Friday, July 25, 2014

Yorkshire artist!

It's official: I'm now a Yorkshire artist.

Apologies for the radio silence... there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between cities, challenge with utilities, clearing of mould and moths, repainting walls, and way too much hot weather!

But I'm now in Scarborough. Permanently. And spent my first real day here walking in the water. Here's one full minute of sea. Just because.

See the coast paintings

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Open studio: Story behind the art

For the next few days, giclee prints of sketchbook paintings of Chicago are still available in my Virtual Open Studio on eBay.

Like most of my artwork, this little series has it's own story.

Of course, I created the paintings when visiting my old home of Chicago. I carried my usual travel kit: a pencil case with 7 or 8 tubes of paint, a couple small paintbrushes, an old DVD as a palette, and a bottle of water for washes and cleaning. I painted in a little Moleskine normal sketchbook.

That summer I walked around the Chicago lakefront and did little paintings from Navy Pier and the museum area. My parents also took me up to Wisconsin so I did more paintings of the lake from Racine and Milwaukee.

Then back home to London!

My mom was very eager to have these little paintings. But as always, I told her I never break up my sketchbooks. Sorry mom! But she doesn't often ask for work. She knows it's my living, and when she does get some of my art she buys it. (Sometimes sneaking behind my back!)

So I decided to make a sort of compromise. For Mother's Day one year I did a small print run of giclee prints of the sketchbook pages. The prints on eBay are those prints!

My sketchbook stay intact. My mom is happy.

See the coast paintings

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Planning BIG, but planning mindful - Art business plans

A few weeks ago I posted my latest 9 month biz plan on Facebook, and again had the usual responses that artists don't make plans. Or that some artists have plans but they're just always trying to catch up on their existing backlogged list.

I thought maybe I need to be a bit more clear.

"Never compare your inside with someone else's outside"
by Hugh MacLeod is my visual mantra.
You can see the cartoon here (I couldn't get permission to use it)

So my plan looks good? Complete? Detailed?

I ask in return: so what?
Looks aren't everything.

  • My plan can only be my goals. So I can lay them out in a nifty spread because I can fill them in and know how I like to see them. Only you know your goals and how you might be able to write them down that makes sense to you. My plan includes silly things like:
    - Star party
    - find a new class to study (yes, really)
    - screenprinting yay!
     - Goth weekend
  • I plan knowing how I work. You'll work differently. The hours I work will be different from you. We'll have different personal commitments. So, I have a day off planned a week. Actually, I also usually plan for a "down" day - a day I'm not actually functioning well. This means there is a way I've grouped tasks by day so they can be rearranged if need be. And one day a week often having a couple tasks but also acting as a "catch all" day for things I didn't get to. (and there are always things I didn't get to - things transfer to the next day, the next week, the next month)

    Do you know about those? Of course not. I don't go on Twitter and say "hey, I'm depressed today and hiding in a dark room with the fan on and working in 10 minute sessions to a timer because it's all I can handle. I managed to send 2 emails, yay me!" But I know myself, take that knowledge and whittle slowly at things from the week's plan that I know I can handle. Maybe working backwards or ahead.

So the plan is actually quite flexible - but you don't know that looking at my plan. We can't be intimidated by each other's goals and plans, there's too much hidden information.

  • Complete? Biggest myth of all. No plan is complete. I've got a few rather nice ideas, but a lot of those things in the plan are then the small steps to the goal.

    So it looks like a lot, but it's steps in a process. Other things will come up in the 9 months. Some of the goals are incredibly vague and I have no idea how to get there, but just jotting down the idea is a start. Yet other things will fall off the plan. With no galleries left and moving across country, my "plan" is actually pretty open ended and exploratory rather than some sort of complete structure.
  • Detailed? Ha! Keep in mind that sometimes I have a goal like: "Show paintings in Whitby". And then an action item is "figure out where to have show in Whitby". See, I write it down so at least there's a time line there. When that item comes up on the month it's written, then I break it down more and really think about concrete steps. (which might include things like go to Whitby and see galleries, research Whitby contacts on LinkedIn, etc)

    But a lot of my plan steps are just simple reminders. Or unformed ideas. Seriously, the plan includes Northumberland?, USA?, Local show or open studio?. Things to think about.
  • About that backlog? The new plan includes the backlog. We can't go back in time so if there's a list - that list has to fit on now and months ahead. I go through what's left on my existing to-do list and put it on the plan. In fact, that helps immensely. Some things still need to be this month, but I can be more reasonable with expectations and spread some out to months ahead. It means I can re-prioritise things. Or actually realise they aren't something I want to do at all.

So how do I plan?

Easiest are things where you're familiar with the processes. So I can work backwards for those. For example, I know that I will need photos for AAF promotions about 6-8 weeks ahead of the art fair date. Which naturally means at least a handful of the paintings need to be done and varnished by then. So I then schedule in doing x number of paintings in the two months before the photo deadline. Working backwards.

Another example is my Kickstarter project. I know how long it takes to print a book, and to design the book because I'm experienced with those things. So I work backwards to find my planned dates for printing, work back a few weeks for proofreading, which gives me a date for completing the designs. Knowing how long the design takes, I work back to a date for scanning the work. That's the date all the drawings must be done, so I can work back to space out how many drawings a week or month I need to do to reach my goal by then. I always give myself about 20% more time for extra drawings (bad drawings will happen), weather (rain will happen), and those unproductive days. Get it?

