Sometimes it helps to step back from your easel, wardrobe, or even your life to get a better view of how things are going. We can get so focused on the details that we forget we’re in the process of creating a much bigger picture.  Just as in art class, distancing yourself with time or physical space can help you see things objectively.

Since posting my charcoal self-portrait a couple of weeks’ ago, I find myself revisiting it and picking out bits I’m not happy with. The same goes for my current wardrobe and creative routine.  I’m highlighting things that don’t quite meet my expectations, instead of acknowledging where I am now and building on this.

I’ll also admit that while drawing the left eye in my portrait (having already completed the right one) I got so focused on accuracy I didn’t even notice I’d drawn them looking in different directions until Mr C pointed this out to me!

So, I’m vacating my usual routine while I consider how I want my new life to look. It’s easy to pretend to be someone else while we’re actually on holiday.  But can we do a similar thing without going away?

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Art Mimics Life

I’ve unearthed my past, defined my core, explored individual shapes, and constructed silhouettes… all completed in order to overhaul my wardrobe. Developing a colour story is next, and this palette courtesy of The Designers Co-op (found via Colette WA week 5) is quite perfect for me.

As I work through the Colette Wardrobe Architect weekly prompts there is an obvious chasm between the person I would like to be and the person I actually portray.  Last time I asked myself whether my stagnation was due to fear, laziness, impatience or boredom, I was considering my recent drawing output.  The truth is I believe my identity as an artist/illustrator is tied into my personal image, so I need to consider the question again so I can understand the solution.

When I’m working from home, I’m conscious that I dress for quickness, comfort and practicality. I suppose I take a similar approach to my artwork.  I default to what I know, what I’m used to.  A familiar approach achieves a familiar outcome.  I fear regret, but I am also impatient – I want things to be accomplished before they’re even started.  Ridiculous, I know!  And maybe we should throw boredom in there too, just for fun.  If I default to the familiar, the boring stuff, I don’t have to acknowledge it, so I can perform in autopilot.  Not lazy, but the other three apply.

There’s an obvious solution to my fear, impatience and boredom, and it’s defined by architecture.

WordPress Prompt: Obvious

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A Skirting Issue

I write because I want to apologise; I’m so sorry I’ve been neglecting you. But the last four months have been brilliant.

When I wrote my April ‘New Year’ resolutions, I set out to be prolifically creative. I had no expectation beyond a regular commitment (and wrote about that here). Just 15 minutes-a-day drawing or painting was enough to say I had begun my journey.

Back then I had a frustrating pencil habit (which you may recall I wrote about here and here). I felt compelled to master graphite drawing before I would allow myself to explore colour. Graphite grey with contrasts of white and black seemed so easy, albeit a bit dull. So, you’ll be surprised to learn I’m now exploring watercolour. I mean, watercolour! It’s not as if I can just paint over my mistakes as I can with acrylics or oils. I’ve also been working on some imaginary character ideas, thanks to a fantastic Craftsy course. But I’ll have to write about that on another occasion.

“You’re making great progress with your art”, said Mr C a few days’ ago. Yay! After what feels like decades of false starts I’m on a path and can only look forward.

So, Wardrobe Architect, I hope this explains why I’ve been neglecting you. I’ve been so focused on building a new version of me from the inside (creative confidence) that I haven’t thought about the new version of me from the outside (personal image). Yet my overstuffed wardrobe is crying out for some breathing space. I mean, do I really need 30 skirts?

Quantity isn’t the only issue. Some of my clothes just don’t fit the personal image I’m creating for myself. They are reminders of previous versions of me, and I would rather leave them behind. So, I’ll make it up to you. I’ll revisit where I left off, and maybe do some watercolour, and graphite, studies of a few skirts, before letting them go. It would be a shame not to.

WordPress prompt: The Things We Leave Behind

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Clothing & Creativity (2)

How should an artist/illustrator dress for work? And why does it matter?

Back in April, I committed to my two New Year Resolutions: 1). to overhaul my wardrobe; and 2). to become prolifically creative. At the time I hadn’t realised how one could impact the other.  But as I question what is holding me back creatively, I’m beginning to understand how my clothes affect my mood, my confidence, and my creative output.

Some days I can throw on a sweatshirt and jeans and drawing comes naturally. I’m not really aware of what I’m wearing as I’m happy and comfortable.  I don’t need to worry about messing up my sweatshirt as I bought it for messing around in, although practicality wasn’t my only consideration when I bought it.

There are days when I need a confidence boost, and I’ll try on three or four different outfits before considering myself ready. The discarded clothes are a clue to how I’m feeling, so I hang them back up to remove the distraction and regain some order.  Hopefully, a wardrobe overhaul will leave me with fewer pieces to choose from, each one guaranteed to help me shine on a cloudy day.  And the less time I worry about what I’m wearing, the more creatively focussed I will be.

But how should I, as an artist/illustrator, dress for work? If my outfit can affect my mood, and therefore my work, do I need to dress as the person I’m striving to be?  If I experiment with my clothes, will I feel more inclined to experiment with my drawing?

I’m considering wearing my shoes when I’m in my home studio. They’ll remind me to not think about laundry when I’m making a mug of tea.  I might also wear my paint-splattered apron.  Just in case my husband doesn’t notice I’m wearing shoes.

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Clothing and Creativity (1)

Several years ago I wrote an imaginary article about the prospect of a career change.  A family illness made me see life differently, and I’d applied for voluntary redundancy to pursue an illustration degree.  Ultimately, I dreamed of setting up a home studio and working for myself.  I’ve tweaked my original text, but as it does well to explain how my two New Year resolutions support each other, I haven’t changed much.  Here’s part one (of two)…

“I recently made the tough decision to leave a secure job and return to art college, and I’m starting to realise the practical impact this will have on my life. The job I am about to leave is within the public sector, and up to now my life has been very straightforward, governed by rules and routine.  Leaving would mean no more daily rush-hour journeys, or hourly countdowns to lunch or leaving at the end of the day.  Home-working isn’t going to be entirely stress-free, and I’m prepared for that.  However, it does offer a very different and exciting challenge, a more comfortable work environment and flexible working hours.

To make it a success I imagine a dedicated work space, with a radio for company, would be adequate to keep me focussed. However, during a discussion on self-employment, a business adviser also suggested that I wear shoes to deter any interruptions from both husband and housework.  Shoes would be a way to indicate I was actually at work.  So, wearing comfy slippers wasn’t going to be an option!  Their advice got me thinking: if shoes are so important, what about the rest of my outfit?  I was used to wearing suits and co-ordinates, not only to present myself professionally but also to focus my mind.   I thought working from home was the hardest decision I would have to make. Deciding what to wear to get myself mentally ready for work was something I hadn’t even thought about.

Choosing an outfit to work in is a minor issue, but an important one. As a spectacles wearer, I have two different looks so I can be smart and business-like, or bold and contemporary, simply by changing my eyewear, and this can affect my mood, too.  I wondered if the same principles could apply to clothes.  According to Kath Woodward in her book, Understanding Identity*

“Our identities are mapped out and represented through the material items which we choose to wear and in particular what they mean in the wider social context.”

Even if I’m not visible to the outside world, could my outfit affect my mindset and behaviour and the role I am trying to portray?  Then I remembered I once tried drawing in a smart skirt and blouse, and my creativity was restrained.  So, perhaps it is the case that in order to perform a role successfully, I need to get my mind in gear by dressing for the part.  So, how should an artist/illustrator dress for work?”

*Woodward, Kath: Understanding Identity.  London: Arnold (2002); p75.

What are your thoughts on the impact of clothing on creativity?

Stay tuned for Part Two next week.

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