Five ways of using Pinterest to enhance your art practice

Should you be using Pinterest as a serious tool for your art practice? If you don’t already do so, here are a few ideas you may like.
Five ways of using pinterest for your art practice
For years I was aware of Pinterest but just didn’t get it. The people I knew who were Pinteresters were in the midst of planning weddings and finding it hugely useful. They were curating boards for every aspect of the event. I thought it was just another planning tool so I dismissed it.

Planning is one of Pinterest’s applications, but it isn’t the only one, or in fact the most valuable. Pinterest is a huge visual search engine.  And unlike Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, your pins don’t just disappear into the ether. Pinterest boards have much greater lifespan.  As with all digital tools, the trick is to work out how to make it work for you.

Here are a few ideas for artists using Pinterest

  • Spread your reach

    This is probably the most obvious. Sharing your work makes you more visible. Discoverability is key. If people don’t know about your work, they won’t be buying your art.  I have had commissions and sales from people finding my pins.

  • Subject Research

    This is where Pinterest’s hidden boards are really useful. When I was working on a commission of a painting of a snowboarder, it was really important to make sure the body position was accurate. Making a collection of copyright-free photographs on a temporary board I was able to ensure my energetic subject was speeding downhill in the right pose. The board was only visible to me and a one click delete when I knew I was done with it meant it isn’t still there when it’s no longer relevant. A word of warning – when using reference pictures in this way, make sure you don’t copy. Use your pins to check details, but always produce your own artistic interpretation.  I use multiple images and take information from all of them.

  • Market research

    Do you want to find out what your ideal customer is interested in? Following some Pinterest users who are interested in your subject matter gives you a good idea of the other things they like. Does this provide ideas for more subject matter, or perhaps for places you could reach your target market?

  • Using Pinterest to hone your style

    Louise Fletcher recently sent out an email newsletter in which one of her suggestions really resonated for me. She suggested looking on Pinterest for work you like, and then working out just what it is that you like about it. This is something I’ve found hugely helpful for a while now. Becoming more aware about what you like will help you critique and curate your own work. Now that Pinterest has added the facilities to put sections on your boards you can build collections of collections. Putting artwork on a board gives me the ability to see different examples of work by artists I find inspiring. I can work out which aspects of their work I like and ask myself what that means to my own work.  It could be a colour I really enjoy, the artist’s use of media or the elements of mark-making. I’ve used this board to start thinking about which direction my work is moving in and to be braver about working outside of my comfort zone.  (Important note: When pinning someone else’s work, don’t forget to check that the pin gives them credit and links back to a site that gives them credit.)

  • Make connections through collaboration

    Take part in group boards or invite other people to pin on your group boards. Collaborating with other artists builds great connections and increases your visibility. Set up a board for your art society, or for fellow artists taking part in a challenge. I was hugely excited when I got my first invitation to pin on a collaborative board. It was a great boost to my Pinterest kudos to have someone consider my work to be of a high enough quality to be included on their board. It may take a while before you get an invitation, but keep on pinning and invite others to pin on group boards you set up. Choose your fellow pinners carefully.

Do you use Pinterest in any other ways? Do let me know in a comment below.

(Footnote: Louise Fletcher and Alice Sheridan produce a weekly podcast called Art Juice that is well worth following. They have become my regular studio companions.)

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Watercolour of the mother of mountains

Watercolour of the mother of mountains This little watercolour of the mother of mountains was inspired by two sunset visits to points overlooking the Glasshouse Mountains. The sky ranges from purple through all the pinks to coral colours and the forested area around the mountains creates a darker bed from which the peaks emerge.

The last light warms the west-facing side of mount Beerwah, the mother of mountains. As the sun goes down, it creates a glow on her flank. There’s an Aboriginal legend about the Glasshouse Mountains.

The Legend of the Glasshouse Mountains – inspiration for the watercolour of the mother of mountains

“Now Tibrogargan was the father of all the tribes and Beerwah was his wife, and they had many children.

Coonowrin, the eldest; the twins, Tunbubudla; Miketeebumulgrai; Elimbah whose shoulders were bent because she carried many cares; the little one called Round because she was so fat and small; and the one called Wild Horse since he always strayed away from the others to paddle out to sea. (Ngungun, Beerburrum and Coochin do not seem to be mentioned in the legend).

