How to Feed Your Creative Beast

There are many ways. Some artists express their emotions, some explore political or social views. For others it’s nature – living creatures of all sorts, botanical, geographical, meteorological. Still others are into representing humans in all their pictorial glory or perhaps still life. You must to find your own authentic muse and cultivate it.

So, how does that and fill your creative well with inspiration and enthusiasm? We all know that feeling of seemingly having nothing, absolutely nothing, that feels like our “thing”. It’s soul destroying to say the least.

Has our muse left us to our own devices? A scary proposition for some no doubt. I’ve been in that place more often than I care to remember. However, these days I seem to have reached a place where there are a reasonable amount of creative ideas waiting to be born. Fingers crossed it stays that way!

How do you do it? Does it just happen? Is it a struggle or can it come easy?

Firstly, it isn’t a struggle. Trying too hard won’t help. And no, it doesn’t just happen. It can come easily though, well, easier than you think! There are some things that can get in the way however …. perfectionism or waiting for the “right” thing or time. Better to experiment! Try things, have fun and enjoy the journey to your creative energy.

As a landscape inspired artist who also bends to the whims and wishes of my “art”, I fill my creative well as I create art. Each piece or series of pieces leads me forward. I find new inspiration and ideas in almost every piece of art I make, be it a painting or sketch. Even if the inspiration arises from a disaster!

The other way I find my muse or muses is to venture out into the landscape. Feel it, be in it, experience all that goes on. While there, I will sketch and ideas will begin to present themselves. There’s also photography, like the shots you see above. It allows you to visually capture your surroundings. What it does not do is help instil the whole experience of being IN the landscape like painting or sketching does. Even a quick scribble sketch can do that. Perhaps they capture the feeling best of all because they’re often done quickly and the marks are made with speed and abandon.

Sketches are a great way to refill your empty creative cup. The act of making a sketch or painting en plein air can be exhilarating and set your mind on track to plenty of creative ideas.

To summarise, immerse yourself in your artmaking and follow your intuition, it will lead you to your creative power.

See my new work on Bluethumb (below).

“A Rock and A Hard Place” 20cm wide x 24.5 high
“Within the Boundary” 40cm square

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Using Loss of Control to Your Advantage

It occurred to me recently that, not only is the painting of each piece of art out of my full control, but, so is the whole adventure. No longer do I, or can I, plan what a painting might look like.  Neither, can I plan where I’m headed on this journey in the short or long term!

Firstly, the act of painting.

I’ve been “planning” a couple of things. One is, to mix some more original colours before I start and make the paintings more authentically mine.  Also, I’ve had lots of ideas for design starting points.  I seem to collect heaps of them for just this purpose! 

But, it just doesn’t happen folks.  The gear is laid out, the paper ready and in I go, with minimal, if any, thought of my plans, loose as they may be.  Stuff just happens, as it did in the first stage of the painting above, leaving me with the job of deciding what “it” wants and following the leads.

At this next stage, below, I’ve collaged on some paper, some of which is thickish handmade paper. I’m wondering if it’ll last the distance? But, hey, I’m not in charge, so who cares.

I pressed on with it, feeling both out of control and excited.

It seemed like a good idea to digitally explore the possibilities so I used a photo editing app to play about with the paintings. Using the “whiten” feature I designed various sky shapes. Two variations are shown below.

I ended up with heaps of options! Which to choose!?

Below, I’ve painted the first layer of white paint for the sky shape of the selected option. Then, it tells me, “fix” that big blue bit at the bottom.

So, I did that, but still not happy …. it needs a little something?

It’s only minor but I added some graphite outlines and emphasised others. But! It’s still out of control! I can’t seem to “like” it enough for it to be finished. Not sure it should even exist! (It may be the first layer of something else.)

So, you can see, there really isn’t any way to control where a painting will finish up when working like this. There may be more to do on this one, or it might be painted over. These developments, however, inevitably lead to new ideas and discoveries, both welcome and unwelcome!

Secondly – overall plans for the year.  I made a few in some areas, such as a small list of themes or “subjects” to tackle!?  But, you guessed it.  We’re not on track there either. We’re off somewhere looking for something else, with no idea what it is!

Now, to be fair to plan making, my art and I are heading in the general direction that I planned. I’m making art and moving forward with associated stuff. It’s just that our route is taking us on a few unforeseen deviations along the way.  It makes for a more interesting trip. Who knows where we’ll finish up!

Do you suspect, as I do, that art might be different to a lot of other things, in that all this change and redirection of effort can successfully be allowed to happen? It can lead you to the unknown but pleasing goal you didn’t know you had!  The one you were not obliged to achieve.  And along the way you created paintings that you didn’t know you were going to paint.

