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WEEK 9 TAKING RISKS – WHY IS IT SO SCARY?

Why is taking risks so scary? Having taught for years I realise that as teachers we are always encouraging students to take a risk, to step outside their comfort zone. We do this because we know that in order to move to the next level as students they need to push past the ways in which they are limiting themselves. We may see potential in their idea and see quite clearly how they could develop further. We may know of other artists or other students who have followed similar paths. The things we suggest to them may be things we have tried and tested. Yet so many times, when they come to the finale of their project they revert back to what they know. It is very easy to say ‘take a risk’ because they are just words.  However, to try something new may be to produce something you consider ‘poor’, something that you feel betrays you or shows a less than perfect finish, something that contains flaws and something you will be judged upon. This how I feel this week. I feel like I am trying things, not having any clue if they will work or even if they are going in the right direction. I am feeling worried because I feel the exhibition looming and do not really know what I will come up with. This is the sort of work I instinctively want to do in private, until I have resolved some aspect of it. I feel very uncomfortable showing it because it is raw and clumsy and not fully formed. I am sharing it because I have committed to sharing but I am also acknowledging how uncomfortable it makes me feel. In doing so I think I am understanding again what it feels like to be a student.

On Day# 57 We went on day trip to Colchester Zoo. I tried out my new camera and am still not sure how I feel about it. My fingers, which instinctively moved to where they were needed on my old camera are fumbling about like sausages on this one. I came home and photographed some shells I had collected at Romney sands last week. A bit of a cop-out, but funnily enough the colours seemed to feed in the work I produced the following day.

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Day#58. There are certain people I can show my ideas to and they will let me know in a very honest way what they think. This does’t mean that I can’t judge for myself, or that I will change an idea because one of them doesn’t like it, but I do really value what they have to say and sometimes what they say challenges me to re-consider what am I am doing. My Dad is one such person and it was after a conversation with him that I have decided to try and experiment with more figurative imagery into the colour, pattern and texture experiments I am doing. I chose a portrait that was in my collection not because this is what I want my work to be like, but to see if portraiture could work in this context. I am not sure.

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On Day#59 I felt that maybe the full on stare of the previous portrait was too much so I tried silhouetted more anonymous figures. Again the picture is somewhat arbitrary. I just wanted an idea if silhouetted figures could work.

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By Day#60 I felt like everything had become too complicated and was also becoming too photographic. I love silhouettes. They are descriptive and can tell a story and yet are quite anonymous at the same time. People become shapes and I thought instead of masking lots of geometric shapes, why don’t I really simplify things and mask the figures, filling them with colour and texture. I liked this as a quick experiment before the England / Croatia Match.

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Day#61 This the first day when I absolutely could not produce anything. Ironically I had been really creative in my day job photographing children for a photomontage idea. However, I cannot show these outside of a school setting due to safeguarding reasons / permission etc. On arriving home I went to see my son in his school production of Guys and Dolls. Talk about taking risks – I am in awe of these kids who have the guts to get up on stage and sing and act. I know I couldn’t have done that at his age and I am so proud of him. I don’t mind missing a day for that.

On Day#62 I felt like I had the option to scrap the whole challenge. It’s like a diet. Once you miss a day, you think you’ve blown the whole thing. I really feel stuck with my direction. I feel like I am rebounding off lots of brick walls with visual  ideas that aren’t working and looking like I have no concept behind what I do. To be fair, my idea always follow my visual experiments so this is nothing new, but I am making them public, so I feel doubly clumsy. The connection with all these experiments is that they are all created with by masking images so they are leading on from on another in the process rather than the visual appearance.

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Saturday (Day#63) was another busy and social day, but I heard that I had three artworks pre-selected for the Royal Society of Marine Artists Exhibition, so started to do print experiments to make sure they print as beautifully as they can. I am not home and dry yet however. I have to deliver these three framed pieces to the Mall Galleries in August and the judges will decide how many, if any of them will actually get accepted into the Exhibition. Cross fingers!

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#62, taking risks

I am heading into my last week at school before the Summer holidays, which will hopefully deliver some much needed head space and time to find some clarity in what I am doing. It is nuts that taking risks in my work feels scary. I am not about to jump off a cliff or run across a motorway – so what is the worst that can happen? The worst I think is that I produce some truly shocking work and people see my flaws, but experience tells me that the best way to arrive at a new destination is to make a few mistakes and take a few wrong directions and end up somewhere that will take you on another journey.

To read more about what inspired my to set myself this challenge, please read my blog post CREATING ART IN THE CRACKS

To see more of Claire Gill’s finished prints please click here SEASCAPE LIMITED EDITION PRINTS

WEEK 8 OF THE 365 DAY CHALLENGE

What a fantastic way to begin my eighth week of the 365 day challenge. The last time we booked a break away, I suffered from food poisoning and a thick fog settled itself over Suffolk for the remainder of the holiday. This weekend away (albeit only two days) was absolutely glorious. Now I feel that as an artist who explores a coastal theme in my work that I can quite justifiably count a trip to the beach as research. It was all work I tell you! This is the first time I have ever been to Romney Sands and what perfect beach for kids. They were in the sea for hours, but because the beach was so flat we could watch from the beach knowing that they would have to wade out for miles to even get up to their chest. The array of flowers along the dunes was so beautiful and colourful, like the shells, also found along the shore. There was no wifi where we stayed so it really was like switching off for a couple of days.

Day#51 I wanted to return to my development ideas for the upcoming Colour, Pattern, Texture Exhibition and see if I could further my method of creating imagery. As a designer I found that the best way to create a sense of irregularity, which was what fascinated me, was contrary to what I first thought, working with very regular patterns. I learnt how to work with grids form my Dad who is a Graphic Designer l. This is a very brash outcome and I am not sure the angular nature of the shapes works well, but I like the way that the torn imagery of the photograph can become another shape in the image.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#51Day#52 I have heard artists say that they have to find order out of chaos and I too tend to begin by creating a general if considered mess, before trying to find what it is I am looking for in the image. With this experiment I just keep adding layers until it became more and more complex, then I tried to pull it back into a composition and blend of colours that felt right.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#52

Day#53 Oops I nearly forgot to submit images for the Royal Society of Marine Artists Exhibition, which closes tomorrow. This are four of the five I put forward.

the 365 day challenge, Seascapes, Death by Drowning, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#53Day#54 I continued in the same vein as day#52, in part to test the process. There is no magic formula so farad maybe I am naive thinking there will be. The grid I am using is the only certainty in the image. It helps with the structure of the image and where to place the shapes.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#54

I tried dividing up the square in a different way on Day#55 but on reflection feel that an odd number of circles would work better. An even number of circles is too static. I also feel the need to have space around the very patterned area, so will try and extend the format next time.

