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An Artist's Life... Why do I Paint?

This blog is about myth-busting! If only I could just paint and draw when I had a lightning bolt of inspiration – sadly I can assure you this is not the case! One question I do get asked a lot is why do I paint and draw? Well, I liken it to breathing, I have to do it, not because I will die if I don’t (that’s melodramatic, even for me), but if I go a week without creating, I get incredibly grumpy. For my own and my beloved’s sanity and happiness, I draw and paint. An anthropologist or psychologist may argue that this is learned behaviour, and if I hadn’t experienced what I feel, I would tend to agree with them. The only way I can describe it is that my head gets full up with images that need an exit. These images that are more than just pretty pictures but have feelings and expressions behind them; it is almost like a worry that builds up inside you until boiling point. I can’t verbalise them, they are images, and I think my dyslexia prohibits me from doing this anyway (you would think I can write a blog easily, think again). My lovely other half spends a long time correcting my English and telling me how little sense I make…

So, let’s tackle that learned behaviour idea, rather than just relying on my feelings I expressed above. One of my earliest memories is being encouraged to draw, I come from a family of artists. At a pre-school age, I was given dot-to-dot books to encourage me to draw pictures. I would often look at the dots and figure out what the image was before drawing the lines, as I can see it from the pattern that the dots create on the page. This meant that I only completed those pictures which I couldn’t guess what they were. This disappointed my mother, because she wanted to see me drawing, even if it was joining dots. However, I didn’t communicate with her that what I really wanted was plain paper. In fact, I didn’t know that paper without dots existed. Instead, I covered the inside of the front and back covers of my dot-to-dot books with all the crazy little characters I imagined, these were faithfully drawn and coloured in, but in miniature; after all I only had 2 pages until my next book, so I had to conserve space.

I was driven to draw the images in my head before I was told to, and I would therefore argue that although I was encouraged to draw, I wasn’t encouraged to draw free-hand until much later. I had found my own way of creating the images that I wanted to, even though I didn’t have the ideal tools to do so. It came as quite a surprise to my mother when she said that we would both pick flowers from the garden and paint them, that mine turned out ok. After all, I had been practising for while without anyone’s knowledge!

Therefore, I think there is something inside that obsessively encourages me to draw and paint, which can be unhealthy too. When I was building my business, I had to have full-time work and would draw and paint late into the evening and at weekends. It is not a learnt or encouraged behaviour, the drive is overwhelming. So, the idea that you only create when you have an idea simply isn’t true. Firstly, I always have ideas and inspiration around me (see a previous blog on how to achieve this). Secondly, I don’t think any business would survive if people only turned up to work when they felt like it; a fabulous idea, but can you imagine an accountant not turning up for work and ringing in saying “sorry Excel just doesn’t inspire me today”. Being an artist isn’t 9-5, because you still get the lightning strike of an idea and want to get it down on paper as quickly as possible, whatever time of day or night it maybe. I find being an artist is not a choice, and it borders on being obsessive, I certainly wouldn’t eat properly if I didn’t have my other half checking up on me and making me lovely food. I have to admit, if he goes away on business, Tupperware boxes containing meals are left in the freezer with the names of the day on them… all I have to do is remember to get them out in advance (still quite challenging for my distracted mind, but I do achieve it).

Artists have to be business people, we still have to do our accounts to keep the HMRC happy, advertise our products, and make them so that it is sellable (frame it etc). The admin side of the business takes up a huge amount of time, often meaning for the artist that they don’t get enough studio time they want or need, meaning overtime is often required. I think the EU directive is that you only work 48 hours on average a week – oops. Now of course I’m not complaining, I love my job, but I’m not “lucky”. I have worked ridiculously hard to get here, having part-time jobs in the past and working over an 80-hour week for several years until my health quite literally reached breaking point. My motivation isn’t financial, although I need to earn enough not to get into debt like anyone else and will work incredibly hard to achieve this. It is the drive to let the next image in my head escape, which if you read my blog regularly this is generally my concern and response to the environmental crisis, that is largely spoken about and not acted upon, enough, in my opinion.

Currently running around in my head is the worry that the human race does not see itself as part of nature, a topic I have discussed in previous blogs. My current work is about involving the human form into my paintings of nature. This has been inspired by my amazing and tolerant model, who creates wonderful shapes with his body, so that I can combine them with the natural forms from the garden and local landscape. The latest painting is of a sunflower and a person, which is part of the “Secrets of Nature” series which is about this idea of mankind distancing themselves from nature; when in fact, we are just another mammal on the planet. Below are the images that inspired this piece, my drawings from life, sketchbook work and the painting which is still a work in progress…

flower painting drawing sketchbook nature art

Message me directly if you would like to know more about this art work by emailing me art@claire-harrison.co.uk

August 2018

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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