Bad pun aside, I think I've finally got to a point where I'm confident enough in my technique and subject matter (why am I so obsessed with trees at the moment? Answers on a postcard please...) to start pushing things a little further. Back in my college days I always resisted using sketchbooks as I prefered working straight onto the final artwork; the experimental nature of collage meant I didn't always know what I was going to end up with and made sketchooks somewhat superfluous. I kept journals for notes and ideas and scrapbooks for found inspriation (and still do) but my sketchbooks were empty.
The last few years though I have discovered and relished the satisfaction and freedom a sketchbook can bring. My paintings, although relatively simply constructed, can take weeks and months to complete, with the multilayering of paint, textures and transfers to get the finish just so. I can also have long periods of inactivity as I get swamped by web design work and my commitments to UK Handmade and the Cambridge Creative Network, so keeping a sketchbook open on my table has proven to be an invaluable release for quick and experimental bursts of creativity to stop me feeling artistically starved. I am an artist at heart and going for too long without a pen or paintbrush in hand can make me decidely grumpy and stressed.
I've also been trying to do more drawing, but pens and pencils require me to be precise and linear like such as the flower drawing above, so I've sought out a different medium. I considered charcoal but have found it difficult to control in the past (did I mention I am a bit of a perfectionist?) so a quick trip the the art shop uncovered these gorgeous chalky pastel pencils. I picked up a handful in my chosen soft grey hues and when I found a quiet few minutes that evening opened one of my many empty sketchbooks, found a photo from my recent walk round the snow laden village and started sketching. It was quick and inaccurate but the pastel pencils are wonderfully forgiving and a pleasure to use.
On that same trip to the art shop I happened upon small squares of linen canvas board and have been desperate to use them, but didn't feel like I could do them justice. I use stretched linen canvases a lot, the soft grey canvas is a perfect ground for my monochrome landscapes, but previous encounters with the usual white canvas boards have been less than satisfactory. I've been adding layers of paint and staring at them for days now, but all of a sudden I knew what to do with them.
Unlike stretched canvas the boards hold the paint and transfers in a slightly different way, also they allow for scratching and embossing without the risk of denting or tearing noraml canvas. It took me a few goes to get these right but I love the final results. I need to go buy more of these delicious little boards!
What do you do to develop and feed your creativity?
I keep trying to get colour into my paintings but it isn't really happening. The return of winter has allowed me to explore wintery monochrome landscapes, just adding a touch of Rose Madder instead of the previous blues and yellows to my favourite Payne's Grey to warm things up a little, and lashings and lashing of white to create a neverending pallete of greys. Not sure what I will do when the spring returns...
This Thursday evening marks the start of our second Narrative exhibition featuring artists from the Cambridge Creative Network. This time we take residence in the Cambridge Art Salon on Cromwell Road, off Mill Road, Cambridge and will be open until 27th November.
There are going to be four drop in workshops across the course of the exhibition, including two from myself.
On Wednesday 21st I will be doing a mixed media workshop (cost £4) where you are welcome to bring old black and white family photos and create magical work of your own (I will scan all photos so that none will get damaged) and on Saturday 24th you can learn simple book binding techniques (£5).
Full details of all the artists taking part and the workshops are on the Narrative website http://narrativeart.co.uk
After my last post I felt like a weight had been lifted, just putting things 'out there' immediately relieved some of the stress and tension. As is often the way, things are never as bad as they seem but when you are constantly under pressure even the smallest things can seem HUGE!
I came to the conclusion that my biggest obstacle was my inability to put myself first, so in order to start to turn things around I allowed myself just an hour here and there, in my studio, with nothing but paint, paper and canvas, no computers or phones for distraction. It took about a week before I shushed the voices that told me I should be 'working' (procrastination is an evil thing) and started to use my hour creatively.
Some of the pieces you see here were actually started months ago but only just completed, others are freshly squeezed. Looking back at earlier work I feel like I am finally settling in to my artistic skin and learning that less is more. I've always struggled with over filling space and I am slowly learning that empty space can bring more to a piece, more mystery, more tension, a greater sense of 'time'.
I am also discovering that these little pockets of 'me' time are making me work better the rest of the time. I am not wrestling with the voices in my head anymore, not procrastinating so badly, more focused and able to tick off those to do lists a little bit quicker. I am, at the end of the day, an artist, plain and simple, and to deny that is to deny my very being. Which means that I will be bringing back my shop, not over at Chalk HIll Studio as before, but here where I can keep everything in one place. The books will be coming back too....in time.
Once again I have disappeared under the weight of the beast that is UK Handmade, with the latest issue of the magazine safely published. This issue marks the end of a chapter for myself personally and UK Handmade as our Editor, fellow Director and my virtual office buddy Anna Stassen has left us to persue her dreams of moving to Australia.
Up until the point I met a group of like-minded, super talented artists online over 4 years ago, life had been fairly insular. As most working mums will know, trying to juggle family life with a career can be exhausting and lonely and the internet has enabled thousands of us to network and share and promote our creative businesses with ease, and not only that we pick up a few friends along the way. UK Handmade has always been run on love, we don't get paid doing what we do and there are times when I wonder if any of it is worth the late nights and empty bank balance. But when I think of my life before UK Handmade and my life now, the biggest thing I have gained have been the friends I have made. Some I am lucky enough to live close enough to to share tea and cake with, and some like Anna live far away but are contactable daily through the wonders of instant messaging. The support she has been to me is unmeasurable and although I will miss her dearly, I wish her every happiness - but I also know she is only a skype call away.
