Art Workshops

It has been several years since I had the pleasure of attending an in-person art workshop.  I had booked a workshop during that weird time post lockdown where COVID was still high. As a result events were cancelling and postponing. When the invite popped up in my diary for ‘Atmospheric Landscapes’ it was a lovely surprise!

So last weekend I was feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation.  What if I couldn’t do it?  What if everyone was brilliant and I was rubbish?  The usual sorts of self-doubt.  Not helped by turning up at the venue a day early due to a diary mix up but of course it was fantastic!

Atmospheric Landscapes

The class, hosted at The Biscuit Factory art gallery, was led by artist Paula Dunn who made everyone feel incredibly welcome. She took the time to explain and demonstrate the products and techniques.  And having viewed some of her work at the gallery and on her website she is clearly a master of this!

I’ve always wanted to try oil and cold wax but never got round to it so it was a perfect way to try this out without investing in a load of new art supplies.

What I love about Art Workshops
  1. I learn something new.  Even if they are covering art techniques I regularly use I always pick up new ideas or approaches. 
  2. Opportunity to learn from a professional. I’m a sucker for YouTube artist videos. But they really don’t stack up against physically having someone show you how to do things.  And having the opportunity to ask questions, get them to review your work, etc is priceless
  3. I leave with a finished piece.  It might just be a diddy piece of paper but there is something so satisfying about leaving a session with pieces you have created
  4. Efficient with Time.  If you have a day job, as I do, finding time for art can be a challenge.  With workshops you make a commitment. You pay your cash and pop it in your diary and make sure that diary is free to really focus on the task at hand.
  5. Mindfulness. It’s good for my state of mind to be completely focused on one thing, rather than my usual juggling
  6. Build connections with like-minded people. Ok I may not have left with everyone’s phone number. But I did make a few extra IG connections. And as Newcastle isn’t a big place, hopefully I may bump into the other attendees at art fairs or future workshops.
Finished pieces

So if you haven’t already, why not check to see if there are any workshops at venues near you that grab your attention!

Summertime and the Living is Easy

It’s been a while since I posted a blog so apologises if you’re one of my followers.  Since starting my monthly newsletter programme I’m finding it a challenge to keep up with social media, blogs, newsletters and website updates.  Sadly my website and blog have missed out as a result.  But over the next few months I plan to change that and get a bit more focus on my website.

I hope you have all enjoyed the gorgeous hot weather we have had this summer.  As we head towards September it feels like summer is coming to an end.  On the plus side that means we can look forward to some amazing Autumn skies – one of my favourite seasons!  

Love the Summer Months

Sunshine, bright blue skies, busy beaches and long walks what’s not to love?  But I do find it a weird time for my art. 

There is so much inspiration, and the longer and lighter days seem to give me more time.  However, the conflict between locking myself away in my studio and getting out and about, as well as indulging in a bit of sunbathing is a constant challenge.  I need to get better at sketching and painting outdoors – maybe one for the ‘To Do’ list for summer 2023!

One solution I’ve found is immersing myself in art books. Reading those that I have only flicked through previously – I have a lot of these on shelves around the house!  And looking through others for ideas and scribbling copious amounts of notes in one of my sketchbooks is a great way to spend a lazy day in the sun, but still feel a bit productive.

Alice Neel
Sketchbook Play

What I do tend to do during the summer months is a lot more sketchbook work. My sketchbooks are completely overflowing. Spending so much time working like this during the summer is not only fun, but also really helps me learn and experiment.

I used to worry about how my sketchbooks looked. I’m sure we’ve all been influenced by videos on Instagram and YouTube of pristine sketchbooks where every page is a mini master piece. I feel that I’ve overcome this fear this summer – #WIN. I can tell you now, my sketchbooks certainly aren’t pristine! There are a few sections that are neat and tidy. Generally where I’ve glued in pieces I did on loose paper. But the majority of my books have pages I love; pages that have been a lot less successful; pages of scribbled notes and all are usually ink or paint stained.

My sketchbooks are a safe place where I can experiment with new techniques and are also where I can plan and practice. I’ve also started doing a lot more writing in these this year.

This month I also created a few mini concertina sketchbooks so have been having some fun playing around with these. I have bought a few sketchbooks in this format but I find I am looser in the handmade ones. The fact that its just scraps of paper that can be easily replaced seems to help me take a few more risks.

