Confessions of an Obsessive Compulsive Artist

15. Jan, 2021

White paint, not much to say, you may think, but, with all the different types of white out there, are you sure you're using the right one?  

I had an epiphany this week.  Finally taking one week out of the endless colour pencil pet portrait schedule to get my own portfolio work done and develop my own creative skill and technique, I was running out of my supply of my trusted Titanium white.  

A while ago I went to buy some more titanium white, when stocks were running low before and my supplier had completely run out, but they did have zinc white.  Not knowing any better at the time, I thought, hell, why not, can't be much different.  It's still white oil paint, right?  Wrong!  When I started using zinc white, the texture wasn't creamy and silky like titanium, it was thick, dryish and sticky.  It spread like thick tar than butter.  It wouldn't lighten my colours at all it just disappeared into them.  All in all, a very frustrating paint to work with.  

So, this week, with my titanium stash looking very depleted and no sign of the postman with my fresh supply, I decided to give zinc another chance, but this time, I decided not to use it in place of titaniu, but to embrace its qualities (if I could unlock them!).  

When I paint for myself, I like to paint loose, with texture.  Zinc white, I've found, gives great texture.  Its thick and tends to hold its form when applied generously.  When I used it before, I became very frustrated with the fact that it doesn't lighten colour, barely at all.  When you mix it,  it only slightly varies the colour tone, but no where near as strong as titanium white.  However, with my flower paintings this week, that very slight colour tonal change was perfect to capture the delicate tones of a flowers petals, so that's what I used it for, subtlety.  It worked!  I got that and texture.  

Zinc white, as opposed to Titanium white, is very transparent, which means when mixed with colour the pigment isn't strong enough to overpower the colour pigment, resulting in only a slight difference.  Titanium white holds its own and is highly opaqu.  When mixing with colour, it lightens instantly, but is of a smoother consistency so it's harder to get texture, without mixing in some moulding paste or a thickening agent of some kind.  So having been rather harshly against using zinc white, I've discovered it's place in my art and taken it out of self isolation 😄.  

This is why it's so important for an artist, no matter how experienced, to take time out of the usual schedule of work, to experiment.  I've done some of my best work this week and feel more accomplished for it.  

So, don't just go for the one trusted white you've always used, get a different one and see what you can do with it.  

1. Nov, 2020

Hi folks, I felt another blog post was needed, as I have lots to say and my husbands ear may fall off if I keep talking to him.  

So, Lockdown 2 is upon us and although I thought I was organised in forewarning my students of what I had planned in this scenario, I was secretly going along thinking (hoping), it wouldn't happen.  For small businesses like mine, this could be potentially devastating. I have learned such a lot since the last one, but it still sits like a huge headache, lingering. 

This lockdown, however, will throw more curve balls my way unfortunately.  For the last 10 years, we've been fortunate enough to live, rent free, in tied accommodation for my husbands job, within the outdoor education industry.  This sector has been the worst hit I would say, and sadly he is now working out his notice for redundancy, one of many who have lost their job.  However, he hasn't just lost his job, but we've lost our home too.  We MUST leave the place my daughter was born by the end of the year and move somewhere else, with little prospect, at this point, of another job to go to. Yep, this lockdown is much more stressful than the last and has, indeed, changed my family's lives forever.  

Losing a job AND a home and with me becoming the sole earner for the foreseeable future, losing any business at all, is just another blow.  This lockdown will see a suspension of private 1-2-1 tuitions with my regular clients, demos to the local art group, who can now no longer meet, and some of my students who regularly attend my classes, but can't face doing them online.  That's a lot of business lost and equates to much more than the rent I pay for my business premises.  Yet, as it stands, given I'm self employed and can't get furlough, Im only entitled to 40% of my average monthly profits to get by for the next 3 months.  Yes, it's better than nothing, but when an employed person can get 80%, per month, this hardly seems fair, given my profits are not huge.  So that "starving artist" cliche, may become a reality soon!  

As I mentioned, I had a contingency plan, which I shared with my regular students last term and I am sooo pleased I planned ahead.  It's thanks to those loyal and supportive, wonderful humans, who have just accepted the change and are coming along for the ride, that will save me and my family this winter.  It's you (you know who you are), that will keep a roof over my children's heads, provide them with food and get them to school.  Yes, a business is not all about profits and  fat cats, this is the reality.  MY CHILDREN WILL BE WARM AND FED.  That's where your money goes, right there and I cannot tell you how grateful my husband and I are for that.  

I, very proudly, take after my mother when running my business.  I WONT let things beat me, I will hang on to the bitter end, I will adapt and I will take care of my family AND 'my loyal customers.  I'm not a cut throat businesswoman who is just out for as much profit as she can get.  I've worked in those environments and it doesn't sit well with me.  I care about people, I want to help people and brighten their day just a little.  That's why I opened the shop, that's why I do what I do, for all of you And I'll go down fighting if I have too.  

Finally, I'd like to say this.....COVID, I'm coming for you, you may think you're strong, but I'm stronger, so don't get comfortable! 

Keep strong all of you.  Let's look after each other.  Xx

 

 

6. Oct, 2020

It's been quite a while since I wrote my blog.  Things have changed dramatically since 2016, there's been a huge evolution in my business!  

In 2018 I took the plunge and signed up to a lease of a shop premises in the heart of my home town, Rotherfield.  Since then it's been a whirlwind of courses, workshops, commissions and reconnecting with the lovely locals I now call friends.  I have a wonderful group of regular students who are as great a support to me as I am to them.  It's the best decision I ever made.  

