Lauren Jayne Hall
I’m not sure how to put into words all the things I learnt while on my residency - I’m sure I’ll forget something vitally important, but here goes.
I actually started the residency with a lot of doubt - that I wasn’t good enough to be there (I’m still suspicious my acceptance was a clerical error?), that I didn’t know what I was doing, that I couldn’t even draw. It took a couple of days of pushing through it to realise I was happiest painting outside, and so this is where I spent most of my days - and this is where I started to feel comfortable, even confident, in drawing all the time, wherever I wanted, and not feel self conscious if other people saw me drawing.
I’ve always known theoretically that drawing from life is important, rather than drawing from photos, but it’s something I’ve always struggled with - not being able to decide what to draw, feeling self conscious about the people I’m with or even complete strangers who might look at my work, but these feelings have changed since my residency.
I got into a rhythm of going out and drawing whatever drew me in, taking lots of photos, and then going back to sit on the couch in the cosy living room, warm up with a hot chocolate, and thumbnailing ideas for my characters referencing the drawings and photos. I’d realise that I needed more detailed paintings of certain elements, and the next day go out with the purpose of finding that location and painting it again - and of course, find more interesting things as I was out, starting the whole process again. I started to realise what I want to draw, and how I want to capture it.
Drawing so much from life also really made me LOOK at things - in a way I haven't for a long time. I notice more textures, colours, shapes, and it makes me appreciate every little detail around me. The skill of looking is something that comes and goes for me, and I’ve realised it’s one of those muscles I need to continue to exercise when I get home.
I also did so much life drawing - I attended all the Draw Brighton sessions which I usually struggle to do, plus even went to a real life session with Scarlett (which also included some wonky drawings of each other on the train and a lot of drawings of dogs - probably my most joyful experience of the whole trip!) and realised how much I love drawing people (and dogs) from life. I attempted to draw strangers in cafes in Barmouth a couple of times with mixed success - but the experience really made me think it’s a skill I’m keen to improve!
Modelling for Draw Brighton’s portrait session was also a joy - sitting in Jake’s studio, listening to my favourite music, was actually a really surreal and calming experience, and seeing people’s drawings and paintings of me put a smile on my face for days!! I don’t want to play favourites, but seeing Jake’s drawing of me was another highlight of my residency, as I think he perfectly captured my serene feelings of that evening.
I’ve come away from this experience really understanding the importance of drawing from life, how much it forces me to simplify and use my own voice, but it’s also given me confidence that I am an artist and I can capture things however I want and whenever I want - it’s about the process of creating that makes me an artist rather than the success of the outcome. I’ve come home with a hunger to draw, paint, draw, paint, capture and understand everything, and it’s EXCITING.
This was my first attempt at doing a residency with both kids and partner with me for part of the time. In some ways it worked really well, a couple of mornings the kids joined me in the studio for an hour, we had lovely days out - walks to waterfalls and Harlech Castle. But there came a point where I felt torn and it became a big multitask - I didn’t feel like I was being particularly successful at being at either - parent or artist. And my partner very much felt like the hired (and unpaid) help! Then when my family went home and I had 4 days solo and I missed them all terribly. It seemed I couldn't win...
However that being said I am very glad we did it. The residency is set within a very beautiful place and you are staying in the wonderful home of lovely people. I got started on some drawings that I know will be seeds of things to come and I don't think they would have happened had I been at home. So the residency ‘worked' in that respect. And it was actually a weirdly affirming experience to miss my family that much. It kind of reset my priorities - my art is important to me, but there is a but!
I'm now back in Bristol in my new home/loft studio with both the kids at school. Looking at the things I made in the studio overlooking the Mawddach estuary with the ever-changing light, colours and tides. I only wish I had gone out for more walks, and had not been quite so focused on art being made in the studio. It’s all the other stuff that feeds it that is just as important too - the catkins dangling from hazels, looking out for the otter, the incredibly thick moss and lichen, clambering over rocks.
I'm sure we will be back some day. Many thanks to Jake and Scarlett for creating such a great place and providing such a warm welcome.
We’d had plans, the three of us, to try out each other’s styles and run workshops for each other, to learn what we could, and keep our skills sharp between semesters. But I was late arriving at the Mawddach. I came by train about midway through the two weeks. When I arrived, I was still shaking off the stress of classes, I was jittery and uncertain. The whole group greeted me at the station, Scarlett Jake Millie and Zoe, all of them ready with jokes and smiles and offers of help. I felt it there first as we strolled under the twisted barren branches chatting and laughing. It was a deep settling presence, mysterious but kind. I wanted to pull that thing into being, to draw it out and make it tangible. I can’t say I succeed during my stay at Mawddach, but I carry the idea of it with me now, along with sweet sort of longing to return to the soft moss-covered woods, and the warm welcome we found at Mawddach.