New Paintings

Here are two new pieces that have been listed on Bluethumb.  Click the images for more information.

“Shardonnay Mountain” 71cm wide x 67cm high
“Stay Cool” 68cm wide x 66cm high

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Art is a Fickle Business

One minute you’re all set to race off in one direction then, something new shows up.  Don’t get me wrong though.  It’s is not a bad thing!

Limiting myself or my art to a particular style seems counter-productive. There”s way too much to do and that’s without any new ideas or discoveries that come up.  The enthusiasm would wane if I imposed limitations on style. I need to be able to take full advantage of unplanned, random “opportunities”.

(“Play things” with a license to be fickle!)

While working on this issue of Studio News, an example of how things can change unexpectedly emerged.

I was processing progress photos of the day’s work and some needed rotating. It turned out that one was better upside-down! In my eyes at least! In the group of four progress shots below you can see the difference. I guess we’re conditioned to see land as darker than sky most of the time anyway.

(Stages 1 to 4 of a current exploration.)

As I pondered, my mind went off on a tangent, automatically brainstorming, the implications and possibilities, as well as how to resolve this painting? This change of direction (literally!) might see me veer off on yet another exciting tangent. I don’t know yet, but I can feel “something”.

It was only a minor fickleness episode but it could change the course of this painting and my art generally. Who knows! It’s a big adventure.

Another painting in the series has shown me something else to investigate. Layer one didn’t cut it, nor did layer two. So I plastered some 3 in 1 paint over the whole shebang. Now I have a background that I really like and it’s asking for something. I don’t know what. It’ll be a waiting game I suspect. An incubation period. Another adventure.

(Layers 1, 2 and 3, top to bottom)

Sometimes, it really is difficult to know what to pursue and what to forget. I think the only way to cope with all this fickleness might be to act on impulse. You know, those sudden intuitive directives that say “just do this, or that” or “what if we do this?” Be impulsive and fickle right back, test the fickleness, use it. Trust your judgement and intuition. Don’t be predictable. Instil a little adventure and excitement into the process and let it show.

New Work

“Trackwork” and “Swell” are now listed on Bluethumb

“Trackwork” 40cm wide x 28cm high
“Swell” 68cm wide x 25cm high

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Keeping the Momentum

Happy New Year to you all!  Let’s get into 2022.

A couple of post Christmas bushwalks in our Southwest National Park have inspired me with their fantastic scenery.  We walked up Clear Hill and then into Lake Judd a few days later.  They’re opposites scenery wise so I have a variety of influences floating about in my mind.

(Amazing conglomerate rockforms on the way up Clear Hill)
(The birth of the Anne River at Lake Judd with the Eliza Plateau behind.  We contemplated the possibility of floating down the river instead of walking back!)

Whilst these photos show the wonderful scenery I’m not aiming to paint realistically.  Rather, my aim is to bear in mind the visual forms and textures, the feel of the place and my emotional reactions.

(The hills on the way to Lake Judd.  The area was burnt about three years ago.)

Ok, enough of that.  Let’s get started on the painting!

I thought I’d show you some progress shots of a couple of paintings from a current group of seven. They’re based on memories of the above plus bits and pieces I like about “Switchback” (below).

Somehow, I’ve ended up with two different styles in this group!  (Your guess is as good as mine as to why?!)

This first one was painted over a previous non-starter (below).

(Starting point – I thought it should work well because the palette is the same.)

As you can see in the photo below, I’m well into these paintings.

First, I created the hill shapes, then I thought scumbling or glazes might be a good way to go. A bit of lifting off opened things up. I scumbled the sky with layers of white and blue, trying to make it interesting, not too flat. Adding some new colour on the hills seemed a good idea and a “lake” began to appear.

(Stage 1)
(Stage 2)

In the version shown above acrylic ink was added to the foreground. It seems a bit too samey though, so, in the next photo (below) you can see I’ve lifted off paint to lighten some areas. I also darkened parts of the foreground to create more contrast. Almost there I think. Just wondering about lightening more areas on the foreground.

(Stage 3)

Now for the other style. It’s a bit more intuitive and abstracty but still with landscape shapes.

I managed to pull this out of the random starting marks!

(Stage 1)

I felt the stage above needed more colour so I’ve added raw sienna and turquoise inks (below) plus I attacked the sky and painted over some of the drips.

(Stage 2)

I then added warm colour in the white areas but it’s not feeling finished yet. I’m still feeling uncomfortable with that light square even though it’s smaller. Can that sky do with lightening too?

(Stage 3)

A couple of the paintings in this group are tentatively finished, but I like to wait a bit in case I see things to fine tune. Some paintings say “I’m done” quite quickly while others take their time.

It’s time to think of the next challenge.

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Resolutions in December!

