPB http://bit.ly/2YOpvXY
or Wildfowl & wetland trust http://bit.ly/2HHxYGw #curlewcrisis

Everywhere I look there seems to be sad discoveries of diminishing species, what can we do? What do you do?

Time to get back to some work but my studio is still a tip as I went out playing grown up sports day otherwise known as #crossfit so I did a little work on my website today and came across this Puffin. I have always loved Puffins but found them just a bit too cute to paint until I visited @skomer_island and the @skokholm_island and their personalities just captivated me … this one is just a little mixed media painting on paper 21 x 29 cm

Tomorrow @one_and_all_games at @cblctrust with @duchy.crossfit tomorrow gathering ideas for my strong more specifically #strongeomen project.
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