ACW

ACW

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Less is more by Sue Irving 14th January 2016

 
 

I started my foundation course in art and design last Friday and went to college with a tool box with all the arts and crafts material I had gathered over the years. I wanted to be well-prepared for the challenges ahead – I did not expect to be sent out with just an A1 sheet of paper and a small amount of Indian ink. The task: To paint a tree in 15 minutes, making full use of the intimidating white space in front of me.

My heart beat faster. The task seemed impossible. We were not even allowed to take a brush! Yet once I decided to accept the challenge, the task completed itself. I used gingko leaves, bark and twigs as my brushes and dug my hands into the rich brown soil and smeared it onto the page. In the end, I had 5 minutes spare.

The result was different from any other tree I have ever painted. More organic and alive. I dared to take risks and experiment because I had no choice. I could not hide behind what I had always done and knew how to do.

In fact, over the course I discovered again and again that my toolbox often got in the way. It was so cluttered that I could not find what I was looking for. I wasted time getting over the sense of overwhelm – choice is not always a good thing. Whenever I had less than I thought I needed for the task, my work was fresher and more authentic.

Our tutor Frances Hatch commented that you can sketch anywhere and with anything – she suggested that even a used teabag and a napkin will do if you are sitting in a coffee shop with a few minutes to spare: “Work with what is – rather than using what is as an excuse.”

I have decided to adopt this approach not just in my art, but also in my writing. This blog post was written when I was panicking that I was running out of time to produce something decent. I decided to make use of the minutes I had got rather than worrying about the hour I could not spare.

Having a pen and paper already at hand suddenly seemed such a privilege – I am not sure how I would have fared if I had to rely on a used teabag as my writing tool! So a pen or pencil is going to continue to accompany me everywhere...

 

 

About the author:
Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. It is aimed at both trekkers and those who are going through a dark time in their lives. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity.

6 comments:

  1. I agree that the less is more approach and that feeling of panic can make us more creative. There is nothing like a deadline to focus the mind. Great post and great analogy. Thank you

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  2. Brilliant, Sue! Love your painting of the tree - and the way you've used your experience to teach us all a different way of thinking.

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  3. Love the quote... “Work with what is – rather than using what is as an excuse.” I'm getting too good at excuses!

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  4. So true and often the case when we try to use too many "clever" devices in our writing.Thanks for the reminder :)

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  5. What a marvellous idea, Sue, and what a brilliant result! I love the thought of making art with what you have rather than stressing about what you don't have. And I could probably take a leaf out of your book and write less too instead of more! My posts tend to be a bit wordy even after editing. This was succinct, to the point and truly helpful for all creatives. Thanks, Sue! :) x

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  6. Really like your picture. I'm always saying to my students at school, 'Simplify!' I wish I could take my own advice!

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