A Change Of Artistic Direction

A couple of months ago I was recording an episode of the Art Supply Posse podcast, when my guest Ana Reinart – of the Well Appointed Desk – challenged me to use my most unused art supply, which was a set of Mungyo Gallery oil pastels that I’d bought over ten years ago.

Ana is the founder of the ASP so we invited her to be our guest for the 100th podcast episode. An expert on all things stationery, Ana gave me a couple of pointers for using them. A few days later, I grabbed a piece of butchers paper & made my first sketch. Instantly I was hooked. The bright colours & speed of producing art using oil pastels speaks to me. I like speed in my art, because I don’t have hours to spend making it.

I’ve found some great artists on YouTube sharing their oil pastels & have learnt a lot; I can link them below if you’d like me to – let me know 🙂

I haven’t felt this enamoured by using an art supply, probably ever. I still love making art using other supplies, but there is something about oil pastels that has my heart. I’m grateful that I was challenged to learn how to use them.

So, what about you? Do you have art supplies stashed away, that haven’t seen the light of day in years? Why not get them out & use them. Most of us have way more supplies than we actually need, although want & need are two totally different things! Who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with your old supplies. And if you don’t? Give them away. There’s no point putting them back in the cupboard if you don’t like them, but I’m sure there’s someone out there who would be grateful if you gifted them.

An oil pastel abstract, created January 13 2021

Oh, if you’d like to see a quick process video, take a look at my YouTube

Art Journal Fun

I’ve been fascinated by art journals for a while. They show up in my social media feed & some of the artists I’ve interviewed for Art Supply Posse keep them or specialise in them. But I was hesitant to start my own. My style of art isn’t the same as that of the artists I admire & the quality of my work isn’t as good as others. I was comparing myself to these artists & I was convinced that my perceived shortfalls was a good reason to not keep an art journal.

My art journal, awaiting the addition of an origami crane

Thank goodness I came to my senses! I finally woke up to the nonsense I was telling myself & realised that I could make an art journal be exactly what I need it to be.

I had been using a Midori Travellers Notebook as a daily todo list & calendar hybrid. It suited me for a couple of years but by the end of 2019 I’d become bored by this setup. I like the size, the feel of the stunning paper & it’s portability. Enough reasons to turn this daily boring thing into an art journal that only a few weeks in I can say I’m already proud of.

To make it work best for me I utilise two pages at a time, which are given over to a week. Instead of listing out days & dates, as I had been doing, I’m now writing the start date & end date of the week followed by the particular month. Year isn’t included as it’s noted when a new notebook is started.

Because I love fountain pen ink (& also as a convenient excuse to buy/try more ink) I’m washing ink over the pages as a background. I’ve created about 20 backgrounds so far, allowing each double set of pages to dry completely before moving to the next set. Thats the only criteria I’ve set myself for the journals’ contents, although I recognise this might change in the future. From there I am adding art to the pages as I see fit.

Sometimes I’m making art directly onto the page, other times I’m making art elsewhere & pasting it in. It really depends on what I feel like doing when I decide to art. My daily breakfast art practice continues so some mornings whatever I make will end up in the journal. Other times I’ll fold an origami crane or make a small piece of fountain pen ink art, pasting it into the journal afterwards. It all depends on my mood.

I’m glad I had this change in mindset. I do deserve to have an art journal. And so do you. If you’ve ever wanted to give one a try, I say go for it. Consider this me giving you permission to keep one. If you do, let me know how it works out for you. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Reflecting On My Breakfast Art Practice

These colours captivate me every time I look at them

I have been looking over some of the different art that I’ve made since I began my daily breakfast art practice. They consist of a variety of different types of art; some are more complex than others, some shine because of their simplicity. The common thread that ties them together is that they’ve all been made as I enjoyed eating breakfast.

A piece of art created in an old book
I’ve found repurposing an old book for art to be a liberating experience

There are reoccurring styles: backgrounds created by applying fountain pen ink & water to paper to which I use black or gold markers to create Japanese inspired wave designs feature frequently. As do the seemingly random application of colour to a page creating not so much as art in the traditional sense but rather a pleasing group of colours.

A blackout poem
A blackout poem, inspired by Austin Kleon

I look forward to making this art daily. There are some nights that I fall asleep thinking about what I could create the next morning. Yet the mornings when I have no idea what I’ll create are the most exciting to me. Art that is made with no intention except to create something gives me a wonderful feeling.

A close view of an art background made by mixing yellow & blue ink
Stunning green shades created with Nick Stewart Ink, available here

****

I find myself about to return to ‘normal’ work, which is to say going to work in a business as opposed to only working from home. This work will be part time but I am accepting this reality with trepidation for I know what may come. Overwhelming anxiety leaving me without the ability to walk in this world with ease was what caused me to quit working full time. The reality is this might happen again. My coping mechanisms such as the breakfast art practice & daily dog walking will work to help keep me on an even keel, at least that’s the hope.

I’ll look into increasing visits to my psychologist & GP. I’ll try to remember to ask for help when I need it. Do all the things that are needed to protect myself so anxiety doesn’t take over every waking thought. Fingers crossed.

