Friday, July 21, 2017

Pretty In Pink - Flamingo, and Creative Blocks and Finding Time to Paint!

"Pretty In Pink" - Flamingo  12" X 16" Colored Pencil on Ampersand Board,
 Available For Sale
The above painting is resulted from a lovely photo reference from: "Paint My"
Generous photographers share their photos for artists to use as references for paintings.  While I usually work from my own photos, from life, or a combination of the two (99% of the time) the reference photos on this site are copyright free to use.  However the artwork created is the copyright of the artist who painted it.  Lynton Bolton was the kind photographer to up load this image.  Go check out the reference photos there when you need ideas or a good shot to work from.

Which leads me to Creative Blocks and Trying to get your Mojo back!

Finishing a new piece during trying times is a challenge and especially when "Life" as we know it gets in the way!  Try as I might to stay on a daily painting schedule, things like my recent knee surgery get in the way.  As well as family health issues and TIME........ T I M E!  Well, the lack of it for that matter.

This spurred me on to write a little about creative blocks and staying motivated when life doesn't want you to be.  Although I am working on the composition of a new larger piece for my drawing board, I thought readers might find interest in some of the info I have realized myself or found thru periods of struggling.

Creative Blocks and the Fog that keeps us from the Doing!
It seems many of my artist friends and students also have issues with Creative Block, Procrastinating etc.  If you search the internet their are many articles by creatives that talk specifically about it.  Blogs, VLogs you name it.  You may have actually found this article by web searching, because you find your self floating in this deep sea of frustration right now!

If your a writer or other creative, substitute writing for painting and my ideas may help you too.  Or whatever word is your creative “Doing"

I find when myself or other art friends have a block it comes at times of frustration with their skill level, a critic’s or instructors unkind comment on their work or other emotional upheaval, health issues and burn out from over commitments in various facets of life.  Many of my students never unpack their art bag until class the next week.  And that’s fine but if you have intentions for being an artist or being productive in any creative process read on.  

Being a late comer to making art full-time (in my early 40’s) I often felt a sense of not having enough time to learn to paint all I want to.  Enough time to get “good” and build a resume as an artist. Frankly I still hear the clock ticking!  When the creative block hits, and the fog sets in, (and believe me, it usually does) I feel like I will never get “There”.  

“There” for me is being a professional artist.  If it’s the same for you or you just want to make some art without blocks this article may help you.

So this little blog is for you, my students and myself.  Yes, sometimes when your as thick minded as I am, you need to nurture or remind “You” often of 4 Essential of being an artist and the list of #10 Block breaker tips that will follow in a 2nd blog post yet to follow.  You may have read some of this before however really knowing it and “doing” it are two very different things.  

4 Essentials of being an Artist - Or Staying On track if you are one. 

SPACE #1 - Have a special place just for you and your art.  Studios are wonderful and I love mine. But before I had one, a small place to work, cabinet, tub tote bag for storing your supplies is essential.  Your art deserves that!  You deserve that!  Caution! Make sure you see it everyday, and don’t close it behind a never opened door.  One of the great things about art supplies is they are colorful and can be displayed in an artistic manner.  Colored pencils in cups or mugs showing their rainbow of colors just beg to be used.  Brushes in an urn filled with pebbles on display.  Art pens in a roll ready to pick up and go.  Decorated journals at the ready and inviting to use are just a few ideas. (Drop a small one in your purse or computer bag!)

If your lucky enough to have a studio for your art make it an inviting place.  After all it’s your Art Home-Space, you will want to be there.  Not a hot attic or cold dark basement, temperate,  with good lighting, and don’t forget a comfy chair for the next #2 is essential. 

Neatness - Keeping my studio neat, clean and where I can find things helps me feel like going into my space. No one wants to try working when they cannot find their easel or drawing table. I usually pick up as part of my finishing a painting ritual.  Put on some celebration music and go to town.  I actually have my own playlist for the process, “cue" Ferrel William’s song “Happy”.   Yours may not be as goofy as mine but for me being happy about finishing a piece leads to making more art.   

Caution: I often find it’s very easy to make myself busy by re-orgaizing my studio, which can lead to procrastination.

INSPIRATION #2 - Going out to experience Galleries, Museums, Nature walks, Your Garden, or People watching. The obvious things like finding new Art Books and Magazines or using the Internet (caution see #4), or your journal (see #4) are always helpful.  

I even find home decorating magazines inspirational.  Pick up a decorators magazine and envision one of your paintings above the mantel of a grand house.  How big would it need to be to have presence?  What colors would it need to have to go with the current trends?  Is that your palette?  Perhaps updating your palette may change it up enough will spur on your flow!  Perhaps working bigger or zooming in and blowing things up may change your work in an exciting way.  Clientele that can afford to buy original art have homes to decorate.  And while I’m not advocating you paint to match someones sofa it is a fact of life.  Higher priced art sells to collectors with larger spaces and new homes to decorate!  

