Week 28 – 14/05/18

This week is the final submission deadline and degree show install. I started installing on Tuesday, by which point there were already some works already up. I think the room will look quite diverse- I think the overall quality and finish of the works is good, however there were still some people left to install, so it will be difficult to tell whether the curation of the space works well until everything  is up and everyone’s supporting documentation etc is removed post-marking.

Works pre-install

Initially, I wanted to put both works on the same wall, as shown above. The centre of the room (rather than the centre of the wall) falls slightly to the right of the wall space, so  my intention was to put the larger piece here. That way, when looking at the work from the adjoining room the large piece is central. I wanted to put the smaller work to the right of the main piece, however the reaction of my peers was that the larger painting worked better on its own in the centre of the room. I agree, I think that it’s quite a statement on its own, however it’s quite difficult to relinquish control/take out an element I’ve been working for quite a long time on. However thinking back to the interim exhibition where unfinished works were exhibited, I think it is productive to be able to leave elements of work on their own to allow discussion and interpretation. I also think as the stronger of  the two works, its important that the work does not get influenced by anything else or possibly different narratives in the smaller painting.

Final position of work

I ended up having to use mirror plates to hang the work because of  the warped edge. I was a bit apprehensive about what this would do to the work, however now that they have been painted over, they are not very noticeable. The position of the work was also something I was concerned about. I imagined the work sitting much lower than it is, however a tutor advised me to hang it much higher so that it makes better use of the space. I was a bit apprehensive about this at first but now that other works have gone up around it, it definitely needs the extra space below. Another thing I’m slightly worried about is the sculptural work that has just been installed in  front of the painting. Because it is low to the floor, it has to be roped off, so there is now a quite obvious obstruction in front of my work that I feel will be quite distracting. I think it would have been beneficial to talk to the artist beforehand, as I didn’t realise the barrier would be so high or obvious. We might have to discuss possible rearrangements closer to the degree show because placement might resolve the issue.



Week 27 – 07/05/18

Most of this week I’ve been preparing my degree show space in preparation for the install next week. I’m enjoying the process and am excited to see what the works will look like up. The wall isn’t as daunting as I remember it being, which might change the way I hang next week. It is still a reasonably sized space however, and so I should be able to place them far enough apart that the  negative space will enforce  the sides of the canvas and isolate the images.

We also had a Free Range meeting this week. I’m a little bit concerned about my placement in the room, as the wall I’m on is too small to put up the larger of my two degree show pieces. There is a slightly larger wall on the opposite side of the room, which would be a bit more suitable, but the artist there is reluctant to swap walls because her work needs to be surrounded by quite a lot of negative space. I think changes to walls etc might need to be negotiated closer to install, or even in-situ, so I’m planning on making up transport cases for both works so I can make choices about what to include and where on the day.

FR Floorplan- F BLOCK T4A_2018
Free Range floor plan
Final poster design by Paul

Week 26 – 30/04/18

This week I finished work on both paintings and stretched the larger canvas. I’m fully moved out of my studio now in preparation for the degree show.

Stretching the larger canvas

Stretching this work was quite challenging, I bought some canvas pliers which helped massively, however the surface still came out a little bit rippled in places.  On the advice of a tutor I was able to fix this really easily by putting warm water over the back of the painting. I did the same with the smaller painting also because it had gotten quite slack after multiple restarts on the face and layering of block colour.

Another issue I’ve encountered is that the larger stretcher is a bit warped, so that one corner lifts off the wall when hung on screws. originally I was going to hang both pieces with a split-baton, however I might have to reconsider if the stretcher can’t be fixed. I think it’s important that the work hangs quite traditionally/in a way that draws attention to the edges of the canvas whilst not being distracting. I think I will have to wait until install to resolve this once I am in  the space. I don’t want to pre-curate the piece or have a set plan for where on the wall I want them to hang, as I think its important to relate to the space and take the experience of the specific viewers in our degree show room into account.

stretched and finished larger canvas
works alongside each other in the studio

There was a degree show shop meeting this week, about what sort of things we submit  to sell alongside our work. I’d really like to make some sort of merchandise to sell, as I think some of my work is definitely accessible enough to have made into prints for sale  to the public. I’ve also been calculating prices  for my  work. I was initially thinking around the 500-600 mark for the larger work, however I might put this up slightly when I’ve  worked out commission. I would like to sell the larger piece, however I also think that as a strong painting its important that I have the opportunity to show it elsewhere, so I might make the price higher based on its value to me as an artist. In terms of titling the  works, I’ve also decided that I want to keep them simple and descriptive to reflect the historical elements that influence my work. The smaller painting will be titled Jordan in a Doorway and the larger one, Sofa scene.

I’ve also worked on a small piece of writing this week about the visit to the Kroller Muller in the Netherlands and how the space influences the work. This isn’t necessarily relevant to my practice, however I’m trying to maintain my writing as a means of  expression and documenting experiences.

