It has been a few months since completing CVP. Now I’m dipping in and out of the portal to re-watch content. I thought I’d reflect on my first pass to capture and remind myself of some of the key learnings.  There was so much great content in the 3 month course I definitely need to work through it again. It is impossible to take it all in and I’m very aware I haven’t maximised this.  I see why people return each year – I’m not sure I’ll be able to do this even after a second pass!

Little and Often

As I have a day job I tended only to paint if I had a full day free at weekends.  If I was having an off day I’d try and push through it. This usually resulted in work I was happy with taking 2-5 big steps backwards.  I noticed that my frustration levels were sky high – which isn’t great for painting. 

Nick’s advice of ‘little and often’ changed how I work. More than that – his guidance that the first 30 minutes in the studio is often the most fruitful was brilliant.  Now I often pop up to the studio for half an hour before starting work or at lunch time.  As a result, I’m painting more and I think I’m braver with what I do. I’m more willing to make bold moves that really helps move the painting forward. (I mentioned this in an earlier post – it may seem a small learning,but for me this was big.)

This work in progress is a great example of this approach. It’s 60 x 60cm; so double the size of the CVP panels – which is daunting. However, being able to review and add layers each evening is getting it to an interesting stage.

Differences Bring Your Alive

I’m still wrestling with this one. I agree wholeheartedly with the concept, but I am slightly biased towards quieter or more subtle paintings.  When I HAVE taken the leap and introduced greater contrasts in value or design, it’s definitely paid off. To ensure I remember this I now display this mantra prominently in my studio..

I lined up a load of my boards recently so I could review the work I had completed. I was surprised by how many had roughly the same size shapes in them.  When you’re painting it can be hard to see, but I tend to plump for shapes that are about the size of the palm of my hand.  Adding a few larger or smaller shapes really shakes up your work (and your viewer!).

Another new addition in my studio is a value finder.  Pre CVP I would occasionally photograph a work in progress and view it in black and white. The concept of value in colours wasn’t something I thought about that often.  More – I didn’t have a good grasp on where colours sat on the value scale. (Who would have thought of yellow as a mid tone?) 

A quick check on the grey scale as I mix up colours helps me avoid too many mid tones which was making my paintings look either very cluttered or rather murky.  I might have finished CVP but I can still hear Nick’s voice in my head:

Your eye goes to the areas of greater value contrast first.

Is your next mark going to be dark or light?

Embrace Uncertainty

Reflecting now, I see the paintings I am most happy with pre and during CVP are those that started out as play.  They are paintings that I started without really knowing where I was heading.  In fact this is so obvious now, I’ve started painting over those where I had a clear plan as I can now see how stiff they feel.  When I play with paint I’m not worrying about how it will turn out or what other people will think.  Because I don’t have a plan to deviate from I feel more relaxed and creative. It helps me be more open to experiment. As a result I often end up discovering new things through lovely little happy accidents.

This is one of my CVP panels which I’ve recently finished and framed. It was definitely a great example of embracing uncertainty and I’m really pleased with the end result.

Respond to What’s Happening

This was positioned more along the lines of being in the present-  very much linked to embracing uncertainty. Basically this is about really looking at your work and reacting to what’s in front of you.  If you have a painting with lost of small delicate marks add something big and chunky.  If you’re working in pale pastels, select a juicy indigo blue to add contrast.  Rather than pre planning how a painting might turn out go with the flow.  If you make a mark that you like, add more.  It makes the painting more exciting for you as the artist, albeit at times a bit scary.

Working in Multiples

Another small hint but a real game changer.  To keep us moving forward, on CVP, we were encouraged to work on several panels at once.   It works on a few different levels.  Firstly, if you work quickly (something I definitely do in the early stages of a painting), you don’t have the frustration of waiting for paint to dry.  Rather than digging out a hairdryer you simply switch to another panel.  I worked on 3 at once. By the time I’d applied paint to the other 2 panels the first was dry enough to work on.

The other huge plus of multiples is that it helps to accelerate your learning. If you use a colour combination you love, or make an interesting mark you can quickly apply this to another panel.  Having multiple works in progress also gives you the opportunity to reflect on what’s working and what’s not.  Generally, one piece will move forward more quickly. This gives you a great guide to consider why and whether or not you can apply learnings to the others.

When I started CVP I worked on pairs but this quickly increased to either 4 or 6 in a series.  I have a tendency to be very black or white (in my art and my football). I either hate a piece or love it.  Hating is fine as you’re happy to make bold moves to change it. When you love a piece that’s often a problem.  As soon as I become attached to a painting I tend to fiddle around making small marks or changes. If this happens too early on, having a series allows me to put one to the side and keep going.  Generally, after a few days I’m then ready to look at my favourite piece more objectively.

I could keep going but I’m going to stop here.

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