One day when Tibrogargan was gazing out to sea, he perceived a great rising of the waters. He knew then that there was to be a very great flood and he became worried for Beerwah, who had borne him many children and was again pregnant and would not be able to reach the safety of the mountains in the west without assistance.

So he called to his eldest son, Coonowrin, and told him of the flood which was coming and said, “Take your mother, Beerwah, to the safety of the mountains while I gather your brothers and sisters who are at play and I will bring them along.”

When Tibrogargan looked back to see how Coonowrin was tending to his mother he was dismayed to see him running off alone. Now this was a spiritless thing for Coonowrin to do, and as he had shown himself to be a coward he was to be despised.

Tibrogargan became very angry and he picked up his nulla nulla and chased Coonowrin and cracked him over the head with a mighty blow with such force that it dislocated Coonowrin’s neck, and he has never been able to straighten it since.

By and by, the floods subsided and, when the plains dried out the family was able to return to the place where they lived before. Then, when the other children saw Coonowrin they teased him and called “How did you get your wry neck – How did you get your wry neck?” and this made Coonowrin feel ashamed.

So Coonowrin went to Tibrogargan and asked for forgiveness, but the law of the tribe would not permit this. And he wept, for his son had disgraced him. Now the shame of this was very great and Tibrogargan’s tears were many and, as they trickled down they formed a stream which wended its way to the sea.

So Coonowrin went then to his mother, Beerwah, but she also cried, and her tears became a stream and flowed away to the sea. One by one, he went to his brothers and sisters, but they all cried at their brother’s shame.

Then Tibrogargan called to Coonowrin and asked why he had deserted his mother and Coonowrin replied, “She is the biggest of us all and should be able to take care of herself.” But Coonowrin did not know that his mother was again with child, which was the reason for her grossness. Then Tibrogargan put his son behind him and vowed he would never look at him again.

Even to this day Tibrogargan gazes far, far out to sea and never looks at Coonowrin. Coonowrin hangs his head in shame and cries, and his tears run off to the sea, and his mother, Beerwah, is still pregnant, for, you see, it takes many years to give birth to a mountain.”

Credit to Coolrunning.com for this version of the legend.

Spirituality and the art process

Spirituality and the art process – what does that mean to you?
When Glenda Charles sent me her workshop list with this topic, I was intrigued but didn’t really know what to expect.  Her workshop description included this text:

“I find out everything about myself in that moment of making”.
The musician, Nils Frahm said this about the process of making music and so it can be said about all art practice.

The title and description intrigued me. I had no idea what to expect. So I really needed to suspend any expectations before I went along. The ability to deal with uncertainty is enormously valuable to any artist. We need to embrace the unknown; to start each artistic project with the knowledge that it will probably change along the way. It will change, and in fact, probably surprise you at the same time.  For me, that’s part of the thrill of painting. Perhaps that’s because it’s part of the process of finding out more about ourselves.

I have always known that the creative process is in large part, about self-discovery.  And it’s not something that can be rushed.  It isn’t a flash of insight with every painting. Rather it’s a slow process, a bit like peeling an onion. Each layer gets you closer to the core. Removing a layer can be uncomfortable. And every time you you it, you feel more vulnerable for a while. It takes a degree of courage to open up and trust the process.

Spirituality and the art process – the workshop

Glenda is warm, joyful and down to earth. She makes this sort of leap of faith feel safe.  The process involved meditation, mark making and then a process of using some of those emotion-led marks we had generated as the starting point for an abstract painting.

Partly because of the constraint of travel-friendly paper sizes, I worked on two smaller pieces which were painted together side by side.  In itself, this was an interesting exercise I’ve not tried before.

As you can see, the results were images that are way off my normal style of work. I’ve been reflecting on them for a week now and I see some exciting possibilities that make me want to explore greater freedom in my mark making, and a more abstract collection of work.

Spirituality and the art process - Palette rightI have also changed my view of the palette I used. I think it may be too strident in its intense saturation and I rather like these versions where I used a warm filter to change the colours to a slightly more sophisticated version.  What do you think?

