Been a bit of a challenge trying to work out a routine so that I can accomplish all my duties for my freelance practice while also taking time to be in studio and find something worth writing about for my blog.
My practice revolves around my meetup groups, London Art Museum Creatives, London Art & Culture Group and Art Peace Activists which are primarily weekend adventures as I need several days to manage the admin for these groups as well as the general admin of being an artist and this doesn't even touch on just being in studio and making art! But with my schedule up and running for February, I feel a bit more organised and ready to try to manage the artist side of my life and this blog!
While all this admin stuff has been going on, I've kept myself creative and though I don't currently have any active commissions at the moment, I've given myself projects to accomplish and to keep my skills up to date. One such project is an accordion sketchbook in which I'm creating a narrative all about a tree because I love patterns and trees! I'm not sure yet what will happen on the other side of these pages but for now my tree is "unfolding" to reveal more and more secrets in its branches.
My studio is also my bedroom and on one side of the room is a line of suitcases and containers with my art supplies because this is a temporary living situation which I'm really struggling with at the moment as I'm not used to living in such disorder for so long. This frustration is having an impact on my creative process. Though it would make sense for anyone else to go to a coffee shop to draw, it doesn't work well for me as I have all my supplies here in this room and often what I want to work with, would be too messy or smelly for a coffee shop so I feel like I've had my wings clipped and only fantasise that hopefully one day, I'll have simple freedoms again and be able to paint or sculpt without being so restricted.
I've got an idea for another miniature imaginative abode.......so I've been collecting oyster shells and unusual cardboard containers! More to follow on this idea later.....
Procrastinating doing admin earlier, found me sharpening and organising all of my pencils in my roll up which was rather satisfying!
Well, I've done all my admin for several days as well as this blog post, so I'm now going to repair some miniature dragon eggs which you can view later on my Instagram: @Mirmarnia & @Toothpickmuse
Stay tuned for next months post and thank you for taking an interest in my studio practice!
As always, if you simply love what I do and wish to support my practice then feel free to check out my shop on Inktale to purchase my artwork on products: inktale.com/franceska-mccullough
Material Monday: Miniature Imagination
Though my blog posts took a long break, my studio practice has kept going steadily as creating is equal to circulating my blood in my life as an artist.
So I'd like to share my experience experimenting and creating using the cheap materials from Tiger which sells very cheap art materials in price and in quality! I've been experimenting with the structure paste in my miniatures because I learned quite by accident that it creates a nice foamy water result:
So this Structure paste cost less than a few pounds and was quick to dry too so now I'm curious what else they have to offer and how I can use their products to further enhance my ongoing progress on my miniature.
The miniature in the above left photo is something I've been working on for over a year now and can't seem to stop as there's always an idea that changes it somehow. It started out as the container to some coconut sugar and then developed into a half timbered house with hidden glass bottles where light can be streamed to charge the phosphorescent interior while also revealing little hidden rooms that I feel give the impression of just recently being vacated by someone tiny hiding in the shadows.
To follow the progress of this miniature and other works, 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional please follow me on instagram: @Mirmarnia
Stay tuned for another Material Monday blog post in the next two weeks.
My Material Monday post is quite late today.......lots of activities going on and not really any time to create much anymore. So I'm writing this after a day of much needed studio time where I've been hidden in the magic of creating miniature tidal pools in oyster shells which I think is becoming an obsession. More to come later on this Oyster Shell project!
It's also a challenge as I loathe deep dark water and instinctively avoid anything to do with going near great bodies of water - the Thames river being the closest to me here in London. But of course my desire to create is stronger than my fear of water which is an interesting and perplexing conundrum so I've been engaging myself in a series of water challenges to hopefully get over this unnatural fear of dark water - one of which is to go onto the Thames foreshore with a group of others which is fascinating as history and archaeology in particular wows me and it's also a chance to find more oyster shells which then seem to fuel my ongoing miniature tidal pools project.
Today I've cleaned, painted and saturated the oyster shells I collected from my last visit with The London Cultureseekers and now of course I need more!
