Painting Outside My Comfort Zone

I love to paint. It’s a wonderful hobby and given me a lot of fulfilment, but also a lot frustration. This is apparent when a painting doesn’t work out quite as envisaged. Or when my husband, my harshest critic, doesn’t like something I’ve created. His opinion of art is that a painting should be photographic in its image, especially when observed up close. He doesn’t understand a painting is simply an artist’s interpretation and that most art should be seen from several feet away. I think this is the main reason I become increasingly self-critical and hesitant to start a new picture, to the point towards the end of last year I had totally lost my mojo. This, for me, was bad news. Put simply, I had no idea what to paint.

I spent hours trawling the Internet for images, days scanning photographs on Pinterest seeking that one picture that would get the creative juices flowing again. I splashed out on half a dozen large canvases, took long drives with camera at the ready – anything to fire the enthusiasm and push me into opening a tube of paint, dusting off the brushes and setting up the easel. All to no avail. I seriously thought I was all burned out where painting was concerned. And staring at a blank canvas, not knowing what to put down, is as bad as a writer staring at a blank sheet of paper or computer screen at a loss for words.100_6751

Then one day, whilst idling a morning away on Facebook, an advertisement popped up of a forthcoming day’s art class being held in my region. The tutor, Jeremy Ford, a professional artist I knew from watching many painting programmes on TV and whose work I admired even though he doesn’t use acrylics, was tutoring in pastels – a medium I had tried a couple of times but always a disaster and incredibly messy to use, let alone all the chalk dust created. The fee was expensive but all materials were to be supplied and open to beginners and established artists alike. I wondered whether trying a different medium might give me some inspiration as I was beginning to get withdrawal symptoms from not painting for so long and frightened I might lose what little talent I had. Having nothing much else to do in the middle of November on a dreary Saturday, I thought what the heck! Let’s give it a go. So I booked. And wondered what I had let myself in for.

Poppyfield Pastel

The location was some distance from home, an hour’s drive through heavy fog, as it turned out, but the moment I walked into the venue I felt at ease, even though I was the last to arrive, and a little late! We got down to work, with Jeremy explaining step-by-step how to use pastels correctly. And most important of all – how not to make a lot of dust. The most difficult part is using the fingers or side of the hand to blend in the colours. If done right, no dust should be created at all. Brilliant! It was hard work but the day flew by. Although we were all painting the same two paintings, one in the morning, the second after lunch, everyone’s work was different. I was more than pleased with the two works I did, and so enthused I came away with a pastel pad and a bundle of pastels Jeremy said we could keep if we wanted in order to do some pastels at home.

Lake District Pastel

I drove home elated, satisfied with the day and the work I produced. More importantly, I have regained my confidence and found my mojo. Since that day I have produced another painting in acrylics, started another and even attempted another pastel, although I binned that as it wasn’t good. But I shall not give up. It certainly paid to step out of the box for once and away from my comfort zone. Long may it continue.

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