Planning the perfect path

Planning the perfect path - student project

I have been working to uncover just what path I wish to take (and commit to) with my art for many years, but haven't really been able to come up with a good, solid, 'sticky' plan. This class looks like it might be a great way for me to explore and analyse all that makes my art practice my art practice and give me some great insight into which artistic path to take going forward. I plan to complete these exercises honestly and in as much detail (be warned!) as I can, so as to squeeze as much out of this as I can...

 

PHASE 1: Observe limitations

Feelings -- I am an overthinking perfectionist. I am all talk, little action. I am a serious procrastinator. If I can’t do it the way I envision, I tend to give up or avoid doing it altogether. Between this and having too many interests to settle on just one (subject as well as mediums), it results in me not finishing many projects. I have a great lack of self-confidence and self-discipline. I studied art years ago, yet feel I have no real knowledge or skill. Thus, I feel like a fraud in that I am seen as an artsy person by many, and yet I don’t actually feel I deserve that label at all. I fear drawing from life, and using colour as I don’t believe I’m any good with either. I don’t have any originality, feeling as though all I do is ‘copy’, without any voice or unique style of my own. I have a strong desire to make art, but when the time actually comes to do so, I freeze and just...can’t.

Typical approach -- I’ve felt most comfortable with the clean and precise lines and soft shading of a graphite pencil at a fairly small scale from reference photos (mostly portraits), so that is what I’ve done most of in the past. I have had many exploratory dabblings over the years with charcoal, pastel, biro & coloured pencil drawing, watercolour & acrylic painting, scrapbooking, collage, clay sculpture, printmaking, digital design, stop-motion animation and most recently, ink. I loved ALL of these mediums, for different reasons...this is where I struggle...committing to one...

Planning the perfect path - image 1 - student project
[A few of my graphite (A4) and charcoal (A1) drawings from years ago]

Concrete limitations -- Honestly, I do not have many of the typical commitments that constrain others (I haven’t been blessed with children yet, work only part-time & have a designated creative space). However, I feel like my mind is constantly in a 'fog', do get head and body aches on occasion and struggle with both fatigue and anxiety. I feel I have very basic skills, due to never being able to commit to any one medium or subject. I am easily distracted with unproductive and time-consuming screen-based activity and easily swayed into daily hour(s) long coffee chats with family (which I feel obligated to participate in). I find it difficult to break old habits and develop a positive and productive routine.  I also struggle to self-motivate.

Supplies/Equipment I have access to -- graphite and coloured pencils, watercolour paint and pencils, charcoal, oil paint, gesso, pens and ink, various brushes, chalk, crayons, markers, soft pastels, fine-liner pens, laptop & basic printer/scanner, (decade old) DSLR camera, iPhone, Affinity Designer, small canvas boards, large wooden boards, printer paper, lino-cutting tool set...

 

PHASE 2: Gather Data

Likes & interests -- making lists, art, sustainability & simple living, plant-based nutrition, nature, meditation & mindfulness, mythology & folklore, languages & etymology (words and names), symbolism, gardening, plants & greenery, herbalism, biology, natural materials, low-waste living, children’s book illustration, the rain, personal development, the supernatural & whimsy, my dogs, being in the middle of a rainforest, minimalism, science fiction, psychology, philosophy, roadtripping, cultural diversity, cosiness, learning, papercraft, travel, writing letters, ink illustration, technical & scientific drawing, the idea of homeschooling & unschooling, questioning everything, expressive lines in drawings, history, conspiracies, ancient civilisations, creative storytelling, dance (observation), tiny houses, bushwalking, Leonardo da Vinci, vintage illustration, wandering around cemeteries, TV-series marathons, camping, cinematic film, art galleries & museums, calligraphy & lettering, food & cooking, world cuisine, sitting in the sun on my verandah on cold mornings sipping coffee, children, journaling, creative writing, observing animals in the wild, typing, people watching, home renovation, illustration & design, listening to music, thrifting & upcycling, antique stores, nature-based belief systems, reading, cinema & theatre, laying under the clouds/stars, astronomy, photography, urban exploration, embroidery, genealogy, organising/arranging, purple, yellow, black & turquoise…