Day#56

I never start any body of work with a clear plan of what I am doing, but rather let the work tell me where it wants to go. Having said this I feel much easier working with limitations and this is what I am search for at the start of a project. I want a format, and a way of doing things. The concept for me is something that becomes clearer as I develop the work. It is Saturday and between ferrying the kids about, watching the football (Come on England!) and baking a birthday cake for my son, I was able to find some head space to consider these things, research materials and other presentation options and do a bit of mind mapping. I really feel the need to reflect on what I am doing, and at the same time feel that this is a time bound luxury it is hard to indulge in, when everything else is shouting for attention. Hopefully I can create some more little windows of time in which to reflect, as I felt really good afterwards.

Going forward I think I will try to introduce a more figurative element into the pattern structures. I like to have a narrative in my work and am interested to see how a more figurative image will blend with the more abstract ones.

To read more about what inspired my to set myself this challenge, please read my blog post CREATING ART IN THE CRACKS

To see more of Claire Gill’s finished prints please click here SEASCAPE LIMITED EDITION PRINTS

WEEK 6 – DEVELOPING SEASCAPES

After getting immersed in colour and pattern last week, I decided to return to a coastal theme this week, firstly to give myself some time to let the ideas I had started for the textile exhibition, continue to develop in the back of my head. Secondly I have it in mind to submit some Coastal inspired work for the Royal Society of Marine Artists Exhibition at the Mall Galleries this year and the closing date for submissions is 1 July. I am aiming to have six Seascape images to submit. I have been lucky enough to have been selected for this exhibition over the past two years and would love to be part of it again, so need to give it some attention. Developing Seascapes is something that happens for me through doing rather than planning. Sometimes I will paste photographs into a photomontage and it will not work. Other times I will paste an image in and it comes in at a different scale or on a different layer than I had thought and magic happens. I never know what an image will look like when I begin, and that is the journey for me – to discover the image.

Day#36 was a Sunday and the perfect day to revisit an image I had begun a few weeks ago during this challenge.  I knew it had potential, but was lacking some definition on the hills and I felt the sky was a bit too photographic. As ever, when work is at this stage and I am unsure how to finish it, I go into detail. I start cleaning up the many stray marks and rough edges that are evident, the minute the image is enlarged. This does two things. Firstly, it gets me into the zone I need to be in to really focus on what the image needs. I start seeing possibilities that I didn’t see before . Secondly, when I start cleaning the image up, it makes a huge difference to the overall look and feel of the image. It is at this point where I start feeling like I am on the home straight. There will still be details in it that I need to tweak, and I am not sure if the rock at the front is too contrived, but I think it is pretty much there now.

Developing Seascapes, the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#36

Day#37 From one extreme to the other. It was the evening of the England versus Tunisia World Cup Match and I wanted to watch it so I rushed this starting point. It was a bit half-hearted and it shows, but sometimes this is how ideas begin, just by bringing different photographs together. If I were to use these textures in an image, they would need a lot of cleaning up.

Developing Seascapes, the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#37

On Day #38 I returned to another image I started a couple of weeks ago. I really liked the posts, but was finding that the colour of them – a yellowish green, was really hard to fit into a seascape. I  always find green hard to work with in this context. I switched off the layer containing the posts and was left with the space where they had been. I loved that I could still see them even though I had taken them away and started to place other textures underneath in place of the actual posts. I like the painterly quality given to this image by doing this and the combination of blue and brown. Time would tell if I could make this image work when I went into more detail. I placed the stones in the foreground as I liked the contrast in texture and the colours they brought into the image.

Developing Seascapes, the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#38

On Day#39 I spent a long time trying to make the posts work, but I couldn’t. However I did find an image I had taken of a post on Aldeburgh Beach, with ropes wrapped around it and enjoyed the challenge of trying to integrate this post with the ropes I had already cut out.

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Day#40 I started to integrate the small stones, large stones and rope together so they looked as though they belonged in the same image. This is quite a meditative process. other people might say mind numbingly boring, but maybe I am just weird!

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On Day#41 I think I completed this image, apart form a few tweaks which I will make prior to finalising and printing. It is not an all bells and whistles image, but I wanted to work more with abstract elements, shapes and textures, because previously I had thought my work was getting too tight. I did succumb to adding an object to this image but it served the purpose of providing a contrasting upright to the horizontal layers and I thought the colour fitted beautifully.

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Day#42 The imagery I have been working on this week has been full of soft grey/ blue hues – very still and calm. I made me think of this feather I photographed on Southwold Beach a while ago. I thought the shape was exquisite and I decided to cut it out in photoshop, although I am unsure how to use it at the moment. I usually trust and follow the thoughts that come into head as I am sure they lead somewhere eventually.

Developing Seascapes, the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#42

I have really enjoyed working in the Cracks this week. After having done this for six weeks now, it is feeling as though it is becoming a part of my day. It has also been a really full on week at work, but I am not getting so stressed about what I am going to do when I get home, or how much am I am going to achieve, as I can see it all begins to add up. A starting point, will at some point be developed. Some starting points will hit a wall, and go nowhere or take another direction. I am beginning to have some faith in the process and feel confident that I can produce work of worth in the cracks of time between my full time job, kids and household. I am also finding that by engaging with my work everyday, my head is open to ideas . I am trying to be like water, because water will find a way to flow even when there appears to be no clear path.

To read more about what inspired my to set myself this challenge, please read my blog post CREATING ART IN THE CRACKS

To see more of Claire Gill’s finished prints please click here SEASCAPE LIMITED EDITION PRINTS

COLOUR PATTERN TEXTURE

Colour Pattern Texture – Week 5 of my 365 Day Challenge.  I had reached a point last week where everything had got too much and the really helpful feedback of followers on social media caused me to step back and realise that actually I don’t have to do this. It doesn’t matter if I stop for a few days or a week. The only person putting any pressure on me is me. So I began the week with this mental shift, that allowed me to work with the idea, that I didn’t have to. In fact it enabled me to lighten up and play a bit. I also began on a really positive note by ordering a new camera. What can’t be fixed with a bit of retail therapy eh? For those who know anything about cameras, I opted for the Sony RX10iv.  The focus of my photography has shifted away from commercial projects and portraiture and I wanted a camera that was more light weight, which I could take out walking, but that could do similar things to my Canon (RIP). My Canon was feeling heavier and heavier very time I went out and it was hurting my shoulders and back to carry it on long walks, especially as my favourite lens was the super heavy 70-200mm.  I am very excited about the new camera, which has a 600mm lens, closer than anything I have used before and I will be interested to see how it affects the way in which I take pictures. It hasn’t arrived yet so that will be something to look forward to in the coming week.

