Date: 27.02.18

Time: 21.45 pm

Mood:In limbo and over-ripe..

So in my last post I spoke about getting out and seeing some art, and indeed I did! Towards the end of last week I met up with my friend from university and together we visited Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, The Ikon and some small galleries in town. Everything we saw was very different; from what I would call the ‘fine art’ of the New Art West Midlands exhibition, to what I’d call the ‘commercial art’ of a gallery we visited in the ICC building by the REP theatre.

I have also made a definite start on a new portrait for my new studio practice. Although it’s still in its early stages I’m pleased with it so far. However I am feeling very much in limbo this week, neither here nor there. I am currently looking for part time (and hopefully creative) work so I am able to work on my new studio practice without pressure.  However no luck as yet, and time is already flying so fast – as we’re nearly into March already. I am still at the handmade shop in our city centre and will still have to work and exhibit there until I find work – although I have not spoken to any other colleagues about leaving.

Everything feels very over-ripe to me at the moment. I want to mostly let go of my old artwork that is currently on display there and I know that I need to leave and move on – and feel like I cannot move forward until let go of certain things. I feel It would be best for me to leave this shop – as I have said before it is not the right place for art, and many of my artist friends agree. I also do not want the pressure of selling there, or the stress of working there at the moment. So I hope to find a part time job soon. I will talk more about my latest portrait in the next post too! This post will mainly be about what I saw whilst out and about in Birmingham!

New Art West Midlands:

This was a great exhibition that I really enjoyed. I have to say many pieces tackled the ongoing problems of social media (like the blue piece above) which I was really happy to see. There were pieces that talked about out ‘mindless scrolling’ and being constantly ‘plugged in’ to Facebook etc. One piece from artist Jess Eburne involved a transcript of what appeared to be two robots discussing us ‘homanids’ and how we prefer to be ‘plugged in’ all the time and how humans are afraid of being disconnected from this world of constant updates. This was probably one of my favourite pieces.

I’m really struggling with social media lately: part of it is logging into Facebook generally and just having way too much information come at you from everyone’s lives, and before you know it – you have wasted 40 mins mindlessly looking at feeds. The other half is when you have to advertise things on social media; I still advertise my prints and cards for my Etsy shop and am currently part of an Instagram ‘pod’ of local creatives. So when you post you let them know and they will comment on your post and vice-versa. But I end up catching up on everyone else late at night and commenting on everyone’s posts in the pod – and it leaves you feeling drained and exhausted – and definitely like you I need to ‘unplug’ and de-stress. And this is not even starting on algorithms and the fact that small business’ posts hardly get seen or benefit now  – and so this is why everyone is currently jumping ship to new social media platform Vero. The Matrix never ends…!! Lately I feel like extracting myself from it all!

Yet on the other hand..many of my references come from social media! A lot of my female portraits past and in this new work have been referenced from fashion houses, lifestyle bloggers, travellers and vloggers I follow on Instagram etc!

However I’m really happy people and artists are starting to recognise the complex problems social media is starting to present in our lives. But I also think it can only affect you if you let it and perhaps limiting your time on social media is definitely a good thing. Yes creatives must advertise online – but I also think this is just the half of it; the other half is about meeting and talking to actual people. This is something I also have to do.

Other pieces in this exhibition included some walls of brightly coloured pop art style hanging frames, a beautiful installation of lit geometric triangle shapes (another favourite, above) and a very fun rubber fringed sculpture that was great to touch and every so often quivered from a mechanism underneath. There was a lot more too, a great exhibition overall.

The next exhibition we visited was in a following room and was ‘New Art West Midlands: 5 Years on’. This was a smaller exhibition but still has some thought provoking pieces. My first favourite were a series of salvaged stone pieces with coloured wax embedded in them, so it looks like jewels being revealed underneath the stone (below). There is also another large installation again made from mobile phones and iPods! Mounted on the wall in rows in a darkened space. They all have woodland scenes displayed on their screens and birdsong sounds. This piece spoke volumes about how we experience everything within the digital realm nowadays and don’t go out and experience nature and the outdoors for ourselves.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery:

We then had a wonder throughout the rest of the gallery, looked at much of the Pre-Raphaelite Art,(that I’ve always loved) landscapes and seascapes and I was really taken with a modern colourful portrait by the artist Emily Sparkes – displayed alongside classical pieces centuries old. She had painted herself in the style of 18th century portraiture to mimic how women were painted back then but also how they were seen as beautiful and ‘docile’ objects. I found this portrait very interesting as I am also someone who paints mainly female characters and portraits, and I’m interested in how women are seen in social media and also mental health of women and people in general.

