Travelling without Knowing

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Landfall. Mixed media on panel. 20×20″ Framed

A post on my inspiration for Landfall and Harbour Light.  Two paintings currently in my portfolio and available from Number Four Gallery St Abbs.

Exploration

I’m interested in exploring, and this includes both our inner and outer worlds. As a psychotherapist  in my other work, I spend my time with people helping them explore their inner lives. And for myself this has been a continual process of discovery.

I have always loved the sea and travel,  as I explore the outer world.  My love of the sea is such that it has even taken me beneath the surface.  For two or three years I was a keen scuba diver exploring the underwater landscape with as much enthusiasm as I explore above. Art and painting feels like it is another form of this exploration.  One in which I am bringing together these two types of exploration, both inner and outer.  In my work I am often inspired by the places I have seen, their history and how I have experienced them.  This post is a reflection on the experiences of travelling and coming back to the familiar from the new.

Travelling

There are two paintings in my current work that were named in connection with these experiences of travel and exploration. Landfall and Harbour Light both have shapes and colours in them that remind me of being out at sea and approaching land from a distance. They remind me of being on a boat, standing on deck and seeing land approach.  Distantly at first, the first shadows and shapes emerging slowly, then with more and more definition.  During daylight as cliffs, buildings and fields become visible. Or in the evening, when the harbour lights are shining out.  My fantasy is that the lights winking in the distance guide boats in as they return home. That might have been the case 100 years ago these days I expect that technology plays a much larger part in bringing ships home.

Harbour Light
Harbour Light. Mixed media on panel. 8×8 ” framed.

There is also a metaphor  in the naming of these works.  The sense of an exploration of colour and shape and the resolution of that exploration as forms are discovered in the process of painting.   A form that resonates and brings a settling in the artist.  As something emerges in the process of laying down paint and marks that brings sense of familiarity or meaning to something that can be a chaotic process, without a clear direction or intention. So for me, that was when the ideas about harbours, land and sea became apparent in these paintings.

When I begin a new painting it is like setting out on a journey and one where I do not know the direction of travel.  To go forward I must be willing to suspend my need for knowing as I explore and find my way.  the work becomes about responding in the moment to what is happening rather than planning or thinking about an end goal.

How do you approach your work?  What are the challenges you face in following your creative process.

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What’s in a Name?

How do we name art work?  Sometimes I find it is an easy process,  sometimes I find myself digging deep to find the words to express what the piece means to me or what I want to say about it.

Early in my journey as an artist I would name the work by location or what the image was. For examples Trees in Winter, which was one of my earlier semi-abstract pieces.  Then there was the series of paintings I completed that were inspired by the Isles of Scilly.  These works used the place name. So there were pieces like Boat at Tresco, View  From Innisgden.

More recently I’ve been following suggestions to think about creating a story in the name of the work itself.  This can often take some time to work out. And it’s not unknown for me to do internet searches for songs, poetry and, even in a pinch, an abstract art title generator.  All in the hunt for words and phrases that will spark something in me that resonates with the piece.  How I now name my work falls into three categories. Firstly, the title will be because the piece reminds me of something in the landscape and I want to reference that in the title. An example of that is Digging Deep from the one of my posts.  Secondly, it might be because the words of a song or a piece of poetry have seemed fitting in some way.  They become a description of the emotion that is stirred in me when I look at the painting.  Finally the title describes very process of making the work. What I experienced and felt in the creating of the painting.

Do I have a favourite method? Probably not. They all feel appropriate at the time. And I hope that in their own way they convey something to the viewer of the experience of the work for me.

Here’s a few examples from my portfolio and a little on the naming process.

Drown the Fleeting Hour
Drown the Fleeting Hour Mixed media on cradled panel. Framed. 12×12″

Drown the Fleeting Hour is a piece inspired by poetry and the emotion of the piece. How we can be drawn in to something.  In this case a painting, and lose ourselves and time in ways that we don’t notice until afterwards.

