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Inspiring Awe

This time I wanted to talk about ‘Awe’. I often talk about my work capturing a sense of awe and this is something I’ve been exploring in my new series of work. Firstly, what is awe? And what does it mean to be inspired by it?

The Cambridge dictionary states that awe is ‘a feeling of great respect, usually mixed with fear or surprise’. For something to be awe inspiring ‘it causes you to admire or respect it a lot’.

Awe is an emotion (not a very well studied one). In Awe: The Delights and Dangers of Our Eleventh Emotion, neuropsychologist Paul Pearsall defines awe as an “overwhelming and bewildering sense of connection with a startling universe that is usually far beyond the narrow band of our consciousness.” 

I’ve experienced awe stricken moments many times in my life, and for me its always as a result of something beautiful- mesmerising lights, saturated colours and most of all, the natural world. As a young child we experience these moments frequently; but as we get older this becomes less and less.

I’ve always loved nature, and only in the last few years, especially when I moved onto my narrowboat; that I really started to appreciate it again and experience these moments almost daily. Awe has a big impact on our emotional wellbeing. Before starting my research I didn’t realise the scope of this. So now I’m going to share some ways in which it affects us.

One of the most important effects awe has on us is that it anchors us in the moment. It allows us to appreciate the present and nothing else- this is something I’ve always aimed to replicate in my work. When we are present in the moment, time is expanded. It’s in these moments that we also appreciate life more.

Creativity, is something which I cherish deeply and another thing that is increased in these moments. My paintings are a mixture of collaged images of awe inspiring landscapes and my dreams and memories of landscapes which have made me feel a certain way. These landscapes make us feel connected to the Earth and nature. Although there is a sense of vastness, which can make us feel small, it’s because we are a part of something much bigger. 

In general, experiencing awe can have an impact on your mood. Some people are actually more capable of experiencing awe. I think as a visual person with a love of nature I’ve always found it relatively easy. Although since experimenting with hallucinogenics as an adult it has greatly opened up my capacity for these experiences. 

Awe can change our opinions and perceptions of the world, it has a transformative element which can be very powerful. I’ve always known this but before starting my research I didn’t quite know the scope of this. 

There was something I’ve been trying to capture in my work for a long time and now I finally know exactly what it is. It’s a brilliant emotion which has the ability to make you feel almost insignificant but encouraged that there is so much more out there to appreciate and discover. 

Art and Escapism

So, since updating my artist statement the other month; it got me thinking about my vision and what my art is truly about. I really got to thinking about WHY I create. There’s one thing which comes up again and again; and that is ESCAPISM.

So I thought I’d elaborate a little on this topic. A huge part of why I have always created is to escape from negative emotions or boredom and when I was younger this was very much the case as I struggled a lot with depression. I would come home from school and immediately get my pens out and start drawing to forget about the day. 

I certainly don’t feel like that anymore but it’s still an escape. It has the ability to calm me down and put me into a meditative state but at the same time energise. Although I’m happy with my life now (most of the time) I still need that time to get into the zone and just be at one with creating.

Digital art of abstract floating landscape by Sara Houqe

I use images from nature a lot on my work as for me its the ultimate escapism. Having lived most of my life in fairly built up areas, I love to get out into nature and experience the calm sanctuary it has to offer. There’s so much beauty and variety out there to experience. 

I like to mix these images with abstract and colourful elements which give them their dream like quality. This is the basis for my new series of prints. Dream like landscapes which float in peaceful skies. 

It’s a place to escape, relax, and experience the wondrous.

Abstract landscape floating on pink clouds by Sara Hoque

I also want YOU, the viewer to feel the same way as I do when I’m creating my art. To feel that you have a place to dream, a sanctuary, an escape. 

Waterfall landscape collage floating on blue skies by Sara Hoque

Water and Woodland

Wales 2021

I’m writing this upon my recent return from North Wales. It’s been many years since I visited and only this time did I feel I gained the most energy and inspiration. As well as a few sketches I also took many photographs which I will most definitely be translating into my work over the coming months.

Green forest with moss covered trees North Wales

There’s this feeling I get when I step into beautiful nature like this. An explosion of beauty and colour and I realised how strongly these images inform my practice, not just the colour but the space and shapes. It’s this feeling of awe that I want to replicate in my paintings.

Natural waterfall in a welsh forest
View of the beach covered in seaweed from north Wales

I experienced a lot of different types of nature here, from forests to coastline. Water was the one thing which was present throughout the whole trip- from the rain, to waterfalls and the ocean.

View of the ocean over wild flowers in North Wales
Green forest in Wales with ferns

This post was mainly just to offload some photographs I took of the trip but I hope you enjoy! 

Sara x

Interesting swirl pattern in tree root

Digital influences in my work

Since art school, digital image has informed a lot of my work. The relationship between digital image and more traditional forms of art is one that interests me greatly. The first time I experienced digital art was through photography when I was given a DSLR at art college. The photographing part was not of that much interest to me but I was amazed at how much could be done with an image when its uploaded to the computer.  

