Sshh… don’t tell anyone, but yesterday I skipped printing and went to the cinema instead. During the day… I know – how wonderfully decadent! What luxury.

But why on earth would I choose to miss an activity I love doing?

Surely making art is what I’m trying to make time for not running away from. True, but as I’m trying to give myself some structure and a longer term plan it has also become my ‘work’. Proper artists even refer to their pictures as ‘my work’ and use phrases such as ‘This is what I’m working on’. It makes it sound important. So it has definitely become a should-do activity in my life. And ‘shoulds’ usually build a degree of resentment I find (notice when you use ‘should’ in a sentence and see how it makes you feel).

Last week I was getting stuck into a large scale drawing when I had a call from a friend that my daughter (who doesn’t usually play football) had managed to get to the semi-final with her small team in a tournament. If I hurried, I could just get there in time to watch the match. Now, this wasn’t something I had planned to do, but I downed tools, washed my hands and headed out, just remembering to take my painting apron off as I left. And it felt wonderful! Not just to see the surprise on her face. Not just because they won themselves a place in the final or they way they all supported and cheered each other on. But because I was doing something I shouldn’t – skiving off!

It meant my day wasn’t as productive as I had hoped, but then I’m not a factory so I decided that didn’t matter. Being able to make these choices and be available for family is one of the reasons I’m doing this instead of returning to the design industry and getting a proper job. (Insert your own inverted commas or not, depending on your viewpoint.)

In the film ‘Mr Turner’, being available for family wasn’t something that came high on Joseph Mallord William’s list of priorities. In fact he even denied he had children. In later years he escaped regularly between different locations and to his landlady in Margate, although he never committed to marrying her either. It’s a great film, even if a little caricature-ish for me. I loved the scene that showed him mixing paint in his hands – all the stages it takes to get that image created…

As I emerged rather late in the day I didn’t feel any sense of time wasted. Instead, escaping had done the trick and I was looking forward to getting back to work again.

My daughter has been escaping too today as a cold squashed her usual enthusiasm for life. She spent the morning in bed and then joined me with her own sketchbook. What a perfect escape for both of us….

I wouldn’t go to the extreme of denying I have children but sometimes it’s good to leave parts of our lives behind for a while. Escaping can often be seen as the weak option. Or we make it that way for ourselves.

Escaping in the sense of letting yourself off the hook can be hugely beneficial; a chance to step outside the routine and gain some perspective.

Your escape could be either giving yourself the chance to opt out, or to opt in to something.  <whispers> What could you do to play truant just for a while?

This week in the studio I began with some fixed intentions…  But it didn’t go quite as planned…

I was working on a commissioned painting that will be a birthday gift. It’s making me pretty nervous as it is hard to predict which direction a painting will take and exactly where it will end up. There is a degree of trusting in the process that is essential. Thankfully the client is quite relaxed but we had agreed I would do some sketches for discussion.

The painting will incorporate personal elements; dates, small signs and hints of images that are meaningful to that person. Essentially a landscape it will also have clues hidden within it like a treasure hunt. Intriguing idea right?

The problem is I’m struggling to bring it all together. This is a familiar scenario for anyone who makes art. You begin with an idea, but as you work, the picture takes over.

Then there is the struggle between the idea I preconceived… and the picture that fights for its own life. Georg Baselitz

I started working on ways to incorporate text: I knew I would use collage but I also wanted to develop some other ways of building numbers and graphic marks into the piece and I discovered a pretty good technique:

Using water soluable colour pencil I drew a number shape on the board which then smudged in different directions as I coated it with gesso and modge podge. The pencil lines underneath remained sharp, giving a nice sense of movement and contrast between a defined shape and some texture.

The layer also seemed to ‘set’ the coloured number so that I could work over it with watercolour and acrylic without messing it up further. Good, I can use this!

But what started out as a test piece developed a life of its own as I began to add colour and what I ended up with was this landscape. The colours are much brighter than those I’m usually drawn to.


So does it matter that what happened wasn’t what I intended?

For a while I thought it did. I was cross with myself that I couldn’t be in control of my own process.  I’m the artist right? I should know what I’m doing! Instead I had gone off-piste without warning and ended up in a different place.

But then I re-considered…

This whole art thing, creation and what not, is about exploring. It’s not always easy, it doesn’t always work or go where you intended. And actually that’s why people buy art. They enjoy looking it, but they don’t want to have to go through the time consuming process of creating it themselves. This is my job – do what others can’t do or don’t want to do. Make it easy for them to benefit from my skills. If they appreciate the end result I can give it to them.

So for my client: she wishes to have something unique, special, that will prompt her memories and show her story. But she needs some of my magic to make it happen.

If you are reading this here for the first time and would like to know about new posts, please enter your details in the subscribe box to the right>>>