An artist's workspace

June 15, 2013 | Comments: 0 | Categories:

My workspace is divided up into zones - this isn't as organised as it sounds, it's just evolved that way over the years, though I may have been unwittingly influenced by kitchen design here.  I've also spent many a happy and productive hour in various sheds and workshops and probably developed an appreciation of things being in their place as a result.

The space I would love to have but can't fit in would be a 'sit in a comfy chair and relax' space - I have to go down to the 3rd floor of Art's Complex for that, but that's too far away from my drawing board!

Think space

My drawing board could be considered a family heirloom now, having been made by my dad as a 16th birthday present.  It's on its second mdf top and the metal frame has had a few coats of paint.  The chair was a Barnardo's bargain.  You'll see my mind-map on the wall where I've collected some of the images and ideas that guide my work - I'll write more on this in a future post as I'm a big fan of mind-maps, if you're curious have a look at Tony Buzan's site.


There's usually a laptop here too and some oatcake crumbs.

Make space


This view shows my main workspace, complete with dusty hand towel.


My talented husband made this shelf and fitted it to the hopelessly soft plasterboard walls - this enables me to have three boards alongside each other, plus I have my giant plywood board for large drawings which I can slide along the floor.  I use foam pipe lagging to cushion the top edge of the boards.


Materials storage space

Most of my drawing materials are stored in these metal drawers which help to keep the charcoal dust off.

drawers   open-drawer

They are stuffed full of things which I use all the time, things which I thought would be useful one day, but turned out not to be, and things which I couldn't help but buy when in the art shop but didn't really need at all - I can easily walk past a shoe shop but am powerless to resist the pull of an art store.  I buy a lot online these days mainly from Great Art and Jacksons Art.

I also have my Work in progress space and Finished work storage space which you'll find in the previous post.

A peek inside artist's studios facebook page has all the studio pictures you could possibly wish for.  It's really interesting to see the variety of workspaces artists carve out for themselves and how different they all are, a bit like different species of birds building their own individual style of nest.  I love my nest.

Studio storage secrets

June 13, 2013 | Comments: 4 | Categories:

My studio isn't particularly tidy but I do like my space to be organised - I think it's the 3D designer in me still trying to make things functional and pleasing too.  So here's a peek at my storage solutions...



Flat storage

I can honestly say I have never fallen asleep in my studio, not even a little nap (though I know other artists who have!) but I do have a bed there.  'Upcycling' is such a happy word - this is what I did with an unwanted ex-bunkbed that was hanging about the loft.  It was one of the first things built for my studio and had to be carried in pieces up eight floors by some handy helpers as the lifts didn't work then.  The 12mm ply on top gives me a big sturdy worksurface and there's loads of storage space for things that need to be kept flat.  The under the bed space is great for bunging the awkward stuff that won't go anywhere else. 

Work in progress

Super strong magnets + adhesive ferrous strip = storage solution number two.


This is where I put things for review and rumination, it's where ideas and sketches gradually evolve into finished works.


These Neodymium magnets are amazing and a little big dangerous too - they actually come with a warning leaflet.  No small children or pacemakers and under no circumstances put them in your mouth! Unless you enjoy A&E of course.  The best thing about them is that they don't mark the paper at all and one little magnet can hold a surprising weight of paper.


Unframed work

I like to work on a large scale and the charcoal drawings I make are quite fragile until framed so I have a system of wires running along the studio wall where I can hang work safely when finished.


They're from Ikea again and intended for curtains I think, find them here.


These are the clips supplied with the wires which are perfect for hanging works on paper.  I also use them to attach weights to the bottom edge of paper if it's still curled.


Framed work

shelves      shelf

Built around the doorway is shelving designed to accomodate my framed work, made from Ikea's Gorm range and some odds and ends of timber, hardboard, brackets and the like to make it stable.  I planned this carefully to make it fit the sizes of frame I usually have and to make best use of my space.  It looks a bit empty just now as I have work out in other places, but it will hold quite a lot and keeps it safe.

See my next post on 'An artist's workspace' for more designer ideas!



