The Spaces Between. Part 1: Getting Going

My studio at Ty Isaf in late 2009, with The Congregation of Birds nearing completion on the easel.

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The Artlog has been running since Nov 2009. Six years is ancient in the blogging world, so I’m lucky to be still going. (I’ve wondered about concluding it on several occasions.) The idea for it was hatched when it became apparent during discussions about the publication of the Lund Humphries monograph about my work, due out in 2011, that I wasn’t comfortable at the prospect of having someone write about my past. Or more specifically, I wasn’t happy about the idea of having to describe my life to someone who would then have to decide what and what not to include. I was apprehensive at the prospect of making a list of dates and events that would have to represent me. I fought against it, and fretted and lost sleep. My partner Peter Wakelin and our friend Rex Harley… who went on to write the monograph chapters on ‘Still-Life’ and ‘Book Illustration’… persisted in asking who I would trust with the biography. We made lists. Still I fretted. There were things in my past I knew I’d have to examine, and I dreaded the process. (Who wouldn’t?)

Eventually Peter and Rex said that if I wouldn’t discharge the responsibility to anyone, then there was nothing for it but to write the damned thing myself. I rose to the bait, dropped so cleverly by them, and snapped  “I BLOODY WELL WILL WRITE IT, THEN!” And that, was that, spoken in haste and heartily regretted almost before the words were out! But I put up and shut up, not least because it was a relief to have the two of them finally go quiet on the subject, and I stomped off for long walks with the dog, simmering with resentment at having been cornered into something I didn’t want to do.

I made a list of autobiographies I most admired. There was only one artist on that list, and moreover his books were not so much biographies, as out-of-sequence recollections threaded through his descriptions of making art and films. It was Derek Jarman.

I’d always loved Jarman’s writing, loved his work and loved him. I’d admired his activism, his refusal to bow to those who disapproved, and his white-hot outbursts against the establishment. In a world where homosexuals were visible in the media only when they mocked themselves… we all know who they were, so I won’t list them here… Jarman was handsome, eloquent, outspoken and as angry as a mad hornet. It was an alluring mix, and about as sexy as anyone I’d laid eyes on. To a teenager coming to terms with what it meant to be homosexual when public opinion and the law were rampantly homophobic, Jarman was a shining light.

In terms of writing, I would look to him for inspiration. But it’s one thing to be inspired, and quite another to acquire the skills. Somewhere along the line, I had the idea of starting a blog where I could write on a regular basis in order to get better at expressing myself in words. On it I could describe my activities in the studio, and perhaps even beyond it. After all, art doesn’t begin and end at the easel. There are all those spaces between times spent in the studio, where the rest of life has to fit.

For a blog such as this, I’d seen no model. There was a year in which to get things moving, after which I’d need to be preparing the biographical chapter for the monograph, so there was no time to be lost. Diving in deep ends is something I’ve been doing all my life, learning on the hoof being my familiar way forward. I figured that few people would come to read the blog, and so when I made mistakes… and I’d almost certainly make a lot… then hardly anyone would know about them.

My worktable in the studio

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In Part 2, inviting the readers in.

19 thoughts on “The Spaces Between. Part 1: Getting Going

  1. Clive, I meant to comment when you first posted this, but I was having a bit of a time of it then -anyway, I just wanted to say, on behalf certainly of myself and probably of many other benevolent lurkers in blogland how much I enjoy and appreciate your Artlog and to thank you for continuing to take the time and effort to do it. Have a wonderful 2016!

    • Anny, that’s very sweet of you to say. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been having quite a time of it, and so I’m even more touched that you’ve taken the trouble to return and lend your support. I hope that things have improved for you now, and I wish you the very best for 2016.

  2. There you go–once again, people are wanting a book. Artist Makoto Fujimura did a collection of his blog essays called “Refractions.” And I still think a series of small, cunning, beautiful books (one with the hedgehog and pheasant and other animals) with your words and images would be wonderful. And would be something people who can’t afford a print or painting might be glad to take home.

    • Can’t do it without a publisher, Marly. I just don’t have the time… nor, to be candid, the will… to publish and then promote and distribute. Any time spent doing that would take me away from the studio. I have Hansel & Gretel in the pipeline. That must suffice.

