It’s All Go for the Great Dome Art Fair

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.

New work.

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.

Edginess and Drama

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. 

Deep Thinking

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. 

Authenticity

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.  

Playing with drama and edginess on paper. Approx 16×23″. Unfinished.

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.

Tension in Design. 8×8″ mixed media on cradled panel. Framed and available from the Cupola Gallery Sheffield. Edginess appearing in my current work.

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.

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.

 

 

This Week Colour

If last week was all about value, then this week has been all about colour.

After a few months of consolidation I feel like I am in the middle of another period of development in my art practice.  I’ve been aware over the last three months or so that I’ve not been as keen to go into the studio, the work hasn’t been flowing quite as easily and I’ve been feeling slightly dissatisfied with the paintings I have been making.   Reflecting on this, it seems that I’ve not been that excited by what I have been making. It hasn’t felt that new, but more of a variation on a theme that began about a year ago.   And I haven’t quite known how to change that.

So I have been thinking, and painting and getting feedback, and painting and thinking some more.  And then I watched one of Nicholas Wilton’s short videos on Colour and something clicked.  I already had knowledge and awareness of how to de-saturate colour to reduce it’s intensity.  As we do this the colours adjacent will then be seen with greater contrast. But like many things that are part of ongoing learning and development we can come at something we think we already know and with a new context experience it differently.  We can find a different perspective and discover something new or that we hadn’t quite grasped.  Sometimes we experience a greater level of understanding and integration.  So, the video was something of a light bulb moment as several things fell into place and I understood why I’d not been liking my work.  I began to get some ideas about how to change it.

Working with Limited Palette

Firstly I had been working with limited palettes. Generally no more than three colours, with variations of light and dark.

I had also been wanting to bring in a sense of space and simplicity to the design of my work.  But because the colours were so limited, the paintings were feeling too simple. As a result I was then using lots of texture to compensate and create more interest.  Resulting in work that was beginning to feel the same or certainly very similar.

When I did use more colours, because I was working with paint that was only slightly de-saturated the work would feel garish.  And rather than think to de-saturate the colour further,  I would paint over it and go back to the limited palette. And round again.,

 

So, armed with a greater understanding  I have playing with de-saturating colour and it has felt very different. I think  I have a lot still to learn about how to do this, make it work effectively with how I paint. Design takes on a whole new set of exciting challenges.  I definitely feel a sense of lightness and space that wasn’t so easy to attain before.  And I am experimenting in new ways with new ideas.

Does this experience sound familiar to you?  Have you found something in your art practice that you revisit and gain new understanding each time?

Useful Links

See some of my work at the Chatsworth Exhibition during January and February with Peak District Artisans.

Sign up for my email challenge which has a exercises all geared to support you in boosting your artistic confidence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s All About Value

Maybe “its all about value” is something of an exaggeration. However there is some truth in the fact that value, the relative light and darkness of a composition is key in making impactful and successful work.

Evaluating Work

I had an interesting experience and some very useful learning on this subject in the last couple of days or so. If you read my blog you will know I did a 12 week online course at the beginning of last year with Nicholas Wilton .  The course had a huge impact on my painting. Nick talks a lot about how important value is to design. In fact the first few weeks of the course are spent looking at this. And he stresses that it is one of the first areas to consider in evaluating work.

Recently I had nearly completed a couple of paintings and had posted them for feedback in a group I am part of. I received some very helpful comments that were mainly about value. That in both of the paintings the suggestions were to review values and look to increase the differences in the light and dark. I found myself feeling really resistant to making changes. Afterwards I understood that it was  because I had an idea in mind I wanted to pursue and I was unwilling to let go of it. It took a chat to a friend and fellow artist who has lot of experience in design to bottom out my resistance.  Our conversation was all about how sometimes,  no matter how much you may want to include something in a piece of art or design, you may just have to let it go and move on.

Review in Greyscale

So my moving on process involved printing of a value scale.  I realised that had not been checking values in my work often enough. Lesson number 352 in remembering to so this on a regular basis from now on. I looked at the piece again and really considered the values in it. As I did this I realised that I had, without really considering it, made a painting that was quite dark,  as the differences in value were negligible. If you look at the two images above you can see what I mean. Looking  at the version in grey scale, then it is mostly a work in the 5 – 10 range.  It doesn’t  stimulate the eye with contrast and difference.  Because the grey is a dark grey the black shapes do not stand out as much as they would if the grey was much lighter.

What about the learning points? I have a habit of painting dark and I need to keep a value scale to hand to help me with this for while. I’ve gotten into the habit of not checking often enough.

Do not fall in love too soon (again) Click to see my other post on this. And be prepared to give up something. Or maybe find a way to scratch that creative itch in another way.

Feeling resistant?  Don’t ignore it. Explore it and see what this might be about as there is probably some useful learning to be had from your resistance.

What tools do you find most helpful in your work?  Have you had a similar experience?  How did you resolve it?

 

 

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.

How to Choose an Art Coach

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Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

My top five suggestions for how to choose an art coach.

Chemistry Check

Chemistry is probably one of the most important aspects of how to choose a coach. You will want to click with the person you are working with. You will also want to feel confident in their skills,experience, and knowledge. Some ways to check this out are to do some research along with meeting them before you begin to work together.  You can look to see if they have a blog? How they write can be a helpful way of understanding their thinking. Can you find them on line? Are there Facebook, YouTube or Instagram videos of them speaking. This will give you in insight into their personality. You can also ask for a trial or a chemistry check where you get the chance to do some work first before committing. It may only be a half hour but it can give a feel for what it might be like to work with the person.

