Where am I at with my art practice?


I like the idea of exploring ideas through making art – like motherhood, identity, space, inside and out. Of making art in response to…something…maybe a feeling or a thought or an experience and trying to use materials in different ways, new ways.

My art practice is still emerging. Well, that’s one way of putting it…another is that actually I haven’t got a clue what it is. There are some themes and common elements or ways of working. I work with the figure a lot – I’m drawn to the body, drawing the form and understanding mark making in relation to it, sculpting an arm out of the page and trying to free up my line and the way I look. This is extremely important and is about becoming more spontaneous and expressive. Developing the confidence, tools and skills to be responsive is a real challenge, it feels very much like a process of breaking down or pushing through old habits, and safe ways of working which I have invested in for a long time.

I paint with my daughter a couple of times a week at the kitchen table and we often make the paintings into cards and then send them to family who are scattered between Suffolk, London, Bristol and Oxford. It’s a way for her to work out who is in her family, how we are all related and to stay in touch? Painting, sticking and tearing. It’s a boundaried activity, we are making something together that we can then use, send to someone else – its functional. The walls are already full of art she has made so this way we can carry on making it but send it on. We might work on something together, copying, collaborating and interacting. I paint a circle she fills it in. I do a heart she scrubs it out. She paints a squiggle I draw a line across it. It’s playing and interaction. I am not fighting her for the space. I am sharing it with her. I do wonder about the possibility that eventually I can use this space and time to work on my own card alongside her while she it momentarily engaged with hers. I could look at refining the process which has already started which involves us collecting and bringing back images from free magazines or leaflets to tear up and stick and make into work. I could maybe formalise the approach or make it more intentional?

Experimental life drawing is currently a big part of ‘my practice’; mark making, drawing from a moving figure, pushing myself out of my safety zone and challenging my ideas about what constitutes a piece of work in my mind. This started with a fantastic drawing class at Fabrica Art Gallery with Jane Fordham where I drew to a dancing figure and to cine films projected on the walls. It was terrifying at first, and I didn’t have a clue about how to even begin. I sat staring into the darkness feeling really uncomfortable. And then something very powerful happened and this has taught me about freedom and spontaneity and gave me a glimpse of a whole different way of engaging with the figure and with drawing and painting. Without this experience I would find making art in the small art psychotherapy group even more excruciatingly difficult than I do already. At least I know how to start or to get going which I did not know before. I am just about able to get round my self censor.

I like to work in books, like sketchbooks I guess, usually a4 and a3. They are private. They are a space to record and work out ideas, to start exploring things, to stick reference. There’s no pressure working in this space and it’s easier not to self censor and to keep things light.

Painting is one of my problematic areas. I worked on a serious of paintings over the summer in preparation for starting the MA. I wanted to know and trust I had been practising and therefore not feel fraudulent on arrival. I worked at my mums in Suffolk and at home on the one day Winni was at nursery. I started to see how much I could do in an hour or two hours and took photos to see how the paintings changed over time. I really enjoyed making these paintings, working from photos of Mike and Winni, and one of me. But I find working with colour really difficult and so there was lots to stress out about. I tried to focus on being quick and using bold gestures. A painting class with Gary Goodman also gave me a narrative; just to get on with it, not be precious, nor worry bout what it is or how it turns out. To be in the moment of making the painting. And to work quickly.

This week the whole group presented their work. We took it in turns, 13 minutes each to show some of our own artwork. The whole point is to provide a structure to enable each student to present and explore their art work and themselves as an ‘artist’.

One by one we took our turn to lay out our work and with greater or lesser nerves and reddened face we talked briefly about processes and themes within the work and any developing thinking, in relationship to becoming an art psychotherapist. It was a very long day. But as a result I feel like I have got to know each one of my group a tiny bit more and my admiration for each person’s individual journey is palpable.

“By embracing art as the central component of our professional vision, we strengthen the authenticity of our work as art therapists.” Hyland Moon (2002). Studio art therapy: Cultivating the artist identity in the art therapist. London & Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

See previous blog about Gary Goodman: http://newmumcreativeleanings.blogspot.com/2010/04/painting-class-with-gary-goodman-hour.html

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