Four Paths to Expression

It's been a while since my last blog post and this will explain why.

Regular readers will know that I'm taking time this year to discover new ways of personal expression through mixed media art, to grow in confidence and craft. To be honest, my "Year of Expression" is not turning out how I expected.  

As a creative, introverted gal, I never imagined the question of what to express would be my biggest problem.  Yet, it's proving more complex than I first thought. Expression requires self reflection and some ability to articulate that self discovery - a skill, I believed came very naturally to me.

However, I didn't factor in my nemesis: depression.

Depression - or what I call "the b*****d thief" - robs me of expression. It stifles words and makes emotion and thoughts impossible to grasp, it shrinks concentration and inflates frustration.

The Abstract Expressionists were pioneers in making emotion the subject matter of their paintings. Jackson Pollock expressed the motion of his body; Arshile Gorky: intense trauma in his life; Rothko: the power of human emotion through colour; Robert Motherwell, so appalled by the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War, dedicated 200 paintings to the subject. 

These conceits were inspiring to me, but I've come to realise my mind is so fickle it won't commit to any one thought.  

My emotions are skittish and even elusive at times; they come and go, swirl about like a matador's cape. My opinions on the world feel strong, but when I try to identify them they're like trying to catch soap in the bath. 

To paint them as expressions requires consistency of emotion to truly nail any authenticity to a work.

This has been my struggle. My mind is a muddle. My emotions difficult to capture.

I have several pieces ("works in progress") in my studio. My technique requires each layer of paint to fully cure before the next is applied, so pieces take several days to complete. 

An emotion expressed on Monday has long since departed come Wednesday, so the satisfaction of seeing myself reflecting back from the canvas is lost. To me, that means the painting has failed. 

So I fiddle; I apply the present to the past and two days later the cycle begins again. I have canvases that contain weeks of hidden expression, layer upon layer, some small glimpse of each preceding day surviving, a frustrating daily battle of trying to answer the question "what am I trying to do here?"

However, now that I'm conscious of this process (read: war), I can embrace it and use it to my advantage.   This is where I divert from my original concept for my Year of Expression: which was to produce exploratory work to sell to you dear art lover and reader.

The images shown here are not paintings for sale, because - you've guessed it - they're already lost beneath another day's colour.  These images are beginnings.  Over the next month, each day I'll add to each piece something that expresses a moment or a mood for that day, creating a sort of visual diary. Each finished canvas will hold a history - a snapshot of my curious mind.  

Currently there are four canvases. Each canvas explores another facet of my emotional world. 



begins with a memory of visiting the Art History Museum in Vienna back in 1998 - a visit that reignited my love for making art - motivated by a need to hold on to that love.  
It's the piece that's at the centre of this project; it's been on my easel for weeks. I cannot tell you how many layers it secretly holds.




A close-up of the bottom-right hand corner of this piece. You can already see a change in the mood.

This is my work canvas.




is seven days into the process. My mind has been filled with memories of an Italian vacation with my husband and concerns over family as we grieve the loss of a loved one.

This is my relationship canvas. 





began as a portrait of a crazy venetian bookshop hidden in the labyrinth of narrow, shady Venice streets. It was filled with stacks of second hand books, postcards, maps and magazines, piled high; a gondola in the centre of the shop filled to overflowing with stock. A wonderful treasure-trove or an overwhelming, unfathomable maze?  

This is my mind canvas.






This is day one, Monday 1st May. My mind finds some calm beneath a haze of pain as I recover from a back injury. 

This is my body canvas.


Those are the first four foundation pieces, but I may add more. It'll be interesting to see how much the works change over time. 

I'll share with you the finished artworks and their evolution.