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… 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… 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…..


..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…


Magic in the Water…

Despite living in central England I love the water….I really empathise with this quote by Loren Eiseley – ‘If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.’ (Although, I hasten to add, I also find magic in the mountains….) Whether it’s the sea, a lake, a river, stream, puddle, rivulet or ripple, there is something about water that draws me to it….

Just over 100yards from where I live is the River Soar and is a favourite place of mine to wander along, to sit awhile….

…to ponder and wonder….to such an extent that I am now reading Tristan Gooley’s book, ‘How To Read Water; Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea’..

Along with the physical properties of water, Gooley intertwines history, anthropology and his own experiences…am finding it fascinating…..

Water also plays a large part in my attempts at art….and I have spent the morning playing with my favourite Daniel Smith watercolours, lots of water, sepia ink and granulation fluid – something I had forgotten I had until Ann Blockley used it in her demo at Patchings Art Festival

I used Saunders Waterford 140lb NOT paper produced by St. Cuthbert’s Mill and Daniel Smith watercolours – Perylene Green, Lunar Blue, Blue Apatite Genuine, Moonglow and my favourite, Rich Gold Green…along with granulation fluid and a black watercolour pencil…and water!

The following three are my favourites – judiciously cropped and framed using Photoshop…

Not sure where this experimentation will lead to, if anywhere, but it’s fun…and, being a person who puts such pressure on myself to produce masterpieces every time I pick up a brush…having fun and enjoying my art is something I should concentrate on….the magic will come, hopefully!!

Small Victories….

Another day, another attempt at  Jean Haines ‘no pressure’ washes… and as before, all the pigments used are by Daniel Smith, apart from the Cadmium Yellow…


The LH wash is Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, Cadmium Yellow and lots of water, resulting in the normally stubborn yellow almost disappearing. The RH wash is Perylene Red and Cascade Green with subtle clingfilm effects. I love the Cascade Green, but (and maybe this is my application…) I seem to get muddy effects from it under the clingfilm…..

The middle wash is Carbazole Violet and Quinacridone Sienna with…..salt…

image….and here is my small victory for the day…I’ve actually managed to get some half decent effects…woo hoo!!

From there, I practised some exercises from Jean’s book ‘Paint Yourself Calm’…as it has been a rather damp start here in Wales, I thought I would recall warmer days with no pressure landscapes and a loose poppy (yes, that’s what they are supposed to be!!) wash….imageimageimage

imageI am finding that Jean’s way of working up to more serious pieces is beginning to work for me…I know that my first washes are not going to be masterpieces, so immediately I don’t get anxious if things go awry…

From there, I returned to the rose wash that I am slowly building up….


The colours are darker in reality…. but I am reasonably satisfied with this… if only I had painted it on heavier paper – (it says it is Archival Quality Extra Heavy Weight Cold Press Paper 180lb) the edges have curled and there is slight buckling with the amount of water I used. However, as this was supposed to be just a study, I shouldn’t be too disappointed…

I even have another effort on the go….

imageso we will see how this progresses….



Monday Musings….

Had a break from painting over the weekend, I went to visit my old stomping ground of Loughborough University. The Postgraduate Arts Degree Show was on so I thought I would have a peek. I have toyed with the idea of doing a Masters since graduating, wondering if it would provide me with the direction I feel I am lacking at the moment. ….However, I have to say I was a little disappointed in the exhibition. Remembering how, as undergraduates, we were expected to produce a ‘professional’  show, the Postgraduate Show appeared to me, to have been an afterthought, shoved in a corner (& I realise this might not be of the students doing), whilst the university gears itself up for the start of term and an open day. I realise art is subjective and I don’t know the full requirements of the course but I must admit to feeling a little underwhelmed and as undecided as ever!

And so it’s Monday and back to my 3 washes….


The LH wash is a mix of Amethyst Genuine and Rich Gold Green, the middle is Rose of Ultramarine and French Ultramarine with another attempt at salt effects, whilst the RH wash is Perinone Orange and Cascade Green and clingfilm effects. All the colours are Daniel  Smith apart from the French Ultramarine. As I said in an earlier post, I am obviously a slow learner and today is no exception, not leaving the clingfilm on until the pigment is completely dry, and that green and violet produce a muddy colour, or, as in the above example,  don’t combine at all…..

Following Jean Haines advice in her fab book, ‘Paint Yourself Calm’, I proceeded to attempt her exercise of positive, negative painting, thinking of all the obstacles I put in the way……biggest of which is my lack of confidence….

imageimageThey really feel like a case of the Wash Day Blues….. matching the weather….

So, in order to end on a positive, I started a wash of roses in Rose Of Ultramarine on a larger piece of paper……


I will add to these tomorrow whilst working on overcoming my obstacles….

