Friday 7 July 2023

The Art Aficionado's Guide to Dinner Party Domination

Art has a remarkable ability to stir emotions and spark imagination.  Yet, have you ever considered why people can have such diverse interpretations of the same piece of artwork? It's a fascinating phenomenon rooted in our unique psychological backgrounds and experiences. 

We all carry distinct psychological baggage, shaped by our upbringing, cultural influences, personal beliefs, and past experiences.  These elements intertwine to create a tapestry of thoughts and emotions, influencing our instantaneous and often unconscious reactions; 'Wow, that's mind-blowing!' or 'A child could have painted that!' 

Our brains have a knack for rapidly forming judgments such as 'that's cool or 'that sucks', with little thought or contemplation.  It's a fascinating interplay between our personal histories and the way our minds process information.  But are we missing out?

Well, yes, we are!  The proverb, 'Remember to stop and smell the roses' encourages us to take a beat, ponder, think a little, and be in the moment.  So, how can we be less judgy and more open?

  1. Cultivate a Sense of Curiosity: Question your initial reactions, because who knows, that painting you dismissed as 'a bunch of random scribbles' might just hold the key to a creative revelation.  Or, it may just be a bunch of scribbles.  Life is full of surprises, and being open to different perspectives can help us navigate this crazy world we live in.

  2. Engage in Conversation: A quiet chat or lively debate can be enlightening, especially over a glass of wine.  We can learn from each other if we are open to ideas and still on the first bottle 😉.  Sharing and discussing our interpretations with our art mates can offer new insights and challenge preconceived notions. Each person brings their own unique perspective, and by embracing these diverse viewpoints, we expand our understanding and appreciation of art.

  3. Step out of your Comfort Zone: We tend to stick with what we like and what's familiar - it's like a cosy blanket.  This is a great idea when you don't want to grow anymore 🤔.  But, if you do, trying on something new can spark a cacophony of thoughts and feelings.  You may feel excited or enraged by what you see and feel.  And that's ok.  With time, you may find your mind changing, beliefs evolving, and a newfound appreciation for something once dismissed.  

By embracing or even contemplating, the wacky, the weird, and the wonderful, we become more interesting human beings and gain lots more dinner invitations.  

image: The Problem We All Live With (1964), Norman Rockwell

A Bit of Dinner Chat 

Norman Rockwell was primarily known as an illustrator, famous for his cover illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post. However, he had a deep interest in social and political issues, and he used his artistic talent to address these topics in his work.

Norman Rockwell's painting 'The Problem We All Live With' is a powerful and iconic artwork from 1964. It portrays Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African American girl, as she courageously walks to a newly desegregated school in New Orleans during the Civil Rights Movement.

Rockwell's intention was to shed light on the racial tensions and challenges of the time, emphasizing the need for racial integration and provoking dialogue about the discrimination faced by African Americans.

The painting captures the injustice and hostility encountered by Bridges and other African American students integrating into all-white schools. Rockwell's choice to depict Bridges alone, at her eye level, invites empathy and personal connection.

The tomato splattered on the wall symbolizes racial hatred and opposition to desegregation. Through this artwork, Rockwell aimed to challenge prevailing racial prejudices, advocate for equality and unity, and bring attention to the urgent need for racial justice and social change.

A Bit of Neuro

So how can knowing the story behind the painting and the artist's intention change our perception and beliefs within the blink of an eye?  And how can this process be applied to other aspects of our lives?

When we gain new knowledge or encounter different perspectives, our brains light up with excitement. Neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to rewire and adapt, kicks into high gear. 

Research has shown that exposure to diverse ideas and experiences can reshape our neural networks, enhancing cognitive flexibility and creativity. It expands our mental horizons and helps us to break free from old patterns of thinking.  

Dopamine, often referred to as the 'reward molecule,' is released when we encounter something novel or stimulating. It fuels our curiosity and motivation, keeping us engaged and eager to explore further.

