Emotional Vampires and Imposter Syndrome (art workshop conversation topics)

Many things come up during a multi-day workshop, and last week’s at Higham Hall was no exception. It’s part of the fun. That said, though I could possibly have anticipated imposter syndrome being discussed, I certainly didn’t anticipate emotional vampires.

Imposter syndrome is that nagging voice of doubt that someone is going to expose you as not being a “real artist”, to point a finger and declare that you clearly don’t know what you’re doing and you should stop pretending that you do.  (Quite who that someone might be is never clear.)Thing is, it’s the doubt that makes you question and assess what you’re doing, and thus grow artistically rather than stagnating. Embrace it, but don’t  wallow in it, and use it as a motivator.

Emotional vampires are those folk who suck the energy and joy from you. That person who’s always insisting how you ought to be painting something for it to be right (and almost always this means “detailed realism”), the one  always after reassurance that their painting is good (by which they mean better than other people’s), the one perpetually armed with two L-bits of card to crop your composition to fix it. Your opinions and preferences are not invalid. Different is not inherently wrong. An urgent need to wash a paint brush will get you away from emotional vampires.

Monday Motivator: Thoughts are Visitors to Our Minds

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Looking through my draft blog posts I found this quote, which I’d saved back in January. It feels apt as I start looking through my email and all the other things put on “pause” while I was at Higham Hall in a tranquil bubble of creativity:

“While we do not get to curate the realities of the external world, the barrage of news, or our social media, we do decide the parameters of our reactions. We decide the size of each reaction, each thought. We decide how long each thought is allowed to stay, how much space it is given, how much power it will have.”

“Thoughts are visitors we invite into our minds.”
Reema Zaman

And, like visitors, some thoughts are more welcome than others, some overstay their welcome, others don’t visit often enough.

The light at the end of the tunnel is finding ways to encourage the latter. For me it lies in painting.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Photos: Seen in Cumbria

I’m in the English Lakes for my “Expressive Skye” workshop. These are a few things that have caught my eye in the last few days. The tea bag notice feels like a short story prompt.








Monday Motivator: The Goal of Practice (and it’s probably not what you think)

Monday Motivator The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner's mind.

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

‘The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind.

…In the beginner’s mind there is no thought “I have attained something.” All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless.’

Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, via On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal 12 February 2015

If you’ve been frustrated that you haven’t been attaining the perfection that practice supposedly makes, don’t give up on practising but change what you are aiming to get from it.

Monday Motivator The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner's mind.

Practising Layers

Painting from reference photos by Marion Boddy-Evans

I’ve been practising for next week’s workshop at Higham Hall near Cockermouth. I’ve been trying to get a bit more systematic and specific about what I do so I can explain it, making a list of what individual layers are or might be because “be intuitive” isn’t a sufficiently helpful instruction. Also with the aim to have some examples of “layered paintings” “informed by” (based on) the photos in my new photo reference book (which workshop participants get) as well as some that combine elements from various photos.

Here are two of my paintings. Each has bits I like and things I don’t think are resolved, yet, or I would do differently next time. When I was telling the in-house art critic how I felt about them, when he finally got a word in edgeways, his response was that I was being way too harsh. He might be is right, and only I can see the gap between what was in my head and what’s on the paper.

Painting from reference photos by Marion Boddy-Evans

Here they are with the reference photos alongside. 350gsm, A3-size, NOT watercolour paper, using pencil, coloured pencil, acrylic ink, acrylic paint, and oil pastel.

Painting from reference photos by Marion Boddy-Evans

Painting from reference photos by Marion Boddy-Evans

Photo reference book by Marion Boddy-Evans
Buy photo reference book direct from me

Just Off My Easel: “Two’s Company”

Detail from Two is Company Sheep Painting by Marion Boddy-Evans

The in-house art critic said “Three” was a tad cryptic for a painting title, so “Two’s Company” it is.

“Two is Company”. 100x100cm.

A couple of detail photos to give a sense of the layers and mark-making:
Detail from Two is Company Sheep Painting by Marion Boddy-Evans

Detail from Two is Company Sheep Painting by Marion Boddy-Evans

Monday Motivator: The Value of What You Don’t Know

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

“In those moments when you feel discouraged or lost in the studio, or when you experience rejection, rest completely assured that what you don’t know about something is also a form of knowledge, though much harder to understand.

“In many ways, making art is like blindly trying to see the shape of what you don’t yet know. Whenever you catch a little a glimpse of that blind spot, of your ignorance, of your vulnerability, of that unknown, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to stare at it.”
Maria Popova, Brainpickings What It Really Takes to Be an Artis

Knowing we don’t know gives us the possibility of continuing on the (life-long) journey of learning. If we knew everything, it’d be the end of the road and what would we look forward to then?

Monday motivator quote

Photos: Taking My New Beanie for a Walk in the Woodlands

Reference photo tree road

A package arrived yesterday from my Ma with one of her fabulous handknitted beanies, this time featuring red tractors, just what someone painting red tractors needs! It kept my ears warm when I went for a walk in the woodland at Uig, which is wearing autumnal colour mixed with wintery starkness. There were still some sweet blackberries too but I didn’t get a photo of those for some reason..,.

Reference photo tree autumn

Reference photo tree autumn
The “little yellow tree” on the opposite bank is no longer so little.

Reference photo tree rings

Reference photo tree rings
You know you want to count those rings…
Reference photo tree
A tree to show the next person who says “I can’t even draw a straight line”.

Reference photo bark

Reference photo tree

Reference photo tree road

Reference photo tree autumn

Reference photo tree rock

Reference photo tree leaves

Reference photo tree autumn

Artist Marion Boddy-Evans in Uig woodland Skye

My Painting Process #1: Warm and Cool

Brushmarks in orange

I’ve had requests to explain a bit more about my painting process (hence this is called #1). It’s an edifying, albeit slow, process nailing down what I do and why. It doesn’t always make sense to me, even as I realise I’m doing it, but then evolution isn’t necessarily logical or sensible (think: furry creatures that eat very specific leaves only).

I admire artists who work strongly with warm and cool colour*. I know the theory. I’ve tried doing it slowly and conscientiously. I’ve drawn myself little diagrams of what part of a composition should be warm light and warm shadow, cool light and cool shadow, and still blown painting it thus. I put warm into cool areas, make distant hills darker than nearer, and choose between lemon yellow and cadmium yellow based on transparency not warmth.

I could blame all the “soft northern light” on Skye, but that doesn’t hold for not doing atmospheric perspective in a painting. And Monet said the light in Algeria taught him to see colour so all my years under a southern African sky should surely have imbued me too.

Most of the time I don’t about consciously think warm or cool, neither the lack thereof nor the using of it.

[cue: shock, horror]

I paint with my favourite colours**, and if something isn’t working when I’m in “pondering mode”, I consider changing the colour and/or the colour’s tone. But it’s not colour consciously measured in warm/cool. (That’s why if you’re in a workshop with me and you ask about something in warm/cool terms it takes me a while to respond, I need a bit of thinking time.)

Will it always be thus? I don’t know.

Brushmarks in orange

*Such as Alan McGowan in his figure painting and Michael Chelsea Johnson in his landscape paintings.

**Prussian blue, phthalo blue cyan, phthalo turquoise, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow light and medium, cadmium orange, magenta and titanium white.

Small Seascape painting by Marion Boddy-Evans

Small Seascape painting by Marion Boddy-Evans