Hey lovely art friends, I’m so excited to be part of Life Book 2022! This will be my fourth year teaching on Life Book and it’s one of the highlights of my year. I put a lot into my lessons, and it’s so gratifying to see you all learning and enjoying the creativity and of course the beautiful work!
Early registration is open, so if you already know you’ll be joining us for the full course, use code ARTJOY30 for a very special 30% early bird discount when you sign up.
For now, I’m here to tell you I am giving away ONE FREE SPOT on Life Book 2022!
To enter the giveaway please do the following 2 things:
The winner will be picked on 10 October and will be contacted via email.
*Links in this post are affiliate links, which supports me & helps me provide for my family at no extra cost to you. I appreciate it so much when you decide to sign up via one of my links, thank you!
PS I purposefully decided against requiring you to follow me or sign up to anything for this giveaway, because I want that to be your own choice. If you are new here and think you might like to follow my art and creative journey, I invite you to check out my Instagram and/or sign up to my newsletter.
UPDATE 10-Oct: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED! The winner of the giveaway is Natasha “I would love to win a spot! I’m a beginner artist and am still exploring different mediums; this would be perfect to help me find my style!” who was randomly selected from all entries, and she has been contacted via email
Are you a beginner artist? So was I. Still am, in lots of ways.
**TL;DR It’s a journey, a beautiful, messy and painful journey. It’s worth it in the end, because you’re making YOUR art. **
I wrote this in the Life Book taster group and thought I’d share it here too:
I’ve been reading the posts in here, and seeing the anguish some of you are going through, especially when confronted with the beautiful art, the skilled art, the art of those who have been creating for many years. Every time I read someone express their frustration, impatience, disappointment with their own art, or their own potential art (especially when comparing to others – and sure, you know you’re not supposed to, but as a beginner (or maybe just as a human), how could you not?!) my heart hurts, and I sympathise, because I’ve been there. That was me in the past. And when I’m not being mindful and staying on my own path: that still sometimes is me in the present.
So I wanted to share this little collage with you. Not just showing you one of my first creations and one of my latest (like a way of saying “look, I was terrible then, but I’m good now!”), but also the ones in the middle. They show a very specific journey. A journey that was mostly this long because I didn’t make any art for many many years in the middle, because I was too scared. I let my “Gap” be very long. (Referencing an Ira Glass quote about beginners disliking their own art)
2007 – One of my first creations. Inspired by other artists drawing whimsical girls and doing mixed media. I love this now, but at the time I just had an overwhelming feeling of it being not good enough. I felt like I was striving for some unattainable ideal. That awe that I felt when I saw other people’s art, art that I felt was “good”, unlike my own. It was that feeling that made me leave weeks, months, years between creative sessions. It felt terrible, I felt terrible.
2013 – I took Life Book and realised I could make pretty art! In the past I always thought that once I could make art I was happy with I’d have it made! I imagined I’d be so pleased with myself, and then I’d be creating ALL THE TIME. But I wasn’t…
2016 – My art slowly morphed, I definitely made a lot more art (there was no longer the obstacle of not liking my art – but the motivation could still often be lacking for weeks or months at a time) and I started developing my own style. I realised though that I was still holding on to an ideal, it was an amalgamation between wanting to make pretty things, wishing my art could look like other popular artists’ art, wanting to be liked, wanting my art to be liked (oh the curse of social media and those ‘likes’!) and fear of anything that didn’t quite fit into that.
2021 – I don’t remember exactly when it was, but at a certain point (or perhaps more truthfully, this wasn’t a specific ‘point’, it was a gradual process that feels like ‘a point’ when looking back, but wasn’t as clear cut or simple when I was going through it) I said “*bleep* it, I want to express myself, embrace imperfection and JUST CREATE”. Which is how I ended up with my raw, quirky, emotional, asymmetrical and unique art & style. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s MINE, and it’s exactly what I want to be expressing at this moment in time. It’s kind of priceless to be honest.
So all of this to say: it’s a process, a journey. Maybe there is no one defining ‘aha’ moment, but if you dare to move forward and create art, you’ll find the journey is made up of so many aha moments, and you’ll get closer and closer to ‘your art’, which is the only art that matters.
