When it comes to artwork, these days I’m looking to work at speed. So many times in the past, I’ve started pieces that took hours — or sometimes never even got finished. I’m just looking for a bit of creative expression, without putting in the hours to create an intricate, labour-intensive piece of work. I want to create more, finish pieces more quickly, and move on.
This is part of the reason I enjoy creating vector graphics — in some ways, their simplicity allows me to work fast and reach a ‘shippable’ end result quickly, but they too can be intricate, precise and time consuming sometimes.
I stumbled across the work of Cathleen Rehfeld on Instagram, and was inspired by her bold use of colour and rough-feel, broad-stroke, impressionistic oil landscapes, and I wondered about getting myself some oil paints.
I was first given a set of oil paints at the age of nine. I couldn’t get on with the stink of the turpentine. They were too messy for little nine-year old me. After a quick bit of research, I found that oil paints require a fair bit of space — to store the piece while it dries, the paint on the palette, and also a well ventilated space. I figured oil paints weren’t for me right now.
I decided to go down the route of acrylics as an alternative, and picked up some cheap ones from B&M — £5.99 for 18 different colours £1.49 for an extra tube of white, £3.99 for some basic brushes and £2.99 for a set of four 6×6 canvases, of which I bought two packs.
Once I’d bought them, I felt the creative anxiety set in. This often happens — inspiration and enthusiasm hits, and when I go to do something about it, fear and confusion sets in. It came several times, and I became afraid that I wouldn’t translate the ideas in my head onto the canvas effectively.
I didn’t paint immediately upon getting home. I accepted that the inspiration had gone, and left it at that. Later on however, while dinner was cooking, I fancied having a go. I opened up my new paints, brushes and canvases and made a start — even if it was just to see how the paint worked on the canvas. Once again, the creative anxiety set in — that constant fear that I’m not going to produce anything of any worth. I pushed through it.
I tried a colour graduation with the vague idea of painting a sky. I didn’t really know where I was going with it, but soon I was mixing colours for a patch of sea. I painted some clouds in, and added a couple of rough yachts on the horizon as the final strokes on the canvas.
The painting took about half an hour, and I was pleased with the result. It’s not remarkable by any stretch, probably not even portfolio worthy. In hindsight, I wished I painted right to the edge of the canvas.
This was an exercise in facing the fear, and pushing through it. Of not being afraid to try new things — and to not be very good at them. It’s about finishing what I start. It’s early days yet in my exploration of acrylics, but I’m looking forward to being bolder with the brush strokes, and the colours, and really letting myself go.