I have been thinking about inspiration, what is it, where does it come from, how do I find it? Well, somehow I never seem to be short of inspiration and ideas, always coming up with little series of works and projects. On reflection I think this comes from my excitement being in the natural world, its visually stimulating and I instintctively want to explore how images from what I see.
To prove this to myself I nipped outside at home, literally 30 feet from this computer as I type and took some photos of any texture that caught my attention. The above image is looking down on to the surface of a large blu/grey slate slab. Zooming in is a great way to find ideas for abstract paintings, the surface was hewn in the 19th century and has human activity laid bare on its surface. Beautiful, subtle, almost hyroglyphic, possibly space or sea bed but total inspiration. I instantly see how I can use this in my practice.
Here is another one, instant minimalist inspiration. There is a landscape in this. Soft, chalky, gentle whites that bring images of Robert Ryman's white paintings to mind.
Close up of ash tree bark, making me think of a birds eye view of deseret, blooms on a drought riden lake or clusters of human occupation. I want to play around with dotty patterns and lines on parchment paper or make an etching print.
One more, but this is really unlimited. This is an old door that has been attacked by woodworm in the past. The holes are reminding me of star constellations and I want to join the dots to see what is revealed. Could be satelite imagery of animals moving around or a weather system of rain moving in.
These could potentially form the basis of a little project... maybe called 30 feet in any direction! oh no, not another project! So I think I proved my point, inspiration is everywhere, mine nearly always comes from nature or the outside environment and humans intervention within that environment. Below is one example of how I might translate these types of reference into a painting.
Rock, 20 x 20 cms, acrylic on wooden panel, 2022
I've been thinking about how I like to work and the place I work in that suits, or would suit, me best, basically my perfect studio! This is in the forefront of my mind because I have to move studios soon and not really sure where to yet... I currently have a small room, the light is quite good and I have a lot of stuff. I am quite a messy artist and like to set my paints, brushes etc. out, go through little rituals like making some tea and putting on my painty shirt before starting work. Then I will generally make some quick paintings or drawings to 'get in the zone'. I like peace and quite, occasionally having the radio on. I like to work on more than one painting at a time.
This got me thinking about other artists that I am inspired and influenced by and where they made their work. There are some amazing studios out there, these are a few of the ones I most covert.
This studio belonged to Emily Mason, its in New York in the iconic Flat Iron district, 32-34 West 20th Street. It is 4000 square feet of loveliness, very light, very white with loads of wall space and zoned for different activities. She died in 2019 but her work spaces have been kept as they were when she worked there. This is a dream space.
Georgia O'Keefe in her studio in Northern New Mexico, she lived here from 1943 and the setting provided the inspiration for her epic landscapes and skull paintings. Again big windows with lots of light, a specific desert light. The building is a traditional adobe house that keeps cool in the hot desert sun, mostly all that can be heard is the wind and the wildlife, a fairly solitary existence but one that enables focus and time to work. She had 2 seperate spaces in Mexico, one for Summer and one for winter, they now form a museum open to the public at certain times of the year.
Barbra Hepworth lived and worked in St Ives, Cornwall. Her Studio merged with her garden, her garden becoming her sculpture gallery. It is a simple space, not excessive, lots of natural west coast light bouncing off the white walls. The house, studio and garden is surrounded by a high wall so it is a private, sheltered sanctuary but still in the centre of bustling St Ives. I have visited several times and it has such a lovely energy, I particularly enjoy the inside/outside connection and sitting in the garden looking at some of her scultures nestling amongst the foliage. Would love to work here!
Andrew Wyeth had his studio in Chadds Ford Township, Pennsylvania, United States. It has a spare, natural vibe, big windows, wooden floors, plain plastered walls. This studio definately shows the character of the artist. The feeling is of serious work going on, nothing frivolous, when you enter this room it is to work. The studio and his work seem interconected, the colours reflected in each other. He was a realist artist focussed on the land and its people, his work is stunning, as is his studio.
So those are just a few of my favourites, the list could go on and on! The necessary themes emerging from my rummage around artists work spaces are light, space, peace and nature. That, apart from all the boring things like heat, water and sanitation, are what my next studio needs to have....
I am painting lots, some of the paintings are large - like 1 x 1.5 metres or so - and sometimes its a struggle for me to scale up everything to achieve the results I want. These paintings are full of lovely mini paintings, loads of em. I get sucked in to these areas, wishing I could replicate the feeling of these at a larger scale, these are relaxed and confident, the marks are exciting and the colour fields exactly right, urgh.
The rhythm of my painting goes like this - great idea (in fact loads of ideas) - decide on size etc. - quick sketch of composition - start layering the areas of colour - adding more and more stuff - leave it for a bit - over complicate the painting - dislike it - paint large areas out - simplyfy everything - bigger areas of colour - add in areas of detail/drawing. And so it goes on. My aim is to always learn through practice, to start bigger and to leave it alone when the voice in my head says 'oh that feels exciting and slightly scary', and I feel that in my gut.
One of my favourite abstract artists is Emily Mason (1932 - 2019) her paintings explain what I mean about spontaneous and gestural painting at scale. She talks about spacial relationships, using the paint for its qualities of transparancy, opaqueness and liquidity and knowing intuitively when it feels right. I am trying to bring a more spacious feeling into my paintings.
below L: Past the Morning Star - oil on canvas - Emily Mason