Tag: collage

How to foster creativity when stressed or under pressure

blond woman looking stressed and under pressure

Do stress and deadline pressures have your creativity freezing up? Let me share six tips that fostered my creativity and got me back to my studio to start painting and having fun again. I hope that will work for you too.

The dilemma of the creative process (for me) is that I impose pressure on myself to make impressive, or at least good, artwork. I worry my paintings must be meaningful and pleasing, and if they aren’t, then self-doubt, fear and discouragement paralyze me from working. This self-reposed pressure was putting a lot of stress on my creativity and keeping me from painting. I needed to adjust my thinking and art practice to break this negative cycle and get me back to the joy of making art.

botanical collage paintings by Kathy Ferguson Art

In many ways, the COVID quarantine has been a positive experience for me. When the virus rates escalated in New York City almost overnight, there was speculation that Manhattan would close its borders and travel outside the borough would be restricted. The thought of getting trapped in a city had me fleeing that very day to Florida with nary an art supply in my suitcase. With no upcoming shows or commissions to finish, and few supplies to work with, I decided to let my self-imposed pressure go and just play around with the limited materials I had available (acrylics and junk mail).

I started small, making simple 6″ x 6″ painted collages. Working on up to 12 paintings at a time, I skipped around between them when I got stuck. I let myself step back and make work that didn’t need to be good. And you know what happened? My creativity came back. I was excited to go to my studio every day and see what would happen next. After finishing forty-two of these “Tidbits” paintings, I was ready to move on to something more substantial.

 

Mounting blue and white collage works on cradled wood panels

Are you feeling stressed or just unmotivated?

First, take a minute to decide how you are really feeling? Are you stressed because your kids are constantly interrupting your workflow, and you have a gallery exhibit coming up that you’re not close to ready for it? Or is it that you are feeling uninspired and lacking in motivation? For these who just need some inspiration, read my advice 7 tips I use to foster creativity when feeling unmotivated to get you up and running again.  The rest of you, keep reading.

6 tips to spark creativity when pressure is weighing you down

So the next time you’re stressed or under pressure, try these other ideas to spark your inspiration and creativity.

Stop forcing creativity

First, stop trying to “make yourself” come up with something creative. Instead of telling yourself, “I must make something great now,” instead let yourself “play around with some ideas.” You need to feel in a safe space of non-judgment and expectation to be open creatively.

Take a break from the problem

Step away for the problem and let your sub-conscience work while you go for a walk, bake a cake, or fold the laundry. The less these activities use your mind, the more available it will be to create new solutions.

illustration of blond girl making a smoothie

Focus on a single idea

While doing one of these activities, do a little brainstorming on a single idea. Go deep and think of every good, bad, and weird idea that you can. Don’t critique these ideas; you are going for quantity. Give your thoughts some space to roam and let creativity work its magic. Breaking it down into small steps will help you chip away at the problem.

Go get inspiration on Pinterest

Are you still stuck? Try looking at other people’s work. I’m not suggesting copying them, but sometimes seeing what others have done will trigger new ideas or approaches to your problem.  

Reach out to another artistic business owner

You don’t have to go it alone. Why not collaborate with another? You can pick their brain or work together. The process of talking through ideas can stimulate new thoughts and take you in a new direction.

Creativity takes time

If all else fails, perhaps you just need time. Give yourself time to mull on it. Studies show that the brain continues working while you’re asleep. A good night’s sleep will do you good. I often wake up the morning after with the answer just waiting for me.

Get more great creativity tips by signing up for my monthly newsletter HERE.

 

 

Do you miss going to galleries and museums?

Stratum mixed media collage NCS National Collage Society

Not to worry. You can take these gallery tours from your couch. Many venues are putting up online shows free to the public to enjoy. I currently have work in the following two online art exhibitions.

National Collage Society’s 23rd Annual Small Format Exhibition

This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the National Collage Society Small Format Exhibit. This Postcard Exhibit is an invitational exhibition comprised of small format 4″ x 6″ postcard-sized collages. The Society defines collage is any artwork created with another layer glued onto the surface.

Click the link to Visit Nat’l Collage Society Exhibit

 

Long Island City Artists’ Spring National Collage Exhibition

One hundred eight of our artists are represented here, in LiC-A’s first online Members’ Exhibition.  Our regular exhibition venues, including the Plaxall Gallery in Long Island City, are shut down temporarily due to the current health situation. So we are using our website to provide a public space in which both artists and visitors can share in the appreciation of these incredibly exceptional and diverse talents of Queens artists.

