First there are some questions we are invited to answer
- What am I working on? Now that's a tricky one.... I seem to be working on a variety of things which are for different areas of my arty life. First I am working on improving my plein air painting. It is something I have played with for a few years but have never quite mastered. Although it isn't an absolute requirement I would like it as another string to my bow for when I may run painting holidays. The next thing I am working on is an all day workshop which I am running at the Boonric Gallery in August. The workshop is about Loosening Up and I am working on a few pieces which I feel will help the class understand some of the ways we have of keeping our work fresh, unexpected and exciting without telling the whole story. And finally I am always working on perfecting some area of my work and have just started working very wet in wet. I love the effects and have written a couple of blogs about my progress.
- How does my work differ from others of its genre? Phew this is a tricky one too!!! Mainly because I'm not really sure what my genre is? If I am in the category of loose watercolourists (where I would like to be) then I guess my work differs by the very nature of my brush strokes and possibly the colour palettes to which I am drawn. I was compared not long ago to Jean Haines and though I more than admire her work... our brush stroke, like our handwriting is unique and my brush stroke is quite different from Jean's who has a very delicate touch with her brush, having been taught by a Chinese mentor. My work though tonal depends very much on brushstroke especially with my animals and while I work on being more subtle there is a raw naivety to it which I'm not sure whether I need to encourage or rein in!!
- Why do I create what I do? This is a little less tricky... as most of us who are driven to create it is not so much a choice but a need? I am always thinking about painting and most of what I do is about me learning, improving and enjoying the process and that is actually what drives me... not sales, not teaching, not seeking approval just a simple need to have the brush in my hand and be painting. Obviously if I have a commission or a workshop to prepare for I will be driven to paint but it is watching the paint and water mixing and doing it's magic that is the start for me and everything else follows. I am always looking to create something unique and attractive at least to me and even if it is only a small part of the painting it will be something I can take to something else. If what I do then leads on to a painting worth framing and even selling then all the better but if I never sold another painting it wouldn't stop me painting and I guess that is the point.. it is the painting first, anything else after......
- How does your creating process work? An interesting one!! I find I am drawn to certain subjects or images but have yet to learn why!!! Sometimes I will just see what colours I can use, what edges I can keep or lose (this also become more evident as the painting progresses), where I need to keep the darkest tones and lights..... these are brilliant paintings where they just seem to work and my brush seems to know where it needs to go and it happens mostly with animals. Other times it all needs working out and I will need several attempts at something to get what I am looking for. I am also learning that often I can leave something overnight and it will be clear the following day what is needed... that little extra touch here or there which will finish the piece. All these things however have become much easier now I have the skills and "feel" for the medium. From a practical perspective especially with watercolour, I believe the skills and techniques need to be learned and grasped and then the creating process is much easier.... once we have mastered the paint and water we are in a much better position to concentrate on other elements of creation. Finally, the more creative we are, the more creative we become!!
I had been painting for a good few years (about 10) and had made little or no progress when I went on a painting holiday to Umbria, led by a tutor named Robert Newcombe. Until that point although I had attended years of local adult education art classes, I had never seen anyone demonstrate, quite a crucial issue when I am a visual learner!!! I loved the holiday and though the standard of my work was poor at best, Robert was very encouraging and voted me the most improved on the holiday!! Here is his website
Once I had started to get somewhere I was introduced to Jean Haines and like many of you fell in love with her work. On a whim I travelled to the Mall galleries where I heard she was demonstrating... it was a memorable visit in more ways than one as my introduction to her involved me knocking her easel over and having her running around looking for a man while I held the collapsing easel up in front of an audience of dozens of people... quite unintentionally she wasn't going to forget me in a hurry!! I then attended one of her workshops which in hindsight was a touch too advanced for me but she taught me such a lot in that session and, what a lot of you won't realise, gave me encouragement and help behind the scenes. She taught me that a lot of my work wasn't finished, she pushed me on, she challenged me and made me think hard about what more I should do and how a piece needed working on. Jean continues to inspire me and has offered lots of advice, to get offline ( I was very involved in running an online painting group), start mixing with real life artists, join a local art group, and go to see other artists either by seeing them demonstrate or attend their workshops. I have a lot to be grateful to her for and I know I am not the only one who she encourages either.... no mean feat when you know how busy she is!!
This is where my third inspiration comes from... the lovely Joanne Boon Thomas. I saw a couple of years ago that she was running her first ever series of Brusho workshops which I was lucky enough to attend. Joanne has a very easy style, she is very generous in her teaching and wants to "spread the love" of watercolour to whoever wants to listen. She is very encouraging and is herself a superb artist. She has that uncanny knack of adding those superb finishing touches... maybe only a slight mark, but she just stands back, takes a view and then adds an odd stroke here and there and hey presto... a transformation!! But Joanne like Jean has been much more to me than just a painting teacher she has helped me in all sorts of other ways not least of which is giving me the opportunity to run workshops at her gallery and has also recommended me to numerous groups in our area who have been looking for tutors. She has been such a good friend when I have needed someone to chat to about arty things (and others too) and I am very lucky to know her!!
So there you have the 3 people who have inspired me the most. I am so grateful for the part they have all played and feel privileged to have them in my life.
If you have stayed the course with this epic.... never fear I will be adding another blog soon with a few of my plein air efforts from my holiday and a few other bits and pieces which have been going on over the last few days!!