One of the nicest things that has happened to me this year is getting a part-time job in the local art shop. (Check it out here http://www.arttime.com.au/). When I say part-time, I mean one day a week, with an extra shift thrown in every now and then.
I haven’t worked in a full-time job since before my babies were born, so that’s about 8 years ago now. I always said that if I went back to work it had to be something I enjoyed and the hours had to work in with my kids. So the Saturday morning thing totally works for me and my family.
And I work in an ART SHOP!
I am surrounded by inspiration and fabulous art materials.
At the back of the art shop is a gallery and working studio. Local artists are able to hold solo or group exhibitions (of which I have attended many), and several different art classes are also held there.
Coming in and seeing the latest exhibition hanging or walking past a watercolour student working away on a new piece always fills me with a joy that is difficult to describe.
The readily available art supplies can be a little dangerous though, especially when one needs to “focus” on one’s upcoming exhibition and not get distracted by interesting side projects. Like wanting to try printmaking because of beauty in the pieces of the current exhibition. Or seeing the potential in a new design because of a book in the corner library.
I love that I am always learning new tricks, and new ways of using different materials.
But one of my favourite things about my job is the wonderful people I get to meet.
I get to talk to some of the most interesting and creative people every week.
I am constantly being surprised by how many talented people are out there. And most of them are only too happy to talk about their creative processes, to pass on a gem of an idea, or proudly show a picture of what they are working on.
It’s encouraging to see that creativity is alive and well.
The artists who come into the shop vary in age and skill level, there is a huge variety of disciplines and paraphenalia, but the underlying common thread is that we all love art.
When I get home in the afternoon I nearly always head for my studio to sketch out an idea or try out a new method. After a day of breathing in the dust of inspiration it is hard not to scratch that itch.
The muse constantly whispers sweet nothings.
Sometimes feel bad that I am paid to come to work – to me it is not work…
Inspiration…. it is something that seems to sneak up and tap you quietly on the shoulder to whisper sweet nothings in your ear. It is the idea hidden in an insect’s wing, or a child’s laugh. It appears in that half seen shadow at the corner of your mind.
For some people finding inspiration seems to be a struggle, for others the thought trigger got stuck on go.
Having an abundance of ideas might seem ideal for an artist. And invariably it is better than not having any at all, but it can also be a curse.
I am one of those people with lots of ideas. Some might say too many ideas.
My muse is constantly sitting on my shoulder and shouting in my ear to do this or that. Unfortunately the problem is that I have a lot of interests, and this encourages that screeching witch to continue her rant.
Painting, drawing, sculpting, beading, sewing, collage, pyrography, digital manipulation, lapidary, jewellery making, photography, writing, cooking, gardening, bonsai…. etc, etc.
Ideas for new projects are always near at hand. The quiet moments alone are filled with thoughts and images in my mind for something new and completely fabulous. Quite often however I don’t get the time to devote myself wholeheartedly to these fresh endeavours. This naturally means that I am the queen of half-started projects, and always have at least 3 on the go at any one time.
I love the beginnings of a new idea. That feeling that you are onto some extraordinary design.
And then when something that you have envisaged in your minds’ eye comes to life in your hands it is almost a godlike feeling. You are the origin of this fabulous piece of art. This thing you have fashioned from ideas and magic speaks to you during formation, and then is silent. It speaks to your audience once completed, and then the itch in your ear needs you to start something new again.
Inspiration for me comes in many different forms. I have two young girls and they influence a lot of my work. If I am ever after an idea of something to draw I just have to ask them. I have lost track of the number of butterflies or unicorns I am asked to create. Being children they also have a unique way of looking at the world so some of their ideas are completely off the wall, and sometimes it is just the seed of an idea which I then build up to something else. Like my flying elephant for example.
