Exit, gouache on A3 paper, 2013
What are you working on in your studio right now?
I’m working on projects for my MFA, which I’m doing with the Open College for the Arts located in the UK. I just started the course a few months ago, but so far it’s really challenging, which is just what I’m doing it for, so I’m very pleased. The current task is called ‘Form, frame, and fracture’, we have a 12 hour time limit and so far I’ve done two and a half hours of it. I started very quickly, and I just started painting almost immediately. I don’t like to over think things, something I used to do, so I just went with my first response to the project title. I remembered this collage by Ellsworth Kelly where he had cut up a painting of some brushstrokes into 49 squares and arranged them at random to create a new fractured composition. I really enjoyed the simplicity of this approach and the rhythm it created.
Can you describe your working routine?
It normally takes me a while to get started, but when I do get going I work very quickly. I’ve found that I work best in short bursts because I get tired easily and when I’m tired I overwork things. I like to work quickly and then come back after a break with new energy. I don’t have a particular time of day for working, I just do what I can in the time I have, while my daughter is at school if I don’t have any work on (I’m an English tutor).
Task 2 project 1,
inspired by Ellsworth Kelly acrylic on paper
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
My studio has just been refurbished after the successful completion of a crowd funding project that I did during the summer. It’s about 25m2 and so far it’s not too cluttered, so it’s very light and airy. I have two south-east facing windows and one south facing one, so I have good light in the morning. The studio is just outside the town where I live in Spain. It’s quite rural and the studio looks out over fruit trees and farm buildings. Being able to see trees out the window makes me feel very happy and lucky, so I think it definitely has a positive impact on my work. I’ve never had such a beautiful space to work in before and I treasure it and any time I have to come here. Cycling down here I feel like a very privileged person. The studio is above the offices of a company that rents out gardening allotments, they also do a lot of courses and activities related to this and everything to do with living an ecologically friendly lifestyle. So there are always people around to talk to, there are also chickens, who I sometimes chat to. It’s just a great place to come. I do little illustration and design jobs for them in return for using this studio space, and they’ve allowed me to do it up how I wanted.
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
I tend to start off with a colour, an automatic drawing based on something I’ve seen or something I going through that I need to work out. I may be thinking about something I’ve seen in nature or some colour combination that I found interesting or many times the work of an artist I’ve seen and felt inspired by. I try to allow things to happen and not worry too much about making something good. I’ve been fighting against a need to control everything in my work and in life, so I try to do the opposite while working. I have to keep a sharp eye on myself so that I don’t get too worried about the work. In this way I make some initial drawings or marks on the surface (currently mostly paper) and go from there. Sometimes I’ll stop fairly early and feel satisfied that the work is done, whether good or bad it is done. Other times I’ll spend more time working into the work until I feel frustrated and can’t see a way to save it. I love this part because this struggle can lead to some very interesting things. Usually when I get to a certain point of being frustrated with a piece I’ll leave it for another day, and when I come back to the work after having had a rest I can usually find a way to save it, in this way I’ve made some of my favourite pieces of work.
work in progress, gouache and acrylic on A2 paper
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
I have on going doubts about making pictures that are two chaotic and fussy, I also worry that I’m more visceral than intellectual about my work. I’d also like to use a wider range of materials. I’m currently stuck on a piece that I spent a lot negative energy on, I was having a bad day and every decision I made about the piece just made things worse. This is potentially a good thing because I can do whatever I want to it now and not care too much about messing it up. I have been tentatively combining the use of gouache and acrylic paint on my pictures these days wondering what would happen and it’s been quite interesting. I’ve started reading this book by James Elkins called ‘What painting is’, so far it compares the artist’s intuitive use of materials to alchemy, so now when I’m painting I feel a bit magical, I just love that idea that you have to feel your way through a process where there are no set outcomes.
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
I would love to be more experimental with materials, it’s definitely a long term goal, but it takes me a while to find the courage to do this. This year I’ve been working with acrylic, oil and gouache and I really enjoyed seeing how the materials have influenced the work. I would like to spend more time using oil, but it’s daunting for me because it’s quite slow and messy and doesn’t allow me to work at the speed I enjoy with gouache and acrylic. I also enjoy collage and I’ve done a bit of work with plasticine. I’d really like to try spray paints at some point.
Wave, gouache on A3 paper
What does the future hold for this work?
I really don’t know where my work is going, I’m just really enjoying the time I have to paint. I’m sure the MFA will have a huge effect on what I make, as well as working in my new studio space. I’m noticing a need to make larger work and I feel quite board of working on rectangles I’m not sure how feelings are going to be resolved yet.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’d like to thank you Valerie for the opportunity to participate in this wonderful blog, which I’ve been a follower of for a while now. And thanks also to my artist friends on Face Book who have been so supportive of my work; this has made a huge difference to my confidence in myself as an artist.
Was I thinking about cake, gouache on A3 paper, 2013