This is an archive post from my 2016 Project 100 Paintings, 100 Days
The past is not dead, it is living in us, and will be alive in the future which we are now helping to make.
– W. Morris
I am am artist who loves to draw and paint what I see around me. I find the visual world around me stimulating, but I also take inspiration from the inner world of my imagination. I see myself in a way as the place where those two worlds can meet and talk to each other and I find in this a constant source of inspiration. So I never really doubted when I started the project that I would have enough material to inspire me for 100 Days. In fact from having had an obsessive sketchbook habit formost of my adult life, and from doing a similar thing on a much much smaller scale, I knew I could do it. I also knew that just by virtue of making a space for creativity, something happens of its own accord. This is not to say that It was plain sailing all the way. Some days I felt fed up with my work, or was worn out from my day job or I procrastinated and did anything to avoid having to get on and do a painting. But the project had an energy to it which carried me along through good and bad times, and knowing I had an audience curious to see what I had produced that day and perhaps even waiting to pay give me money for it was an extra incentive.
I know personally that I am prone to having more ideas that I can realistically follow through with. And like many creative people I’m not always consistent in delivering the goods, for a whole range of reasons, to do with the unpredictability of the creative process, the fact that my mind is often on many things at once and is frequently unruly and hard to tame, the fact I am working with myself and my own talents, and that at the end of the day I stand by what I create and it feels like it is me personally who’s being judged as succeeding or failing. I think it comes with the territory that artists experience self doubt, and sometimes hate what they have done and, by extension, however irrational it might seem, themselves. Such are the perils of the creative path. Developing an artistic practice Is as much about working with these psychological issues, as it is about learning to draw or paint or whatever. In a way the technical stuff is the easy part. What’s harder is developing a strong enough identity – learning to separate yourself from your work, build resilience. However the result of this is you are able to begin to build a consistent body of work, which then feeds back into how you feel as an artist. And as the project went on, I began to feel more and more confident on my abilities as I realised I was capable of much more than I had thought.
I wanted to challenge myself by setting a task that was doable, but I knew would stretch me. I knew this journey would be transformative, life changing, fun, challenging, frustrating at times and would push beyond my limits of what I thought was possible.
One of the joys for me of making new work is discovering through play, new techniques and ways of working; but equally or perhaps more important than this was the uncovering of a new self. A self that was less afraid to take risks and much less likely to criticise the work prematurely, or to give up, but instead to tolerate a level of discomfort, chaos, uncertainty that before would have been too much; to find a seam of gold running just under the surface, as yet unimagined. Some of the writing explored these ideas too, sometimes turning up insights and even some breakthroughs into a new level of understanding along the way that might not of come through making the images alone. I’ve always felt writing was an important form of expression for me and I wanted to develop both. In doing this project I’ve been able to develop my confidence as a writer as well.
I’ve learnt as well that people are interested in what I have to express, probably because the process of how art comes about is intrinsically interesting for both artists and non artists alike. . Many people have enjoyed following my progress over the 100 Days and some of their comments reveal that they have taken much inspiration from it, and from the writings .In undertaking the challenge of completing the project I wanted to reaffirm the value of creativity in everyday life. Doing something, trying to create something purely because it is beautiful and good in itself and not because it stands to make someone lots of money, that seems to have inspired people a lot. It seems to me that setting a place aside for creativity, making time for it, honouring out creative selves, what cannot be reduced to monetary value, but simply has meaning and value in and of itself, this is a good thing. Having the daily commentaries gave people an insight into the motivations and the creative process behind the work. There is something very democratic about this- demystifying the artistic process, trying to show how it often emerges not from mystical or mysterious preoccupations, but just an ordinary moment of attention to something observed or felt. Above all, actions speak louder than words, and the real teaching was in the doing, and not just theorising about it. These are some of the preoccupations that have motivated me amongst others, but I’d love to hear what you, my dear readers have enjoyed most about the project, and also perhaps, what I could do differently next time.
I have been trying to reflect on what I’ve learnt from the 100 Paintings project, but there is much that is impossible to put into words. It seems to me that what happens when you make a commitment to create everyday, is something more real and more authentic that our customary day to day self kicks in. It’s not possible for that self that is so used to planning and thinking things through logically and sequentially to carry on functioning, and to keep up – one has to let something more intuitive take over. You begin to learn to trust the process, and there are emergent properties within that process that you can’t predict or control. This is when true creativity begins, when ideas and different approaches have the opportunity to rub up against each other with minimal interference from the conscious mind. New creations, and new forms evolve and one starts to feel free to do anything to create, to journey to new dimensions of possibility. The horizons seem endless, pregnant with meaning and opportunity to develop, learn and grow,
‘The earth is blue like an orange….’
Image: Day 99 ‘Miles to Go’
‘Wake buttefly –
It’s late, we’ve miles
to go together’
What I think this project was really about for me was letting go of ideas about myself and about the world that no longer serve me, and embracing a new vision in which things are possible that the old me would never have believed. Thinking that I could create 100 new paintings in as many days – that is not something I would have considered possible a year or so ago
Today’s painting was one of the pieces I did in Calais. It’s a view of the camp with tents in the foreground and the ‘official’ refugee compound in the background. This is a regimented arrangement of stark white sea containers, stacked two or three high and each containing several bunks. It looks like a prison, harsh and inhospitable. Most refugees don’t want to go here, for once in, that’s the end of the line, there is no hope of going on to the UK; I was told a story, possibly apocryphal that some go as far as burning their fingerprints so that they can’t be forced to register in France. A wire fence divides the two zones, one sparse and blinding white in the sun, the other full of colour and visual interest and curious voices, eager for conversation. A nice touch is the colourful line of clothes hanging on the wire fence to dry; staking their claim to the territory, a gesture of everyday resistance against the grinding progress of the capitalist machine, which is accelerating the biggest displacement of peoples the world has ever known. If I’ve emphasised the joyful aspects of ‘The Jungle’ it’s because this is what the powers-that-be fear the most. When people find a sense of joy, community, and celebration, in oppression, that gives them strength which makes them harder to beat into submission. ‘Joy is a fine initial act of insurrection.’ says Rachel Solnit.
As mentioned above I am having an exhibition of the ‘100 Paintings’ work, or at least those that haven’t yet sold. This will be at Anteros Arts Foundation in Norwich, running from 6th – 16th September. There will be an opening celebration on Thursday 8th September from 6 – 8pm. I very much hope to see you there!
‘Miles to Go’ – acrylic and watercolour on packaging material – 15 cm x 33 cm – £99