Find Your Space.

Brick Lane.JPG

Brick Lane.

Notes after a recent break in London.

The importance of getting out of your bubble, to travel, even if not very far.

Slow down time.

Break up your routine.

Open your mind.

Put things in perspective and be reminded that there is a whole world out there, made up of lots of individual lives with different paths, ideas, and dreams, by all sorts of different people.

I was strongly reminded of this when I went to London for a few days at the end of April, it was busy, but it was a good busy, I was away from all my usual ‘stuff’ and I let myself get lost in a book, which I never usually make time to do (fyi the book is amazing, even if a little twisted!, and is by a Scottish writer, – ‘Fallow’ by Daniel Shand), I saw an array of friends, I walked down lots of streets, went to galleries, and generally just wandered, like time was endless, even if only for a few days.

One highlight was by far the David Hockney exhibition, it is on until May 29th, if you are able to get to London to see it, 1.Book 2. Go. I didn’t even necessarily consider myself a Hockney fan, but it seriously blew me away. There is almost nothing I like more than meandering through a big exhibition by myself and trying to absorb it all. I think this could be a whole other blog post, so all I will say for now is that it lit me up, it lit me up and it made me see everything differently. I felt different when I came out of the gallery and walked back to the tube station, I actually saw things differently. And, I even started sketching in my little sketchbook, trying to record this new way of seeing things, drawing things I would never usually think to draw, or ever want to.

Hockney Postcards

 Postcards from the Hockney exhibition

You don’t have to go to London to get this. You just have to do something different, go somewhere different, it doesn’t matter how far, change your routine, even a little, even for one day. Even if it just means walking to work a different way, or going for a morning run and seeing what that feels like, or start a new class, or change an old habit – like swapping tv for reading a book, or swapping time on your phone with time with real people, or spend time doing that thing you actually want to be doing with your life. Everything takes practice, and with that takes time. But imagine if you could even dedicate one hour a day to that thing, you would slowly become better and better at it. Or just stop, stop your crazy cycle of constant busyness, just stop, even for 5 minutes, to look around you, and actually look, to see who is there and what is there and take some time to actually think about that. Sometimes all it takes is to slow down to see things clearly.

Whatever you do, wherever you go, the key thing is that you do it with an open mind. Be ready for whatever new ideas and inspirations and insights will come your way.

I think creating this space, allowing yourself to be refreshed, in whatever way that means for you, is important for everyone, but probably even more so for creative people, we need to keep in the loop, stay open, be inspired and stay inspired. And sometimes, that is hard. Sometimes, we can become so caught up, so swept away by being busy, by being distracted and by running some sprint to try and achieve something in some record time. And I think when you try to step away from that, even just metaphorically, or even just for a short amount of time, to get enough distance to view it from afar, and to question it. To ask why you are doing what you are doing, and is it still how you want it to be? Or maybe you would be content earning a little less and having more time to roam, or to just be.

For this reason, and for your general mental and physical health, but mainly for you to be able to keep on keeping on, to keep coming up with great work, and new ideas, you need to give yourself some space. Space being everything that word can mean, in every context. Get away. Or maybe your getting away is closing in, shutting yourself off from the world, from the internet for a day. In your own little space.

Things are so different these days when it comes to creating work (and obviously in many other ways). We can instantly share something we have just created, or even share photos throughout the process. And this is amazing. But sometimes it can be detrimental, it can leave you placing too much importance on how many likes it gets on social media, it can undermine your hard work as it just floats on through the internet stream and becomes just another image (or blog post!) in the vast array of images. And actually, if we are talking visual art at least, you are allowing people to judge your work when they are, for the most part, viewing in on a tiny screen on their phone. I listened to a talk on http://99u.com/ (there are loads of great talks on there by the way!) recently, which was , in part, about Dr Dre’s headphones, ‘Beats’ and Dr Dre said he would spend years making a record for everyone to just listen to it on rubbish little white headphones that don’t play the sound any where close to what he intended. Which is where I drew the comparison of creating visual art work, for example a painting, which can never be truly appreciated through a digital screen, it just can’t. So I for one, will try to remember that, and take any social media, or general response online to any work I post, with a big pinch of salt and get some perspective about what that even means. And I will also endeavour to get my work seen, in person, by more people, around the world. Because that’s the way it should be viewed.

If you are passionate about something, hold it tight, protect it in a way that means your passion for it will never cease. At least some of it must stay close to your heart so it cannot be trampled on by people who don’t know, or who just don’t understand quite how precious it is to you. That is what you must protect. But also make sure you do, at times, open that up, just long enough to help other people try and understand how precious and important and beautiful a thing it is.

Or, in short:

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place” – Iain Thomas

Thank you again for reading, if means so much to me that you are.
Holly
x
http://www.hollysharpe.com

This talk (http://99u.com/videos/28133/sarah-lewis-creativity-solitude-go-hand-in-hand#comments) by Sarah Lewis also touches on this idea of creating that space in which you can work, physically, but also a metaphorical space.

“Much of modern creativity advice focuses on “getting your work out there” and networking with others. But great work often requires that we work in isolation.” – Sarah Lewis

Go Your Own Way.

 

img_3779‘Soar’

 

“Life is painful. It has thorns like the stem of a rose. Culture and art are the roses that bloom on the stem. The flower is yourself, your humanity. Art is the liberation of the humanity inside yourself” – Daisaku Ikeda

Things have happened in the political world this year that have genuinely shocked me. And no doubt plenty others. I don’t think anyone could have even predicted this even 10 years ago. They would probably think it was a joke. Because that’s what this started as, a big joke, and now it is real, it is so real. I think that’s why I am actually still feeling quite detached from it all, because it is hard to believe that it is actually real. Maybe if I lived in America it would be feeling a whole lot more real right now. But thankfully, I don’t. But even so, this is going to have an impact on me, on the UK, on the entire world. To me, this is what is so baffling about all of this. The entire world IS connected, in more ways that just economically. And yet, this mass wave of building boundaries, barriers, and borders is taking over. This hatred against other humans, this anger, it is breeding. We should be building bridges, not barriers, that is my intuitive feeling, that is what is in my heart, and also in my head. To me, that is logical. Again, there is so much I could go into on this topic. But I typed the title before I started writing this, because I want it to be about that, and not some long negative rant about what is wrong with the world. Instead, I want to talk about what I think is the only way to move on from here.

