Thursday, 31 January 2013

Guest Blogger!

Today I'm a Guest Blogger on a blog written by Rebecca Embleton, a portrait photographer from the North East of England.

She very kindly asked me to write a piece for her blog to tell her readers a bit about my work, and I was very pleased to do so.

I've written about this painting, 'Rockpools, Morar'.

It's the star of my 'To the Sea' show, and you can read how I went about preparing to paint it during the year that it's taken to get ready for the show.


Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Annual Submissions

Just getting work ready for the submissions to the annual big shows at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh.

Here's one of this year's entries for the RSW (Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour).  

It's a large monoprint with watercolour and pastel, of Eastbourne Pier.

Judith I Bridgland, End of the Day, Eastbourne Pier (Monoprint with mixed media, 70cm x 100cm)

I don't exactly have the best success rate for acceptance into exhibitions, so I'll just have to keep plugging away and see how I get on this year...

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Got Your Catalogue?

I hope that everyone who requested a catalogue for 'To the Sea' has received theirs in the post by now.

If you've not got one for the show in London that opens on February 14th, then just drop me a line with your postal address.

View the paintings in the exhibition online here.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Rallye Monte Carlo Historique, Glasgow 2013

Today was the start of the historic Monte Carlo Rally from the People's Palace at Glasgow Green, and how exciting it was.  Apparently 15,000 people turned out on a cold but bright winter's day to wave us all off.

The first tricky part was getting the decals on the car.

Not easy in a brisk wind, making for a few comedy moments with a large sticky label flapping around, and everyone was pretty worried about their paintwork.  But the finished result made it feel like a real rally car!

Here's some of our convoy, with Lucy the Co-driver Dog on the right.

And we're off!

Here's the view as the cars head in numerical order towards the ramp.  There were 100 crews leaving at one minute intervals.  Exciting doesn't begin to describe it. (Templeton's Carpet Factory, based on an Italian palazzo, is on the left.)

There's the famous ramp!

If you've ever wondered what it looks like when you're about to drive up onto the ramp of the start of the Monte Carlo Rally, then here it is.  

The crowds are cheering and waving,  Everyone's taking photos of you.  The bloke with the mike is about to interview you.  You're thinking 'What on earth I going to say to the bloke with the mike?', 'That ramp looks steep - mustn't stall' and 'Mustn't run anyone over'.

You're on the ramp.  You haven't run anyone over / driven off the end / fallen off the side.  You're giving an interview out of one window.  There's a timekeeper giving you instructions in the other.  There's a woman in a big blingy chain holding a giant flag in front of you.

The clock is counting down.!!

And we're....stalled.  The crowd gasps.

"Ah well," sighs the announcer, "There's always one."  

Thanks to Anne Morrison for photos, and to everyone who came to see us off!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Barbara Hepworth: The Hospital Drawings

As I mentioned in a previous blog, despite Snowmageddon, I was down in Wakefield at the weekend to see the exhibition of Barbara Hepworth's little-seen Hospital Drawings before the show finishes at the beginning of February.

It doesn't sound very exciting, but in fact it turned out to be a really tremendous show.

Take a look at this photo of Hepworth.

Barbara Hepworth by Peter Keen
vintage bromide print, early 1950s (c) estate of Peter Keen / National Portrait Gallery, London

Look at any photo of her, and you'll see someone carefully controlling their image.  In this picture, there's something very knowing about the position of the hammer and chisel, the way she stares intensely into the distance.  She's a woman trying to make it in a man's world, and whilst she carved curvy feminine pieces all about motherhood, I bet she was as tough as the stone she's carving.  She had to be. 

But back to the show.  Best known as a sculptor, Hepworth was restricted in this in the 1940s because of childcare commitments - she had four children, including a set of triplets by Ben Nicholson.  Her daughter Sarah had to have an operation in hospital, and Hepworth struck up a friendship with the surgeon.  As a result of this, she was invited to attend a variety of surgical procedures at the hospital in Exeter and in London, and produced around 80 works.  These drawings, made during 1947-49, were on the cusp of the birth of the Health Service.  Thirty of them are in the exhibition.

