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

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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

Following a different path.

A while ago I made a decision.

For the last 3 years or so I have been painting and sculpting.

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Painting and sculpting. Sculpting a lot and not painting enough. Sculpting for hours and hours on end and painting when I had a spare moment. I love sculpting, I love my wee creatures, I love painting, I love creating painted narratives. I work from studio and I also have a part time job. I have never counted the hours in a week I work (many many many), it does not matter to me. My artwork is a part of my life that is not counted in hours spent – more in how it makes me feel, how I express myself, how I live.

At the end of last year after a particularly gruelling few months preparing for the 5 large contemporary craft shows I exhibited at and the various exhibitions I took part in, the hours and hours of sculpting were causing problems in my hand and as it turns out I have damaged the ligaments in the palm of my hand – nothing that rest will help, scar tissue has now formed and sculpting causes me great pain.

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It should have been devastating.  Those wee creatures are my pride and joy, they are created from my hands and I love when people see them for the first time, I love the response they get even from those who do not love them as I do. BUT this hand injury has brought about the biggest sense of relief that I could never have foreseen. It has caused me to make a decision that I would have perhaps not made otherwise. In all the months of preparation for shows the sculpting took over and the painting was put to the side and it never really felt right. I was starting to focus on the making and selling rather than the creating and expressing and storytelling.

Soooooo!! At the beginning of this year I made the decision to focus entirely on my painting (alongside my part time job) and explore avenues for teaching art and to put the sculpting aside (perhaps not forever, but certainly for the foreseeable future). A change of path indeed. I pulled out of a show I had been wanting to attend for years, I did not apply for any of the brilliant contemporary craft shows I normally attend and I have been painting and drawing since the new year.  It feels great. It feels like the right thing to do. It feels as if I am on the right path. It is scary and freeing and exciting all at the same time.

Gathered at the shore

Now that we are half way through the year and I have not sculpted for more than 6 months I have no regrets (although I do miss them too) Perhaps someday the half finished sculptures on the tray in my studio will be finished but for now the ideas for new paintings are flowing, boards are waiting to become works of art, sketches are waiting to be developed. I could not be in a better place.