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

 

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.

2013-11-24 00.25.19

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

Productive Flourishing

Productive Flourishing

To say that in the past I have had difficulties with time-management and getting stuff done would be a vast understatement. The last couple of years have seen a great improvement in planning my weeks and days but I am still the ultimate to-do-list maker and when there are some weekends closing in and I have tackled only a tiny fraction of that to-do list I am easily disheartened.

I guess in my imagination I am living a life where all I need to do is show up to the studio and get to work, the days are long and full of potential and I have all the time in the world. Hmm well that would be bliss but the reality is somewhat different. Such a shame. I am definitely a girl trying to live another life hampered by modern living.

A peer recommended me this ‘planner for creatives‘ and I have been using it for a month and really, it is helping me to change the way I work and prioritise my week. When you are constantly adding to that daily or weekly list it is really difficult to keep seeing the bigger picture and your longer term goals and it is all to easy (for me anyway) to let dreams slide and get too caught up in the distractions of things that take longer than they need to.

With a few big projects planned for next year (e-course, solo show, more teaching, trying to cut work hours to focus more on my art) I need all the help I can get. It really isn’t rocket science and I am not using all of the Productive Flourishing as there is some overlap and I still really like writing in my diary every week but the parts that I am using are great! For instance I have not printed out the ‘daily planner’ as for me it is enough to have the annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly planner and then transfer the weeks tasks into my moleskine diary and colour highlight according to the project.

It is teaching me how to choose my goals wisely, not to over-reach, how to break down the scariness of a looming New Year into manageable tasks and it is encouraging me to get stuff done in ways that don’t seem overwhelming. For instance have you noticed that I have blogged more in the past few weeks than I probably have all year?? Progress indeed  So far I have been using the Action Planners more than the Project Planners but I can see me using both equally as each project becomes more imminent.

Take a look. It might not be for you but it also seems very flexible in that you can choose the parts that make more sense.  It is very affordable and I really would recommend it – plus their blog is full of handy tips and info too.

PS I am not being paid in any way for this – just passing on something I have found works for me : )

x x x

On my worktable

On my worktable

When the studio is a mess the temptation is to either feel overwhelmed or get to tidying. But sometimes that mess means there is a lot going on and that is A Very Good Thing. So, no tidying for me today – I am just getting in there and embracing the chaos. This is just my small worktable. The real mess is behind me which is rather a good thing!

Happy Monday!

x x x

On my easel… Venturing into Oils.

On my easel

After many years working with acrylics (and loving all the possibilities that they allow) I am currently trying to put my fear aside about working with oil paints. Yep, I said fear. It has gone on for far too long. It is bordering on ridiculous. Acrylics I know, almost inside out. I know that used correctly they are one of the most stable painting materials around. They won’t flake, crack, fall off the substrate or discolour unless you do something really silly. Over the years, all the reading I have been doing about oils has put the idea into my head that they are the opposite unless you really know what you are doing. Because I have never known what I was doing with them, (fat over lean anyone? I know what it means but how much and when?) I have let them be. The odd tube I have purchased has taunted me into starting but never enough for me to open that lid. I know that as silly as it sounds, I will never really feel like a ‘painter’ until I can paint in oils. (yep…silly)

I have read and read and read and am currently reading The oil painting book by Bill Greevy and I have eventually decided that all the reading in the world is never going to make me an oil painter – only actually getting the brushes and paints out will give me even half a chance at that. So today I began. Confused, perplexed, trying to let go of doing it ‘right’ and just ‘doing it’. But I made a start and that’s what counts! Here’s to a new journey.

Changing the Subject

Changing the Subject

Small Harbour Houses

For the longest time it seems I have been focussed on the people in my work, character, expression and what we are about. But I have also had a long held fascination with the places we occupy, the places we come from.

small harbour houses 001

It is something I am really exploring in my latest work – figures and communities with the story also being told through the backgrounds and their environments but I have also wanted to work on some landscapes too.

small harbour houses 002

I have built up a fair amount of reference photos from visits to harbour towns and villages from holidays and places near my hometown and it has been great to dig these out and use them for some small pieces.

small harbour houses 003

I tried to work loosely – not wanting to forgo that haunting atmosphere that is such a central part of my work. Still wanting there to be emotion – a presence – an idea of the people that lived there. The landscape art that I connect with the most is that which says ‘someone walked over this land, lived in these houses’ the relationship between people and the places we walk or reside in. The way humans have touched the land and depended on it and changed it, for better or for worse.

small harbour houses 004

It was also fun to work in a series – painting four at the same time. They are only little (7 x 5 inches) but I can really see these marks and lines translating to larger work and can’t wait to try some bigger pieces.

I will have them for sale (£45.00 each) at the Holmfirth Art Market this coming weekend – mounted but not framed – so really affordable original art! Have worked on a few more today and hope to have some larger ones available too.