I am sure there are countless people I could quote here, on the value of keeping going, on the value of art, and of hope. But for now, here are a few to get the point going –

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope” – Barack Obama

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilisations heal.” – Toni Morrison

The title of this post, and in fact the whole idea I am attempting to explain, came to me when I was in the car this morning and listening to the song with the same title, loud. And it felt good, and it reminded me of a few things. With so many things in life, you can choose how you view them, you can choose your reaction to them, you can choose what you do about it and how you move forward. Some of which may take practice and working through negative habits, and tricks that your mind may play on you. But it is a choice. If you are feeling sad and depressed and you put on sad music, you are wallowing in it, dwelling in that dark place. That is not the solution, you must find the light, you must seek the light, you must cling on to the hope, you must keep going. If this is hard to start with, think of doing it for others rather than yourself, think of staying strong for them. If you don’t, all this noise, this chaos, will drown out the good, will dampen the hope and block out the light, and we cannot let that happen.

Get creative. I am of course biased, but I know I am not alone in the belief that art has a huge, and very real, place to play in all of this. Even more so than ever, at times like this, when many sci-fi stories are now becoming a reality, when so many people appear to have lost their way, this is the time. This is the time to immerse yourself in your own reality, to believe that anything you dream is possible, because when things are happening that no one believed could or would ever happen, when the boundaries between what is real and what is dreamt has been blurred, there is your evidence, there is your reason for propelling yourself even more so into something that drives you, something that feeds your soul and makes you come alive. Because if you come alive, everyone around you will start to feed of that positive energy as well. When there is less to lose, there is everything to gain. Let this be the time when everything has turned on it’s head and so you must turn everything you thought to be true on it’s head. What do you really want, what do you really believe. Let the answers to these questions be positive ones, and put them into action. Inspire and encourage everyone around you to do the same, to choose their own path and to question the path that has been dictated to them. You can do what you want to do, you can choose which way you want to go. And yes, things will happen that are out of your control, but that is not a reason to become despondent and give up, it is actually the opposite.

I hope that made some sort of sense. I typed that at a record speed because it is the only way to try and get my thoughts down and into something that makes some sort of sense before the thoughts seem to dissipate and I can’t remember what I thought, what I felt. So I am hoping I got there in time, I am hoping I managed to record the thoughts I had this morning, so that you can hopefully take something from them.

And if it didn’t, here’s some more quotes that might.

“ No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world” – Robin Williams

“Art is an attempt to compensate for some of the difficulties we have in human connection” – Alain de Botton

“The power of art can break the shackles that bind and divide human beings” – Daisaku Ikeda

If you liked this post you might also like this one which I wrote after Brexit, and this one, or maybe this one..

Thanks,

Holly  x.

If you liked the image at the start, ‘Soar’, it is avialable as a print HERE.

Twitter @hollysharpe

http://www.hollysharpe.com

Trust in YOU.

As per usual, it has been over a month since I last posted something on here. I have actually drafted a few posts, but some I am still working on, and others the timing doesn’t feel quite right, yet… I have had some intense creating time recently – which involved painting for long hours to create some new work for Breeze gallery here in Scotland. It had probably been a few months since I had painted that intensely, and it really felt like it was needed. It is such an amazing feeling to let something out that has been inside of you, and sometimes weighing you down, the whole process is quite cathartic. However, like with most creative things, and with most things that are worth doing, it also comes with some element of struggle. Struggle to not over think what you are doing, and why, trying to not question your work too much, and trying to come up against and cross this weird threshold that seems to hold you back from finishing anything at times. Thankfully I was under a nice amount of pressure – ie not too much, but it was still there – which meant I knew I had to finish them, rather than leaving them in this strange limbo where it’s as if by leaving them there you have some excuse as to why they ‘don’t work’. Maybe to some of you that made no sense at all, but I am hoping some of you creatives out there, from all creative disciplines, can relate to what I am talking about, even if I didn’t word it in the best way.

Since then, it now leaves me with a mass catch up operation. Yawn. This involves emails, making my new website (which has been ‘in progress’ for so long now it is starting to hurt >< ) , and the tedium that is photoshopping what feels like endless amounts of scans/ files so that they are ready for web/ printing. I have been wondering if I need to do a class in photoshop as it is quite possible there is a quicker way to do what I am doing… and I know I have a bad track record for inadvertently making things harder for myself. Anyway, my, longwinded, point is that because I haven’t been doing anything that creative for the last week or so, I am once again flooded, with a running commentary of words all jumbled up from everything I have thought/ learnt/ listened to / conversed about of late. It’s like I have too many to make any sense of. And they often hit me at times when I can’t actually put them down on paper, like when I am driving and listening to music, or if I am out for a walk by myself, or exercising, basically at times when my mind is allowed to wander. Which is a bit weird because I am by no means a writer, but I think perhaps because I don’t currently have a creative outlet whilst I am doing all the tedious stuff, that therefore I have to explode my creative stuff in some other way, and it has started to come out in words. Maybe because in some ways it is more instant, that’s what it feels like for me anyway, like I can off load a tonne of stuff quite quickly and it is like a weight has been lifted, or like a sense of having achieved something.

