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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Digging Deep – My Inspiration

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Digging Deep Mixed media on cradled panel. Framed. 12×12″

Landscape, history and archaeology inspire me. I am fascinated by what has gone before.  I also love walking and exploring.  A few years ago I had occasion to spend some time on the south coat down in Dorset.  We were staying in Weymouth with a group of scuba diving friends.  I’d go on long walks along the cliffs with my dogs, while my friends were off exploring underwater.  As I am much more of a warm water person, the diving was not for me, being too deep and dark to interest me.  On these trips I was more interested in seeing what was above the surface of the sea and spent my days exploring the coastline.

Walking Portland

One of the walks I enjoyed was on Portland.  Portland is an island near Weymouth.  Four miles in length, it has three light houses and numerous quarries for the limestone used by Christopher Wren in the building of St Paul’s cathedral.  As a result, the coastline of Portland is very interesting. Not only are there a series of low cliffs and small bays along the coast, but also industrial archaeology. Circumnavigating Portland was one of the many walks in the area I enjoyed.   I can remember absolutely blazing hot sunny days when I was very grateful for a cooling breeze off the sea and lots of chances to paddle and cool off.

On the walk I came across a tangle of metal cables, a beam and ironwork on the cliff edge.  Research following the walk explained it was called Red Crane, used to lower boats into the water.  With this information my imagination took flight.  Fed during childhood and adolescence on a steady diet of Georgette Heyer, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Daphne Du Maurier,  I like to wonder about  the people living in cottages along the coast.  How they lived, worked and died. I’m endlessly fascinated to see the signs and marks they have left behind them.  It may be in the ridges in a field suggesting a medieval field boundary or like the crane sitting on the cliff edge, above the sea on Portland.

Inspiration

It is these experiences that inspire my work. My visits to Dorset took place about eight or nine years ago. When I was painting Digging Deep I didn’t have an idea of the crane on that hot summer’s day in mind.  The industrial shapes only emerged during the process of the work towards the end.  I work intuitively applying paint, making marks, experimenting with texture, surface and colour until something catches my interest.  Then I want to develop it further. The lines and marks at the top of the painting, reminiscent of industrial archaeology, caught my attention.  From there the work became about land, excavation and edges.

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Digging Deep – an earlier version.

I think in the case of this work the title Digging Deep is also a metaphor for the experience of completing the painting.   This piece has had several iterations. I had worked on it over several months, finding and discarding ideas throughout that process. There were a couple of times when I thought it was finished. And then decided that maybe it wasn’t. Sometimes we fall in love too soon with an idea and do not give ourselves the space to dig deep to find what else there might be to express.   If I continue with the metaphor of digging deep within, then I think this piece also reflects how as artists we might need to dig deep within ourselves to find confidence to continue, to find energy, inspiration, motivation and ideas.

How does your inspiration show itself in your work?  I’d love to hear from you.

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.

Sticking to the knitting – or how to build an arts business

Copy of Copy of Anika Kohler (1)I wanted a comparable arty phrase but couldn’t come up with one, so sticking to the knitting it had to be.  What am I talking about?  Being focused and keeping with a plan, or how I have gone about building an arts business.

I’m an emerging artist.  I have been a painting for about eight years and intermittently showing my work for the last three or four years. I’ve sold some paintings and run some workshops.  I’ve had some very small success.

Early this year, as lots of you will know if you read my blog, I completed the Creative Visionary Path with Nicholas Wilton and  I found my artistic voice.  Which has been incredibly exciting.  As a result I also felt readier than I ever had to start putting myself out there, hopefully selling work and building a profile as an artist.

I had set up some decent support for myself with an occasional Virtual Assistant to help with admin,  I’ve just appointed a bookkeeper and although I have a sales and marketing background, I also have a marketing support person to bounce ideas off and to share the workload.

Very quickly I found myself with so many opportunities I could potentially pursue.  Because I’m already a therapist and teacher I could see the possibility to bring some of my teaching and psychological work into my art.  I could develop my art workshops and offer coaching for artists.

However,  it was during one of the conversations with Fiona (my marketing support) as I was considering these options that I realised needed a clear plan otherwise I could just get completely overwhelmed, run around doing nothing very effectively and end up feeling disheartened and demotivated with my lack of progress and success.

Screenshot_20181116-133955My focus was and is my art. I want to paint. Workshops and coaching are great and I love doing that kind of work. But for now because I am an emerging artist with, as yet, a fairly small audience of interested people I need to focus on making work.  Continuing on this path of exploring and developing my authentic voice, now that I have found it, and getting that work out into the public. I decided that people would be interested in my workshops and coaching organically from seeing my work, my posting on social media, and my writing and talking about art and creativity. So, that’s what I have been doing and it has been paying off.

Since completing CVP earlier this year I have held a pop up shop, exhibited at Derbyshire Open Arts, Art in the Pen at Skipton and twice in Buxton.

I have run two art workshops, demonstrated at a local art group and had a people begin coaching with me.

I have been invited to provide work to a gallery Number Four in St Abbs and applied and been invited to join Peak District Artisans.

I’m beginning next year’s planning and it will be similar to this year. I will be exhibiting at some key events in the local art calendar.   Derbyshire Open Arts, some of the Artist and Designer Fairs in Buxton, the Great Dome Art Fair.  The earliest chance next year to see my work will be at the Chatsworth Exhibition in the Stables from 10th January to 28th February 2019 with Peak District Artisans.

What else?  I am running two workshops this year focused on abstract art .  An Introduction to Abstract Art and, a follow on and more advanced day, Colour, Collage and Texture in Abstract Painting.  I’m open for more coaching work which can be online,  or in person in Buxton.

So this year has been all about sticking to the knitting, having a plan and seeing it through. I’m delighted with how it’s gone and I’m eager and looking forward to more.  Are there any “how to’s” from this?  Here’s my top five:

  1. Decide on what your focus needs to be, mine was making art and getting it out there.
  2. Develop a plan of activity to support your focus. In the main don’t do anything that takes you away from this.
  3. Delegate and outsource. If you can find someone to do a tasks either quicker or, at less than it costs you to do it yourself, then outsource.
  4. Follow up, follow up, follow up.  From little acorns etc. Make a note of every interaction that has potential and follow it up. If not now, then maybe at some point in the future.
  5. Recognise and celebrate every success.  You deserve it!

Has this year gone as you hoped?  What are your success stories? With hindsight would you have done anything different?

I’d love to hear from you and of course if you are around do drop into the Octagon in Buxton between Friday 23rd and Sunday the 25th November for a chat.  I will have lots of smaller works, prints and boxed notecards with me that make great Christmas gifts.

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.

 

 

 

 

Free yourself

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Plein Air watercolour and ink.

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.

Understanding Self

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.

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Mixed media experiment using collage. 

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.

 

Colour and Light

Another post with a selection of photographs from one of the inspiring moments on my morning walks. This from earlier in the week on Tuesday morning when the light was amazing, with a very clear blue sky and sun beams slanting through the trees or catching the topmost leaves and highlighting the amazing colours.  There were some lovely silhouettes of trees against the light and mysterious moments.