We all Cast Shadows

small bblog

I promised I would let you know a little more detail about this post last time and … well … the exciting news is that I am currently working on a body of drawings and paintings for a solo exhibition at the wonderful Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge, East Yorkshire Autumn 2014. As we are only just into this autumn so the next one seems far away but I know that it will pass in the blink of an eye (so hard to savour every moment when they pass all too fast but it is a constant journey of trying). So the exhibition is to be called ‘We all Cast Shadows’ and the title itself has so many meanings to me which I will describe as the months go on.

The work itself is the culmination of a few years of obsession with the same subject and a desire to complete a whole body of work inspired by it – communities of women, bound together by uncertain times, (initially inspired by fisherman’s wives but it could be applied to many other communities) and I plan to blog the development of the work and the in progress pieces as I go along – the highs (as well as the lows probably) of working towards a solo show.

I have so much going on in my head right now it feels fit to bursting. What with building a new website (slow, slow progress on that front), working towards the solo show, and dum-da-da-daaa – writing and developing my first ever e-course (!) as well as working part time with older people and trying to do other things apart from work, my plate is very full right now but I am so happy and content with all that I am doing. It has taken a while (and as always is a constant work in progress) to get to this point and there is so much going on behind the scenes.

So now you know what the call out for info was on the last post and this new direction has been partly influenced by many people asking me if and when I was planning on teaching an ecourse and also my own desire to pass on my knowledge and experience and just share with likeminded folks. So thank you to everyone who sent me their comments and thoughts – I haven’t yet replied to them all but it was such a great help and I so appreciate your input.

So now I am back to the to-list, the note-making and the idea churning.

Incidentally if you would like to sign up to my email list to be the first to know about the upcoming course then you can do so here – email sign up.

The Book Collector

(photo from here)

I can’t help it. I love books. My husband dreads the day we ever have to move house as they are spread over all three floors of our house. I do have a kindle after a long period of resistance – this is kept strictly for books with oodles of text that I have to keep because I will want to read them time and time again.

  The glorious thing that I realised about moving over to the dark side of paperless paperback reading is that over a period of time, the lack of paperbacks on my shelves leads to more space devoted entirely to picture books – specifically Art Books (said with not a small amount of reverence).  Art Books are my addiction. They are to be leafed through in any spare moment, sat on the floor of my studio, page after page of images and text of paintings that I perhaps will never see in real life (although one can always dream), I peer at them closely to drink in every brushstroke and study the light and atmosphere of the artists I love.

The Book Collector

So in our three day break away to Northumberland last week it is not surprising that 2 whole, precious afternoons were spent in the haven that is Barter Books (just go to the page and wonder at the photos of all the gorgeous shelves and seating areas and log fire with sofa’s for reading).

The Book Collector

In truth, two afternoons were not nearly enough and I did not venture much past the Art and History sections but we shall go back someday. I was also quite restrained being on a budget but still managed to pick up these few favourites (excuse the photos, tis a dull and dreary day here) and I cannot wait to immerse myself in them.

They are (should you be interested)

Top photo left to right

Ana Maria Pacheco in the National Gallery

Scottish Art since 1900 – National Galleries of Scotland

Goya by Robert Hughes

Bottom photo clockwise from left

Oils by J M Parramon

Hang-ups – Essays on painting (mostly) by Simon Schama

Seven-Tenths by James Hamilton-Paterson (which fuels my other addiction to books about the sea)

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

I may try to blog about them as I read them along with some of the other art books I have.

I would also love to know what your favourite books are – especially books on Art!

PS we did venture further afield on our away-break including a trip to this magical place but all photos turned out badly so you would be better to view the website.

x x x

A New Adventure

Imagine… a weeklong creative retreat in a peaceful hideaway on the East Coast of Scotland. Stunning views, walks on the beach, time to learn, time to relax, time to create to your heart’s content. Days spent exploring the area and working in a bright and airy studio with spectacular views and then evenings by the fireside in the company of other students

Well I have been imagining and dreaming about this for a wee while and wondering how I could make it a reality. With my new’ish venture into teaching art classes I have been seeking new opportunities and one of those has always been the idea that I would like to teach at an art retreat some-day. A few weeks ago, I began thinking ‘so why don’t I just organise one myself’ and that is just what I did!

http://www.discovergardenstown.co.uk/

With the encouragement and support of a couple of friends the wheels were put in motion and the location (Gardenstown) and venue (cottages and art studio)  are booked, the dates set (October 2014), the theme imagined and many of the finer details settled …. and one more thing… all 10 places are sold out. Unbelievably. I dared not dream that there would be any interest at all far less sell out all 10 places practically overnight and even more amazingly without me having to publicise or advertise or to beg for folks to look – the interest was already there. If I was surprised by folks coming from Leicester, Cheshire and Oxford for my last day workshop I am absolutely bowled over by the fact that I have 6 ladies coming from over the pond from different areas of the US – all to come over to attend a week long art retreat taught by me. Unbelievable.