Spirituality and the art process -Palette left

These aren’t exactly where I would want them to be yet. They invite further work, but the process has been enlightening and I will continue to work on these two. I think this is an evolution – of the paintings and of my art development.

My take aways

The value of Spirituality and the art process was something I experienced during the workshop, but only processed consciously a few days later. Meditation at the beginning of the day was really useful as a way of quietening the analytical part of my brain. I often complain that I can spend almost a full day pottering in the studio before I even pick up a brush. It takes me that long to change my thinking style from analytical to creative.

The analytical part of my brain is usually dominant and it speaks very loudly. Although I still didn’t find it easy to tune into the intuitive process of painting, it was there and I can see what with practice, it could begin to calm the analytical thinking faster than it does these days.

Following the flow

Following the flow: Sometimes, life leads us to unexpected places; to people who influence our thinking; to events that inspire our creativity. We can either focus on the restrictions imposed by the rest of our lives, or we can try to take the opportunity that we’re being offered. I believe in grabbing the opportunity with enthusiasm; in going with the flow

In 2017 we took a long trip. We did a house swap with a couple from Mission Beach, in Queensland, Australia. I was thrilled about the opportunity to spend time in two of my favourite environments: beaches and rainforests. I love walking along a deserted beach, and I have always been at home in amongst trees.  Mission Beach is a special place in that it has both in one place.

Washed Ashore - a slice of my beach reflection abstract. Following the flow.
Washed Ashore – a slice of my beach reflection abstract

The trip seemed like a good opportunity to paint a new series. Specifically, I decided to paint individual pieces that would end up as a digital sketchbook of the trip once they had all gone to new owners. So I took a supply of paper and paints along with me and the project got started.

Following the Flow: Mission Beach Community Arts

Then I discovered the Mission Beach Community Arts centre. We noticed the gallery as we were driving past and I went in to explore. I didn’t realise that they also run workshops until I looked on their Facebook page.  There was a post that made me sit up: a two day workshop by Australian artist, Glenda Charles. The subject: Abstracting the Landscape. Some workshops are just meant to be done. So, following the flow, I  signed up, went shopping for even more art supplies, and got painting!

I don’t find abstract painting  to be the easy option some people seem to think it is. It required much more thought and planning than painting what is in front of you in a figurative style.  The appeal of this workshop was the chance to dive into something I’ve always found very difficult.

Following the Flow. Rainforest Cloudburst was painted in the workshop with Glenda Charles
Rainforest Cloudburst was painted in the 2017 worth Glenda Charles. in this one I focused on my fascination with the forest. I particularly love the marks made by raindrops. They could never be replicated.

Working with Glenda was fantastic. Everything about the workshops pushed my boundaries, and prepared me for being more adventurous with my work. I am still not what I would call an abstract artist, but my work often gets into the semi-abstract space.

We’re back in Australia this year. This time we’re on the Sunshine Coast, just north of Brisbane. A few weeks before we left home I realised that this is Glenda’s home ground. Eventually I got around to contacting her to say I was going to be in the area and would love to see any exhibitions she has going over the next couple of months.

She replied almost immediately with an invitation to her studio. She also mentioned that she is running a workshop on Spirituality in Art next Saturday. Some workshops are just meant to be done. So, once again, I am following the flow.

(I’ll post about the workshop next week).

In the Studio with the Royal Watercolour Society

This is a retrospective post about my visit to In The Studio, the exhibition by members of the Royal Watercolour Society at Bankside Gallery.  If you didn’t get to see it, many of the works that were in the exhibition are still available on the RWS website.

I am always interested in the processes that go into creating works of art. Every artist has their own particular way of working so the possibilities are infinite. In this exhibition, the paintings on the walls are interspersed with photographs of the artist in their studio and snippets of information about the way they work in the studio. A series of videos showing RWS members working in their studios to give visitors more of the ‘behind the scenes’ view of the show.

Paintings by John Crossley VPRWS, Janet Golphin RWS, Anne Marlow RWS and Jill Leman PRWS
Paintings by John Crossley VPRWS, Janet Golphin RWS, Anne Marlow RWS and Jill Leman PRWS

Including the information about the artist in their studio is a format that gives the viewer more insight into the artist as a person.

