Wow…Can you believe it’s February already? I’m not sure where the time is going, but it sure flies.
As the year gains momentum, I hope that you are getting yourself well-established in whatever creative practices feed your soul. 🙂
One of the things I have been wanting to try this year is creating my own homemade painting panels. I just finished a painting on a homemade panel, and it feels good to have expanded my horizons. More on that DIY process in a future post.
In today’s post I want to share the oil painting I just finished. While it’s what you might refer to as a skyscape, I am thinking of it more as a dreamscape—it’s a little ambiguous, a little nebulous, a little…dreamy!
One of the reasons I paint is that it allows me to forget time, appointments, responsibilities, cares, and concerns.
Even when I don’t produce something “frameworthy”, the time I spend in painting, sketching, drawing, and other creative pursuits allows me to connect with a part of myself that tends to go uncared for in the daily grind of life.
I find that I am calmer, less anxious, more centered, and more resilient when I honor the fact that I NEED to spend significant time creating.
So I make it a priority in my life right up there with the other things I need to do like brushing my teeth, making meals, paying bills, etc.
This painting is an example of what can happen when I honor that need.
It isn’t always easy finding the right mix of free time, energy, inspiration, and desire to create, but it is so worth it when they all come together in what I can only describe as a blessing that feeds my soul.
Friends, I hope you are taking time to feed your creative self. It’s so important, and you are worth it!
I’d love to know how you take time to feed your inner artist. Please share your thoughts in the comments and let me know!
Today I thought I would post a few of my latest watercolor creations. I wanted to try out some new materials and just have some fun, but what to paint???
Enter “Mo” my studio gnome…
Mo is a daily inspiration to me.
I love his unkept salt and pepper beard and the perfect roundness of his nose.
Though his drab-colored clothing is practical and basic, and his shoes are different sizes and a bit wonky looking, his stocking cap speaks volumes about his whimsical nature.
In short, I can’t help but chuckle when I see him there waiting on my studio desk.
But what does Mo have to do with letting go???
Well, seeing Mo reminds me not to take myself so seriously—to let go of what others think of me and much of what I think about myself.
And since I’m a pretty serious person, I need this reminder on almost a daily basis!
Artistically speaking, being able to let go gives me permission to play and experiment.
In short, it gives me permission to ask, “What if….?” while I’m creating.
That playful attitude helps the artist in me to try new techniques, mediums, supplies, and application methods, which in turn encourages my overall artistic growth.
Even if I don’t end up liking what I create, it’s time well spent to help me know not to head in that particular direction!
Without the ability to let go, we lose the chance to grab onto something new or different.
So why is it sometimes so hard to let go in life and in our artistic process?
Fear can be a huge driver in much of this, at least for me.
Unfortunately, fear can come from any direction and take many forms: fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of criticism, fear of losing control, fear of comparison, etc.
How do we combat fear?
By faith in practice and by practicing our faith!
You don’t have to be an artist for long (or a human being, for that matter) to know that you will create lots of stinkers and make lots of mistakes.
But you can learn to let go of the failure and keep moving forward, and gradually you learn not to make the same mistakes.
I will leave you with a quote by one of my favorite artists of today, John MacDonald.
“Creativity and learning flourish when we’re on our edge, out of our comfort zone and out of our spheres of knowledge. We can only learn when we’re in the unknown. But the unknown is often terrifying…. When we’re filled with the joy of playing, there’s no room for fear. It is in the state of play that we learn the truth about fear and discover that we can live with it and manage it. And as we become more accustomed to playing fearlessly, we can relax, open up, and begin working fearlessly.”
Last year I began the tradition of designing and publishing a book of the paintings, studies, and sketches I created through the year.
I started with the idea to give the books out to family and friends as gifts, but the design process and end result have become so much more than that to me.
When I am putting each year’s book together, choosing photographs of paintings and inspirational quotes I want to include, I am able to stand back from the trees and get a good look at the forest I have been dwelling in during the previous 12 months—metaphorically speaking!
I find that when I step back to look at this retrospective, I am given the precious gift of getting to see the arc of my own personal growth as an artist.
And this year I saw BIG changes.
The first change I saw while looking over the paintings I produced this year was a focus on experimentation.
New techniques, new materials, even a new medium (water mixable oil) kept me on my toes and headed out in directions that kept my process from being stale and predictable.
Another change I consciously focused on this year was quality over quantity.
It doesn’t bother me to set a painting aside and let it sit for days, weeks, or even months if it just isn’t “there” yet because I appreciate how it gives me fresh eyes to critique and move forward in whatever way is necessary to reach my vision.
