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Sharing the journey of creativity: What does an artwork mean to you?

“What inspired you? What does it mean?

Often I meet people at exhibitions or have visitors in my studio, who ask me those questions. Perfectly reasonable questions, but ones incredibly difficult to answer in a few brief sentences. After all, a single piece of art or body of work may have taken several years of exploration and knowledge gathered to achieve.

Here’s the thing….... Artists work most commonly falls into two distinct categories, no matter which genre they choose to work within. Those artists who choose to title their artwork and maybe also give an explanation, and those who will not, deeming the artwork must stand alone for the viewers own interpretation. My own preference is to title my artworks (for instance the photo to the left is a detail from a larger piece called ‘Flux’), but I generally choose to not give any explanation, preferring to enjoy the revelation and discovery of what resonates meaning within another person, albeit if contrary to my own intent and meaning. (The reference to a fascinating article about entitling art and the influence of it can be found at the bottom of this blog) However, in my choosing to just give titles those same questions from you the audience continued to come back to me.

It is all about the little things…..

I also saw that my sketchbooks and study drawings, those small seemingly inconsequential things within my studio, captivated people. Was this attraction just because of the energy and spontaneity within those particular types of drawings? I thought not, as this interest encompassed clay maquette’s and test pieces used for exploration prior to my larger 3-dimensional artworks being sculpted.

Those clay explorations were not individual sketches that could be seen as having a certain resolved or finished quality within their own right, so therefore:

“If it is not a finished piece of art what do YOU see in it? Why does it interest YOU?

Layered artwork, layered meaning…..

Again and again a similar theme came back. People wanted to understand, to engage with the overall creation of my artwork, not just the finished piece, but the journey of investigation, philosophy and meaning behind it. Some of you explained that in understanding what inspired me, how I explored and analysed those inspirations, then enabled them to see more within the finished artwork. In a way, the actual ‘storybook’ of an artworks creation gave the artwork more chapters of symbiotic communication with both the finished piece and myself as the artist.


Caring deeply about the core issues I explore and discuss within my work, which I do passionately, it should have been no surprise that active discourse with you the viewer had become vital to me as an artist. Yet, it did surprise me, it was one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments of revelation. Okay, so I learn, I continue to learn, but not always quickly, smile…… though I do get there in the end!

As an artist I work in a multitude of ways to reach a ‘finished’ artwork. There is no right or wrong way to do so. I spend time everyday, whether in my studio or around and about, seeing, reading, sketching, sculpting or writing. I never stop. Seriously, making mashed potato becomes a moment to sculpt my dinner into something (for those of you interested, competitive mashed potato sculpture is a big thing in America, who knew!). I can spend days studying gender or in classical research within a museum. The next week it could be life drawing and anatomy studies, geology and nature.

Whilst my work investigates anything and everything encompassing art, history, philosophy, nature, gender, sexuality, media and literature to name a few, it is sometimes unexpected events, chance encounters and conversations in everyday life that create new thought and understandings, and I really want to share the ‘strange’ and unusual with you, as much as the ‘expected’. However, do not panic! I am not going to flood you with a daily diary. I am pretty sure none of you want a dry step by step technical breakdown of how I physically make each piece of art. We would be both bored witless and I have a terribly low boredom threshold! I prefer to share with you just those moments of interest, energy and excitement found whilst exploring, as and when they happen.

Whilst at times my threads may be seemingly random, there is always a commonality of idea, an thread and thought that transforms moments of concentration and clarity, into something wholly new and expressive for me as an artist and sculptress. Above all, I want to share how important those small studies, sketches and explorations are to a finished work of art. In this journey what I am really looking forward to is hearing your thoughts and ideas based upon my blogs. Working as I do in a small village in rural South West France, I know how vital it is to not only share my creative process with you, but to also learn through this shared experience with you.

You will be able to find me in various different social media groups. I am listing them below for you, though my blogs will only be found here on my website blog page.

Rightyho, off to the studio I go...... xx Hayley-Jay




Article reference:

'Flux' detail photographed by Ian Graham Images.

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