Paint for you, if you like it you will do your best work!  If a subject inspired you it will show in your work and inspire others.

SPIRIT #3- Attitude :))
Your art spirit is a precious commodity.  Nurture it, protect it and mother it, just as you would a small child.  We are our own worst enemy, those dark voices come at us when we feel like a piece is not working out or doesn’t sell.  While a little self critic is part of the process of making good art, self doubt is it’s enemy.  Hopefully your parents or a good teacher encouraged you and gently reminded you of the how to’s and said it’s all in your attitude. :))  So BE that positive voice in your head!  An artist I love for her great attitude is Dreama Tolle Perry is a master of feel good, you can find her at:  It's in her art and her teaching.

Be positive, non-competitive, inspire others, and above all else kind to you.  Compete only with the artist you were yesterday, last week or last year.  When you keep working, the negative chatter loses its power. Inspire others, teach what you know to new beginning artists.  Sometimes I hear myself telling my students an art concept or tip and I realize I needed to hear it too!  They make me a better teacher.
Be Resilient and Kind to you, don’t let anyone take you art away from you by believing what they have to say.  Take in criticism but don’t let it take you over.  When your ready to look at your work kindly and critically, note the comments made and decide for yourself if it’s a quality issue, a style thing or what you put value in as a goal to correct.  I had a nationally acclaimed workshop teacher once make negative comments on a piece I had done outside of her workshop.  She didn’t like my application of over 25 layers obliterating all signs of paper speckle, saturating like paint with my dry media.  Only to find out it’s what my buyer’s and students loved most about my work.  It’s what made my work unique in style and not like her’s.  Subsequently I earned an award for the very piece she critiqued so harshly.  

Be Curious, be a Seeker
I hate the phrase "curiosity killed the cat”.  Being curious, ready to learn and Observe makes any professional better, no matter what your field. Take a second look at your subject from life and don’t rely on what the photo says.  Be curious to say "what if”, I promise you good things can come from it.  Experiment,  It’s only paper if it’s a sketchbook (insert your surface here), you can start over, wipe it off, try again. The “doing" is all in the trying.

When I'm in a museum of really exceptional work, I bring along a my mini purse size sketchbook to make notes of how an artist handled a goal I have.  Or to note an artists name to research their work further.  Actually I carry this little journal everywhere! see #4.

Create Quality Art
Use quality, archival and artist grade materials to create confidence in your buyers.  Frame well and neatly.  Know your process and go back to it when your in doubt.  

Confidence comes in the doing, doing and doing again. Keeping a sketchbook helps you build confidence.  Dating your pages can help you realize you really are making progress in your skills as you get to the end of the book.  Drawing, watercolor, gouache, even oils can be done on sketchbooks or pads of paper.  (Specific media paper sketchbooks are very easily obtained by art suppliers.)

Gain or have respect for the Job!  In my life I have been a Yes person way too much, always hating to disappoint anyone especially my family!  Children, grandchildren, siblings, friends and students.  Being a self employed artist and teacher is hard work. Gaining respect for working from my home studio is not easy, even in my own loving family.  I had to stop saying “Sorry I’m painting tomorrow", and say "I’m working" instead.  Folks outside of the art/creative field often see the "making" not the hard work it is.  They may say “oh I can’t draw, wish I could”  but they don’t see that the “doing” of it is hard work, practice, many many hours, failure, frustration, all before it’s successfully done.  Then there is the marketing, sales, inventory, bookkeeping, website updates, social media and all other hats to wear being a sole proprietor.  PHEW!!!  A company of ONE is not easy.  Teach others to respect your art business as just that.

TIME #4 -  We all think we’ll have all the time in the world of “someday".  I have an eye condition in my retinas, and when I found it could change my someday - I finally took a pay cut and left my corporate job to pursue ART.  I was fortunate to be able to have a spouse who encouraged me to do it.   

When I'm are not in a place with my supplies I do"Mind Painting".  Purposely observing details, shape, light, shadow, color as if I were painting it but without supplies.  Murphy’s Law - "Something awesome is in view right ahead and I’m driving or don’t have my phone/camera with me."   I so wish I had photographic eyes where I could just blink and have it saved for future reference.  But it can also be a good practice to do before you begin to “Plein Air Paint” (Open air paint), as a planning sort of observation, or anytime you start a work from life.  It helps to settle your thoughts on what’s in front of you.

Example: We are stuck in traffic and my sweet hubby is driving (key point here is your NOT driving! NOT GOOD or SAFE!)  Hubby is frustrated but I make good use of my time by r-r-r-e-e-a-al-ll-yy  looking at those clouds ahead.  Noticing how the light hits just the right spot from behind and making the glow of some edges and the billowy softness of other edges.  How purple-ish grey from the buildings or how greens bounce off from the trees on the ground into the cloud's underbelly.  

