Taking the Leap

Why, when something really matters to us, do we so often put it off?
This is what I did with my art for a number of years and what I have done with my website over the past few months. Procrastinate!

Just over a year ago, I took a big leap with my art. Whilst I have taken many creative courses over the years - ceramics, sculpture, printing, etc. - I had never taken a painting course, but I had heard great things about Nicholas Wilton’s CVP. So, after years of dabbling in every different medium I could lay my hands on and focusing on the art of others when it came to organising exhibitions, I decided to make a commitment to my own art. The first step of this commitment was signing up for a 3-month long online course which consisted of weekly classes and coaching on live calls several days each week. We were told to use just one single size of board - 30 x 30cm plywood panels - and use acrylic paint. After years of trying so many different shapes, sizes and methods of creation, there was something hugely liberating in the focus on this size and medium (more on that in a future post).

I committed to working on my panels each week, enjoying the freedom of working across a number of pieces at the same time. I was able to do this at the kitchen table because of the size of the boards and the acrylic paint pots fitted nicely into one big box that I could pack things into quickly to clear the table for meal times. Whilst it was a big commitment in terms of focus, it felt manageable (though in reality, I was pulling some seriously late nights)! As the weeks progressed, I learned much about myself and my approach to art-making. I figured out that it was possible to dedicate small chunks of time to my painting and see progress at each pass. Those three months were a rollercoaster of big breakthroughs and huge frustrations, but isn’t that the way with the creative process? I found myself thinking in pictures, painting in my head as I walked out in nature and all that I absorbed, from my walks in the woods and my photographic observations, filtering in to my paintings. The more I did, the more my art felt like me… finding my voice!

My commitment to painting continued, though at a slightly less regular rate when the course ended, but as the new year began, I made fresh commitments to my art, signing up for my local arts group. This commitment takes me to monthly meetings in other artists’ homes and the slow build of a supportive creative network, both in person and in Alice Sheridan’s group, The Connected Artist, has given me a sense of community in this world of art that I have not felt since I was deeply involved in the world of Outsider Art through my work at Raw Vision magazine and my passion for these artists, their art and their stories. The art world can be an unfriendly, intimidating place. Or, it can be a super supportive, friendly place… you just have to find your people and your place.

The next part of my commitment to this journey was signing up for Herts Visual Arts Big Art Fair and my local Open Studios trail. I had done art fairs before with the magazine and loved the buzz of the fair and the opportunity to spend days just talking about art, but I had never done this with my art as the focus. The decision to apply for Open Studios came from a desire to connect with more people over art - specifically in my local community. It was during Open Studios 18 months ago that I met my good friend and fellow artist, Paula Barnard-Groves when I saw the bunting outside her home and knocked out of curiosity to view her sculptures and her studio. The excitement about taking part outweighed the fear. That may change as the dates come closer, but for now I feel good about taking these leaps. Another step closer to sharing my art with the wider world.

The last piece in the puzzle so far was creating a website dedicated to my art. I had a vision for what I wanted the site to look like and I had been looking for someone to do the work for me, but the process of finding the right person, conveying the image I had in mind and making it all happen felt too daunting. So took the leap and did it myself, using Squarespace. As with so many things that feel too big or frightening, it was a lot simpler than I thought it would be when I just got stuck in. Working on my laptop with video tutorials on an iPad beside me, I got it done by chunking the work and going back and back until it was done. Phew!

“If you wait until you are ready, you will never be ready” is a phrase I have come across many times of late. So I no longer wait. No more procrastination (well, OK, maybe a bit, but I usually push through it); no waiting to be perfect or putting off the things that really matter to me. My imperfect will be somebody else’s perfect as I have noted so often recently. Yours will too… and done is better than perfect!

So here goes with the first post on this site… do leave a comment if any of this resonates. If you’ve not yet built your site or committed to your art and are waiting to make a start, don’t wait. And if you need a helping hand getting going, drop me a message through the contact form here… supporting fellow artists on their creative journeys is one of superpowers.

Julia Elmore