Click the link to Visit LiC-A Spring Exhibit

Ocean Tidbit Kathy Ferguson collage mixed media
Ocean Tidbit, 1 of 9, 6″ x 6″, mixed media

 

You’re never too old to play

Collage papers

I’ve been thinking about the importance of play in art.

I feel pulled in many different ways on a daily basis. There’s so much to get done – writing and organizing social media posts, updating my websites, applying for exhibitions and grants, nevermind painting. And what about family, bills, exercise, and a balanced life?

I noticed one of the first things to go in my art practice was the action of play, as in anything I do simply for the joy of doing rather than a means to an end. It rarely feels like ‘play’ when I’m trying to create a successful piece. I worry about messing up when time is so valuable, and I want the final product to be great. Yet I know that failure is a good thing.  Some of my best works have come from creating something new when things didn’t work out.

I needed to get out of my studio and away from distractions to truly immerse myself in ‘playtime”.  So last week I took a collage and paper-making class with Suzanne Siegel and Jane Davies.  I set a goal NOT make a finished piece of art.  The idea was to try as many new techniques as possible and to start a lot of work without trying to complete any of them.  It was a success, and I’ve come home with piles of messy, weird, and uniquely printed papers and painting starts. Will I continue working on them?  Perhaps a few, but mainly the purpose was to explore and have fun. Now I just have to bring that into my daily art practice.

What have you done recently for yourself that qualifies as ‘playtime’?

Step by step, how to rework a failed painting

Rock Garden painting
Failed painting
Failed painting

Some paintings come easy, while others require a lot of work until I’m happy with them (or I throw them out).  My painting Rock Garden was one of my more difficult pieces.  On my first try, I ended up with this version.  It had the elements of a strong composition with a clear focal point but I just didn’t like it.  It sat in my studio for the last three years but I couldn’t determine a way to “fix it”.  

In the meantime, I finished another painting River Rock that I needed a companion piece to hang with it in an upcoming show.  The only panel I had in the same size was this failed painting.

Work in progress
Work in progress

 

I needed both paintings to share the same color scheme, so I created some new collage papers to better match the companion painting’s colors.  I like to add lots of elements at first and then simplify the final painting by painting over of some of the areas.  At left is the next phase of the painting/collaging process. At this point, it’s complete chaos and is going to require a lot of editing. 

The colors still didn’t match the other painting that well and I needed to get rid of the red, the bright yellow and the ultramarine blue.  I dug up some more papers and collaged them over these colors.  Next, I picked the areas to keep and those to cover up.  I needed a strong focal point and more areas of calm.  There was a lot of overpainting to do and still more collage papers to add.  The work also needed greater contrast so I add in the light yellow and dark gray areas to expand the value range.  Below are the two final paintings, Rock Garden and River Rock.  Can you find the areas from the original painting that still shows in the finished work?  It’s a little like “Finding Waldo”! 

Rock Garden painting
Rock Garden, mixed media, 20″ x 16″
River Rock
River Rock, mixed media, 20″ x 16″

Fun ideas for the weekend

unnamed-2

Looking for something to do this weekend?  Head on out to Long Island City for the LIC Arts Open 6 and an opportunity to visit hundreds of artists’ studios.  Have you ever looked at a painting in a gallery and wanted to know “how did they do that?”  This is your chance.

Begin at Reis Studios (43-01 22nd St., LIC) with 200 artist studios to start your tour. See the inner workings of my art studio #225 where I’ll be demonstrating how I use a Gelli Plate to print the collage papers I use in my work and making FREE greeting cards for those who drop by.  Come by to get yours.  Studios open this Sat. & Sun. from 12-6pm.  Directions below.

unnamed-3

What’s on your desk blotter?

2015-10-22 14.18.48

I have a beautiful wooden desk in my art studio where I work on my computer, doing sketching and more.  It’s too nice a piece to go with my paint splattered folding tables and Ikea bookshelves, but it didn’t fit in our New York apartment when we moved so I got to use it in my studio instead.

I wanted to protect the surface from scratches where I slide my computer in and out of the way, so I taped down a large piece of drawing paper in that area.  I use it to write down short notes or unconsciously doodle/stamp/stencil on it.  When one side gets full, I flip around the sheet and continue filling up the opposite side.  I looked down today for a place to add another note and realized it was completely full…no empty space available.  Obviously, it’s time for a new blotter sheet!  Maybe I’ll save this one to use in some of my collage work.  🙂

Feeling Blue?  I know just the place for you

Harbor Town

The color blue evokes serenity, spirituality, infinity.  Lay back and look at heaven.  The 5th chakra:  the throat, voice and self-expression.  Deep blues: singing, listening.  Sea and shadow.  Blue symbolizes the Virgin Mary.  Krishna has blue skin.  Fifty-three percent of the world’s flags have blue.  It’s the color most commonly used in corporate identities.  Miles Davis was kind of blue.  What kind of blue are you?

