Finding My Inspiration Again

Last spring I was fully embracing myself as artist. I was painting several times a week, my studio walls were full of vibrant paintings in progress and inspirational colour palettes and imagery. I was planning on opening my online shop shortly, I had art fairs booked and I was feeling motivated on a slow but steady path to my goals. Then came the surprise but very wanted positive pregnancy test and within a week I was sick and sick I stayed. You can read more about my experience of hyperemesis gravidarum here. My practice and everything that came with it needed to be shelved until further notice while I focused on the basics. Once Ella was born getting back into the flow of things has been difficult. A newborn baby takes most of your time and being one of three under five energy for much else is often minimal. 

Once the sickness had gone I enjoyed this enforced break from creating. That overwhelming need to make art disappeared and I felt for the first time perhaps truly complete as mother. The need to make however has gradually been creeping back in and now I am fully feeling it. I am comfortable with my identity now as mother, I have grieved the me of the past and come to feel comfortable and happy as the me I am today. Art though is a big part of my identity and I can not hide from that. This last month I have been filled with inspiration and motivation. I have several sketchbooks open on my desk, I have paintings started, I have been exploring new mediums and I also have a list of ideas for things I can't wait to share with you here on my blog. I feel excited.

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Belper Arts Trail 2017

Last weekend I took part in a local artists event exhibiting my work for the first time since having my children. I was both nervous and very excited - it felt really good to take my work out of my studio and get it out there for people to enjoy.  

I was set up inside the Methodist Church - a spacious and beautiful historic building on Chapel Street. I had with my a variety of paintings, small and large as well as my new hand painted greeting cards. Through out the day I had many complements about my work, the colors I use and people were interested in both the process and the inspiration for my pieces. Although I am often shy when talking to others it was a good opportunity to talk about my art and to really consider the reasons why I paint and for the marks that I make. By the end of the trail I had sold a painting and many greeting cards. 

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I shared the Methodist Church with Emma from Photo Haikua - a regular to local art fairs. Her stall was covered in beautiful photography depicted botanical forms and local heritage sites. Her photography is available to purchase as a in a variety of prints, cards and canvases. Her work was very popular throughout the day.

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Unfortunately I didn't get much time to explore the whole of the trail myself due to being unable to leave my stall for extended periods of time but I did take the opportunity to have a look around the other venues close to me. The scout hut and the community hall were full of well presented stands covered in inspiring art and handmade gifts. I took the opportunity to speak to other artists and makers and to document the small section of the trail I was able to visit. 

I had a wonderful couple of days exhibiting with the art trail and the event was a success. I am looking forward to being able to take part again in the future.

If you would like to see more work by the artists photographed here please have a look at their websites and social media pages. 

Jan Brocklehurst Pyrography -Website.Twitter.Instagram
Loz Mitchel Burnt Amber Art - Website 

Helen Billingsly Ceramics - Website

Claire Billingsly - Website
Emma Clinton Photo Haiku - WebsiteTwitter
Emily Smalley - Website
Tarnia Magee - Facebook

Preparing For Belper Arts Trail

I am excited to be taking part in Belper's art festival this year by holding a stall at the art trail.

Belper Arts Trail is an artist led event intended to promote and offer a platform for local artists to grow individually and as a community. In its 4th year it is held across 55 venues with over 130 artists exhibiting. The Trail will take place this bank holiday weekend (Sunday 30th April and Monday 1st May 2017) across Belper, Derbyshire 10:30am-4:30pm each day. 

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I have been painting a selection of small works for the trail over the last few weeks, often working on several pieces at a time moving freely from one painting to another. I have felt inspired by bright colours and fast moving shapes - happy and playful memories with my children. Fairground rides and candy floss.

Alongside these smaller paintings, I will have with me a selection of my larger works and a series of handmade greeting cards. I am nervous but it feels good to be stepping out there and exhibiting my work again - this being the first show I have taken part in since having Bear 4 years ago. 

My stall will be situated in the Methodist Church. I hope to see you there! 

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Work In Progress December

I am sitting here taking a quick tea break from painting and I thought it would be nice to share with you the paintings I am currently working on.

Recently I have realised that I am more productive in the time I have set aside each week for painting if I work on several pieces at the same time. This is new to me because previously I have always stuck with one painting until I was happy with it and then moved on to another piece. I am loving the flexibility of working in this new way. I currently have 6 paintings that are in progress all at different stages. I move quite rapidly though them jumping to the next painting as soon as I feel a sense of being unsure, stuck or if I have excess colour left on my palette I feel I could use else where.

