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Capturing Movement

Artwork of two fighting crows with feathers flying.  Titles are capturing movement, and

To capture movement art is something many of us artists aspire to do.

Attempting to make a two-dimensional painting (or sometimes 2.5D - I love my lumps and bumps) into something dynamic is not always easy.

When it works though, it brings vibrancy and energy to an artwork,  adding a spark of magic that wakes an artwork up and makes it dance before your eyes.

If we think about it, movement is THE key sign of life.   It’s what all our senses are on high alert to detect at all times, evolved as we are to respond to our environment and interact with the world around us.  

Movement is also characteristic of the elements at play, whether it’s the clouds drifting across the sky, the water racing around the fast bend of the river or the flicker of flames.  

These things are so fundamental to us it seems impossible to extract and scrutinise how movement itself impacts us, but we can certainly feel that power over us - just imagining our coffee cup slowly moving independently across the table or instead reflect on the strange wrongness of a wild creature sitting prostrate in the middle of our lawn.

artwork of a blue moving sky, with swathes of a deep surf blue mixed with white, in the centre of the image flies a jet black crow wings aloft.

Sky and Crow, Limited Edition Print

The art of performance, film, theatre, dance harnesses dynamics.  

Painting, like photography, is sometimes seen as capturing a scene or snapshot of life as if freezing it’s beauty forever - objects arranged are ‘Still life’ no less.

Often there is implied movement in the subject, for example, we know that the grass, clouds or the treetops might move in the breeze if we think about it, because these things do in real life, but some artists paint in a way that gives the impression that the grass is shifting, the clouds racing, the tree tops ruffling, showing us this aspect of a scene adds authenticity, the sense of weather and brings in the constant change that would be at play in a real scene.  These artists ‘unfreeze’ the scene, draw us in to inhabit it, add other levels of sense and experience to a picture.

Like many people I grew up reading comics and cartoons, and as a young teen I discovered anime, Manga, fantasy art and developed a love of beautiful book covers showing incredible, dramatic scenes.

I think this is where my love of a dynamic, heat of the action, artwork began, and although my art is often quite different in style, I still love these types of art and they continue to inspire me with their energy, excitement and storytelling.

A semi-abstract artwork of a rugby player making a break for it.  He is running head down, elbow high powering into the clear with victory on his mind.

Break, Limited Edition Rugby Fundraiser Print

If I had to give an unofficial guide to creating movement in art (I’ve had my own intuitive but varied art education) I’d probably give some tips on the following things…

1. Form

Choice of line, shape and composition, although obvious is so vital.  I often select the most dynamic options, and then see if I can make it any more dynamic, to add energy to my work.

2. Expression

It’s not just what you do, but how you do it.  Physical, fresh, instinctive mark making is expressed in the work as authentic, raw and honest reflections of the artist at work.  It comes across really powerfully and can be used as a tool to depict movement, energy and physicality in the work, I love this part of my painting now despite having been a much more detailed artist in the past.  If just for fun, give some expressive mark making a go and you’ll see what I mean.  

3.  Muscle

Muscles are the agents of movement, they create and react to it.  Studying human and animal muscle structure is a celebration of all things movement, and I could do it for days on end.  I study things moving, not just sitting down, I like to see what happens as they move, what shapes and interrelationships interest me.  I can really understand Masters like Leonardo Da Vinci becoming so obsessed with understanding anatomy for their art that they dissected cadavers.  The more you know the more fascinating it becomes.

4.  Air

Personally, I think it’s often underrated that air moves.  In lots of different directions.  I do love a bit of science and have looked in the past at air currents and thermals to help my work but even the smallest appreciation will add to the authenticity and energy of a work - no landscape is actually still, and any movement of a body or a thing, also moves the air.  

5. Cause and Effect

…which links nicely to cause and effect.  When we’re using a reference photo, painting from imagination or even outdoors en plein air it’s really helpful to think as well as to look (which much of our artistic life is structured around).  We have to use our imagination at times to predict what would be different about a scene if a fox had just walked through it, what would be the signs that there is a breeze in the air.  That cloud across the sun has cast shadows here, but in just a minute a hint of light will shine through here.  We make it more real by anticipating or accentuating the interrelationships between the subjects and the environment they are in is a great way to bring the experience of real life into paintings.

6. Time Bridges

My own term (thank you) linked to cause and effect, but this is about taking account of the past and future and artistically representing fragments of these alongside the present to help to portray movement.  Sounds a bit freaky, I know, but it’s quite simple in practice and really effective.  

