St Abb's National Reserve

St Abb's National Reserve
View from my office

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Something... least
Malevich and the influence of Russian Orthodox Icon Painting: Essay
Learning new print techniques
Talking with a broadening critical vocabulary- haltingly
Looking at artists both on the net and exhibitions

Monday, 6 September 2010

I have a small catalogue of original seascape and garden paintings available. If anyone would like a copy please email your address to me at
The process of putting a catalogue together took a while; getting the images together and the information and I am very pleased with the result- thank you Kevin and Denise at Printspot for your patience!
The aim of the catalogue is to have the paintings out there working for me while I am working at university. I don't envisage approaching galleries or creating opportunities for the representational art while I am concentrating on the abstract work.
I intend to update my flickr page with more of an archive of abstract work, beginning with the first pieces and the ensuing developments. This is a bit of personal archaeology for me. I have been looking through notebooks and sketchbooks, sorting out bits of scrapbook material and filtering old, half-realised ideas and half-painted canvases. I have thrown out so much stuff! I must make space!
The new pictures on the blog are a sample of the abstract paintings, the white and gold being a detail from a later development. The image 'Composition: Squares' is being posted for purely economic reasons this week as I have a number of these prints left for sale and hope to finance my academic year with their sale. i will post dimensions and details next time.
For now, i hoe the posts will settle into something a little more coherent and orderly. i have my dance class term to begin planning and a commission to finish so still feel a little pulled in different directions; still, my attention span is not astonishingly long...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Finally got confirmation tonight that I'm going to finish the fine art degree I started in 1994. That's a small part of the story.
I WILL finish that commission before I go back, don't worry.
I must pick the threads back up and make some decisions I didn't take the first time round.
Hopefully, there will by blog progress reports.
Contest is the issue, the abstract work lost its value in my eyes, as it appeared to serve a personal purpose and had limited success in finding an audience to respond to it. It floated in space, unconnected to the past or the present, so had no place in the future. The works, visually, appeared solid and ancient, but transient and formless. I could not pin down a lineage, trace the ancestry and mine the mythology. I will post a few, over time- a bit of a back catalogue alongside a few statements.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Purely by accident, I found a wonderful place called Jupiterartland. It is just outside of Edinburgh and sparely signed. Well worth a visit!
Having driven through super gates we wound our way cautiously through the grounds of an elegant house, getting a look at a few of the specially commissioned sculptures. We passed a little collection of furry animals, some lovely planting, then into the visitors centre, where I confirmed our booking and was presented with a map. Among the superb, mature trees a path was laid out which took us from artwork to artwork; each one, I believe, site specific. There is, among the beautiful trees, a fabulous collection of sculpture from an array of artists; Andy Goldsworthy among them.
I was amazed; everyone was happy! The youngest climbed (trees, not art- forbidden, naturally!) our eldest was inspired to make a photographic journal and my other half, too, happily meandered along, just happy to see what came next, in our path.
Not only a wonderland of art, but low-key, light on retail, done with heart and soul in abundance. I gather a couple, patron of the arts have just opened their grounds to the public to explore on certain days of the week. I thank them, what a treat! And, good coffee, too!
Anyone in Alnwick on Wednesday, by-the-way, please drop by the market square to see our tribes dancing together at noon, and again at 3pm.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Half the year gone; a heap of good intentions with it; still,a brief review of activities and I'm making a new list: Expend less energy on unimportant things; worry less; speak my mind more; ask more questions...
I have prised myself away from a neurotic surge of house-cleaning,begun in anticipation of weekend visitors; their imminent arrival has woken the dozing inner-critic (the one that wears marigolds and knows how to iron). I know if I listened, I would have the luxury of casting a casual hand about me, as I say 'Welcome', graciously; some cushion-placing and gleaming floorboards framing my illusion of domesticity and contentment; I may even have baked a cake- but, darn it, can we not leave the critics chatting in the front room, dismayed at the black marks on the wall behind the coal shovel, and we can frolic on the heath? Go paint-balling? Paint our toenails...?
It's been a grand couple of months; I've assisted in some of the organisation at a festival, organised burlesque workshops and a cabaret, taught classes, painted some, written less, but, after all that, I'm back at the Co-op, chewing my lip over the guilt of the purchase of a bottle of radioactive-green, kill everything, shine everything product, to de-gunk the entire house, and wondering when I'll fit in that essential 'big shop' this week. Sarah doesn't need this head, Sarah needs 'let's build a shrine in the garden' 'let's go out and walk in the hills', 'I know the picture I have to paint...'
Where is this head? Did I leave it in the green room at The Maltings? At St Abb's Head on the longest day? At the illustrator's exhibition at The gymnasium Gallery? If anyone does find it, will they please return it, it has much, much more fun than this one does...