Since taking on the shop, my artwork has taken a drastic turn also.  I went from just doing commissions in graphite and colour pencil, to working in literally every medium there is.....almost!  I've done oils, watercolour, pastel, even the ancient french art of Verre Eglomis or gold leaf etching.  Everything I learnt by watching my grandfather, at school and at Art college has suddenly become very useful and, who knew, but I find I'm actually not bad at teaching them to others too.  

Im asked regularly, which is my favourite medium and my answer is always going to be oils for me.  I'm working in them alot now and have moved away from animals to still life in recent months.  The journey of an artist is a long and winding one, full of continuous self discovery, which is why I find it so fulfilling and exciting.  CPD used to mean boring conference rooms and lectures, now it's about getting messy, experimenting and trying different things.  

This year, however, has had lots of ups and downs, as it has for all.  Small businesses have gone through the mill and not all have survived sadly.  If it wasn't for my loyal customers, I may have gone the same way and for that I will be eternally grateful.  I've gone from a relative technophobe to teaching classes on Zoom and become more of a cleaning lady and health and safety nerd than an artist.  The safety of my students and customers is of greatest importance and thankfully, through a bit of diversity and creative thinking, I've managed to create a Covid secure space for them.  It's hard work, I've never worked so many hours in one week, but it's very rewarding that I can, for now, stick two fingers up to this virus and say, this is mine, you ain't having it!  

On the up side, this virus has brought some great times.  I asked the locals to make some rainbows for my window display during lockdown and they didn't disappoint, with the key worker children from the local school also contributing, making it even more poinian.  In September we entered the Scarecrow Trail, organised by Clair Turner, which saw a whopping 112 scarecrows on display in the village and neighbouring town.  My glamoro assistant, Megan, made our Picasso Pete (pictured), which won third prize!  A great achievement in this dismal period in our history.  


So, all that remains to say for now is, heres to another year of arting and lets hope it continues for a long time to come!  

1. Jun, 2016

I haven't stopped lately!  I feel like I've been eating, sleeping, breathing art, so I thought I'd give those of you who are interested a little glimpse into what I do on my ever increasing work days.  

A typical day for me starts at 6am, when I get up to feed all our animals and make the old man a cup of tea.  Once dressed, I sit and go through my emails and facebook messages and answer as many messages as I can.  

Then comes the dreaded school rush, scrambling to get the kids dressed, fed and out of the door in time for school and preschool.  Once they've been dropped off, I usually then have a meeting with some one, be it, the gallery, a new client or a venue for me to exhibit at.  

When meeting is over, its home to 'process' the contents of my earlier meeting and then back to my drawing board, ignoring the piles of washing up by the sink and the lego strewn across the floors (yes, in every room 😞).  I then spend the next few hours working on my latest commission and answering any other enquiries coming in.  Before I know it, it's time to collect the kids, rush home and put the dinner on, which sometimes buys me another hour to work on my commission.  

If I happen to finish the commission, after dinner I take photos of it and email the client for approval and wait nervously for agonising minutes, hours, sometimes days for a reply, which is always a good reply, but its still nerve wracking!  I don't take the commission off the drawing board until I get approval.  If I do get approval, then its the admin again, invoicing, emailing and making sure the books are up to date and accurate.  

When the kids are finally in bed, I can then relax a bit, which is usually around 8pm, but I'm still thinking, researching exhibitions, references for pieces to exhibit and sorting things out or ordering things lkke flyers etc for upcoming events.  I also take that opportunity to keep up with the marketing side, before crashing into bed.   It is a real hurdle to switch off 😵 and before I know it, it's 6am again!  

 Being a full time artist is my favourite job in the world, but it's bloomin' hard work 😃.

 

 

8. Apr, 2016

I did it!  I stayed awake and drew for a solid 24 hours to raise funds for an amazing charity and awareness for the missing dogs that I drew. 

I got the idea that I wanted to do something about a year ago, but couldn't quite figure out how it would work, so I put it on the back burner until, to my absolute horror, a dog was stolen from someone I knew.  

My family have owned dogs, they were part of the family and when they passed on they left a huge hole in our lives, which is still there to this day.  We know they were happy to the very end and they knew they were loved by the people around them, which, I hope gave them some comfort when they said goodbye.  But, when a dog is stolen from their loved ones, it leaves the family distraught, not knowing if they are safe.  There is nothing the families can do except spread the word and hope their beloved pet is found and brought back to them. 

When Bean went missing, a huge campaign ensued and I found myself feeling helpless and frustrated that this could happen.  I had to do something and then it hit me and the 24 hour drawathon was born.

I have drawn countless dog portraits over the years and therefore know how important they can be to families, particularly where their dog is no longer with them.   I approached Beans owner about the idea and she and her family were over the moon to be asked.  Thankfully only during the next few days, Bean was found and by this time word had spread about the project and more owners of missing dogs came forward to be involved.

Whilst doing the drawathon, I had one moment of complete exhaustion, but it was those dogs and their owners that got me through.  I knew how important it was to them, which was motivation enough.

The other aspect of the drawathon was raising funds for Kit Wilson Trust for animal welfare, www.kitwilsontrust.org.uk.   They rely solely on donations to care for animals that have no families of their own.  Our pets came from Kit Wilson, my sister volunteered there when she was younger and came home with a rabbit.  We have a long history with them and the quality of their care for the animals has never faultered.  

I am pleased to say I managed to raise over £500 for Kit Wilson, which they have told me will go directly to the care of the dogs at the centre.  

It was challenging, it was hell at one point, it was fulfilling, rewarding and made a difference. Awareness for the missing dogs has increased and I hope sincerely that they and all the others currently missing will be reunited withtheir families.  Details of the dogs are on my facebook page www.facebook.com/katjenningsartist and here are some more facebook pages to look at and share to get these dogs home:

www.facebook.com/where'srafiki?

www.facebook.com/findfern

www.facebook.com/helpfindharlow