I absolutely love the versatility of acrylics and am so pleased to finally be reacquainted with mine after a period of nearly 12 months storage whilst we moved house.
My first painting 'back in the saddle' was inspired by a magical moment from the evening before in the little copse outside my house.
Experiencing a hot spell of weather we were walking the dogs later than usual and the light through the trees as the sun went down was just beautiful! I took a video which captured the midges flying in the sunlight and then used it to inspire this little study in colour and light the following day. However, it was hot so I took my canvas outside and pitched up in the shade.
The heat is always an issue with Acrylics as it makes them dry so quickly. This is great on the canvas if, like me, you are a fast painter, but not for the palette where you can very quickly lose the colour you have just spent ages mixing as it dries solid!
I have found a few tricks that help to keep my acrylics useable in such situations and I am happy to share them with you here in this free downloadable print off sheet.
I will be sharing some more tips on acrylics, colour mixing and techniques that I use in my paintings so do sign up to get them straight into your inbox every week!
OK so we all know that this blasted virus has turned our worlds upside down and put the best laid plans to waste but how to get through it and still manage to have a chink of light at the end of it all…whenever that is going to be!
Before lockdown I had been pondering my art practice.
I work freelance to make up any shortfall in income and to be honest the back half of 2019 and into the first few months of 2020 had me wondering whether to jack the whole ‘fiddling around with paint’ thing in altogether. I work out of what was our dining room and my husband works out of our kitchen so the house is in a permanent state of flux – add to that two teenagers that do what teenagers do best and you will understand that any social invites was out of the question without at least a weeks notice!
Then along came lockdown.
WOW! I sat in my studio going through my diary crossing out all the exhibitions, committee meetings, and events out for the next few months and then looked around me.
After about 5 minutes thinking ‘what is the point’ and full of self pity my eyes fell onto a quote that lives on my notice board…”Remember why you started. Don’t give up, find a way”
Spurred into action I wrote a list of things that I wanted to get out of my Art career and set about making them happen.
I have painted pet portraits for a long time but also love to paint landscapes and do more experimental stuff which never really sits right when trying to communicate this on my social media and web pages.
First a rebrand and split of ‘commission’ based business and ‘exhibition’ and personal art goals business. After getting it all on paper it was like a weight had been lifted, but I now had to actually put the plan into action.
Before I could change my mind I put a post out on facebook – I was going to challenge myself to paint something everyday with the help of anyone that wanted to get involved. I asked for photos of things that made people happy. It could be anything…pet, favourite holiday destination, person…. It soon became clear that pets were the things that brought joy to most households and so my Lockdown Challenge was born… ‘30 Paintings in 30 Days’ I would choose a photo sent in via facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn and paint it. On my list of things to improve was ‘Technical Skills’ and so I filmed each painting and edited it in iMovie and posted to Youtube. All paintings were completed in no more than 2 hours leaving an hour or so to edit and plan the next days painting. Having a self imposed time limit made every brush stroke count and helped to get my eye in early and commit to the canvas. I felt brave and out of my depth in equal measure!
When the videos were uploaded they were posted to my social media channels at the end of every day and then posted to the recipient if they wanted them. Everyone did!
I only charged for materials and postage so I could pay it forward to the next recipient. It kept me in business and instead of me paying to do an online course, people were paying me to learn new skills. This is my attitude to my business now. I want to work every day. I have learnt the discipline of getting up early every day, coming into the studio, doing admin, planning the next painting, and getting on with it! I don’t want to stop!
So far since the 1st April I have painted almost 100 cats, dogs and horses and am just about to start Christmas commissions!
My exhibition with Karen Sillar as ‘Print Pastel and Paint’ at Bear Steps Gallery in Shrewsbury in September was a success with the new landscapes and abstracts that I worked on during the evenings after painting commissions during the day.
I have honestly never been busier and I love it!
