Monday, 27 January 2014

Working on your own -

One of the joys and/or challenges of working for yourself, depending on how you're feeling and how you view it, is working on your own. For many, this beats, hands down, the alternative of working in a corporate environment and many wouldn't swap it for the world. I'm lucky as I get to have the best of both worlds, working with my lovely team in the pharmacy I manage, as well as having 'me' time in the studio, where I can enjoy my own company, listening to my music, podcasts or the radio, or just peace and solitude and time to be alone. At one time I did think I would love to work in my studio full time but after a spell of a week when I once gave it a try, I realised that, as a permanent arrangement, it wasn't for me. I like the balance of both, although at times it is a fine balance, too much of one and I crave the other.

Other creative people I know, both personally and online, often talk about the isolation of working alone and they find it really useful to meet up with others, for a bit of a creative chat, cup of tea, and just to connect with other like-minded folk. This is something I do really enjoy, and something I'm going to make the effort to do this year, in my quest for cake, nosing around studios and workspaces other than my own, delving into the creative minds of others and learning new things. I'm intrigued by what makes other creative minds tick, so I will be doing my own bit of research and hoping to find out more about they dative process. As well as getting out and about to meet my creative friends I'm  also hoping to enrol on a couple of creative courses to expand my knowledge in the company of others, so I will be blogging about that too over the coming months.

So for those of you who do work in isolation, in your own creative haven of peace and quiet, would you change a thing, or do you yearn for a bit of company and conversation every now and then? How do you cope with working on your own... Do you use social media to connect with your peers or do you belong to an organisation who meets regularly for support and networking... I'm all ears, please leave your comments below

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Happy days

Yesterday was a really enjoyable day. For one thing I got a rare day with the house to myself, so it was great to meet with Hayley from Design Factory, who had come round to do my membership review. The last time we met was just after I joined Design Factory, in March 2012, and reading through the notes she had made, it was like a trip down memory lane, as I was just in the throes of preparing for BCTF for the first time. How long ago does that seem? We reviewed the goals and aspirations I had at that time, and I'm pleased to say that I achieved a lot of the things I had set out to do, which is a nice feeling and makes me feel a lot more positive about my progress.

When Hayley left I spent a bit of time catching up with jobs, sorting out orders and getting soaked on a trip to the post office and then I knuckled down with my Water Paper Paint book and continued working through the tasks and chapters. This week I tried scraping paint to give a different kind of background to ones I had done last week with colour washes. also on the menu this week were splashing, blowing, splattering, results above.

I've also been trying my different sized brushes and experimenting with mark-making. I think I need a trip to the art shop to get some new brushes and some different weights and textures of paper. Does anyone have any recommendations for a good selection of brushes for watercolour? I'd be interested to hear from you.....

Water Paper Paint - part 3

So here are some of the effects I was working on last week with textures. They were made by laying materials on top of wet paint and letting it dry - again another exercise in patience which made me go and read my book and slow down instead of literally sitting and watching paint dry...I really like the textures produced here and think I will be able to use effects like these when I start to explore landscapes. Painting this way in watercolour is completely unpredictable and I think that's what I like so much about it. The way I worked before was very predictable, I knew the pens and the paper and knew, pretty much before I started, how a piece would end up. I think I need to experiment with lots of different combinations of washes and under colours to see what kind of visual delights I can conjure up!!

Join me tomorrow to find out what I've been up to today...

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Finding a new way of working

Today I wanted to show you some of the textures I have been working on whilst working through the book Water Paper Paint. This book has become my new studio bible and it is helping me to learn all about the different aspects of the medium of watercolour painting, through a series of projects and experimentation. I think I have managed to grasp the paper stretching technique, after lots of lovely people gave me helpful hints, and I managed to successfully stretch two watercolour pages to my board without any undue ripples - thanks to you all!! 

I'm sure you've all realised that I'm not really interested in the traditional technique of watercolour, detailed and precise, but I'm going for a more unpredictable, splashy, colourful style in the work I want to make. This is something I have tried in the past when I did some landscapes with textile ink on fabric, and I've always loved the uncontrolled way the colours merge and bleed. For some reason I have an urge to continue with this so I'm listening to my heart and following it.

I must admit thought, spending time researching and experimenting with a new media feels really strange to me. I've always worked with a to-do list and have been very task focused in the past whenever I have had studio days. I always used to review my notebook on Wednesday evening after I finished my day job and then write my list of what needed doing the following day, so I knew what I needed to focus on. So working without a solid plan has felt really alien to me this last couple of weeks. I keep feeling anxious that I'm wasting time, but I keep coming back to my word of the year, Patience, and this is helping ground my thoughts and enjoy the process of not having a defined outcome in mind for the day. The only thing I need to do is to learns something new each time I am in the studio and then I will have accomplished my goal.

So these images above are looking at ways to add texture to watercolour paint by applying textured surfaces to the wet paint. I'm sitting waiting for them to dry (being patient) and I'm really excited to see the results....

