Integration and Authenticity

One of my big goals for this year is to have a lot more contact with people who may be interested in my art, or me as teacher and coach. So, I’m doing a lot more videos on Facebook and Instagram, posting more regularly about what I’m up to. However, as there is only so much time in a week, it has meant I’ve been doing less writing. A recent short video on IGTV (You can see it here) on how to find integration and authenticity as an artist has prompted me to the laptop as I really wanted to say more about the ideas I was talking about, so I thought I would expand on the video with some more information in a written post.

The image above is how I have been thinking about how we develop as artists. I also use it to guide me when coaching and teaching artists. I find it useful as a way of thinking about what we might need to pay attention to in our learning. Each of the overlapping circles represents different aspects of being an artist. Our inspiration, how to draw and paint – or the theory of art, and our art practice. Finally, the surrounding and all encompassing circle of our artist mindset or the person themselves.

Looking at each of the elements in turn and in more depth.

Artistic Inspiration

On one level our inspiration can seem to be quite obvious, “I like buildings,” “I like landscape.” However in this area it can be very helpful to take that to the next level and dive deeply into the depths of your inspiration. As we explore in some detail what it might be about landscape or buildings that is inspiring, we are likely to discover more. When we take a close look at the what, how and why of our inspiration we understand more about ourselves and our work. To ask the question why and keep asking it until you can go no further in your answers can reveal useful information and ideas.

Theory of Art

Looking next at theory of art this is often about how to draw and paint and where many artists start. This circle represents all of the bed rock skills we need to grasp as we set out in our artistic journey. Included in this area is learning about materials, composition and design, colour, texture. All of the practical skill needed to make paintings whether they are representational or abstract. There is a huge body of knowledge that we acquire over the years and this never ends. Lots of arts workshops fit into this category, for example how to paint landscapes, how to collage, use watercolours, do printmaking etc.

Art Practice

If theory of art is about the technical skill of drawing and painting then the circle of Art Practice is about how we go about actually making our art. This area can include everything from how we lay out our studios, through all of the many practices that we put in place to support ourselves as artists. Practices like how we use our sketchbooks, keeping our inspiration alive with regular gallery and museum visits, looking at and reflecting on others work, peer group discussions, creative playing, the frequency, priority and time we give to these activities.

The heart in the centre of the model represents the integration of these three elements. It is through integration we can get to a place of authenticity and the heart of who we are as artists. We can know the theory of art – how to paint and have a good art practice but without a solid connection to our inspiration our work may lack consistency and strength. It might be technically accurate yet lacking in soul.

When we know our inspiration and theory of art our work might be full of soul, consistent and technically good but we might struggle to develop our ideas and make work regularly and consistently without a solid art practice to underpin what we are doing.

Finally we may have a good art practice and be connected to our inspiration but without the technical understanding we may struggle to create works that are strong and appealing visually. We may also have difficulty in being able to critique our work and know how to make it better and stronger.

Integration

Hopefully these examples of what can happen when only two elements are aligned demonstrates how the integration of all three is key to making strong authentic work. We need to have technical skill to make the work, to be able to critique it to make it stronger. We need to be connected to our inspiration to know why we are making it and for it to reflect us as artists and have soul. We need a robust art practice to enable us to support ourselves in the making of the work and our own development as artists over time.

Surrounding all of this is mindset. Because even with an integration across the whole, where our inspiration, theory and practice is aligned and we are attending to all three elements, our mindset can impact on the work. If we are carrying negative messages and limiting beliefs then these can stop us in our tracks. In fact I think we are unlikely to get to a place of integration and authenticity because the messages will get in the the way of it happening.

How do we work towards integration? I think it is an ongoing process of development and self discovery. Asking ourselves questions to identify where the area of development is can help. Is it mindset, theory of art, inspiration or practice that I need to work on? However like many things this kind of process probably works better with help rather than alone. It can be very hard to see what we don’t know. A habit of regular art journaling can be useful, along with a supportive group or objective third party like a coach or teacher. Any or all of these things can be a great help in supporting and identifying what to focus on.

Sound useful? I hope so, please let me know what you think in the comments section below. If you’d like to explore this with me personally, you can book a 20 minute free chemistry check to find out more about working with me as your coach here.

