Friday 11 August 2023

Honouring the Iconic Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo | digital painting
Honouring the iconic Frida Kahlo.  Finding a unique way to capture her essence wasn't easy, given the abundance of stunning Frida portraits out there. Eventually, I decided to depict her in a Day of the Dead makeup, as I love the aesthetic and it feels like a fitting tribute to this remarkable artist. 

Frida Kahlo's talent and unwavering determination have always inspired me. Despite the harrowing accident she endured at just 18 years old, she continued to create breathtaking art, often painting from her bed. 

Frida is often considered a feminist artist. Her artwork and life experiences have greatly influenced feminist movements and discussions. Through her paintings, Kahlo explored themes of identity, gender, and the female experience. She portrayed her own struggles, physical pain, and emotions, challenging traditional gender roles and societal expectations. How could I not be an admirer 🥰 .

Please share any thoughts, questions, or suggestions in the comments below.

Have a wonderful weekend.

For more art, follow me on Instagram and Facebook.  

Friday 4 August 2023

The Shadow in the Suit: A Jungian Perspective

What do your fantasies really say about you? Who are you in your wildest dreams? Accountant? Probably not. Siren, superhero? More likely.

This recent painting is about just that, a fantasy, a desire, the wish to be someone or something else. It symbolises the 'Hero' archetype, the 'Shadow', and the idealisation of the superhero. It's about that yearning to transcend our ordinary, perhaps boring lives, to embody something greater, something extraordinary where we feel respected and powerful.

The black suit - a mask, his heroic alter ego that he presents to the world - is also his 'Shadow'; his silent echoes, the aspects of himself he wishes to deny or hasn't yet awakened to. The painting tells a story of vulnerability squeezed into hiding by a façade of fantasy. In this portrayal of a young man, his longing to surpass his ordinary life is influenced by his cultural identity and the societal expectations that surround him.

Superheroes and the Power of Archetypes in Pop Culture

In the world of superheroes, costumes play a significant role. They are visual representations of the characters' identities, their powers, and their journeys. One of the most striking examples of this is Spider-Man's black and gold suit in the film 'No Way Home'.

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, known for his exploration of the human psyche, didn't specifically discuss modern-day superheroes. However, his theories on archetypes, which are universal patterns or images residing in our collective unconscious, find relevance in superhero narratives as they tap into our deepest fantasies and desires.

The Hero's Journey: The Common Narrative in Superhero Stories

Archetypes, according to Jung's theory, are universal symbols, themes, or patterns that are deeply ingrained in the human psyche and shared across cultures. They represent fundamental human experiences and emotions that are part of our collective unconscious, meaning they are inherited and present in all of us. In superhero stories, these archetypal patterns often manifest as the hero's journey, the battle between good and evil, and the discovery of one's true identity. By recognizing and understanding archetypes, we gain insights into the deeper layers of storytelling and glimpses into our own lives within these captivating tales.

One of the key archetypes Jung identified is the 'Hero,' which aligns closely with the concept of a superhero. The Hero embarks on a journey, faces and overcomes challenges, often fights evil, and undergoes personal transformation. This Hero's Journey, as it's often called, is a common narrative in superhero stories.

Peter Parker's Transformation: Embracing the 'Shadow'

In the movie, 'No Way Home,' Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, turns his red and blue suit inside out to reveal a black and gold version. This transformation of his iconic costume is more than just a very cool look I wish he'd held on to; it's a symbol of a darker time in Peter's life, a period marked by public mistrust and personal struggle. The alteration of his iconic costume serves as a visual metaphor for the internal conflict and transformation he undergoes during this pivotal part of the film's narrative.

This black suit can be seen as a manifestation of another Jungian archetype - the 'Shadow'. According to Jung, the 'Shadow' represents the darker, unconscious aspects of ourselves that we might deny or repress. In Peter's case, the act of turning the suit inside out to reveal the black suit, can be seen as a metaphor for bringing his 'Shadow' aspects to the surface, forcing him to confront and integrate them into his identity.