Whilst I’m not usually a huge fan of video this format does lend itself well to reels so I posted a couple on Instagram. Check the Stepping Stones one out here.

Out and About

Summer is also a busy time for visiting new places, or revisiting old favourites.

I finally made it down to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  So left with lots of ideas and scribbles in my little guide for artists I wanted to look up afterwards.  I have to be honest, I didn’t enjoy this year’s exhibition quite as much as previous ones.  It somehow felt less joyful.  I appreciate it was a serious theme but in previous years with similarly important themes the work has felt more subtle.

And we also had a day at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  If you haven’t visited I’d definitely recommend it!  Unfortunately we visited on a day when it was crazy hot so didn’t get around as much of the 500+ acres I’d have liked but it is a fantastic day out.  I love the mix of works on display, there really is something for everyone.  From the classical to the weird and wonderful that just makes you smile.

I was particularly drawn to the Barbara Hepworth pieces which are deceptively simple looking, but beautiful and perfectly composed and the Robert Indiana works they currently have are stunning.

And it was an absolute bonus to be able to see an exhibition from an artist I admire and follow on Instagram – Janine Burrows.

Work in Progress

Despite the glorious weather I have found time to work on a couple of bigger paintings over the summer.  I started out with three but one has fallen behind a bit.  My inspiration started back in May when we were on holiday in Italy.  The colours of the Amalfi sea were intoxicating!  So different from the sea I stare out at each day.  Bright turquoises, brilliant blues, warming greens and even muted yellow tones.  I mixed up a range of colours and started to play.  But I didn’t get too far.

During the particular hot patch of weather we had in the UK I started to see those colours in the North Sea, along with richer, darker blues.  So, I now have two paintings in my studio which I’m still contemplating.  I think the smaller one 60 x 60cm may be almost finished but the larger 1m square needs a bit more work.

If you like my work and would like to follow my studio progress, don’t forget you can sign up for my monthly newsletter here.

Art Commissions

In April’s studio newsletter I talked about the fact that I had recently finished some commissions.  Selling a piece of your art is always such a buzz. But commissions are very different from selling something you have already created.  There is an element of risk that kicks in when you know you are creating art for a specific buyer. Will they love it?  Can you translate what’s in your head onto canvas?  How will the collaborative bit of the process go?

I’ve been lucky to have had a few commissions over the past 12 months. And the only thing I can say is that every single one of them has been completely different. Just like the buyers!

My First Commissions

The first commission I did was terrifying.  My buyer didn’t really have an idea of what they wanted beyond the size, colours and general feel.  In reality it should have felt very liberating but I think as with any ‘first’ fear and self doubt kicks in.  In the end the painting was a success and the buyer loved it!

My second went so much smoother.  It was one of my harbour paintings and my buyer (who also happened to be my cousin) just wanted a painting similar to others I’d completed but incorporating numbers and colours that meant something to them.

Latest Commissions

Both of my latest commissions have been more representational.  One is sitting in my living room waiting to be delivered next week.  The other came about when the buyer spotted a painting I posted on Instagram that I had created for my new kitchen – innovatively titled ‘Blue Kitchen’.  It was a still life of various kitchen paraphobia and out of the blue I received a message on Facebook asking if it was for sale. 

Blue Kitchen

After messaging back and forwards we agreed that the painting wasn’t right for them.  ‘Blue Kitchen’ is a 60 x 60cm and they were looking for a smaller painting as they had a clear idea of where it would be hung.  We agreed that I’d produce a 30 x 30cm and the process started!  With more representational work I like to have a bit more of a plan so stage one was agreeing composition.  I love this part of the process as you can really get the buyer involved.

After a few months of painting and sharing various work in progress photos the piece was finished. 

Here’s a close up photo. I use the VOUN app to get an idea of what they’ll look like framed, although the frames I use are better than the options on the app. I just don’t have much wall space in the house where the daylight is good.

Anyone for Sugar
Shipping Your Art

The next challenge was packing and arranging delivery. 

No matter how many times I do this I always have a few stressful days until I get the email from my buyer letting me know that it has arrived safely. I don’t know why as I’ve never had any problems but you still get those nerves.  I’ve watched so many videos from other artists on how to package your art. My approach is to over pack with layers of cardboard, tissue and filler.  

