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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Pottery Update

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For the last three weeks I have been teaching three days a week which has prevented me from getting into the pottery studio to throw. It hasn’t stopped me though.  I have been hand-building at home.

Here are pics of more of the shadow boxes I am working on.  My idea is to meld the strange found objects I find on my local beaches with pottery.  What I hope to come out with is quirky, folk-art looking small works of art.

Here is the beginning stages. Later the clay-works will get painted and glazed.  The cigar boxes will get painted and there will hopefully be a few more objects in each box from the sea. But this is a glimpse into the idea phase. I try to find a creative way to use the beach objects. So my ideas start there.

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Also my cell-phone holders finally came to fruition. I find these so helpful with 4 cell-phones in the house!phoney

For all you hippies, I had this sweet platter come out.  Love me some Beatles.

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Perfectly said.

Teaching Watercolor – Painting Glass

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Painting the image of glass is something beginning painters avoid.

Why would you want to avoid painting glass? Hmm, let’s see. First you need to capture the background which is showing through the glass. Next, you have stems and leaves that show through. Third there is refraction going on, so the stems might appear bent or not where you expect them. Next you need to capture liquid. Is the glass half-full or empty? Finally, you need to paint the glass itself and the reflections that bounce off of it.

So yes.  There is quite a bit involved.

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I came to watercolor class with everything else painted and ready to go.  I also sketched in some very simple guide-lines.

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The two glass bottles in this painting were done using two different techniques.  why?  So I could show my class there are two ways to tackle the problem.  I wouldn’t normally do this in a painting, but it does help to show.  The left bottle was done with dry-glazing techniques. Meaning I used many layers of light watercolor wash.  You use very little water so as to have more control.   The bottle to the right was painted using the wet-on-wet technique.  I painted the entire bottle with clear water and then dropped paint into the water which makes it spread where ever there is water.  The glazing technique gives you a more precise look and the wet-on-wet is generally softer and more flowing.

Now I’ll tell you the secret to painting glass in watercolor no matter which technique you use.

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There is no white paint in watercolor.  You use the white of the paper.  So if you want a white area, don’t put any paint there.  However, there is another technique you can use to create white areas.  The technique is called lifting.  Lifting is when you take a clean paintbrush, dip it in water, take the access water off so it is damp and then you rub the paint away in a particular area.  Watercolor is not permanent.  You can’t dry it and it’s there forever.  In some ways that’s bad, but in some ways it’s good.  By simply wetting your painting you can pull up or “lift” the paint off the paper.  Now look at the photo above.  See all the different places where I am simulating reflection by creating light areas.  I rubbed, scrubbed and wet those areas until the paint lifted.

The rest is observation and practice, which for most of us takes a life-time.  With that said, there’s no time like the present.  Let’s get practicing!

Back to My Roots

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From From My Garden,  16″x20″ watercolor 140 lb cold press paper

I just realized I have been posting the every-day-progression of this painting on Instagram, but never in my blog!

My blog is more like my journal or diary.  Maybe even my confessional? It is where I divulge my inner most thoughts, which many times can come off as self-deprecating  or even once in a while a bit witty and informative. I have all of those traits within me. I always think it’s best to be brutally honest because that is what is most sincere to others.  To see that we are all not perfect.  We all have struggles important to us even if they may not necessarily be important to others. We have ups, but we also have downs.

With that said, I have had an epiphany.  Did anyone else realize I have been working on abstracts in acrylic for over 6 years?  Personally, it’s been a really rough ride. I haven’t shown most of the paintings because I never felt like I could create the vision I had in my head.  Over and over again I would start a painting and feel defeated mid-way through. For six whole years. Day after day. I have probably 20 unfinished paintings in my basement.  It has left me truly wanting to quit art-making altogether.

But maybe it wasn’t that I needed to quit making art. Maybe it’s that I needed to change my art practice.

Before six years ago, I was a watercolor still-life painter.  That’s where I started. That’s what was intuitive to me.  I have traveled on a path of denying this. Trying everything else in my wake and de-valuing what came natural to me.  I blame this on being an experiential learner. Some of us won’t believe the stove is hot until we actually touch it. No matter who tells us otherwise.

