The variation in which artists create their work is infinite. For some, making art is a purely personal exploration. They guard against other influences to make sure the things they produce are entirely theirs.
Others may work in groups, bouncing ideas off each other, taking what they observe and twisting, turning and transforming it into something newer, more original. Neither is wrong. Neither is better. And there are endless variations of the process that work – or don’t – for other creators.
I was mulling over my approach yesterday as I worked on a new composition on my iPad. For me, the act of creation is a conversation between me and the viewer. I am using my paintings to make connections – and it stems from my desire to be understood.
I don’t think I am always easy to understand. I don’t think I am as I often appear.
So, in choosing what to paint and how to paint it, I am responding to the feedback I get from the world. For all the bad press social media has been getting, it has been invaluable in helping steer my art practice.
Thanks to Instagram, I can paint something meaningful to me and see within a day whether it has resonated with other people. Then, I can explore that connection between me and that audience.
I couldn’t have predicted that the magpies my mother loved and photographed would become this year’s project. But the passionate response from others when I painted them was an immediate signal that many of us shared an emotional relationship with maggies. It is a connection between me and a great number of people.
Who would have guessed that people who love maggies also share my appreciation for the swirling patterns of Jacobean and Indiennes fabric designs? But the response to my inclusion of the design found on my homemade cushions was a signal to keep exploring antique textiles and, where possible, the female designers that most of us never hear about.
The people who responded share my aesthetic. It is a bond between us, which has led to the inclusion of antique furniture and an exploration of the infinite varieties of footstools. Today, I am burrowing into industrial design from the 1800s, starting with gorgeously-decorated sewing machines.
I wouldn’t have taken any of these paths on my own. Instead, I have been exploring, shoulder-to-shoulder with those who have done me the honour of connecting on Instagram and those who have chosen to take the paintings home.
It is a conversation.