Art Making Art Thinking

Making art - ideas from anytime and anyplace


Art Times Five – aspects of creative practice-12 December 2016

On drawing and talking ( Ways into Drawing One)

The six people (guinea pigs?) who have come along to this first block and taken part include a teacher, an alternative health therapist/self-catering provider, a practising artist, a photographer and a scientist. I began the block by working through ways of mark making each week and finished with each person framing one of their artworks. Create at Nest has been a good venue, small and friendly, and because it is a new venture everything is still developing and growing.

I have been feeling my way back into teaching and without the presence of an academic institution behind me I am free to work at the pace I choose, a pace which takes account of other individuals’ perceptions and experiences rather than fitting some perceptions into a pre-existing template and ignoring others. There is a different and more gentle feel about my independently organising and presenting my own drawing workshops in this space.

Because responsibility for these classes starts and stops with me, I am able to adjust what I do and the methods I use, responding to each person who takes part and according to my  experience of my own practice and its creative context. My objective is to demonstrate how powerfully drawing can influence our quality of life and for people to enjoy and express themselves.

I draw to demonstrate to the group what I mean while I talk about drawing.  The speed of talking means that naturally  people do not listen to everything I say and are sometimes reluctant to ask what I mean. If I draw while I talk everything slows down and people feel more able to interrupt, to express an opinion and to question.  It makes me think more closely about what I am doing, it reminds me of what I have done, it sends me off on a tangent, it shows me where else I can go, what else I can explore . . . drawing is a limitless and easily accessible resource for everyone.

Demonstration Images

The classes begin again in January. Information below and on my website













Art Times Four

Art Times Four

Autumn drawing and other actions

Images above are from ‘Scratch Notes. . Volume 1’ miniature boxed installation shown at Perthshire Creates exhibition at Perth Museum and Art Gallery in October.

For me October overstayed its welcome and when time becomes like this my perception of the world hangs within a state of suspension where everything turns, rotates and orbits and the sun hangs too in the metalled gold or silver sky.

I have been looking at designers. Even now, almost 20 years after getting my degree in Fine Art Sculpture, I believe that dividing art into categories such as fine art and design is not helpful. For me anyone who thinks and imagines ways of doing things differently and then creates from their ideas is an artist – divisions are specious and a waste of time. For humans in this world to work together and share ideas should be the aim.

Bruce Mau, a Canadian designer ( believes in creativity’s power to change our lives. I borrowed a book from the library called Glimmer by Warren Berger which discusses Bruce Mau’s and other designers’ influence on the everyday – how design is not about producing objects/gadgets of design – design is about processes of improving our experience of living in the world.  The book’s mantra is ‘ask stupid questions’ ask questions that don’t accept the way things are, ask why, ask what, ask who, where, when, how, whether, what about??? Too many of us don’t ask we simply behave. Stupid questions trigger fresh thinking. Another way to say this is ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question’.

Whatever we make, however we create, wherever we draw, sculpt, craft, part of all that exploratory process is getting lost (getting lost means we see/find/feel stuff we wouldn’t otherwise experience), and we make what we may consider to be mistakes (mistakes have a function), part of that process is to question our habits of making/doing and to DO DIFFERENTLY!

Which brings me to my new drawing class in Blairgowrie ‘Ways into Drawing’. I had forgotten how much I love to talk about drawing, to show others different ways to draw, to encourage experimentation. Not in a huge way, my aim is to encourage people who want to draw to play and relax, to have conversations, eat biscuits and drink tea and coffee . . .what is truly lovely is this is not about marks, passing exams, ticking boxes . . .it is simply about the process of mark making among like-minded people who are becoming friends. We’re just over half way through the block and I’m enjoying it enough to run another two groups that begin in January 2017. ‘Ways into Drawing One’ will repeat this current class and ‘Ways into Drawing Two’ will build and expand on ‘One’. I will use Create at Nest in Blairgowrie again as a venue, it’s small enough not to intimidate new people and it’s friendly. Bookings can be made via my website. Examples of the groups drawing can be seen below.


