In my Element 3

So, “In my Element 3” suggests that we’ve already been somewhere with this in the past and of course you’re right! As you might suppose there was an In my Element part 1 and part 2 before, celebrating my realisation that the world for me turns not on the very pleasant salary I received from my corporate exploits, but the satisfaction gained from working “in my element” on things that I enjoy, with people that I like and on things that can really make a difference to other people.

They were followed by a fabulous and insightful “Firestorm” post from my first guest blogger, the inspirational Lee of Elevatedby who shared his very personal experiences of being in his element and what motivates him to do what he does as a creative.

[Those embedded links will take you back if you didn’t visit, read and digest them before or just want to refresh your memory – I’m told they were quite a good read, though my friends are too shy to comment publicly to that effect].

So with my commitment to keep up with regular blog posts…ok, so sometimes real life creeps in and gives your virtual life a sideways nudge every once in a while, a sneaky extra week has gone by almost without notice, but I’m back here…well after midnight, with my blog. The rest of the world has already gone to bed for another night and all is quiet apart from the gentle whirr of my mind as it reflects on the last few weeks and the quiet tapping of my nails on my keyboard.

It’s been a strange few weeks, taken up mainly with my efforts on a large private commission I’m working on. That’s proving to be a challenge and a delight in almost equal measure. Working on a 5ft X 5ft 2in canvas is physically very demanding (I hadn’t really thought about that) and I have been reintroduced to muscles in my neck and shoulders I had long ago forgotten! I am reminded though that some of my friends face this every day and that for me this pain is at least only temporary and likely to disappear within a couple of days of delivering the finished item ti its new owner in due course. I am also reminded of how lucky I am to be doing this and enjoying the quality of sleep that comes from physical tiredness rather than the stress-driven headaches and mental tiredness of a couple of years ago! I wouldn’t swap this for the world right now!

I say taken up mainly by those efforts because there are other things going on and developing behind the scenes. In recent weeks I have had excited exchanges with and watched some of my new friends and business contacts growing slowly but surely with a new found confidence. A couple of them are seizing exciting new opportunities that will help them to create growing businesses and brighter and better futures for themselves than they might have expected only a short time ago, and I watch with respect and admiration and a sense that I would like to find a way to do more.

And you’re point is Karen?

Well, the thing is, although I continue to feel inspired by these people (they know who they are) I am equally frustrated by a sense that somehow things shouldn’t have to be quite so hard! It strikes me that no matter how hard some people try and how willing they are to give their all in pursuit of a self-supported, happy and fulfilling life, something just isn’t quite right with way things work. You see, I’m working with and talking to people who don’t necessarily fit the stereotypes of mainstream life and employment. At the same time I’m talking about people who are supremely capable so of course they don’t easily fit the templates requirements of public/institutionalised support systems either.

I’m talking about the people who fall between the gaps because they’re not necessarily viewed as employable, despite having a degree or other qualifications, yet can successfully set and and run their own businesses, (“after all who else would employ me?”). People who have been told “your needs just aren’t quite bad enough to warrant our support…”, people left to pick their way through the ad hoc and crazy paved provision of our “Big Society”, driven by the vagaries of a myriad competitive funding options.

In a creative sense I’m talking about creatively gifted people who don’t quite meet the expectations of “high art” galleries, not having studied art to degree level. Indeed, some have not studied any subjects to what is perceived to be an “acceptable” level due to the impacts of their learning difficulties, dyslexia, attendance at “special school” because of physical disability or long-standing physical and mental health problems. All these circumstances can make it difficult to understand what mainstream support might be available and certainly create a barrier to tapping into provision that can help create your own opportunities. Raising finance for a small business start up is almost impossible in these circumstances.

With all this in mind I have been exploring a few options and opportunities in recent weeks and feel inspired to continue to do so over the coming months. In the meantime I would be really interested to hear from anyone with any constructive ideas on raising funding or sponsorship or who has already set up an inclusive creative enterprise on any partially funded basis.

Why bother?

There are some very talented people out there who overcome the most tremendous adversity to achieve their creative goals, or some days just can’t quite manage to find the extra strength to have to fight and do things the hard way. With a great deal of effort but without complaint many do the things you or I might do on a daily basis without having to give it a moments thought, (whilst moaning about aching neck and shoulders in my case) or in some cases just give up the fight… strikes me there’s something just not right about that!

