Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lessons Learned On Location

Brandon Parkway
Watercolor and Carbon Black Ink
8.25 x 3.5 inches
Another title for this post could easily be "What Makes a Painting Successful?"

What makes a painting successful is sometimes (usually?) beyond the obvious. Most of us consider a "pretty picture" to be a successful page, but what about all those "all most, not quite" practice pages we do? Do they count?

I consider the page above a success, and you may be thinking "she's losing it if she thinks that's a successful painting." And that's okay. Because you can't "see" my goals for this piece.

I am NOT a landscape painter, but I have hopes of one day mastering this genre. When I left the house this morning to go out and sketch, I had a TOTALLY different image in my head. One that was loose and charming with just the right touch of detail.

And then I arrived on location and got busy.

And.....failed. On the first goal anyway. This sketch is not loose nor charming. It is an improvement over this image (third shot down) of a lake not too far away. This image is not as overworked and muddy. I actually managed to leave a couple of areas alone rather than "fix" them.

The things I learned are:

  • Next time, take the stool. Even if I don't think I'll need it, I will. I have no problem sitting on the ground. I do, however, dislike ants. Ants crawling on me. Ants biting. Enough said. 
  • I wore a hat to help shade my eyes from the bright sunshine. So why then did I take a shiny, chrome document clip to hold the pages of my sketchbook open? I will be swapping that out for flat black. Unless I need to use the shiny clip for mirror signaling. I could get lost, you know!
  • It's best to take the tissue out of the package before I need it.
  • Use of black ink helped this sketch tremendously. In fact, it wouldn't have made prime time without the ink. 
  • I have recently started wearing a white sweat band on my wrist to wipe my paint on when I'm on location. It makes life a little easier. I don't have to hang on to the paper towel. Unless I happen not to have my wrist band and decide to use my wrist anyway. (It must have looked pretty bad because the guy at the deli told me where the ladies room was—without me asking!)
  • If it's working, leave it alone. There wasn't a cloud in the sky today, but since the sky kinda worked in this, I decided to leave well enough alone. Oh, and there wasn't a hill either. 
Goals for next shiny clips, a wrist band, loose and charming, more variation in the greens and no mud...

Piece a' cake!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

And Thy Name is Redundancy! Or Maybe Just Dunce....

Watercolor and Ink
3.5 x 8.25 inches
Handbook Watercolor
I wanted to make sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you knew this was a poppy. Did a good job, didn't I?!

Duh. I'm not sure what possessed me to put the word "poppy" behind the bloom, but.....well, there you go!

I like the strong graphic quality of the word, but next time I think I'll opt for something a mite more subtle.

My intentions when I started this was to ink it.

I did ink the outline of the letters and knew immediately it wasn't going to have the pop I was after. I went over it with neutral tint watercolor and hid the ink. Then I was going to ink the flower.

Then I wasn't.

Then I decided it would be best to turn the page and just begin again.

Maybe tomorrow.

After the laundry's finished……

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wash Day.....

Watercolor and Noodler's Ink
3.5 x 8.25 Inches
Handbook Watercolor
Need I say more?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mainlinin' Caffeine

Watercolor and Noodler's
Lexington Gray Ink
3.5 x 8.5 inches in
Handbook Watercolor
I like to sleep, so when my mind decides, against my will, that it doesn't want to....well, let's just say I find the whole situation unnecessary and nothing short of annoying!

Woke up at a little past 3 AM on Monday morning. WIDE AWAKE. It was like someone flipped a switch. My mind was awake and that was all there was to it.

Finally got up a little after 4:00. Did some stuff on the computer, did some reading.

My mind was NOT slowing down.

Thought about going into the studio, but it's across from our bedroom and I was afraid I would disturb Chris. Back to the computer for a while.

About six, I gave it another go. I managed to cat nap off and on until around 7:30—gaaaaaaaaa!

Nothing like having a full day to slog through when you would like nothing more than to curl up and catch some more shut eye.

This sketch was my attempt at humor about something I didn't find funny at all! In my exhaustion and hurry yesterday, I misspelled mainlining and had to correct and shorten the spelling. Misspelled caffeine and didn't even realize it. However, it's not fixable so I'm leaving it.

It's kinda funny now.