Milli, Zoe, and I braved the bitter cold of January as often as we could bear, exploring the paths and nearby Barmouth, soaking in the views and the quiet peace of the place, so different from the day to day slog back at University. We carried a concertina sketchbook and charcoal with us wherever we went, taking turns recording the world around us. In the end that little concertina was probably my favourite thing we produced. It was fascinating to see how differently we saw things, yet how cohesive our vision was all laid out in a row. Independence and connection in a rhythm as natural as breathing.
Events that I will never forget as long as I live:
Sitting for Jake’s portrait class, taking it too seriously, martialling myself into stillness. The strange feeling of looking at my face through someone else’s eyes.
Swimming in the estuary, the deep vicious life affirming cold enveloping me entirely, the bright thrill of happy childish terror at the impenetrable dark of the water in the pre-dawn.
Spotting an otter at the very last moment as we packed the car, the ecstatic race to alert everyone, to include everyone, the giddy joy over what for the otter was probably just a normal event, but for us was a peek into a part of the natural world we don’t normal have access to.
We arrived at the Mawddach Residency with the aim of working collaboratively; we ran workshops for each other, went on group walks and were in constant conversation of how our individual ways of working could be applied to each other’s practice. We are all inspired by the landscapes of Wales, which was a massive pull for us a few years back to study Fine Art at Aberystwyth. However, I also wanted to resolve some problems within my own work, by removing some of the stiffness by working more en plein air and figuring out a way to fuse drawing with painting.
Being able to wake in the morning, roll into the studio or out onto the Mawddach trail with our sketchbooks, opened a new way of creating. The instant euphoria of responding to such a wonderful landscape in such a beautifully curated and intimate space with my fellow students is something I’ll never take for granted. I think it was in our walks the most exciting drawings were made; we worked together on a concertina sketchbook in charcoal, allowing each of us to pick up where the last persons marks were hanging over the seam of the next page. We brought our sketches back into the studio overlooking the estuary and developed them into paintings, monotypes, and drawings, while being constantly inspired by the changing of weather and light outside.
Our fortnight was filled with painting, drawing, cooking, boogying, walking, sitting, some of the most engaging conversations I’ve had and to top it all off, otter spotting! We are so thankful to Scarlett and Jake for giving us this opportunity and sharing their space with us, It was an inspiring experience we will never forget.
My initial hopes going into the residency were to be reinspired in the way that I paint, with my previous explorations not quite coming together successfully. The landscape has always been central to my practice so the truly stunning scenery the Mawddach and surrounding areas had to offer quickly instilled confidence and determination to capture the landscape in my own way.
We made a habit of walking and drawing together, taking ourselves off to Barmouth, Dolgellau or along the Mawddach Trail, sketching independently and collaboratively in our concertina book, mapping the continuation of our walks together. We would then return to the studio to further develop these in our own way. Sitting in the studio window seat alone provided a wealth of inspiration, observing and recording the changing light.
I enjoyed this process of having to work quickly, loosening my approach and revealing some more interesting mark making, something I found very evident in a truly freezing plein air session following our 7AM swim!
As a result of this, I found I was really enjoying creating small ink studies to capture the momentary impression of the landscape and in hand eliminating the details to focus on form and colour. These could then inform my larger acrylic paintings which were more considered, building up layers to create the landscape. I intend to develop this body of work made in my time here into my final semester with a location study into the Mawddach Estuary through the means of paint, in preparation for our degree show. The residency has been an incredible opportunity for providing the time, space, and environment for exploring my practice.
For at least the first week I couldn’t quite believe I was really at the Mawddach; it was December when I should be busying about at home, I wasn’t working at my day job, to me it felt
remote, coming from a densely populated part of South East England and it was frozen. The estuary froze whilst I was staying, so there was a hush and muted quality to the light
And it was quiet.
So, having no plans apart from to respond, the work I made was about siting myself there.
This included listening, looking and felt observations.
I recorded the sound of the radiators using contact mics as they tried to heat the studio.
I drew how it felt to put weight through my body.
I made drawings every 2 hours of the brackish estuary endlessly changing.
I listened to the sound of the estuary, drew a graphic score and made an audio representation using my voice with the Loopy HD App on my phone.
I listened to quiet thoughts about myself as a 51 year old woman, also changing, and drew.
I got really into electrical tape drawing.
It took me about eight days to establish my practice rhythm. It was worthwhile. Jake and Scarlett were amazing.
Catherine and Bonnie planned to work collaboratively, taking inspiration from the surrounding landscape and folklore of the area to develop illustrations and writing for a collaborative book. They combined sketching with watercolour, writing and skill sharing during their time here. While also managing to swim every day.