This week was filled with colour. I decided to switch off from the dark emotional imagery I had been focusing on in previous weeks and begin to get a feel for the work I might create for an upcoming Textile inspired exhibition – (working title Colour & Pattern) at the Lombard Street Gallery. On Day #29 I decide to create a Lightroom catalogue dedicated to all the photographs I have taken of surfaces. It made me happy to see them all in one place and to see just what an array of colour I have collected through photography. These surfaces have been found in doorways, walls and the underside of boats and they make my heart beat faster. I would like to use them in more abstract pattern focused work, although I don’t  know what for this work will take.

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Day#30

When I was a knitted textile designer I loved creating irregular patterns in my stitch structures, I think because I felt like I was tricking the process of knitting, which was constructed in rows. I realised that the best way to do this was always to start simply with regular patterns and then once I understood how they worked I would try and disturb them in some way. This was my thought process for this week, although I must admit, I was playing more than thinking. I started off too complicated though and didn’t feel any control over the process. As the week went on, I git more of a handle on it. I love the ways the colours work together however.

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Day#31 I was looking at different ways of breaking the images up to create irregular blends of colour and pattern. I was all a bit hap hazard and although there was a process in there, it was not definite enough for my liking. the result was just too confusing.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#31, Colour Pattern Texture

Day#32 I decided to go back to definite geometric shapes and to limit the number of pictures I used. I wondered if I could create a sense of irregularity through the imagery I used rather than by making the pattern irregular.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#32, Colour Pattern Texture

Day#33 I created a variation of the pattern above, but not as successful I think. The stripes are too chunky

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#33, Colour Pattern Texture

Day#34 I created another variation very similar to that created on  Day 32. Blue and orange have always been a favourite combination of mine.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#34, Colour Pattern Texture

Day#35 I really felt that I had begun to understand how to build up patterns using this process. In a very simple way I had learnt that the more i limited everything about what I was doing,the imagery the pattern and the regularity, the more successful the outcome. This is not the outcome I want, but it gives me a great starting point from which to explore further.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#35, Colour Pattern Texture

I has been really refreshing to play with Colour pattern and texture this week. I remember when my son was four, he would use four lego bricks to build what he called a robot. Once he had come up with this idea, he made loads of them, in all different colour configurations, using the same four bricks, but it gradually allowed him to progess onto much more complex structures as he got older. I believe that every complex idea starts with the most basic understanding of process. This is what I began this week. I realise that colour makes me happy. I also know that I need to leave these patterns for a bit to enable what I have learnt to sink in and to be able to reflect on where to go next, but this has been a very satisfying week.

To read more about what inspired my to set myself this challenge, please read my blog post CREATING ART IN THE CRACKS

To see more of Claire Gill’s finished prints please click here SEASCAPE LIMITED EDITION PRINTS

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS

Week 3 of the 365 Day Challenge. Rock Paper Scissors. I have now completed week three of my challenge to engage with my practise in some way every day – even if for only half an hour. I am doing this because my current circumstances do not allow me to work full time on an art practice that I have built up over the last ten years.  I work full time at a school at the moment and hence I am trying to create work in the cracks of time that I have between juggling work and family. This was half term week and a different kind of juggling took place. Working on the computer so intensively for the last two weeks prompted me to ditch the digital approach and go analogue, working largely with printed imagery, paper and scissors and at other times documenting things that inspired me with my camera (ok –  that is digital, but only pressing buttons). I always enjoy a trip to see family in the Lake District and later on in the week, descended on them with my boys, to enjoy both their company and the beautiful scenery that beckons as soon as you open the front door.

Day#15 & 16

I often work on collages before creating photomontages. It gives me a chance to play, without an agenda and allows for chance encounters of image combinations as the pictures get piled up and pushed around on the table. I wanted to start making sense of the imagery I have been attracted to lately, the way the colours work together and the moods they create. I am not used to combining lots of images that are so unstructured and usually manage to incorporate some man-made coastal feature such as a boat or a beach hut into my work. However, I seem to be making an effort to avoid those things in my latest experiments. I have also previously avoided using very dark, stormy colours, choosing to create quite harmonious, colourful imagery, but it is the darker more stormy atmosphere that are drawing me in at the moment. the 365 day challenge, Rock Paper Scissors, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#15

Day#16
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Day#17

This was the day we took the six hour drive up to the lakes, and with everything packed the only thing I could do was start a little bit of refining on an image. In the first week of this challenge, I created a couple of photomontages of quite angry seas and on the on the spur of the moment I entered them into an Open Submission for an Exhibition called Elemental at the Horsebridge Arts Centre. To my great delight, they have been accepted, but they need refining, as you will see from this image when I zoom in, there are details which are not quite right. I started hand painting water droplets and erasing stray lines and marks that didn’t benefit the image.

Day#18

Arrived in the Lake District. The scenery of the Lakes is breathtakingly beautiful, and I have often wondered if I could find a way of creating photomontages inspired by this place. I have not arrived at that point where I would know how to approach this yet, but it does inspire me and today I chose to photograph rocks. I have a thing about rocks just now. I put my 28mm lens on my camera (not the natural choice I know) as I am trying to find different ways of looking at things. It wasn’t my favourite lens when I put it on the camera and after today it is still not my favourite lens, but you have to try these things. I was in search of more abstract compositions.

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On Day#19 We walked to Rydal Caves. The camera really helped me to capture the colours of rocks inside the caves as it naturally compensated for the dark areas by over-exposing them.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#19, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#18, Rock Paper Scissors

It may seem like I am jumping about with my work. Creative work never seems to go from A to B and many different ideas are cooking at once. A few days ago Janet at the Lombard Street Gallery invited me to participate in an exhibition with Weaver Margo Selby – Working Title Colour & pattern. I trained and worked as a textile designer for a number of years, hence Janet made the link and I have long admired Margo’s work, so this is a lovely opportunity. I have it in mind to take this opportunity to explore more abstract ideas using the many textured photographs I have taken. Day#20 saw me clumsily beginning to explore colour, pattern and vague ideas of rocks – well you have to start simply. I didn’t really know when to stop and the collages became a touch complicated. The shapes are clumsy and my pritt stick technique even worse, but there is potential in there.

