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!
I’m still struggling with getting back to painting, as I mentioned in my last post. Inspiration is not the problem at all. I have so many art projects running around in my head that I want to do-and I’m confident the day will come soon when I will be back at it and turning some of those ideas into paintings. Since painting is still not working at the moment for me and I NEED to do some kind of art project, I decided to do some sketching. Working at any type of art is practice and, after a couple of months of being stalled, is necessary for me. Today I did a quick sketch from a reference that caught my interest; I found the photo in the Wetcanvas image library. It’s in a tiny (5″ x 7″) sketchbook. I then did pen & ink on it for some depth and definition. It’s not great art, but good practice and it was fun to do. I may even add a quick watercolor wash in places tomorrow.
I’ve been away from my blog for almost three weeks now. I have missed it, but sometimes life just gets in the way, in good ways and bad. I’m throwing this out because it’s a subject that can affect any/all of us as artists. Without going into details, I have recently had a major loss in my life. My art is my calm, my solace, my escape-it’s good for my soul. But, as much as I have tried to paint lately, I have been unsuccessful in turning out anything I felt was acceptable. It’s been very frustrating and is adding to my struggle with acceptance and healing. Apparently the pain of loss is getting in the way of the very thing that usually helps me to cope with the ups and downs of everyday life and perhaps only time will help. I’m not giving up – I am an artist! So please don’t give up on me.
On a lighter, happier note, I have also been very busy with the Spokane Watercolor Society elections (I’m now the president-elect) and our only fundraiser for the year. And the happiest event-a short visit from my daughter and 3-year-old grandson who live on the other side of the country. I miss them all the time and I cherish any time I am able to spend with them!
Three generations My table of work at SWS fundraiser
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.
With spring finally here and birds everywhere, another Wetcanvas challenge grabbed my attention earlier this month. This time it’s the called the “Fur, Feathers and Scales Challenge”. The reference for this painting came from the March challenge (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1309497) and I did not paint it in time to post it there, as this one closes at the end of each month. Since I’m not very familiar with painting birds of any kind and I think Bluebirds (this one is an Eastern Bluebird) are really gorgeous, I wanted to paint it for the experience. This painting is 1/8 watercolor sheet-about 7”x 10”; it’s a very simple rendition of the reference, not well composed but practice nevertheless. Even though I don’t totally love the painting, I’m posting it because I want to encourage everyone to try new things in their art-subject matter, methods, media, whatever; it all expands our knowledge and stretches us as artists! Get out the paints and brushes and just do it!
I just had to do it again-paint another picture in the tiny format (3″x 4″) – and it’s another floral. And again I had a fun time with it. I finally have a better feel for drawing and painting that small; to me if feels very different from even a watercolor quarter-sheet, which isn’t a very large painting. The inspiration for this iris painting came from an iris picture I took in my yard two or three years ago. I have used it for a number of sketches, tried it with watercolor pencils and now I have painted a tiny watercolor version of it. Pretty much the only thing somewhat true to the photo is the flower shapes, but it has been great inspiration. I’m sure it is very obvious what joy and beauty I find in flowers and in painting them!
Last October I was privileged to have my very first one-woman show at Robert’s Mansion, a local Bed & Breakfast in a very historic part of our city. I actually had admired that beautiful old mansion for years and had taken several photos in 2011. After my show, I wanted to do some sort of artwork with those pictures, but watercolor didn’t fit exactly what I had in mind. Having very little experience with pen and ink and being ready for a challenge, I drew the mansion and then did my first fully pen and ink painting. Perfect? No! But I’m very proud of this artwork and am proud to share it here. I enjoyed using the media and techniques so much and, even though it’s a very time consuming media, I look forward to delving into pen & ink again soon! I think the results can be stunning.
I was drawn back to the trading card mini painting size like I did a couple of weeks ago. I had a somewhat easier time getting the drawing to fit the format, maybe because it’s not the first one this time. This viola is from the April Plant Parade challenge on Wetcanvas: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1312900. There are several reference photos to choose from, but since I have grown this particular flower I was inspired to give it a try. In this challenge, you have most of the month to paint and then the pictures are posted on the 25th or after-so here’s the preview. Like with the other one, it was a fun challenge to paint this size!
I can’t believe a week has gone by – a very busy week – since I last posted. I have hardly been in my studio in that time, but I do have something helpful to post.
I’m changing subjects a bit today to share something simple that I put together a few weeks ago. This comes more under the subject of a useful and inexpensive project worth sharing. Although I would love to take credit for coming up with the idea, I cannot. I saw this in a YouTube video made by an artist whose style I love, Susan Crouch. The address for that video is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3LExb9l73k. She has other inexpensive materials ideas in that video too. What this consists of is a sheet of foamcore board, duct tape (I used white) and that rubbery shelf paper (also white-I found mine at Target) and takes just minutes to put together. Using white will not distract your eye or color vision if any part of this prop shows while you’re painting. It’s nothing fancy, but it works like a charm as a prop for your watercolor painting board when you want to paint on a slant, is lightweight and easy to use and store! I had nothing to use other than a stack of books and I hate using those because I don’t want to slop water and/or paint on them, plus they tend to be slippery. This seemed like the perfect solution without spending a lot on a commercially-made prop. I love mine!
I contacted Susan Crouch to check on exactly what she used to make hers and she very nicely got right back to me-thank you, Susan! The idea came from a Cheng Khee Chee workshop she attended at Cheap Joe’s in Boone, NC. She used 3/16″ foamcore board and said that she has found it really isn’t necessary to use the rubbery shelf paper on it. I did use it on mine and like that it makes it pretty much completely non-slip, so when I make another, I may continue to use it.
