Rabbit and Snail

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This rabbit study is one of my favorites.  I think I was able to conjure up a little bit of moodiness and mystery.

This is one of the 8 x 10 inch preliminary drawings for me Secret Garden series.

It’s also a great example of how the image changes each time I draw it.  The bottom drawing was the initial sketch and the top a second rendering.  You get to try different things out yet, improve on the areas you like.

This concept moves forward to the next stage…

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Fox and Grackle

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Here lies a third study in the idea process for my secret garden series.  Unfortunately this idea did not make the cut either. Reason being, why do I want old mailboxes in my secret garden?  My secret garden is going to be way cooler than that ;)

I do love the fox though.  He will make an appearance in a different composition.  I consider the blackbird my spirit animal.  I’ve had many special connections in my life with them.  In fact, when I have an abnormal encounter with a blackbird I really pay attention to what’s going on in my life and take measure.  So the black bird will make an appearance in the future as well.

A reminder, these paintings are little.  They are only 8×10 inches.  My thought has been that even if these “ideas” don’t make my final cut, I will still complete them.  With a big white mat, these little animal pictures are going to be really sweet and enjoyable to look at.

I have already re-sketched a configuration for a new fox garden painting. The new one is more “Mary” flavor which -if I am going to put in all this effort -better be what I would like to see :)

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Chickadee

This is one of the little 8×10″ watercolor studies that is getting scrapped.

For me, I guess it’s because it just doesn’t tell enough of a story.  I couldn’t answer the questions why are they there and why does it matter?  

I do LOVE chickadees and house wrens though. I love that I can look out on my lawn and not see them, but if I look just a little bit longer than usual, I realize they were there all along.  They blend in so well it’s hard to believe they are scattered throughout the yard!  For this reason, it sort of makes them difficult to paint.  If an animal camouflages itself in the real world how do you make it stand out in your fantasy world?

Here were two ideas for cropping to make a stronger composition:

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But alas, in the end, it was not enough to make it to the next round.  I will sneak the birds into a future study, but this scenario is a -no.

Candle extinguished. Voted off the island. Do not pass go and do not collect $200 dollars.

next!

 

 

An Artist’s Journey -Creating My Own Fantasy

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For the next couple days I am going to share what I have been working on since September. The photo above shows the “concepts” for a painting series I am working towards. It is going to be a series of 8 large paintings called My Secret Garden.

This is a very big deal for me. For almost seven years now I have been floating and experimenting without direction. I’ve asked so many questions of myself: Who am I as an artist? What is my style? What do kind of art do I want to make? Who am I making it for? What is the message I want to communicate?

The universe is kind of cruel like that. The more important something is to you, the more time it takes to get to the answer. I’m not a very patient person, so this journey has been brutal.

I’ve dug deep.

When I first started on this personal journey, I did not have the answers. I’ve tried everything: quilting, polymer clay, jewelry, wood crafts, painting with acrylic, watercolor and goauche, printmaking, teaching, graphic design, and pottery to name a few. I haven’t been able to commit. I like them all yet I’ve always felt like I’ve been getting nowhere.

Seven years later. I’m feeling a bit older, more mature, I don’t know that I can sustain that crazy chaotic creative energy anymore. I’m tired. What took me so long to figure out is that I had to try everything and that this is ok. It’s the type of learner I am ; an experiential learner. I’m the kind of kid that has to touch the stove to learn what hot means. I can’t take anyone’s word for it –ever. I’ve beaten myself up for this because it has taken so much time, but in trying so many things I have figured out what feels right and what doesn’t.

Another concept that has plagued me is the for who? Do I paint subject matter that suits me? What does suit me? What do I like? Do I try to figure out what’s trending? What other people might want? Go where the money seems to be? I’ve spent so many hours trying to figure out the balance between my own personal interests and making others happy.

So this September my soul said ENOUGH. Time to answer the questions. You are ready.

The seed had been planted in this painting I had done in the spring:

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This painting came from my stream of consciousness. I started with one blackbird, then a flower, then another, then another. The painting isn’t of something real. It is a fantasy. It comes from my own world that contains the things I love. In painting this, the answers came.

I LOVE color.

I LOVE flowers and gardening.

I LOVE the animals I find in my backyard.

I do 100% what I LOVE because there in lies my uniqueness.

When I stop apologizing for such simple concepts, beautiful things begin to arise.

This September I felt the strongest sense of clarity I have ever experienced. I now can answer the question – what do I like. I decided to be as disciplined as possible and create a vision through art that represents my LOVEs.