Bonnie and Cat were working collaboratively in their contrasting practices, letting their shared experience, folktales and their dark yet inviting sense of humour inform their drawings and writing. Together they developed ideas for stories of bog mummies, mermaids and vengeful washer women.
The first drafts of three short stories were written by Bonnie, with companion illustrations in production by Cat. Their work was created simultaneously; drawings developing from conversations on walks, leading on to writing and returning to drawing. You can read Bonnies diary of the residency on her website.
We were joined by past residents Piera Cirefice and Kate Boucher for dinner and a private view of the work on Cat and Bonnie's last night.
Bonnie Radcliffe website / instagram
Catherine Lovett instagram
Click on images for a larger view.
Having never completed an artist residency, I didn’t know quite what to expect or how the
two weeks would unfold. I was very excited to begin exploring the beautiful landscape
around the Mawddach and to build upon an existing body of work, focusing on the many
waterways and mythical llyns of Eryri.
However, the beginning of my residency took an unexpected turn; with only two days in, I
tested positive for COVID! Luckily before this, I was able to explore the llyns around the
Cadair Idris range, even involving a quick swim in its ice cold Llyn y Gadair and plein air
studies of llyn Cau. Cut to two weeks later, and Scarlett and Jake very kindly arranged for me
to return to complete my residency.
My sick-leave afforded me time to reflect over my two days spent up Cadair Idris and being
present within its landscape. Having also come across many of the intriguing tales tied to
this mountain and its llyns, upon returning to my residency later in the month I decided to
centre my work around this particular location. Using ink and watercolour I explored ways
of capturing the heightened feeling of being present within this eerie and mythical
Tales of a bottomless lake, home to a water dragon, and a hunting ground for a Lord of the
celtic underworld fuelled the inspiration for the watercolours I created. Having spent time in
these mountains and swimming in the dark inky depths of its llyns, it was easy to see how
the landscape could lend itself to the lore that has been woven into its very fabric.
Watching the estuary and its surroundings every morning from the studio window
proved incredibly inspiring. The stillness and peace of the Mawddach allowed me to focus
on my creative practice, without the usual distractions which comes with my usual working
day. I especially loved observing the transition of the estuary’s tides throughout the day.
This created an ever-changing landscape as the tides, currents and winds interacted
together across the estuary. Documenting these evolving scenes in my sketchbooks, I aim to
carry this work forward under the theme of “mapping the Mawddach”.
When I began my residency at Mawddach Residency I was not entirely sure of what I would make. I knew I wanted to explore my relationship with an environment that was unfamiliar to me, but I was unsure as to what the outcomes of this exploration would look like. What really excited me at the beginning of the residency, is that it would be a time for me to be able to explore my practice outside an academic institution, especially since I had only completed my Masters course a week prior. Due to this, the residency really became a way for me to explore and feel how it would be to make artwork without any expectations from others and without it being judged academically, which felt very freeing.
I decided I would begin simply by drawing what I saw around me. I spent the first day simply sitting by the window and creating quick sketches of my view of the estuary, observing how it changed throughout the day, the light and the tide changing the landscape in front of me as time passed.
Then I began to explore the Mawddach, recording with drawings and photographs what I saw around me, and the more I looked I began to discover details about the environment around me that I couldn’t explain upon first sighting but that intrigued me. As I continued to look throughout my time at the Mawddach residency, these mysteries would begin to illuminate themselves. For example, a chain hanging from a tree confused me, I had no idea what it was doing there or why, but the combination of the organic and the man-made was beautiful to me, and so I created a simple charcoal drawing of it. Returning the next day I found a boat attached to that chain. I really began to appreciate how the environment around me would explain itself to me the more time I spent in it.
My practice has always been very internal, of the body and internal emotions. I think therefore it makes sense that the work began to become about feelings and relationships, but rather than human relationships, I explored the emotions that the environment was drawing out of me. In particular, Barmouth bridge and the area nearby became important to the work I was making. I find wooden bridges scary and the multiple journeys I made across were very anxiety inducing, the anxiety building before I even began my crossing. This anxiety was further built upon by the weather at the time, the wind and rain blowing my hair across my face and obscuring my vision.
However, I also felt very happy and rewarded each time I completed a journey. I decided I wanted to portray my view near the bridge as it was the area that induced the strongest emotion in me, and I created paintings of my view, of my hair obstructing the landscape. I found it interesting that when creating these paintings, which was a slow process of attempting to paint the hair in as much detail as I could, I found myself very calm, and the act of creating these paintings of an anxiety inducing moment almost became meditative.
Overall I feel my time on residency really helped me to begin my practice outside of an academic institution, exploring how I make work and the ways my practices changes and stays the same when it is entirely self-motivated. Furthermore I feel the collection of images and photographs I collected will continue to be useful within my practice, and I still feel inspired by the area following the residency.