Next time:

Lee of Elevatedby will be back to share another episode of his inspirational story as a creative photographer.


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Help I missed earlier stories (open in a new window): Part 1 | Part 2 | Firestorm |


Diary of a large acrylic painting – Part 4

Step 9 – My Excitement is mounting as I reach for my wider colour palette from amongst my box of tricks. The moment I have been waiting for…it’s time to bring Salvatore to life!

How to tempt a good looking Italian chef into the kitchen I wonder, a light Valpolicella or a cheeky Chiantio Classico? Surely a couple of bottles of red will coax him out and for the sake of artistic integrity (research is always important) I just know I will have to test at least one of the bottles from the still life I have set up in my studio to help with my composition. Oh dear, I need to paint a glass of wine…it seems that time is now!

Close up of Wine bottle, glass and tomatoes

Salvatore’s cooking ingredients – good enough to eat!

It’s been a long time since I have sat and truly exercised my powers of observation, but the wine glasses in my large acrylic painting have quietly troubled me since I was asked “so, how do you paint something that’s see through?”

I hadn’t really thought about how I would tackle them until now, but as the saying goes “necessity is the mother of invention”, my response: paint what you see!


Step 10 – A good helping of flake white aded to my stay wet palette I’m ready for…

Close up of Salvatore chef  from the painting

“Salvatore” arrives – Cheers!

…a touch of Cadmium Red (light), followed by a little yellow ochre, (sip)

…gently darkened in places with a little burnt sienna

…a smidgeon of Alizirin Crimson…

…blues eyes or brown?

Decisions, decisions, let’s go hazel…

Well, hello there Salvatore!!

I don’t mind if I do…Cheers!

My very large acrylic painting is nearly finished – add olive oil, green and chilli peppers, large orange cat in top hat (yes, that does say “large orange cat in top hat”), signature and a frame and we’re ready to go. OK, so there’s some time involved, weeks in fact but…

Step 11 – Hang! Welcome to your new home Salvatore!

That used to be that “really big empty wall in our kitchen” – turned out quite nicely, judging by the smile on my face! You can check out this and other large acrylic paintings (and some smaller ones) in my KL Art Gallery

"Salvatore Cooks For..." Photograph of finished painting

“Salvatore Cooks For…” home at last

Diary of a large acrylic painting – Part 3

Step 7 – large acrylic painting taking shape and texture (and just a little colour?)

Ok, so the floor’s finished and I must now find a way to create the various shades and textures of black that appear in other areas of the kitchen.

“Salvatore, I’d like to introduce you to Glaze Medium and pearlescent paint, as well as the colours I’ll be adding to separate my blue black gloss-painted kitchen door from the fluorspar flecked charcoal grey black of the worktops and the metallic shiny black of the oven…..” (Yes, I have also developed the rather odd habit of talking to my painting throughout the course of my working day).

A bit experimental, but I’m using a pearlescent medium, combined with a very pale grey paint to under-paint the kitchen work tops and create the fluorspar flecks in the granite.

Salvatore painting with painted kitchen walls and worktops

“Salvatore’s” temporarily spotty kitchen worktops

These will disappear later as I overpaint with darker glazes and dance as they catch the light in the finished painting, but in the meantime it does look rather strange and I have to trust the experiment will work at the time of painting!

The kitchen cupboards prove easier to assemble than an Ikea flat pack and it’s quite nice to have laid some colour on the walls too!

Step 8 – My approach has worked even better than expected so far…

"Salvatore" receives his kitchen appliances

Salvatore takes delivery of his kitchen appliances

and I’m getting quite excited as I add more features to the room, including the appliances and a hint of colour behind the the frosted windows in the door.

The reflected light of the cooker hood is achieved with a dry brush technique over a glazed black wall.

Each completed piece of background brings me closer to the fun stuff in the foreground (why do I always feel like this like this when I’m painting?).

Salvatore is starting to adopt a slightly ivory attitude now too and I’ve reached the point where the picture now makes it’s own argument for the addition of at least a small amount of subtle colour so it’s time to call in my pals for another discussion about our colour palette…

Fortunately, my pals agree with me……..woohoo!!!! Now, where did I put those paints?

You can see the finished colours in all their glory in the KL Art Gallery.