Psychological Safety

The most effective coaching is when we feel able to talk about the things we are not doing well so that we can be helped. To do that we need to feel psychologically safe. In other words, we need to know that what we are sharing will be kept confidential. That we can reveal our vulnerabilities and be treated with respect, without judgement or criticism and be supported. We need to know that the person will help to support our self esteem.

So, feeling psychologically safe is an important part of how to choose an art coach. Do you feel comfortable, supported and safe. Because psychological safety is hugely important if we are going to be vulnerable. If we don’t feel safe enough to be vulnerable then learning will not take place. How can we tell if the coach we are thinking of working with will be the kind of person we can trust with our psychological safety? The same mechanisms I suggested for the chemistry check can be useful. Do they seem like a person with integrity. Do they meet their agreements, including the small ones? Are they clear in their communication with you? These aren’t acid tests and they will give you a sense of the person’s approach, attitude and way of working.

What Coaching Experience do they have?

A good question to ask is to find out about what experience the person has. They may not have direct experience of coaching, they might have experience in teaching or in other related areas which can be equally relevant. Some experience of working with people in a one to one coaching or teaching capacity is important because they need to know how to give feedback in a positive, clear and constructive fashion. They also will need to understand how to structure a session, set goals for the session and know how to facilitate and coach rather than advise. A good coach will rarely tell you what to do, although they might sometimes make suggestions. Mostly what they will be doing is facilitating your thinking and exploration, helping you find the answers for yourself.

Coaching Models

You will also want to work with someone who has some training in coaching or adult learning. Training will provide ways for them to think about the how to coach effectively. It will also mean that they will recognise when something is beyond them. It is important for a coach to know when they reached their limitations. Or to know when not to open up work when they do not the skills to deal with something.  My model of coaching is transactional analysis which has lots of ways of thinking about personal psychology and  communication.

A straightforward way to find this out is to ask what models they use. A good coach will be able to describe how they work and the principles they use.

Referrals and Recommendations

Finally another piece of information to gather in how to choose an art coach is to ask people you know and trust for a referral to someone they might have worked with or know. You can also ask people you are considering working with if they have any testimonials that you can read on previous work they have done.  If  other people have has a positive experience this can help you in your decision making.

I offer coaching from meeting rooms in Buxton and Stockport or online using Zoom.  Click here to find out more about how I work as a coach.

Have you worked with an art coach?  How did you go about making your decision?

 

24 Hour Sale

Exciting News! I will be doing a Facebook Live Sale on Monday 10th December at 6.30pm. I will have some of my prints, my boxed notecards and even some original paintings in the sale. I am offering a 25% reduction on the usual price and P&P is included. The sale will last until 6.30pm (uk time) on Tuesday. With plenty of time for posting before Christmas this could be your opportunity to grab a pre-Christmas bargain and give an unusual and original gift to someone special.

I have a selection of abstract and impressionistic landscape prints that will be included in this 24 Hour Sale. I will be selecting from the recent colour studies and including some of these along with two of my larger works on wooden cradled panel. Along with prints and originals both my new Abstract and the Flowers and Fields card sets are included as smaller gift options.

Message me on the day to reserve your choice and items will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Why Buy Original Art?

So, what is the point of buying an original piece of art? When you can probably get something much cheaper from (insert name of the home or furniture store of choice) and it can be changed as you update your paint colour.

I’d like to share a different perspective. Original art is not just for the investors. In fact I think the vast majority of original art is probably bought from established or up and coming artists like me and my fellow artists for tens or hundred of pounds, rather than thousands of pounds. Probably from small local galleries, local and regional art fairs, open studios and directly from the artists themselves.

What are you getting in buying a piece of original art? You have the opportunity to own something unique that is completely original. Not just that, in the creation of the piece the artist has had a relationship with that piece of work. They have applied the paint and materials or melted the metal, worked the clay, carved the wood, blown the glass. If you are buying directly from the artist you can often talk to them and find out about them.  Learn what inspired them, hear the story of the creation of the work and even why the artist made the choices they did in the making.  In owning the piece you are gifted with the unique experience of owning a creative representation of someone’s perspective on the world.

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Colour Study, mounted. £30 in my Etsy shop.

You can start small. Lots of artists will make their sketches or smaller works available for sale. These can be a great way to start your original art collection.  For example I have done a couple of projects this year in support of my art practice one was the 100 Day Challenge where I did a small abstract collage a day. This inspired some small collage works on paper.  The second was an exercise shared by Louise Fletcher which resulted in a whole host of small colour studies. These works are all available in my Etsy shop for under £40.  You might also like to check out Alice Sheridan’s recent post on this topic, Alice has some good tips about how to decide what to buy.

Choosing a piece of original art allows us to connect with our own inspiration and the things that move us.  We have the chance own original work that appeals to us deeply. Sometimes we will not know why we like something just that there is something about it that appeals to us.   We may not even be able to put it into words. I think these kind of experiences are worth having. To sit in front of a piece of art that brings you pleasure year after year, to be moved and inspired.

How did you begin collecting original art?  What was your first piece? Do you still love it?  I’d love to hear your experiences.