This painting is special to me because my Coneflowers, all the colors, were especially beautiful this year. They are in a back flower garden which is visible from our bedroom. I just loved standing there, even from inside, just watching the Fritillary Butterflies all over the blossoms! We had such a long, extremely hot and dry summer that, sadly, the Coneflowers are pretty much done blooming-and I see more honey bees on them now than butterflies. What a wonder and blessing-and artistic inspiration-it is to have numerous flower gardens and beautiful flowers all over the yard!
Sketch collage of five most recent sketches and the one of me recovering from a tooth extraction, after I added watercolor.
Since I painted and posted the rooster, I haven’t been just doing nothing! I continue to work daily in my art Before Breakfast sketchbook and I want to share the info on that. I have begun adding light watercolor washes to those sketches, which in my opinion improves them greatly. The sketchbook I’m using accepts those just fine and I very much like using it-a Pentalic Dream Catcher accordion-fold artist journal that I found at our local art store. It was a new item for them, being promoted with a sale price, so I got one each of the “draw” and the “watercolor” versions. I haven’t tried the “watercolor” one yet, but the “draw” version has beautifully smooth paper and works great with the pen & ink and light washes.
I am also in the midst of three paintings in my studio; one is going great, one has been set aside for now in favor of other more interesting subjects and the other is complete but I am not happy with the background. I’m thinking about what I want to do to correct that. If nothing else, the lesson that I do better when I paint the background first is more firmly planted in my mind. I was not taught in that manner when I did take classes, but I know that works for many wonderful watercolor artists and it seems to for me also.
3-14-15, dubbed Pi Day. What I really wanted was a real pie – lemon meringue, cherry, French Silk, any of those would do! But in the interest of not gaining 5 pounds, I opted for first sketching a cherry pie this morning in my art Before Breakfast sketchbook and then drawing and painting a lemon meringue pie this evening. Surely not as tasty, but calorie free without a doubt, this was a fun small project to do.
I am currently reading Daily Painting by Carol Marine. I got it not realizing that it appears to be mostly geared to oil painters, so at first I was a little disappointed. Once I started reading, however, I realized there was no reason for disappointment. Even though the author is an oil painter, she makes sure that most of the book is geared to any media. The point is that small frequent painting teaches you so much more than only doing the occasional large work. This constant practice also enhances your larger works when you do paint big. I had already realized just how much I learned from each painting when I participated in the January 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge. My plan was to continue, if not at quite that rate, then still painting frequently. I found out that it’s all too easy to set it aside in favor of all the other daily things that crop up, so I wanted/needed the reminder-which is exactly what that book is and will continue to be for me.
That was the long version of why I came to my studio this evening, drew and completed a small painting. It is something I need to try to do every day!
I still can’t quite get over that I finished 30 paintings in 30 days (actually in 28 days because of starting a little late)! I completed the collage of my work, then proceeded to add a border with text around it in one of my photo programs. That wasn’t my idea-it was available on the PicMonkey site, but my computer is too old and has inadequate memory to be able to handle that part of the collage procedure. Below are two versions; one with all 30 paintings and the other with the ones of which I am most proud-twenty of them. What a journey it was! Would I do it again? YES! Especially if I find myself slacking off and not devoting time to my art!
WOOHOO-I DID IT!!!!!!!! I actually finished this painting about 1 this afternoon, photographed, cropped in Photoshop and posted on the Leslie Saeta 30 Paintings in 30 Days blog right after. I then proceeded to use PicMonkey – http://www.picmonkey.com/ (at her recommendation) – to create a collage of all of my 30 paintings to also post on her blog. I am still so excited and proud of myself for this accomplishment! When I signed up, I honestly didn’t think I would manage to paint that many, but certainly did plan to try. Some I’m not so proud of, but some actually kind of amaze me, so I guess it all equals out. If you have followed my “journey”, you have seen that I used quite a wide variety of subject matter; good for practice on many different levels. It surprised me to see that I painted more animals, birds and sea life than even flowers. I have found that I really enjoy that challenge! In choosing what to paint, I ran across so many photo references that I really want to use-and soon. I currently have three ready to paint, so I should get to it!