I find the more "I mind paint" the more I remember a subject  for future paintings.  Using this technique can help when your sketching from memory too.  So if you catch me starring off into the air now you know…..I’m not crazy, I'm painting.  Many of the items in the next blog post are part of my Block Breaker List may help you by finding the time to be creative.

A word about Journaling or Sketchbooks  

I hate to say it again but…ah….sketchbooks.......  
They can go anywhere you do, waiting in the car or Dr. office?  Instead of pulling out your phone and playing a game, re-checking email or Facebook use one!  They can be pocket size or purse size.  With as little as a pencil or pen to render with, or a few watercolor pencils and a water brush.  Or you can always hit them with water when you get home.  I have a small one in my purse all the time, another in my car for when I’m waiting for an oil change and I have a travel kit for vacations.  Travel journaling informs me of colors, location names, dates of reference photos I take intending to paint from later.  In short they actually make me remember a “Place” thru my artist eyes and thus I get more immersed in a trip or location. 

Keep Creating!

Monday, May 15, 2017

50th Anniversary Commission: 10" X 8" Colored Pencil on Ampersand Pastelboard

50th Anniversary Commission: 10" X 8" Colored Pencil on Ampersand Pastelboard SOLD,
Church of the Immaculate Conception, Jenkintown, PA
Working on a commission is always an exciting experience for an artist.  Especially when the family of an artist friend is the commissioner.  Which was the case for this commissioned painting.  The children of a dear friend asked that I create a commission painting of the church their parents were married in 50 years ago.  And they needed it F-A-S-T (4 days before varnishing!)   Current photos would not have been appropriate to use since the church had undergone renovations during those 50 years.  So the photo they provided me to use was needless to say small dpi and a bit grainy.  (I've attached it below.)  

I changed the composition a bit instead of just drawing straight from the photo.  Leveling out the camera distortion a bit for the church, and playing up the spring blooming tree to the left.  I felt by making the tree more important it would soften the hard edges of the architecture as well as help to settle the building into the scene.  Down playing the street presence.  Although the reference photo provided to me was old and a little desaturated from time I wanted to make this a bit more colorful.                             

Knowing this would eventually end up in the hands of another wonderful artist and friend, was a bit unnerving.  We all want to do our best for any commissioner.  Although I'm comfortable with perspective drawing,  and love other artists city scenes, architecture is not my favorite thing to do usually. (I enjoy more organic subjects as a rule.)   

Size suggestions were obvious, they wanted smaller but 6 X 8 would have been a little too small to develop a likeness, in my opinion.   So we settled on 8 X 10 in a vertical format (10 X 8).  

So there you go, a short show and tell about my latest commission.  Happy Golden Anniversary Suzzie and Frank!  Many many more to come! Oh and their daughter reported "Mom cried when she saw it" made me feel like I did a pretty good job for them.  Although I never strive to make someone cry as a rule. LOL

Now back to my current project which has seen way too many distractions!

Friday, March 31, 2017

CPSA Entry for 2017 Convention finally done!

"Happy Tequila" 12 X 16" Colored Pencil on Ampersand Board

Entry into the CPSA (Colored Pencil Society of America) International Exhibition is always a stressful choice.  I often find myself thinking of a brand new piece that is ripe for competition as an image.  WE all hope that competition pieces are also salable pieces but the true fact is that most images that are great selling subjects just don't have the "It" factor for most large shows.  One judge selecting your work out of 870-900 entries from around the world, is quite a gamble.  Some artists would think the odds out weigh the gain.  And there is the cost also, entry fees, packaging costs, shipping fees, cartage fees and return fees should it not sell at the exhibition.   But I know no other way to build your artistic portfolio without entering the gamble.

Sure there are many folks that say you why go thru this expense, nerve racking process just to have One Judge determine your fate?  I know artists who have entered their work up to three times (a piece can only be eligible for entry for 3 years from completion).  Some may have been turned down 2 of those 3 times.  But get in on the third try!  Yay!!! Hands Clapping!!!!! ;))  After all it's one person's opinion each year.

Seashell Treasures 1 - 6 X 12" Colored Pencil on Ampersand Board
The thrill of being accepted is like no other and I have had that thrill 3 times, thus getting my CPSA Signature status in 2013.  (You have to get into the International show 3 times in 10 years)  I did it in 5 years.  After that when you get in you can earn 5 year Merit status, 10 year and up.  The works have to be on a surface without preparation, 100% Colored Pencil and of the artist's own  photo reference!

