My partner, Sarah, and others speak highly of morning pages, a concept invented some years ago by creativity guru Julia Cameron. It involves producing a prescribed number of pages of stream-of-consciousness writing first thing every day. I’d often wondered if the same concept could be applied to drawing.
Last weekend I had a couple of clear hours to paint, and I was determined to finish another troublesome little oil painting that had been sitting on the easel for a couple of weeks. I decided to start by filling an A4 sheet of paper with morning pages style sketches (above). This differs from the usual loosening-up exercises in a number of ways: the drawings must come from the imagination (even if I did fall back on chilli peppers more than once!); the pen should keep moving – no over-refining or fine detail; there should be no attempt to produce ‘showable’ results (I wasn’t intending to include them here at that stage).
I found the exercise supremely liberating. It didn’t matter what I drew or how well I drew it: the only goal was to fill the page. At the end of it I felt in a creative frame of mind and my hand had been moving in a drawing way rather than, say, a making coffee way or tidying the weekend newspapers way. After a short piece of displacement activity (slapping gesso on a couple of panels in the garage) I was able to confront the nectarine painting without the usual period of self-doubt and indeed managed to finish it (apart from some minor adjustments, when it dries, to the shadow on the tablecloth):
Nectarine (15cms x 15cms oil on board 2015)
I’m sure it’s only a variation on practices that full-time artists use constantly, but I’m eager to try it again and also see if it works for those times when nothing goes right.