In September we were joined by Rebecca Bloomfield as our artist in residence. Beccy was here at the turning point between summer and autumn and she claimed a space on a small beach, on the banks of the Mawddach estuary, as an extension of her studio for this time. Beccy used frottage, cyanotype, printmaking and rain drawings to explore the liminal space between light, shadow and water surrounding a chosen rock formation on this beach.
She aligned her daily routine with that of the river, starting her daily ritual with a coffee on the beach, coinciding with the local ferryman as he left for work and then greeting him again in the evening on his return. Beccy would focus on the rock formations that emerged from the river as the tide ebbed, and return to the house when the light faded.
Having such an open space to work in invited a lot of interest from local walkers and visitors and they were all intrigued by her work and process. Every day another passer-by would share a story of why this place is special to them. I encountered this when I spent the day working with Beccy, and was touched by her generosity, inviting the strangers to share in her work.
I (Scarlett) joined Beccy down at her Mawddach beach studio to work on creating some printmaking plates with her. Working from an idea sparked by a set of drawings Beccy made a few days before, we set about trying to capture the lapping of the tide using collagraph. Beccy created a set of 10 plates using variations of glues, sand, rubbings, carborundum and different matrices; some were printed at the residency and some she will continue to refine at her own studio.
On her last morning before she left, there was a definite change in the air, the weather had cooled and the wind had picked up, signalling a change in season. Beccy went down to the beach for her last coffee, and when she returned she said to me that it felt different there, like it was no longer hers, and that her time sharing that space had come to an end.
I arrived at my residency at Mawddach with no preconception of response or outcome and intrigued to find how my interactions with a new unfamiliar natural environment would influence my imagery. I was curious to uncover new processes and to forage for indigenous materials for mark making, and to see how this would lead me to find original and authentic ways to express my experience.
I first spent a few days cycling walking sketching the hills, estuary and coastline, making sense of the wider landscape before I zoned in on particular locations. These were sites that primarily felt right, that had a distinct and unique sense of place but also provided the elements for new and specific mark making possibilities.
At the secluded deserted Fairbourne beach I found a process using sand on paper to capture snapshot imprints of the timeless waves, and then worked with pebbles, stones and grit as the imagery further revealed itself.
The shore of the vast and beautiful Mawddach Estuary, beneath the cycle trail, also gave me the necessary sense of isolation and the perception essential to my working practice of being part of the landscape.
Outcrops of slate, variously pigmented shale, bladderwrack and gloopy estuary mud provided an abundance of media and tools and a means to make not only an emotional connection but a direct physical connection with the ancient landscape.
At sunrise and low tide on the final day of my residency I worked with a 2 x 1.5 metre sheet of paper at the rocks near the house. The scale allowed for extravagant energetic and bigger mark making as the performative act of drawing became more prominent. Wrapping the rocks and embossing their forms, pulling a giant mud print and eroding the paper with sand until eventually it ended soaked torn and crumpled as if washed up by the tide.
My residency at Mawddach turned out to be a fulfilling and gratifying time of experimentation and discovery - an indulgence of process. It was so rewarding to get hands on and engage with such a rich inspiring landscape, and to have revealed new creative pathways which undoubtedly shall be informing future work. I hope at some point to return and further immerse myself in this landscape and perhaps develop and explore deeper the specific techniques and processes I discovered in my short time here.
HB Drawing Group
The HB Drawing group was founded by a group of artists who met on the MA Drawing course at Wimbledon College of Arts. Their practices vary but what unites them is an interest in the importance and uses of drawing.
Each member has different interests and ways of working, but their collective projects provide them with raw materials to interpret in their own ways.
Walking is an important shared factor within their practices. The group's walking projects have taken place in largely suburban places on the fringes of London which offer a mix of the familiar everyday and the extraordinary.
In June we were joined by three members of the HB Drawing Group; Su Bonfanti, Janine Hall and Ruth Richmond. They planned to use the Mawddach Trail as the focus of their walking and collective drawing.
'We started the residency with a few random ideas: first of all, to do a lot of drawing, to explore a new place, to walk together, to enjoy the freedom from responsibility and to see what happened. It was the first time since we were on the MA Drawing at Wimbledon that we were together and able to focus intensively on our practices. We set off literally and figuratively in different directions but some common themes emerged. The residency gave us freedom to wonder ‘what if …’ and to try out any and every idea, including the many ways water influenced the landscape (shaping rocks and pebbles) and our ways of working (dipping paper into the river). It gave us time for repetition: walking to our favourite spots, sitting on our favourite rock, drawing that rock again … it allowed space for what we sometimes call failure but what turns out to be just a stage on the way to a new understanding. We take with us memories of Mawddach as a place and the special way Scarlett and Jake create the conditions for something to start that will continue to flourish long after we have left.'