On the other side of things, I joined this same group yesterday to a visit to a fascinating museum in south London which was a fun day out and also an attempt to forget that it was Father's Day. I failed completely to forget it as everything was advertising it everywhere I went but it was nice to meet other people and next time I've got to be more sociable rather than stuck in my own thoughts. I love my dad and hope I talk to him one day soon but yes, Father's Day is a challenge every year.
Short blog post for today but hopefully more later in the week!
Traditional Drawing in an Hour & a Half
For my Material Monday post, I'm sharing with you my Traditional Drawing class I teach every other Friday evening at the Victoria & Albert Museum to members of my Meetup group, London Art Museum Creatives.
I've been teaching drawing for over twenty years and my techniques have only evolved slightly since I attended art school long ago. In recent years, I've perfected this technique to just an hour and a half and each time I'm wowed by my students and how they respond to my methods. Most of my students come to me as complete beginners - often they're able to relate how they were never taught to draw or were put down as children when in art classes which I find unfortunate. There are also some who are convinced their skills are the worst yet and that they haven't got a creative bone in their body - this I see as a real challenge as I fully believe that I can teach anyone to draw in an hour and a half.
It's my belief that it is not the student who cannot draw, but the original teacher who couldn't teach. As a teacher myself, it is my responsibility to learn how I can adapt my skills to help each individual student because no student learns exactly like another so I have to be flexible and adapt to all needs.
In these classes, I try to "dislodge" my students with a series of exercises that force them to hold the pencil in a different way which gives their shoulders movement and limits perfectionism in the beginning of the drawing. I then need to observe how they perceive their subject matter and translate it to paper - seeing how their brains work this way, gives me the key to help them progress and then follows a series of more "dislodging" exercises that get their instincts flowing and loosens up everything.
I really enjoy this dislodging process because it's almost like a window into the brain of the individual. It gives me so much information about how they observe and understand and map out the way they view this world. I love how everyone shows their style right in those first moments!
So then from these exercises, I'm then able to rebuild their creative observation brains using geometry, mindfulness and spatial exploration and then this is where most of my students begin to start to actually "see" which is very exciting.
I call these types of final drawings, "Lost in Space" drawings, because you can't wander too far from your starting point or you put yourself at risk of wandering too far into open space and getting lost in proportion and perspective.
The above image is from my recent Friday evening Traditional Drawing class at the Victoria & Albert Museum which I enjoy very much as everyone is always so talented and keen to learn new techniques and most have never been taught to draw before!
I have a system with this meetup class in that I charge just £10 for the first class and then only £1 for anyone who wants to repeat. I love seeing the progression of returning students and how much those returning students really inspire the newer members! After teaching this class, I'm always in a rush to get home because I simply can't wait to draw and then end up spending several hours working on my drawings because my students inspired me so much!
My meetup group, London Art Museum Creatives is a place where I'm trying very hard to share with everyone interested what it is like to be a painter or an illustrator or a sculptor by trying those practices out in a friendly setting, while then going back to the art museums to really look at the artwork of famous artists and then have a clearer understanding of how much work it took to create a piece. It's like putting yourself in the shoes of the artists and getting a feel for what their lives must have been like. I find this fascinating as it ties into my fascination with history and I think it's the best way to properly understand artists who came before us.
So if you're keen to join any of my event's please visit: London Art Museum Creatives for more.
If you'd like to sign up for Traditional Drawing Classes please sign up here.
*For more Material Monday posts please stay tuned next Monday for some creative challenges!
Thank you for reading my blog!
Daily Drawing & Challenges
The above image is a shot of my overcrowded work space in my bedroom/art studio where I crave organisation but only achieve it in small pockets of my life while perpetually bombarded by chaos that seems to follow me everywhere!
The only thing I'm really capable of staying focused on is creating a daily routine to allow time to create.....not with the intention to sell but because creating something is equal to circulating my blood and a necessary daily activity for survival.
