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A Walk In Beauty
I walk most mornings around my neighborhood and some mornings it’s tough to get motivated. This morning as I rounded the first corner I was struck by how beautiful the sky was. The sun was evident behind the cloud formations, and scattered about were small shapes of blue. The light reflected pink into the clouds in some areas and others glowed yellow or orange.
It was obvious that another weather front was moving in, but it seemed as if God was playing with a paintbrush until then. There were areas of sharp definition here, and sweeping soft mounds of color there.
I would turn onto another block and it was as if I heard, “If you liked that, look at what else I can do!”
And just like that I was looking at another variation of watercolor in motion. That’s what it is, you know. The colors in the sky are reflections of the moisture there just like painting with watercolor. It is magical and unpredictable. It can bring you frustration and heartache with lots of hard work and attempted manipulation, or it can give you great highs at the awe inspiring wonder of it’s will. Can we fight the weather? Can we change it? Not so much. Painting with watercolor can be just like the weather. When I except it for what it is and allow it to perform it’s magic with a gentle touch of a brush here and there the results are more often a thing of beauty.
I’m cold now and filled with awe. I am thankful that I got out there to see God playing with His paintbrush this morning. It’s a great start to my Thanksgiving week. I have so much to do to make my home ready for my guests, but right now I’m inspired. I have marked a sheet of paper off into 4×6 inch squares and I’ve printed off some of the photos I took this morning along with some of my older sky photos. I’m going to get my brushes wet and see it I can come close to capturing the amazing artwork I’ve seen just above my head.
Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and not about how much money can be made, or how many presents can be bought or received, or even about who can finish their shopping first.
As an artist I make many of my own gifts and sell Christmas items. These realities mean that I must begin to think about Christmas before the end of September. I put together a Free Flowing Paint Calendar featuring my art from the past year, and I make Christmas cards from my art or design something specifically for this Christmas season. This year I am also partnering with my friends Pat and Jean making Christmas decorations to sell at the Snohomish Holiday Market. You can see their work at: PBJ Wood Decor and Art. Check them out, they’re fabulous!
The holidays can be difficult for me due to past losses. I pour myself into creating art, and work until the last second on special gifts for family and friends. That way instead of feeling loss I fill the void with love for those around me. Pretty cheesy? Maybe, but it works for me. Washington weather gets really gray, cold, and wet at this time of year. I concentrate on beautiful colors and contrasts and by the time I’m finished creating for the day I feel warmer and in better spirits.
Here are a few ornaments I’ve created in conjunction with Pat and Jean:
These have been great fun to do. Pat has all kinds of scraps in his shop which he generously shares with me. I then take them home and hand sand them, come up with a composition and paint it on. I then spray each item with 2 coats of fixative and they look like this. Then Pat adds 3 layers of varnish with light sanding in between each coat. The finished project of as soft as butter and glossy.
I’m off to finish my calendar and come up with a Christmas card. Please check back soon so you can order in time for Christmas.
October 12, 2015
As the summer waned into fall I began noticing the beautiful bounty at my feet. Each tree began to leave me gifts- seed pods and cones, leaves, and bits of branches. All were unique and amazing. Soon my pockets were full each morning when I returned home. I may have a problem, I cant seem to stop picking up just one more gorgeous piece of nature.
I went for my walk this morning and I didn’t look at my feet. The sky was giving me such a beautiful show. Every time I turned a corner my jaw dropped again. The clouds were all sorts of grays, and browns, and the skies behind them were shades of blue, yellow, and orange. The rising sun touched edges of the clouds and lit up the mountains.
I highly recommend walking. As an artist I gain an endless supply of photo references and natural items for wreaths and other displays. As an emotional being I gain positive energy and a thankful heart. And as a mother, wife, daughter, and friend I gain health.
Smell the fresh air, and gives thanks for all the beauty nature has given you!
I promise it will give you inspiration.
September 2, 2015
Time for the kids to go back to school. Time for me to get back to my working routine. The sun is out, the sky is blue, and it’s a great day. I have two art competitions coming up. One is for a Christmas card, and the other is for a fall themed painting.
