My Impossible Project

Fourteen days ago I embarked on an impossible project. I was introduced to the idea by Louise Fletcher and Alice Sheridan on their Art Juice blog and decide to combine the programme with my desire to find a new direction in my work. The programme is called ‘Creating the Impossible’ and can be accessed through a book of the same name by Michael Neill.

I create photomontages and I love this way of working and I didn’t know when I started this project whether it would take me in the direction of photomontage or somewhere else. I decided I would proceed with an open mind. Over the course of my career I have engaged with many creative approaches, so sometimes beginning with an open mind is a bit overwhelming. However, the project had to be something I believed to be impossible, so I did not want to place any limitation on it. It also had to make me grin, gasp or giggle.

I have always had a desire to paint. I have bought paints, brushes, canvases and asked for them as presents, but they sit in a box waiting for me patiently, while other things take precedence. I have been put off by every effort I have made at painting very quickly by thinking it is not good enough and hasn’t come out as easily as I envisaged. You see in my painting fantasy, I am good at painting and it just comes out the way I want. The reality however is that all my knowledge of colour, composition and any idea of what to actually paint goes out of the window when I get my paints out and I feel like a child again who believes they can’t draw. It is hard, when I consider myself to be an artist to go back to the beginning and admit that I feel completely out of my comfort zone embarking on a painting project.

But that is what I decided – to embark on a painting project.

I currently work four days a week as a teacher, run the bones of my art practice in between and we are moving house in four weeks. We are surrounded by a mountain of packing boxes, in the midst of organising electricians, plumbers and kids, so now seemed like the right time. 

The only reason I have used to try and talk myself out of doing this is the fact that it has nothing to do with the art practice I have established, nothing to do with photomontage and will it just detract my energy from doing what I think I should be doing, but its only three months I tell myself.

Phew – Well once all my excuses were out of the way I started painting. I had no idea what I was going to paint and have just been led day by day by what feels right. Some of my sixth form students have been wanting to paint faces and that has also fuelled my desire to learn and I started asking myself the question. If I was starting from zero, how would I go about it?

Well I started by taking the advice of some very good painters, who suggested I started with a coloured ground – they mentioned the colour red. I think I got carried away and used several colours, none of which were red, but I had a good time. (Various details of the ground are shown below). It was very absorbing. 

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The next day I tried to paint a still life – I say still life – it was one piece of fruit, on top of the grounds I created, but I completely obliterated the ground which I’m not sure I was meant to do and my painting style was really tight – In my fantasy it is very loose, hence the huge gulf between my vision and my current ability.

The next day I painted the head of a woman. I was trying to mix skin tones from three colours, (alizarin crimson, pthalo turquoise and lemon yellow) as I had promised a student I would persevere with painting a head. I had a found a black and white image on the internet to work from. I really enjoyed painting this head and especially enjoyed adding the purple highlights to the black skin.

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The next day I painted a glass of water as it was left on the table after dinner followed by a pretty disastrous colour attempt at the head of my son from a weird angle. It is so bad that it almost made me give up the whole challenge, but I will include it because it just confirms to me how impossible this task is. Despite this disastrous attempt I was beginning to get the sense that it was portraiture that interested me and I decided that my 90 day impossible task would be to paint a portrait of my two boys and submit it to the National Portrait Competition – don’t laugh!

So all in all not a bad start. Reflecting on the last two weeks, I have found a focus, created an impossible task and turned up every day of the second week to create something that didn’t exist before, in my case a painting which was the challenge of that particular week – well on Thursday I just created dinner, but I figure that wasn’t there before, so still counts.

What would be your impossible project? Would it make you gasp, grin or giggle?

Creating the Impossible – Book by Michael Neill
6 comments
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  • Shelley

    I would be really proud of all of the images you have painted so far Claire – they are all awesome! I especially love the portrait of your son – although his positioning looks a little awkward it looks less so turned on it’s side. What I love about this painting is how well you’ve captured his emotion. I am looking forward to seeing the rest of this project and your submission to the National Portrait competition! ReplyCancel

    • That is so kind of you Shelley. We’ll see how it goes – I like a challenge. What would yours be? xxReplyCancel

  • Sandra Marbe

    I love art in all forms. I’ve been sketching and painting since I can remember. Even got a Cse in art! In the early 70’s. Painting and drawing is in our blood. We had an uncle who was extremely talented and fortunately this has streamed through his family. My project would be to compile a painting of my immediate family by sketch and then paint it.xReplyCancel

    • I never knew that about you Sandra. It would be lovely to see your work. You should go for it! xxReplyCancel

  • Lorna Marchant

    Wonderful projects, excellent ability xxxxReplyCancel