Falling out of love with my work has happened a few times over the years. It's nothing very dramatic, it's a feeling that almost seems to creep up on me and take me unawares until one day, the realisation dawns. Something about my paintings just no longer seem to make me feel that spark anymore. They don't create the same excitement, or joy. And from experience, instead of feeling afraid of this I now know that it's time to scale up, and move my painting on to the next level.
It's so easy as an artist to keep on creating lots of work in a similar vein, and yet, like all things in the world we need to allow ourselves space to expand and grow. If we don't, if we stay cosy in our little boxes and keep doing the same thing, it's only natural that the spark will be extinguished, and eventually, the love for what you do will disappear.
So what do we do when this happens?
We do things differently. This can feel weird, or nerve wracking, because change is scary, right?
It can be, yes. But it can also be an exciting time to explore new territory, to liven things up a bit, to experiment and play.
This is the most important step of moving into your next growth phase as an artist. It's really easy to become stuck in a rut, creating what people expect, or what you are used to, and then becoming depressed about your work without really understanding why. Although it's a good thing to be able to create work that sells to your customers, your art also has to excite you, it has to tell a story and shine with the spirit and passion that it was created with. If it doesn't feel right to you, it isn't going to feel right to others either.
Starting with a playful attitude takes the process back to the beginning, it allows you to express yourself and try new things with new materials, and perhaps as I found with those beautiful, fluid watercolours, you might just find yourself getting excited about a whole new medium! It was this that led me to understand that what I really loved was the movement in the paint, the fluid lines, the more abstract shapes that I used as overlays. In contrast, my acrylic work had become tight and constricted, bursting at the seams with lots of detail...stepping back and looking at it with fresh eyes, I could sense that it felt too claustrophobic.
So, over the Easter holidays I had a good think about what I could do to reignite the passion into my acrylic paintings. I very much love acrylics as a medium and couldn't imagine giving them up. So how do I move forward? How do I let it evolve, and reignite the passion?
Take some time to think about what you like in other paintings. What do you notice when you look at other people's work? What catches your eye? Is it colour? Composition? Brush strokes? Detail, or lack of detail? Ask yourself questions as you explore, take time to tune into how things make you feel - flat, dull, bored....or alive, vibrant, excited?
It could be just a case of looking back at your own older work, and seeing if there's anything in those pieces that catch your eye. You may experience positive or negative emotions.
You can use all these observations as a tool for moving on to the next phase of your art journey.
I had a good look at my recent work, and earlier pieces too, and learned from them that I needed to loosen up, to soften and let the brush be my guide. Instead of trying to force the painting to look a particular way, to let the painting take it's own shape. I am now trying out bigger brushes, I noticed too that of late beyond the background stage I was working predominantly in size 1 and 0 brushes!! These obviously lend to smaller strokes and detailed work, which is why some of my work was feeling too busy!
'Hello Spring' - new acrylic on canvas
I finished this piece just yesterday, it's an acrylic on canvas. From what I had learnt earlier, I worked with various sizes of brush, and I allowed the process to flow. I was led almost intuitively to the colours and shapes that formed in this painting and what a difference it made to the feel of the process, and the final outcome! This painting for me has so much vibrance and energy!
It actually felt it was a very different experience working on this, and I really enjoyed the looser style that I allowed myself to work with. What do you think?
I'm now starting a bigger piece, a coastal painting in acrylics on a 50cm square canvas. It feels like a new beginning starting a painting with a fresh approach, and I'll look forward to sharing more of this process with you soon.