I am at the end of week two of my Monochrome challenge. The challenge I set myself was to complete a small, 10cm x 10cm, abstract painting everyday during August. I could use one colour if I wished. So, how has this second week been? Two big themes this week.
Painting on the Run
With the Art in the Pen exhibition in Skipton on Saturday and Sunday, there were a couple of days when I wasn’t sure I was going to complete a painting. I had taken a small kit of materials with me to Skipton. This was made up of a small box with black and white acrylic paint on a stay wet palette. I do this by putting a damp cloth in the bottom of an airtight sandwich box. I cover the cloth with baking parchment. The paint then goes on top of the parchment and the moisture from the cloth underneath will keep the paint from drying out.
I also had three brushes, a small palette knife and one single colour. In this case, quinacridone gold which is transparent and fantastic for glazing. the last few bits were a selection of oil pastels all in the brown/orange colour range a charcoal and graphite pencil.
Fortunately Friday morning I was up super early so I was able to complete a piece before we got on the road. It definitely helps my creativity to paint early in the day when my energy is fresh.
Saturday was more of a challenge after a full day of chatting to people and dinner out. However, I got the main ideas down for the piece which felt like enough. The difference in the process of painting between 6am on Friday and 9pm Saturday was huge. Early wins hands down.
The second thing I noticed was how much I use colour to provide interest. Which it will do of course. But, this was a monochrome challenge so I decided now I was back in the studio to do the next two or three paintings in black and white and forgo the option of using a colour. To focus just on value as the interest in the composition. It has been a reminder of how this can be really useful as an exercise in thinking about design. The elements in a piece are thrown into stark relief when a painting is solely in black and white – both good and not so good!
Have you got a favourite piece from this week? Hop on over to the gallery to see all of the paintings from the challenge so far. Week three is coming up and what next?
Asymmetry and me. that seems to be the theme of the week for this first seven days of my summer Monochrome Challenge. I have successfully completed my first week of mini, 12 x 12 abstract paintings in black and white with the option to a use colour if I wish. So, here are the 7 paintings from the week and on the whole it’s been great fun and very satisfying. In this first week here are some of my first reflections on the process.
What have I learnt or noticed so far?
It seems I love asymmetry, hence the title of this post. As I think more about this, there is something incredibly satisfying to me about finding a point of visual balance in a painting. Particularly when there are elements in the composition that are vastly different in size and visual weight. How do I know when I have reached a point of balance? To get to that point of balance I think about positioning, visual mass of the elements, value, movement of the eye around the piece. These are examples of the kind of questions I use to assess a piece. Then I use an intuitive sense that something “feels balanced.” I certainly know when it’s not because that sense of satisfaction I mentioned a few lines ago is missing. And when it’s missing I know I’ve still more work to do.
I was wondering when I began this challenge how I would feel about using so little colour. In recent months I’ve been very focused on colour particularly exploring de-saturating colour and colour harmony. In my larger work I’ve been challenging myself to use colours that are unfamiliar or to put colours together in new ways. It’s been interesting to note that my use of colour in this challenge has mainly been to add in simple dramatic marks. However it’s only week one so that may change.
Drama and Edginess
Bringing more drama and edginess is something I am focusing on throughout my work. It feels like this challenge is proving to be a great opportunity to explore this further and support me in considering how I might achieve this in my bigger work. So far I am noticing that some of the elements that are either dramatic or edgy to me are things like the contrasts between dark and light, simplicity and complexity. Strong lines and shapes also appeal as well as marks that are bold and have an unfinished and rough look to them
What are some of the elements in the work that you have noticed this week? And of the seven paintings completed so far do you have a favourite? I’d love to hear from you.
I’m setting myself a new challenge inspired by conversations this last weekend at the Great Dome Art Fair. I took my sketchbook with me from when I completed the 100 Day Project last year. As I was chatting to people about the challenge I remembered how valuable it had been to the development of my work and what an incredibly useful process I had found it. The 100 Day Project sets the goal of completing something creative for 100 days. My focus was to complete a small abstract collage a day in my sketchbook. I have a some big new events coming up this year along with gallery commitments, so another 100 days is not viable however I’d like to do something fun and different to support my creative development.
