Plus Ça Change

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance ~ Alan Watts ~

When updating my website, for ages now, I haven’t been able to shrug off an ever-increasing feeling of dissatisfaction – of being a little bored by my art.  It’s all safely predictable, moderately sugary and intrinsically pretty-prettyyyy pictures. 

Nothing wrong with pretty pictures, à chacun son goût!  But a shakeup has  been looming; I’ve felt creatively stale, frustrated and itching for something less stagnant. 

Much sobering reflection made it clear that progress would not come without risks.  A fresh, less rigid approach and a stripping away of complacency was imperative.

So I purposefully read encouraging blogs and appropriate books at length, boldly experimented, played around with a variety of mediums, enthusiastically made multiple interesting marks… ad nauseam. 

You’ll see from these tulips that I’ve been toiling away at it since the beginning of the first Lockdown in March.  

But!  It was staggeringly difficult to detach myself from the snug and familiar. I could not do it!  I was simply not up to the challenge!  My tentative toe-dip into diversity just didn’t happen.  It was intensely disheartening and my self-confidence was deeply bruised.  In my cupboard lies a substantial pile of discarded attempts, the backs of which will serve as scrap for practise.

It seems that these images below may just be as wildly radical and loose as I get.

The first, (poor photo) of freshly picked sedum, is definitely loose; it took three minutes to paint.  But I wouldn’t want to frame it to hang on my wall.       

This is the grisaille underpainting to give depth.  A dish cloth and ink were used to make the pattern at the base. Perhaps I should have stopped here.

Lastly, the finished watercolour of the same sedum, neglected until it faded to appealingly gnarly, grungy and almost deceased, it’s water appearing to have developed algae. 

It doesn’t exactly signal a seismic shift from my usual work, yet it is unquestionably less sweet and pretty, albeit even more controlled!  I’ve merely used a few different products and techniques, some of which didn’t work.  

This would definitely not be hung in my house; It is ugly, I genuinely loathe it and will NEVER paint sedum again!  Initially, this experiment left me feeling disconcertingly adrift and unsure of what to do next.

So why have I bothered posting if every image is a disaster? Well, I decided not to be embarrassed about my failures because we all have them and I realised that there’s no shame.  I tried something different and it doesn’t matter that the result isn’t as hoped.

It’s only natural for creative people to periodically reinvent their methods in order to progress. I’ll continue to aspire to further spasms of idiosyncrasy and looseness in the hopes of creating something that surprises me. 

At the very least these images may briefly divert you from the extraordinarily bizarre ongoing worldwide events, not least the brainless,  boorish, bovine buffoons who ostensibly purport to lead what remains of our countries.

Well done if you have made it to the end of this elaborate autoethnographic (word courtesy of my son) discourse. 

Luckily for you this post has no audio – you’ve been spared hearing the many long, shuddering sighs that accompanied it.

Hello Zazzle, Goodbye Life!

Anyone who wants to make money by selling their art online, let me warn you that it is a deeply formidable task.

When I naively thought it would fun to open an online business little did I realise what I was letting myself in for. Every day sees me investing long hours on activities which do not include painting pretty pictures.  I’ve had to…..

  • Decipher what and how to adhere to the site requirements on setting up the store front.
  • Learn every damned thing alone as Zazzle don’t really offer much advice.
  • Interpret and complete complicated forms to keep the taxman happy.
  • Know what size images are required for each individual product.
  • Be proficient at using imaging software – I’m self-taught on Adobe Fireworks.
  • Think up original ideas.
  • Create new images, not just with paint and inks, but digitally as well.
  • Become a champion at tagging.
  • Delve deeply into my box of descriptive words.
  • Open promotional media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest.

Zazzle©Desk.fw

But still…all I hear is crickets.

It’s going to be a long time before I see any reward for my efforts and I’m realising that it will be necessary to open new stores with other online platforms in order to appeal to a variety of audiences.

The thing I’ve found the most difficult is to not be timid about pushing my Zazzle store on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  It’s not enough to simply upload a few items and sit back waiting for them to sell.  Constant promotion of each item is vital and I’m convinced that I’ve probably irritated my friends and lost a good few followers in the process.

On the plus side, Zazzle do print my designs on good quality merchandise and I am enjoying the process; the novelty hasn’t worn off…yet.

I just saw an article proclaiming that those who succeed with these online stores have been doing it fo approximately fifteen years, (FIFTEEN!!) producing more than one item per day – I’ll probably be dead in fifteen years.

Well, much as I’d like to, I obviously can’t sit here chatting – got to get back to consistently and persistently producing for my Zazzle shop.

Zazzle Dazzle Greetings Cards – Making Art Pay

I don’t have any controversial unmade beds nor hideous dead creatures suspended in formaldehyde to flog – and I don’t want my art just sitting around taking up shelf space – so as passion and creativity won’t generate an income, I’m commercialising; selling (very cheesy) greetings cards and other merchandise on the internet. This allows me to paint and draw what and when I want without pressure.

June-Malones_zazzle©lcards

Initial enthusiastic research rapidly dwindled into bewilderment and I had to enter a darkened room for a little lie down.

I’m currently limited to creating for greetings cards and various items such as t-shirts as my technical ignorance regarding converting images to acceptable vector file formats excludes me from contributing to Stock sites for now.

Being under no illusion, I admit my cards aren’t particularly original and realise that just because I’ve decided to put them out there doesn’t mean people will actually buy them; I’m a small voice in a very crowded room.  So definitely not a “get rich quick” scheme.  Nevertheless, even a few pennies here and there, must be better than a deft boot to the derrière.