Finished smaller work
Sofa scene
installation view experimentation
Sofa scene, detail

Week 25 – 23/04/18

I’ve carried on working with both paintings this week. The aim is to get them finished and stored by next Thursday when studios are cleared. I’m having trouble with the face in the smaller painting, it’s difficult to define the  structure whilst also being minimal with my brushmarks/range of tones. The paint has layered up so much that the paint is behaving differently on the surface.

I am at a level with the larger painting where I want to leave my face alone. I think it is a really strong element of the work and even though it is not as worked as the smaller painting, I don’t want to risk  creating more work for myself. I had a tutorial this week where we spoke about the screen versus canvas, and how the surface of the image acts as though it is  the reversed surface of the TV screen. In my research I’ve found lots of sources that discuss the issues surrounding the gaze, composition and some of Lacan and Freud’s theories in relation to spatial awareness and the viewer. This research is helping to validate my work rather than inform it at this stage, but I still  find it really helpful and contextually appropriate. We also spoke about the issue of  using myself in the painting. Currently, I don’t see the work as a self portrait. In my sketchbooks when  writing about the smaller sofa piece I worked on, I talk about how my awareness of the  camera might alter the work and how recording rather than taking one photo helps to combat this. I and everyone else involved is in the same position where after a while you forget that the camera is there.

I also attended strategies this week. After hearing about the experience of some NUA Alumni, I am now thinking of staying in Norwich post-graduation. I applied to a competition this week, and when thinking about how I publicise myself, I think  it’s important that I have a base and a studio to work out of, especially if I am successful or there is any sort of demand for my work at degree show. Listening to the talks of  Henry  Driver I have now become motivated to enter more competitions. I applied to take part in the Art below Summer show, although I don’t expect to hear anything back, I think its important that I apply for any relevant opportunities because there is always a chance something could come out of it.

This is some more of the progress I’ve made on the larger painting. I’ve been working mostly into the male face this week to try and bring it up to the same level as mine. Again, I don’t want to add too much detail, but there needs to be consistency between the two.

working with facial features
building up figures and sofa
adding in items in foreground


Week 24 – 16/04/18

This week I had a presentation with Brian Davey for the Jenifer Davey Memorial Award I’d applied to earlier this year. I wanted to discuss the way my work was progressing and try to explain my research interests. I often find it difficult relaying what my practice is about, as the themes are constantly shifting even though essentially the mediums and processes stay the same. It’s also quite hard to contextualise all my research. When I applied for the award my interests were shifting more towards research based practice rather than practical, so I had to try and get across where I’d diverted and how I am currently moving forward.

Brian was very keen to discuss my work, and picked up on elements that I hadn’t necessarily noticed. Things that are quite instinctual to me (colour choice, style etc) are probably the first thing that impacts someone looking at my work for the first time, so I need to be able to justify these choices. I feel quite positive about the presentation, and found it a really useful experience even if I don’t get selected.

We had a slight dispute in the editorial board this week. Some members of the year group expressed that they wanted to have more input in the selection of the degree show publication because they were not happy with the design that we (the board) had chosen. People were particularly concerned with the colour choice and how it would impact their work. I think as a group we handled this very well, we scheduled a meeting with the designer the next day and discussed the choice of colour. I myself had been a bit concerned about colour in particular as I hadn’t seen the design when it was presented, but the designer was able to show me the full mock-up and I now think it works really well. As a group we discussed the best course of action, and decided to stand our ground. We explained that while we really want to take people’s feedback on board, we’re not really in a position to make any major changes now, and can’t really take each individual’s comments on board (hence why there is a board in the first place to make choices on behalf of the year). We did change some of the colours slightly, but overall the design hasn’t changed.


I think in hindsight, the individuals that were not happy with the design have realised that it would be impossible to please everyone, and so there has to be a compromise, especially this late in the process. I think future boards might want to consider how involved  the rest of the year group are in the process, as I agree that people should feel as though they have a say in how their work is presented to the public.

I’ve been in the 3d workshop in the latter art of the week building stretchers for my degree show piece. i  stretched the smaller canvas so that I am able to work on it alongside my degree show painting as it comes into fruition

I’ve also made real progress on my degree show painting, I’m surprised as how far I’ve come in the shot space of time I’ve been working on it. I’ve found a new really effective method of mixing a range of skin tones, which is much quicker and creates a more natural, realistic look.

initial ground
setting up the composition
face detail
Drawing in shapes with contrasting lines
face detail
Working into background

I think this painting is particularly strong – the adapted colours and composition work really well on this scale.  I wanted to brighten up the smaller painting, so I think I am going to leave this painting fairly under-worked and the ground colours as they  are. The challenge now is working on both paintings simultaneously so that they communicate something with each other and can be displayed as a series.

working into background
removing the face to fix proportions/alter the skin colour palette

I think the context of the work will transpire more as the painting develops, it will be interesting to talk about the work as a self-portrait. Does my presence change the works meaning? Does the relationship I have with the work change?

