Bringing Art Making Into Your Life
I find that we all get busy during the year and we say to our selves ‘in the holidays I will make some art’, thinking you will have loads of free time. And sure some of you will but for many of us it will be harder rather than easier to get something done at this time of year.
I noticed with amusement that when I opened WordPress this morning it was snowing down my page. Very sweet. But down here in oz it’s looking like its going to be a hot day as we are heading into steamy summertime and our major holidays. I know in the northern hemisphere this is a short break for you guys, but here its about 5 weeks of for school kids and a whopping 3 months for university students. Working parents have to juggle work, a bit of holidays, christmas, and new year events. And what do you do with kids at home all day? Go to the beach? Well, unlike the glamorous image Sydney likes to portray in the press, most of us live nowhere near a harbour view or a white sandy beach.
The weather can really affect our art making abilities/commitments too. Working ‘en plein air’ [in the open air, painting or drawing or whatever outside] is difficult. It is often raining, or so bright you can’t see the page. You can’t concentrate because there is a trickle of sweat running down your nose, or because your fingers have gone blue with the cold. Sydney really only has two seasons, a wet, cool windy one and a steamy, hot, wet one. This year the transition was so short one of my friends said she had the heater on one week and the air conditioner on the next. I often think I will make that piece of art when its warmer only to find now its too cold. Or vice versa. Last week my friend and I decided we would go down to a fairly close national park and paint, only to find our planned day was stinking hot and we ended up trekking to the beach instead and having a beer.
‘When you go outdoor first time without previous experience, you will become panic and anxious, even you are a professional artist. So when it comes to the student, who just started to learn…imagine their state of mind…’
Above: a brilliant quote from blogger Magunta Dayakar, on teaching students to paint en plein air and a picture of one of his students, Hyma giving it a go. She has the right setup, especially that umbrella.
One thing I know people often do, is they imagine they will make some art when they are away on a vacation. They go to a beach house with friends and they take some paints. They imagine themselves up at dawn, down on the sand whipping up an artistic frenzy! Ah romance…. but what actually happens is they are having so much fun with friends, that they start drinking beer at two in the afternoon, stay up til dawn every night playing cards and dancing, finally dragging their arse out of bed at midday. They have to hurl themselves in the sea to wake up, so they can start the process again the next day. [ What me? No of course I’ve never done this.] And this is good, the order in the universe is preserved. That’s what the summer holidays are for! To go nuts and burn of steam. To spend time with your people.
So as you can imagine getting some art making into all of that can be pretty tricky.
So am I saying give up? Don’t bother? …. Never! You will just need to plan ahead, deciding what it is you are trying to achieve.
Do you want to work on your store house of ideas? So you can be ready to dive in once you are back to your routine?
Do you want inspiration for some new work?
Do you want to make a major piece, something too big to fit into your usual art making schedule?
Do you want to commit to an art making holiday?
What is it you want to achieve with your art making these holidays?
If you are staying at home you can commit a bit of time each week or even every day to a small activity. Tell your friends you have something on, tell you’re family you need this bit of time to yourself, and set your self a task. Like… I will draw myself every day [ or week or whatever]. Or I will sculpt my childs head from clay and work on it everyday fo 1 hour.
It’s no use booking a trip with friends then surprising them with the idea that you want to go painting at dawn everyday. If you want an art focused trip then go with an art making friend. Believe me if you go with other people who aren’t making stuff you will just end up grumpy because you don’t end up doing any art at all. If you are planning an art trip, think a ahead, about what is achievable. If you haven’t worked outside much before , do some practice at home. Can you really paint sitting in the sun when it’s really hot and humid? Find out what the weather is like where you are planninf to holiday. What equipment will you need? I dream of painting an Arabic market… is this realistic? Or would it actually be way too crowded?
Sometimes your plan goes to hell. When I was a young adult, I went to Tasmania in the middle of winter ski-ing around and staying in a tent. This turned out to be an extreme trip. Apart from the fact that I could barely ski, I discovered that most electronic devices don’t work when they are that cold. I had to put my camera batteries IN MY UNDERPANTS to warm them up……. It was so windy, and blizzardy that my dream of beautiful snowy panoramas turned into hastily caught snapshots. Also there was much less light than I was used to and I didn’t bring my tripod. So although I was quite an experienced photographer I had no experience with cold weather. Cold weather experience number two was diving in South Australia’s amazing freshwater holes, Ewens Ponds. A more beautiful place you will not find. I’d practiced with my underwater camera in the ocean [ not very warm in SA ] but the freshwater ponds were like ice and my fingers barely worked. So plan people, research and plan……
Above: my frozen fingered shot of Ewens Ponds.
If you are going on a trip without an art focus there are still ways to get some art into it. Before you go pack a small sketch book or take a camera and plan to do small bits and pieces as you go. There are often lots of waiting bits on holidays. This is the perfect time to sketch people as they are actually standing or sitting still. Or if you prefer photography, choose a theme and take a photo that goes with your theme everyday: people riding bikes, beasts of burden, old ladies carrying baskets. You will be surprised how much focus this will give your work. Or take a series and do something fun to them in Photoshop later.
Above: in the markets of Hanoi, I took loads of somewhat aimless photos. When I got home I did a small series with just a small section of each photo coloured in. [Yes I know a bit overdone these days but not at the time].
Another great activity to do if you are staying at home, especially if you are feeling bit lazy, is sifting through your scribbles and doodles, all the ideas you have collected through the year. [If you’ve been reading my blogs for bit you will know how important I think it is to jot down your ideas in a note book. If this has passed you by then please go read the Ideas Section of the Making Art website.] Spend a bit of time looking at which are your best ideas, and how you could make them. Just relaxing, lying in a hammock drinking a Pina Colada? Great time to let all those ideas come from where they have been stuck all year out of your head and into your notebook . You might surprise your self and start something new. Sometimes taking the pressure off is very inspiring.
Another way to bring some art into your holidays is to use it as an inspiration gathering time, rather than for final works. Recently I went for a beachy few days with some lady friends where the focus was more on eating and drinking than anything else. I went for a walk on the beach and took photos of all sorts of lovely seaweed and dead fish. I also noticed these beautiful lines in the sand made by the water coming in. Now I don’t know what I will do with it but I took photos anyway because I thought the line was so elegant. Maybe I will make a series of simple drawings emulating this elegant meandering.
Above: lines in the sand.
Ok so you’ve thought about it for a bit, just to remind you, these are my top tips.
I guess ultimately I am saying that the holidays are not just a time to restore your physical and mental energies before it all starts again but a chance to fire up your artistic energies too.