In my day job I’m responsible for our sustainability initiative so I have a sense of guilt in terms of environmental impact.  Because of this I always reuse packaging materials. The downside of this approach is that my studio is littered with Amazon boxes and various packing materials.

But by far the best part of completing a commission is when your buyer loves the piece!  The joy you get when you open that email or DM and see the words ‘I love it!’

Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

This month was lovely as I received this photo from the buyer of my painting ‘Anyone for Sugar?’  Who is also a fellow artist

I love seeing my work in people’s homes. It’s such an honour to know that someone likes what you have created enough to put in their home.  No matter how many painting you sell I don’t think you ever get bored of this.

Art Competition and Dealing with Disappointment

But April wasn’t all positive – I received two rejections from the RA Summer Exhibition. Something I was used to receiving each year but having been successful last year there was a glimmer of hope.

Sadly it was not to be this year and whilst I’m disappointed I think I’m not thick skinned enough not to take it personally.  There is such a buzz about the Summer Exhibition.  I love seeing the work of other artists who have made it through the first round on Instagram.

If you’re not following the hastag on IG its worth checking out the feed – #rasummerexhibition. You get such an amazing variety of work – it’s so inspiring!

If you are one of the lucky ones to get through the digital judging round – good luck! The whole submission process is very special and if you’re lucky enough to make it all the way Varnishing day is just magical.

Don’t forget if you’re not signed up for my monthly studio insider newsletter you can do so here.

Timing is Everything

Its been quite a few months since I posted.  I have been painting regularly but have been devoting all my free time to the studio so haven’t written any blog updates.  As I am in the final stages of completing a mini series of works I thought I’d pause and take a few moments to reflect on a challenge I did earlier this year.

Thumbnails

I spotted the campaign on Instagram and had heard great things about its creator Cheryl Taves @insightcreativecoaching.  Cheryl apparently was a coach on CVP a few years ago so I thought I’d give her Sketchbook Challenge, a go.

Playing with Black
30 Day Sketchbook Challenge

It is a relatively inexpensive course at $59, c£44 depending on exchange.  And is, like many courses of this type, delivered via pre recorded videos and online guides.  It has been designed to help artists get into the practice of using their sketchbooks on a regular basis and to strengthen your artist’s mindset through reflective writing.  The pro’s of this kind of course is that you can complete it at your own pace, no live broadcasts that you need to dial in to in the evening so its easy to get it to fit around your everyday life and commitments.

Playing with Pastels

For me the course was a real light bulb moment.  I have always kept sketchbooks but tended to use these for drawing rather than anything specific to my art.  This course provides you with prompts and importantly reflective questions each day along with examples of Cheryl’s own work.  The prompts are very varied, some give guidance on different techniques you can try, others are more conceptual, for example on day 11 you are asked to think about how your sketchbook could become your sidekick in your art practice. 

Letting Go
Time is Everything

I don’t know if it was just serendipity but this course landed for me at just the right time.  I’d recently suffered from a bit of creative block and was struggling with how to get my art back on track.  Having had months of frustration this intervention was the perfect solution.  It isn’t like other workshops where you have a very clear brief to complete as homework.  Although it does follow a similar structure and maybe that was what I needed.  I was never one to skip homework at school so I know that I do have this inner value set that forces me to complete set tasks.  But its more than that….

Unlocking Your Inner Most Thoughts

The thoughtfulness of the prompts and questions helped unlock something.  I’ve never been a diary keeper or had any great revelations from reflective writing so it isn’t something I have much experience of.  I’ve always struggled when people asked me questions about my art.  Sure I can talk till the cows come home about the mediums and techniques but the talking about the meaning is a whole other thing. 

Be Bold

I was inspired by some of the other artists taking the course and for the first few days spent a lot of time reading their comments on Instagram.  I was amazed by how open they were about their struggles. But more than that, amazed by the number of comments and replies they got.  I realised that when Instagram works best is when it is a genuine conversation between people.  And when you post more insightful comments alongside your workpeople are more inclined to respond. 