Serotonin, the 'feel-good' neurotransmitter, is also involved in this process. It promotes a positive mood and enhances our receptiveness to new information, priming our brains for growth and transformation.

This rewiring process not only enhances cognitive flexibility and creativity but also helps us break free from old patterns of thinking. It leads to profound shifts in how we perceive the world, opening our minds to new possibilities and innovative ideas.

So, when we engage with art, delve into history, explore different cultures, or simply embrace lifelong learning, we're not just expanding our knowledge, but also triggering a neurochemical cascade that fuels our brain's adaptability and growth.

If you enjoyed this post and are an exciting dinner guest, please share the love.  And share any stories in the comments, I'd love to hear them.

Have a cosy lively weekend!

Friday 16 June 2023

Affair of the Art: Tradition vs. Tech – Who You Gonna Choose? 😉

Ross Tran, Mona Lisa
In the realm of artistic expression, painting has long been a cherished medium. But with the rise of digital technology, a new form of artistry has burst onto the scene - digital painting.  And, its caused quite a stir among artists and art enthusiasts regarding the merits of traditional painting versus digital.  Pfft!!  I think all art should be celebrated, regardless of the medium.  

Sure, digital art is a relatively new concept for some, and there are those who think the computer does all the work which is far from the truth (okay, AI can do that, but that's a whole other discussion).  I can understand these ideas, but why not embrace the old and the new?

I love traditional and digital painting, and I'd like to share a bit about my experiences with both media.  As a traditional artist, I relish the tactile experience of brushes gliding across canvas, the heady scent of turpentine and the feel of paint beneath my fingers. It's a sensory feast that connects me deeply with my artwork.  But when I ventured into digital painting, a whole new world opened up.

The flexibility to experiment with endless brushes, colour combinations, and textures is incredibly liberating and a place where I can quickly push the boundaries.  And fixing mistakes is a breeze. If the background isn't working or the colours clash, I can easily make changes without destroying the entire piece.  

However, there are downsides to consider. It's easy to fall into the trap of perfectionism. I've lost track of the hours spent trying different backgrounds, palettes, and brushes, often over-rendering the piece and losing sight of its original intention or story. Decision-making becomes challenging when faced with endless options, leading to a loss of spontaneity—an essential element of artistic expression.

Too many brushes and layers can slow down your process as you keep switching between them, hindering spontaneous creativity 

Traditionally, my preferred medium is oils but I also enjoy watercolour and acrylics.  Watercolour is great because it kinda paints itself if you let it.  It's hard to control so you can end up with serendipitous outcomes which often make the piece.  While replicating this digitally is a challenge, I have used a watercolour painting as a starting point for a digital portrait, allowing its influence to guide my decisions on colour and texture.

Throughout my 20-year journey as a fine artist, there has been an undeniable charm to traditional drawing and painting that captures my heart. The physical materials, and the subtle nuances created by brushstrokes all contribute to a sense of craftsmanship in my work.  Stepping into the digital realm hasn't ended my love affair with fine art; instead, it has expanded my creativity.  We are allowed to love both 😉!

Part of being an artist or an enthusiast is being open to what we don't yet understand (AI excluded, of course 😝).  Digital painting is just another form of painting, no more or less valuable than its traditional counterpart. If Andy Warhol or Leonardo da Vinci were here today, I believe they would embrace it.  

If you got this far, thanks for sticking it out until the end, and if you enjoyed this post, please share the love.  

Have a great weekend 💕

image: Ross Tran, Mona Lisa

Friday 9 June 2023

Portrait Commissions: The Secret to Looking Rich and Important!

