Last Thoughts on the Monochrome Challenge

Fresh work

My last thoughts on the monochrone challenge are that it was fun! I produced a lovely series of small paintings that I am pleased with as examples of fresh, spontaneous abstract work.

What else came out of the experience? Well, it was a bit of a distraction over the summer. The challenge is an example of how I sometimes have a bright idea that I go full stream ahead with filled with enthusiasm, without fully thinking about how it might feel to carry it out. This process is something that shows up for me in life every now and then. It is something I am learning not to do. As August is generally my month off the challenge was a work project that felt like it interrupted really important leisure and down time. The challenge itself was great, the timing was not so good. Something to note and remember for my next project.

What else did I notice? About the work itself, rather than process. There were a lot of very simple compositions. I find that I want to take some of the simplicity of the forms and transfer this kind of idea across to my larger work. This is definitely a direction in which I am heading and noticing this happening in some of my larger paintings.

I also noticed that I began to use some simple patterns in some of the pieces. This is something I have wanted to explore for a while and which I am delighted to see show up in my work. I’m in the process of developing some ideas on how I’m going to do this with more focus and direction. My intention is that it will be a sketchbook project that I will work on over the next few months. Expect to see posts on Instagram and Facebook of the work as it happens.

This whole collection of paintings, there are just under 30 of them as I have sold a few over the summer, stimulated some thinking about anyone who is new to collecting art and where to start. I’m hoping these small paintings might make good starting pieces for someone who is considering buying original art rather than prints or reproductions. The beauty of these small pieces is, as inexpensive works on paper they are not a huge investment for someone new to buying original art and developing their taste. They also look great grouped together in twos, threes or fours to make a larger display with more impact.

You can see all of the paintings from the challenge on my website here. They will also be with me at my next exhibition at the Artist and Designer Fair Buxton Pavilion Gardens on the 23rd and 24th of November 2019 which is my last exhibition before Christmas. Looking for an unusual present? These small paintings could be the ideal Christmas gift.

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Digging Deep – My Inspiration

Digging Deep
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.

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.

Colour, Collage and Texture Workshop

Icefloe
Icefloe. mixed media. 12×12″. Board,. Framed.

This post is to introduce my new Colour, Collage and Texture Workshop which i am excited to be running next year.  This workshop is all about painting abstractly and using colour, collage and texture in the work to create impact.

It is a follow on session to my introductory session into Abstract Painting.  For people who have attended that day this new workshop builds on the material learnt in that session. If you are already painting abstractly then this session can help you bring further refinement to your work and develop the impact of what you are painting.

Colour Theory

The focus of the day is two fold. To demonstrate and teach a range of techniques using texture and collage that can be incorporated into abstract work. To look at some of the main ideas in colour theory and then to think about how to use those ideas to create more impact in your work.

Specifically, we will take a look at how to use colour through value as well as ideas about colour harmony and working with complementary colour.  I will go over the principles of the colour wheel and some basics in colour theory.  We will spend some time on colour mixing exercises to help you understand the various properties of colour and how to use it effectively in your work.  We will also look at a range of techniques to build texture into your work along with how to make your own collage papers.

The day is at the Old House Studio outside Glossop in a beautiful location overlooking the Pennine Way.  There is a well equipped purpose-built studio with space for up to eight people.

Teaching Experience

I have been teaching adults for over 20 years in various capacities.

My teaching style is relaxed and informal and I teach from a place of facilitating you to find your own style of working.  I will demonstrate the techniques and work on my own painting during the session so that you can observe my application of the ideas taught. There is also lots of time for one to one input and coaching during the day.  If this sounds like something that might be of interest then book your place by using the form below or book here.

 

Are we over?

I sometimes find myself standing in front of a painting thinking,  “Are we over?”

Artistic Process

A little like a relationship that is no longer working, with our art do we need to ask this question?   Are there times we have to decide that a painting is not working and move on from it.  Or can we persevere in the hope that it will come right in the end.  This is another post about artistic process and some thoughts on tenacity vs moving on.

Making Large Moves

I’d like to share a recent experience.  I had been working on a painting for about 12 weeks and frankly it was driving me nuts.  I have recently begun working in a series so it was not the only piece of work I was concentrating on.  I had another 6 pieces also in process which were going well.  However, with this piece I really felt like I was getting nowhere.    The painting had several versions, none of them particularly feeling satisfying to me.  During the course of painting  I had made several large moves, but none of them got me out of the frustrating,  getting nowhere process I was in. I don’t have photos from all of the various iterations, but here are a few with some of the moves I made.

Early stage

At this stage the piece had an emerging abstract landscape feel.  I was aware of needing to do a lot of work to the design as there were quite number of areas I felt required development and resolution.  The similar shapes along the top, the large dark that was drawing eye into the centre, too much saturated colour.  However there was some good texture building and I felt optimistic of where it was heading at this point.

Next stage

It felt like something interesting was beginning to emerge with more landscape forms although I was not convinced by the inclusion of a horizon line at this early stage as I felt it was constraining me and pushing me in a specific direction quite early on.  I next felt the need to move the piece forward more significantly so I did this.

