Deadhead Watercolours

Deadhead: inward strokes 01. 2017

During late Summer I collected deadheads from my garden and processed then into paint for Deadhead Mix.   I also made a number of works by soaking papers.

Autumn/Winter 2017:
Since then I’ve have been making watercolour paintings only using Caput Mortuum (a paint colour named in the Latin for dead head). Caput Mortuum is a dense pigment that naturally sinks rather than flows.  I  use a wet into wet technique so the brushstroke and pigment disperse,  and actively use ‘backruns’. My watercolour methods are also influenced by contemporary suminagashi (Japanese marbling). I’ve been using the inner circumference of circle templates to make a taut pool. I am working with the interaction of surface tension, pigment granulation, and stroke gesture.


My Deadhead works stem from the seasonal changes to my  garden plants. The square unit, which he describes as a cell, is central to Peter Hallley’s work. While watching his interview*, I realised the plant cell is an underlying unit of my Deadheads. My project conerns:

  1. 1. The study and appreciation of garden plants, including cultural significance and uses.
  2. 2. Trial of the nature of Caput Mortuum pigment and its behaviours in the painting process.

An exploding cell is another recurrent Halley theme/motif. My Deadhead works respond to the produce of cell death, and the pigment name refers to worthless residue in terms of alchemy.

I am beginning to consider bacterial cell morphology and classification as a possible system for exploring watercolour effects.

Adrian Searle* recently commented, “Artists have always been interested in plays on materiality, on genre, on confusions of one thing thing and another. Painting as image, painting as object, painting as a response to … digital imagery.

Some examples from my Deadheads:

Paint is not merely a uniformly unctuous colourant solution to squirt from a tube, but  active pigments, each with distinctive chemical properties and social history.

on  genre & confusions
Botanical  illustration is required to be both scientifically accurate and artistic. It is based in technical understanding of plants and objective  yet artistic representation of specimens. The floral still life  genre is a vehicle for expression of Vanitas symbolism of mortality.

painting as a response to … digital imagery.
Painting, using pigment consciously, as an analogue response.

*Artist Talk Peter Halley and Max Hollein, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt.
*Adrian Searle, review of Monchrome: Painting in Black and White, Guardian 30/10/2017

Dead Watercolours selected for Axisweb Five2Watch:Natural Environment