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Because I've been working with Seahouses Development Trust on Seahouses Festival, I took the opportunity to do a bit of research on the theme of 'migration', this year's festival theme:
Migration Art was also known as 'Barbarian Art' as it was the art of the Continental Germanic peoples who moved West after the Roman retreat, and the Hun advance through Asia- between 300 and 900AD. Imagine a peoples, living under different tribal names (Visigoth, Angles, etc)and making separate journeys across Europe, whose culture of portable, functional art was its common feature. Their art was wearable, utilatarian, beautifully wrought and often became grave goods. Personal art, not at all monumental; its funtion to serve in the afterlife, rather than left behind to ensure immortality among the still-living. It encompasses different styles, being influenced through travel and trade. This kind of art was a huge influence on the makers of Christian books and documents (in the UK, for example), and their places of worship, either by design or subconsciously, and The Lindisfarne Gospels is an example; (use of gold, some of the complex patterning, and use of animal imagery).
I'm picking the Lindisfarne Gospels, because of the close proximation of Lindisfarne to Seahouses, before I paddle off to Egypt. Peoples migrate, and make pilgrammage. Egypt was dominated both, by Rome, then Greece, and at that time Christianity was blossoming there, too.
St Menas' shrine was a huge and popular complex of 3 churches, that drew pilgrims from all over the world. St Menas' flasks, which carreis blessed water, or earth, have been discoved all over Europe and are identifiable by their distintive design, impressed on the flask. This tradition of holy tokens was common, and, no doubt a source of funding from which to build greater monuments and better facilities, for the legions who were committed to these spiritual journeys. From Canterbury, and other English Catherdrals, one could purchase items made of tin, perhaps as a mark of one's efforts, or taking blessings and protections on a perilous journey? These tokens bore the images of saints, were copied, and recopied, the original portrait being subverted to the power of the iconic image and its underlying message of faith.
In Egypt, under the influence of invading forces, the tradition, at least on one area, Fayoud, the burial traditions had evolved so portaits of the dead- realistic, detailed images in wax or tempera on wood were bound into the mummy wrappings, to appear as if the person were peering from the shroud. These images we discovered, and rediscovered various European explorers, and eventually considered valuable, collectors prizes and shipped off to the wealthy to display in their fashionable homes. A shipment of antiquities, aquired by The Baron of Manouti for a German collector was lost in the North Sea in 1820 (approx)- an area of water called 'The Cemetary' by mariners, I have heard.
Back to the early hundreds BC,where I meant to land, before I was drawn to the beatiful portraits of Fayoud (which can be seen in Museums, across the world) Coptic Art, from Egypt was another great influence making its way across Europe: its distincive patterns on fabric, illuminated scripts were portable, and it can be said, these distinctive patterns are evident in the lindifarne Gospels, and others like it. The style survives through Christian church decoration, portraits of saints and other religious art. Modern coptic art, and icon painting still flourishes, and the images produced today may be from the original images made, nearly 2000 years ago.
So, my own cultural migration may not be entirely faithful- as happens with the retelling of tales; it was forged on accidental discoveries, then the force of desire to see what was over the next horizon. It only was meant as an acknowlegement to the process behind a piece of work, whether mass-produced, or unique, and i am interesteed to hear anyone's additions, corrections, comments to the blog.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Painting and w/c sketches from flowers given, last week. I consciously avoided too much detail, though it would be lovely to truly capture a sparkling, white dahlia head.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Announcing Seahouses Festival Open Art Competition
Themed 'Migration'

Entrants are invited to submit work in any medium, up to 24x24x24 inches by Friday the 11th of June
Entry fee £2 per work, max 3 entries (cqs payable to North Sunderland & Seahouses Development Trust)
Please check the Seahouses Festival pages on for further details
Entries to:
North Sunderland & Seahouses Development Trust Building
62-64 Main St
NE68 7TP
Postal entries must be accompanied by the appropriate return postage
Entries will be exhibited on Seahouses Main St for the duration of the festival and can be claimed from the Trust Building from the 22nd June
Winner judged by public vote and a cash prize awarded.

Friday, 14 May 2010

I have spent the last 3 hours making canapes
If no one turns up, tonight, the pastry's on me

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Exhibition notice:
Small Works
by Sarah Riseborough
In The Pringle Room at Old Gala House, Galashiels

Private view Friday, 14th May- please get in touch for details
Exhibition opens Saturday 15th May and continues to Sunday 27th June

Th paintings are a mix of oil, acrylic and pastel and a range of style and subject matter. There are a handful of brand new small paintings and the rest of the collection a range of seascape and garden work.
Galashiels is worth a visit, and I do love the drive from North Northumberland, through the Borders towns to Gala- I will be there on the night of the preview, it would be lovely to see you there.

