January 2022 is going to be a month of exploration - a New Year’s gift to myself. No pressure to complete paintings and minimal time doing routine jobs like framing. Just dedicated time to explore media, tools and ideas. Here are five ways that I will be experimenting and see where they lead.
Using a piece of large cartridge paper - I use A2 220gms from Rymans in the UK. It's reasonably priced and really stands up to water, scraping back etc. It’s also thin enough to tear and collage with. I divide the paper into sections with decorators tape, sometimes into equal sections, other times, into random sizes. Then I paint freely across the whole piece, and when I’m ready I peel off the tape and cut the paper into sections.
This use of cropping can produce some great small paintings and ideas for larger works. Not being confined by the edges can really loosen up my painting and produce creative compositions.
Creation through Cropping
Cropping is a great technique for improving composition and ideas generation. Taking inspiration from photographs I’ve taken, a walk or from memory I complete a number of quick, large mixed media sketches. I make sure I have lots of contrast and mark making in the images, picking out motifs from my source so that when I move onto crop, there’s lots of interest to the newly created abstract. I then use four large strips of card as a view finder and identify a composition I like, then crop the image. With the pieces left over I will often collage them on to the cropped image, creating more interest within the abstract landscape.
Restrict my Choices
Like so many artists, I have so many materials and resources, there's almost too much to choose from, yet I still tend to gravitate to the same brushes, knives and colours. Introducing restriction and limiting my choices can help push my practice to find new avenues. If I want to shake things up I will often try a new combination of 3 tools, 3 paints & 3 other media. I am always surprised at what follows. This is how I found one of my favourite colour combos - pale ultramarine blue and cadmium orange! Just lush! And the glory of mono-printing with packaging materials - insides of cardboard being a particular favourite.
Mix up my Palette
Choosing a limited palette can also be a really effective way of getting out of a colour rut. I randomly pick any red, blue and yellow paint from my box, looking for a mix of temperature, saturation and value. Along with the addition of black and white on my palette, I then just play with mixing new hues. Using a small square of card I draw out thumb nails in a sketchbook and paint what ever I fancy in the squares. It's amazing how many colour combinations you can discover! Any favourites I record in the sketchbook for future reference.
Create without Thought
One of my most enjoyable explorations has been the creation of small abstract paintings I call 'Escapes', simply because they are pure creative escapism to paint. I use the left over paint from my palette at the end of a painting session and repeat layers on small 6 inchsquare boards. No plan, no time limit, I just keep painting and drawing, alternating line, shapes, colour and texture, until one day a connection appears. I can't really describe it as anything other than this. It appears, I like it and tweak it! Voila!
I often have about 15 on the go at anyone time, all in different stages of development. I believe it's precisely because I don’t spend time deliberating and fussing with them, they seem to emerge with new compositions, colour combinations and new things to teach me.
You can see my current collection of Escapes here:
These are just a five ways I mix it up, play and see what happens. The best bit about exploring our practice is that new possibilities appear that we can take forward into bigger pieces. It’s as simple as asking ‘I wonder what would happen if …….. then just trying it out. If you would like to learn more about my art practice, be the first to view my new collection and receive news and inspiration from my studio, you can join my mailing to receive studio news every few months or so.
I’d love to hear if you have any tips for expanding your art through experimentation - it’s always fun to try out new things