Harbor Town, mixed media on cradled panel, 32″ x 32″, $1800

This painting was inspired by the Boston Harbor which I lived near a few years ago.  The water is made from many layers of translucent mulberry paper which I painted all these wonderful shades of blue.

“BLUE” Exhibition at the Front Street Gallery

I am exhibition my painting title “Harbor Town” in the BLUE exhibition at the Front Street Gallery in Patterson, New York. The show opened on October 18 and runs through December 6.  The gallery has extended hours on October 24 & 25 as part of the ArtEast Open Studio Tour.

See a BLUE slide show at the gallery website http://frontstreetgallery.org.  Front Street Gallery is at 21 Front Street in Patterson, New York, across the street from the Metro North train Station.

Featuring Gretchen Hoffman Abene, Patrick J. Cicalo, Shelley Dell, Andrew Dines, Ken Dreyfack, Kathy Ferguson, Matt Frieburghaus, Sarah K. Gray, Nicole Hughes, Annette Jaret, Lise Kjaer, Sassoon Kosian, Galina Krasskova, Tanya Kukucka, Pamela Lambros, Hannah Raine Brenner-Leonard, Alex Lindquist, Amanda Lynne, Eugene Posolli, Karen Schaffel, Ilona Sirman, Jane Soodalter, Fran Traina, Meaghan Troup, Rosanne Walsh, Dayna Wenzel, Joann Zwolski.

A glimpse inside my creative process

I started with the idea to create a set of matching paintings with lots of 3D texture.  I love the soft, white flowers of the dogwood tree but realized I would need a colored background to make the petals show in the paintings.  I’ve documented my painting process below.  I will flip-flop between the two paintings as I forgot to photograph them both at each stage, but you should get the general idea.

I start by painting a variety of stripes on watercolor paper (glued to cradled wooden panels) using acrylic paint.

Dogwood step Two-a

 

 

Next I glue down strips of different Japanese papers.  I love handmade Japanese papers (made with mulberry leaves, rice shaft, and other organic materials) because they add a unique, textural feel to my work.   I also include some handprinted deli paper I made using my Gelli plate.

Dogwood Two-b

 

Now come the flowers.  First I sketch in the compositions.  Next, using Golden’s heavy molding gel, I spread on the petals with a palette knife.  When the gel is dry, I sand off any sharp points.

Dogwood step One-c

 

I add in collage paper elements for the leaves and stems, painting some areas to give them more dimensionality.  Finally, I add sheer cheesecloth for an unexpected touch and use colored pencils to create some delicate color in the white petals.  The paintings are sealed using a clear acrylic medium, and then two layers of acrylic varnish to protect the paper.

Dogwood Two

 Dogwood One, mixed media on cradled panel, 12″ x 12″

 

Dogwood OneDogwood Two, mixed media on cradled panel, 12″ x 12″

Here’s a side shot to better see the raised texture of the paintings.

2015-03-13 13.50.04

Downward Facing Dog anyone?

I fit in a couple of yoga classes while in Colorado for the holidays.  This motivated me to start a new painting for my yoga inspired series which I began last year.  I have four paintings completed so far and this will be the fifth.  For this series, I start each painting by first picking out a Sanskrit word as my guide.  This painting’s Sanskrit word is “Kirtan” which means a community gathering involving chanting, live music and meditation.  After working out the composition in my sketchbook, I then did a quick value/color study.  The next step was to paint a loose, watery background on a cradled panel to show the major color areas while also getting rid of that intimidating white!

Kirtan in progress

With the basic color areas blocked in, it was time to hand-paint some paper for the collage elements.  Using translucent sheets of deli paper and a Gelli Plate, I printed multiple layers of paint on top of each other using a brayer, stencils, scraping tools and more.  I torn up these printed papers and moved them around until I was happy with the composition.  Next, I glued all the papers down, painted over some areas and glued down even more papers.  After some final fiddling, the painting was complete.

Kirtan Web

“Kirtan” (a community gathering involving chanting, live music and mediation), Mixed Media on cradled panel, 20″ x 16″, $600.

Paintings can be purchased at www.kathyfergusonart.com