Finding Darwin

“The climate is certainly wretched: the summer solstice was now passed, yet every day snow fell on the hills, and in the valleys there was rain, accompanied by sleet. From the damp and boisterous state of the atmosphere, not cheered by a gleam of sunshine, one fancied the climate even worse than it really was.”

Charles Darwin spoke these honest words as he arrived at the Tierra del Fuero, or the Land of Fire, the end of the world, the very bottom of South America. And he may be right: a coastline battered by sub-Antarctic seas, wind-lashed rocks and constant clouds and rain. And whilst I’m not venturing quite as far South as this, I’m fairly certain I’ll look at this land with a similar admiration and wonder as Darwin did.

Most people don’t realise that Darwin spent over a year sailing along the Chilean coastline, before he ever got to the Galapagos. And this beautiful country left deep impressions on him, from the terrible earthquake he witnessed to the local peoples and fossils he discovered.

Darwin’s hand-coloured geological map of islands off the South American coast – Cambridge University Library

I found Darwin fairly early on in life. Where most children find Sunday School, Pokemon or PlayStation, I found Darwin. I wasn’t old enough at the time to understand much of the Origin of Species, but I knew its words made sense. I knew that nature was beautifully cruel. I knew that I was connected to it. I knew I had to make sense of it. So I painted it.

In a way, I carried Darwin with me throughout my childhood. Devouring the differences and similarities between forms, understanding nature’s often hard-to-swallow brutality. Reading his books, to uncovering his travels, to getting that little bit closer to everything in London’s magnificent Natural History Museum.

In Chile, I hope to find Darwin. I hope to find the same wonder for all of nature’s forms, the endless forms most beautiful. I carry Darwin’s words to Chile with me, literally upon my person, and I hope Chile will carry nature back to me.

*cover photo from Patagonia.com

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Art Diaries: A Trip To Rome

So, that’s one of my most challenging paintings completed. Surprisingly enough, I loved every minute of it. Even the bits I hated, where things seemed like they were going wrong. But the vision was clear, and that was motivation enough to stick it through till the end. Overall, I’m very happy with the results. I can see a few minor adjustments I may or may not make (once a painting has been signed off, I very rarely touch it again).

I realised a couple of important things along this particular painting journey. It was a perfect mix of reference photo (photos we took during our trip to Rome a couple of years ago) and imagination, and it just seemed to fit so perfectly.

I realised too that I didn’t enjoy or appreciate my trip to Rome as much as I could have done, or should have done. It was a trip taken with a heavy heart, for many reasons. This painting was my tribute to a wonderful trip, that could have been so much more wonderful. As a Rome-sceptic before I left, I now carry Rome in my heart, and I won’t be satisfied until I return.

Who knows? Maybe the starlings will be there next time too.

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook or Instagram (@cjwaterfieldart) to keep up with the latest in my studio. Hit the little ‘follow’ button on the right to subscribe to my blog. Thanks for reading! 🙂

How One Painting Helped Me Grow As An Artist

I never really paid too much attention to my growth as an artist. I was more interested in individual paintings, or ideas, but if there’s one thing my most recent painting has taught me, it’s to embrace the whole experience of growth and development.

When you’re constantly trying to make each new painting the best one yet, you might in fact be missing out on the bigger picture.

If you search too hard for ideas, they will forever elude you. Epiphanies and muses are for lazy artists, but sometimes you’ll find that a painting really does just wander into your head, almost fully formed, and when this happened to me, I was compelled to grab it. As soon as the idea was there, I sat down to begin creating it.

And it wasn’t the painting process that helped me grow this time. It was the process of formulating and creating a project. From planning to choosing colours to figuring out what I wanted to say and why: this latest painting became more than just a painting. It became as experience. Just as with a good bottle of wine you want to savour it, or have that last delicious bite a little slower. That’s what this painting became.

Another hurdle I overcame with this piece was not getting trapped. Usually, there will be a point in every painting, probably after the blocking in stage and somewhere before the details, where I get trapped. I get stuck on a colour, or a texture, or an area that just doesn’t look right. But now I’ve realised that it won’t look right, but I can make it better.

Several times during this painting I made a few quite big corrections, as you can see below.

