On Reflection: taking stock and forging ‘new’ approaches

mixed media art art journal

The world has changed considerably since my last blog post a couple of weeks ago when I shared my new exhibition: About Ashton in the market hall Ashton-Under-Lyne. As we end our first week in lockdown in the U.K. every day seems to present some fresh unfamiliar challenges.  Whether around health, family, money, work-the list seems endless.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed and consumed by it.  But on reflection, taking stock and forging new approaches could be just what we need.

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My About Ashton Exhibition has started!

About Ashton

As of today, Tuesday 17th March 2020, my About Ashton exhibition is on show in the Market Hall, Ashton-Under-Lyne!!  You can read more about the venue in a previous blog here. After a few months putting this work together, it feels like a mixture of excitement, nerves and relief!  On a  practical note, it is likely that many fewer people will get to see it in person than we originally thought. This is because of the unprecedented times we are witnessing with Corvid19.  But I want people to be able to have a good look at it and hear what it’s all about. Even if they can’t get to the market hall.

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Breathing Space….Is that even a thing?!

Breathing space pembrokeshire

My selected word/phrase for the year is Breathing Space. This idea of a word or phrase for your year, was part of the Juiced up Best Art Year 2020 discussions. You can see my plans for 2020 in my January blog here.  Now, for those of you that know me, it will probably make you laugh out loud!!  Because, I’m not that good at this ‘taking a breather’ notion.  In fact, I’m really hopeless at it.  So, why choose Breathing space and what do I think it’s going to mean for me this year-both in my life and my art?

Breathing space pembrokeshire

The Cambridge dictionary defines Breathing space as:

‘A period of rest in order to increase strength or give you more time to think about what to do next’.  

Now with that definition, I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t want to take regular breathing space?  And it goes on, with some other related words: recharge then, (would you believe?): slob, moribund and dormancy.   The later, may of course be the reason why I am rubbish at this: I somehow give the notion a negative label.   I have somehow perceived it as ‘wasting time, and a lazy thing to do.  When I came up with the phrase for my 2020 word, I didn’t think about it, it just came into my head in a moment.  I think there is something important that I need to learn here about the value of recharging.  

Breathing Space (In life)

It is so easy, with the pace of life and everything 24/7, including social media, to forget to stop.  We are habitual creatures.  So once we establish a pattern, we tend to keep repeating it.  

breathing space Liz Ackerley Art

This weekend, for the first time this year, I didn’t spend Saturday working.  I went to a café, had a good chat, watched the world go by and went to the cinema.  But this breathing space didn’t come naturally.  If I am honest, the thought of doing this blog nudged me into doing some of that!  But I did it, and I felt better for it.  It somehow gave me space to think and to gain perspective on things.  When I go from one thing to another, always focusing on my endless list of tasks, I loose that perspective.  Anxiety and stress builds and I can’t see the wood for the trees!  Now when the weather improves it will more likely include going for walks, as well as reading a book, doing pilates, anything that breaks the cycle of work, even for a few hours.   From yesterday’s experience and other occasions, I am beginning to learn how much value this breathing space provides.  It makes me feel fresher, more able to deal with other pressures, and it restores me.  But breaking the cycle is hard.   I intend to incorporate breathing space time into my planner!! 

Breathing Space (In my art) 

This week, I have been following an excellent free online workshop called Art2Life.  It’s made me think about many things, in particular:

  • About the importance of contrasts in art (that’s essentially what the sessions have been about) and 
  • About whether to make my life even more busy by taking an intensive 12 week programme!

So what has this got to do with breathing space?  The contrasts idea is interesting.  So, in a busy life, we need  to contrast that with calm and quiet time (the opposite).  Similarly, in a painting, we can maximize the impact of the busy areas, by sitting next to quieter, calmer areas.  It makes perfect sense!

breathing space in a painting

Now, If I take this 12 week programme , I realize that my breathing space will be even more important.  So it’s not whether I am very busy that is the issue, it’s whether I balance that with some breathing space.  It must be possible for all of us to do that?

And as I type this, an email comes into my box from Etsy:  ‘Need a little breather…..’ Very topical!!  It’s a slow process, but I’m learning!  

How about you.  How do you ensure breathing space in your life?

A market hall exhibition: My About Ashton Series

These days there are all sorts of places for exhibiting art, outside of the traditional gallery. Pop up Galleries, Art Fairs, Open Studios, Pubs and cafes etc are all possibilities. But it’s not always easy to know what is going to work best for your work. There are definitely pros and cons, and often there appear to be positive and less positive experiences for any one of these! Therefore, I am taking the approach of keeping an open mind and just going with what feels right.

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Find Your Voice 2019: A review

CottonMill series Find your Voice 2019

Over the past 6 weeks I have taken part in a second on-line course called Find Your Voice (FYV) with Louise Fletcher. This is a follow on to the Find Your Joy (FYJ) course. You can read my review, including my results, from FYJ here. The purpose of this second course was to continue to focus on developing our own personal voices. But with an intention in mind and looking at 4 key painting principles: tone; composition; colour and mark making.

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My commissioned illustration projects for 2019: a review

Illustration project review 2019

I’ve delivered a wide variety of exciting commissioned illustration projects throughout 2019. These include: a number of building-related commercial pieces. A wedding in Cheshire. Several key reportage (visual journalism) illustration projects and a book cover! Although I have shared some of these projects in dedicated blogs, this blog is an overview of some of these illustration projects.

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My Reportage of Peterloo 2019: From The Crowd

Reportage Peterloo 2019 From The Crowd Liz Ackerley

Manchester Histories, in partnership with Manchester City Council, commissioned me to document From the Crowd in a series of Reportage of Peterloo 2019 illustrations. You can read more of my reportage work here. This Peterloo 2019 production is a musical theatre piece, co-produced with Walk The Plank and Brighter Sound and involving a large number of volunteers (Laurels). These volunteers then supported members of the public to deliver this impressive collaborative performance. In the words of the production’s Creative Director, Evie Manning (CommonWealth): ” From the crowd is a dialogue between 1819 and 2019. We’ll be remembering those that protested and lost their lives at Peterloo and those whose lives today are affected by different oppressions”

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My 2019 Studio workshops

This last week I took part in the oneweek100people challenge, promoted through the Urban sketchers social media sites. The idea is that you post your people sketches on line each day and try to hit 100 in the week. This is the first year I actually completed the task and it got me thinking about the importance of continued practice, continually learning and honing skills. This is important both to improve my own art but also to be a good teacher. In two weeks time I will be starting my own series of sketchbook sketching day workshops in my studio.

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