Jan 2021: Simple Qualities of a Good Artist

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It’s January, it’s baltic outside and the UK has just gone into Lockdown for the third time since March.

I’m thinking about the year ahead, I’m thinking about how other artists are fairing during Covid & I’m thinking about the qualities of a good artist, the points that make you push through and keep going when things are tough.

For me that begins with planning, planning as best I can for a year with a lot of uncertainty.

Like most, January is always a time of planning. I’ve spent time thinking about painting ideas, how I want to paint this year while pulling thoughts from where I finished off in my 2020 studio practice. Mid last year I challenged myself to alter my palette which proved very successful in terms of how I grew as a painter.

Failure helps!

I learned a lot from doing this and if I’m honest perhaps I haven’t properly challenged my work in a couple of years. This is something I want to tune into more and see what it brings- a lot of failure most likely but I am a true believer in the magic of failing, it’s how you learn! I recently came across a great podcast called ‘How to Fail’ by @elizabday which is particularly inspirational for anyone who feels they need it.

framed abstract painting by Aisling Drennan
Adrift, 2020, oil paint and oil bar on gesso board, 38x38cm (Tray framed) £900

Painting Planning

Painting planning tends to come best for me when I’m just in my studio and tidying up or prepping stretchers for future work. It’s in between these tasks that I sit and simply doodle and see where my pencil, crayon, pastel or brush will take me.

These doodles are made in my visual diary which if you have been following my work for a while you will be aware of. They are a visual recording of all the initial stages of work- processes, thoughts, materials- anything that informs my paintings. They have been a constant in my painting practice since I began studying fine art and have emerged as a type of personal painting bible! When I get lost in my work I can refer back to what I was thinking when I began a project and re- guide myself, if that’s even a word?!

Organising materials & surfaces

Materials wise Gesso board became a big hit for me last year. Canvas has been my go-to surface for years but I was getting frustrated with not being able to achieve the smoothness of brushstroke I wanted. Gesso board, as a hard, primed, wooden surface allowed for the lush, sensual, smooth mark making I wanted. I spent a lot of time experimenting on gesso and I’m still learning but it’s proving perfect for what I need right now.

I love, love mixing oil paint and charcoal. It’s something I began doing after seeing work by Willem De Kooning @themuseumofmodernart a couple of years back. For some reason I kinda fell out of habit with this practice so I’m putting some time aside in the coming months to play with oil paint and charcoal- there’s just something really sumptuous about seeing the chalk-iness of charcoal dominating the oil-yness of paint- delicious!

blue abstract painting by Aisling Drennan, qualities of a good artist.
Vox, 2020, oil paint, oil bar and charcoal on primed fabriano, 36x45cm £700

Admittedly it is hard to plan out the year during this pandemic. Exhibitions, art fairs and open studio events that have rolled over since last year still carry an uncertainty about dates but I do believe in being proactive and at least having a guideline to think about. I’ve already finished some work this week that you can find here https://aislingdrennan.com/paintings/2021-2/ so that’s a start… Things will come back together (eventually!) and I’ll keep painting until then.

I am extremely lucky that my art studio in London @deltahousestudios has remained open. Having the creative collective of other artists nearby for a socially distanced chat definitely makes this time easier.

Hope you’re finding your way through this difficult time, Thanks for reading, Aisling x

Aisling Drennan is an award-winning abstract artist with a London, UK-based art studio.

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