I took a few picture of works that appealed to me (having first gained permission to take photographs).

In the Studio – some of my favourites

Its always difficult to get a good photograph  without reflections when paintings are behind glass. I apologise for the quality of some of these.

Kitten Heels with Fairy Lights by Gertie Young RWS
Kitten Heels with Fairy Lights by Gertie Young RWS

There’s no surprise in my loving this one at first sight: playful, colourful and…. shoes!


Red Facade No 2 by Rika Newcombe ARWS. In the Studio exhibition
Red Facade No 2 by Rika Newcombe ARWS

I had already seen this on social media. When I was standing in front of it, I was struck by the detail and delicacy of the marks on the paper. There’s a wonderful elegance about each little abstract section. No wonder it was a gallery staff pick.


Dried Grasses with Delphiniums in the Studio with Violet Shadows by Sophie Knight RWS
Dried Grasses with Delphiniums in the Studio with Violet Shadows by
Sophie Knight RWS

This is one of three large works by Sophie Knight. Her work is always atmospheric and dynamic.


Somewhere over Siberia by Liz Butler RWS
Somewhere over Siberia by Liz Butler RWS

Three aerial views by Liz Butler appealed to the traveller in me. They are views that you might see when flying over a dramatic landscape.


Links to other works I didn’t get good enough photographs of, and some that are pictured above:

Liz Butler RWS – Somewhere over Siberia (pictured above)

Liz Butler RWS – Cloncurry District, Australia

Sue Howells RWS – Glow of Day Fading Away

Richard Pikesley RWS – Axe, Summer Evening

Neil Pittaway RWS – Dusk Evening Light on the Glacier du Bonibassey, France

Gertie Young RWS – Kitten Heels with Fairy Lights

This exhibition felt different to some of the others I’ve seen at Bankside. It was lighter and made the artists seem more approachable. I’m going to be visiting Bankside Gallery more often.

Watercolour Sketchbook in Digital Form for my ArtAusTrailasia Project

There’s an emerging digital watercolour sketchbook of my current trip. I love travelling and try to go somewhere every year – it inspires my painting. Right now I’m a long way from home, travelling in Queensland, Australia exploring Rainforests and Reefs.

Watercolour - Rainforest in the Rain
Rainforest in the Rain. Watercolour 20 x 20cm

We came via Bangkok and Siem Reap in Cambodia because there were things to be seen along the way. Travel is such a cornerstone of my painting, I decided to make the most of it on this trip and create a digital journal along the way. Rather than keeping a daily sketchbook, I’ve painted an A5 sketch each day. Each one is then photographed it so I have a record and finally, left it in a public place for someone to find and keep.

So far I’ve painted 43 and I hope to make it a total of 60 before I get home. Each image gets put on Instagram and in a Facebook album with the tag #ArtAustTrailAsia.

Digital Watercolour SketchbookThis is my digital sketchbook.

So far the watercolour sketches have been well received. I mainly leave the paintings without telling anyone, and let them be discovered later. Often I’ve been on a walk, leaving the painting on a table at the beginning of the trail. Its always gone by the time I get back. A few people have left messages on Facebook or Instagram to say they’ve got a painting and to let me know where the painting landed up.

The last few days I’ve been painting on a sailing boat with 22 other passengers. By the last day people were watching the emerging watercolour and asking if they could have the next painting. This was very good for my plein air painting. I’m normally too self conscious to paint in public and hate being watched as I work. But this trip has helped enormously and I’ve become much more relaxed about painting when other people are around me. What’s helped you paint in public? It can be a daunting prospect.

And a Watercolour Sketchbook to take home

They haven’t all been  given away. There will be paintings coming home with me too.  I have put down a few pieces in my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, and have started a series of 20 x 20 watercolours which will be available for sale when I get back home. There will be some bigger works too. I am loving painting the rainforests and the reefs of Australia so much that I’ll be holding an Open Studio weekend in July when I get back home. If you’re in the Cambridge area and would like to come along, sign up for my newsletter in the box on the right hand side of my blog for information about dates and times. News of my Rainforest and Reef Open Studio will be coming soon. Watch this space (or my newsletter)

And now for some non watercolour sketchbook news:

I’m thrilled to have had two paintings accepted for the Babylon Arts Summer Open Exhibition. Rhododendrons in the Garden and Alliums in the Garden will be on show at the Babylon Gallery in Ely. The exhibition runs from July 29th to August 28th and will feature the work of 40 artists. The gallery is a lovely venue right on the river bank and its well worth a day out of boat watching, art viewing and some good places to eat lunch.

