Artistic authenticity


Now, you know I’m a big fan of the Gram.

It’s to a great place to put your work out for the world to see.

What makes me kind of sad though, is when I see work out there of dubious origin.

I clicked on a post in my Instagram feed recently, thinking I’d missed a painting by one of my favourite artists. It certainly looked like her work, but it wasn’t.  When I say it looked like her work, I don’t mean I thought it looked like something she might paint: no, I thought she was reposting a previous painting.

Not only was this painting very similar (a landscape in oils), but the same person had also just posted work that looked almost identical to some new and very different work my favourite artist had recently released (abstract mixed media). Coincidence?

Looking further back through her feed, it wasn’t clear how she’d arrived at these paintings; not an evident evolving style, not a body of work. Just a few paintings early on that don’t appear to bear resemblance to their newer work.

Sometimes you do see artists with very similar aesthetics.  Usually there’ll be a particular series or point in time where their style will seem similar,  presumably in response to current trends. But there will be a solid body of work over a longer period of time that doesn’t resemble anyone’s art but their own, even if they are inspired and influenced by their favourite artists.

And my own Instagram feed does not tell the full story of my own artistic journey, because I tend to curate my feed, and I don’t want crap I painted two years ago hanging around.

But I do keep everything I painted. And my blog is a record of some of my process. It’s good to pull it all out sometimes and remember how far you’ve come.

I know that feeling, that longing to create good work, to get better. To be desperate to paint your vision.  I still feel that now!  When I was learning, I did copies of other artists work – and credited them properly.  There’s a couple of my Instagram feed, credited to David Atkins and Bob Rohm.

Studying and copying, yes, copying, are perfectly valid forms of learning, particularly for beginners.   Copying your favourite painting is brilliant for understanding decisions another artist made in terms of composition and colour.  Follow along tutorials are another form of copying, all great for getting you going.  And recently one of my IG friends (a brilliant painter) commented she was so frazzled she painted a study of one of her favourite artists,  so she could just paint and not worry about all the other stuff, so she could be soothed by the act of painting.  This is the beauty of art – that it can enrich people in ways other things can’t.

Then there is the baaaddd sort of copying.  Like the sort of thing I saw on Instagram, captioned not with “a study I did of blah blah blahs painting” , but just sort of passed off as their own with some trite ” just a little painting I did today!!!” in the comments.

There’s been a flurry of words around this on Instagram this week – check out Emily Jeffords, she puts this delicate issue across so well, not to berate people but to point out that in copying others, we deprive ourselves and our audience.

I agree.  And I also come back to this post I wrote a while ago after reading Ian Roberts.  No one can be original.  There is no such thing as originality – it’s all been done before.  But, authenticity.  That’s a different thing.

Authenticity does not come from being dazzled by what everyone else is doing on Instagram.  It is not to be found externally.

Authenticity comes from keeping records, journals, sketchbooks and observing.

It comes from making mistakes, exploring, playing, changing things up.

It comes from doing the work, not waiting for inspiration.

Authenticity comes from within. It is an internal process: listening to yourself.  Your fears, your hopes, your vulnerabilities. They will shape your art, along with your creative process. And this will give your work a truth that will shine through, and others will see what you see.  And you will be an artist.



Slips, trips and falls


Well. How ironic my last post was around my search for balance and being in the now.

On Tuesday, I tripped and fell badly, bashing up both knees but more catastrophically wrenching my shoulder – the painting shoulder!

Falling over when you’re past the age of 7 is just awful. Grown up bodies aren’t made for taking knocks like this! Well mine isn’t. The pain was so bad I almost puked on my garage floor. Too much info? Well let me tell you getting a bra on and off has been nigh on impossible since.

Thing is, when you hurt youself like this as an adult its such a big deal! It’s a bloody shock for a start. Which was why I needed cake and chocolate after. Medicinal.

Anyhoo. The whole thing certainly has stopped me in my tracks and made me focus on the now!  It’s amused me a little. What else has made me laugh a bit is my poor husband who, as you already know is the Patron Saint of husbandry, now has even more to do! If that is even possible.

So, what’s to do when your laid up? Thank Gods for Tim Berners Lee, as I’ve read all the web. Now I’m about to get on Pinterest so leave your username in the comments and I will look you up!

this was painted pre – drama


Easel snapshot

I’m going through an intense time of discovery and exploration with my art work at the moment.  It’s all I talk about (see here ).

As an emerging artist, I know I can sort of get away with swapping styles, playing around with different mediums and generally finding my way.  I suppose what I’m worried about is that I read an article that mentioned when you start selling your art work, you should really have a recognisable style.

