Embellishments and The Scratch

Hi Everyone, I haven't written a blog for a while… I said in my last note that I was working from a very small corner of my spare bedroom, well this blog comes from there too. My new working space is starting to take shape but it's taking quite a bit longer than I thought it would, good electricians seem to be as rare as hens teeth at the moment! I hadn't realised how much this would affect what I can work on. I am trying to teach myself the fine art of patience but it's a bit of a struggle. Anyway…  I am very much aware that this is a self-made 'first world' problem so I will stop moaning…

Thankfully I have been able to get on with a few things, one of which is embellishing some of my prints. I have focused on the 'Forest of Iron Lines' series as I feel this gives me quite a bit of scope playing with the abstract iron patterns. I have made extensive use of the 23.5 carat Gold Leaf as well as some gorgeous Calligraphy Inks which are a joy to use. I am very aware that when we are being creative we can tell how much we are enjoying ourselves when we vanish into our own world and you lose all track of time, I believe this is the 'Flow State' in the world of mindfulness. I can confirm that working on these prints definitely sent me into the flow state… great fun indeed.

'Here are the 3 that I have worked on to such a state that I think they are 'finished' although the temptation to continue to tinker is very strong indeed.

I've used the same shapes and colours across each of the images so that I keep coherence within the series which I think is important. It's interesting how, over time, my view of the individual images changes too. When I first worked on 'Urban Storm' (far right) I wasn't sure about it at all, I doubted it was strong enough to stand on its own. As I worked on the embellishments though my view has changed completely, it is now one of my firm favourites and I think it was just crying out for a 'story'. Working on the embellishments has allowed me to add that story and, for me, I think the image comes into it's own.

The Shadows Glow

I haven't been completely idle on other things... 'Dark Shadows' was a working title for a new series of images although as I worked on the project it became clear that I needed to think of a better title as the images are much brighter and more colourful than I thought they would.

When I worked on 'The Splintered' one of my goals was to work with muted colours as a way of challenging myself. I thoroughly enjoyed using a muted palette but my need to work in colour seems to be bursting through in this new series and has resulted in my changing the working title to something more exciting.

Here are a few images from this new series. The images themselves are as yet untitled but I am really excited about this series. I am working from a single source file again but I am sampling some bits and pieces from some other images this time to spice things up a bit. Quite colourful as you can see...

The Scratch

I've stumbled across a fascinating book which is making me think about the process that I follow when working on anything other than chores; "The Creative Habit" by Twyla Tharp (such a great name!). Twyla is a choreographer and many of the techniques she references are related to dance but so many of the concepts can be applied to all creative endeavours.

She talks about sources of inspiration and how we can fire our imagination. She references the concept of 'Scratching', the process of digging around looking for something which will spark ideas, both big ideas which will change the world (well, sort of) and small ideas which still move us forward but much more incrementally. Scratching is what we do while we are waiting for the thunderbolt to hit us, when the tiniest atom of an idea will get us moving whether this is from books, galleries, conversations, mentors etc.

Scratching done poorly can look like borrowing or copying (god forbid) but the trick is to take these little ideas we have scratched for and combine a few of them into a new structure which we can grab as our own and run with.

She cites Harvard psychologist Stephen Kosslyn and his identification of the 4 stages of acting upon an idea:

  • Generate the idea: usually from memory, experience or activity
  • Retain it: hold it steady in your mind and keep it from disappearing
  • Inspect it: study it and make inferences about it
  • Transform it: alter it in some way to suit your purpose

I find this whole concept fascinating and it has made me think about the way I approach my work and where I take my inspiration. Here is where I think I am in terms of these 4 concepts:

  • Generate the idea: I know I don't look at the work of other artists enough but I am changing that now I have more time. I do have plenty of books which are in general circulation around my home but there is also Social Media which can be (and is) a great source of inspiration if used carefully and wisely.
  • Retain it: This is always tricky. I can often find myself getting excited about something and then forgetting what that 'thing' was quite soon after. Creative Journalling I find helps greatly here, if I write something down it seems to help it 'stick' in my mind.
  • Inspect it: Again, the journalling helps here as I start to build up a history of thoughts and ideas which I can then review and hopefully piece together to make something which is my own and which I think I can run with for a while. Organising images on the computer is also a part of this, quick edits to try something out need to be readily identifiable weeks/months later, not lost in the chaos of our collective filing systems!
  • Transform it: This for me is where the magic lies. Allowing time to play and explore and using the first 3 steps consciously and intentionally is how we/I move forward. I often find myself 'scratching' around for something to work on without looking at my journal or in folders on the computer marked 'Ideas to work on' (yes, I have one!) and wonder why I get nowhere. Being consciously aware of the first 3 stages makes the 4th stage so much more productive and enjoyable.