Monday, 19 April 2010

The term 'artists book' from Wikipedia:

'Artists' books are works of art realized in the form of a book. They are often published in small editions, though sometimes they are produced as one-of-a-kind objects referred to as "uniques".

Artists' books have employed a wide range of forms, including scrolls, fold-outs, concertinas or loose items contained in a box as well as bound printed sheet. Artists have been active in printing and book production for centuries, but the artist's book is primarily a late 20th century form.'

I went, with a friend, to an artists book fair, (Glasgow International Book Fair) on Saturday. Held in the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow's city centre, it took place over the Friday and Saturday (16th & 17th April).
There was a great array of different artists and artists collectives and independent publishers working in a myriad of ways, for a great many reasons. Physically, the fair was a room full of tables, the visitors could investigate the work on display at each table; the exhibitors attended their own stands and were available to ask questions.
My initial impression left me feeling intimidated
Let me explain; not because of the exhibitors,who were, on the whole, very friendly and open (though some were weary and fed up, by Saturday pm!) but because I was asked to pick up and examine the works, which ranged from hand-cut pop-up images to photographs to illustrated writing to limited edition press to cartoons to sculpture from recycled books to fanzines to cards to knitted moustaches and badges. Stylistically, from clean, white concept to exercise book doodling, from precious to perverse and the ideas conveyed were similarly diverse; the exhibits were sometimes free, sometimes hundreds of pounds, or 12p.
The atmosphere glistened with creative possibilities and a hundred different skills were laid out-
The thought of picking up any examples of these unique and precious works was terrifying, and when I was invited to do so, I fought the urge to run away. All that early 'do not touch' training was showing itself; my 6 year old self shied away from the chance of touching the pretty things, in case they broke, in case she spoiled them.
Instead, I walked the room, making sure I visited each table; I fed my eyes till I felt I had permission to pick something up; start with something less challenging, a pamphlet, a postcard.
By the time i had made my second sweep, I was enthralled; one stand in particular, (whose name I've missed, because, in the ensuing excitement, I forgot to a card)saw me untying tiny books, bound in string and drawing little stories out of pockets, written on (a personal favourite of mine)cardboard labels. The artist had carved a forest from a book and written out mermaids tales. She cut out theatrical scenes and coloured fairy stories. my six year-old self jumped for joy.
I enjoyed (and bought from) the cut-outs of Sarah Morpeth ( and laughed out loud at the cartoons on Hole In My Pocket's stand ( I bought a tiny publication 'Spot The Difference' from C. Herbert about her constantly dislocating joints. I agonised over zines and picked up articulate journals and keenly folded notebooks made with old envelopes, and pages from abandoned books.
Here is an acknowledgement list, as in my mind, the credits cannot match the images. Look for yourself:
Exhausted, I fell into a conveniently placed sofa and waited for my companion to emerge from the fray; it took some time, but that was fine, I had a crick in my neck from leaning over tables and my head was buzzing.
So many ideas, so much information. I left feeling I had been fed.
Many thanks

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

So, did anyone get snow today? Dull and drizzling here, no matter, the 'Cheviots' commission is done and the next one on it's way to finishing, as long as I don't dally (like, blogging, not painting?).
I've a couple of workshops to rehearse for the weekend and plenty busy till then.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

I had to admit to a certain resistance in returning to work in the studio; I practised all manner of diversionary tactics and sketched outdoors, and in the kitchen; even in the car, before dealing with the elephant in the room (not that there was even room for a little one) that was, my farmyard of a studio.
I'm not doing farmyards down, either, I'm sure in some corners of the country there are neat and tidy models of rural industry, but, this time of year you'll be hard-pressed to find a farm that's not knee-deep in mire; and such was the state of my work space, so I have swept and ordered and turfed out and stacked and realise 10ft x 8ft is quite a respectable area to work with, and all the nicer when I can pin back the door and enjoy the spring sunshine.
This week sees me out to paint a final version of the 'Over Lyham' painting, and finishing a couple of workshops I'm delivering at a dance residential course.I've a big, mural-style painting to complete for the local Middle School, which is enormous fun- very vibrant, and, I'd like to post some fresh stuff on the 'Mama Maya' blog I've started, which is devoted more to dancing, and deal with the paper trail of receipts I appear to have been leaving, since last April.
Here's to a productive, contented week for one and all.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