I know that it isn’t easy for some to find the love and inspiration in their art during this difficult time, but what I have learnt is that now is the time to find joy in whatever you can and celebrate the small stuff. Do whatever makes you smile…the rest will come around.
To book or enquire about having your pet painted please contact me at email@example.com, or for art for your home or office (or home-office!) you can view my portfolio or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to see more of my art you can find me here:-
Facebook – pawsomepaintingsuk
Instagram – pawsomepaintingsuk
Twitter - @pawsomepaintings
Web – www.pawsomepaintings.co.uk
Email – email@example.com
Facebook – AlisonStaffordArt
Instagram – alstaffordart
Twitter - @alstaffordart
Web – www.alisonstafford.com
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of us have carried on through the pandemic due to necessity, and/or because we are defined as 'key workers' (to those I thank you!) but most of us will have experienced limitations on every day lives. As we gradually peak out of our safe place and try to find our way back into our strange new world post lockdown we will have to find new creative ways to do the things we didn't think twice about.
I know that as an artist that ordinarily enjoys delivering workshops, demonstrating to art groups, and painting plein air with friends, it could have had the potential to clip my wings and stop play until more favourable conditions allow and I have been forced to find inspiration closer to home.
Covid-19 has also well and truly forced me to focus on the back office side of being a professional artist. Admin, accounts, you know, all the boring bits!
But it has made me more determined to make it work. I can happily say that I have come through lockdown thus far having no qualms about describing my occupation as an artist without feeling like a fraud. (Weird how so many of us don't have the confidence to say what we do from the time we get up to the time we go to bed because we fear the judgement of others).
I have discovered that there are people that 'get' what I do and are happy to pay me to do it. There are also others who don't 'get' what I do, or necessarily like how I do it, but that does not mean that I am going to change to fit their ideal. I am determined to be authentic and use my language to describe what I see and not pretend to be something I am not.
I know this is not the experience that everyone has had and I have close friends that have, and are, still struggling. Lack of motivation, direction, inspiration and absorption of the negativity that blasts from every radio station, news broadcast and the press, it is no wonder that cases of mental health problems have escalated!
In summary it gives people a voice in which they can express themselves whereby they would not have the courage to tell their story. (It is no coincidence that art therapy is used in cases of abused children). Without art we lose a language. I can include musicians in this. Can you imagine a world without music? Without brand identity (e.g. the 'Coke' logo was designed by someone with an art background), without colour, no museums, galleries, no theatres, no fashion, no live concerts!! It's a world I don't want to live in that's for sure!
We must learn to appreciate the skills that make our world a better place to live in - and coming out of this pandemic a positively joyful place to be! Whether that is your own home, your place of work, the world around 'you'. Look at the way a shop front is decorated as you drive past on your way to work, the music you listen to on the bus, the bank notes that are in your wallet, the clothes you are wearing or the car you are driving. This was all created by someone with an art education and/or the encouragement to use the freedom of expressive language.
Personally I find that playing in my sketchbook has helped me 'download' stress and negativity and also work through ideas that then become studio work. One of the exercises I recently completed was really good fun. Why don't you have a go - the skill level for this exercise is ZERO and it is brilliant for taking your mind off 'stuff' - even the kids can join in!
Take a sheet of paper (or a page in your sketchbook) and apply a grid of masking tape - it doesn't have to be even squares. I used acrylic paint but you can use any medium as long as you don't think too much about how you apply it. Pick four things to make marks with - if you have a paintbrush use that to stipple, drag, use on its side, the end of the handle etc - get creative with the ways that you can use the tools that you choose. You could use a fork, a palette knife, whatever! you get the idea.
Pick 4-5 colours of your chosen medium and start making marks from one side of your paper to the other. You could drag your brush in a curved line, or your fork to make interesting marks. Keep changing colour and mark making tool until you have covered your paper. You can start to work within each masked off section if you wish. Carefully peel off the masking tape and voila! you have created some mini abstract masterpieces!