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Landfall. Currently available from Number Four Gallery St Abbs

Landfall describes the feeling of being out at sea, metaphorically and literally.  What we see as the coastline approaches and the feeling of coming home to something familiar.  The sense of coming back to land from travelling, to finding familiarity after journeying in the unknown.

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Direction of Travel. Currently available from Number Four Gallery St Abbs. 

A reference to the making of the work.  This piece was a larger work at 27×29 inches.  With it’s larger shapes and use of space in the design was the direction I wanted my art to be progressing. Hence, Direction of Travel.

So, a few more thoughts from me on artistic and creative processes.  How do you name your work?  Do you find it an easy process?  What resources do you use to help you? Please drop a comment below, as I’d love to hear from you.

Useful Links

My next Facebook live is on Monday 18th February at 7pm UK time. I’ll be showing and talking about my inspiration for some of the new work that will be exhibited during March.  Plus I will have four paintings from my work last year that I’m offering as part of my Etsy Shop Sale.

 

 

Digging Deep – My Inspiration

Digging Deep
Digging Deep Mixed media on cradled panel. Framed. 12×12″

Landscape, history and archaeology inspire me. I am fascinated by what has gone before.  I also love walking and exploring.  A few years ago I had occasion to spend some time on the south coat down in Dorset.  We were staying in Weymouth with a group of scuba diving friends.  I’d go on long walks along the cliffs with my dogs, while my friends were off exploring underwater.  As I am much more of a warm water person, the diving was not for me, being too deep and dark to interest me.  On these trips I was more interested in seeing what was above the surface of the sea and spent my days exploring the coastline.

Walking Portland

One of the walks I enjoyed was on Portland.  Portland is an island near Weymouth.  Four miles in length, it has three light houses and numerous quarries for the limestone used by Christopher Wren in the building of St Paul’s cathedral.  As a result, the coastline of Portland is very interesting. Not only are there a series of low cliffs and small bays along the coast, but also industrial archaeology. Circumnavigating Portland was one of the many walks in the area I enjoyed.   I can remember absolutely blazing hot sunny days when I was very grateful for a cooling breeze off the sea and lots of chances to paddle and cool off.

On the walk I came across a tangle of metal cables, a beam and ironwork on the cliff edge.  Research following the walk explained it was called Red Crane, used to lower boats into the water.  With this information my imagination took flight.  Fed during childhood and adolescence on a steady diet of Georgette Heyer, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Daphne Du Maurier,  I like to wonder about  the people living in cottages along the coast.  How they lived, worked and died. I’m endlessly fascinated to see the signs and marks they have left behind them.  It may be in the ridges in a field suggesting a medieval field boundary or like the crane sitting on the cliff edge, above the sea on Portland.

Inspiration

It is these experiences that inspire my work. My visits to Dorset took place about eight or nine years ago. When I was painting Digging Deep I didn’t have an idea of the crane on that hot summer’s day in mind.  The industrial shapes only emerged during the process of the work towards the end.  I work intuitively applying paint, making marks, experimenting with texture, surface and colour until something catches my interest.  Then I want to develop it further. The lines and marks at the top of the painting, reminiscent of industrial archaeology, caught my attention.  From there the work became about land, excavation and edges.

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Digging Deep – an earlier version.

I think in the case of this work the title Digging Deep is also a metaphor for the experience of completing the painting.   This piece has had several iterations. I had worked on it over several months, finding and discarding ideas throughout that process. There were a couple of times when I thought it was finished. And then decided that maybe it wasn’t. Sometimes we fall in love too soon with an idea and do not give ourselves the space to dig deep to find what else there might be to express.   If I continue with the metaphor of digging deep within, then I think this piece also reflects how as artists we might need to dig deep within ourselves to find confidence to continue, to find energy, inspiration, motivation and ideas.

How does your inspiration show itself in your work?  I’d love to hear from you.

