My process

Process, a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.

A very good friend of mine, a writer, asked me to explain about my artistic process.  She is researching a book, a fictional novel whose main character is an artist. 

Having to put into words the process I go through when creating art, is actually a pretty difficult thing.  I think that’s because it’s such an innate process; a process that’s as individual to the person as the art itself.

I take my inspiration purely from the world around me. Which I think is something most artists would do. Specifically, for me it’s nature; I worship the natural world. The landscape; my joy and the emotion I feel when in the outdoors.  I love to travel, so I look for the majesty of the mountains I see and trek through and ski down, the flow and colour of the seas I get to swim in.

So, it’s important for me as part of my process to get outside. I have places I am very familiar with, such as the Yorkshire Coastline, and the Lake District.  But any coast line of the British Isles holds its beauty and its fierceness.

Whilst in the landscape I observe, I walk, run sometimes, swim sometimes, take photos to look at compositions and views.  But the best thing is to sit.  Get the paints out and observe and make marks on the paper or board.  Being outside you feel the elements, the weather, the sounds, the smells.  You get to see beyond the boundaries of the view. You are also limited in time. So work is spontaneous and expressive.  It might just be a line of the mountain against the sky, or the colours of the light on the hill side, the shape of the waves, or the subtle colour change where the sky meets the sea.

Back in the studio, I have various reference points to draw upon.  I have the photos, the sketches (which I include watercolour studies within), or sometimes paintings, but importantly the memory, since I had time to sit down and take it all in.

I am also influenced by artists too.  I go to exhibitions, I have books, postcards dotted around, as well as following numerous people on social media.  I work alongside other artists too, and all these influences teach me, and inspire me.

Once in the studio I usually begin with a tidy up!  I clear the decks especially if it’s a new body of work I am starting. Perhaps I have just come back from a trip away. Or I have completed a body of work for an exhibition, and I return there to start some more.  But a good tidy around is necessary.  It literally gives me space, but also mentally it does too.  I think as I clear.  I see things; a colour, a post card, a frame, a photo, an old piece of work.  And this will link into my thoughts and get me started.  I have also used “The Cruel Sea” book, which I have used as a warm up in painting on to the pages, revealing messages.

But then I pretty much get going, preparing a ground of gesso, to seal the board.  A colour ground on top of that, which I know will play with the colours I build up on top.  I have been experimenting with complimentary colours recently, oranges, reds and yellows, which contrast with the blues, greens and purples of the natural world which I am drawn to.  These contrasts can literally sing, and I love that.

I generally work on 2 or 3 pieces at a time, so that I can leave one to dry whilst I work on another, as I build up layers, revealing what is beneath.  This also means that the palette I am using is found on more than one piece, so they work as group.  When are they finished?!  I just become content with the balance in the piece; the light and shade, the colours, the forms. I like the eye to move around the piece, so I am looking for rhythm and movement too, I suppose.

I would be really interested to hear about other people’s artistic processes, so share away!

I think I might just start a blog....

……. this seems like the right time to begin a blog, share my ideas and thoughts. For what they are worth!

Finally, after many years of teaching, I have awarded myself a regular slot for all things creative. I have managed over the years to fit my art work in and around my very hectic and full on schedule of being an art teacher and Head of Art, but now in my 15th year of teaching, I have a day during the week when I can be in the studio.

People ask me, would you like to do your art full time, and not teach? The answer is always no. As much as teaching is exhausting (in term time it takes every ounce of your physical and mental being to keep going) I do still love it. It gives me a great sense of purpose and pride. It can be funny and infuriating at times, but fundamentally I love passing on my passion for this subject to young people. To see them grow over the years, especially when they continue their journey through GCSE, Alevel and then beyond, is a great bonus to this job. Art education is immensely important, and over recent years it has been pushed to the sidelines, with the importance of art being put beneath maths, english and science, but we must continue to fight it’s corner. If I imagine an education without the arts….. shudder ….. my school life would have been miserable!! And many young people think the same way. And where would we be without the artists, the designers, the filmmakers, the fashion designers, etc etc. Just look around you…. who designed and made all this stuff you surround yourself with?

But anyway, I digress, the other hugely important thing in my life is ART. It makes my heart sing. Viewing it, making it, talking about it. Without it, life would be grey. I mean, I like grey and all, but I also like my life in glorious technicolor. Tonnes of it. Especially every shade of blue you can imagine. If you look at my work you will see….. turquoise, cerulean, cobalt… it is a reoccurring theme. These colours engulfs all aspects of my life. I think I see life through turquoise coloured spectacles.

Anyway, enough babble…. back to the painting…..