I’ve had a six year stove-touching :)

I had to experience everything else I could do to know thyself.  Some think that’s why we are on this planet.  We didn’t come here to do what we already know, we came here to experience.

Well.  I am at the point that I am ready to value what comes natural to me.  I LOVE COLOR PERIOD and I really know my way around a watercolor box.

Since this awakening, which was about a month ago, I have been painting up a storm.  These watercolors are just flowing right through me. As soon as I’m done there isn’t ten minutes before I’m starting another. It feels great.  Like I’ve come home.

The painting in this blog is one of the first larger ones.  I’m working on another larger painting as we speak and then I’m also working on little 11×14 size paintings for more “fun/exploration”.  The little ones are my permission to not take myself so seriously.  That feels good too.

I am trying really hard not to look backwards and ask the question what do I have to show for the past several years?  I have to look forward and ask what will come out of me next? The answer I hope -amazingly bright colored pretty things :)

Now on to the ART-part of our programming.  I always think it’s fun to look at the progression of a painting. So here it goes:

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 I have questioned myself. Why florals? Ugh, still lives? How boring. Neither nature nor still-lives will ever lead you to something unique. Maybe I’m supposed to do or be something else? Would something else make me better, more well-known, more deep and introspective? Happier? Well I’ve spent some time looking for the answer to these neurotic questions .

After six long years, this is what I’ve learned. I didn’t choose floral watercolors. They chose me. A soprano is never going to achieve singing like an alto. They are a soprano. Singing like a soprano will light up their world. Meaning : Honor your skill set. Honor your strengths.

Surrender.

I have surrendered. So now let’s see where it takes me…

Creating My Pottery Shadow Boxes

It’s been a long time since I reported on my pottery.

Since the new year, I have been working on more of the driftwood/cigar box assemblages I have created in the past. I have tons of little pottery pieces all over the place! In these images, the pottery has not been fired or glazed nor have I painted or included any of my beach finds yet.

Nevertheless, here are some photos to show the beginning stages…

I am obsessed with folk art. You can clearly see it’s influence.

I probably have 30 of these installations at various stages of completion. I will keep reporting on their progress. I like to work on things in quantity as opposed to starting one piece and finishing it before I move on. I can be more efficient this way even if it looks completely hectic :)

So there it goes. I’m plugging away at a ton of stuff. I am wheel-throwing a bunch of pitchers, mugs and bowls as well, but I forgot to take pictures of those :)

Nothing is complete. Everything needs something done to it. Some months are like that. Not days. Not weeks. Months!!!

Little Paintings

In between larger works, I’ve been working on these smaller pieces. They are roughly between 8×10 – 11×14. They allow me to play without too much investment in time.

I am also currently working on large watercolors. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that my strengths seem to be better suited towards traditional watercolor still-lives (as opposed to acrylic abstracts).

What sort of stinks about this realization is that I have spent the last 6 years working tirelessly on abstract painting ! – and also constantly feeling frustrated.

Ahh…I am sure the knowledge and experience will be good for something… I just don’t know what that is yet.  Now, to be patient and present enough to let life unfold…

In the upcoming week or two, I will post my bigger more serious paintings.  And then you’ll get an idea of the direction I’m going…

Here’s to Life and Learning!

 

My new painting called “Close to Home”

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Let me show the progression of this painting before I start talking about it.

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I have this terrible affliction called insatiable stimulationWhat is this you ask?  

OK. I made this up but let me tell you the symptoms:  If my surroundings are not well-lit, sunny, happy, colorful and changing every 2-3 months I get agitated, depressed, restless and I want to physically move to a new home.  More poor husband.  Can you imagine your wife asking to move every 2-3 months?  He has learned to nod, smile and pretend he’s listening. I know he thinks I’m crazy and yet he still sticks around -God Bless em’.

So, it’s probably not realistic to move every 2 months.  I have had to create coping mechanisms to trick my system into thinking it’s in new surroundings without actually moving.  What I do is I gut my living room.  I empty it of everything and then I refill the room with whatever I own in a very different way.  For instance, this was my fireplace mantle at Christmas and this is what it looks like in January…

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I change the pillows, blankets, nick-knacks, table.  Everything.  And for about two months I lose that itch for new surroundings.

