Strayfish Arts at Sakala!

I’m so pleased to be exhibiting at Sakala in Steyning High street. I knew this shop when it was barely more than a cupboard in Cobblestones and when my sister saw a photo of it, she wanted to move in. Everything is directly sourced and the makers paid properly for their work; this is where buying local means buying from local communities of small scale makers, often women, helping them out of poverty. Take a look at their Instagram account and prepare to be swamped by colour!

I said earlier that I’d be taking mostly small pieces, the kind you can carry home under one arm or slip in a shopping bag, but I might have a couple of bigger pieces hot off the easel by the time we get to the end of August. Those would be unframed and a bit unwieldy in a half-decent breeze so you’d probably need transport.

Trail dates are August 28th – 30th and the 4th and 5th of September although Sakala is open during regular shop hours too. Hope to see you soon, COVID, as ever, permitting!


Still technically on hiatus but distracted by an over-stuffed SSD which means finding a new computer with a larger one. Much hunting and talk of terabytes as the current puny one sits there bright red with excess content.

So back to the paints while other things sort themselves out, such as my bank recognising Dell as a legitimate enterprise and paying them.

I’d intended to make a very delicate pencil watercolour of a tight horizontal line but found I wanted to add some paint. The horizontal is still there, and it’s still in isolation towards the top of the 16″ x 11″ canvas board.

Charcoal lines with water so that the pigment bleeds outwards.
Watercolour pencil and some acrylic pen which turned out to be a bit harsh. I’ve deliberately allowed the fluid to collect in a line and then to flow downwards beneath the land. These are the roots – soil, land, vegetation, homes, community. Quite a burden for a little painting.
A few dabs now of acrylic paint to give shape to the trees and add light to the field behind the house.

This may be it but I’ll look at it again tomorrow. After I’ve had whatever words need to be had to get the new PC packed and on its way here.

19th April. Bank now happy about Dell, painting varnished, and NASA has flown a helicopter on Mars.

A dribble is fine, a smudge isn’t.
Tiny dabs of dilute T white, smoothed with a cotton bud then varnished. Amazing what you can pick up from BBC’s The Repair Shop! I can still see the remnants of the smudge, but then I’m looking for it. Someone coming to it new may not.

That’s probably quite enough prevarication, I need to get on with the assessment admin which somehow doesn’t lessen by neglect.

Adur landscape #2

I’ve used the last of the squint-eye sized boards* so now I am onto a slightly more manageable 16 x 9. This is a view slightly to the north of the previous scene.

Again I’ve prepped the surface with acrylic primer (gesso) and used willow charcoal to define the lines and stratified areas in the scene. Then I’ve picked out different areas with dilute washes of green, yellow, and a mix of burnt sienna and Naples yellow. There’s a wash of burnt sienna in the sky area too, along with the river. This will form a contrast layer under the blues, greens, and whites that come later.

The sky is taking shape now with a light wash of blue over the burnt sienna, but the other areas are in a state of re and de-construction to give them the underpinnings for the final shapes and tones. The trees will be the last features to reappear but I can see their shapes under the patches of green.

4th April.

More touches of charcoal to define the lines where they contain bright colours – a bit like stained glass – and some additional layers of colour to the river area at the bottom. The clumps of clay and grass tumbling into the river from the bank are like wedge-shaped pillars with shadows and highlights in odd places. I’m happy with the sky – that wash of burnt sienna has really softened the tendency towards kitsch of the blue/white mix.

And here we are. I’ve found an interesting use for the new collection of fan brushes in fluffing out bright areas and dark areas of grass on the bank and in the foreground. To my eye, there’s a clear ‘best bit’ and that’ from the top edge down to the upper margin of the yellow field. Demands a crop.

Or this?

Crops, or moments as my tutor** describes them (probably to differentiate something passable from the largely unremarkable!) can make good prints and cards and I think I’m getting better at spotting them.

Probably won’t be able to resist a video.