I re-painted the sky to give it a little more vibrancy and to get rid of the distracting horizontal lines.

I realised that I’d got some angles and spacing wrong, so again, I picked up my brush and started sketching over in paint where I needed to fix. And then I fixed it. I didn’t get frustrated, I didn’t lose my confidence, I just got on with it, and got over the awkward, teenage stage of the painting.

Overcoming doubt is the biggest lesson of learned from this painting. Whether it was an external self-confidence I had before I started painting, or a boost because of the painting, I’m not sure. But I’ve learned to overcome the doubt and love the process of working, re-working and getting things just right.

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook or Instagram (@cjwaterfieldart) to keep up with the latest in my studio. Hit the little ‘follow’ button on the right to subscribe to my blog. Thanks for reading! 🙂

 

The Art Of Waiting

Cosmic Nature
‘Cosmic Nature’ has been sent out across the airwaves. Still waiting to hear back.

Unless you’re exceptionally lucky, you have to rely on other people to get your art out there.

What I mean by this is that you can’t fly solo. You can’t just lock yourself up in your studio, paint all day and hope it will sell. You have to rely on a wide scope of people if you truly want to be successful, and this can be one of the trickier aspects of art.

Whether it’s sending out a press release, submitting a project proposal, requesting an exhibition space, seeking a guest blogging or promotion opportunity, rejection is everywhere. For every hundred emails/phone calls/gallery visits made, you’ll be lucky if you get a handful of interest. And if you’re working exclusively by email, 9 times out of 10 you won’t even get an email acknowledgement, never mind a refusal.

And while this can definitely be disheartening, it shouldn’t make you quit. In the last year I’ve lost count of the number of magazines, online galleries, physical galleries etc I’ve contacted, to little avail.

It doesn’t mean your art isn’t good.

It’s about breaking through the noise.

Einstein was slow in school, expelled and was told he’d never amount to anything.

Stephen King’s novel, Carrie, was rejected 30 times before it was taken up by a publisher.

There are so many examples of people who became successes, and I wonder just how much of that is down to their initial failures.

If a failure can do anything, it can make you stronger.

Cosmic Nature Paintings

The photos in this blog are from perhaps my most shared series of works, Cosmic Nature. I love writing about it, painting about it, talking about it. Now I’m just waiting for someone else to want to do the same.

Figure out what’s not working. Maybe re-write your sales pitch with a completely different tone. Be cheeky, be funny. If you don’t feel particularly confident, fake it. Take a stab at things from a different direction. Look to other sources away from the often tight-lipped and austere world of galleries and agents. Go local. Go green. Go international.

Know that the art system is full of red tape, big shots and quite frankly, bullshit. But if you can cut through the noise, you’ll find your place in the system.

Sometimes, you won’t get your name on the wall, unless your name’s on the wall.

More about Cosmic Nature:

Painting The Night Sky
Cosmic Thoughts – Starlight
Cosmic Thoughts – Existence
Cosmic Thoughts – Light
Cosmic Thoughts – Expression
Cosmic Thoughts – Awe
Betelgeuse and a Bee
The Expanding Universe of Art

 

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook or Instagram (@cjwaterfieldart) to keep up with the latest in my studio. Hit the little ‘follow’ button on the right to subscribe to my blog. Thanks for reading! 🙂

 

The Artist’s Holiday Survival Guide

As much as we might wish, not all holidays we venture on can be the idyllic, tourist-free, art safari holidays we dream of in our heads. Fortunately, it’s really not that difficult to indulge in a little bit of what you love, no matter where you are, or how many sombreros might have followed you out of the airport.

Here are my top tips for being a travelling artist, and at the end of this blog I’ll be adding a list of the supplies I carry with me.

Tell your other half

Maybe not applicable if you’re single, or if your confident enough to holiday alone, but if you want to have some time to sketch, paint or just think, you’d better let your other half know beforehand. In fact, if you’re travelling with a group, best you speak up early before you get dragged to every museum, cafe and metro stop within 50 miles and have not time to even take a toilet break.