So I did start to write this to explain why I finally managed to unearth some sense and some direction to be able to hone in on a topic amongst all the other noise/ commentary in my head. And here it begins, the thing I actually sat down to write about(!) :

I came across this article the other day, an interview with none other than THE real life Erin Brockovich. Which many of you may know because of the film in 2000 where Julia Roberts played her. And if I am honest, is still one of my favourite films. It inspires me, and I love the whole idea of someone fighting against something that many would deem impossible/ insurmountable. (And even more so because the someone in this case is a woman!! *and I think women are amazing*) I also feel this is an apt moment to quote from another brilliant (!) film, also based on a true story, that I re-watched recently, ‘The Imitation Game’

“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine”.

The quote below however, was the main catapult to put my thoughts into words. Mainly because, upon reflection, this concept was the main thing I learnt for myself last year, 2015. There were a few instances with my work, and decisions I had to make/ risks I chose to take in relation to my work, but also in my personal life (needless to say there is a very grey line where one starts and the other ends) where it was pointed out to me, mainly by a few of my nearest and dearest friends that I need to believe in my own decisions more, and trust in them more. I was actually taken aback when it was first said to me, even the language I was using was almost like justifying a decision in some way. I hadn’t even realised this was something I did. It was like my default, to think that someone else always knows better than me. It was also one of my great yoga teachers that made a similar point, that with some of the biggest decisions in our lives, we often turn to someone else for help, he used the example of buying a house, we entrust the help of a solicitor etc – and pay them a lot of money to do so! Now, I am not sure it is even possible to sell or buy a property without that in the UK, but if you think about it, it is a bit crazy, especially when I know many people who are so frustrated by the incapabilities of their solicitors in these instances, missing details at the start and quite basic things which then hold up the whole process, and yet we still pay them thousands to do this for us.

Erin B quote

Of course I accept and acknowledge that sometimes someone else does know best, sometimes I need someone that has the experience, or expertise or knowledge that I simply don’t have, and I hope I will be humble enough to take their advice. However I also know I still need to practice, as I’m sure many others do, to listen to myself and look back on how well I have managed so far, in a lot of aspects in my life, and usually through my own decisions, and hard work etc. So why would I stop trusting that sometimes I do know best? I can’t help but think that we live in a society where it is commonplace to assume that you do not know best and to often pay someone else or look to someone else for the answer. Perhaps we wouldn’t have many of the problems we do if more people took charge of their lives and situations, and spoke up about certain things. Rather than think just because you are young, or old, or because you don’t have this or that, or you don’t have a certain qualification, does that mean your opinion, thoughts or ideas don’t matter?

One last quote, on that note, that I saw on Instagram, so not sure who even said it, but it made me laugh, and is also very true! :

“Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young to accomplish something.
A baby shark is still a fucking shark”

-Holly

x

http://www.hollysharpe.com
@hollysharpe

 

Q & A (part 2)

Flux - Holly Sharpe 72 dpi
Flux’, prints here

Finally got around to writing up another Q&A post! (See my first one here) Below are some questions I have received in emails from people, and of course my answers to them. Similar themes seem to come up, so thought it would be useful to share in the hope that they may be helpful to others reading this! If you have a specific question please leave in the comments below, or email – hollysharpe@live.com And I will get back to you as soon as I can, and possibly feature it in my next Q&A post.

_________________________________________________________________

Q. Can you tell me a bit about your background?

A. My background = Born in Edinburgh. Studied printed textiles at Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee- got a 1st. Went on to travel and then moved to London where I worked as a textile designer full time for a while. Realised it wasn’t for me, and spent all free hours trying to work on my own drawings and illustrations as well as promoting it as much as I could mainly via the internet.

Q. When/how did you find your own signature style and work method?

 A. Uh, I guess it has been an ongoing thing that continues to develop and change, whilst still retaining my ‘style’ which comes naturally for the most part. I think it started to take shape after lots of experience, practice and knowledge/ experience in different disciplines. 
Q.Where do you usually get your inspiration?

A. Everywhere. – I answered this in previous Q&A which you can read here.

 
Q. How does your day-to-day routine when working look like?
A. It varies, but for the most part I will be in my studio all day. I spend a lot more time on my computer doing less exciting admin – type stuff, which unfortunately seems to take up a chunk of time. I will also spend time packaging and posting sales made from my online shops. And then of course time to work on new work whether on or off my computer…
Depending on how my day has gone, I sometimes stay and work late in my studio or I will keep working at home. Although I never do this every night as I think it is very important to take time off and create space, physically and mentally from your work in order to stay creative. 

Q. Who are your favourite illustrators or artists?

 A. Oh, also made a blog post about some of my favourite artists/ illustrators here
And a couple more which aren’t on there because sadly they are no longer alive are : Egon Schiele, and Lucian Freud.

Q. You’ve worked on commissions for products like Derwent and Chloé in Marie Claire magazine, how did these commissions come about?

A. Those commissions all came about by them contacting me basically. I am not sure where each of them first found or heard about my work. I think for this reason it is important to put your work in a lot of places, whether that be online or offline as you never know who is going to see it and when. So therefore the more places you have it in, probably the better. I try to post my work and news on social media a lot and I think that has definitely helped get my name and my work out there. 

Q. I’ve noticed that there is a reoccurring theme within your work and most predominately the use of women. Is there any particular reason for this?

A. Not exactly no. I guess one piece leads to another and I like to explore something that worked. I have always liked drawing people, and for the most part find women nicer to draw – having said that I did draw a couple of men last year and hope to explore that some more this year.  

Q. Do you still take any classes, or partake in life drawing sessions. If not do you use models for the subjects within your work?

 A. I occasionally go to a life drawing class, but don’t have the time to go anywhere near as much as I would like to. I find it very relaxing and enjoyable and would much rather be able to draw from real life all the time, but unfortunately it isn’t always possible. I did do life drawing at uni a lot, this is definitely one of the best ways to enhance your drawing skills.  