It is the process of creating these little pieces of creative joy that I love. And by the time you have finished you will have 'created' your cares away and forgotten about the bad stuff you were thinking about before you had a go! Let me know if you have a go and feel free to share your images to my facebook page! Let's make this place a nicer place to be!
Some of the artists are deceased but leave an important message in their legacy, and others are still practising their art today!
Let me know if any of these artists inspire you, or if you have any favourites that you would like to share
Jacob Lawrence is renowned for his narrative painting series that chronicles the experiences of African Americans, which he created during a career of more than six decades. Using geometric shapes and bold colors on flattened picture planes to express his emotions, he fleshed out the lives of Tubman, Frederick Douglass, John Brown, and African Americans migrating north from the rural south during and after slavery. Lawrence was 12 in 1929 when his family settled in Harlem, New York, at a time when African American intellectual and artistic life was flourishing there. As a teen, he took classes at the Harlem Art Workshop and Harlem Community Art Center, where he studied works of art by African American artists and learned about African art and history. Lawrence went on to create images that are major expressions of the history and experience of African Americans.
Daybreak - A Time to Rest is one in a series of panel paintings that tell the story of Harriet Tubman, the famed African American woman who freed enslaved people using a fragile network of safe houses called the Underground Railroad. This abstracted image emphasizes Tubman's bravery in the face of constant danger. Lying on the hard ground beside a couple and their baby, she holds a rifle. Her face, pointing upward to the sky, occupies the near center of the canvas, her body surrounded by purple. Tubman's enormous feet, grossly out of proportion, become the focal point of the work. The lines delineating her toes and muscles look like carvings in a rock, as if to emphasize the arduous journeys she has made. Reeds in the foreground frame the prone runaways. Three insects (a walking stick, a beetle, and an ant) are signs of activity at daybreak.
Find out more -
Into Bondage is a powerful depiction of enslaved Africans bound for the Americas. Shackled figures with their heads hung low walk solemnly toward slave ships on the horizon. In a gesture of despair, a lone woman at left raises her bound hands, guiding the viewer's eye to the ships. Yet even in this grave image of oppression, there is hope. Concentric circles—a motif frequently employed by Aaron Douglas to suggest sound, particularly African and African American song—radiate from a point on the horizon. The male figure in the center pauses on the slave block, his face turned toward a beam of light emanating from a lone star in the softly colored sky, possibly suggesting the North Star. The man's silhouette breaches the horizon line in a sign of strength and hope.
In 1936, Douglas was commissioned to create a series of murals for the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas. Installed in the elegant entrance lobby of the Hall of Negro Life, his four completed paintings charted the journey of African Americans from slavery to the present. Considered a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, the cultural phenomenon that promoted African and African American culture as a source of pride and inspiration, Douglas was an inspiring choice for the project.
The Hall of Negro Life, which opened on Juneteenth (June 19), a holiday celebrating the end of slavery, was visited by more than 400,000 fairgoers over the course of the five months that the exposition was open to the public. This commemoration of abolition, and the mural cycle in particular, served as a critical acknowledgment of African American contributions to state and federal progress.
In Walker's cut-paper silhouettes, troubling narratives of violence, lust, and exoticism play out. Her work draws upon imagery common in the antebellum South and is controversial for its use of racial stereotypes of both blacks and whites. Walker focuses on the role of stereotypes in shaping history and their complex function in American race relations today. The abbreviation "Inc." in the work's title alludes to the institutionalization of racism and the implicit cultural approval of such degrading images. By suggesting narratives that complicate distinctions between fact and fantasy, victim and predator, black and white, Walker's work confronts the viewer with the uncomfortable challenge of self-reflection.
Born in Stockton, California, in 1969, Walker moved to Atlanta, Georgia, at age 13. Her transition from an integrated town to the racially divided atmosphere of the South had a profound impact on her. She received her BFA from the Atlanta College of Art and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, having begun her exploration of the silhouette while in school. At age 27, Walker received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation award. Her first retrospective exhibition was at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2007.