I also enjoy the outdoors. I grew up in a very small town in the Northern Territory surrounded by bush and beach, and occasionally find that I physically need to spend time amongst the trees or on a beach to help ground me. I collect leaves, feathers, nuts and seeds that spark my imagination for future pieces. Sometimes the actual items I collect become part of the art piece as in my mixed media bird…
Or this leaf…
Having spent a lot of time recently just sitting around, I have been keeping my muse at bay by literally working on 5 different projects at once. I have 3 pointillism pieces going into an exhibition at the end of the year. The piece below is titled “Parade of the Planets” and is done completely in pen dots…
Because of the repetitive nature of this work I am working on all three so that I don’t get bored, and just in case, I am constantly within arms’ reach of my sketch book. Which is how the below piece came into being…
Plus with Christmas just around the corner (only 75 days) I thought I would start on a set of cards, so I began doodling some illustration ideas…
Oh and I also have an idea for a childrens’ book I want to write …
And a series of pointillism pieces, done in pyrography, on reclaimed timber…
A steam punk inspired insect drawing …
I also need to finish that collage project …
And I really do need to have my own solo exhibition sometime soon … I have the theme sorted out, I’ve got the ideas …
Can someone find me some more time please …
And in the mean time I will work on silencing the muse ….
I have been quite ill recently so I have had a lot of time to sit and think, or should that be dwell?
Something I struggle with is the nagging whisper of self doubt. It has got to be the number one killer of inspiration and creativity. Actually several artist friends that I have spoken with all suffer the same affliction.
That little voice in the corner of your mind that says things like…
“That’s not good enough”
“Nobody will like that”
“What are you trying to say with that piece?”
For me personally I think some of these thoughts come from my lack of knowledge in some areas of arts practice, and my own perception that I lack particular skills simply because of my inexperience.
But in reality, I over think everything.
I have a habit of second guessing myself. What I mean by that, is that I have an idea, which initially I am in love with and think is fantastic, but then the little gremlin that lives in the dark recesses of my subconscious speaks up. I start on a roller coaster of doubting my original idea and try to come up with something “better” or more “clever”. Something that my little gremlin believes would make a better impact or a piece of art that actually “speaks” to that general population of “them” – the viewer.
Case in point – take a look at the journey I went on with my recent competition piece for the Portraiture Award. The first struggle I had was to choose a subject! Oh my gosh! How difficult that was! I literally spent weeks on searching through images on Google trying to settle on someone to portray.
My gremlin kept harassing me, saying things like,
“It has to be someone famous”
“They have to be recognisable”
“Someone who has made an impression on the world”
“Who do you admire”
And all the while I kept thinking I don’t really have any hero’s. I mean, I have people I look up to, but in quiet and personal way – not something I wanted to express publicly in a competition situation. So finally I chose someone who made me laugh. John Cleese. I watched him in the “Monty Python Picture Show”, my friends and I laughed till we cried while watching “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” more than once, loved “The Life of Brian”, and then enjoyed watching “Fawlty Towers” with my parents. “A Fish Called Wanda” became a favourite movie, and now with my children we enjoy his voice talents in various kids’ movies.
Once that decision was finally made I then had arguments with myself about the execution of that piece.
What medium was I going to use. Which style suited the subject best?
All the while I was quickly running out of time – the deadline was looming – and I still had no idea exactly what I was doing!
I even had a poorly executed attempt at abstract with acrylics.
In the end I silenced my inner gremlin and went with my gut. I followed my instinct and completed the piece in the style that I had originally thought would be perfect and that is how we came to the finished pointillism piece.
I am so glad that I did because it is amazing. I didn’t win any prizes in the competition, nobody bought it and it didn’t make people’s choice, but I did learn a hell of a lot about myself and how I process work.
Now it hangs proudly in my living room as a testament to how far I have come, not only as an artist but as an individual human being.
I have made progress towards learning how to trust myself more. The first idea usually is the best, because it is that seed that started the idea growing in the first place. Sure you can expand and cultivate the idea but where you started from is equally important as to where you end up.
