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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Build Your Confidence Challenge

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Are you thinking that you might be interested in building your confidence as an artist? In my experience confidence is often based on how we account what we are good at, how much our self-limiting beliefs and critical inner dialogue affects us, how we prioritise ourselves and our work, and how effective we are at getting the feedback we need to support ourselves. Building on my recent post about Supporting your Artist Mindset, with these things in mind I have devised a six week challenge with a question or task each week for you to consider, think and journal about and which you might find helpful in building more confidence. There is plenty of time between each email for the task and to reflect on the changes you are making.

I will be posting a series of questions or tasks each week for the next six weeks, taking a week off at Christmas. If you are interested, and to make sure you don’t miss a post, then sign up to my newsletter list here to ensure it comes directly to your inbox. The first email will come out after you sign up for the challenge.

And do let me know how you get on, I love to hear about people’s progress, learning and success. Have fun and happy painting.

Sign up for the 6 week email confidence boosting challenge.

On Capacity and Connectedness

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.

Artist and Designer Fair in Buxton

I’m delighted to be exhibiting at the newly renovated Octagon Hall in the Artist and Designer Fair on Saturday and  Sunday 20th and 21st October,  10am til 4.30pm.    An elegant and spacious venue, the Octagon Hall has room for upwards of 30 exhibitors.  Exhibitions include art, jewellery, furniture, glassware and other designer led products.  The renovations on the the Octagon Hall, part of the Pavilion Gardens, were completed earlier this month. It’s a stunning venue situated in 23 acres of award-winning Victorian Gardens where you can take a gentle stroll amongst the autumn leaves and then rest, relax and recruit your energies with something to eat and drink in one of numerous cafes and tea rooms.

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The Pavilion Gardens

I will have a selection of new work with me completed in the last few weeks, where I have been continuing to explore colour and form in abstraction. My work and inspiration is about the archaeology of place and experience.

As the end of October approaches I’m thinking about something for the early Christmas shoppers so I will have  a selection of smaller works, prints and my quality boxed notecards available, as these items make unique and individual Christmas presents.

The weather forecast is good with sunshine predicted on Saturday, so why not drop in and take a look around.  I’d love to chat to you about my work, workshops and coaching.

Colour, Collage and Texture Workshop

Icefloe
Icefloe. mixed media. 12×12″. Board,. Framed.

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.

Colour Theory

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.

Teaching Experience

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.

 

100 Days of Learning

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.

Abstract Collage

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.

Day 1

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.

Bolder shapes

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.

Going over the edges.

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.

New Materials.

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.

Please leave a comment below.

Art Books

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

Some of the books I have used for inspiration:

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Are we over?

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

Artistic Process

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

Making Large Moves

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

Early stage

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

Next stage

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

Big move

Increasing Differences

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

 

Big moves

Sanding!

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

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

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

Moving on

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

Sharing the learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playboard
Play board

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

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

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