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Painting without a rudder.

I’m trying to get back into my painting practice after a long break – but it’s not proving so easy.

It’s partly that I’m rusty, but also trying out new surfaces and brushes too.

I’ve swapped board for gorgeous (and expensive) linen canvas, and though I’ve worked with linen in the past all my more recent work has developed on wood or MDF. Found surfaces especially are so freeing whereas costly materials seem to produce the opposite effect (almost inhibiting). I need to feel I can almost break it to make it – this is my style – I’m mean to my surfaces!

These are the physical factors. But I guess there’s a mental block which adds to the frustration I’m feeling.

I need to make some new work for a showing in May – there’s no theme this time and I only need to consider the space (which is a beautiful cloister gallery). Is my trouble that this is too open and I don’t know where the paintings are going? Could be.

Another factor is sales. I do increasingly sell my work (though I dislike the transactional side of being an artist – I accept it is vital to allow for sales in my practice in order to stay afloat alongside funding applications).

What I hate is being conscious of this while making. I need this dynamic to be out of the frame or it begins to intrude and a million critical eyes peek over my shoulder as I try this way and that to bring my compositions to resolution.

I’m honestly best when I have a tight brief (like my Felicia Browne work) or when I can immerse myself totally in the atmosphere of my studio and the sensory process of making without the pressure to make something that someone else will fall in love with and want in their home/ collection.

I guess this is a dilemma for all creatives.

I’m kind of going okay if I stand back and don’t sweat it (although two weeks of jury service in April have cut down my painting schedule to the wire). I think what I’m missing are my faithful and beloved gel mediums. Silly me – I ran them down at the end of my last project and decided I wouldn’t need them for my linen canvases – but guess what – I’m missing the wonderful textures they afford.

You know what – instead of working around the junk that’s accumulated in my studio and making do with badly placed nails in the wall from my previous board work – I reckon I should stop rushing and prep my space so that the work flows more easily.

The clouds have parted and suddenly I’m feeling better about my so-called ‘painting block’. HA! It’s nothing of the sort…

In fits and starts I’m getting there…some of what I want to achieve is more freedom and acceptance in my work. I’m working on emotional landscapes as ever – but essentially asking myself how authentic I can be. This is true in life too.

Oh and I do have a theme now that I remember – resilience.

So far the work is full of gesture and the tension between polish (some of which I need or the perfectionist in me get’s twitchy) and energy – which I love to try and capture.

I’m getting there.


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