I spent three hours on Friday morning/afternoon drawing for painting number 30, not to mention how long I spent on Thursday deciding on what to paint and redoing the design until I was pleased with it. Then I worked out, stopped at the grocery store, fixed and ate dinner, rested for a bit and just spent another nine hours finishing up the drawing and getting a good amount of the painting done. I finally had to face that I couldn’t finish it until Saturday-darn! But since I started three days into the challenge, I guess finishing one partial day late isn’t so bad, especially when it’s still January.
Since I have no new painting to share yet, I’ll post another of the September paintings from my first attempt at the 30 in 30 challenge. This one is my version of a Wetcanvas photo of the East Channel Lighthouse, Lake Superior on Michigan’s upper peninsula.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re under pressure to get artwork done, inspiration sometimes flies out the window? That is somewhat where I’ve been since January 3, when I again signed up for a 30-in-30 challenge-sponsored by the same artist as last September. I started 3 days behind!!! I have yet to catch up, but I have completed five paintings so far, have three more drawn on the Arches 140# CP paper and have a wealth of ideas floating around in my head. After I squelched the panic, I just started looking around and found all kinds of inspiration. Here is my day 4 painting. It is a Eurasian Eagle Owl, which was the week 11-29-14 subject in a Facebook group, “Paint Colorful Birds for Fun.” I rarely participate in the weekly choices; I’m quite proud of this since I have almost no experience drawing or painting animals of any kind. So, between trying to do at least some less familiar subjects and trying to fit at least one painting in each day (assuming I ever get caught up with myself), challenge is the perfect word for this! Not everything I paint will be up to what I expect from myself, but to me it’s all about practice, practice, practice! You cannot improve as an artist without devoting time to your art!
Rarely at a loss for inspiration, I have no good excuse for not keeping up with my blog. I just simply get busy with daily life and often times don’t get to the fun things, even if they are more important to me. So, that being said, after way too long an absence, I’m back! I have no lack of inspiration, but sometimes a big lack of time.
Going back to 2013, I started a new sketchbook the first day I joined the Spokane Sketchers meetup that year in early June. As I’ve mentioned before regarding the group-while I cannot always make it to the meet-ups, I thoroughly enjoy being a member and networking with the other local artists. I can simply say that joining the group has been the impetus I needed to make sure my hand was busy with some form of art pretty much every day. So as for my sketchbooks, my goal became to fill three of them in that first year with the group (at 60 pages each). I did manage that, just barely, and I do love seeing the progress I made in that first year with my drawing. It certainly points out how much better we can become at something with practice-gee, they apparently were right when I was in high school band!
Unless I’m painting, I continue to sketch/draw almost every day; when I am painting, I first hand draw everything. There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get to both and take care of my other responsibilities. In September 2014, I tried an online “30 paintings in 30 days” challenge. I did not think that through very well, because it quickly became obvious that it was beyond the time I could manage right then. With Spokane Watercolor Society coming off our summer break and, as the group’s president, I was almost overwhelmed with all I needed to accomplish. As the month went on, I had to set my goal lower and lower, but I did manage to finish 8 small paintings in the month. Not close to the expected 30, but definitely a high for me in a month. So, I think I’ll start by posting one of those here and, as time allows I’ll post the rest of those and maybe also back up to show some of the sketches and drawings that have filled my sketchbooks in the past year.
September 2014 painting #1 – Sunlit Orange Hibiscus
Monday morning I dropped in for a visit to my art mentor’s watercolor class. Jim is a wonderful artist and teacher and he never fails to inspire me-and, at the age of 92, he still teaches at least one class a week. There were 6 students in his class this week, all of whom were having a great time learning from him. I so enjoyed meeting the four people that I didn’t know, visiting with the two I do know and looking through Jim’s more recent class demos. It shames me to not be painting regularly, but it also motivates me, so perhaps that was exactly what I needed to stop being lazy and making excuses and to get me back into my studio and producing something!