I tell you this long winded-story because it is the muse for my new painting.

I feel like I have kind-of run out of inspiration for a new room given my same-old tricks.  So I said to myself, “You’re an artist.  Create a new painting to give you inspiration for a new room”.  Duh, I can actually do this!

Now this new painting is a bit weird I know.  It’s incredibly bright.  A bit naive. And a bit wonky – (In a nutshell it’s me!). I had a hankering to cut paper like the artist Eric Carle of The Very Hungry Caterpillar child’s book.  Cutting paper is very physical and in reality it is carving away at negative space instead of creating a positive image.  Paper arranging allows you to move your composition around so that you can work on the spaces in-between images and make sure those spaces are just as interesting as your true subject matter.  Now when I say it’s me, what I mean is that it is incredibly personal.  I live in a little yellow house, the 4 birds represent my family unit, I am an avid gardener and environmental advocate, the two people represent the long hikes I take with my daughter and dead center is our lovely kitty-cat Willow.

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After painting all of the paper cut-outs, I truly had no idea what I wanted for the back-ground.  I sat with it for about a week and then I took a deep breath and decided to start with a grayscale under-painting.  My idea was to paint color over the under-painting but the black and white had so much energy to it I stopped.  It sort of reminds me of when the Wizard of Oz moves from B&W to color.  That is the most magical part of the movie. So I kept it black and white.  About 6 layers of varnish later and it’s one cohesive unit.

The painting is large. It’s 48 inches across.  It will be the focal point of my room.  But not until I become stir-crazy sometime in March.  I am content with my current living space, so I better not push it -LOL.

When that day comes, I will post a picture :)

 

Surfer’s Christmas – RI Christmas Card Series

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I think this image is one of my faves.  There’s just something nostalgic about it.  Who wouldn’t want to go Christmas tree shopping in an old vehicle?  And what surfer wouldn’t want a vintage woody to strap their board to?

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Narragansett, RI is famous for its seawall.  It wraps around 3.5 miles of breathtaking Atlantic coastline. It’s where us locals go to catch our first whiff of spring and where every tourist HAS TO take their selfie.

So, without great detail, my image hints at the seawall.  I have a friend who grew up in Newport, RI and said the card reminded her of the seawall there which is great.  It’s a universal nod to our entire region.

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I’m reminded of the phrase “Salt in my Veins”.  I live that.  I love that. I have traveled to many regions and encountered many seas, but only in New England do I inhale this distinct smell of rotting seaweed, fish and salt.  It is so pungent and so strong.  I’ve not smelled it in the south, nor the west, nor any countries abroad. It is a North Atlantic smell.

It’s what brings me to the seawall.

It’s how I know I’m home.

 

 

 

 

Holiday Herring Gulls – RI Christmas Card Series

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This might sound weird, but I am pretty sure I could devote the rest of my life to painting seagulls and never tire.  For one thing, they are fascinating and for another, they are hilarious.  I think of them as the con-artists of the bird world.

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Funny thing.  My whole life I thought the male seagulls were white and the female seagulls were brownish-gray.  Guess what? I was wrong!  Brownish-gray seagulls are juveniles. They grow into their white feathers when they reach adulthood. Good thing I figured this out before I began illustrating ;)

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There’s nothing like a good peck under the mistle toe ;)

Santas Lobstas – RI Christmas Card Series

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They way I brainstorm on card concepts is to pick a theme and then write down the hundred things that come to mind.  From there I pick six.  Anyways, while I was brainstorming my family was sitting in the kitchen. I yelled out “Quick, what comes to mind when you hear Christmas in Rhode Island?” I got all sorts of blurts, but the funniest one was the exchange between my husband and son.  They both looked at me and said “Forget a sleigh of reindeer, we want Lobsters!”

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Seriously guys?  Yes.

I guess not everyone has Lobster boats miles from their home.  It’s a pretty unique and beautiful thing.  Not to mention tasty if your into seafood!

Also nearby, is the Narragansett Light house.

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Put them together and what do you get?

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Christmas in Rhode Island.