If I fix my eye on the prize, the outcome, the perfect thing in the future I'll miss out on so many possible riches along the way. And I'll get stressed into the bargain too, trying, striving and pushing to MAKE IT WORK!
Oh that's a horrible feeling. Do you know it too?
Thankfully, one of the key ingredients of being an artist is to NOT know, to hang out in the DON'T know place and get more and more comfortable with it. I have to get lost, to not have a map, and not to plan where I'm going.
However, I do get REALLY clear about what I'm doing in the here and now. I need to have a "line of enquiry" as I like to call it. So I might have some guidelines I am working to - like in my current printmaking for example...
Notice, they are words of travel not destination.
The outcomes will take care of themselves and they will be all the richer, more unique and ultimately more interesting as a result.
A great read on the subject of not knowing where I'm going...
A week with no distractions, a sea view, and a studio all to myself. Heaven. I went to the North Wales coast, to a favourite place - where a tidal river meets the sea, and the beach stretches for miles.
Each day I walked on the beaches with RubyDog and then worked in my studio - responding to the lines and shapes of the boats and coast. Having brought limited materials with me, and a focus for my exploring, I could dive right into developing new ideas and outcomes.
I became more and more delighted by the sweeping curves of the boats, and I used my photos to inform the prints I was making. I cut stencils and used them in my printmaking. Every shape was a found shape... collected only that very morning.
It was like cooking with the freshest of ingredients
Although I was on my own I didn't feel any FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) because I was so engrossed in my own world, which was hugely enjoyable and satisfying to me. Being alone helped me quieten my mind, focus and be incredibly productive. I hadn't set out with any goal in mind - I really wanted just time to play......but I did end up producing a lot of great prints. I'll be making these available to buy in due course.
Are you thinking of doing something similar - a Solitary Art Retreat?
Perhaps this checklist might help you plan - here's what worked for me...
I mean, how do I creatively nourish myself, how do I feed the studio process? Much in the same way any healthy person would look after themselves - lots of variety of fresh food stuffs, not too much of the quick fix sweet stuff, and really importantly, taking time to digest, and to wait for the hunger to return.
And when it does arise, asking now, what do I want, rather than standing staring at the open fridge.
I've spend the last three months concentrating on this feeding process and I can honestly tell you that I feel really creatively healthy as a result. I've just begun working now on some paintings and the creative juices are flowing really well.
I had four 24 x 24 cm panels that I laboured over before Christmas - didn't like them but I had pushed on and on. This week I painted over them, obliterating all those layers and hours.
And low and behold, four stunning pieces appeared so easily as a result. Because I had good ingredients in my creative fridge. I wasn't hungry and I was feeling full and satisfied, and out came the work.
Inspired by Storm Dudley and Storm Eunice crashing about outside the studio. I'm going to boldly frame these in black.
I need to listen to my responses in the studio, to hear and feel those moments when I go "Hey, i like this mark / colour / shape" I need to develop my sense of discernment for what I like.....not in a strict controlling way, but like an encouraging adult asking me to enjoy being me and to find more of that me and bring it forward into the work.
So, take time to feed yourself well. Really well.
Some folk like to set off into the New Year with a sense of drive and purpose. And some, go at a more gentle pace. Personally, I treat January as a "good to go slow" time and I don't buy into the New Year, New Me culture of having to change and push and drive myself forward to being The Best Version of myself.
And how does this play out in the studio?
Well, I didn't set foot in it until January 3rd and I certainly didn't go in with any wild goals or mayor plans to achieve. In fact, this year I had signed up to a course starting on that day and offering me a gentle supportive structure in which to limber up my creative muscles.
How is it for you? Do you pace yourself, or race ahead and run out of steam?
Studio time at the moment is based on play, experimenting and reflecting. It is the taking time to look back at what I have done that is reaping rewards. I'm wanting to understand my processes more so I can use what works well, and avoid familiar dead ends and leg traps. And only by watching and listening can I see what these strengths and unhelpful habits are.
The result? I ENJOYED the race. And that is more important than the statistics of time, seconds and age category placing! Because of the planning I was able to enjoy it. That's the point.
In praise of slow, in praise of going at a comfortable and sustainable pace.
So, I have dived headlong into "Approaches to Abstraction" with Sally Hirst It's six weeks of play, thinking and developing ideas. Having the format is something I found I needed to help prioritise my time and focus in the studio. Too many distractions were calling me away. Enough!
I love having someone else coming up with a plan, and it is really clear that Sally is an expert teacher and very experienced artist herself. I love her approach, style and sense of humour.
I've been collecting this week - colour - line - shape - texture, and from here we will go on to working with some of our reference material. My overall theme is the tidal river estuary and beach at Llandanwg - we often go and stay there in the campervan....I love it.
I'm really excited to be working further with some initial photos and sketches I have from visits this year into more developed work. It's a way that I can stay connected to this beloved place when I can't get there in person - though I have booked myself a week in a house there in Spring...just me and Ruby the dog. Even my husband isn't allowed to come on this art retreat that I have gifted myself.
Come back and see what happens ...
Thank you all so much for coming. I was delighted to see so many smiling faces and hear many positive comments - the best was "this is my kind of heaven" How good is that?
Our house does lend itself to a good Open Studio - lots of space and a beautiful garden leading onto my studio through the big french doors. I wanted to show that "art makes a home" and used the sitting room to its best advantage. It did help folk view the art in a possible context of their own home.
I will definitely be doing another one - maybe in the spring.
To be clear with you, this isn't a post about how great my holiday was. It isn't a "look at me" and "look at what i did on holiday, aren't I amazing?"
I want to inspire you to see the things around you with fresh eyes AS IF you are on holiday. This is what I loved so much about being on Mallorca - and even though I know the island well - I delighted so much in looking again and looking anew.
After the past year, we all need some pleasure, some soothing and some uplifting. I get that through looking at the world around me.
Up close, from afar, from beneath or from above - a change of view is essential. We thrive and grow because of difference.
And we can benefit from this feeling of difference without going on holiday. Here are a few ways I do it-
I'm sure you get the idea, and I'd love to hear of somethings that you can suggest i do...
Here is your invitation. I do hope you can come. I have a made a Facebook event page with more photos and information - click here...
I'm developing some small series of works on paper to be framed and made available to buy. I've been exploring a fascination with the diagonals in the landscape and using a process of masking off paper in order to focus on this. The results can't be planned 100% and I don't know what the image is until i peel off the masked area.
Oooooh, i love a reveal! I've got one set in at the framers at the moment, and this is the next set to go.
Stay tuned if you are interested. Those on my mailing list will get first dibs and a discount.
I see them as a family because they are growing up alongside each other. They share the same paint palette DNA and beyond that I have let them / encouraged them to become individuals. Some are quieter, some are busier and I already have my favourite.....is that allowed?
This week I am working on painting the edges, and then I varnish them.