Isn’t the internet great? Just to name a few things, you can find information on almost anything you search for, watch video tutorials of all kinds, find old friends or others with like interests, easily keep in touch with almost anyone and join online art groups of all kinds! When I start a search, I’m looking for one specific thing, but often I see something that leads me somewhere else. I did that early last week. I read an article regarding the “Clandestine Cake Club” which began in the UK and has spread to many other countries. As I understand it, it started as a type of “underground” group of people who love to bake (and eat) cakes; they meet monthly in a pub or somewhere else, each bringing a homemade cake. It intrigued me – I LOVE cake and baking! Hmmm-I wondered if there are any such groups in Washington state, and maybe even near me… So, I “Googled” it and, while I didn’t find any such group locally (darn!), what I did find was almost as interesting. It was a listing for “Meetup” which is basically all types of groups formed for all types of interests-and something I was totally unaware of. I found there seems to be quite a Meetup movement here and I just had to look into it further. There were quite a lot of rather oddball-seeming groups, but also a few groups that caught my attention, including a photography group (not just for professionals) and one called “Stitch ‘n Bitch” for hand-crafters. But, not wanting to join more groups than I have time for, I chose the one that seemed perfect for me – the one art related, Spokane Sketch Club – and joined. At this point, I must mention that, in my opinion, one of the greatest things about the Spokane area is our abundance of beautiful public parks. The first meeting was Saturday at the one that I feel is the best of them all-Manito Park. I went and met up with two other members in the Duncan Gardens (a very formal garden in the park) – Don (the founder of the group) and his friend Kenny. It was a small turnout, or maybe others were there and didn’t find us, but a beautiful day in a beautiful setting. We visited and sketched from the back of that garden. Of course I didn’t create a great work of art-or even one I like very much. But the whole point is meeting more local fellow artists, learning and sharing with other members and simply drawing more. In my case, practice may not make perfect, but it most certainly does make improvement, which is what I am always after-improving my eye for perspective and composition, my drawing ability, my techniques, my art in general! I am a watercolor artist, but in order to paint in watercolor, I must be able to compose and draw the picture first. Only time will tell, but I am intrigued by this group I joined and look forward to more “meetups” and to meeting more members. Maybe the best thing about it is that it will force me to get out in my own community and appreciate all of the artistic opportunities right here in my “own backyard!” So, whether or not you join a group, get out there with your sketching materials, paints or your camera and enjoy what your city has to offer!
Busy days go by and sometimes I don’t even get into my studio. That bothers me because I know that the surest way to be a better artist is to work at it every day. As anyone who has taken a class or workshop from Stan Miller knows, he always tells you how many hours he works at his art each day and and makes it clear that it’s the only way to improve. Here’s a quote copied from an interview with him (published in: http://www.watercolourfanatic.blogspot.co.uk/) “If one wants to be really good at something one has to desire to be good more than nearly everyone else, but this means you have to work harder than nearly everyone else!” I really try to practice that myself – although usually not the 8 hour days Stan puts in – but life just seems too often to get in the way. I know I’m not alone in that. But I do have a real desire to practice, learn and improve and there simply are no shortcuts.
While I was dismayed to realize just how long it has been since I added a new post, I have had numerous ideas for paintings and have filled many pages in my favorite sketchbook with preliminary drawings of those ideas. One is in process – another floral – and another is drawn on my watercolor paper waiting for me to get past the “scared” I feel at trying yet another something new. But I needed to just finish something now, even a quick painting. And again I found inspiration online. This time it was a Facebook group page called “Paint Colorful Birds for Fun” that I just ran across a few days ago. Each week a new bird photo is posted and you can paint and post it – just for fun. Last week’s photo was of a “Lilac Breasted Roller”, a beautifully colorful bird that I had never heard of. I have been afraid to even try to paint birds in the past and now here’s my second one in less than a month. Not that they’re masterpieces, but it’s practice and I’m challenging myself to try something different! To do something quick, I resorted to my trading card size again, but this time I tried out my Derwent Inktense pencils on the bird, touched it up a little with gouache and painted the background with watercolor. And it was fun.
