Try, Try & Try Again….

Having almost run out of white acrylic paint – obviously calls for a shopping trip – I have returned to the watercolour and inks… I love working with these; the way they flow and pool, the way they interact and the ‘happy accidents’ that arise really get my creative juices flowing…

I am slightly obsessed with indigo and the sepia FW Acrylic Ink and in my favourite square Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook I feel free to relax and let go, creating loose spontaneous work…

…then I try to do the same on ‘proper’ paper, you know, heavyweight watercolour paper……and everything goes out of the window…my arm feels constrained and all that spontaneity is gone….. It doesn’t seem to matter how often I tell myself it’s just a piece of paper there is a voice in my head screaming ‘yes, but it costs £6, £7, £8/sheet or whatever…’ so immediately there is the pressure to create something worthwhile….and the creative juices dry up….. I know I am not alone in feeling like this and I know it’s all in my head…. (just to say I am trying really hard not to add a ‘but’ here…)

However, having been accepted to take part in this September’s Melbourne Festival, the need to produce work has spurred me to keep on trying…practice makes perfect as the saying goes…. so another day, a different paper….

This time I am using Cass Art mixed media paper…

… I know the paper is not as expensive as single sheets of say Saunders Waterford or Arches watercolour paper, but it is still a decent quality and weight…so I continued…but I couldn’t understand why the colours weren’t matching my sketchbook work…. until I realised that although I was using Indigo, the sketchbook studies were done using Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour whilst I was working with the Daniel Smith Indigo watercolour on the paper…. same name but different…

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the vibrant Daniel Smith watercolours…but in this instance I prefer the Winsor & Newton shade, especially the way it reacts with the sepia ink… so change of pigment and on I go….trying…

 

…here’s a Daniel Smith Indigo study…

…and here is a Winsor & Newton Indigo initial wash…which I like as it is…

….I will keep on trying…and eventually I will produce some pieces I am happy enough to mount and frame…..meanwhile…..I will add the rest to my ever-growing ‘reject’ pile or should that be ‘learning’ pile….

 

 

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Creative Fear….

It’s been a bit stop/start these last two or three weeks…I seem to be struggling to convert my sketchbook work of the mudflats and marker buoys of the Menai Straits (see previous posts) into more developed work…and as a consequence I felt myself beginning to fall into a pattern of thoughts that is probably familiar to all creatives…

…I have no talent, other people are much better than I am, I won’t be able to capture the spontaneity and freedom of previous work, it’s all been a waste of time……getting the picture?

It’s at this point that I should say that earlier in the year I joined a couple of on-line art groups; Alice Sheridan‘s ‘Art Explorers’ and Helen Hallows ‘Creative Courage’ – both Facebook Groups…and it was through the comments, stories and links in these groups that I was encouraged to listen to podcasts and read books about creativity and fear…one of which is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert…

…and oh how familiar it read…

‘You’re afraid you have no talent,

You’re afraid you will be rejected or criticised or ridiculed or misunderstood – or worst of all – ignored,

You’re afraid somebody else already did it better,

You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing,

You’re afraid you’re too old to start,

You’re afraid your best work is behind you,

You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin with…..'(Elizabeth Gilbert)

 

…there are another couple of pages in this same vein but you get the idea…and before you start shouting that you need solutions not confirmation of your fears, Gilbert addresses these issues, going on to suggest that we accept fear as being part of our creative journey…I particularly like the chapter titled The Road Trip in which she prepares a speech for fear:

‘Dearest Fear, Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job very seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I am about to do anything interesting – and, may I say, you are superb at your job…….but I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this; Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognise and respect that you are part of this family…..you are allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps…suggest detours…..to fiddle with the radio….or the temperature…But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive’, (Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert, 2015, p24-26).

I love this analogy, nearly as much as I loathe back seat drivers…and it’s definitely made me look at fear and creativity differently…I am fascinated to read more….and whilst I know that everyone is different and as such require different solutions… I thought I would share this with you… it might help…

So, with this idea in mind, my creative confidence is creeping back…mudflats and buoys not withstanding (on the back burner…but I will return to it), and I have been concentrating on playing around with colour – Daniel Smith Indigo and Rich Green Gold, plus Sepia FW Acrylic ink…resulting in some that I am happy with….!!

…and a couple more I have yet to mount…

 

…keeping in the spirit of just playing, I even got my acrylic paints out, those that haven’t set hard, that is….(part of the reason for my limited palette…!!)

…resulting in some more possibilities…..

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..and while I know that they are not all masterpieces, that fear is not stopping me trying my best…and at the end of the day that’s all I can do…

It’s All About The Process…

Inspiring, thought provoking, enjoyable, challenging, immersive, creative…some words that describe the two-day ‘Abstracted Landscape Workshop’ run by artist Caroline Chappell that I recently attended..

In a village hall, down a leafy lane, eight workshop participants (including yours truly) were gently encouraged by Caroline to concentrate  on the process rather than the outcome. She quoted Bruce Mau, ‘Process is more important than outcome. When outcome drives the process we will only ever go where we have been. If process drives outcome, we may not know where we are going, but we will know we want to be there.’

I found this a liberating thought, having found myself in an artistic rut lately, doing the same things, with the same results, staying firmly within my comfort zone….

Through discussion and demonstration Caroline inspired us to think about the materials, the marks and our feelings…to move past our ‘default’ habits…to focus on the process of making rather than on a desired outcome…

 

I seem to have no problem filling a sketchbook (mostly rubbish…) but with no idea how to develop the doodles…so it was fascinating to watch Caroline’s process…and to then have a go myself…

Although used to the materials employed on day one, (inks and charcoal being my go-to media), the day was thought-provoking and at time, intense…the endless supply of tea and coffee was much appreciated!!

Day two was definitely challenging for me…I hadn’t used acrylic paint since my Grantham College days, many moons ago, hence the reason some of my paints were ‘solid’ tubes….

Thinking about colour and creating palettes were first order of the day…

..I’m obviously a ‘muted’ kind of girl!!!

Using the studies from the previous day, the idea was to develop them into paintings..

…I must admit to feeling a little ( no make that a lot) out of my depth… but with Caroline’s suggestions, support and encouragement, managed to produce two ‘paintings’…

…not sure they are ‘Abstracted Landscapes’… but for my first attempts at acrylic landscapes I’ll take them…

The whole experience was fabulous…it was great to be part of a small group, to have lots of room to work…

…to discuss art…have inspirational books available…

…and Caroline’s support and encouragement….

If you’re finding yourself in a rut, needing an artistic ‘shake-up’ I would definitely recommend the workshop….

..now where’s that catalogue…in need of some more acrylic paints….