Strength and the woman artist

My indoor day was productive in prompting some research on painting and ordering this book

I had so wanted to get to this exhibition in Denver last summer but didn't manage it. Along with the wonderful images, the catalogue includes several essays which illuminate the historical and social background to the painting movement that came to be called Abstract Expressionism. And if I sometimes think it is hard being a woman in the art world, these women's stories made me grateful for how it is now. And more determined than ever to be strong in the service of my work.

Being strong for me includes:

  • going to the studio and engaging in the work most days
  • holding my work to high standards and to my core values
  • taking care of the work: framing it well, protecting surfaces etc
  • thinking about the finished pieces and the process so that I can talk and write about them
  • speaking out on behalf of the work, in galleries, competitions and here.

Here is one of my recent pieces, painted with the strength of the wild west wind blowing around the studio:

Under the west wind. acrylic and pencil on watercolour paper. 59 x 84 cm. Lynne Cameron , 2017.

Under the west wind. acrylic and pencil on watercolour paper. 59 x 84 cm. Lynne Cameron , 2017.

I'd be proud to call it an abstract expressionist painting, with gratitude for those strong women artists.

Explorations on crumpled paper

Setting up my new studio/house involved unpacking most of my possessions as they came out of store. I piled up the empty boxes and pushed the discarded wrapping paper into bin bags to dispose of.

Once the table was set up for painting, I started hunting around to see what paper and canvases had come out of store. Ping! a connection made, an affordance noticed.

I started to explore what the thin crumpled paper could offer as a painting surface.

I first laid some large brushstrokes across the paper before unfolding it - this layer thus carries a memory of my plates or glasses that it once held safely for 6 months.

The paper was opened out and the next layer of paint used the creased surface to respond to the new scenery outside my windows, through choice of colour and gestures with the brush - lots of dabbing in the spaces between creases.

More layers: more contrasts and combinings - of wet and dry paint, short and long strokes, lines and masses.

More layers, and the final piece mounted on heavy paper. I love the way the creases and crumples remain, as themselves or as echoes in the painted surface. And how they randomly connect my reunion with loved pieces of crockery with my first impressions of Bute.

Explorations on crumpled paper. Acrylic on paper, Lynne Cameron, 2017

Explorations on crumpled paper. Acrylic on paper, Lynne Cameron, 2017

More Explorations are posted on my Instagram feed - search 'Lynne Cameron' to find them.

Instructions from an earlier self

I am taking some weeks to get to know the Isle of Bute, which lies off the west coast of Scotland.

I have found a light-filled and warm house here, and have brought my furniture out of store. When I opened a drawer, I was greeted by this helpful suggestion, under the heading:

"How to start a project on arriving in a new place"

I don't remember writing this but it seems like good advice, so am following these instructions from an earlier self.

My attention has been drawn by the huge skies and by the clumps of tiny snowdrops on banks and at the edge of woods. And I am experimenting with painting on the crumpled paper that the removers used to wrap my glassware.


~        this is the tilde         ~

I am using it in describing my artworks that bring together paintings and poems in a kind of dialogue. I'm experimenting with various formats and placings to best support that dialogue.

There's a lovely account of the origin of the tilde as a 'mark of suspension' in Wikipedia:

The tilde (/ˈtɪldə/;[1] ˜ or ~)[2] is a grapheme with several uses. The name of the character came into English from Spanish, which in turn came from the Latin titulus, meaning "title" or "superscription."

The reason for the name was that it was originally written over a letter as a scribal abbreviation, as a "mark of suspension", shown as a straight line when used with capitals. Thus the commonly used words Anno Domini were frequently abbreviated to Ao Dñi, an elevated terminal with a suspension mark placed over the "n". Such a mark could denote the omission of one letter or several letters. This saved on the expense of the scribe's labour and the cost of vellum and ink. Medieval European charters written in Latin are largely made up of such abbreviated words with suspension marks and other abbreviations; only uncommon words were given in full.