Experimenting & Loosening Up…blog update

As someone who hardly lifted a paint brush during my time at uni, and even prior to that, wasn’t exactly known for painting, I have recently been spending my time attempting to get to grips with the medium. Even though it has a reputation for being difficult, I have chosen to work in watercolours – glutton and punishment spring to mind! I haven’t had any formal lessons in watercolour – I’m very much ‘going with the flow’! I’m sure watercolour purists would be horrified, and I’m probably breaking every rule in the book – but you know what they say about rules….

Using this medium, along with lots of water, has also provided me with an opportunity to ‘loosen up’ Sometimes I have a tendency to work ‘very tightly’, as in an earlier piece I did called ‘Bowed But Not Broken’ –

Bowed But Not BrokenI want my paintings to be more expressive, more about the paint and the marks – abstracted in a way, although still with a nod to the landscapes I love.

Initially I experimented in my sketchbook – the good old Seawhite!

imageimageimageimageI used Winsor & Newton Professional watercolours along with some Daniel Smith colours – both very good, worth paying that bit extra for! Eventually I could put it off no longer – I had to experiment on ‘proper’ paper! Although the saying is that a good workman should never blame his tools, I think this is definitely a case of ‘the better the paper, the better the result’! I therefore treated myself to a selection of watercolour papers from Jackson’s Art Supplies – highly recommended for their easy to use website and prompt service!

It’s been really interesting learning what the various papers can take! First off I tried Fabriano Artistico Extra White HOT press 140lb. Lovely smooth paper, the paint, along with a fair bit of water moved beautifully over the surface. Here, I should admit to not stretching the paper beforehand…I know, I know – rules… As well as using paint brushes, and here I’m admitting to a bit of hero-worshipping – I use Jean Haines Watercolour brushes (again, worth every penny!) I also use sticks, wooden coffee stirrers & old/unwanted plastic store cards. On this paper I was able to swirl and push the paint around very easily without damaging the surface.

imageimageAlthough the paper withstood quite a lot of water, it did buckle a little – perhaps a reminder to stretch it prior to use. However, I see they do the same paper in 300lb so I might order some of that next!

Next I tried the Bockingford NOT 250lb paper – an altogether different surface! This paper withstood a LOT of water but I found I couldn’t use the plastic card to move the paint around so much as I damaged the slightly rougher texture of the surface. Instead I used my brush along with a wooden stirrer (used very lightly) as well as tilting and turning the paper to create runs.

imageimageimageI was impressed with both papers and would be hard pressed to choose a favourite! Not so my choice of colours, I seem to have a thing for Payne’s Grey, Indigo, Raw Umber and Yellow Ochre – reminding me as they do of the North Norfolk coast in winter, and the autumnal fenland fields of my childhood.

I have yet to try the Arches Aquarelle 400lb sheet or the Two Rivers 300lb – mainly due to my lack of confidence in my ability and the cost… When I do pluck up the courage I will let you know how I get on!


An Inspirational First…blog update

Inspiration for an artist comes from all walks of life, all corners of the globe… Like all artists, I have my favourite places, particular interests and a whole host of artists who inspire me! From JMW Turner’s use of colour, Edgar Degas’ draughtsmanship, Maya Lin’s topographical installations and Monika Grzymala’s tape ‘drawings’ – plus a whole host in between! Social media has also revealed many more artists whose work I love and admire – one of the good things about the internet & Twitter!

Working at home can be quite lonely at times, so for me, social media is a way of keeping in contact with the world, seeing what’s happening both near and far. I also use Twitter to promote my work, tweeting images of my latest efforts – good or bad! I have been very lucky in that the feedback I have received thus far has been very positive and any criticisms have been of the constructive kind!

However, and this is where the ‘First’ comes in, never before had I thought anyone would be inspired by me – until this week. I received a lovely tweet from an art teacher who liked my charcoal sketches – so much so that she was going to show them to her Yr 12s as inspiration!

imageimageShe then very kindly tweeted some images of the work the students had done – go to @potterkatiehook to have a look!

Shortly after that another kind lady tweeted how my sketchbook watercolours had inspired her to get her sketchbook out and start sketching! That same week a gentleman tweeted how inspiring he found my watercolours! Now I don’t profess in anyway to belong to that elite band of artists I quoted above – but in my own little way, if I can inspire someone else to have a go then that’s great!

Talking of my charcoal/watercolour sketches – I have been working really hard at loosening up. Sometimes, in my drawing, I can get very tight, worry too much about the detail rather than concentrating on the mood and emotion. In an effort to combat this I have a great time experimenting with moving watercolour paint around on different paper surfaces including Fabriano Artistico and Bockingford, trying to portray the mood of the elements. Here are some of my efforts!!

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageAm I succeeding in creating mood and atmosphere in my landscapes? Not sure, what do you think? One thing is certain, I am really enjoying using the Daniel Smith watercolours and wonderful papers!

And finally…just a reminder that the Private Viewing of Inspired by Nature at Blue Owl Art is this Thursday 30th April 7 – 9pm. Would be great to see some of you there!!

Fragile Lands II