excitement, frustration, markmaking…


Work from final day of Emily Ball workshop © Mari French 2019Work from final day of Emily Ball workshop © Mari French 2019

My work from final day of Emily Ball workshop © Mari French 2019

I’ve been sadly neglecting my blog posts since December. In my defence I was suffering quite badly from the good old S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) symptoms along with a bout of creative block, that can plague me (and many people) during the winter months until thankfully, spring seemed to arrive with a flourish in February.

So, now I’m playing at catch up as a lot has happened in the past two months. Because it relates to the previous two posts I’ll tell you first about the Emily Ball markmaking workshop near Cambridge that I attended a couple of weeks ago.

After the boost the previous EB workshop I’d attended in 2017 gave me, I was keen to freshen my markmaking and visual language again. For me art making is a continual learning process and I recognise the need in my own practice for fresh creative input from outside sources occasionally. Emily always gives an intensive, exhausting but very rewarding workshop and this was no exception. We’d had ‘homework’ to do to prepare us and I’d decided to concentrate on Dungeness (see previous two posts) as my subject. So I spent a few weeks producing a series of small experimental studies based on my memories of Dungeness before attending (see image above).

It was great to meet old artist friends and make new ones, and the 12 of us soon filled the art room walls at Linton College, near Cambridge, with a startling variety of large mark-filled sheets of paper. From creating a markmaking ‘alphabet’ of our own marks from our homework studies and exaggerating them in different ways, to ‘blind drawing’ with black and white oil bars, then working on editing complete paintings to ‘get more space in!’, it was full-on, fun and exhilarating. 

By the final day, we’d all experienced highs and lows, whoops of delight and wails of frustration, but all of us had moved on significantly in the development of our own visual language. The image at the start of this post, the last I produced on the workshop (stormy abstract landscape on my easel) thwarted me so much in its development that I hated it for several days. Now, however, I can appreciate the energy, mood and space in it and now I quite like it! Emily must have the patience of a saint, she’s a great tutor and I can highly recommend her workshops.

Selection of the fabulous variety of fresh work made on the workshop. © Karen Stamper 2019.

Selection of the fabulous variety of fresh work. © Karen Stamper 2019.

Special mention to a small selection of the artists from the workshop whose work I admire and you might like to check out (links to the artists’ websites):
Leslie Birch
Sarah Russell
Karen Stamper



8 thoughts on “excitement, frustration, markmaking…

  1. Lovely piece of writing Mari, with some great images. And thanks for the mention. Yes, it was exhausting and intensive … I am still recovering … but so happy, as you are, to have had the experience once again. Good luck with the new paintings … fabulous … and hope to see you again soon … Lez x

    • Thanks Lez! Glad you enjoyed the post. Will be interesting what emerges from all that workshop work, am still a bit worn out too! Would love to see you again sometime soon. By the way, I have a video of you talking about your work (from where I took the pic of you). I can upload it to a link for you to download if you like? X

  2. Hi Mari, I can imagine the workshop might have felt a bit of a challenge after those few months out of it so to speak. Being an artist is so much more than laying paint down, of course, it’s full of our own inner landscape of moods, takes courage to get up again of confidence has faded a bit. I talk from my own perspective, little painting done for over a year, diverted into other affairs, until recently, now awkwardly trying to restart, small works as home is now modest yacht, wintering wild coast of W Brittany. Overwhelmed by inspirations, bit intimidated to work with it … but I try. I always find motivation from your work though. Thank you for sharing. Phil

    • Thanks for your interesting and supportive response Phil. It’s so difficult to get back up to speed after a long break isnt it? The workshop certainly kickstarted me! A yacht just off West Brittany hey? Fabulous, but I suppose that intense landscape can be intimidating as you say. One of the hardest things I find, as an artist, is to stop myself trying to produce perfection all the time, to allow myself to play, to trust my subconscious and let it have free reign sometimes. Hope you manage to enjoy interpreting your present landscape and be happy. Mari

  3. Welcome back! I can empathise with regarding S.A.D, had it myself, but the green shoots have made an appearance in the last week. Other artist friends have been experiencing the same

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