Everything Counts

When blogging about art, it is always tempting to just show the good stuff – encourage the illusion that everything is easy – that it all works out – ‘look what I painted!’

self portrait

When in actual fact, some days are just a struggle and far more rubbish is produced than the good stuff. This weekend has been one of those – trying to work on a painting and having to completely scrape the paint off not once but three times. So frustrating – but in the end I just decided to do something different, a huge amount of paint onto the paper with a painting knife. I think I have only worked with a painting knife once before and it is such a different way of working to my usual. I normally work with lots of fairly thin layers of paint and glazes over and over.

I love the way that all the thick piles of paint and colour that mean very little in relation to each other close up, merge into a form when you are standing back from the picture. I have used quite small marks creating a lot of texture but when I look at the paintings here I love how the marks are really flat planes of colour that fit together to create the form. It is a technique that I plan to experiment more with and incorporate into my paintings to vary the texture of them more alongside the glazes.

self portrait

So much work gets produced that will never see the light of day outside my studio. This is very crude and now looking at the photo I see a lot areas that would need work but as a practice piece it teaches me a lot. Each piece counts towards something even if it does not feel like it at the time. A lesson in modelling form, discovering new colour combinations or applying the paint in a different way to the usual just in order to play and free myself up from expectation are all useful lessons.

self portrait

I do enjoy working on self portraits. There is something wonderful about working from life – editing and responding to what is there in real time and of course when looking for a model I am always there.

(Please remember that new blog posts will only be appearing here till the end of December – in order to keep following my blog you will need to hop on over to my new website and the http://www.gillianleesmithartist.com/blog-3/ from then on.)

x x x

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On my worktable

(Please remember that new blog posts will only be appearing here till the end of December – in order to keep following my blog you will need to hop on over to my new website and the http://www.gillianleesmithartist.com/blog-3/ from then on.)

There has not been much happening on the easel this week due to work and last minute Christmas shopping but I did manage to get a couple of painted journal pages done. Relatively quick and unfinished but it is always good to get the paints out even for a short while.

Painted journal page

I have a weekend of studio time ahead of me and then a couple more days to work right up till Christmas eve and then I will be taking a few days off to spend with hubby and family. Bliss.

Have a great weekend! x

Painted journal page

On my worktable

As I mentioned in these three posts, I feel it is important to make art just for yourself as a reward or a gift. One of my most treasured possessions is my large watercolour Moleskine where I fill the pages with imagery, paint and writing. I don’t usually have any idea what I am going to paint when I begin but whenever I am starting a new painting I love to flick through the pages to look at each one, remember how I was feeling when I was painting it and to read the words written there.

Painted journal page

To give myself that time – just to paint something that I will have forever (I hope) gives me the freedom to express whatever I wish, also giving me permission to create something far from perfect but that satisfies something deep inside. I also then find the images hugely inspiring for later work. I am really enjoying imagining my figures and characters in particular settings at the moment – wondering where they are and what they are thinking.

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I am very close to finishing this, my first large Moleskine and am looking forward to buying and starting a new one. Some of the older pages I am very tempted to paint over as they seem very different to me now but I shall leave them for a time and see how I feel again.

Painted journal page

PS – handy painting tip for the day – this was the beginning stages of the painting above – notice how even though the finished piece ended up with quite a pale face – there was a lot of layers of colour applied in different stages before hand – this lends a lot of depth and character to the final layers of paint adding extra interest. I build up my layers over the over and they all add to the rich texture of the final piece. So even if you know something is going to be a particular colour – try painting different tones and colours first and see how much depth this gives.

Have a great weekend! I plan to paint as much as I can.

PS also don’t forget that I am having a prize draw for a print which I will be closing tonight and picking a name out of the hat tomorrow morning so don’t forget to comment on this post, my facebook page or via my contact form if you haven’t already to be entered. (Sorry – draw is now closed and name chosen!)

Also, thank you so much for all the comments, feedback and general loveliness regarding the new website and the ‘Getting to the easel posts’ – I appreciate every single one and am so glad that you are enjoying my more regular blog posts. I am always looking for new things to blog about so if you have any suggestions feel free to make them!

xxx

Getting to the easel – part two

Following on from my last post I have been thinking even more on the subject of procrastination and getting to the easel. One of the biggest myths I have discovered – is that artists need freedom – freedom to decide where and when to work, no rules, just a desire to create good work. On the face of it, this seems like the perfect way of working but in reality, trying to create in this way meant that I got very little done.

Getting to the easel

The more routines I put in place and restrictions I put on my time the more work I get done. The structure of a routine gives me the freedom to work within the boundaries I have set myself.

This is really important: Just because you are working to a routine, it does not mean that your work becomes a routine (i.e formulaic) – the routine and structure just build a little safety zone around a period of time where you can create without distraction.

Page of opportunity

So what stopped me working before? How has my thought process changed?

1. Fear – fear of not getting enough done in my days in the studio (I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough time, oops now I have no time)

Answer: The more I worry about lack of time, the less I get done – the best thing is just to get down and do the work in the time that you do have.

2. Fear – fear of spending a whole day creating rubbish and not having anything to show for it. (if I don’t create anything then none of can be rubbish so that must be better, right? Wrong!)

Answer: If you only create one piece of work a month or a week there is an awful lot of pressure on that piece of work to be good. If you create 50 pieces of work in a month or a week then if 4o of those are rubbish, 5 are mediocre and 5 are good/great then you have 5 successful pieces and 45 pieces to learn from! The more you create, the more chance there is of creating the occasional gem. The rubbish works are the journey to the great ones.

