Artists, all creative types in fact, suffer from crippling self-doubt from time to time. And when the self doubt kicks in, it's good friend artists block comes to play too. So here are my top tips to banish them both and get back to creating the art, life or business you love.
I have always adored going to galleries and having a nice mooch about. All through my student days I haunted the National and the Tate, sketchbook in hand, for hours on end. Galleries, whilst attracting huge numbers of visitors, are so vast that you can still find a moment of peace and calm right in the centre of the hustle and bustle of London
During my many years as a teacher, I took students to a variety of galleries including the Uffizzi in Florence and the Dali museum in Figueras. During these trips I always wanted to encourage a life long love of art. I wanted to develop the confidence required to draw in public without worrying, and a feeling that the galleries of the world belong to us all. They aren't just for the elites and the show-offs. But beautiful artwork can be enjoyed by everyone.
So on Wednesday, I decided to give myself a birthday treat and I went to the Michelangelo & Sebastiano exhibition at the National gallery.
With some trepidation and heart full of excitement I went in.
To be frank I got a bit emotional about it all. Michelangelo has that effect on me. Always has.
The initial impact was "Wow".
I'm lucky enough to have seen the vast majority is of Michaelangelo's work in Italy and beyond but there are still some serious gems in this exhibition.
The exhibition itself explores the relationship between heavyweight Michaelangelo and the lesser known Venetian Sebastiano.
There are a whole series of letters between Sebastiano and Michaelangelo - it is very interesting to see the references to the papacy and indeed to Michaelangelo's arch rival Raphael. At first it might seem that Michaelangelo's collaboration with Sebastiano is almost entirely about rivalling Rapheal. One of Sebastiano's letters even references Rapheal's death - "My dearest compare, I believe you have heard poor Rapheal of Urbino has died, something that you must soon be very sorry about, may God forgive him".
Forgive him for what? The story goes that Raphael died, aged 37 from sexual exhaustion! Though this has yet to be fully proven. However his death did provide Michaelangelo with an opportunity to pursue further commissions from the papacy and to recommend his friend Sebastiano.
Unlike Michelangelo, Sebastiano was an oil painter. I believe that his luminescence and beautiful use of colour had been hugely influenced by Michaelangelo's frescoes.
One room largely focused on the Pieta (literally meaning 'pity' and referring to Mary holding Christ's dead body) there is a cast of Michaelangelo's Pieta. Whilst it's not quite the same as seeing the original, you simply can't get close to the original in St Peter's (Rome) so being up close and personal to this cast is great. It was a super opportunity to really see how it's been constructed.
At the opposite end of the Pieta room is Sebastiano's Pieta - a huge oil painting, as Mary looks up to the heavens lamenting the death of her son. What is really interesting is that the back of Sebastiano's Pieta is also visible. And you can see the sketches that both artists drew on the back of the wooden panel. This suggests that perhaps Michaelangelo had allowed Sebastiano to share his studio for a time. The sketches also show the start of some figures later appear on Michaelangelo's Sistine ceiling.
Throughout the exhibition there are many drawings from both artists. Some you may have already seen in the British Museum but there are others from Frankfurt, from Washington, and several from the Queen's own collection.
They are exquisite, delicate, beautiful and I spent much of my time studying them.
My "weak at the knees moment" was the room with the Risen Christ. One statue is an original by Michelangelo which he abandoned due to finding a black vein on Christ's face. I rather liked the black marble vein. It added to the drama. I sat and drew this for some time. The other Statue in this room is a cast of a second risen Christ created by Michelangelo, the juxtaposition of the two statues is extraordinary; one pose is contrapposto like Michelangelo's David the other dynamic. It's interesting to look at both of them; make your own mind up as to which is the better.
As if all this isn't enough, there is a huge 3D recreation of the Borgherini chapel, executed by Sebastiano with some preliminary drawings by Michelangelo. It is, quite simply, breath taking.
By the end of the exhibition I felt it had raised a few questions for me.
