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C for Curiosity

Curiosity killed the cat, so they say but, for me, curiosity is a very positive word closely linked to another ‘c’ - creativity. defines curiosity as ‘the desire to learn or know about anything’ and the word brings to mind other phrases and words: eagerness, questioning, inquiring mind, interested, thirst for knowledge.

There is something playful about curiosity; think about the 3 year old and the endless ‘Why?’ As a grandpa to children of this age I am all too familiar with 10 impossible questions before breakfast!

I am a creative (and curious) person by nature, which is often the case for people diagnosed with dyslexia. I have also been diagnosed with Asperger’s. My curiosity extends to wanting to understand more about the creative endeavours of the artistically inclined among my friends and family. Let me begin with a conversation with my wife, Jacquie. I was curious to know more about her work as a watercolour artist.

Welcome, Jacquie, the most curious creative person I know. I would like you to explain your curiosity with your artistic endeavours, and how they have changed and developed over the last few years.

MARK: In your collection of paint brushes, I have noticed you have 4 paint brushes that contain their own water supply. You must have been curious to use them - how have you found them when you have used them? Will they replace other brushes or just be an addition to your previous collection of brushes?

JACQUIE: I was interested in the concept of a water-filled paint brush, as I guessed it would be a very useful tool when painting outdoors, or when taking a smaller kit on holiday with me. I have discovered that using them effectively needs practice. I think I have produced some reasonable results, but feel I need to experiment more so I can develop the skill to produce the results I am hoping for. In my small take-it-with-you painting kit, the water-filled brushes will be an addition to my small water-colour palette and set of brushes until such time as I feel I have mastered using them.

MARK: I also know that you have used watercolour pencils. What inspired you to try them and, as you don't seem to be using them a great deal at the moment, I am curious to know whether there is any reason for that?

JACQUIE: As a teenager I was interested in creative activities and, when I discovered watercolour pencils were available, I was fascinated by the concept. I asked my parents to buy some for me so I could try using them and experiment with the effects they could produce. In recent years, as I have started to learn to paint with watercolours, I have been encouraged to use watercolour pencils to draw an outline of the subject being painted, as when watercolour paint is added, the pencil blends in with the rest of the painting. Although you say I don't use them a great deal, that depends on the circumstances. When doing a painting, I only occasionally paint something that needs drawing first, but when out and about I have at times used my watercolour pencils to do some simple sketches rather than sitting down to produce a whole painting.

MARK: I am interested in learning about how and why you now also do sketchbooking alongside your normal watercolour creativity. I am curious to know what sparked this new interest?

JACQUIE:I had seen examples shared online (on Facebook, for example) of simple sketches, paintings and notes others had made in a booklet when out for the day, or simply to describe and illustrate something that interested them. Some of the examples they shared were beautiful and very creative. I was inspired by what I saw and loved the idea of having a go myself. I was delighted when one of the watercolour lessons I attended was all about sketchbooking. This explained more of the concept to me, and examples were given by the tutor who explained that she used sketchbooking to capture moments in time in pictures and words, so she could revisit those memories in future. She said that to her it was like an illustrated diary, and simplicity was the key - it didn't matter if a sketch/painting was "right" or "wrong" - the idea was to diarise an occasion, so the emotions it triggered could be revisited when looking back through the sketchbook in future. She said that the picture might simply be a small part of a bigger scene - something that captured her eye at the time. She encouraged us to draw in ink, then add colour later if we wished to. I have found the process of sketchbooking to be liberating. There is not always time to sit and produce a whole painting, but making a small sketch or painting along with a brief description can be done much more quickly. I now have a small collection of happy memories I can look back upon, and am thoroughly enjoying this new creative process. I will continue to paint watercolours of landscapes that inspire me, but have now added sketchbooking to my creative repertoire.

MARK: Creativity is not always a solitary activity. While I am able to express myself fluently in words, my severe dyslexia makes the written word a challenge. So, I have a friend who is an artist and writer who collaborates with me to produce this blog and, art being the stimulating topic that it is, we often bounce ideas around so the result includes some of her input also. She tells me it is very rewarding to be able to act as a conduit so I can express my ideas on paper. In my view this works extremely well as a balanced collaboration.

The BBC ‘Top Gear’ television programme has its anonymous ‘Stig’, and I therefore have ‘The Bibster’ as my anonymous ghostwriter to enrich this blog. Recently she told me about her curiosity about ‘glass fusion’ which had led her to participate in a workshop.

THE BIBSTER: ‘Fused glass (sometimes known as 'kiln-formed glass' or 'warm glass') is an artistic technique where clear and/or coloured glass is melted or fused together in a kiln to produce a huge range of art pieces, from jewellery to bowls, sculptures, panels and ornaments. Someone I knew had a glass kiln at home and it had been a form of art I had admired over the years, often when visiting craft fairs. When my friend suggested I might like to try glass fusing and my daughter decided she would pay for a workshop for my birthday, that initial curiosity led me to a happy morning ‘playing with glass’ in my friend’s bespoke shed. To be among swathes of different colours and possible designs was like being in a sweetshop. My hesitancy about being able to cut theglass cleanly was greatly helped by a patient teacher. By the end of the session I had created two coasters in yellow/grey/abstract patterned stripes, 2 glass Christmas trees to hang on the tree next year and two lustrous blue earrings. Furthermore the whole morning was deeply therapeutic! Would I do it again? Maybe - but materials (like so much at the moment) have risen in price so it will be practical considerations that will hold me back.’

MARK: There you have it - two artists whose willingness to follow their curiosity has stopped them from drifting into a creative rut.

Unlike the cat, being curious has much to offer when making art.

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