21 August 2015

Psychology - Artists/Musicians

Long story very short - I am about to start an Msc Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. Lot's of reasons, naturally, but it turns out to be a progression rather than a leap to the side, and I fully intend to take my art practice with me and out the other side. In psychological features and reports there are always studies where they use classical musicians - psychologists seem to bloody love musicians because their brain activity and responses are so defined and differentiated form those who are not musicians. I can well understand that - the mathematical basis of music, the repeat practising, the training to learn, remember and perform. In fact I started off training as a classical musician myself, and I still know what it did for me, brainwise.

However, although they may well be more diverse, I am interested in the artist's brain and response. I haven't looked much as yet as to what studies have been done, but I start off from a place of believing that artists too have a particular set of responses, and I have ideas to develop and explore about that. Vaguely something to do with an external locus in interpreting the world to self. In other words, an artist has to remake an aspect of the world externally, through making or whatever their practice is, in order to then reinternalise it and thus understand it. Cognition requires this process of breaking down and building up.

The point is, surely, that musicians and artists are people too, and many non musicians/artists go through similar cognitive processes.There is too much overlap between people to separate them out - we all have a relationship to art and to music.

I make art partly in order that I may then see aspects of the world through the lens I have created. For example, I have worked with clouds a lot, and cannot separate my views of them now between nature imitating art and art imitating nature. I always look at clouds and find a parallel between what is in the sky and photographs I have taken, moving image I have made, paintings I have seen, and future artworks I imagine. I look at the cloud artworks, and imagine the places I have been, the cloudscapes I have seen, the feel of wind and atmosphere, the sense of the time. It's inextricably interchangeable and interlinked. This is such a necessary joy for me. It's the same process with trees, puddles, water, bottles, bricks, shadows, windows, and so on.

I feel a life's mission to capture and recapture these reinterpretations, to make new forms for my understanding, to be able to identify and build a library of what it all is, how I see things, and how it all points to what I call meaning. Another great pleasure and joy is that this is shareable and somewhat transferable - in other words, I can share these things with an audience so that they can have their own experiences of meaning through this mechanism or lens. Each artist has a lens to offer - it may take a life to define that lens. It's a necessary joy because that is what culture is and how it is shared - I take in other art and music created by others, and select and add to my repertoire. I create my own art which I show and offer to others. What a marvellous exchange.

The reason I know that this is so necessary is because it is not an unproblematic exchange. That is mild way of saying that it is an enormous set of frustrations and challenges, unhappinesses and difficulties in approaching anything near an equilibrium. Developing and maintaining an art practice, going through the gauntlet and exposure of art education, trying to forge a career while making a living and family life - I know too well these things take artists beyond the edge of their resources in every way. So why, what drives artists to make art, what makes it so necessary, and so uncomfortable to stop.

From here I imagine that there may well be common indicators for artists as there are for musicians. I know anyway about the common experiences, frustrations and joys of artists, which may be a place to start. Such research, when it happens, may of use both to artists and non artists, because everyone shares some creative compulsion and goes through similar processes of frustration and realisation of projects.

21st August 2015

12 February 2015

Admitting defeat

As a self employed freelance artist, I have come to realise that I have to take charge of my continuous professional development, and make sure I pick up the sort of useful qualifications and training which I would get if I were employed in an organisation. I have done a lot of courses in IT, Equality and Diversity, Health and Safety, etc. Without these it's so much harder to get the freelance positions in the first place. Sometimes these courses lead me into new and interesting pathways, and they have all come into real use at some time or another in CVs and job applications.

I rather collect free qualifications - there are a lot out there, and I have ploughed my way through several level 2 courses from Vision to Learn:


It has not always been easy, or pretty. At times it's ridiculously frustrating. But such courses have trained me to better answer the question that is actually being asked, to understand the question, and to respond in the expected language. Naturally this is applicable in other areas and really helped me in being able to complete my MA in fine art.

And now the dyslexic bit. I recently had to admit defeat and withdraw from the Lean Organisation Management Techniques course:


I think I can be a rather stubborn person. Once I have decided that something is a good idea to do, I will make sure it happens and find a way, but this time, I had to realise and admit that I just couldn't do it. It would have taken me all year to finish this bloody course, so many dyslexia-unfriendly features did I find. I think it has given me a great place to start upon writing about dyslexia, as I can consider my own history, the knowledge I have gleaned, and move into new insights, using that focus.

