feelings into art - a creative experiment

This month I decided to do an experiment. It was initially going to be something I explored on my own, but I decided on a whim to offer it to a wider audience, and it’s been really well received! Almost three hundred people signed up! I called it Express It Month, and the premise was to make something every day that expressed how I felt, as immediately and directly as I could. I wanted to see what kind of art I’d make if I was trying to express pure feeling rather than create a certain kind of painting.

I wrote 31 daily emails based on quotes I found relating to the subject {which were SO fun to write I’m now actively looking for other ways to get to do this!}, and they’ve had some very positive feedback.

I specifically didn’t want it to be a ‘challenge’ with prompts. As much as those are fun, I wanted to find a way to offer it with a more obviously relaxed vibe; no need to ‘keep up’, or make something every day, or even to complete the month. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it! Or find a way to do it that does! The whole point of it being an experiment meant that there were no rules about what it had to look like for anyone participating, and I hoped that the way I set it up would encourage people to feel relaxed about it.

Note! Express It Month is now available to begin any time inside the Happy Artist Studio!

CLICK HERE to get started!

Today I’m sharing some of my art from this project so far {I’ll share some of the other participants’ art in a future post}. It’s been interesting to track the process; significantly it’s shown me how often I put unconscious rules in that then need to be unpicked so I can proceed.

Express It Month Day 1

Day 1 and I’m full of beans and excited about having a project! It also happened to be a day of feeling awesome. I think that probably comes across. 🙂


Express It Month heart

A couple of days in and I want to express how my heart seems to carry all these different aspects – colour and light, soft parts, gauzy obscuring layers, languages I don’t always understand, smudges and jagged bits, but I feel ok about all that because it’s complete. I used an anatomical diagram of a heart and collaged, gessoed and oil pastelled over it.


Express It Month layers

The first day of realising that I feel like my emotions are layered and interwoven, and trying to express that with acrylic glazes and a palette knife. Fun but felt lacking in depth. Also discovered an unconscious rule that meant I felt I had to reinvent the wheel every day, when actually I’d rather be exploring one idea – layers, in this case. Yay for introspection.


Express It Month charcoal landscape

Continuing the idea of layers, and things are starting to look more like my ‘usual’ way of doing things. Charcoal, an inktense block and soft pastels, and a distinctly abstract landscapey feel. Am starting to see that where I’d thought a direct expression of my feelings would necessarily manifest as abstract, I am not actually an abstract artist and am much more interested in layered abstract landscapes as a metaphor for the inner landscape of emotions. Feeling very pleased to have uncovered this.


Express It Month abstract landscape

Trying out expressing current feelings as an imagined landscape – baseline of calm, a few squiggly thoughts and some constants. Played around with layered mark making for this one and LOVED the outcome. Favourite so far.


Express It Month abstract landscape

More layers, charcoal, soft pastels, inktense blocks and water. This one felt quite uncomfortable/ less connected while I was doing it, but offers some interesting marks. Pondering how much of a painting’s ‘rightness’ depends on me also liking it aesthetically.


Express It Month abstract landscape

It’s quite hard for me not to cover the whole page and use a lot of colour {or charcoal} and bold marks, but this does reflect the spacious, cruisey feeling of the day, when I wasn’t diving deep on anything and just resting a bit and playing with a few ideas.


Express It Month abstract landscape

A little awkward today, but maintaining the experiment mindset helped me try things without too much resistance.


Express It Month abstract

Almost abstract! Still very interested in the idea of layers and simultaneous paring back. Gesso is my best friend currently. I was very resistant on this one but actually liked how it turned out. Perseverance furthers, as the I Ching likes to say.


Express It Month abstract landscape

Was starting to get in a rut in the sketchbook so switched up to A2 paper. This was not going well almost the whole time and then suddenly it came together {thanks gesso}. By this point have removed all resistance to painting scapes as an expression of feelings.


Express It Month abstract landscape

Biggest resistance day so far. Had actually decided to not make any art and be ok with that and somehow ended up doing this painting on canvas! Very firmly and happily inside my comfort zone. Proof that letting go allows something else to happen. I’m seeing this one as a base from which to ‘upgrade’ the way I make my scapes. No idea what that means yet, but further experimenting is underway!

It’s proving to be wonderfully diverse and interesting to see how everyone approaches it. If you’re interested you can check out the #expressitmonth2016 hashtag on Instagram.

You can now join Express It Month any time inside the Happy Artist Studio! Like right now, even!

CLICK HERE to get started.