So – I can do this – or at least I am going to try to keep listening to that first voice in my head and ignoring the quiet gremlin within.
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
― Sylvia Plath
“If you hear a voice within you say „you cannot paint“, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
― Vincent van Gogh
“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.”
― Robert Hughes
“I don’t believe anyone ever suspects how completely unsure I am of my work and myself and what tortures of self-doubting the doubt of others has always given me.”
― Tennessee Williams
In fact the list is almost endless… just about any material can be used in just about any way to convey an idea to a viewer.
I personally have way too many interests. I have dabbled in many different mediums and styles. Ink and Brush, watercolours, pen, pencil/charcoal, pastels, collage, and am at TAFE studying acrylics at the moment. Beading, sewing, sculpture and paper art are all things that I enjoy and would love to spend more time developing.
I completed the below pointillism for a portraiture competition recently.
This piece took me every spare moment I had available for about 2 weeks straight. I found a photo of John Cleese on line and sketched the outlines onto my paper and then with a .005 felt tip pen spent hours doing individual tiny dots. Not one single straight line exists in this drawing. It is amazing how difficult it is to resist the urge to actually “draw”. The finished piece is absolutely fantastic – I didn’t win anything but I am very proud of how it looks.
This next line drawing piece was inspired by a photo of my daughter and her dad fishing together.
This style came about almost by accident. My friends and I had gone to the Matisse exhibition in Brisbane for some inspiration, and then we had a life drawing session not long after. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted from my usual methods so my lovely friend suggested I “leave something out” as we had seen Matisse do in his work. So, I did, and the resulting piece was just lovely. After some humming and ahhing I was encouraged to enter the piece into the 2012 Just Nudes exhibition where it sold and won Best in Show by a Local Artist.
I enjoy the contour line drawing style because of its simplicity, the ability to convey a feeling in as few lines as possible. And this style appeals to my eye.
But then I also love the colours and movement available with the use of watercolours. This piece was inspired by the birds that sit in our front garden to eat the nectar in the native trees we have planted there.
I started using watercolours when I was asked to illustrate a book back in 2010, I had never used them before. I had worked mainly in pastels or pencil. I like to think I still have a lot to learn with them.
But with some artists you just have to look at their work and immediately you know who created a particular piece.
I am not there yet, and I am not sure I want to be there. I am still having fun, and learning about different mediums and what results can be achieved.
For a long time I have worried that my art didn’t speak. I have been to many different exhibitions and read a lot of artist statements about why they created a particular piece or series of works. And quite a few of them talk about what it is they are trying to say with their art.
I don’t create a piece to voice an opinion, or impart a message.
I create art because I “feel” it. I am inspired by many different things and often an idea for a piece will just emerge and I am compelled to create it.
One of the best things I have done for myself and my art is to put myself “out there”. This year I made a resolution to actively get my work into the public eye. I have entered exhibitions, I have deliberately put more work on line, and I have sought other avenues to promote my art. One of these ways is the Handmade Highstreet Shop in Annerley, QLD, and the other was the Sunset Markets in Ipswich, QLD.
The quickest way to build self-confidence is to stand on the side of the road with a selection of work and let complete strangers critique you. The very first day was gut-churning and nerve wracking! As any artist will tell you putting work in the public eye is hard, standing next to it and trying to sell it is harder! At least at first.
I have met many, many different people. Some just give a cursory glance and continue walking, others pause and make appreciative noises. And then some people share with you a personal story about why a particular piece of art made them stop.
I am at the very beginning of my journey, and because of all these reasons, I am going to continue to create art simply “because”. I am going to continue to use different styles and mediums because different images simply “feel” better in a certain medium or style. And I am going to continue to push myself creatively till it all just clicks into place.
I don’t want to be pigeon-holed, but it would be cool to think that one day someone will look at my work and say “That is an Andrea Baumert Howard original!”