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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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