Third Time Lucky? Threadneedle Prize

return to sender stamp on brown paper graphic

The results are out. The final cull has been made by the judges, who chose not to accept my painting Grab Your Eyes after they shortlisted the digital submission and then viewed the physical work. This is my second time being shortlisted. My second time incurring expense for both submitting the digital image (yes there is a fee) and courier costs to get the work to and from London. I have to ask myself whether I’m being played or whether it’s a matter of perseverance. To be shortlisted twice is one thing, but to ‘contribute’ financially to the prize and it’s affiliated services (the couriers) as part of the ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’ approach is a bitter pill to swallow. A phrase that popped in to my mind recently was ‘you’ve got to live it to know it’, which to me means that without the benefit of hindsight or the impediment of pessimism, we have to continually make decisions that act as a feedback loop for future decisions. The experience of which is entirely different to if we had just sat on the fence.

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Feedback on my latest Commission

“I just wanted to drop you a quick note to thank you wholeheartedly for your participation in the Reworked exhibition at Experience Barnsley Museum and Discovery Centre. We couldn’t have asked for more from the first temporary exhibition within the brand new visitor attraction, and the exhibition has received widespread praise and attention.

 The manner and enthusiasm, in which you and all the participation artists approached the project, brought to life the initial spark of an idea and created something truly memorable. It has certainly set the standard for future temporary exhibitions, thank you again.”

 James Brunt

This All At Once Is Not Enough – Lee Gascoyne 2013 – Commissioned piece created for the Reworked exhibition at Barnsley Museum.

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Shortlisted for the Threadneedle Prize for Painting & Sculpture 2013

I’m pleased to announce that I have been shortlisted for the Threadneedle Prize for Painting & Sculpture 2013! My painting Grab Your Eyes has been preselected by the judges. The next stage is for them to see the physical work and then decide whether it will make it into the exhibition. With help from my good friend Richard Turner, my painting is now on its way to London for judging. Another of my paintings Transition was preselected for the Threadneedle Prize in 2011, but did not make to the exhibition stage.

Grab Your Eyes – Lee Gascoyne 2012 – Shortlisted for the Threadneedle Prize 2013

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Reworked – 27 June to 1 Sept 2013 – First Exhibition at Experience Barnsley Museum

Last month I was commissioned by the soon to open Experience Barnsley Museum to make a piece of art inspired by a recently discovered photo album from the Victorian period. Here are some more details from the promotional material for the upcoming exhibition.

Reworked is the first temporary exhibition to take place in the new Experience Barnsley Museum & Discovery Centre. Its conception came with the discovery of a Victorian photograph album that was unearthed during the moving of files from the old archives department at the Central Library to the new Archives and Discovery Centre here at Experience Barnsley.

These fascinating snapshots from Barnsley’s past became the starting point for a selected group of artists with strong local ties. Chosen for their innovative work and the approach they would bring to the exhibition, the artists were given very little information about the photographs, other than the names of the subject and the intriguing little captions that accompanied them (the pauper, the lunatic and the poetess etc). They were left to their own devices in terms of how much research they undertook into the lives and stories of the people whose image they were reworking.

Reworked brings together the artists responses alongside the newly discovered photograph album in this captivating and thought-provoking exhibition of work that takes a very contemporary approach to reinterpreting the past.”

Here is the photograph I was given…

Victorian photograph of Grimshaw & His Book Stall, Barnsley Museum, Experience Barnsley

Grimshaw & His Book Stall – Courtesy of Experience Barnsley Museum

…and here’s a sneak peek of my completed commission!

Close up detail of acrylic painting on linen with impasto areas masked off. Lee Gascoyne 2013

This All At Once Is Not Enough (detail) – Lee Gascoyne 2013

I look forward to sharing the full image of my painting when the exhibition opens. Hopefully you’ll be able to make it to the museum to see the real thing!

Participating Artists

Michelle Clark-Stables

Fabric Lenny


Lee Gascoyne

Graham Ibbeson

Julie Newton

Iain Nicholls

Louise Wright

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The Origin of Ideas – Innate Authenticity

Innate Authenticity – Lee Gascoyne 2013 – Click on the image to view more of this sculpture.

In Feb 2013, I wrote a blog post that focused on the qualities I’ve found to be essential in establishing and maintaining what I like to call the ‘authentic artist’ (click here to read that post). The qualities that I uncovered were Motivation, Purpose and Meaning. I related these qualities to the fire triangle, which is an illustration showing how fire needs the three elements of oxygen, heat and fuel in order to maintain itself. Take one of these away and the fire will go out. In a similar way, I feel that when the qualities of right motivation, purpose and meaning are present in my work, my art practice burns with authenticity in the same way as in the fire triangle. If one or more element weakens, then my authenticity wanes in direct relation and I begin to notice something is ‘not quite right’. Since establishing this concept within my practice, one or two things fell into place recently that resulted in the creation of this sculpture. I’ve owned a Zippo lighter for a long time, which I use to light incense. I love the tactile nature of the Zippo and it’s simple, elegant design. Within the Zippo you have two of the three elements needed to make fire, heat and fuel. Oxygen of course is omnipresent in the air and almost constantly available. The Zippo can remove oxygen from the fire triangle by the user simply closing it. I decided to use the Zippo as a surrogate, to carry my concept of the authentic artist in this piece that I’ve titled Innate Authenticity. In the same way the flame from the Zippo needs the innervation of the human hand to allow it to manifest, the flame of authenticity requires a certain amount of effort to uncover its origins within the individual.

