Discovering Who I Am As An Artist & Why That Really Matters10 Sep 2022 | 0 Comments
I think being inspired by your own work and processes is the most important thing when it comes to creativity. Knowing who you are as an artist and what your style is (at least, what your style is right now) might not always be easy to put a finger on.
But the more you create, the clearer the threads that tie each piece together will be. For me, I’m obsessed with cloudy sunset skies, colourful landscapes, detailed flowers and unconventional colour schemes. These things often come up in my work. These things and the way I specifically do them are what make my paintings mine.
Another aspect of my identity as an artist is being a proud Brummie. More recently I’ve been experimenting with recreating some of our most iconic buildings and natural formations in my own style. From the Birmingham Library and Selfridges to the Lickey Hills, taking this new direction has helped me really cement what makes my artwork unique to me.
With all my paintings, it tends to come back to colour. I find it hard to stick to the palette I see in front of me. No matter how subdued I try to make a piece, those pesky pinks, greens and yellows always creep in.
All the colour in the world, and more
The artists that influenced me while I was studying art probably played a big part in developing my love for colour. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been inspired by pieces with big, bold colours and layers of detail that make it hard to tear your eyes away.
For me, Claude Monet is the king of colour. As an impressionist painter, Monet focused on the light and colour that makes up what we see. Despite what we might all instinctively think, water isn’t just blue and lilypads aren’t just green. Monet shows us the pinks, lavenders, oranges and reds that hide within nature and only make themselves visible when you’re truly paying attention.
What inspires me about Monet’s art is that it looks beyond the subject. Yes, a typical Monet painting might depict lily pads on a pond or haystacks against a snowy skyline, but there’s so much more to see than just these things.
Monet doesn’t try to make you forget that you’re looking at a painting either. Look closely and you can see every single brush stroke. A Monet painting is a celebration of the process of painting itself. I can’t get enough of it.
Learning the basics and discovering what works for you
Having the right teacher to guide me during this time was a huge part of my journey into becoming an artist. My art teacher, Tony Metcalfe, is an artist whose work focuses on brooding nature scenes and interpretations of the human form. It’s not just that he taught me how to mix oil paints and wash brushes properly (which are things you definitely need to know). Metcalfe is as passionate about his work as he was about instilling that passion in his students.
You could show him a piece you weren’t happy with and within seconds he could tell you what specifically was holding it back. Maybe the perspective was a bit skewed or it needed a bright contrasting colour to bring out the shadows. Having this kind of guidance meant I couldn’t go wrong with my work. If something wasn’t working, I learned how to fix it. Nothing ever went in the bin.
Art was my favourite subject at school, but it was still full of stress and deadlines and self doubt. Leaving education behind and developing my practice in my own time instead has helped me really find my groove.
Entering the big, wide (scary) world as an independent artist
After going on to complete a philosophy degree and spending a lot of time reviewing live comedy, the pandemic came along and halted any more post-grad job interviews and freelancing opportunities.
I ended up working at my local supermarket and just trying to make it through. I think naturally, in times of struggle, painting becomes my outlet. During the summer of 2020, whenever I wasn’t working, I was painting. I decided to branch out into selling prints of my paintings online, which helped me start to view myself as an artist and not just someone who likes to paint stuff.
I’m 24 now and work full-time as a Copywriter, fitting in painting whenever the inspiration comes. I’ve learned not to force anything. Absorbing the works of modern-day colour-work pros like Paul Kenton and Grant Haffner keeps me inspired and reminds me of why I do what I do.
And sharing my work online and getting positive feedback is really satisfying too. When you feel like your work has made a connection with someone else, that feeling is really great.
I’ve recently had my painting of the Birmingham Library featured in the Birmingham Art Book, which has been a huge honour. I think this marks a new chapter for me. I’m confident with who I am as a person and as an artist. I’m open to where life takes me and I’ll be carrying my paint brushes with me each step of the way too.