People commission portraits for all sorts of reasons, and it varies from person to person. Let's explore some of the reasons why commissioning a portrait can be an incredibly rewarding experience:

  • Capturing the Magic of Time: As we gaze upon a portrait, we are instantly immersed in a world of memories, emotions, and stories.  Every brushstroke and detail in the artwork preserves those precious moments for eternity.
  • Unveiling Stories: Portraits have the amazing ability to tell stories. Through skillful artistry, a portrait becomes a visual narrative that reveals a hidden essence about the subject. Brushstrokes, expression, and details all add depth and personality, awakening emotions that words may struggle to express. 
  • Family Heirlooms: Additionally, a commissioned portrait holds the potential to become a cherished family heirloom. As time passes, it gains sentimental value, becoming a bridge that connects generations, connecting the past with the present and the future.
  • Collaborating with Talented Artists: Commissioning a portrait is an exciting opportunity to collaborate with a skilled and passionate artist. They pour their heart and soul into their work, and by commissioning a portrait, you become a patron of their art, supporting their creativity and dedication. It's a win-win situation!

While commissioning a portrait may not actually make you rich and important, it certainly adds a dash of charm, creativity, and playfulness to your life.  Whether you're capturing cherished memories, telling compelling stories, or making the neighbours envious, commissioning a portrait is an experience that can bring joy and a touch of whimsy to your everyday existence.

If you’d like to find out more about commissioning a portrait, please contact me or click on this link for more info.

Thanks for reading until the end.  If you found this article helpful or inspiring, please share the love.

Have a great weekend.

image: Olivia (commissioned portrait)

Friday 2 June 2023

How to Unleash Your Artistic Superpowers: Mastering the 80/20 Rule for Maximum Creative Impact

Hey fellow artists! 🎨 I've been diving deep into the intriguing concept of the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle. It suggests that 80% of our results come from just 20% of our efforts.  Sounds too good to be true right?

However, after delving into many resources, I found how we can apply this rule to our art practice and take our skills to new heights.

  1. Analyse your process: Take a hard look at those time-sucking tasks that slow you down. Whether it's sketching, refining details, or picking colours, identify the areas that consume a lot of your valuable time.

  2. Find your vital few: These are your superpowers, the key elements of your work that have the biggest impact on its overall quality. Is it composition, lighting, colours, intricate details, or that captivating loose brushstroke style? Discover what sets your art apart and makes it shine.

  3. Levelling up: Take these superpowers and make them even more super. Streamline, learn new tricks, and use tools that make you fly.  From photobashing to hotkeys and action commands, find what works best for you.

  4. Time is gold: Time is gold! Prioritize your painting time, create distraction-free zones, and kick multitasking to the curb. Make room for dedicated slots of research and inspiration because feeding your creativity is essential.

  5. Practice makes perfect: Regularly train and develop techniques to become a speed demon without sacrificing quality.  Embrace the power of repetition.

  6. Seek artist feedback: Connect with fellow artists, join communities, and soak up wisdom.  Learn from others and fine-tune your process.

To Sum Up

  1. Analyze your process and identify time-consuming tasks
  2. Determine the few tasks that have the most impact
  3. Focus on improving efficiency and skills
  4. Manage your time effectively
  5. Practice regularly
  6. Seek feedback and learn from other artists

I’d love to hear your feedback and if any of you have successfully incorporated this rule into your art practice. 🚀🎨

Have a great weekend.

image: Snow (detail)

Monday 29 May 2023

Symbolism: The Secret Language of Art and Life

Self-Portrait with thorn necklace and hummingbird/Google Arts & Culture
Imagine a world without emojis 😩!!  Symbols are like secret emojis in the art world. They're little images or objects that artists use to speak to us without saying a word. 

Just as emojis add depth to our digital conversations, artists throughout history have harnessed the power of symbols to convey complex ideas, evoke emotions, and tell captivating stories.  Symbols let artists share big ideas, deep emotions, and incredible stories in a way that goes beyond ordinary pictures and emojis.

Frida Kahlo, a renowned Mexican artist, used symbols to express her innermost thoughts and experiences. Her self-portraits were a prominent part of her artistic repertoire. Frida used her own image as a symbol of self-expression, exploring themes of identity, individuality, and self-reflection.