Personality -- (INFP) introverted, value solitude, creative, happy homebody but also enjoy being outside in nature, deep thinker, curious, compassionate, emotional, honest, easy-going, much more comfortable writing than speaking, indecisive, procrastinator, love to organise but often feel very disorganised, idea generator, lover of details, often aware that I’m contradicting myself, struggle with (social) anxiety, often feel aimless, cautious, daydreamer…

 

PHASE 3: Hypothesis

Combine limitations & inspirations -- Entering into this class I had been considering botanical illustration and going through these exercises had me realising just where that desire came from. With my interests in nature, science and art, and my love of order and detail, is it any wonder? I then considered the possibility of scientific and natural history illustration -- I love the idea of it being a bridge between art and science through nature -- but quickly grew panicky when uncovering the insane complexity of the style. Therefore, I’ve decided to just take it easy and begin by drawing natural things from around my garden. I’ll use pencil, liners and pen & ink, and draw from both life, and reference photos. This doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming, will give me a specific but still very broad subject to work with, allows me to face my fear of drawing from life and continue with the familiarity of drawing from reference images, and is also something I need not rush and can easily leave off and return to so as to fit well with my limitations.

Tests --

Planning the perfect path - image 2 - student project

Planning the perfect path - image 3 - student project
Planning the perfect path - image 4 - student projectPlanning the perfect path - image 5 - student project

Evaluation -- Overall, I felt calm and focused and generally enjoyed myself. I completely lost track of time and found the concentration on details and the repetition quite meditative (though my mind still wandered on occasion). Initially, I was very aware of just how much I was automatically mentally criticising my efforts, finding myself unsure of whether my shading was successful (likely as I was subconsciously comparing myself with the work of artists with a decade of practice behind them…) I tried other techniques, but ultimately actually found myself happiest with my initial natural 'stippling-based' technique. I enjoyed the process, and feel excited to continue to work to improve my hatching/stippling/textural shading skills. 

Adjustments -- I do very much enjoy the black and white only, though (somewhat surprisingly) find myself missing the colour, particularly in the botanical drawings. I keep finding myself drawn back to Scientific/Natural History/Botanical watercolour Illustration, so even though that terrifies me, it may just be where I need to go. I'm also feeling as though I would like my drawings to be more personal and carry with them a bit of a storytelling element. This watercolour direction does seem to be the obvious path to take from here...

However, I still can't seem to focus on just one idea in general and that makes me even less confident. My mind constantly wanders and I now find myself very interested in and gravitating toward linocut printing and creative journaling (on top of ink and watercolour illustration), all at once...I really do struggle with focus & commitment. I may just need to appreciate and accept that I'm a 'Jack-of-all-Trades' creative type, and one single path just isn't right for me -- embrace my generalist, polymath nature and just keep learning and exploring as ideas come to me. But I wonder, is being a 'Jack-of-all-Trades' a blessing, or a curse? I realise that too much time spent flitting around makes me less likely to make my work great or actually count for anything, to have purpose. I've always thought I'd eventually end up in an art career of some kind, but perhaps, it's just meant to be a beloved hobby. I'm not sure just yet if this conclusion is a major bummer, mourning the loss of a lifelong dream career, or a great relief, to stop worrying about it all and just enjoy learning and playing..? Anyway, as is typical of me, that all went deep, and fast! Moving on...

 

Ultimately, I wish now to concentrate on adjusting and testing the hypothesis phase of this class on my various ideas, so I'll return to the remainder of this project at a later date when/if I do find something particularly 'sticky' that I wish to explore in more depth. Otherwise, I feel as though this class did help a lot to better understand my creative self, give me some more enthusiasm and confidence to make art more often, and to give me a good, solid framework to explore different ideas in the future. Thanks to Kendyll for a great class.