  3. It is so interesting to read about why you started the Artlog Clive 🙂 I must say I’m glad you did as I have greatly enjoyed reading it since I first came across it what must be at least three if not four years ago now 🙂

  4. I also read the Artlog just about every day, if I can, and I think you have a talent for writing, as well as all the lovely paintings and projects. I also love to read everyone’s comments and feel as though I know them as kindred spirits, and it is really heartening.

  5. Hello Clive. Here we all are in a little corner of Blogland and what a wonderful corner it is. Full of delights.

    Without your blog I would never have found you. I have a little list of favourite contemporary artists. Forget the dead cows in formaldehyde or the unmade beds ( actually both getting a wee bit historic now). There are artists tucked away in studios across England and Wales whose work I just love. And you are on that list. It’s not a big list, though a bit bigger than yours!

    I love watching work in progress, I love catching snippets of your life and home, I’m smitten by Jack (but to be honest I’m smitten by every dog I meet. Dogs are somehow woven into my Dan) and as an amateur dabbling in textile art every blog is an inspiration and I feel that you are, in some ways, a teacher to look up to.

    I blog myself, so I know how it can be a bit of a bind. My 400th blog post awaits, but I’m currently in a very dry period (it’s been a busy year on the art front for me, ‘coming out’ as an artist to colleagues and friends) and the day job, which I love, does sap my energies. So I empathise with the feeling that sometimes the blog is a burden.

    But as we head into the festive period I hope we can all recharge our batteries a bit.

    So, from a fan, thank you. You’re a delight that often starts my day as I sip my morning coffee before heading out with the dog.

    Yours

    Hilary xx

  6. Earlier this year, I had the honour of being invited by you to be a guest blogger at the Artlog and I wrote then about how I first came across your work through the fascinating blog you have created. You tell your story in a truly interesting and authentic way and it regularly lifts my spirits to pay a visit here.

    What has been a delight for me this year is getting to know some of the kindred spirits who make up the Artlog community. I very much enjoyed the wonderful hospitality extended to us when we visited you, Peter and Jack at Ty Isaf and the introduction to your magical world. On one of my visits, you gave me the opportunity to meet the very talented Meri Wells, who is an artist I first came across through your blog posts. Johann Rohl and Phil Cooper are also two Artlog regulars that I have had the great pleasure of meeting in real life.

    It was also a truly fascinating experience to become a collaborator in your ‘Dark Movements’ exhibition, through social media, where I had the pleasure of getting to know Maria Maestre, the Artlog’s delightful lady of Spain. Jeffery Beam has also become a regular penpal and friend, although the distance between Madrid, North Carolina and Yorkshire has so far prevented any of us meeting in real life!

    Long may the Artlog continue!!

  7. This is great !!!

    I am a quite recent visitor of the Artlog, but I never fail to come and read every day, no matter how tired or how overworked. I do not even have to search. It comes up on my Mac the moment I open Safari, as it is one of my most frequently visited sites. I have not been able to write of late, but I never miss a post.

    And being a relative newcomer, these entries telling the past history of the blog, and of “Clive Hicks Jenkins as a young man and as a young artist”, are among my favourites.

    I can’t wait for the next installment.

    Thank You so much for sharing with us all!!!
    Love from Madrid
    María

  8. Great to hear the story of how the Artlog started, it’s been a huge inspiration and a huge joy to me since I first discovered your work a few years ago Clive. Its quite simple the best artist’s blog in existence.
    As well as your good self, Derek Jarman has been a great inspiration to me too, both his art and his life. It’s over 20 years since he died but when I feel stuck in my work I often re-read his books, watch his films and explore his work online and it never fails to excite me still, burning off the creeping fog of joyless banality and timidity that encroaches on so many sides. Two of my heroes in one post, hurrah!

  9. The Artlog is an absolute feast for the senses! The descriptions, information, images all inform and entertain. I don’t wonder that it has continued for so long. It is always a delight and pleasure to read. I have always thought what a wonderful book could be made of a compilation of these essays.
    Loved hearing how it started! Long may it continue.
    You know how much it means to some people, Clive.
    Huge congratulations for keeping it going,however crazy your life gets!

  10. And you have made it uniquely your own! I always liked the title of artlog rather than blog, it somehow lifts it above and out of the ordinary, and every single thing you have posted has been interesting, even though I speak as one who didn’t join your followers until later on (it was all so new to me !) it would be nice to see a book made of a collection of some of the posts……..?xxL

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