Big move

Increasing Differences

I had at this point decided to take a risk and make a big dramatic change by  putting in a large orange shape.  It felt different, fresh and something new.  I liked the impact of the large shape and felt like I could resolve the design with the similarity of some the smaller blue and darker shapes along the bottom.  But, some time later it wasn’t happening.   I spent quite some time making alterations to the design wanting to increase the range of difference and contrast in the medium shapes but each move felt like it took me further away from a resolution.  .

 

Big moves

Sanding!

Next I included a large blue shape along the bottom but the darks still felt too similar and disconnected.  By this point I was losing patience.  I got out the sander and sanded the whole painting back which resulting in some interesting fresh marks and a very smooth board!  I rotated the painting and had something new to respond to.

These last two images are my final versions of this piece.  As you can see there was a lot more development but nothing that felt like a successful one.  By this point I think I was getting completely lost in frustration and feeling increasingly like I was not going to resolve this painting,  but would continue going around in circles.

It seemed like a good point to be asking the question am I done with this?

Moving on

I’m all for sticking with things and seeing them through to completion, however I also know there comes a point  where the energy invested is just not worth the outcome.  I’d reached that point with this board.  Time to move on.  So, I completely “wrecked” what was there and this is now sitting in a corner of my studio until I have gotten over the break up.  I’m not going back to it until I have completely different relationship with it  otherwise I think the previously process might reemerge. So, we are officially on a break!  I feel like I need to give it some time and space to move on in my process so that it doesn’t feel like returning to something I was struggling with.  I think by giving myself enough distance it will feel fresher.

Sharing the learning

Here are some of the things that helped me while I was stuck with this painting.

Definitely not being over invested in any aspect of the work. Several times I made big and risky moves, even thought they didn’t lead to a resolution it helps to feel free to play spontaneously.  See my previous post on Falling in Love too early  for more on this.

Recognising this is only a painting. Getting into a struggle and a fight with the work is probably getting into a fight with myself as I’m the one doing the painting.

The painting isn’t winning nor am I losing.  Holding on to the idea that the experience is one of learning can be self supporting. So I didn’t make a finished piece. I learnt a lot on the journey to where I am now.

Knowing when to take a break and that doing so is not about failure but a recognition of what the most helpful approach right now.

For now I shall continue to use it as a play board  – wiping paint on it periodically just make interesting marks and maybe this will be one of those relationships were we do get back together and make it work…….

Playboard
Play board

Any thoughts – is something that you have experienced as well?  What do you do when you get stuck in your art making?

If you’d like to chat to me about art making come and visit me at Art in the Pen in Skipton 10th to 12th of August.

Please do browse the site.  You’ll find prints and cards at my  Etsy Shop.  along with small originals and collages.

Falling in love?

Last night I fell in and out of love. With a painting.

Creativity

You may remember that I have recently completed a 12 week online art development programme (CVP) with  Nicholas Wilton, from Art2Life. One of his phrases about painting, and one that has stayed with me is  “Don’t fall in love too early”

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Too Early to Fall in Love.

What Nick was talking about is the inclination to get attached to parts of our art work in a way that stifles or stops our creativity. If we become overly invested in an idea, an aspect of the work, a corner with some lovely texture, paint marks etc then our creative exploration can be be halted.  I notice this in myself.  if there is section of a piece I am working that I really like I can get a bit precious and tight not wanting to inadvertently paint over something I love.  Then that tightness will often stop me exploring and creating freely.  And the work loses energy and can feel unexciting and habitual.

The impetus for this post was this painting. I was working on it a couple of evenings ago.  It was very early on in the process that the landscape forms began to emerge.  Possibly as early as the second pass so in the photograph it hasn’t had a lot of development and there isn’t a lot of history to it.   At this point my inclination was to stay with it pretty much as it stood.  This may also have been because it’s one of my first large pieces in this new series and with an exhibition coming at Art in the Pen in August I’m keen to keep on moving forward with pieces.

A day later as I was working on again and taking a moment sitting in front of it thinking what next?

Risk

I was noticing a lack of excitement in the painting  and found myself thinking “have I fallen in love too early?”  I was aware that it felt like there wasn’t anything new in this piece. So I started asking myself the question “Am I willing to risk what’s there and go in another direction not I knowing where the piece will develop.  How can I push this further? What would a risky move look like?

So, I took a risk, not as big as some but I did take some big moves in a new direction.  I took my used paper from my palette and pressed it onto the painting in a few places and I also introduced orange as a complementary colour to the blues which I think has resulted in a new feeling in the work, a new energy and vibrancy.

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In a long term relationship!

I’m much happier with this piece, in fact we are in a long term relationship!  There are a few more adjustments I will make to this before final finishing but the essence of the work is there for me now.

Is this process something that you recognise?  How do you deal with this your own art practice?

How to know when to STOP PAINTING and take a break!

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Time for Coffee

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.

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Breaktime

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.