‘The 100 Artworks Challenge’ is an online group started by an inspiring and lively young American artist – Kellee Conrad. There are many of these such challenges in the world of online artists – of which I guess I am now officially a member! I participated in this – my first major online group challenge – between 14th March last year and 9th January this year year, along with over 500 artists from around the globe. The main criteria was to use the same size and format and the same medium for all 100 paintings. We were also instructed to choose a theme and to stick to that for the duration. It took me about two seconds to decide on a theme – it was of course ‘Inspired by Greece’! Working fairly quickly and within these boundaries, is said to encourage experimentation, productivity and creativity – the parameters remove any thoughts of “what shall I make today” and help you just get on with it! Also, as I normally produce my artwork alone in the studio it was great to suddenly be part of an online creative community and get inspired by what everyone else was doing.
So where are these 100 paintings? Well, last August, my ‘Square’ exhibition in Koroni featured several of the earlier pics in the series and a few of the later additions travelled to the Swedish exhibitions with us in March, so you may have seen some of them around! A couple of paintings even made it into our 2016 calendar! In fact the square format we chose for the calendar was inspired by the square format of this series of paintings. Despite all best intentions to post each one on the blog as I went along, most of these babies only made it as far as my Instagram page. It’s just so quick and easy to take a snap on the I-Pad and load it to lovely Instagram. As much as I love (and am possibly a teeny bit addicted to) my Instagram gallery, I thought it was about time I shared some of my many work-in-progress pics of the 100 Inspired by Greece series here as I know not everyone shares my Instagram obsession!
Since becoming an I-Pad-mini owner about a year ago I’ve really got into taking tons of work-in -progress pics of my art. As my work tends to be fairly small and as I’m relatively prolific in output, I produce a lot of work. I so love experimenting it’s easy to loose track of all the techniques I use. Photographing the stages provides a handy photographic record of each process. Also, the lovely people who buy my work often like to know the background story to their painting and how it was created, so this acts as a visual record. I’d recommend any artist take process photos of their work – even if you don’t share them publicly, its great to look back at them yourself from time to time – they make a great visual diary. Currently I’m experimenting with turning some of these photos into flip-books on Flipagram – my first tentative steps towards the scary world of making work-in-progress videos.
Starting off with florals, the first batch of 100’s were created by drawing and scratching into wet acrylic paint with a sharp instrument – variously the edge of a pallette knife; a souflaki stick; the sharpened end of a paintbrush or a rubber-tipped art tool. Sometimes I drew the imagery directly into the paint with coloured pencils (my favourite are the vibrant Derwent Inktense) or a graphite pencil. The discovery of acrylic paint markers opened up a new chapter of exploration as it was now possible to draw a beautiful white, or pale blue line on a dark background. These chunky markers beautifully cross the divide between drawing and painting and deliver artist grade acrylic paint in a fabulous array of colours.
The project seemed to develop a life of its own and progressed to simple blue and white graphic imagery – my Cycladic phase! I wanted to capture the stark colour contrast and bold shapes prevalent in the islands as well as the textures of ageing and weathered plaster. As much as I love Messinia, I do appreciate the visual delights of a pretty blue and white Cycladic village. When on an Art & Design Foundation course twenty odd years ago I worked on a project of small blue and white squares with images of Greece – I have photos of them somewhere – it was strange to be re-tracing my steps, working on very similar imagery all these years later, in a different country. I’m a different person to the Gill on Foundation course but obviously my fascination with the blue and white of the Greek Islands endures. I’m still trying to express something that it means to me – these days with the benefit of more art experience and skills.
In the early stages of the project I toyed with a spot of mono-printing, using my trusty Geli-plate for the base-layers and worked into them with paint, Inktense, wax and ink. I love experimenting and am constantly trying out new ways to add layers and peeling depth to imagery and this project gave me the space to do just that. Working with wax (chopped up white church candles are my favourite) between layers of thick paint, allows you to scratch through to the layer below and achieve an aged look. When used with thin paint, forms a great resist.
Not every experiment works though! Several of the 100 have been confined to my ‘maybe someday’ box in the studio, where (maybe) one day they might get picked up and re-worked or start a new life as the base of a new painting.
Those which passed muster were mounted in smart 23cm white mounts and packed in crisp cello bags. Some were framed in simple white box frames, which complement the work beautifully. Although several of this series have gone on to find lovely new homes in Sweden, Greece and England, others are still available on the website. A chosen few are also available as archival prints on watercolour paper and as stretched canvas reproductions. One of the benefits of a print or canvas is that if you fall in love with a particular image, it can be reproduced in a range of sizes to fit your available wall space.
Stay tuned for the next batch in this series of 100 Paintings Inspired by Greece, where I move on to use different techniques and show yet more work-in-progress piccys from the studio. There’s a mini-range of Mediterranean seascapes and some brightly collaged geraniums plus a pile of village scenes created from sketchbook drawings. I even branch out and start to introduce colours other than blue!