It wasn't yesterday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

By The Lantern's Glow

Watercolor and Ink
3.5 x 8.5 inches
Handbook Watercolor
As I mentioned in an early post, I find that the days are whizzing by so quickly that I (and my husband) are having trouble keeping track of the what event happened on which day, and I feel a "need" to capture more info about those days in my sketches.

Does this mean I'm getting old?

You would think that the date of the day you lost power for 17 hours would lodge in your brain, but no, it didn't. When I asked Chris which Thursday the storm happened on, he wasn't sure if it was two weeks ago or three. I had to google it to make sure I had the date right. It was March 31st.

What did we do before Google?

I had already drawn the lamp a couple of weeks ago and finally got around to painting it last night. I turned out the lights, lit the lamp and away I went. I recommend painting by firelight once in a while—it will show you just how familiar you are with the paints on your palette and their layout!

The first thing Chris noted about this sketch is the purple background.

I made a couple of missteps, adding green rather than blue a few times, but for the most part, I was able to relax and just go with whatever I happened to pick up on the brush.

Painting and reading by lamplight gives me new respect for my grandparents and the generations before them—it takes a real desire and dedication to do much by lamplight, most especially if you're spoilt by modern day conveniences!

Monday, April 11, 2011

More From N'awlins

Il Posto Café
Watercolor and Ink
Arches Paper
3.5 x 8.5 inches
I am finally making my way back around to the New Orleans sketches....this little café was just down the street from the house we rented during our NOLA stay, and it's where we ate our first meal upon arrival. Getting to our rented home was a bit of an adventure and by the time we finally found it, it was lunchtime!

The building is in an old house and sits in a residential area sprinkled with a few other businesses like a dry cleaners, steak house and such, but still considered as "off the beaten path." The menu was full of anti pasta plates, sandwiches, subs, soups, salads and desserts. Old, uneven wood floors, mismatched furniture, original windows, the place had a unique charm all its own.

KJ had a panini and I had tomato basil soup with freschetta—yum!! Not the usual food associated with New Orleans, but good stuff all the same. From there, we navigated (walked) our way to Zara's Lil' Giant Supermarket to stock up on coffee and breakfast supplies. Not much bigger than a convenience store, the store had everything we needed. They even had the old fashion conveyor belt checkout counters that I remember from my youth!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Plan to Fail?

Strathmore Aquarius II 80lb*
Before Ink
4" x 5"
Yesterday, I had a wonderful day with a friend in a garden. The University of South Florida's Botanical Gardens to be exact. The day was already warm when we arrived and it was on its way to getting down right hot by the time we left.

We arrived after 10 and by the time we'd walked and talked and photographed the various things that captured our eye, it was lunch time. And we hadn't brought any lunch.

As we strolled around, we noticed a great deal of seating, though it never seemed to be in quite the right location nor did it look all that marvelous for sitting on. We've had buckets of rain in the last week and most all the seating was wood—wet and green.

So far we have a very hot day, we've arrived late, we didn't take any lunch with us and we didn't take our stools for sitting where we could sketch and draw where we wanted to...would you say we planned to fail if we went to sketch? I would. We failed to plan.

Watercolor and Ink
Strathmore Aquarius II 80lb*
 4" x 5"

We didn't take into consideration the need for seats, that it would take two hours to wander around and that we might get hungry nor did we consider that we would take all of time photographing but none for sketching. But that's what happened.

To be fair, I concede that I did go with the intent to photograph flowers for the Imaginary Visit to the Garden eClass that starts in a week. However, sketching on location still takes pre-planning and more than a bit of determination. Getting there with your supplies is only half the battle. You still have to get them out and USE them.

This sketch is of some plants I bought while we were at the gardens. I did it last night. Since I was dog tired by the time I arrived home this is not my best effort. I will have to revisit and try for a better sketch. Regardless of the quality of the sketch, it captures the day. With a few details about the day, I'll have a good journal page.

After thinking over the day, I realized that even though I failed to plan, it was still a day well spent. Next time though, I'll plan to succeed with my sketching too!

*To those of you who have read my prior post about being a journal 'ho, the use of this paper was a deliberate choice as it is a new paper for me. It is Strathmore Aquarius II 80 lb. watercolor paper. I will continue to experiment with it and then post on the paper later.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An Interview Over At A Whole Latte Life!

I am delighted to share an interview with all of you that I did with Joanne DeMaio over at Whole Latte Life! In the interview series, "Coffee With," Joanne chats with folks who live their life's passions.