This is 'Radial' made in 1947.  Have a think about the word 'drawing' and then a good long look at the image.

It's a very different way to make a drawing.  It's not drawn on to paper, it's scratched with a razor into a board covered in a white plaster-like ground - Hepworth talks about using the razor to draw in this way as having the feel of a 'bite' into the ground.  

It's no co-incidence that this way of working mirrors the work of the surgeon - Hepworth draws using a sharp blade, just as the surgeon inscribes the patient with a scalpel.  Hepworth is therefore saying that the work of the surgeon, the way he cuts into a patient, is also something beautiful, a work of art, with the patient as his canvas.  (Considering one of the patients was her daughter, its quite a detached, sang-froid approach, but then there is very little reference to the patient in any of the drawings.)

The gesso ground Hepworth used was made to a special recipe with enamel paint, white lead and chalk (as used by husband, artist Ben Nicholson).  Over the top of the white ground is a thin wash of oil paint, so that the white of the scratches shows up, then pencil lines are drawn on top of the oil and the white scratches.  

This sgraffito gives a sculptural, three-dimensional feel to the figures,  like the drawings of Henry Moore.

Henry Moore, Elephant Skull Plate XIX 1969( HMF Archive)

This is a drawing of an operation - and Hepworth's own daughter had recently gone through the trauma of an operation - and yet none of that sense is here.  This is a serene, calm scene, and as with the majority of the drawings, there is very little to do with the depiction of the patient. The patient is the reason for the surgeons to be there, and yet is strangely absent, usually reduced to a vulval-like opening from which the other components of the composition whirl out like a Catherine wheel.

The drawings are all about hands, cat-like eyes, masks, and the tools of the art of surgery.  The gowns render the bodies into genderless, timeless, simplified  shapes, with the sweeps of the lines of the surgical scrubs forming sensuous links between the concentration of hands and the eyes.  

The more you look, the more sensual and voyeuristic it becomes, as you are looking at something private, something usually unseen, something about the balance between life and death.

Barbara Hepworth, Concentration of Hands II, 1948, Private Collection 
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate., Image courtesy of Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert.

The figures are concentrated into a shallow dramatic space, literally an operating theatre, with an almost religious, ritualistic sense.  The surgeons are skilful, powerful, mysterious, other-worldy - like saints, almost.  Your life is in their hands - literally.  This, added to the fresco-like quality of the drawings and simplified shapes, reminded me of Giotto's frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua.

The surgeons are the centre of the drama, sometimes with acolytes of theatre sisters, or even, it has been suggested, the figure of Hepworth herself (with her characteristic high forehead).  Is that her on the left, observing?

Barbara Hepworth, Reconstruction (detail)  (1947)

Here, the emphasis is on the tools that the surgeons are using, which are very similar to those used by a sculptor.  There is a clear identification between Hepworth the sculptor and the art of the surgeons.  She, too, is part of this drama of construction, reconstruction, renewal and creation.

Hepworth made many studies of hands, and hands manipulating instruments are the focus of the compositions of the Hospital Drawings.

Barbara Hepworth, Study of Surgeon's Hands (pencil on gesso on board, 1947)
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

These are studies about tools as extensions of the hand.  There is a real empathy with the feeling of the tools in the hands, how they can be manipulated and what they can achieve, in the same way that a sculptor manipulates their materials.  In executing the drawings, Hepworth is sensing the surgeon's hands as they work in the same way she works, and puts that empathy into the drawings, which echo this by flowing across the surface like tactile waves.
Henry Moore similarly made studies of his own sculptor's hands quarter of a century later.  His look vulnerable.

Henry Moore, The Artist's Hands (1974, (c) HMF)

Hepworth made only one self-portrait of herself, but made several casts of her own hands, firm and purposeful.