PS full disclosure: I still struggle, I still get doubts, I still compare myself, I still get envious, I still don’t always feel good enough. In spite of all that, I create.
If you read to the end, please have this cookie as a reward:
Art friend, we often see the results of inspiration & creativity online, the darker flip-side seems to not be talked about so often. I’m hoping that sharing the following vulnerable musings will help you not feel so alone when sometimes the inspiration doesn’t come.
The way I approach making art comes from within, and at times it simply doesn’t come. Does that ever happen to you?
When I notice this happening, I feel several things:
Pressure. Why can’t I create? Why can’t I be consistent?
Guilt. Will people who expect to see my art be disappointed? What if I can’t deliver what I promised?
Fear. Will it ever come back? Am I just kidding myself thinking I’m an artist?
I start thinking that maybe I should approach art in the results focussed way. I’m a fairly competent painter; I could paint cute animals or watercolour landscapes or just do crafty things like bookbinding. I could just produce and focus on creating a massive output. But when I sit down to try I can’t. The heaviness comes tenfold, because on some level I know that I am avoiding something.
Recently I noticed something that I do, or maybe something I experience is a better way of putting it. When I’m in a creative period, I feel like I’ve cracked the code, I’ve unlocked something in myself, I’ll never have to worry again about not feeling creative! Then, sometimes gradually, sometimes suddenly, the feeling disappears and I’m in a creative dry spell. During the dry spell I feel like it will never change. I have run out of ideas, run out of motivation and this is it, the inspiration will never come back.
It’s curious to experience these extremes, especially when my memory tells me that I’ve been through both phases many times, so I can always trust that the current phase doesn’t last forever. It’s as if what I’m experiencing is the immutable Truth and no reasoning or logical thinking changes how I feel. As someone who has used logic to override feelings for the best part of my life, this is simultaneously frustrating and a marker of progress. I’m hoping it will change over time, where I might be able to experience both at the same time.
I wish for a future where I might be able to experience the feelings that I’m currently protecting myself from by not making art (because I do think this avoidance is borne out of self-protection). It also makes me wonder about when to let things rest and be soft to myself or when to push through and force myself to create. I don’t have a definitive answer for what is ‘the right thing’, but I do think ruminating on these questions is useful in and of itself.
Right now I’m trying to listen to little sparks of creativity. They don’t yet translate to actually making art again yet, but it’s little things like seeing someone’s painting and feeling inspired, or feeling excited to try something I’ve seen (a technique or colour combination) or a general feeling of “maybe I’d like to…”. Yesterday I all of a sudden felt that I might want to try an expressive self-portrait.
We’ll see. For now I am going to try to keep listening.
Dear art friend, if this sounds familiar to you, I hope you will be able to find within you a gentleness towards yourself. We’re in this together, figuring out this thing called life & creativity.
I often talk about how great it is if you can let go of the outcome when creating art, but what does that actually mean and how do you do it?
Let’s start with the flipside of letting go: being attached to the outcome. With this comes a feeling of pressure. For example wanting to create pretty or aesthetically pleasing art, creating something that will make you feel good about yourself, or creating in order to get loads of likes & comments (i.e. to feel loved and accepted).
Or even when you take that away, there’s still the issue of how you look at your own work. When you are attached to the outcome there is pressure, whether it comes from yourself or from outside.
At a certain point in my journey I noticed this pressure and realised what it was doing to my process. Instead of enjoying this wonderful art time that I was making for myself (and you’ll agree that in our busy lives, the time you make for art is precious and certainly not a given!), I was feeling icky about it. I might have created paintings I liked or felt good about, but at the same time I was so focussed on creating a certain outcome that I wasn’t able to enjoy the actual creation process.
And when you’re not enjoying the process, why bother? If you have a hobby (something you specifically do because you want to enjoy yourself) and you find yourself not enjoying yourself, then you have to change something. Once I started pondering on that I had the insight that it was about enjoying the process. And how could I enjoy the process? The most important step was to not worry so much about what the result would be.
