Resolving the restless


The urge to create has been strong this past week.
I have a feeling that recent activities at art club may have something to do with it.

Last Wednesday’s after-school art club was another break-through lesson. A few weeks ago, after a particularly frustrating class of restless children unable or unwilling to sit still, I was feeling rather flat and in need of a big change to keep my enthusiasm for the club alive. The following week, I arrived at the hut, ready to set up the materials, but was faced with a room with no tables. Slow rain had just started to fall, so my ideas for getting the children up and out of the classroom looked less than promising. However, I decided to go ahead with the plan to get the children making wax rubbings from the textures around the class. What fun! As they were moving around, seeking their own inspiration and enjoying this new process without the constraints of sitting at a table, there was a distinct shift in behaviour… for the better. Why did it take the absence of tables and my choice not to put out chairs for me to realise that children do not want to sit down at the end of a long school day?

This week, with large-scale painting and restless children in mind, I chose to work in a different way again. I stretched lengths of plastic along the floor, put tables behind them, brushes, water, mixing palettes, paint. On entering the class, each child was asked to lay down on the floor whilst another child, my assistant or myself drew a rough outline of the child’s shape with pencil on lining paper. With the paper taped to the wall, the children were able to stand face to face with their outline and create a self-portrait of their own desire… either realistic or imaginary.

The children seemed to enjoy working on the wall and those who did not or could not, were happy spread out on the floor, some working collaboratively, others alone. The results were impressive and most were only half-finished by the end of class, so some of the children requested the chance to work again on the same piece the following week.

Not once, in that lesson, did I have to ask for calm and quiet… everyone, myself included was excited and productive in their own way. Thrilled to have stumbled upon this new way of running the class, I don’t think we will be going back to sitting at tables after school before the end of term.

Having seemingly resolved the restless, we can now get on with creating great art.

 

Bank Holiday Art Days

I have taken a few days off posting here, as a little break from the old computer screen was required following the last big push for the end of the 30DC. I needed to unplug, unwind, recharge. This does not mean that art has taken a back seat… oh no! When I feel the need to unwind and recharge, it is often a gallery that best enables me to do this.

On Saturday, I revisited Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern. Only recently have I been taking the time to visit exhibitions again on a regular basis. I cannot remember the last time I had the luxury of re-visiting a show, but doing so with Kusama was worthwhile indeed. A month or two after my first visit, having now spent four weeks focusing on my own art, I was viewing with fresh eyes. Artist’s eyes. By the second room, I wanted to go home immediately and start making drawing, painting, layering. I was looking differently, seeing new things. Ideas and techniques popped out at me and I also noticed on second viewing how some of the pieces I have created over the last few weeks may have been (subconsciously) influenced by my first viewing of the show, or at least I was able to see connections… the manipulated self-portraits, collaged and layered works. I felt slightly odd about this, but the exhibition I saw on Monday removed any such feelings of embarrassment at having been inadvertently influenced by another artist.

Bank Holiday Monday began slowly at Dishoom near Leicester Square. Here, I started the day with the most delicious breakfast of granola and chai and drew (without looking at the paper) the table settings in front of me, pencil in hand, finished with pen.

I had half an hour to spare before meeting a friend to view the Turner exhibition at National Gallery and the friendly staff, speedy service and wonderful environment was the perfect start the morning with a sketch and a smile.

Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude set the paintings of Turner (1775 – 1851) alongside those of Claude Lorrain (1604/5? – 1682), by whom he was greatly influenced (some say obsessed). Turner borrowed, or perhaps we should say copied (both the sketchbook and painted evidence forms the basis of the show) elements of composition as well as his treatment of light as subject from Claude. The Turners on show were not the works that immediately spring to mind when one thinks of the artist, but for a viewer, like myself, not at all familiar with Claude (and I was not the only one… indeed one lady on booking a ticket asked if the Claude referred to Monet!), this was an opportunity to experience the work of an artist previously unknown to me and discover how he had inspired one of Britain’s best-loved English Romantic painters.

At home, in response, I manipulated a self-portrait taken the previous night. The flash in the mirror suggested the sun of Turner’s paintings, so with a little adjustment in iPhoto, I attempted to highlight something of the glow reflected. Perhaps I will work further on this at a later date and add paint to the picture with Turner in mind.

Whilst I enjoyed the Turner exhibition, perhaps more engaging for me as the subject is one very close to my heart, was Jo Rhymer’s lunchtime talk Transforming the Thames. With the Jubilee River Pageant in mind, she took Canaletto’s painted celebration of The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day as a starting point, Rhymer went on to explore how artists such as Turner, Monet, Sisley and Whistler took inspiration from river to create paintings that portrayed life beyond ordinary observations of the Thames. I was captivated by stories of Frost Fairs on the Thames which were illustrated by Luke Clenell’s images; moved by Rhymer’s reading from Whistler’s Ten o’clock lecture and delighted to be reminded of Alvin Langdon Coburn’s atmospheric photographs of London from c.1900-1909.

