You are currently viewing Month 1. The Potteries. April 1st – 6th 2022

This is a blog recording my first trip away as part of my one year project of twelve art road trips.

I will try to make it an honest account of my experience both as an artist, and someone living with Parkinson’s. I’ll be exploring my own creativity, and parts of the British Isles that somehow represent the three things that I believe can help us all through life: Acceptance, Adaptation and Ambition.

Sunrise over Potteries
“Sunrise over Potteries” Original acrylic on A3 canvas board.

The first morning was filled with hope, and a beautiful view of a sun rise over the valley from my camp site.

Pedro and Rosie

I had a little fun playing with air dry clay, trying to recreate iconic Staffordshire pottery.
I created my own interpretation of my canine companions Pedro and Rosie. I had fun, but doubt I’ll be taking ceramics up anytime soon!

Flowers sketch
Potteries camping

My dogs Rosie and Pedro who are coming with me on this project. Pedro is the same as when we went on the “20 days in 2020” project – less than impressed! Rosie the rescue dog meets everything with bounding enthusiasm and keenness, unless you attempt to stroke or cuddle her and then she’s as fearful as ever. Whilst it’s difficult managing them in the small van, it’s lovely having their company (until it rains!).


Saturday was a lovely day spent with three generations of the same family: Jess 14 (niece and grand daughter), Claire 48 (Auntie and Daughter) and Pat 72 (Mum and Grandmother).

Inspired by my project Jess wanted to come over to join in the creative endeavours and did a lovely pastel picture of the bottle kilns at Gladstone pottery museum.

I was also lucky enough be able to watch the wedding online of my friend’s Simon and Vanessa’s eldest child Alexander to Matilda.

It was 28 years ago that I was a guest at Simon and Vanessa’s wedding at Trentham Gardens which is only a few miles from where I’m camping now. Partners have come and gone and my life has taken different turns, but Simon and Vanessa remain unwavering friends, and it was lovely to be able to witness such a happy event.

Jess drawing in the van
Jess drawing in the van

Once I was alone in the evening my mind turned to more melancholy thoughts about my own family.

I’m moving on from my marriage, but the hurt is still sharp.“acceptance feels better with forgiveness,” they say. I sometimes, unexpectedly get an overwhelming sense of sadness. It’s a grieving process.

I also thought of my Dad struggling in hospital with the effects of cancer, and my Sister battling to get the right care sorted for him. I was fighting feelings of guilt, sadness and loneliness.

So to lift my mood I started the painting of Jess, Claire and Pat.

I don’t do many portraits, but got really absorbed in this. I’m extremely pleased with the therapeutic effect of the process and the outcome has a real likeness and captures their spirit.

Jess, Claire and Pat, Acrylic on canvas.
Jess, Claire and Pat, Acrylic on canvas.

Painting is mental medicine to me.

The painting (and a phone call from a lovely friend) improved my mood and I went to bed feeling content and at peace. “You are solely responsible for your happiness”.

The next days were about experimenting with different concepts, techniques and subject matter.

I wanted to try to represent the feeling of stepping away, acceptance of the past and letting go.

Brave To Step Out Of The Race
Sketching and painting ideas that represent “Brave To Step Out Of The Race”

I spent some time talking to my camping neighbour Peter about the art trail project and Parkinson’s, and we talked about his painting, and his attempts at drawing his own hand.

I showed him my painting from my 20 Days In 2020 retreat, called
“Letting Go”. It seemed to stir some real emotions in him.

Letting Go, Acrylic on Canvas

Turning my mind back to the Potteries, I wanted to try a different style of painting, Something that would capture the pollution and industrial heritage of the area, but reflect my mood.

I painted this picture of Bottle kilns inspired by the photos taken yesterday at Gladstone pottery museum, and also the book “The Potteries” David Sekers.

Bottle Ovens
“Bottle Ovens” original acrylic on A3 canvas

This first trip of the twelve months project was a learning experience:

  1. I need to travel lighter – take less wine, and clothes, and more food.
  2. I need to embrace the difficulties of having two dogs in the camper van with me – I have no alternative than to bring them, and they add to the experience in lots of ways.
  3. I need to pace myself more, and rest when I need/want to. I was over-tired, and having “off” times.
  4. I must embrace the different moods and feelings I experience and use them in my art more.
  5. I must remember to brush my teeth more, and be less ferel!

Next stop Cornwall…

J Shipton
Arts Council England

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