It’s definitely not easy and it’s a journey, rather than something you simply ‘decide’ and put into practice forever more. Since my discovery I have started incorporating this into my classes. My work and my classes are never about becoming the greatest artist or mastering a certain technique. Rather, I try to help you to embrace the process and let go of the outcome.
When people tell me they’ve enjoyed a class of mine that they’ve taken, it’s rarely about whether they liked the artwork they created. The focus is usually about the process or how it made them feel.
I’ve realised that often people haven’t really discovered yet that there is something additional that you can add to the process. When you let go of the outcome, you can still make art that is satisfying as an end result, but there are also these things you can add so it becomes more transformative.
So it becomes more about self-expression, or self-discovery, or about switching off, or processing your feelings, or journaling something that happened to you that you need to work through (a therapy like process). When you focus only on the outcome, that stands in the way of all of those things. Being conscious of it allows you to be more deliberate in your purpose for doing art. You can start examining what the things are that trip you up, and what those things are that makes it less fun for you.
What my hope and wish is for you that you can bring in a bit of that consciousness that allows you to let go of the outcome and enjoy the process. So at the end of your art session you’ve had a nourishing journey, rather than just a pretty piece to show for it.
So my question and challenge to you is: What can you do in your process, next time you sit down to make art, to focus a little bit less on the outcome?
PS if you enjoyed this article you might like to check out Life Book 2019, an online art course that I’m teaching on which is all about making art and how the process can help you live a more positive and fulfilling life. Use coupon code LOVEBOMB2019 to get 20% off
I often talk about doing art for self-expression and I’m aware it can sound a bit intangible. What does that mean, art for self-expression?
For me it is the crux of why I do art and what I want to put out into the world: to help people do art for self-expression rather than for result.
In our education system you’re often learning by doing a project or mastering a technique. The media we see online is usually of an end product, not necessarily the journey. That can give you a skewed view of what art can be. It all feels very results focussed.
It can be really difficult, because we are so focussed on results in our lives, education and careers. We are often concerned with the end of the journey and how to get there efficiently and quickly, rather than the journey itself. Of course there is nothing wrong with knowing what you want and going for it, like wanting to make beautiful or pretty art. I love making art where I enjoy the result. But if that is all there is, we’re missing out on a big part of what art can offer.
Recently there has been a shift:
It’s becoming more popular to talk about mindfulness, the journey, being in the moment
What I like to do with art for self-expression is for it to have less focus on the result. This has been the red thread through my journey: moving from a more results focussed artistic practice to a more self-expressive artistic practice.
And I have good news! In this process there is no bad art, but there is also no good art. That concept of bad or good art can really hold you back. With self-expression it is no longer about bad or good, but it’s about you. It’s important to remember that it’s a process and a journey. Once you’ve decided to make art for self-expression you might be surprised when you still encounter your inner critic or still feel very attached to the outcome. It’s good to start with the intellectual understanding that you can only ever make the art that you’re meant to make.
You are always expressing that which you need to express in the moment.
It’s important to be mindful of what being creative during the natural phases of your daily life is like. Sometimes you are on fire and everything comes easily, and other times all the energy has gone out of you like a mini burnout. I believe this is a normal part of life, but sometimes it can feel like it’s not fine. As if you’re ‘doing it wrong’ and you have to be ‘on’ and creative all the time. Sometimes you feel in the flow and make amazing art and the next day it doesn’t feel good. That’s part of the process. It requires courage to allow that to be part of the process and not get discouraged.
I really value what art can bring you if you focus on the process and the self-expression.
The beautiful thing is that doing art this way doesn’t require any specific skills or expensive art supplies.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can become a really nice part of your life where you are supporting yourself with your art. Instead of doing art to create something pretty or fixed, it’s about connecting with what you need to express. Sometimes that’s heavy and difficult, sometimes it’s light, but in my eyes it’s always perfect.
You see my art as a finished thing but it comes from somewhere. It is part of my story, my past and my journey.
My story with creativity goes back a long way, I’ve always been attracted to being creative, painting, writing stories. But in the past I felt held back, usually by fear of failure or due to a harsh inner critic.