Q. Are there any interesting projects you are currently working on or plans for the future?

 A. A few things in the pipeline, but still in the process of making plans etc so I guess you’ll have to wait and see 🙂 

Q. I’ve followed your work on Instagram & your website for a while now, but how else do you get your work into the public eye

A.  Yes I also use twitter:  https://twitter.com/hollysharpe
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HollySharpeDrawings
etsy: 
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/hollysharpe?ref=hdr_shop_menu
pinterest: 
http://www.pinterest.com/hollysharpe2012/
and my blog which I mentioned a few times. Apart from that I guess it is word of mouth, trying to get my work shown and  / or sold in different places etc. 

_____________________________________________________________

….I am currently in my third year at the University of Lincoln, studying Fashion Design. This year I am writing my dissertation which is based on fashion illustration. After finding your portfolio on Association of Illustrators, I loved your work and I would be very grateful if it was possible for you to answer a few questions that would help me with my research, and that I can also include in my dissertation.

Q. How would you describe your style of illustration?

A. I will try and answer these questions as best as I can, I have actually answered at least one of them in this interview here which might be helpful to you:

http://castlefoundations.com/2014/10/03/feature-friday-illustrator-holly-sharpe/

Q. What methods do you use to create your final illustration?

 

A. The methods I use to create a final illustration are – I always start with pencil, pen or paint and paper. Sometimes I will draw/ paint the main image and then scan it into the computer to play around with it, or add to it in photoshop. Other times I will just use pencil, ink and watercolour and keep it that way. And sometimes I will draw/ paint the main image and some other elements separately, then scan them all in and play around with composition etc in photoshop to bring together the final illustration. I hope that answers your question? I don’t really have a strict method which I stick to, but I think starting with paper and paint etc will, for me anyway, always produce a richer result, rather than doing it entirely digitally. 

Q. Do you read any fashion magazines? If so, do you believe that there are enough illustrations included throughout the magazine?

A. To be honest, not often at all no. Sometimes I browse the Sunday Times Style magazine if I am at my parents house. Other than that, I may occasionally buy something obscure that catches my eye, but unfortunately there aren’t that many shops that sell the smaller, less mainstream magazines that I would rather buy. The last time I bought Marie Claire, it’s because I had an illustration in it – which was exciting of course – but I don’t buy it regularly. Oh, so to answer your question, no there are no where near enough illustrations in them, and if there was more I would definitely buy them A LOT more often! I just think it becomes very stale when flicking through a hundred generic photographic adverts for Chanel, Gucci, Burberry etc, I pretty much glaze over at most of them now. They need illustrations to bring them to life again!  – don’t get me wrong I love some fashion photography, but there is so much of it these days that only some of it really stands out.

Q. Finally, what do you think the role of fashion illustration is today and how has it changed over the years?

A. The role of fashion illustration today…. not sure to be honest. I like to think it helps to capture the essence or feeling of something, rather than describing a specific item or object. I think a lot of fashion illustration has become an art piece in itself. And once it becomes art it is hard to define what role it actually plays? I think it has changed a lot in that it is probably a lot more broader these days, people are so creative and we now have a lot more tools to help enhance that. Whereas in the earlier times of fashion illustration it was there to fulfil quite a clear purpose to illustrate clothes, when there wasn’t any/ very many photographs about, whereas now it has to do something more than that.

____________________________________________________________

Q. ….
I started drawing and painting this year, and although I’m not aiming to break into the illustration field , I would love to improve my work.
 
I wanted to ask you about what brand of watercolour you use, I’m trying find the brand that works for me but I want vibrant colours and good pigments without  breaking the bank.. I had been thinking of giving Dr. Ph Martin’s watercolours a try but I see you use watercolour pans or tubes.. what are your thoughts?

A. I’m not sure what country you are emailing from as I haven’t actually heard of Dr. Ph Martin’s watercolours….?? I use Windsor and Newton. They have two types which they sell, one is either called ‘professional or artists’ watercolours, and that is the more expensive and much better quality out of the two types that they do. The other one is still good, but the pigments are a lot stronger in the artists’/professional one and seem to be less likely to fade etc. To be honest I actually haven’t tried that many other brands, I probably should test out some other ones to compare! The ones I buy are pretty expensive, but they do last a long time, and if you buy them as a pack, rather than individual colours it works out cheaper. 

Q. Another thing is that I’m very intimidated by beautiful paper.. If I set to draw on nice watercolour paper, I get so nervous I ruin it, while if I draw on the ipad or on scrap paper… I make actually pretty good stuff..

Any tips to get over this?

A. I totally understand why you feel like this sometimes, and I think a lot of people get this ‘blank canvas’ complex. If I’m drawing in a sketchbook I pretty much never draw on the first page, I always leave it blank, or I’ll stick a postcard or a picture/photograph by someone else that I like there. So I guess that’s my thing, too much pressure to make the first page amazing that I avoid it all together! When working on loose leaf paper however, I guess because I have done it so much now I am rarely afraid to ruin it. That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes ruin it, I am just a lot better at accepting that I spend a lot of money on paper, and that’s ok because it is now my ‘job’ so if some of it gets wasted because I messed up, it’s not the end of the world (and I do try to always recycle it!). I suppose the best ‘tips’ I could give you are 1. Maybe warm up/sketch on a scrap bit of paper first and 2. Practice, doing it more and getting used to working on nice paper will hopefully make it more ‘normal’ and not so different form working on a scrap piece. 3. try not to think so much about this pressure that you are putting on yourself – which itself may just come with practice – not everything you do is going to be great, everyone has bad days, and work that they hate or that just didn’t work, so don’t stress too much if it doesn’t work out. Another thing I would say, is that it’s ok if you do great work on scrap bits of paper or on your ipad, you can keep them too and it is just as much a piece of art as the ones you create on ‘nice’ paper. The scrap paper may even add something to the work, maybe you should embrace that way of working?