In my academic work, I used the tilde in describing the parts of metaphors brought together:  Juliet ~ the sun

The poems emerged with the paintings and it feels right to to put them back together.

There's a growing pile of these 'tilde artworks' that I'm putting together into a collection. More news soon! and any suggestions for publishing are welcome.







A brief reconnecting

Last weekend I made a short trip back to the UK. I needed to re-connect. I enjoyed wonderful conversations with friends and family, and it was a treat to go back to the Royal Opera House to experience the incredible dancing and beautiful music of the ballet 'Woolf Works'.

Several years back, I spent time drawing and painting ballet dancers - those stretched muscles and finely-honed bodies are demanding to draw, and the costumes are fascinating objects in their own right.

The most fun and most difficult was drawing live, as the dancers moved to music.

Although difficult to do, these drawings capture something of the truth of dance and its energy. The energy of dance, and of excited talk about art and poetry, is an essential aspect of life that Ineed to connect with on a regular basis.

The end of the exhibition

We organised a Finissage event on the final weekend of my exhibition at Berlin's Under the Mango Tree gallery..

A colleague of mine from Cinepoetics, Eileen Rositzka, played and sang her 'soul songs', and I talked about the different sets of work, how they originated, and what can be seen in the paintings.

Paintings were looked at, which always pleases this artist's heart. And paintings were sold, which pleases the accountant.

Soul song on three notesacrylic on paper, Lynne Cameron, 2016. SOLD

Inspired by Roses

Once I could smell roses. Now, only sometimes. I love the way they bloom in tumbles.

Oxford Botanic Garden

Oxford Botanic Garden

And how they appear in my paintings

Today, in need of heroes, I remembered two Roses: Rose Wylie and Rose Hilton. Both over 80, both still painting and seeing the world afresh, both finding new success. Click on their names to see inspiring videos of them at work.

Thank you, John Berger

I love his writing and admire his life. He was a hero of mine and a role model in living passionately and with integrity, in its senses of both wholeness and honesty. His work was always compassionate, political, and poetic, informed by his artist's eye.

In 2012, I wrote him this letter. I don't know if it ever reached him but I am glad that I tried.


Dear John Berger

Over the last 20 years I have been reading your books, following your adventures, thinking about the choices you have made in living your life. I am writing to thank you from my heart for the huge inspiration you have offered by being the person you are.

I am in the process of making a big shift to the ‘poetic life’ I have longed for – leaving the countryside to move into central London, finding a studio, committing to painting towards an exhibition. I came late to art, practising alongside an academic job until the need for painting and a poetic life became non-negotiable. Asked who my role model or ideal mentor might be, it was your name that sprang straight to my lips.

So, thank you!


Here's a favourite extract of mine from the book and our faces, my heart, brief as photos, John Berger 1984.


(see also the blog post on Feb 16th 2016).


Collaborative braiding

In our latest Studio Interlude, we braided my collection of ribbons and strings. Like me, the women had learnt to braid when around 8 or 9 years old (thank you, Brownies). Some of the men had to be shown how to do it and quickly worked out how to keep the tension to make an even braid. 

Then we made a collaborative braid, by braiding the braids and extending with new ribbons. Somehow the idea came up to thread the collaborative braid through a piece of cardboard. 

It looked quietly beautiful.  


In England, we called it 'plaiting'. In Scotland, it was 'pleating'.  

There was an Opening and a Conversation

My exhibition 'Yearning to be Elsewhere' opened at Under the Mango Tree gallery in Schöneberg, Berlin on 18 November.

And on the Saturday afternoon, we held an artist talk event. My colleague and friend ProfCornelia Müller asked the questions. I talked.

The exhibition continues until 18 January 2017.

A sneak peek

We've been very busy putting the exhibition together. Works on canvas have been varnished and framed - and look gorgeous under the gallery lights. Yesterday was spent hanging - lots of calculating, measuring and hammering.