So after walking an unexpected eleven miles today, I've decided to post this Material Monday blog post a day early so I can attempt to be organised tomorrow instead! (insert hysterical laughter here)
In my daily creativity, I try to set aside a few hours each day to draw, sculpt or paint. Recently, I've been focused on pencil studies of the Michelangelo sculptures from the Cast Courts at the Victoria & Albert Museum but some days that kind of heavy duty drawing is difficult to get into......so I have to play around with doodling and generally being silly to get the juices flowing such as the video below:
Tonight my warmup doodling just enhanced my exhaustion from a very long walk earlier so this warm up hasn't lead to a proper studio session but hopefully tomorrow will be the day to get back on track.
If only I could be as organised with everything else as I am with my studio practice!
The pencil sketch above is an ongoing project and this portion above represents roughly 3 hours of work though I often think it doesn't look like any time at all! I've yet to learn how to draw faster - still a work in progress either way.
My method for these longer pencil studies is to capture a photo when in the gallery while I'm starting to map out the drawing. I usually spend about four or five hours drawing in the gallery itself because I feel like it's easier to understand perspective and proportions and the light while there. It's when I'm home that I refer to the photograph I took to continue the drawing. The only issue being that I'm aware how flat drawing from a photo can be so I'm always eager to bring myself and my ongoing drawing back to the gallery to study from the sculpture in person.
I'm giving myself a month or so to properly explore this sculpture and others but I'm completely focused on Michelangelo for now.
I like to give myself challenges to keep things interesting in my life as well as in my studio practice, so I've challenged myself to work on 43 faces of Michelangelo from the Cast Courts and because I'm writing this here, I feel like this will keep me accountable to some degree! I have to finish this challenge by early October so it feels rather daunting at the moment since we're just now into June!
Of all the challenges I've given myself, I feel like this one could be the nicest but also the most difficult in terms of focus. I tend to back out when things get difficult, especially in art so hopefully this challenge will make me more disciplined! Fingers crossed.
To continue to follow up on my daily progress on this challenge and others, please follow me on instagram at: @Mirmarnia
Thank you for reading and stay tuned next Monday for something completely different and hopefully oyster related!
Rejuvenating Studio Day!
What a relief it is to paint for eight hours after six full days of meetup events. I love socialising and enjoy meetup very much especially having become an organiser of my own events and as a member of other fun organisers events but wow a day in studio just for myself is like a deep breath on a clear day!
I attempted to ignore all communications and now I've stopped painting, I've discovered roughly 47 notifications and messages from my meetup members all asking various questions most of which can be resolved by reading event details but oh well, I'm glad to have so many eager members!
In my current studio work, I've been attempting to refine my painting skills especially in decorative botanical painting because I believe it could help me find work if I perfected my skills. So my plan is to try to push myself to paint at least six hours every day which hopefully will give me a sharper eye for colour, detail and composition. I've never been a fan of landscape painting but I've evolved as a painter from what I was in my twenties to how I am now in my forties so I think this is the natural progression of my craft. I definitely feel I have a ways to go before I'm even remotely acceptable as a decorative painter so lots of practice is key.
Another project I've begun this last week has been the introduction of an online shop here on my website which uses dropshipping via Printful as a source of merchandise which my artwork is printed on. So far my attempts to share this with my friends on social media has resulted in lots of friends "liking" but not buying anything which is infuriating! I've bought a bag for myself so I can potentially help promote myself by carrying it around so fingers crossed!
Back to painting.....next up is a butterfly then after I've done this dutiful colour study, I thought it would be a good reward to do a few hours model making as its been ages.
Any daily updates please follow my instagram accounts here:
Stay tuned later in the week for an artist blog post about John Singer Sargent and my recent talk about him in the Tate Britain museum last week as well as next Monday for another Material Monday blog post which is just an update of my studio day.
To visit my shop please click here.
Thank you for reading my blog and please like and comment. I never get any likes or comments apart from my own so I'm at the moment convinced no one reads my posts aside from wayward internet travellers. Interaction would be greatly appreciated!