Finally . . . I have finished the wax sculpture commissioned privately for a Dandie Dimont and it will soon be cast in bronze. I am excited; the dog was interesting to model because he is small with short legs, a long muscular body and a curly coat. Dandie Dimont’s are a rare British breed, they do not cast their hair and so are good companions for people who are sensitive to dog hair. They were bred to be used for hunting badgers and their feet are amazing, when the dog is lying down they look dainty and small. When the dog stands up the foot spreads and look rather like a spade with claws stuck at the end. His body is concertina like – sometimes short and chunky – sometimes long and snake like. Their jaws have a bite which is fierce because they dislocate to get a grip on their prey. OUCH!

There’s so much more that happened but I’ve already written rather a lot so hey ho . . . so here’s a list Perthshire Creates exhibition at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Scottish Woodworking Show 2016 at Brodies Timber in Inver by Dunkeld, Dr Isabella Moore CBE Director of Comtec talking to Women’s Enterprise at Cargills Bistro, The Care and Well-being Co-op event in Pitlochry where I held a Drawing for Well-being taster session, went to workshop about Sharing your creative practice held by Voluntary Arts Scoltand at the Botanic Cottage in Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden and presented by Gill Thomas  and going to Growbiz Perthshire’s event about the mentoring process at Fishers Hotel in Pitlochry.

This week I will be concentrating on MAKING art.

Art Times Three – Fixing Things

“How does a project mature? It is obviously a most mysterious, imperceptible process. It carries on independently of ourselves, in the subconscious, crystallizing on the walls of the soul. It is the form of the soul that makes it unique, indeed only the soul decides the hidden ‘gestation period’ of that image which cannot be perceived by the conscious gaze”[1]

These words perfectly describes how I try to make art. . .

‘ nuff said. . .

Taking part in Perthshire Open Studios 2016 was a new experience for me, it emphasised that my previous experience of exhibiting – where ideas take precedence over selling art – was not helpful in this particular context. For eight days I answered questions from all kinds of people, some artists and some not, and by answering their questions I continued to learn a different way of saying what is necessary and leaving out what is not. Because it is true that many artists talk too much and use unhelpful, opaque and inaccessible language when talking about their art. See what I did there?

When I speak about art there is a conflict, it is very easy to say too much and overcomplicate things for the listener/observer, and they will walk away if they feel they don’t understand. I understand this. The naïve part of me rebels and feels that many other professions such as builders, engineers, mechanics, doctors, shop keepers, hardly ever have to explain in detail the stages of what they have done or why, it is enough that they have done it. They can fix what does not work or what is missing and VOILA! It is fixed – it works! (Or maybe not – but that is revealed at a later point in time if they have to explain why something has gone wrong). People generally consider all off these professions to be necessary and do not question why they need shelter, transport networks, cars, their own bodies or food, water and warmth.

Other professions such as teachers, nurses, social workers and, yes, artists, are constantly asked to explain what they do before they do it, while they are doing it and why – and are often told how they should do what they are trained to do by people who are not trained. I am not saying that people should not have an opinion BUT naïve me continues to be irritated by, for example, a neurosurgeon who notices how much a square slice of human brain under the microscope bears a resemblance to Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square 1913[2] then speaks about it at an international conference on design, exhibits it and  thus is accepted as a serious artist. Perhaps that is fair enough and yes, actually it is fair enough because, as Joseph Beuys said in 1972 at Documenta 5 “Everybody is an artist” [3] and I truly believe this. What bugs me though is this – if I walked into a hospital theatre where a neurosurgeon was performing an intricate operation and asked if I could have a go because I was a doctor of philosophy I know what the reaction would be.

And I certainly do not get paid as much for my art as a neurosurgeon does for their operating ability, even though my art includes science and their science requires artistic imagination which is a pre-requisite of ALL professions, and even though my formal art education lasted 10 years (not including school).  Art is still undervalued in our society and culture unless it is a commercial commodity (for a good example of increasing support for artists’ intrinsic value for everyone’s lives see Art in retail outlets such as IKEA is more affordable and can be changed as often as furniture and interior decoration, and what artist hasn’t ever been asked if they can create something that ‘goes’ with a room in someone’s home? Does the consumer want something they never tire of looking at or something so disposable that they can throw it away with a clear conscience? (hopefully in the recycling bin)

That’s enough pontificating. I was asked interesting questions and some people were interested in what lies behind and within an artwork and how it emerges from the imagination. I listened to the other artists in the group and appreciated what they were saying, they had more experience than I of this particular environment. I did sell some work and I have a commission – I found that there is an enjoyable commercial element to my work which will hopefully begin to supply my bread and butter. What’s more it is art that means something to me since it reflects our love for others who are important to us.