For the last few years I have taken August off from my other business which leaves me free to paint. This year I’ve decided to add in some extra focus to my painting time over the summer. From August 1st until the end of the month I am setting myself the challenge to complete a mini abstract painting a day. I’m putting in place some limitations to add to the fun and spark my creativity. And because one of the aspects I’d like to explore is more about value and composition I’m gearing the project in that direction. The limitations are as follows:
I can only use black, white and one other colour in each painting.
I can use a variety of media, acrylic paint, gouache, crayon, charcoal etc
I will only paint on paper.
One piece to be completed each day
Each piece is to be 12 x 12 cm square.
I’m going to be approaching these small paintings in the way I do a lot of my colour study work. I will begin by using large sheets of paper to engage in creative play and then select from this, developing and adding to the painting until I’m satisfied with the piece. In the main this means they will be small pieces, with a lot of spontaneity and freshness to them. I will post each painting on Instagram and Facebook daily and send out a weekly newsletter, so if you are not already on my newsletter list then sign up here to be sure of keeping up to date with the project. The weekly updates will let you know my progress, what I’m learning and the all of the images from that week. Each painting will be mounted and then available to buy through my website.
In early August I have Art in the Pen so that’s going to be an interesting challenge to complete a couple of pieces while I’m away. Other than that the diary looks pretty clear so I’m optimistic and looking forward to some fun and new ideas.
Have you taken part in any artistic challenges? How did you get on and what did you find valuable?
Friday 19th, Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st of July will see over 40 of the members of Peak District Artisans (PDA) exhibiting at the Devonshire Dome. It’s probably the flagship event of the year for the group who are a highly successful association of some of the very best professional fine artists, designer makers and contemporary artisans based in and around the beautiful Derbyshire Peak District in England.
This is my first time exhibiting at the Dome as I only joined the group in autumn of last year and I’m looking forward to it tremendously. I’m also excited that I’m going to be demonstrating. On Sunday lunchtime I will be offering a half hour demonstration on abstract creative play. I will be showing how I use intuitive play to begin a painting, seek out the areas of interest from that play and then use those ideas to inform me in taking the work forward.
As part of my exhibition I will have 8 new pieces of work with me along with my current body of work, prints and cards. These new paintings are from my recent explorations in colour and edginess and I’m excited to be giving them their first public airing. They are both a continuation of my journey in abstraction and a departure. Previous works I think have been more clearly referenced to landscape or architecture, these new pieces feel like they are pushing these ideas further. The reference needs to searched out in the piece and is much less obvious. And I will be interested in hearing what others think and how they respond to this new work.
Meanwhile with just over a week to go I have a slightly intimidating To Do list and a few paintings that need final finishing – varnish, titles, pricing. So, if you are looking for something to entertain you next weekend then Peak District Artisans would love to welcome you to the Great Dome Art Fair.
The last few months has been pretty full on, with a busy schedule and numerous projects across both my art and psychotherapy business resulting in very little time to write.
In my regular blog over the last few months I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing my thoughts and reflections on the experience that is creativity and artistic process. However in the last three months I have found myself just too busy to write. I have absorbed in some deep personal reflections on how to make more space in my life for my art. Resulting in some significant changes. I have been so engaged in this that I’ve not been able to write about it. Because I hadn’t figured it out. Now, I’m beginning to get there.
Part of this process has been having my own coaching. Working with a mentor is incredibly helpful. Having a place to take the questions I am wondering about and trying to resolve is invaluable. As is having someone to support, challenge, prompt, question and offer feedback. The process is a super charge to your art practice.
So, what have I been doing?
I think I have been working on developing my authentic voice. About 6 months ago I had a something of a light bulb moment around colour. I was watching a session by Nicholas Wilton talking about how he makes use of colour and de-saturating colour. I realised that this was something I wanted to bring into my work. The next few pieces I worked on were an exploration of colour and value. In the paintings below I have been exploring how to use subtle shifts in tone and value. How to create interest across the darker and lighter areas through making these subtle shifts. Elements that can only be experienced and seen when you move in close to the artwork.
The second big development happened recently. Through conversations with my mentor I realised I have been quietening down my work for fear of being too much, or that it would not be liked. Not a helpful process in anything creative. I think we do need to find the courage to speak from the heart with our authenticity. Which is also not an easy task for so much can get in the way of this. Old beliefs, experiences and criticism. My email challenge from a few months ago dealt with some of this.
