All artists are 'self taught' to a certain extent. No matter what training they may have had, progress is only made through constant study and practice.
There are arguments for and against a formal training in art. Some say that it can stunt the individual expression of the budding artist. Many never progress beyond the boundaries of technique and the safety of general approval. Others say that having a good grounding in basic skills can only help an artist to grow in any desired direction.
It can be difficult to break free from the do’s and don’ts, with or without a formal education. I studied Illustration for three years at college. The standard of drawing we were expected to produce was extremely high. I had always had a gift, so I really enjoyed honing my skills. When I left college I knew that I could realistically represent any subject. I didn’t want to be an illustrator though.
Years later, when my children were at school and I had time to myself, I found it very hard to draw with my previous confidence. I also wanted to express myself more, but had no idea how to do that. I began a journey of discovery, learning to use watercolour and acrylics and then moving into three- dimensional works as well.
In the prehistoric temples, for example, I often record every tiny hole, groove and mark in the stone very precisely. I may then do several black and white tonal studies, recording light and shadows. From there I will go on to watercolour, still working on site. I absorb feelings, impressions and anything else which seems relevant
From this I am sometimes led to semi or purely abstract works, occasionally going into 3 dimensional works in mixed media.
I know that my solid grounding in drawing gives me a basis to work from and a confidence in my approach. I have been teaching drawing skills and watercolour techniques in Malta for years now. I find that giving people enough basic knowledge and encouragement helps them to discover their own unique talent. I think those who approach art through abstraction and trying to ‘express themselves’ are impoverished as far as their potential is concerned. They often give up in frustration and follow another creative path. This is a shame, as learning to ‘see’ by learning how to draw can enrich all creativity on every level. Being able to capture reality accurately gives us a basis to extract from, and also a mine of information to expand on and explore.
"PAINTINGS BY JENI CARUANA"
I have saved quite a few trees by not sending out invitations or making printed flyers or posters. I am relying on this, my Blog, emails and Facebook posts to advertise my current exhibition. I do hope this works as I really think that these are some of the best paintings I have ever produced. I am exhibiting again at the 'La Vittoria' Band Club in Mellieha. It is a great venue, run by some great people dedicated to the local community. It is easy to find, as it is in front of the main parish church in Mellieha.
No parking problems either....
Do drop in and see me - it is open every evening from 5 - 9.30 pm and on Sundays from 10am - 9.30pm and I will be there.
It is only open until Sunday 18th May.
I have put a lot of work into this collection over the last year, and I really think I have taken my work a big step closer to where I would like it to go. I would love to share it with you.
Besides simplifying the exhibition title (I am so fed up with exhibitions with grandiose, meaningless titles) I have also named the paintings simply too..... perhaps it's my age, or perhaps just the stage I have reached. I don't want to mess around any more. The paintings are the important things - they should speak for themselves.
In his inaugural speech, Marquis Nicholas de Piro must have telepathically picked up on my thoughts, and said
"I do not think that artisitic inspiration should be explained too much – all I am interested in is how Jeni’s work might influence me, and its power to assume any impact on my emotional stability. I do not really want to hear her version of what might have moved her. Ringing in my ears are the words of an Oxford Don and poetry critic I once knew. He said “Some of the worst poetry ever written was created with the sincerest intentions”. This is important and reflects all of art from painting to sculpture to architecture to music. Creativity to become great, does need a little bit of sophistication, and even enough hypocrisy to challenge the intellect. Jeni is not dreaming; she knows what she is doing. I think so, anyway. Yes indeed there is some naive art which I like and esteem, but now, today, this evening we are considering Jeni Caruana and she is anxious to pass on the stimulus she continually receives, the inventive, spur and motivation she chases and admires – and then passes on to us.
What she sees in a rough staircase attached to a rustic wall leading on to nowhere, and how she handles her paints depicting this scene made me gasp with pleasure. In another picture, her carmine nude contrasting the softness of reality with the mockery of falsehood – oh how it worked for me; but I would not want to hear why she did it."
The exhibition is in aid of Hospice Malta,
who deserve our support for their wonderful work.
In collaboration with 'La Vittoria' Band Club. Wines provided by Monte Kristo Wine Estates
My exhibition opens on the 7th May and everything is ALMOST ready.... Last minute hiccups apart, it will be All Right On The Night. If you are able to, please come to the official launch on Wednesday evening (see details in my previous Blog below). Or pop in and see me one evening, as I will be there with the paintings almost every evening from 5 - 9.30pm. Contact me HERE if you want to make sure I'll be there.....
But now, back to Drawing!!
Many people are so hooked on the outcome of their drawings that they seem to stop themselves enjoying the actual practice of it. In normal ‘left-brained’ life this is usual; we don’t want to do things that seem to be wasting our time. But it is rather like expecting to run a marathon after the first week in the gym..... drawing well takes practice and discipline.
Tearing up and throwing away the ‘not good enough’ attempts in sheer frustration is understandable of course, but a shift in attitude is much more beneficial all round. By taking a more philosophical approach and keeping in mind that the journey is more important than the destination, much of the pressure can be released.