I still have to finish this painting, and will do so from the relative comfort of the house; it is a cold, but, lovely day, today (clouding over now). The clouds were just scraping the top of Cheviot and Hedgehope, a little blue sky peeking through and the occasional splash of sun on the snow; cold on the face and hands after an hour, though, and the wind blowing my paintbox over was enough to have me pack up and go home, for the time being.
What the paintnig needs is a little row of red roofed cottages in the lower left of the picture and some more fine definition of hedges and edges of fields. I am conscious of the skyline, which is not to scale, quite, and the great, arching wave of land that crests in front of the hills is not so defined as I'd like.
I need a couple of small, flat brushes that leave a clean line, (not-to-mention more stamina for staying outside) and the self-control to leave the painting alone when it tells me to.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Sketching at mo'; working towards a view of Cheviots, plus waiting for that nice, sunny day for photos at Seahouses, for another commission.
I'm contribution to an exhibition at Marjorybanks Gallery, Coldstream, called 'The Merse' though my paintings are coastal North-Northumberland so I'm clinging on to the title, tenuously.'the Merse' apparently is an ancient name for The Borders region. If Bamburgh doesn't quite count, it's on the, er, border, of it...

Monday, 22 February 2010

Sometimes I suffer from a kind of 'other-headedness' which can throw my work routine and put pay to creativity quicker than a boot up the self-esteem:
'Other-headedness' to me, is the onset of a cloud of 'should'; a feeling that, whatever task I'm performing that I should be doing something else.
When the kids were younger, it was fairly simple; I was with the kids, so felt the urgency of work pressing me, taking away my concentration and, more importantly, my appreciation. When I was painting I would suffer guilt at leaving my chicks too long, or pay the price for leaning on friends and family.
Now I deal with a three-way split- guess I'm so damn good now, I get a promotion? The writing I do, or don't do, bubbles away till I get ill and have to deal with it. Great dollops of prose then need clarified, made palatable for human consumption. Teaching dance needs a regular feed, and that could be as little as a spin or two round the front room, or a session picking apart a flavour combination to see what its component parts are.
The painting is the biggest deal; I suppose I identify with it most closely. It's something I've done for a long, long time and illustrates most vividly my life experience. I serve this craft most, for, when I'm not up to scratch, it just ain't there. I can put on some music and move my muscles, stretch out and feel a little taller; I can spill a ream of angst in ballpoint pen and empty my plate, but the painting? Still a mistress, for the most part, apart from the odd apology, oil-incident, frivilous sketch. It is the least playful area of my life, even though I have come to realise how important playing is. If I hear a voice dismissing 'play' as a child's indulgence, or someone's 'too busy' I know, for a fact, dagnabbit, they need it more than I do.
Don't get me wrong, I am a fortunate, appreciative person and I really don't have a concept of what I would be doing if I wasn't doing this, right now; I just look for what works better and see that if I have been dealt good cards I want to make the most of them, not throw them away simply because I feel someone else isn't getting as a good a deal, or because I feel unworthy.
I posted this because I know this feeling can strike other folk, too and I wanted to communicate my empathy.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Got a rogue keyboard which refuses to print the letter betwexen z and c for me, but will spit it out, randomly, without my knowledge.
Recovering from a cold, which forced me to do some writing- fit for nothing else, apart from a little light cowering and Lemsip abuse.
Seeking respite from life's big questions this week.
I just want everything I ask for
Is that unreasonable?
Or do I really just think I want them?
You see?
No escapexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

'I am going to play, to experiment. I am going to write...'
The thing that emerged from this seeming raft of failed intentions was that the stuff that really needed doing got started,or finished. Instead of getting myself in a pickle about what really needed to be done first, I drifted. This sounds flaky, I know, but I gravitated towards the priorities and managed a pace that was both fruitful and enjoyable. I am busy, but not frantic.
I have managed one day of creative experimentation, only. This appears to be exactly what I needed in order to put some energy back into my work/life; I am happy just getting on with a current commission.
I suppose my conclusion is,the window I imagined I'd made in order to play, simply allowed for space to be in the moment. The usual engines of deadlines and external expectations are only an anaerobic burst to get over the line. My focus is on now, not next month, or next year.
If I have finally put an end to the painful myth of the suffering artist then I have really achieved something great in my own life. I am so lucky; I paint, I dance, I write. I appreciate and enjoy!

Monday, 18 January 2010

It might look like there's alot of white space left on this canvas, but I feel I'm making good progress. The 1m sq takes up a wall of the studio and I have to step outside to get a good look at the work, but it is great to be able to work to a large scale.
I'm about to go back into the studio, to continue with the second of 2 metre square paintings; commissions long overdue.
The sun shines, birds sing.
Keeping it simple, today, folks.
Photos later.