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.”
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.
It is wet and blustery here in the Hoosier state—a great day to stay indoors doing something for my creative side.
I hope that you have had some time to get creative too!
As promised, today I bring you the third and final installment of the Whimsy Sisters. If you missed the last two posts, click here to go back to part 1 and get caught up.
Drawing these girls has been very freeing and fun….freeing because they could be anything I wanted them to be, and fun because, well, they could be anything I wanted them to be! 🙂
Seriously, you never know what will come out of your imagination when you give yourself permission to PLAY!
And that was the whole point…
So let me introduce you to the third of our trio: Lucinda
What is there to say about Lucinda?
Well, to start with, she’s somewhat homely, unlike her other two sisters. She doesn’t wear the nicest clothes or have a fashionable hair-do. She doesn’t attract others with a sunny disposition or sparkling charisma.
But she is practical and friendly.
Lucinda is, in fact, the glue that holds everything together in her family of three.
For example, she is the one who makes sure that the meals are made, the cat gets let outside, and the plants are watered. She is the one people can count on.
When her other two sisters have a problem, they go to Lucinda. You see, she is a good listener and a steady friend.
Did I mention that she carries an umbrella and a little bucket around with her? The bucket is for collecting her tears which she uses to water the flowers, and the umbrella is for, well, you never know when it’s going to rain!
Here is the start of Lucinda:
And finally, here is Lucinda with her two sisters, Penney and Maggie, after I added a fun background of dots using the leftover colors on my palette.
I hope you have enjoyed this series. I have enjoyed sharing it with you!
Hello Friends! I hope this day finds you well and living your creative dreams!
Today I would like to continue sharing my series of sketchbook Whimsies…those make-believe characters that take form in my mind and live on the pages of my sketchbook.
In my last post I introduced you to Penney, the youngest of the three Whimsy Sisters.
As you may recall, Penney is sweet and modest, bringing sunshine wherever she goes, befriending animals and people alike.
Her older sister, Maggie, is quite a different character:
“Free-spirited” describes Maggie’s true nature. Preferring dramatic entrances and exits, she can be counted on to sport a wardrobe resplendant with halloween costumes from past years. She doesn’t take anything or anyone (including herself) too seriously, and she never takes time to comb her hair. To some, Maggie might seem aloof, insensitive, or full-of-herself, but in reality, she is simply lost in her own little world of make-believe and is too enthralled to notice anyone else noticing!
Here is a peek at Maggie’s creation:
Well, that’s it for today. I hope you are enjoying this peek into my sketchbook!
Today I would like to introduce the first in a series of illustrations I call Whimsies.
Whimsies are my take on quirky, make-believe folks that come to life in my mind and live in the pages of my sketchbook! 🙂
Whimsies are a lot of fun to conceive of, draw, and paint because I am limited only by my imagination—there basically is no wrong way to draw a Whimsy!
So without further ado…
Let me introduce “Penney”—one of the three “Whimsy Sisters.”
Penney is a sweet girl. One of three girls in the family, she doesn’t like fighting or arguing with her two older, rather bossy, sisters. Instead she much prefers things to be civilized and beautiful. Birds and animals are her friends. She has by far the most beauteous heart and countenance of the three, though she would never say that about herself, and she brings sunshine wherever she goes.
Let’s take a peek at how I created Penney:
I hope you enjoyed meeting Penney!
I plan to introduce her sisters in upcoming posts.
Think about the question for a minute. You may be wondering where this is going, but let me ask you a few more questions:
Do you tend to lose track of time when you are in the creative process? (I call that being “in the zone”.)
Do you find yourself wishing for, craving, even needing time spent in some creative activity?
Do you feel better (more balanced or centered) after you have gotten to spend time in your creative process?
Do you feel unfulfilled, anxious, or restless when you don’t get enough time or opportunity to create?
Do you miss the time you could have spent creating when other priorities in life arise?
I think that if you answered “yes” to any of the above, you, my friend, are an artist. 🙂
But what does any of this have to do with this blog?
Well, let me tell those of you who don’t personally know me that I absolutely adore and am committed to the pastel medium. For me, its immediacy, vibrancy, and tactile nature make it my number one choice when I want to get seriously creative.
But one can’t be (or shouldn’t be, I believe) serious ALL the time. As I grow in my ability to express myself with my art, I can more clearly see the need to incorporate some serious PLAY-TIME (sorry, I couldn’t resist…) into my artistic life!
So today, I am throwing caution to the wind and opening up my sketchbook to share with you some of my latest play-time creations.
First up: A Nesting Composition of Colorful Butterflies
I LOVE doing nested compositions. It’s an easy way to practice and experiment with shapes, colors, and layout using a single subject. No two are ever the same! Pop the finished piece onto a colorful piece of scrapbook paper and attach it in your sketchbook, or adorn the top of a blank greeting card and send it off to a lucky person!
They can read it and then frame it!
Next up: A Nesting Composition of Mason Jars
I plan to do more nesting compositions….balloons, teapots, and toadstools are on my play list!
Here’s one more pic showing my shortcut to drawing mason jars….
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I plan to share more of my sketchbook creations in the near future, so stay tuned!
Before I go, I would like to mention the book The Art of Creative Watercolor—Inspiration & Techniques for Imaginative Drawing and Painting by Danielle Donaldson. This book is AWESOME!! It’s where I got the idea for nesting compositions. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who is looking to foster a more playful creative process. Check it out!
Welcome Summer! It’s almost upon us, and with the recent heat and humidity I’ve turned to the air-conditioned comfort of my little studio.
This summer finds me wanting to combine my two favorite mediums: pastel and watercolor!
Now I love watercolor, but I am no watercolorist… so where to begin? For help I followed a demonstration by blogger/artist Karen Margulis (kemstudios.blogspot.com) and was able to paint my version of a field of daisies using a watercolor underpainting. And I have to say it was a lot of fun!
Before jumping into the watercolor, I did my homework and created three quick thumbnail sketches to plan out my composition and values. These are very small. Literally, 1 1/2 x 2 inches. The first is an outline helping me place the major shapes. In the middle is my four values map. And finally, my black and white notan to help me see the light and dark mass shapes.
Next came the watercolor! I worked vertically on my easel using Canson Touch sanded paper, an old, oil painting bristle brush (round), and a variety of watercolor paints (artist grade).
I know some say you don’t have to use artist grade paints for an underpainting; however, I planned to allow some of the underpainting to show after the application of pastel, so I wanted the pigments to be lightfast and archival.
Here is the finished watercolor underpainting.
Next I began to apply pastel. First the darks; then the sky.
Now the petal shadows.
Time for some lighter values on the petals and the flower heads. Also some green stems and grasses.
Adding aerial perspective with pale purplish-blue flowers.
Finally, I softened most of the edges of the flowers not in my focal point, and added some life with a few bumblebees. Another first for me!
Definitely brought some life to the finished painting!
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed combining the process of loose watercolor painting followed by pastels. I will definitely be trying this again!
Well, here we are in the middle of autumn with Thanksgiving just a blink away. The birds who fly south for the winter are well on their way. I don’t know about you, but last winter was sooooooooooo long that I developed a real appreciation for spring, sunshine, longer days, and the return of our friends at the bird feeder.
So here is my ode to spring–an American Robin sighted in our pasture way back in spring of this year. Here’s hoping that this winter will be shorter and without any “polar vortices”!
Winsor & Newton watercolor markers, Micron Pigma ink, and water brush in 8 1/4 x 5 Moleskine sketchbook.