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

Week E1 – 26/03/18

I’ve decided to stay in Norwich and carry on working over Easter, I’m very aware of time constraints and not being able to use the studios after the degree show install. I’m also struggling at the moment with scale and reference material – there is a danger that I make something without fully experimenting first, and the work will come out looking uninformed or under developed.

The 2 smaller blue paintings I’ve been working on were stretched this week, I’m sort of a bit disappointed in what they look like now – without the blue border I think they loose a bit of the depth that they had.

I think for now I’m going to keep them stretched, but it might be that if I come to display them at some point I might consider taking them off the stretchers again. Working in this way with a very limited palette seems to have helped me – I think the kitchen scene with the figure in the door frame works much better like this, I’m now considering going back to the original, large-scale piece and trying to apply the same sort of neutralness. I think In future, it might be better for me to prime on-stretcher, remove and then work on the canvas unstretched as I had some trouble lining the images up on the stretchers with no guide. The canvas also isn’t as taught as I’d like, in fear of splitting the acrylic paint I went for a slacker stretch, so I think stretching, then priming, might be the way to go.

I’ve started preparing another surface, a canvas I primed last year but never used. I’m planning on using some stills from a recording I took of myself and a housemate watching TV. I’m not going to edit these pre-painting, but I’m hoping that if I limit the number of sessions that I paint in the colour will stay fairly neutral/accurate. I’m a bit worried about the graininess of these images and whether or not this will affect the way they translate onto a larger scale.


I’m also beginning to think more about how I market myself, trying to create some sort of online presence so that there is a greater chance I will be motivated to carry on my practice beyond university. I’m also considering publishing a small book of writing and documentation so submit alongside my work. I think that the more professional I’m able to come across and the more conscious I am of how I present myself, the more accessible my work will be.


Week 23 – 19/03/18

This week I went on a study visit to the Netherlands, visiting galleries in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. It acted as a sort of refresher, being able to take a bit of time out as well as see some primary examples of work.

I particularly enjoyed being able to see some of the more historical works – Vermeer is an artist in particular that I have liked for a while, but haven’t necessarily contextualised/been able to relate to my own practice. Seeing his work in the flesh made me really aware of the way that he composes images in a way that was very unusual for the time – there is evidence that Vermeer had access to the camera obscura, a very early version of the camera – it could not take a still image, but could take a 3D arrangement and translate it into a flat, contained image. I have an ongoing interest in the way that painting and photography relate, how one takes something 3 dimensional and flattens it in a way that represents, but also denies the original, 3 dimensional ‘thing’.



These are a few of the photographs I managed to take of various works I felt showed particularly interesting compositional tools or featured a sort of ‘portal’ as I often do in my work. Its always really useful to be able to see work like this in person – its really easy to misinterpret scale and colour when looking at an image of a painting. It’s strange to see the diversity of works and how there are distinct similarities between the older paintings and the more contemporary ones. For example one could draw connections between the Francis Bacon work and the images of Adriaen Van Ostade’s A Lawyer in his Study – the dark colour creates a sort of void behind the subject, drawing the eye in whilst also keeping the viewer at bay – I find that in some cases I don’t want to look too far into the work in case a face or strange shape manifests itself in the darkness.

I was also really excited to see some of Van Gogh’s paintings – these are the prime example of photographs lacking the ability to communicate the original work. The level of detail in his paintings sometimes goes unnoticed when looking at a small image. I was particularly surprised to find The Potato Peelers at the Kroller Muller gallery – this was a painting that came up repeatedly in my research surrounding the tableau and the everyday, so seeing it in person was really exciting. It was much larger than I’d anticipated – the marks he made were really chunky compared to his characteristic, almost pointillistic style so I think this led me to believe the painting would be small – like looking into a miniature room. In reality I found the scale quite off putting – it was a non standard size, too large to be a condensed representation and to small to be proportional to the body. But in a way, that draws the eye in. I have a canvas of a similar size in the studio, so might look at this  image for influence when thinking about the scale of my figures and how I represent them.


Overall, the trip was a really useful experience – I want to be able to utilise the information I’ve gathered, and perhaps think about writing something based on the experiences I had at the various galleries. The Kroller Muller in particular felt quite surreal to me, so I’d perhaps consider writing something more poetic about it.