I already sell my art work.  People like it and buy it. But I don’t want to appear scatter gun in my approach,  yet I need to go through this exploration.  And actually, I’m sure that being the sort of person I am, I’ll always want to try something new.

This is how my easel looked today.  Three canvases in varying states of abstraction and finish, painted in oils with the same palette. One of them I know I love, the other two the jury is out.

Not pretty enough for Instagram, but real life, peoples.  


Then I have four postcard size acrylics on water colour paper.  Again, they all share the same colour palette, but they vary in composition, and they were the result of an exploration I did (post coming soon on that).  I love pretty much all of them, and I loved doing them.

And neither of these sets of paintings are like my other work.

This perception I have, of “considered” exploration, is beginning to weigh me down a bit. I just don’t want to put my stake in the ground regarding style, and I’m not sure that I ever will.

My husband (I should listen to him more), said perhaps I should set myself an exploration project for the next three months.  Rather than trying everything in the hope that I find my “thing”, just focus on something and stick with it for a pre-determined length of time.  I do like this idea.  But what if I find it leads me down rabbit holes and a totally different direction again?  What if I never fully explore what I set out to?

Why am I struggling with this!  Arghghg!


The Instagram connection


Well, this graphic is a little dramatic but I liked how it sounded!

It’s Friday night, I have a toothache, a ton of stuff to do and really all I want to do it have someone cook me dinner and bring me a glass of wine.  Oh wait. Someone is cooking me dinner. My man really takes care of me, and in case you think I don’t know it, believe me, I do.


I love Instagram.   I’ve mentioned it before here.  But, I just have something I need to get off my chest.

My approach to following accounts on Instagram is this:  I proactively follow people I am genuinely interested in.  Yes, mostly they are other artists, but I also follow people who’s feed show me things I wouldn’t otherwise see – pictures of glaciers, cute puppies, the snow in Boston last year, the view from a hilltop in Cheshire, the mountains of Estonia.

I never start following someone unless I like what they are posting, for it’s own sake.  And I don’t expect a follow in return (okay, that’s a lie.  There’s an exception to this, which I’ll explain later).Of course some followers aren’t going to follow you back.  Like National Geographic.  Why would they? And I don’t take it personally.

However, I do generally follow back most people that follow me first, unless I really dislike their feed (spammy, porny or just… not awful, but not my cup of tea either). And I kind of like that – I don’t mind reciprocating the follow, and I’ve met some fabulous people that way that I otherwise may never have come across.  After all, we’re all there for the same purpose:  to promote ourselves and what we do.

So that’s my two pronged approach – a proactive follow and a reactive follow, both equally valued.

Then there is this:  those people who spend their energy following random accounts they have no interest in, other than to garner a potential follower in you.  They might even comment and like posts.  They follow you.  You like their feed and follow back….and then they promptly unfollow you. It’s like they don’t know there’s an app that tells you who unfollowed you.  What sort of networking is this?  It seems so misguided to me.  And shallow.  I imagine in real life these people either used to sell used cars or mobile phones and wore shiny suits.

I’ve no problem with people changing their minds: sometimes you follow someone and after a while you find their feed is not for you.

Then there are other folk, who you kind of think might follow you back:  they have a similar number of followers, they make art too, so you have something in common.  And if they’re local to my region – well that just makes me so happy!  So I follow them for two reasons – one because I like what I see in their feed, but also because they’re local.  And I hope they follow me back, because who knows, one day we might bump into one another at some event or other, eh?  And then they don’t.  There is silence.

And this, I realise is the problem.  Whilst I have no shame in saying yup, too right I’m on Instagram trying to promote my work ultimately and grow an interested audience, I’m also looking for meaningful connections.  And I have found them with some folk – you know who you are 🙂

It’s this game of Instagram I don’t like.  This is where, sometimes, the veneer slips, the disingenuous stands out and it all looks rather self serving and meaningless.

Besides, I really can’t quite believe folk would want a quantity of followers over quality of followers.

Christ my toothache really has put me in a bad mood!  Time to chill and stop brooding.  Cheers!


Is Social Rejection the Key to Creativity?

As someone who is ill every five minutes (I’m amazed I still have friends, really), this interesting article provides some great points for debate.

Cody Delistraty

On the psychology of why rejection and loneliness may be necessary evils for the creative genius

View original post 1,862 more words




When I say fear, I don’t mean creative stumbling blocks that are part and parcel of being an artist.  I mean proper paralysing fear of even starting anything.

I spent what felt like months…oh wait, it was months…reading how to paint, how to draw, watching all of You Tube, and too afraid to actually put any of what I learned into practice.  For fear of failure.  I was so overwhelmed.

