For a while now I have been writing daily pages as inspired by Julia Cameron. I don’t necessarily do them first thing in the morning but generally after breakfast and before I begin working for the day. Last week I had a few wonderful, productive days at my studio and I thought it would be interesting to also write my thoughts at the end of the day as this is when my brain seems to be most eager to explore all that I have been working on. After a few joyful days working away on some exploratory pieces that felt challenging and liberating all at once – my last day of the week saw me hitting a blank wall so to speak. This came as a bit of a shock so I decided to document my thoughts. In this post you can read exactly what I wrote at the end of that day – unedited! I have no idea if this will be of any interest and in many ways it feels very vulnerable sharing my thoughts here but I know that this process of reflection was incredibly valuable to me – and perhaps it will offer some encouragement to you also.
(Four mark making explorations – each one mixed media on paper 24 x 32 inches, mixed media on paper)
Studio Diary – 14th January 2017
Today threw up some interesting challenges – EXPECTATIONS.
Without putting an exact name on it or going so far as to choose one word for the coming year, my focus this year is profoundly towards my artwork and developing as an artist by means of surrender and exploration. Something I have been craving for the longest time.
I have spent my days in my studio since the beginning of this new year happily ‘playing’. That word to me can sometimes (wrongly) signify a half-hearted (as opposed to serious) means of whiling away the hours in lieu of anything better to do. When in fact this time has found me absolutely serious, focused and determined in my pursuit of working with no expectations whatsoever. With the sole purpose of ‘seeing what happens’. Freedom to commit to whatever feels right in the moment. It has been a glorious week where I have felt absolute freedom to do exactly that.
(More mark making explorations – taking things further. Intuitive landscapes from memory and inspired by harbour villages – 16 x 24 inches, mixed media on paper)
This morning however I paused just for a moment to think. That moment of reflection became at least two hours before I knew it. That ‘thought’ was the death knell to the flow or energy that has seen me beavering away in a mindless, blissful state of exploration every other day this week. The work ‘expectations’ had entered my mind.
Who am I doing this for? What will ‘everyone’ think of it? My goal this year is getting my work out there (approaching galleries and applying for exhibitions). Will they even look twice at what I am doing? How does this relate to all the other work I have been doing these past two or three years in particular? I have just finished creating an ecourse on Portraits – what the heck am I doing now playing with these crazy abstracted mark-making exercises that over a day morph into landscapes born entirely from memory and intuitive painting. Who the heck do I think I am?
(A piece I worked on for a longer period of time – raw and unedited, I can see where areas need to be quietened down to create more resting places for the eyes – 16 x 24 inches, mixed media on paper)
At this point it was either go home or get a grip on myself in an effort to rescue the remains of the day. The music goes on – loudly – in an attempt to drown out my unwelcome thoughts. I often listen to film soundtracks when I am in the studio. I like the variation in pace from the dramatic to the sublime – the long term favourite being Lord of the Rings. I start … mark-making … apologetically. Reluctant to commit to what I have now, in this moment, come to believe might be a complete waste of time when I ‘should’ be doing something else. Something more finished. Something more focused.
(A detail shot of the above piece showing lobster pots, ladders and rope lines)
Gradually and without me even realising, the doubt begins to fall away as my enjoyment of the materials takes over. There is no thought process, no over thinking, no analysing, no pondering what my next painting should be. There is only the heart to hand to paper physical motion of brushstrokes, my hands reaching for a change of material, a different tool, a contrasting texture to add into the mix.
I don’t know what time it is. The CD comes to an end. I put everything down – it is dark outside. I feel a deep sense of satisfaction and dare I say it ‘joy’.
(Working without expectations – just enjoying all that appears on the paper)
I haven’t answered any of the questions I was torturing myself with just a few hours earlier. But I have a clear sense that the only one who expects anything of my work is me. Not once has anyone else questioned what I am doing or asked ‘where are your portraits?’ (not that I know of anyway!). No-one has said – who the heck do you think you are?
As I often discover (time and time again) – the only person standing in the way of me creating art is ME. And goodness it feels good when despite myself I mange to step out of the way!
Today was a good day.
(My final piece of the week – worked entirely through intuition and from memories of places I love. 24 x 32 inches, Mixed Media on paper)
(I am thinking I may add more of these studio notes into my blog. I would love to know your thoughts – is it something that would interest you? Let me know!)