A Week Of Sunshine & Boobs

Freshly inspired from my trip to London last weekend, my week began, as usual, with so many ideas that I felt instantly overwhelmed and was ready for a spa break by 3pm on Tuesday.

Now that the seasons have started changing (sort of), it's become clear that this year is going crazy fast. Staying true to my goal of getting more of my work out there in the world this year, I've had a steady slew of deadlines (for open calls, competitions, residencies and such) for the past month. But, as is the nature of these things, that means a lot of work for not much demonstrable return. 

So, suppressing the ever-present paranoia that people must think I roll out of bed at 2pm and paint for a solid 40 minutes a day, I set to work creating an open call submission, this time for a spring show at a gallery in Cardiff. 

I feel like I'm finally making some headway with establishing an individual painting style - so I stuck with this and managed to create an A3 piece which, I think, relates to the spring-time theme (mainly in terms of colour and petal-like shapes). 

This was one of those pieces that I started several times, then decided I hated what I had produced and had to start over. So, not wanting this indecisiveness to drag on any longer, I finished the entire piece in one go - 12 hours of non-stop painting later - it was ready to frame. 

 No particular reason for this photo to be outside, but I was feelin my choice of sunglasses, K?

No particular reason for this photo to be outside, but I was feelin my choice of sunglasses, K?

My very efficient framing space AKA my bedroom 

'Spring' (Gouache & Acrylic on Paper)

16.5 x 23.4 in 

Mid-week and feeling like a wet noodle after my painting marathon, I needed something I could create with minimal brainpower, so decided to briefly hop on the bandwagon of embroidery and textile art. 

I've been seeing loads of illustrators and artists trying their hand at this on Instagram, and since my recent work has been an exploration of body image and the female body in general - what better way to normalise all types of body parts than to embroider a pair of delightfully saggy boobs onto the lapel of a white shirt - so that's what I did. Considering the top was an absolute ASOS sale bargain and I was able to do some relaxing embroidery whilst watching a couple of episodes of Queer Eye, I consider the project a great success. 

I've been aiming to ramp up the marketing side of my site (brand?) for a while now, so a lot of this week has consisted of researching collaborators and marketing concepts. To relieve myself from the mind-numbing complexities of Google Ad Words, and with a possible portrait-centric project in mind, I did manage to so get some small illustrative pieces done to round off a moderately productive week. 

Picasso 1932 - Love, Fame, Tragedy @ Tate Modern

This was, if I remember correctly, the first exhibition I've ever paid to see. Usually I find the concept of paying for a blockbuster exhibition a bit icky - as if only people who can afford it are worthy of seeing the work of the great masters. And you can never be sure if the profits are invested back into the gallery's public programs, or siphoned straight into the pockets of donors and art owners...

But anyway, pushing my views on the inequalities of the art world temporarily aside, I allowed myself to enjoy the exhibition for what it was - an absolute joy.

The curation of this exhibition alluded to the self-induced chaos and constant iteration that engulfed Picasso's life in 1932. A period in which he attempted to respond to critics' remarks that he was becoming 'an artist of the past', by experimenting with new and unusual work, see-sawing between loving portrayals of the female nude and Surreal depictions of manic women devouring their conquests. 

With 1932 being touted as Picasso's most productive year, the works were more than capable of speaking for themselves. The sheer volume of work was stunning if a little overwhelming - in my opinion Tate could have pulled off a solo exhibition with a third of the work they actually had on display - but hey, I ain't complaining. 

The room that contained both Nude, Green Leaves and Bust and Girl Before a Mirror (I believe this was room 4, but I really should've made a note of such details), was a personal favourite. Partly because this contained many of the largest canvas pieces which have a distinct presence all of their own, paired with that feeling you get in your gut when you know you're looking at some of the most famous paintings in the world. 

'Le Rêve' ('The Dream')

'Sleep'

'Still Life with Tulips'

It's worth mentioning that delightfully dotted around the exhibition, most notably in the Boisgeloup room (room 3), are photographs of Picasso's studio space - where the work appears to be in that stage between experimentation and completion. In this case, it's used to illustrate his foray into sculpture whilst working at his Normandy château.

There's something about seeing artworks in the place they were created (even via a photo), that lets you understand them better. It also reminds you that even masterpieces were made by regular humans - it's easy to forget this in the shrine-like gallery space.

Picasso in front of Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (photo from tate.org.uk)

The latter half of the exhibition was the most inspiring for me, personally. After curating and organising his own retrospective in mid-1932, Picasso took the rest of the year to create freely and explore new themes. Perfectly composed large canvases gave way to quick sketchbook entries and rustic-looking line drawings.