Monday, 20 January 2014

Artists inspiring me at the moment

I thought I would share with you some images from artist whose work is inspiring me at the moment

Emil Nolde - Marschlandschaft mit Bauerhof 1935

Helen Hallows - As the Crow Flies

Michael Morgan - The Copse

Pip carpenter - Fields Ablaze

Paul Bailey - Upon Magenta Ridge

Landscape by Judith Reece

Rebecca Vincent - Horsley Printmakers

Kurt Jackson

Rob Van Hoek - Travelling by Moonlight
You can also find my landscape Pinterest board here, it's jampacked full of beautiful pins which I've been collecting since becoming inspired by landscape again. I can only show a few of them here. I think I have always loved layered landscapes, they seem to have been a recurring theme in my sketchbooks looking back over them as I did recently. I remember one holiday in France when I sat and sketched the rolling vista in front of me under the the shade of the olive tree, I am drawn to the fluidity, the rolling hills and the colours and shapes, the man-made marks and furrows, hedges, walls, and cultivated lines of corn, as well the natural forms of the land.

I recently exhibited with the lovely and talented Helen Hallows, and I marvelled at her atmospheric collaged and mixed media landscapes at the exhibition, secretly wishing I could own one of her winter pieces, it would go so perfectly in our bedroom. I think working with Helen and seeing such a large body of her work at close quarters, has made me look at the landscape with different eyes, and it has certainly inspired me to want to capture my own vision of it. So that's one of the reasons I have decided I want to explore the landscape in my new work. I also want to get out and sketch plein air, and enjoy the feeling of space and the landscape around me. Living in rural Notts there are some lovely rolling hills on my door step so I shall be making the most of them over the next few months when I get out and explore my local landscape.

I've been examining my landscape board on pinterest and have been asking myself why these images appeal to me so much, what is it in them that draws me? I think it's the use of bold colours, and textures, something I really want to explore in my own work. I also love the inclusion of the lobe dwellings which feature so prominently in the work of Paul Bailey and Michael Morgan. I didn't realise watercolour could be so deep and vibrant. Both this and the texture of the landscape is something I really hope to be able to capture within my own work. Although the ideas I hold in my head will probably be very different to what comes out on paper.... we will have to wait and see. For now, I have lots to learn, and lots of practicing and playing to do.

I think I might pick a couple of my inspirating artists and explore their work in a bit more depth over the next few weeks... will let you know how I get on.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Water paper paint - more exploration

So it's then end of my second week of working through my new watercolour book and I've been playing around with some of the different techniques, getting the hang of my colour palette and generally playing around with mixing, overlaying and the different ways the colours react with the water and the paper. I'm already finding I have my favourites.... This week was working wet onto dry, which involved a light colour wash which was allowed to dry and then different colours painted on top. I tried a variety of colour washes, the basics of blue, green and yellow, as well as ochre and sienna. I then applied some pure colours on top, which gives me more of an idea of how I can use this in my watercolour work to achieve different shades... I'm liking playing just for the sake of it, but I'm already becoming impatient... Which I know I need to deal with to my playtime will be ruined with thoughts of hurry, hurry hurry...

I've (unsuccessfully) tried stretching the paper onto a board and then fixing it using the watercolour gummed tape.... Epic fail, it didn't really work out, as the tape ended up peeling away fro me board (maybe the tape was cheap or maybe the board wasn't the right surface for adhesion??). I think I need someone to show me how to do this properly. I followed all the instructions and even checked out a YouTube tutorial showing how to do it properly... Maybe I just need to take note of my word of the year and exercise a little patience, maybe it's one of those things where practice is needed to get it just right?? Anyone else struggle with this??

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Back in the groove

I seem to have found my blogging voice again and feel like I have things to say again. I can't say how long this will last, but I'm making the most of it for now and over the next few weeks I hope you enjoy the posts I've been writing. The restful Christmas period seems to have worked its magic. It has helped me to focus on the important things and get some clarity.

As for all things creative, I'm simplifying my creative life, getting rid of emotional clutter I don't need, I'm forgetting the rules I have previously lived by (trying to do things properly and as perfectly as possible) and just getting on with making some art for myself. I made a start on this recently by looking through my box file of collected images from magazines, catalogues, packaging, business cards and promotional material and I have jazzed up my creative space in the studio. Until I did this I didn't realise how neutral it has been colour wise before, so as you can see from the image above, there has been a big change, as I'm now surrounded by striking colour. I'm hoping that this will infuse into my work.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Saving things for best

I chatted recently to a good friend of mine about our fears surrounding creativity, barriers we build and reasons we imagine or conjure which stifle and hinder our creative processes. One of the things we both mentioned was the silly notion of 'saving things for best.'

I remember when I was younger I was bought a beautiful stationery set as a present. I remember the feeling of and the papery smell of the creamy white paper, the delicate pattern inside the pristine envelopes and the pretty box it all came packaged up in. I loved this set but didn't want to use it for it as I perceived it as too beautiful and too special. I decided I would keep it for best and save it for something suitably auspicious. I can't remember what ever happened to the stationery set, but I don't think the super special occasion ever occurred and as a result instead of being used for the purpose it was intended, ie writing letters to people, it wasn't used for anything and remained perfect pristine in its box. 