Autumnal Colours
Stuff I Learned

Ok here’s a few of my key takeaways …

  • I need to really question the pressure I’m feeling when it comes to my art making and work out if this is self imposed (it is!) and why
  • I’m not a natural rule breaker!  It was ridiculous how difficult I found day 2’s prompt to break the rules.
  • Greater contrasts and more defined shapes make for better paintings – a no brainer I know but I do tend to go for more muted colours and texture
  • Taking a break from sharing really helped push me more.  The fear of posting something ugly definitely holds me back when it comes to experimenting.  But when I do push myself the combination of fear and excitement can be liberating
  • You don’t need loads of stuff to keep up your sketchbook habit – a few pencils and some crayons are enough
  • Sketchbooks are a great place to work through composition ideas
  • I have a weird relationship with the colour yellow
  • I need to be bolder with my mark making
Getting Messy

So if you fancy a short course to kick start your art check this one – you won’t be disappointed!

Well, hello 2022!

I hope you have all eaten well, enjoyed time with loved ones and generally had a break.  I had a whole week off work and feel so much better for the downtime.  The break also meant that I could get a few days in the studio which was a real bonus.

New Year, New Me (well I’m trying)

I’m not a huge fan of New Year celebrations and haven’t had much success with the whole resolutions malarky. As a result I tend to avoid them completely.   But I wanted to start this year a little differently. 

I am incredibly organised In my work-life (i.e. full time day job) . Probably irritatingly so for those who work for me, but at home this isn’t the case.  I decided in 2022, I will be more organised with my art.  This was in part prompted by Alice Sheridan’s ‘Celebration & Planning’ call in December. But it was also something I had on my ‘to do’ list last year.  Sadly not something I made much progress with!  Also, since finishing CVP I am aware that not having a clear structure on what to work on next has left me feeling a little lost at times. 

Alice’s ‘Get Organised’ toolkit provided the perfect prompts to get me off on the right track.  I have completed the review of 2021. Worked on some visualisation exercises as to where I want my art to go. I even started to pull together a longer term plan.  With a new notebook full of scribbles, a plethora of post it notes and a lot more determination to get my butt in gear.  I even have my next few projects mapped out.

First New Project of the Year

One of the surprising things this exercise surfaced was an itch I needed to scratch.  Earlier last year I created a painting I titled ‘Nemesis’.  The title was inspired by the process of painting as this piece was a challenge for me.  The piece was revised and reinvented several times before completion.  I was over the moon when it was accepted by the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhibition and even more excited when it sold at the star studded preview event.

Unlike the other boards I created during CVP, this painting was a stand alone. I always intended coming back to the theme  (I even mentioned this in a blog back in July.)  So this is now my first project of 2022.

Beach Life Series

Nemesis was inspired by a walk on the beach during the warmer summer months.  The organic shapes and muted colours of the rocks have such a textural feel.  And they have both a solid and yet fragile sense, worn down by years of tidal movement and I find these fascinating. 

In complete contrast, during summer when the beach is frequented by families you get these eye popping colours from man-made materials.  Wind breakers (a must on the North East coastline); beach towels, cool boxes and, of course, buckets and spades.  It feels like such an odd juxtaposition yet makes complete sense as the two elements co-exist perfectly.

I wanted to convey the feeling of the beach and combine the bright, dynamic colours as well as some softer pastels, like ice cream with soothing biomorphic shapes and that is how Nemesis emerged.  The painting also contains very quiet dotted tracks which you only see close up.  These were my interpretation of the trails of footprints you get in the fresh sand after the beach has been cleaned.  Having completed my review of 2021 I realised it was a theme I needed to return to.  So, I am now working on four boards which follow a similar theme.

I have started 4 new pieces, two of which are a little more advanced.

work in progress
Other Things on My List

I have a few ‘things to do’ which I’m hoping to get sorted this year from a studio tidy up to getting better lighting.  I have parked the tidy up for a bit as I had an enforced tidy up after a shelf collapsed over Christmas.  It’s a job I really dislike, as it always feels like wasted painting time but is satisfying when it’s done.

I am also determined to finish my pooch sculpture. I’ve posted work in progress images of this but its presence on the studio floor is now irritating me.

Finally, I also have another commission I’m working on which is more semi abstract – I’ll share more in a later post.  And I’ve decided that this year I want to explore some more figurative or portraiture pieces.  No idea what these will look like so for now just playing on paper.

And of course the ongoing kitchen renovation – still no weather proof roof and now no floor….

