I confess. The idea of creating a completely new body of work and phasing out my use of acrylic paint is daunting.
It sent me into a short creative block.
These days it’s very rare for me to go for more than a week without working on a physical piece of art, if only a few sketches. But as I finished my latest Artist’s Book, The Color of Longing, I knew that it was the last piece in my body of work that has spanned the last 5 years.
5 year body of work highlighted on timeline from "Symbols & Stories" - first edition of my Sketchbook Subscription
In my newsletter I described the figure in The Color of Longing as a:
“Mythical winged creature, perhaps half-bird, half-butterfly…[which]…bears talismans from the past to take me across the bridge into my next body of work…”
But I have found myself hovering, frozen, on the threshold of this bridge for a good few weeks.
Exploring alternatives to acrylic paint is definitely a motivator in this new work. But, by itself, it feels like only one of the cylinders I need to fire up the engine of my creative direction.
And so I hesitated, standing poised with my hand on the handrail. How to take the first step onto a bridge whose opposite bank was invisible in the mist of ‘not knowing’?
Making space for synchronicity
Back in November, I desultorily played with a few ideas in my sketchbook but they seemed to lead nowhere. I had a lot of other projects to get on with so I left the work to one side.
Then came one of those synchronistic moments. I watched a video about the Pakistan-born artist Shahzia Sikander in which she makes an on-site museum installation using layers of painted tissue paper.
Once my subconscious had mulled over what I’d seen for a day or so, I went back to my sketchbook, only to find that I had already written notes about working with layers!
With an important piece of the puzzle in place, I was ready for the next stage.
An important practice: Collating ideas
One of the ways I stimulate my creative process is by collecting ideas on 'secret' Pinterest boards. This practice has become especially important to me since I don’t buy paper magazines or newspapers any more.
So I started a new board for the layers idea and began pinning.
What I love about this process is that it feels so instinctual. If something about an image appeals to me, I save it. No questions asked. No nasty inner critic questioning my choice. The rule is if the image pulls at me, I pin it.
Each pin becomes a visual pointer. But images can point to very different aspects of what I want to make - from a technique or colour palette, to a certain ‘look’ or feel.
If you’ve never explored the power of collecting visual stimulation in this way then try it! You might be surprised!
Pinterest is a really powerful image search engine these days. And its ability to show you images similar to ones you’ve already chosen is an incredible asset when you’re trying to collate ideas conceptually.
Just pin without censoring your choices. You can always eliminate stuff later if you decide you really don’t want it.
Let your subconscious do the work
Once I’ve collected a slew of ideas, I let them settle down into my subconscious. There they blend and morph, often bringing in other half-forgotten associations. Eventually they coalesce into a more developed pattern of thought.
When I revisit the Pinterest board, I’ll usually see new connections or directions that weren’t immediately obvious.
Taking the ideas forward
Now the mist has cleared a little, the next step on my bridge will be to start playing with some digital collages. And then onto some physical layers. Excited!
Join the Sketchbook Subscription to see my current idea taking shape as it happens on a special Secret Pinterest Board. To say nothing of the 7 customised digital sketchbooks brimming with rich visual documentation of my creative journey over the last 14 years. And bi-monthly multi-media journeys into the stories behind the work!
I've deliberately kept this subscription very accessibly priced - everything included from just £5 (approx $6.65) per month.
I think you’ll have fun trying to spot the connections between images or wondering why I included a particular image when it doesn't seem to fit! And of course getting insight into how to use this practice in your own creative process, along with many others I'll share.
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