At home, I looked back on some of my own photographs of the river of which I am so fond and resolved to return soon at dawn or dusk and try to further capture something of whatever it is that draws me back again and again.

Nothing is finished


1:24am and I have been drawing, painting, exploring on and off for a few hours. Nothing is finished, but I have enjoyed dipping into a variety of subjects and playing with materials. I began to re-do the portrait from the first day of the 30DC, but with colour and new words, but insufficiently inspired, I stopped. I will return to that piece at a later date. I played with another self-portrait (not my own), dancing a line across paper from the subject’s hair. Something reminded me of a murmuration of starlings, spotted some six months ago during a walk on the South Downs, so I put pen to paper, attempting to capture my memory of their movement… difficult to do, but mesmerising in its own way… a kind of meditative way of drawing, like the cloud pictures I first did from a train, London to Liverpool on May 1, 2008, and have occasionally attempted since, always enjoyable, and tried again this evening, but this time not from life.

Tired and ready for bed, I stood up from my desk to head upstairs, but spotted the roll of brown paper I had purchased yesterday to draw on, pulled the charcoal from the drawer, the mirror from the cupboard, taped the top of the paper roll to the wall, unravelled it and embarked upon what turned out to be a lopsided self-portrait, which captures to a degree, my dishevelled appearance this evening.

Satisfied and about to share, I will now stop. I have promised two young chaps a picnic and some treasure hunting on the South Bank beach in the morning with big boy’s new metal detector. Low tide at 11:51am. It is time to sleep.

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.

Me, me, me

Last week, somebody told me that a friend had been talking about my art in the pub. They had seen it online and loved it. They had been following what I was working on and said that it was the kind of art they would buy, but… they found it a little odd that it was all about me. So, I stopped. I put the portraits on hold, I took a step back, I looked for other ways to express myself. I took the “me” out of my art and whilst I had fun creating in different ways, I did not connect in any deeper way with what I had produced. I was creating art that was neutral, impersonal, safe. I played, I experimented, I explored new methods and media, but whilst I enjoyed the process, after a few days, began to feel that I was not following my heart.

What I should have done, of course, was listen to the praise. I should have taken to heart the fact that this person I respect would spend their hard earned cash on art like mine, that they were interested enough to follow what I was doing, wanted to see more. I should not have let my own interpretation of a comment influence my art. But I did. 

When emotions are high, I often feel the need to get them out. I write, I draw, I photograph, I explore what is going on in words and images. It is when I feel things strongly that I channel my emotions, pour out and make visual or verbal that which is crowding my head.

As an artist, this is my way of exploring and expressing my thoughts, feelings, emotions, my light and dark days. I find that one of the most powerful forms of expression for me is self-portraiture. So I am back… being true to myself and working on a new set of self-portraits which reveal the pensive gaze, the dreams of colour and light, the fire and the fear.

Yes, they are odd, they may look awkward or uncomfortable, but that is how I feel sometimes and examining those sensitivities through art helps me make sense of them. So I will continue. “I like what you are doing”, another friend told me, “it must be a bit like therapy”. It is. And for as long as I find it enjoyable or beneficial, I will go on.

 

Another interpretation

I have been feeling tired today. I have been quietly questioning my commitment to creating and posting here daily. The more I create, the less I sleep and this is something I need to address as other things are slowly slipping. I need to resolve how to fit the creativity into my days rather than tagging it on at the end when I should be sleeping. I wonder how different my creations would be at the other end of the day… if I was to make something the moment I awake?

A link sent via Twitter inspired today’s creation, which was made whilst watching a link sent to me on e-mail.

It is another interpretation of yesterday’s photograph.

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

Drawing without looking

Yesterday I was feeling stuck, not knowing what to create.  This evening, tired after too many late nights (immersed in the 30 Day Challenge and trying to keep up with life in general), and a day riding rollercoasters (really, it was my big boy’s Birthday surprise), I needed a quick artistic activity that was not too challenging on the brain.  So, I went back to an old favourite – a technique I use when I need to free myself up and get unstuck – drawing without looking at the page.  So, I did a quick self-portrait, looking only at my reflection in the mirror and the coloured pencils I was using, not at the paper.  It’s a bit of fun and is great for when you don’t have much time and don’t care what the outcome will be.  This one is about picking up a pencil and doing something, anything, rather than doing nothing.  Funny thing is, it is quite a good likeness at the moment!  Right, I am off to bed, then hopefully the next self-portrait will be a little more flattering.