I have been stuck with my work for some time. I knew what I wanted to express, but I didn’t know where to begin. Until recently, it had been a year since I produced anything I really liked.

I tried waiting for inspiration and it didn’t come.

I tried forcing myself to paint and just see what happened … but what happened was inevitably disappointing.

I tried focusing on sketching and drawing and that was fine, but didn’t get me any closer to those paintings I wanted to make.

As the time passed, I began to put pressure on myself. Having a full-time job and a new dog and a house to run meant there was limited time for painting and whenever I got the time, I felt enormous pressure to make a painting – a good one! – and to get it done fast.

I never succeeded.

The thing is that if I am not creating, I get depressed. I start over-thinking things. I get caught up in negative thought patterns. I become unhappy. This happened to me over the last few years.

One day, at a low point and on a particularly stormy day, I took my dog for a walk. It was one of those early summer days when the grass is so green it seems luminescent. The storms were interspersed with bright spots which meant the skies were spectacular. When Riley and I got up on top of the moor and looked down over the valley, I couldn’t catch my breath. It was as though a divine presence had put on a light show just for me. Dark, light, green, yellow, stormy clouds, patches of light blue – no words could describe what I saw. I snapped picture after picture and each one was totally different, even though only seconds had passed. I was transfixed, entranced. And all I could think was “I want to paint what this feels like.”

That night, checking Facebook, I saw a posting for an art course – Lesley Birch’s 2-day “Developing Acrylics” course. Lesley is an artist I have admired ever since I discovered her shortly after moving back to the UK. The course description sounded just what I needed and – all fired up by that divine light show – I booked there and then.

I arrived on the first morning filled with hope mixed with anxiety, but I had no idea just what was about to unfold.

I struggle to describe it even now that a month has passed. All I know is that Lesley’s easy-going, supportive teaching style combined with her profound painting exercises helped to set me free. Suddenly, effortlessly, I was painting that day on the moor. I was painting how it felt to be up there watching that light show. What’s more, I liked what I was producing and I was having fun.

What did Lesley do that was so liberating?

She shared her own vulnerabilities as an artist. She made it feel OK to try something and fail. She encouraged play and experimentation. She gave us interesting exercises that stimulated creativity and shifted mind sets. And throughout the 2 days, she encouraged each of us and tailored her advice to suit 6 artists all with very different styles, approaches and challenges. I know that every one of us felt inspired, nurtured and encouraged.

I came home with 4 large paintings in-progress, tons of quick sketches and a headful of ideas. Since I got back, I have finished 3 of the large paintings, completed 4 smaller ones, and made starts on several new paintings. What’s more, I keep having ideas that I want to explore and I am jotting them down on my sketchbook so that I don’t lose them. I am in my studio almost every night and I am excited by the work I am producing. In fact, I made late applications for two group shows and was accepted for both.

I wasn’t able to express myself to Lesley at the end of the weekend. (I’m terrible at expressing my feelings verbally.) As soon as I started to try to thank her, I started to tear up and couldn’t get the words out. I wish I could have told her that she gave me back the excitement, fulfilment, passion, and fun that I can only get from making honest art. I wish I could have told her that she gave me back myself.

10 Comments

  1. Lesley Birch
    July 12, 2017

    Dear Louise, I’m really happy to have made a difference to you on the course. You worked so hard and ‘tuned in’ to your own path. It was exciting, exhausting and intense wasn’t it?? Thank you for your kind words. What beautiful paintings you produced here and such a great blog too. Yours aye, Lesley

    Reply
    • Louise Fletcher
      July 12, 2017

      Thanks so much Lesley. I’m glad I got to finally tell you how much it meant xx

      Reply
  2. Gosh this said everything that I experienced on those two days - I haven't stopped since ! Thank you Lesley for a truly productive and exciting weekend.
    July 12, 2017

    Gosh this said everything that I experienced in those two fantastic and productive two days! Thank you Lesley.

    Reply
  3. Marcia
    July 13, 2017

    These paintings are so full of energy and life, they make me shiver. I am in awe of what has been released from within you and grateful for your gift in communicating to us! Wow!

    Reply
  4. Kristy Brenner
    July 13, 2017

    Oh boy, these ARE wonderful — I can feel that day on the moor. Congratulations on recovering your verve.

    Reply
  5. Elizabeth Hepola Roth
    July 13, 2017

    Very inspiring post, thank you. I love the work, just beautiful- I feel the joy & passion! Thank you for sharing, your struggle absolutely resonated with me, going through something like that myself right now.

    Reply
  6. Janet Winter
    July 13, 2017

    Fabulous paintings and a great story in your blog. Well done both student and teacher.

    Reply
  7. Regina
    July 13, 2017

    Hello Louise, this is very touching!!!
    I love your paintings and the story behind it!!!

    Reply
  8. Lynn Cohen
    July 13, 2017

    Dear Louise, I couldn’t be more impressed by the art in this post or overjoyed by this new chapter in your life story! I love following your progress ( ups and downs) and so excited for this break through! The emotion in the storm paintings is intense, exciting, and brilliant!
    So very happy and excited for you!

    Reply
  9. Turtle Toms
    July 14, 2017

    Dear Louise,

    I stumbled on your post via Facebook/Sketchbook Skool. You expressed perfectly what I needed to hear. Your honest description of how you feel when you are not creating helped me to identify my own feelings about being in a difficult and self-imposed unproductive space. Thank you. Your words are timely and helpful, and your paintings are so very alive, vibrant, and breathtaking. You have deeply inspired me.

    Sincerely,
    Turtle

    Reply

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