IKON Gallery:

We then visited Ikon Gallery in Brindley Place where we saw some amazing miniature portraits by artist Thomas Bock from the 1800s. These were beautifully rendered and so tiny; he was an artist that mainly sketched and painted convicted criminals. There was a beautiful dried flower installation piece upstairs along with a room with TVs and some spoken word performance art. However I was more fascinated with the mental health charts on the walls..again this perhaps touches on issues I may be looking at in my own work.

Castle Galleries:

Finally the last place we stopped at was Castle Galleries in the ICC building near Brindley Place. This is obviously widely known to be a very commercial art platform, and to me it is a place where artists who want to sell – sell their work and many reproductions of it! There are some bold pieces in there but obviously caters for a completely different audience than the IKON etc.  I think when you are an emerging artist and are thinking about places to sell your work, you need to be very careful about where you want to sit in the market; although I would like to be a ‘commercial artist’ to a point, I also want my work to have deeper meaning, and make a difference – and don’t think I would go down this route.

As always this has been a very long post – and I thank any of you that take the time to read it! This blog helps me to keep my thoughts in order about my new developing studio practice and artistic journey. Stay tuned for the next post where I will be talking about progress on new pieces.


Date: 18.02.18

Time: 20.28pm

Mood: Optimistic

Listening To: Expanded Perspectives Podcast, YouTube

Welcome to an new episode of my A-N blog for February 2018. The above sketch was a doodle from my sketchbook from just before Christmas last year.

This is just a quick short post about my thoughts and progress from over the past week; I’m hoping to do these posts every week where possible, or every two weeks.

So I’m working on a new body of work in a very different style to what I’ve been doing for the past 2-3 years. In the past few years I’d been making drawings, and illustrations that had no real audience,  or groundwork, research or knowledge of business. Although I worked very hard, it hasn’t really been going anywhere or earning a lot, despite my dream since I was a young child, of wanting to be an artist. I guess I’ve always had the spirit and enthusiasm – and some skills but not really the the know how of where to go with it or how to earn a living from my work.

Having always been a realistic and realism based artist, with the help of a mentor/coach I am now working on something more sketchy and illustrative in a series of new paintings. This is with the aim of creating a more successful business for myself in terms of being a self employed artist. This is also because I feel it will help me step into my potential as an artist and give me the scope I need to develop the art business I’ve always wanted. In my last post I talked about being a ‘commercial artist’ and while that is in many ways what I’d like to become, it’s going to be by no means a cheap or tacky way of earning a living; I aim to make colourful, meaningful work that the right audience will love, and then make a regular living from my work.

So far I have made around 5 small paintings from a series of sketchy thumbnails in my sketchbook. They are very colourful and bold sketchy portraits of women. The references were taken from real people – just random photos that appealed to me or people I follow on social media. I feel I am just starting to get to grips with what my work is about. There are lots of things that I am interested in that I’ve never been able to string together coherently into pieces – so I’m hoping this new work – and the way it is painted – will enable that. At the moment the focus will be portraiture – and the sketchy style and marks made are something I’m still experimenting with and perhaps not quite there yet. I am also planning an upcoming post on the things I am interested in and exploring, so stay tuned for this.

So this week after much fear and stalling – I finally made a start on another portrait. Again this was from a quick sketch in my sketchbook; I then scanned this and went over my lines in Photoshop and the portrait is now ready to be traced onto the canvas. This is my current procedure. However I think it will change and improve over time to maybe just producing portraits freehand straight onto the surface of the canvas. But for now I am quite shaky, and still have a certain amount of fear about the new work, although excitement too.

I’m very pleased with the new portrait and am really looking forward to getting it on a canvas. I plan to to trace and draw the outline the beginning of the week and make a start painting in the studio later on on this week. I have tried this time to think about things my mentor/coach as asked me to consider – such as my colour palette, not ‘overdrawing’ something, the balance of the portrait i.e not chopping parts off – thinking about composition and how much space around the face, head/shoulders etc. I will post about how I am progressing with this piece over the next week or so.

