Tuesday, 24 May 2016

What You've Missed.

I moved my blog over to my website recently so here's what you've missed in the last month or so:

6th May 2016

The Inevitability of Depression: My Interpretation of 'Descent From Möbius Wood'.


In this week's post I'm going to give you my interpretation of my painting 'Descent From Möbius Wood' and look at how inevitable depression is for me.

Warning: If you would rather do the hard work yourself and come up with your own interpretation then please don't read this. Make a nice cup of tea instead.

"People most vulnerable to depression are those who may have:
  • Already experienced one episode of depression." (O'Connell, 2009)

There are obviously more bullet points after this one, but this one is right up there at the top. This is the central idea behind 'Descent From Möbius Wood', that once someone has had depression he or she is more susceptible to having another episode. Seeing as though I've had at least one episode every year for the majority of my adult life, it's fair to say that I'll probably have another. It's pretty inevitable. That is unless I can guard against it.

15th May 2016

How I Price My Artwork.

Welcome Social

This has to be one of the trickiest aspects of starting out as an artist: deciding how much to charge. The problem is that if the price is too high it will put off potential buyers, but if it is too low, the artist ends up working for practically nothing and the art profession is devalued.

Having a background in Mathematics I have a tendency to work with numbers, although I do allow the artist in me to peep through at times and modify what I have calculated. So let's have a look at my calculations (don't worry, if you normally shy away from maths based problems there's nothing too tricky here).

17th May 2016

Ways to Fight Depression.


In my recent post looking at my personal interpretation of my painting 'Descent From Möbius Wood' (see image below), I touched on the ways that I guard against another episode of depression. Here, I will expand on that and look in more detail at different ways to fight depression.

 Please note: if you suspect that you are suffering with depression, your first port of call should be your doctor. They will be able to properly diagnose you and check for other conditions, prescibe medication if necessary, and/or refer you for counselling. You wouldn't try to deal with a persistent chest infection on your own, without seeking medical help, so why is depression any different? After all, it is an illness not a weakness.

Below, I'll detail self-help techniques for keeping depression at bay. They are things that I have read about in books or on websites and I have tried every one myself, admittedly with varying degrees of success. If you want to check that they are credible ways to deal with depression and I haven't just made it all up, I will add some links for you at the bottom of this post. Not all of this advice will necessarily work for you, but bear in mind that you will need to stick with the strategies and try them for a good while before discounting them. None are quick fixes and should be integrated into daily life to have the best effects. Look at them as regular maintenance to keep you feeling mentally well.

23rd May 2016

It's Good to Share...


Last week, I worked on some free presentations for art teachers to use (you can download Part 1 here - http://bit.ly/27QiXId). These resources show the process that I went through in creating 'The Insidious Whisper'. This is of course not entirely altruistic; the thought that I may possibly inspire someone in their art career, even in the smallest way, is certainly an intoxicating thought.

Regular readers will also have seen my posts and videos on how I work. Many people have thanked me on social media for these insights. And they are very welcome.

I like to share.

 As children we are taught to share from an early age. It is one of the ways parents socialise chidren and it is seen as something very important. Should this be any different as we grow into adulthood?

Read More.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

My Blog Is Moving

After reading a book on Search Engine Optimisation to improve my website, I have moved my blog over on to my actual website. This saddens me because I have really enjoyed using Blogger and have appreciated people reading my posts.

I will post links to my most recent posts on my site for a while to keep you up to date.

My most recent post is on the creation of the third painting in my abstract series and you can find it here:


So thanks for reading and I hope you make the transition over to my website!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Which Genre Do I Fit Into?

(Again, stick with me and I'll get round to art by the end...)

I loved listening to John Peel on the radio.

I loved the mix of styles he played, from Japanese thrash to jingly jangly indie pop. I never quite knew what to expect. He exposed whole new types of music to me, which I sometimes liked, sometimes hated, but the show was always interesting. Add to that the Festive 50 - a chart of the best 50 tracks of the year as voted for by his listeners - and it all adds up to make John Peel a hero and a legend.

I'm not the kind of person who can just listen to one genre and only like one genre, and dismiss all other genres. I like a mixture. Now, I won't use the 'e' word because in general when people describe their taste as the 'e' word it just means they listen to Coldplay, although they also enjoy Nickelback too. In other words: a narrow taste in music. Which is fine, I just like a mixture. A broad mixture.

The problem is that now, everything has been so neatly forced into genres - a process of 'genre-lisation' - that it's very hard to find anything to suit my needs. I thought Spotify may help with its Discover playlist, but all that churns out is music that has been through the process of blandardisation.

The same thing has happened to films. They generally don't get made unless the marketing team can see an easy way to promote them, i.e. they neat fit into a genre box. My favourite film 'The Wicker Man' probably wouldn't get made today because it steadfastly refuses to be categorised. Is it a horror film? Well, the ending is completely horrific but the rest of the film is more of a saucy musical comedy. I even like the sequel 'The Wicker Tree'. (Yes, I may possibly be the only person to like it, granted.) I was expecting to hate it, but despite not being anywhere near as good as the original, I enjoyed it due to its lack of a clear genre.

Focus groups don't help. In appealing to a broad audience, the films become blandardised and wholly average (at best). As a creator would I want my film to be liked by many (and then forgotten) or loved and cherished by a few?

It should be fairly obvious from my art which path I've decided to go down. My mum keeps hassling me to paint things that will be popular and sell, like pretty landscapes and cute rabbits. I explain that I would be bored senseless and the dream of being an artist would become a nightmare. So I paint what I want to paint without worrying about the genre or whether anyone will actually like my work.

But this week, I've hit a snag.

