There’s no doubt that we can absolutely lose ourselves when we are painting. The experience of creating can be so compelling and interesting that we lose track of time completely. And, while its great to be so involved in something I also think that sometimes we need to stop, give ourselves a break to come back refreshed with renewed energy.
Self awareness in Art
My personal experience of painting has definitely been informed by my experience of training to be a psychotherapist. In that training self-awareness, understanding thinking and feeling, and noticing what’s going on in my physical state has been very significant in my work in helping people.
It has also been really important to me as an artist where what’s going on in me is just as important as the technical understanding of things like colour, value and composition.
Why is this important in knowing when its time to stop?
What I’ve been noticing are certain states of mind that when I pay attention help me to know when to take a break.
Intuition to Mindlessness
I notice a shift from painting spontaneously and intuitively with a positive energy to a kind of mindless, frustrated applying of paint that gets repetitive and unhelpful with an underlying tiredness.
It isn’t a definite bold move or something considered but a kind of “I don’t know where this is going but I’m not able to stop” process. If this starts happening then you need to stop.
Tightening up in Painting
You’ve stopped standing back to look at the work and get focused in on small finicky details. Using small brushes, messing with the details. Going over and over. You need to stop.
You’ve stopped looking at the clock, haven’t eaten or had a drink for a few hours. You’ve simply been at it too long without a break. You feel tired and your energy is dipping yet you keep going. You need to stop.
Critical Inner Voice
You start listening to the inner critical voice that is telling you the work is no good. You need to stop.
I think all of these are sign that our creativity has gone for a walk and that we need to take a break whether is it for a sit down with a cuppa, a walk in the fresh air or doing something different. The break gives us time to refresh, come back with renewed energy and having found our creativity again.
Are there any other experiences you have had that tell you it’s time for a break? Or, what are your strategies to renew your energy? I’d love to hear from you.
Here’s Lin talking about her next workshop
I’m thinking about new ideas in my work particularly how to join up the skills I have as a psychotherapist of over ten years and as a practising artist. Having been on my own journey of artistic development; from someone who hadn’t picked up a paint brush since “A” level I’m very interested in working with people in freeing up their creativity, whether it’s because they want to paint, play music, act dance or sing or because they want to find a way to improve their creative energy in a more general way and free themselves to be more expressive.
Critical Inner Voice
When I was at school I can remember how difficult art felt sometimes. My inner voice criticising, feeling unable to express myself feely, being scared about what others might think or say about my efforts. From my own recent personal experience I can definitely say that my confidence in painting and in being willing to experiment now comes from having done so much personal development work as part of my training to work as a psychotherapist. That work has been all about understanding myself better and growing my confidence in my thinking, feeling and ways of being myself. Which has fed through into my painting in a willingness both to experiment and test out new ideas and to put myself out there, for my work to be seen and commented on.
I’m not by any means suggesting that everyone who is an artist or who wants to express themselves in a more creative way needs to undergo a course of psychotherapy – however I do think that there is something to be said for understanding how we might be limiting ourselves and then finding ways to liberate ourselves from old patterns of criticism, or insecurity in our expressiveness.
Coaching for Creativity
I work with people in just this way, whether in a small groups or on an individual basis I provide creative coaching support. My approach is to focus on what each person wants to gain from the time with me. So, we might explore practical techniques as well as how your thinking and feeling might be influencing your work. In my experience it is the ideas we have about our abilities and what we are doing that feeds into what and how we create.
If you think you might be interested in exploring how I might be able to help then please give a call or drop my an email using the form below. we can have a 20 minute conversation free of charge to explore some of the areas you might like to work and if this might be for you.
Anyone who has read my blog may have picked up that I’m don’t really paint much using watercolours. I paint in oils and acrylic and I’ve been using pastels recently, but satisfaction with watercolours has so far eluded me. I was thinking about this recently and it dates back to school. I was using oils and acrylics when I took my A levels and I only began using watercolours about two or three years ago. Which makes sense as to why I’ve found them a bit challenging.
I am very much drawn to other artists’ work in the medium, I love the quality of the light that is conveyed and the beautiful lightness of touch and impression of spontaneity. So having recently decided that I wanted to improve my work in this area and spurred on by a couple of book purchases (see Doodling) I’ve been spending all my painting time this week either reading or using watercolours, beginning with some doodling earlier in the week, and finishing up with a couple of small paintings.