What does being authentic mean for my art? I want more edginess and drama in my work. For me this takes the form of much looser painting, stronger, less tidy or resolved marks, more energy in the work, strong contrasts in colour and shape, asymmetric compositions and line work. I’ve been playing with these ideas myself. And, I’ve a PInterest Board called Dramatic Edgy Art where I have been collecting images of work that speaks to me in this way. Here’s the link for you to hop on over and take a look at how I see edginess in painting.
I’ve also been experimenting with some unfinished pieces in this way. Both in my sketchbook and on larger pieces of paper.
And these ideas are finding their way into my current work. I’m preparing for The Great Dome Art Fair and Art in the Pen and getting some new work ready for Number Four Gallery in St Abbs later this year. I have a fair amount of work underway right now and all these pieces are showing elements of this new direction. These new developments feel very exciting. I’m enjoying the work and watching what unfolds with interest and slight trepidation as I have no idea where this is leading. But isn’t that creativity at its best? To risk ourselves in artistic exploration and to do something even though we have no idea of the result.
What has been an exciting moment in your art where you felt like you were pushing the boundaries of your work? I’d love to hear about your experience.
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.
I enjoyed art at school. There, my main interest was ceramics. I would spend a lot of my breaks and lunchtime working in the pottery room as for me, it was a haven, as I didn’t particularly enjoy school. I came back to art about 9 years ago. I had completed my training to work as a psychotherapist and wanted something to help me relax and to be creative in a different way. I began with a basic course run as part of the local authority’s adult education programme. I had made a start towards something new. The course was pretty basic; however it got me touch with art materials again.
Landscape Oil Painting
The next significant moment was an oil painting workshop with Imogen Bone while I was holiday on the Isles of Scilly. Imogen is a good teacher and a modern impressionistic landscape painter. This was a transformative experience as I realised I could paint. I came back home all fired up and eager to continue exploring landscape painting in oils.
At the same time as painting I was visiting art galleries when I could, researching different artists I wanted to work with along with experimenting and trying new materials. The next two or three years saw considerable exploration. One of the best teachers I met was Carol Baker who runs a whole series of workshops on loosening up and working with acrylics. At this stage in my journey I was definitely still learning about the materials and how to paint in a loose representational style. I was pleased with my work and began to show it in a small way in open studios and a couple of small galleries/ cafes that took a few paintings. My relatives all got paintings for Christmas and I sold a few pieces.
Mixed Media and Abstract Painting
The exploration continued. I learnt about using watercolour. I found the work of Jean Haines and Ann Blockley. Their lovely books inspired me and I began to experiment with mixing media; at this stage mostly ink, watercolour, gouache. I had a tentative play with collage.
The next big thing was finding the work of Jane Davies, an American abstract artist on YouTube. Jane was my introduction to abstract work. She has a ton of free videos on her website and also offers a series of online courses. I signed up for a few of these and found them really helpful on learning yet more about mixing media with acrylics and abstract composition, a completely new direction. As I began to paint abstractly, I really began to feel and see that my work was derivative; my version of someone else’s style. This was something I struggled with for some time. Looking back I can see that up to this point my explorations had been mostly learning about materials and techniques. The area that I had not explored, probably because I was not yet ready to do so, was artistic process. How I go about making my art. Partly the things that inspire me, that I draw on in making my art. But also the process of making my art. What do I mean by this? I’m referring to how I begin, the steps from beginning through the making of the work. The decisions and choices I make during the process. How I complete and finish a piece.
This brings me to Art2Life, Nicholas Wilton and Creative Visionary Path. This is a 12 week online development programme for artists. It was the big break though I needed. The course is a mixture of technical principles about how to make authentic work, and guidance and coaching on ways of understanding one’s own process in that making.
So I now know that my work is intuitive. I have no idea what is going to emerge when I begin to paint, it’s a process of play, exploration and response in the moment to what I am seeing and experiencing. Sometimes the work is about a memory, of landscape, a form or shape in nature or something created by people. Sometimes it is about the process of making. It’s an adventure and a journey that is continually exciting. What next? The exploration continues. I feel like I am at the beginning of a new phase. That while I’m confident I’ve found my form of artistic expression, I am now engaged in an ongoing process of change and development.
What were the big breakthroughs in your artistic journey? How did you find your voice?
This post is to introduce my new Colour, Collage and Texture Workshop which i am excited to be running next year. This workshop is all about painting abstractly and using colour, collage and texture in the work to create impact.