Coming Soon – A New Kitchen (Hopefully)

That’s all for now.  Take care.

Happy Christmas

I’m really pleased to say that I have come through the other end of my creative block. It has taken weeks. But, having played around with collage and completed a couple of paintings, things seem to be back on track.

End of the Year

As we head towards the end of the year its time to reflect on 2021 and also do some planning for 2022.  I’m not the greatest planner when it comes to my art.  Maybe it’s a reaction to having to be so planned in my day job?  Possibly a lack of time and head space?  Or maybe it’s just laziness?

Whatever the reason I want to buck the trend.  So, this year I signed up to Alice Sheridan’s Connected Artist Club. And I am slowly making my way through some of the planning tools she suggests.  I can’t claim to have spent much time on this yet. But her suggestion for an art planning notebook did catch my eye. And I made a start.  I’ve even earmarked a few days over the Christmas break to really get into this.  Despite being just early stages, I’m surprised how many goals I have for 2022.  And I’ll be adding more over the next two weeks.

Some of these are more ‘things to do’ but as someone who doesn’t usually do much forward planning, once I started I found myself doodling away.  Hopefully the act of writing these down will encourage me to get some done.  Who doesn’t find it satisfying to tick things off a list?

Getting a Bit More Forensic with Data

I am also going to bring the data analysis skills I use in my day job into my art.  I have sketched out some social media tracking pages and have popped diary reminders in each month to complete these.

Once I have a better sense of numbers and trends I will set myself some targets.

Spring/New Year Clean

Aside from planning, I need a studio tidy up as the room is back to being a mini obstacle course.  Actually I need a full study clear out, but I’m not great at being ruthless, so need to build myself up to that.  I have so many art supplies that I’ve bought over the years and either will never use, or have used and didn’t like. I will in the meantime spend a day over Christmas to just have a good tidy up.  The pile of collage papers under my table is over flowing and needs to be sorted.  And it’s always a good opportunity to take stock of part finished boards that have been abandoned over the year.

In preparation for the tidy up I made a start on getting my dog sculpture completed.  This project was something I started back in the summer but it has stood half done in front of my easel for about 6 months.  After creating the initial shape and wrapping it in plaster bandages, the air dry clay I wrapped him in was a total disaster and peeled off.  I didn’t quite know what to do next, so he’s stood there abandoned, taking up floor space. 

The prospect of a tidy up prompted me to purchase some good old fashioned plaster of paris.  So, over this week I’m hoping to get a few coats of plaster on him and then leave him to dry over Christmas.  Once he’s properly set I can paint him in the new year.

Kitchen Update

The renovation is still ongoing.  Its been a slow month as our builder was called away to work on homes that had severe storm damage.  But I’m pleased to say work started again last week so we now almost have a roof and the old kitchen cupboards have gone. 

We do still have two backdoors, one of which is now in the middle of what will be our new kitchen. Hopefully this wall will come down soon and the last of the steel work will be installed. It still looks like a building site and the house is bloody cold but excitingly you can start to see the shape and size of the new kitchen. And a big bonus we’re losing those awful red tiles!

In the Studio This Week

I finished my second commission at the weekend.  It’s a harbour scene with numbers and colours that have particular relevance to the buyer.  I’m hoping to drop it off after Christmas and start my third commission in the new year – more about that in a later post. 

When the Boat Comes In

And I have also just finished a 60 x 60cm panel which I need to photograph and get on my website.  Although I’m struggling to give it a title so any suggestions welcomed. I’m toying with ‘Lockdown’ which seems apt for the final painting of the year and ties in with the idea of self contained boxes.

Still Trying to decide on a title!

Will share a bit more about my planning for 2022 in my new year post so for now I just wanted to say ‘Happy Holidays’, ‘Merry Christmas’ and stay safe!

Feeling a Bit Lost

In my last post I said that I was in a bit of funk art wise. Unfortunately, I’m still feeling that way.  I’ve read a few posts from others that paint, all are at pains to reassure you that its completely normal. Apparently everyone goes through phases like this.  But, rationally knowing that, and emotionally feeling it are two very different things. I am feeling more comfortable with it though so I guess that’s a positive.

I don’t know if there is any connection but we do have a lot going on at the moment. So, maybe its just tiredness and a busy mind.