And find out first about new work and what I’m to with my monthly newsletter here.

Marketing Starter Tips

I’ve recently been having fun posting short videos over on IGTV. Some are about artistic process using my knowledge and skill as a personal development professional . This latest vlog is about marketing where I draw on over 25 years experience of having my own business and working in marketing to give you my top three tips for artists who want to begin marketing their artwork.

Here’s the video from IGTV

And here’s the link to my newsletter if you’d like to find out more about what I’m up to. And don’t forget my new year competition is still running where everyone on my newsletter list will be entered into the draw at the end of the month to win this painting.

First Steps in Art Making

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

People often say to me when I’m exhibiting “oh, I’d love to paint” or when I ask, usually as a conversation starter, “do you paint?” they say, “oh no, I’d love to, but I can’t, I’m not creative.”

This saddens me, as I think that everyone is innately creative. That the impulse to make something new is pretty much hard wired into us and it’s unfortunately only negative experience that leads to us believing we cannot.

However although this is what I think now, it hasn’t always been the case.

My personal journey has been a mixed experience. Thankfully some of my very early introductions to art were positive. I can remember going to the local Saturday art group for children when I was quite young and enjoying that. My next really significant experience of art happened when I was a teenager. I had a really cool ceramics teacher who was happy to let me and a friend hang out in the pottery room during break and lunch times. Still, whilst it was ok to do art as a pastime or a break from academic work, the possibility of taking it further wasn’t really an option. Unfortunately the messages I was carrying at this time would have been something along the lines of “you can’t make money from art, or make a career out of art,” ” why do you want to be an artist,” “you’ll never be good enough” etc etc. all pretty unhelpful stuff.

Over the years I have been able to reframe these limiting beliefs and I am now a successful part time professional artist who exhibits and sells work. I run art workshops and coach. I’m passionate about supporting and helping others in their creative journey. Either people who have already experience as an artist and want help with developing their practice, or someone who is right at the beginning looking for their first experience in art.

Because I have had to deal with my own negative messages about being creative means I can understand how to help others. My workshop First Steps in Art is all about helping people who are completely new to painting and drawing. You can read more about what to expect on the day here. The basis of the day is to introduce materials in a simple way and give people a fun experience of art making that helps them to build confidence.

Mostly I draw on my own early experiences of getting back into art. I remember how important it was to have lots of time to discover how to do things along with clear instructions and support. I wanted to chance to see what was out there, to experiment and learn how to use different materials and see what they could do. I also needed to leave the session feeling like I had done something I could be proud of, to boost my self belief and encourage me to keep on making art.

I hope to offer some of this in my one day course First Steps in Art coming up on Monday 10th February. Sound of interest? If you’ve question about the day, please message me using the contact form below otherwise click here to book your journey into art making.

I’d love you to join me for a fun day of exploration and play.

How to be an artist

Making a start

Over the last 15 years, since I began painting again, I have attended a fair number of art workshops, some online and some in person. I’ve watched numerous people on YouTube demonstrating techniques. These workshops can be very helpful in showing how to approach particular materials. I see this as learning how to paint. What I am also interested in helping people learn is how to be an artist.

Teaching Techniques

Let me explain my thinking on this as I feel these two things are very different. Teaching how to create a painting is often about specific materials (acrylics, oils, pastel) or techniques. Whereas learning about being an artist has a number of other dimension. The two I’m going to write about are the process of painting and the process of developing oneself as an artist, on an ongoing basis.

I have about 20 years teaching experience in other fields and I wanted to bring some of the approaches I have used in teaching other subjects to how I teach art. I wanted my teaching to have clearer learning objectives and outcomes, to support the attendees in their learning. The sessions would still be enjoyable and fun, but I felt that to give people a rich learning experience I wanted to do more than demonstrate an approach or technique in making a painting.

Structured Learning

An example is a one day workshop I recently delivered for a local art group. The workshop was an Introduction to Abstract Painting. For this group I had decided to put together a booklet with exercises to be completed during the session. The day began with some questions. The questions were about what type of artist you are. Then we went on to do two exercises on colour mixing and to reflect on what we had learnt. Participants were encouraged to make notes on the process as they were going along. The day was a mixture of this type of structured exercise and reflection, as well as demonstration of techniques for the group to then use in their own paintings. Along with this, I spent time with each person offering them individual coaching on their work.

