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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

10 Ways To Connect With Nature

Nature. Whether it’s the flies that slipped in through the open window or the spider that decides corners should be smoother, we often complain about those little bits of nature in our lives.

These days, we’re all so glued to work, to our smartphones, and inevitably, to ourselves. So much so that I think we’ve lost a big part of our connection to the natural world. You probably remember when you were a child, if you’re pre-2000 that is, riding a bicycle, running through fields, or climbing trees. These days, it’s wearing virtual headsets, shooting through two-dimensional flattened leaves.

But there are many extraordinary ways to connect with nature, even if you live in the city, or you’re busy, there’s no excuse! I’ve chosen some of my personal favourites.

  1. Volunteer At Your Local Animal Sanctuary

Chances are, there’s more than one animal sanctuary, shelter or NGO close to where you live, and chances are that their money is tight and their resources overstretched. While donating is an admirable thing to do, simply donating money can feel impersonal, and sometimes you may not be sure where your money is going. If you love working with animals, then this is a great way to connect with nature, even if it’s in a domestic setting. Helping out around the cattery, feeding the youngsters or simply walking dogs out in the country can be a great stress reliever, with the added benefit that you’re giving something back.

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  1. Bring Nature Into Your Home

The simple addition of a few pot plants and flowers inside your home can do wonders to liven up your spirits. A few beautiful green leaves and some carefully coordinated flowers can really transform a room from a mundane space into one that feels alive. It’s good for the air, too!

  1. Paint, Write, Create Outdoors

Instead of keeping yourself locked indoors like a hermit (an activity my writer husband is most most fond of), get out and create. Leave the laptop at home, grab a notebook or a sketch pad and head out into the open. It could be as simple as a quiet seaside café, or somewhere entirely more rural – Malta has some wonderful outdoor spaces to get out and create, from wonderful hidden caves to expanses of open garigue where there’s plenty of space and little disturbance. A change of scenery is proven to help boost creativity, and even inspire completely new ideas.

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  1. Build A Roof Garden

If you live in an inner-city apartment or a shared building, or if you’re like me and don’t exactly have a garden, make one! Transform your roof, yard or airspace into a green space. Fill it with hanging plants, flowers, some delightful benches, add a bird table or two, and nature will come to you.

  1. Go For A Hike

Hiking is a great way to get the heart rate going. Going hiking gets you some much needed Vitamin D, and you’ll be surprised by all the interesting scenery along the way.

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  1. Horseback Riding

If you don’t feel like traipsing over rocky terrain by yourself, why not go horseback riding. You can opt for a leisurely walk, or perhaps something a bit more intense if you’re confident. There’s nothing quite like the gentle clopping of hooves to set your mind wandering.

  1. Sit By The Sea

The sound of the waves gently rolling against the sand or the rocks has to be one of my favourite sounds, only surpassed by the gentle swish of wind through a woodland. I’m not talking sunbathing or beach lounging, just grab a blanket and a few drinks and sit on the beach at sunset. Talk, or don’t talk. Think, or don’t think: it’s up to you.

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  1. Learn Photography

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a pretty poor photographer, but skill aside, there’s nothing like having a camera in your hand to make you look at nature a little closer. Think you’re not terribly interested in insects and flowers? Try holding a camera.

  1. Go Birdwatching

Birds are everywhere. Whether you can find a local pond, woodland or a designated bird sanctuary of birdwatching space, take a pair of binoculars and keep your eyes peeled. However, make sure you don’t disturb any nests or baby birds! And no feeding them bread.

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  1. Embrace A Healthier Lifestyle

I don’t mean go vegan or suddenly start running marathons. I mean making small, daily lifestyle changes such as eating more fresh fruit and veg, perhaps going shopping at your local farmer’s market instead of the supermarket. If you hate the gym, go for a walk in your local area instead.

As you can see from the list above, I am not talking about any green-movement, hippy, tree-hugging or alternative ideas about ‘feeling the grass beneath your toes and the Earth Mother within you’. Instead I’m talking about realistic, practical suggestions that don’t need any spiritual awakening or higher purpose. If you want to stand on your head and feel the Earth’s vibrations, that’s up to you. For me personally, nature is inspirational enough all on its own.

