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

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Progress of a Painting …… part one

It always starts with a seed of an idea, something that sparks my interest and a story begins.

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Lately I have been drawn to trying to create a sense of time and place, a certain atmosphere. Something that will draw the viewer in and encourage them to think that they may have been there at some point in the past. These photos are from my recent visit to Calke Abbey, a national trust property that has gone to wrack and ruin over the last decades but that is in a constant process of conservation to keep it as it is rather that restoring it to its former glory. There are lots of dark corridors with peeling layers of wallpaper and paint and it has an incredible beauty and atmosphere.

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Of course there always has to be a character, someone that could be me, could be you or someone you know or have read about or have imagined.

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I never tire of drawing and painting faces. They are a combination of self portraits, images of friends, from inspiration but also from my own imagination.

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With this painting I wanted to create a real sense of light and shade so took lots of self portraits with the light the way I wanted and sketched from those.

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The image started to come together in my large moleskine sketchbook that I use for painting in (someday I will do a slideshow of all the pages). Here I can work big, with no expectation, just enjoying the texture of the page and the feeling of the paint.

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I prepared a lot more for this painting that I ever have before as I wanted to paint big (well bigger than my usual at 60 x 80 cms) and wanted to get the scale and perspective just right so I worked on yet another drawing and played with light and shadow too. Then time to start painting – but that is for another post!

Painted journal ….

Painted journal ....

There is something so freeing about painting in a journal or sketchbook…letting go of the pressure that this painting must be good enough to exhibit or sell. It is just for me. There are no expectations. I can take my time or work quickly and intuitively. It might inspire future work, or it might remain hidden, only to be seen on those occassions when I flick through those thick, rumpled pages. But sometimes it is also nice to share it and show another side of my work. But always with that melancholy nature and the attempt at creating atmosphere and emotion

I admit to an addiction. Moleskines… with their perfectly black covers and the paper inside that in the sketchbooks is smooth and takes pencil so well… or the watercolour books that take any amount of paint and water and mixed media and are so forgiving of the layers and layers that you can keep applying.

Another studio day today and I can’t wait to get started!

x x x

Getting to the easel…

Getting to the easel...

… is half the battle.

This is a lesson I need to learn and re-learn and make a poster of to hang on my studio wall.

With only one full studio day during the week now and a few weekends of out and about busy’ness I have been feeling a bit under pressure to ‘come up with the goods’ on that one day. So last Thursday, as I was sitting at my desk feeling a bit tired and sorry for myself, procrastinating and willing myself to begin working, 3pm came alot quicker than I could have imagined. Giving myself a swift kick and finally getting up to my easel determined to just put paint to paper no matter how it turned out I soon found myself enjoying just playing with the materials and lost in the process.

So yet again I ask myself ‘Why could I not have done this at 9am!?’ I would have had many more hours in the studio and enjoyed it a lot more. But again, I try to take note and learn the lesson. Sitting moping gets me no-where. Standing up at the easel and just putting brush to board, starts the process – and no matter what comes out, it is worth it.

So now to make a reminder to myself to hang on that studio wall!

What motivates and encourages you? What tricks do you use to get yourself out of those times when you feel less than inspired?

I would love to know!

The above piece is just one of the peices I finished in those few short hours – mixed media on paper.