I’ve been blocked in my painting practice, and it’s nothing to do with the fact that my materials are in storage!
Although packing up the house did mean having to pack canvases and paints away, they were within easy reach, and I could have taken paper and paints out at any time, laid the plastic sheeting over the floor, and done some process work, the work that keeps me sane. But I didn’t. Instead I kept the painting space free in my head, and periodically I’d wander in there, sit down, and think about mixing colours, getting messy, all the tactile aspects of painting that I love so much. But the images weren’t clear enough to paint. The ideas were forming, new work was in process, as I was in the process of leaving my womb-like nest, but I wasn’t ready to reveal that even to myself. But I was giving myself a very hard time about not painting, and felt something was wrong, my head was full of ‘the shoulds’ … and that always chafes my creative spirit, makes me rebellious, ‘oh fuck it, if I feel I should, then I won’t’ kind of thing. So I continued to feel stuck, until I met Linda Norris again, the Pembrokeshire artist who paints emotional responses to landscapes.
I’d discovered her work during a writing sabbatical several years ago, and knew I’d found an artist who had something powerful to say, not only about her connection to the Pembrokeshire landscape, but about life, living, and our engagement with that. There was a fearlessness in her work, a wild spirit that she had also managed to contain, to frame within the context of paint.
I re-entered her gallery knowing that I would see something that would inspire me to pick up my brushes again. Fortunately she was in residence this time, and offered me coffee while I looked at her paintings and prints. As ever, they moved me to look deeper. Yes, to see the craggy shorelines, but to also be reminded of those rough edges within myself, and the layers that have to be peeled back if the work itself is to be any good. It’s not good enough to hide behind certainty and safety, you have to go out beyond the tides, and to also muck about within them, explore the deep and the shallow. I saw the familiar prints, and some of her new work, but it was the conversation with Linda herself that moved me this time.
For about 18 months I’ve been feeling inhibited by my technique, feeling I’d reached my limit, the edge of my boundary, and was hungry, no desperate to be find my next technique that would allow me to express my voice in the paint. Linda helped me to see that while technique is useful, sometimes knowing ‘how to’ can inhibit creativity. No-one can teach creativity, and she encouraged me to celebrate my willingness to engage with that. Doing so gives me the precious metals of my ideas with which to paint. Suddenly I felt free, no longer inhibited and I couldn’t wait to get painting again.
Linda runs a couple of courses each year, and I’ll definitely be booking myself onto one of these.
The images on Linda Norris’s site don’t do her art justice, but if you can’t get to see them in person as I did, you will be in for a treat!