Go to museums, galleries, etc

So, I’m not saying don’t go to any museums, in fact, they’re a must. Whether it’s a glorious art gallery like the Reina Sofia or Prado in Madrid, or just a local little gallery, or a museum of whatever takes your fancy. Make time for inspiration.

prado

Take notes

Scraps of paper, notebooks and a decent pen and pencil. Don’t get caught unawares trying to scribble the next Odyssey onto a soggy bar napkin with your eyeliner.

Wake up early

Sunrise is usually beautiful abroad, not just because sunrise is gorgeous anyway but because most tourists are still asleep (except my husband). Get out at the crack of dawn and have your half hour of tranquility before the world wakes up and you can’t move for socks and sandals.

Discover unique places

When I visited Rome a couple of years ago, of course I enjoyed the Colosseum (queues) and the Vatican (queues) and the Forum (not so many queues), but the place we really enjoyed was an old part of town across the river called the Trastevere, full of vintage shops, an old market, tiny bookshops and leather goods stores. This place was busy, yet quiet at the same time, and was fairly free from the usual rabble. A good place to discover some unique souvenirs and to really get into the local scene. One of my other favourite places has to be the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid, Spain. For all its crowds, one feels at home with the locals, eating while standing, enjoying the architecture and planning the next escape.

IMG_0060

Go to green spaces

I’m quite a lazy traveller. I enjoy nothing more than sitting in a cafeteria at the edge of a square with a drink and a slice of cake watching the world go by. This is even better if you can do it in a green area, a park, a little garden, perhaps even just by a fountain so you can enjoy the sound of rushing water. Don’t forget your sketchbook and camera though.

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Take the right tools

There’s nothing worse than finally setting down to work on a sketch, drawing or painting abroad to realise you don’t have the right colour, you’ve forgotten an eraser or you simply don’t have everything you need. While Google Maps might help you locate the nearest art supply shop, you might not find your familiar brands and products, and by the time you’ve bought them, it’s time to move on and your moment of creativity might be lost. Don’t underestimate being prepared.

Pack well

Following up from the point above, it’s important to make sure you’re prepared for your trip, baggage wise. It’s usually wise to travel light, and don’t forget what can and can’t go in your hand luggage! Below you’ll find my list of supplies that accompany me on my travels.

Travelling Art Supplies List

  • Sketching pencils – don’t make the mistake of carrying just one.
  • Writing pen – for those amazing, wonderful ideas or simply to take some notes or keep a journal
  • Books that inspire – whether it’s an artist’s bio, a good novel or a book of art marketing, whatever works for you
  • Watercolour paints – I carry a travel-sized set of pan watercolours, as carrying half a dozen tubes takes up a lot more space and can get messy
  • Selection of paintbrushes – again, I recommend carrying more than you think you’ll need
  • Kitchen roll or tissue paper – for wiping, blotting, cleaning brushes
  • Art pad – my preference is a sketchbook type pad or watercolour paper, no bigger than A4 size
  • Plastic water bottle – to carry paint water
  • Another water bottle – for the thirsty artist
  • A diary or journal – you can either write a full-on diary of your travels, or just take notes whenever inspiration hits
  • A camera – I personally have a Canon PowerShot which takes stunning daytime shots and is small and portable without the need for a massive camera bag or expensive travel insurance
  • A stylish or artsy tote bag – to carry all your supplies in

 

 

What’s on your travelling list? Let me know in the comments.

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook or Instagram (@cjwaterfieldart) to keep up with the latest in my studio. Hit the little ‘follow’ button on the right to subscribe to my blog. Thanks for reading! 🙂

Art Diaries: Abstract Isn’t Enough

So, when I sat down to paint a couple of days ago, I knew I wasn’t going to have a plan for it. I’ve been touching on abstraction a lot recently, perhaps because I’m looking for a new direction, or perhaps because I’m just a bit stuck. And when I go down the path of abstract art, it always inevitably leads me to Georgia O’Keeffe. I find her intimate flower paintings and her fluid forms to be hypnotic: I love the choice of colour that she uses, the way a shape can transform from one thing into another. Her work is deeply feminine, yet if you know anything about the artist herself, she wasn’t your typical 1950s housewife, and she certainly didn’t live for a man. I guess I enjoy that contradiction, as I see a little of that in myself. A strong, reasonably determined woman, yet one that is still deeply rooted by her emotions and her feminine identity.

