Confronting your creative comfort zone, one step at a time.

Paint and ink detail be Kon Tremnlett for Soulcraftcandy.

Welcome to the first post of the new year, a year supposedly fully fueled with fresh resolve to go beyond merely just carrying on. Actually, to be honest, I made no new resolutions regarding the blog, and this may end up being a good thing as it will keep the devil of disappointment from the door for a while. Y’see, it’s not even the end of January and the thieves of time have already raided the creative cupboard and made off with more than they usually swipe. The important thing at times like this is not to stop altogether, to keep chipping away, even if it is only a small bit at a time. This is how it goes sometimes and part time work can often morph into something with a greedy appetite for your precious time. I liken it to when we used to listen to the radio on sets that possessed a manual tuning dial. Often the signal would fade or go crackly, and in order to hear the music again you had to lean over and move the tuning control ever so slightly. Clarity would return. So currently the dial of life needs some subtle turning to get back to a more balanced feeling.

 

But creative work never stops and thankfully the drawing projects are still on going, just a bit more slowly than usual. The image above is a detail of what’s on the drawing board right now. Essentially it’s a larger colour version of a drawing I did over a year ago as part of the original cafe racer series in biro. I’ve been wanting to do a colour one for ages, so got the brushes out just before Christmas and have been chipping away ever since.

 

Like previous pictures this one is being done on Bristol Board using water colour washes and my trusty technical pens. Although progress is slow, I’m enjoying every minute of it and, taking my time has allowed me to make some considered changes to my plan and think a bit more deeply about what I’m doing.

 

This is all good stuff, but it’s also causing me to realise that I should perhaps be trying to do more with the paint. I’ll try and explain what I mean. At the core of it would be a feeling that I am not a natural painter, someone who’s automatically at home with the medium. For me, and this probably harks back to formative years, the application of paint to an image has always been a colouring in exercise, following some kind of predetermined outline to render a colour picture. It has never really ever been used as an expressive tool in its own right. As a result I’ve established this kind of comfort zone in which my painting exists and is quite cosy for me. So there’s a challenge in the near future to see if I can get out of that comfort zone and see if I can make more of what’s out there. People endlessly talk about thinking outside of the box these days, well this is a challenge of DOING outside of the box.Painting, whether it be in oils, acrylics or water colour is a combination of many skills and techniques and yes, it is daunting to think that one is only in possession of a small amount of skill and a couple of techniques but, it is also exciting to know that there is a world of image making still out there waiting to be tried. My professional life does not allow me the luxury of experimentation so, somehow expectedly, I’ll need to break some habits too if I’m going to improve my skills. Rather like the picture from the last post, you never know what’ll happen until you try, so flinging some paint around could reveal some interesting things. The key will be to learn, as much as create and make. Here’s to an experimental and rewarding 2014.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

The strength of conviction.

I realised this morning, with a somewhat heavy heart, that I hadn’t posted here for over a month. The shame induced by this sorry situation was dealt with swiftly, over a cup of coffee, as I set up the computer on the kitchen table and took some photographs of the latest completed drawing. Working here rather than in my little studio has its disadvantages, the cat likes to clamber over me and wander freely over the keyboard, but the light is great and the french windows afford me a view of the sky and some trees which lift the spirits on a cold morning.

The Bull, biro on drawing paper by Jon Tremlett 2013

So here, finally, is the finished version of The Bull. Regular followers will know that this drawing has taken me an age to complete, and has also been the reason behind a creative journey from unbounded enthusiasm, through plodding frustration, and finally to a kind of relieved joy. Shutting it away in a drawer and going off to do other things helped to put some distance between me and the problems I had with it but, what actually tipped the balance was showing it to my partner and talking the problem through. Fresh eyes and a critical view from someone possessed of no mean creative talent themselves, helped me to see what I had previously not been able to visualise. With refreshed urgency I was then able to finish it off in a single afternoon sitting.

 

I have just started reading a very interesting little book about drawing and I’ll post my thoughts on it when I’ve got a bit further through it. I’m only a couple of chapters in but have already come across a possible explanation as to why this particular image was so problematic for me. Courage, or the lack of it, was holding me back. The fear that I would end up making a complete pigs ear of things was actively stopping me from making marks on the paper, even in light pencil. My minds eye knew roughly what I was after but the connection between imagination and enactment was somehow broken. The fear of failure, of coming away from something one had already invested so much time in with little to show for it, had called a halt to the free flow that had powered the making of the drawing thus far. By taking a break and sharing it with another set of eyes I realised that it was the strength of my conviction that was holding everything up. Rather than deciding on a single course of action and working that through, I had been sketching out possible solutions without really settling on any of them. I had put myself at the centre of a loop I couldn’t get out of. Loop broken, I was able to focus and finish the task quite easily. Much important learning was done. This doesn’t mean it won’t happen again, but at least I’ll have a better idea of how to deal with it when it does.

 

I hope you enjoy the picture as much as I do now.

 

Overcoming Bull-headedness.

Bike sketch in brown ink by Jon Tremlett ©2013

For those of you who have been following the saga of the large biro drawing, known around here as “The Bull”, you will note that todays offering is not it, it’s something else, something a little different. Why? Well to be honest with all of you, I’m having a bit of a battle with it, and as a consequence it remains unfinished. I’m beginning to wonder who the bull really is. It is truly the drawing or perhaps it’s me, as I find myself repeatedly charging full pelt at a gate which is refusing to give way. A concerted effort last week to resolve the impasse bore nothing but a large pile of scrunched up tracing paper, wasteful certainly, and enough to provide bedding for a hamster for about a year. I have since decided to leave it alone for a while.

 

Having got utterly steamed up about it, backing off and calming down has led me to realise that this conflict is nothing new. It is one of the uncomfortable truths that surround any creative process. It is certainly not unusual to find oneself completely bereft of ideas during a concept design phase in the studio. Having “brain dumped” for several hours in a morning it is not a surprise to find out that your mind is totally empty and your imagination has gone walkabout. The energy previously expended in generating new ideas gets refocused into frustration and before you know it you’ve got a nice little vicious circle going.  Backing away, doing something else for a while unblocks the pipes and lets things flow again. So for now the drawing is sat on the other side of the room, the recipient of the occasional glance but nothing more. It will come to me when it’s ready, but probably not before.

 

So what’s with this brown thing? Well, it’s a sketch I made a while back, always good to have a back up plan for a post if things go awry, whilst playing with the idea of drawing in other colours. Being a sucker for a cheap pen I’d purchased a tasteful set of biro pens in assorted colours and was intrigued by what they might bring to the party. Initial scribbling revealed that some of the colours, yellow in particular, might not be strong enough, but the brown showed immediate promise. You may remember the cartoon of the authentic biker a while back, that was done with this pen. The basic pen itself gives the drawing a lovely aged feel but it’s a bit limp when it comes to creating good contrast. As luck would have it I’d also found a brown gel rollerball pen, which when used with the biro gives a degree of heft to the dark bits and lends the whole thing a much needed punchiness. This is very much a learning exercise but one that worked out well. Now to get my hands on some cream coloured paper and find out where I can get brown biro refils without the need to buy a whole set when it runs out, which it will, soon.