Next exhibition - wood nude tree limb

June 08, 2013 | Comments: 0 | Categories:

woodnudetreelimb poster

There's just a month to go before my next exhibition, a joint one with three other artists who share my fascination with natural form.  It's at Art's Complex and opens with a preview on Friday 12th July, then runs for just over a week.  The gallery is open to the public between 10am and 6pm.

Find out more at the exhibition blog»



Under glass at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh

June 07, 2013 | Comments: 0 | Categories:


Unusually, this is the only tree I photographed, though not really a tree at all.



The weirdest flowers I've ever encountered - an orchid with a vine-like habit but I didn't note the name.



I can't take credit for these photos - most are my daughter's!  I think she has a good eye already.



Refilling the creative bucket

June 05, 2013 | Comments: 0 | Categories:

I've come to realise that creativity for me is a never ending process of filling myself up to the point where it overflows - if I don't keep filling up with new stuff, the flow slows to a trickle and eventually stops.  So I've learned to make time to seek out new things to inspire me, to devote energy into research as well as production.

A bit like this, though now I've drawn it I think perhaps there should be a hole in the side of the bucket for the 'work' to flow from, rather than it coming over the top...

creative bucketThe Creative Bucket (patent pending Tansy Lee Moir)

So I've been out and about, minus walking boots this time, a bit more smartly dressed for visiting galleries and all that.

I met up with a friend and first of all we visited the Peploe exhibition at Edinburgh's Dean Gallery, properly known as the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Two.  It was quite busy and I was not able to take any pictures of course, so you'll have to take my word for it that the paintings were masterful, striking, elegant and colourful.  I loved the way the show documented the development of his work - moving through the rooms I was struck by how different the phases of his paintings were.

Across the road at the Gallery of Modern Art One, we saw 'From death to death and other small tales', a show of contemporary works which were in turns mysterious, thought provoking, puzzling, hilarious, irritating and wonderful - Ernesto Neto's work falls into the last category, with his sculpture evoking the internal structures of the body, 'It happens when the body is anatomy of time', 2000.  I sneaked a photo of this one though it sadly fails to capture the fragrance of all those spices at the base of each tube-like form.


The following beautiful sunny day, eager for more, I headed over to the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh with the family.

I love the John Hope building, with its confident, innovative, sustainable design and its welcoming, comfortable spaces.  It's big and busy but it makes me feel at home straight away - I'm not sure what the architectural term would be but it seems to guide you round all its interesting nooks and crannies without ever making you feel like you're lost.


Upstairs, through the restaurant (where we may or may not have indulged in afternoon tea) is 'Leafing through Scotland', described as "A celebration of the Year of Natural Scotland with a selection of books and objects from publishers across the country."  In the display cases my daughters spotted both books and whisky which we have in our house too!

Finally, though it made no sense at all on the hottest day of the year so far, we toured the famous glasshouses... I don't need to say anything more other than see these for yourself (with a few photos in my next post to persuade you) - fantastic!




Some inspiring things (part one)

June 03, 2013 | Comments: 0 | Categories:


Inspiration comes from many sources and in many forms - these three have influenced the way I see and think about art and how we relate to our environment...

‘Beechcombings’ by Richard Mabey

This is a beautifully written exploration of the author’s and society’s relationship to trees, the beech in particular.  Every time I read it (I’m on my fifth time) I’m struck by a new idea, a fascinating fact or a thought provoking quote.  It covers our relationship to trees through a variety of historical periods, touching on politics, ecology, aesthetics, art and literature, and includes some honest little snippets of self reflection too.  There are lots of scribbles in my copy which I’ve developed into ideas and themes in my sketchbook and have filtered into all my work.

Here’s my favourite quote, which I’ve used in my show ‘Damaged woods’:

“which bits of our aesthetic, or emotional, consciousness do rot-holes and calluses touch?”

You can find the book here.

