MY STUDIO PRACTICE – INSIGHTS & CONFUSIONS OF A WORKING ARTIST
This blog focuses on my studio practice. How I go about my art, what I use and the challenges I encounter. My initial aim is that it offers some insight into the life of a practicing artist and some useful tips for other creatives. In hindsight I think it may help me more that others. The self reflection about what you do can uncover some sloppy habits and manic moments. Maybe it’s my self therapy? As an artist we spend a lot of time in our heads. This blog will expose my thoughts, focus points and revelations. I can’t guarantee it will all be pretty or insightful but I’m inviting you to join the ride anyway … strap yourself in for a seat on THE GINGERNUT EXPRESS!
Making space for 2018
As we head into a brand new year it seems that many are very happy to leave 2017 behind. It was full of unexpected challenges and speed humps that many of us could have done without. Still, you can’t have the good without the bad, and if we are all trying to achieve some sort of balance then it must mean you get both?
In my own art practice 2017 proved to be more productive than ever. I painted over 50 painting this year. Everyone pushed me out of my comfort zone. Everyone tested me. I have enjoyed some wonderful collaborations, and met some wonderfully creative folks and started out on the art licensing business.
The progress concerning my own art development witnessed a few artistic breakthroughs and zoned in on some focus points. I was lucky to discover some new artists and inspired by some amazing art exhibits. Getting to know more artists throughout the year, I was impressed with their dedication to the cause. Their commitment to continue to create, despite life’s interruptions has provided me with reasons to push my own work a little further.
I am excited to get into 2018. It will be my year of space. Space in more ways than one. The end of my 2017 has been filled with a lot of things breaking down: utilities, people, cars and cats. While these things do seem like speed humps in the way forward, they have provided me with opportunities to clean up, clear out and make space for new things to happen in 2018. They have forced me to choose my priorities rather than be driven by others demands.
It is that element that makes me feel that finally, I am in the drivers seat of my art life. Knowing what to say no to, knowing what you want to spend your time on (and sticking to it) truly makes you responsible for your actions. You have to have grit though. Passion and perseverance does not always equal success, but if you know which way you are heading then the challenges are just that, not failures.
2017 has taught me many things. I have learnt that we all only get 24 hours in our day and that, if I want to be an artist and arts educator, my 24 hours have to be filled with the practice of improving myself in these areas. They have to take priority over other things. This is the the reality. If you want to focus on particular areas then there is no such thing as a ‘balanced lifestyle’. If I want to spend more time in the studio, then time spent on other things has to go!
One of the things I used to hate (with a passion), when I worked as a Graphic Designer was doing the daily time sheet. Justifying every 5 minutes of your day to billable, creative time was exhausting. There was a value to every minute. I hated it because it felt like I have to prove everyday, that I was working hard enough. Now I am the planner of my own days I find myself wanting to schedule my days. The shift is the focus. If I want to get things done, then the swiss cheese method is the only way to go… small bites often is better than nothing at all. Plus, I have never been a painter that can whip up a painting in an hour. I don’t think painting is that easy. It takes a lot of hours and a lot of layers.
There is one book that has really helped kick start my efforts of clean, cull and create.
Organizing for Creative People: How to Make Sure Chaos Never Holds Your Creative Career Back
Most of the conventional ‘productivity’ advice you’ll find in the ‘soft business’ section simply does not work for creative people. Surprisingly, to date there has not been a single book that addresses the unique organisational challenges that artists face. This book sets out to change that, it addresses the myth that truly creative people are messy and that they need mess in order to create. Sheila Chandra applies her professional insights as a ‘creative’ and organising expert to the lives of other busy creative people in all disciplines – showing them how good organisation can liberate their creative ‘magic’. She begins with artists’ physical spaces, including arranging their workspaces and offices so that they remain tidy effortlessly and goes on to high light the benefits of organising other elements such as your well being, networking, self promotion, collaboration and managing copyright and legalities as an artist.
Preparing for a new year
ORGANISING MY STUDIO SPACE: Nesting vs creating
Part of my own artistic clean up has been to give my studio an overhaul! In a way, I think it has grown up. Instead of being a space that can help me feel creative, with all my art books and arty things around me it is time for it to be my work horse. With a full schedule of artworks to be made, my studio must serve me differently now. I no longer need the space to nurture my creativity, I need the space to work on my creativity. I have learnt over time, that it is important not to exhaust yourself with possibilities. Once you get started into a body of work, you can’t afford to waste time on distractions. You need to keep your focus, turn up everyday and talk to those paintings! Having other work around can get push you off track. It can make you doubt your directions and compare your progress to other things. It can make you feel like you should be doing something else rather than focusing on what you are doing at the time. And all that is wasted energy.
So after a big reshuffle, a new bookcase installation and and equipment clean up I have found myself a brand new wall in my studio. A wall with nothing on it but the space to place works in progress.
My favourite art products
KISS-OFF STAIN REMOVER
As a painter, it is often hard to find any clothing in the wardrobe that is paint free. More often than not you don’t discover the paint on your clothes til weeks later, after you have washed them. I discovered this little gem of a stick when I was in America. It comes in a roll up stick (like a glue stick) and will get any paint off your clothes. Just rub and add water and the paint comes right off. No fumes. No fuss. But don’t rub too hard, it’s so good it will eat the fabric away if it is lightweight!
Places you can get Kiss-Off
The Masters as my mentors … what Georgia taught me…
American modernist painter, Georgia O’Keefe is one of the artists I turn to for a top up on how to zoom in, simplify and beautify, the elements you want to emphasize in your work. Through her intense observations of nature, experimentation with scale, and nuanced use of line and colour, she has shown me the powerful transformation an empty space can yield when painted skilfully. She shows me how to expand and simplify. Her work is mysterious and analytical. It is calm and captivating. Her work has a silent strength of character, a confidence, that I aspire to incorporate into my own art making.
“Not sure of all this open space in the studio now? Not as many places to sleep anymore. Kristine says she has enough room to ‘swing a cat’ in their now… like that’s a good thing? Must let her know I am no ‘swinger’.
Think I’ll keep guard on the studio steps from now on! ”
Sketch, the inhouse art critic >••<
To those lovely folks who have heard me bang on about some of these topics before I send my apologies. It is sure to happen again as I bang on a lot.
The Gingernut Express is a monthly blog, written and produced by Visual Artist and Arts Educator, Kristine Ballard on www.kristineballard.com
© Kristine Ballard 2017