 

Just over a year ago I was honoured to be offered (and accept) the role of Chair of the Society of East Anglian Watercolourists. The society has for many years benefitted in various ways from links with the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.  It’s been an exciting year of working with a committee of extremely talented artists to bring in some new initiatives for the society’s 70 members. In the context of my art life this is what has been keeping me busy. I have two years left of my term so expect blogging to be sporadic.

Watercolour painting exhibition www.SEAW.co.uk Call for Entries 2017

One other piece of Society of East Anglian Watercolourists news: The annual Selected Exhibition which is due to take place from 30 August to 17 September this year is now open for submissions from non-members. If you’re an East Anglian Watercolourists – consider submitting some work for our exhibition. More information on this at www.seaw.co.uk

Spring Exhibition: East Anglian Watercolourists

This year, the Society of East Anglian Watercolourists will be making some changes to the members’ Spring exhibition.

About the Spring Exhibition:

Timed to fit in with the Bury Festival, the 2016 show will be staged in the beautiful Bury St Edmunds Farmers Club, where visitors will be able to treat themselves to lunch or an afternoon tea. A selection of paintings from the exhibition will also be available on the society’s website.

Society of East Anglian Watercolourists Spring Exhibition

Watercolour sketch cards

I’m playing catch up with my little watercolour sketch cards this week. I ran out of time to write a post last week for a number of reasons, but mainly because I am organising an exciting Running With Brushes exhibition.

I have the support of nine other fabulous artists in Cambridge who will be exhibiting with me – not to mention the 30 other artists who have so generously donated works to Running With Brushes. The website is up, the artists are ready and now we start with spreading the word. So if you’re in the Cambridge area and you fancy a grand night out with live music, a fantastic art exhibition, the chance to meet some exceptional artists, and to take home one of the gorgeous little Running With Brushes watercolours – please consider buying a ticket and spreading the word.  (Early warning – you may hear a bit more about this event from me as the event unfolds)

So now you know why I didn’t post last week, here’s a selection of the watercolour sketch collection that came off my brushes.

Watercolour Sketch list
2016.02.23 - Nightingale Song

Nightingale song inspired this sketch. On one of my London work days I heard my first nightingale. Sound waves in the dusk came to mind.

2016.02.21 - Order from Chaos

Creating order from chaos. I’m going through an exercise of organising my palettes. I’ll blog about this some time in the future – I’ve started working through my paints to find the single pigment transparent colours. More on this later.

2016.02.20 - Crane Flower

The strelizia in the office produced a single flower/. I loved the dramatic shapes of the spikey petals. They called for a layered abstract.

2016.02.19 Switzerland 2

Sitting in the Zurich airport I thought about what defines Switzerland. The essence of the Switzerland I saw last week was many shades of grey, blue skies, mountain peaks and a splash of red.

2016.02.18 - Take Off 2

Taking off – I challenged myself to paint one of these on the plane. This was painted at 38000 feet above the earth.

2016.02.17 - Curves and shadows 2

Energy pods. Shiny gold cones of wake-up boost. They’re not very politically correct these days.

Back to the studio now for a bigger piece.

Abstract Watercolours: part 2

Last week I committed to sharing both the good and the less so good on my journey towards abstract watercolours – and so I am doing just that. Which means there are pieces of work on this website now that I wouldn’t normally be sharing.

Given the purpose of the project: to break down my creative block and (as always) to learn I’ve made a couple of adjustments to my process. I’m working with only three brushes for the moment: a flat brush, a dagger brush and a sword brush. These may change in time, but for the moment, I’m keeping things simple and using this as an opportunity to master these brushes.

Secondly, I’m limiting the time spent on each painting, as far as possible, to 15 minutes. This stops me from overthinking a piece of work, and its probably the only way I could manage anything close to a daily painting, no matter how small.

