Go With The Flow © Cherry Jeffs, 2012, 60 x90cm, Mixed-Media on Canvas
Bird by Bird © Cherry Jeffs, 2012, 60 x90cm, Mixed-Media on Canvas
I finally got back into the studio yesterday; it felt like coming home after my longer-than-expected absence.
If there was any possibility that I might continue working on this pair of paintings, it has long gone and I have designated them as finished and am ready to move on.
I’m continuing to work in the same vein – using found materials and texture to interpret the landscape around me – but, since it will be a while before I can make the necessary trip to buy good quality ‘gallery wrap’ canvases (the kind I now realise I need for this kind of work due to warping issues using normal canvases like these) I’m going to work on a series of 9 or 12 smaller boards to hang together as a rearrangeable piece.
In case you’re wondering where I’ve got to, I’m not suffering from a renewed bout of creative block; instead my activity is being held in check by a prolonged instance of sciatica, the pain of which leaves me with just about enough energy to stare at the ceiling and occasionally hobble round the block.
All I can do is sit and sigh as my studio remains unvisited, my new website undesigned and my book unfinished; I take 10 minute dips of solace within the beautiful boards of Pinterest or the inspiring pages of my Flipboard RSS magazine-reader, do my daily exercises and wait.
Every experience has a lesson; I’ll let you know when I’ve figured out what this one has come to teach me.
I am working on my paintings in a new way; one that is more spontaneous, in which the fabric of my process, studio and my life are integrated into my work.
I think, deep down, I have wanted to work in this way for a long time but I could never find the way in.
The working title for this project is ‘Giant Journals’ (subtitle: Bigger, lighter, brighter) because the whole studio has become one giant journal.
A bit of my painting sponge gets incorporated in the painting!
The process for the larger pieces reflects the same lack of expectation or demand for a particular direction I normally associate with my journal work, where a page has always been just a page, and some pages are better than others. Each page has its own character but I never try to determine it beforehand.I am allowing the pieces to grow organically and express their possibilities rather than letting my control-freak side take over and demand to know where the work is going in advance. Having let go of this ‘need-to-know’, I move in harmony with the work.
The realisation that I can make ‘big’ paintings this way feels at once obvious and revolutionary.
As I have taken to working in this new-old way, the landscape around me – both interior and exterior – has begun to worm its way into the paintings: The palette is the colour of my studio walls and roof – with it’s rough, uneven white walls and it’s twisted wooden beams, wrapped with traditional, hand-made ‘esparto’ string and lined with lengths of cane. In places the beams show remnants of white paint, and the natural colour of the wood gradually re-asserts itself making a textured pattern that is reflected in the paintings.
Peeling paint patterns on the beams
On my walks in the pine forest above our house, or in my early morning mooches about the garden, I find a rusty metal cap that is flattened to resemble a medieval coin or the delicate transparent white-green wrapping of an onion flower. These too, find their way into my paintings, in an even more direct way.
Pine forest finds
Some days, when the Resistance is strong, I begin my studio work with a stream-of-consciousness writing session using a dipping nib and brown ink. Later I incorporate fragments of the writing into the work.
Dried flower and recycled artwork with text fragments on a sketchbook page
I am working in four ‘places’ concurrently: Two 60 x 90cm canvases, the sketchbook I made using paper of different weights, textures and tones, and my ongoing altered book. All the work has a similar colour palette, most of it has texture and small found items incorporated in it.
Works in progress
I move around the studio, sticking down a piece here, a wash of colour there, working intuitively in a way that reflects my feelings on the day.
Each piece feeds into the others and there is no set order of work or particular amount of time dedicated to any one.
Part of an old artwork recycled as a background in my altered book
I try to close each day with an unfinished suggestion of a future direction: An old piece of my own art which I am recycling as a journal page background, stuck into the journal but not yet trimmed, perhaps with a selection of other images for possible inclusion left spread around on the same surface; a fragment of my stream-of-consciousness writing torn out and left near a painting; a pile of trial sketches for a particular painted element; a new colour of paint, unopened on the bench; a test-technique page of smoke painting and coffee stain…
In this way, there is always an easy new-old place to begin when I return.