Experiments with claybord: part one

I’m sorry to say I’m still not able to stand at my easel and paint (see here for the riveting reason why).

I have managed a little bit of sitting at my desk though.  Early last week I ordered some claybord panels.  They fascinate me, and one of my favourite things is discovering new painting surfaces.  These claybords are smoooooth.  As a baby’s bottom.  They’re silky clay.  They look a little like a matt tile.

Now according to the blurb, you can put any medium on these: watercolour, ink, acrylic, and oil, though Ampersand, the makers, stress though it can be used for oil, many oil painters find the paint dries too quickly to work with.  You can also scratch it, and sand it back to a bare surface again.  Wowzers.

I’m not sure why I thought I would get along with these.  I mean, I can’t even watercolour on regular paper.  Though that fact still remains, I’m still strangely enamored with this surface.

First, I tried acrylic.  I wasn’t particularly interested in using it in my usual way: instead I thinned it down quite a bit with airbrush medium and flow release, and a bit of water.  When you paint it on, the pigment doesn’t behave as it does on paper.  Clay has a different sort of capillary action (I’m guessing), and being smooth, the whole thing can get out of control very quickly.

Acrylic explorations on claybord by artist Vicki Hutchins
acrylic on claybord

I absolutely love the edges the acrylic created.  I also liked how the pigment granulated in the bottom left.

I also tried a section of the painting with thicker paint.  It did go on, but didn’t cover very well.  The beauty of claybord is it’s surface and the luminescence it can add to a piece, so I don’t see the point of covering over it so opaquely.

Next up was watercolour:

Watercolour on clayboard by artist Vicki Hutchins
watercolour on claybord


I love this as a piece of work.  I’m not sure the photograph does justice to the quality and translucency of the watercolour though.  Here’s a close up:

Watercolour on clayboard by artist Vicki Hutchins
Love the way the watercolour has bloomed

The thing I do find a little frustrating about the claybord is though it looks white, it photographs a little on the peachy side.

I did of course have a bash with oils.  My word – oils dry quicker on claybord than acrylics do on any surface.  I was shocked.  I tried to put them on thinly, diluted down with Zest it, then linseed, hoping to keep things luminous, but no.  The thing about claybord, in what ever medium I tried was,  painting over layers that were still wet or damp just meant you went back to the claybord.  It was only when I left the claybord overnight  that I could add more layers – but only very carefully.  So oil on claybord is not for me, but I did quite like this little section here where the Zest it created this pattern:

Oil on clayboard by artist Vicki Hutchins
oil on claybord

I also, naturally, tried a bit of pastel over the top of the water colour and acrylic – no can do.  Imagine rubbing pastel on glass.  It just didn’t cling at all.  Having said that, I didn’t try my very expensive soft pastels, this was my Amazon-under-ten-pounds-set.

Ok, I’m blogged out so I’ll try and post part two later this week, and share my attempts at landscape painting on claybord and how vodka came in handy, but not in the way you think!

p.s. this is not a sponsored post!  Just if you were wondering.


The difficulty of simplicity, feat. collage

I recently wrote this post, explaining my struggle to reduce my landscape paintings to a level of abstraction I crave, and documented a little experiment I did in trying a different approach.

Well, this post is the sequel.  Same drill, different medium.  This time I’m using torn paper, or collage.

As with my previous foray using the humble but oh so beautiful pebble, I felt a little daft.  Actually, I now know this is because this sort of experimentation doesn’t bear fruit in an afternoon, in between “proper” painting and tea time.   I have a fabulous artist friend who explained that in art college, this sort of exploration would be done over a period of weeks, small scale, large scale, using various mediums to come up with various interpretations.

Whilst I wonder if art college and I would have ever got along (due to my impatience), my friend has a valid point, and one that I apply to my art practice in general, but somehow forgot during this process. I can see me revisiting this work again to explore the approach further.

So!  I have a soft furnishings catalogue that my husband thinks is over priced and is outraged you have to pay for it.  You know the one.  Well, that came in handy for this.  I was drawn to the sofas and soft furnishings section…it was the shapes of the sofas and the folds of blankets and quilts that drew me, as they already reminded me of landscapes just being there on the page without me having to rip them up!

Annoyingly, I didn’t take photographs of my collage layout, though I did stick a pretty bit of quilt in my sketchbook.  I found collage, and particularly the images I picked really worked.  Before I’d even sketched them, they already reminded me of the hills to the north of the vale I live in.  I actually enjoyed this.



Though from my notes I think I found the cutting out not such fun.  I should’ve got my son to do it, he’ll cut anything, the edges of the tablecloth, his pyjamas….

Here are the results:

Exploring abstract landscapes by Vicki Hutchins

This last one, I just wanted total freedom:

I think I like it


The main problem is this: it’s not inspiration I’m lacking.  It’s the ability to refine that inspiration to it’s barest element.  To deftly capture what my landscapes mean to me.  I’m not sure these experiments have helped with that.  What they have helped with though is helping me think about:

  • simplifying colour palettes
  • simpler form
  • doing postcard size studies more often.
  • understanding the exploration process and the benefits of doing this over a long period of time, scale etc

Easel snapshot

I’m going through an intense time of discovery and exploration with my art work at the moment.  It’s all I talk about (see here ).

As an emerging artist, I know I can sort of get away with swapping styles, playing around with different mediums and generally finding my way.  I suppose what I’m worried about is that I read an article that mentioned when you start selling your art work, you should really have a recognisable style.

I already sell my art work.  People like it and buy it. But I don’t want to appear scatter gun in my approach,  yet I need to go through this exploration.  And actually, I’m sure that being the sort of person I am, I’ll always want to try something new.

This is how my easel looked today.  Three canvases in varying states of abstraction and finish, painted in oils with the same palette. One of them I know I love, the other two the jury is out.

Not pretty enough for Instagram, but real life, peoples.  


Then I have four postcard size acrylics on water colour paper.  Again, they all share the same colour palette, but they vary in composition, and they were the result of an exploration I did (post coming soon on that).  I love pretty much all of them, and I loved doing them.

And neither of these sets of paintings are like my other work.

This perception I have, of “considered” exploration, is beginning to weigh me down a bit. I just don’t want to put my stake in the ground regarding style, and I’m not sure that I ever will.

My husband (I should listen to him more), said perhaps I should set myself an exploration project for the next three months.  Rather than trying everything in the hope that I find my “thing”, just focus on something and stick with it for a pre-determined length of time.  I do like this idea.  But what if I find it leads me down rabbit holes and a totally different direction again?  What if I never fully explore what I set out to?

Why am I struggling with this!  Arghghg!