It appears at first sight that Sebastiano had learnt great deal from Michaelangelo. He learned about light, colour, successful rendering of twisted figures. Yet Michaelangelo seems to have learnt a lot less from Sebastiano, most notably he didn't learn to oil paint. Was this that Michaelangelo stubbornly did not want to learn how to oil paint? I won't spoil the end of their story, nor the end of the exhibition, but you'll leave with some interesting ideas about the answer!
The exhibition continues until 25th June and I can heartily recommend the visit.
Last week I was writing about what I've been working on, and I've been working on some more art works this week too; it's been great.
But this week I'm going to tell you what I've been reading - The brilliant novel "The Muse" by Jessie Burton. When I go on holiday I nearly always try to find a novel set in the region that I have travelled to. It somehow helps create mood and atmosphere I enjoy reading books set in Italy when I'm in Italy! So what does an artist read when she's at home in Salisbury? It may come as no surprise to read a book about an artist, and about their Muse. This novel though is set in London and Spain. It nice reading about the sun while it's so cold here!
I don't think I've ever fully understood the concept of a muse; an artist only being able to create because one special person inspires them to paint; to create. Even with Valentine's Day coming, I still can't quite believe that creativity is dependent on one person!
But The Muse explores the concept of the muse much more fully, there is more of an element of thriller than romance about this novel.
There is a delightful passage in The Muse where one of the characters describes opening a package of art supplies that she has brought with her to Spain.
"She knelt before the travelling trunks like a pilgrim at an altar not one of her colours had burst in transit, all had powders intact, the sticks of pastel not cracked in half, that always been loyal to her when everything else was falling out of place"
Like many artists I get genuinely excited about new art supplies.
She goes on to describe how the paints were in more control that she was. Is if here hands were guided by the colours.
"I purchased this green, vivid grasshopper green and the shade of Scarlett, and oil called night indigo, a plum and silvery grey; all colours I've never used before. I just picked them up and put them on the counter and it was as if I'd known that only here would those paints come into their own and help me. That they would flesh out my fears and my dreams. But now it's done and out of me I can't help wondering that the paints didn't do it all on their own as if my involvement was nothing at all".
I remember buying some beautiful Charvin oil paints in a wonderful little art shop in Paris by the Pont Neuf. I adored that shop, an oil painters idea of heaven. I wanted to stay in there for an entire day. When I came home and started using my paints and new colours I couldn't believe the positive impact it had on my oil paintings. I still use some of those incredible Monet blues and pinks, even in my animal art. I've enjoyed using colour in surprising ways for many years
The novel the Muse is also in set into different time periods in 1937 and 1967 this was a particularly enjoyable aspect of the novel. Especially when it came to perceptions of women. Women in business and women as artists. Now that I am a female entrepreneur, and full-time artist I am able to understand just how fortunate I am to live in a time that accepts me in both of those roles, for it was not always so. It is very difficult to describe the power of the twists and turns in Jessie Burton's novel without ruining it for you so I will confine myself to a quote from a review and merely say it is well worth a read if you enjoy art and you enjoy history.
,,,"Burtons multi layered story is never less than engaging she has an undoubted gift for seizing the readers attention and holding it moving back and forth between the two periods, the story reaches a powerful conclusion. It has much to say about the search for authenticity in love and in art"
So now I've finished this luscious novel exploring art, artists and inspiration, I've got to chase something else and hopefully find something that will inspire me just as much.
But in the meantime, for the rest of the day I will be painting!
After reading that title; if you've tuned in to read a blog about the EU referendum, you're in the wrong place, this is all about art!
Whenever I’m asked "So what kind of art is it that you do" I always say “Beautiful oil paintings inspired by nature”. That has been my
The countryside and coast have been my inspiration from the start.
Most recently my animals have been a real hit; newly exhibited this year.
I have just returned from Reading Art fair and the first three original paintings to fly off the walls were all animals, the first three prints were animals too. Just as I began to think that a pattern was emerging, the next three where landscapes and seascapes so who knows?