The discipline part will come from the many stages. I usually paint something and never think about it again. For this project I am asking myself to research, sketch, try things out, analyze what works for me and what failed, and do it again.

My thought is to create these small 8×10’s (which I just completed). Analyze them. Try it again. Fix the colors. Fix the contrast. Fix the layout. Then I am going to do 8 more small studies again. In hopes of creating a stronger vision before I embark on 8 LARGE watercolor paintings. I won’t be done then, because when I am through with those, I am going to do the entire series again but in a more abstract style.

8-8×10’s studies

8-5×7’s studies

8- 20×24’s finals

8-16×20’s abstracts

That’s a doozy right?

What you will see through the coming months is the same concept -but in a metamorphosis. What I like will stay. What I hate will go. The end product should be as strong as I am currently capable and in my wake I will leave evidence of my process.

There are a few more things that I love which I will incorporate in the larger paintings as well. These small studies were just too small to add this type of detail. However, I also plan on incorporating my great LOVE of fabric and mysticism. I am fascinated with the symbols of all cultures and what they have come to mean. So, I plan on hiding intriguing things throughout the paintings.

This is a big undertaking for me. It is the journey I have created for myself. It’s the path I’m choosing to take and I actually have the answers. Boy does that feel good!

WATERCOLOR – BACKYARD ANIMALS – GARDEN FLOWERS – FABRIC – MYSTICISM

My other hope is to put on my big-girl-pants and try selling this work online. Through Etsy or something. In the past, I haven’t felt “good enough” or “ready”. But it stops here. It’s time. And hopefully after all of this work I plan on doing, my art will be something I am proud of and ready to share.

I hope so. Because on a soul level, it will be the first time I feel like I’m sharing a real piece of –well, –me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Autumn is in full throttle.  I have been teaching, sketching, and painting away.  In the next week I will begin to share my more personal artwork, but in honor of Thanksgiving I thought I’d share this lesson plan from my watercolor class.

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I had some requests for painting pumpkins in my art class, so I devised a lesson that worked solely on glazing techniques.  If you read the tutorial it will walk you through the painting start to finish.

As I sit here, I am nibbling on a piece of pumpkin bread my neighbor gifted me.  It is a wonderful time of year to share such things.  I very much look forward to spending time with my family this Thursday and let’s face it, I can’t wait to eat :)

Enjoy the holiday. I hope you all find wonderful ways to make it your own.

Cheers! or as the Italians in my family say, Salute.

Compass School Commission

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For the last 5 years the principal of the Compass School has commissioned me to create a piece of art that celebrates the past year’s accomplishments.  The art piece is revealed at the school vision night and parents write new wishes or goals on the matting.  In this way, the artworks have become time-capsules.  We can see what we have envisioned and what has actually come true. Here are the past years:

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What’s kind of funny is the randomness of the things I am asked to incorporate in a painting.  Things that have been asked are could you combine a new garden, new farmer, a walking path, a soccer field, goats, sheep, a new basketball court, a family dance party and bank funding for a potential building?……   umm… I guess so?  Every year I have no idea how I am going to illustrate it, but somehow something comes out.

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This year the principal wanted to celebrate the completion of a new garden high tunnel, two calves named Fuzzy and Bulls-eye, a new soccer field, and the beginning of a new middle school that is being renovated from an old seed-mill.  This required incorporating, diggers and cement trucks which have become part of our everyday existence at the school.  I added a beautiful dahlia garden the 7th and 8th graders maintain and chickens.  The school always has chickens.  How could you not add the chickens?  Next is figuring out how to communicate these concepts when they are stretched out of acres of land?  This year I literally painted each idea separately , cut them out and then collaged them together.  I think each objects separateness, coming together, summed up the chaos of an elementary school!

So next year should be the unveiling of a new building, the new middle school.  This will be my son’s last year at the school, which in turn,  will be the last painting I contribute.

These artworks will be a nice legacy of the time spent at this school.

We can see how far we’ve grown literally and figuratively.

Reflections in Painting

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I found this lovely painting on  the internet and thought it a perfect lesson in painting water reflection.  You get two opportunities to practice water reflection.  One in the background and one in the foreground. So I made a tutorial of how to tackle this painting.

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As usual, my watercolor class nailed it.  I throw all sorts of things at them and they not only execute the concept, but they deliver it in their own beautiful way.  Here were some of the interpretations of the lesson:

CLASS PHOTOS

Ok. You’re turn. Now you give it a try!

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!!!

 

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!