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.
“Blue” by Jeanne Wallace
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!
After a brief absence from my studio, foremost on my mind right now is exactly that – finding inspiration. Some days it is as simple as a quick glimpse at one of my pets or looking out the window at a beautiful flower or bird. That isn’t always the case, but I find that the more time I spend drawing/painting, the more inspired I become. So after that hiatus, now what? Usually one of the first things that comes to mind is to log on to Wetcanvas, which is free-to-join worldwide online art community ( www.wetcanvas.com ). There’s not much you can’t find there: tutorials, a royalty-free image reference library with over 10 million photos, monthly or weekly challenges in pretty much any/all mediums, art by other members that will inspire you and that you can enjoy and critique-basically, something for everyone regardless of your medium!
So, of course, that is where I turned first. And what I ran across was a huge challenge to me – a self-portrait challenge! First, I don’t often do portraits anymore and second, a portrait of me? Well, I decided to try my hand at it for the first time, just a quick pencil sketch of myself from a photo that I like. So here it is, my first self-portrait (and perhaps my last) done in about 15 minutes with the mechanical pencil I had at hand, too little shading and in a 6”x9” sketchbook. Sharing it makes me feel a little like I’m walking naked through the mall!