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Day#21 I chose a simpler approach to collage, still working with similar tones and generic stone shapes.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#21, Rock Paper Scissors

During half term holidays, all routines seems to go out of the window. In some respects this is refreshing. We all need a break from those things we have to do day in and day out, just to keep things functioning. But the break in routine also throws everything up in the air and that it what it has done with my sense of direction, with regards to my artwork. I have the direction in which I was going inspired by wild stormy seas and now the curved ball thrown in by the Lombard Street Gallery and the opportunity to create more abstract work for an exhibition with Margo Selby. It all feels exciting and unknown. Who knows what this next week will bring.

To read more about what inspired my to set myself this challenge, please read my blog post CREATING ART IN THE CRACKS

To see more of Claire Gill’s finished prints please click here SEASCAPE LIMITED EDITION PRINTS

WEEK 2 OF THE 365 DAY CHALLENGE

WEEK 2 OF THE 365 DAY CHALLENGE

Going into week 2 of the 365 day challenge feels a little more daunting than beginning it last week. I have become aware of the ways it is impacting on my day and the insecurity I feel in not knowing each day what I am going to come up with. I feel the pressure I have put myself under to produce something each day in the time between finishing my day job and going to bed. In committing to sharing the work I feel pressure to make it look good, when it is not always in a state of looking good, and I am not always in a state of feeling like working. I feel that producing work in small windows of time in this highly focused state every day leaves little time for reflection, which is also a crucial part of the creative process.

On the other hand I feel really excited that I have managed to create work in the short bursts of time I have. My work has been more emotional and less calculated. I also see a picture beginning to emerge of the sorts of things I am drawn to at the moment. There is a definite colour palette revealing itself, quite dark and heavy – ominous even. There is also a particular kind of imagery emerging, which is quite wild and unruly and edgy. This reassures me because I have always believed that if I follow what I am drawn to then a direction will follow.

Day#8 I focused on cutting out the seagulls in photoshop from the chaotic images I had taken on Margate Beach yesterday. Individually, the birds created some beautiful shapes and I thought they would be good for future use. The way the seagulls moved was energetic and chaotic and this seems to fit in with the type of imagery I am drawn to at the moment. I put all the seagulls in separate layers in photoshop so I can use them individually, but placed a background behind them just to see what sort of imagery might work well as a background.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#8

Day#9 I remembered photographs I had taken around Swanage looking over the cliffs to the sea crashing on the rocks. I cut out the sea and the point at which it met the rocks and then layered this image up with other images of rocks, sand and textures, in a more abstract way. I like the way the close up quite graphic image of sand of sand just blended in with the rocks, and this is something I would like to explore further. I love those moments where I do something and then see it has potential to be developed.the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#9

Day#10 I tried to superimpose the seagulls onto the view over the cliffs. I thought the images might mix well as the seagulls are aerial and might look quite dramatic diving in and out of the frame. I had to shift he composition about as the whites of the seagulls blended in too much with he surf on the waves. I introduced a feeling of more height by adding the grass at the top of the cliffs. It’s not perfect but it’s a new perspective for me and one I will work further into.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#10

I have realised that by mid week I am desperate for some serenity and I think I am looking for very peaceful images to work on. Day#11 I just wanted something quite meditative to do so decided to cut out these stones from the backdrop of Charmouth Beach. Some things are quite quick to do in Photoshop, but this was like the equivalent of colouring a page in an adult colouring book. It took a long a long while and indeed there are probably still bits that need refining or cutting away still. I placed it on a picture of cloudy sky to give a reflective quality.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#11

Day#12 I wanted to add more context to the image I had started yesterday and cut out the cliffs form charmouth Beach to add to the image. I loved the colour combination that was forming in the foreground and tried to carry this over into the mid ground and onto the cliffs. It’s not there yet, but I like the way it is going.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#12

Day#13 I was so tired and have to admit that this is exhausting. I chose to cut out these fellas from a photograph I’d taken near Portsmouth- and that’s it. The image seems to fit with the mood of what I have been looking at, but I don’t know how yet.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#13

Its Day#14, Saturday and the last two weeks since beginning this challenge have felt really full on. I have worked a lot more at the computer than I imagined I would and am finding it a bit too intense at the moment. I need to build in some space in for reflection and playing in a more childish way. So today I decided to print out lots of images from my library that fit in with the sort of imagery I have started experimenting with.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#14

As all parents know, a half term is never the break you think it is going to be. Routines go out of the window, the kids need entertaining and you often feel like you need a holiday at the end of the holiday, but we are visiting the Lake District this half term and I am going to take the opportunity to go analogue and work with camera, paper, scissors, glue and a sketchbook, and just see where it leads. I have my lovely boys to entertain, so connecting with my artwork needs to feel like a natural extension of what we are doing. It will be great to have a change of scenery and maybe gain some new inspiration.

I came across the quote ‘You can’t make Art in the Cracks’ in an interview with Jessica Bell in a book entitled ‘Creative Block’ by Danielle Krysa. Jessica Bell was quoting an Artist friend of hers, but the phrase stayed with me, because it was exactly how I felt about making my own work. This is partly what inspired this challenge. To read more about what inspired my to set myself this challenge, please read my blog post CREATING ART IN THE CRACKS

To see more of Claire Gill’s finished prints work please click here SEASCAPE LIMITED EDITION PRINTS

 

STARTING THE 365 DAY CHALLENGE – THE FIRST WEEK

STARTING THE 365 DAY CHALLENGE – THE FIRST WEEK

The 365 day Challenge. I have always thought that setting out on any creative endeavour was like looking for a door. You are stumbling about looking for clues as to how to open the door, gathering resources, experimenting with ways of working and playing until something clicks and the door opens. This is what I am trying to do with this challenge. I have been working with photomontage now for a number of years and I have found a way in. I’ve developed a visual language, a way of working – well that works, but I have reached a point where I feel a disconnect between myself and my work. I don’t know if this is because I need to find a new approach to my work, a new subject matter or is it because I don’t have much time to connect to it right now?

I am hoping that My Creating Art in the Cracks challenge will open a door for me, a fresh approach and connection with my work.

I recently read a book which said the thing that all successful creatives had in common was that they turned up for work, no matter if they were feeling like it or not. It was a job. This made me think that even if I felt like I didn’t have time at the moment to make work, I should work with the time I did have, and do it consistently.

