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Starting with a blank page?

I have been starting to prepare a 75cm x 75 cm canvas which a friend donated some months ago, so that it is ready for my next "big" idea. I love the challenge of upcycling big canvases.

This one already had texture and a bold circle pattern of oranges, blues, browns and purples on a yellowish background. I therefore decided to start with a paper collage to obtain a “neutral” canvas - in the process I realized that I never truly start with a blank page…

I had an arts teacher once who insisted that we should and could leave ourselves out of the artistic process and record objectively what was in front of us - I have never managed to work like this. When I paint, I make all kinds of connections. My mark-making is influenced by current thoughts and feelings and by my environment. Experiences and previous insights may bubble to the surface, and I may make links with something I have read or seen.

I have been journaling since childhood and have a trunk full of my old journals in our living-room. I have found it difficult to let them go, even though many pages are no longer legible. However, since starting our decluttering project at the beginning of the year, I have been experimenting with reading through my current journal once a week and summarizing key insights. Once the journal is full, I go through the journal and only keep poignant journal pages. My journals are made of thick unlined acid-free recycled cotton paper (Paper High have a lovely selection) - and I have been looking for ways to make use of the pages I no longer need.

The other collage material I have used are the pages from a paperback bible that had fallen apart. It is 30 years this month that someone first challenged me to engage with the bible properly before dismissing the claims of Christianity. The bible has provided a rich storehouse of images, insights and stories ever since.

I love the current juxtaposition of the thin, almost see-through bible pages and the cloth-like journal pages with my hand-written reflections and musings. Some of the words are still peeking through; when more paint layers are added, these are likely to disappear – yet while my foundation may become invisible, it will still impact what I do...

NB You have got until Wednesday, 3pm, to visit the exhibition in Portsmouth Cathedral. There is then a brief breathing space before the annual exhibition in Petersfield, which is finally returning to the Festival Hall from 24th to 29th August 2022!


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