A Solitary Tree: Retro-Blog 2

The Retro-Blog: Looking back at the development of a successful creative project in 2006 and the lessons learned along the way.

Charcoal Tree.jpg
Delving into my old journals to find how I began with the Tree Series, I find myself (in Jan 2006) in Manchester – the city of my birth – noting in my journal that ‘I have been struck by the patterns of the denuded branches against the…white sky.

I had just visited an exhibition which had as its theme the use of white in painting, and so it seemed fitting that the sky, of all colours, should be white. I don’t think I had ever thought of it that way before. I suppose if you had asked me, I would have said it was grey.

I continue,

My one solitary drawing [whilst away] has been of a leafless tree done in charcoal. Tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain, we are going for a walk in the park and I will take some photos of the trees.
…If I could take some photos of the trees I would be satisfied and feel I had worked a bit after all, because, as I have said it has been what most has caught my attention ever since I have been in the UK this time. I suppose its because so few trees lose their leaves where we live now…They would be a great theme for a black and white piece.

I remember that we drove a lot that trip and that, on the way to visit a friend in Wales, I found myself completely captivated by the shapes the bare tree branches made against the sky. I was filled with a longing to record somehow them but, speeding along in the car, I couldn’t see a way to do so and I wasn’t yet confident enough in my own abilities to believe that I would later be able to summon what I had seen from my imagination.

It is evident, from what I write, that, in this period, this lack of confidence in myself has been seriously exacerbated by having – somewhat against my will – shown my work to a lot of people in a short time. Work, that for me, was still experimental and unformed:

I am still very troubled by all the commentaries on my work and and fearing of another from X…I think I will have to come right out and say that I don’t feel able to show her my work just now…or else I’ll suffer more commentaries. I know I really am too vulnerable [for this now] and it is damaging me because I am now not hearing my own voices when I try to work – or even think of working – but those of others…I feel like saying, “Look, all this you see is irrelevant because it tells you where I’ve been but not where I am going, for even I don’t know that yet.

Only a few months later did I come to read Eric Maisel’s book, Fearless Creating (ISBN 0-874477-805-0 Tarcher/Putnam) and discover that perhaps my troubled reaction to all this showing was neither unfounded nor unusual. He talks about what he calls, ‘impulsive showing’ whereby the creator shows the work,

‘impulsively, without preparing the work or preparing herself, without considering who the right audience might be or what she wants from the experience of showing…’.

Maisel considers this kind of showing a mistake, saying that it is necessary to consciously plan for showing; to sit down and decide to whom we want to show our work, why we want to show it and whether there is anything else the work needs before we do so. He further advises to think about what parts of the work we will show and what we want to gain from doing so. If we are looking for ‘meaningful feedback’, Maisel encourages us to look for a person who is ‘discerning, thoughtful, sympathetic to your worldview, respectful, good at global thinking and good at details, savvy about the marketplace, and on your side.’

Over time, I have gradually internalised Maisel’s advice and I have learnt to be much more cautious about showing my work, refusing to be brow-beaten into it and taking much more control about when and to whom I show. I have developed a network of trusted fellow artists who fulfill Maisel’s strict criteria – discovering that there are more of these individuals out there then I ever would have thought possible. Through their constructive support, I have learnt to take my artworks through the transition from umbilically-attached inner treasures to stand-alone worldly goods:-)

Meanwhile, back in Manchester the next day:

My mini-prayer was answered: the weather was fine and sunny and we were able to have our walk in the park. I took lots of tree photos and we had a happy time…I am so content to have done my photos though I don’t have a clue what I will do with them…



  1. You can read comments about this post at:


  2. name said

    Good day!,

  3. geebly said

    omg im so srry but my friend took credit for your drawing her name is mackenzie88@live.ca shes 10 omg im so mad at her now!
    she sad she drew it but she lost the drawing
    she posted it on msn as one of her drawings.

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