Nature and its elements were another recurring motif in Frida's paintings. Symbolic representations of animals, such as monkeys, deer, and birds, often appeared in her works. Monkeys represented both playfulness and pain, while deer symbolized vulnerability and birds signified freedom and escape.

Frida incorporated symbolic objects and elements like flowers, thorns, and broken columns. Each had its own unique significance, representing various aspects of her life, emotions, and struggles. When people looked at her art, these symbols made them curious and encouraged them to think more deeply about what they meant. It was like an invitation to explore and understand the emotions and stories that were hidden beneath the surface of her paintings.

Symbolism in art is an enchanting realm where hidden stories and emotions come to life.  It has this amazing ability to make us feel things we can't explain. It goes beyond our conscious thoughts and taps into something much deeper. Symbols can spark incredible stories in our minds or bring back memories we thought were forgotten.  And the best part: we don't have to know what the artist meant. Our own interpretation is just as relevant as theirs.  It's like a collaboration between us and the artist, where our imagination meets theirs.

Symbols are everywhere, movies, art, books, and gaming, waiting for you to decode their hidden messages.  Explore the world of symbolism, and let your imagination soar as you decipher the secret language of art and life.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please spread the love! 💕

image: Self-Portrait with thorn necklace and hummingbird/Google Arts & Culture

Wednesday 10 August 2022

F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Price of Fame

This article is a brief outline of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life and illustrates why I chose him to be part of my ‘Tortured Souls’ series.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald is considered one of the great American writers of the 20th Century. At 23 years old, he had achieved glittering success but sadly, he went on to live a life of excess, alcoholism and depression leading to an early death at the age of 44.  By the time of his death, most of his works were out of print and his early achievement as a literary star was almost forgotten.

In the early days, alcohol softened the blow of rejection and camouflaged the pain of poverty. At the height of his career, he and his wife Zelda lived the celebrity lifestyle, resembling that of the characters in his highly successful novel, The Great Gatsby.  Extravagant parties with the elite, expensive liquors, hysteria and outrageous behaviour were all part of a regular day for the Fitzgeralds.  They revelled in the attention and were always agreeable to put on a show.  Their relationship was fraught with dysfunction which they openly demonstrated to an appreciative audience.  However, they were soon to become boozed up, burned out and broke.  Their audience became bored with the frantic outbursts and tiresome arguments and The Fitzgeralds’ dwindling bank balance could no longer satiate their hungry, opulent appetites.

Scott’s alcoholism exacerbated and Zelda suffered from several mental and physical breakdowns.  By 1930, Zelda was diagnosed with schizophrenia resulting in long stays in clinics which would become the course for the rest of her life.  In 1936, Fitzgerald wrote, 'Of course, all life is a process of breaking down ....  For sixteen years I lived pretty much as this latter person, distrusting the rich, yet working for money with which to share their mobility and the grace that some of them brought into their lives…..,' from 'The Crack Up', a collection of personal essays and letters.  

This period became known as the Crack Up; Fitzgerald was drunk, broke, living in hotel rooms and unable to write commercial stories.   His stories about himself, his musings and his alcoholism were not well received and he was unable to command the once high prices, he achieved from his magazine stories.  By the end of the ’30s, his acute alcoholism was taking its toll.  His health was dramatically deteriorating and he was badly affected by recurring bouts of tuberculosis.  In late 1940, Fitzgerald suffered a heart attack and on the 21st December 1940, he suffered a further, massive heart attack, ending his short and troubled life.

The main resource for Fitzgerald’s stories was his own life, his relationships, tragedies and feelings of failure.  He wrote, ‘all the stories that came into my head had a touch of disaster in them, the lovely young creatures in my novels went to ruin, the diamond mountains of my short stories blew up, my millionaires were as doomed as Thomas Hardy’s peasants.’           

Fitzgerald left behind The Last Tycoon, his final novel, unfinished at the time of his death.  It was edited and published in 1941 by his friend and literary critic Edmund Wilson. 

