Are we over?

I sometimes find myself standing in front of a painting thinking,  “Are we over?”

Artistic Process

A little like a relationship that is no longer working, with our art do we need to ask this question?   Are there times we have to decide that a painting is not working and move on from it.  Or can we persevere in the hope that it will come right in the end.  This is another post about artistic process and some thoughts on tenacity vs moving on.

Making Large Moves

I’d like to share a recent experience.  I had been working on a painting for about 12 weeks and frankly it was driving me nuts.  I have recently begun working in a series so it was not the only piece of work I was concentrating on.  I had another 6 pieces also in process which were going well.  However, with this piece I really felt like I was getting nowhere.    The painting had several versions, none of them particularly feeling satisfying to me.  During the course of painting  I had made several large moves, but none of them got me out of the frustrating,  getting nowhere process I was in. I don’t have photos from all of the various iterations, but here are a few with some of the moves I made.

Early stage

At this stage the piece had an emerging abstract landscape feel.  I was aware of needing to do a lot of work to the design as there were quite number of areas I felt required development and resolution.  The similar shapes along the top, the large dark that was drawing eye into the centre, too much saturated colour.  However there was some good texture building and I felt optimistic of where it was heading at this point.

Next stage

It felt like something interesting was beginning to emerge with more landscape forms although I was not convinced by the inclusion of a horizon line at this early stage as I felt it was constraining me and pushing me in a specific direction quite early on.  I next felt the need to move the piece forward more significantly so I did this.

Big move

Increasing Differences

I had at this point decided to take a risk and make a big dramatic change by  putting in a large orange shape.  It felt different, fresh and something new.  I liked the impact of the large shape and felt like I could resolve the design with the similarity of some the smaller blue and darker shapes along the bottom.  But, some time later it wasn’t happening.   I spent quite some time making alterations to the design wanting to increase the range of difference and contrast in the medium shapes but each move felt like it took me further away from a resolution.  .

 

Big moves

Sanding!

Next I included a large blue shape along the bottom but the darks still felt too similar and disconnected.  By this point I was losing patience.  I got out the sander and sanded the whole painting back which resulting in some interesting fresh marks and a very smooth board!  I rotated the painting and had something new to respond to.

These last two images are my final versions of this piece.  As you can see there was a lot more development but nothing that felt like a successful one.  By this point I think I was getting completely lost in frustration and feeling increasingly like I was not going to resolve this painting,  but would continue going around in circles.

It seemed like a good point to be asking the question am I done with this?

Moving on

I’m all for sticking with things and seeing them through to completion, however I also know there comes a point  where the energy invested is just not worth the outcome.  I’d reached that point with this board.  Time to move on.  So, I completely “wrecked” what was there and this is now sitting in a corner of my studio until I have gotten over the break up.  I’m not going back to it until I have completely different relationship with it  otherwise I think the previously process might reemerge. So, we are officially on a break!  I feel like I need to give it some time and space to move on in my process so that it doesn’t feel like returning to something I was struggling with.  I think by giving myself enough distance it will feel fresher.

Sharing the learning

Here are some of the things that helped me while I was stuck with this painting.

Definitely not being over invested in any aspect of the work. Several times I made big and risky moves, even thought they didn’t lead to a resolution it helps to feel free to play spontaneously.  See my previous post on Falling in Love too early  for more on this.

Recognising this is only a painting. Getting into a struggle and a fight with the work is probably getting into a fight with myself as I’m the one doing the painting.

The painting isn’t winning nor am I losing.  Holding on to the idea that the experience is one of learning can be self supporting. So I didn’t make a finished piece. I learnt a lot on the journey to where I am now.

Knowing when to take a break and that doing so is not about failure but a recognition of what the most helpful approach right now.

For now I shall continue to use it as a play board  – wiping paint on it periodically just make interesting marks and maybe this will be one of those relationships were we do get back together and make it work…….

Playboard
Play board

Any thoughts – is something that you have experienced as well?  What do you do when you get stuck in your art making?

If you’d like to chat to me about art making come and visit me at Art in the Pen in Skipton 10th to 12th of August.

Please do browse the site.  You’ll find prints and cards at my  Etsy Shop.  along with small originals and collages.

Who is your Inner Critic Anyway?

Who is your inner critical voice? The voice we hear in our heads that often speaks to us in a way that we wouldn’t dream of using to another person. The part of us that criticises and drives us, sets unrealistic expectations and is then down on us when we don’t meet those expectations. The part of us that can demoralise, demotivate and derail us sometimes. Having an understanding of this part of ourselves and then some alternatives to listening to this voice can help defuse the power of this part of us. This is where I go to theory to explain something that is very common for people and which I suspect most people will experience in their lives.

As well as being a creativity coach I am a transactional analyst. Transactional analysis (TA) is a set of theories developed by Eric Berne in the 1950’s and 60’s that today are widely used in coaching, psychotherapy, education and organisations around the world.   I am going to look at some straightforward theory from TA to understand the inner critic.