Discovering Ourselves Through the 'Shadow'

The 'Shadow' is not something negative to overcome, but a necessary part of our psyche to be acknowledged and accepted. Peter's journey in the black suit embodies this concept. It illustrates his internal struggle, a testament to the complexities of his character, and reminds us of the universal human experience of grappling with our darker sides.

In the realm of superheroes, Spider-Man's black suit stands out as a powerful symbol of the 'Shadow' archetype. It's a reminder that even in the world of superheroes, the journey towards self-understanding and transcendence is a crucial part of the story.

However, Spider-Man is not the only superhero grappling with their 'Shadow.' Take, for example, Batman, whose alter ego, Bruce Wayne, is driven by the trauma of witnessing his parents' murder, leading him to channel his anger and fear into vigilantism. Batman's dark, brooding persona is an embodiment of his 'Shadow,' representing his internal struggles and unresolved emotions.

Another compelling example is the Hulk, whose human counterpart, Bruce Banner, struggles with repressed anger and traumatic memories. The Hulk, a manifestation of his 'Shadow,' embodies the rage and power that Bruce tries to keep contained. This inner conflict between the mild-mannered scientist and the raging green behemoth is a constant battle for control, reflecting the complexities of the 'Shadow' archetype.

Beyond Superheroes: The 'Shadow' in Real-Life Figures

Beyond superheroes, the 'Shadow' archetype is evident in many real-life figures as well. Consider historical figures like Mahatma Gandhi, known for his nonviolent principles, yet facing his own internal struggles and doubts. Gandhi's 'Shadow' manifested as moments of doubt and temptation during his fight for India's independence, a struggle he openly acknowledged.

Similarly, in the business world, influential leaders often wrestle with their 'Shadow' traits. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, was renowned for his visionary leadership but also had a reputation for being demanding and uncompromising. His brilliance and ambition were undeniable, but they also led to internal conflicts and strained relationships with colleagues.

The above examples demonstrate that the 'Shadow' archetype isn't just present in superhero narratives, it's part of all of us. The conflicts and complexities of these characters and real-life figures resonate with us because they reflect our own internal battles.  Sometimes, we don't like certain traits in others, but could they be traits that we, in fact, possess ourselves? Do you know someone who is continually critical and controlling towards others, without awareness that they are indeed, the biggest culprit. These are examples of the 'Shadow' at work. By exploring and acknowledging our 'Shadow' aspects, we can learn valuable lessons about self-acceptance, personal growth, and the universal human journey towards wholeness.

Embracing and integrating the 'Shadow' is not about succumbing to darkness and becoming the villain of our own story, but a transformative journey towards self-awareness and personal growth. Awakening to our hidden aspects and unconscious desires allows us to achieve a greater understanding of ourselves. 

My portraits and characters have always been about telling stories, the life and persona behind the image. In my upcoming series for a book about archetypes, I'm creating characters based on reality and fiction, inspired by characters I've met, both in my mind and in my life. Their struggles may be more important than their strengths and powers as this is what makes them relatable; for example, the Warrior is not only fearless and courageous, she grapples with the burden of responsibility and her desire for retribution.

When we become open to our 'Shadow,' and embrace it, we unlock the potential to transform ourselves. By learning to own up to our true self, warts and all, we achieve a deeper connection with others as we no longer operate within the confines of a fictional character. And, we are far more powerful than we may believe. We have the power to change! We can soften our rough edges and find compassion for our shadow parts we wish to avoid, perhaps like the 'Warrior's' shadow that seeks retribution. 

To Wrap Up

The power of story lies in its ability to create connection, through words and images. We relate to the internal conflicts the protagonist is facing in the novels we read and the movies we consume. We secretly imagine ourselves donning the suit and saving the day. In that moment, we're not just observers, but part of the story. We're living the narrative, feeling the protagonist's struggles and triumphs as our own. This is the transformative power of story - it allows us to step into another's shoes, to see the world through their eyes, and perhaps, to understand ourselves a little better.

I hope you found this article engaging and entertaining.  If you did, please share the love by clicking on one of the share buttons.  And please share any thoughts, questions, or suggestions in the comments below.