3. Distractions – phone, internet, dishes, gazing out the window, anything but painting.

Answer: At the end of the day (honestly) what would I rather be doing? The dishes or painting? Painting. So why am I doing the dishes then? That was my answer. (Gazing out of the window is allowed – dreaming is good)

4. Deadlines. Working to a deadline sends me into the typical formula of 95% of the time till deadline messing about, 5% of the time at the end trying to get everything done.

Answer: I don’t do well with deadlines. I do better when I just do some work, some thing every day. It all adds up and suits me better.

I think these are the most important lessons I have learned in my time creating art.

Wow there is so much to write about this. Tomorrow – a little about my studio routine and hints and tips for getting down to work.

Whilst thinking about this subject and researching I found some really interesting links.

Read more here. You won’t regret it.

Wake up, Wash Face, Do Routine, Now Paint

Being productive in the studio

There is also this book which I think I may purchase as it looks such an interesting read.

Would love to hear your comments and experiences on this subject.

x x x

 

Getting to the easel part one

My art studio

Procrastination and Productivity aren’t really the best of buddies are they?

In times past I had this feeling that to be an artist meant to drift along, just waiting for inspiration to turn up and when it did you could begin creating as and when the desire was there.  The best work would appear when you were ‘in the zone’ and ‘feeling in the mood’.  Oh dear! I have learned that if you wait for that to happen, then not a lot of work occurs at all.

The truth, (in my experience – and only learned the hard way) is that art takes hours of hard work and commitment. It isn’t an airy fairy experience or a romantic idea of creating something wonderful out of nothing (well it certainly isn’t for me anyway).  There was a time – and if I am completely honest, still the occasional day – when I start to go up to my studio and all of a sudden other things seemed so much more pressing such as doing the dishes, or another hour on Facebook or pinterest. Thankfully for the most part those occasions now are very rare.

Getting to the easel

So what changed? Many things really but I shall list a few of them here..

1. I realised the gaps between productive days were far too wide and the longer the gaps were, the more difficult it was to get back into it again.

2. Such a cliché I know but life is short and when it comes down to it am I going to be glad I did the dishes or would I rather be proud of that painting I created?

3. Realising that having a routine is key – the more habitual my studio time is, the easier it is to stop wasting time and get down to work.

4. Discovering that the more hours I put in, the better I get. Since I have had a structured studio time I have learned so much and my work has improved drastically.

5. I still have many goals and dreams for my life and it has to be said that most of them revolve around my artwork (actually there is no distinction there, my work is my life – there is no 9 till 5, it is just what I do) and if I want to achieve even a fraction of that, then I better get a move on! (see point 2)

So much more to write on this so part 2 (my routine and hints and tips for getting to the easel) coming tomorrow!

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

PS – don’t forget that my blog has moved to here and I will only be posting here till the end of December – you can find my new blog and enter the prize draw by commenting on this post.

x x x

Sketchbook Sunday

I don’t think there is ever a week that goes by that I don’t do some work in my sketchbooks. They are a valuable resource to me – as long as I have these beginnings of ideas worked out on paper, I will never be short of inspiration for larger pieces.

journal page

I aim to paint a journal page a week – just giving myself permission to paint what comes, no planning, it doesn’t have to look nice or be neat and tidy – just playing around with images, shapes and ideas. The above page was inspired by some old photos I have of fishing communities and whilst the perspective is all wrong, I enjoyed painting it nonetheless.

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I am back to making a drawing a day (more or less) in my small moleskine – over the last 2 years or so I have dipped in and out of this habit which can last months and always reveals surprises and the odd wee gem – sometimes inspired by images I have seen, sometimes just out of the muddle of my thoughts.

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I often flick through these pages before starting to paint, waiting for a particular image to inspire me in some way – and they usually do. When I am sketching daily, it is often alongside a period of change and development in my work – it helps me pass around the corners of uncertainty and means I very rarely suffer from the dreaded ‘artists block’.

sketchbook pages

So – at first glance – just a book of random images – in reality, the key to a happy studio!

Try it and see!

PS – just in case you are wondering – the larger painted book is my A3 watercolour moleskine (beautiful paper for painting, takes any amount of paint) and the smaller is the smallest moleskine sketchbook with beautifully smooth pages for pencil or pen. I would not be without these.

x x x

On my easel

on my easel

At the moment I have a great desire to be painting with no agenda other than to enjoy the materials, to see what will happen, to not worry about painting a finished piece, to just be laying down layers of colour shape. There can be a sense of ‘I should be doing this or that’ but I also know that working without expectation is an important part of what I do.

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Only a fraction of the work I produce is frame or wall worthy, but that is the way and nothing feels wasted. I learn something new every time I put paint to surface. As always I wish I had more time in the day and more days in the week but the more I am in the studio, the more I want to be there. Even when I don’t have time to paint for a few hours at a time, a one or two hour painting keeps my hand in and ensures I don’t have large gaps in-between painting days.

on my easel

It also feels good to leave work in a state where it is not completely resolved. Perhaps I will go back to these pieces. perhaps not. They are a good reference for when I am working on new pieces – each layer of a painting goes through a different phase – there are always the places where it is fresh and minimal, always there are the ugly stages and then there are flashes of something unexpected, so to have a few pieces around me at different stages gives me inspiration for new work. This piece was kind of a self portrait (so, so valuable to do I find) but in the end I think she became something else.

So I really would recommend just painting for the love of it on occasion, no expectations, no guaranteed result, just enjoy the feeling. For me all too soon it will be time to really get down to the work that does need to be done!

(Please excuse the dark shadowy photographs, I don’t seem to be able to pick the right time for photographing on these gloomy winter days.)

x x x