Busy, busy, busy… But after missing a couple of days, I’m in my studio today and was inspired to finally finish a clematis painting I started several months ago! I have looked and looked at that partial painting and wasn’t sure where to go with the unfinished section. Suddenly today I knew-so I finished it! It is another small painting at just 6.5″x 9.5″. It was so sad just sitting there waiting for me to figure it out Now it’s a happy painting because it finally got the attention it deserved. So, here is the better late than never “Clematis Twist.” So if you’re feeling uninspired, just take a look at those unfinished paintings and maybe you’ll suddenly know too!
Another installment from Wetcanvas. I can virtually always find something to inspire me there! This is from the March 2013 Watercolor Challenge (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1309534), a simple picture of red tulips. The reference photo quality isn’t as good as normal, but it’s still something workable. I have had such “spring fever” for weeks now and this beautiful spring tulip was irresistible to me. I’m pretty happy with this floral and I think it came out better than the lily painting-mostly the simple background.
When I miss posting for a day or two, you might think I’m having a problem with inspiration myself. The contrary is really true. Since I began this blog, I’m almost overly inspired-if there is such a thing. It really does seem like everywhere I look something inspires me for some type of painting-and I’m following through and actually painting many of them! A while ago, I saw a YouTube video by artist Susan Crouch where she mentioned that she always carries a small notebook to write down her ideas when something comes to her. This is not a sketchbook; it’s just a simple little lined book to make notes in when inspiration strikes. It’s a great idea and I have begun doing that because I have been getting so many ideas for using sketches I’ve already made or photos I’ve taken. I used to just scribble something down on a scrap of paper and then lose track of it. I certainly could make a quick sketch in that little book if time allows, but that’s not the actual point of carrying it. So, I may not post every day, but it doesn’t mean I’m not working on (usually) several paintings. The other thing I find always find inspiring is the arrival of spring, my favorite season. I love seeing all the birds that have returned, the flowers beginning to grow and bloom, the sunny sky-just everything about it! Since I also like painting flowers, I’ve been focusing more on that subject. The “Plant Parade Project for February 2013” on Wetcanvas subject was lilies. I planned to paint something from their references last month for that challenge, but I didn’t get to it until this week. I made a quick lily drawing in that same 6×9 sketchbook several days ago; yesterday I began a watercolor of that sketch. It’s a small painting, about 7 x 10 on Arches 140# cold press, again painted with various artist quality paints. I think my background needs some work-too busy-but I’m sharing it with you anyway; not every painting is as good as I would like.
I have been working on a painting based on a tutorial I received from www.painters-online.co.uk. That is the website for a magazine printed in Great Britain, The Artist. I love the articles, examples and tutorials that come in the magazine or on their website. Frequently the watercolor paintings are softer and more muted and that style appeals to me very much. I understand that comes from the light being softer there, the atmospheric conditions, etc., but the overall effect is just beautiful to me. So, I practice that style of painting sometimes too. My art education here has emphasized stronger colors and contrasts for the most part. I understand the reasons and do not disagree with that style, but my brain seems to gravitate to something softer. This is somewhat a combination since there is some strong contrast, but it still has that very soft-light effect that I love. I have just placed a narrow mat scrap around it to show where I thought the painting should be cropped. But I ask you-is it done yet?
March 11 – Having no responses to my question and having stared at this painting every time I’m on the blog and every time I walk into my studio, I declare this painting finished. I love it just as it is!