Have you ever seen or heard of the first film ever made?  In 1878 Helios (or Eadweard Muybridge) released a series of photographs of a rider on a horse.  Sequential freeze-frames of ‘The Horse in Motion’ stands as a seminal event that took photography into the new world of filmmaking.  

Using a time bridge would be choosing a snapshot of the horse to paint, then using the previous slides and the following slides to see where the horses legs and body had been and was going to and adding flashes or indications to the painting you chose to give something of the actions that had been and/or are about to happen - voila.  Working really well alongside an expressive style, this is a great tool in the armoury for dynamic work. 

7.  Practice drawing moving things

This is the hard part, but it really helps you to connect with movement and sew all the things mentioned above naturally into your work.  Whether it’s sketching birds from your kitchen window, drawing sports players in your local park or working from life drawing classes where the model changes pose or moves around the room.  Become more confident and less tight with your mark making by trying to capture life on the go, the results are fun, haphazard but very exciting and will hugely improve the sense of movement in all your work.

Artwork shows a barn owl in flight in a soft grey blue sky.  The owl has white, soft blue and grey tones alongside light peach accents with a sharp black outline making the work semi-abstract and sharp through the softness.

The Owl hunts in Silence, Limited Edition Print

For me is movement, is vitality, and vitality is life.  

It’s so essential to the energy and engagement I’m looking for in my work that I try my best to celebrate it.  

I’m always looking for that spark of magic to get my art dancing off the canvas.


Cover image: Fighting Crows, Limited Edition Print - for more info contact me here.

Thanks so much for reading x

Check out my social media (IG, FB) for notice of my next post or keep in touch with all my latest news, chat and blog posts via my bi-monthly Art Journal here.

Diary of a Studio Day

Artist Lucia Hardy standing in her studio, containing frames, canvases and a painting of a crow in the sky.

6.30am:   I’m up and plodding downstairs quietly for my ‘coffee of tranquility’ the treasured time while everyone else is still asleep and I can think two things together without interruption.  I check through my Instagram and Facebook feeds, see how everyone’s doing, check my emails and the news.   I have a brief philosophical debate with myself about the state of the world and then read tittle-tattle about celebs for five minutes which cures me of any self-righteousness.

7am:  Today I’m doing a social media post and it’s going to be about the blue tits nesting in my garden, I go through some camera shots of the birds I’ve taken with some wildlife CCTV we set up.  I choose the best ones - I love the aerodynamics and the incredible the shapes they make manoeuvring at such high speeds.  I edit the ones I’ve chosen, then collage some together in my Photoshop Express app.  I spend some time writing the text for the post - probably too long, but I try to make decent content where I can, something I’d like to read myself.

Instagram post about blue tits nesting with pictures of blue tits diving in and out of the box in various aerodynamic manoeuvres.

…said Instagram post!

7.30:   By now everyone’s up and there’s shouting above about someone stealing someone else’s stuff, my husband is upstairs and therefore responsible for dealing with it.  I savour the last few sips of my second coffee and then get stuck in to usher the kids down for breakfast and get ready for school.  Including the standard last minute dramas, we manage to leave the house with just enough time to fast-walk to school (plus a couple of little runs) and narrowly avoid the ‘queue of shame’ once again and make it through before the gates close.

9.00:   I return to a house that seems to sigh with relief at the peace and quiet within.  I put on the kettle and get some breakfast while I double check my social media accounts again, reply to a couple of comments and make a final check that no major world issues have occurred within an hour, then I put down the phone for a while and try and get in the zone.

Lucia Hardy's Garden Studio at the end of a  stone path across a green lawn with a messy verdant border.

9.30:  Around this time I go down to the studio, it isn’t far thankfully!  I saunter to the end of the garden in a couple of trips with a glass of water, laptop and lemon tea.  I have a quick tidy up and see what my jobs of the day are… today I see I have to do some admin (starting on an article for my newsletter) I have to prepare some artwork for delivery and check in with my schedule to make sure my next couple of weeks are organised.   With half term coming up there’s some juggling to do to keep some of my projects on the road.  My day often has less hands-on art making than you might expect, on reflection I realise it’s true of most jobs, there’s always preparation, admin, supplies and faffing - basically all the other stuff that’s essential to allowing you to do what you do.  

10.30:   I listen to a podcast (this time it was ArtJuice) while I plan, and then start on the article.  I receive a quick call from a friend and soon after a parcel turns up which sees me haring like a madman through the garden and house to the front door.  It’s a bit of a distraction but I use this break to grab a snack on the way back and then start on the artwork prep I wanted to do.