Q. And lastly, do you work from reference photos? I struggle a lot with proportion.. and yet as most people I’m very concerned about originality…I feel like a cheat when I use reference photos from magazines and such..

A. Yes I usually use photos for reference. I don’t like doing it either, but it is not practical or possible for me to always have a model to draw from. I know what you are saying about originality, but I am pretty much never trying to copy the photograph, I may even be looking at a few and combining elements I like from each and putting that together with my own ideas and sketches to create my own piece of work. The photographs are for reference only. I have been going to life drawing classes for years, and although I don’t go to them as much as I would like anymore, I still go when I can. This is by far the best way to practice proportions. It is thought that the human body is the hardest thing to draw – which is why architects often go to life classes to practice their drawing – so don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with it, it takes time and practice and a lot of times you may not get it right. Just remember to keep looking – your brain/eyes play tricks on you so it is just practice. It should start to come a lot more naturally with time.

 
 

A few words on determination and success….

Believe

Determination is sticking to your health/ fitness plan when you really don’t feel like it, it is getting out of your bed when you don’t want to, when it is cold and raining outside, and putting your trainers on and going for a run.

That was me last Tuesday morning. I actually surprised myself, I can be pretty driven and hard on myself, but other times I am too soft and with things like going for a run I make excuses, tell myself I need more sleep, don’t have time etc etc. But it hit me that morning when I was feeling pleased (smug maybe) with myself for making it out and was enjoying the fresh air and refreshing rain as I ran through it, it reminded me that this is your ‘edge’, these are the times that you need to push through, that make the pros stand out from the amateurs, the successes over the (I use this word tentatively) ‘failures’. They draw out those that will always excel in life, because they continued to show up, they kept trying, against the odds, against the stuff that tries to put up a wall against your dreams, they push through it.

Below are a few things, in my opinion, which help towards building determination, and ultimately leading to success in whatever way that means for you:

  • Music helps.
  • Exercise helps.
  • Building good mental habits and practising positivity every single day helps.
  • Meeting new inspiring people.
  • Trying new things and building your confidence.
  • Picking yourself up when things don’t go your way.
  • Fighting back.
  • Perseverance.
  • Belief.
  • Strength.
  • Writing down small steps towards bigger goals and sticking to them.
  • Being kind to yourself.
  • Being hard on yourself.
  • Faith in yourself.
  • Keeping going when others don’t.
  • Focusing on what IS working rather than dwelling on what isn’t/ didn’t.
  • Focus.
  • Drive.
  • (More) perseverance.
  • Integrity.
  • Passion.
  • Grit.
  • Doing it for the right reasons.
  • Straight up hard work.
  • Will power.

What is going to make you stand out from the crowd, and take it a step further to achieve the success that you want?

Hope you are feeling a little more motivated after this fairly brief post!
Holly x

http://www.hollysharpe.com
twitter: @hollysharpe

Channelling energy and emotions through art.

Weightless-final-for-web

‘Weightless’

“There’s such a fetish for happiness these days, it’s as if there’s no place left for being sad. But sadness, in the form of melancholy or even depression, can be a source of creativity. From Hamlet to TS Eliot, it’s the opposite of happiness that more often produces the finest lines” – Robert Rowland Smith

Since a number of people have commented on the fact that a lot of the girls I draw look sad… I thought I would try and offer something of an explanation as to why this might be.

Firstly, I like to think that there is much more depth to my work than sadness, there are layers and complexities, just as in human emotions. Secondly, not everyone may like to read any form of ‘explanation’, because after all it us ultimately up to the viewer, the observer of the work to determine what they see in any piece of art, in any painting, film, book etc, everyone has their unique interpretation of it. So with that in mind, the following is simply an attempt at an analysis of my own work, which I probably won’t do terribly well as that is the reason for creating visual art in the first place… (“If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint” – Edward Hopper) So if you like my work as it is and need no further words, but simply like it just because, then please don’t feel the need to keep reading, and also thank you for liking my work in the first place…

Everyone will, or probably already has, experienced deep pain, of the emotional variety I mean. The truth is, in my opinion, is that every human is so very fragile, even if they perhaps don’t admit it to the world, or even to themselves. The more I know of the world and of people, the more I believe this to be true, and I don’t think there are any exceptions. As we grow up we each adapt and learn different ways of coping with this affliction – or many simply don’t cope.

I am definitely not saying that I am solely expressing pain through my work, it is more that I use it to create work. I use pain, but I also use the array of thoughts, emotions, experiences, things out of my control and things that can never be answered, I use all of it. So when someone asks me what inspires me, it is quite tricky to answer, because yes, I am inspired by music, people, colour and nature, but the glue, the fire where this all accumulates and turns into work, is what is inside of me. I struggle to explain this in words properly as it is not as if I sit down and decide to dig up all these feelings etc inside of me, it is just a part of me, and my work is a part of me, whether that is conscious or not I’m not sure, but that is why, of course sometimes the girls in my drawings look sad, because sometimes I am sad, or have been sad. Perhaps that is putting it too simply, because when it happens, it often feels as if I am not even fully in control of it, it is like I have managed to tap into a source within me and sometimes it seems to explode all over the page I am drawing/ painting on. But sometimes I can’t even tap into it, it’s like it isn’t there.

The connection between emotions and creating art is of course not a new one, and should definitely be used to it’s full potential more. If we gave the creative arts even more credit in terms of helping people through stress, depression or ptsd for example, perhaps we could end this battle and stigma which surrounds mental health in the first place.

Alain de Botton, a philosopher I respect a lot (I have probably mentioned him in my blog before!), talks about this idea of art as therapy a lot. I have yet to read it, but here is a link to his book on such matters.