The point is that I may have an MA, a first class BA, and many other equivalent qualifications to the Lean Organisation Management Techniques, but my dyslexia still exists. I found strategies and mechanisms to negotiate those other academic pathways, through help, experience and insight. I find that water is a great analogy for most things, dyslexia included. The flow of water may be impeded by obstacles, but the obstacles can be rearranged, and the flow of understanding can resume. Academic course are built environments like channels or mazes to flow through - the pattern just happens to be made to fit the way that works for most people. Dyslexic people can negotiate the maze, perhaps with a little rearranging of the pattern, or change of direction - you get the idea. However, the dyslexic flow of understanding always has its natural tendency, and when it learns to negotiate one pattern, is not changed or cured or overcome - it flows into another anomaly. No matter how many strategies I learn - and I have learned a lot, to the extent that I work as an academic notetaker for students including dyslexic students, I am still dyslexic and will always find new and wonderful ways to be dyslexic.

When I cannot use my strategies, when the course is inflexible, I have to go against type, cut my losses and realise that all those hours already spent are not getting me anywhere. I couldn't do it. Fascinating really. Frustrating, but let's make lemonade out of Lean Management. I learned something about dyslexia, or was reminded, that strategy does not necessarily overcome all.

Last night I happened to meet the artist Bob and Roberta Smith (aka Bob) at an Artists Union England Hustings:


Nice bloke to meet and chat to and unusually we got onto dyslexia - he said he was sure he was dyslexic, but did all the tests and passed. Hilarious! Perhaps he's right - it's changeable.

12th February 2015

7 January 2015

Thinking Thoughts

I thought of the thought
That I thought I would think.
An unthinkable thought
But I thought it – I think.
I thought of the thought
But did the thought think
That I ought to have thought it?
I ought to, I think.
No, I think the thought thought
That I could NOT think
An unthinkable thought,
But I thought it – I think.

I wrote this poem when I was a girl aged 10 - I've always liked a paradox. How often the thoughts we ponder in childhood become the themes of our lifelong quests.

Dyslexia in Art and Education

Open Research

Much of research in any discipline seems to start of by researching research is itself - what is research, what are the methods, the language, terminology, and so on.

I recently in 2014 participated in a splendid course about Open Research:

A M Micholls

From the Royal Academy to Obscurity

Some years ago, probably around the year 2000, I helped out at a stall in a Summer Fair at my daughter’s primary school in Finsbury Park, North London.  At the end of clearing up, I bought a framed picture which had been unsold, probably because it was too large to carry around a playground with children running about. I remember I gave what money I had left, which I think was 63p.

An unusual item for a bric-a-brack stall: an incredible bargain: a lucky acquisition.

The frame had its glass intact, but this was broken a little later when some child visitor slammed into it, sliding down stairs to where the picture was propped up against a bookcase. Thankfully it was alright. And so was the child.

The drawing of a girl has since moved with me. It sits where we hang our coats, in what I hope is a dim and sympathetic light and atmosphere. The frame could certainly do with renovating – it is held together with masking tape at the back. The gold mounting shows signs of some years of neglect, probably somewhere damp. The drawing, though, is in great condition – from afar it looks like a painting, yet up close the delicate pencil marks and skilled use of colour and shading are visible.

The drawing, and the frame, deserve better. They deserve to be properly renovated and shown to advantage where others can see and appreciate them. They deserve a little background, a little provenance. Should one wish to know who, where and when, that ought to be available.

A M Micholls is written on the right side. The writing is careful, and a little tentative. The signature is legible and not a flourish. It is controlled and considered, like the drawing, without gesture of movement. The girl, I imagine, is about twelve, with long dark hair, a fringe, and a white dress of the Edwardian era with a ribbon at the hips. She looks out straight at the viewer, with clear brown eyes, a stylised glowing pattern of gold behind her. The drawing is in the style of late Pre-Raphaelite or Arts and Crafts. My initial guess is that it was made around 1900.

The drawing is beautiful, intriguing and expert, perhaps a portrait. The girl carries with her something of the faraway look of the pre-Raphaelite style, as if she knows something. Already, from over a century distant, childhood is clothed differently, and the way of life suggested by the girl, of a sort of affluence in nurseries, and a properly designated and differentiated structure of childhood, is as gone as the early twentieth century.

The girl is a little doll-like, drawn very much within a style.

A M Micholls. Occasionally over the years I browsed for her, assuming she was a she. She eluded books, libraries and search engines. Results suggested I really wanted to look up Nicholls. I found one possible link to another painting from 1916 by an AM Micholls, and then a listing from the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1911, which was its first open to submissions. A painting entitled Outward Bound by Ada M Micholls, and even an address:  II Queen's-gate, S.W.