So I had a scroll through some of Georgia’s paintings, then turned to looking at the macro details of some flowers: any flowers, the species aren’t important. I barely know a thing about plants and flowers, but does it mean I don’t love them dearly?

I set to work, I guess not so subconsciously I was thinking about my health. I’ve tried to paint it a la Georgia O’Keeffe before, keeping to a few simple lines and forms, and focusing on what colour can say. This time I wanted the colours to be more subdued. I thought about green, then changed my mind. A flowering stalk became the neck of the womb, and a flower, an ovary. Why is it that flowers and reproductive organs look so similar? Both fragile, I suppose.

Watercolour Art

But what I realised was that I was painting. Just painting. I wasn’t thinking, I wasn’t really doing anything to deliberate. I’d place a wash of colour here, then there, placing my brush where it felt right and trying to create softness.

While painting is deeply therapeutic, it’s not the same as art. My little dauby watercolours of pelvises, abstract forms and upturned flowers might not be bad paintings, but somehow, they don’t quite feel like me. How is it that the Kakapo says more about me than my own corrupted uterus? Which do I understand better? That answer I think is clear.

I think the answer is also clear, that I’m not truly painting what I want to. I’m painting what I think I want, or perhaps, what I think I should want.

Abstract isn’t enough for me.

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook or Instagram (@cjwaterfieldart) to keep up with the latest in my studio. Hit the little ‘follow’ button on the right to subscribe to my blog. Thanks for reading! 🙂

#DogHeroes – The Association for Abandoned Animals, Malta

#DogHeroes is back again, this time focusing on a place much closer to home.

Last weekend was my second visit to the Association for Abandoned Animals in Marsa (otherwise known as the AAA). I went to volunteer, and I was at first struck by the shabbiness of the place. It’s old, tired, and in much need of TLC. Thankfully, a brand new state-of-the-art premises is only one month away.

What appealed to me about this place was the generosity and humility of the staff and other volunteers. There are no airs and graces, but there is politeness and genuine gratitude. Of the 80+ dogs currently in their care, they know them all by name and character.

The facilities may be basic, but the animals seem happy. In fact, a large number of the dogs are free to roam a fairly spacious yard and essentially have the run of the sanctuary, which I think is important for socialisation, as well as exercise. Unfortunately the current location is surrounded by construction, so taking the dogs for regular walks is simply not an option.

From hosing down cages and sifting through dirty bedding and being harassed by very boisterous puppies, I found the whole experience very rewarding, and urge anyone if they can, go and volunteer. Go and give something back.

But there was one moment that truly struck me about this place. It wasn’t the staff’s openness to share their experiences or the hard truths of what they do, it wasn’t even seven beautifully adorable pointer puppies. It was Andrew. The most docile, sweet and good natured dog I’ve ever seen. He’s old, you can tell from his lumbering gate, tired eyes and cracked nose, and in his eyes, there’s a kind of sadness. I don’t know anything of his history, and he knows nothing of me but what his nose tells him. Yet instantly, his tail wagged, his ears went up and he plodded over for all the cuddles he could wish for. If that’s not rewarding, I don’t know what is. He’s a true #DogHero.

Please pop over to their Facebook Page to Like, Share and make a Donation.

What Is #DogHeroes?

#DogHeroes – highlighting the tireless work of dedicated individuals, groups and charities who rescue and rehabilitate dogs, and showcasing the difference that they make, very often relying on their own pocket and the donations of animal lovers like ourselves. Be aware, read the stories, if you see an abandoned or injured dog, pick it up, and if you can’t, give it what you can and pick up the phone. More importantly, understand that even the smallest donation can go a long way.

You can also help by sharing your own #DogHeroes. Use the hashtag, please! Share this blog, nominate your own heroes in the comments, and feel free to talk about this on social media. If you know a worthy cause, shout about it. If you adopted a senior dog, share your story. And stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll introduce the next #DogHero.

Additional reading:

https://lovinmalta.com/lifestyle/pets/maltas-adorable-abandoned-animals-have-found-a-new-sanctuary-but-theres-a-heartbreaking-catch

https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20171221/community/help-gorg-get-better-this-christmas.666192