• alexjgardner

firm reminder #1-stop your damn procrastinating

Food for thought from a studio tidy-up...

It was studio tidy-up time this week. Not the most fun thing to do but a necessary task nonetheless. It was long overdue to be honest, I'm not the best at keeping on top of these sorts of jobs, but I was losing sight of the carpet under the sea of lino chippings, the desks were buried under lino and paper off-cuts, and a wall of cardboard from past deliveries had accumulated making movement around the studio somewhat maze-like. So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

Boring as it may be doing the clean-up, it's at least an excuse to throw on some music (this week has largely been Pavrov Stellar and a bit of Smoove and Turrell - I need a good beat and happy vibes for cleaning) and let my mind wander. It's also on these occasions I rediscover all the supplies I've accumulated/horded, which inevitably leads to ideas for experiments and projects popping into my head. This clear-out was particularly fruitful in this regard, and so I've now got a long list of ideas to crack on with.

One of the things I'm a sucker for is pens. I have several drawers and boxes of pens of all varieties, from technical pens to markers to acrylic paint pens and calligraphy pens. All shapes and sizes, and that's not even counting the pencils and other drawing implements stashed around the studio. I love nice pens. I have a pen habit - I am a pen-aholic. Problem is, I have no faith in my analogue drawing skills. I am on a perpetual search for the perfect pen, the one that magically enables me to create beautiful typography, which of course doesn't exist. So the pretty pens I do have sit in their containers, forever waiting to be used.

Pauline, League of Gentlemen

What I'm GREAT at doing with the pens is re-organising their storage. Which is what nearly happened during this week's tidy up. I can spend an unhealthy amount of time re-catagorising them, and making sure they're all the right way up and straight in their little sections. I'm quite protective of them too. My lovely missus, Larry, (a League of Gentlemen fan) refers to the main storage as Pauline's Pen Drawer, and so a picture of Pauline adorns my notice board.

But this time I managed to resist the temptation to waste time re-organising them - instead I was able to recognise that this habitual tweaking and faffing is nothing but procrastination, born out of fear and self-doubt in my drawing ability. So instead I left the pens as they were, but kept them out in view, and once my tidying was finished began trying out some lettering.

Taking the step from idea to action is where I often come unstuck. The fear of not being able to achieve what I want, that the idea for a piece will always be better in my head than when I render it on paper is what holds me back. I make excuses, like 'I'd better not use that nice pen, I don't want to waste it on experiments", or "it's too hot/cold/light/dark to draw or paint today", or the classic "I'm not ready to try that, I need to watch another hundred Youtube videos of other people doing it instead". But really I'm just scared of failing. But the only real failure is to not try at all.

I filled sheets and sheets of paper with letters, trying out different styles, and you know what, most of it was rubbish. But instead of trying to mimic a particular style, I just started adapting my own handwriting. Just letting the lines and shapes emerge from my hand rather than force a particular form. Immediately the sketches got better. Not great, but better! I played with all the writing implements I had, and eventually came up with the design for the image above that I turned into a linoprint. It'll now go on my wall of reminders for the future. It's fast and dirty, which was is one of 'rules' for this blog, but it feels great to have produced something that is the beginning of a process of practice and refinement as I develop my skills. Hell, it feels excellent just to have been freely and playfully creative. So to keep my practice with the pens going I'll be making more 'reminders' like this, things that I can keep in plain sight to keep me on track, and to chart my progress as I develop my text-based work.

And what about all those other things I found during the clear-up, and all the offcuts of lino and paper etc? Well they're out ready for next week, when I can start experimenting with them. So watch this space...

Oh and one final note: The irony is that the lettering I like the most so far - the chunky, angular, lettering of 'PRETTY PENS' and 'UMPTEENTH' etc in the print - started out from a sketch done not with an expensive specialist arty pen, but from a worn-down JUMBO CRAYON from Morrison's Supermarket Kid's section. (I developed the letters further with a nice brush pen, but still, a sodding Jumbo Crayon. *sigh*)

Until next time,