The Self-Taught Artist

The Self-Taught Artist and Our Piles of Work

NO Modem Sunday flowarte

During these interrupted times, moments of disconnection are so important. I’m so proud of my husband and me for implementing No-Modem Sundays in September. You probably are sick of hearing me talk about it. But right now, ONE OFFLINE DAY will do so much to help our mental health.

Yesterday I decided to purge my piles of old work. I’ve taken many classes and my goal is to complete them and practice. Work accumulates quickly and declutterin is one of the things I had been putting off for years. The main reason was, I felt I was throwing money away by recycling all those sketchbooks and watercolor sheets with artwork that didn’t feel in tune with myself.

I have some lovely florals (from when I thought being a watercolorist meant painting flowers)

 I have some portraits and abstracts in really intense colors. I still have some abstract postcards.

Once I was able to discard a good massive pile of practice sheets, I sorted the things that intrigued me.

I came up with a worksheet that allows me to quickly assess an artwork and see what I can pull from it:

Can I turn into something else? Become part of another piece? Or summarize what I like and don’t like about it.

A quick conlusion was: I hate purple. I don’t like it so I have to avoid mixing red and blue at all costs!

How I did an overview of my work

First, I pulled out all the work I had on piles. Of course, I only work on paper, so I didn’t struggle too much. I then did a Marie Kondo type of process. If my response was a visceral NO, then I put it in the recycling bin. If my answer was a bit more positive, it went into the ‘revise’ pile.

Then I went and dumped the recycling into the outside bin, so I wouldn’t be tempted to look again.

Then I grouped the work by theme: botanicals, portraits, abstracts.

I noted the patterns on each one. I saw how I tend to draw eyes, the shape of the face, what details I like, which I don’t. What frustrates me.

Then I moved on to colours. One of the things that I realized back in 2017 was that I was not too fond of artwork that was too colorful. I prefer more muted tones. I gathered all the pieces that had color palettes I liked a lot. I moved it around, I took some away until I had this arrangement. 

Neutral tones

 Of the hundreds of artworks that I had, these were the only ones I truly loved. So now, I have a better understanding of what I should focus on and stop hoarding all the colours!

As self-taught artists and multi-passionates, it’s all-too-common to extend in a million different directions and rarely look back to what we have done. This exercise in decluttering taught me how my emotion, curiosity, and eagerness to experiment with the next thing, although amazing, fun, and satisfying, it doesn’t help me move in the direction I want to take my work in.

I know deep down what I like and what I don’t, so why do I keep trying to paint saturated botanicals, when the softer, neutral tones make me happier?

Have you done a similar exercise, or do you have an overall plan of what you will paint?

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Self taught artist graphic with flatlay