But this year I have also made peace with the fact that I am probably never going to be a hugely prolific painter…and that’s ok.
I’ve realized that my painting process and personality do not lend themselves to popular social media challenges like “paint 30 paintings in 30 days”.
In fact, I have found that if I can’t stop and linger when I want or need to in order to produce the work my soul is crying out to create, I die inside just a little!—and that is not acceptable to me.
But this year the biggest change I actively encouraged in my heart, mind, and artistic process was toreally seek out what it was I was trying to say with each painting, and then to let myself express those ideas, desires, and feelings onto the painting itself.
One of the wonderful benefits of allowing myself to work in this way is that I am becoming more aware of my artistic voice—who I am as an artist, what I value as an artist and human being, and how I want to grow in the future.
As a result, I can see the meager beginnings of a “style” that marks my work as mine and validates who I am becoming as an artist.
And that, my friends, is something I have been waiting to see emerge as the months and years of creating have slipped by.
All of the photos in this post are included in this year’s book, and I wanted to share them with you.
If you have made it this far, thanks for sticking with me to read about my thoughts on creating and artistic growth.
You can read the inspirational quotes that I included in this year’s book here.
But I will leave you with the quote I used to close my 2021 book.
It speaks to this idea of growth and not yet being who we were created to be….
“Beyond myself, somewhere, I wait for my arrival.” — Octavio Paz, poet
Thank you creative friends for taking time out of your precious life to read this post. I pray you will stay your creative course, wherever that leads your heart, and that on the journey you find joy in the process.
Today I am sharing how I paint my own Christmas cards in watercolor.
My daughter and I painted last year’s card during her Thanksgiving break from school. It was fun to put on some Christmas music, have a cup of cocoa, and be together creatively—plus, it got us into the holiday spirit without having to go out on Black Friday!
So, grab your cocoa and a few simple supplies and let’s get going!
You will need:
* sketchbook or notebook paper to try out design ideas; a pencil with eraser
*5×7 inch pieces of watercolor paper, 140 lb (cold press if you want texture, hot press if you want less texture)
*5×7 inch pieces of mixed media paper (I used Strathmore Mixed Media Paper—vellum surface, 184 lb., 400 Best series; it is smooth like hot press paper, less expensive than good watercolor paper, and perfect for this type of fun, sketchy painting where you might not want to use your best paper.)
*watercolors and a palette to mix them on
Check out the little porcelain mixing palette and watercolor paint tin I found on Amazon…
*watercolor brushes of your choice (I prefer Silver Black Velvet rounds, size 4, 6, and 8 for most of my watercolor work.)
*and of course, water! One cup for cleaning brushes, and one for dipping into for clean water.
STEP 1: Start by considering what kind of card you want to send. Traditional? Whimsical? Cartoony? Elegant?
Then look at the inspiration around you that fits with the aesthetic you have in mind.
You might find that the ornaments on your tree, the toy soldier on your fireplace mantle, or your favorite Christmas carol sparks an idea for what to paint.
This year, I am all about snow people. In fact, tomorrow my family and I will be creating a snow gnome in our front yard, sans snow as of yet, but I’m sure that will be added soon enough!
So to that end, I decided to paint this little figurine of a snow family that we love.
STEP 2: On a plain piece of sketch or notebook paper, sketch out your design idea very simply by placing the major shapes within a 5×7 inch rectangle. Don’t worry about the details at this point unless you feel unsure about placing them correctly later with paint.
Once you are happy with your design, you can jump right to sketching onto your painting paper. Just remember to draw lightly onto your painting paper to make it easier to erase later—especially if you don’t want pencil lines in your final product.
STEP 3: Now for the fun! Add your first base washes of color to your painting. Use lots of water for paler washes, less for stronger washes. Since watercolor is usually painting light to dark (that is, you save your white/lightest areas instead of painting over them), start with paler washes. You can always add more color later.
STEP 4: Continue layering each area of color until you get the value, texture, and depth you desire. Be sure to let each layer dry before you glaze more color on top.
Texture tips: Keep in mind that as you are painting, you may want to add extratexture in certain areas. One of the easiest ways to do this is with salt.
In my painting, I wanted to create texture in the scarves of the snow people, so I sprinkled regular table salt onto the areas while they still were glistening.
You will get different effects depending on how wet the paint is—generally, the wetter the wash when you apply the salt, the more effect the salt will have. Applying salt to an almost dry wash will have, surprise, almost no effect. 🙂
You can also try out different sizes of salt granules—from kosher, to pink Himalayan, to very fine—each will give different results. Or surprise yourself and purchase a salt grinder which will give you various sizes to keep things more random looking!