Home Improvements

We’re in the middle of a bit of house renovation which is causing chaos.  We’ve having an extension and knocking two rooms together so currently we only have half a roof on the kitchen and a utility that’s open to the elements.

Home Improvements – well it will eventually be improved!

I didn’t fully realise just how messy the whole thing would be.  The whole house feels like its covered in a film of dust. And having a fridge, kettle, coffee maker and microwave in the living room is just odd!

The project isn’t due to finish until the end of February. It still feels like a long way to go but at least we’ll get to the nicer bits like choosing kitchen units, floors, taps and handles.

Bad Weather

I’m not a fan of the cold but I generally love autumn. It’s the season I was born in so having a birthday is a plus. The autumn skies are amazing, such wonderful colours. And I’m usually one of the first to get the Christmas tree up. 

Autumn Skies

But the drop in temperature came as our walls came down and this weekend’s storm caused havoc up here in the North East.  Trees lying in the road and even trampolines and roofs blocking roads.  Plus the chaos that is our home at the moment means no Christmas decorations this year. 

The only good thing about the storm this weekend was the sea which looked absolutely magnificent.  You would have thought that someone had squeezed a big bottle of fairy liquid into the water. White foam everywhere along with crashing waves.

Behind on Personal Admin

I’m usually fairly organised but recently have been dropping the ball. I forgot to book my car in for its MOT so ended up having to off road it for a week. And last week I missed my COVID booster appointment. It not like me at all. Thankfully I managed to get another booked for this week. So, having had my flu jab in November I should be all up to date way before Christmas.

I also eventually got around to sorting out invoices and payments for some of the paintings I have sold recently. Hopefully that will be a nice bank balance boost ahead of Christmas.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Work is also extremely busy and I’ve started commuting back and forth to Birmingham. We lost a lot of people during lockdown and haven’t yet managed to get all of recruitment done so we’re all very stretched.  And this week we have had a few people test positive for COVID which hasn’t helped.

I think all of this, combined with the long hours over lockdown are taking a toll. I’m definitely on count down to Christmas in terms of needing a break. My energy levels need to be recharged.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Bizarrely whilst I’m in a bit of a slump I do have quite a lot of interest in my work. I even have two commissions I’m working on.  So, I’m trying to keep up the creative habit and playing around with paint sketches in my sketchbook.  I’m trying to accept that it is mindset. I feel like the marks I’m making are ugly and colours uninspired but know that this will pass.  Maybe a few days off will help. 

The one thing I’ve really enjoyed is creating some collages and restocking my collage papers.  I’ve spent several hours with my gelli plate and stencils and have a load of interesting papers. One of my Insta buddies suggested a series of abstract collages of board games so I’m working on that at the moment. Sue creates some gorgeous collage piece – its worth checking out her site or instagram feed.

I started with my interpretation of noughts and crosses

XOX

And also created a version of a checkers/draughts board

Draughts Anyone?

I’ve even started a long piece showcasing a street where I live. No idea if this will come to anything but I’m fun with it. I’ll keep you posted.

Victoria Crescent, Cullercoats

I think all in all I’m feeling sorry myself and just need to get myself out of this funk. I have signed up for Alice Sheridan’s Soul Smile challenge so fingers crossed it will be the boost of inspiration I need.

In Funk

I haven’t written a blog post in a few weeks and whilst a lot of that is due to lack of time, if I’m honest I just feel like I’ve lost my painting mojo.  I know everyone experiences times when their drive and passion to paint is missing. And I’ve had dips in the past, but this one feels a lot tougher than the others.

Missing Mojo

I spent a bit of time last weekend trying to figure out why I was feeling this way.  I thought this might help me come up with a solution. But I can’t think of one specific reason, it feels like a combination of things….

So….tired

Firstly I’m really tired and have felt like this for a few weeks. Unlike many people I wasn’t furloughed during lockdown. Despite the business being closed (my day job), the past 18 months have been busier and more stressful than any other time I can remember.  At the end of August when we reopened, we seemed to go from zero to 100 miles an hour within a couple of weeks. Having lost staff during lockdown we don’t have our usual resilience so its all hands to the pump. 

Added to this, being open means I’m back to commuting.  I don’t go into the office every week – but. I forgot just how tiring the 400+ miles round trip, along with nights in hotels, can be.

