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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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?