Photograph of purple sky by Sara Hoque

Above is a photograph from 2009 of the sky with the silhouette of a tree. I’ve always enjoyed altering natural colours found in the world so that everything looks more saturated and surreal. Digital images have always been an influence and part of my work. I keep an archive of photographs I use for inspiration which are mainly images from nature, but also architecture and science! During art school I started experimenting with moving image by manipulating photographs in a way which created kaleidoscopic visuals. 

Above is a still from one of these moving image pieces. My paintings at the time also adopted a very kaleidoscopic composition to them as I became interested in geometry. The painting below ‘Delphelia Elpenor’ 2013, is a combination of a collaged image and painting. This relationship between digital elements and the act of painting is something I really enjoy.

I’ve also incorporated these geometric elements into my paintings like the oil painting of a stone circle below. I like playing around with these elements and switching and combining the two mediums. It keeps it fun and interesting! If I’m lacking in inspiration its quick and easy for me to create a digital composition, and not have to worry too much about what I’m doing as mistakes are easily erased. Below are some more examples, oldest to newest- see if you can guess which parts are collage/digital and which are hand painted 🙂

Colourful painting of stone boulders and mountains with colourful abstract shapes by Sara Hoque 2017
Pastel abstract painting with bold brushstrokes and architecture collage Sara Hoque 2018
Sand dune image with bright paint marks by Sara Hoque 2020
Colourful psychedelic painting by Sara Hoque

Otherworld Series

Another month gone and I’ve finished another series done! I really smashed it out this time with the new series consisting of twelve pieces. I had fun with this one and worked a bit smaller this time. I found the smaller ones a bit more challenging after painting larger canvas sizes for the ‘elsewhere’ series. Here’s a little insight into my thoughts and processes behind the new paintings.

Due to the Covid situation getting so bad in the Uk, I painted these pieces on the boat in a more confined space. Also with a completely different view which I think has influenced the more landscape-y nature of these pieces. I used a lot of similar elements from the last series, I particularly liked adding black to my colour palette as I felt it really made the colours pop.

So black was the first layer of each painting I put down. I was originally thinking about black portals and how you could escape into them- like the painting above. After accidentally painting a form which looked like a mountain and really liking it, I got a bit hooked on this idea of rock formations- as below.

Mountain landscapes have been a recurring theme in my work for many years. I’ve often liked playing with this idea of figurative and abstract together. Recently I’ve been thinking about how I can bring all the elements together from almost a decade of work and these are what I came up with. The main themes here, and something that I’ve realised has always played an important part of my work is- ESCAPISM.

I wanted to create dream like worlds that you could get lost in, whilst still keeping them very abstract. The colours I chose were purely for aesthetic reasons or ones which are uplifting and work well together. I don’t tend to really plan the colours I’m going to use too much. Although I do often have a rough idea, its easier to select them as I go.

Just for fun, here are some much older pieces of art which informed this series!

So there you have it! Please leave me any thoughts or feedback in the comments!

x

How colour affects us

COLOUR is an integral part of my art practice. Art for me is a form of therapy and colour plays an important role in the healing process. This is something I first discovered while I was studying, eight or so years ago. Prior to my very vibrant palette I was restricted to much darker hues. I felt that because I was feeling dark on the inside, that my art had to reflect this too.

During my second year of uni I was pushed out of my comfort zone and tried experimenting with a wider range of colours. As soon as I started playing around with these new, bright and saturated hues I never looked back! Working with colour had an instant impact on my mood and also my curiosity as to why that is?

So over the years I’ve been doing a lot of research into colour theory and psychology, some of which I would like to share with you now!

Abstract spray paint closeup with pastel and bright colours by Sara Hoque 2018

Effects on the body

The visible light spectrum has the appearance of a rainbow, going from violet to red. Violet has the shortest wavelength (closest to ultraviolet|) and red has the longest wavelength (closest to infrared); which gives it a fiery heat and warmth.

Each colour is said to have a different effect on us. Red has been known to increase the heart rate and blood pressure, whereas blue will slow it down which is why it is considered a relaxing colour. Warmer shades can be a mood booster or stimulant to help energise the mind and body. Cooler shades can help with headaches and stress.

Effects on the mind

For me it is the power of colour on the mind which I find the most interesting. As a painter I try to make considered colour choices for every mark and brushstroke I place on the canvas, in order to create the right mood for a piece.

Like its effects on the body, RED is energising It inspires confidence and determination, as the colour of blood its connected to life but also death. 

ORANGE is a great one for lifting spirits and is related to our emotional self. It can inspire self confidence and encourage creativity.

The warmth of YELLOW is cheerful and uplifting. The perfect antidote for depression and also helps to focus the mind. 

GREEN is right in the middle of the colour spectrum, giving it perfect balancing properties. Its the easiest colour on the eyes, and its just as restful on the heart too.

BLUE is the colour of restfulness and peace. This ultimate calming hue also has anti inflammatory properties!

VIOLET is another calming hue which also soothes the soul and our emotions. It encourages us to slow down and listen to our inner voice.

