Thursday, December 30, 2021

Change - How does it show up at your table? Artist Life goal setting.

Jingle Bells - 8 X 10" Colored Pencil Painting - SOLD

As the New Year approaches and we reflect over the past, which let’s face it the past few years have been something we all want to change.  Change back to life as it was, pre-pandemic, or a new normal with positivity and health.  

Recently I read that "Sometimes Change wants a place at the table.”  And it resonated with me so much today when I sat with my “cuppa" in hand to do my normal prep for New Year thoughts, goals and aspirations.  No resolutions here but real deep thought into my looking forward personally and art wise. I’m a list maker and planner, I can’t help it.  So I’m asking myself how will Change show up in 2022 at my table.  

Change can come in many forms, large or small, scary or just in bits of stretching beyond our norm.  Sometimes we hold off acting to change things up if they seem “frivolous" or “good" for us. But I’m here to tell you that frivolous IS good for us.  It’s the part of life that requires a little commitment to change it up.  I see it as part of an exploratory heartbeat.  

After all many serious minded people consider being an artist a frivolous profession.  I can’t even think of a world without ART or art making! But that’s a topic for another day.

In your art form, when feeling uninspired, or in a funk.  A new media or technique you haven’t tried yet.  Pushing limits with what you do now or are afraid to try.  I find that if I say I’ll "Play with” a new art technique or media, my inner critic has less expectations of mastery.  Play enables exploration and we often as full time artists forget to incorporate it purposefully.  Scheduling a “Play” session a couple times a month is a big Goal for me in 2022. Mixing some additional media with my dear CP’s on a more frequent basis pushing some limits I’ve held to in my personal practice. 

In your life when your bored with the day to day. A change in your daily schedule adding a new idea or reincorporating a dismissed habit (morning walk, daily sketching restart or gratitude journal up take).  Picking up a book when you are bored with TV or haven’t had a good read in a while.  I’ve read more books this year than I have in the past 10 years because of my year end 2020 goal setting.  And it has been so enriching to my life.  Below are a few 2021 journal entries.  

In your style of travel, I think we have all looked at wanting to get back out there after being confined to home or closer to it.  Making travel a priority again - safely is part of my 2022 change planning.  More to come on this front in 2022.  

In your diet or weekly menu - experimenting with a new recipe or thumbing thru old collections of recipes not yet tried or made in a while.  Nothing stimulates the desire to cook for me than successfully tweaking a recipe to my own taste - or famiy's preferences.  We get into meal ruts and for me it always leads to a cheat in my eating plan if I don’t think “of changing it up".   

In your exercise routine - this is a hard one for me as I’m not fond of exercise for the sake of doing it.  I’m much better with exercise with a purpose, when there is a visual result immediately afterward. Like Cleaning out the garage, daily walking the dog (my studio assistant loves this one!), gardening and the color that inspires me to really look and enjoy my hard work, or journaling when a page is finished or I've captured a quick impression and essence of place.   

In your connections - more interpersonal  quality relationships.  I’ve been absent quite a lot from Facebook and Instagram this past year.  Due to feeling disenchanted with the forums.  Wondering what is better for reaching out to be of service or inspiration to others.  To connect in a more meaningful way.  (If you have suggestions please let me know.) What I do know is that I’m more of an introvert than most public social media platforms promote.  YouTube included, which has been an intriguing possibility but seems so time consuming.  However finding a group of genuine like minded creators and kindred spirits is my most earnest desire.  

And finally - A change in how you look at the ordinary of everyday often means an opening of spirit or your mind to the new and unexplored.  For me this offers real possibilities in 2022.  While I’m not ready to divulge what those changes are, I am forcing myself to make the change from dreaming of the someday plans to stretching out of my comfort zone and starting the ball rolling……….

What does or could “change" look like for you in 2022?   

Best Wishes for you and yours, 


As usual you can comment and be a part of the conversation. No spam please!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Artist Life: Sketch Journaling - My Sojourn and synchronicity.

