A New Start
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.