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.

 

 

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?

 

 

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.

How to support your artist mindset.

davBelief in Ourselves, or Believing Ourselves.

Do you have belief in yourself? Or, do you believe yourself when you are repeating some unhelpful or critical inner dialogue?  This post is one of a number I will be writing over the next few weeks on how to support your artist mindset.

I’m a member of a few art groups on social media. I have been noticing quite a few conversations about how people experience themselves in making their art. People post about their successes and also their struggles. Often the struggles seem to be about mindset. What I mean by this is anxiety about the work, what people might think, fear of success, risk taking or being seen are just a few examples of how our personal psychology can interfere with the process of art making with ease.

Psychology and Art

As a qualified psychotherapist in my other work I’ve long thought how important personal psychology is in making satisfying and authentic art.  Part of the training to be a therapist means years of personal therapy. As a result I think I know myself pretty well these days, and I have been able to work through a lot of my insecurity, self limiting beliefs and confidence issues over the years. When I first started painting I was struck, and I continue to be struck, by how important the psychological process of art making is in making authentic work.  I think because the experience of art making is deeply personal and revealing of self the experience of art-making intensifies and heightens our psychology in ways that other types of activity doesn’t.

Believing Ourselves: The Unhelpful Mindset and How to Work With It.

Fear and anxiety: Fear and anxiety are such common experiences for people. In our evolution they were responses to danger and to keep us safe. In modern living we often have this response to more everyday activities. One of the common patterns of thinking and feeling in anxiety states is to overestimate the “danger” or impact of the things we are feeling anxious about and to underestimate our capacity to cope with it. Therefore some simple reality testing is a very helpful way of reducing anxiety. By reality testing I quite literally mean checking the basis – the evidence – for the fears and anxieties we hold. This is a cognitive approach where engaging our thinking in a positive and self supporting way can assist in assessing the action or activity we are anxious or nervous about. Taking regular time to relax and de-stress is also very important as this will make us generally less susceptible to an anxious response.

Comparing to others: When we compare ourselves others we can diminish ourselves . Finding something in another person’s work we like or are inspired by is very different to making ourselves not ok in some way because we think we are not as good as the other. It’s useful to check in with ourselves when we are making comparisons. To ask ourselves the question – am I inspired or am I making myself less.

Unrealistic expectations: having unrealistic expectations or seeking perfection are ways that we can be not support ourselves. The trouble with unrealistic expectations or perfectionism is that we can set the goal so high that we never actually begin. Or we get so lost in the process of trying to be perfect that we lose contact with the overall aim of what we originally set out to do. Sometimes good enough is the thing to focus on.

Critical inner dialogue: listening to the critical inner voice. Our inner critic can be loud sometimes. Whilst sometimes well-intentioned (See my post for more on this) our inner critic may hold us back . Working out an effective strategy to deal with your internal critic is another useful positive artist mindset approach.

Self limiting beliefs: beginning a process of recognising what beliefs you hold that are unhelpful is an important step in self awareness. Knowing your learning edges and how to work with the aspects of your psychology that have the potential to hold you back is another aspect to consider. Self limiting beliefs can be across a whole range of areas. Here are some examples I have come across in my therapy and coaching work. It’s not ok to be a success, to think for oneself , to have feelings, to be important, to be creative, to belong, to be seen. These beliefs can hinder us in many unseen and unexpected ways. Once we know they are there we can be more active on our own behalf in ensuring they do not derail us from our goals and set about changing and updating them to positive attributions.

Belief in Ourselves: Self Supporting Mindset.

A self supporting mindset is as much about knowing ourselves, our edges and limits and how to work with them as it is about changing aspects of self.

Confidence: Confidence helps us to risk, experiment and play. Whether this in the making of our art, in the selling and promoting of our art. Developing ways of building confidence is hugely important. An immediate and simple suggestion is to keep a journal, or record in a way which suits you, of every success so that you begin to account your achievements. This is one way of supporting your confidence, and when you feel uncertain read it to boost your confidence remind yourself of the positive evidence of success.

Self knowledge: knowing ourselves, our learning edges, strengths and how to self support. Self knowledge helps us to recognise what might be difficult. What are the things that might hold us back. Once we have this knowledge we can take action on our own behalf and make arrangements, maybe support or resources to help us get what we want.

Vulnerability: being willing to be vulnerable with ourselves and others. We are more likely to have support if we can be open and honest about what we need, where our learning edges are and the things we need help with.

Responsiveness: paying attention to ourselves and what we need to support ourselves. Then taking action, being responsive to ourselves by problem solving.

Potency: being potent on our own behalf. Different to power which can be misused potency may mean doing things with energy and vigour. Being effective and resourceful. It might also mean keeping agreements and commitments with ourselves and others. Holding our integrity.

These are some of the ideas I’ve found helpful in my own personal development and that I use in coaching. What have you found helpful in supporting your artist mindset?

Interested in learning more about my coaching? Contact me to arrange for a free 20 minute chemistry check. Or want to meet me to chat about these ideas?  My next exhibition is at the Octagon Centre, Pavilion Gardens, Buxton,  on Saturday and Sunday 20th and 21st October.

Contact me to book a chemistry check.