So now I am interested to know if this is something that any of my blog readers or fellow creatives would be interested in if I tentatively organised another version of this event for Spring 2015. It is something that I would love to do annually or perhaps more so.  If the idea of a week in a tiny harbour community creating and chatting and sharing is something you can imagine doing then let me know either here or via my workshop page.

You can find out about the retreat happening next year here.

So of the three exciting bits of upcoming news that I have been promising to tell you about, in terms of a timeline it is the furthest away but is the one that has been at the forefront of my mind in the last 2 weeks.

If you can imagine something you can make it real in some way and the things that only a few short years ago I thought were a dream are now ahead of me and closer than I ever thought possible.

xxx

The Art Market at Holmfirth – putting your (he)art out for all to see.

Writing the last blog post has finally enabled me to catch up with more recent events that could only be written about after the last post (if that makes sense….) So much has changed since I am now concentrating more on my artwork and I have some very exciting plans in the works for the future. But a rather exciting thing has already happened.

Now I mentioned that I would not be applying for or exhibiting at any contemporary craft fairs for the foreseeable future and am instead focussing more on art shows and exhibitions (it pains me that there is such a distinction in this country, but unfortunately there is – craft and art are seen as two completely different things in the UK but that is a discussion for another post perhaps…..)

However there is one show that I have been lucky enough to have exhibited at for the 5th time just a couple of weeks ago and I think it is fairly unique in the fact that it champions both contemporary craft and fine art in equal measure, so therefor it is one that I have no hesitation in exhibiting at.

art market 2013

The Art Market in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire has just organised its 11th event and is going from strength to strength. Run by Victoria Robinson, Emily Stubbs and Brendan Hesmondhalgh and with the talents of PR and marketing expert Fiona Pattison of Happy 4pr (more on Fiona in the next post) they are dedicated to bringing together a diverse collection of artists and makers together for the viewing public – you can read more here.

art market 2013

I was rather more nervous setting up for the show as for the very first time (ever) I was exhibiting artwork only – no sculptures, no textile characters, no brooches… none of the quirky wee faces that usually draw people in, no smaller items that could be seen more as something to buy for a gift. Just a selection of larger framed paintings and smaller framed portraits, a few select prints and art cards – a very minimal display compared to previous times I have attended.

art market

It was a brilliant weekend. I felt very happy with my display in the end and I was satisfied that only having artwork made for a strong representation of my current work. Lots of people gave very positive and encouraging feedback and although lots of people commented on the fact that I did not have sculptures, not one person thought it was a negative thing. Out of the 7 small portraits I took, I sold 5 and had lots of interest in my larger pieces too. I had comments such as people thought that my painting had come a long way recently, that the emotion, storytelling and pathos were the strongest element of my work. One gentleman even said that he on viewing paintings he usually looked at and judged  technique first and subject matter second but that in my work the emotion draws you in and elicits a response but then the technique serves to back up the quality of the work – that might have been one of my favourite comments of the day!

Until….. a very elderly gentleman came up to me as I was packing up and told me that he had wanted to chat to me all day but that I had been so busy so he had waited till the end to see me. He wanted to tell me with great sincerity and emotion how much he loved my work, how much it moved him and how beautiful he thinks it. He almost had me in tears with his words and encouragement and he absolutely made my day.  Whenever I feel down about my work or have doubts, I will remember that lovely mans words – it makes it all worth it.

photo courtesy of the art market Uk

But that was not all. The icing on the cake was that I won the award for Outstanding Artist as judged and presented by local art legend Ashley Jackson. This is my second time winning the award – the last time I had a table full of sculptures and a rather emotional response. I have come such a long way since that show 2 years ago and whilst it is still nerve-wracking and completely out of my comfort zone standing there putting my work before the viewing public, I feel even more sure that I am a wee step closer to making the work that truly means the world to me. To receive an award for that, from such an esteemed artist makes it even better.

journal page

Well thank you for taking the time to read this novel of a blog post. I will just leave you with this handy hint for today – when exhibiting at an exhibition or an event – display an open sketchbook on your table or stand. I took my extra large painted moleskine sketchbook and it is no exaggeration to say that it received more attention than anything else on my stand. People took so much time looking through the pages and it was a greater opener to talking to people about my work. I had a few people asking if it was for sale (of course it wasn’t) but even more asking if I would do a printed book. Customers love gaining an insight into the artist behind the work. They love seeing the story, looking at works in progress and seeing all the work that goes into the end result of a finished painting.

Till next time.

x x x