They’re pastel drawings and I’ve sprayed them a couple of times with sealer already, so today I’m signing them and packaging them up for delivery together.  Once I’m done I complete the pile and it feels good to get a job off of the never ending to do list! I plan my delivery for later in the week in my electronic diary.  I feel smug for 5 seconds.

A close up of some studio shelves containing coloured twigs, a sepia coloured vintage plate with a frigate on it, a bowl of bark and feathers, a cross stitched crow on a loop and frames and canvases.

12.00:  I take a break for lunch and read my book to get headspace from what I’ve been doing so far this morning (I’m reading and loving ‘Lorna Doone’ by R. D. Blackmore after a trip to beautiful Exmoor on holiday last year).  I have been known to pop to the pub to have lunch and sit outside and read or write something in that hallowed creative space.  A clean break from work always helps my concentration in the afternoons.

Acrylic paints (Amsterdam, I love art, Daler Rowney Cryla and Pebeo brands) and a messy table below, a slot machine plastic pot is covered in paint, it's used to hold paint water.

1.00:   I’m going for another change after lunch and I’ve decided I want to make some art this afternoon.  I saw some starlings on the walk back from school earlier and there’s an idea I’ve had about them for a while that I might try out.  I take out one of my prepped canvases (already blue having been painted over with left over paint from a previous session) and put a palette of paint out to suit my mood.  I use some colours regularly and I don’t stick to a strict artists palette rule.  I know my way around the colours I’m used to, so they are great go-to’s and give my work some continuity and a mood which I like.   

I have a table easel on my desk and I sit it up and prop up my iPad next to the canvas on it to see some starling photos I’ve captured before to help orient me.  I always let my imagination have a say in my paintings too though.  Rather than adding the fantastical, I find it often adds more authenticity, drawing from all the looking and noticing I’ve ever done, stored deep down in the archives somewhere, waiting for any strange or important reason to be recalled.  Starlings for me are all about connection and community, there’s a lot to draw on and explore so I’m not going to refine my themes too much today as I often do and just have an initial paint and see where it goes.  I always choose some music that fits with my mood and the work I’m thinking about.  It can take ages to find the right song but luckily today I’m not being too focused and just having a play, so as I’ve been enjoying a bit of Americana lately, Chris Stapleton’s album ‘Traveller’ gets the nod.  

A paint palette close up with rose pink smudged into prussian blue, scratched burgundy and side swathes of dirty lemon yellow.

This time is fairly intense but really enjoyable for me, I’m focused on the painting and consciously not too much else.  I’m using my ‘dry’ acrylic technique (not much water) which gives me thick very vibrant paint to apply in expressive, bold strokes.   Being playful and loose with the work means there’s no real expectation and I enjoy experimenting with effects and form.  After about an hour or so I end up with a couple of things taken forward.  The first is an owl scene painted previously that I’ve had a go at adapting as an idea sprung to mind, but it’s not quite worked, which is helpful - another option ruled out.  The second, the starlings canvas was more successful - it’s a start of something I’ve had in my mind for a while and looks like it’s got potential.  I’m happy to leave this now to sit for a while and I can take stock of it.  I might take some pictures so if I’m thinking about them out of the studio - I can have a quick glance on my phone.  

I’m not sure if this will end up being a finished piece but I am fairly strict with myself that only work that is good, original or interesting makes the cut.  If not, I will just paint over them.  Some of my friends are a little horrified that my process involves putting to sleep a fair amount of decent work, however, for me it’s a really positive move.  Being discerning and having high expectations in anything raises the bar and keeps things challenging and exciting, anything else might mean I stagnate or develop negative associations in the long run, even if it gives a quick boost of ego now.  By trusting that ‘future me’ won’t let any work go forward if it’s not great - is a weight off my mind and my creative brain thrives without that pressure.  It takes the worry away about ‘is it good enough?’ and gives me confidence that the things I share I’m going to feel good about and be proud of, regardless of what other peoples views might be.  

A canvas against a painting board.  The canvas contains a flock of starlings flying up bottom left to top right, they are black and green and blue.  Their wings are mid beat, all in different stages of uplift.

3.00:   It’s time to clear up and get ready to go, and after a quick check I haven’t missed any key messages, I’m off to collect the kids from school.  

I find it hard to shut off sometimes when I’m in the middle of something.    Some days I get longer in the studio but even if I had the whole day to paint, if I’m honest I feel I do my best work over a couple of hours and then I start to tail off and start making poorer judgements.  So I work with the ebb and flow now and rarely exceed that.  

As mystical as it sometimes seems, I see a lot of similarities between the artist’s performance and sports performance; preparation, mindset and ideas all invest in and prepare the individual to react in the moment, at the right time, to harness their inputs and create something special.    