[1] in Tarkovsky,A & Giovanni Chiaramonte; (2006); Instant light Tarkovsky Polaroids

[2] Basic biography see

[3] Basic explanation see

Art Time x Two (Short post)

Making art is a complex interplay of thought and action, of inaction and thought, of unthinking action, and  of physical inaction combined with thinking. To learn not to worry about this interplay takes practice, for some artists it takes a long time ( myself ) and for some artists it takes no time at all to be able to put such things in perspective. It is sixteen years since I graduated and the prospect of placing my work in the sights of other eyes still has the power to unnerve me, however there are more important things to consider. To continue being curious and asking why? What for? What is? Where can? To continue listening, seeing, feeling, touching, being – to continue making.

The five images of painting and sculpture above are ©Aileenmstackhouse2016

 on show during Perthshire Open Studios 2016 September 3 – 11. Venue 20 Spittalfield Hall Orange Route includes; artists Cornelia Weinmann, Mary Meldrum Brown, Graham Findlay, ceramicist Jenny Charles and makers Eileen Clason and David Downie which means that there will be a wide variety of art for sale.



Art Time

The sensation of time passing changes completely when I am physically involved in making art; sculpture; drawing; painting and any other form of creativity. I choose the word sensation rather than the word perception – I choose it since I exist within time and perception seems less descriptive of existing within time than sensation. To explain this statement and further confuse anyone who reads this – firstly –

Thinking about making art is as much making art as making art is                               

Thinking about making art is as much making art as making art is

Thinking about making art is as much making art as making art is

Thinking about making art is as much making art as making art is

I firmly believe this – it is not possible for me to physically make art all the time

Because – I stop being able to see what I have done

I stop being able to choose what to do next

I cannot find where to go next

I become lost


This is not a reason to stop thinking about making nor a reason to stop making

Reason tells me that even when I think I am lost I am still making.


Secondly –

Time which marks spaces between art making has no meaning in the place where art is made. This internal arena itself has no time, the place where art making takes place, its precise location is unknown and yet it is always present although sometimes inaccessible and always imprecise. Art making possesses an elastic quality in its propensity to stretch then contract experience – snapping back with rapid accelerations in the speed of decision making regarding the work – such speed makes it difficult to track where an idea springs from.


All this has re- emerged while I have been sorting what to put in SEVEN, our group exhibition in Spittalfield Village Hall (Venue 20) for Perthshire Open Studios 2016 from 3-11 September. Participating in exhibiting art brings associated tasks separate from making the thing itself. Talking with other artists, organising events, sharing ideas, collaboration and publicity (Social media, Radio and Press), printing and documentation, alongside the more mundane carrying, cleaning, driving, cleaning, measuring, cleaning, drilling, cleaning, hammering, cleaning, suspension, cleaning, polishing. . .is it ready yet???



See you at POS 2016 Spittalfield. . .



June 2016 – Places I have not been before

Places I have not been before – notwithstanding living within sixty miles of them. St. Andrews Museum exhibition The Glasgow Boys and St Andrews Botanic Garden

(Off at a tangent . . .’Notwithstanding’ what a wonderful word. I don’t think I have ever used it before; in fact I am sure I haven’t. I chose this word because I did not want to write despite or in spite of – neither of those mean what I mean. I think it is because they include ‘spite’ which causes tension in my head. Then choosing the distance of sixty miles is because I can get there and back in a day.)

I go to St. Andrews frequently and have done since I was young yet I do not remember ever visiting St Andrews Museum in Kinburn Park so when I see that ‘The Glasgow Boys – A Spirit of Rebellion’ is one of their exhibitions I decide to have a look at both the building and the art. Museums are among my favourite places to go, along with art galleries, gardens and the seaside so today is potentially thought overload. Kinburn Castle houses the museum and is a squat chunky Victorian mansion built in 1855 and surrounded by attractive gardens.