As membership chairman, I made these to give to the newest members of Spokane Watercolor Society. They seemed to be a hit; I hope they love using theirs as much as I do mine!
As is obvious by my recent posts and paintings, I love florals. That’s partly why I have found the early spring Wetcanvas challenges fun and irresistible this year. This painting is based on the reference in the February 2013 Watercolor Challenge – http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1306333. Since Hibiscus is one of my favorite flowers, so beautiful and tropical, I just had to participate-even though I didn’t paint mine until March! I am also including two Hibiscus paintings I did several years ago, quite some time after taking a workshop from Terry Madden, but inspired by his style. For those, my references were my own photos, one taken while on a trip to Las Vegas and the other taken in my own yard.
I just finished a fun project. I have done a lot of small format paintings in the past, as small as 5”x 7” and many 1/8 standard watercolor sheet in my early classes, but I have never painted trading card size (3”x 4”) until this painting. Drawing it was the biggest challenge; I drew a flower and it was too big to fit the format so I had to start over-and over, and over and over… Once I conquered that, the painting was a real joy. I just did what I normally would do but with a much smaller brush. It wasn’t as quick as one would think as it still took drying time between glazes, etc. So, I’m sharing my very first watercolor trading card.
I wrote yesterday of painting a subject that you’re particularly drawn to. My friend and fellow artist, Jeanne Wallace, is my guest blogger today, writing of what most draws her and why. Thanks for sharing, Jeanne!
Elaine had asked me to write something about why I love to paint statues. Well, for one thing, they sit still! However, my real reason is that some of them “speak” to me. In the three images I’ve included here I saw honor, humility, and humor. Three attributes that I personally appreciate in my fellow human beings, and hope to attain in my own personal growth. “To All the Women of the Nation” is a statue I found in “The Cloister” of the Washington Memorial Chapel surrounded by the Valley Forge National State Park, Valley Forge, PA. The other two, “Daydreaming” and “Confucius Said What?,” were treasures I found in local gardens. My search continues…… Who knows, you may see a stranger taking a photo of one of your statues for the very reason I take my photos. Thanks Elaine for starting this wonderful blog.
To All the Women of the Nation Daydreaming
Confucius Said What?
Warning – personal opinion! High key, mid key, low key-that is the question. I’m revisiting something I said in my Inspiration – part 7 regarding styles of painting. Have you ever looked at another artist’s work and mostly seen only darkness? I’m not referring to dark against light for contrast and impact-I mean so dark that it almost screams “severe clinical depression here”, where there really is no contrast to draw your eye! I’ve seen some works by artists I greatly admire that lose me immediately because they just seem to want to take me to a dark, foreboding place where I don’t want to go. I’ve sometimes particularly seen this in portraits, which makes me wonder if the artist is really seeing a dark soul in the subject or maybe is in a very dark place himself/herself at the time of the work. Does the artist want us to examine that part of our own psyches-or does it simply say something about his own?
That brings me back to my previous mention of gravitating to softer works. Those and bright, colorful works make my brain happy and inspire me so much more. Those preferences drive my artistic spirit and I think we should all paint what we are most drawn to. While I believe that we all, as artists, need to stretch ourselves with different subject matter, styles and even media, we still seem to gravitate back to the subjects that most drew us in the first place. I have a friend who almost exclusively paints outdoor and/or farm scenes and another who prefers wildlife subjects; both are fantastic artists and their subject matter told me a lot about who they are before I got to know them personally! Since I love to garden and I’m most comfortable and happy around water – lakes, streams, waterfalls, the ocean – you’ll see many florals and watery landscapes in my work.
Obviously there is room in the art world for all manner of styles. But I personally think it’s sad to be driven only by what a judge might want to see in any given juried show or only the subject matter a certain gallery insists on. I know artists who dread having to paint a subject or style for those reasons, but of course they do it anyway and almost hate every minute of it! Apparently that is the only path to any success in the art world, but does that make it right for the artists?
I’m sufficiently inspired now and I hope others have taken inspiration from some of my posts too.
Negative painting – okay, that’s a method that really scares me. I understand the principles behind it and exactly how it’s done, but doing negative painting is something I always seem to struggle with. I forget what I’ve planned to paint around, I mess up the shape I’m trying to achieve, etc. I even remember the first time I “got it.” I was in a class several years ago taught by my friend and fellow Spokane Watercolor Society member, Sue, in which she did a quick demo and it suddenly made sense to me. The easy way I was told to remember it is: If the object is darker than its surroundings, it’s positive painting; if it’s lighter, it’s negative painting-it’s just that simple. Or is it? Technically, yes it is, but in practice I find it much more complex. My most successful artwork with negative painting was done in her class that day (and it wasn’t that good). While I still know the “how,” I don’t seem to be able to DO very well. Here is one lesson I have found: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?postid=5437124.
The following is the one I’m working from. It starts with an underwash, some large splatters and negative painting to complete it. That tutorial is one I found on Wetcanvas: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=544498. It’s a really fun lesson and so far things are going fairly well, but now it’s time for the darkest darks, painting around the already established daisies to make stems, leaves and other background shapes. That is usually where I mess up…and I have put off continuing with this painting for about a week so far.
I got past the darks and here is the finished painting. I’m showing you both a before and an after. Not my best work by any means, but actually I don’t hate it-and for a negatively painted piece I’m okay with that!
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!