I’m Permanently Covered in Paint!

After all those years belligerently and stubborning refusing the jeering calls of the paintbrush, I now find myself well and truly addicted to watercolours. I sleep, I dream of painting, I wake up, and I’m thinking of what I want to paint next, even when I eat I find myself wondering … can I paint with mushy peas? How well would they mix with my favourite yellow? Could a moldy canvas be the new artistic breakthrough that I’ve been searching for?

Either way, today I have been feeling quite under the weather, so instead of hiding under my duvet with baby rats I figured I’d put on some Doctor Who and paint with baby rats. By that I mean, the baby rats are on my shoulder eating treats, not that I use them to paint with. I didn’t have any real goal in mind, just that loading my paper with water and flicking paints on there looked pretty, and it slowly morphed into yet another ratty drawing, adding promarkers for good measure.

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I’m really happy with how this turned out, so happy that I think I’ll get some prints made up of it next week. The yellow is perhaps a bit more intense than it really needed to be, and some areas of the ‘nebula’ background is a bit too sharp, but will work on that for the next one!

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Compassionate Artwork

Two posts in less than two weeks? Surely I’m just spoiling you? But in all seriousness, it’s nice to have things to write about again!

Last week I was asked if I would like a stall at the Compassionate Christmas Fair, held down in Halisham this December, and I’m very excited about it. The fairs aim is to promote a cruelty free lifestyle, selling vegan products and raising money for a number of different vegan and animal charities in the UK. Compassion and love for our fellow beings is something that I hold very dear to my heart, and I have been vegan for almost four years now, so it means a lot to me to finally be able to get involved in something that I feel so positively about.

I have been working on a number of artworks, my ‘Friends not Food’ series, that explores the beauty and compassion and love of the animals often overlook and exploited by many. It has been a good excercise for me, working with such varied features and shapes, animals that are certainly out of my comfort zone when it comes to drawing, and it has given me a chance to really dig my toes into the watercolours. I am a long way from mastering the medium, that’s for sure, but I am starting to understand how these paints work, and what you can get them to do!

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All of these so far have been on 5×7″ paper, a good size for prints, I figure! But I also finished this A4 piece last night. I’m not as happy with how this turned out compared to those above, but I suppose the composition is very different from what I have been working with previous, focusing mainly on the silly, characterful faces that these animals pull. But still, it was an enjoyable piece to pain.
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It also pleases me to say that all the materials I work with don’t contain animal derivatives, so that’s always a big bonus!

The Evolution of Change

It has been a while since I made a decent update to this page, what with my Facebook, Etsy and Tumblr pages taking up most of the time I had dedicated to networking each day, but I have experienced a number of changes over the past two months that have inspired me to put pen to paper (ok, fingers to keyboard) and give this blogging lark another shot.

The most notable development since my last update has been my decision to quit my part time office job, a position that caused me a great deal of stress, and focus all of my energy on Sweet Illustrations. It has been a rocky month, to put it lightly, though I am still earning more than I was before I took the plunge, and in my eyes that’s as good an achievement as any!

Having seven whole days a week to dedicate to my artwork has allowed me to explore mediums and styles that I simply felt I couldn’t dedicate the time to before, and my recently completed artworks have got me thinking about how much my art and, most importantly, my approach to art has changed since I first realised that I was actually pretty ok at it.

To start this tale, I’m going to take you on a magical journey back in time, where a younger, much smaller and much more naive little Holly stood outside of her art class at break time, talking to Mr. Endicott, the only art teacher that I have ever felt I learned from and who inspired me to do something with my talents. It was during my GCSE years that I really started to commit myself to the idea that I loved art, and to allow myself the time to work on my skills, and to feel confident enough in what I was producing to feel proud to show my family and my teachers. I loved drawing in graphite, drawing animals and cartoon characters, and presenting them in my art classes as my finished products. Endicott would give me advice and constructive criticism on my work, and over time my skills continued to improve, but there was something I really could not cope with. And that was painting. I refused to paint, because when I tried it look awful. I realise now that I was approaching paint in entirely the wrong way, that I was expecting the same results I got with my pencils without having to put in the effort, and it frustrated me. I outright refused to work in paint, no matter how often he would try and encourage me too, and as a result of this I spent most of my life never touching a paintbrush and certainly never touching paint. When it came to university we were expected to do our design proposals in paint, namely using gouache, but the method was simply filling and shading, and I almost always managed to find a way around that by using gel pens and pencils. When university was over I stopped drawing completely, too depressed to find any joy in it any more until, by chance, I was bought some promarkers and, when a friend lost one of her ratties, I decided I would try drawing them for her. I got back into art again, but still I refused the paints! I stuck with the markers, eventually moving onto graphite and coloured pencil.

I did get the old goauche set out during that time, though I used it exactly the same way that I used the markers … blocks of colours, refusing to utilise the many benefits that paint offered because, in my head, I still couldn’t paint. I would tell people that I couldn’t paint, that I was hopeless at painting, and further more I convinced myself that I didn’t need to paint. Whilst there are artists out there who find markers and photoshop and coloured pencils enough, I hadn’t come to this conclusion because I preferred the markers and pencils, but because I was too stubborn to give something a try. Because I had done a stupid thing and convinced myself that, because I couldn’t paint ten years ago, how can I possibly paint now? This is a mistake I see so many people making … people who tell themselves over and over that because they didn’t get the results they wanted years ago that it was impossible for them to do so now. People who say that ‘I tired but I can’t.’ But I was that person, for all that I had improved, I was still stuck in the same mindset as my sixteen year old self.

My journey into painting came about quite accidentally, rather recently. I bought myself some coloured ballpoint pens to do play around with, and realised that I needed an effective way to create some contrasting and dynamic backgrounds to the ballpoint subjects. I have an old watercolour set that was bought for me many many years ago, and dubiously I pulled them out, and after doing a little research I began playing around with throwing and splashing the watercolour onto the page. I loved it, I loved the result, and I loved naturally the results formed.

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People loved them, and I sold them in a very short space of time, and got a number of comments from people saying how much they adored this new style. It was a huge boost for me, as although commissions had been coming in fairly steadily since I quit my job, I still didn’t feel particularly confident that I was doing the right thing. Little did I know, that by simply splashing some watercolour around on some paper, I had begun to chip away at this idea that I couldn’t paint, and a few days later I found a wonderful reference photo that I was really excited about, and after I had done the splashed I realised that, actually, I may as well see what I can do by still working with the watercolours.

Let me just say, this was about as hallelujah a moment as I could possibly ask for. I LOVED it, and I was able to apply what I had learned with the markers, and the coloured pencils, in a way that really complemented the medium. Watercolours suited me, and how who knew? Certainly not me. It was the first piece that I had finished that actually had me beaming with pride. I had achieved something that the sixteen year old me always told the world was impossible. I had painted something, and I liked it!

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I am now exploring this new style that I have discovered, playing around with it as much as I can, adding other mediums when I can to see what sort of result I can get. Although I love doing the commissions, it’s nice to actually feel like an artist again, to know that I’m pushing myself. I have learned a very valuable lesson throughout all this, one that I wish I had learned earlier, and one that I hope everyone reading this can take from as well; you can’t expect to be good at something without first putting in the work to GET good at something. No matter how naturally gifted or talented you are, or you are not, everything that you do, that you want to get good at, requires patience, it requires an understanding that you won’t be producing a masterpiece of getting thousands of notes and likes on whatever platform you’re used to the first day, or the first month, or even the first year! What makes the difference between someone who is ‘good’ and someone who is not, is that one of these people didn’t give up.

I leave you now with a preview of the painting that I have been working on this evening.

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Holly x