Kara Walker, Roots and Links, Inc., 1997, black paper collage on prepared wove paper, Corcoran Collection
Find out more - https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.22263.html
Jamilla Okubo is an interdisciplinary artist exploring the intricacies of belonging to an American, Kenyan, and Trinidadian identity. Combining figurative painting, pattern/textile design, fashion, and storytelling, she celebrates the Black body in relation to movement, expression, ideology, and culture. Inspired by kanga cloth, which communicate messages derived from Swahili proverbs, quotes from the Qur’an, African folklore and popular culture, Okubo creates her own patterns in reference to the history, mythology, and vernacular of the African diaspora. She prints these original patterns on paper as collage material for her paintings or on fabric for fashion and performance-based work. The gestural strength of her imagery and symbolism is a platform for restoring agency and reclaiming the oppositional gaze. Style, embraced for sociopolitical impact, woven with ancestral and contemporary wisdom invites the viewer to reflect on old and new mythologies, alternative realities, and self-love.
Jamilla (b. Clinton, NC) is based in Washington, D.C. She holds a BFA in Integrated Design from Parsons the New School of Design. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, in venues such as The Torpedo Factory (VA), Social & Public Art Resource Gallery (CA), Milk Gallery (NY), Weeksville Heritage Center (NY), Super Wonder Gallery (Toronto) and the Dray Walk Gallery (London). She has created art installations for Culture Corp x Hudson Yards (NY), and the Line Hotel (DC). In addition, her work has been reproduced for publications and purchased for private collections. Notable publications of her work have appeared in O, Oprah Magazine and the covers of An American Marriage, Tayari Jones (Oneworld Publishing House) and Den Omättliga Vägen, Ben Okri (Modernista Group AB). She has collaborated with XDevoe, Gorman, and Christian Dior. Currently, she is represented by Mehari Sequar Gallery (DC).
Born in 1940 Carolyn is a visual artist and teacher. As a member of the art collective, AfriCOBRA, she sought to define a Black aesthetic and to uplift and celebrate African American culture and community by creating positive, empowering images of Black life. Her paintings Uphold Your Men (1971) and Black Children Keep Your Spirits Free (1972) were included in the exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. The exhibit was described as "a superlative work of curatorial scholarship. Thoughtful, thought-provoking, and lovingly curated, it creates space for some often under-represented artists and movements within both their artistic and political contexts, and highlights the ways in which these frames intersect."
Wadsworth Jarrell is an African-American painter, sculptor and printmaker. He was born in Albany, Georgia, and moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he attended the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduation, he became heavily involved in the local art scene and through his early work he explored the working life of blacks in Chicago and found influence in the sights and sounds of jazz music. In the late 1960s he opened WJ Studio and Gallery, where he, along with his wife, Jae, hosted regional artists and musicians.
Mid-1960s Chicago saw a rise in racial violence leading to the examination of race relations and black empowerment by local artists. Jarrell became involved in the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), a group that would serve as a launching pad for the era's black art movement. In 1967, OBAC artists created the Wall of Respect, a mural in Chicago that depicted African American heroes and is credited with triggering the political mural movement in Chicago and beyond. In 1969, Jarrell co-founded AFRICOBRA: African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists. AFRICOBRA would become internationally acclaimed for their politically themed art and use of "coolade colors" in their paintings.
Jarrell's career took him to Africa in 1977, where he found inspiration in the Senufo people of Ivory Coast, Mali and Burkina Faso. Upon return to the United States he moved to Georgia and taught at the University of Georgia. In Georgia, he began to use a bricklayer's trowel on his canvases, creating a textured appearance within his already visually active paintings. The figures often seen in his paintings are abstract and inspired by the masks and sculptures of Nigeria. These Nigerian arts have also inspired Jarrell's totem sculptures. Living and working in Cleveland, Jarrell continues to explore the contemporary African American experience through his paintings, sculptures, and prints. His work is found in the collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, High Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem and the University of Delaware.
source : wikipedia
Having taken the time to look for African American artists I have found so much to inspire me, not just through the stories that they tell, but the gloriously rich way in which they tell it with courage and authenticity.