All my workshops now include reflective questions alongside structured exercises to help people in their learning. I still demonstrate in these sessions but I have also including more input from me in the way of formal teaching and structured experiences. A shift from the workshop being a whole day of me painting and the delegates watching and then learning from watching and asking questions. This is where learning moves outside of how to use materials, how to paint or draw a particular way. Or about composition or colour. There is no doubt that these are key skills to have. For me, learning about being an artist is also about developing authentic artistic sensibility and learning from the process of your own art making. A large part of this is reflecting on the work and learning from what you are doing.

Exploring Pattern

An example of this process in action in my own work is a recent decision to explore pattern. I rarely use regular mechanical styled pattern in my work. I love this kind of pattern in others work and example of this would be the work of Jane Davies american artist. Some pattern does appear in my collage work, particularly quick pieces in my sketchbook, but not in my larger paintings. So, I have set myself the goal to explore this and see how it might begin to appear in my work. I may find that actually there is no place, but this will only come through exploration.

A little bit of pattern top right in a study from the Monochrome Challenge.

I have set up a PInterest board for capturing images of pattern I like. I will be regularly doing small pieces in my sketchbook exploring pattern. I intend to put together in inspiration board for my wall in my studio to keep this top of mind for the next few months. It will be interesting to see how this changes. I have been, and will continue to journal on the experience of using pattern and what I notice about how it shows up in my work. Which is not very often at the moment. This process of exploring is, for me, hugely important in being an artist. Learning and working out what I want to develop in my work. Deciding what and how I want to learn and deciding in a process for that. Some of the key elements in being an artist.

How do I teach or coach people to be an artist?

Firstly I am not prescriptive about what you should do, or how you should do it. My aim is to encourage people who attend my sessions to discover what they need to know about their own ways of making art. With the result of being able to support yourself in your artistic development more effectively. Studio sessions and workshops will have a structure and exercises that are geared to help with this. Coaching will be more exploratory although I will make concrete suggestions on things to do to improve your art practice.

There are three ways you can learn with me. I offer individual coaching sessions which are delivered online. These can be booked either in a block or individually and will very much depend on what you want from the coaching. I offer a free half hour chemistry check where we can discuss your objectives for the coaching. You can book a chemistry check here.

Studio Sessions. These are half day painting sessions at my studio in Buxton for a maximum of two people. For more information see my website page. And you can check out feedback and comments on workshops here.

Finally, my new workshop program is launching in the next few weeks. Sign up here to to keep in touch and find out first about the programme and my exciting new courses for 2020. Or follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

Last Thoughts on the Monochrome Challenge

Fresh work

My last thoughts on the monochrone challenge are that it was fun! I produced a lovely series of small paintings that I am pleased with as examples of fresh, spontaneous abstract work.

What else came out of the experience? Well, it was a bit of a distraction over the summer. The challenge is an example of how I sometimes have a bright idea that I go full stream ahead with filled with enthusiasm, without fully thinking about how it might feel to carry it out. This process is something that shows up for me in life every now and then. It is something I am learning not to do. As August is generally my month off the challenge was a work project that felt like it interrupted really important leisure and down time. The challenge itself was great, the timing was not so good. Something to note and remember for my next project.

What else did I notice? About the work itself, rather than process. There were a lot of very simple compositions. I find that I want to take some of the simplicity of the forms and transfer this kind of idea across to my larger work. This is definitely a direction in which I am heading and noticing this happening in some of my larger paintings.

I also noticed that I began to use some simple patterns in some of the pieces. This is something I have wanted to explore for a while and which I am delighted to see show up in my work. I’m in the process of developing some ideas on how I’m going to do this with more focus and direction. My intention is that it will be a sketchbook project that I will work on over the next few months. Expect to see posts on Instagram and Facebook of the work as it happens.

This whole collection of paintings, there are just under 30 of them as I have sold a few over the summer, stimulated some thinking about anyone who is new to collecting art and where to start. I’m hoping these small paintings might make good starting pieces for someone who is considering buying original art rather than prints or reproductions. The beauty of these small pieces is, as inexpensive works on paper they are not a huge investment for someone new to buying original art and developing their taste. They also look great grouped together in twos, threes or fours to make a larger display with more impact.