Have a wonderful weekend.

For more art, follow me on Instagram and Facebook.  

image: The Shadow in The Suit

Friday 21 July 2023

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Art and Allegory: The Power of Visual Storytelling

Who doesn't love a good story?  Storytelling in art is as old as the human race itself. It's the caveman's version of Netflix. From the primitive etchings on cave walls to the intricate hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt, humans have always had a penchant for a good yarn. And why wouldn't we? Stories are the spice of life, the universal language that connects us to each other.

Fast forward a few millennia and the art of visual storytelling continues. We traded in our cave walls for canvases, our chisels for brushes, creating remarkable religious paintings, like Michelangelo's awe-inspiring frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Historical masterpieces, such as Rembrandt's 'The Night Watch' and Delacroix's 'Liberty Leading the People,' vividly narrate stories of bygone eras. Graphic novels and comics illustrate modern storytelling through art, with their unique art styles contributing to the overall mood and theme.

Installation artists like Yayoi Kusama and Christo and Jeanne-Claude have taken storytelling to new heights, crafting immersive experiences that delve into personal and societal issues. Street art and murals also embrace storytelling, as seen by Banksy's humorous, yet challenging spin on social and political matters. And murals serve as community biographies, sharing tales of history and culture, one wall at a time.

But why are we so drawn to stories in art? Well, it's all in our heads – literally. Our brains are hardwired to respond to narratives. Stories engage our emotions, spark our imagination, and can even shape our beliefs and behaviors. When we see a story in a piece of art, we're not just looking at it, we're interpreting it, connecting it with our own experiences and finding meaning in it.

And the best part? Stories stick. They linger in our minds long after we've left the gallery or closed the book. They're like a catchy tune – we may not remember the lyrics, but the melody stays with us.

So, whether it's a painting that takes you back in time, a comic strip that unfolds a gripping narrative, or an installation that immerses you in a new reality, storytelling in art has the power to move us, challenge us, and make us think. It's not just a tool for artists to express their vision, it's an invitation to step into their world and see a, potentially new perspective.

Let's take a look at three contemporary artists who use story to get their message out there…

Kara Walker, a true maestro of monochrome is known for her controversial exploration of race, gender and sexuality. Walker's black, silhouetted figures might seem simple at first glance, but they're anything but. Each silhouette is a chapter in the grim narrative of American slavery and racism. Her storytelling technique is both confrontational and deeply engaging, forcing us to grapple with uncomfortable truths.

Kara Walker, Slaughter of the Innocents
Kara Walker | Slaughter of the Innocents 2016

Ai Weiwei, the Chinese contemporary artist and activist uses a variety of media - sculpture, installation, photography and film - to comment on cultural identity, individualism and government oppression, particularly related to his home country of China. His installation 'Sunflower Seeds,' comprising 100 million seeds individually handcrafted in porcelain, is more than just a sea of hand-painted seeds, it's a commentary on mass production and loss of individuality. 

Ai Weiwei | Sunflower Seeds |The Tate Modern CREDIT: Photo: GETTY

Art Bite - The Tate bought, approximately 8 million (10 tonnes) of the individual sculptures, less than a 10th of the installation in China, but still the largest number of works of art ever acquired.  

Marina Abramović, the 'grandmother of performance art' doesn't just tell stories; she lives them. She uses her own body as a canvas, pushing its limits to tell stories of human emotion and relationships. For her piece, 'The Artist is Present,' she sat in silent stillness as museum visitors took turns sitting across from her. No words, no movement, just a shared experience, an example of storytelling at its most intimate.

Marina Abramović | The Artist Is Present 2012 

Despite their different mediums and themes, all three artists share a common thread, they use their art to tell stories that provoke thought and stimulate discussion. In doing so, they have made a profound impact on the art world and the many who have experienced their work.  For example …

Kara Walker's work has been exhibited in prominent institutions worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim. Her 2014 installation at the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, 'A Subtlety,' drew over 130,000 visitors and sparked widespread discussion about race and history in the media.

