Oceans Apart Studio Project Diary

Week five – summary

Time’s up on this experimental project, I gave myself a month, but it has gone way beyond that and will continue to develop this as a body of work as we enter 2021, as soon as I can get to the studio under current restrictions.  Looking at them all together during a crit with other artists has helped me to clarify what I will do next with the paintings.  I also want to continue to take an experimental line with this project, challenging myself every week to play around with different materials and different ways of exploring this theme.  I will continue to write and post pictures here about this project as its a useful way to keep track.

Setting up for a crit review of the work in progress.  The difference in the paintings on panel and those on canvas is interesting.

Work in progress, oil on panel

Notes on conditions and considerations

Studio setting

wooden panel vs canvas

all pieces have under paintings, working from and against an existing image

all supports are square, 50x50cm and some canvas supports sized 60x60cm


Scans of surfaces using phone scanner:




Week Four – a sidelight

I have discovered that a sidelight is an incidental illustration or information on a subject, which is probably a good way to describe my slight diversion this week.  Having been focused on the paintings for the past week or so I decided to go back to the windows and working on found cardboard made some studies using collage and paint, exploring edges and composition. In placing them in the side recess of the windows I found they really connected with the outside – the landscape, the light (or lack of it as we move closer to the shortest day).  I was also interested in looking at exposed edges of stacked up studies – an idea I have been exploring in my painting.  These are a few of my little sidelights…






























It’s interesting how the colour of the white walls changes in every photograph.  I think that’s the effect of the passing cloud on the light as it enters the window.

Going back to my painting I decided to leave the first four to one side and start a new set.  This time I was working on canvas, I’m not sure if it was the weather, which turned quite wild this week, or the change of surface, but it led to a freeing up and I played fast and loose with the linear lines of the window frame.  I also refreshed my palette with some new colours.  Weather conditions were misty and foggy later in the week and I’m not sure this has come through in the colour, but more in the method of application.  These are work in progress, I will wait for the paint to dry before I work some more into these next week.


Week Three – opening a window to painting

I made the decision to begin a new series of paintings last week.  I was thinking about Richard Diebenkorn’s brilliant Ocean Park series, except I’m in Manchester, so the light is very different, I’ve got the fading Autumn season in the earthly sense and the earth’s tilt to consider as we get much less sun and a very cold sky.  I’ve got to credit this studio situ project for igniting these ideas, the paintings are about the windows, the light, the sky and what I can see on the horizon.  So here are my first four WIP paintings.  I feel at this point they’ve already moved away and into my own territory.  I’ve enjoyed layering colour, working with some of Diebenkorn’s ideas of laying whites over colour and incorporating a sort of grid, all be it much less straight and more or less freehand,  I’ve also used my own preference for the square and within this cropping in and creating margins which expose sometimes previous layers and presenting an outer tension that seems to hold the inner painting and offer a deeper more satisfying drench of colour against the translucence of the inner image.  I’m also bringing some references to the frames of the windows.



Week Two – new ways of seeing

This week I started by cropping the lower windows by taping paper onto the two panes at either side of the middle.  Closing into a narrow view and restricting what the eyes can see – which is surprisingly so much, and I’ve taken photographs of this window using different viewing points.




I am doing this project in my studio space as a playful sideline to my painting practice.   Already the project is influencing my painting and I am using this cropping and playing around with edges and framing .  I am also thinking about the canvas as a window.

One of my favourite painters comes to mind, that of Richard Diebenkorn.  I have been painting from my own Northern landscape, the cold light and the weather moving across the sky, which changes by the minute, in the style of Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series.  I am seeing my landscape through his eyes, or through his painting, but not necessarily his process, so I am starting from the point of his finished works rather than how he starts to make a painting and my aim is to watch and learn from my own responses and decisions about whether to follow Diebenkorn’s course or divert it.

Credit: Richard Diebenkorn, from the Ocean Park series

Next week I will post some of my paintings and I will return to the window for more interventions.


Week One – turning to face the window

Here I will be documenting a project about the studio space I am occupying in Goyt Mill, Marple.  I am alternating this with my painting and drawing practice.  This will be a weekly record of what I have been trying out.

It’s become quite a useful exercise because I’m still quite new to the space and it is helping me to settle in and get used to my surroundings.  When painting I am facing towards the wall opposite the big windows.   Just in the process of turning to face the window, my experience of being in that space has completely altered. The big windows look out across the landscape towards Manchester city centre on the horizon.  The sky is in constant flux and weather seems to move across this window-screen;  clouds, rain and the sun piercing through to illuminate parts of the landscape.









Being drawn to this cinematic window and what I can see beyond it, I have been painting onto the window, firstly responding to the landscape and the sky and then later in the week, at the moment when the sky seems at its most theatrical I started to draw figures in outline, opening up the sunset sky within and around the figures.

Each window painting has been printed onto paper to record the image.  It feels at the moment these are not important.  They are a record of the mark making and the process, but as yet I am not concerned with these mono-prints.  They may come in useful later.










Having a crit group to talk to about this project at this stage has been useful and some interesting things to think about have emerged.  It has also encouraged me to continue to play around with some ideas I have been thinking about.

  • A suitcase of old family photographs that I brought into the studio
  • The places I have lived around Manchester (movement and maps)
  • Time
  • Window as frame, device in the history of art and literature