Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Another Journal You Must Have

A sketchbook is essential for any artist, but I find that I need several different notebooks, sketchbooks and journals to manage my artistic endeavours.  If you have already started your 'Trash Can Journal', then my next recommendation is that you:

Start an 'Picture Notebook'

What is a 'Picture Notebook'?

  • This is the place where you stick in all the cuttings and clippings that delight your eyes.  You may have pictures on your fridge, filing cabinet or notice board, when you take them down, stick them in this book and keep them!!!
  • Gallery invites, postcards, magazines, newspapers all have pictures that appeal to our artistic sensibility.  I think it's handy to have them all in one place.
  • An 'Picture Notebook' is the place I turn to when my eyes are bored and need stimulation.  When I am tired of the visual things in my everyday life, and I need some colour and excitement, I can go to my 'Picture Notebook' to be revived.
  • When I am looking for inspiration and ideas, I go to my 'Picture Notebook'.  It helps me find my creative sweet spot!

Pages from one of Kerry Daley's 'Picture Notebooks'

Several of Kerry Daley's 'Picture Notebooks' with clippings ready to be stuck in.

  • Of course, you needn't keep your pictures neatly clipped out and stuck in a book - a folder, hanging file, or box would work just as well (and I think I have variations on all of those things).
  • And then - it does not have to be pictures either...

More Stuff! (in my studio)

  • I like things too - especially stones and bones and shells, and then of course, plastic animals.  I like to keep them in glass jars, like little specimens!
  • Is there some way that you can start putting your visual stimuli all in one place (or two or three), somewhere you can access easily when you eyes are jaded and need a pick me up?
  • Do you already have a system that you use that does the same thing for you?  I would love to hear about it!

Quote of the Day
"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity.  The creative mind plays with the objects it loves"

Monday, August 30, 2010

Start This Journal Today!

If you do nothing else to further your creative career, today, you MUST do this: 

Start a 'Trash Can Journal'  

One of Kerry Daley's 'Trash Can' Journals

What is a 'Trash Can Journal'?

  • It is a concept I borrowed for a fabulous book called, Pencil Dancing, by Mari Messer.  She calls it a 'Trash Can Notebook'.  I read about it several years ago and have been using one ever since. 
  • Mari Messer's 'Trash Can Notebook' is a place to write freely, but mine is more of a scrapbook.
  • It is a holding place for everything - bits of paper, quotes, drawings, quick notes, brain storming, doodles, clippings, postcard, post-it notes, letters, lists
  • Any bit of paper I become attached to goes in the 'Trash Can Journal'.
  • I have also had a 'Trash Can Lesson Plan' folder for teaching ideas and concepts I am not quite ready to file away.
  • I have a 'Trash Can House Book' for domestic things, recipes, take out menus, window cleaning company flyers, real estate agent business cards, anything I want to keep, but can't find a home for.
  • My 'Trash Can Journal' is the first thing I turn to when I want to jot something down, or work something out, it is also the first thing I pick up when I am stuck for ideas.
  • It's not neat and organised, everything is jumbled together in no particular order, although I do tend to date the page. (And cover it with cool paper.)
  • I use cheap A4 lined notebooks and when one is full, I label the front with the starting date and the ending date, put it on my shelf, and start a new one.
  • Try it out and let me know if it works for you!

Quote of the Day
"Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and the pupil are located in the same individual."
Other Stuff

Katherine Tyrell, blog post: Making a Mark: August 2010 - Who's made a mark this month? is a 'must read'! So much information and many valuable links. And while you are there, take a look around the rest of the site. With bloggers like her, who needs books?

Take a look at teesha's circus: 6x8 journal, a real visual feast!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

True Confessions Sunday...

I am writing all of this excellent advice, (and thank you so much to the 3 kind people who have let me know that they have been finding it helpful), but I am not following it myself, so I need to get some things off my chest:

I Confess:

  • I haven’t painted anything in ages!  Ouch! It hurts to say that! I want to paint, I think about painting – I have recently tidied out my painting area, but I seem to get caught up in mundane chores, and before I know it, the day is gone.
  • I have spent more time in front of the computer this week, than I have spent on my art work in the last month.  Ouch again!
  • I suspect that I may never be more than an artist –wanna –be.
  • Some of the things that I paint and draw, I think are rubbish.
  • Some of the things I paint and draw, I think are fantastic, but I am so mightily shocked that I made them, that I am sure that I can never do it again.
  • My current sketch book is empty.

    Does this sound like you? Is there hope for us?

    Fortunately I always think there‘s hope and I am ready to kick start my creative routines and get working again.  In fact, I quite like a little shake up and a fresh start.  So where to begin? Here are some ideas that I am working on.

    • Accept your feelingsIt’s OK to feel that I have no talent.  It’s OK to feel that my work is rubbish.   I need to accept these feelings, but not be overwhelmed by them.  Feel, but work anyway.