Barbara Hepworth, The Artist's Hand (Bronze, 1943, Tate St Ives)

And this is a bronze of the hand of the surgeon who gave permission for her to attend the operating theatres, Norman Capener.

Barbara Hepworth, Hand II (Horizontal), Bronze, 1950

Capener and Hepworth became friends during the hospitalisation of Hepworth's daughter.  Capener was an amateur sculptor himself, and Hepworth gave him lessons as return for the favour of letting her observe the operations.
They corresponded about tools (Hepworth, apparently,  helping Capener to design surgery instruments based on her own sculpture tools), and also on the subject of hands.  Capener used slides in his lectures of Hepworth's hands sculpting.  Capener urged surgeons to observe their own hands in action so as to better understand the working of the hands that they were operating on.  
They also corresponded about the different characteristics of each hand, Capener assigning masculine qualities of dynamic power and decision to the right, and passive support and precise control to the feminine left.  No sexism there, then.

Meanwhile  Hepworth wrote, 'My left hand is my thinking hand.  The right is only a motor hand.'  So there.  Assistants would describe how she caressed her sculptures with the palms of her hands whilst carving, in a sensual dialogue with the materials.

So in observing the surgeons in these Hospital Drawings, Hepworth is actually observing herself at work.  She literally draws with a surgeon's scalpel.  With the surgeons at the centre of their own drama in the operating theatre, they in turn imbue sculptors with a similar heroic status.  And at no point is there any emotional identification with the patient.

Basically, for Hepworth and Capener, with their strong mutual admiration for each other, the roles of surgeon and sculptor were analogous.  Through this, the thrilling creativity of the artist also imbued the surgeon with an exciting artistic genius, whilst the studied skill and social status of a surgeon gave the artist a new level of respectability and gravitas.  And in a post-war society at the dawn of the health service, this was all part of the inclusivity and destratification of the new structure of society.

If you're in South Yorkshire this week, do try and get along to Wakefield to see this show.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Solo Show Now Online!

You can now view the whole of my London solo show 'To the Sea' online.


Rockpools, Morar (OIl on linen 32 x 48)


I'll also have catalogues and invites for the show available as of tomorrow.  If you'd like one, just send me a note of your postal address to judith at

The show opens at Duncan R Miller Fine Arts in St James's on the evening of Thursday 14th February.  I'll be there, so if you'd like to come along, then please do, you'll be most welcome!

Can't wait!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Monte Carlo Rally!!

Just got my Final Instructions for Saturday's Rallye Monte Carlo Historique Heritage Run.

Yes that's right.  THE Monte Carlo Rally!!

Me and my humble Mini City will be starting from the historic starting ramp in Glasgow

sadly not the whole route to France

but on the slightly shorter Heritage Run.  

I'm just hoping I don't crack the exhaust/stall the car /drive off the edge of the ramp into the crowd, or some similar comedy mishap.  After all, I did manage to lose my way during the Guinness World Record attempt for "Longest Line of Minis Driving in a Line" in Lelystad in 2008.  (We still got the record, so it just goes to show you how slack those Guinness folk are.)

If you want to come along to see the cars in Glasgow, then there's more info HERE. 

I'll be leaving towards the end in car 376. 
Read how it went HERE.

Monday, 21 January 2013

A Visit to the Hepworth Wakefield

I braved the Snowpocalypse at the weekend to travel down to Yorkshire to visit the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery.

This is a specially built art gallery to house the work of the sculptor Barbara Hepworth.  She was born in Wakefield in 1903 and trained briefly at Leeds School of Art, but she moved to London in 1921 and then later to Cornwall.  She's probably better known as a Cornish artist, with her famous studio and workshop in St Ives.

I was there not only to see her sculptures, but also to see the exhibition of her little-seen post-war drawings made of surgeons in hospitals.  More of that tomorrow, but here's a few photos of the Hepworth Gallery itself.