I will be definitely taking some inspiration from these artists into some new work which hopefully(?) will be included in my next exhibition at Bear Steps Gallery in September (2020)...watch this space!
Having completed a self imposed challenge during April, I am committed to staying busy and productive in the studio and my special offer for a 20x20cm portrait during May has been a great success!
There is still time to take advantage of this offer before I start work on my next project. I will be offering online tutorials for beginners and also have some exciting 'fun' stuff planned for my own portfolio so stay tuned and sign up for my newsletter to hear of exclusive offers and news!
Don't forget you can message me anytime with questions for your own art projects, or commissions - I would love the hear what you are up to!
Not many people know this, but all of last year I rally struggled to pull myself out of a bit pit of despair as far as creating art went. I have thought long and hard about why I just didn't 'feel' the whole art thing, and have concluded that the effect of negative news, stresses at home (teens doing GCSE's, A' levels etc) a busy day job and cancelled exhibitions were enough to make me rethink my Art as a career v's expensive hobby!
One day at the beginning to the Covid-19 outbreak as things were getting scary over in China, I walked into my studio and just cried! How was what I was doing in this room of any relevance to anyone? How was it bringing any positivity out of the apocalyptic ear worm that was 'the news' and what on earth was I going to do with all this 'stuff'?
I walked out of the room and closed the door. I would sleep on it.
I couldn't sleep - I spent the whole night swinging from the desire to burn it all and never paint again, to wanting to paint! paint! paint! and turn all the negative stuff off!
When I got up I walked back into my studio and decided I would give it one last shot. I was stuck at home anyway so it would keep me busy and maybe I could get something positive out of it by painting for other people - that would give me a structure to the day and deadlines (always a good motivator) and also get me back in the groove!
By the afternoon I decided that a month long challenge would make or break the creative block so I put a call out on facebook (always good to cement the commitment) for people to send me photos of something that brought them happiness. It could be anything! A holiday snap of their favourite place, a photo of their pet, a landscape, anything! This will sort me out!!
Well if I tell you that 95% of the photos that I received (there were lots) were of dogs I think that shine a light on our utter love for our four legged friends and the importance that they give to our mental well being!
To add to the challenge I had always wanted to work out YouTube and generally videoing a work in progress so managed to half inch my husbands iPad and set it up to film a painting in timelapse.
I would stick to a two hour maximum time limit so that it wouldn't become all consuming - it was after all an attempt to lure me back into a daily routine - not put me off for life!
And so 'Walter' the English sheepdog was painted! Deliberately aimed at enhancing his features and trying to work out his character through mark making and the way I layered the paint it was a joyful experience getting him on canvas. Because each painting was only 20x20cm I could get enough down in two hours to hopefully capture the essence of each photo and give the recipient a portrait of their beloved pet that they would be happy to hang on their wall!
30 days later and I am happy to say that I am well and truly back in the game and loving every minute of painting the commissions that happily resulted in my labours!
To book a portrait or enquire about a comission (it doesn't have to be a dog, cat or horse!) please do get in contact - I would love to hear from you.
Thank you to all who supported me by sending in your photos, liking, sharing and commenting on the posts on my social media and generally encouraging me to keep at it! I really appreciate everything and send a big virtual hug to you all x
You can see the videos and full gallery of my challenge HERE
Please sign up for special offers, news and events - I do NOT send spam! Only lovely things into your inbox every couple of months
The start of another year, actually, another DECADE! forces one to assess the past in the search for best practice going forward.
I had many challenges in 2019, both personally and professionally, but having come out the other end fairly unscathed I have been pleased with all the things that 'worked', and have vowed to pull my socks up and do better in regards to everything that maybe didn't work so well!