A Break is as Good as a Rest

The second reason is a bit odd but I took a break.  I know this sounds counter initiative.  A break should help address the tiredness. But having not painted for a few weeks I’m finding it hard to get going again. Some of this is down to habit. I seem to have lost the the momentum I had of an hour before and work. Some I think feels like a loss of confidence.

Too Much Fine Tuning

The third equally odd – I had some successes.  This is the really weird one. Having been selected for the RA, an exhibition in Manchester and had my own exhibition as well as completing my first commission.

Back to the Sea

I’ve sold quite a few paintings recently. 

So in August and September most of my time was spent finishing off and fine tuning. I didn’t get started on any new pieces. As a result I’m finding it difficult to gear up. Fine tuning and finishing work is so different from those earlier stages when you need to make big, confident moves that I seem to have lost the muscle memory.

The Solution

I’m honestly not sure I’ve found it but rather than just avoiding my studio I’m determined to get back into my art habit.  So here’s my plan….

Starting Small

I noticed it was #oneofmanypostcard time so I have thrown myself into collage. This year I have created 13 postcard size pieces to offer up. I’m making the draw on 31st October and already have quite a few people who have asked to put their name in the hat.

If you haven’t come across the #oneofmanypostcard campaign check out my previous blog post. But basically it’s the brainchild of the very talented artist and print maker John Pedder. It is open to absolutely any artist. Artists create some postcards. Post them on their Instagram feed offering them for free on the understanding that the recipient, donates to charity. When someone receives the art they donate what they think they would have paid for it, or an amount that they can afford to a good cause of their own choosing. It’s that simple.

John started it in 2018 and whilst most offerings are postcards there have been prints, paintings, collages, jewellery, bags, sweets, ceramics, sculptures and even mixtapes.

Immerse Myself in Art

I have some many beautiful art books so I’m giving myself a break. I’ve decided that when I can’t muster up the energy to paint I’m going to spend some time looking at the brilliant work of other artists.  My husband bought me this stunning book for my birthday so that’s first on my list.

Rather than my usual flicking through, I have a nice new notebook that I’m planning on filling with notes on what I like and any ideas this sparks.

Have a Sort Out

Unlike my usual studio tidy which involves sorting out and tidying paints, brushes and collage papers. This weekend I’m planning on collecting together all the partly painted pieces I have. Many are stacked against walls, sitting in drying racks or just piled up in my studio.  I know a lot of them will remain abandoned for months but my intention is to work out what I liked and didn’t like about these pieces and try to move a few forward.

Indulge in Some Playtime

Rather than jumping back into painting boards and canvases I’m going to spend a few weeks just playing with different mediums and tools.  I feel like I’m in a comfort zone when it comes to the marks I’m making and the brushes and scrapers I’m using so I think I need to mix things up.  

Wish me luck!

New Work

A few weeks ago I published a post about some new pieces I was working on which were a diversion from my abstracts.

They started out as a bit of a distraction.  I was working on a large painting (still unresolved), and after a few hours of painting I needed a break.  We’re just about to start a kitchen extension and weeks of pouring over brochures and visits to showrooms seemed to have invaded my thoughts. As a result I found myself doodling kitchen scenes and utensils. The builder hasn’t started yet but I’m looking forward to being able to share some ‘work in progress’ photos when he does!

Sketchbook Habit

My usual break from painting involves sketching.  Good old fashioned paper and pencil gives me the creative boost without the stress or mess of paint. 

Sketching is an easy switch off.  There is no risk, if it doesn’t work you simply turn the page and start something else. Not so easy with a painting.  My sketchbook habit falls into two camps.  One is simply about mark making and composition.  Whether I’m out and about or just playing with marks, these are my go to when I’m starting a new painting.  They provide me with loads of inspiration. They tend to be abstract and loose and if I’m honest almost childlike. 

The other side of my sketchbook is drawing and illustration.  With these pages there is a very obvious source of inspiration. These usually involve objects lying around my house.  Over the years I’ve completed several series of drawings. From camera’s to bottles of gin, stuff in my kitchen cupboards to a 100 day challenge of little illustrations.

I do share some of my sketches on the sketchbook page on website, but I’m not the best at remembering to update this page.