It's been a challenge trying to find time to get in studio this last week with such a full schedule but I took Sunday off to do something creative because I was really craving it. Using the little broken pieces of clay pipes I found on a recent visit with the Culture Seekers to the Thames foreshore, I've experimented by drawing some of my own designs and a few Anglo-Saxon designs on them. It's my hope to reconstruct all the pieces into full length pipes that probably will have a quirky flare to them.
To follow the progress of this project do follow my instagram account for updates: @toothpickmuse
In other studio news, I'm working on a series of hyperrealistic paintings of fruit and veg slices, partially to sharpen my own skills as well as have a bit of fun and because I need a challenge so to follow along with my progress on these please follow my illustration account on instagram for regular updates: @mirmarnia
In completely different news about my blog, I'm adapting my artist interviews posts to be an extension of talks I'm offering with my meetup group, London Art Museum Creatives so if you would like to attend these talks then please join my meetup group here in London or follow this blog and stay tuned to the Artist Talks: An Artist's Perspective posted monthly.
And yet even more different news, I'm back to job searching as I would love to get out of poverty at some point in my life! The talks and classes I'm offering through my meetup are a great idea but would be so much more wonderful if more than 2 people signed up as I currently don't make enough to even buy food on a weekly basis. So in reality, it's fun organising meetup and making new friends, but wow that fee they charge is diabolical when buying basic groceries is a challenge! After five years of being unemployed and trying everything I can think of to earn money and still not making it, I feel like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel for new ideas. And I'll tell you, finding motivation to keep creating in studio is a huge challenge, especially when everything I make never sells no matter what I do.
I suppose this is just not a good time to be an artist. I'd give anything to have a job and regular income. So if someone out there reads these words, lives in London and knows somewhere that's hiring for an art related person like me then get in touch! I'm learning that it's not how many applications you put in that will net a good job, but who you know who will speak up for you.....and no one I know seems to have any connections so it's like I've got one foot nailed to the floor and I'm going around and around and around and never moving forward.
Meanwhile last week I met the enthusiastic and inspiring granddaughter of Eva Schloss and then later on Eva herself which was so incredible and gave me such a boost of inspiration that I've been cheerful in everything I do. What an amazing family and how lucky I am to have met both Eva and her granddaughter whom I hope to collaborate with very soon! So now maybe this inspiration will fuel my job searching and bring me more success and hope. It's all about perspective, isn't it?
I just have to learn what positive things come from being unemployed for five years.....
Tide Pools in Oyster Shells
I've been creating miniature tide pools inside oyster shells which has been fun, smelly and time consuming! Two examples here from my project of clear resin filled oyster shells with blue ink and iridescent pearl, silver and gold paint.
I began by submerging the shells in distilled white vinegar which was quite an interesting science experiment and made the entire flat smell like smelly feet......an unexpected eye watering treat!
I used a lot of sandpaper as well as a metal engraver to get down to the original pearly surface of the shells. I'm thinking that the next oyster shells I work on should be glow in the dark and painted in patterns.....so I'm looking forward to collecting more oyster shells!
I've got a selection of old broken clay pipes also from the same Thames foreshore visit previously mentioned in last weeks post, in which I'm now planning to draw with black ink. Apparently there's another artist out there who makes them into jewelry which is interesting but not really my thing. So illustrating them and then sculpting with them seems to be the next course of events.
What do you think of my two oyster shells shared here?
As mentioned in previous posts, my blog schedule is changing as I'm trying to accommodate a career adjustment back into freelance mode so these #MaterialMondays will be a weekly event and cover whatever I'm currently working on in my studio while I'll still interview other artists but only on a monthly basis as well as I'll be writing about the latest art exhibitions I've been to every other Thursday of the month.
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To read weekly about my studio practice projects please stay tuned for more every Monday at 9am UK time.
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Dragon Eggs & River Monsters
In studio lately, I've been fixated on dragon eggs and have begun to create my own little miniature scene of multicoloured dragon eggs in what I hope will be a phosphorescent den that I'm going to insert into a miniature I've been working on for the last few years. These eggs are made from assorted Fimo clay and are entirely of my imagination.