You can see all of the paintings from the challenge on my website here. They will also be with me at my next exhibition at the Artist and Designer Fair Buxton Pavilion Gardens on the 23rd and 24th of November 2019 which is my last exhibition before Christmas. Looking for an unusual present? These small paintings could be the ideal Christmas gift.

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Express Yourself

With Colour, Collage and Texture.

My next art workshop, on Monday 16th September is Colour, Collage and Texture in Abstract Painting. In some ways I think this workshop is all about how to become more expressive in your art. How we make use of colour, or bring in outside elements like collage and texture can have a massive impact on the look and feel of a painting. It can also help us express ourselves in ways that are more authentic and personal as we get closer and more in touch with those elements that inspire, delight or bring us satisfaction and joy in our painting.

New Techniques

I am really looking forward to this session and thought I would write something more about what I am planning to help you decide if this workshop is for you. The intention for the day is to spend most of the morning on exploring the three elements of the workshop title. People who attend will then go away with lots of new techniques and ways to use colour, collage and texture in their work.

Sketchbook Collage from the 100 Day Project

Learn About Colour

As someone who has been teaching in various different guises for over 20 years I know how important it is to have a solid foundation in the basics. We will take a brief look at the colour wheel and some simple and straightforward ways of understanding and working with colour. Lots of people find understanding colour and how to work with it a bit intimidating. I hope to demystify some of the theory for you as well as offering some simple ways to give you more confidence and knowledge about colour as well as the tools to bring more harmony to your paintings.

Next we will be making our own collaging papers. There are lots of ways we will be approaching this, from simple printing, using stencils, wax resist and different mark making tools. The last part of the morning will be to look at creating texture with paint. I will demonstrate how I do this as well as setting up some simple exercises for you to experiment and practice for yourselves.

Following lunch we will make some larger paintings and studies, by putting some of the techniques and ideas we have learnt in the morning into practice. There will be plenty of time and opportunity to complete a piece along with lots of input and coaching from me.

Places are limited and there are only a few left. Thinking this might be the next workshop you need to move your art practice on? You can book your place here via my online booking page.

Hope to see you soon.

Fun Before or Fun After

The main thing I’ve been thinking about this week during the Monochrome Challenge, is the process of completing these small paintings every day. Over the last week I have had a few things on. As a result, painting time has been at something of a premium. This has meant there have been a couple of days when I have not managed to get to my studio until quite late in the evening. Then to be facing the blank page when I was probably tired and not feeling particularly energetic has been difficult. On the days when I have been able to get to my studio early, it has made big difference in the ease with which I have been able to complete the painting and the experience of doing it. My engagement has been very different. This holds true even though these paintings are only small.

This experience has also got me thinking about a broader question in my art practice. Do you/ I paint before or after. Does the fun of painting come before other tasks and work, or does it come after.

Day 19 having fun before.

I know I have something of an Until process. This is lived as “I don’t get to have fun (ie painting) until everything else is done.” What this looks like on a day to day basis is I will write up my To Do list first thing in the morning and not get to my studio Until the main things on it are done. I will often not getting to my art until later in the day, sometimes late afternoon. Then I might be feeling tired, I will often have been pretty busy most of the day and I am definitely not as energised, and possibly not as creative, as I am first thing in the morning.

The focus of the challenge has really highlighted this process to me. It’s got me thinking about how I can work differently to take advantage of my creative energy first thing in the day.

I’m going to need to put in place some simple processes like keeping my To DO list to hand in the studio so I can add to it as I remember things. I think also making an agreement with myself to do the things that are on it that feel like they are both important and urgent. By focusing on priorities I can allow the other things to wait. And knowing that’s ok because getting to my art IS a priority.

I think it is interesting how our personal psychology can sometimes get in our way. What is your work/fun process in life? Do you have fun before or after? Have you needed to make adjustments to support yourself in your art practice?

Colourful Interest

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

dav

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.

Colourful Interest

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!

Day 11

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

Day 1

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?

Asymmetry

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.

Colour

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.

The Monochrome Summer Challenge

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.

From the 100 Day Project

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?

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