Art Block Busters Part 2

Illustration

If those first methods didn’t work out for you, fear not I have more.

I’m not gonna lie to you, this next method took a little while for me to warm up to.

When I was briefly attending university it was suggested that we journal our day to day activities in drawing. As someone who’d never really managed to keep a diary (or a blog, gulp) going for very long I had a feeling this did not bode well. I started by making intricate illustrations of what was going on daily and burnt out on the idea real fast. Eventually the images i made in the journal weren’t much more than shapes and doodles you might have found in the margins of my school books a few years previous.

These are what I learned most from and drew most inspiration from like doodles of my friends faces escaping telephones or little rain clouds gleefully showering silhouettes of people who had missed their bus (usually me).Weird right?

These are a couple of pages from a journal I keep at the moment. You can’t see it on these pages but I’ve also started sticking in bits of fabric, paper and other general rubbish to draw on later when I need reference. Or not. It doesn’t matter. It’s a little book of ideas that can be be realised, but maybe not all of them.

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The next method is pretty simple.

Your playlist.

What are you listening to when you’re trying to draw? I like instrumentals because I don’t get distracted doing paintbrush karaoke when I should be working. I know a guy who only has high energy stuff on his playlist so his hype for what he’s drawing never really dips.

If you’re stuck, try imagining what you want to draw as a scene in a movie. What would the soundtrack be like? Try building it in Spotify or something similar.

Alternatively, just try making lines and shapes along with the music and see what you get. You can then use the techniques from my earlier post to build these into fully fledged illustrations in their own right.

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Art Block Busters Part 1

Illustration

Everyone gets art block every once in a while. I’m gonna share with you guys my top ways to get you out of that rut.
The first one is something me and G came up with late one night, certain both our art careers were over before they’d even really begun because art block had set in hard. Usually one of us would pull the other up but not this time. Both of us were down.

Both of us are glumly doodling shapes that mean nothing and go nowhere. But at some point we switch, I’m drawing over Gs shapes and he’s drawing over mine. Before we know it were drawing awkward superheroes and cigar smoking skeletons and having some serious fun.

It’s really easy to get so caught up in your art that you want everything to be a highly refined portfolio piece. Sometimes you just have to let go and be silly with your work, that’s where great ideas come from. I’m lucky to have G to bounce ideas off of but this works even with your pals that claim they ‘can’t draw’, in fact the wackier ideas tend to come from these situations amid cries of ‘what on Earth is that?!’ And the laughter that ensues between you.

I 100% believe anyone can make art of some kind, so this is a great way to get your friends flexing their creative muscles too. It also takes the pressure off, if Tom who you’ve known since you were six, thinks the penguin shape you drew looks more like something entirely more rude he’s gonna tell you amid boughts of laughter. Everyone thinks and sees differently so this is great to get in someone elses mindset. I also love playing this game at workshops with young kids as a bit of an icebreaker because they knew what they drew was a cat and if you don’t see that then you’re stupid. Their confidence is contagious, trust me.

Moving on!

So this one is a bit of a two part excersice. Firstly grab some ink, some watercolour or even a teabag just out of a freshly brewed cup of yummy caffeinated goodness. I’m more of a coffee person but you’ll get no judgement from me tea fiends!

Now make a mess. Droplets, splatters, smears or whatever. Throw some shapes, literally!

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The little puffer fish are my favourites.

 

I find this in itself is sometimes all the help I need. To just make a mess, to let go of clean lines and precious white paper is to be free!

Maybe that’s a bit over dramatic but I need that in my life sometimes.

When it’s dry (or still wet, no rules rebels!) start drawing around the shapes you’ve made. Connect some that look like they could be part of the same illustration, turn that one into a goofy face, that one is clearly some kind of potted plant and is it me or does that one look like an artist that’s bummed out about their art block?

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Lumpy bobble hat Spiderman to the rescue!

That last one may be too specific but it really is up to you what happens around and in between those splats.

Part two next week!

Art and Mental Health

Mental Health, Performance Art

So pre-warning, this one might get a little heavy but there’s also a lot of hope and good stuff too so I hope you’ll stick around.

A couple of months ago while idly scrolling through Facebook instead of working (we all do it!) I spotted a flyer advertising a safe space for identifying women who had suffered or were suffering with their mental health to explore art as a form of expression. I was immediately into the idea and messaged them, admitting my day job may get in the way a smidge and they welcomed me to the sessions with open arms (although I was late almost every time).