If you don’t feel like reading the book, here is a short video where he touches on the subject, and if you don’t feel like watching the video, here are a couple of my favourite quotes from him in the video:

On art : ‘Illuminating aspects of our deeper selves’

On the purpose of art: ‘To find an echo of our deepest and most complex sorrows …. To help us to live and to die’

Fade-FOR-WEB Almost - print 72 dpi

‘Fade’                                                              ‘Almost’

I have also heard him talk about a word ‘Sublimation’, which my translation of means to channel and use complex emotions within us and turn them into art whether that be visual art, writing, or of course music. He explains it better in his words here:

 “One of the unexpectedly important things that art can do for us is teach us how to suffer more successfully. … We can see a great deal of artistic achievement as “sublimated” sorrow on the part of the artist, and in turn, in its reception, on the part of the audience. The term sublimation derives from chemistry. It names the process by which a solid substance is directly transformed into a gas, without first becoming liquid. In art, sublimation refers to the psychological processes of transformation, in which base and unimpressive experiences are converted into something noble and fine — exactly what may happen when sorrow meets art.”

Perhaps there is a more specific word for what I am referring to. Whatever you want to call it, it is extremely powerful. It can propel you through the hardest times, it can force you to keep on working, keep on pushing, in a way these are the best times for creating your best work. When you get too comfortable and have no worries about life, relationships, or money matters, where is the drive? Where is the force keeping you aiming, striving.

I am a generally a positive person, and I try to find ways to maintain this – a balanced lifestyle, yoga, meditation etc. But in this troubled world, – which there is no denying is what it is, you don’t have to look very far to see so – there are always going to be days or weeks when you feel negative and struggle to stay motivated and upbeat. No one is happy all the time, and if they say they are they are either 1. Lying 2. In denial (i.e lying to themselves) or 3. Have managed to reach enlightenment (nirvana) and nothing bothers them anymore. If, you are like most people, and your day to day life is filled with ups and downs, if you have not yet found that something, or things, that help you channel this into something powerful, I encourage you to find out where and what it is. Once you can use this energy for something positive, it makes it a whole lot easier to pull yourself out of a negative space.

And on that note, I want to add that I feel extremely lucky to have this thing that I feel like I can always turn to, and that will always be there, I don’t think I will ever stop creating and that alone brings me great comfort.

Thanks again for reading,

Holly

http://www.hollysharpe.com

twitter: @hollysharpe

Shadows Limited Edtion FOR WEB
‘Shadows’

When your ideas exceed your time = creative dilemmas

too many ideas

I posted the above photo on my Instagram earlier and a lot of people commented on it saying they felt the same. The response to my sharing of this feeling, inspired me to write a blog post about it, because apparently that’s what I do now…

Sometimes I have so many ideas going on in this little head that I feel like my head is going to explode, or my brain, or my heart,… SOMETHING is going to explode. It can be so all –consuming, so overwhelming that I literally don’t know where to start. This is becoming a problem which often presents itself in one of the following two options;

1. I don’t know which idea to pursue, or proceed with, so I don’t start, I do nothing, I procrastinate, I tidy my studio, I reply to emails, I do yoga, I do anything but create and follow through with the idea/s. I am quite sure this is a common thing for creatives and has been written and talked about a lot (for example in ‘Turning Pro’, by Steven Pressfield, he talks about this amongst other things…), = resistance.

2. I start loads of different things, and don’t finish any of them, or finish some of them, and get all confused again because it seems to have no relevance to what I actually want to do, or to the ‘path’ I previously thought I was trying to take my work and career on. This happens a lot, and the trouble is knowing, and figuring out, and deciding, which ones to carry on with, which ones will I gain the most from, personally, for others, and financially (which unfortunately has to come into it on occasion)??

So, one of my ‘new years’ resolutions’, if you want to call it that, is to try and be more focused and try to not go off on tangents and get distracted as much… If I start an idea, I would like to decide fairly near the initial commencement of said idea whether or not it feels right, if I feel like I have enough fuel, and excitement for the idea to see it through. And if yes, I want to almost force myself to make sure I finish it. This is going to be a delicate balance, because if it is something creative we are talking about, rules and regulations don’t tend to mix well with it (not for me anyway). I think one solution, for me, is to create enough space from the work, I generally always have more than one project or commission that I am working on at any one time, and this can be a good thing, as when I feel a bit tired with one thing, I can work on something that I feel more excited about (sometimes this is not an option when deadlines are involved of course…) and therefore hopefully always keep things fresh. I think a good idea to make sure I can sustain my motivation to finish things, is to allow myself time here and there, to just off load ideas, to sketch, paint, write, whatever, with no plans, no pressure on the outcome or the success of whatever it is. This way, I can go back to focusing on the things I want to see to the end and finish, whilst having ‘side projects’ that don’t need to mean anything, or necessarily go anywhere, but I guess act as some sort of release. And if they turn into something more than that, I guess that can only be a bonus.

This focus and drive to see things through to the end, also means facing the fear of the idea/s failing, which I think is often an underlying reason for the aforementioned ‘resistance’ whether we are aware of it or not. And failing, or not being afraid to, is an all important aspect to staying creative. If something fails, this is a learning experience and it usually means you have pushed yourself, so, I would like to try and maintain my focus on the ideas I decide to follow through on, irregardless of whether or not there is a chance they will ‘fail’. Whatever ‘fail’ means anyway.

I would be really interested to hear any of your views or thoughts on whether or not you feel like this sometimes? And if so, do you have ways of channeling it or ‘coping’ with it? And any advice on how I should manage my own hectic head full of ideas would be very welcome!

Thanks for reading,

– Holly
x

Email: hollysharpe@live.com

Twitter: @hollysharpe

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Room for imagination = creating space to unleash your creativity.

Yoga sketch - Holly Sharpe
Recent drawing, idea I hope to explore this year, to somehow express my love of Yoga through my work. Pic from my Instagram.