Thick colourful painted brushstrokes, abstract painting by Sara Hoque 2017

Conclusion

Colour can help us in many ways and its so important to inject little bits of it into your surroundings, whether it be a wall repaint, bright accessories or a bright piece of artwork. Discovering the power of colour has done wonders for my mood and enhanced my creative practice hugely, and I’m sure it can help many other people too!

Evolution of my practice

Earlier this year I was compiling all the images for my portfolio, which on my website goes back to 2017. That’s when I feel like I developed a certain ‘style’. Of course I have lots of work which came before that, but a lot of it is hard to access or I wouldn’t dare show the world. I think we’ve all had a lot of time for reflection this year and the majority of mine has been on my art practice. So I want to talk about how my art has developed over the years. 

I want to share this with you as I think its important to recognise the journey an artist takes to get to where they are. Sometimes it can take a long time for a ‘style’ to develop and sometimes our style is continuously changing and evolving.

START

My earliest work was very lacking in colour- during my angsty teenage I years I very much created as an expression of what I was feeling and as a form of therapy. When I started my BTEC in art and design (pre university) I felt immediately compelled to find my art voice. It was my first time setting foot in an art establishment and I think I felt I needed to prove myself. 

This was also the moment I discovered contemporary art which had a big impact on my style. Conceptual art really captured my attention and my work went from being quite figurative and depicting emotion to being visual representations about ideas. The fact that art didn’t need to be true depictions of object and feeling really set me free.

My art became very minimal and I shifted away from painting into other mediums like sculpture, film and photography. This saw me through to my first year of University. I really felt like my work needed to have some profound meaning to be considered ‘real art’ and in a way I think this is quite damaging. My work became even darker as I became interested in philosophy and my creations were often accompanied by text.

CHANGE

My second year of uni brought about a couple of changes in my work. The first being my shift towards using colour- a huge turning point in my life and practice. I noticed my mood lifting as I begun to use vibrant hues in my painting; this sparked my interest in art and the effects it has on our mood. I started questioning myself and my art. Why did I feel like my art needed to have so much meaning?

I experimented with creating art which just made you ‘feel’ using mainly colour and pattern; avoiding the need for ‘deep thinking’. Through moving image and painting I made pieces which were either designed to play with your emotions.

In the end I just wanted to make stuff that looked nice, but I found that people will always try and find meaning within art. The topic of my dissertation was ‘Apophenia: Seeking connections and order in chaos’. Apophenia refers to the human tendency to find meaning in everything, and the work I submitted along with my dissertation experimented with hinting at ideas through the use of image and symbols.

POST ART SCHOOL

After graduating I worked in an art shop where I learnt more about materials than I had done at University. So I was very much just creating art for fun. I’d lost my studio space so my work became a mix of digital and smaller mixed media pieces.

Whilst trying out new mediums my interest in abstracts started. I was cutting up a lot of old work and playing with colour and image. It became a very experimental phase and I kind of gave up a bit on becoming an artist.

My desire to do something with my art but also make some money lead me to start ‘Brush + Botany’ a business based on using colour and plants for personal wellbeing. I found it too restricting and realised that it was important for me to create work under my own name.

NOW

I definitely feel like I had to cycle through this whole process to get to where I am now. I struggled a lot to find my place in the art world but at the end of the day it all came down to being authentic and true to myself. 

I’ve placed myself somewhere in between the two extremes I was battling with in the past- art which is all about the concept and art which is just pretty to look at. 

I now understand why art and becoming the best you can be is such a lengthy process. I’m sure in another 10 years I would have developend so mucvh morew and I cant wait to see hwere my jpourmney takes me.

Elsewhere Series

I’m excited to present to you a new series on canvas! Following the announcement about another month long lockdown in the UK to reduce the spread of COVID, I managed to bag myself a studio space pretty last minute. This means that I’m now able to work on larger scale pieces. After experiencing some of the strangest months as a result of the virus I’ve been ready to get completely lost in my painting, and that’s the theme for this series. 

ESCAPISM

Photograph of studio showing the process of painting gradient backgrounds

All of my work explores colour and how it can be used as a tool to heal and feel certain emotions. When I paint I often get lost in the colour, the work, and the process which was the basis for this series. I often use Pantone colour cards when selecting colours so that I can see how they will work together.

Mixing palette with colourful acrylic paint
Painting progress showing paintbrush covered in pink acrylic paint

A lot of the ideas for this collection were quite abstract too. I wanted to create other-worldly vibes, hence the use of certain shapes and forms. I love adding a collage element to my paintings too; so in this series its come in the form of leaves. I’m not quite sure of the significance of these but they felt right. 

Showing painting progress in the studio
Abstract painting series in the studio

My process is often governed by what ‘feels’ right so for me its a very intuitive process. This is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately! Although I am inspired by the world around me, I do not use reference material when I paint. A lot of the time I am just sitting around waiting for the work to flow from the subconscious. 

Paintbrushes in pot infront of painting

To see the full collection click the link below and please give me your thoughts and feedback 🙂

Thankyou

ELSEWHERE SERIES