Fantastic Foliage – a Watercolor

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If you are lucky enough to live in one of the leaf peeping regions, I’m sure you have been celebrating the stellar foliage. No two years are the same, but this year is noteworthy.  There are reds and hot-pinks I have not seen in years.  I find it difficult to make it to my mailbox without getting distracted!  In fact, because of this I collected up a bunch of leaves from my yard and brought them to the watercolor class I teach.

Here’s another cool thing:

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I needed a new phone and decided to transition from the I phone to the Motorola.  I have no regrets, in fact it’s the opposite.  I was able to purchase a Haselblad camera lens for my phone.  A real lens to add to my light-weight heavily accessible phone?  Yep. And I’m having a blast.  Here are some leaf photos I’ve taken with my new toy:

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I can’t get over the detail!

So here is to another autumn weekend.

You know where you’ll find me…  OUTSIDE!!!

 

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Be Creative Mary Pottery 2019

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Please forgive me  for not posting on pottery for a long time.  I even taught pottery camp this summer and don’t have a single photo to show for it!  I have a new session coming up with new ideas to explore.  So hopefully you will see more of me in the coming months!

The Secret Inner Workings of My Mind

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The chaos on this table is a reflection of what’s going on inside my head!

Getting something on paper is the hardest part for me.  Well, I should back up a bit.  I am making it harder on myself because I am trying to move from painting what exists (ie. still lives and landscapes) into creating my own concepts from my head.  Observation of that which is – is one thing.  Sit down with a blank piece of paper and create something from nothing –now that’s the big unknown.  The possibilities are endless.  Where do you begin?

Well for me, it takes some soul searching.  If you can make an image of anything, what does the artist choose?  You can go with what other people want, you can go with what’s trending in the industry or you can spend some time answering the question for –yourself.

I’ve spent that time.  I’ve tried all sorts of stuff.  Custom orders, reading about what sells, intuitive painting, traditional motifs…  They have all helped me get to know my likes and dislikes and what I naturally gravitate towards. So here’s my personal answer:

Flowers – because I love gardening and am enamored with nature.

Animals – and quite particularly the everyday variety I get to commune with in my yard and region.

Spirituality – I am fascinated with mysticism, trying to figure out why I am here and the secrets of the universe.

I know these to be my truth and near & dear to my heart because if I wasn’t creating art, the three items above would still be what I’d be doing.  I’m an avid gardener, animal watcher and spiritual book reader.

These three things may sound cliche. And there in lies my resistance to them. As a quote “ARTIST” I was trying to search deeper and darker and more strenuously to find the “PROFOUND” answer.  But I’ve learned,  I’m never going to be that artist that throws my bodily fluids on a canvas and equates them to the inner struggles of humanity.  Apparently I aint got that kind of talent ;)   I am an environmentalist and soul searcher, so in a gentle way I will try to shake the world.  My art will be a reflection of what I love in hopes of connecting with other people who share the same loves.  Boy that sounds so neat and tidy.  So why did it take me 7 years to answer the question???  I guess because some of us are experiential learners.  We can’t take anyone’s word for it.  We have to explore both good and bad until we can know it for ourselves.  Yes.  I was the kid that had to touch the stove to learn what hot meant!

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OK. so as an artist, I never share this part.  It’s the part where I work out my ideas.  It’s looks kind of ugly. It’s awkward and a bit embarrassing.  Most of us would rather surface a few steps down the line when the idea has taken better shape.  But what the hell is an art blog for if your not talking about the miserable parts of art too right?

For this 6 painting series, I decided I am going to work large which is about 20″ x 24″ for me.  It’s most likely going to be a combo of watercolor and gouache.  I want to have tons of flowers kind of like this past painting I did:__2019-05-08 09.31.15b

I want to add animals, mostly backyard animals.  And for the mystical part, I am going to make the backdrop a “Secret Garden”.  What the hell is a secret garden?  I have absolutely no clue.  That’s the part I have to create in my mind.  I realize the answer comes from imagining.  Imagining what it is I would actually want in my own fantasy garden.  That’s where the fun lies, but it’s also where the stress lies because I don’t have the answer to that!  I have to try a million things until they “speak” to me.