Mrs Ada M Micholls. And no more. No more that I could find in more specialised art and educational libraries. I realised that while searching for her, I felt I already knew Ada. I can imagine her now, a progressive woman in an age of change, pursuing her voice in art while the world shifts. I imagine her through the films I have seen of that era, of books I have read, and paintings I have seen. I imagine her through the ideas of Virginia Woolf, of EM Forster, and images of actresses enacting the personas and roles afforded of the age.

Skirts, material. The fabrics of a time and the feel they give to the body, the shape they carve. This is an age of elegance, of flowing fabrics and elongation. Of course there were still restrictive undergarments, corsets and hobble skirts, but the women who only a few years before had been derided for their rational dress, abandoning construction for the natural unrestricted shape of the body, had allowed later women to breathe, lacings to loosen.

Ada lived at the time of the emancipation of women and the rise of the suffrage movement. It was the swell of the tide of mechanisation, the dawning of electricity in the home, the rise of domestic paraphernalia. Women living in London at that time went to emancipating lectures. Ada was an artist, and exhibited at the Royal Academy. Fiction and history tell of such women being flummoxed by institutions or systems or men.

Such as it always is. The progress of education and the surprise at how backwards the world still is when it comes to what a woman has in her remit.

How is it that she is so lost, so elusive. So non existent. I am reminded of a character in George Elliot’s Middlemarch who realises that living a great life and doing great things may be to be lost in the multitude of others. We are all lost in the multitude in time, no matter how bright our spark.We all know some who died young, who were taken before they had their chance to make their mark, to do their thing, write their novels, have their children. We are poorer without them and their works, and yet, the impact of their personalities seems to me to be already complete. We remember them as complete people, not as unfulfilled people.

From where I am now, as I write this, I know that Ada must be dead. Perhaps I will find out no more about her than I do now.

Life is not really a narrative. We look back and can tell the story of our life, but we look back later, or when something else happens, and the emphasis completely changes. It may be a different story. Even facts change. Each version may be true, and there may not be one definitive version, even by the end. Events happen that change everything, even the past.

Even today, a century on from Ada, in a digital age which is infinitely more recorded and scrutinised than before, I know that any biography complied, for example, of myself, could not possibly build up to a complete and definitive version, even of the bare facts. Times and parts of ourselves are divided like horcruxes amongst people we knew, places we visited, things we did. All those parts and times could never meet up in the same room and do not even know of each other, like unaware multiple personalities.

We spend time with people we cannot ever really grasp, yet we can read a biography or look at a face in a painting, and we get a sense of a person. Something of a person comes through their work, from the subject matter, the style and time, and the way we can read their workings with a forensic approach or interpret their signature with graphology. We get a sense of their pace and sensibility. We borrow their thoughts and have them in our minds for a while.

I hope to find out more about Ada M Micholls. I hope to get a sense of her, and discover some facts about her life that I wish for her. I hope she lived a fulfilled life. And I hope it ended well, or at least not badly. I hope she was not disappointed or disillusioned. Does it matter to her whether or not she is forgotten? Does it matter if everything a person has made turns to dust so quickly?

Perhaps a person’s best work and best contribution to the world were their internal thoughts, or their influence on others, or their appreciation of music, or other qualities.

and if thou will, remember, and if thou will forget Christina Rossetti.


Micholls, A. M. (Mrs.), II Queen's-gate, S.W. 1046
1046 OUTWARD BOUND Ada M. Micholls
London. Royal Academy of Arts
The exhibition 1911
accessed 6/3/2012


Whistler correspondence

Miss Micholls[193]
39 Princes Gate - S W

Miss Micholls, probably the daughter of Frederica (b. ca 1818) and Henry Micholls, merchant.
accessed 7/3/2012


Christie's: British and Continental Pictures and Watercolours: Lot 1857
A.M. Micholls (c.1916)

