Creating a series from a small idea
This weekend I’m grateful to get some new paintings out into the real world in a local art shop gallery. These paintings came from small beginnings and I’m sharing how they developed from a simple idea and what inspired the finished paintings, The Curious Tales.
On my art Instagram account I became known for my art using plenty of orange! My favourites Cadmium Orange and Indian Yellow are always showing up. During 2020 the oranges began to feel too energetic when I was looking for calm and space.
I used a book of palette inspiration to find magical blues and purples and began to play with these in a sketchbook. Scribbling, playing and introducing new colours was great during a time when creativity was hard to come by. I began with drips and my favourite letter stencils, loose scribbles and stacks of drawn pebbles, tiny boxes and ladders opening up into white spaces.
During the mixed media mini course with Laura Horn I played with the colours more until I had a limited palette and supplies that felt good.
I was enjoying the colours and loose marks and when I started to feel a bit more creative it made sense to stick with them. This is where the experiments and play became something more. I cut some squares of watercolour paper and with a limited range of supplies in my chosen colours I practiced my favourite marks and colour combinations.
At this point choosing a limited range was really important. It’s tempting to throw all my favourite things into each painting but some can wait until the next series! I chose the limited palette, a sheet of printed map collage paper, a letter stencil and date stamp. The marks are loose and I keep as much space as possible.
I made a short timelapse video of one of these small paintings that you can watch on my Instagram reels.
Gathering the best bits
I created a pile of these pieces. The key to creating a series like this is to take the parts you like and keep doing them in slightly different ways. Use the same elements but try different compositions or make a different colour dominant for example. This way you can create several pieces that fit together but each is unique.
While I was doing these I was beginning to see little magical landscapes and villages, then figures and characters began to appear. Then I knew I had to commit to a series because each painting was beginning to tell a story.
The next step was to see if I could take the marks and ideas into something bigger. This is a common step up but needs a bit of thought. I would need larger brushes and tools to make marks on a larger surface. I grabbed some 12″ square wooden boards that I had stashed away and coated them with Gesso ready for painting.
Working on wood is very different and I was not enjoying them at all. The texture of the boards was altering the marks and the way the paint was moving. I began using heavier layers to cover the wood texture but I lost a lot of the transparency of the paint that I love. It was time to change direction!
Working on canvas
I had a few small 10cm canvases waiting for a project and lined them up on my table. These were the perfect way to keep going with the series. Instead of scaling up, I got smaller! The small marks became tiny details and I didn’t need to make a lot of changes to my supplies to get good results (I just ditched the collage pieces). Each one quickly had it’s own personality and tale to tell.
Next up, some 10″ square canvases. I did need to make some adjustments to my supplies for these. My pencil marks just disappeared on this size and I grabbed a Posca paint pen to get some clean but loose lines. The process for each painting stayed the same, the same supplies, steps and focus on space and small details. I worked on 4-6 paintings at the same time, spread across cardboard on my living room floor!
Taking an opportunity
Then one evening during a rare scroll through Facebook, I noticed a local art shop was looking for artists for the reopening of their gallery space. This turned into a fabulous opportunity to get some art into the real world alongside some wonderful local Brighton artists. From 1st May until 1st August 2021, this series will be on display and available for sale. (See my events page for more details.)
The Curious Tales collection
The paintings started as experiments in a new palette. I stepped slowly into 2021, cautious and anxious and longing for calm but also for space and connection. I began scribbling loose marks and blending blues and purples in a sketchbook, then on paper until magical worlds began to emerge in the tiny details. When I shifted to canvases each painting became its own. They seemed to capture some moments I’d seen or felt, little stories of people I passed on my walks or ideas that floated to the surface when staring out to sea. They became curious tales with unknown endings.
When the opportunity came up to display some art in a local art shop gallery, I wanted to get involved. The city where I live, like so many other places, has suffered greatly. It’s a city for tourists and holidaymakers, live music and street art and small shops, restaurants and nightlife. As the city begins to slowly recover, I’m cautious but hopeful. I want to support local businesses and find a way to get some art out in the real world. It’s time to create my own curious tales.
I’m cautiously heading back out into the world but hopeful that this is a positive step. I know I’m not alone in feeling nervous about being around people (Like many others, I’ve lived and worked alone throughout the pandemic) and hope can feel fragile right now. However, taking small steps forward is how this series was made and it’s how we will move forward into the future, whatever that looks and feels like.
If you’re not local to Brighton, UK, you can see more of this collection on Instagram.