I recently responded to an ad on Craig’s List for some watercolor paint. There were about 68 tubes of paint. When I got it home I began making painting charts of the new colors. Once I was finished it occurred to me that it didn’t do me much good because I still had no idea how these paints would interact with my current M. Graham paints.
I took a full sheet of Arches 140lb cold pressed paper and made my boxes about 1/2 inch. I used this paper because it is what I use when I paint on watercolor paper. Painting on wood is a whole other thing, but the color interaction will be similar.
Above is my progress thus far. I will finish it up today. Then I will hang it on my wall for easy reference. Shockingly this is not all my paint, I have all my grays, blacks, and whites and a handful of brown paints that didn’t fit. I would also like to have a reference of the interaction with my blues and reds. Another week perhaps. I need to get started on my paintings for the competitions first.
If you haven’t made a chart of your paints and their interactions I highly recommend it. I have used mine on numerous occasions. Happy painting!
August 5, 2015
Every summer I get excited for warmer weather and sunshine. I revel in it. I think my inner joy grows as much as the plants do. I also make a huge list of “To Do’s” I want to accomplish outside. And every year before I know it August has arrived.
This year is no exception. It’s August already! My big goal this summer was to redo the cushions and repaint our patio furniture. I bought all the materials I needed last (as in 2014) spring! I have the chairs recovered. I still have 2 lounges, a wicker loveseat, and a wicker chair to do plus all the sanding and repainting. I think I can still get it done before Labor Day!
I started this summer by saving seeds from my produce. I now have more than 20 bell pepper plants, 10 apple trees, and 6 lemon trees. I’m pretty proud of myself. Add to that the weeding and transplanting of wild flowers and undesired plants and I am in the dirt at least one day a week.
I am definitely feeling the pull to put down my chores and bury myself in paint again very soon. So I am pushing myself to at least finish the sewing this week. I did participate in an artistic challenge last week of completing a painting in 1 hour. Wow, does that hour go quickly!
I hope you have had a great summer or winter depending on what hemisphere your home resides in. I will return with more completed work real soon.
July 20, 2015
Have You Got the JU JU?
Thank you so much to everyone who has commented on my website! The positive feedback is amazing. I also want to apologize for being out of touch for so long.
That brings me to the topic for today. As an artist I am a small business owner. In order to make a living I have many hats to wear. I am a writer, a painter, a promoter, an accountant, a framer, a marketer, a printer, an innovator, and a researcher. That’s a lot of hats! And all I really want to do is paint. All day, everyday. But in real life I’m a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a home owner, a friend, a cousin, a sister in law, an aunt, and that’s just to name a few.
The other day I got to thinking about how I have found peace and joy in becoming an artist. I have commitment and determination. My weekday routine is something like this: Up between 6 and 7 am. Short varied work out of yoga, abdominals, or leg stretchting, coffee and email, 3-5 mile walk, breakfast, and hopefully in my studio by 9am. Lunch break from 12-1pm, then back in the studio until 4-5pm. Make a healthy dinner for 3 and then spend time with my husband and daughter.
I was thinking about this and the term Ju Ju came to my mind. Now I’ve heard this term referred to as black magic or spells that have been cast. I do no want any part of that. I love the term though. To me it speaks of the energy of a joyful life. So I want to use it to describe how choosing to do what I love with perseverance and determination has actually given me more energy and joy each day.
I still struggle to get it all done, (oh I just remembered I wanted to start a load of laundry this morning!!) I wanted to write this blog every week, and I’m obviously having difficulty doing that. But I’m not stressed out and exhausted at the end of the day. I am peaceful and content most of the time. It’s my Ju Ju.
I continue to paint in my style, and each time I finish another piece on wood I’m even more taken with the combination of wood and watercolor. I have discovered that because I am very unique I am not able to enter some watercolor competitions and am not accepted into some shows. That’s ok. I am completing great art and am pretty proud of my progress.
