raw with more

i have stashes of old paintings in various parts of my studio. some are tucked away on a bookshelf, others sequestered in plastic display folders and then hidden in a drawer.

some are in journals that are then stacked precariously upon one another, never to see the light of day.

little pieces of me, quietly gathering dust and waiting to be rediscovered.

i forget what i have. sometimes that causes me to believe i haven’t been very productive at all. that i don’t have enough to stock an etsy store.

last week i decided to start collating, scanning and photographing my finished paintings. it’s a tedious task, but a necessary one if i ever want to be a working artist, and i’m easily distracted from it.

it’s the equivalent of having your mum ask you to tidy your room as a kid. you end up finding stuff you’ve forgotten about, or thought you’d lost, then playing with it and making more mess than you started with.

i was that kid.

i’m still that kid.

in april of 2014 (don’t you love that everything is time stamped now so we don’t have to remember dates?) i took one of mindy lacefield’s primitive portraits classes and produced a couple of quick, raw studies on 5×7″ canvas boards. i had the opportunity to sell them at the time, but i felt they were worthless practice pieces and i couldn’t bring myself to put a price on them.

fear? probably. i’m sure at the time i beat myself up for being a big chicken.

but now i’m really glad i didn’t let them go, because when i found them a few days ago, even though i still couldn’t see worth in them as they were, i realised there was the potential to take them further. earlier in the week i’d been playing in my journal with a redheaded, slightly punk/goth girl and decided to give these two old paintings a similar makeover.

they’re such simple creatures, right? they were painted very quickly with big brushes and a limited palette and i loved how raw they were. i wanted to preserve some of that crude technique but give them a little more depth.

i had just two rules.

no expectations and no overthinking allowed, just intuitively grabbing supplies and distressing the hell out of them with a scraping tool whenever they looked too polished.

i used stark reds and lots of black, colours i tend to shy away from for their boldness. i’ve avoided black because other, more experienced artists told me to it has a tendency to flatten a painting, and the only reason i used it here is because i blindly picked up the wrong bottle (right next to the payne’s grey) during my not-thinking practice.

hurrah for happy accidents as i really like the end results.

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i’ve since found three more primitive paintings in a similar vein.

sweet.

 

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working with ease.

i’ve been working a lot on letting go lately.

letting go of the past, of control, of outcomes. in both life and art.

i’m happier than i was. there’s more peace and love and connection. i rail less against the things that have happened, that can’t be changed. it’s time to set aside hurt, anger and blame, and create space for those other qualities that i’ve always coveted instead.

grace.

flow.

forgiveness.

ease.

this push and pull of old habits vs new has been evident in my art during the last few weeks. very much so in my most recent painting, the deer girl that some of you may have seen on my instagram and facebook accounts. i shared in-progress photos of her as she emerged on the canvas. the end result was this serene, ethereal, gentle creature, in a style that i believe might actually be my own (oh happy day!)

what i didn’t show you, was the before.

the before was messy and clumsy, forced and frustrating.

she started well, the october project in suzi blu’s ongoing patreon subscription.

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we were grooving, these fluid, flowing inks and i. but then, ugh, something went so very wrong for us.

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she sat upon my easel and taunted me. i refused to trash her. instead i forced myself to make eye contact with her every day. knowing that something was off, i would take photos with my phone and study the painting from this new vantage point.

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time and again i went back to her with my mantra “trust the process” and changed something. i made the neck slimmer, longer, shorter, wider, i dropped the shoulders, raised the shoulders, gave her boobs (then even bigger boobs – wtf?) and still i couldn’t make her work.

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the other problem? i was trying too hard to paint suzi’s girl. suzi’s, not mine.

i rarely take the step-by-step approach in classes anymore but i was working on a larger scale than i’m used to, with unfamiliar media, in a new way and somewhere along the way i lost my confidence and began to feel vulnerable – “i can’t show this shit on social media, people will think i’m rubbish and unworthy and…” oh shut up. i went into damage control – and in this case that looked like me pausing the lesson videos every few minutes and trying to replicate what was before me.

brene brown calls this ‘making the uncertain certain.’

and i should know by now that it doesn’t work for me.

i finally admitted to myself that the problem was the face. the face that i’d lovingly crafted for an hour or more with coloured pencil, the foundation of the whole piece, was too big for the canvas and i needed to admit the obvious and let it go.

when the realisation hit me that it was time to give my girl a facelift, i felt a tangible shift.

i grabbed my sander and went to town on the canvas before i could change my mind. i wish i’d taken a photo of that moment when i brutally erased hours of work with a power tool, because it felt like a pivotal moment for me and you guys would have been a little horrified 😉

the second face was small and sweet. i took out my journal and got to know my inks between its pages and realised they made terrific organic dreadlocks and antlers. and as i flicked through instagram, an image popped up on my explore feed of a woman wearing antlers and doe-ish makeup.

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this was serendipitous.

and the process of painting this time was a completely different experience. i had a sense that if i allowed space for grace and ease, i would find the way through.

it sounds a little bit ‘woo’ when i write that now but i’m ok with that.

i’m softening.

i’m letting go.

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