Notes on Folk

Maybe it’s my lack of knowledge on the subject, but the word folk fills me with warmth and excitement. It makes me think of a time and place that doesn’t quite exist, similar to how sci fi feels to others I imagine. It is far away from my actual life due to the sort of house and city I live in. Folk is disconnected from education, institutions, cities and careers. To me it is how I will be living when I’m married and I’ve figured out my life, when I have more answers, when I’m the ideal person I want to be.

For now I am living in parallel with that life and watching it run along side me as I live mine. I’m happy because I know it’s not going anywhere, and the the two will align when I have done all the things I need to do in this life. I need to stay here for my friends, family and education. The more control I gain over my life, the more I can edge towards the one I want. It can be frustrating and unfulfilling because I want more, or to be more specific I want less. My other life comes through this one in the form of clothing; tightly woven materials. Gingham, linens and thick leather that will last forever. It comes out in music; fret buzz, feedback, audible grain that sparkles in-between words, the crackle of the needle. Brief moments that simulate the real thing.

My dad and I are very similar, but the one thing that differentiates us like nothing else is his realism and my idealism. When I look at my dad and how he sees the world, what he finds essential to his life to be happy, I don’t understand it at all. It’s probably my age and the fact I haven’t been crushed like him, I’m not as scared of life as he is. He tells me he agrees with the greek belief that hope is extricably linked to suffering, how it breeds lack of control. But what good is that? It’s just a lazy way of protecting yourself.

But for someone that has been alone for so long I can’t be surprised that he doesn’t understand my hope. My hope in gingham and fret buzz. Because the essence of all of these things is human touch. Making it known that their voices haven’t been lost to overproduction, that imperfection is what makes you a person, and to pretend otherwise would be fucking ridiculous.

Things to look into that links to place and folk lore

  • Green man
  • ‘Grave Goods’ Objects that are buried with the deceased to accompany them into the afterlife
  • Meg Shelton, Burried head. first. and boulder was placed on top of her to prevent her from getting out
  • Druidical rock basins. A concave carved into large stones around suits and the tops of hills. they are used to perform baptisms and sacrifices. Druids were known to preserve dew or rain water before it was polluted by touching the earth.


As well as the internet I will be using these books to find artists and techniques to pull from and try and introduce into my practice. Flipping through the books I’ve noticed that here is not much information about these artists as their work as been lost to time and although prolific, they were not very well known.

Ammi Phillips

The first thing that I was attracted to in one of these books is this painting by Ammi Phillips. I love how flat and staged it is. The brown and black are so muted, and the subtle brushstrokes give a texture that I’m missing from my work. I like my darkroom prints but I feel as I’m missing something. This painting reminds me of something that I saw in the background of Sophie Calles artist talk.

Ammi Phillips, oil on canvas

While in the video chat with Sophie Calle I saw a picture on her wall. The interviewer actually brought the picture up and Calle explained that after. her mother died she had not taken enough pictures of her, so she turned to her dad and asked if she could photograph him. He said he doesn’t like being photographed so she took a picture of his hands.

I love how much looks like a painting, the muted brown with no tone change with the thick black shapes really make the hands jump out in a way that I’ve wanted to make apparent in my work.

I decided to cut out a shape from one of my pictures, I plan to print this in the darkroom and paint the background brown or another muted colour. I want to then go over the black parts with black paint to produce those brushstrokes that I want. I’m unsure if this is going to be any good but I feel like I need to try because I think I just want to be a painter and this is a good place to start.

Mary Newcombe

People Walking amongst Small Sandhills 1983 Mary Newcomb 1922-2008 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1997

Horace Pippin

Gertrude Amberchrombie

Bill Traylor

Bill Traylor is my favourite folk artist I’ve found. He takes elements of normal life and injects them into this magical and surreal world where physics fall out the window. His usual symbols of houses animals and figures are painted at at types of scales and on varying canvas shapes totally shifting what is possible how things exist on paper. The image below shows a cat, it is painted in a void with nothing else in frame to give it scale but for some reason the cat looks huge. I love this dream like world, I think Traylor does dreams and surrealism like nobody else. Also you can see Jockum Nordstrom took so much from these paintings, its so obvious when you look at the figures and naive brushstrokes.

Needle work

Looking at random needle works from no particular artist, I have been thinking of ways that I can combine photography and embroidery. I have bought linen and light sensitive emulsion to create surreal and confusing scenes that overlap mediums. I haven’t seen this before so I’m excited to see where this experimentation goes.


I made some drawings while watching television and like how they look, there is a pathetic quality I am going for, but something missing. I will practice more with. this because even though I’m trying to achieve a naive look, it is still very hard to hit that sweet spot where it looks intentional. I think colour is something that helps pull those things together for sure.

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