Pages from My Gratitude Journal

My Sojourn = Sketch Journaling

My definition of Sojourn when it comes to sketch journaling are travels and temporary stays in beautiful places captured on the pages of a journal.  Whether in the form of drawing/painting or words, or a combination of both.  This with the sole purpose of "Letting synchronicity happen!"

I believe Our World was made with the same creative energy as are you.  So in one's journey with keeping a journal, I find the energy placed into a travel journal needs to be of pure heart and intention.  It’s your mark, unlike anyone else’s, it only needs to be personal to you.  Our individual marks will be uniquely our own. Thoughts, impressions and images that can delight your soul.    

I find that journaling for me as a working artist is permission to play, experiment, record impressions as well as my surroundings.  Journaling helps to free my creative energy without thought to it’s being a proper finished painting. As a working artist I find it's important to not make it into a job. Remove what you're doing from the public platform, keeping it a private safe space.  Yes speed does matter when you're out and traveling, but trust me there’s nothing like a slow enjoyable drawing.  I try to keep myself from filling all the pages with those highly finished pages. (Hard to do for a realist artist like myself, I admit.) 

However I keep one promise to myself while journaling.  I measure my journaling efforts not by how great the art is but does it honor my inner child artist, protecting and defending this time for her.  You are doing this for yourself after all .  Keep it tender like that child's heart, where it’s held loving and supportive, to record things without their needing to BE something salable.  Let some play happen, the rhythm of your line is unique to you.  Honor yourself and this time to play, let it fill your creative well,  not drain it.  Let you be yourself, let the process be what delights you and do not let your inner critical judgement to get in your way.   

 Waiting at a dance competition, synchronicity played it's part as I needed practice on drawing hair!

Daily inspirations can come from many sources.  Let synchronicity play it's part in what you sketch.  Sometimes a scene presents it's self "for you", so take that as a sign.  I take that as a sign that today, I needed to pay attention to this subject, to look deeply and find appreciation in it.  I believe the Universe places sketch-able moments in my day whether I feel like it or not.  Often it's just the item or place I need to practice a technique/skill I'm lacking in or one to sit up and take notice of for personal reasons.  

I sketch my dreams, my explorations, my sacred everyday actions -- like savoring a cup of tea or making soup mindfully and with attention, gratitude, and love. Go as simple or complex as you like.  Sketch those bits you find meaningful or special, it's not always meant to be a full page.  Don’t get caught making a page too precious though!  (This is tough for me.) Just jump in to explore whatever suits your mood or subject. Using mixed media, graphite, ink, watercolor pencils, colored pencils, watercolor, collage, stamps, gouache.  Even thinned acrylics work.  

A Pinerest Image, a parking lot tree
dried flowers.
Try not to overthink or follow a preconceived plan, have fun, and experiment. I find taking deep breathes with my eyes closed helps me calm and settle into the space I’m in flor sketching.  Especially when at first I can find something worthy of a sketch.  Getting quiet with myself, and then listening to nature, allowing a full look around to see and experience the scents and feel the breeze will help me find the image to draw.  

Sometimes you will draw a blank, and nothing seems interesting to draw, it’s for those times I keep a prompt list and also a sketch photo file on my phone.  While I hate to resort to photos, and prefer life drawing for immersing into the scene, let’s face it sometimes a parking lot is not as pretty the 5th or 6th time your stuck waiting in it.  

Your drawing doesn’t have to be linear imagery, puddles of color, roughly sketched with areas of detail or just lightly rendered items work very well.  Words offer so much to my pages, they help to convey mood and feelings. Temperatures, names to places, date, time of day, but most importantly words give you the opportunity to express gratitude for a place in time or the extraordinarily ordinary passing moments of my life.  Words help with the story of the moment and your personal story/experience.  

Let synchronicity happen!     