Above is my latest piece called Camano Driftwood. It is based on one of the many photos I took on the beach on Camano Island, Washington.
June 15, 2015
How to Chase Away the Blues
It was extremely hot (for this part of the country) yesterday- 84 degrees F
I had some yard work to do and I ended up being out in the sun until after 1:30 pm. I was hot, thirsty, and hungry, but mostly just wanted to go take a nap. After eating and drinking a large glass of ice water I was still exhausted. I didn’t have any energy to read. It would be a waste of a glorious day if I slept through it. Hmm, what makes me feel good about life?
The answer is easy for me to answer- Painting!! I quickly gathered my portable container of watercolors, pencils, sketchbook, and water containers, grabbed some paper towels and went out on the back patio. I sat down at the picnic table under the big umbrella and searched for a subject.
My backyard is full of flowers so I needed to decide on a composition. Last weekend I had planted an old cement planter with miniature Lupine and Lobelia- a lovely jumble of blue and purple. I found a complimentary color behind it- a patch of giant yellow Pansies! Most of this painting was done by sketching directly onto the paper with my paintbrush. I did use a pencil to sketch the planter as I am not as confident with solid balanced forms like cups, glasses, bottles, and pots. To the left of the Pansies is a large Lambs Ear I put in to balance the painting.
I was less tired and much more cheerful by the time I finished. And my husband fixed dinner for me-Hamburgers, my favorite. I’m so glad I didn’t sleep aware the afternoon.
What will you do next time your need a pick me up?
June 2, 2015
On My Easel
Right now I am feeling pulled in so many directions. As a consequence my attention span is quite short. I have so many paintings going on and I just sketched out another one!
This first painting I am working on started as white/pink Lillies. I am using blue for the shadows. As I added layers I noticed the white was disappearing and wanted to have a bold background. I usually do blue or green for my florals and wanted to shake it up a bit so I used purple. I will have to see how this one turns out
I am learning acrylics right now. This is one I did of the Space Needle in Seattle. I’m liking the colors quite a bit. ( artists refer to this as the Palette)
This I am calling, “A River Runs Through It” I was experimenting with different methods to paint rocks with water moving around and over them. I’m not satisfied with the sense of water movement so I am working on that more. I am quite happy with the trees in the background. Their varying sizes and density of color give them great dimension.
While going through my pile of watercolor papers under my easel I found a rough sketch of a clematis. I painted on it yesterday. Im not crazy about the position of the petals, or the circle of shadow in the middle, but I love the shading on the petals and the brightness of the remaining white. I’m going to play with it some more.
My latest watercolor on wood is almost finished. I am calling it, “Northwest Icons” The Washington State Ferry system is a common mode of transportation between the peninsula, Islands, and the mainland. The mountain is Mt. Baker, my favorite Washington State Mountain.
May 17, 2015
The Art of Spring Cleaning
The neighborhood I live in allows garage sales twice a year. This weekend was one of them. I don’t usually participate as a seller, but I had to clean out my studio closet, so I decided to go for it. Friday began cold and drizzling and I questioned my sanity immediately. I couldn’t find anything in my closet lately so I was kind of desperate. I brought down a thermos of coffee, set up my table, made a sign and sat down.
Part of my distaste for this tradition is the fact that much of my day is “wasted.” I don’t sit still very well unless I’m painting. I came prepared. I brought my sketchbook, watercolors, permanent pen, water and brushes. I recently found a photo of one of the bouquets my husband gave me and decided to sketch it.
On day two of my garage sale the weather was even worse than the day before, but I had sold some things and was willing to be there until my grandson’s Tball game. I pulled out the sketch from yesterday and this time used the permanent black micron pen I had. Look at the difference!
Now the whites are whiter, the individual flowers are visible, and the vase looks 3 dimensional. This is not a finished painting by any means, but it’s a darn good sketch and kept me sane during my garage sale. Have a great day and I’ll add more soon.