It is a follow on session to my introductory session into Abstract Painting. For people who have attended that day this new workshop builds on the material learnt in that session. If you are already painting abstractly then this session can help you bring further refinement to your work and develop the impact of what you are painting.
The focus of the day is two fold. To demonstrate and teach a range of techniques using texture and collage that can be incorporated into abstract work. To look at some of the main ideas in colour theory and then to think about how to use those ideas to create more impact in your work.
Specifically, we will take a look at how to use colour through value as well as ideas about colour harmony and working with complementary colour. I will go over the principles of the colour wheel and some basics in colour theory. We will spend some time on colour mixing exercises to help you understand the various properties of colour and how to use it effectively in your work. We will also look at a range of techniques to build texture into your work along with how to make your own collage papers.
The day is at the Old House Studio outside Glossop in a beautiful location overlooking the Pennine Way. There is a well equipped purpose-built studio with space for up to eight people.
I have been teaching adults for over 20 years in various capacities.
My teaching style is relaxed and informal and I teach from a place of facilitating you to find your own style of working. I will demonstrate the techniques and work on my own painting during the session so that you can observe my application of the ideas taught. There is also lots of time for one to one input and coaching during the day. If this sounds like something that might be of interest then book your place by using the form below or book here.
Some of you might remember that earlier this year I signed up for the 100 Day Project. I was intending to write about the experience and interestingly it’s taken me a while to get around to it. Some of the delay is due to being busy over the summer, but I also think that it has taken me a while to consolidate on my learning because there was so much to take from the experience.
I signed up in a fit of enthusiasm. Well, during the course of the 100 days or so that enthusiasm waxed and waned. What I can say for sure is how much I have learnt from the process.
Initially I was using some of the principles learnt from the online workshop I have been involved in, run by Nicholas Wilton from Art2life, that took place at the beginning of this year. My focus was mainly on what Nick calls design, or composition, and value. He highlights how important differences are in composition. Differences in size of mark, shape and value.
The project I decided on was to do a small abstract collage in my sketchbook. I was hoping to develop my art practice in two ways from deciding to make this my project. Firstly to use all my learning from the course and secondly to learn about using collage.
Part of the process I found particularly helpful was to go back through my sketchbook and make notes as I was going along. Some were very just short, just a line of two, others much longer as I found my reflections led me deeper into thinking about my work.
Looking back over the sketchbook there was a clear development in the collages. I began with small pieces on individual sheets. This was the first day, a very simple collage. My notes were about needing more differences in the size of shape and value.
Some of my main learning was about how to use larger shapes, to be bolder in my compositions and through the daily practice I developed a range of shapes that were more random and unusual.
I also discovered how much l like to layer collage onto collage. I particularly like little bits peeking through giving a sense of surprise or mystery as to what lies beneath. In the image to the right you can see the use of layering along the bolder shapes. In this piece I was also making use of handmade collage papers along with bought in materials. I enjoyed the contrast.
Another technique I became interested in was to go outside the edges. To use a separate sheet for one part of the collage, to then mount that on a plain piece of paper and then to continue to develop the piece. Here’s an example. Looking closely, the lines are drawn over a central piece and extend to the page it is mounted on. The red shape also extends over the edge.
I was able to experiment with using new materials – large graphite sticks and fabric for example. I also made use of found objects. Some more successful than others. A paper post it note from the floor – not so successful. The ticket stub from a dinner and dance I attended – more successful.
What became obvious during the process has been the importance of continuing experimentation and play. I noticed that there is a part of me that had a secret fear that my creativity might dry up. That there is a finite well of ideas. However I can confidently say that just the opposite has proven to be the case. For example the collages where have collaged over the edges feels like it might be a new sort of format. I’m now thinking of how to translate this into a multiple layered larger piece. I’m not sure when this will happen in my larger work, but I think it will find a place.
During the 100 days I also did some slightly larger pieces of collaging as small complete pictures. These are now for sale in my Etsy Shop.
Meanwhile what next? Something of a rest I think. Will I do it again? As an intense period of learning that boosted my art it was invaluable so, yes, I probably will.
Did you take part? What was your experience? What was the biggest learning?
Interested in bringing some collage into your work? Then book onto my Colour, Collage and Texture in Abstract Painting Workshop.
I sometimes find myself standing in front of a painting thinking, “Are we over?”
A littlelike 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.
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.
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.
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. .
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?
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…….
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.