Playing catch-up: part four

In the final months of my paid employment I was determined to complete all ongoing projects and tie up any loose ends prior to beginning the next phase in my life.

Part of that process was to re-examine a couple of pieces of work that I had always felt were missing something. The first of these was the crumpled metre square piece, “Remembering Rorschach”. The overall image was successful enough, but when compared with my quilt pieces, the single crumpled sheet just lacked impact. The same was true of the other, as yet untitled work.

Unfortunately both pieces had been distorted too much to allow for their successful conversion into quilts.

The first stage was to flatten them out, followed by marking up and cutting out the square sections before drilling the holes that would allow them to be stitched back together.

Once this had been completed any necessary repairs were made and both artworks were re-worked, sewn and additional painted metal pieces stitched onto them.

025 Remembering Rorschach, 102 cm x 102 cm, 2019

The now resolved pieces show a marked difference to by previous quilts and open up the potential for future development.

026 lost in thought, 104 cm x 104 cm, 2019

Both pieces where exhibited as part of the An Talla Soliais member’s show 2019.




At the same time I was also experimenting with a couple of painted wood constructions based on the pollution of the world’s oceans by microplastics. These pick up on previous wooden quilt ideas that were originally developed during my collaboration with Dr. Lomax.


microplastics 01


Playing catch-up: part three

Collaboration with Lorraine MacDonald

In September 2018 I was asked by Lorraine if I would be interested in collaborating with her on a joint piece for the December staff exhibition and visual arts conference at Inverness College UHI. We both had a shared interest in autobiographical memory and decided to make a joint quilt based on our individual childhood memories.

Lorraine in the studio

I had recently returned from a trip to Felixstowe and had brought back with me a range of useful source materials. This included pebbles from the beach, photographs of places of personal significance and quite by coincidence, a collection of old primary school reports, sports day programmes and assorted printed matter.

We decided to use a gridded structure comprising of 30 aluminium squares, this would allow us 15 squares each.

My initial starting point was to focus on the sea. As the work continued it became more personal and autobiographical. This presented me with a real dilemma; how much should I reveal, was it too obscure, too sentimental and why would anyone else have the slightest interest in any of it.

I suppose there is a voyeuristic streak in us all. This was certainly borne out in my interest in Lorraine’s pieces and the stories that they told.

combined memories

It was interesting to discover similarities in our different upbringings and despite our different gender, age and geographic location; many of the squares could equally represent either one of us. Indeed many of the people who saw the completed work experienced difficulties matching some of the sections to their correct owner. The 30 different squares worked so well together in forming a cohesive whole that we almost created a human hybrid. On the other hand it also goes to illustrate the similarities between us all.

Playing catch up: part two

Masters Degree Show, August 2018

The work leading up to the final show is documented both elsewhere on this site and also in more detail on my RGU blog site.


The artwork for the exhibition took the form of an installation, comprising of a large table laid out for a celebratory meal.


Surrounding the table are 12 wire cages containing garments and objects representing the absent guests. A thirteenth, empty cage is also present.

cage 01

In a recess at the end of the room hangs a modified jacket, shirt and tie, these objects together with a pair of caged shoes signifying the artist’s presence.

Playing catch-up

Without the regular contact of my students, the recording of the ups and downs of my practice seemed a rather self –indulgent and pointless exercise and so it came to a halt.


It has been quite a while since I last posted anything on my blog. A lot has happened and many changes have taken place. The most important of these has been my leaving work and devoting myself completely to my art practice.

I have now reached a point in time where I need to reflect on where my work is going and how new ideas link in with the previous themes at the core of my practice.


exhibition 01
Image by Ian McKay




In March I was approached by Ian McKay, editor of Art North magazine, to put together an online exhibition of recent work to be shown along older pieces, as a mini retrospective show for his soon to be live, online Gallery,  Projectroom2020

exhibition 02

Image by Ian McKay

The preparation of the images and text for this show highlighted links running through my work that had not been previously evident to me. It also prompted a re-examination of the true content and subject matter of my current body of work.

then and now

This was quite time consuming and caught me off-guard. In the past posting regular blogs kept these things in check, new ideas could be absorbed and connections easily spotted. The time has come to start blogging once more.

Rather than jump straight in, I need to back track first to bring things up to date.

The pieces displayed here are the product of the last 16 months and continues for the most part with my quilt-based work.

First Inkblot nearing completion


The piece is still undergoing changes. Changes that appear to be significant at the time, but when reviewing the shots taken that document the work’s progress they appear to be quite minimal. The basic structure and composition was set up from day one, most of the work has been in building up the surface detail and maintaining a balance across the picture frame. In some cases this has also meant obliterating details that had become too dominant.

Screen Shot 2018-10-07 at 15.39.05.png

I have also focussed on achieving a wider range of textures and stain effects to give the piece more variety and get the right balance between what appears to been intentional and accidental marks.

My current research into Hermann Rorschach, his famous inkblots and their cultural influence is proving most interesting. I am intending to create a series of ten, 1 metre square images. This corresponds to the number of images that Rorschach had reproduced for his well known test. Although Rorschach experimented with inkblots his final images were actually paintings.These he carefully constructed to resemble and suggest quite specific images. He was also aware of the need to create images that could be interpreted as a whole, while also allowing the viewer to focus in on small seemingly irrelevant details.

Blots and stains

With a desire to start painting again I find myself returning to an early fascination with Rorschach’s inkblot test. So far all my previous attempts at creating works based on these well known images have ended prematurely hinting at something worthwhile but failing to deliver. I am hopeful that the time is right to take these experiments forward and produce a new series of metre square aluminium pieces.


The first of these shows promise. I have reverted back to using an earlier method of working. In this work I have coated the metal sheet with a layer of paper collage, consisting of plain newsprint and copies of tailors patterns. The idea was to test the twin ideas of Rorschach inkblots and images of dressmaking and tailor’s patterns to provide the basis of some new pieces. Initially I had intended to develop these two topics independently but in my reluctance to make a decision about which one to tackle first I combined them. The tailor’s patterns were obliterated quite quickly but did help structure and inform the direction of the piece.


The piece has undergone several changes already. This is likely to continue until the correct balance is achieved. A key starting point came from the previous piece “When history fades the stains grow deeper”. In this quilt work, a strong pattern/design was gradually eroded and obliterated until in existed partly defined and partly as a trace or ghost. The idea was to do the same this time using the inkblot motif. At some point my interest in rugs and textile design has also begun to creep in.