Discover Top Tips from Karen Thompson

Arts Educator, artist and part time arts team member Karen Thompson is kicking off the Top Tips section at Culture Club Social. Karen has many years experience as an artist and educator and the number one piece of advice she has to give is… just do it!

Don’t sit around waiting for great inspiration to strike before you begin, just get started making! Some of Karen’s best ideas have come from the making process… something that has gone wrong maybe turns into something far better than ‘could have been planned’ or part of the making process might reveal the great inspiration!

Karen realised fully how the making process could reveal unexpected inspiration when she made a piece of work called Qwerty Cuneiform tablet. This piece looks like an ancient hieroglyphic clay table

The hieroglyphics are in fact the underside of computer keys pressed into the clay, Karen had been working on a piece called Retro Keyboard in which she took all the keys off an old keyboard and replaced them with different colour clay keys (a reference to the use of clay in communication throughout civilisation – in fact did you know the first libraries were founded on the information contained in clay cuneiform tablets). She pressed the keys into a slab of clay to hold them in place while she poured plaster of paris over them to make a mould, after the plaster dried and the mould was made, she removed the plastic computer keys and saw the remaining imprint. This inspired the Qwerty Cuneiform tablet, a piece which was at the heart of the installation she created and a piece that she would probably never have dreamt up in a million years if she had sat around waiting for great inspiration to come!

Karen’s other top tip is to be confident in yourself, if you’re making a painting it doesn’t need to be an exact replica (we have cameras on our phone that can produce that), it’s all about expression and enjoying the moment. There is so much inspiring folk art out there which is far from perfect but has gone on to delight and beguile audiences for generations, set your intention before you begin that you are going to ‘enjoy the making process and be happy with the outcome of whatever you make’… and if you think it can still be better, give it another go! What you think isn’t very good someone else might think is amazing! That happened with a patient in a Stroke Unit workshop, the session was based on the illustrator Quentin Blake and the patient who had never drawn anything produced this masterpiece!

She thought it was terrible at first but soon left full of confidence when she realised everyone else thought that it was exceptional. Quentin Blake eat your heart out!

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