Structure of Personality.

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Eric Berne

Berne wrote about personality structure as having three parts or ego states.  An ego state is described as “a consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behaviour”.  Another way to think about this is that our experience is organised into three parts.  Each of these parts has a recognisable pattern of thinking and feeling with corresponding behaviour.  The three ego states are named Parent, Adult and Child.

I began this post by talking about the inner critic, that inner voice which so often has unrealistic expectations and criticism. I identify this part of us with the Parent ego state. Before I go on to look at this in more depth I will summarise Adult and Child.

Child Ego State

The Child ego state, can be described as thoughts, feelings and behaviours replayed from childhood.  Experiences organised from when we were children.  Here’s a simple example.

You are at school maybe 4 or 5 years old. The teacher asks a question, you think you know the answer so you put up your hand. The teacher asks for your response, which, when you give your answer, is wrong. As you get it wrong someone at the back of the class sniggers, and you feel really embarrassed at not knowing the correct answer. You think and maybe decide “it’s not a good idea to answer questions in case you get it wrong.”

Thirty years later you are attending a one day training course as part of your job. The trainer asks a question, you answer and get it wrong and in that moment you revisit the experience you had when you were 4 and answered incorrectly in class, you feel the same embarrassment and again think, “it’s not good idea to answer questions. ”

Adult Ego State

When we are in our Adult ego state we are using thinking, feeling and behaviour in response to the “here and now”. Being in my Adult ego state means that I am in the present, fully aware and contact with myself so able to respond to a situations using my capacity as an adult for solving problems, reality testing situations, being honest, direct and open about what I am thinking and feeling and being spontaneous, creative and vulnerable.

Problem Solving

I am going to use the example I gave to illustrate Child ego state as a way of demonstrating what I mean by a here and now response in Adult ego state.  In the example of getting an answer wrong in a training course, the Adult response might be to feel ok about not knowing an answer and then to reflect on what you have not understood and what additional information might needed to give the correct answer. So I am engaging my problem-solving skills as an adult to solve the “problem” of not knowing an answer.

Parent Ego State

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PAC Model

The Parent ego state is a collection of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are “taken in” or copied from significant adults during childhood and with the perception of a child. Significant adults can mean our parents, or primary caregivers. It can also mean aunts, uncles, grandparents, brothers, sisters, teachers and even society at large. It is an external experience where we have observed someone else’s responses to a situation – their thinking, feeling and behaviour and we have “taken that experience in” so it then becomes part of how we respond in a similar situation.

Here’s an example of how this might work. You are five years old going away on a family holiday. As you are driving down the motorway someone cuts in front of your Dad, who is driving. He swears and shouts, gesturing fiercely at the driver responsible. Thirty years later you are driving on the motorway and someone cuts in front of you. You swear, shout and gesture fiercely.  Over time as we grow we internalise a whole host of experiences, some positive and some negative and together these form the Parent ego state.  So, the our critical inner voice is the expression internally of the negative parts of the Parent ego state.

Here are some of the reasons why is this part of ourselves so critical and harsh.

Firstly experiences are taken in when we are young and with the perception of a young child. For example, as a child we don’t fully understand the nuances of adult communication.

We also simplify and generalise from individual experiences.  Here’s an example.  A  parent or caregiver is having an important conversation on the telephone.  You are 6 years old and jumping down the stairs singing a nursery rhyme.  The parent or caregiver turns to you,  saying crossly “don’t shout and jump while I’m on the phone”    But you hear this as “Shouting is bad.”

The Parent ego state is actually a mixture of many experiences with parental figures and messages from the environment.

Finally a large part of Parent is about protecting us when we feel vulnerable in some way or another. For example the critical inner voice that sets high expectations may be protecting against the possibility of criticism or rejection from others.

So, how does this help us with our inner critic?

Well what this says to me is that when I am in my Parent ego state I am likely to be responding to a situation or stimulus using thoughts, feelings and behaviours from the past and that I have taken in from someone else as I perceived them at that time.  Therefore this response may not be relevant or appropriate to the present. I may want to revisit some of the messages and experiences I have taken in and up date them with how I think, feel and want to behave.  One way you might like to do this is to make a list of some of the sayings and slogans that were common in your family and that you find yourself saying to yourself.  An example might be when something bad happens “you’ve just got to get on with haven’t you.” Write them all out and then see if you think they are true for you today. If not update them with something more relevant and supportive.  So in the example given above I would update that to ” when bad things happen in life it’s good to seek support.” Take what is useful and helpful ignore the rest.

If I am in my Parent ego state I’m not using all of my Adult to problem solve and reality test. I may not be seeing the situation as it really is. Recognising this is the first step to moving into a more Adult place and regaining all of our Adult resources to problem solve and support ourselves.

Another way to deal with the inner critic is to thank that part of self for it’s positive intention  – even though impact is different from intention. Then turn the volume down on the voice, you might even want to visualise a large volume dial and imagine it being turned to reduce the sound.