5th April, couldn’t resist a video: Puddles Like Pillows

Things began disappearing round about March. Just little things – a newspaper left on a bench, or a sandwich wrapper – and not blown away or tumbled into a corner, just gone. We shrugged collectively: so rubbish vanished – was that even a problem? Then somebody caught an empty beer can in the act and started squawking about it; how it went, like, straight up in the air, man, he said. Wasted, the rest of us said, because he wore big trainers and a hoodie. But almost overnight, YouTube was stuffed with videos of everything from paper clips to small toys vanishing into the sky. Just the ones left outside, mind; the ones indoors stayed put, same as always.” Art work, short story, narration, and video (c) suzanne conboy-hill

Can’t resist a second video: Spectacular Flights of Whales

“Whether it was the beginning of the end, the end of the beginning, or something else entirely turned out to be immaterial. After a short interlude during which astronomers reported a slight increase in background radiation and sunsets appeared rather more purple than usual, the sky turned green and filled up with fish.” Read the story here.

And here’s the video of the whole painting because why not?

Animated in MotionLeap.


*I just found six more of the little blighters.

**Open College of the Arts, accredited by the University of the Creative Arts.

Landscape – using up canvas board

Over time, I’ve come to realise two things. First my close vision isn’t up to small scale, it has me cross-eyed and visually furred up; and second, I’m less keen on canvas board than I was. Put together with my resentment of waste, I’m on a mission to use up my boards, one of which is an excruciating 8″ x 10″.

A couple of days ago, I took some photos of the river banks and the hills behind; fresh, bright, and green and very much the English spring scene. My aim was to stay dilute and go for a jewel-like transparency between all the many parallel lines of the landscape. I’m not sure that’s entirely come off, but then who am I to judge – I can’t see the darned thing!

This moved very quickly because a lot of it was worked while wet so really there are only three photographs. This is the first:

I’ve used acrylics with line work in willow charcoal. I discovered recently that it’s possible to ‘paint’ with this medium – wet it and it behaves like watercolour but can be persuaded to resolve into a finer line than it’s possible to draw. I used it to make outlines of fields, trees, structures, and parts of the bank, wetting and blending as I went.

Here, I’ve washed some areas with dilute white paint and some with bright green, paying attention to the dark area at the edge of the river bank and setting the layers ready to become reflections distorted by ripples.

Final image with foreground foliage and a stand of bare-branched trees on the hill top left which I nearly forgot. The shadows are all layered paint with a smidge of charcoal for final definition. I’m rather pleased with this now it’s done, and I’m particularly impressed at the self-painting roofs on the upper right because I really can’t take credit for what I can see here on screen and not at all in real life!

It probably needs a coat of varnish to stop the residual charcoal from dusting off then it’s done. Might even let it loose on the market.

‘West of the Adur’ (c) suzanne conboy-hill 2021

Video. Animated in MotionLeap, video produced in Filmora10.


As a footnote; boards are better than paper for anything you don’t want absorbed; duck cotton is great for a real canvas feel where paint just sinks into the fabric but it comes in metres and you need to be able to stretch it and fix it somehow. This isn’t yet one of my talents but I like using it anchored only by bulldog clips or pinned to a piece of foam board. Primer stiffens it up and reduces its mobility. Canvases pre-fixed onto frames so they look like box lids are wonderful for that feeling you might be about to paint a real classic whether or not that actually happens. If you’re selling these, there are no mounting, framing, or hanger issues because they manage just fine with a nail in the wall.

Paper though, and other kinds of materials like carboard, glass, metal, bits of old tat you found down the garden – these, to my mind, tread a fine line between innovative purposeful creativity and tricksy gimmick. Personally, I’d recommend trying to paint on anything just to get a feel of what these things are capable of, then when you have a need for a particular effect, you can choose. Example: I wanted to replicate a Degas feel using a photo of a contemporary dancer. Degas does light, he also does tutu fabric that glows. I had some old net curtain and I used that to form the base of the painting where its folds and tucks created a set of textures I could highlight with white and silver paint. Here it is, and subject to framing, it’s found a new home.