Trust the Process

When painting abstracts, my process involves putting down colours or shapes and responding to what’s in front of me.  There is a lot of trial and error, and I don’t really have a clear idea of what the finished piece will look like.  I love working this way as each day is a bit like stepping into the unknown. However, that lack of a clear vision can also be frustrating.  This is especially true when you get that stage where you feel like the painting is starting to emerge but you’re just not sure what the next mark should be.  That’s where I am with this piece. It is on a 60cm square cradle board so quite a large painting for me.

Kitchen Inspiration

So the recent pieces I’ve finished all have a very similar theme.  It started out with my ‘Dinner Time’ painting which is on a 30cm square cradle board. 

Dinner Time

Still working in multiples I started 7 paintings at the same time. The other 6 were on smaller 20cm square cradle boards and canvas boards.  The first two I completed were using the same colour palette – muted blues and greys which is a combination I love!

With the next two I wanted to shake things up so I opted for a palette with a bit more pop. And to mirror the strength of the colours I opted for a flatter, stylised feel with less texture. 

The final two I’m still struggling with. I wanted to break my love of blue so colour wise reds, browns, beiges and yellow – very unlike me!  This may be the reason I’m having so many problems with them.  Hopefully over the next couple of weeks I’ll get these finished and with my exhibition at The Exchange looming a deadline could be just the right incentive!

Also a shout out for my newsletter sign up. I will be starting to email newsletters out to anyone who has signed up. I’m planning on sharing more of my work in progress so if you haven’t signed up you can do so here.

Happy art making!

Royal Academy of Arts Varnishing Day

Just a short post this week to share some of the photos from my day at the Royal Academy.  It is the first time one of my paintings has been accepted for the summer exhibition. So, on Sunday we drove down to Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire and on Monday hopped on the train into London.  The weather was glorious so hanging around in the courtyard with other successful artists, listening to the steel band was a delight.  The anticipation just adding to the excitement and specialness of the day.

Royal Academy of Arts Courtyard

Service for Artists

At 10.45 we all headed over to St. James church for the Service for Artists.  Now, I’m not a religious person and other than weddings, christenings and funerals I can’t think of the last time I attended a church service. But regardless of your religious (or not) biases, you couldn’t help but be moved by the experience. 

Service for Artists, St. James’ Church, Piccadily

Much of the service delivered by the Revd Lucy Winkett, focused on the experiences we have all endured through lockdown. Recognising the tragedy and human cost of the pandemic.  The service was a time for personal reflection. And the architecture of the church created by Christopher Wren is beautiful and serene.

Exhibition Preview

After the service we were invited to a preview of the exhibition.  Being in the Royal Academy when its not jam packed full of other visitors was a treat in its own right.  Being offered a glass of fizz whilst walking around was just perfect. You can’t help but feel that sense of tradition and heritage.

I love the summer exhibition. The variety of works. The stunning setting, and the way the pieces are curated in a clever, but at times higgledy-piggledy way.  I don’t mean this to be negative about the curators. But there is a very different feel to a gallery with paintings filling the walls, often 4-5 images high versus the more normal exhibitions with lots of white space between works. 

Royal Academy of Arts, Varnishing Day Preview

I get that the format perhaps doesn’t showcase individual images as well as the normal type of exhibition.  You don’t have lots of white space.  But it does give you an overall sense of excitement and creative stimulation. Truly unique to the summer exhibition.  Personally, I love the ‘stack em’ high approach. It forces you to move closer to the images that appeal to you, so you pick up on the subtlety and detail. 

Such a Thrill

When we entered artists were shooting off to find their works. I did try to avoid doing this. But as I walked around the second gallery I realised I wasn’t really taking in the art.  So, like everyone else I walked through to find my painting.  I fully expected it to be up high in a corner of a wall so was thrilled when I found it near the door in gallery IV at a level where people could see it fully.  It was such a thrill, I really wasn’t prepared to feel so excited and proud.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2021

I spent a couple of hours walking around but I’m not sure my concentration was as focused as it would usually be. So, I will definitely book to go back down to visit again. I did take a few photos of the works. One of which was a little sculpture of Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. The Wizard of Oz piece was created with Tunnock’s Tea Cake wrappers and really made me smile.

The Wizard of Oz Ruby Slippers

What is very memorable of the exhibition is just how colourful and joyful it is. Such a contrast to the doom and gloom of the past year and for that alone its worth a visit.

All in all, a pretty spectacular day!