I’m feeling really excited about my art at the moment. And much of that excitement has to do with a new project I’m working on.
After finishing my Beach Life series, I was in that frustrating phase of exploring lots of ideas. The exploration is a lot of fun! But I was struggling to settle on what to focus on next.
I started a few still lifes. Played about with a few limited palette abstracts. And even started some new smaller works on paper. But nothing felt quite right. Then I started working on some really old boards that I abandoned around the time I did CVP in 2021.
What has emerged has given me that boost of motivation. So much so that I’m even back to a ‘little and often’ practice through the week. If you’re an artist and you haven’t tried this I’d thoroughly recommend it. Little and often makes me braver with the mark making!
At this stage I don’t know if these paintings will actually turn into a series. I have one painting that I think I’m happy with – which I’ve initially titled Kaleidoscopic. I still need to live with it for a while to see if it’s finished. But I like where it is now.
Another painting which is getting there but needs a bit of calming down. Again a working title at the moment – The Merry Go Round.
And a further 3 pieces that are starting to emerge. Although they are still very much in the chaotic and ugly stage. So no photos just yet.
The idea for Carnival was sparked by my dipping back in to the Breadcrumbs challenge. I reminded to focus on something personal. Something that had meaning to me. So I revisited my inspiration board. I originally started pursuing a Wonderland theme but this quickly morphed into Circus. And then Carnival.
Bizarrely I’m not a fan of a circus. Nor am I particularly bothered by an actual fun fair. But I do love the imagery surrounding both. There is something really seducing about the balance of the fun and the sinister associated with carnivals. Maybe it’s the clowns or just too many creepy films but whatever it is I’m embracing it!
Working in a Series
I’m sure if you google working this, you’ll find long lists of do’s and don’ts. Rules that you’re supposed to follow when working on a series. I don’t really know the official do’s and don’ts but here’s my take on what’s important.
For me a series is a cohesive body of work. By that I mean that it feels like each piece belongs together. Maybe it’s the theme. Maybe it’s the colour palette. The same technique – if you’re doing something unusual. Or maybe, a combination of all three. But there is something in your gut that tells you that they are a set.
I didn’t set out with the intention of creating a series although I have enjoyed working on Beach Life. When working on a series I’ve noticed I have a sense of momentum. And I think this is down to having a consistent theme. I don’t have that awful stage of starring at a white canvas or cradle board wondering what to do next. When I was working on Beach Life, I actually struggled limiting the number of paintings I was starting. As the ideas seemed to just pour out. And this is really important to me. Firstly I’m impatient. Secondly, I have a full time day job, so my time in the studio is limited to evenings or weekends. When I do have time to paint I like to just dive in and get started.
Selecting a Theme
Having a theme helps me focus. But its important that the theme isn’t too broad. What I need from this is direction. Equally it can’t be too narrow so that I run out of ideas after the first couple of pieces.
I also like being able to do a bit of research. I often start with sketchbook scribbles. With Beach Life it was biomorphic shapes. With Carnival it was shapes and patterns. This also makes me feel less guilty when I’m watching TV, after a full day at work. Spending a bit of time researching ideas or scribbling down thoughts makes me feel more productive.
My initial thoughts on Carnival were to capture the feel of a vintage carnival. Playful and fun but a bit shabby and jaded. I wanted to avoid the sharp colours that you’d usually associate with this. Bright reds, white, black and a golden yellow and look instead at more muted tones. Not that I have anything against black, white and red – in fact I love these colours together. I created a bold abstract about a year ago and still have this on my studio table. And am considering whether this could lead to a body of work. So it is a colour palette I may return to. But for Carnival I definitely felt more drawn to complex pinks and blues.
I also wanted to play with some contrasts – not just in colour and values but also in shapes and marks. I love loose, undefined marks but too many and the painting lacks focus. With Carnival I wanted to combine the loose with more defined elements. I have chosen to play with traditional circus-like typography. As well as more defined shapes associated with the theme. As you can see diamond patterns and circles play heavily in those I have already painted.
No Plan, No Problem
Although I have a plan around the theme itself, I try to avoid focusing on what each painting will eventually look like. I have in the past tried to sketch out compositions for paintings. But when I do this the finished piece tends to look a bit lifeless. I miss the happy accidents that seems to happen when you just go with the flow. There is an energy that you get when you just allow a painting to unfold. Planned pieces feel (and look) a bit like painting by numbers.
Whilst I don’t have a plan I do follow a process of sorts. Stage 1 is to ‘mess up’ the board. Scribbles in crayons, charcoal, or even ink sticks. Which I then smudge with water so it looks like a drippy mess. Followed by a few sessions of play. For me play is usually laying down paint. And just responding to what I see without any real thought to how the finished painting might look.
After a couple of weeks of play, I generally have a base layer that I’m happy with. Most of this will end being painted over. But every now and then you get some beautiful little areas that survive in the finished piece. Or spark an idea. And even if it doesn’t make it, the depth you get with this approach really appeals to me.
Watch This Space
So, still in its infancy but I’m hopeful that this will evolve into a set of new paintings.