For those reading this post who follow us on social media (@isbell_and_co), I would understand if this question was on your mind when my landscape collection - From The Places I Love -launched.
For some context: September was a month of creation for me. Although I (Charlotte here) am always creating something, about four times a year I will dive deep into a series of art. For months I had been compelled to start a new landscape collection. As a frequent traveller and lover of discovering new places, the absence of travel these past two years has been a little hard on my heart. So I gave it permission this September to revisit those quiet nooks of the world where I have felt that pure joy of being, and painted them.
Appreciating that so many in our community would also be feeling the same way, we decided to socially share this painting process over September. In short: each time a new painting was completed, it would be posted online with a mini Q&A (charmingly narrated by Drew) about the painting itself.
What we didn't share however, was that showing the artworks "as they were completed" was a very new thing for me. You see, completing an artwork is one thing, knowing that it's the final artwork in a collection is quite another. So, although the early works being shared were beautiful and charming, they were inconsistent in everything but the fact that they were landscapes.
Inconsistency is not a bad thing, actually it's a very helpful part of any painting process. If you ask and listen to what the inconsistency has to say, you find the pathway to cohesion. This asking and listening can really only take place after several paintings are done for me. Once I had 4-5 landscapes "completed", I sat down to ask and listen. It was at this point that something strange happened. I noticed that my heart was completely torn between two styles of painting: soft, muted and moody landscapes and the loose, bright and bold abstracts. I was energised by both, and decided to share with the social media world (given everything they had seen so far was going to change), that working with all I had painted so far my landscapes would become a collection called Day & Night, where each landscape would be painted in two completely different styles.
I loved this idea, I loved both styles, I loved the two perspectives (and I still do!), but in sharing I forgot one thing: love isn't the only ingredient in art creation.
From the artist's perspective, the technique, mindset and feeling behind the two styles I wanted to paint are completely different. This meant that to paint both at once, I would need to fully embrace these aspects for both... at the same time. I'm sure this is achievable, but it wasn't for me this September. Not because I didn't want it to be - my heart was truly in love with both styles - but because every other part of me was only present with the first: soft, muted and moody landscapes.
Before you roll your eyes because suggesting that, "my whole body wasn't in it", is such an artist thing to say, let me go a layer deeper so you can really say, "What an artist thing to say!" There are some other elements that make this more understandable. Firstly my process: as an artist I am typically drawn to colour, from colour emotion and with emotion memory and the world around me. It is in these phases that my work is always constructed no matter what I am painting. When the ideas of a landscape series came to mind, it arrived from colours that were muted and earthy. The emotions were softness, nostalgia, calm, peaceful... even a subtle sadness of "I miss you far off places", and with this came the memory - my favourite places - ah ha - landscapes! When the time came to move my concepts onto canvas, the world around me had began to change - autumn had arrived. This all reemphasised that Earthy & Soft was what I wanted to create.
These gentle themes kindly came back to me the minute I started painting the "Night" works in this collection. The bolder and harsher movements were gorgeous, but not what I as the painter had for the collection. Once I moved my expression into a soft, watery, painterly style, I finally felt cohesion.
Making the decision to go against what I had shared felt a little uncomfortable, but that's okay. It was far less uncomfortable than trying to work on something that I wasn't ready to work on. It also showed me another aspect of myself. Living in another country with my family and dearest friends far away, I always seem to be standing in two hemispheres. This means that I am always experiencing two seasons (currently autumn and spring), with two completely different mindsets (gearing up or settling down). But though I can sense them both, I am only present in one, and I have to give myself permission to be in that one place...
In doing that my heart knows that the season for those bright and bold works will come again.