Ai Weiwei's 'Sunflower Seeds' installation at the Tate Modern in 2010 was a critical success, with The Guardian calling it a 'work of genius.' His activism and criticism of the Chinese government have also made international headlines, bringing attention to issues of human rights and freedom of expression in China.

Marina Abramović's 2010 performance at the Museum of Modern Art, 'The Artist is Present,' attracted over 850,000 visitors, with many reporting deeply emotional experiences. The performance was also the subject of a documentary, bringing performance art to a wider audience.

These examples demonstrate how each artist has made significant impacts in the art world and beyond, influencing public discourse and challenging societal norms.

To Wrap Up

Without context or an understanding of the narrative, it can be easy to look at works, such as those described in this article, and perceive them as 'just sunflower seeds' or 'simple paper cut-outs'. For sure, I've been guilty of such comments myself. But art isn't just about what meets the eye. Instead of a quick 'meh', let's ask, 'What's the artist really trying to say here? Is there something I'm not seeing because I'm caught up in aesthetic?' 

These pieces are stories, commentaries, and dialogues that invite us to see the world from a different perspective, perhaps one we may not want to consider. In my experience as an artist and a human, I've found that what I try to avoid usually evolves into the most transformative. Engaging with art goes beyond appreciating the artist's vision; it's about the effect the work has on us, stirring something deep within. Every story has the potential to change even a sliver of our identity.

If you can relate to the influence stories have played in your life, whether positive or negative, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.  And if you enjoyed this article, please share the love.

Have a great weekend.    


Kara Walker | Slaughter of the Innocents

Kara Walker 

Ai WeiWei | Sunflower Seeds

Ai WeiWei | Sunflower Seeds at The Tate

Ai WeiWei and the Sunflower Seeds

Marina Abramović's | The Artist is Present

Marina Abramović's | The Artist is Present, Moma

Jane E Porter is a fine artist and illustrator from Scotland, dedicated to exploring and understanding the fascinating interplay between art, psychology and philosophy. As she navigates her own search for meaning, she shares insights and observations made over the past two decades with a delightful mix of wit and wisdom. Join her as she continues her journey, delving into these themes, offering you fresh perspectives and insights on art, identity and storytelling. 

Tuesday 11 July 2023

Show, Don't Tell: The Artist's Guide to Keeping Secrets

Monet, Les Nymphéas - Musée de l'Orangerie

This article delves into the fascinating concept of the 'Show, Don't Tell' principle, creative expression, and Monet's final chapter.

In the realm of creative expression, there exists a captivating concept known as the 'Show, Don't Tell' principle.; It may sound like the name of a sex tape but, it's actually a technique used in various forms of storytelling, including writing, filmmaking, and visual art.  This technique offers the audience an immersive experience, allowing them to delve into the story and its characters through actions, thoughts, and emotions, rather than mere factual descriptions. It adds drama, sparks intrigue and keeps us eagerly hooked.

Consider, for a moment, the experience of reading a mystery novel—a fun exercise in piecing together clues and solving a puzzle. The author, skilfully conceals the culprit's identity, ensuring we remain in suspense, craving for more.  They present us with a series of events, characters, and clues, inviting us to connect the dots and unlock the secrets within.

Here's How It Works in Visual Art

Instead of telling you what to think or feel, artists give us visual clues, colours, shapes, and symbols to show us an interpretation of the world.  They tease and tempt us, creating moods, stories, and ideas, leaving us to ponder their deeper meanings. 

Like solving a mystery, the process of discovery speaks directly to our emotions and imagination, creating a personal and unforgettable experience.  The more profound our emotional response, the more lasting the memory.

By 'showing' rather than 'telling', artists can engage their audience on a deeper level, urging them to actively participate with the artwork and craft their own interpretations - the more imaginative, the better.  For artists yearn to fuel our creative sensibilities, inviting us to become co-creators in their evocative narrative.

Let's now turn our gaze to some examples of the 'Show, Don't Tell' principle in visual art:

From left to right: Dali, The Persistence of Memory 1931 | Pollock, Convergence 1952 | Rothko, Green, Blue, Green 1969 | Banksy, Show Me The Money 2005

  • Impressionism: This movement was all about capturing the fleeting impressions of light and colour in a scene. Instead of telling us what to see, artists like Monet and Renoir offered a new way of looking at the world.