In my last post I also mentioned getting out and ‘seeing art’ – and ‘feeding myself’ art as we were fed whilst at university! And I’m pleased to say I have my train booked for the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea, London on the 10th March (it runs from the 8-11th March 2018). I am going with my friend from our studios, also an artist. I will also be going to visit the New Art West Midlands Exhibition this week whilst in Birmingham. I am hoping to have an art based morning/afternoon visiting various art venues in Birmingham. If anyone has any suggestions of anywhere else I could visit – do comment below, I’d be very interested!

So this has been the progress for this week, and hopefully things are slowly going in the right direction! Stay tuned over the next week or so where I will be posting new thoughts and progress and hopefully about places I have visited! As always, any thoughts and comments are welcome and hopefully this will help anyone else on a similar journey!


Date: 11/02/18

Time: 19.52pm

Mood: Spirited and Ambitious ..but slow..

So welcome to another A-N blog post! I actually started this post several days ago and have had a very busy week, with no real time to sit down and think for a while. And there has been some great highlights over the past few weeks. In following on from my last post – I did create a list of ideas for what my life would look like if my art practice and business were running the way I’d like them to – this really helped. I wrote things like ‘I am working in a 100% more directed way’ and ‘I am creating collections and series of works rather than random pieces’ ‘I am comfortable pricing my work’ etc. When you write things like this – it helps you realise all the aspects you’re still NOT sure of that you have to work through.

The other great thing that happened a short while back is I went to visit the studio of my mentor/coach and we had some great discussions. This post is going to be about what I learned during these conversations, how it affected my thinking and current plans created for my work from this. I came away feeling extremely positive about my new work.

The first thing we spoke about was getting out and seeing some art; because my aim is to become more of a commercial artist (not tacky, but pieces and paintings I can make a living from that also have meaning and serves people in some way). But also to try and make some connections and meet with potential galleries that could offer feedback on my work so far and for possible representation in the future. So it was suggested I visit places like the Affordable Art Fair in London (there is one coming up held in Battersea 8-12 March 2018). Also to look at who is exhibiting, galleries/artists and pick out ones that I most identify with. You need to have an agenda when walking around art fairs;  to have art that you want to see, but also an idea in mind of galleries and people that you potentially want to make a connection with.

This said, it is also important for myself and other emerging artists to get out and see general exhibitions, as well as ‘feed yourself’ art in other ways – for instance I’m planning to regularly visit our University Library to research for my new work. I graduated from university around 5 years ago now, and I left with a whole framework of ideas, thoughts and themes surrounding my then practice. I would love to build that again around my new work.

The other important aspect about people seeing my new work is having a website for that new work – the pieces I have made so far. My current website really only displays the work I still sell as prints and cards on Etsy; however in moving forward it has been suggested to change my site so that it is more simply a landing page. Rather a ‘business card’ style single page displaying a selection of new works and contact information. This I am very happy to do, and will post the link on this blog when the site has been remade.

Also we discussed aspects of what to focus on in terms of making art. One of the things that I have noticed about contemporary artists is that they very often work in series. This is something I’ve noted above and in my own planning, however not something I am necessarily used to doing! I think in my older work and realistic drawings I tended to create things randomly; there were always attempts at series and collections, however I always set myself too much work – too many things to work on at once – and could never keep up. This is one of my downfalls! So for this new work it was suggested I start by creating some women themed portrait series’ i.e. ‘Women In My Life Who..’ etc. My work has always been mainly feminine inspired however I would also like to include men in the new work. I generally draw women because they’re easier – but it will be extremely beneficial to learn new skills and adopt new approaches in this new work.

Finally, an important and shaky subject we discussed was getting part time work. I currently exhibit in a local handmade shop – mainly stocking items from designer-makers local to the West Midlands, such as jewellery and ceramics etc. There is art; however not much and art prints etc really aren’t very popular, the only things I really sell are cards. My rent there is £20 a month however I only make just over my rent every month – sometimes less – and commission is also taken off.  It isn’t really helping – and I also work there two days a month. We discussed that it would be much easier to get a part time job and leave, which I am happy to do – although I have been part of the shop for 3 years now, never really selling a lot but always trying very hard. And having tried to work full time with not much coming in has been very challenging. However I feel it is the right thing to do if I ever want to get on my own path and find the right market for myself and my work.

This was a very long post! As always thank you for reading, and feedback, advice and comments are always welcome. This blog is very therapeutic in jotting down and ordering my thoughts about making new art and this new journey – and if it can help others in any way, that would be amazing.  Join me over the next few weeks where I will be posting new updates, thoughts and progress!