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.
Hello creative friends! This summer finds me busier than ever. How ‘bout you?
Our string band played the county fair providing ambiance for the fair-goers. That was a lot of fun. 🙂
Here at home our little garden is cranking out beans, tomatoes, berries, and zucchini—which means harvest and preservation are in full swing. Time to dust off the canning jars…
Yesterday was a chicken processing day—thank goodness for our chicken plucker!
Homeschool is just around the corner. I mean, it literally starts next week—yikes!!!
And throughout our busy schedule I am somehow managing to find time to spend at the easel.
Lately I have been working on monochromatic as well as limited palette studies in oil. I have also done some experimenting with new colors, but would like to spend more time really going deep into the possibilities via some color charts.
Here are a few of the studies…lots of fun to do and all from imagination.
These studies are done on canvas paper and take as little as 20-30 minutes, though some took longer depending on how much fun I was having! 😉
I could see these studies serving as inspiration for future larger oil paintings. Producing them was a fun way to test out ideas and materials, and engage in some imaginative playtime without feeling like I had to produce something frame-worthy.
So I highly recommend this kind of work for those times when you are in between projects, or for when you just don’t know what to work on next.
I think it is also something incorporated into a daily practice if you desire. Like daily sketching, but for oil painters!
Hope you are taking time to restore your creative juices as summer continues. Before you know it, autumn will be upon us and we’ll be longing for these long, lazy days, so don’t let them go to waste!