Whatever salt you end up using, just be sure to let it dry before wiping it off or you will smear the effect it created.
Another way to add texture is by spattering on or dropping in plain old water. This will create blooms by pushing the wet pigment out of the way and revealing some of the paper color underneath. Experiment with different applicators to see what gives you blooms with the size and randomness you desire — flicking the end of an old toothbrush will give you smaller, more numerous blooms; tapping your paintbrush onto your index finger is good for larger blooms; an eyedropper will help achieve boulder size blooms….you get the picture.
The sky is the limit when considering tools to help achieve texture and not what this post is about, but other ideas might include using the edge of an old credit card to scrape back into paint; placing wadded up plastic wrap onto a wet wash and letting it dry; dabbing back into wet paint with a tissue or paper towel to lift out paint; using an artificial sponge to dab paint onto a dried underlayer, etc.
STEP 5: Once you have your painting working as a whole, only then should you refine it with details and your darkest accents. For my snow family, this meant adding facial features, buttons, and the glittery paint for the metallic scarf threads (not really visible in the photo).
STEP 6: Once finished with the positive forms of the snow people, I erased my pencil lines and turned to washing in a simple glittery background using a mix of silver and light blue metallic paint made pale with lots of water.
I cleaned up any messy edges and made sure to use a clean, damp brush to soften any hard edges that appeared once my washes were dry.
And here is the result of adding my artwork to a card-making template available from Snapfish.com.
I ordered my cards with Snapfish and they will be sent out to family and friends who I hope will enjoy the touch of whimsy in their holiday season!
So go on people! Make merry and get your creative juices flowing.
I hope you enjoyed this little demo and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season.
I wish I could say I am going to miss you, but I would be lying.
Will 2021 be better? I sure hope so. But I woke up this morning to an ice storm, tree limbs across the driveway, news that someone has fraudulently claimed unemployment benefits on my hubby’s behalf, power outages, a finicky generator….sigh….
Not off to a great start….
On the other hand, my family is with me at home, safe and healthy. The power is currently on. (Yay!) Relationships in my extended family have been going through some much needed healing, praise God! And I have had the privilege to spend the last year creating art I love in a space I love.
I’m not really one to set New Year’s resolutions, but the quiet that comes after the bustle of the holiday season, especially on a day like today with snow falling onto a hushed world, lends itself to a little introspection.
I look back at what I have spent my time on this last year: caring for my family, homeschooling, music-making, painting.
But if I’m honest, I’ve also spent significant time and energy worrying, wondering, trying to discern, trying to control, trying to adjust, trying to let go.
As I reflect on the changes I have seen in our world in 2020, I hold on to the conviction that I want to do more of what brings light and life into this world.
I think that as artists we have a responsibility to share, to teach, to steward, and by doing those things, to love.
To that end, I thought I would share a little bit about some of my paintings from 2020–what I like about them, why I painted them, and what I learned from painting them.
First up: Pathways No. 1, pastel
Pathways is the genesis of a series of paintings I definitely plan to continue. They are experimental in nature. The scene is from my imagination and represents more of a “mood” than a place.
When I was painting Pathways No. 1, I wanted it to be moody, bleak, brooding, and a little uneasy because that’s how I was feeling. It was a sunny spring day when I painted it—incongruous to my emotions and a world in lockdown—and I needed to see the physical expression of my emotions.
Painting No. 1 was cathartic in many ways, and I remember feeling lighter, freer, and exhilarated as I stepped out the door of my studio when it was finished.
It’s one of those painting that I will never sell because it’s like a journal entry. I painted it just for me.
Next: Pathways No. 2, pastel
By the time Pathways No. 2 came along (above), I was looking for the challenge of creating something of a nocturne.
I strove to capture the sense of it being late in the day when the last light of a stunning sunset is leaving the sky—the time when you can still make out the slightest hints of the colors that flood the landscape during the day before they are lost to the night and your eyes can no longer discern them.
This painting reminds me that we can’t bottle time and we can’t hold on to light. We can only enjoy each fleeting moment and be grateful.
I will keep this blog posted when I paint the next in this series…
Next up: Golden Pines, pastel
Golden Pines was one of those paintings which seemed to paint itself. It didn’t take me long to paint, and it taught me that often simpler is better.
My goal was to capture the low angled sunshine hitting the pine tree trunks late on a winter day. As I look at the photo today, I can see a few things I would tweak. You might think that would make me unhappy, but it actually makes me excited. To me it means I am growing as an artist!
