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How do you choose one image that represents all your paintings? If part of the process of painting is eliminating and refining ideas then one image simply can’t say it all.

This is what I had to consider earlier this month when the deadline arrived to choose an image to submit for our annual open studio event, Artists at Home. The only trouble is that the event isn’t until June; that’s six months away. Visitors need a representative image as they decide which of the 68 or so participating artists they will choose to visit – it’s simply impossible to see everyone so visitors use the website or the collectable booklet to make their choices.

The problem is I’m not sure how my work will develop over the next few months… and if this image will give them a good clue and a desire to see more, or will be quickly flipped over. It’s a snapshot of where I am now, not where my work will be in 6 months. And who can tell the future?

Alice Sheridan Blue Horizon: etching with chine collé. One of a series that uses collaged elements to create variations creating an invented landscape using a section of the damaged wall in the London Underground as a starting pointA few artists in the group solve this dilemma by showing some of their previous work that will be familiar to regular visitors. But my work has been very different each year I’ve shown, so reminding someone of last year’s work isn’t going to be very appropriate. Last year I was coming to the end of a period where most of my time had been spent exploring different printmaking techniques so the show was an assembling of a variety of approaches. Two years is nowhere near long enough for the sometimes painfully slow print process (so it seemed to me!). So I went ahead with the feeling that it would be a sort of “work in progress show”. To be honest I felt it wasn’t very well curated as I had been trying so many different things but I framed and presented the work in series as much as I could and felt that at least it would be an interesting show for anyone keen to see how ideas progress and transform. Over 300 people came in one weekend and it was a great weekend with lots of interest, and sales too.

So what to expect this year?

Alice Sheridan sketchbook drawing of Scorhill Down, Dartmoor

The sketchbook drawing done on the walk

Well, not so much printmaking for a start. I realised that I was trying to split my time too much. Working over the summer in sketchbooks had re-kindled my love of colour. Yes, I had been including colour within the prints I was making, but not that lush mixing of glorious colours as sage green turns to grey and is offset with the soft yellow of dried grasses…. Theses were the things my sketchbook is full of and the essentially monotone blackness of etchings is not the right thing. For now.

But as with any new series, it takes a bit of time to jump from sketchbook to finished paintings and much of my time in the autumn had been spent working on a large commission. So I just picked something I liked; a small progress painting done after a sketchbook walk through Scorhill Down in Dartmoor. I suspect it is too traditional, it still feels too straightforward. I suspect by June that my work will have changed. I know it won’t appeal to everyone, but as always that is fine.

Alice Sheridan abstract landscape painting showing river in blue colours

This is a section of the painting which was done as a steping stone to a much larger piece

Thankfully there will be a mini-site on the Artists at Home website where I can also show newer artwork. I hope previous visitors will return to see if anything tempts them into buying art this year. But however this series develops; into purer abstract colour forms, with added graphic elements, this is one of the starting points. Rather appropriately it shows a running river cutting through the landscape, making it’s own progress. Which is what I shall be doing too. I hope you will check back to see how things develop!

Artists at Home 2015 will take place in Chiswick, Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush, London from Friday 19 June to Sunday 21 June. Work is displayed within the artists homes and it is a fun and relaxing way to discover new artists and a great way to buy new artwork directly.

 

the go-gos are just there for fun!

This was my planning day; the go-gos are just there for fun!

It can be so easy to get caught up in daily life, let it wash over you and then suddenly think “Where did that time go?” Whether it’s a family or demanding job that take your attention, keeping your mind on a longer term vision can really help you keep moving forward.

This is something I have been particularly conscious of this year and for the first time I took a day to sit down and do a complete review of my year, both work and family related. If you already do this you will know how valuable this can be to
• remind yourself of the good things that have happened
• spot the patterns of your past behaviour and habits
• take the time to redirect yourself

I was reminded of great days out, how much life had changed in just a year and I realised how little time I actually have to get my work done and therefore how important it was to make a conscious plan of the year so I could do what I wanted to do! What I realised as I went through my various notebooks was:

It’s easy to write ideas down. It’s not always so easy to go back and find them so you can act upon them

Last year was a great year for making things happen; I ran a short course, I had work selected for a prestigious show and made my best sales yet. I also found lots of forgotten ideas or small sparks that had never been given the space to grow. If I had forgotten them, how would I be able to go back and find them when I needed to bring them to life?

A few new things  I will be doing this year to make sure I stay on track:

Think weekly not daily

I don’t have a daily to-do list; too much writing and transferring, too many pages to keep track of! Instead my weekly (mainly domestic) tasks are in a small paperback book where I can list things I need to get done, plan meals etc.It is small enough to put in by bag if I need to and I can interperse each week with notes that are not major projects but that will pass, eg birthday party lists

Most important is a focus section for each week. Last week it was ‘planning’, this week I have a lot of family appointments and events so it is ‘use small chunks of time’. This helps me consider the week ahead and allows me to be flexible each day while still making sure I cover what I need to.

Don’t lose track of ideas

My main notebook (hardback A5) is page numbered and I now use a contents page. This should make it easier to come back and find my notes and ideas. I can allocate a few pages to a particular project if I need to so that notes are not dotted around all over the place but kept together.

Think chunks, not months

I have broken the year down into chunks of time, dictated by school holidays. This gives me 6 working chunks and holidays. Doing this has allowed me to consider what type of work can only be done when I have time on my own (longer days in the studio), and what work I can continue to do when I also have the children around (eg sketchbook projects)

Traditional diaries encourage you to plan in monthly slots but these are articfial blocks of time that may not suit you best. What would you find easier? You may have finite deadlines that dictate your timelines; I have included dates for submissions and shows and looking at the year allowed me to work out which of these will fit with my time this year – and which I can discard from my mental ‘to do’ list.

Thinking like this has allowed me to really see where I have time, and where I don’t!  I’ve written before about my tips to working out your creative week but we also need to plan out a longer term vision.

Did you do this at the start of the year? Let me know what you learnt and what you will do differently this year to make sure you take more steps towards doing more of what you enjoy.