One small piece which instantly grabbed my attention, and I'm still not entirely sure why, was a tiny canvas depicting the chaotic scene of a woman struggling to prevent drowning. This piece certainly suggests that Picasso was getting restless - evident in his willingness to explore dark and intense subject matter. Picasso went on to produce several works based on the subject of drowning - perhaps since he himself couldn't swim (so alluding to a manifestation of some deep-routed anxieties). 

It was around this time that I turned to my sister and said, 'do you think Picasso ever made work that he thought was shit?'. Now, obviously I don't believe artwork that contains any degree of exploration of expression could be labelled 'shit', but looking at some of the simplistic, almost juvenile later works got me thinking about the amount of my own work I've written off as not good enough. Not expressive enough, not complex enough, not realistic enough etc.

Picasso often described producing art as a form of diary-taking. He often painted very quickly, allowing intuition to take over, and he trusted the various stages of the creative process. Thinking about this really inspired me to let go a bit, and to start making paintings that just feel right - resisting the tendency to get bogged down by the preconceived notions of what a good piece of art should look like. 

So, to sum up, was this exhibition worth the £22 ticket? Absolutely.

And since it's on display until September 2018, I'd be lying if I said another visit was out of the question...

'The Three Dancers'

Source: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-moder...

An Artists' Residency, Northwest Iceland & The Weirdness of it All

It's almost a month since I returned from Nes Artist Residency - a remote residency in Northwest Iceland that is as poignant as it is surreal. As I find myself reluctantly giving in to the routine of normal life, I really do miss the momentum that seemed to be unstoppable in Iceland.

What with Nes being my first artist residency, not to mention my first proper solo trip abroad, I had literally no idea what to expect. It's difficult to pinpoint what's so magical about Nes, and the town that hosts its resident artists (Skagaströnd). It's something about the seclusion, the slow pace of life, the unavoidable connection to nature (the weather dictates most town activities), allows your brain to decompress and finally relax, making room for creative ideas to fill in the gaps that were previously crammed with the mundane business of life back home.

It's a sort of culture shock, I guess, but one that makes you bond with the people around you and encourages you to soak up every little experience because it's just so different to what you experience in your normal life. 

I lived in Skagaströnd for near enough two months (accounting for the weird shortness of February), from Jan 2 - Feb 28th 2018. During which I completed two bodies of work (along with countless random bits which I couldn't quite classify), did my first ever painting on canvas, took part in an Open House twice, gave two artist talks, sold work to some great people, and made the impromptu decision to model in a life drawing class - the experience of which is now manifesting itself in my decision to create a body of work on femininity & body image.

Nes was a real stepping stone for me to become a confident artist rather than someone fumbling for some sort of external validation and not really sure what to do next. The people, the landscape and the experience as whole... simply, magical.

 

The Joys of Quick Sketching

Last week I launched a project called 'Places and Things'. Mainly because with my upcoming Iceland trip, I want to start creating work which is more observational and images that record places and moments in time so I can refer to them later on for inspiration. I'm certainly no photographer, so sketching is my main method of record-keeping.

With this in mind I realised that a lot of these illustrations will probably be off the cuff and spontaneous ones - maybe whilst sitting in a cafe or on a train - and I needed to speed things up big time. 

Usually I think of a concept or idea for a piece, sketch out the basic design in pencil, then add colour and possibly also a black ink outline. I thought this meant that my work would become inherently 'better', as I could rub out any part of the pencil drawing and carry on mistake free. However, I would often get bogged down by intricate designs and the tedious three-step process. My sketches weren't as dynamic or fluid as I wanted.

So, reserving plenty of sketchbook pages for potential gaffs, I started drawing straight onto the page with my black fine liner - no pencil outlines allowed. I soon discovered that drawing faces relatively mistake free is extremely hard and I had to draw about eight before I got something that looked vaguely human. Perhaps I'll revisit that skill at a later date..

However, I did feel like I started to make some headway with the drawing of mountain landscapes. The lines looked so much sharper without a palimpsest of pencil underneath, and I got a real confidence boost from drawing some decent landscapes free-hand. You could be reading this and thinking that going from pencil to pen is the most boring/trivial thing for a person to ever experience.. but it's a big deal to me!

I often watch fellow artists' Instagram videos of them diving into a painting with permanent ink, letting the design just flow and styling out any mistakes - and I'm a combination of amazed and jealous! I wish I had that level of confidence and trust in my painting, and I'm getting there slowly but surely!