On starting up a new art practice

In the last 15 years, the only art I did really consisted of copying the odd painting into my sketchbook or a large easy canvas to decorate our walls. Mainly as some art therapy and “me time” amongst the normal comings and goings of our lives.

When I decided to start up a regular art practice and eventually turn it into something that might bring in some money, I created a basic framework to work within; this helped me get into the habit and improve my skills. A loose one yes, but one that would help me create more. I thought perhaps it might be useful to others in similar situations who want to be more creative in their lives.

Phase One: Learn how to play again.

Daughters Artwork

My daughter will take herself off to her room, grab her favourite pens, put on an audiobook and lose herself in pure mark-making. She doodles little patterns, cuts out pictures and glues them onto paper, grabs fabric scraps, and uses stamps and stickers. Total freedom. Within the bounds of keeping mum and dad sane, by not having wet paint and glitter all over her bedroom. She was my inspiration for this phase and still is.

“Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.” ~ Bruce Mau

I coloured in with the kids, I grabbed interesting looking plants to draw and inspirational odds and sods were picked up on walks. Then I would draw them until I lost interest. Some were purely pencilled outlines – others I would work on for quite a while. I also painted pictures for the kid’s walls, of fun cars, whales, shapes and things like that.

Courses are great to try at this stage. There are so many these days. I grabbed the funniest looking ones and followed them through step by step, or I just watched them and used their methods on my own projects. I would get books out from the library and pick and choose wee tutorials to learn from.

Following al

I gave myself permission to play and explore. The only rules were not to think about what others thought and no social media. It did not have to be good. The point was to just get into the habit of creating again. That’s it. For this phase, I completely cut off all social media, besides looking at the odd artists’ work that I wanted to imitate. There is something in me, that when I looked for too long at what others did, I would get so overwhelmed by how amazing everyone is, that I wondered why I would bother at all. Which is not encouraging creativity!

I also didn’t go too overboard in buying materials, art supplies can cost a lot. There are also space and budget restrictions to keep in mind. Thankfully I saved money because I had older supplies from before having children to use. Plus pencils and rubbers are not expensive at all! To supplement that, I got family to get me vouchers as gifts from my favourite art supply shops, this helped me when I had nice paints to buy. Weirdly, if I spend too much on something, I get this layer of guilt around buying it and instead of motivating me to do anything with it, I do nothing – blocked by guilt. Ridiculous? Yes. Rational? Not at all. Meh.

In summary, my rules for “Phase One – Learn how to play again” were: Explore whatever I liked. Do this regularly. Inspiration: five year old daughter. No social media. Not to spend too much money! 

What would your rules be?

Phase Two: Designing the stage – Boundaries to help me flourish

When we think about boundaries, what comes to mind, is that they are rules that may actually inhibit growth and creativity. I knew I needed ones that helped focus me enough to enable my creative mind to flourish. For the sole purpose of getting me to stop thinking about everything (exhausting and debilitating) and focus on the things that brought joy in inspiration to keep going. So I picked a topic, I picked birds. Be they ‘au naturel‘, embellished, painted, coloured or embroidered. In natural settings or not. Just birds.

This is a topic I could research and take in any direction. And I did!

I painted three large acrylics and embroidered one in a hoop, I sketched many in my workbook and read books on birds. I investigated Maori mythology and the uses of those birds. My topic next year might be the same, or totally different. I haven’t decided yet.

In summary: I picked something that I loved. I then immersed myself in it and played even more.

Phase Three : Choosing my direction and really giving it time and thought.

After letting myself go in all directions, I focused in on it. It’s a bit of a funnel really. After exploring my topic more broadly through reading and art, I then chose a path that intrigued me and that I could happily experiment within. I wouldn’t need any answers to it, just something that made me curious. I wanted to play with the concept of exterior appearance, how we perceive others and how we present ourselves to the world. What parts of ourselves do we present in our decorations and colour and what do we hide? I don’t pretend to know the answer to any of that, because it’s different for everyone. But it’s a question or concept that’s really fun to dissect and use when creating my art.

Good art and a good life answers questions. Great art and a great life asks questions.

Richard Blanco

So there you have it. The method I applied in creating my first collection. This approach is really quite Simone centered. It knows me, it takes all my weaknesses and adjusts its format to suit. It might suit your process it might not.

The point, for me, is how can one get creative in a way that keeps one wanting to come back to it, over and over again…


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