What I found there was a community of strong ladies who had been through the wringer but who were still vibrant, funny and just trying to live in a world where stigma surrounds various mental illnesses constantly. I felt at home.

I’ve been suffering with depression and anxiety since my teenage years. It was fobbed off as teenage angst over and over until I passed out at the top of a flight of stairs. The concept of me physically injuring myself was what prompted deeper investigation and eventually I was diagnosed properly. My story is not uncommon and that’s what is so painful about it.

The sessions are run by an art collective called Love Moore and they’re funded by Revoluton Arts. The idea of the sessions is not only to help us work through some demons with some other wonderful people around us but to create and art show that helped break down some of the stereo types and stigma surrounding mental health.

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Working on what our internal critic might look like.

We explored a whole range of ideas including giving our internal voice that berates us a persona so we could mock it mercilessly, we created beautiful plates based of painful memories and broke them on film to release ourselves of that burden and we filmed a 360 degree video of all of us sharing affirmations in a coven style circle. In between all of this there was meditation, innuendo word association and so much laughing.

The show (titled Grimoire by our group) was in a local night club that a lot of us had attended over the years and for me it was a reminder of being diagnosed and the good times that were had there as well. Full circle kind of thing, ya know?

We included the 360 degree video as a VR experience where people wearing goggles and headphones could turn to see and hear us whispering our words to them. The videos of us smashing plates were played from various angles on loop throughout the night and the plates we broke were on display and ground into dust on the spot before being put into bottles as souvenirs for our visitors.

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The VR experience included headphones and a swivel chair to explore movement.

Over the course of the evening I heard some wonderful conversations about how people had never seen anything like this locally before, both in terms of the art and the discussion of mental health. Sometimes it isn’t enough to just try and talk about mental health, sometimes a visual representation can spark conversations and realizations that someone has never had before.

As someone who runs more workshops than she attends this was a special experience for me. I hope we can expand this loving family and help others, there is already talk of a group set up for identifying men as well (As suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 20-49).

If there are no groups like this near you, I urge you to try and start one, even if it’s online. Having a support network of people who understand when you’re having a REALLY bad day is invaluable and I’ve made new friends I never want to lose touch with. I’m sure this won’t be the last post I write on the topic of mental health and that’s ok, because it’s never just one conversation that changes the world. But it’s a start.

Some external sources to help if you need it

Samaritans

Mind

CALM

And More listed on NHS Choices.

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Art and the music scene

Illustration, Music

So the title of this is post sounds like some kind of weird band name already but I guess that’s already a good sign.

I was asked recently to produce a poster for a local music promotion group (luton Live/s) to advertise a show in one of the nearby independent pubs. I jumped at the chance for a whole tonne of reasons. Firstly the chap who asked for the poster is a dear friend, secondly another dear friend was in one of the bands on the bill, thirdly the culture in the local area is struggling and lastly I really REALLY wanted to see my artwork in the window of my favourite record shop of my teenage years.

Around this time I was also accepted into an art show by a local group (The Circus of Illustration) whose theme just so happened to be fantasy record sleeves.

So suddenly everything in my life was very musically inclined.

I’ve always been inspired by more illustrative driven posters for obvious reasons. The washed out grimy band photo with unreadable text just doesn’t do it for me. Luckily I was given free reign on the show poster apart from a carnival-esque fortune teller style poster which I feel I followed to the letter. It was going very well until I accidentally flattened my PSD and had to re do all the lettering from scratch (with the help of G).

Fortune Teller

With that out of the way I had time to focus on my piece for the Off The Record show. Again I went the highly illustrated route and couldn’t help carry over some of the mystic vibes I was exploring in the poster although this time with a more refined and pagan tone.

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I met a lot of people doing these two projects, which is always refreshing considering how insular illustrating outside of a studio or collective can be. It made me realize just how connected the music scene and the art scene could be if we all just tried a little harder. I feel there’s a resurgence of DIY culture in progress right now with more and more musicians realizing they don’t want to be signed to a traditional label with dreary posters and album covers or even play traditional gigs. Zines are seeing a massive boom once again and I personally can’t get enough of making and reading them. I’ve been passing this on through some of my workshops with younger people as again they’re realizing they can actually publish these entirely by themselves.

I don’t club or go to gigs much anymore, more or less since I had to leave university. But finding these communities again has revived a love of live music for me at least.

