Apple rainbow, soup man and fabulous friends

I am a little late posting tonight. I will miss my midnight deadline and missed posting yesterday as well. I am learning not to worry about the little things. I will do what I can when I can on this 30DC journey and remember why I embarked on the challenge in the first place… to bring the JOY of creativity back into my life. So… if it becomes anything less than a pleasure, I must stop.

Yesterday evening I had a good hour or so to focus on my art, but nothing was flowing, nothing became real. It was still fun, though slightly frustrating, so I just continued to play with no results to show, just a pile of images, arranged, rearranged and abandoned… put aside for the moment, to return to (or not) another day.

I no longer worry if I do not produce a finished piece at the end of each day, as long as I have made an effort to do something. This morning, smallest boy’s mind was thinking creatively as he sat with his healthy breakfast laid out on a plate in front of him. “Look Mum, it’s a rainbow,” he told me, looking at the way he had arranged the fruit in an arc on the edge of his plate.
The other food-related observation of the day came at lunch time when some of small son’s soup splattered onto the table. “Look Mum, it is a man and he has a bit of his arm missing.” I saw what he meant immediately. He is three. It made me smile and will be entered into my book of things my small son has done that made me smile“. I have such a book for my big son as well.
In downloading the photographs from my camera, I noticed that he had taken a sneaky photograph of me whilst I sat at the top of the stairs giving a friend advice on the phone about which art materials to buy for her son’s 8th Birthday, at the same time cooking up plans for future workshops in my head, the ideas flowing as we talked about easels and art boxes, brushes and paints.
I do love it when the boys pick up my camera and start snapping as I used to love doing with my own little camera as a kid. I love seeing things through their eyes, looking at the world from a different (usually lower) angle. I liked this picture as it captures the slightly chaotic, informal feel of our little home. I was pleased to see that he had taken a few pictures of his brother as well and tried his hand, once again, at self-portraiture.

This evening, three of my fabulous friends came over. We all have children of the same age, are all creative in our own separate ways, and once in a while find that getting together for a drink and a chat and a spot of making is just what we need. So tonight, the tea was flowing, the honey sweets and chocolates were consumed, the news was shared and the evening passed with each of us working on our own individual projects, inspiring each other to create and sharing life’s latest trials and triumphs. For me, this is one of the very best ways to spend an evening. Every artistic Mum should gather together a group of friends to share and create with… at least once a month. It is good for the art, good for the soul. There is no pressure. Sometimes one of us will make more tea than art or pass an hour of the evening flicking through a fascinating new craft magazine, but it does not matter… it is about being creative friends together, supporting and encouraging each other to do the things we love.

I was not sure what to do, so chose to play. Setting out with no outcome in mind seems to work better for me on some days than others. At times, when I have an idea in mind, know what I would like a piece to look like when completed, I feel disappointed by the result. The opposite can also be true… I can start out with no idea where I am going and end up producing something I had never envisaged and be pleased with the result.

Tonight, I played with cotton buds dipped in white ink, dancing them over black paper. After a couple of smaller patterned pieces, I worked on an A5 sheet, again drawing with white ink on a cotton bud, cutting wiggly lines from an old book, sticking them down, then drawing on top with a black wax crayon and adding some more wiggly lines of tissue paper to the piece. I was both surprised and happy with the result. It was like nothing I had ever created before, but I may one day attempt to make something similar again.

Pass that good feeling on

A productive day at home today. All action and progress. It feels good.

As a mother of two young boys, life is sometimes hectic, often challenging, usually fun. Time away from the boys comes with a variety of emotions: relief at not being woken in the very early morning, blind opened by a little hand to reveal daylight to the cries of small boy announcing “It’s wake up time Mum!”; I feel guilt (for a whole host of reasons, try finding a Mum who doesn’t); a feeling of urgency to get a million and one things done in a relatively small window of time; then confusion about what is important, what is not and whether I should be doing chores, chilling out or having fun (probably all of the above, each in moderation, but the confusion combined with the urgency regularly leads an overdoing of one and neglecting another); and excitement at what can be achieved on my own when I put my mind to it. But really, when all is quiet here, without the little fellas running riot, I do miss them and usually have the radio on, talking in the background, keeping me company.

My intention today was to do some domestics (tick), complete a plan for a workshop to happen here at home (tick) and do a little bit of art (tick). I woke naturally at 8am and worked in my pjs until the postman knocked. I reached an arm around the door, popped my head out, thanked him, then dashed upstairs to get dressed. I cooked up a deliciously simple stir fry (broccoli, asparagus, carrots) for breakfast, put the washing on and engaged in some online chat and cheering on of fellow 30 Day Challengers. Planning the workshop was a pleasure and the feedback from the 30DC community helped enormously with the little question marks in my mind and spurred me on to commit to the first date. So, my first Life Collage workshop will be held on Wednesday May 30, 8-10pm.

The prospect of hosting an evening workshop here at home, sharing with other people an activity which I find both relaxing and deeply rewarding, is most exciting. Now, all that is needed is participants, so if this is something that may interest you too, please come and join me.

Today’s creation is a simple Life Collage, an example of what can be done with everyday materials and a little inspiration, and to map my feelings at this point in time, almost two thirds of the way through the 30DC. What began as an experiment, a challenge, a blog, is becoming a path, a journey, a way forward. I am becoming clearer and more focused on the things I enjoy, ways of applying these to my daily life and ideas for sharing them with others in a practical, accessible way. I am finding the things that make me feel good and I want to pass that good feeling on.