Today I've been preparing my short talk for the Vernissage (that's the German - French word for Private View) which is tomorrow from 18:30 to 21:00. Do come along if you are in Berlin!

Here's a sneak preview of work in progress to tempt you - it will be a veritable colour bath in this grey weather!

Soul song on three notes

Sometimes words come along with paintings, or afterwards, with looking. Feeling a need to share this poetic writing, I have begun to assemble and revise it. I am exploring whether it wants to emerge as an audio-visual work, an event, an exhibition, a book, another blog, or some combination of all those. Here's a taster.

Soul song on three notes. Acrylic on paper, Lynne Cameron, 2016.

Soul song on three notes. Acrylic on paper, Lynne Cameron, 2016.

I hum and sing my deep soul song,

sinking back into the work.

       Three notes in a minor key


This is the dark corner

            spreading its poison

and fun.

            Then the black ribbon that

connects us all.


And how we fall!

A terrible pulling down of orange,

and the blue wave lifting.

A quiet, angry path


things being various

Today I feel the need for this long-loved poem. It is not snowing but I need to assert the incorrigible plurality of world.


The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes–
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of your hands–
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Louis MacNeice, 1935.

a newly finished painting Still Undoing the Arrangement. Acrylic, collage and déchirage on canvas. Lynne Cameron, 2016.

a newly finished painting

Still Undoing the Arrangement. Acrylic, collage and déchirage on canvas. Lynne Cameron, 2016.

I found the background and interpretation of the poem on these two pages insightful:














To find the sky

I drove out to Wannsee, a large lake about 30 minutes from the centre of Berlin and surrounded by forest. There is a beach, with sand, which I think is imported. But it was closed for the winter. Eventually I found a place to stand under an open sky. A little sun forced its way through grey and caught the sails.

and mistletoe on the fir tree

and mistletoe on the fir tree

The fallen leaves offered some abstract images to take home:

which reminded me of how much I enjoy printmaking..

monoprints, Lynne Cameron, 2015.

monoprints, Lynne Cameron, 2015.



What's your (sky-shaping) project?

In today's post, I share a task that I'm using with early career academics here in Berlin. It's designed to make explicit the projects that we are committed to, be that a PhD or a life in painting. I have been through such a process over and over again in my life.

What's your passion? What's your project? What's your life about?
“What are you working on just now?” (that conference networking question…)
We need to know. You need to know.

A bold collection of irises and anemones will never fail to please. From the project "Undoing the Arrangement". Collage and acrylic on canvas, Lynne Cameron, 2015.

A bold collection of irises and anemones will never fail to please. From the project "Undoing the Arrangement". Collage and acrylic on canvas, Lynne Cameron, 2015.

Of course, it's always changing. Never fixed. Never complete. Of course, it's not entirely clear or knowable.

But, as the existentialists remind us, we need to choose.  We need to try to work it out. So that we make sense to ourselves. So that we can tell people when they ask - and when they forget to ask. So that we can take the next step.

I've been challenging people to ...
        ...  identify your project so that you can talk about it.

I offer some questions that may help to bring it into the light:

  • Take it for a walk, and let it speak to you.
  • Talk about it with yourself.
  • Sing it to yourself.
  • Write, write, write. Just write about it. Start “My project ....” Keep writing for three pages. Keep your pen moving. Just write.
  • Write about it with your non-dominant hand.
  • Stand on an imaginary stage and proclaim it.

and some checking questions about it:

  • Do you love this project? If not, what changes would make you love it more?
  • Does this project fit with your core values as a person? If not, what needs to change?
  • Is this project big enough? For all of who you want to be? What could you add?
  • Does this project feel too vast? If so, congratulations, it's probably big enough!
  • How does this project provide you with life's necessities? (Food, shelter, connection....)

Keep working on the shape of your project until you love it. Speak out loud about it until you can answer the opening questions without apologising, hesitating, feeling embarrassed. Try it out on some friends.

Inhabit your project.