I logged into Wetcanvas again yesterday just to see what the new March challenges are. I happened across one in Southwest and Western Art, which is an area I had not explored, so I had obviously not seen the challenge previously. Here’s the link if anyone wants to check it out: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1309531. In looking through the reference photos, a pine cone at the base of a tree grabbed my interest. I cropped it close, drew it in a 6″x9″ Bee Paper Super Deluxe sketchbook and shaded it with graphite. It was messy and fun to do and certainly not what I would have thought my next drawing would be. But have you ever really looked at a pine cone? I don’t mean when you’re in the yard picking up those endless pine cones from your (or your neighbor’s) pine tree. I mean really studied the structure. They are beautiful and fascinating and a real challenge to draw. I hope I did it some justice
I find inspiration through many other methods too. I love to cook, garden, knit and crochet. To me, it is all creative and being inspired in one area often leads to inspiration in others. One thing I do when I feel blocked and “fearful” of that plain white paper is to repeat in my head what my first watercolor instructor frequently said, “It’s just a piece of paper. Walk up to it and paint it!” Another great method I use is to look through photos I have taken over the years on various trips-and I have hundreds of digital photos on my computer like that. You don’t have to go somewhere exotic to find beautiful and wonderful subjects. In fact often all I need to do is go into my own back yard. Roses or petunias blooming, a hummingbird stopping by for some nectar; I find nature in abundance there and it’s beautiful and inspiring to me. I have been inspired driving home a different route and seeing something totally unexpected-like the authentic Victorian house I saw and photographed when I had no idea there was any such thing within a mile or two of my home! Take a walk through your neighborhood with your camera; go to one of the parks in your city with your sketchbook. There are never-ending sources of subject matter if only you pay attention and see things through your “artist’s eyes”!
The references for these two paintings are photos I took last summer. “Petunia and Friends” was based on one of my planters and “Mirabeau Springs Waterfall” from a walk through a local park. See-beauty and inspiration everywhere you look!
I was writing about “getting my creative juices flowing” by working from Lian Zhen’s video. For the first few projects, I pretty much followed along as best I could with the splattering, blowing and then trying to make that look like something – hopefully like what I was supposed to be painting. As I progressed through the lessons, I used my own references with freehand drawing. Here are two more of my paintings from that video session done in that manner, although the reference for this owl practice is his. The owl painting is in a Bee Paper Super Deluxe 9″x12″ sketchbook while the bison is done on 140# Saunders Waterford cold press watercolor paper, 11″x15″. As do most watercolor artists, I have a large collection of paints in a variety of brands, all of which are artist’s quality paints. The best paintings I’ve done? Hardly! But by this time I was having fun with the processes and, after all, it’s all about practice, practice, practice… How else do we improve?
You just never know what your source of inspiration might be on any given day. Today is a perfect example. I had a post almost ready to upload and then I saw a Facebook post by my close friend, Jeanne. She had changed her profile picture to her beautiful painting of her beloved cat, Blue, who they lost this week. While I am heartbroken for Jeanne because she’s my friend and because I know how painful losing a four-legged family member is, her loss inspired me to get into my studio and start a painting of my cat, Reenie. She (Reenie) was recently very ill with a liver ailment and has apparently, with a lot of work, money and prayer, recovered fully, for which I am very thankful. So why not honor my beautiful, now healthy cat in the same way? I’ve meant to do a painting of her since I got her two years ago. What better time than now?! While you’re reading about my inspiration, I’ll be in my studio setting aside everything else to do exactly that. And, with Jeanne’s kind permission, I am sharing her story and her painting of Blue.
Inspiration – a subject that is as varied as the methods and minds of artists. So, beyond logging on to Wetcanvas, I have many other ways to find my “muse” after not being actively involved in my art for a time.
I have a nice library of art books, both instruction books and inspiration books. Lian Zhen’s books are some of my favorites. While I have not been fortunate enough to attend one of his workshops, any of his books or videos are wonderful. I love his style; I am pretty much challenged by the methods that he uses with such ease. But challenge is good, as is learning new styles, media or methods.
I have worked from a couple of his videos on www.artistsnetwork.tv, the most recent one is “Watercolor with Lian Quan Zhen: Splashing & Blowing.” This particular video does not incorporate any Chinese painting techniques, just own his watercolor style. He covers several subjects on this video, moving along fairly quickly, so I grabbed sketchbooks, odd pieces of watercolor paper, whatever was handy to try out some of his lessons. Here is my quickly done attempt at his crab painting, painted in a watercolor pad that isn’t really top quality. Not the best result, but the more I worked from the video, the more comfortable I was with the methods. In addition to being challenging, I think it’s a lot of fun to try new styles and I also find it very inspiring!