Portrait of a young girl, three-quarter-length, wrapped in a red blanket, holding a doll
signed and dated 'A.M. Micholls/1916' (centre left)
pencil and watercolour
19 x 13 1/2 in. (48.2 x 34.3 cm.)
accessed 7/3/2012


book 1911 RA exhibition
accessed 7/3/2012


Royal Academy Exhibitors 1905-70: A Dictionary of Artists and their Work in the Summer Exhibitions of the Royal Academy of Arts Vol. V LAWR-SHER
Other Authors: Compiled and edited by Angela Jarman
Publisher & Place of Publication: E.P. Publishing, East Ardsley, Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Publication Date: 1981
Volume Number: 3, LAWR-SHER
Number of Pages: 484

accessed 8/3/2012



NOTICE is hereby given, that ADA MONTEFIORE MICHOLLS, heretofore called and
known as Ada Rachel Micholls, of 11, Queen's Gate,
Kensington, in the county of London, Widow, a
natural born British subject on the 5th day of
January, 1927, absolutely renounced, relinquished
and abandoned the use of her said second Christian
name of Rachel and then assumed and adopted and
determined thenceforth on all occasions whatsoever
to use and subscribe the second Christian name of
Montefiore instead of the second Christian name
of Rachel; and further notice is given by a deed
poll dated the 5th day of January, 1927, duly
executed and attested and enrolled in the Central
Office of the Supreme Court on the 12th day of
January, 1927, she formally and absolutely renounced, relinquished and abandoned the said
second Christian name of Rachel and declared that
she had assumed and adopted and thenceforth
on all occasions whatsoever to use and subscribe the
second Christian name of Montefiore instead of
Rachel so as to be at all times thereafter called,
known and distinguished by the name of Ada
Montefiore Micholls exclusively.—Dated the
twenty-first day of January, 1927.
MONTAGUS, 86-88, Queen Victoria-street,
E.G. 4, Solicitors for the said Ada Monte-
(015) fiore Micholls, formerly Ada Rachel Micholls.

accessed 8/3/2012


Birth: Jun. 1, 1882
Death: Dec. 19, 1949

Daughter of E. Montefiore Micholls and Ada Beddington, she married Walter Horace Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted, son of Marcus Samuel, 1st Viscount Bearsted and Fanny Elizabeth Benjamin, on 23 July 1908 at West End Synagogue, West End, London, England. From 23 July 1908, her married name became Samuel. As a result of her marriage, Dorothy Montefiore Micholls was styled as Viscountess Bearsted on 19 January 1927. Died aged 66 years.

accessed 8/3/2012


E. Montefiore Micholls1

Child of E. Montefiore Micholls and Ada Beddington
1. Dorothy Montefiore Micholls+1 d. 19 Dec 1949
Ada Beddington1
     Ada Beddington is the daughter of Maurice Beddington.1
Child of Ada Beddington and E. Montefiore Micholls
1. Dorothy Montefiore Micholls+1 d. 19 Dec 1949

accessed 8/3/2012


Ada Rachael Micholls (Beddington) (1857 - 1922)
Birthdate: July 11, 1857
Birthplace: Clapham, Surrey, England
Death: Died August 17, 1922

Immediate Family
Edward Micholls husband

Maurice Micholls son

Lieut-Col Wilfred Horatio Micholls son

Sybil Hamilton daughter

Maurice Beddington father

Hannah Beddington mother

Esther Samuel sister

Mary Micholls sister

another possible birth year is 1858 and another possible death year is 1933 (same dates)
accessed 8/3/2012


H. L. Micholls, of 6, lKenslngton-gardens-tevrace, to Ada Rtachel, daughter of Maunrice Beddington, of 91, Lancaster-gate. DFEATHS. Dec. 20th, at 12, Hyde-park-place. Comber- land-gate, T. Bonhote, Esq., aged 586.-Dec. 1D, ast 02, Margaret-street, Ca ...
accessed 8/3/2012


Edward Montefiore Micholls (1852 - 1926)
Birthdate: July 27, 1852
Birthplace: Manchester, Lancashire, England
Death: Died September 11, 1926 in Golders Green, Hendon, Middlesex, England

Ada Micholls wife

Maurice Micholls son

Lieut-Col Wilfred Horatio Micholls son

Sybil Hamilton daughter

Rebecca Micholls mother

Horatio Micholls father

Rose Pike sister


From email correspondence with the Royal Academy Library, March 2012:

Ada Montefiore Micholls was trained at the Royal College of Art where she won 2 prizes for her work. She was active (publicly showing her work) between 1903 and 1923 exhibiting here, at the Society of Women Artists, The Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts and the Royal Institute of watercolour artists. She was known for both her portraiture and landscape painting.

I have attached a list of works of art shown by the artist at the annual Royal Academy Exhibition. The list is made up of artist's name, year of exhibition, exhibition catalogue number, address of the artist and title of the work of art. It is interesting to see another female artist (perhaps a daughter) showing from the same address. We do not have illustrations of these pieces.
I hope that this is of some help.


All images A M Micholls, about 1916, in the possession of the writer.

I since found more references to A M Micholls at the National Art Library at the V&A - to follow.