Gillian and I talked about this notion of saving things for best, sketchbooks, paints, paper, clothes and just how silly it is to save such things for best, not using them for their intended purpose for fear of spoiling or wasting them. I think this is one of those notions which I have carried with me from childhood and one which I realise stops me from creating. It's ridiculous really when you think about it. I need to stop saving things for best, end of!!

So this train of thought brings to mind this gorgeous leather bound book which was a gift from one of my sisters, several years ago. It's a work of art in its own right, the pages are begging to be written or drawn on, the leather strap which ties the leather jacket around the outside protects the pages from becoming dog eared and torn, and it's the perfect size for my new handbag.

So welcome ladies and gents to my new portable sketchbook, I'm going to make the effort to make at least one drawing in here every week. I'm going to carry it with me when I'm out and about. It will help me to get back into the habit of drawing... It's also the same size as my last written journal, which is now full, so is the perfect place to write my thoughts down too.

Gillian is currently researching this idea of creativity and barriers which affect our ability to create for an exciting e-course she is working on (one that I will definitely be looking into when the information comes out). If you want to share with her your own barriers to creativity and feeling when faced with a blank page, then follow this link to leave your comments 

Friday, 10 January 2014

Water Paper Paint

So I treated myself to a couple of new books to help me on my way on the path to a more colourful creative life. The first was Water Paper Paint by Heather Smith Jones which is just what I need. It explores different ways we can use watercolour and it encourages you to do your own thing whilst giving you some of the theory behind watercolour and how to help you explore the medium. 

Having read through the basics and learning about the different papers, paint types, brushes and palettes I couldn't wait to get started. The rest of the book is comprised of projects covering different techniques you can use with watercolour and I've decided I'm going to work my way through them and I've started at the very beginning today with Working Wet into Wet. I've managed to prise the lids off my watercolor tubes, panicking slightly when I thought they had all dried up in the tubes, and have reintroduced myself to my colours, recording them in my sketchbook so I know which is which. I've also had a play around with consistency, paint:water ratio and have had the chance to see how the paint handles and mixes with other colours when wet.

I've dabbled with the watercolour medium before, very tentatively, not really knowing what I was doing, so it's great to be able to follow a structured course of projects. I already have a few favourite colours which I know I will be using more than the others, and I can't wait to get my teeth into the rest of this book.... Reminder to self.... Word of the year Patience...... I'm not even thinking about end pieces and am enjoying the process of exploration and learning again. It's refreshing to get messy after the last few years working very tightly and precisely with ink, I'm loosening up and splashing paint around a bit more, and loving it!!

I think I need to stop being so precious about the pristine pads of watercolour paper I have saved for best, and get them out and use them up. Last week and friend and I discussed this notion of saving supplies, paint, paper for best. I'll be blogging about this silly notion next week, and exploring how this can be barrier stopping us from creating.

As well as painting. I've also been looking back through my sketchbooks, picking out favourite pages, asking myself what appeals to me, and why I am drawn to the things I am,  and I've also been researching other artists who inspire me. I will share some of these with you next week too!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Patiently exploring sketchbooks

As part of being patient - which is already proving to be a challenge I must admit - I'm giving myself time to explore what inspires me before I leap headlong into splashing my paints around or gathering up my sketchbook and heading out for a day of quiet sketching. I feel this is something which will help me to explore what I like about my work and why and to try to find some common themes throughout the time I've been sketching.

I've been looking back through my sketchbooks this afternoon. I've kept them sporadically since GCSE Art. None though through university, where I was so caught up with enjoying myself and studying Pharmacy, that I think I even forgot I could be creative!! Sketchbook practice started again when I started work and met Steve and we were settling down and starting our life together. I found a charcoal sketch I did of him dated 1994, which gave me a reality check when I realised it was 20 years ago and not ten as I had first thought!! When I say sketchbook practice I say it very casually, it wasn't even really a practice, as that infers that it was something I did on a regular basis. In fact I didn't sketch very often at all through my twenties, I was far too busy living my life, working hard to save up for our hop onto the property ladder, getting married and our year out travelling. 

Fast forward about five years.... My sketchbook habits soon changed when I decided to study Art and Design at foundation level way back in 2005, and since then I've been slowly building my sketchbook collection, all shapes and sizes, and with all manner of content. Some I love, some I hate, but I'm keeping them all to remind me of my journey.

This afternoon I decided I would photograph some of my favourite pages, so that some of you who known me only for my black and white work, get a glimpse into other styles I have experimented with in the past before I started to concentrate on my intricate illustrations and my intense relationship with black ink pens!!

So here they are, some of my favourite pages, colours, textures, subject matter and layouts from the Sue Bulmer sketchbook collection....

So there you have it, a wander though some of my favourite sketchbook pages, now I just need to sit down and explore the reasons why they are my favourites, what is it I like about them so much and why have I chose them?

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