In my experience, inspiration isn’t something that you just wake up to in the morning. More often than not, it is something that comes after I have started working and it intensifies the more I engage with what I am doing. I have realised that doing something/ anything  can start this process, because once you have created something, you have something to work with or react to or improve or change. This is why I am trying to be open to whatever comes to mind in this challenge.

I wasn’t quite expecting to begin like this however.

Day #1 Creating Art in the Cracks: My head said I need to get started on submissions for the RSMA Exhibition but my heart got the paints out. Every time I work I think about how I could translate what I learn into painting, but I tell you everything went out of the window when I started painting. I lost any ability to work with colour and texture, where I usually feel confident. I didn’t know what I was doing at all. I started off very self consciously and then it ended up a bit like landscape, but I am not going to judge. I am in awe of painters, who make this look so easy. I think this was my way of slowing things down, of feeling I had the luxury to play.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks

Day #2 Creating Art in the CracksReflecting on yesterday’s painting I realise that recently I have been very drawn to landscape painting, and Painting in general. I love work which starts from a point of looseness and freedom and then gradually tightens as the artist realised what they want the work to be. I enjoy abstract work, because i love colour and texture. My recent work is quite tight and place based and I want to try and get more fluidity into it. I decided to start just working with the simple image of sea and sky and layering photographs up to explore this.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks

On Day#3 I came home from work feeling really uptight, and about to explode. The challenge sort of helped, because the lack of time to engage with my artwork meant that I couldn’t dwell on the negative feelings I had brought home with me from work. I just sat down at the computer and tried to let my frustration come out through the work. I was feeling quite angry and wanted to see how I could translate this into imagery, by working with images of rough seas. I liked the idea of things clashing together. This theme continued into Day#4 when I woke up unusually early at 5am. I used the opportunity to go and cut out an image I have taken of a rough sea against the railings. I came back to this in the evening after cooking dinner and tried to place it in the context of sea and sky. I enjoyed being able to heighten the drama by using dark textural photographs in the layers.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#3, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracksthe 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#4

By Day#5 I couldn’t cope with any more stress and just wanted to find some sense of serenity. I really realised this week how ruled I am by my emotions. I must be a nightmare to live with!

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#5

On day#6 I felt a bit lost like I had reverted to what I knew in the way I worked. I started panicking a bit about how I could keep this challenge up. The lack of time I had now seemed to relate to the time to reflect on the work I had accomplished, and work out where to go with it.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#6

I drove to Margate on Day#7, the next day to deliver some cards to the Lombard Street Gallery and worked out that I was going to use the opportunity to take some abstract photographs along the coast. It is the Saturday of the Royal Wedding and therefore really quiet everywhere.

Just as on Day #1 when my head told me to do one thing and my heart said another, I wasn’t really getting excited by the abstract photograph idea and what really grabbed my attention was the numerous seagulls along the shore. I didn’t quite have the courage to run into them shouting, camera poised to capture the ensuing chaos, more through fear of what everyone would think. I did realise that what I was interested in was the movement that would happen when they took off. Luckily a helpful soul starting throwing food at them, which got them going and I tried to capture this.

the 365 day challenge, Claire Gill, Artist Claire Gill, Claire Gill Fine Art, Day#1, Art Challenge, Digital Photomontage, Inspiration, seascapes, Creating Art in the Cracks, Day#7

After just one week of working in the cracks, I am heartened by what I have done. I have touched on some things that excite me. I have shown up and done the work. I feel the insecurity of not knowing where it is going, but must tell myself that I always feel this, as many creatives do when they start something new. I feel the pressure of figuring out what to do tomorrow, and not knowing how much time I will have. However if  this week has told me anything, it is that I will do the complete opposite of what I plan, so why bother? I have to trust the process and be open to what next week brings.

I came across the quote ‘You can’t make Art in the Cracks’ in an interview with Jessica Bell in a book entitled ‘Creative Block’ by Danielle Krysa. Jessica Bell was quoting an Artist friend of hers, but the phrase stayed with me, because it was exactly how I felt about making my own work. This is partly what inspired this challenge. To read more about what inspired my to set myself this challenge, please read my blog post CREATING ART IN THE CRACKS

To see more of Claire Gill’s finished prints work please click here SEASCAPE LIMITED EDITION PRINTS

 

 

 

 

 

CREATING ART IN THE CRACKS

CREATING ART IN THE CRACKS

365 day challenge, Claire Gill Fine Art, creating art in the cracks, digital photomontage,Creating Art. Is it possible to create art in the small cracks of time between family commitments and a full time job? Over the last nine years I have been on a journey to create a body of work inspired by a sense of place. I did not know I was going to create this work, but sort of stumbled upon it. I was searching for some sort of creative expression and had the idea to create ideas for paintings on the computer from photographs. This is how I fell into creating art pieces from photomontage. I didn’t know that’s what they were at the time, but looking back they were the sum total of everything I had done up to that point – my training in textiles, the ways I liked working, the things I had always been attracted to and my family situation and our need to escape the daily quandry of what to do with young children in Dartford. Our answer was to escape to anywhere else, and most times we went to the coast and I documented our trips with my camera.

I created my work along side lecturing at college and it created a lovely balance between giving as a teacher and creating as an artist. More recently our family/work situation changed and I took on a full time job at a school. There are lots of good things about my job, namely the people I work with, but in my naivety I thought I could keep going with the photomontage, and hold onto the idea of being a working artist, because in my heart this is what I am. I have managed to create work during that time, and the galleries that I am so fortunate to show in, continue to exhibit and sell work for me. However, more and more I feel like I am losing my way with something I have built up and something that is a big part of me. This makes me deeply sad.

I find myself trying to work in the cracks, trying to grab pieces of time here and there, to steal guilt ridden time when my sister can kindly look after our kids, or hours in the evening after cooking and making packed lunches where I try and ignore everyone and get some work done. It never seems to be enough and that access to the most precious of all things – Time, is so elusive. I am sure I am not alone in feeling like this, and I am not looking for sympathy. It is just how things are at the moment.

I have always thought that big things start with small steps and in talking honestly about my practice and acknowledging this, I am hoping to find a way of reconnecting in a humble and authentic way with my work. I want to find a way of working in these cracks of time to create something bigger and more lasting. My aim today is to begin this journey and to devote at least half an hour a day and hopefully more to working on my imagery for 365 days in a row. ( I know half an hour is not much, but 365 days in a row is scary and it is a starting point!) My aim is to share what I have done on instagram, Facebook and the occasional blog and just see where it goes. Please feel free to check in on my progress, to comment, to share your own experiences, maybe to see even if it is possible to create work in the cracks!

