Here’s a little abstract doodling exercise that anyone can do.
Simply divide a page of your sketchbook up into four with masking tape. (Don’t use cello tape as it will tear the paper when you remove it.)
Next, take a pencil and randomly scribble around the four boxes. Then, do the same with a felt tip pen.
For the colour, I used a combination of oil and chalk pastels. (Mainly oil.) But you could use watercolour paint, acrylic, markers – whatever you feel like using. Just don’t try to think about it too much. Let your subconscious do the work.
Remember, this exercise is about the process of doing art as a mindfulness activity, not the result.
You don’t have to divide your page into four. Do as few or as many shapes as you want.
When you feel you’ve finished, gently peel off the masking tape and – Ta-daaahhh! Behold your masterpiece. Guaranteed to give you a little dopamine hit. (The pleasure/reward chemical in your brain.)
It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s extremely relaxing and gratifying.
Your finished work may not get hung in the Tate Modern, but that was never the objective in the first place. Doing art for its own sake and the mental wellbeing it brings was.
The exhibition is called ‘Stockport Together Again’ and was curated by Arc and Stockport Council to showcase the creativity of Stopfordians during lockdown.
The exhibition was opened on September 25th by Arc’s Artistic Director, Jacqui Wood and Stockport’s Lord Mayor, Adrian Nottingham. And runs until the 14th November. So, you still have a couple of weeks to get down and see it if you’re in our neck of the galaxy.
Whilst I have selfishly only included my own work in this post what really came across strongly about the work on show, was how bright, colourful and optimistic it was. Which was slightly surprising given the theme of the exhibition.
Each piece is 12″ x 12″ and done on the inside of a pizza box lid. (I ran out of canvas during lockdown.) Fortunately, I had elasticated pants for my expanding waistline. The frames are 16″ x 16″. They are done mainly in acrylic with some elements of soft pastel and collage.
The significance of the dates on this last one is they are the date my mother was born and the day that she died earlier this year. I think about her every day. The flower petals in the paint are from the arrangement on her coffin.
Anyway, these nine portraits represent some of the art I produced every day during lockdown.
Looks like I’m back on track for my quarterly review. Which is a bit tardy really, as I used to try to do a couple of blog posts a month. That’s the price of working in a hospital for a living, eh.
I still do art every day mind. (It’s a promise I made to myself a couple of years ago.) Now, when I say ‘art’, it can be doodling for 15 minutes, writing a piece of poetry or prose, taking photographs, or starting a painting.
And the reason I made myself that promise is because art is the thing I enjoy doing most. The key word there being ‘doing’. So I just concentrate on the process of doing art rather than the end result. Obviously, it’s nice when the end result turns out to be something you’re pleased with, but that isn’t the objective. The only point to it is to be lost in the process of doing something I love. I think they call it mindfulness nowadays.
Some people might achieve the same pleasure from meditating or gardening. For others, it might be walking in nature or reading. Whatever it is you love doing, try to make time for it – even for ten minutes, you’ll feel better for it.
Right then, what’s all that rambling got to do with these scribbles then? Well, I was getting ready for work one morning and I had about 15 minutes to spare, so I did a quick sketch with a felt tip pen. I then went over the lines with a paintbrush dipped in water so that the ink bled. And this is what came out. So I did a few more over the next few days and I was quite pleased with the process and the result. I appreciate they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But I don’t like tea anyway, so there. I prefer fresh coffee.
A common theme in these pictures (and a lot of my other work) is that the person who is the point of focus is reacting to something unseen that is out of the image and it is up to you the viewer to wonder what that might be.
The last one I did, (which is the one at the top on brown paper), took a little bit longer because I thought about it a bit more and used soft pastel as well as ink and water.
Top tip: the coarser the paper, the more the ink will bleed. If you’re doing it on fine paper it probably won’t bleed much and you’ll just have a soggy drawing.
I had meant to do a quarterly review of what I’ve been up to on the art front so far this year, but being a tad lackadaisical, it’s now become triannual instead.
That said, there’s absolutely no guarantee whatsoever that I’ll do another one in four months time. So, this could be a biannual triannual quarterly review. Or, an annual biannual … you get the picture.
Speaking of pictures … here are just a few paintings, collages and drawings I’ve done thus far in 2021.