I am feeling very positive about moving forward with my artistic practice in 2017. I am still enjoying exploring shape, colour and line in my work particularly in relation to expressing emotion and representing controlled thought and I am aiming to expand on this over the new year. I have been collecting textures and papers that I feel are interesting or joyful with the intention of trying some collages. I also have plans to launch an online shop right here on my website this year so please watch this space.

Here are a few of the paintings I currently have on my easel.

In My Sketchbook #3

It has been a while since I have shared anything from my sketchbooks. After years of struggling to commit and dedicate my time to keeping a consistent sketchbook. I am pleased to say that it has finally become an important part of my practice.  I carry a small A5 book and a set of pens with me at all times waiting for those small moments where I can sneak in some creativity throughout my day. In addition to giving me more time for my art carrying a sketchbook in my bag has turned out to be an excellent child occupying tool in waiting rooms. Bear loves using my pens and is always so careful with them in comparison to his own which get blunted or dried up very quickly. I often then work back into the pages he has drawn on creating mother and child collaborative pages which I love.

Here is a selection of pages from my most recent book.

In my Sketchbook #2

After promising myself a couple of months ago that I would commit myself to keeping and finishing sketchbooks I finally seem to have succeeded. Sketch-booking for me has become an easy way to squeeze a bit more art into my day. It doesn't matter what happens in them, if the marks I make are good or bad. It doesn't matter if I start a page and never finish it or if Bear wants to scribble along with me too.

Currently I have 3 sketchbooks in process. One large A3 messy book for mixed media and abstract expression. One hardback A6 book for pens and illustration - practicing finer details and one small A6 paperback that is I carry everywhere with me. I have been sketch-booking in cafes, at the park, on the train. I don't know what I was so scared about before. I just had to get past the first few pages. It turns out I love sketch-booking.

Here are some pages from my current sketchbooks...

Superhero ToyStory

Using photographs of my family as a starting point for a composition to then abstract, my artistic focus this month has mostly been on trying to find a balance between emotive mark making, bold line and negative space within my work.

Sometimes I feel like I have a tendency to over work paintings. I struggle to find the right finishing point. I am sure this is something many artists struggle with but I find it frustrating. I am trying to remind myself that often less is actually more. Many of my sketchbook pages from the last few weeks have been quite minimal with sections of bold colours and simple line work. A direction that is inspired by my increasing desire to simplify my life in general.

I have many works in progresses right now, many half finished paintings I have temporarily lost my train of thought over. Here however are the two pieces I have finally finished. 

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Maps

This last month I have been feeling increasingly inspired by shape. The more I try and be mindful as I go about my day the more I seem to notice the shapes of the objects around me.  The circular fruit bowel against the square chair. The triangular clothes pegs. In particular I have been paying attention to lines and considering their impact on the images that I make.

Maps is painted mixed media using acrylics, inks and pencil. The inspiration for the grids in this painting came from the satellite images that I look at on my television each day. We have a chrome cast attached to the TV that when not in use shows a gallery of images - mostly paintings and photographs. From above sections of the world really look like abstracted paintings. Large man made geometric structures and grid like agriculture situated in organic curved nature. I find the juxtaposition of the two thought provoking. Our signature on the world often looks jarring and uncomfortable yet is often beautiful in its own right.

Minimal Abstract Landscapes

In my post last week about my identity as an artist and as a mother I spoke briefly about a sitting with my Bear and painting a few small minimal abstract landscapes. I thought I would share these with you today.

These two paintings feel like a turning point for me artistically. Painted automatically and purely for the process in acrylics these small paintings were a relief to paint after months of frustrating illustrative practice. These two landscapes are only really the first baby steps in my new artistic direction. I have since started work on a several works on paper and a large scale painting inspired by the same use of shapes but with further layering and detail. Bear has been helping me with them. I am allowing myself to be influenced by his childlike carefree nature to mark making, use of vibrant colour and his simplification of line and shape. It is lots of fun - I have been painting, sketching and crafting almost every day.

