The alchemy of colour

Captivate by Kathryn Stevens

Captivate by Kathryn Stevens

If you’re anything like me, you may have noticed how colours can shift, enhance or alter moods and atmosphere. For artist Kathryn Stevens, colour has become an enduring fascination, prompting her to experiment, examine and make stunning discoveries about how colours behave set against each other, and how best to use this in her art.

“It’s been a journey,” she says. “I don’t think I ever had that initial moment where I decided I was going to ‘become an artist’. It has been a gradual understanding of what that means and what my identity as an artist is. For me, encouragement through my education and support from different tutors, family, gallery owners, other artists and supporters have lead me to this point where they have seen something in the work I make.”

Visionary by Kathryn Stevens

Visionary by Kathryn Stevens

Kathryn began to understand the true impact of colour when visiting a Gerhard Richter exhibition at the Tate Modern. “I think it’s the most inspiring exhibition I have seen – the best thing ever!” she exclaims. “I totally fell into this whole other way of looking at paint and colour and technique.”

The showcase gave Kathryn the thirst to explore “the material of paint” more and more, rather than “the outcome of the painting”, and her artwork became increasingly abstract.

This led her to a deeper exploration of colour. “I enjoy experimenting and discovering how different colours and mediums react and work together. Colour has always been important, but through seeing some of Richter’s paintings in the flesh made sense of why.”

Rush by Kathryn Stevens

Rush by Kathryn Stevens

As humans, we naturally attempt to impose an order on what we see, and to me, many of Kathryn’s works conjure up underground landscapes – caverns and curious rock formations, pools and splashes of light breaking through. It’s as though Kathryn is mapping previously uncharted territory, and in a sense, that’s actually the case.

“I approach all my canvases as experiments and explorations,” she explains. “I use experimental methods in my work – some shapes are painted on, some are poured, and the conversations and the way the colours and texture react are unpredictable most of the time. So I am constantly learning.”

Ridge by Kathryn Stevens

Ridge by Kathryn Stevens

She aims (to my eye, successfully) to create “a sense of depth and space in each painting. There are conversations between surface textures and the illusion of space created on the canvas by using a combination of colour, tone and shape. Some shapes made by the pours of oil paint and turps may resemble clouds and in some others the change of tone and depth in the painting may suggest a horizon and a distance.”

Kathryn also uses a varnish in most of her paintings, which “alters the way you see the colour and layers on the painting.”

Surge by Kathryn Stevens

Surge by Kathryn Stevens

At it’s heart, Kathryn’s approach is one of trial and error. “One of the biggest lessons I learnt is that if some paintings don’t work out, that’s okay!” she says. “At one point I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to make ‘a good painting’ with every painting I started, mainly because I felt I didn’t have time to mess up. I wasn’t giving myself enough space for failing and learning. That wasn’t a very healthy attitude to have, especially with the way I work. It takes time and needs space. I have to allow myself to make mistakes and let go so I don’t much control over how the painting takes shape.”

She believes that it’s dangerous to think you know it all. “You lose creativity and freedom to look at things in a different way when you think you have nothing left to learn. So I try to stay in a place where I am still learning and still vulnerable. I don’t want to lose the mystery.”

Tidal by Kathryn Stevens

Tidal by Kathryn Stevens

Sometimes, she admits, “just turning up to the studio is one of the hardest things, but once I get there and I’m in that creative space, it suddenly makes sense again. It feels like part of my identity. That is probably the one of the best things.”

She adds: “I believe we are all creative in some way, part of it is having the courage to take the next step. I’m still learning everyday about what it means to be an artist.”

Kathryn has exhibitions coming up at The Old Lifeboat House in Porthleven, Cornwall, at the end of July and at The Crypt in St Ives, Cornwall during the first week in August. At the end 2016, she will have some work in a mixed show at Artwave West Gallery in Dorset.

Find more of Kathryn’s work at

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on Give me a shout at judy(at)

Writing prompt – artefact

Hay-on-Wye book pyramid cr Judy DarleyIn Hay On Wye, a curious structure stands: a rusted-up pyramid entombing classic books. Small windows show the books encased within.

Hay-on-Wye book pyramid by Judy DarleyIn places these windows have been cracked and broken, allowing spiders and insects to make their way among pages mildewed by rain, rotted by weather.

Hay-on-Wye book pyramid cr Judy DarleyThere are so many directions you could take this prompt in – imagine it as a sole reminder of our bookish past for future generations to discover, or have it found inside an ancient Egyptian pyramid – an uncanny duel link to the present within the past.

Choose as your protagonist an alien, a spider, or a small, puzzled child. Turn the structure into a metaphor for humanity, or for a relationship. Make this the site of a significant meeting between two unlikely characters, and see where they take you next…

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on

Book review – White by Marie Darrieussecq

White by Marie Darrieussecq

Marie Darrieussecq’s novel White received its first print run in France in 2003, and is set in what was then the future, 2015. As a result there’s a curious sense of being in a recognisable but slightly adrift parallel world, where a manned rocket is on its way to Mars, and phone calls take the form of holograms. It’s not far out, but just enough to add to the sense of being elsewhere – on Earth but not quite as we know it. Very appropriate given the novel’s frozen landscape.

The story opens with our two protagonists, Peter Tomson and Edmée Blanco travelling to one of the most inhospitable and hazardous places on Earth – Antarctica. Each has a role to play in keeping their colleagues safe; telecommunications engineer Edmée by providing the sanity of a link to home, and heating engineer Peter by ensuring the generator that keeps them from freezing to death doesn’t quite give up the ghost.

Talking of ghosts, Darrieussecq has taken the concept of an omniscient voice and given it new life by having the story told by the ghosts who populated the whitest of white places, from Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his ill-fated team, to the ancient echoes of our planets earliest elements. As a result, it’s as though we’re eavesdropping on our romantic leads’ thoughts, dropping from one tangent to another, and always with the backdrop of whiteness, blankness, where the separation between ice, sea and sky is barely discernable.

Dreams slew into consciousness, seeming as significant as waking ponderings, and at times it isn’t entirely clear when an impulse is being acted on, or merely mulled over. It is as though Darrieussecq is drawing a line beneath contemplation and deed, stating that each of these has equal value, and equal insignificance, in the grand scale of things.

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A paradoxical writing competition

Barbed sky cr Judy DarleyParagram have launched their 2016 writing competition – the Paragram ‘Paradox’ Prize.

They say: “The theme is Paradox, inherently ludicrous, wry or hard to believe, we felt this was the perfect chance to search for poems and petite-prose designed to make the reader laugh. Of course paradox can equally be sad, joyous or droll – the choice is yours.”

With categories in humour, poetry and petite-prose, there’s plenty to fire up your imagination, not to mention the motivation of cash prizes and publication opportunities.

There will be a cash prize of £50 in each of the three genres with the winning and short-listed work from each category to be included in the Paragram anthology ‘Paradox’ which will be published in time for Christmas 2016.

The fee for first entry is £6, with subsequent entries costing £4.

Find the full competition details, plus a link to the rules, here

The closing date for entries is 31st July 2016.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at Judy(at)socket creative(dot)com.