And then of course, are the opportunities - this is a photo of me (left) at a business event held at the House of Commons back in March. I wasn't really sure I would fit in amongst all the 'proper' business people but 2 things shone out above everything - firstly they were all as nervous as me (shh) and secondly it didn't matter whether we were selling shower heads or artwork, we all wanted the same thing - change.
The principles behind UK Handmade are to show that there is an alternative to fast past corporate existance (and the numbers of people who join our forum who have left corporate careers to start new creative lives backs this up). Living a more sustainable creative life, appreciating family more and cutting back a little bit are they keys to finding real contentment. I grew up through the excesses of the 80's when young women were encouraged to persue high powered careers (and rightly so, although I fought it and went to art school instead) but what has become apparent is the mistake was to try and compete with men in their corporate world when in fact the corporate world needs to ease back and appreciate what got them there in the first place. The way business is run is broken. We knew that when we started UK Handmade nearly 4 years ago and the subsequent credit crunch, banking crises and recession that has followed has showed the need for change.
So what do we do? I confess I don't have all the answers, as a family we have recently been affected by redundancy so have felt the full impact of the recession and reduction of the publishing industry my other half worked for for so long. Thankfully this as also been an opportunity, he is starting a new job, discovered his skills are valuable and transferable and we are looking forward to a new future instead of 'existing' as we were before. It won't be easy as we both work hard and will have to work even harder to make ends meet in the coming months, but I have no doubt we will reap the benefits. It has been time for me personally to really think about what I do, how I make my income as a freelancer and what really makes me feel 'content' as a human being too. The need to make money can mean that indulgences like being the artist I went to college to be have to take a back seat for a while as I do the web design work that 'pays'. The irony being that I run an organisation that helps to support and promote people that get paid doing what they love. I find myself at a crossroads.
Maybe it's a time management issue. Maybe I need to learn to be a bit more selfish. I don't know. But what I do know is that with the friends I have made, the family I have been blessed with and the community I have helped to build and nurture, I am richer beyond means and very grateful to all of you who have been part of the journey and excited to see where the future will take us.
A trip to a local antique shop uncovered these paper treasures - a huge bundle of gorgeous family photos (I'm going to see if I can find the family they belong to, hate to think they are lost) and the following old store and legal documents, some local some from the USA. Simply gorgeous.
I'm currently exhibiting alongside 16 of our Cambridge Creative Network members at Williams Art, Gwydir Street, Cambridge. It has been a pretty special experience as not only is it the first time Mandy and myself have curated our own show (we have assisted many time at other events) but the response has been phenomenal.
This is our private view last friday, we were completely bowled over by the numbers of people who turned up and spilled onto the street and many of our artists (including me) made their first sales - very exciting! There have been more sales since and the exhbition continues until the 1st April. If you didn't make the private view please come along to our drinks evening this friday from 6.30 where you will get to talk to the artists themselves.
To see more images of the work on show please visit http://cambridgecreativenetwork.co.uk/content/narrative-williams-art and https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.338985182803753.70172.127651940603746&type=1
I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas break and you are all raring to go with fresh ideas for 2012. I'm not even attempting to think of new year's resolutions this year as I am guranteed to fail but I do have goals and ambitions for the next 12 months. Fate has decided to put a spanner in the works (I won't bore you with personal details) but sometimes life throws you obstacles that just makes you more determined to make the things you have worked hard for and believe in work better for you.
So, goals for 2012: UK Handmade is storming right now, we are all bowled over by the amount of followers and support we have at the moment and the one thing I always dreamed we would do would get the magazine in to print. This is the year we go for it.
The other goal is to get my own business back off the ground; finding that life / work balance is always difficult when there are kids in tow but I am in a place where I feel like this can really happen at long last. Last year I disappeared until a pile of stress and networking and confusion but I am facing 2012 clear and focussed. I know what I want and I am damn well going to get it *stomps foot*.
The book in the pictures is something my poor mum waited 6 months for me to make, I am a bad daughter and she is very forgiving. But it brought home to be that if I don't have time to do these things for the people that matter then something is very wrong. 2012 is going to be about being in control of my life and not letting life control me. Plus I miss making my books and I want to do more. I want to get into the garden once in a while and bake with the kids (something I never do!).
What are your goals for 2012, what can you do to get your life / work in order?
Last Saturday UK Handmade celebrated it's third birthday with a party held at the Create Place in Bethnal Green, London, all organised by my fellow partner in crime and editor, Anna Stassen. She had done a wonderful job, with lots and lots and LOTS of cake and sandwiches; the Create Place had kindly put on a few workshops and I had taken down a load of crafty stuff for the children to do to keep them occupied. Best of all was a stunning display of handmade items by Zoe Hannam which is a new collaboration for UK Handmade and Wemake and very exciting.
It was wonderful to meet most of our team in the flesh as we all work remotely from all over the UK, as well as a few new friends and after three years of growing stronger and stronger it was proof for me that we are doing things right. Next year looks to be an even better one as UK Handmade really takes shape and grows into an organisation that truly has something to offer the thousands of small independant businesses that support us. I think we all feel very proud of what we have achieved over the last three years and the sacrifices don't feel quite so huge. Find out more over on the UK Handmade website http://ukhandmade.co.uk/content/focus-uk-handmade-3rd-birthday-party-celebrations