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So, being a visual person.  I cut up a bunch of 2 inch pieces of paper and I make a quick image of every darn thing I can think of that could fall into the categories I’ve laid out (Seriously there are probably a hundred tiny drawings in my envelope).  Sometimes I print out little reference images as well.  I mean who really knows what an owl talon looks like?  I take all the pieces of paper and I sit on the floor and mix and match them until a story emerges.  It’s like an intuition session.  From there I move to 8 x 10 pieces of watercolor paper.  I am working on creating a cohesive image.

Now  here is where I have never really gone before.  This next step I am asking of myself is to force myself to do at least 3- 8 x 10’s of each concept so that I really push myself to improve on the composition and relevance of every object.  I have such fast energy  which causes me to have such a short attention span that it makes this a REALLY BIG CHALLENGE.  I need to slow down, focus, stay with a subject matter for a while.  I cannot allow myself to move on… or fall down some more rabbit holes.  I need to stick with this and push myself to go further in my art.

There is something  I don’t really like that happens to me when I try to work-out an idea from my imagination.  I become like this technical illustrator.  Everything that comes to mind becomes literal. The free-wheeling, fun, colorful Mary seems to disappear and this downer technical artist comes out to play.  No offense, but that illustrator part of me is a real drag.  Blech.  

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Here is a great example of this.  This little painting came from my watercolor class I teach.  It’s from the first class of the session where I try to get all the artists to loosen up, play with the paint and not worry so much about the subject matter.

I PERSONALLY LOVE THIS PAINTING.  I mean we could go on for quite a bit about what’s wrong with it, but let me tell you what’s right.  It’s free-spirited, cheery and has a fabulous use of color.  Now look at these drawings below:

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Everything is in it’s place, but there isn’t any spontaneity.  It’s like so what, there’s an owl.  Oh that’s nice, there’s a rabbit….  Now I get it, how else was I supposed to get an animal, a floral arrangement and garden elements all into a 4 inch piece of paper?  The thing is, most of the time I wouldn’t have even made this sketch, I’d just start with a 20 x 24 piece of paper. I’d sketch out the design and paint the first thing that flowed from my pencil.  There would not be room for me to mess with the objects, play with the composition or color and I wouldn’t get to loosen up at all. I would finish at the 2nd dimension instead of extracting the concept to a 4th or 5th dimension.  Does this make sense?  This is all the stuff that’s been swirling around in my head.  Most people who are not into art-making are like “that’s nice”….yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah go paint your pretty picture…. I guess it would be like trying to explain to me how nuclear fission works…. (please don’t try to explain to me how nuclear fission works :)

I mention this because if I am to share what I am going to be working on for the next couple of months, I want to warn you in advance that it might look like the same paintings over and over again.  It will definitely look like that to the outside world.  But inside, I am hoping to work and rework my concepts until I refine them into something entirely different then what you see on these scraps of paper.

I’m nervous. It’s scary.  I feel awkward like a freshman.  I want to bail and find something else safer to do. I am snacking, weeding, blogging. Doing everything I can to distance myself from the work.

But, I also know this is the process. And, for every detour I take, I do come back.  I do sit down.  Hell, I already have my first sketches completed!  The canvas is no longer blank.

It’s exactly the way it should be and I’m ready to get back to it!

 

 

Another Autumn Another Art Studio

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I have avoided this for many years mainly because I crave natural sunlight, but it was inevitable.  Eventually, I would wind up in my basement.

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I have this giant extra room in the basement.  It’s where they built an addition on the house years ago.  It’s concrete and unfinished but, it’s dry and there is electricity.  Did I mention it’s free?

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In order to make the space to create, I had to have a yard sale.  15 years ago I wrote “wicked huge yahd sale” on my signs to kind of poke fun at the New England accents where I live, but now it’s kind of like I’ve branded my yard sales.  I always write this and people know who’s sale it is without even looking at the address.

Long story short, This sale was a LARGE HAUL.  It took me three weeks to unload 20 years of art supplies out of my basement.  Mostly because I taught art lessons and art camps to kids for decades, so every time someone wanted to unload materials – I said yes. I had boxes and boxes of fabric, yarn, paints, paper, tools, printing press, photography prep, art books, craft materials…  You name it.  It accumulated in my basement.