Things have progressed with the “On My Marks” series and it’s time to start contemplating what’s next.  I guess that’s fitting for the new year!

There are eight works at 25 x 25cm and most of them have changed quite a lot from those first marks.

“Switchback”, below, is the most successful I think.  It’s going to be the inspiration for another series shortly.  I like the way I’ve done the sky and the variety of marks and shapes that make up the “land”.

Switchback” 25cm wide x 25cm high

Reactions vary when my arty friends see me working on my art.  It’s interesting to see who likes what and sometimes, I can predict their preferences.  My own favorites will sometimes be different again.  Regardless though, I keep plugging away towards some sort of resolution.

Resolution?  It can be at one of several stages.  I might feel quite unsatisfied with things or I can be comfortable with what I’ve done to varying degrees.  The best result for me is to be feeling excited and inspired to move forward.  There’s a large range of perceptions between the two extremes of unsatisfied and excited!  The “unsatisfying” paintings are set aside, in “halfway hell”,  to be reviewed sometime in the future.  They might get a touch up if I can see something to improve, or they may end up in the reuse box.

This one has been a challenge.  A problem child that wouldn’t cooperate!  It’s going to “halfway hell” but I’m leaning towards using it for collage.

The in-between/comfortable paintings sit, waiting, until I make alterations or come to another conclusion regarding their fate.  Are they done or not?  I have to remind myself that not everything can be “exciting”.  They might still be good enough to send out into the world.

This fellow is one I feel comfortable with.  It’s almost there but I need to think about why that is the case and what I might want to do about it.

The “exciting” ones are offered for sale and entered into exhibitions.  There are only two in this series that feel “exciting” at this stage.  “Switchback” above, at the start of this Studio News, and “Refuge” below.

Refuge” 25cm wide x 25cm high

“Refuge” is one that felt exciting to varying degrees along the way.  I still like it and it’s a starter for exhibitions etc.

Bearing in mind the different opinions of others when deciding these things is fraught with danger.  I need to make the decisions myself otherwise I’ll forever feel uncomfortable about what I do with particular pieces.

I think, putting the doubtful ones aside earlier, rather than later, frees me up to build on what has been successful.  Some would prefer to keep at it, trying to resolve things, but I feel better if I put them aside and move on.  Depending on how far aside I put them, I may review things later and do more!

I wish you all a very happy and enjoyable Christmas and I hope the New Year brings all you hope for along with some nice surprises you weren’t expecting!

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On My Marks Series

I’m on the move!  With all the work for the final 2021 exhibition organised I started a new group of paintings …. the “On My Marks” series!

The above is a tiny section of a mark making and collage exercise.  It appealed to me immediately. I like the shapes and the flow of the lines.  Now that I look closer, I can see a sneaky “s” hiding in there.  It’s basically a curvy design with a hint of diagonals. That texture is nice too.  The crop won’t be translated visibly into the new work, it’s a starting point, an inspiration!

The palette of colours I’m using is one I’ve been playing with for a while.  Pthalo blue and raw umber yellowish with black and white.  I’ve added cadmium yellow light to the mix.  It’s providing some brightness and a little touch of playfulness.

(The bottom sheet are mixes made with the addition of the cadmium yellow light.)

I started with eight small squares taped together.  To begin, I made some intuitive marks using leftover paint from exploring the colour mixes.  Then, some drawing with water soluble graphite and water flicked about to create a few drips.

Standing back to look at them, I felt they needed a bit more warm colour.  So I added more marks with a raw umber yellowish mix, did a spot of drawing with a coloured pencil, made some more drips and lifted off things here and there.  Then, I left them alone to “cook” for a while.  We’ll see what I feel like after that.

It can be difficult not to plough ahead with things, but sometimes I get to a point where I know I’m just continuing for the sake of it, not because I have a useful contribution to make.

Here are two of the squares.  I’m more interested in the bottom one than the top one.  There’s still a way to go though, so don’t panic!

(The first step of these two is on the left, and the next stage, with more warmth, on the right. A little “spot the differences” moment for you!)

What to do next?  I had a look and decided to do whatever came to mind, or hand!  I started with a bit of collage, then felt I needed to lighten them up with “sky” areas.  I was led by each image as I worked.  (If they are leading me I don’t have to take responsibility do I?)

Sometimes you don’t know whether what you want to do is right or not.  No, that’s all the time really I think!  It means that you do things and immediately regret them.  I often wonder why I keep taking things further when I liked what I had at the start.  People often say that you build up a history by creating layers.  I think that’s true and I have done that successfully, but I’m not convinced it’s the only way to work.

The four images below are the two paintings I picked out to show you earlier.  I’ve done more to them now.  The first one has been turned upside down!  They’re still not done.