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New Geometric Abstracts

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This month I have felt increasingly inspired by shape and line.  Last months "Maps" painting has started me on a journey  exploring geometric form in my art. Set against the background of expressive mark making straight lines and geometric shapes create an interesting juxtaposition. It feels to me like it visually represents a common struggle, man made vs nature, emotion vs logic, free play vs structure. I am enjoying experimenting with first simple shame and now increasingly complex structures in a variety of mediums., particularly with ink, watercolours and acrylics.

A few weeks ago I discovered these beautiful geometric movement photographs by Gheyber Gutierrez.  I love his use of line in his work. Influenced by these images I have been taking photographs I have taken of my children and drawing a series of shapes and triangles over their bodies in photoshop before then sitting down with my materials and painting the photograph heavily abstracted  focusing on the triangulated forms and blocks of colour. My painting, "Evie Sleeping" the first painting I have finished that started with this process and it is something I am definitely going to continue to use moving forward to offer me a starting point and increased meaning in my abstracts.

I have been encouraging Bear to paint with me regularly this month- mostly in my sketchbooks but occasionally, if he wishes on my final pieces. The result is often interesting and I adds a carefree element to my paintings. I feel so pleased to have found this way of making art with him and to have over come any hangs up I once had about letting him paint on my work. I still get a hint of anxiety when he comes over and asks to paint when I am working on a final image but I have been trying to embrace that, let my fear go and say, "sure". So far I haven't disliked anything he has added but if I did, perhaps that is just how that painting was meant to be.

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In My Sketchbook March

Although it is good artistic practice, sketchbooking is something I have always really struggled with.

At art school we were taught that using a sketchbook was important. For each project we would buy a brand new large hardback book and slowly fill it's crisp, clean pages with research, inspiration, drawings and composition ideas. These sketchbooks contained the foundation for all our final pieces. I could see their worth and enjoyed creating them.

Since finishing college however the art of sketchbooking has fallen by the wayside. I love buying new books, clean white pages with so much creative potential. Once started though, I just can't keep up the momentum to fill it from cover to cover. I struggle with the process. I am too precious about the marks I make on each page. I worry about the outcome. Each painting fills me with more and more self doubt until I am unhappy with too many pages and before long I declare the book "ruined" and stop painting in it. It happens every time. I must own hundreds of half finished sketchbooks. What a complete waste.

Since having my children this buy, fill a few pages, discard routine has got so much worse. As I was battling with adjusting to my new commitments I felt that sketchbooking was stealing time away from creating the bigger works I wanted to create. If I finished a page in a book and was unhappy with the result I again felt like I had wasted my time. Eventually I just stopped even trying.

Over the last few months I have felt increasingly inspired by the beautiful sketchbooks of Lisa Congdon. Since allowing myself to let go and paint for the process again a few weeks ago I bought myself a few new sketchbooks with the intention of finally embracing the art of sketchbooking.  Yes I know, I know but this time I swear I am committed to it. I feel differently about it this time. As it turns out, creating just for the process in a sketchbook gives me more time to paint each day. I have been squeezing 10 minutes of sketch booking in here and there in my day, particularly when Fig is nursing or during Bear's allowed screen time. I am going to post up my pages each month as an incentive to keep up the sketchbooking momentum.

Here are some pages from my book this month.

Work In Progress and a Jack O Lanton

I have been very distracted recently by a huge number of day to day tasks and commitments that have been leaving me with very little time to blog or create (ha, what's new ey?).  Fig has gone from a, "I am happy to sleep all day mummy," baby to a, "never, ever put me down again mummy," baby and sadly she seems to hate my array of baby carriers and slings. Bear is a typical, full of energy, "I must be occupied at all times," toddler and our big house move out of the city has had, yet again, more complications and stressful delays. I am trying to find the time to sit and paint but right now life responsibilities are well and truly getting in the way.

Over the last few weeks I have managed to squeeze in the odd quick doodle or play with my materials. I have been enjoying experimenting with simple colours, shapes and patterns such as this dotty watercolour piece. It is quite nice to get out my paints when I get out art materials for Bear, although I never dare get out any artwork I am working on that has any value to me in case of spillages and wondering toddler paintbrushes.

I have also been working some more on this painting of the beautiful echinacea flower. You can see some early stages in this paintings progress here.

Mostly I have added a watercolour wash to the piece and have been working back into it with inktense pencils, pen and acrylic paint. At the moment I am quite unsure about the composition of the painting and I am thinking about cropping it somewhere - or perhaps not, I feel so undecided. What do you think?