Two old favourites

For today’s work of art (and I can tell you it is a big leap for me to refer to something I have made as a “work of art” rather than just “picture” or “piece”, although this does not necessarily reflect my view of what I have created, more a shift in my thinking) I returned to two old favourites – nature as subject and mono-printing as method.

Today was yet another grey day, but a free day to create, so I took the opportunity to stay indoors and focus on something I am rarely able to do… spreading my materials out all over the table and taking my time to create.  I inked up the lino, tore up some large sheets of paper to fit the tiles and started to draw what I saw from the window… not the garden as a whole, but the individual elements that make up my pretty, small, but unkempt garden… the big tree whose leaves have appeared only this month; the blueberry bush whose flowers are fading, promising fruit; the white-flowering shrub whose name I have never known; the tall grasses at the back, waving, drooping in the breeze; some smaller flowers, low to the ground; the old metal table; the honeysuckle, not yet flowering; the winding wisteria.  Of course, being mono-printing, when the paper was turned, the drawings were in reverse, but I was happy with the overall effect.  When the ink had dried, I tore around each element then stuck them back down on another piece of paper to make the finished piece.

I had considered adding some colour to it, but being happy with the result I decided not to mess.  I can always scan it, print it, then add colour to a copy if I want to play another day.

Mono print collage

Always Look on the Bright Side

Today’s collage is a reminder to myself.  It is an expression of the reasons I embarked on this project in the first place.  I wanted to bring more colour into my life, more variety.  I wanted to spend more time exploring and playing and expressing myself visually.

It is day 3 of the 30 Day Challenge and I have already come up against unexpected obstacles and learned valuable lessons in my attempts to devote a small amount of time each day to creativity.

On Day 1, I had to accept that the piece I had in mind was not ready to be made then, and may never be.  I carried on regardless, determined to produce something and felt it was important to express the feelings that arose in relation to the conflict between wanting to create something and being able to create what I had in mind.  This is something I have always struggled with and I have vivid memories of a childhood holiday when, as often happens, I had attempted to draw something, but was less than satisfied with the results.  Instead of trying again, I hid under the table, crying, frustrated at my inability to live up to my own expectations.  There was nobody else there telling me that what I had done was not good enough, just me, aiming at perfection, but falling short, giving myself a hard time.  I think I have learned to be kinder to myself.  The desire for perfection is still there, yes, but it is not the be all and end all.  It is a different kind of perfection… the ability to create the perfect piece for that moment, the piece that whilst not technically brilliant says something, speaks to someone, expresses what’s inside.  My pose, arms spread, taken with my webcam on Day 1, represents surrender… letting go.  The anticipation and the fear are still there, but the excitement and sense of freedom I experience when I do let go of my expectations and just go with the flow, can be overwhelming.

On Day 2, the 20 minutes I had set aside became 2 hours of action, as I painted, coloured in, cut up, pasted back together and really immersed myself in the glorious feeling of making something.  There was something very physical about yesterday’s work.  I felt acutely aware of the movement of my arm as I was painting, black on white, and loved that feeling which was as though my whole body was dancing with the brush, taking part in the process.  This was a sensation I had not experienced in some time and I realised it had been years (I dared not count how many) since I lasted painted freely.  If something felt this good, why had I waited so long?  As I was painting, I remember thinking to myself, “I could be doing this blindfold, it does not matter what it looks like, I just love this feeling”. Examining the finished piece, I was not faced with a painting I felt particularly proud of, but something better, a piece that reminded me of an experience I had thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish.  I immediately let go of any fears of sharing my work (something I may not have done previously had I not been entirely happy with it) as it did not matter to me what this piece looked like, it was what it felt like to create it that was all important.  This was why I chose to share it step by step.

Day 3 and I’m all about having fun, feeling good, immersing myself in the things that make me come alive and seeing where they lead.  More obstacles will present themselves, I know.  New challenges lay ahead, but it’s all in the way we approach them and if I am able to look on the bright side and see them as a way to learn and grow, then I think I am on the right track.

Look on the Bright Side collage

Playing by my own rules

Wednesday afternoon is art club at the local school.  I set up the club at the start of term and was surprised just how many children signed up, keen to explore their creativity, even after a busy day at school.  The energy in that room for our hour of art never ceases to amaze me.  Some of the children follow the ideas I put forward by the letter, others ask to do things a little differently and a few just play by their own rules, exploring their own ideas and building up their own personal style and visual vocabulary with, perhaps, a nod to the artist we are learning about on that day.

Today, I introduced the children to the art of Jean Dubuffet and, in particular, his collage works.  Having shown the children a few examples of Dubuffet’s art, I asked them to take their paintbrush for a walk and create a wandering black line all over their large sheet of white paper.  Then, as the paint dried, they built up colourful drawings and textures on smaller sheets of coloured paper.  These shapes and patterns were then cut up and stuck onto the black and white background which had, in some cases, been coloured in places or had further images added by hand.  Some truly wonderful abstract works emerged from this lesson and inspired my artwork this evening.  Tonight, I having a go at my own lesson… playing by my own rules.

So here, in a visual step by step, is what emerged and how I arrived at the finished work… my Day 2 creation for the 30 Day Challenge.