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SONY DSC …Master Of None. Isn’t that how the saying goes? I worried a lot as I began branching out as an artist that I didn’t have a specific focus or a route that I tended to pour my practice into. While first and foremost I consider myself an anstract painter I do love to explore and experiment with a wide range of techniques and media. This extends out of the range of visual arts as well as I have always had a love for writing and storytelling having spent hours upon hours growing up writing stories and poetry, sometimes to pair with my artistic pieces and sometimes in and of themselves, separate from the visual images I wanted to make.

As I wrote more I also found myself wanting to create illustrations for the stories I was writing, my style in that area being very different from the otherwise loose and fluid, intuitive painting style that makes upthe majority of my practice. This stemmed into ACEOs and card designs as well and while some more abstract designs have become cards in my work they were a small and wonderful way for me to play around putting my own twists on more ‘traditional’ art forms as florals and more generic symbolism popped through.

I created Nemorosa Studio as a name for my ‘brand’ and business so that it would encompass all of my loves. I have gone years only painting, at other times delving more heavily into fiction writing and yet others intermingling the two practices through out my day (which is currently where I seem to be right now).

The point I want to make, however, is not to allow that saying ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ to hinder where your creative impulses lead you. Just because you consider yourself a painter, it doesn’t mean that you cannot branch out and create in other areas such as writing, poetry or sculpture, for example. Just because you have many areas of interest it does not mean that your work is meaningless, less worthwhile or not as good as someone who dedicates all of their practice on the one thing. In fact, in my experience I have found it to be wonderful for my creative practice and inspiration to move organically through different areas .

Don’t spend years thinking you cannot make good paintings unless all you do is paint, or that you cannot write good fiction unless all you concentrate on is writing fiction. Instead embrace all aspects of your practice and all of your creative impulses, allow them to influence one another and enrich each activity you take a part in and you will reap the benefits in your life.

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20 Ways…

Lately I have been wanting to draw in my sketchbook of an evening but have found it hard to know what to do or where to go with it. Months ago I picked up a couple of these books by Eloise Renouf which have been wonderful starting points to play around for a page in a fun, casual way.

I usually either pick a page at random or, more often than not, ask one of the kids to pick one for me. The first one I did in my old sketchbook was dandelions, it proved to be a really fun and interesting exercise that made me explore outside of the box more in order to create 20 different incarnations of a type of subject matter using different styles, angles and ideas.

Tonight, having spent the whole day yesterday very sick with a migraine, I wanted to do something creative but that I could easily pick up and put down. My daughter chose ‘twigs’ as the subject matter and I got to it using a mix of pen and watercolours drawing from memory, studies and even around a twig from the garden.

If you’re looking for a little inspiration for some drawing exercises the premise behind 20 ways is an enjoyable, light hearted and surprisingly enlightening way to fill a sketchbook page.

As an artist I have a particular way of working and painting, particularly as I explore abstract art and feeling my paintings rather than planning them. With a daughter who has just finished the first year of her art GCSE however, I have been reminded, through her, of my love for and use of sketchbooks. It’s on odd thing really, I still use sketchbooks but not in the same way as I used to and I has been occurring to me that I’m missing out on valuable research and studies.

The more linear approach to her studies has really taken me back mentally to when I was a student and the levels of research I used to do when planning my work, soewhat lost over the years as I tend to dive straight in these days. I do miss aspects of it, however, the more ‘traditional’ fine art approach to creating study drawings and paintings for one.

It’s very easy to lose sight of this technique practice, or rather it has been for me. My work has become so focused on colour, marks and abstract shapes that I had completely forgotten how much I enjoy drawing studies and subjects, natural and floral in particular. Even within my abstract works they inspire me but I don’t seem to record those inspirations in the same way that I used to.

I was gifted a new A4 ‘studio’ sketchbook after filling my old one; this one is too large and heavy for me to take around every day with me for random sketching and play (hence the name ‘studio’ sketchbook that I use to differentiate it from my more portable ones), so I decided to try to get a little more ‘traditional’ in my usage of it. I had a wonderful time testing some of my older media as well as things I use more consistently these days and creating some studies.

The first double page began with me testing my beloved watercolour palette on the paper to see how well it held up. The colour swatches came first and then, as I tend to do so as not to waste paint I used the next clean page to clean the last of the p[aint from my brush. I had this beautiful rainbow effect by the end of it that I decided to fill with quick studies of some of the plants and flowers from my garden. The mushrooms came later and were added as studies from photographs.

My mother brought me some sunflowers the following day and I had been itching to draw one for hours, it wasn’t until the evening, once the rest of my work for the day was done, that I had the chance to sit down and indulge in sketching one with coloured pencils, a media I rarely use these days in part because it flares my carpal tunnel syndrome but also because I enjoy the fluidity of paint more.

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Considering that I hadn’t drawn like this with coloured pencils in years, I think the study came out well and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Again, I had to test the pencils out before using them to find the right colours. I think the rest of the double page spread will be filled with sunflower studies and pictures, as I have plenty of references to work with now and I just love how cheerful and happy a flower they are.

When I was a student I used to be jealous of other people’s sketchbooks, their ideas and abilities always seemed to be so much better than mine. Foolish, I know, and certainly not valid as opinions go but I think it is particularly hard not to compare yourself creatively to your peers, especially when they are sharing your workspace. I was specifically envious of the sketchbooks that were incredibly neat and tidy, full of these beautiful, technical, almost photo realistic drawings and layouts, something akin to what I see floating around instagram these days; not just in art content but the feel of people’s ‘clean’ aesthetics. I had no idea how people managed it as my own books were messy, battered, bright, smudged and covered in stray charcoal and paint. Even back then it was indicative of my art style and how my practice would progress as I grew as an artist. There is a middle ground to find, however, and I don’t want to lose sight or practice with the more technical skills I have and want to keep up with as well as the ways my intuitive practice takes me.

In short, the exercises were a reminder to use and love my sketchbooks. I am a little sad that I have so few of my old ones now to look back over and reminisce, they have been unfortunately lost to moves and life situations. I am, however, very thankful for the reminder to delve back into them as a tool for reference, research and inspiration, such a reminder can only enrich my practice in the long run.

Do you keep a sketchbook? If so, how do you implement it? Have you ever had to deal with sketchbook envy? What about other people’s sketchbooks brings it out in you?