Here is a link to the first site – my ** Zazzle store front… which will be regularly replenished.

One benefit of shopping here is that nobody will have to endure “All I want for Christmas” played on a perpetual loop just because it’s November.

Perseverance!  I’ll let you know how I get on.

** I closed my Zazzle shop in March 2017.

The Art of Wu-Wei & Coloured Pencil Bliss

Isn’t it always the way?  With this drawing of my son I didn’t try.  Really!  It was only a spontaneous sketch with barely any conscious thought…yet somehow, I effortlessly managed to accurately ‘capture’ my son and his mood.  He even likes it enough to use it on his website.

Composer©James

Striving for perfection and overthinking often sabotages creativity.  It’s a paradox!  This was only achieved because I was ‘in the flow’, in a ‘zone’; the usual self-inflicted pressure was off and I didn’t care about the outcome.  I was unleashed!

Composer©zoomDrawing with coloured pencils is extremely satisfying.  It’s just so very simple – all that is required is some paper, pencils and a sharpener.  And the results are gratifyingly fast…no drying time required.

I’ll have to cultivate this – in future, I’ll try not to try.

Improbable Quest

My head frequently bubbles with detailed artistic ideas, but actually accomplishing them isn’t always easy.

I’d like to create a series of paintings portraying likenesses of people I know, with their facial features and hands taking prominence.

You may wonder why I don’t simply call them “portraits”.  Well, have you ever tried to render the essence of an individual onto paper or canvas?  Obtaining a true recognisable likeness is staggeringly difficult.  Formidable, even.  Not least because the sitter is unlikely to view themselves in the same way that the artist does and there are always critics ready to pile huge lumps of vitriol onto the artist.

Clueless but undaunted, the first step was taken; I found a photograph that makes me want to to dust off my paints.

Ruth©InkThis preliminary ink drawing was to make me look hard at her features to familiarise myself with depicting them – also to decide which elements of the photograph to include and which to leave out in the composition.

ruth©pencilThe quick pencil sketch helped me ignore the myriad details and to simplify by considering the tonal values of her face that create form.  Squinting helps with this.

My lofty aspiration is to somehow infuse the painting with more personality than the merely flat one dimensional drawing (although I do quite like flat images).  To cultivate an intimacy that goes deeper than a mere likeness.  Ideally I hope to reveal something of what goes on behind her eyes.

If I manage to fulfil my heady blur of ambitious imagined plans, the next post should be the painting.  Any resemblance to the sitter will be an indescribable relief, but mostly I’m just happy to be doing some art again!

Now if someone could just sprinkle some fairy dust onto my paint brushes…..

Au Naturel

More pictures of (the same) bare, naked man without a stitch on, in his birthday suit.  He was impressive in that he effortlessly held difficult poses without swaying or trembling and never complained.  Next week we’ll have a female model.

This figure drawing/painting class is freeing me up – it’s refreshing to focus purely on the PROCESS instead of the end product.

The first was a 15 minute pose and the second 10 minutes.  In future I’ll only use large 420 x 594 mm paper for figure drawing as the 10 minute studies are far superior to the 20 minute watercolour I did on smaller 356 x 254 mm paper….which is why I’m not showing it to you.

Male Nude

I thought that would get your attention!

Today was my first figure drawing/painting class since the age of nineteen.

After some initial nerves I decided to simply have fun, especially as I was wearing my lucky Wonder Woman pants.  Technically, there is room for improvement, this I know.  I’m trying to disciplin myself to really SEE and make my hand draw what I see.

The scanning isn’t up to much but here is one of my ten minute study plus a twenty minute effort in watercolour and ink.

Temporary stoicism by-pass & the importance of purposeful play

It could be said that this post leans toward self-indulgence but it is written in the hope that other artists who recognise my dilemma may even glean a morsel of comfort from reading it.

Since my earliest memories I’ve been told and accepted that I could draw and I admit that the act of being creative has immeasurably enhanced my existence.  My passion was cutting hair but, since being enveloped in the vice-like embrace of M.E., hairdressing became impossible – so for two years I’ve been attempting to rediscover my self-taught drawing skills.

Inexplicably, for most of this year my energies have focused on torturing myself with self-induced pressure, whilst my innards wrestled enthusiastically.  The harder I urged myself to produce, the more paralysed my hands and brain became – my illustrations became as rare as those metaphorical hens’ teeth.

Last year a very thoughtful artist friend sent me “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron, which did the trick – even though I consider the author to be slightly dippy.  After revisiting the book this week my rather arthritic recovery seems to have begun once more.  It feels like I’ve been given permission to enjoy being creative…scandalous!

This is not a book endorsement – it is merely an attempt to point out how easily we can become so goal-orientated that we forget to enjoy the process.  So intently focused on becoming an Illustrator was I that I froze and became afraid of failing.

In addition, it is often hugely intimidating to observe the mass of incredibly talented individuals abounding on the internet – a glance at the work of some of my Twitter associates perfectly demonstrates my point.

Apparently my anxiety at feeling I have to produce something ‘great’ every time has blocked my creativity and the remedy is to take small steps rather than large leaps.  I was setting impossible goals for myself.

Today, after a good mental slap, I treated myself.  I sketched my son and muse solely for my own pleasure, without concentrating on best technique or medium.  Don’t think I’m there yet but I hope to keep it up!

P.S. This post by Creative Coach Dan Goodwin says it all really.