Week E3 – 09/04/18

I’m back in the studio again this week. I’ve made a lot more progress on the sofa painting, and through making it, have developed some ideas for my degree show piece.

I think the colours have come out a bit darker than I would  have liked, and the proportions aren’t correct, but overall I’m really happy with the image, and think the composition and subject matter works well. This is one of the first paintings where I’ve really worked into areas: I think the piece comes across as quite polished compared  to some other works. I had some trouble with the faces again, but on this scale it isn’t too important that the figures look like anyone or have a complex expression. I’d really like to work with this image again. It has a lot of potential that I haven’t been able to explore fully. I’m now thinking of utilising the image in my degree show piece. I knew I wanted to create something  large scale, but wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to  paint. Because my process is incidental, I didn’t want to plan out what I wanted to take photos of , or change the way I work from images. I think using the same image again will be really beneficial – I already know what mistakes I’ve made and how to avoid them, and I think it will work much better when the figures are larger in relation to the body.


Finished painting

I’ve also been thinking about submitting 2 paintings for degree show. I was advised by a tutor to possibly create more than one  work so I have more options for Free Range. As I was working on the smaller sofa piece, I started to think about the large painting I made (but didn’t finish) at the start of the unit and how the 2 images might interact. I bought the painting down and can see a lot of similarities in terms of the colours I’ve used and the placement of the door/what it adds to the painting,


I want to stretch this piece, and the new painting I’ll make for degree show. Originally this posed a real problem because of the odd size of this painting and how far to the edge of the canvas the image goes. Using photo editing software, I worked out what the painting would look like minus the excess I’d need to stretch. I also knew that I wanted the canvas to end up being a ratio of 4 x 6, the standard photograph size – to reflect  the painting’s origins in digital photography. (See cropped image below)

jordan cropped to 4x6.jpg

calculations jordan

These are some of the workings out I did to work out the size of stretcher I wanted, based on the measurements of the original painting (157 x 130 cm). I worked out the size of the larger degree show piece using the same ratio and looking at the sizes that the 9oz canvas is sold in (I didn’t want to end up with lots of unusable excess.) I eventually worked out a size of 200 x 133 cm, which will be roughly the same height as the smaller canvas. I think this will be really effective – I think having them a similar size will reflect the way images are presented next to each other digitally when they are portrait vs landscape.

I’m booked into the 3D workshop next week to make up the stretchers, but in the meantime I’ve been priming the canvas I plan to work on for the larger piece, and starting some small practice studies of the face in the smaller painting. The main issue that I had last time I worked on it was not being able to represent the structure of the face whilst maintaining different coloured directional light .


Working on these smaller studies in black and white is helping me to understand how the various tones make up the face, and how it sits within the painting (so looking at the relationship between the mid-tones on the skin and mid-tones on the wall behind. The challenge now will be to add colour without confusing the eye.



Week E2 – 02/04/18

I spent time both in and out of the studios this week, with limited access to the studios and library facilities over the Easter period.

I managed to get into the studios and start working on the medium sized canvas, which I have taken off of its stretcher

unstretched canvas
early progress

Having the canvas primed on-stretcher means that there is a clear boundary for the painting. I think this works well, especially on smaller canvases like the ones I stretched last week. It means I’ll be able to stretch it much more easily, and there is no negotiation between what is painting and what is the overhang.


This is the image I’m  working from – the composition is really interesting, the figures in the foreground come across as inattentive but are looking ‘at’ the viewer, there is a clear directional light and the doorway in the background poses questions about how much we are allowed to see as viewers. Then there is the large, almost imposing mobile phone in the foreground, which definitely highlights the idea of screens and portals.

In the time I wasn’t able to get into the studios I’ve started trying to publicise and professionalise myself. I recently designed a new website with its own domain name, so that I’m able to come across a bi more professional when putting that sort of information on business cards etc.  The website acts as a portfolio for my work, and a place to  define my practice and its themes. The site also has links to my social media accounts, and I’m looking to sell my work via a print-on-demand shop so that I’m able to sell works through it as well.

I’ve also been able to make up some business cards to include with my degree show work.


I went through a couple of designs before settling on this one, I wanted something that would show my painting style in an obvious way, and not include too much information. The idea is that if someone wants to get in contact, they will be able to instantly, but also  have instant access to more information about my work. Once I’ve started making my degree show piece I might start to include areas where visitors can see information about specific works and their context.


I’ve also set up an Instagram account and a linkedin profile to help to further publicise myself.


Website: www.leahsimsart.co.uk

Instagram: @leahsimsart