The Seashell Treasure 1, above is my second entry, as you can enter up to two works.  Opinions vary but it has been said that works in similar subject matter, stye and feel help your work get noticed.  I created two Seashell Treasures for our local Bon Air Artists Assoc. fundraiser show (Artful Healing) last weekend, see 2nd one below.  "Artful Healing" sponsored by Bon Air Artists Assoc. benefits the World Pediatric Project's efforts to bring medical care to countries in Central America.  And in reality it is my second and third piece in the collection.  The first one SOLD to a collector a few years ago. 

Seashell Treasures 2, 6 X 12" Colored Pencil on Ampersand Board

Now that the my entry is complete and the show is over,  (I was treasurer for the BAAA project), I have a few days to get ready for my April classes.  But the best part is that the weather is getting to be more like Spring and I'm ready for some "Plein Air" painting!  What's on your easel?

Friday, January 27, 2017

4th Annual Colored Pencil Student Show - At Crossroads Art Center Gallery

January 2017 "4th Annual Colored Pencil Student Show"

Animals, Wildlife and Figure Portraits
 Botanicals & Landscapes

For the last 4, of my 7 years teaching I have had the great joy of showcasing my students art in an Annual Show with in my exhibit space at 
2016 Staples Mill Road

Richmond, Virginia 23230
Telephone 804.278.8950
Mon–Sat: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Sun: Noon – 4:00 p.m. 

I remove most all of my work (except a few pieces) and hang an example of the work they have done in my classes during the previous year (2016).  It's such a great pleasure to see their work hanging together opening night!  Some are artists of other media and so many of them have not had the opportunity to see their work hang in a gallery setting.  The smiles and excitement is contagious.

Some work on paper surfaces, pastel hardboard, suede mat board, Mylar and much more.  An example of one of my colored pencil pieces on travertine tile sets on a tabletop easel.  Showcasing the many surfaces colored pencil is appropriate for helps to educate the public on it's use as a fine art media.  

Helping students find skills and hopefully their voice and style within this media often brings me back to why I choose colored pencil as my favorite media.  They never cease to tickle me when the light goes off of understanding or they amaze themselves and what they have created.  

Enjoy the gallery below of a few of my students and their exhibiting work.

Some could not attend the opening but 17 student's work is  represented in my show.

The show will continue to hang thru Feb. 17th.


Some of the paintings  are in their own private collection and some is offered for sale.  

I wish you could have seen some of the Christmas presents they gave as gifts this year, most could not hang in the show.  

Let's just say there were some very lucky gifts received by new collectors of their work.

Check back here to see what's on the easel & happy creating! 

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 A New Year - With the last finished art of 2016 and Artist Planning

"Who?"  Colored Pencil on Suede Mat Board 8" X 10"
Available for Sale

The title if this painting has more meaning than the obvious subject of this piece.  You may have noticed I've been MIA for a few months.  And believe me if you haven't you weren't missing much.  

Has been an ongoing question in my life for the last few months.  I love owls and the obvious is the lovely sound I hear from my home in the woods of VA on warm evenings. Secure and calming my soul.  They even call back to you if you mimic them, something my oldest son does better than I.  We have many owls who call from the security of our wooded lot along the creek behind my house.  Several different types but they have evaded my attempt to photograph them.  

My reference for this piece is not my own but from a great website called Paint my Photo, the photographer James Smith at  Chasing Myths Photography 
contributes to Paint My Photo.   Visit the site above to see some wonderful sharing photographers who have provided artists reference photos for use in their paintings.  

A quote from their website: Paint My Photo (PMP) is a social networking site dedicated to sharing photos for artistic inspiration without fear of infringing copyright.

Now back to that ongoing question, "Who?" the owl is asking - it's one I have been asking myself over the last few months. The new year usually has us evaluating our lives both past and future as we make plans for the new year.  Internally the Who asks me if I'm being the artist I want to be?  Have I planned for "Who" that artist is?  


Planning for an artist involves many aspects, and if you sell and promote yourself it's a vital part of your brand and upcoming yearly tasks.  

Planning for me had me evaluating new goals (some old ones not yet accomplished) evaluating time spent on creating art and teaching as well as the new work itself.  You see most of us reflect on what we did wrong instead of what we did right over the course of the year.  To keep me from going too far down that rabbit hole, I always create a new goals list each year.  It's a great habit to get into if your an artist and can incorporate the practical along with a few lofty goals.  I personally have to watch how lofty I get, as an optimist, I can get pretty carried away! 

The Goals List enables you to look back occasionally over the year to see if your on track.  A sort of report card on how you are preforming according to your goals.  Giving you the chance to refocus your efforts if those goals are still in line with where you wan to go.  I always surprise myself how much I have accomplished when life seems to get in my way.  

While I'll not share my personal list here I will tell you that keeping up posts on my blog is very close to the top of the list.  Along with making more time for my own art creating while cutting back on my teaching schedule a little.  

What's your 2017 Goal List?  It's not too late to make one!  Make a comment and tell me what you think?  I appreciate knowing if this post resonated with you!  

Creatively Yours,
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