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 Flower of Memory

There’s something impermanent about memory. Just as a flower is born, memory is born. You can’t always see the exact moment it happens: nature moves too slowly, too undetectable for that, like when you blink, did you really miss anything at all?

Just as the flower grows and blossoms against the warm embrace of the sun, so memory is created. It is both born, created and resigned to the past in an instant. The flower will never again look the same as it did a second ago.

Change the light, change the angle of perspective, even the perception of the viewer, and the flower changes. But it is still the same flower. As the arrow of time must dictate, the flower will grow and it will peak, then, its petals will softly brown, its leaves will become too heavy with the weight of time, and eventually, they will fall.

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The flower’s beauty is in its impermanence, its dynamism, and its response to the changing environment. Take a look at memories before the sun rises, in a room only half-lit by consciousness and rationality, and take a look again as the last orange glow fades from view. The same memory, seen a million different ways.

As the flower changes, so too does memory change. What appeared so strong and so vivid starts to blur at the edges. The order of events falls into disorder – but not chaos – but the essence of the flower endures.

The flower lives on.

Note: The flower included with this painting is a surviving stem from my wedding day.

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! 🙂

Posted in Art

Why I Love Watercolours

If I had to choose to only ever paint in one medium again, I’d find myself torn between my two loves, oils and watercolours. It’s a pretty 50/50 split in the works that I do, and both mediums have their advantages and disadvantages. Both are notoriously tricky to master, as well.

I think for me, oil paints will always be my first love. No other medium quite gives me the same vibrance and language of colour that I’ve learned from oils. Oils tend to be fairly forgiving of mistakes, too. But what’s wonderful about watercolours is their diversity. A few household items have enabled me, like many watercolourists, to create a far wider array of textures, styles and moods than what could be done with brushes. I’d like to share some of my favourites, along with a few thoughts, in this blog post.

  1. Salt

Creating an interesting texture over a large area can be tricky using watercolours. Building layer upon layer might result in a bit of a muddy, uniform colour that could be a bit boring. Salt is a super easy way to instantly jazz up a background, and can create an interesting texture that can resemble anything from stormy sky to coral or water. When you take your pinch of salt to the paint makes a difference: very wet paint will give you more dramatic, feathery shapes. Let your paint dry a little, and the salt has less moisture to pick up, resulting in more defined, smaller marks.

Watercolour painting with salt
In this example the paint is slightly wetter than damp, and the salt crystals are still absorbing the paint. Wait till perfectly dry then gently rub the salt free with a soft tissue.

 

Watercolour painting salt
The effect when dry and the salt removed. There are areas of paper that had more water, so the marks vary from very fluffy to quite sharp.

 

2. Running Washes

It’s all about gravity. Wet your paper thoroughly, create some paint strokes, and then tip your paper in whichever direction you want to create a soft and dynamic wash. Here I tipped my paper up and down so that the paint ran in both directions, and strengthened some colour areas before repeating. The addition of the sketchy lines enhances the feel of this piece.

Watercolour washes painting

3. Soft Blends

The key to this technique is good quality paper that’s not too smooth (it will show up all and any imperfections) and not too rough, and wetting your paper thoroughly without leaving pools. I love creating soft backgrounds and seeing what different colour combinations will do.

Paradise Bird Watercolour
Works equally well for details, such as feathers.

Paradise Birds Watercolour

 

4. Pooling Paint & A Spray Bottle

A technique I’ve so far used only once or twice for my Cosmic Nature paintings. This technique involves wetting specific shapes, and then grabbing a fair dollop of rich watercolour, dropping it onto the water and letting them blend. I love using this method for creating cosmic backgrounds, and allows a certain element of control, whilst generally it seems to provide much brighter, bolder colour.

I enhanced the painting below with using a spray bottle, gently spraying in certain directions to ‘push’ the paint beyond its original wet outline. The only issue I see here is that there was a bit too much water so I got more of a pool than a spreading spray that I wanted. But for next time!

Cat Abstract Watercolour

 

So there you have it, some of my favourite watercolour moments. There are several new techniques I’m keen to try involving some new household mediums and hopefully some new themes too, so stay tuned

What are your favourite mediums and techniques?
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! 🙂