Next: Daisy Delights, acrylic on canvas
Daisy Delights was a delight to paint! (sorry… 😉
This painting seemed to scratch an itch I had to work with thick, impasto strokes of heavy bodied paint—something which is nearly impossible with soft pastels alone. I love the rich tones I could produce which make the painting seem to glow from within.
It was my first acrylic painting AND the first painting I had ever completed entirely with a palette knife—very freeing!
I completed Daisy Delights after viewing the channel “Palette Knife Painting Tutorials” on Youtube. Check it out if you are interested in seeing a how to.
Next: Bunny, watercolor and pen
Oh, that sweet little bunny! I saw the reference photo of this little guy on the line-of-action website I have referenced in a previous post. (I could not find a photographer’s name to credit the photo to, but it is not my own.)
There was just something about his pose and the softness of his fur that just begged to be put into a line and wash type of watercolor.
I love this kind of sketchy, loose look. And who doesn’t love a good scribble???
But my favorite touch was using a pen with watersoluble ink to make a border box. I loved touching the edge of the ink with a water brush to see it bloom and create a loose frame. I am now incorporating that technique to add tone to sketches. But more about that another time.
Next: Squirrel! pastel
Not too much to say about this furry critter except that sometimes a good painting comes out of experimentation and a letting go attitude—at least this one did! My hubby loves it so much he insisted we hang it in the house.
And finally: unnamed painting after Les Darlow,pastel
I wanted to include this pastel painting mainly because it was a huge departure for me. I painted it mostly with Pan Pastels, finely ground pastel in pan containers which are applied with sponges and other tools.
I painted this after viewing a demo by Les Darlow on Youtube—a search will bring it up easily.
I had used pans before mainly as an underpainting, but never to this extent. This painting does have stick pastel applied, mainly in the highlighted areas, and a little marker work in the treeline. Again, lots of experimentation for me, and I love the skyscapes pans let you achieve.
Well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed browsing through some of my favorite paintings of the year and hearing my thoughts on each.
I pray you are well and will strive along with me to continue developing your creative side as we walk into this new year!
I hope this post finds you well and loving life. I can’t believe it’s already February! My, how time flies…
Well, I’ve been moved in to my new studio for about a month now, and it has taken me some time to adjust to working in the new space….something I wasn’t expecting.
I have spent the last several weeks in this new year cocooned in a sort of creative solitude. My goal was to forge a new process or rhythm of working in my studio balanced with the demands of family life, schooling, and other obligations. Not easy.
Mainly, I have been focused on musical inspiration. Many of you may not know that I play violin, so I have to keep up my skills on that instrument. But recently I have also been learning to play guitar—something I tried to teach myself long ago, but that’s another story….
In addition to learning something new, I don’t mind telling you that I had a little trepidation about creating my first art piece of the new year in the new space….and I was feeling the pressure.
When I feel pressure, it’s usually because I am raising my expectations to unreasonable levels, and then I tend to procrastinate so as to avoid that pressure, and it can become this vicious cycle.
Anyway, I gave the perfection and people-pleasing parts of me a good kick in the pants, and went out to the studio to play. And today’s post is the result!
I hope you enjoy it. 🙂
Let’s start with the piece.
Now for the progress shots….
First, the set up:
Next, an underpainting of cool blues and purples for this snow scene:
Slow building up of color and establishing the sky.
Deepening the shadow areas and beginning to feel my way with those pesky wintry trees:
More development of the dried grassy areas, as well as the trees:
At this point in the photo below, I thought I was getting close to being done, so I put up some black artist tape….Usually, I use a black mat that I keep on hand for this purpose, but I didn’t have a square one handy!
Hmmm. SOMETHING was bothering me. The painting was missing something or a even a few things, but what?
It was at this point that I let the piece sit on my easel for several days while I thought about it. I often need to step away for a day or so while the painting “cooks”.
When I came back to it with fresh eyes, I used my editing app on my ipad to make some notes of things that I thought needed to be changed.
For starters, I wanted more contrast in the overall piece.
Next, I wanted to bring more unity to the color scheme—especially by tying the sky colors into the rest of the piece.
Finally, I needed to lead the viewer through the work with some subtle hints about where to look.
In the photo above, you can see that I added subtle hints of turquoise into the snow shadows to tie the sky into the rest of the scene.
Next, I deepened some of the dark areas for added contrast.
And lastly, I pushed the colors ever so slightly in areas where I want the viewer to look—namely the golden grass near the focal tree and continuing in the mid-ground grass.
And here is the final result once more.
I hope you enjoyed this one. Thanks for stopping by and visiting!