My studio days are certainly a work in progress and some days are much more productive than others but I’m learning more all the time about what a good day looks like and it’s not necessarily all about outputs.  Also the challenges of being a creative who shares and sells your work directly often feels like different parts of you are clashing, a lot.  

My current plan is to try to keep an open mind and respond to the lessons I’m learning every day.  It is getting easier generally and things are becoming clearer, not just in the pursuit of my perfect ‘process’ but also how I might be a better balanced person and blast the learning from this journey out to all aspects of my life.   

Sounded quite professional that.

Someone book me a Ted talk. 

A garden ornament of tarnished iron, depicting the sun and a warm smiling face, small iron hands are cupped beneath the face where a pool of water sits for the birds.  The ornament sits in a flower pot of ivy which is swathed abundantly around the pot.

Thanks so much for reading my blog.    

Check out my social media @LuciaHardyArt (IGFB) for notice of my next post or keep in touch with all my latest news, chat and blog posts via my bi-monthly Art Journal here.

An Ode to Acrylics

Acrylic paint is close to my heart. 

Bright colours, endless possibilities, good value (most of the time) and ease of use, make it a very friendly and unassuming medium.  It’s not a highly strung, diva of a paint, it’s more cheerful, an everyman, happy to allow whatever you’re making to take centre stage.  

At college, studying A level art, I didn’t really give it the time of day. 

I’d used it in generic work at school and home, considered it little more than poster paint,  getting serious meant getting into oils.  Life drawing underpinned the course and traditionally, oils are king.  

It wasn’t until after I’d finished my exams and started a gap year working through several low paid jobs to earn my keep, when my time and space to make art began to shrink drastically, and I was forced to add acrylics to my limited art materials collection.   

Being able to work quickly, express myself in the moment and store the picture soon after painting it, proved too practical to resist. 

After a busy year working, I started in degree course in Psychology and moved in with my dad, step mum and crazy little brothers.  I began to play around with acrylics, use it’s texture to create effects and experiment with way too much bright, bald colour (what was I thinking?).   It gave me the hit of art I needed to get me through my student days, attending lectures, trying to write essays and working part-time.  I would hit The Works - an affordable stationary and crafting store and buy supplies that I could afford, with just enough to spare to allow me a few Bacardi breezers at the Student Union Bar.

Sky and Crow Limited Edition Print 

Fast forward a good few years of play and creation with the medium, and after trying different brands of paint, still experimenting in bursts of time that I had available whilst juggling a busy work life (improving services in the NHS) and raising a young family, and we come to a one day course, a few years ago now, run by artist Marie Antoniou, at the beautiful RHS Hyde Hall in Essex.  Marie’s approach to acrylics, was a revelation to me.  She told us to forget everything we thought we knew about it, and look in a different light.  

I was amazed.  She was accentuating all of the best parts of the medium and adapting her technique to take full advantage of them.  The paint was used with minimal water - dry as you can use, it was applied quickly with big brushes, distinctively, expressively.   Her beautiful, very vibrant artwork was of the moment and an exercise of trust in herself, she followed her vision with faith, only meaningful brushstrokes and originality, the outcome was stunning.  This opened my eyes in so many ways and it put me on a course to appreciate the sophistication and freshness that acrylics can offer, alongside the freedom to work more instinctively for unashamed impact, joy and self-expression.  You can check out Marie’s work here  or on Instagram @marieantoniouart.

If you’ve had a play with acrylics before and would like to give this approach a go, I’d really recommend one of Marie’s workshops (detailed on her website) or a book called ‘Vibrant Acrylics: A contemporary guide to capturing life with colour vitality’ by the fantastic Hashim Akib – another one of Essex’s finest.  

The beauty of acrylics is that they can be used any way you like, from watercolour style translucency to thick impasto, but understanding them a little better has definitely helped to inspire me and explore how I’d like to use them next.

Winter Scene Limited Edition Print

I have loved every minute of my journey with acrylics.  

Currently my preference is to work with strong texture, I mix colour, sometimes on the canvas to add vibrancy and nuance.  I go for intensity of colour and layers to give depth and interest to my work.  At times I am creating a quick, fresh, and entirely of-the-moment piece, and
others I am loading a canvas with ideas and colour over time, thinking about my
theme and seeing where that takes me. 

And the best bit of all…if you mess up and it’s gone wrong, in just a few short minutes, you can
paint over it and make something new.

See what I mean?  

Acrylics have your back.

Thanks so much for reading my blog.    

Check out my social media @LuciaHardyArt (IGFB) for notice of my next post or keep in touch with all my latest news, chat and blog posts via my bi-monthly Art Journal here.

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