April 26, 2015
Perspective is the way we see things, and in art it is also how we portray a scene so that the viewer identifies with the reality of it. We start by drawing shapes: cylinders, squares, and circles so that they are recognizable from different angles, points of view, or perspective.
Have you ever looked at a painting of a barn or house and had the feeling that something wasn’t quite right? It was probably that the perspective wasn’t quite correct. The box above is an example of pretty good, but not quite correct. Another way to understand perspective is when a house is drawn fairly small on the page and a person is drawn towering over it. Your mind immediately discounts that as real.
The next step is to understand not only size and dimension, but to also understand that the closer something is the brighter and more concentrated the color is. Look at the image below. Some of the foliage and flowers are darker and more colorful and seem to come towards you on the page, while the lighter more dull objects stay in the background. That is perspective.
Another trick to give dimension and realism to a piece of art is shadows.
Notice how flat these african violets are. There is no variation in color and no shadows to indicate if one leaf is on top of the other, or if a leaf is behind a petal. Now look below at the image of one of my recent paintings. There are many examples of variation of color, shading, and accurate perspective. When one petal is in front of another there is shadow. When a petal has form, the area that is deeper also has deeper color, while the area that is on the closest to the viewer is lighter. Also the areas that are hit by a light source will be very light or possibly white due to reflected light.
Now I’m learning those same principles with moving water. Stay tuned.
April 12, 2015
I am so fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest because inspiration is all around me. I am most inspired by nature, and I am surrounded by it. I only have to look out my window to see the Olympic mountain range in the distance, the Puget Sound and beaches are only a 20 minute drive, I have multiple lakes surrounding me just 15 minutes or so away, and the spring and summer are full of flowers everywhere I look. I recently visited the Skagit Valley which is famous for the Tulip and Daffodil fields at this time of year.They are about 30 minutes from my home. I actually went one week for the Daffodils,
Two weeks later I went back to see the Tulips as they were just beginning,
and then I returned a third time for more photos.
March 30, 2015
An artists palette isn’t merely the thing they put their paint on. It’s also the different colors of paint in a painting and how an artist uses different combinations for the right cohesive look.
I have been looking at my palette recently. I have two oranges on there and I really hadn’t been using orange at all. My oranges are Cadmium Orange and Azo Orange. Each time I have used them I am frustrated with the way they behave on the paper for me. So I was thinking about removing orange from my palette. This is one of my palettes. I have another with just transparent paints
With that on my brain I was surprised that the next two subjects I chose to paint contained a good portion of orange. Now you are probably aware that yellow and red produce orange. So I began to try combining different yellows and reds for the perfect hue. I have 4 yellows and 6 or 7 reds.
Here is my scratch paper:
The first combination I chose was Alizerin Crimson and Azo Yellow.
It looked something like this:
The second combination I chose was Quinacridone Red and Cadmium Yellow. It worked beautifully together with the Quin red flowing into the wet Cad Yellow like this:
Click on the image to enlarge it and you will see the small rivers of orange that flowed on its own. That’s one of the beautiful things about watercolor. There is a lot of magic that happens when you leave it alone to play.
So, have I decided to remove the oranges from my palette? I may be even closer to doing that, because I can make my own combinations that are unique to each composition I choose. I better watch out- I may end up with only Red, Yellow, and Blue on my palette pretty soon!
March 14, 2015
Where Has Time Gone?
Time has slipped away from me! One day I’m posting here weekly and the next, 2 weeks have gone by. Literally lost. I am dedicated to my painting. I treat it like my job. I arrive in my studio 5-6 days a week promptly at 9 and work until it’s time for me to make dinner around 4 in the afternoon. Sometimes I paint the whole time, but I also do research into the galleries in the area and explore new ways to paint. I also work at building this website, take photos of my work, mat and frame my work, and enter contests. In my spare time I decorate my home, landscape the yard, spend quality time with my husband, take care of my grandchildren, try to see my parents, nurture my friendships, and take some time to read.
