Beginnings: 5 Things to do in the preparing for new artwork development

For the last couple of weeks I have been procrastinating rather than preparing for new artwork development. There are a number of reasons why I think I’ve been hesitant. Firstly, I am doing something much bigger than I have done before in terms of the amount and variety of work. Secondly it’s a new area of work for me, (albeit with a common thread of my interest in Place). This means that there is more uncertainty of how it will evolve (although that is what makes it exciting!). Thirdly, it’s for a joint exhibition so there are insecurities about ensuring the work delivers and fits together to form a cohesive story!

‘Inspired by nature’ is an exploration, through drawing and painting of Moorland, farmland and Woodland. It will be exhibited at Gallery Oldham, a stunning venue with panoramic views of the moorland.   In terms of ‘out of comfort zone’ this one may be considered to be a high scorer!! However, I have time (a year and a half to develop all the work). I am sure that as I progress, I will be using all sorts of approaches to help me along. But for now, I have been focusing on some simple ‘warming up’ exercises. Maybe that’s the answer…to approach it as I would my Pilates class! Here are the 5 key things I’m now doing to prepare for new artwork development.

5 things to do in preparing for new artwork Liz Ackerley Art


This is somewhat obvious but if I am not careful, I end up working in a muddle which hampers progress.  I have reorganized, tidied and changed my workspace. Keeping it this way is the key, so that I am as productive as possible.  I now have wall space for hanging and working, and a newly set up easel (not previously used).  I have trollies for all my equipment and draws for all my collage papers.  Portable equipment for outside working also needs some reconsideration. For now, it consists of a backpack with small recycled boxes containing various mixed media!


It’s important to have most of the key materials you need to hand. Paints brushes, specialist tools etc. should all be available at the start.  I include sketchbooks in this and I have a variety of sketchbooks ready for use.  Some are for drawing on location, some for studio work and evolution of paintings and some for general journal writing related to thoughts and feelings.  I am conscious that the painting process itself plays a large part in how we work things out about the subject matter. However, I also believe that the supplementary assistance that journalling can provide is really important.  I have created a short YouTube video about them (see below).  The process of getting paper (size, quality, type, roll or sheet?), canvas/boards together also helps in starting to think about the type and sizes of work.  This also needs some flexibility given that lots could change as the work evolves. But start points are so important to ‘break into’ the work.   

Sketchbooks and Journals: The start of a journey


I have been delving into books about the different types of landscape I will be exploring.  For me, it is important to supplement my visual exploration and research with additional materials about the subject matter.  I enjoy the different perspectives and richness of understanding that can build up.  Telling stories is an important part of my work and this often involves incorporating text, calligraphy and maps.  I am really enjoying delving into: The Moor by William Atkins.  Several other texts are on their way to me!!


In order to be able to get started on location or in my studio, I want to be in play/inspiration/experimentation mode without overthinking.  That means having some go-to techniques in mind.  I am identifying a selection that I can dip into and adapt or change as I go, if the mood takes me.  These include 2 minute drawings/paintings using limited palette/materials (I took the Emily Ball Floribunda online course and I found this technique really useful); Mark Making exercises; Contour drawing and variations (I talked about them here on a recent blog) and I am about to watch some Lewis Noble YouTube on location videos! 

It is also a great idea to review previous drawings and paintings and identify what works best in approaching the subject matter. That way, these processes can be incorporated into new works.


I find that applying gesso to boards/canvas and preparing the paper is therapeutic and a great way of spending a couple of hours!  It also acts as a catalyst and means you are ready to go when you start afresh in the studio.  Whenever I start I will be working in series, even if I end up with multiple series.  This means I need to have enough boards prepared -can you ever have enough?!

All this talk of preparing for new artwork has really got me enthused! I am now looking forward to getting going! If you are an artist, what do you do to reduce procrastination and prepare yourself for new work?

Procrastination quote Liz Ackerley Art blog

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