    • Find a place to work and make it your own
    • Set your working hoursJust knowing when my work time is, helps to get me in the right frame of mind.
    • Set a quantity goal – so many hours a day, one small sketch or painting a day, something that you think you can manage – be realistic.  There are great examples of artists who are working on daily projects that over time add up into interesting bodies of work.  You might like to look at Karin Jurick’s 100 Faces, or Kirsty Hall’s Diary Project or look at Matt Kish’s fascinating images on his blog, One Drawing for Every Page of Moby Dick.
    • If you are finding it really hard to get going, get someone to work with you – at least some of the time.  I have set up a painting date, once a week with my good friend and fellow artist Judy, this is a great way to get me working again, and it doesn’t feel like work!
    • Dust off your sketchbooks and journals and carry them around with you.  These always make me feel like a real artist.  Look out for future posts where I discuss different sketchbooks and notebooks and ways of using them.

      Some Great Resources

      Quote of the Day
      "Most people aren't as creative as they wish they were, because they haven't mastered strategies for creating while life is going on around them."

      Saturday, August 28, 2010

      It’s not the amount of work, it’s the amount of time at the easel

      Kerry Daley
      Watercolour on Paper 23cm x20cm

      Artists work, they don’t just think about it. Vincent Van Gogh produced more than 2000 pieces of work in the last ten years of his life. He said, 
      “If I were to think of and dwell on disastrous possibilities, I could do nothing. I throw myself headlong into my work.” 
      Don’t think about the work, just do the work! We think too much, we try to hard. We need to give ourselves permission to make work that may not be good.

      We don’t have to make a lot of work, but we do need to spend a lot of time working. Make quantity the goal. Make it measurable. ‘I will paint for one hour each day’ – It’s a start, it’s something I can measure, something I can achieve, something I can tick off on my list of things to do today. 

      Alyson B Stanfield at Art Biz Blog, gives excellent advice to artists about the business of art making – read what she says about devoting yourself to your studio practise.

      Don’t think about the end product. It gives us an excuse to stop – “this work is not good, this painting is not going well, I can tell that it will be a mess. It would be better for me to leave it now and start something else. No gallery will ever look at this rubbish.” The best way to get work done is to focus on doing the work and doing a lot of it consistently. 

      The issue is not whether the work is good, it’s whether there is any work at all. Every bit of work is like a little tick next to your name, good little budding artist, you did it, well done.

      Thursday, August 26, 2010

      Practise Quantity NOT Quality Control

      Artists often become experts at quality control, we look at our own work and that of others, very critically, eager to point out aspects that can and should improve. We hone our critical skills, certain that this will ensure better and more meaningful paintings. Many become so good at controlling the quality of their work that, instead of making a painting that might not be good enough, they don’t paint at all. Quantity is the secret of better work. When we make a lot of work, we become experienced at what we are doing, we become more familiar with our medium and our materials, and we become more intimately acquainted with ourselves through the work. Our work improves, our understanding of our work deepens, and our confidence increases. When we are confident in our ability to handle our brushes and are familiar with our materials, we are daring and open to other possibilities, we don’t hover over our painting terrified that something may go wrong. To make quality work, make more work.

      In their book, Art and Fear, the authors, David Bayles and Ted Orland, tell the story about a ceramics teacher who divided his class into two groups, those on the left, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of the work they produced, and those on the right, solely on the quality. On the final day of class, he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the ‘quantity’ group: fifty pounds of pot rated an “A”, forty, a “B” and so on. Those being graded on ‘quality’, however, needed to produce only one pot, a perfect one, to get an “A”. When grading time came, it emerged that the works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while they were busy churning out piles of work, and learning from their mistakes, the quality group had sat theorising about perfection, and in the end had little to show for their efforts.

      Wednesday, August 25, 2010

      Oil Paintings

      My three oil paintings are going to exhibition next month.  It's a small, local, fundraising show at my daughter's school.  Not sure if I want to part with them yet. 

      Kerry Daley
      Oil on Canvas 47cm x 47cm

      Kerry Daley
      Fish Out of Water
      Oil on Canvas 62cm x 62cm

      Kerry Daley
      Ladybird, Ladybird...
      Oil on Canvas 62cm x 62cm

      This bug one is my favourite.  It is crisper and brighter than the other two.

      Tuesday, August 24, 2010

      A Place to Work

      Every creative person needs a physical workspace.  Not every artist has the luxury of a studio, but everyone can find a corner to make their own.

      I have a 'studio' - a store room at the back of our garage - it's hot, narrow and dark, perfect for storage, but not good for painting.  I keep my paints there, ready to go, and then set up in the garage with the door open when I am painting.

