Loosening Up!

I have recently been working on my web site getting it ready for the new year when I will be taking early retirement and looking forward to having more time to dedicate to my art and explore marketing it. I have wanted to get the ‘brand’ for my work right and was thinking about a strap line that snappily summed it up. So, I came up with ‘Original Art that Celebrates Moorland and Wild Spaces’. I think that works as it says what is dearest to my heart and gives me great joy, without limiting my horizon to a particular ‘thing’, region or maybe even country.

For a while I pondered on the words ‘wild spaces’. Why does that sound better than wild places? Does it matter? I am not formally skilled with writing but I do like playing with words and reflecting on the meaning of words that I use, discovering that I am not always using them appropriately when I look up their definition. So when I looked up in a dictionary the difference between a space and a place I instinctively felt that ‘spaces’ said better what I feel in those places. I like the fact that spaces are ‘expansive’, or ‘extensions’, suggestive of leeway, exploration, scope and volume, rather than a fixed ‘place’. When I am out in these wild spaces I particularly like to be high up, in a big space, with a big sky and an extensive horizon and I want to capture that feeling in my work. Possibly I am stretching semantics, but it keeps me happy!

Brecon Beacons

In regards to ‘loosening up’ I am planning to become a loose woman in the new year – retirement from work in the NHS will be so freeing and I am so looking forward to some more time in wild spaces both in my walks and exploration and in my art!

Recently I was training a lady at work on our electronic patient information system and she was so tense and worried about getting things right. She obviously felt out of her comfort zone, and sometimes looked ‘frozen’ in action because she didn’t want to make a mistake.

I look back at some of my previous work where I tried very diligently to capture a good likeness in portrait work or show good technique in watercolour and I see that same tension and tightness, which often resulted in a kind of ‘lack of life’. I understand how it happens as we are learning and developing our skills but often in the past I felt a bit frustrated when other artists talked about loosening up as I couldn’t ‘get’ what they meant.

However, recently I felt a penny drop. I have continued to attend the Huddersfield Art Society Portrait Group on Monday evenings even though just now I have found evenings particularly tiring after a busy, stressful day at work. Attending the group was more about retaining contacts and being there with friends. So, rather than taking a lot of materials, I took just a sketch pad and a pencil case; I worked quickly, sketching either the sitter if I had a good view, or the other artists if not. Without really planning to or even recognising it at first I started to work loosely, sketchily, roughly, finding myself in the process exploring the facial landscape better, almost ‘moulding’ the pencil lines around the shapes.

What I discovered was that I felt I captured more of the ‘spirit’ of the person as a living, breathing, working being. The results just felt more ‘alive’ some how. And therefore the likeness was better.

Reflecting on this a bit more, part of it was about not particularly wanting to get anything ‘right’; part of it was being very comfortable about the tools I was using. But I also think a big part of it was about not having a set end goal in mind; about letting things gently develop as the piece progressed. I have found that when I am painting I feel better and happier when I am not afraid to ‘slap’ the paint on, not worrying about whether the colour is exactly right or the shape or mark is right etc. This is why I found using oils so freeing because if something doesn’t look right I can push the paint around a bit or scrape it off or layer over it. The freedom is allowing me to be more relaxed, explorative and expressive. I want to explore this more in the new year in my landscapes as I seek not just to tell the story of the land in the shapes of the land but also to express more the feeling of freedom, love and joy being in those wild spaces.

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