Unexpected Truths From Podcasting

For approximately 18 months I have been interviewing people for the podcast Art Supply Posse. I’ve chatted with a variety of artists as well as retailers of art supplies. Everyone from Kevin Murphy – whose art has been commissioned by such luminaries as The Rolling Stones, Game of Thrones & now runs his own art school, Gosia Orlinksa who is an artist & an art therapist to ceramicist Julia Skott who challenged me to label myself as an artist.

I love bringing these chats to our listeners. I try to guide our conversation in a gentle way so that it sounds like a chat between two friends as opposed to a question & answer type interview. I don’t know about you but I prefer to listen to a podcast where it sounds like I’m listening to a couple of friends have a conversation. It makes me feel like I’m in the room with them.

That might sound like it’s difficult to achieve but I’ve found that once people start talking about the thing they love, such as painting with watercolours or pouring alcohol based inks onto canvas, the conversation flows naturally. People slip into that world, their world of art & creativity & their conversation carries you into that world too.

Talking to so many artists who are often at different stages of their career to each other has made me realise a few things about myself & my long held views of my creative abilities. And I suspect these realisations have occurred to some of our listeners too.

By far the majority of artists have had family support to pursue their creative endeavours. Some have or had artistic parents & most have or had parents who encouraged the creativity when they weren’t creative themselves. Yet even artists with family supported have occasionally had doubts about their work. This goes against my expectations; surely only those who suffer from doubting their art are people like me who were actively discouraged from making art?

Turns out that’s not the case. Self doubt seems to affect a lot more artists than I expected. The more I hear this expressed by artists, the more I realise that its almost common among creative people. I’m always grateful when someone I follow on Instagram posts something about how they’re in a creative rut that they’re having trouble getting out of. Not because they are in that place but because they are sharing it. The more creative people can see that self doubt is common, the better. It will make it easier for us all if we know that self doubt is common & can be worked through, if thats what is wanted.

Everyone I have spoken to has encouraged our listeners to continue following their artistic pursuits or to take up something that they’ve always wanted to try but haven’t had the courage to do so. The more I hear this the more encouraged I am to continue with my creative loves. I can now say I am a writer & a photographer. It turns out, despite my fears otherwise, admitting these things won’t kill me! It doesn’t even hurt me!

Give it a try yourself, if you’d like to call yourself an artist, a writer, a filmmaker or photographer or whatever it is you know deep down you are. It won’t hurt, I promise! Start saying it out loud to yourself, then try it on your pets. Pretty soon you’ll find it easy to slip into conversation. It doesn’t matter if you don’t make a living from your creativity & it doesn’t matter if you don’t ever want to pursue it financially. Claim the thing you are. You claiming it & proclaiming it will make it easier for someone else to claim their thing. That I can also promise.

I’m Actually Using My Sketchbooks!

Further to last weeks post, where I mused on my breakfast art habit it occurred to me that I am also completing sketchbooks. As in using every single page to create something on. I cannot remember the last time this happened. It may be entirely possible that this has never happened. Yep, in 42 years it’s quite possible that sketchbooks have entered my life only to find themselves languishing in a cupboard or worse, thrown away in a mad moment of getting rid of things if I haven’t used them. So far I’ve completed two sketchbooks, both of which are in the photo below & am half way through finishing the larger one at the back.

I use a Midori Travellers Notebook as my daily diary/to-do list/reminder of things. The inserts in these get used, every single page filled with writing, notes, drawings & art. However when it comes to sketchbooks, well they are an entirely different beast. I have always thought deep down in the back of my psyche somewhere that because I am not an ‘artist’ I don’t really deserve the lovely new sketchbook I bought myself. Or even the lesser quality but still acceptable sketchbook that I’ve owned for years.

Only ‘artists’ should be using those. Lately l have come to realise that this is utter bullshit. Sure I am not an artist in the traditional sense of a person standing in front of a canvas, painting someones portrait in oils, but I still like to make art. I may be the only one who likes my art, but that’s totally ok with me. I’m not making it for anyone but myself. If I hang some of it on my walls and you don’t like it, you’re welcome to tell me. I will respect you more for your honesty. But you don’t have to like it. I’m making it to have fun. To express myself through pens & inks & markers & paint. That’s all.

Although as often seems to be the case in life, that isn’t quite all. Because I’ve realised that the fun I’m having making these small pieces of art is carrying itself over into my photography & to a lesser extent my writing. I am doing both of these things more often & each time I’m trying to get better at them. But I’m caring less & less about if they will be ‘liked’. Thats not to say I don’t want people to like my photos. Thats not to say that I don’t dream of seeing my writing published. But I finally recognise that what I write & what I take photos of does not suit everyone. And thats ok. Hopefully it will resonate with someone. Maybe I will publish my children’s stories (which is a big dream I have), but I also know that my life won’t end if I don’t. I’ll keep doing these things & be happy. I’ll be happier if in some one my work resonates with someone or reaches are larger audience than simply myself. But I’ll still be happy regardless of the reach of my work.

Next time you hear me complain that what I make is terrible & liked by no one, please point me in the direction of this post. I suspect future me might from time to time forget these words & will need a gentle reminder 😉