should know don’t know

The Glasgow Boys are a group of artists from over a hundred years ago who I am conscious of but have never really examined and there are particular paintings I remember having seen in other galleries (the McManus in Dundee). From this perspective in time it takes a deliberate effort to consider the fact that these painters were considered radical, using techniques and methods which were unfamiliar to many and providing an alternative to the Edinburgh art world. Some of these paintings are so familiar to me that I do not really see them, this is interesting for me as an artist, my gaze slips over and glides away, I find myself thinking about other subjects, or watching the reflection in the picture glass of other gallery goers moving briskly from work to another. With a  shrug I remind myself to look properly, to give due attention to this evidence of humanity’s continuing urge to create. I look at them but I do not truly recognise how different they were from other art at the time, for example; works by Edward Hornel (who sometimes worked with another Glasgow boy, George Henry) remind me of biscuit box lids  or illustrations in the children’s books I read in my childhood. There is a sickly sweet quality in his pictures of young girls which is not present in his other works (see his collaborative works made with George Henry such as ‘Old man’1881 ). There are other paintings  which I do like and have not seen before and again I register that I remember the work of art and not the name of the artist.  This painting is beautiful and for the nth time I ask myself, why do some paintings resonate and others just slide by? There are so many factors which affect our visual aesthetic that there is no point in asking really – it just comes down to like/ not like.

In the afternoon I went on to St Andrews Botanic Garden to look at the tropical butterflies housed in a small and extremely hot glass house. At the door I was advised to shed my coat and bag because of the heat and after ten minutes I was dripping wet – my camera stopped working and I simply sat down and watched the butterflies. I could have sat there all afternoon – the butterflies were truly beautiful, some brilliantly coloured and so many patterns on their wings and on their bodies. Visitors are advised to take care of where they tread as the butterflies will rest on the path, and to check themselves as they leave because the butterflies will alight on our bodies and drink our perspiration. The very friendly volunteer told me about the butterflies being delivered in pupae form from a butterfly farm, hatched and then set free for our delight – butterflies don’t live for very long and after being told this I found myself questioning why  I was  initially happy to be there. In the end I felt that a butterfly probably doesn’t realise it’s living in a glorified shed rather than a jungle (although I can never actually know this) and it was a chance for children to see animals in reality rather than through the medium of an illuminated flatscreen. But that’s another conversation entirely.


IMG_20160613_144008238 IMG_20160613_141717086IMG_20160613_144848981



Weir Lornty Burn

Other news this month, the summer solstice on the 20th June is the best time of the year for someone like me who in the winter  regularly experiences ‘achluophobia, nyctophobia (from Greek νυξ, “night”), scotophobia (from σκότος – “darkness”), or lygophobia (from λυγή – “twilight”). I joined in the Symphonic Ecology Project : World Wide Soundscape by recording the sound of where I was at noon for two minutes. The recording is noisy because it’s next to a weir on the Lornty Burn  in Blairgowrie where the water flow is controlled by a hydro electric turbine.  Projects asking for contributions from many different people from all walks of life always pique my interest, it reminds me of how tiny I am in the scheme of the world and restores an essential perspective.



Scratch Notes – Volume ?

A proposal for one of my artworks ( as yet incomplete) was accepted by Perthshire Creates for their exhibition beginning in September at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, it has to be finished by 19th of September and delivered to the door on the 20th. After I’ve finished this blog I will be cracking on with that, it’s called Scratch Notes – volume ? and is a portable sewing box which unfolds into four small boxes and one larger. I sent a drawing to explain how it was to be displayed and a friend said they didn’t understand the drawing. . .which is ok . . I don’t mind.





I delivered my wax figures  to Roddy Mathieson Master Caster of the Mobile Foundry for casting in bronze – they are going to be my part of the group exhibition Seven in Spittalfield Hall (Venue 20, Orange Route, Perthshire Open Studios 2016)  he hopes to get them done in July then I will be riffling away at them and maybe applying some different finishes depending on how they look.



Last but not least it was confirmed that I will be running a drawing class for Blairgowrie and Rattray Adult Education called Ways into Drawing starting in the autumn at the new creative venue in Blairgowrie – Nest managed by Rachel Bower and Tracie Dick.



Lost and found broken

Places I have been before and I am going to again – Glen Beanie 31 July 2016

Last year I went to Glen Beanie to draw with a group of artists from Perthshire Visual Arts Forum led by George Logan it was an exceptional day even though we were all soaked by the end. This year we are going again to discuss various ideas and concepts. . .it’s going to be good.


Pauline McGee and George Logan


the burn beats

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