The seed of creativity was there all along, but it wasn’t a straight line to where I am now.
I stumbled upon mixed media in 2008 and really wanted to do it but couldn’t stick with it. I’d make a good effort, but hate the result and then not create for months. I kept buying more and more art supplies thinking they were the key to creativity, but none of them were the magical solution I was looking for. I got stuck.
A few years later I was really struggling with depression (something I have experienced on and off my whole life). Getting help through therapy led me on a journey of self-discovery which wasn’t necessarily about creativity initially.
When I picked up art again around 2014 initially I just wanted to make something pretty. I enjoyed what other people were doing and I wanted to do that too. I followed a lot of art courses and experimented taking on other people’s styles.
At that point in time art & creativity were separate from self-discovery, but then through the therapy slowly art became something natural to reach for as an extension of what therapy was helping me uncover.
Therapy and art started to meet (even if they were separate in terms of place and practice). I realised they were the same, they could serve the same purpose.
The way I grew up there wasn’t much room for my feelings. Showing or experiencing feelings wasn’t modelled. I grew up not knowing or understanding or expressing my feelings. Which then turned into adult me who couldn’t do anything with feelings. But I had an inkling, I realised I was struggling with things and that there was a bigger range of feelings ‘out there’ (or rather ‘in here’).
That is how I came towards using art for self-expression and also for self-discovery. The art started informing me about what I felt. The art allowed me to see what I felt unable to feel to initially create an intellectual understanding, and over time also an emotional understanding.
Now that I’ve been doing art for self-expression for a while and also therapy, it is becoming easier. Both the making of the art but also understanding and feeling my feelings.
I credit both therapy and art with helping me so much with my feelings. They go hand in hand.
I’m still on this journey of self-discovery and I’m not done (I mean, are we ever done?). I feel like I have a relationship with art now which is a mirroring of my relationship with my feelings. I can’t walk away from that, nor would I want to.
Coming from no feelings and being on this journey towards feelings is something that goes into my art. This is why you see a lot of graphic expression in my art and a lot of darkness. They might be current feelings, but I also often say that the art I make now is the art I would’ve made when I was a teenager if I had only known how.
The expressive art I make is not necessarily a conscious action where I ‘sit down to work through a certain feeling’. Rather, I sit down, make art, try to let things flow and then afterwards (sometimes a few days later) I might look at it and try to understand what feelings I expressed in a piece. It gives me an entry point into my feelings and understanding myself that might be completely opaque to me without art.
This is also why I love working in journals. It’s really a personal practice, like diary keeping, but in a visual way rather than with words.
I try to be kind to myself. My work doesn’t always need to have meaning, it can just be. I can close the book and be happy I made something. I don’t need to be some therapy miracle.
Art helps me with my feelings. I do what I do because I want other people who feel they don’t have a voice for what they feel or don’t have understanding of their feelings to know that art and self-expression can be so helpful with that. Especially in this world that seems to shoo away feelings.
I want to be a voice in the world that says: “yes have all your feelings and express them”.
Ahhh it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for… I reveal more of my favourite art supplies! Keep reading to find out which art supplies I use on a daily basis. Don’t forget to check out part 1 over here.
I love me some drippy drippy ink. These Liquitex ones are very nice and vibrant. I use them for drips, but also to add inky layers to my paintings. Inks to me are one of those really FUN supplies to have, even though I haven’t the faintest clue how you’re ‘supposed’ to use them, so I just do my own thing. How do you use your inks?
Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold
This paint colour is magical! In the tube it looks like a simple reddish brown, but when you apply it you realise how versatile it is. Especially when used in translucent layers or added to white, it really shows it’s magic. It just adds a warmth and pretties everything up, or grunges things up, depending on what you’re going for. It’s mega expensive but well worth the money.
Art teacher Pauline Agnew introduced me to these awesome tools. They are basically silicone wedges that you can use to apply or scrape paint. They have a different feel to palette knives and are really unique and versatile. They are simply one more tool in my toolbox to apply paint, create texture, make backgrounds and grungify (this is a word, I say so) my work.
