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

 

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.

2013-12-08 00.51.48

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.

2013-12-08 00.51.57

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.

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.

On my easel today …

At the harbour

Last Monday I was desperate to get some artwork done as it had felt a while since I had really been immersed in creating something. I decided to work on a larger piece, just on paper, mixed media predominantly working in oil bars. I didn’t want to think about the end result, just to enjoy the materials and the process and the piece above is what came out. I love working with oil bars – they enable me to make marks boldly and quickly, building up a surface that I can then draw into.

2013-11-08 17.42.14

Today I also painted another couple of harbour houses – this time at 10 x 7 inches they are twice the size of the smaller pieces from this week allowing for more detail and texture. I will be bringing back any that don’t sell this weekend and putting them in my online store next week.

2013-11-08 17.42.41

Knowing what to leave out…

harbour houses

I have been working on some more of the little harbour houses in the last day or so and the thing that I am finding most fascinating about them is the way in which they are teaching me what to put in and what to leave out.

harbour houses

Not everything needs to be there for the message to be conveyed.

2013-11-04 19.14.24

Also – it is how I edit  the images that makes my work completely unique to me. If we were all painting the same scene it would be the things we would choose to leave out as much as what we choose to include that would make each piece unique to us.

harbour houses

I am working from photos for these studies. It is not ideal as I would really rather be there working from life (but perhaps soon) but in working from these images I am making conscious decisions about

– which houses to put where (I am using the photos as inspiration rather than copying them),

– how many houses to include (sometimes one in the right place says everything I want it to say)

– drawing a suggestion of other pieces of the image

– choosing to work more on the atmosphere rather than every window and line

– creating random gestural marks that  add to the piece making it more what I feel rather than see

harbour houses

I am really excited about discovering more about this and will blog about it as my thoughts develop further!

You can read a little bit more about my work, inspirations and process here at this blog for this weekends upcoming Art Market.

Expecting the Unexpected

Expecting the Unexpected

Part of being an artist, I feel, is enabling others to enjoy the ability to create something out of nothing – something so unique to you – to express a part of ourselves that might take some finding. Each person who teaches art brings something of their own character to the process but ultimately what you try to do is to help students discover their own path and that is very exciting!

Now that I am focussed on my painting and own creative development I am looking forward to finding more opportunities for teaching in 2014.

On 16th November 2013 I am teaching a drawing workshop in Nottingham at the wonderful Focus Gallery.

The class description is as follows –

I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. 
Jackson Pollock

This particular session will begin with a demonstration and instructions in drawing the head in charcoal and pastels. We will concentrate on exercises to loosen up and break past our own fears about drawing with unexpected results. Working from a life model with some quick drawings and then longer poses to put into practice the skills you have learned. A relaxed and fun introduction into drawing portraits.

I have a few places remaining and should you be interested you can book your spot here.

Would love to see you there!

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.