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.

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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.

Garden of Grackles

__2019-05-08 09.31.15bGarden of Grackles -watercolor 18″ x 24″

This painting is very special to me.

I have been blogging about my art journey for almost 8 years now.  Can you imagine that?  -8 years.  In that time I have complained A LOT. Sorry about that :)  My almost decade frustration has been not knowing what my “message” as an artist would be.

First, as an artist,  I had to figure out what art medium was best suited to me and which best expressed my talent. Second, what style felt right?  abstract? illustration? graphic design? botanicals? landscapes? still lives?  and Thirdly, most importantly, what is my message as an artist?

Eight years later I can safely and proudly say I am an experiential learner. Meaning, no one could ever tell me me the answer, I had to learn the hard way.  I had to learn by trying EVERYTHING and I’m sure I will keep exploring.  No one could say “Hey, you seem to shine when you do xyz” or “You really should stick to xyz subject matter”. I have painted with acrylics, gouache and watercolor. I have tried printmaking, pastels and mixed media.  I have painted still lives, landscapes, abstracts and everything in between.

I really struggled with my message as an artist.  Some artists don’t care. They are just happy doing what they’re doing.  But inside me all the existential questions lie.  Why was I born?  Why am I on the planet earth? What is the point of  being alive and dying?  Is there a point? What will I do with the life I have been given?  I have gifts how will I use them?  and most importantly, what can I give back to the world?  

As an artist I have always taken this last question to heart.  I was not born with a scientific brain to cure diseases.  I wasn’t born to be a world leader that will guide future generations. I wasn’t born with a medical mindset to nurture and heal others.  I was born with a particular gift of creating images.  I haven’t really seen a society who value’s this gift.  Not like they value notoriety, wealth and technology.  How do you answer the question of giving to your community, your planet and the world at large as an individual?  As a human, I can care about the earth, be politically active, raise responsible children, pay my taxes and do no harm.  But a give to the world by making images?  I’ve struggled for years with the guilt of feeling frivolous, redundant, obscure, voiceless and insincere.

With age comes reason.  Again it comes back to experiential learning.  I had to experience and search and search…. and continue searching.  And the answer is that it was always with me all along.  The school of hard knocks. I would not accept any other way than to search, knock on hundreds of doors, open hundreds of doors and close a hundred doors. I can say I’ve tried on one hundred hats and I think I’m at the point of finding one that fits.

This is a bit long-winded, I know, but now I’ll get to why this painting is special to me. It has taken 8 years of trying everything else to be clear in what is special to me.  Artists that gleam the attention of the world’s mainstream express their strong feelings about death, suicide, mental illness, sexual identity, war, human rights, activism, ant-capitalism, tribalism…. all sorts of -isms. I’ve tried them all, but I never felt true to myself.  Again, like I was wearing someone else’s hat.

My message is a lot quieter. It’s really quiet actually.  My loves are very simple and I can’t change that.  Lord knows I’ve tried.  I love my gardens, the critters that crawl within them, my bird-feeder, staring out the window, smelling nature, feeling it underneath my feet and I am obsessed with recreating it in COLOR.

This painting is special because I am owning this quiet little message.  It may not be loud, it may not be flashy and it may not get a ton of social media hits, but it’s still a message.  It’s a message to my tribe.  My tribe of flora, fauna and everyday backyard enthusiasts.  I for several years, have tried to run as far away as I could from this concept.  But  I have to own that inwardly, I am very quiet. I’m a bit of a dork actually.  I don’t mind sitting in my driveway for hours watching squirrels and listening to the birds.  And they don’t have to be fancy animals either. Blackbirds, robins, cardinals and seagulls, insects, woodchucks, skunks and bunnies – they do it for me.

Forever, I have painted what I see ( ie. a gorgeous bouquet from my garden or a beautiful scene from a vacation). This painting above is one of the first explorations from my imagination.  I simply thought about all the things I love and assembled them into a composition that does not exist anywhere other than my mind. That is very scary.  I think it’s why I haven’t really done it before.  I can’t blame the image on the circumstances or the environ. It’s on me.  I am telling the world what I love and it’s incredibly personal.  There’s the fear of what if people don’t like what they see?  But again I think that age and time give you the confidence to care not. There is so much freedom in not caring.

I made a painting and  “I”  love it because it has all the things special to me within it.  It’s colorful and happy and strong and unapologetic – in a very quiet way.

Bingo. That’s the direction I need to move in.

I’m feeling very comfortable in this hat.

LOL. So now I’ll get off my soapbox and show you the progression of the painting and some of my favorite parts:

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Thank you so much for being on this journey with me :)

 

 

To Paint like Shirley Trevena

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The students in my watercolor class are fabulous.  I throw so many challenges at them and they take them and run with it.  This challenge was no exception!

Shirley Trevena is an amazing water colorist from England.  When you look at her work, there is so much going on, you can barely figure out how she does what she does.

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Luckily she is a giving enough artist that she shares her process in her many books.  I grabbed two of them, studied them and created a lesson plan to try some of the painting techniques in our watercolor class. Below is a word doc explaining some of her painting techniques.

TECHNIQUES TREVENA LIKES TO USE

Here are two paintings I used to demo in my class:

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If you are interested in trying some fairly unconventional watercolor techniques or you simply want to enjoy some absolutely gorgeous artwork, check artist Shirley Trevena out.  She is a master.

Photo Diary Of Grand Cayman

cayman trip acayman tripPeople always ask me “did you paint on vacation?”  and the answer is usually “Oh hell no.  I’m on vacation!”  Vacation is supposed to be a time where you stop doing what you always do and live a different life for a week.

However, I still crave creative endeavors.  Usually, my go to creative indulgence on vacation is playing with my phone’s camera.  I enjoy creating a diary of my visit without using any words.  A picture says a thousand words right?  I don’t need to write a thing.  I can look into these photos and awaken my senses to what the air smelled like.  How the sun felt. The time of day.  The walk I went on.  The animals I encountered.  They fill me with peace and escape, to a place very, very far from here.

How to become an artist

Well, I can stop blogging now. I have been dribbling my thoughts for the past seven years. Slowly coming to know all the things that were so eloquently stated in the convenience of one simple blog post! Mary Price has so eloquently described the fragile state of an artist. I am in my fourth decade and still find myself asking these very same questions. It’s a constant journey to know thyself and at the very same time, to OWN IT.

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For many of us, me included, attaching the ‘artist’ label to what we do is a sometimes uncomfortable step requiring a level of bravery. Who am I to write this article? – can I call myself an artist?

The imposter syndrome nags on, ‘What me? How can I say this about what I love to do? Am I good enough? Only famous people who sell every painting and make their living from their art are artists.’

This is, I believe, fundamentally untrue – unpainted paintings, uncarved sculptures, unpenned novels, unwritten songs, sonatas, operas, plays and so on would be the only result if we failed to have a measure of self belief before embarking on a creative journey as an artist.

We need to step back and reframe this belief and to understand that in order to call ourselves artists it is important to question aspects such as fame, notoriety…

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