Friday, 18 October 2019
The artists path is not linear, it is a journey that twists and turns, that is wrought with pockets of fear, despair and self doubt, but also feelings of euphoria, achievement and deep joy. Is there any other profession that is laced so intricately with so many layers of emotion? Being a creative person, whether in business or for the sheer pleasure of it, is to share your deepest thoughts and dreams, to show people your innermost feelings, a glimpse of your soul.
From our humble beginnings as children at school, where we made curious potato print pictures, and collages from bright paper shapes, we learnt new skills. Through our educational years we picked up techniques from our teachers, and maybe went on to learn at a more deeper level, at college or university.
When we're studying we have a structure to follow, we know we have to draw the vase with the flowers in it. We know our homework is to draw a bird. We know that our friends are going to look at it, that our teacher is going to see it. We want to do well, get the great feeling that comes with achieving the A grade. We don't want to look like a fool, so we might even squash our creativity down, conforming to what's expected.
I was once asked to make a mask for a play I was in, and I spent a good hour or so designing what in my eyes I believed to be a masterpiece; bejewelled with sequins and glitter, only to be derided by the director of the performance when I took it into rehearsal. "This is too much. Do something less fancy, without all the glitter." And so, a week later I took a bland, felt tipped version in which was accepted as more appropriate. The art I did as a child at home was very different to what I created at school, as it was done in a space of freedom, without rules or walls. As we grow, we learn to shape our creativity to what other people expect, learning what works and what doesn't. We sometimes, unconsciously, take this pattern into adulthood.
Today, with social media and a wide and varied audience of followers to see what you're doing, it can sometimes feel as if you're very much in the same boat, chasing the likes and the nice comments. The high of being told something is great can insidiously become a feeling worth more than doing the actual work. Chasing likes and compliments is both seductive and addictive.
Before the Summer, you might remember I told you how I felt utterly caught up in the hamster wheel of social media, feeling the pressure to create something each day that was Instagram worthy (and I know towards the end of this period, it really probably wasn't). I noticed how the whole process of creating was becoming a daily grind, feeling more and more artificial and almost like a kid at show and tell bragging; "hey, look what I did" and I didn't like it anymore. It didn't feel authentic, or real. It felt forced, automatic, and tiring.
I want to say at this point how grateful I am to the folks who choose to follow my accounts. This blog post isn't to suggest I'm not interested in what they have to say. Choosing to post images of my work now is because it feels like I have something I'd really like to share, with people who are genuinely interested in what I'm doing, and I love connecting with those people! I no longer post every single day, I'm more thoughtful about what I do choose to put online, and most importantly I'm no longer chasing the high of a bunch of likes.
I had people message me when I announced that I was taking a break over the Summer, they told me "I could see your heart wasn't in it" and I am deeply grateful to them for that honesty, and astonished at how the energy of our art transmutes across the world via the social stage. People know.
The secret to making your best, authentic art, which is full of inspired energy - the art that makes you feel both vulnerable and euphoric - is the work you create when you act like nobody is going to see it. I think we need to be bold enough to stretch our wings, to take off into the unknown and explore our own unique ways of making art and what that means to us. It's about creating boundaries: Stop comparing yourself with the big social media accounts, stop obsessively looking at numbers and just start making art again, just because you love it, because you have to. It's part of you. Your style of creativity is rare; nobody on this planet will ever do it in the same way that you do it. You'll find some people adore what you do and how you do it, and others not so much - and that's ok.
Make art like nobody is going to see it.
It's that simple.
I'm not suggesting that you never use social media or take an art class again - but it's about approaching things differently, without constantly craving the applause. Without the pressure of an audience to perform to, you suddenly find you have time and you can make art that flows and that makes your soul happy. You'll feel it, during the process of making it, regardless of what it looks like. You'll know.
And if you do want to share your art, either online or in person with someone, do it because it feels good for you, because it means something to connect and to share your stories.
I also want to say that if you receive positive comments for what you've created - that's great! It's nice to have other people like what you're doing and pay you a compliment and I have so much gratitude for the people who take time out of their day to post nice things on my accounts. The problem starts when we create the habit of seeking validation outside of ourselves and we begin to lose sight of the truth. We start to forget what the true purpose of our art is, and how powerful it can be if we just tune in to our inner muse and let the magic happen.
Painting, making, creating...when we choose to show up and make art like nobody is going to see it, we open up a vast amount of space and freedom within our minds, which allows inspiration and new ideas to flood in. When we are not answerable to anyone, you'll discover that art doesn't have to conform to a standard or an expectation, it doesn't have to look like anything that's gone before. Working this way allows us to fully relax into the creative process as there is no pressure to please, only space to make beautiful, authentic art, whatever that looks like for you.
Tuesday, 1 October 2019
I want to talk about how it feels when you're drawn to exploring different ways of expressing yourself through art, and when you cannot commit to just the one.
The months prior to my Summer hiatus had seen me moving from illustrative art to a colourful exploration of abstract art. I have no idea even now what pulled me to go into the studio that first day and use the paint in this way, only that it was something I had to do. I needed to feel what it was like to create energy and stories through shape and colour but I was also deeply aware that it was completely different to my illustrative work, the work that I was recognised for.
After my break, I began to slowly start working in my sketchbook, this time pulled back to the gentle art of watercolours, dip pen and ink. I felt that I reached for these things almost intuitively. I picked up what felt right, and started to draw and make small paintings which became the bare bones of my new collection.
Last week I was talking to a friend about it. I asked her, "will people start saying things like 'what's she doing now?' because I can't settle with just one thing? It feels as if I ought to have just one thing, but I haven't".
There are plenty of wonderful artists who commit to working in one medium, and a certain subject matter (like landscapes for example) for many years, and gain a reputation in that field. People know what to expect, it's reliable and solid.
Is it detrimental to our progress to not have just one thing? Is it necessary for our progress to focus on one genre, and hone our talents using one medium?
I listened to a Podcast recently over on Let's Highlight Real with Meera Lee Patel. She was talking about her own experience as an artist and writer, and touched on this subject. She spoke about how she felt that one of the most important parts of the art for her is the story, whether that is told via a greetings card, a print or an essay, and how while she admired the artists who stick solely to one medium, and one way of creating, she often felt as if she didn't have a choice in the way her story was told.
This really resonates with me, some days I want to tell my story with watercolour and ink, other days I want to tell it through the vibrant and colourful medium of acrylics. Other days, I'll turn to my blog and write.
So is this amateurish and confusing? Or does it instead show curiosity, ability and strength?
Meera said that it can be hard not to try and look like, or do things like other people. But being an artist is about being true to yourself, and following your intuition. I don't think I could choose just one type of paint and stick to it for the next 30 years, and I can't imagine not sharing through my writing either. I also think that if you choose to work authentically, and commit to your own style, you are absolutely able to work with different mediums and genres to create a body of work that is 100% identifiable as yours, whether it's watercolour or linocut printing.
I'm currently working with watercolour and ink right now to create a beautiful new body of work which is inspired by the coast. I felt compelled to work with words that are embroidered through the art (you can see more of this style over at Whistlefish here), using beautiful inks and a dip pen.
Do you prefer to see artists working with just 'one thing'? Or, do you like seeing an artist sharing their work through different styles and mediums?
Chat to me in the comments about your thoughts on this, I'd love to hear from you!
Before you go...
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