(I’m not sure that I like the green here.  Nor do I feel very fond of the blobbiness of the “hill”, although, there are some interesting marks in there.)
(After a bit more work.)
(I quite like the make up of the bottom part of this one.  The colour seems better somehow, even though there’s green here too.  Maybe that sky needs to be taken back to white…..or blue?!)
(This sky seems to bring it to life.)

The others are coming along too, but there’s more to do.  Either more to do or more to learn!  Painting is a learning experiece as well as a creative one.  There’s always more to learn, especially from the “duds”.

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What’s Your Motivation?

I could ask you “What’s your poison?” because painting and art in general gets into your system and insidiously affects all you think and do. Motivation for most artists is so strong that at times nothing else matters, except perhaps a fire in the studio.

What’s my motivation?

Getting awards and selling a couple of pieces lately has prompted me to think a little more rationally and less emotionally about why I paint.

Emotion in the how is what we want folks. But, the wrong emotions taking over the why can lead you down many paths that won’t necessarily be good for your art or you.

(Getting motivated by doing collage sketches at the Lady Franklin Gallery!)

The “please buy my art” path will most likely be the undoing of some of the enjoyment in making your art. I’ve experienced this first hand and believe me, it’s soul destroying. I think I have partially let the need to sell go. I’d still like a sale here and there but that’s a nice byproduct of painting and exhibiting, not a major reason for doing it.

There’s also the “Why didn’t I/when will I win?” mindset. This whole scene is quite fickle. Wondering whether you might win an award is counter productive. It stops you making art in a relaxed way. You tend to adjust what you think or do to suit judging at the expense of your own preferences. And, funnily enough it can detract from the art you create.

(This (top left square) is a collage sketch where I’ve found three cropped sections that may be motivating prompts for future paintings.)

Judging awards is really down to the judges and is difficult to predict. Even if you have three judges, they are all going to have differing opinions about the work being judged. I know from experience that there are always other works as good as the winners, but for some reason, mostly unknown to the artists, a particular piece is chosen. Some years ago, a judge told me I won an award because I had collage in my graphite drawing!

As for my personal motivation, I could ramble on with some arty garb, but I just want to paint, learn and improve my art. For me, the need to be creative, to paint or draw, comes before the subject, medium and techniques. My art (process and product) is, first and foremost, for me! 

With that in mind, these two paintings are the newest additions to the catalogue of art I have available. They’re two works from a small series where I recall really relaxing into painting and, as they say, “just doing it”!

Curvy” 20cm wide x 20cm high – To find out more on Bluethumb click here
“Orbit – 20cm wide x 20cm high – To find out more on Bluethumb click here

With the listing of these two I’m up to date with my offerings of paintings for sale on Bluethumb.

It’s been a busy month of helping with and entering exhibitions. In theory, I should now be able to paint my heart out creating more art to share!

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Art hoarding, what’s your attitude? Does it matter?

Things are happening in preparation for moving into the new studio.

It must be Spring! An almost uncontrollable urge to clean out stuff has arisen. Yes, including art gear, which really shouldn’t count as hoarding anyway!

I had a cleansing art bonfire last year and it felt so good. All that art isn’t cluttering my mind or my space any more. I have that same feeling now.

As mentioned in the last Studio News, I’ve donated some paintings and also shunted a lot of old ones in various directions…..to the collage box, the reuse box, the inspiration folder or storage (not hoarding!).

Looking at the reuse box (below), I may never need to buy paper again.

Anything that tells my journey or that I can’t part with is being safely stored away.

There’s a difference between old work that tells your art story and the stuff that’s cramping your development. As far as art story goes, it’s pretty easy to pick which pieces best illustrate my various reincarnations.

Cramping your future art is another thing entirely. In the past I’ve kept all my art…incase! Incase what? No idea really! They were precious back then.

Hoarding served both a positive and negative purpose. As a member of a local art cooperative for two years, customers were buying my older watercolour paintings. That was great, but it caused me to become stuck and stagnant artwise. I adapted everything in order to get sales. The desire to venture into abstraction was put on hold. In retrospect it was the wrong decision. Lesson learned.

Current Art

Lately, there’s been more thinking going on than action being taken. The collaged pieces that were sanded back are moving along nicely though.

(Stage two (stage one is shown in Moving Along))

All the sorting out, freeing up and the anticipation of moving into the new studio has me wondering and thinking about what might be coming up next.

Rotary Hobart Art Show 2021

These four paintings are now at Wrest Point in Hobart, ready for the Rotary exhibition this weekend – 18 and 19 September.

(Solitude (detail), Wetlands Walk 3, Feral (detail) and The Shape of Water)

If you’re in Hobart, go along over the weekend and check out all the Art. Don’t gamble your money away though, buy art instead!

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Click here to find out about exhibitions I currently have work in.

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