I’m a pretty good example of most women out there, I think. Every once in a while I get swept up in some responsibility or crazy idea (if I’m being honest) and I seem to loose track of time. Today is a perfect example. It’s Saturday, and my goal was to finish a birthday gift for a friend. It’s almost 11 a.m. and I haven’t even wet my paints yet. So I’m going to make this brief.
I have painted these last couple of weeks. My first watercolor on wood, “Climbing Trio” is getting it’s last coat of polyurethane and I painted these two 6×6 inch paintings. I hope to come up with names for them and have them framed and added to that page soon.
I have some chunks of wood waiting for me, So I’ll wish you a great weekend and get that painting done so I can discover new horizons!
March 1, 2015
What to Paint?
Sometimes I have my next project jumping around in my head before I finish the one I am working on. Other times my head is so crowned with possibilities that I have to take a moment to allow one to call me louder than the next. I am almost done with my wood panel and can’t wait to try another one. I don’t have one available right now, so I will return to paper until I do.
February 21, 2015
A woodworking friend of mine discovered a wood panel in his burn pile. It had been the backing of a mirror in it’s day. Now it had rusted hardware, spider webs, and sawdust covering it. One side was stained while the other was not. I have been wondering about painting on wood so I was very excited at the prospect of experimenting.
First I removed the hardware and then I cleaned it up with a damp cloth. So far so good. I sanded both sides and then began to examine it to see which side I wanted to paint. I decided to paint the unstained side. I want the watercolor to be strong.
Then I began to research and find out how other artists were applying watercolor directly to wood. I couldn’t find any information other than using acrylic gesso first. I didn’t want to do that. I want the wood grain to be part of the beauty and character of the piece. Without some kind of barrier my concern was that the paint would run rather than stay where I wanted it. I had tried matte medium on the cradle of an aquaboard piece but it didn’t go on as well as I wanted. I decided to try some masking fluid. I could take that off when I was done and leave a nice natural wood outline.
It was important to me to use the entire space of the panel. I wanted the composition to come out of the frame. I also wanted to be able to have sweeping organic curves. I chose the purple Clematis. Now I had to figure out how to get a sketch onto the wood.
When I sketch I tend to need to erase at bit during the process. I did not want to have random graphite on the wood mixing with the paint. So I took some drawing paper and made a template of the panel.
I successfully sketched the composition onto it. Now I needed to transfer it. I took the template to a sunny window and taped it with the sketched image on the side of the glass. I then used charcoal to outline my sketch on the opposite side. With that done I taped the template to the panel with the charcoal side down and outlined the image one more time. The charcoal transferred nicely and I knew it would rub off easily when i didn’t need it any more. I took the masking fluid and applied it with a small acrylic brush. I used it on the outside of the charcoal lines. I removed the charcoal once the masking fluid was dry. (The next day)
Now the fun part! First I tried some leaves.
Then after experimenting with different mixtures of paint I settled on a purple, blue, and red to get the shades I wanted and applied the first washes to the wood. It is working really well.
I deepened the color and then decided I needed to work more with the character of the wood itself.
February 14, 2014
Happy Valentines Day
When it gets close to Valentines Day I search for new inspiration to make the day special for my husband. Last year I took some dried rose petals from the anniversary bouquet my husband gave me, applied some Matte Medium to both sides, and after letting them dry I cut them into tiny heart shapes. Did you know I have a thing for flowers and nature?
At our previous house we had Bleeding Hearts that grew wild. They came up all over the place. Once I located a reference photo it was time to paint. After the painting was completed I added the rose petals for the blossoms and it looked like this:
This year I wanted some way to say all the special things about why my husband means so much to me. I found a poster I liked and then made it personal with a few illustrations.
(Click on the picture to see the illustrations.)
No matter what your traditions I hope you have a great day and let the people you love know they are special.
February 6, 2015
Still Life and Portraits
Ive been painting for a while now and believe I know what I’m good at. That would be landscapes and florals. I also know that as an artist I need to continue to grow. So I continue to try to paint things I find especially difficult. That would be a “Still Life” or a “Portrait.”