Sometimes I worry that periods of low productivity will kill my creativity. I feel like I have a lot of plans and ideas for my artistic practice but moving forward is a very slow and drawn out process with many ideas needing to be shelved for a time without small children in tow, I try and combat this by dedicating time each week to make art with my kids. I always have time to encourage creativity in Bear.

Bear seems to have a keen interest in painting and sticking recently. We have been making suncatchers and, "king hats," and, "autumn trees." He really enjoyed painting a Jack-O'Lanton for Halloween. We scraped out the insides together, I calved the face and then Bear spent a long time painting and decorating him. He was so excited about his, "pumpcake" and has been showing it off to any visitors that have stopped by. Making with my boy definitely helps ease my creative frustrations right now.

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Watercolour Pattern And Echinacea Sketching

This last month seems to have flown by in one hectic crazy blur. Things are happening here right now, big life changing things. We are still settling in to life with our new baby and at the same time we are close to buying our first home and leaving the city behind. Now is a time of big transition in our lives and it feels both exciting and overwhelming. The little spare time I have is often taken up with much needed rest and recovery.

In the little bit of time I do find each week to pick up my pens, pencils and paints I have been experimenting with repetitive pattern. The quick watercolour pattern pictured was inspired by an image of red onion cells looked at under a microscope (although the cells in my painting ended up far more rounded then the onion cells that inspired them). I have since worked back into the piece with Inktense pencils and acrylic paint.

I am also currently working on a painting inspired by the beautiful echinacea flower I photographed at Arnot Hill last month.  I am quite excited about this one. So far I have sketched my composition ready to start painting in a watercolour base. I am hoping to incorporate some of the patterns I have been experimenting with into this painting, perhaps in the background merging into the structures in the image. I will see where the mood takes me when the time comes I guess, whenever that will be.

Here is my initial sketch so far. I look forward to sharing this piece with you as it progresses.

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My blog has been slow recently. We have welcomed a new addition into our house and therefore, once again, we are immersed in the depths of new parenting.  I haven't completely disappeared however. I have been trying to write, blog and paint when I can. Snippets of creativity here and there amongst the broken sleep, dirty nappies and baby cuddles . Important moments for myself currently few and far between.

Here is a selection of photographs of my current work in progress.

The painting is inspired by a beautiful purple flag iris I photographed on a trip for a wedding to Amberley in West Sussex a few months ago.


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Firstly I sketched out the composition for the painting using the photograph as a guide. I then added a watercolour base to lay down some initial colour. Since then I have begun to work back into the artwork with further watercolour, ink pencil and pen aiming to create depth and add detail.

There is still a lot of work to be done but slowly the piece is coming together. I am looking forward to sharing with you the finished painting once it is finished.

Work In Progress:Spring Blossom

Unfortunately I am not finding much time to paint recently. I am heavily pregnant now, only 3 1/2 weeks to go, and exhausted. Any energy I do have spare often gets spent playing with my toddler. All the time I usually try and squeeze in a bit of creativity is taken up with catching up on some rest instead.

Since having children I have found it increasingly difficult to pursue my interests. I struggle to find a workable balance between my passions, being a mum and the daily chores. Due to the reality of having a new baby I am probably about to enter a period of time where my interests fall to the wayside again. Unlike last time though I am ok with this. I will find time again in the future and I will be able to paint when I can.

I did however start a new painting a couple of weeks ago during a rare moment of energy and inspiration. Inspired by a photograph I took last spring, the painting is of a branch from a beautiful tree beginning to sprout its pretty spring blossom.

I sketched out the composition for my new painting last week and yesterday began adding a watercolour base.

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I have been trying to become more fluid and loose with my brush strokes. It feels important to me to allow the marks I place on the page to take a form of their own opposed to being so thoughtfully controlled. This emotive way of painting is something I enjoy with acrylic or oil paints but have struggled for one reason or another to really incorporate into my mixed media work. It is defiantly an area of painting I wish to improve on.

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After laying down a loose watercolour base I began reworking the painting with Inktense pencils. This allows me to focus on some finer details and areas of bolder more intense colours

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Here is how I left the painting. There is still a lot of work to do and at the minute the painting, I feel, is looking quite messy. I am sure that will improve as I continue to work on top of the piece with new layers and finer detail.

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