I can’t believe I started writing this three days ago – not very decisive!
Anyhow my day #1 is today. It’s a Sunday and uncharacteristically I find myself with three guilt free hours of time to devote to my work. My son has gone to a birthday party and will be gorging on ice-cream and I have booked this time to myself with all other loved ones.
Suddenly it feels a bit daunting to actually commit to this challenge and I am realising there are loads of housework things that need doing, coffee that needs drinking, chocolate downstairs in the cupboard. Get a grip Claire. I am going to press the publish button and turn the internet off and just get started. I will report back later.

I came across the quote ‘You can’t make Art in the Cracks’ in an interview with Jessica Bell in a book entitled ‘Creative Block’ by Danielle Krysa. Jessica Bell was quoting an Artist friend of hers, but the phrase stayed with me, because it was exactly how I felt about making my own work. This is partly what inspired this challenge

ON MARGATE SANDS – AN EXHIBITION INSPIRED BY THE WASTELAND BY TS ELIOT

ON MARGATE SANDS – AN EXHIBITION INSPIRED BY THE WASTELAND BY TS ELIOT

When I was invited by the Lombard Street Gallery to create work inspired by the poem, The Wasteland by TS Eliot I jumped at the chance. I do not usually use a poem as a starting point for creating work, so anything that forces me to think differently is a welcome challenge. In my blissful ignorance, I did not at this point realise that the poem in question; The Wasteland by TS Eliot was considered to be one of the key works of the 20th century. It was 400 lines long and full of references to historical literature that I could not in my limited academic knowledge, access without the help of an app designed to interpret the poem. I own up that I am one of the masses that TS Eliot knew would not be able to decipher this poem, at the level at which he wrote it.

My approach, therefore was to look to the visual metaphors in the poem, and to build a piece of work that revolved around this. I work with the technique of digital photomontage which I felt would lend itself well to an interpretation of the poem because it is a montage of different viewpoints, historical references and conversations.

CREATING THE WORK

After much thought I decided to create five pieces titled the same as the five verses of The Wasteland. All the verse titles, except ‘A Game of Chess’ seemed to allude to the elements; The burial of the Dead’ to the earth, ‘The Fire Sermon’ to Fire, Death by Drowning, to water and ‘What the Thunder Said’ to air. I thought these elements worked as some sort of catharsis through the poem. TS Eliot wrote the Wasteland overlooking this beach from the shelter. Many of the photographs used in the montages are taken in Margate itself.

As I worked on each of the five individual pieces, they took on a life of their own outside of the poem, and one began to inform the other pictorially. The poem ‘The Wasteland’ has been a catalyst for the work, and the work, a personal response a poem I could only partly access.

THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD

Claire Gill, Artist, Digital Photomontage, The Wasteland by TS Eliot, The Burial of the Dead, On Margate Sands, Lombard Street Gallery, The Wasteland, TS Eliot, Photomontage, Limited Edition Print, Margate, seaTS Eliot wrote the Wasteland just after the first world war, when the enormous loss of life must have been palpable to everyone. I wanted this piece to be symbolic of the masses of people who died. There are various slabs and slipways along Margate Beach, which I thought could look like grave stones, due to their low profile in the sand. The slipway in particular to me, looked like a crucifix, and I placed a pile a stones on top of it to allude to an unmarked grave. The beach itself is a waste land over-shadowed by bare branches, devoid of life.

A GAME OF CHESS

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A game of chess is by it’s nature a political, strategic game controlled by two opposing sides. I wanted to show people as pawns in this game over which they had no control. I photographed people unaware and at their leisure in order to emphasise their innocence in the game. The shelter depicted in the image, is the shelter in which TS Eliot is said to have written the poem. I coloured the figures arbitrarily, but wanted to give them an other worldly quality.

THE FIRE SERMON

Claire Gill, Artist, Digital Photomontage, The Wasteland by TS Eliot, The Fire Sermon, On Margate Sands, Lombard Street Gallery, The Wasteland, TS Eliot, Photomontage, Limited Edition Print, Margate, hands, sea

‘The Fire Sermon was preached by Buddha against the fires of lust, anger, envy and other passions that consume men’ I had taken a picture of people at a Christmas market from Charing Cross Bridge on a really slow shutter speed. They blurred into one another in a way that made them seem transient and ghostly. I combined this with flames that I had photographed at a fireworks night. I wanted to create a pyre of people on Margate beach. A bonfire is primal and cathartic, and seemed to fit with the sentiment of Buddha’s Fire Sermon.

DEATH BY DROWNING

Claire Gill, Artist, Digital Photomontage, The Wasteland by TS Eliot, Death by Drowning, On Margate Sands, Lombard Street Gallery, The Wasteland, TS Eliot, Photomontage, Limited Edition Print, Margate, hands, sea

This is the only one of the five images that I had a strong initial idea of what I wanted to do, and the only one, which I had to actively go and take photographs, which I hadn’t already taken on trips to the coast. I wanted to depict drowning not only by hands struggling in the sea, but with added hopelessness of being tangled up in ropes. Again I set this against a backdrop of Margate Beach.

WHAT THE THUNDER SAID

Claire Gill, Artist, Digital Photomontage, The Wasteland by TS Eliot, What the Thunder Said, On Margate Sands, Lombard Street Gallery, The Wasteland, TS Eliot, Photomontage, Limited Edition Print, Margate, sea

This image was the most challenging for me, because I thought it would be the most straight-forward. Thunder is a very abstract thing and hard to make into visual imagery. I tried to re-create stormy skies and lightning. I wanted the sky to be God-like and talking. I tried using people into the image, but couldn’t get it to work and then I returned to the words of the poem. The verse was overwhelmingly about the lack of water. I chose the beacon as I wanted some sort of conductor in the image and I included the fire bucket because although a bucket is designed to hold water, these often have sand in them. There is no rain in this image, just salt water and an empty bucket.

The Exhibition ‘On Margate Sands’ is showing at the Lombard Street Gallery in Margate from 3rd February to the 7th May 2018. It runs concurrently with an exhibition at Turner Contemporary inspired by the same poem called ‘Journeys through the Wasteland’ and several other related events in Margate.