This week I've been looking at optimising my website so that search engines can find it easily (SEO: Search Engine Optimisation). In this process I've had to look at keywords that people will search for to find my site. Straight away I had to ask myself the question: which genre do I fit into? Hmmm, not sure. I asked people on social media sites and the closest they came up with is fantasy. Okay, it's relatively close, but I won't be painting elves, wizards or dragons anytime soon. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I just want to do something different. Another factor is that I also want to dabble in abstract work or anything else that takes my fancy. I want to make art, not a neatly packaged, genre-lised, blandardised product.

I suppose I can't have it both ways. I can't paint what I love and also fit into a narrow little marketing box. I can feel my mum shaking her head now.

Any thoughts on the subject? Please leave a comment below.


Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Process Behind 'The Seven Gates: Abstract No. 2'

Here's the next in my abstract series and it's the companion piece to 'Welcome':

I planned the painting first on paper using the theme of self destruction and voluntary isolation as my starting point. Once I'd got a rough idea I headed into Photoshop to further develop it. This takes a long time as I tried numerous possibilities, seeing the difference made to the feeling of the painting by changing a line or a colour. Here are some of the images from the later stages I went through:

As you can see I toyed with the idea of adding in my construction lines but in the end I preferred to keep the inner workings hidden in the final painting. You will also notice that I tried flipping and rotating the painting to get the best result. This was really interesting because I'd turn it one way and say to myself that that's not it. Then when I turned it to its final position it hit me that this was precisely what I was looking for. It's surprising the difference turning or flipping a painting can make.

When it came to the painting stages I added many layers of paint that later would be revealed when I scratched off certain areas. I'll let the time lapse video show this better:


Thanks a lot for reading and next week I'm going to write a post about genres. See you then.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Website Redesign

Just a short post this week because it's been a busy week. I've redesigned my website (amongst other things) and it's one of those tasks that has come as a surprise to a fledgling professional artist. Being an artist for me is not just painting: it's blogging, social mediarising, (I think that's a real word, if not it should be) accounting, record keeping, film making and web designing. 

The website design is something that I could hand over to a specialist company to do for me but as an artist, if there's anything that involves art and design, then I want to be there, in with the nitty gritty. For me, it's a lot quicker to do it myself rather than tell someone else what I would like to have done. I've made mistakes along the way and it's still not perfect but I'm quite happy with the new design.

This is where you come in: rather than reading loads more of me rattling on in a blog post, I would really appreciate it if you could head on over to my website and have a look (see link at the bottom of the post). Then I'd appreciate it even more if you could give me any feedback.
  •  Is the website user-friendly?
  •  Is everything easy to find?
  •  What do you think to the colour scheme/design?
  •  Is it conducive to buying prints? (Sadly I can't just be arty, I have to pay bills too.)
  •  Any other thoughts? 
I posted a similar request on the social media sites and I've had some really constructive comments that have led to me refining my initial design, so I do actually act on what people have said to me. Any feedback would be very welcome.

So I'll thank you in advance and I'll see you again next week where I'll fill you in on my latest abstract work.


Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Seven Gates - Abstract Series

You may have noticed on my website that I've recently taken a slight departure from my usual detailed paintings and gone for something more minimalist. I've been forced into this by the fact that my hand can't cope with day after day of fine detail work and - prepare yourself for a technical medical term - has decided to get all hurty. The word 'forced' makes it sound like a bad thing, but while I love painting details, I've really enjoyed doing something different.

I decided to base seven abstract paintings on the paintings in my main 'The Seven Gates' series. You could think of my detailed work as intricately programmed techno and the new abstracts as my minimalist ambient works, if you're into that type of thing. This first one is the companion to 'Descent From Möbius Wood' (see above). It is based on the same idea of the inescapable nature of depression and how it is always lurking in the background ready to pounce when guards are lowered.
I started just messing around with shapes and lines in Photoshop to get across the feeling of being alone, lost and drawn towards something not in the least bit pleasant. These are some of the stages I went through:

I've found lots of things about this new series exciting: the difference that moving a line slightly makes to the feel of a painting, the ability to be looser with the paint, the chance to complete a piece of work in one week and being able to develop new techniques. I've already tried three new methods that I can use in my main series so there will be a certain amount of cross pollination.

Technique #1: Adding washes and then sprinkling on salt. It leaves a really interesting texture.

Technique #2: Putting paint on thickly in lines and letting it dry for five minutes, then wiping away any paint that hasn't dried with a wet brush. This leaves very fine lines where the paint has dried.

Technique #3: Painting many layers of thick paint and after drying, scratching away areas with a craft knife to reveal the layers below. Again, this gives a great texture. I noticed this technique while making this painting but there isn't evidence of it in the finished piece. Fear not it will make an appearance in future works. I've got some other ideas up my sleeve too as each painting will get looser and more fragmented. 

In the planning and painting stages I listened to music to help me get the right feeling in the brush strokes. I has a playlist of tracks that fit the emotion I was trying to get across. The main track I used was 'Endorphin' by Burial.

When I'd finished, I tried some different crops and it came down to a choice between the painting at the top of the post and this one:

I possibly liked this one more on an aesthetic level but it felt too forceful, the top diagonal pushing the viewer down too quickly, whereas the one I went for has a greater feeling of space and drifting towards the inevitable conclusion.

So despite being forced into it, painting abstracts is something that I'm going to keep doing. (I'm really looking forward to doing the next one which will allow me to actually use colour! I'm so used to painting greys this will be a real treat.) I may alternate between detailed and minimalist to give my hand a break, even when it's better. If you're an artist too then trying something different may also excite you and feed into the work that you are more familiar with. Give it a go. 

If you've any comments about this painting or about branching out and trying something different then please leave a comment below, I'd love to know your thoughts.

To return to my website where you can see a larger version of this painting, click here.