I usually post my stuff more frequently on Instagram if you’d like to keep up to date and follow me on there @milligancroft
Hope you’ve enjoyed looking at some of my work.
The joy of making art is in the process of doing it rather than the end result. You just get lost in the moment of creating.
I wholeheartedly recommend it. Particularly for those struggling with mental health issues. But obviously, you’d don’t need to be mad as a box of frogs. You can just enjoy it for its own sake.
Remember, kids, Art is Medicine.
(And can be quite addictive.)
P.S. Why is it ‘mad as a box of frogs’ and not ‘mad as a box of cats’, or something?
I can’t imagine frogs being that unhappy in a box. They’d probably quite like the darkness.
A box of cats though, put enough of them in there and all hell would break loose. There’d be claws and fur everywhere.
I’ve been experimenting with collage recently. Not a medium I have much experience in. For some reason, the numbers 2121 have been popping into my consciousness quite frequently.
Those of you who believe it’s some sort of divine message might be able to enlighten me. Those of you who just think I have some form of apophenia may want to call me an ambulance.
Anyway, I decided to express these occurrences via the medium of collage. There are four in total, but the last one isn’t finished.
Next up is a series of abstract pieces which I have titled: From order comes chaos / from chaos comes order.
I won’t show them all, because I’ve done loads. The premise is – the universe can seem a bit of a chaotic place, what with stars exploding and imploding, nebulae forming solar systems, black holes Hoovering up everything in their vicinity, etc. And that’s before we get into meteors crashing into planets causing all sorts of tidying up to be done afterwards.
Yet, out of all of this seeming ‘chaos’ there is so much order, structure and geometry to the universe. Not to mention the structures that we humans impose on the world around us, whether for good, or ill. Ultimately, everything returns to the ‘disorder’ to be recycled again into something new.
Anywhoo, that’s what I think.
I like to sketch quite a bit. Portraits and still life mainly. Just for practice. (And for my own insecurity to prove to people I can actually draw.) Kind of.
So, there you have it. (My) 2020 in colour.
All of my artwork is for sale should you wish to terrify anyone this Christmas. Just message me for details.
It just remains for me to wish you a very happy Christmas, if you celebrate that sort of thing. And/or very happy holidays if you don’t.
I am planning three further ‘Reflections on Lockdown’ posts, which will then give a clearer picture as to the correlation between art and my mental health.
I guess the reason for all this preamble is that if we just looked at this post in isolation, you would be forgiven for thinking that my mental health has not improved at all! As a lot of this work has its roots in a style I developed over the past couple of years when I wasn’t very well mentally.
I have stuck with it, and developed it, not because I am unhappy, but because I like it! I find it very expressive.
Like I say, we can have a look at the bigger picture once I’ve posted everything I’ve been working on this year.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this instalment of ‘Reflections of Lockdown’.
If you’ve ever done it before you’ll know that you can get some really cosmic patterns. You’ll also know that you’ve probably got more leftover samples of the stuff than you can shake a big shaky thing at.
So … what to do with all those cosmic castoffs … I know, let’s make a collage.
Start by cutting out shapes from your marbling masterpiece that you want to use in your composition and glue them onto a piece of paper.
Next, sketch in the rest of the composition. Add a bit of a felt tip outline.
I filled in the background with chalk pastel, but you could easily use felt tip, watercolour paint, pencil crayon or coloured paper.
And there you have it – you’ve made art out of art.
There is one other thing…
And, it’s probably the best bit. But I didn’t realise that until it was too late. Instead of cutting the shapes out of your marbling sample willy-nilly like I did, cut them out in the same position that you’re going to stick them on your paper. That way, when you position them next to each other you get a sort of positive/negative effect.
Hindsight? Serendipity? Whatever.
If you haven’t done marbling before you can use off-cuts of old patterned wallpaper, pictures from magazines or gift wrap paper. Or even paint an abstract background and use that.
It’s one more thing to do until the schools reopen in September!
If you want loads more of art activities to do you can sign up to Arc’s free ‘Keeping us together‘ programme. They email you a different art activity every week. (Arc is a brilliant Arts charity based in Stockport.)
And remember, folks – Art is Medicine*!
*Do not swallow art like medicine. It might kill you.
**I am not a trained physician.
***’Art is medicine’ is only my opinion and not a scientific fact.