And now it’s gone.  I have made the decision to end that chapter in my life.  I teach adults art now and I have them bring their own materials :)

My new art space will be devoted to painting.  I have a big project in mind.  It’s a painting series.  It’s going to take me forever and my goal for making it happen is to stay away from rabbit holes.  Rabbit holes?  What’s that you say?  It’s the multitude of paths that lie underneath the surface to get you to your destination.  Rabbits dig tons of paths.  If you are a practical human, you create one path to take you from point A to point B.  If you are a rabbit, you might have ten paths to point B and you could get distracted or lost along the way.  I’m a rabbit.  I say I want to paint, but along that path I elect to create and sell jewelry at a Christmas show, I create and sell pottery through-out the year.  I teach 1-4 art classes a week.  These are my rabbit- holes that keep me from ever accomplishing the goal I set forth.  Sure I have tons of fun along the way, but at the end of every year I also feel a great sadness for never really pushing myself to the serious goals I have made for myself.

Sigh…  here I go again.  Fall.  Back to school. Time for fall-cleaning.  Time to reassess. I’ve made some good head-way.  I’ve said no thank you to teaching kids.  I said yes to teach only one adult art class this fall and no to 4.  I emptied my home of all of the art supplies that were unnecessary.  I am journaling, meditating, and taking baby-steps to formulate the art project in my mind.  All good things…

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But there are a few rabbit holes I just don’t want to give up, as time-consuming as they are.  Pottery is one of them.  I haven’t figured it out yet.  Maybe stop teaching and continue with pottery? Try to paint, teach and do pottery, which isn’t working very well from a productivity perspective?  Maybe devote 6 months to painting, then 6 months to pottery and only do one at a time?

Ugh.  If  you can’t tell, my heart is torn.  Clearly in writing the last few sentences, I can take teaching out of the mix…  but that involves a lot of people I feel terrible letting down…I will have to sit with this for a bit.

I’d love to hear from those of you with rabbit holes and what you do to clarify and simplify your life.  Or maybe you just don’t and you live a crazy hectic life.  That’s a story in itself!  But I am really craving focus. On a soul level.  And I’m finding it very difficult to find my way.

So here’s to another Fall and trying to find my place in the world.  It’s a deja vu moment…. but with the autumn there always comes hope ;)

Painting What You Sea

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I often ask my students what subject matter they would like to paint and living in Rhode Island, of course the subject of ocean came up.

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Here is the tutorial I created on the subject.  The key to painting waves is to think of how the sun is hitting each and every wave.  There are dark areas and there are light areas.

I had to paint this painting twice for class.  Both came out a bit different.  One is more pastel and detailed and the other was created with a larger brush and bolder color.  If I painted it three more times, I could paint it three more different ways!

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This in there lies the key to finding one’s own artistic style.  I highly recommend trying the same subject matter multiple times.  As you become intimate with every nuance of an image, it becomes easier to manipulate.  You can make changes based on the insight you’ve gained.

The more you truly understand, the stronger your artistic muscle.

Garden Days Are Here Again

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One of the final projects of my watercolor class I teach was home portraits.

I love doing home portraits because in looking back, they become little time capsules.

For instance, here is the portrait I did of the same house seven years ago:

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We had just moved in, the house was green, my kids were 5&7 yrs, we had our first cat Pina still with us and I had decided to do a little folk painting capturing all of the kid’s activities.

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Seven years later, I painted the house the color I wanted, created the gardens I envisioned, my kids are now teens, our new cat is Willow. Times have changed.  My plan is to keep the old paintings behind the new paintings in the frame.  This way seven years from now I can look back and reflect again.  I wish I had done a painting of my first house ten years before that, but I hadn’t thought of it!

I can’t talk about my home without instantly referring to my gardens.  My yard is small, the house is –a cape.  Not much out of the ordinary there. But my gardens are where I feel I have made my mark. It’s where I’ve turned my house into a home.

If your a gardener, you can’t help but take photos.  There’s so much going on in the garden! It’s almost like I need to look at it through photographs in order to process it all.  I also think that gardening is the largest inspiration in my artwork because it makes such an impact on my life. I absolutely love organic lines as well as the twists, turns and wiggles.  Gardens are like puzzles of perfect chaos.