Monday, February 22, 2021

"Southern Girls Series - Saucer Magnolia Branch", A new series, and the last painting of 2020

Southern Girls - Saucer Magnolia Branch, 6" X 18" Colored Pencil on Ampersand Pastelboard, Available For Sale  

Starting a new series is like starting a new year, and I had to get a jump on 2021 by getting this one going during 2020!  Although this was my last painting of 2020 technically, I was looking forward to 2021, Spring and a fresh year, full of possibilities.  We all needed to mourn 2020 and I realize 2021 could be similar but I choose to look on the bright side.  Just like I'm ignoring all the snow, ICE, sleet and more cold temperatures much of us have endured during this beginning of the year.  

Spring will come, IT WILL COME, say it with me: Spring Will Come! I am soooo ready.  My life revolves around my garden most years, ebbing and flowing with the season, embracing what each has to savor.  I think I was savoring the first 2 snowfalls, and even took a moment to appreciate the icy glaze on the branches everywhere the first ice storm we had.  And really cherished the fact we maintained power, unlike many in the area.  But now despite what the ground hog had to declare, I'm calling it over.  

Maybe it's the sunny day we're having, and my bulbs inching their way up slowly and warily.  Or the forecast of warming temps by later this week, yep probably it's this! ;)) I took down my Valentines wreath and flag, up with the St. Patrick's Day decor, and Luck for Spring.  We all need it don't you think! I willing it to happen.

The piece above came about by many different reference photos, 7 to be exact.  Blending shape of the different stages of each individual flower's opening, with the changing shades each had depending on their age.  Kind of like each of us, from the tightest bud (new, inexperienced and young), to exploring adolescents full of color reaching for experience, then middle aged in our wise ability to hold together in the wind and finally on to the slightly fading in color but full and resilient as can be.  

Gratitude Journal page

This page from my gratitude journal back in 2018 shows a saucer magnolia bud in August no less!  My poor (confused at the season) tree prompted this small sketch.  Saucer magnolia's are deciduous trees that usually bloom on nearly bare branches in the Spring before the leaves have a chance to mature or sprout in earnest.  My plant tried blooming all that growing season.  One here and there.  

The quote I wrote is:

And the day came 
when the Risk to Remain Tight in a bud
was more painful than the Risk it took to Blossom!   
by Anais Nin 

I love this quote as it has much meaning to me.  Risk to bloom no matter if it's out of season or not reminds me of my art career.  Later in life I began my art career, much past the age of many.  But just like the quote and the bud in the sketch, I did finally have the courage to bloom.  And I guess that's what I wish for anyone reading this blog post.  It's never too late to try.  

Stay warm, safe and come back to visit with me all new things are on the horizon here and elsewhere. News to come soon!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Finishing Touches on Plein Air Colored Pencil Pieces - "Old And New River Birch-Shirley Plantation Winery"

Trying to get your creative groove back during a pandemic involves a lot of experimentation.  What inspires and what needs to be completed fight the usual battle when you are your own boss.  I won't necessarily say it's a fair fight cause after all we are creatives right!  Often what inspires often wins the war.  However this time the "what needs to be completed" won out!  Today I'm sharing a trick I use to make it a more fair fight.  

Old And New River Birch - Shirley Plantation 8 X10 Colored Pencil on Ampersand Pastelboard
(A Plein Air start and studio finish.)

The recently finished painting above began life on a Plein Air painting excursion (pre-pandemic) two years ago with the gallery I show at and it's other painters.  Off to the James River plantation area in VA.  We set up at the Upper Shirley Plantation Vineyard for a paint out and subsequent exhibit to benefit the Rice Rivers Center of VCU.  The Virginia Commonwealth University Rice Rivers Center is a leading authority on river research focused on expanding environmental knowledge and preserving the health of our natural resources.Located on 494 acres along the historic James River, midway between Richmond and Williamsburg, Virginia,     

If your new here or to colored pencil work in general, it is a slow media and not one many use for plein air painting!  While I have finished several Plein Air pieces on site, I may need two days on location to finish or need just a little work at home after a long day on site.  This day was early Spring and cold winds off the James were brisk that morning!  There were many onlookers enjoying the day as it warmed up, with wine in hand.  And I always enjoy talking with folks.  Although it does slow my process even more.  

