Being a Bit Brave

Lately I’ve stood in the centre of my little art space and been overwhelmed at what I have. I have this amazing little space with a high ceiling allowing more light, with my wonderful drawing board, a large easel, paint supplies, paper, canvases etc…..but I have been struggling with ideas of WHAT to paint as well as WHY to paint.

For me, painting for leisure isn’t enough. I don’t know why but its just not, I have to have a good reason for using expensive art supplies and this is often a bit of an ‘artists block’ for me. I’m the first to admit, I’m not great with life drawing, I prefer photos for some reason. Not sure why, maybe lack of subject matter, or the ability to sit still long enough.

So I got to thinking, what do I really want to paint? After seeing a documentary on the Australian artist Margaret Olley I came away with one sentance ‘refine your subject matter’. This is where I’ve often gone wrong. I have tried painting for others and not for what I enjoy. I have tried painting for sales which has never ever worked. Instead of working out what I really want to paint and enjoy painting I have felt the need to master everything.

When I was at university I painted figures. It was right after we returned from our time in Africa so much of my work revolved around my experiences there. My lecturers didn’t like it, they said it was too stereotypical, too overdone and they would pick on all the figurative work (of everyone, not just me) and pull all sorts of things from it that just weren’t intended. In the end I got so fed up with it that in my final year I painted rocks. I don’t mean I painted on rocks, I mean I painted paintings OF rocks. I liked the rock paintings, they forced me out of my comfort zone and helped me develop my understand of abstraction but still, they were not about loneliness or suffering, or friendship or anything else, they were simply about rocks. I learnt to smile and nod if my lecturers pulled out all sorts of meanings from them.

So, this brings me to today. What exactly do I love to paint? Why do I love to paint? I came up with an answer after a bit of thought. The answer is two-fold, I love figurative work, I love a free brush-stroke style (which I am yet to master) which represents emotion or movement in the figure but ultimately I love Africa. I love Niger in West Africa because thats where most of my African experiences were.

At the moment there is a project in Niger that I would very much like to contribute to in both finances and awareness. Deborah is a physical therapist and SIM missionary in Niger at Galmi hospital and the project she is raising awareness of is the Galmi Hospital Physical Therapy Department Project (NE-97540). I would like to put together a series of paintings which I can then sell either via a website or exhibition to assist in raising funds for this project. We visited Galmi hospital when we were in Niger back in 2001 and I love that they show the genuine love of Jesus through physical care of people who are almost forgotten. They share the gospel alongside giving out health care and I love that approach!

I’ve done a little bit of research (you can see my inspiration board at the top of this post) looking at poverty in particular. I prefer to use my own photos, mainly because my memory seeps out the sides of those photos and when I look at them I can smell Niger, I can smell poverty and I can hopefully add emotions that I felt to the paintings as I go.

My painting skills are a little rusty so I have a feeling that this may take a year to actually complete (the concept, not each painting!) but here is the first little start (this is where I’m being a bit brave, showing these initial works):


I’m very critical of my own sketches, this one in pastel has many flaws but I was aiming to see how the chiaroscuro effect would work. I was also focusing on skin and the facial landscape, not the eyes or lips so much.


Prep sketching for painting


The beginning of the painting. Tons and tons to do still, the arms, the face etc but I do like the t-shirt so far, although its a bit too clean.

So thats it, I’m going to give this a good go. So far researching quotes and ideas has led me to want to put together a body of work that expresses the powerlessness that those in poverty experience not merely lovely portraits or scenes. Oh boy I hope I can do it!

One thought on “Being a Bit Brave

  1. I love your approach! And I love your commitment to making art that matters to you. Only your eyes and hands can make what’s important to you. There will always be critics and those that don’t “get it”, but above all YOU must get it. How else will you be satisfied as an artist?

    I also love your inspiration board. Totally need to do that! Most of my inspiration is kept in notebooks, but that’s difficult for visual projects.

    Above all though, this is BEAUTIFUL! I can’t wait to see the rest of the work that comes from your hands.

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