Tom's home. I need a new Art Studio!

When our eldest son asked if he could move back in for the summer, my first thought was ‘where am I going to paint?’. I’ve been using his room as my studio for five years now and it’s more than a little paint flecked.

But always an opportunist, I came up with a great idea that could really expand my art practice, take it forward and give me focused time and space to paint… to ask my brother if I could use one of the barns at the farm.

He thought it was a great idea. Currently full of furniture and other stuff in need of storage, I think it was a good opportunity for him to take stock too and have a sort out. It’s a huge space, one of many barn rooms high in a farm courtyard. Stone built some two or three hundred years ago, they are incredible. Graeme, my brother had them renovated a few years ago, replacing rotten roof timbers and reslating with original local slate with new windows.

This barns original use was as a mill room with corn storage on one side, more storage further through and underneath animal pens.I hadn’t really bargained on the strength of memory and emotion I would feel when entering the barn again after probably 35 years. I’ve walked past it many a time, but it wasn’t until I actually went over the slate threshold, that the strong memories came flooding back.

My dad in the farming years used the tractor to drive a belt that worked the millstone to grind the corn for winter animal feed which was collected down below. I can remember sitting in the tractor seat when this was working and helping push the feed out into the hopper, running down the stairs to make sure it was coming out the other end. The smells were warm and musky and the dust golden in the autumn light that filtered through the door. Graeme and I and Helen used to jump off the step into the corn, wade through it and bury ourselves while filling our wellie boots. It was like our own version of the modern ball pit.

The barn now has velux windows which makes it really light and airy with a lofty ceiling. There is a great sense of history and place here with a lovely positive soothing peacefulness as it is nestled in the hillside just under the prevailing winds coming off the Atlantic, the coast only a mile away as the crow flies. The walls are still rough and rustic and blend in with the modern blockwork where the new roof had to be tied in.

One surprise was some pencil writing my dad had left on the wall, probably in the seventies or eighties along with some cartoon pencil drawings Graeme had a penchant for drawing over anything and everything. A bit of modern history?

The barn cleared, we swept, washed down the windows and doors and moved my art stuff up. A whole car load and a bit later, I hardly felt like I was using any space, but one week on, I’ve managed to fill just about every corner with something and have big plans for some printing, collagraphs, painting on found driftwood and some larger canvas’s. I’ve got one new sign to put up, courtesy of friends who made it for me but might need a couple more. I think the next couple of months will see new directions and challenges, but I’m looking forward to it.

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