Saturday, 23 March 2013

When inspiration hits

This is a guest post by Laura of Ray Mears Extreme Housewifery.

It was a real pleasure to be invited to write a guest post for Flavours Holidays. Like the some of the people who go on lovely Italian paintingholidays, I am not a professional painter, I am enthusiastic but very definitely an amateur. So I wasn't sure what I could contribute at first. Thinking of an interesting topic for a post about painting was a challenge that really had me pondering, until the obvious struck home - I should write about inspiration.

Creative block is something that can strike most painters, amateur or professional. I remember when I was little I would always have a sketchpad or a notebook handy when we went on trips, but sometimes I just couldn't think of what to draw and so I would have to ask my family for an idea. I still get that now sometimes, asking my husband what he thinks I should use as my subject this time. He usually just stares at me blankly, and so I have to fall back on other techniques to find inspiration for my latest piece.

1. Can't see the wood for the trees

I love to both photograph and paint things in my immediate environment. Really taking the time to stop and appreciate the things and people around you can be a truly rewarding experience in itself, but re-evaluating those mundane things and shaping them into your own composition can really give you a new perspective. I also like to paint things in my home environment because it gives you the benefit of real planning time. Those things are always there for your to examine and it gives you a great chance of capturing their character.

Last year I painted a manga style family portrait. It took me a long time to complete it, with one thing or another, but it is one of the pieces I am most proud of. It captures my little family, (yes, I am a crazy cat lady) in all our quirky glory and although it is not perfect, I like the little glimpses into our characters that it gives to anyone that sees it.

2. Bring your holiday home with you

I find a great way to get inspiration is to reflect on things you saw on your latest holiday or staycation. While you are on holiday, take little sketches and photos and even collect (where it is safe/legal for you to do so) little things that will help to remind you of the character of a place - the leaves from a striking plant, a discarded bird's feather, even a ticket or event programme that helps to transport you back to the moment.

Not only could you have a bit of fun with all of these bits and pieces creating a scrap book, or perhaps a mood board when you get home, but you also have a tonne of inspirational memories and ideas that you can work up into a nice painting. I created a quite stylized piece based upon my trip to Machu Picchu in 2009 which was a fun layered affair, using quite a thin watercolour base with inked detail over the top.

 3. Mix it up!

As you have already seen, I don't have a set style or work in a certain media. Perhaps that's because I haven't really found my niche yet, but also because I love to experiment with new things. I genuinely think it helps to keep your creativity levels topped up by dusting off the oils, wetting the watercolours or going for the gouche if you haven't given them a whirl for a while. What have you got to lose?

4. Make it up

You've painted the things close to home, you've taken ideas from the exotic. Now what? Now it is time to plunder the fertile grounds of your imagination, or, more simply, just make it up and see where it takes you! Venture into the world of the abstract.. Close your eyes and draw a squiggle on your paper. Now open your eyes and see what you've got, where can you take it. Something realist or something abstract? Colour, or monochrome?

The most recent piece of art work I made was this sort of idea. It is not really a painting, more of a collage with painting included within it. My inspiration was having a massive piece of paper and no real urge to do something 'proper' with it. I wanted to have fun, so I decided to just build up layers and layers until I felt it was finished! I had stuck on layers of crepe, newspaper and other things that I found laying around. I painted sections, sponged areas and added text. I also glued on further embellishments and highlighted some details with marker. It's a true mixed media effort and I like the result because you can just keep looking and looking at it and you always see something different. My husband says he sees a landscape in it, for example!

5. Paint yourself (or an obliging friend)

And why not! I don't mean immediately rush out and buy yourself a set of body paints and become the next Liu Bolin, but perhaps the ladies amongst you would enjoy the new challenge presented by nail art? Painting your nails well presents a whole new set of challenges - including working on the micro scale and also having to work ambidextrously if you want both hands to match! 

I wouldn't rule out body painting though, from simple face painting for children to more grown up serious pieces, having the human skin as a canvas is likely to pull you so far from your normal comfort zone that creative block will be the last thing on your mind!

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