Art Books

I love books and I’ve quite a few art books on my shelves. Some are almost encyclopaedias of techniques with different media. Others more inspirational – examples of other artist’s work I use when I want to think about new ways of developing my own style of painting.  My collection reflects my development as an artist, so I have books on impressionistic oil painting, landscape painting, working with acrylics, watercolours and finally developing abstract work. Here’s mixture of some of my favourites.

The books of techniques I have found helpful over the years are:

The Search Press Guide to Painting Techniques: a detailed book of techniques across a wide range of different media. Search press produce a good range of books that cover different techniques.

 

Compendium of Acrylic Painting Techniques: a rich source of ways and means of creating with acrylics is also excellent, particularly if you are new to acrylics and interested in learning more about all the many and varied ways you can use the paint.

 

 

Betty Edwards – a great writer and really helpful when it comes to understanding how to draw. Her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is excellent.  She offers a very clear and effective process for representational drawing.  She’s also written a book on colour techniques  as well that is full of great exercises and ideas to help you understand about tone and hue.

Some of the books I have used for inspiration:

Experimental Landscapes in Watercolour by Anne Blockley.  Anne is a watercolourist and her book is full of glorious images of her work along with lots of suggestions and ideas for how to use watercolour. Her use of colour gorgeous.

 

Acrylic Colour Explorations by Chris Cozen. This is a book of Chris’ work along with  some of her students. Another lovely compendium of inspiring images that I’ve very much enjoyed leafing through.

 

 

And finally, Creating Abstract Art is a book  by Dean Nimmer.   Emeritus Professor, Dean Nimmer, is the former Chair of the Painting, Printmaking programs at Mass College of Art, where he taught from 1970 to 2004.  This book looks at the nature of intuitive painting is is a rich source of exercises and ideas for loosening up and getting in contact with our intuitive artist.

Do you have a favourite art book?  I’d love to hear your suggestion if so.

Interested in learning to paint with me?  My new workshop programme for next year is now available here.

 

 

 

 

Free yourself

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Plein Air watercolour and ink.

I’m thinking about new ideas in my work particularly how to join up the skills I have as a psychotherapist of over ten years and as a practising artist. Having been on my own journey of artistic development; from someone who hadn’t picked up a paint brush since “A” level I’m very interested in working with people in freeing up their creativity, whether it’s because they want to paint, play music, act dance or sing or because they want to find a way to improve their creative energy in a more general way and free themselves to be more expressive.

Critical Inner Voice

When I was at school I can remember how difficult art felt sometimes.  My inner voice criticising, feeling unable to express myself feely, being scared about what others might think or say about my efforts. From my own recent personal experience I can definitely say that my confidence in painting and in being willing to experiment now comes from having done so much personal development work as part of my training to work as a psychotherapist. That work has been all about understanding myself better and growing my confidence in my thinking, feeling and ways of being myself. Which has fed through into my painting in a willingness both to experiment and test out new ideas and to put myself out there, for my work to be seen and commented on.

Understanding Self

I’m not by any means suggesting that everyone who is an artist or who wants to express themselves in a more creative  way needs to undergo a course of psychotherapy – however I do think that there is something to be said for understanding how we might be limiting ourselves and then finding ways to liberate ourselves from old patterns of criticism, or insecurity in our expressiveness.

Coaching for Creativity

I work with people in just this way, whether in a small groups or on an individual basis I provide creative coaching support.  My approach is to focus on what each person wants to gain from the time with me.  So, we might explore practical techniques as well as how your thinking and feeling might be influencing your work. In my experience it is the ideas we have about our abilities and what we are doing that feeds into what and how we create.

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Mixed media experiment using collage. 

If you think you might be interested in exploring how I might be able to help then please give a call or drop my an email using the form below. we can have a 20 minute conversation free of charge to explore some of the areas you might like to work and if this might be for you.

 

Colour and Light

Another post with a selection of photographs from one of the inspiring moments on my morning walks. This from earlier in the week on Tuesday morning when the light was amazing, with a very clear blue sky and sun beams slanting through the trees or catching the topmost leaves and highlighting the amazing colours.  There were some lovely silhouettes of trees against the light and mysterious moments.