Image: Jane E Porter, The Fitzgeralds 2011, collage

Friday 22 July 2022

The Tortured Soul Creates Art

I am lost, I am blessed, creative and a mess, 
I am medicated, stoned and obsessed.
I am confused, I’m sad and driven nearly mad, 
I am alone, I’m guilty and possessed.
I am courageous and terrified, 
I’m secretive and I’ve lied, 
I am success, a failure and 
God knows how I’ve tried.

I’m tormented, I am strong, 
yet weak and I was wrong 
about so many things.
I am rejected, I am knocked, 
temporarily blocked.  
I am powerless and under repair.
I am questioning, unsure, 
altered and impure, 
I am doubt and I’m out of control.
I am determined, I am fear, 
I am real, I am here.
I am the artist’s tortured soul.

Monday 11 April 2022

The Feminist Artists Gave Us A Voice

This piece is about the fears many women have about using their voice and saying what they believe in.  

I'd been studying 'The Feminist Art' movement of the late 1960s and was inspired by the strength and determination of these women.

The Feminist artists stood against an established, male-dominated art world. Women were under-represented and invisible to the public and the Feminist artists fought to change, what had been the norm for centuries.

I want to thank them for their courage and offer my sincere gratitude.

Image: Spoils of Courage 2004 (sold), Mixed Media on Board - oils, wax, plaster.

Further Reading

The Feminist Artists Who Changed the World

Artland - Feminist Art History 

How Art Fought for Women's Rights

Tuesday 1 February 2022

Embracing Defiance: Finding Artistic Identity and Trusting My Instincts

After all these years, I'm still trying to find myself as an artist. To help me solve this dilemma and organise my thoughts, I have decided to start at the beginning.

This was one of the first paintings I did at art school. My tutors said that palette knife paintings were artless and cheesy so being defiant, I painted the whole thing with palette knives and guess what - they couldn't tell the difference.

Stick to your guns, be defiant, try things out.  Embracing the rebellious spirit is inherent to being an artist.

Image -  The Painter's Pot 30 x 60 cm, oil on canvas.

Wednesday 8 December 2021

The Artistic Crossroads: Embracing Vulnerability

I've wanted to start a blog for a long time but wasn't sure if I'd anything to offer.  I'm still unsure but hey, we can't give in to fear, right?  I hope to find my tribe, so we can share our stories, successes, struggles and learn from each other. 

Below is a bit of background to give some context. I hung up my paint brushes around seven years ago (2013) as a series of life events became overwhelming, at times heart-breaking.  For two of those years, I was physically and mentally unable to paint or make art of any kind.  I was burned out and broken. 

During my fine-art absence, I did other creative stuff - graphic design, illustration, digital painting and, recently I illustrated a children's book about recycling.  These pursuits were rewarding and immersing myself in the magical world of children's illustration was lots of fun.

Now, seven years on, the call to painting returns, but do I want to put myself in that place again - applying for shows, rejection and a studio of unsold work collecting dust, or do I focus on becoming a better illustrator?  

Starting over can be both exciting and terrifying.  It's scary and makes me feel vulnerable, but as a fan of Brene Brown, I try to adopt her philosophy of vulnerability being a strength.  

Dr Brown says, "Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy courage, empathy, and creativity.... If you run away the second those shaky feelings arise, you're just reinforcing the voice in your head that says I'm not good enough." 

If you are an artist and reading this, you may relate and I'd love to hear your thoughts.  What drives you to keep going, even when self-doubt and insecurity keep knocking?

Please leave comments below and have a great week. 

Image - Bird (2012), homage to Charlie Parker, 60 x 90 cm.  Oil and Collage on board

Brene Brown - Daring to be Vulnerable

This is a great Armchair Expert podcast with actor, writer, comedian, and director, B. J. Novak.  Dax and B. J.  talk about their insecurities and struggles that taunt them, despite their success.