      I have a $5 portable card table (a junk shop find) that I use as a painting table - it's the perfect size, its legs fold away for easy storage and its very light.  It's my favourite piece of equipment.

      Painting equipment in the storage room, ready to go.

      My portable painting table set up in the garage

      And here is me painting in the garage.  It really is no trouble to set up and pack away after each working session - but you do need to be organised, or you may spend all of your time running to fetch something .

      This is me painting in the garage - the light is good when the doors are open.

      I do a lot of reading and writing about art, and I collect articles and clippings and scraps of paper that I constantly refer to.  I feel happiest when all of my paperwork is close at hand.  Here is my desk, It's near the computer, in the study, right next to the kitchen.  I can quickly grab something to read or jot something down in the middle of making dinner.  This is my 'think tank', the nerve centre of my creative life.  (It is not normally this tidy - I have recently done a clean out.)

      The think tank - all my note books, sketch books, books that I am reading etc.


      This is what it looks like when I am working - I spread out all my things on the study table and work in a rather messy way.  Because I have to share the study with my family, I pack all of this up when I am finished, and it goes into the storage boxes on my desk.

      What all my notes and books look like when I am working

      When you have chosen the environment that works for you, and made it your own, you have cleared the first hurdle, you are ready to begin.

      Monday, August 23, 2010

      Meaningful Subject Matter

      When a person suspects they may have mastered ‘how to paint’, they begin to ask the more complex question: ‘what to paint’. This is a dilemma, not because all possible subjects have been exhausted, but because there is a growing realisation that making art is perhaps more complex than just making pictures. The search begins for subjects to paint, and essentially, for meaningful subject matter to base the paintings on.

      When we look for something to paint, we try and emulate artists that we admire. We look at their paintings and copy their subject matter. We try and find our own meaningful subject matter in this way. I think this approach is flawed, because we don’t always understand the work that we are looking at.

      Some people think that art is like a postcard. They think it is a picture of places or things that the artist has seen. If art is a visual record of visual experiences, then a good work would be one that describes places and objects accurately and artistically. There are countless beautiful, moving examples of art that have as their subject places and things, but art is seldom just a recording of these.

      Some people expect art to show the artist’s virtuosity, how well and true to life the artist is able to paint, and when these people make art, this is what they do in their own work. Many artists delight in honing and flaunting their skill, but a good work of art is seldom just that.

      If art is not about recording things, nor an opportunity to show off, then what is it about?

      I think that art is essentially an artist trying to express one of two things: What that artist is thinking and/or: What that artist is feeling. If we accept this, then we can try and incorporate this understanding into our own search for meaningful subject matter for our own work.

      Sunday, August 22, 2010

      Two Big Disappointments

      When I studied Fine Art at university, I was surprised that we were not taught art techniques. We were not taught much about the materials we were using or how to use them. We weren’t taught the colour wheel, shown colour charts, or even how to paint. We were not required to complete tonal gradation charts, or know the names of the pigments we were using. We did no preparatory sketching, didn't keep sketchbooks or any records of our work. We studied how to make art without any reference to the craft of art making. I can only assume that the omission was deliberate and that knowledge of materials and technique was considered superfluous to the making of important and avante garde work.

      Although I graduated with respectable results, I felt quite unprepared for a career as an artist and struggled to make art outside of university. This was a big disappointment, I had a degree in art, but I did not know how to be an artist. I embarked on a post graduate diploma, qualified as a teacher and I taught.

      Unfortunately, it’s difficult to teach art with a poor understanding of materials and techniques. I found that most of my students showed no interest in my highbrow philosophy of art making, they wanted to learn to draw and paint in a naturalistic way.

      And so began my second art education – I taught myself the craft of art making. I became knowledgeable and skilled in drawing and painting, in materials and techniques and I passed on this knowledge to the best of my ability.

      My students learned to make beautiful, realistic paintings; they understood their materials and honed their skills. But their work was superficial, it lacked substance. This was another big disappointment to me, although my students and I knew how to paint well, this did not bring us any closer to being artists.

      It has taken me a long time to understand that art is a complex thing. Technique is a means to an end, but certainly not an end in itself.

      So, what is it that sets good work apart?

      but more importantly,

      Can I make a good work of art?

      Saturday, August 21, 2010

      The kind of work I want to make

      When we set about learning to paint or draw, what are we doing?

      Are we trying to acquire techniques and tricks that will enable us to create convincing illusions?

      Is learning about the colour wheel or how to apply a glaze, what making art is about?

      Is making art about having good skills and good technique?

      What do artists do to make paintings that we aspire to make?

      Thomas Hoving describes a good work of art as one that amazes us in a different way each time that we look at it. He says, a good work of art grows in stature over the years and its visual impact of mysterious, pure power increases every day.
      That is the kind of work that I want to make, and if you are like me, that is the kind of work you want to make too!