Thursday, November 19, 2015

Day 19 Ugly Ducklings

I had a teacher recently who advised that sometimes a piece will go through an ugly stage.  It's important not to prejudge whether it will come out alright in the end, and can also be important not to give in to the temptation of "fixing" it while the paint or glue is still wet.  It's hard for me to back away and come back later when things are dry, especially as working with wet watercolor can give you some amazing effects.  But I'm learning to do it, and also to try and see a piece through rather than giving up on it.  Sometimes that means setting it aside for awhile and waiting to see whether something comes to me that will help.

Just as each work can go through an ugly or ugly duckling stage, I think we artists also move through stages like that.  When we are trying to master a new technique, it can feel awkward and out of our control.  We might not like what comes out of our hands.  I like Julia Cameron's idea that we just need to show up and do the work.  Our higher power will take care of the quality if we take care of the quantity. 

When I was in 5th grade I started violin lessons. My poor parents had to listen to the practice, but encouraged me to keep at it.  After years of practice, I can now play in public and enjoy myself. 

It's the same with any kind of art...we have to learn our scales and start with pieces that are just outside our comfort level.  Just when we get comfortable, we need to stretch again.  And we need to invite our inner critic to go for a hike while we do it.

Here's one that I'm working on.  It's in an ugly duckling stage, partly because I'm working on a gessoed canvas watercolor board.  I've never worked on this surface before, and the paint is not behaving very well at all in my opinion.  It settles in strange puddles and lifts off when you don't want it to.  However, I think this is worth going on with.  Next steps are to finish the grapes and put in the branches. Worst case, I can add some silvery-white stamping towards the end that will hide some of the trouble spots.  And I'll make some notes to myself about what worked and what didn't.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Day 18-- Warm Ups and Play

I've been experimenting with centering and warming up before embarking on whatever art project I've chosen for the day, and am wondering what other artists are finding useful.  Please share with us the kinds of things that put you in the mood and get you into the flow.

If I have plenty of time, I like to start my morning with centering and reflection.  It can be meditation (either with a prompt or just following the breath), inspirational reading, journaling, a few yoga stretches, or a combination.  Even if a person only has a short time to draw, it's nice to spend a couple of minutes disengaging from busy-ness, clearing the mind, and inviting the inner critic to go away for awhile.  For me, soothing music or looking into a candle can help.

Today's warm up and sketch:
Pepper from the Garden
Blind contour sketch
Line drawing and beginning of first wash

Charging color into the first wash
Adding the shadows to the sketch and notes to the page

I've been to a few workshops and demos lately, and all the artists have talked about warm ups, play, or setting the stage.  Here are a few of their ideas:

1) blind contour sketches:  take some simple, everyday object, and put it in front of you.  Take a couple of minutes to just look at it and notice its angles and shapes.  Decide on a starting point along the outside somewhere, take your pencil or pen and draw the object without looking at the paper.  Try and imagine that you are feeling the object as you sketch.  Draw interior spaces by moving the drawing tip into the space and back to the outside edge again without lifting the drawing tip and still without looking.  Continue until you have drawn all the way around the object.  You may decide to draw it again as a "real" sketch where you can look at the paper.  You can then decide whether it will remain as a line drawing or whether you'll give it shading or color.

2) splashing paint or ink:  take 3 pieces of paper or pages in your sketchbook and splash paint and/or ink on them.  You can experiment to see how the media flow together, how the colors blend, and what happens when you use more or less water.  You can fold the paper (or use a double spread of your sketchbook) to make a "rorschach" design.  Don't worry if you get something muddy or "ugly".  You might want to add pastel or colored pencil or to see what happens if you apply plastic wrap or splatter paint, ink, water, alcohol, or salt (probably not all on the same paper) on the still damp paint.  I like to write the date and the colors/materials that I used on the back of the paper.  These papers might become the background of a future collage or painting. 

3) cutting:  take a few minutes to just relax and cut out pictures from magazines, calendars, and advertisements for your picture file.  These might be for inspiration or might be something you'll use in a collage.

4) miniatures: on 4x6 paper, create a miniature exploring color, shape, and value.  Don't spend too much time on's just for play.  Later, you might develop it into something.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Day 17

Over the first weekend of November, I took a workshop with Nancy Collins who is a painter known for her brilliant colors and vivid images.  Nancy was in my area and I've admired her work.  I have to say she knows her colors!  She knows everything that each color will do, what it will blend with, and what it does when it sits next to another color.  Not only that, she knows the difference in the brand of paint for each color and is quite specific about which ones she uses.

Here's the series of photos from the workshop.  I continued working at home and finished the painting last week.

Step 1. (the picture is rotated from the final view):  Draw the basic outline of a grape branch, pretty bulky towards the edge of the page.  Using liquid latex, paint the back sides of grape leaves and stamp them down onto the paper pressing firmly.  Build up clusters of large, medium, and small leaves.  Use a frisket (Pebeo) to mask the main branch.  Let dry for several hours.

Step 2.  Paint the background, using a rich mix of color and water.  Starting from light to dark, let colors bleed together, keeping the entire paper wet and allowing to dry evenly.

Step 3.  Remove the resist and paint the leaves.

Step 4.  Paint the branches.

There are some interesting tips and tricks throughout the process, which I'm not including as they are probably Nancy's proprietary information.  I highly recommend her workshop.  She's also working on a book which may be out this next year. Check out her website which has several tutorial videos.

Monday, November 16, 2015

DAY 16

I've been participating in Art Every Day Month, and this is the 3rd year that I've done it.  What I love is that you make sure to do at least a little something every day.  So I've been doing the art, but not the photos or the posting.

 The first thing that happened is that on November 1 I had an open house/art exhibit in my home.  I send out invitations to all my friends, to people in a couple of groups that I belong to, and to my neighbors.  I took down all the art in the living room, removed the clutter, and began hanging as many of my pieces as I could display.  I borrowed a couple of large display stands from a friend and displayed the rest of the pieces there.  We have an open studio tour twice a year in the area where I live, so I had learned a lot from visiting other artists.

With labels, business cards, a cash box, and cards made from prints of some of my work as well as some food and wine to serve, we were set to go.  My husband served as cashier and I was free to talk with everyone.  We were open from 2:30-5:30 on a Sunday afternoon, a perfect amount of time.

Did I mention that this was my first show?  Oh, I've put a couple of things out in local places, but this was a big deal for me.  The impetus was some very positive feedback that I had recently received from friends and I just decided to take the leap and go for it.  I was a little nervous, but it was so much fun!  Everyone was overwhelmingly supportive.  I did sell a couple of things, but the main point for me was to get over my shyness and to get some feedback.  Now I have some prints to order and some new projects underway, will put two pieces out in local shows, and have contacts for two organizations who may be interested in hosting a showing in the next year.

There are great internet resources that will help emerging artist learn how to photograph, mat, frame, hang, and price their work, and I encourage everyone to check them out!