Alphabet Soup, the first course: Outdoors and In – Stephanie Redfern and Philippa Robbins

Clive has very kindly entrusted me with the keys to the Artlog, not for a wild party but for the on-line open exhibition of alphabet-based art, which with his support and with participating artist Shellie Byatt,  I’m very honoured to curate.  I feel rather as though I’m stumbling about, trying to work the appliances without breaking anything!  (It will appear at the top of the posts that they are from Clive, but in fact they’ll be posted by Lucy.)

The call for submissions for this was back in June, and we really have received a marvellous and very varied response, which we shall  attempt to post every day here until next Monday, Christmas Eve.  So here goes.

Lucy Kempton.


To begin, two contrasting submissions,  first from mixed media and textile artist, Stephanie Redfern, who has made five pictures on a natural theme: Beach, Moon, Red Sky, Stone and Winter Storm.  These are painted and stitched textiles.






(we will be featuring submissions from Stephanie’s daughter Chloë later in the exhibition).


Philippa Robbins has been putting her alphabet primer together in book form.  She says:

We’re currently having building work on our house and the back wall of the kitchen is to be demolished. It has stood for 120 years. This alphabet primer details some of the events it has witnessed or objects it has shared the kitchen with over those years.

 Here are the pages she has completed so far:











Philippa goes on to say:

 If the primer is finished in time it would be nice to seal it in a cavity behind a new wall for the next 120 years.

Which seems a beguiling if rather drastic course of action, though at least there will be a record of it!


Many thanks to Stephanie and Philippa for their beautiful submissions, and congratulations for keeping so successfully to the black-and-white-and-one-optional-colour brief.

More tomorrow…


17 thoughts on “Alphabet Soup, the first course: Outdoors and In – Stephanie Redfern and Philippa Robbins

  1. CH-J. Thanks for taking a good deal of time and effort to answer my query. Unfortunately it seems I have misled you, perhaps because of the sheer triviality of my question. Let me try and simplify what I was looking for. No need to respond.

    I buy original art and have commissioned three works under mutually agreed conditions. Everything I have bought (about a dozen and half pieces) is on display in my home. I have never re-sold anything I have bought. I have always paid the price asked, never negotiated. On two occasions when I was asked to name my price it was clear from the artists’ reactions my suggestion was higher than expected. I have always honoured the artists I have bought from never having tried to reduce their work to that of a commodity.

    At least half a dozen works of art I have either acquired or my wife has painted have appeared in my blog (s) but this would require you to check also an earlier blog (Works Well by Barrett Bonden) which I stopped running about a year ago but which is still extant. My taste shouldn’t be germane to what I am trying to say but since you raised the subject I have no objection to giving you an inkling. The classical painter who continues to demonstrate (to me) art’s limitless potential is, by a long way, Turner. I do confess to including two Tate prints of his on my walls. Since I went to the same school, at the same time, as David Hockney I have always taken an interest in his work but would never consider hanging a print of his. As far as I am concerned he is in a state of constant development and I’d find it difficult to pick one or two things out of all the phases he has been through. No surprises, there, I fear. Since both are English they no doubt confirm my parochial outlook.

    Now there is a word that describes what I do and that is patron. One of the artists I bought from recently raised the word but used it jocularly. Two factors militate against its use. It implies acquisition on a much larger scale than I do and – I think – direct support of an artists or artists. The second factor is the way the word has been tarnished by Dr Johnson’s definition (One who countenances, supports or protects. Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery.)

    And although I say “tarnished” that general opinion of people who buy paintings is still maintained. I was careful to use the word “crass” in my first comment and there are the seeds of that view in your sentence “It’s a shame, and I suggest misleading, to reduce an appreciation of art to what one might be willing to spend hard cash to acquire.” As if somehow appreciation of art and hard cash were mutually exclusive. In fact I can’t help feeling that the word “phillistine” is also lurking round the next corner, though I am not for a moment suggesting you would use it. In earlier years “parasite” was bandied about, but I think that referred to those who bought low and sold high.

    To someone who is incapable of creating anything in the plastic arts, I find this all rather amusing. What am I supposed to do? Stop buying?

    However I have so far ignored another point you make about going out and educating myself. I did indicate that this is impossible since I cannot afford the time. I am 77. Since 2008 I have written two novels (one published) both over 100,000 words long, and am within 2000 words of finishing a third much longer novel (presently 148,000 words).

