Along with the vast majority of people on the planet, I have found myself overwhelmed during the pandemic. Aside from the stress of trying to conduct life and parent and teach preschool in-person in this very peculiarly stressful context, I am one of the people whose schedule has become even more busy and intense. All of which preamble is to explain why my creative mojo disappeared.
Art has always been a stress-buster for me but, of course, it is one of life’s little ironies that it is normally when life is at its most demanding that I cannot find time for that therapeutic dose of art. It is also true that the longer time passes when I am not making time for art, the more my creative gears seize up and my creative mojo departs. Finding my way back to art and scraping the rust from those gears is always a slow process. I know from experience that I get creatively crippled if I try too much at once and it just leads to another setback. I, therefore, tend to start small and then build myself back up to a normal level of art time and degree of ambitiousness with a project.
My small start on this occasion involved using Post-It notes as my substrate. It started by accident. I drew doodles on them as “lunch notes” for my kids and stuck them to the fridge door so that they had a surprise. We are a family of movie fans and my two middle sons in particular are obsessive movie nerds. Consequently the drawings on the Post-It notes were inspired by movies we had watched. You might observe from the selection here that there is a particular penchant for the movies of Ingmar Bergman and for mid-century Soviet cinema.
This is Andrei Rublev from the film of the same name.
This one is a take on the Bluray cover of ‘The Ascent’, awkward foreshortening and all.
My 14 year old adores Liv Ullman so I had to draw her.
This duo are Death and Antonius Block from ‘The Seventh Seal’.
Finally this is Flyora from ‘Come and See’. That movie is absolutely one of the best I have ever seen but my goodness it is a hard watch.
I hope this selection illustrates the fact that this very simple activity actually succeeded in getting me back into regular drawing and started greasing those creative gears so that I could recover my atrophying art skills.
I have been working on an illustration commission that is giving me lots of “crisis of confidence” anxiety that has led to lots of mental blocks. I, therefore, had to take a break and do something that was still arty but much looser, something that was not following a plan or a vision, just to be playful and make me feel less intense in my creativity. Time to tootle around in my art journal then. I used an Art Journal Adventure prompt of “23” because it allowed me to be abstract and just produce 23 of something without it all having to generate an overall illustration or coherent image. Indeed, needing a break from illustration as I was, I didn’t use a pencil or a pen to create any sort of guidelines and just went straight in with a brush absolutely loaded with water and some paint. What I ended up with was a collection of 23 (if I counted correctly!) overlapping pebble shapes. They aren’t trying to communicate anything, they aren’t about anything, they are simply shapes on a page. This page was just the quick liberating exercise I needed to recharge my batteries and return to the illustration job.
This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Andrea Gomoll. The thrust of the lesson was overcoming creative blocks and the crippling fear of the blank page by being playful with liquid media, collaged images, stamped text and images and stencils. I interpreted the lesson as meaning making harmonious messes, letting happy accidents occur and just going with the flow of whatever emerged in the page without having to worry about how what is emerging on the page conforms to some preconceived notion or visualisation of an objective.
I love making splattery, liquidy messes with my art. I use dribbling and spattering a lot. I decided to challenge myself, however, by using matt medium pushed through a stencil to create some sort of resist on the page, something I have not experimented with before. Ultimately it did not work well as a resist – I may not have let the medium set adequately – but the dots add an interesting texture and pattern to the page so that was one such happy accident. Yet again I was drawn to blues, turquoises and teals so I added these pigments to a sheet of watercolour paper I had sprayed with water so that I could have very little control over placement of the watercolour paint. I liked the way it began to blend with adjacent colours and fern out into the edges of the paper. Once that was all dry, I added a little bit of spatter and added the text, a mixture of stamped letters – and a stamped heart – and paint brush writing in India ink.
I am pretty pleased with how it turned out and I found I actually thoroughly enjoyed the almost complete lack of control. That’s therapy for a control freak right there!