The simple idea that nature is beautiful and artists want to capture it is as old as art itself. The cave paintings at Lascaux in France demonstrate art's purpose was not only showing the importance of the hunt and recording an event, but also the animals that were stalked or chased during the hunt. I remember very clearly the first time I opened Gombrich’s “The story of art” to see Albrecht Durer’s portrait of a hare and thinking how can it be possible that someone can create something so lifelike simply with a pencil? My hare is a different take on that beautiful and very popular animal. This hare was the second painting to sell at Reading at the weekend and I love him, I will be painting another hare but it will be different to this one: a different size, different canvas, a different background, a different expression but it will still be a much loved beautiful hare.
Various people looking closely at my work commented on how I had captured the essence of the animal with out being too realistic. I was delighted to hear this as that was the plan!
One of the big challenges for a painter (landscape, animal, anything really), is to work out what to keep in and what to leave out. What we leave out is just as important as what we put in. Most people tend to notice my vibrant use of colour in my animal paintings. A Stag does not have blue and turquoise in it, a hair doesn't have a blue nose or purple ears. I think I'm a natural colourist, I like adding colour. I'm a painter! I have to bring something to the party that is different to a photographer.
Interestingly I think my use of colour in animals has stemmed from so many years of landscape and seascape painting. Trying to capture that particular pink cloud in the sky can be a real challenge and it's led me to be able to use colour in really exciting ways even when I'm painting something that is essentially a series of browns and greys. I can add bright colours that really bring the animal to life.
I believe that artists can give the viewer a clearer sense of what they might be looking at in nature. The very selection of colour life and personality in each of my works is communicating something different to the viewer other than what I saw in the first place. It is the fine line between recording the event or the place or the person or the animal and bringing a story to any of those elements so that the painter provides the viewer with something more.
With each of my landscapes and seascapes I have always considered them to be your personal window on the world, the view that we wish we had from our kitchen, we have a painting to reminder us of that beautiful place we once visited. However with my animal paintings I think I'm bringing a different kind of joy to your living room.
Something I noticed this weekend at Reading, when people visited my stand was how many people put on a funny voice when looking at one of my animal paintings. Anyone my age will remember Johnny Morris and Animal magic and perhaps it’s inherent in us to put on silly voices when we think of animals; that level of anthropomorphism is very strong in the British psyche. I have heard so many young people making moo noises at my cow and squealing with delight when I saw a happy muddy piggy.
So what does all this tell us?
It tells me very clearly that I'm part of a long tradition of artists who have always been inspired by nature and inspired by what they see around them.
All of my landscapes (with perhaps the exception of the old picture of Venice or Paris) are of places I live near. All of my animals are also animals that I can see in Wiltshire, Dorset or the New Forest.
I like being part of the tradition. I like celebrating the British countryside and coast and the variety of creatures that live on our shores.
Great Art in Salisbury this week.
I can't believe my luck being an artist, living and working in Salisbury this week; there are some great artists exhibiting right now, I'm spoiled for choice where to go.
Earlier this week, I visited the John Craxton exhibition at Salisbury museum. I can heartily recommend it. I'm going to be doing some workshops in the museum in the coming weeks with schools and I can honestly say there's plenty of inspiration for aspiring artists.
John Craxton, was very clearly influenced by Picasso during the 1940s and 50s. His work is a wonderful example of how to be inspired by other artists whilst finding our own style. I loved his Picassoesque portraits, there is a beautiful lightness to touch to the quality of his line.
In contrast some of his work created in the 1970s in Crete shows a style all of his own, as if he'd found his own voice. The palette is truly beautiful and his understanding of pattern and texture is fascinating. I found myself staring at the use of colour, how they sang and bounced when being juxtaposed.
As I left the museum on that sunny, cold afternoon an enormous hare went past on the back of a flat bed lorry!
It was the work of Sophie Ryder, whose work is currently being installed in the Cathedral close and it's wonderful to see it close up. Another excuse to make your way to Salisbury Cathedral close to see some magnificent artwork.
And in the library Bob versus Nav.
Bob Ford is a fellow member of Plain Arts Salisbury and his contemporay look at pop culture is proving popular and compelling. I defy you not to get sucked into his detailed work. You'll contemplate it for hours! He is exhibiting with Nav Juty.
Often it's Summer time that is full to the brim of arty opportunities, Summer exhibitions and plenty to see. But how fortunate we are to have such a feast for the eyes in Salisbury, with so many artists exhibiting in cold dark February!