And yes, the poster did get pride of place in the record shop window and remained there for weeks after the gig. ❤

On being the person you needed when you were younger

Illustration

It’s one of my favourite phrases lately.

I was recently invited to speak at the June Creative Bedfordshire Networking event which was centred around arts within the community.

When you were a young and budding artist, did you have someone in your life who helped and encouraged you? If yes, you’ll know how fundamentally important that person was to your development or maybe you don’t know? There are a large amount of artists in the world today that never had that person, it doesn’t mean they aren’t successful and happy but how many fell through the cracks?

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A local drop in workshop centred around Fairytales.

By creating safe spaces for young people to learn and grow as artists we expand not only their community but our own as adults as well. We do this by making sure we don’t forget that these young people should be treated as artists first and foremost and everything else second (although making sure they are safe is always our utmost priority.).

I’ve worked with several organisations creating these safe spaces and all of them work slightly differently. The main thing I have found is I always come away surprised and with something to pass on to the next group I work with, sometimes a project but more often a way of thinking.

For example- from the first workshop I did I realised how fragile a young person’s creativity can be. Some of the youngest I work with have no problems getting stuck in and making a masterpiece and although they’re confident in what they have done they are usually the most receptive to constructive comments as well.

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I know illustrators who would love this style and confidence in their work.

As they become pre-teens and teenagers I sadly find that enthusiasm is often lost. I’m suddenly met with cries of ‘I can’t do it’ , ‘It looks bad’ or ‘Can you do it for me?’

What’s changed?

The answer is often the level of encouragement. They’ve been told this isn’t a career path and they shouldn’t waste their time. All this while being put under unbelievable pressure by their schools and caregivers to succeed at GCSEs and A Levels at all costs. While helping with a teenage group recently the atmosphere change was unreal from their usual fun and giggly sessions. Even in their down time pursuing their passions they can’t switch off from these pressures.

Not to say education and ambition isn’t important but isn’t their childhood, passion and mental health just as important?

This way of thinking doesn’t benefit young people at all. Surely instead of telling them what they can’t do we should be talking to them about the infinite possibilities open to them. Around 65% of children starting primary school today will be in a job in the future that doesn’t exist yet (Source).  Isn’t that something to celebrate and explore?

Working with a group recently they asked me what ‘Illustration’ was and we explored film, comics, fashion, street art and even the textbooks they use at school for science. Suddenly ideas were being thrown around left right and centre and shouts of ‘I can’t do it’ subsided with the broad range of styles on show.

Which brings me to the point. I wish someone had shown me that when I was younger.

To clarify, I had a very supportive parent and now have a very supportive partner as well. But it took me a long time to get away from how I thought it should be done and how it actually was done. I certainly had tunnel vision when it came to what I thought my art should look like.

If I can help one young person realise that in an afternoon instead of the years it took me to realise on my own, I’ll consider that a win.

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In progress prop for local carnival by young people.

Meeting the like minded people who create these groups has been amazing and humbling. Finding out what drives them and motivates them as artists in their own right. Most of these people I have met through working with another group or my name has been passed on as I’ve passed other names forward as well. If we can encourage this with the young people we work with as well, we create communities within communities always growing and connecting and hopefully doing the same for other young people as they get older.

But we have to step outside our own boxes first. Performing arts, media, photography, Illustration and graphic design can all help each other, It’s always worth reaching out even if ‘they don’t really do your type of thing’.

Maybe no one’s asked them yet, and they’d love to have you.

Botanical Illustration

Illustration

Flowering cactus

Since moving quite recently, I’ve found myself with a lot of windowsill space. Like a lot.

To be honest with you I’ve gone a little bit Crazy Plant Lady. Couple that with the fact I now have more space to work on art, my leafy little buddies are now a prime source of inspiration.

I’ve found myself daydreaming of project after project involving illustration and plants from an illustrated diary on life’s little dramas to a fully illustrated Herbology tome.

Alpine Strawberry

While I’m not quite there yet I have been experimenting in painting the plants around our little home and getting a feel for how I want my personal form of botanical illustration to turn out. Not to mention trawling every second hand shop I can find for lusciously photographed and illustrated books to draw inspiration from (although if there’s one thing I have more of than plants and art supplies right now, it’s books.)

I’ll probably start a little section in the portfolio for these when I’ve got a better feel of what they should cohesively look like but for now, please enjoy the ones I’ve scattered through this post.

Kind

-Arkolina