Designed by David Chipperfield Architects and finished in 2010, the gallery is situated in a rather industrial part of Wakefield on the banks of the River Calder.  

Whilst softened by its natural setting, it looks quite brutally angular and shed-like, constructed of pigmented concrete which was created in-situ. This is supposed to give the building a sculptural appearance that echoes the shapes and forms in many of Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures.  Here's the building...

Here's one of her sculptures...

Barbara Hepworth, Oval Sculpture No 2 (1943, cast 1958) (c) Bowness, Hepworth Estate

I would say the building is a far more masculine structure than anything produced by Hepworth herself. Her work, whilst often massive in scale and constructed of similar materials, nevertheless always has a very sensuously feminine and nurturing quality to it (as you can see from the above egg-like example), contrasting the internal and external spaces and forming tensions and dialogues with its surroundings.  

I guess that's difficult to get in a functional building, although a building has, by its very definition, internal and external spaces to exploit and contrast against each other.

It's certainly a building which forms a dialogue with its surroundings.

This is the river right beside it.

These are the canal boats from the bridge that goes across to the car park.  I like that the siting of the gallery gives a good sense of the roots of Hepworth herself, grounding her work in a good, plain, no-nonsense working setting.

I've visited the Hepworth a couple of times now, and it's a shame however you can't take photos inside.  There are a number of very interesting spaces (with lots of nice natural light), especially the room with plasters and items from her workshop,showing the process by which the sculptures were created.  

However, it's very frustrating not to be able to note-take by taking photographs of the pieces, as it would be very useful indeed as an artist to have details of the patinas and plinths and the surface mark-making, which you just can't get from books or by making sketched notes yourself.  So much of the excitement and meaning of the sculptures comes from close examination of and response to the sensuality of the surfaces.

Finally, here's photo of nearby Wakefield Cathedral, which is currently undergoing a facelift, and looked very pretty with the post-Christmas lights in the trees

More in a later blog about the Hospital Drawings exhibition.

Read about the exhibition in my blog HERE.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

London Art Fair Opens...

The London Art Fair opens tomorrow in Islington, and it's the start of a new art year, so it's all very exciting.

I've got a brand new selection of work on show, including some that I did in London over the autumn.  They range from Hampstead Heath and Green Park in the autumn sunshine to the Thames in the moonlight.

Carpet of Autumn Leaves, Green Park (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)

Moon over Tower Bridge (Oil on linen, 20 x 20)

Also on show will be plenty more of Scotland and Northern Ireland as well.

If you're going, have a look out for my paintings on Stand 51!  I'll be very interested to hear of your feedback if any of you visit the Fair, so do get in touch and leave a message.

For more information about the fair, click HERE.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Bird Swallowing Fish

This is Henri Gaudier Brzeska's sculpture, Bird Swallowing Fish, from 1914, one of his most iconic sculptures.

 (c) Tate

In fact, here's the chap himself with the sculpture, looking very arty and very very young (he was killed at only 23).

 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska with 'Bird Swallowing Fish' in Kettle's Yard, University of Cambridge, 1914 
(b/w photo), English Photographer, (20th century) / Private Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library 

Here's something completely different.  This is a Minton-style majolica teapot from around 1890, showing that the Victorians had a quirky sense of humour. 

Take a look at the teapot.  

Look at the accentuated round eyes, 

the splayed tail of the little fish being swallowed, 

the beak-like mouth of the big fish, 

and the angle of the spout (formed by the little fish's tail).  

Then take a look at the Gaudier Brzeska sculpture.

I wonder if his mum ever had a funny majolica teapot...?

(Read more about Gaudier Brzeska's sculptures here and here.)

Friday, 11 January 2013

Winter Sunset

Here's some more of the photos that I took when I was out on the Ayrshire coast over the New Year.

The sun is setting over the Firth of Clyde, and you can just see the low shape of Arran in the distance.

There was the smell of smoke from a bonfire crackling at a nearby house.