I so admire artists like Paul Jackson who can take a few glass bottles and vases and paint them so that the reflections glow and appear to move on the paper. This past winter on a snowy day I was stopped dead in my tracks as I glanced at the garden window in my kitchen. I have a collection on blue glass there to catch the sunlight. With the sun reflecting on the snow behind it it was gorgeous. I quickly took some photos and decided to give one of them a try. Here is the photo:
Isn’t it gorgeous the way the objects are refracted by the sun’s reflection? Here is the work in progress that I am working on:
It’s not a terrible interpretation, but I haven’t achieved the brilliant white light that was there. I will continue to persevere and believe that one day I can improve on painting a still life. After all, isn’t a flower a still life? It’s just a soft one.
My other difficulty is in painting a portrait. I just haven’t achieved that “thing” that turns the features of the face into a unique person. Here is one I’ve been working on for months. This is my fourth effort:
This isn’t horrible, it just doesn’t look like the beautiful young girl it is supposed to represent. Again I will keep trying, perhaps I need to loosen up and not try to be so exact, catching the essence rather than each feature to perfection.
I guess it’s like making music. If music is played perfectly, but without feeling it is not beautiful, it is flat. And so it is with good art. My soul must be in the painting to be mine, then it becomes striking and unique. Back to sketch my heart into the face on my friend.
I’m Pretty Organized
Some creative people work better in a bit of chaos. I’m not one of those people.
When I get finished working on more than one project at a time my studio looks like a hurricane came through.
My easel has paper towels and rags covered in paint, my table has bits and pieces of reference photos, bits of nature, at least 8 paintbrushes of varying sizes and shapes, scraps of watercolor paper, a couple of tubes of paint, perhaps some matte medium, permanent archival markers, and a utility knife.
My desk becomes strewn with measurements and price lists, receipts, rulers, scissors, pens, and pencils. On every free surface of the book cases is something I put there for a minute.
I can’t process anything in that environment. I feel claustrophobic, like the stuff is closing in on me. I am the most productive when everything is in it’s place and I can access it easily.
I started my artistic journey with watercolor pencils. I have kept them in various containers. The latest was a huge jar that I portioned off so I could divide the colors up and see what I had. That worked pretty well because I didn’t use them that often. But I am using them more lately and noticed that I had to dig out virtually all the browns to figure out what I had available, and then they didn’t always result in exactly the same color as they appeared. So following my cleanup this past weekend I decided to make a chart of my colored pencils the same way I did with my paints.
After I had done that I decided to figure out a more accessible way to store them. Wow do I have a lot of watercolor pencils! I had to get a little inventive, but I can see all of them individually and the color chart is right next to them for reference.
Now instead of spending time searching for the right color I have everything ready and get a little more time to paint.
I’ve got to go now, the paint is calling.
Ever Wondered If You Can Be An Artist?
I started with sketching and highly recommend putting some time in to sketch every chance you get. I carry a small pad of paper with me and sketch whatever catches my eye when I have to wait for something. In waiting rooms I might sketch other people waiting, a plant in a pot, or the reception desk. The more I sketch the better my proportions get. And the better my perspective gets. I have a way to go in nailing perspective. I think it’s the hardest thing to do consistently well.
When I paint I sometimes sketch everything out first. I definitely did that in the beginning. It gave me a road map. Now I sketch a lot less. Mainly I want to save the right space for an object in a loose background, or I want to be sure I can get good proportions in a complicated composition.
When I don’t like one of my paintings it’s important for me to really look at it and decide why I don’t like it. What do I need to practice? What do I need to change? And also what do I like and what did I do well.
I get concerned some times with the cost of supplies and not wanting to waste paper. There are two sides to every paper, and if you are just goofing around, trying something new, or practicing you don’t have to use expensive paper or supplies.
I guess it comes down to, “Practice, Practice, Practice.” My brother used to say, “Anyone can be taught to sing.” Well I believe anyone can learn to produce art. You too can improve from painting a horse like the one on the top of this page to the one just above this paragraph. Come along with me and let’s enjoy making some art.