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Do we really need Gesso?

Liquitex Gesso White Clear Coloured

Image courtesy of

In short yes, but depending on what paint you are using there may be an alternative to canvas or linen if you prefer fabric supports. According to Liquitex, “Surface Preparations are used to seal, prime and add tooth (for color adhesion) to all surfaces such as canvas, wood, paper and metal. This same preparation is used for both acrylic and oil paint.” Fair enough, but you’d think that given the nature of acrylic paint, which is polymer based and doesn’t rot canvas like oil does there wouldn’t be such a need for gesso? If you thought that you’d be wrong. It’s not just a case of the polymer e.g. why not apply acrylic paint onto raw canvas/linen? It’s a case of structural integrity. One of the obvious properties of acrylic paint and mediums are their flexibility. Linen freshly stretched and then gesso applied will initially tighten in response to moisture, but will then relax. If you apply acrylic paint in the same way, without a gesso prep, it will relax more. Over time canvas and linen begin to lose their structural integrity and slacken. Gesso helps keep the natural ageing (relaxing and so ‘bagging’) of the canvas or linen at bay, temporarily. “Tests conducted on samples naturally aged in the Tate Gallery London revealed that in only 24 years linen canvas samples had declined to practically 1/3 of their original strength” (Excerpt from Artists Canvases: Their History & Future). It’s suggested that an alternative to using canvas or linen would be a polyester type material. From the same book comes, “Polyester fabrics would appear to be the most satisfactory synthetics which are readily available. The fibres have high tenacity and relatively low elongation at break, they are thus fairly stiff.” The question as to whether polyester fabric would need surface preparation before the application of acrylic paint is something I’ll be investigating.

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Short Thoughts – Can painting learn anything from knitting?

Hand knitted jumper with fair isle pattern by Madge Gascoyne, mother of the artist Lee Gascoyne

Jumper – Madge Gascoyne 2013

My mum is a bit of knitter when her arthritic fingers allow for a good run when knitting a jumper, which she has done on more than one occasion for me, as well as other family members and friends. She recently gave me a jumper she’d knitted in my chosen colour, where she’d incorporated a Fair Isle pattern, pockets and a zip up the front. It fits really well and is lovely and warm. This got me thinking.

Over the last few months I’ve been digging deep into my motivations as an artist. I consider myself to be at the early stages of what will become a mature art practice and so feel like I’m in the process of establishing its foundations. As the cliché goes, a house built on poor foundations won’t last long, but as with most clichés there’s truth in there. My motivations are tied to the purpose of my art and its intrinsic meaning (or intent). To take the time to knit a jumper (which takes an obvious amount of developed skill and patience) with the knowledge that throughout it’s making it will be a gift rather than a ‘look at what I’m capable of’ object, can only be done and repeated if it’s motivations are correct. Those motivations must surely be love and generosity?

A painting can’t clothe someone or keep them warm, but it can be made with love and generosity. An artist can choose to attempt to make work that gives, that uplifts and has qualities that encourage inclusion. We’re all in it together. We should act like it. Painting can learn a lot from knitting.

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Short Thoughts – The Mature Artist – A Definition

In a previous post I introduced the topic of ‘The Mature Artist’. Since then I’ve been asked specifically what that means to me, which prompted me to attempt a definition. Here it is. I dare say I’ll update this as time passes!

“I think a mature artist is one who has critically evaluated themselves and their art over a long period of time. Someone who has maintained their art practice under various conditions and pressures, both internal and external. Someone who can speak with clarity and sensitivity through the art they make, where they have developed a strong personal language that warmly invites investigation and mutual sharing. Someone inspirational, not because of what they have achieved, but because they are the ‘real deal’.”

Artist Lee Gascoyne in the studio preparing encaustic panels with a heat gun

In the studio adding layers of encaustic to panels – image courtesy of Rory Garforth Photography

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I Was Asked – To Hang Some Doors

A solid wooden door hung with ball bearing hinges and chrome fittings with locking mechanism by the artist Lee Gascoyne

Doors – Lee Gascoyne 2013 – “I was asked to hang some doors”

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I Was Asked – To Make A Replacement Door Canopy

External door canopy, fabricated, painted and installed by the artist Lee Gascoyne 2012

Canopy – Lee Gascoyne 2012 – “I was asked to make a replacement door canopy”

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