  • Surrealism: Surrealist artists like Salvador Dalí immersed us in bizarre, dreamlike imagery to give a glimpse into the subconscious mind, left open to the audience's interpretation.  What does a melting clock mean to you?  The answer lies within your imagination.

  • Abstract Expressionism: This movement was all about conveying emotion through colour and form. Artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko showed their inner feelings through their art, beckoning us to uncover our own emotional baggage landscape.  Digging into the emotions of Pollock or Rothko would require another post or two!!

  • Street Art: Street artists like Banksy use their art to comment on social and political issues. Banksy shows us a number of perspectives on these issues, that include humour and poignancy.  They challenge us to question, to reflect, and engage.

Our own interpretations may prove more exciting and memorable than the artist's original intention—and that's perfectly fine. Trust me, I'm an artist!

Exploring Monet's Approach 

Now, let's take a deeper look into Impressionism, specifically Oscar-Claude Monet (14 November 1840 - 5 December 1926).

Monet, Waterlillies (1910)

A couple of weeks ago my brother and I visited Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris, home to 8 of Claude Monet's outstanding Nymphéas (Water Lillies).  Each panel stands tall at 6.5 feet (1.97m), and hangs on the curved walls of two egg-shaped rooms, covering an expansive surface area of 2,153 square feet (200 m2).  The ensemble is one of the largest monumental achievements of painting in the first half of the twentieth century.  

Upon entering the first room, I was immediately struck by the darkness of the paintings. This was unexpected, as my previous encounters with Monet's work, whether at Giverny, MOMA in New York, or in numerous books, had always been characterized by their vibrant light and vivid colours.  Could these dark, beautiful paintings be a reflection of Monet's inner sadness? 

Monet began working on the Water Lilies series for the Musée de l'Orangerie in 1914, a year marked by personal tragedy.  In 1911, he lost his second wife, Alice Hoschedé, and in 1914, his eldest son, Jean. Alice had played a significant role in Monet's life, providing him with emotional support and caring for their children.  His grief was profound, and his art became an indispensable medium for navigating the depths of sorrow.  As the last surviving Impressionist, Monet was also mourning the loss of his dear friends and fellow artists, especially Renoir and Cézanne.  Could the dark palette of the Water Lilies be a visual testament to these losses?

Monet's eyesight was also deteriorating, and after initial refusal, he underwent cataract surgery in 1923.  Post-surgery, he struggled with cyanopsia, a condition where everything appears to have a blue tint.  Frustration and self-doubt plagued him during this period, leading him to destroy some of his earlier works. However, by 1925, Monet's vision improved, and he was able to resume painting.

His postoperative works retained the impressionistic focus of light and colour but also exhibited characteristics of abstract art.  In other words, up close, we see heavy brush strokes, dabs of colour, and seemingly abstract shapes.  However, as we step back, something magical happens - our brains piece together the puzzle of abstract elements and the shapes and colours take on new meaning. We gain a glimpse of a tranquil pond dappled with water lilies and lush foliage. This departure from a more realistic representation gives us opportunity to put our own slant on what we see and feel. 

And so, how does the story of Les Nimphéas (Water Lilies) for Musée de l'Orangerie conclude?  The contract, signed between Monet and the French government on 12th April 1922, stipulated that he would donate the Nymphéas series of decorative panels to the French State.  But Monet wasn't ready to hand over his cherished creations.  He was a perfectionist and never fully satisfied with his work so the handover was repeatedly delayed.  Georges Clemenceau, a close friend of Monet and the Prime Minister of France, expressed his frustration.  He wrote, 'You are well aware that you have reached the limit of what can be achieved with power of the brush and of the mind.'

Undeterred by Clemenceu's letter, Monet continued to work on the 'Water Lilies' until his death in 1926. It was only after his death that the paintings were finally installed in Musée de l'Orangerie, where they remain on display today in the arrangement that Monet had envisioned.