I am still feeling the fall out of 'bad practice' with regards to keeping on top of my books. Mainly due to a total blockage and resentment at having to redo all my accounts for 2018-2019 because my computer blew up just as I pressed 'PRINT' to send them to the accountants! The whole lot disappeared without a trace!
So here I sit with just 4 more months to get done before the end of the month, surrounded by hard drive backups, icloud backups and Dropbox - seriously there are about 5 sets of accounts now being synchronised every time I open my filing system!! So there's one lesson learnt, and daily updates to my spending going forward!!
I also loved the additional products that I could offer clients in the form of useful every day items carrying my artwork. I did quite well with 'Print on Demand' items and as such would like to offer some of the products at a discounted price throughout January!
My mugs have been really popular along with mix or match coasters so to celebrate I am passing on a SPECIAL OFFER for January!
You can now buy a mug and four coasters for the discounted bundle price of £20 (WAS £37 for all 5 items)
To redeem this offer CLICK HERE!
Remember this is only for the month of January while I work on new pieces and while stocks last!
I will keep you updated with musings from the studio over on my FACEBOOK page if you would like to follow me. If you are an artist yourself please do introduce yourself and I will happily follow you back :)
That's all for now
As far as New Year’s resolutions go, the one that I made that went “This year I am going to say “yes!” to everything” was quite possibly one of the most interesting years of my life so far!
From painting on TV, to becoming the Chairperson of an International Art Group, there are always unexpected opportunities if you keep your eyes wide open.
With that spirit for adventure and if I’m honest a low boredom threshold, I very rarely turn a challenge down that forces me out of my comfort zone and into unchartered territory. It has allowed me to grow in confidence and try new things; from putting on exhibitions, to delivering speeches to an audience of far more experienced and knowledgable people than me!
Also any artist that works on a commission basis will tell you that their worst nightmare is to receive a commission where the photos are blurred or the animal you are being asked to paint is no longer with us!
So with a positive attitude and a sense of intrigue I agreed to produce a painting for a new Funeral Service in town.
I was given several reference photos of the carriage with the horses, Big Fred and Maverick.
Friesian horses have to be one of the most handsome breeds and with their resemblance to a light draught horse they are capable of great strength. Big Fred and Maverick were no exception! With manes to die for and an upright posture they knew they were handsome and posed for the camera like they were on a film set!
The commission was now about more than a horse drawn hearse. Having met these beautiful horses and made a connection with them, I now felt duty bound to capture their spirit on canvas. No mean feat when they are pulling a carriage driven by a local legend!
So portrait of said legend, portrait of said horses and a pretty good replication of the particular carriage that I was privy to study, I now had the biggest painting challenge of my life (so far!)
I knew that I wanted this painting to be uplifting as it was going on the wall of Jo’s funeral parlour. I wanted the people who entered with sadness to at least see the artwork and feel hope and warmth.
I took to the canvas using big energetic brush strokes and before each session took time to get into the zone. This was not just a study from photographs – it needed to come from the heart and in order for that to happen I had to convey that emotion with each and every brush stroke.
As there was an element of portraiture in the painting both Fred (Gee), Big Fred and Maverick had to be recognisable so I honed in on their key features, played them up and diluted the rest.
I spent a long time living with the painting between sessions, to the point where I think Jo thought I had given up but with her encouragement, open mind and willingness to let me have time to play with it I think that we have managed to come out with a painting that speaks of energy, life, vitality, colour and hope. I have come through the most incredibly spiritual experience, and it really has made me question so many things. A totally enriching experience!
It is never easy to go through something that you only ever experience when you have to, but Jo is the consummate professional and she provides a bespoke, professional and affordable service to with packages to suit every budget.
‘Transition’ is now on display at Three Shires Funeral Service in Congleton.
For enquiries about commissions please contact me!
I am an artist.