So you've hunted the shops, you've bought some good things, but there are always a couple of people who are really hard to buy for!
If you're very unlucky those difficult people to buy for, are actually really deserving of something nice! Maybe they've always been really generous to you with their time or their gifts. And maybe they've already got everything they need! They don't collect anything, and they don't want chocolates or alcohol! Making it even more difficult to get anything worth having!
I've been doing my Christmas shopping, and being an artist I've tried to support local businesses and artisans wherever I can. It's a jolly good feeling.
I've also discovered, in the big stores, a lot of naff, pointless-Christmas-for-christmas-sake stuff out there too. There was a time when you could buy something nice and silly for pound and have a good laugh about it! Now, even the tat is expensive! So successfully getting something nice, sweet, unique, affordable and something you haven't bought for Auntie Maureen a hundred time already, can be really hard.
With this in mind, I have my miniature collection. They're really sweet, one of a kind, miniature Oil on canvas paintings. (Not prints! These are 100% hand painted) They're hung with ribbons which make them even more cute for a present.
They are also the bargain price of £35 which includes postage to any mainland UK address! Brilliant! Problem solved. Order this week to ensure you get them in time for Christmas day!
I have just revisited my Right-brain business plan, and I am amazed at how much this has helped me plan my business. I started using on Jennifer Lee’s book "The Right Brain Business Plan" a couple of years ago. Back then, it was purely theoretical.
My life has changed, and now I’m full time self-employed and loving every minute. And I thought it was probably time to re-visit my plan.
The concept of the right brain business plan is for creative people (supposedly Right Brained thinkers) to get their heads around the problems of going into a successful business. Businesses require planning, businesses require an understanding of the bottom line, and having a strategy.
Jennifer Lee’s Right brain business plan book, allows creative types to work in their naturally creative way whilst still working towards a sensible achievable business plan.
Deep down I think the way we can all achieve more, and use our brains more effectively is to use both sides of the brain. But when you consider how “left brained” and activity writing a business plan is; spreadsheet on sales and expenditure, net and gross profit, legal issues etc etc. It makes sense to be more creative in the planning stages, before you get to the formal written part.
There are lots of techniques to use, Jennifer is a particular fan of collage, but you can use all sorts of visual stimuli to help you understand what your real business values are.
The right brain business plan isn't a walk in the park though, you really have to drill down and work out what it is you're offering your customers, who your customers are, and how you are going to manage the moolah! You have to do considerable research; no SWAGs allowed (silly wide-assed guesses).
My business plan incorporates a variety of techniques. I began with an accordion book collage, my first collage was created two years ago and I've stuck with the basic principles I created then. However almost everything else in my plan has now been re-vamped.
I have to consider my core values; what really makes me tick in business. I have to consider who my ideal customers are and how I should speak to them. How should I get the word out beyond spending lots of money on advertising; there has to be a more creative way to find out where my customers are and how I can send them a clear message.
You have to be really specific to with your business plan, no vague ideas allowed! I have to make sure I have all my action steps in place and a date for when those action steps will be achieved, that way I increase my chances of success considerably.
I also have a section on ‘milestones’. When will I be able to celebrate those little victories when I have achieved what I set out to do.
Like all business plans you have to face up to the reality of making money. You can be creative in the way that you make the money but you still have to to address the problem of spreadsheets.
My business spreadsheets and business accounts do not appear on my visual business plan board but they are addressed in the book and I found it extremely helpful to approach them in a creative way. It keeps me inside my comfort zone when I'm feeling least comfortable!
My big Right brain business plan board also begins to cover Jennifer's second book “Building your business the right brain way”.
I have mapped out my Entrepreneurial ecosystem. This again looks at my core values, it looks at what I offer my customers, and how I can attract them. It also makes me consider how I can be supported by other experts in my field.
It also helps you plan your year ahead, sometimes thinking in terms of the seasons can be extremely helpful if you're selling creative merchandise. Mapping out Mothering Sunday, Valentines day and Bonfire night are all opportunities to reach your customers with seasonal merchandise.