It’s seems incredible now, as I’m quite prolific, that I ever went through that, but I did.  Getting out of that place was sort of sudden I think, but I can’t remember the specifics….I just ended up committing more and more to my art.

The only solution, if you are in the place where I was, is to do it.  All the books say to do it, and everybody you’ll ever ask will say just do it – just get on and make some art.

At some point, surely, the fear of never ever trying will outweigh any potential duds you produce.  There will be duds, but there will also be indescribable moments of pure joy that pierce your soul, when you create something (even a square inch of part of a painting) utterly magical.

The more you do this, the quicker that fear will recede.  It’s no mystery why many artists set themselves challenges, like paint 30 paintings in 30 days, or 100 painting challenge.

All I know is, when you’re a beginner, you invest every part of your being into what you think is your masterpiece and agonise over it.  Well, if you paint regular, you can’t do that.  Each painting is just a stepping stone to the next one.  I can honestly say very quickly after finishing a painting, all that I have invested in it is gone.  I’m ready for the next one. Using what I learned to do better.

One of the things I struggled with was establishing a creative process.  I found it really hard to find out what other artists did (they can be cagey you know) at 10am on a Friday, for example.  And I do like a sort of framework as a guide.  As it happens, I got into my own rhythm and one day realised I had in fact established my own creative processes and practice – it evolved naturally from the act of doing.  Which goes back to the original point of this post: if you’re that freaked out you can’t even look at your paints without breaking into a sweat, then here’s a list of books I read,  to get the bogeymen in your head simmering down:

  • The War on Art, by Stephen Pressfield
  • Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers
  • The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
  • How to be An Artist, by Michael Atavar

And when you’ve read them, have a word with yourself and start making.  You’re most welcome.  Good luck.

Putting my big girl pants on

Readers, today I had to let down a client.  And by client I also mean dear friend.  I do not feel good about this.

She’d commissioned me to do some art work for her – she has her own coaching business. She loved my work and wanted to incorporate it into her website and downloadable planner.  She wanted me to have free reign so my creativity could flow.  And she quite liked the doodle type illustration as a style.  Having dabbled in that sort of thing ages ago, for about 5 minutes, I felt confident I could pull it off.  Plus, this girl is one of my biggest supporters and has bought a LOT of my art.  Not quite the shrine my mother has in her dining room (like my own personal gallery, 6 pieces of actual canvas no less, that she bought from my first pop up shop. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry), so I wanted to do a good job for her.  Prove I was the fabulous artist she thought I was.

Me, being me, did not sit back and think about all this, and I didn’t recognise at the time that really this was a branding exercise.  We hadn’t even had a face to face discussion about it, as I cancelled our last get together as I was sick.

So I’ve spent this week exploring her ideas in an illustrative style and what I’ve ended up with is something that looks like my dog did it.  I mean, it just looks so basic.  Actually worse than that it looks baaaaad   It’s not ideas or the concept I’m struggling with, it’s…….the execution.  I actually do not have the skill in this area folks.  There we go, I said it.  I just learned a huge lesson – I know where one of my creative limitations is at.  Like a musician that can play a few instruments but not all, being an artist is comparable.  Illustration is just so unnatural for me.  I couldn’t draw a cute flower if I tried.  I need a reference.  And then I’d want to paint it in a painterly style.  Being an illustrator, or a graphic designer is a specialism in it’s own right, just like fine art is for me.

What was hard for me, and took several miserable, chocolate fuelled hours at my desk to comprehend, was that I wasn’t going to be able to pull it off, and for the first time EVER say to someone (that’s not one of my kids, they don’t count, I say it all the time to them) “I can’t do this for you, “, gulp.   After a long little spell of negative thinking at the end of which not only was my friend hating me but the entire world hated all my art anyway (apart from my mum), I realised I had to put my big girl pants on.

So I got on the phone and was honest with my friend who made it so easy for me as she’s one of the nicest people.  She didn’t say “WHAAAAAAAT?  You’ve been dragging your arse on this since December and now you say you can’t draw a flower?  And you hate watercolour?  ”  Nope.  She said “Don’t worry”.  And she meant it.  I mean, obviously she would have preferred it if I’d been able to produce something she could use, but she was so understanding about the whole thing.

So, when we meet later this week for our usual coffee/massive breakfast feast off, we have this whole business/web branding/design style issue to go over, and hopefully I can help her with what to think about even if I can’t actually do the work.

The lesson here is: think before saying yes to everything.  And always pick nice people as friends.

Funnily enough, I drew this though. He was a Christmas ornament. Is this an illustration? I have no clue, but I drew him from life.