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” – Henri Matisse

I know what I want to say here, but I have so many thoughts, ideas and words jumbled up and going around my head this morning, (well in reality, I have that most of the time, it’s just slightly muted sometimes, and it seems to switch off, or at least fade A LOT, when I am drawing = bliss) that it might take a bit longer for me to get it all out… hoping you’ll stick with me till the end though!

*Before I go any further, I want to stress, that all these words are my own, but I am not claiming to be discussing anything groundbreaking either, as most of it is an accumulation of things I have read, watched and listened to – and from their formed my own opinions on how I currently feel. I also want to say that this is how I feel, or think right now, it is not set in stone and maybe I will look back and cringe that I was ever so honest, but I’d like to draw your attention back to this first entry where I try to explain why I wanted to start this blog in the first place, and if nothing else it helps me put some of these nagging thoughts and musings in my head, into writing! *

What I want to try and talk about is the importance of creating space, physical and psychological space. I am usually directing my words at creative people, but in fact, I think more and more companies and intelligent people out there are realising that everyone can, and should be more creative. Just because you don’t draw or physically create stuff, does not mean you cannot or are not creative. In most jobs and in day to day lives, things would be improved a lot if creativity were encouraged more, if the option to fail was encouraged and therefore people would experiment and take risks a whole lot more, in theory… The problem is there is a lot wrong with, or to put it better, there is a lot of room for improvement, when it comes to the education system, in this country anyway, and my understanding of the US is similar. Sir Ken Robinson does a phenomenal TED TALK on this, ‘How schools kill creativity’ believe it or not it’s from 2006, he is extremely likeable, engaging, and speaks a whole lot of sense. It is hard not to become passionate about what he is saying.

Along with a lacking education system, we are now living in a society that never wants to give you a second to just be. A moment to reflect. With advertising, brands and general consumerism constantly being forced in your face, probably without you even realising it most of the time – at least in cities anyway. And technology meaning most people, in most modes of transport, queues (lines) for the till or a bus or whatever, are glued to this little rectangle that in many ways is the essence of how far we have come, and demonstrates what humans are capable of, smart phones are incredible, I am not denying that, but must they take over our lives, must they dictate what we do every time we have a spare second, or minute. I have read and listened to a few things this past week which talk about this obsession we now have with smart phones, which makes me think that there is going to be something of a revolution, or perhaps just a revelation, about how we are using our smart phones.

It is only since listening/ reading about people talking about this more recently that it seems to me that a lot of people don’t really daydream or let their thoughts be left without interruptions…? I feel like I have spent most of my life daydreaming and people watching, so I find this almost incomprehensible. I know that I don’t have the right balance either, as it probably isn’t healthy to be caught up in daydreaming so much either, but I still think it does wonders for your imagination, and therefore for your creativity and in developing your own intellect and ability to form your own ideas and opinions.

Since quite a few people have asked me how I stay inspired, it makes me wonder, do you ever just daydream? Do you ever just sit and be with your own thoughts. Do you ever go for a walk and not take your phone, and not feel the need to share it on facebook, or twitter or whatever. Do you? Maybe you do, and that’s great, you still have a grasp on living in the real 3 dimensional world and not the one that dampens your ability to think for yourself, to imagine, and to generate your own thoughts and opinions on something before something you have just scrolled through has changed your mood or your feelings towards it. The point is, we need to (in my opinion) channel stimulus from inside us to really grow creativity, rather than always relying on external stimulus. And if we don’t create space for this to happen naturally in the first place, then we may loose the ability altogether.

Another point on creating space, which I think is important for everyone, but possibly even more so for any one that is self employed and/or a creative. It can be all consuming ‘sailing your own ship’, as I seem to keep putting it recently. It is wonderful and exciting and extremely overwhelming and draining all at the same time to work for yourself. This is exactly why it is so important to take breaks, by that I mean lunch breaks, a break to go for a walk or an exercise class, but also longer breaks – a holiday! I know a lot of freelancers, and people that work for themselves only dream of this, but I honestly think that you will be more productive, proactive and focused if you force yourself to take a proper holiday. It doesn’t have to necessarily mean going away somewhere – although in an ideal world the further you can get from your normal everyday surroundings, the better – but just a proper break where you try not to think about your work, and definitely don’t do any work, no emails, nothing. Only by switching everything off – which is why I hope the whole mobile rant, along with the breaks thing have now tied in…. – can we really let out minds wander, be free, and work their magic.

Phew, another long one. If you’re still reading, thanks! Happy to hear your thoughts on the above, or on anything I have raised really.
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Email: hollysharpe@live.com

– Holly

Why not to compare yourself to others.

Ben Lomond
Me and Ben Lomond last year ^

Social media is a great thing in many ways, and I use it for my work a lot and it has helped me a lot. However, it also has a LOT of negatives. It is crazy how much time people spend wishing away their lives scrolling through Facebook etc. Aside from time wasting, the main issue I have with it, and have heard discussed here and there is the envy and jealousy it creates. Wishing you looked like someone else, wishing you lived somewhere else, wishing you had the fame or life of someone else. We, as humans, are naturally compelled to get carried away and indulge in these feelings of wanting and wishing. Which does nothing and doesn’t help anyone. What we need to remember, is that everyone’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc, is a tiny, tiny, edited version of their life or work. Everyone has ups and downs, rainy days and grumpy days, yet their social media profiles probably don’t represent this. As much as it is important to have aims and goals we want to get to, it is also crucial that we don’t spend our lives saying ‘when I have this’ or once I have done this, or live here, or have lost this weight or have this much money, I’ll be happy, and instead remember to pay attention to what we already have, rather than always looking forwards. Otherwise you might wake up one day and wonder where your life actually went.

And on a side note, it is always best to assume that Photoshop HAS been used on most celebrities/ models in most pictures you will see in most places, because it usually has.