    I was not asking to be converted to art; in some respects that has already happened even if the process has been both imperfect and incomplete. I was asking for a definition of how I am seen from the other (ie your) side of the fence. A worthless and irrelevant appendage who can safely be ignored. Perhaps even an enemy of quality. Do I have a role vis a vis art or not?

    Perhaps not your bailiwick. As I said, no need to respond.

    • Well I shall respond, as this is my blog. But I shall have to be selective about which of the issues you raise I reply to, as my easel calls.

      Turner, yes, a genius, though it’s interesting to consider that in his day many thought him a charlatan, and his paintings mere unfinished daubs. That made him appear worryingly ‘modern’ to his contemporaries. Indeed some of his peers became very angry indeed with him, because they thought he was mocking the great art of painting. I’m sure to them it must have looked as though he was.

      Upsetting apple-carts must surely be the job of the young turk, and perhaps, the old codger too. (At sixty-one I look like an old codger, though I still like to kick up my heels at the easel and surprise… and perhaps confound… those who think they have me pinned down.) Turner would change the way those who came after him looked at the world and interpreted it. For what it’s worth, I think Hockney too, with his endless fascination with the science of optics, is a genius encouraging us to change the way we see. However, you write of him:

      ‘I have always taken an interest in his work but would never consider hanging a print of his. As far as I am concerned he is in a state of constant development and I’d find it difficult to pick one or two things out of all the phases he has been through.’

      That rather sounds as though you think him too interested in the world, too diverse in his explorations and too difficult to pin down to a single recognisable ‘phase’ of work. You think him perhaps a bit slippery, demanding too much of your time and effort. Well it’s a fact, he is the great explorer, though he’s been completely consistent in his themes throughout his lifetime, examining and reinventing them with undiminished curiosity and vitality. (At seventy-five he’s still painting with the energy and vision of a twenty year old!) Of course a thorough study of an artist, particularly one of Hockney’s longevity and productivity, is always going to take time and energy, and one has to have quite an imperative to fuel the effort.

      Artists speak to the world through their works. Throughout my career As a painter a gratifying number of people have engaged with my work, even though it has occasionally been challenging for them and has required commitment to understand. The artists you’ve commissioned have no doubt been encouraged and gratified by your interest in them. I’m not sure about that tricky word ‘patronage’ you mentioned in an earlier e-mail. I think of those who collect my work not so much as patrons, than as friends supportive of my endeavours. I’m sure things were different in the great age of patronage, when only popes and princes commissioned work from painters, and I’m glad things have moved on from that. Such elevated patrons must have taken a lot of maintenance. I have the greatest admiration for a wonderful painter… a friend of a friend… who I once met at a party held by my dealer. He’d declined to sell a work to the Vatican collection because of the Pope’s stance on homosexuality. Quite right too, though many painters would have swallowed their misgivings and taken the coin. (I should say the artist didn’t tell me this himself, for he is not a boastful man, but I heard it from my friend who knows him quite well.)

  2. What a handsome pairing.
    I have been following Phillipa’s blog so I am familiar with her efforts for this project. Aren’t they marvelous! A time capsule a-b-c, how wonderful and of course exquisitely rendered.
    I am not familiar with stephanie’s work but I will remedy that error. Very impressive indeed, visually very arresting. good for you!
    Thank you both for sharing such fine work.

  3. Wow Lucy what a fabulous start to what looks like being a brilliant week. Steph’s work is very familiar to me as I follow her blog and her signature style is well represented here. Her work always strikes a chord with me but I am equally taken with Philippa’s. Such wonderdful drawings. Roll on tomorrow for even more!

  4. This must not be taken as a reaction to any of the work shown above, rather a voice crying in the wilderness. As a journalist my whole life, both professional and private, was devoted to creating, commissioning, assessing, correcting and – God help me – enjoying written stuff. Uninstructed in the visual arts I let them be, until I retired. At that point I surveyed the visual vacuum I occupied and decided that – like Nature – what I saw I abhorred. As an aspirant member of the middle-classes I made one or two forays into establishing some kind of standards and thereafter started buying. This has continued except that I have also had one or two goes at commissioning.

    So far, so boring. I’d like to pretend I am elderly but in fact I am old. Most of my waking life is occupied in writing something or another (eg, this comment). I enjoy looking at the paintings and sculptures I have accumulated but it is far too late to consider taking any further instruction about the things I may or may not hang on my walls. Thus I look at potential new sources with a cold, no doubt crass eye and my options are strictly binary: I’d buy that. I wouldn’t buy that. Whether I go ahead and unsheath my credit card depends on a couple of other factors too tedious to explain here.