‘Cave of forgotten dreams’ directed by Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog’s hypnotic film about the cave art discovered in Chauvet, France, some of it found to be over 30,000 years old!  Yes that’s the right amount of zeros!  Mindblowing.  The paintings on the cave walls are so vibrant, directly conveying the movement and nature of the individual animals, yet we know virtually nothing about the people who painted them, nor their reasons for doing so. The simplicity and incredible skill of the images are a great reminder to me that I have so much to learn.

Herzog’s film explores the scientists and researchers studying the cave as well as the actual cave paintings themselves.  The restrictions imposed on the filming seem to enhance the other-worldliness of the cave and its contents, and his deadpan commentary contrasts wonderfully with the weirdly comical characters he interviews.  It’s on DVD, but see it in the cinema if you can – there’s a 3D version which I wasn’t able to view in the little arthouse cinema I went to.

I also have a beautiful book about Chauvet by the three people who discovered it, which has amazing photographs, and the official Chauvet website gives lots more information. 

‘Wildwood’ by Roger Deakin

I think of this as a ‘core text’ for the development of my artwork.  In the book, Deakin muses on woods and trees in the UK, Australia, Kirgizstan and Poland, recounting his travels and meetings with many others who shared his passion.  He had such a rich, intimate relationship to the natural environment and creatures surrounding him, and a beautiful way of putting this across in his writing.  It’s deeply poetic, personal, knowledgeable and subversive.  There’s also a melancholy to it, perhaps because you read it knowing that he died before it was published.  One day I’d like to escape for a while to a wee shepherd’s hut like his (see Caught by the river blog), with some sketchbooks, maybe some whisky and my tatty copy of his last book.


Shadow woods

May 17, 2013 | Comments: 0 | Categories:

burbage oaks

Old contorted oaks at the base of Burbage Edge near Sheffield.

It was a relaxed but very informative first day at the 'Shadows and Ghosts' event, the rain held off for our site visits and the hightlight for me were these amazing oaks, with their mossy confusion of branches. I managed a very swift drawing - I'll be back here with more paper and more time!

Heading south

May 14, 2013 | Comments: 0 | Categories:

I'm on my way south to sunny Sheffield!

Sheffield may not seem like the obvious place to hold a conference about old trees - it's such a lively, youthful feeling city I think, probably because much was destroyed in wartime bombing so the buildings are relatively recent.  It's also had a huge investment in its public spaces with some amazing public art, as well as the trams of course.

sheffield image:

It's a city I know quite well having grown up next door in Derbyshire and having a sister living there now.  And because it's so close to the Peak National Park there is actually very easy access to some really interesting wooded landscapes which I'm hoping to find out more about at the 'Shadows and Ghosts: Lost woods in the landscape' event this weekend, hosted by Sheffield Hallam University.

There's a field trip to two sites on Friday and a busy programme of speakers and discussions all day Saturday so my head will be buzzing with new knowledge and crazy ideas on the train home on Sunday, which will help to feed my work for the coming months.

Solo show in 2014

May 14, 2013 | Comments: 0 | Categories:

tansy in hammock

So here I am in my native habitat nestled amongst the honeysuckle, rewarding myself with a nice cup of tea after some drawing and feeling very pleased to have been offered a solo show at the Meffan Gallery next year.

Angus council's museum and art gallery is in the busy town of Forfar and it's a lovely space to exhibit in.  I'm really excited about the opportunity to think big and have plenty of time to work towards the show, which will be October/November time 2014.

I'm just starting to research some possible drawing sites in the area so that I'll be prepared to make the most of the late Autumn drawing season - it's all getting a bit leafy now so I'll be concentrating on studio work over the summer and waiting for the wind to blow in October to reveal some new trees to fall in love with!

Society of Scottish Artists

April 22, 2013 | Comments: 0 | Categories:


I'm a member of the Society of Scottish Artists - just an 'Ordinary' one you understand but it feels quite special to see my new profile amongst all these creative people's work.

It's an artist led organisation with some very active (and very busy!) members, who put a huge amount of time and effort into shows, events and support structures for artists like their facebook page and lovely new website.

Making art can be a lonely activity sometimes, but the SSA shows what can be achieved when we work together!