This post is about some discoveries about capacity and connectedness that emerged from a recent period of struggling to paint.
I’ve been having a tough few weeks. My art; often a refuge, delight and source of energy has not been going well. I have been feeling frustrated, irritable, comparing my work to others and feeling self critical. As a therapist and coach I recognise this as being in a defensive pattern because I am feeling vulnerable. I am feeling vulnerable because there is a lot going on in my life at the moment, both good and not so great. Across all areas of my work I have been very busy. We have had really successful start to the year in my psychotherapy training business (TA Training Organisation). In my art a new gallery, Number Four Gallery in St Abbs, have taken eight pieces of work for their Christmas Show. I have been accepted to join Peak District Artisans. I exhibited at the local Artist and Designer Fair in Buxton.
However, in the midst of these positive events, there have also been some difficult things happening that are affecting me emotionally and psychologically. So I have retreated from myself and others in a protective way that is an old unhelpful pattern. Which brings me to the point of this post and the learning I’ve gained from this experience.
So, what is the learning I’m wanting to share?
Firstly about connection. If we are making authentic art this is an expression of part of self. Then it seems to follow if we are not fully connected to ourselves we will be disconnected from our art. As I think back over the last couple of months this is what I have been experiencing. In my art making, in the studio in front of the painting, I was going outwards to what others were doing and looking to repeat what I had already done, rather than looking inwards at what I felt inspired to do. My choice of colour, mark making and ways of painting were not what I truly felt in the moment because being disconnected from myself meant I was disconnected from what I felt. How important it is then to our art making to stay connected to ourselves and the personal choices we want to make.
Secondly scaling up and scaling down.
During this period the only thing that felt “like me” were some colour studies I was working on. Using an exercise from Louise Fletcher fellow artist, (see Louise in This Painting Life on Facebook) I had about 15 different small colour studies I was playing with. What I was noticing was that the bigger works (a couple of 20×20 inch paintings) were not resolving themselves. Again, on reflection, I can see that it was almost as though I didn’t have the capacity to do anything bigger. That not only does making bigger work require us to scale up in terms of the tools, materials and composition, it also requires us up to scale up in terms of our process as well. Being able to hold and contain the experience of something bigger takes capacity. For larger work to be successful it needs to feel integrated as a whole rather than something that is almost a collection of smaller works on a bigger canvas. So in the process of making larger works the artist needs to have creative energetic capacity to conceptualise the whole. Which is not about planning the outcome but more about having mental space and energy for the art-making process.
Are there any useful “how to’s” from this experience? Well for me a recognition that I have a busy life and so there will be times when I don’t have capacity for major works. When that happens it’s ok, and that art making can still happen, just on smaller scale. The “how to” from this is acceptance of personal limitations.
Does this tally with your experience of moving between larger and smaller works? I’d love to hear how you maintain your connectedness?
All colour studies will be available to buy at my next exhibition in Buxton at the Pavilion Gardens on Friday 23rd, Saturday 24th adn Sunday 25th of November.