MARITIME HISTORY – HISTORIC CHATHAM DOCKYARD

OF THE SEA – WORK INSPIRED BY THE HISTORIC DOCKYARD CHATHAM AND ITS MARITIME HISTORY

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Of The Sea | Limited Edition Print

This photo-montage and limited edition print entitled ‘Of the Sea’ has been inspired by a visit to the Historic Dockyard Chatham and it’s rich maritime history and comprises images taken there.

The landscape format and composition of the work is a departure to how I usually work and was influenced by the naval paintings on display at the dockyard, many of which were painted in a large landscape format. As a collection, the paintings show contrasting views of the navy throughout history. On the one hand are images documenting the orderly detail and scale of the naval fleet and on the other, images of ships, pitted against the chaos and might of the oceans in a world of sea and sky.

During my visit I was also struck by how man’s relationship to the sea was expressed through his use of materials. The craftsmanship and process used to construct ships, masts, chains, ropes, anchors and other sea faring vessels, along with an ability to exploit, use and strengthen wood, metal and textile on this huge scale would have been key to creating a powerful sea-faring nation able to explore, trade and fight. The dockyard is both testament to this great productive history and witness to it’s passing.

On land these materials, which have been joined, twisted, carved, forged and reinforced are so heavy and hard in contrast to the seemingly abstract and fluid qualities of water and air. Once at sea they become small in comparison to the might of the ocean and can be tossed about as if they weighed nothing. Given time they will all succumb to weathering, rust and decay, caused by the elements.


Visit the Historic Dockyard Chatham

NAVIGATING THE CLOUDS – THE MAKING OF A PHOTOMONTAGE

NAVIGATING THE CLOUDS – THE MAKING OF A PHOTOMONTAGE

Making a photomontage is to me like finding a solution to a problem (albeit one I have created). I am looking for the best way to combine a set of images to create a scene that makes some sort of sense. Sometimes my starting point to creating an image is an object I have photographed which I think will give it an interesting focal point or structure, but very often I will choose to combine images because I think they will create an interesting or successful colour palette. I never start with an idea of what the final piece will look like, and I love that. I discover the final image through a creative and quite intuitive process.

THIS BLOG FOCUSES ON HOW I CREATED SEASCAPE 49

I had been working on this image on and off for about two years and the magic wasn’t happening. I knew I wanted to use a red boat and I started off with one I had taken in Hastings, going on to use one I had photographed in West Mersea. I liked the painted out name and the directional thrust of the boat, which made me think it needed to impose on the image. The bold colour seemed to stand out well against the blackness of the fishermen’s huts. I always work to combine colours, which either harmonise or set each other off and I liked the deep green of the sky against the red of the boat. I created several compositions, which worked in terms of the visual arrangement, but in all of these versions, the image never popped in a way that told me it was finished.

Generally when I am working the right side of my brain rarely touches base with the left hand side and words and verbalised ideas are things which never generally interfere in the process of making work. However Seascape 49 was a little bit different. Janet from the Lombard Street Gallery had offered to exhibit my new works, which as usual weren’t in any state of completion even two weeks before the exhibition opened. She asked me to send names, and sizes of the works proposed for the exhibition and I felt I should give more than my usual list of names, which continued with the sequential numbering of Seascapes. Maybe because at the time, there was no work to be named, I felt I should give the pieces a name to make up for their incompleteness.

I hastily titled the image ‘Navigating the Clouds’ as I had just added some cloud to this ongoing picture, which was by now frustrating me. Maybe I was trying to cover it up! I was still trying to resolve this image the night before taking them to be framed and although he image was passable, it wasn’t really making sense. I looked at the image in relation to the name I had prematurely given to it and realised that it had nothing to do with navigation.

It was at that point I was reminded of images I had taken at Portland Bill of the rocks and the light house and thought how many ships must have been dashed upon the rocks there. As soon as I laid the rocks into the image something popped. The boat nestled beautifully into the rocks and the lighthouse stood proud against the green sky proud again the clouds.

It is the first time that I have titled an image before it is finished, and also the time I have used words to help me solve the image.

My starting point was to bring some images together to see how they sat with each other. These images were taken in Hastings.I liked the blackness of the huts but the image had no depth so I started cutting away the from of the huts in order to see through them, which also created an interesting structural element to the picture.I introduced the harbour arm as this lead the eye from foreground to background.I began to play about with the foreground, introducing objects, I had found at Hastings, where most of the other images were taken. At this point the image looks alright. The composition works but there is nothing telling me that I have arrived at a final piece, no pop! I introduced the life buoy because I thought the yellow and red tied in nicely with the rest of the image.I introduced the boat from West Mersea. It had more character than the previous boat and a bit more depth of colour.
I really liked the directional thrust of the boat so experimented with it’s placement within the image.By this point I had kept coming back to the image on and off for months. I had been quite attached to the fishermen’s huts, but at the same time knew the image was not working so I experimented by taking them out and burying the boat in the foreground.Here they are again (those huts). I can’t quite let them go. I play about with the landscape that leads to the sea, using an image taken on Hasting beach.
I bring in the clouds. I am looking for some magic. There is something I like about the way the clouds unite the foreground to the background. It is at this point that I tell Janet at the Lombard Street Gallery that Seascape 49 will be called ‘Navigating the Clouds.’I try and create more atmosphere by making t he clouds translucent in places.

I start to think how the title I have given to Seascape 49 ‘Navigating the Clouds’ really makes no sense in term of the image as there is no sense of navigation involved. I start thinking about navigation and how ships can so easily be lost of they fail to navigate correctly. I thought about clouds and how they can white out everything. Then I think of a trip we took to Portland Bill where the waves were crashing against these massive rocks. It was cloudy and raining and inhospitable. I transferred an image I was using of Portland Bill from another photomontage that wasn’t working into this one and as soon as I placed it in the image, the whole image popped. The boat looked as though it was wedged in the rocks, caught out by the clouds and the image started to sing. The neutral colour of the rocks, which looked perfectly dull in the other image, provided the perfect ground for this image. I added the lighthouse to add to the story. I love being surprised by images and this was one of those that taunted me for months, only to be resolved by the pressure of of having to frame it the next dyad a tile I had given it weeks before.

 

Seascape 49 is available in all sizes as a limited edition print.

LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION

LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION

What I have learnt about creativity, inspiration and being stuck in a rut.