Is it working? I’ve certainly produced little abstract watercolours with a wide range of styles, subjects and moods. Its getting me back into the painting groove again and making me experiment more again. The process is definitely loosening up my painting.

This Batch of Abstract Watercolours:

There’s a question about where the line is between abstract and representational artworks. For me, the line is fairly close to representational. I don’t have a problem with images that are reminiscent of real things – a semi-abstract is still an abstract if it evokes a feeling, or expresses the characteristics of a situation.

abstract watercolours 2016.02.12 Friday morning shopping

On Friday I had the frustrating experience of having to run some errands. I discovered that Friday morning is a bad time to be anywhere near the shops. There’s a sense of frantic business and at the same time, people randomly wandering and getting in the way. It felt a bit like an obstacle course.

2016.02.13 e-Luminate Abstract watercolours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not my favourite work of the week. I recently got hold of a new luminescent ink which I wanted to try out. Our visit to e-Luminate Cambridge seemed to be an ideal subject for the inks. Working fast meant far too little control using materials and tools I’m not accustomed to, and the results were messing and not inspiring at all. It did make me start working on controlling inks for future works.

abstract watercolours 2016.02.14 Fading Glory

We had a bunch of tulips on the kitchen table. The pod-like shapes of the blossoms called me. I also started working on paper I’ve not tried before: Fabriano HP.

abstract watercolours 2016.02.15 beginnings

My favourite of this bunch was inspired by the snowdrops I notices on my walk through the churchyard. They are delicate and chaotic. Pristine and tangled. Hopeful and transient.

abstract watercolours 2016.02.16 life landscape

A streak of darkness entered our day on Tuesday when we were forced to contemplate the possibility of losing Horatio who has been ill for a week. Remarkably, he’s still hanging in and somedays bring possibilities of a healthier future for our very special feline.

The trail of abstract watercolours will continue.

Watercolour Marks Project

I got stuck. My painting wasn’t going anywhere special – so I started a watercolour marks project. I’ve been wanting to develop a more abstract approach to my painting for some time. After being away from my studio for almost 4 weeks in December and early January, my mojo didn’t come strolling back when I picked up my brushes as I expected it to. It was well and truly on holiday with no intention of coming back.

So I patiently pottered in the studio whenever I had time. I mixed paint from pure pigment and started trying it out on a set of cards. I tidied. I bought a few new books for inspiration and information. Finally, I gave up waiting for the painting motivation to reappear spontaneously and decided to get stuck in to a project making watercolour marks.

And yes, before you say it – that is pretty much a description of watercolour painting. The distinction is the difference between playing (experimenting) and taking a more focused approach to creating a completed painting.

I was having a conversation with Noel Gray on Monday. He mentioned in passing that he’d just squashed his dinosaur. (Not your average business conversation!). What he meant was that he had squashed his origami dinosaur and would have to repair it.  And there we had the start of my watercolour marks project. I had a mental image that had to be captured.

I decided to take a journey towards abstraction. I define abstract paintings as those which are paintings ‘about’ the subject rather than paintings ‘of’ the subject. That could mean capturing a quality, an essence, a thought which is sparked by the subject.

The Watercolour Marks Project

My intention is to paint a postcard-sized abstract every day. They will all be very different from each other because I will be pushing my boundaries. Some won’t be particularly good, but I will be brave and share them anyway because this is a journey and there will be wrong turns along the way. So here we go:

watercolour marks. Squashed Dinosaur

I had to start with a painting about a squashed dinosaur. I tried to capture a sense of ‘Squashedness’.

watercolour marks. Restless

Day 2 was a restless day. There was calm beneath, but my mind was leaping all over the place with new ideas. I blame the watercolour marks project.

watercolour marks. History

On day 3, I had a conversation about history and the way unforeseen events can change our direction. Events overtake intention.

watercolour marks. Recurrence

Day 4 was about recurrence. The cat ended back at the vet (Horatio is an expensive pet right now) with a recurrence of his urethra problem. It was time to paint recurrence, and end the week with the thought that there would be a recurrence of abstract paintings in the coming weeks.