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

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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?

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?

 

 

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?