I spent years not understanding what palette knives were for (apart from taking paint out of paint tubs effectively), then I started working with them and wow, I’m in love! You can scrape and drag paint with them and they instantly give it a grungy and raw look. Scraping paint with a palette knife is one of my favourite things to do in my artwork and it fits in so well with the feelings I’m wishing to convey. I especially like this metal one, plastic ones are a good budget alternative, but a metal one does work more effectively.
These chunky neon pencils are my favourites! I love adding details to my art journal pages with them. They really have that fluorescent look. They come in more colours, but these are the only ones I use
So tell me, which art supplies can’t you live without?
I love art supplies, I’m a real art supply addict! I often get questions about what supplies I use and love, so I thought it would be fun to create a couple of blog posts highlighting my favourite art supplies.
I love my brayer! I have a few different ones. The one pictured is a Speedball brayer which is nice and soft and is my favourite. I also use lino print brayers which are more firm (but cheaper!). I use brayers to apply paint to backgrounds. It’s an instant gratification texture tool and my work wouldn’t be the same without it.
When I first got my watercolours I went through a watercolour phase. Then I realised I could use them in mixed media. Now my favourite way of using watercolours is on top of layers of acrylic. I put together my own palette of Schmincke half pans and a couple of Daniel Smith (shown here is a 12 half pan palette with the colours I use most often)
I know this seems like the most pointless (harhardehar, see what I did there?) item, but I recently bought a new pencil sharpener and it’s the best thing since sliced bread (slice… get it.. get it?? *bows* I’ll be here all day). It made me realise how incredibly BLUNT my old one was and in addition this little Stabilo sharpener works slightly differently to regular pencil sharpeners. It can achieve a REALLY sharp point and also sharpens more akin to how pencils come when you buy them (the wood of the sharpened bit comes out shorter than with other sharpeners). So yes, I am a real art supply nerd!
Hand Carved Mini Stamps
I’m not a huge crafter, but I do love using crafts to support my art habits. These are some mini stamps (they measure about 2x2cm) that I carved myself. I wanted stamps with certain symbols that I use in my art a lot, and because they are personal symbols I obviously couldn’t buy them from a shop! I used Speedball Speedycarve which is much softer and easy to cut than traditional lino or erasers. This is essential to me as I suffer from RSI very easily.
I love matte paints both from a practical point of view as an art journaler (less chance of pages sticking together) and from an aesthetic point of view (pretty!). Paper Artsy make a great range of chalk paints. My favourite colour is Nougat, but I couldn’t get it at my local store, so I got Chalk instead and added a tiny bit of pink and ochre to achieve a warmer/offwhite colour. Whenever you see big areas of off-white in my art, you can bet it’s this chalk paint. I just wish it came in a big tub!
Colour Brush Pen
This is a funny one. I used a tester pen at the shop and got wonderful black lines. But ín the one I bought the ink doesn’t really flow properly. At first I thought about taking it back and getting a refund, but then I realised that the dry brush and grungy effect it created was perfect!
Tell me in the comments below what YOUR favourite art supplies are and how you use them?
I love playing, how about you?! I’m a very playful person. I love humour, laughing with people, being funny (I hope other people think I am… lol), playing games, joking around with my kids.
But how often do we truly get the opportunity to play as adults?
Our lives don’t seem particularly set up or conducive for play and playfulness. We are often serious and responsible people in the world and sometimes play doesn’t seem compatible with this. Or it feels like work and play are two very separate things. There is a time for the one and a time for the other, but not necessarily for both at the same time.
Playing, fun and laughter are so healthy and beautiful, but I think we don’t play enough.
I think it’s important to incorporate play into art. Sometimes it’s hard to translate playfulness into art. We bring the seriousness of other parts of our lives into our art and then it’s difficult to switch from ‘adult responsible mode’ into a playful mode
I sometimes forget to play when I’m at my art desk. I get so wrapped up in the serious art practice or what I’m doing, that I forget to play.
So I need to remind myself to play. Personally I’m not a person for whom it works to say ‘just play’. That doesn’t enable me, rather it feels so intimidating that I start overthinking playing and get completely paralysed! Instead, I like a bit of structure; some boundaries and guidelines. I need to create an arty sandbox for myself within which to play safely as it were.