But if you're doing something you have never done before, it's a bit squiffier. I'm trying to pitch the idea of a museum show. I've never done that before! eep! So I'm working out some dates based on knowing how to work with a gallery, but I'm leaving lots of extra time. There is also extra time built in based on the this is scary element - I know I'll hestitate on some steps.

And some specific goals are small things I do know dates for. Booking train tickets, buying ink and paying the tax bill are on the 9 month plan. Are those impressive goals? Nope. But they have firm deadlines I can slot in.

Why do I share photos of my plan? Certainly not to make anyone feel guilty!

I share my business plans online partly because it's makes me happy to draft a new one - it's a big task so Facebooking it is a "yay me!" moment. And partly to encourage other artists to do them. Your plan is your goals and just a tool for you. I've always been in the "do what works for you" camp. There are so many kinds of plans you can make. In reality my plan isn't a business plan, it's a life plan. It includes studying, travel, friends and family, geology outings, and astronomy viewing.

If business plan sounds scary then call it a creative plan, or a life plan, art plan, fun goals, or a World Domination Plan. (in 2010 mine was the Kick Ass 2010 plan)

Maybe I should re-name mine the Plan to Build an Art Death Star in 2016 plan?

And now I must go pursue today's plan... to play some World of Warcraft. ;) Hey, there's no point not being honest. That fits in the plan too.

See the coast paintings

Monday, June 23, 2014

Virtual Open Studio - ART SALE!

Special Event!

I'm moving from a 10'x9' studio room into that lovely looking 14.5'x14.5' room. Hoorah! (my application credit references are still being confirmed, so fingers crossed)

Since I don't have a studio now (all packed!)
I'm having a Virtual Studio Sale!

A special opportunity to buy studies, sketches and older work that is no longer shown. I run a studio sale like this only every couple of years, so don't wait!

All the works are available on eBay - all at auction (more fun!), no reserve prices, with some Buy It Now prices for the impatient amongst you.

New art will be added every day over the next couple weeks. So keep checking back:

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Colour lust

Drawing is wonderful, but I miss colour! Painty colour... *sigh* Why did I even pack my pastels?

This suddenly need for colour happened when I finished this new drawing. Which is possibly the first geology drawing that I just knew should be a painting. It's all about areas of tone as well as the lines. (part of the new batch of drawings from May, now available on the website)

Graphite and graphitone on gessoed plywood
30cm x 20cm

See the coast paintings

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Art crime scene investigation

Very excited to introduce the newest member of the art studio, and the first new item purchased with the funds from Kickstarter for setting up the studio in Yorkshire.

One of the goals for the Kickstarter funds is to set up a drawing space. I've been visiting the local Greenwich Auction House each Friday in search of perfect tables or such to convert. I put in a bid last Friday.

And won! A CID (Criminal Investigation Department) box.

This box was clearly used as a general tool box before me, there were a few dremel bits inside. I, of course, saw the most magical drawing box ever!

With separate drawers for different mediums. Sections for random tools like brushes, rulers, sharpeners, grain size cards. A bottom section large enough for white gesso. And a front door that tilts down into a perfect little desk. Plus, all the drawers fully pull out - meaning I can still move around with just my pencils, just the pastels, etc if I want to work at another table, on the floor, or in the garden.

I'm in love.

See the coast paintings

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Drawing = sketching = play

For years I did a lot of drawing but never showed it. It was sketchbooks and experiments. It was thoughts and rambling ideas. Not finished work for people to see.

In 2011 my friend Jenny Wiggins asked why I kept calling my drawings "sketches". These were large drawings on the wall, that I was showing at an open studios. She sort of scolded me and said if I liked it, then it was finished work. That word "finished" has always scared me with the drawings.

Drawings on studio wall

So for the 2012 "Sublime" exhibition I took a leap. The back section of the gallery had lower walls and seemed perfect for an area focused on my drawing process. So still not "finished" works, but I felt I was showing off part of the process for people who didn't usually visit the studio.

Sublime exhibition 2012, with drawings in rear gallery space

So why is drawing still so much of just a process to me?

Because it feels like playing. And it feels like my other mediums I use for sketching: pastel and collage. Methods of working I use for studies and rearranging images to get something right before painting it.

Pastel study, with pastel, pencil, and gold paint

Pastels are about erasing, layering, reworking, recovering and adding again. I can do all this with different pencils, water soluble pencil and erasers. Plus I can use white and black paint to recover areas.

In contrast my painting technique has specific sequences and while some correcting and change can happen overall most layers are visible in some way in the end.

The Scar (link), drawing on limestone paper
with pencil, rag marks from wiping, and washes and drips of watersoluble pencil

With collage I can tear the paper for rough edges, layer different papers, cut away sections I'm not happy with. With drawing I can use different materials like watercolour, graphite, paint, even the iPad. On the iPad I can layer in photography with drawing and go back and forth to create multiple layers. On paper I can stack drawing on different papers like tracing paper on top of limestone paper.

Collage of paper, textbook pages and painting

With painting I have extremely limited materials: paint and water. Even including charcoal pencil or coloured pencil for geology lines is very new and I'm quite hestitant with it.

Lastly, there's the freedom of working on different surfaces without hesitation. Draw in the sketchbook, on big pieces of newsprint, limestone paper, tracing paper, plywood. Whatever is to hand really. The paintings are only high quality specifically prepared canvas.

Before the Nab (link),
drawing with pencil, watersoluble pencil overlaid with drawing on tracing paper

So creating finished drawings for exhibitions still feels a little sneaky to me. Like I get to play with my toys and call it work, too!

See the coast paintings

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