Anyway, that's enough for now I think. If any of my ramblings spark any thoughts or ideas that you think might be of interest please do leave a comment... I always read and reply to everything.

Take care everyone and stay safe in this mad world.

L  xx


  • Wow, you have been busy again! The lack of a proper work space doesn’t seem to be holding you back! I think the addition of the metallic elements looks amazing. It really adds an extra dimension to these images.

    • Hi Patrick,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment… I am really pleased with the embellishments, they are working so much better than I had hoped, they really shine too… costing me a fortune in gold leaf though!!
      take care
      L xx

  • Once again Linda you have produced some wonderful images of great depth and complexity. Your working process(es) show tremendous discipline and polished methodology. Do you listen to music while working in your small space?
    Whatever, the work is truly accomplished.

    • Hi Hugh,
      Thanks for getting in touch and for your very kind comments…
      In terms of music, that’s the second time I have been asked that question today, very bizarre… To answer, no, I don’t listen to music while I am working, I enjoy my music but I actually find it quite distracting when I am working on images. I do however listen to Podcasts of any kind from True Crime through Wellness to Sport to anything else that takes my fancy (anything other than the news!). I find that concentrating on the spoken word somehow makes it easier to focus on what I am doing visually. No idea why but it seems to work for me… it’s interesting though…
      Looking forward to seeing more of your work over time too.
      take care
      L xx

      • I know what you mean about the musical distraction against the focus the spoken word can give. I wonder why that is?
        I often listen to Radio Paradise Mellow Mix because it is commercial free and you never know what is coming next unlike personal playlists. It often introduces me to new artists while reminding me of music long gone by.
        It also has the option of displaying some excellent, mostly conventional photography while the music plays. You can get it free at the App store.

  • Sorry to hear your studio is not fully up and running yet Linda but you’ll get there! You have managed to do some lovely work regardless of limited work space though. Loving the colours of The Shadows Glow series and will be interested to see its development.
    Twyla’s book sounds fascinating. I so identify with the holding on or not to ideas. Mostly not! They come into the brain and go out again in a flash. Your journaling sounds to be a well structured part of your creative process. It’s strange that perhaps because photography is digital, I have neglected exploring ideas on paper! Time to treat myself to a lovely new sketch/ideas book I think.

    • Hi Zara,
      Yes, learning patience is proving to be a challenge… Glad you like the work though, it’s nice to see some vibrant colours emerging…
      I highly recommend journalling. As you say, working in a digital environment it’s tempting to think that we can retain everything we need in that digital world. For me I know that this is not optimal, I can never find anything and I am always behind with digitising things. I have notebooks and journals which I find much easier for notes or sketches, and it’s much easier to flick back and see what you were thinking a few days/weeks/months ago. We all have our ways but that works for me… (and yes, also good for stationery-porn!!)
      Will be in touch for another coffee if you are up for it
      Thanks again
      L xx

  • Hi Linda – Judith McDermott here. I love reading your blogs and revisiting your images. I too have bought and am reading the Creative Habit and love it. I feel like I’ll need to reread it because there is a lot in there! Her chapter on Scratching is everything you said it is and I do have my “Scratching Hour” it seems a lot lately (although that sounds more like a skin complaint 😂). I am working on developing a Project to carry me through the year with an on-line group mentored by Charlotte Bellamy. So far I’m still scratching and trying out new things and experimenting with everything from gel plates to home-made pinhole (digital) cameras!

    I miss your class and have found myself unable to create a single image since. The temptation to start playing in PS and create a panel is too much to resist and I love it! I do love your work and still hope to meet for a coffee and a chat when I’m back in England this year. Until then, keep creating – you are truly an inspiration!

    • Hi Judith,

      So sorry to have missed this – it was all so chaotic before I went away, sooooo many things fell by the wayside… Back from my amazing trip now and feeling very excited to be getting back into the swing of all things creative.
      I am so pleased that you are still playing with many of the things we covered, it really is incredibly humbling. I don’t know Charlotte Bellamy personally but I have spoken a few times to her community and they seem to be a really safe and incredibly creative bunch so I am sure you will have a great time developing your project.
      In terms of the single image (or inability to work with a single image), welcome to the dark side…! I know we are all different but creating panels from such a limited source is really so satisfying why would you go back to the single (and very lonely) image… I know we have the ‘never say never’ to remember but I know I will never go back, when I have tried it always feels hollow.
      Anyway, lovely to hear from you again and apologies for not responding sooner… and yes, when you are down visiting in this part of the world please do let me know, a coffee or lunch would be perfect… my building work starts next week and bizarrely I think I will have plenty more time.
      Take care and enjoy the Creative Habit – it’s an amazing resource…


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