Sometimes you can get lost in the myriad of things you have to do as a solo entrepreneur. The Right brain business plan helps me prioritise what I should be doing and when. It stops me getting lost. It's not so much a plan, its a map! Its a visually stimulating, inspirational map that can keep me on track.
I have just returned from an arty break in Paris. Despite several visits to Paris over the years, there was one particular museum that had escaped me, this time I had to make a visit; it was the Musee d’Orsay. Musee d'Orsay is open late on Thursday evenings and we decided this would be the best possible time to visit.
As we strolled along the banks of the Seine that Thursday evening watching the sunset in the distance, I couldn't help but feel myself become a French impressionist just by looking at the light in the sky. The thing that struck me most about that evening sunset was how pink it was! We sometimes have pink sunsets in England, maybe a hint of pink highlighting a cloud. But that evening the sky looked so pink and the light that was reflected off of the buildings looked golden. It felt truly magical to be walking by the river that evening.
I resisted the temptation to buy the entire shop then and there, and make my way to the gallery.
In the Musee D’ Orsay we headed straight for the impressionists. No postcard, no photograph, no book, no second hand image can do them justice. Monet’s sunset simply glowed, Renoir’s dappled light shimmered. Looking outside through the enormous clock window we could see Sacre Coeur in the distance bathed in the exact golden pinky glow that sat before us in so many paintings. These artists hadn’t exaggerated the light and colour, they had looked at it properly and made it sing.
I scrutinised the paintings focused entirely on colour.
Again and again I saw muted pinks, greys made from violets and yellow dancing gently over blue.
I would return to Aladin’s cave, and this time I knew exactly what I would buy.
Paris fashion week coincided with part of our visit. I have not returned home with any shoes, handbags or haute couture.
Pour moi - Haute couleur!
The wonderful paints are "Charvin - Maison de Haute Couleur".
I have paint, and inspiration and can’t wait to embark on making my next painting glow.
Creative people have creative blocks from time to time. And I believe that all people, even the "non-creative" ones can still have creativity in their life in some form or other.
I think it's a genuine need to be creative, to be inspired during our working (and playing) lives. There are a loads of ways we can get inspired.
I found today, my own creative juices weren't flowing very much. I needed to find my own inspiration in order to be more productive in my day.
I found myself being reminded of Rodin's quotation " The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble and to live"
What would make me feel alive today?
The first thing for me was to get outside. Even on a wet September day there is so much to get excited about out there. The berries are coming out, the leaves are changing colour and I found a lovely rosebud...perhaps the last for this season.
The light has changed too. It's dusk at 7.15pm today, and will be dark by about 8pm. That might be a bit depressing, as we all love our long summer days. But the change itself is so very interesting. And interesting is inspiring!
In any event being outside, if only for a short time is good for us, it just is! And even without strong sunshine it helps us embed our circadian rhythms, and thus enable us to have better, restful sleep.
If it's really tipping down outside, and there are days when even the most outdoorsy, might resist venturing out, there's inspiration to be found elsewhere.
As a rule I try to avoid women's magazines and they tend not be inspirational, and make me feel rubbish! But I've found a lovely one recently. Its called Daphne's Diary and it's a little gem (I'm not affiliated with this magazine, this is genuinely my opinion). It has lots of little things in there about art, craft, interiors, gardens and workshops. It is so beautifully designed that each page can give you inspiration. I found myself reading an interesting article on fans. Fans. I didn't think I'd do that today!
You can also turn to other people for creative inspiration and support. I love delivering my classes teaching people how to Oil paint, http://www.louiselutonart.com/classes and there are so many opportunities to learn something new or develop your skills. In my locality Salisbury arts centre is the go-to place for creative classes, everything from feltmaking to filmmaking! http://www.salisburyartscentre.co.uk/whats-on/workshop-courses.aspx
When I came back into the studio from my little sojourn outside I played about with some ink and then did a line drawing over the top of it. It's really the painters equivalent of a doodle, but the point is it got me going. Made me feel alive. Helped me get on with my creative day.
Sometimes the very best way to get creative is to just get on with it! Whatever your creative release might be: drawing, painting, writing, sewing, making, baking....sometimes you just need to make a start without worrying about the finish.
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