This location was just out back of the winery and restaurant along the banks above the river edge.  What drew me to the spot was the early morning light hitting the bark on these two River birch. One strong and youthfully sprouting tiny new leaves and the other much older and slow to leaf out!  The younger tree was in the brighter light of a springtime sun.  The older shadowed by a much taller tree out of view and competing with other plants and greenery for its place.  

If you know me, you know I love trees, and have been accumulating a series of tree paintings, sketches and so many reference photos..............If I'm out and looking for something to sketch I usually find it in a tree.  Plein Air pieces are like the sketches in my journals, they write the story of what inspires me to create a painting.  I absorb the temperature, observe the atmosphere, and just plain get lost in their branches. It's one of the best ways to really get to know a place or a tree for that matter!

OK now for the trick I mentioned above for getting paintings completed when they have lost their sparkle or inspirational vibe.  But first a little history: 

As we grow up and develop our own way of fitting into the world and becoming a productive adult - we learn or develop coping mechanisms for getting things done when we loose the "fun" bit pushing us thru to completion.  Cleaning your room or eating your vegetables before dessert come to mind.  

It could be having grown up the people pleaser I inherently became (no judgement here please).  Or possibly it's the "I'll show you" attitude I have when told I can't do something.  I prefer the later.  What resulted from an older sibling telling me as a 10 year old "You never finish anything you start".  I now have a monkey on my shoulder when I don't complete a task.  

Unfinished paintings that I either loose interest in (which is rare) or Plein Air work when time runs out and weather conditions change, sometimes make their way to a short pile in my studio.  As a compulsive list maker,  I add a new line to my Excel spreadsheet for my Art Inventory List when I start a new piece.  I number all my works at that point and dedicate a line to it's place in production/completion.  Sometimes it has no title but I know the size, substrate and genre it is.   Just like any good list maker, the check off is the reward - and for my inventory sheet it's the "Completed Date" column I use as my check off reward!  

As a result either "the pile" or every time I look at my Inventory spreadsheet I'm reminded of what's not yet completed.  Simple tasks like switching out my work in a gallery or show exhibit requires my making changes to the "Current Location" column, I'm reminded.  I guess I'll have to do a separate post on my spreadsheet if folks are interested so please comment below if you would like to see it or know more.  

None the less an artist needs to have an inventory list for their work.  You will forget titles, sizes, prices, how it's framed and of course the ever important "where it is" or "what show has it been entered in?" If your just starting out create one - if not on your computer grab a notebook and write it down!  You will forget trust me it's just like the mystery Tupperware container/science project in your frig.  You'll forget. 

Ok off my soapbox!  

Back to the trick I use to get to finishing a piece:  

When I'm stymied and I feel a need to complete a piece, I go back through my photos taken while on site.  If it's a plein air painting waiting to be finished, resetting the stage in my mind helps. Sometimes when flipping through my sketchbook or travel journal I stubble upon the page where I noted the day, lighting conditions and location.  Since I've spoken about journaling and it's importance in my life on posts before I won't go into it now. But if you're new to the blog you can find a few here and here

Any sketch I do, helps write it's story into my memory so much more than a simple photo shot could.  And all I need sometimes is a reminder to pull it back from the abyss of incompletion.  The really seeing a place or object in that place comes from having drawn it. 

"I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen"

Frederick Franck (1909 - 2006) Dutch American sculptor

Enjoy completion, it checks off an item on your list, it rewards your total paintings finished goal as well as you get to revisit a moment that was special in your life of days. 

Gloria Callahan

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