Ask yourself why you want to draw – it’s understandable that we want other people to look at our pictures and admire our efforts, but maybe we should ask why that is so important? I wonder if, because children’s drawings are so often treated with amusement and even criticism, we harbour a deep need for our work to be accepted and approved? Maybe, because our childish efforts at self-expression were so dismissed, we attach huge importance to our adult attempts and can be crushed by criticism all over again.
By loosening up your approach you will find that what are called ‘happy accidents’ – a surprise result that seems to happen all on its own – will be far more likely and really exciting when they do. We humans seem to learn much more from making mistakes than by repeating our small successes hoping to improve, so make BIG mistakes!! Make glorious, over-the-hill disasters and really learn what your materials and tools can or cannot do..... and what have you lost? A piece of paper! What have you gained? Experience, knowledge, an hour or two of absorbing fun, and a lot of ideas to use next time!
Your NEXT drawing is ALWAYS going to be better...... and the next one, and the next one......
You are cordially invited to attend the opening of the exhibition
Paintings by Jeni Caruana
Inaugurated by Marquis Nicholas De Piro
at 7.30pm on Wednesday 7th May 2014
at the ‘La Vittoria Band Club’
(in front of the Mellieħa Parish Church)
23, Misrah il-Parroċċa, Mellieħa
Please click here to see the collection of paintings I will be exhibiting
First of all - Happy Easter everyone! I hope that it has been a peaceful holiday surrounded by good company and plenty of chocolate!!
At the moment Malta is in full bursting bloom, with spring flowers seeming to grow as quickly and abundantly as they possibly can in every nook and cranny. The fields are green and overflowing with produce, tall with wheat and corn, clover and wild grasses, all dotted with bright red poppies and yellow 'Ingliza' (sorrel).
This year has inspired me just the same, and so - you have heard this here first! - I will be having an exhibition of recent paintings at the 'La Vittoria' Band Club (opposite the parish church) in Mellieha in May. It will open officially on May 7th at 7.30pm and I would love it if you could be there. I will be saving trees this year and not sending printed invitations at all, so please, just come if you can.
My classes continue, Friday mornings in the delightful (and flourishing) gardens of Villa Bologna in Attard, and the Saturday Morning Drawing Club in my studio in Manikata. Come and join in the fun!
After all the left and right brain theory about the opposing effects of logic and creativity (see my last blog post) have gone over your head :-), here is what I have concluded; that drawing is actually better if you can do it using no brain at all!!
This takes a bit of practice, because the only way to draw without processing is to have complete confidence in your technique and total disregard for the end result. It’s only paper, after all.
When I was at college I wanted to draw figures in contorted positions as part of a project I was doing. It was to be a mobile hanging and I needed them to have their arms and legs arranged so that I could cut out the figures and then hook them onto each other. My friends weren’t that accommodating (or flexible) ...... I came up with the idea of drawing moving figures very quickly, and then using them as the basis for my drawings. I had the brilliant idea of drawing footballers on the TV, and spent hours doing just that.
Along with the anatomy classes at college and my continuing love for working from live models, I now find that I can work really quickly as long as I manage to switch off and just let it happen. The trick is to watch the figure for a while until you have a feeling for the way they are moving – sometimes I really feel that I am dancing the flamenco, or playing the guitar (I can’t do either) – and so the drawing kind of comes from the inside out. Once I have that connection, I can take a mental snapshot and then draw it out before it fades, not looking back until I have finished.
I am very lucky to be allowed to draw and paint at all sorts of wonderful events and venues in Malta. Every year I set up my easel at the Malta Jazz Festival in mid-July and just paint non-stop for three evenings. I can also go along to the Malta Arts Festival dance, music and folk-singing shows. The weather is perfect for outdoor performances and the settings are spectacular.
Last week I was asked if I would like to paint a lovely performance “Mu-Danzas Boleras” at the prestigious Manoel Theatre in Valletta. Would I! I was given a box next to the stage – which I covered in plastic sheeting and had some real fun drawing with watercolour and ink.
I am asked sometimes why I don’t make life easier for myself and just draw from photographs – but where would the challenge or fun be in that? The end results might be more realistic perhaps, but they would not have the sense of movement and energy that I revel in. All I have to remember to do is disengage my brain (it’s getting easier with age) because otherwise I get in my own way and can’t draw a thing. And then afterwards I have to stop myself from trying to ‘correct’ them, as that tends to deflate them, and me, too.
I have to admit that sometimes I have a passing fit of nerves as I stand, brush in hand, thinking “you’ve done it again, set yourself up for a really public embarrassment”.
But I take a deep breath and remind myself of the Buddhist teaching “If you never get to know the nature of fear, you will never know fearlessness”
and Albert Einstein’s “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”
I love to paint - and draw - and help others to discover their creative side too.....
Be the first to see my latest work and hear of new classes by adding your email address below. Thank you!