The process has been very interesting. I’ve resisted a lot of planning in the past. I’m a “lets get in there and start painting” person. This does not work with watercolour. I’ve proved it several times. Two or three minutes in, one unthought through, brush stroke later and the paper is in the bin/ drying for scrap and I’m sitting feeling grumpy. So I’ve planned. I’ve done quick sketches, followed by tonal sketches in pencil. Then tonal sketches in watercolour. Then planned out the palette. And taken my time. Planned which colour to use and when. And had some pretty happy results. A good start and not feeling grumpy.
I was in Sheffield this week and found a second hand book shop on Sharrow Vale Road. I bought three lovely art book bargains, one on drawing for beginners that I thought might have some useful exercises for my upcoming workshops, one on painting outside as, although I sketch outside, I tend to work mainly in my studio, and one on watercolours.
There are some very talented watercolourists out there whose work I love, spontaneous, unusual and fresh work. I think because I came late to watercolours it has been, so far, the medium I find the most challenging. The work so often ends up muddy, or overworked. I aim for spontaneity and brightness and am often dissatisfied with the results.
So, when my bargain book, Fresh Watercolours by Ray Campbell Smith suggested doodling as a way to play with the effects of watercolour I decided to experiment.
The learning has been very interesting and I have discovered quite a few things:
I have been adapting (doing as told without evaluating or thinking about my own ideas) to an artist whose workshop I attended quite a while ago who said that round brushes are “the best to use.” In my other work I mostly use flats, I like the definite marks that result and they are flexible enough to make quite a range of different marks too. So a change of brush to test this out for while.
Because I work mainly with oils and acrylics I tend to work quite quickly and I think I have a habit of getting lost in the work and not standing back often enough to evaluate what I am doing. This does not work well with watercolour when something I am working on can go from fresh to muddy in a couple of brush strokes. I need to slow down and pause.
Planning in advance. I do sketch out my ideas before painting and test out colours using thumbnails. However I have to own that for most of my acrylic and oils I mostly have a broad idea of where I am heading at best and the rest evolves as I am painting. I think this can be a problem with watercolour as an unplanned colour or brush mark cannot be changed. So, I need to spend more time planning and working through ideas. I do find this quite a challenge as often want to get in there and get painting and it sometimes feels like I might lose the spontaneity by too much planning in advance. Although maybe that is the challenge – to find a balance between planning and spontaneity.
Finally less is definitely more. Simpler palettes, simple compositions seem to work most effectively with watercolour. A doorway rather than a complex street scene, a tree rather than a whole wood etc etc.
To all those dedicated watercolourists out there, what do you think? What have been your greatest challenges? I’d love to hear from you.
I’ve been experimenting with working with pastels recently. Getting used to the properties and techniques. Here’s a colour study of some silver birch trees on Curbar Gap during winter. Dry pastel on cool blue grey paper 160g 30cmx22cm. This is going to sit for a while now while I evaluate it. I’ll be looking at mark making, colour, composition. I’m already thinking of using a damp brush to give more definition to some of the branches in the trees.
I’ve been putting together my new programme of workshops for 2016 and as a result thinking about some of the comments people have made to me at times. When I talk about painting I so often hear a response that goes something like – “Oh, I’d love to, but I can’t draw”, or “Someone told me I can’t draw/paint” etc. Often said with a strong sense of regret.
Unfortunately it seems that there are quite few people have had some kind of negative experience when growing up around artistic or creative expression. Either that, or that art is not the kind of thing that’s worthwhile or that you can earn a living at. Even without this kind of interaction people do seem create their own inner critic who sits on their shoulder (metaphorically) getting in the way of them being creative.
As a personal development professional and an artist I am interested in helping people step around this and connect with their inner creativity to express themselves in the ways they want and to be satisfied with their work. So all my workshops pay attention not only to the techniques of working with the medium in question, whether it’s acrylic or oils, but also to the conversation we might be having with ourselves while we are working. I’m looking to help the person begin to identify if some of their thinking might be getting in their way of their creativity.