As someone involved in a creative industry, I have thought a lot about inspiration over the years. It is that magic ingredient we search for in both our personal and professional lives that will help us find solutions, where there are problems, and get us excited about where we are heading. Whether we are looking to improve our lives, our businesses, our ideas, products or skills, we all welcome the odd flash of inspiration. When I was a young designer inspiration seemed like such an intangible thing that I often worried whether it would come at the times I most needed it. I am a bit more trusting now, although it is still very much of an unknown quantity, I trust that if I put the work in and set the scene for it to arrive, then sooner or later it will come.

Inspiration often gives the appearance of arriving out of nowhere, a eureka moment, where you suddenly make sense of everything that has gone before. Something you are experiencing allows you to see things from a different viewpoint, which in turn allows you to see a resolve to your problem. It arrives often when you are at your most relaxed or not even giving attention to the ideas you are trying to develop, or the problem you are trying to solve. In my experience, however, this can only happen after you have sown the seeds for your idea, done some research, put in some thought, and often some hard work. You have to put something in to get something out.

As a photographer and artist, my currency has always been visual, and as a consequence many of the ways I have found to get inspiration have been applied in a visual way, but there is no reason why they cannot be used just to prompt a different viewpoint when applied to any number of situations. I will leave it to you to interpret how this can be done.

Here are some of things that have helped me to shift my viewpoint, engage my creativity, get out of a rut and find inspiration.

They have all been done at times when I felt stuck and unable to move in any direction, so I know from experience that all of the below can be done when you feel switched off, stuck and uninspired, so stop trying to solve the problem, give yourself a break and maybe have a go at the things below.

1. Playing – Creating a starting point.

I am a great advocate of playing. Far from being some idle pursuit, I have found it to be one of the most important parts of the creative process. Sometimes sitting down with all the separate elements of your project in front of you, pictures, words, locations, names, quotes, colours, what ever forms part of your research and playing with those elements, without agenda and without knowing where you are going, can if nothing else create a doorway into your project – a starting point.

It allows you to absorb the big picture that you see in front of you and look for patterns and directions emerging. Create collages- groups of images/words/objects. These could be things that look good together or things that you feel instinctively go together. How do you feel about these starting points? What do you like / dislike about them? what do you need to add take away from them?

Creating these collages or groups is like making a mark on a blank canvas. When you have a starting point, you have something to react to, and as long as you have something to react to, you have somewhere to go.

2. Developing ideas – What if?

So you may have made a start. Where do you go now? The idea of developing any idea can be daunting. It immediately looks like a lot of work and a mountain to climb. When I was an art teacher my pupils had a hard time understanding the whole concept of developing an idea. They always wanted to get to the end of the road without the journey, and felt they had to know the answer to their project before they had even looked at the wealth of possibilities in front of them.

It was in trying to teach them about development that I read this quote by artist Jasper Johns. His response when being asked to describe the creative process was. ” It’s simple: you just take something and do something to it, then you do something else to it. Keep doing this and pretty soon you’ve got something.”

The simplicity of this to me was genius. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Start simple and make small changes to your initial ideas, one at a time. Do this even if you don’t know why you are doing it. Pretty soon your ideas will have more depth and more complexity than you would have imagined. You will find a way in to your project. I have always found that my best ideas have started like this.

3. Get out of your way

I have found that sometimes I actually get in the way of my ideas, My own limitations and fears stop me from taking ideas where they could potentially go, so I really responded to the surrealist approach to generating ideas. It takes ownership away from the artist/ thinker as he generates ideas through a series of games, accidents or exercises over which he has little control.

Why not take an area of your business, project or life that you are feeling stuck on and inject something random into the way you think about it. Pluck a word out of the dictionary, or pick from a selection of relevant words you have placed in a hat. Try to join the dots between your problem and this new ingredient. Fill in the grey area between them. I guarantee you will be thinking about your problem differently.

If working in teams, games such as exquisite corpse or consequences are fun to play. They are played on A4 paper, which is folded back every time it is passed from player to player, so the next player cannot see what has gone before. Each player has a piece of paper and will start of by writing the first part of a sentence, or the first part of the drawing ( a head for example). They will all fold the piece of paper back to hide what they have written and pass to the next person who will write the next part of the sentence, or draw the next part of the drawing ( the body for example). When the paper is unfolded at the end of the game, after all players have contributed, you will have a resulting sentence, or drawing, beyond anything that one person would have come up with. Of course this can result in complete and often hilarious nonsense, but if you give the sentence a particular structure involving elements of your problem, you may find fresh, even thought provoking ways of looking at your problem.

4. Apply your skills differently

Sometimes we have worked so hard on solving a project or taking an idea forward that we can’t see the wood for the trees. Maybe it is time to switch off. By taking your skills away from your problem and applying them to another small personal project, one that has no urgency, no responsibility and no deadline, we can loosen up and regain some of the confidence we may have lost in getting stuck. Give yourself permission to have time away from your main area of focus.

Every time I walk through my local bookshop I see a series of books for sale. They are a little bit gimmicky, but I like the idea behind them and they all take the form of a largely empty book with prompts on each page.  Prompts to doodle, to write, or to take photographs, amongst other things.

The book ‘624 things to write’ published by Chronicle books lists 624 random starting points, starting off a sentence that you need to finish, or setting a scene that you have to write about. 104 things to photograph is in an album like format which titles the photographs you have to take – things as diverse as Roller skates, a winding staircase or the colour green. These are things that can be done in between times, and which allow you to apply yourself in different ways. They can be fun, take you away from what you are stuck on and encourage you to use your eyes and your mind to re look at the world. This is of course one example. Any personal project will give you the space and freedom to develop in ways you may not feel free to try otherwise.

5. Go for a walk.

There is nothing more refreshing and mind opening than going on beautiful walk. Your senses are blasted with sights, sounds, smells, textures. Your whole body is engaged in the experience and quite often I have found when you physically take yourself somewhere else then your mind can follow.

6. Reading

Books are a brilliant way to get you into a different zone, to get you to look at things  from a different point of view. There are so many passionate, wise, funny, dark, creative, visionary writers out there, that can carry you with their words into a completely different mindset.

It was reading that inspired me to write this post. I had seen a blog post from the Aspire Photography Training Book Club by Catherine Connor, recommending the book ‘Peaks and Valleys’ by Spencer Johnson so I decided to read it. I wasn’t expecting it to be written in the way that it was but found it both inspiring and insightful and it shifted something in the way I was looking at things. It also got me thinking about some of the methods I had found to start my ideas moving, when I felt a bit stuck and prompted me to share them.

I would love if you shared some of your thoughts on inspiration and how to get those creative juices flowing.

Claire Gill | Artist | Limited Edition Prints