    I explain very little about my preferences or how they are arrived at, not seeing this as worth anyone’s time. I assume I’m addressing art lovers on this blog and my question is this: where do I stand along the spectrum that describes art appreciation?

    There is what might be called by some a snag. Any answers to this question (or even a total absence of response) may well be recycled on my blog ldptonedeaf although I will not attribute if the responder makes it clear this would be preferred. By “recycled” I don’t mean distorted, parodied or laughed at, just used as raw material in a post on a subject on which I am poorly informed.

    • Roderick, let’s look at your question:

      ‘where do I stand along the spectrum that describes art appreciation?’

      I’ve looked at your site for clues about what you might like, but although I scrolled back through the posts of quite a few months, I couldn’t find any images of art that might help me understand what it is that you’re drawn to. So I’m rather stumped for an answer.

      It’s a shame, and I suggest misleading, to reduce an appreciation of art to what one might be willing to spend hard cash to acquire. There’s art I love that I would dearly like to own, but a great deal more that I admire without covetousness. The home is not necessarily the place for art created to be arresting, challenging and even disturbing. Some makers produce work that’s intended to be viewed in a public, rather than a private space. I’ve occasionally created works I thought better suited to public spaces, and indeed as intended, quite a few of them ended up in museums. I offer these observations not as criticism of the barometer by which you claim to judge art… that being your wallet… but as a suggestion that might help you to discover and enjoy artworks of integrity and worth, even though you wouldn’t consider having them in your home.

      You write that you ‘assume’ you’re addressing art lovers at this blog. Take a stroll around the Artlog, and while you may not agree with the views of those who come here, or like what they like, I don’t think you’ll be in any doubt about their commitment to the arts. You’ll discover too that quite a few of them are open to dialogue about the posts and the images in them. Perhaps if you engaged with the Artlog community who comment here regularly, some of them might even try to answer that question of yours that right now I find so hard to grasp. Why not give it a go?

  5. these are fantastic! stephanie’s style is fascinating, i love especially the moon and the stone….and what an interesting range of things philippa’s wall has been witness to: the angel, the bell, george…all so beautifully rendered. i love the idea of burying it behind the wall, but it would be too sad until it got re-discovered 😀
    thanks, lucy and shellie, for doing this!

  6. Thanks all, lovely to have your responses. This is such fun already!

    Stephanie tells me that her pictures, which I at first described as paintings, are in fact stitched and painted textiles, though they look like paintings on the monitor. I have corrected this, but wanted to draw it to people’s attention!

  7. I am glad to be home in time for the start of the Alphabet Frolics–congratulations to Lucy and Shellie and Stephanie and Philippa, who I hope will wall up the usual sort of thing found in old walls (any dead cats lying around?) and leave her book for others to relish…

  8. Woohoo, it’s started! Thanks Lucy and Shellie for putting this together, a great treat leading up to Christmas. You’ve started off with a whole batch of wonderfully covetable images, I’d very happily live with Stephanie’s work on my wall and Philippa’s book is a beautiful, precious object, awesome work

  9. They are all wonderful! I especially love winter storm and stone of Stephanie’s, they are lovely works of art. Philippa’s are so beautifully and confidently drawn, I thrill at the shiver of darkness when the eye falls upon the skeletal hand. What a find that book would be, and what stories it will conjure! I like the way the exhibition leads us up to Christmas, like an advent calendar, clever.

  10. These really are magnificent! And the work of two different artists go superbly well together, thanks to Lucy’s excellent eye. Ravishing stuff…with more to come!

  11. This is looking splendid. My congratulations to Stephanie and to Philippa for their beautiful work, and my thanks to Lucy and Shellie for taking the weight of responsibility for this exhibition from my shoulders. Well done Lucy with the first post of the show. You are a mighty fine curator!

  12. What an amazing start to the primer. Thank you for posting Lucy. I love the Moon and the Red Sky! They could grace my wall any day. Such detail on those stamps, brilliant work. I am hoping the bones of the hand weren’t something that turned up in the demolishing of the wall! and were rather joined to the end of the arm creating the wonderful cloth covered Christmas pudding. I look forward to the next batch tomorrow.

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