The wind was very cold, blowing in from the Firth of Clyde in the last of the light over the empty seashore.  The distant shape of Arran was a pale lilac outline.

Sheep quietly ate turnips from the furrows of the ploughed fields, their fleeces turned a gentle pinkish colour by the last of the winter light.

Light all gone, time to head for home.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

And the Winner is....

The latest design for the Brit Awards was revealed today.


You probably won't have heard of the artist, but it's by someone called Damien Hirst.  

(Sorry for banging on about him, but he does just keep popping up all over the place.) 

Yes, back in the news after designing the Olympic closing ceremony backdrop, plonking a giant statue in a small town, etc etc, Mr Hirst has come up with a design that, give him his due, is  not only instantly recognisable as his, but is actually quite jolly. 

Looking like a Smartie-covered playpiece from a 70s Saturday night board game,  it fits right in with the current zeitgeist of a recession-weary public seeking childlike comfort in onesies, mumsy home baking, reassuring authority signs saying 'Keep Calm', slapstick episodes of retro comedy 'Miranda' (about a very large but childish woman), and a feeling of nostalgic pulling-together Britishness in the face of adversity.

Yes, it's finger on the pulse, Mr Hirst!  My goodness, I've persuaded myself that it's actually a stroke of genius...

So what British icon next?  Perhaps spots all over Nelson's Column and cut the Trafalgar Square lions in half..? 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


Just to show that you don't always have to get your art supplies from an art shop, today I bought this cake server from Asda for £2.

It has a nylon blade and a long sloping edge, so the angle and flexibility mean that it is ideal for making large, sweeping gestural marks with oil paint on a big canvas.

You can get silicon blades from art supply shops, but they are far more expensive, sometimes several times the price.  I saw this, and liked the way it felt when I held it and tried out a few mark-making movements.

Years ago, my tutor at art school spoke sharply to a fellow student in the life drawing class who had forgotten their water jar.  "Improvise!" snapped the tutor, quickly getting an old polystyrene drink cup out of the bin and slapping it down in front of them, in order to get on with the class.

It's a very valuable piece of advice.  (His other great piece of advice was "Look!"  Clearly a tutor of few words, but as it turned out, ones that have stood the test of time.)

You don't always have to buy fancy pieces of art equipment, ones are that are labelled 'art'.  You make up the rules.  

So if you're in the cake baking section of your supermarket, or the local DIY shop, or passing a skip, have a look and think how you can use it to make art.  Here's my great piece of advice - 

"Everything is art."

If it's a household brush, a baking spatula,  junk you can turn into sculpture - all you need to do is use your imagination.  I've often stopped the car when I've seen items lying in the street - the bevelled-edge glass top of an old dressing table makes a great monoprint plate, as does a large piece of perspex that I found.  My palette is the lid of an old school desk.  

So if it fits your purpose, then use it!  Just keep your eyes and your mind open.

(But ask permission before you remove stuff from skips...)


For those of you who don't get the Herald newspaper, I can report that today's edition had a front page guide to exactly how fit Andy Murray is, with handy picture.

"It is clear he is in peak physical condition," reported the doughty broadsheet.

Ok then, lets have a look.

Yup, they're right.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

London Art Fair

It's back to work now, and the London Art Fair starts on Wednesday next week.  Based at the Business and Design Centre in Islington, it's the first big art fair of the year, and is usually seen as a barometer of how the art world is going to do in the coming year (although, having said that, nothing is ever predictable in the art world...).

To quote the website, "The Fair features over 100 galleries presenting the great names of 20th century Modern British art and exceptional contemporary work."  

Last year there was some really interesting work from Peter Lanyon, Henri Gaudier Brzeska, Barbara Hepworth and Elisabeth Frink.

My paintings will be on Stand 51, Duncan R Miller Fine Arts. 

If you're in north London next week, do try and take a trip round the show, it's well worth it.  Just the ticket for the post-Christmas blues!