See below a detail of part of the miniature I've been building. I don't think the eggs will go in that space but perhaps in a dark exterior somewhere.
Meanwhile, aside from making miniatures, I've been drawing in the Victoria & Albert Museum and it's been a bit of a struggle this last week as my interest in model making has taken over. This week too, I received a rejection email from the Royal Drawing School who have for whatever reason decided that my drawing abilities are not good enough for their graduate programme.
(I should point out that I'm not unfamiliar with rejections because I receive hundreds a month from either job applications or art opportunities, but enough is enough. I wanted a boost out of poverty and struggle and the Royal Drawing School would have offered the boost I needed but never mind.....moving on)
So this last week, I've decided to ditch my five year long pointless job search and return to being a freelance artist instead which just means no days off, lots of work and hopefully more income than the last time I tried to live like this! Previously, I worked as a freelance artist from the late 1990's to 2014 but having struggled with the instability of the work, I broke away to try to find a steady job because I was longing for financial stability but apparently that isn't going to happen so it's back to freelance. Joy. I'm hopeful that this time around, it's easier because I'm that much wiser! (insert sarcasm here!)
Being a freelance artist feels like I'm walking a plank over sharks or something and each time I take a step, I've got to build the plank ahead of me in order to survive as an artist. Here's hoping I don't fall in!
So I've been actively involved in attending meetup groups and even organising my own events all of course related in some way to my own art practice. I've also given myself a challenge for the Cast Courts at the Victoria & Albert Museum as I feel like my drawing ability has been knocked down a notch from that rejection so I'm going to revamp my technique and try to crank out some well worked drawings while just focusing on the sculptures by Michelangelo.
Below, an image taken the other day in the Cast Courts. I've got to now work on compositions that are interesting and not typical so that I can push myself in drawing.
And lastly below this an image of some of the items discovered along the Thames foreshore when I joined an event lead by the London Cultureseekers, a group on Meetup. It was an interesting day listening to what the archaeologist had to say and show, as well as discovering for myself all the fascinating finds along the shoreline and then conversing with other members about previous discoveries they've made. As suggested by the London Cultureseekers organiser Robert, I'm trying to find ways to make these finds into some sort of art project so I'll hopefully update with this project in the coming weeks.
This blog title, River Monsters, referring to my ridiculous fear of deep dark water and the only monsters spotted during this event were in my imagination, thankfully!
I must say, it was absolutely fascinating and I'll definitely do it again, with hopefully a more knowledgeable eye and less jumpiness to the churning dark river!
If you're keen to follow me and my ongoing art projects then please stay tuned each Monday at 9am UK time for more #MaterialMondays.
If you simply cannot wait till next Monday then quickly step over to my 4 instagram accounts where I update my art projects daily:
To check out my meetup group then please go to: London Art Museum Creatives
If you're interested in archaeology and other cultural events in London then check out my friend, Robert's meetup group: London Cultureseekers
Material Monday: Polymer Clay
I've been enjoying exploring the many ways to create using Polymer Clay and as you can see from the above photo, I created a little bowl.
I'm enjoying the many many ways in which to make canes with all variety of patterns and colours and the delight when you slice through the cane to see what kind of pattern has been created! I'm not following any specific pattern but am just playing with ideas for now.
I have many things to perfect and still make quite a lot of mistakes some of which have lead to accidental beauty such as this bowl! I'm using it as a ring dish for my jewelry which is now helping to organise my bedside table!
I'd like to explore unconventional experiments and make little pieces of furniture for containing the multiple ingredients for my miniatures and will update my instagram accounts as much as possible with these discoveries so do follow my four instagram profiles for more if you'd like to follow this process:
@Mirmarnia, @Toothpickmuse, @Draco_Ganymede, and @11MillionHands
*To follow Material posts stay tuned every Monday 9am UK time for more.
My name is Franceska McCullough and I'm the owner and artist of Toothpickmoon. Here I will share my studio practice in all it's forms.
*Disclosure: The links I'm using on this blog will only ever relate to the products I myself use in my own practice.