How can you play with your art supplies?
Grab two drawing implements (pen, pencil, charcoal, crayon) and make symmetrical movements on paper.
Make marks with interesting tools (twigs, leaves, vegetables, toy cars, wrapping materials)
Do a ‘test page’ of all your red pencils, paints, crayons and pens
Finger paint! (use disposable gloves if you use toxic paints)
Whenever you do art try to follow a feeling of playfulness. Cultivate a sense of openness, curiosity and wonder. If we can remember to do this I think we can be freer and really nurture this part of ourselves that can often be forgotten in our daily life.
So tell me, how do you play? How do you bridge the gap between seriousness and playfulness in your daily life and art practice?
If you’d like to join me and create playful and expressive art like the pictures in this post, you might like the Life Book Creativity & Wellbeing Summit. It’s FREE to join and starts on 1 October. Every day for 2 weeks you will receive inspirational art exercises and video interviews with working artists direct to your inbox. Go here to sign up.
I recently finished this painting titled Darkness Within and I thought I’d show you some pictures and tell you about the painting, its themes and what it means to me.
It started with a small thought, that I wanted to study master/famous painters more, especially those whose work speaks to me. The first person who came to mind was Egon Schiele. His work has a depth of feeling that I haven’t experienced with any other paintings. It is something that I wish for in my own art. There is also an element of ugliness, an unrefined rawness associated with being human. I absolutely love Schiele’s work and could look at it for hours!
I have done studies before (as in, trying to faithfully replicate the look of an existing work of art), but it never holds my interest. I can DO it, but I’m not FEELING it. So I wanted to do something with a Schiele painting, without copying it exactly and while putting plenty of myself and my style into the painting.
The painting “Self Portrait With Hands On Chest” was one that stood out to me, the hands are raw and mesmerizing and I was drawn to the simple almost profile portrait and blue hair. I wanted to try and incorporate a hand into my painting too. I started preparing a background in my A3 art journal. It was a page I had previously started a sketch on with watersoluble crayons, but it wasn’t going anywhere. So I indiscriminately brayered and dragged paint across the whole page, covering everything that was there before.
I started a sketch with a black Stabilo All pencil (my favourite tool for sketches, especially when working on top of an existing background), combining elements of what I could see in Schiele’s painting with ways in which I usually sketch faces. On the one hand I was using the painting as an example, but at the same time I wasn’t worrying about getting a perfect likeness.
There was a rawness to the Schiele hands, but I wanted to push it further. Creating a sort of fairytale witch hand with thin fingers and big knuckles. The hand I ended up drawing fascinates me, and it has shown up in more of my work since then.
The shading on the face closely follows the Schiele painting. It uses a combination of watersoluble crayons, acrylic paint and colour pencils.
I paint female faces. I have no interest in painting male faces, so that was the biggest divergence from the example. You could say that in some way each portrait I paint is a self-portrait, even if that is not the purpose I set out with. Experiencing being female and femininity is a big theme in my life (and therefore art). I’m especially aware of what it means to be female in our patriarchal society and I’m interested in exploring that experience. The use of pink (often viewed as a ‘girly’ colour) and turquoise is juxtaposed with the use of black, especially black paint applied with a brayer, which adds a rawness.
There is an ugliness and rawness to life that I am keen to explore, but it is something I have struggled to put into my art. This is intertwined with this experience of femininity. As a girl/woman you are expected and praised for espousing and aspiring to certain beauty ideals. A woman is punished (and noticed) for being ugly or doing things in an ugly manner much more harshly than a male person. I want to represent this tension, this dichotomy, the wish to be pretty or make pretty things without disavowing the ugly or raw part of the self.
The subject has her eyes closed. She is looking within, and at the same time not looking at all. She has her eyes closed in order to shield herself, but also in order to have an experience that isn’t available when her eyes are open. Similarly to me as the painter, trying to paint the subject’s eyes open would distract me too much from experiencing the feelings that are able to be felt when the eyes are closed.