I don’t know where I read this the other day, but it said, ‘Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle’. I think this puts it quite succinctly. It is completely futile to compare your ‘success’, your journey, or whatever, to someone else’s. Think about it, there have been so many points already throughout your life when one small decision affected a big change. So much is up to chance, hurdles you faced in your personal life that they didn’t, priorities you chose that they didn’t. Alain de Botton touches on this idea, and puts it across a whole lot better than I ever could in his extremely watchable (/listenable) TED Talk here.

My ideas on and behind this blog, and the majority of my posts on social media have a positive thread, or should do, throughout. This is intentional as this is how I want to come across, this is how I want to inspire and engage others, it is also how I want to be more of the time. (Having said this, a few people have pointed out that a lot of the girls in my illustrations looks sad, -blog post coming on that point soon.. – so maybe this counteracts all of this anyway…?) However, I wanted to share these words with you to make sure it is understood that my career, my situation is not always rosy. Perhaps it can comes across as if it is when I post about this commission or this break through or another ‘uplifting’ quote. But I wanted to make sure that people know I am human too, I have ups and downs like everyone else. Creating art is one of my coping mechanisms for sure. As is yoga, and people, of course. It is hard to remember that a lot of people that follow me and my work, don’t actually know me, or have never met me. So it is hard to know how people picture you if they only have written words and posted pictures to go by…

Anyway, point is, we are all only human, doing the best we can do and that is all we can do.

Thanks again for reading,
Holly

And if you would like to follow me on the aforementioned social media, here’s the links:
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr.

Motivation 2015.

words - find a way

Procrastination is not your friend. I am fairly well acquainted with it and I know there are very few occasions, if any, when it could be seen to be a positive. I remember years ago reading a fairly generic article where various woman shared their best one – liners of advice and the main one, well, the only one I remember is so simple, but for me, so perfect – ‘Just do it, then it’s done’. It just made me think, if I could just apply this to so many things in my life, I would surely be more productive and most likely less distracted. Like with all those little things that niggle at the back of your mind – phone this person, email someone else, fix this, buy that, do this, do that, go here etc etc Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure we all have them… don’t we?! I go through phases where I get better at applying this to my life. If I need to fix something or email someone, I try to do it straight away. It is amazing, if a tad pathetic, the relief and satisfaction I seem to feel after dealing with these small, but irritating things, that simply just need to be done. So, I am writing this for myself, as a reminder, as much as I am for anyone else that perhaps needs a little push. If you want to be more focused, productive, and generally achieve more in your day, week, month… tick off those little, but necessary things on your list first, get them out the way and then you will hopefully be more focused with less distractions at the back of your mind to get on with what you really want to be doing. This could, I suppose in it’s own way be seen as procrastination as I have read people advise that the best way to be productive is to tackle the hardest/ biggest thing on your to do list first, otherwise you just circle around it all day and find other things you could be doing first. Perhaps this is the best tactic, I’m sure different ways work for different people. But the main advice in both is to start, take action… like, now!

Continuing on this thread, after receiving another email earlier from someone asking how I came about a certain commission, or client or how I did this or that, it made me come back to something which really gets me excited and motivated and realise that it is something I want to do more of this year – I want to motivate you, I want to inspire you and I want to help more people see that they are not fulfilling their potential and that they are so much more capable of so many things if they only put their mind to it. The more I give out this sort of advice, the more I question it… perhaps I’m wrong and not everyone is capable of what I think, maybe I should be more careful when I tell people to quit the job they hate, and have done for years, to take to the road and travel with no particular aim but just because they had a strong urge to. Maybe not everyone is strong enough to deal with the aftermath, the struggle to then help your reality take shape. Or maybe not enough people have even tried? And that is why more people don’t. If you are surrounded by people who just accept things as the way they are, and think they have no choice in the matter, then it is less likely that you will question that in your own life. Without trying to waffle too much, once I get into this I could go on for a whiiiile, here are my main two points, I think.

1. Question everything.

Ok, maybe not everything, but ‘question most things’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. All I mean is, if there is something in your life that you are not happy with, don’t just accept that there is no other option, feel sorry for yourself and continue with it. Question it.

It really is my belief that most people have an option, everything in their life was and is a choice. Once you accept this, it gives you control back, it’s exciting! What would you change if you could? Well guess what, you can! I know some will think I have my head in the clouds, but the reason I am close to 100% sure of it now, is because I did it, I changed things I wanted to, and I try hard to keep changing things that I am not happy with now.

2. Action is key.

Whatever it is you want to do, whether it be loose weight and get into shape, learn a new language or quit your job and do your creative thing full time/ freelance, you need to do more than think and talk about it. Obvious yes, but it is in our blood to talk the talk and so many people convince themselves that they mean it and will get around to going to the gym, or eating healthy, or looking for a new job, but it seems much rarer that people actually take action and do something about it. Which we have all done, and the reason is that it takes effort, and confidence and courage. But it feels amazing when you even take one small step towards it. My advice, is start with one small thing. What tiny step can you take towards your goal? Do it. Then figure out the next small step… you should congratulate yourself after each small step, because it is a lot more than thinking and talking about it. For example, if your goal is : to loose weight/ be healthier. Don’t be unrealistic, start with something achievable like, no snacks between meals. Or no snacks every day apart from Friday. Then maybe your next step could be to eat more veg every day. Then maybe your next small step – after you have kept up the previous two for a little while – could be to do 15 mins of exercise every day, or take the stairs instead of the lift (elevator) everyday, or do sit ups every other morning.

Ok less about vegetables, but I hope you get my point, if you can apply that method to whatever it is that you want to do, it does make it seem more achievable and therefore you are more likely to stick to it longer than a week.

This may be stating the obvious but actually I think sometimes when things are written down, or said out loud, they all of a sudden become so much clearer and therefore easier to put into action.

I don’t believe that January is the only time to make changes and resolutions, but it is as good a time as any, so I hope this has helped some of you feel a little more motivated with your goals or resolutions!

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!
Holly
x