To Condude

In conclusion, artists channel their emotions through their chosen medium. The darkness surrounding Monet's Water Lilies may not have been a conscious decision but rather a natural expression of the sadness and loneliness he experienced during those final years. This poignant example exemplifies the 'Show, Don't Tell', principle in art - where emotions and experiences are conveyed through visual elements rather than explicit descriptions.

As we reflect upon the 'Show, Don't Tell' principle in art, let's not confine its relevance solely to the realm of artistic creation. Instead, let's think about how it plays out in our own lives.  This is where the expression, 'art imitates life' is a good example of that very idea.  Are we adopting the 'Show, Don't Tell' principle without being aware of it?  Do we rely too heavily on being understood while leaving vital sentiments unspoken?  This type of non-verbal communication can often land us in the soup.  While a touch of mystery can be alluring, hoping others can figure us out, without any kind of explanation is an ambitious pursuit.  

We don't have to lay all our cards on the table, but recognising the importance of clear communication—a dialogue that bridges the gaps between our hearts and minds, allows us to craft deeper connections and understanding.  The 'Show, Don't Tell' principle teaches us the value of nuance, the power of visual cues and subtle gestures that speak volumes.  Knowing when and how to embrace it can, not only nourish our creative souls but enhance our relationships and daily lives.

I hope you found this article informative and entertaining.  If you did, please share the love by clicking on one of the share buttons below.  And please share any thoughts, questions, or suggestions in the comments below.

Have a wonderful weekend.

For more art, follow me on Instagram and Facebook.  


History of the Water Lilies Cycle  

Why Monet's Paintings of Water Lilies Are So Iconic 

How To Read Paintings: Monet’s Water Lilies  

Claude Monet “Water Lilies” – Impressions of Monet’s Water Lily Art  

The Effect of Cataracts and Cataract Surgery on Claude Monet 

Saturday 8 July 2023

A Mini Tutorial: Creating a Painting of Powder from the Arcane Series 🌟

I love the Arcane series on Netflix! I've watched it multiple times and fell in love with Powder – she's just so cute. 

A while back, I created this painting of her, and I thought it would be helpful to share a mini tutorial on how I did it. 

In this digital painting tutorial, I'll provide a step-by-step breakdown of the process, accompanied by a video so you can create your own Arcane-inspired masterpiece.


Step-by-Step Breakdown:

Drawing the Outline:

  • Start by drawing the outline of Powder on a new layer.
  • Change the line layer to multiply to create a more subtle effect.

Creating the Base:

  • Insert a new layer underneath the line layer and name it 'paint.'
  • Begin by blocking in the skin using a mid-tone color.
  • Proceed to block in the t-shirt, hair, and backpack.

Adding Shadows:

  • Paint shadows using a dark, warm color to create depth and dimension.
  • Include the main background color at this stage.

Refining Transitions:

  • Use a soft brush or blender tool to soften hard edges.
  • Focus on creating smooth transitions between light and shadows.
  • Don't forget to add details to the bag and background.

Final Touches:

  • Complete the painting by adding the eyes and hair clasps.
  • Pay attention to small details that bring the character to life.

And there you have it! I hope you found this Arcane fanart tutorial helpful. If you enjoyed this content and would like to see more of my artwork and tutorials, make sure to follow me on Instagram

If you found this tutorial valuable, I would greatly appreciate it if you could share it with your friends and fellow artists. Let's spread the knowledge and inspiration together!

Feel free to leave any questions or suggestions in the comments section below.  Happy painting! 🎨✨

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? 😉

Mona Lisa by the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci

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 : The Prado Mona Lisa, housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1819, was initially considered a less significant copy of Leonardo da Vinci's renowned Mona Lisa. However, after undergoing restoration in 2012, it is now recognized as the earliest known studio copy of Leonardo's masterpiece. Painted in the same studio as the original, it may have been created simultaneously by a student of Leonardo, potentially Salaì or Francesco Melzi. This version is deemed to hold significant historical value among the various copies of the Mona Lisa from the 16th and 17th centuries.

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