So here is my inspiration for 2019. It has been a fantastic year for flowers.  I have moved every plant in my yard at least three times, but I am starting to feel like everything is now in it’s place.

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Back I go – into my gardens.

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The Sunniest of Flowers

    • In my acrylic painting class, I created a lesson on how to paint a sunflower.

I had two focuses. The first was to encourage the painters to use large paint brushes and the second was to get the painters comfortable with their paintings being UGLY in the first few stages.

Using larger paintbrushes forces the painter to not be able to paint in the details. In turn, the artist gets a looser more impressionistic painting. With the cameras we all own, it’s my opinion that us painters need to offer a different perspective than complete realism.

Next, was allowing the painting to be ugly.  I feel like so many beginning painters try as hard as they can to tackle the subject matter in one layer, as best they can, for fear of judgement on how ugly the painting might be. The ego needs practice allowing for a painting to look strange and in bad colors. However, all those ugly layers create a wonderful foundation, so my mission was to get them to let the painting be. This is why I called this lesson the yellow lollipop. When their paintings were finished, I said remember the ugly yellow lollipop?

This was my tutorial and the sunflower starts off looking like a yellow lollipop. As the steps progress,  artists use a negative painting technique to create the flower petals. This means instead of painting each petal with yellow paint, they simply have a large section of yellow on the canvas to which dark green is painted to create where the flower petals would be. Look in the tutorial. The sunflower looks like a lollipop until the green background color begins to define the petals.

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I always do a complete painting at home and then I do the painting again in the class with the students.  Doing the painting before my class allows me to jot down any ideas or observations that come up which I think makes for a better teacher.  Doing the first painting before class also allows me to make the tutorial of the stages of a painting. I know when I started out, I loved looking at painting stages.  It helped me understand the process.

The left painting was the first painting and the right was during class.  There is something about doing a painting the second time that I love.  It’s like, as an artist, you get to synthesize all your discoveries and reapply them differently. It’s the same subject matter but totally a different experience.  I always wind up loving the second painting more.  I’ts like catharsis.  I got a do-over and made the changes I wanted to see.

 

I say it over and over again to my students.  I tell them go home and try it again.  Not many do.  But occasionally a student will take me up on it and the results are phenomenal.

As we speak, my sunflowers are a mere 3 feet.  It won’t be for another month until I can start painting my own sunflowers :)

Shadow Box Collages

SHADOW BOXES

I’ve been working on these forever.

Mostly because there are so many stages.  I work on them, forget about them, pick them up again, have to get the ceramic elements fired and glazed, forget about them and then have to paint the boxes and assemble all the elements.

They take a lot of time, but it feels like play so I just try to have a little bit of amnesia about the whole thing.

In a nutshell there are few components to these:

  1. Spend countless hours walking beaches picking up trash.
  2. Beg cigar stores for empty cigar boxes.
  3. Create pottery elements to tell a little story and compliment the found objects.
  4. Sand, paint, nail, string and glue everything together.

The boxes above are at the pottery stage.  I have to fire and glaze the components, then I will do step 4.  They look radically different after the ceramics are glazed so I will post again when I get to that point!

Into the Woods

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I am constantly hunting on Pinterest for lesson ideas for both my watercolor and acrylic paint classes. I found this lovely little watercolor of the woods and thought boy is this a great way to show students how to paint a subject matter that is visually chaotic.  When looking at the woods, I think most of us would not know where to begin.  Now I want to give credit to this artist, but the website is not in English. So this is what I found:

​[남일 풍경수채화 시범작품]

숲길 – 수채화 과정.

 watercolor on Arches (rough)

by NAMIL

* 그림과 영상이 마음에 드시면… 공감, 댓글 남겨주세요~

시청해주셔서 감사합니다~

This was a blog and there was a wonderful  progression showing how the artist tackled the subject matter.

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Guess what?  This progression works!  Some ideas to keep in mind are to paint the background lighter and the foreground deeper in color and have less detail in objects that are supposed to be far away and more detail in the objects closest to the viewer.

Here were two paintings I did while teaching the class:

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Thank you to Namil.  His demo made it possible to teach a whole class of students how to paint the woods.