These are few suggestions how to deal with you inner critic – have you any more?  I’d love to hear from you.
 

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First Steps – What to expect

First Steps in Art is a workshop specially designed for people who are completely new to drawing or painting.  So, what can you expect from your first art workshop?2015-10-27 07.57.47

Firstly a warm and friendly welcome, a cuppa and a chat when you arrive.  There will be time to introduce yourself to the other members of the group and as the teacher for the day I will be taking time to help people settle in.

Then, an overall introduction to the day and what we will be up to. Clear instructions on each lesson and how to use the materials

Each lesson will be introduced in turn with plenty of guidance on what to do.  I’ve some interesting and exciting things planned for us which are geared to help build your confidence quickly. As an example, we will use watercolours to paint stripes on a piece of paper and then cut it up to make a simple collage picture by sticking it on coloured card.

We take an hour for lunch allowing time for a break.

Group size is limited to 8 people so there is plenty of opportunity for one to one discussion and support from me.

Finally, you take home the results of your painting for the day.

 

 

 

Silence that critic and play with paint…

The joys of acrylic paint  – a gallery selection of some of my work using different techniques. 

My next workshop is an opportunity to explore and play with acrylic paint, hopefully silencing your inner critic – or at least turning the volume down while you have some fun.  I love using acrylics – they are versatile, easy to use and have a fabulous range of colours.  I have designed this one day session to provide a chance to chance to explore some of these qualities in a quiet, relaxing setting in the Peak District.

There are lots of really good artists out there offering painting workshops, and what I think I offer that is unique is a combination of skill in teaching and personal development and painting.

I have been a personal development professional and teacher for over the last 10 years so I bring a wealth of experience of working with people supporting them in developing themselves and an in-depth understanding of how we can limit ourselves and stop our selves experimenting and being creative because of unhelpful inner dialogues.  I’ve been painting  seriously for about the last five years and work in acrylics, oils and mixed media.  So I’ve done lots of exploring myself in how to release my own creativity and connect with my inner artist.

P1020158The workshop I’m running on Friday 6th May in Rowsley, Derbyshire runs from 10am until 4.30pm and is all about introducing people to the joys of painting in this medium. We’ll spend some time in the morning doing some experiments that explore and play with the properties of the paint.  Testing out the texture and qualities of the paint, how it mixes, using different tools like sponges and sticks.  Looking at colour.

Then we’ll move on to planning a composition and completing a small painting during the rest of our time together. Mostly, we’ll be playing with paint!

 

Think this might be for you?  Email me using the form at the bottom of this page with any question or to make a booking. Hope to see you there!

 

 

Art Workshop Programme 2016

IMG_20150920_125717 (2)I’ve been putting together my new programme of workshops for 2016 and as a result thinking about some of the comments people have made to me at times.   When I talk about painting I so often hear a response that goes  something like – “Oh, I’d love to, but I can’t draw”, or “Someone told me I can’t draw/paint” etc.   Often said with a strong sense of regret.

Unfortunately it seems that there are quite few people have had some kind of negative experience when growing up around artistic or creative expression. Either that, or that art is not the kind of thing that’s worthwhile or that you can earn a living at.  Even without this kind of interaction people do seem create their own inner critic who sits on their shoulder (metaphorically) getting in the way of them being creative.

As a personal development professional and an artist I am interested in helping people step around this and connect with their inner creativity to express themselves in the ways they want and to be satisfied with their work.  So all my workshops pay attention not only to the techniques of working with the medium in question, whether it’s acrylic or oils, but also to the conversation we might be having with ourselves while we are working.  I’m looking to help the person begin to identify if some of their thinking might be getting in their way of their creativity.

And along the way we’ll be having some fun and Play with Paint! Interested?  Call me to find out more 07985 936393 about workshops or coaching.

Plein Air – Choosing a Subject for Sketching Outside

I’m off to France this weekend for a week of cycling and painting. I’ve got my sketching kit – whittled down to the barest essentials (see my last post on plein air sketching kit) as I’m on my bike and carrying all my gear. Feels like quite an adventure and I’m really looking forward to it.

I’ll be taking advantage of coffee and lunch stops to get my sketch book and paints out to do a small sketch.  How do I choose?  For me it can be a myriad of things that catch my attention – the colours on a market stall, the shadows from a tree, the line or angle of a bench, a set of steps,  sunlight on water, roof tiles.  I draw what catches my attention in the moment.  Mostly I’m thinking about keeping it simple, as this is usually the most effective for me.

The temptation to paint the large and obvious I find doesn’t always work, the times I’ve done this I’ve often been dissatisfied with the result. Or, alternatively, when I spend ages and ages searching for the “perfect” view or the “right” thing to draw.  Spontaneity and being in the moment works well I find.

Here’s a few examples of some successful sketching, where there’s a narrow focus or I’ve kept it pretty simple.

Here’s a series of tree studies I did while away in Kent for the weekend. they were all located in the holiday park where we were staying!