Needing change

Yes, this really is a new blogpost.

After almost two years of absence here I am writing again, instead of sharing my artistic process on YouTube only. The truth is that video editing is quite a lot of work, so I thought I’d better alternate the YouTube content with blogposts an stop setting myself impossible posting schedules.
Although visual content is extremely popular right now, I still hope there are people who find consolation, motivation or inspiration by reading my thoughts about artist life.

Holiday vibes
The past few months have been full of new teaching experiences and brought many ideas for next year’s courses.
For the very first time I have led an art retreat abroad, between the golden coloured wheat hills of Le Lac, a beautiful property in the south of France. Welcomed by wonderful hosts and surrounded by eager students, I found great pleasure in sharing my knowledge about plein air painting and throwing myself in the unknown challenge of painting wheat fields, a subject I never dared to tackle before.
The location offered much inspiration as there were many charming views. Those who weren’t much into wheat could turn their backs to the golden landscape and focus on the romantic country house, which was adorned with roses, red spur flowers and lavender bushes. Some people chose to render the curvy path leading uphill to the main house, between ancient oak trees.
There even was a student who chose to paint a glimpse on the swimming pool, adding a modern touch to the art produce of that week.
I look back on a successful art holiday and I hope to lead many more in the future (actually I might already have an inspiring new location for next spring).

My husband, son and I left France to travel even more south, getting on the boat to Sardinia, where I hadn’t been since 2019. We were quite unfortunate with the weather the first week, since it was extremely hot and humid, making it impossible for us to get out but in the early mornings and evenings. Still, we have been able to enjoy some coolness in the mountains. I have many good memories of the times I went to Monti Mannu as a child, where me and my brother would play between the rocks of the mountain brook. I was delighted to see my own son enjoying it as well as he carefully climbed from one rock to the other, shrieking of excitement as he saw the water splashing and constantly looking for stones to throw in the stream.

Impression of the painting holiday in France.

Painting at Portu Bandia, Sardinia

Summer courses
Back home we had but a short time to settle in our usual rhythm again, for the busy weeks of the summer courses were soon there. This year the lessons were held in my own garden instead of a big location elsewhere. Fortunately the snails had left lots of plants untouched during my absence and the garden had grown into an abundance of colours and textures. I never had so much fun organizing the summer workshops, cooking in my own kitchen, decorating the plates and serving them at my own table, having my own artworks hanging on the wall as an example for my students. It’s decided: the summer courses will be held at my home next year as well!

Wanting to change
When the quiet was restored my mind went restless. I had spent so many weeks doing administrative tasks and teaching, I really needed to take a break and relax. Instead I was aching to start sketching, painting and writing again and somehow I just couldn’t do so.

Birthday parties, other appointments, the weather being tropically hot and my energy being low (because, let’s face it, I’m only two months away from giving birth)… when would I ever be able to do something about my tragically boring portfolio?

‘What?!’ may some of you gasp.
Yes, that’s how I’ve been feeling lately: like a failure. Or at least partly so. It’s not that I think all my work is bad, it’s just that I want to change and every time I try I fail, loosing precious time.
I don’t regret my painting journey and where it got me, but I need to discover I new path. Painting from life has taught me many skills these years, mixing colours like a pro being one of them. Learning that has not been a waste of time, but it is nevertheless discouraging to browse through my art produce and realize I am no longer satisfied about it.
What I would like to learn is working from life in order to create a new world. A more suggestive and poetic version of reality, not just an explicit rendition of it. Does it sound vague? How I’ll ever manage to achieve my goal is still a mystery to me, but I’m going to try. 
Ever since I left the academy I worked in a structured way, always using the same materials and following the same steps. I was happy, because I was perfecting my skills and making the technique my own.
At first I often got stuck in certain steps, but after a while I jumped from one step to the other without being aware of them, letting the paint flow automatically. But the structure was and is always there. And fortunately so, because it helped me not only in mastering a certain level of plein air painting, but also in becoming a good teacher.

However, we often stick to what we know, don’t we? It feels safe and if feels like we have everything under control, when really we control only one little part of all the artistic techniques we could choose from. I’m guilty of doing exactly that.
Although I have been exploring different subjects, combining observation and imagination and trying to paint big on large canvases, I always stuck to my initial structure. 

Two years ago I discovered the magical effect of combining watercolours with pastels in imaginative illustrations for the nursery. These works have led to the making of my first picture book, which is still in progress. I have been considering this project as something completely different than my oil paintings. A thing to amuse myself with, a hobby and certainly not real art. 

Fear of change
How silly of me! I should have recognized that making these watercolours and exploring a new medium gave me much more joy than painting in oils from life. Not because oils suddenly don’t interest me any more or because working from life is boring, but because I set myself boundaries I don’t need any more. I have been ready to experiment with oils for a very long time, but I was scared to. I still am.
Scared of all the rubbish I will probably make along the journey of change. Scared of what people may think of my work, think of me, when they don’t get what they’re used to. But most of all I’m scared of the feeling of guilt I get when I don’t produce something worth selling. Would my art business become a hobby? Would I not be able to put any bread on the table?
Should I have chosen another path instead of being an artist?

Serious worries, as you can see.
I hate having to worry so, especially now that I would like to fully enjoy the last two months of my pregnancy and mentally prepare myself for the newest addition to our little family.

Can any of you relate to my artistic struggles? Please let me know how you deal with them and leave a comment!

See you next time,

Anna Maria

Impression of the summer courses

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