It was a great deal of fun to do the interview and to give thought to why I do what I do.

Simply said, I love what I do, I love to share and I love being a part of the process of growth and change, whether mine or someone else's. So hop on over to Joanne's blog and check it out!

Thanks, Joanne, for this fabulous opportunity!

BTW, for anyone who doesn't know me well, I normally drink coffee with cream and sweetener. The drink above is tea. When I painted this, it was a cold blustery day and I needed something to WARM me up. Tea did the trick!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's That Time Of Year. Again.

Garden Gloves
Watercolor and Ink
3.5 x 8.5 inches
Handbook Watercolor
Yep. Time to rake the yard, trim the hedge, yank up vines, remove weeds and generally, subdue our jungle. It needed it before we had a huge storm front move through last Thursday, but it really needed it afterwards. We have two huge maple trees in our front yard and they produce the meanest little spikey balls you've ever seen. DO NOT try to walk through our front yard barefooted. You will be sorry. Very sorry. (Ask me how I know!)

And so, blisters, sore muscles and all, we spent a good deal of time outside communing with nature (or cleaning up nature's sh...stuff, as Chris says) over the weekend. Time well spent (for me). There's nothing quite so therapeutic as getting your hands in the dirt, smelling the fresh air, clearing out the mental cobwebs, pulling weeds that made the mistake of growing in the wrong place and feeling the accomplishment of a job well done, even if we're not finished.

I'm going to have to get some new gloves though. These had a blow out and when I came in, my finger was black as......well, dirt, and somehow, I don't think that would look all that great on a video. They've been good ones and I love the color. They're easy to find whenever I make the mistake of taking them off and forgetting where I've left them. Which is often.

I have recently begun to feel a pull towards capturing some of the odd bits from my days as they are flying past. I've never really felt the need or the pull to do this before. I guess too many conversations starting with "when did ____________ happen?" being answered with, "I dunno....a month ago maybe" has had an effect on me. We can't remember sh...stuff, anymore.

I've realized I am a bit of a journal 'ho. I'm not faithful to any one journal for more than a few pages before I'm off to another. Sometimes, it's a paper thing. Other times, it's a size thing. But it's not very conducive for creating a day-to-day or even week-to-week type of journal. I'm going to give using just one journal—start to finish—a go. Wish me luck as I seriously doubt it's gonna work. I'm too fickle.

Meanwhile, I leave you with an image of someone who knows how to take it easy in the hottest part of the day....

Isn't he a cutie pie?!!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Playtime - Spraying Pigments

Watercolor sprayed through a stencil
Words and hard lines created with gel pens
Click to enlarge
I saw an image (second image down on the post) on a blog the other day that captivated my imagination. I asked the owner of the blog how she created the image. The owner was none other than Sammie Kari of the Journal Girl blog. She answered right away with details and offered to do a video tutorial for me—you gotta love that! And she did. Here is the link to check it out.

Sammi used Adirondack Color Wash sprays to create her image. Not having any of those and really, really, really not wanting to add to my overloaded studio, I decided to see what would happen if I used watercolor and water in a sprayer/mister.

It worked great!

The only thing different I noticed was that achieving a level of color saturation that was comparable to the Adirondack sprays was difficult. My design is a bit on the light side. Altering my choice of pigments to a darker valued pigment or doing multiple layers of color, letting each dry, would also work. I think using a stencil with more complexity would also have helped.

In the image above, I used a teal blue and a light yellowish green. I would spray the stencil, pick it up, wipe it off*, and then reposition and spray again. After I was done with the stencil and the work had dried, I worked some of the green into the background. Later, after everything had dried, I doodled the words, and then added some lines to emphasize some of the swirls.

*In the video, Sammi shows how to use the ink/watercolor on the stencil to "print" a negative on another page—wish I'd of thought of that as I was doing my image!

I have no doubt this idea will be showing up in my work again soon as it was great fun and adds an interesting element to the page.

Now it's your turn to go play and have some fun!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Are You Failing? Fail Better!

Farm Fresh
3.5 x 8.5 inches
Watercolor and Ink
Handbook Watercolor

I painted the latest image in my sketchbook direct with paint, no pencil. I consider it a failure. You may wonder why and I'll explain in a moment, but first, let's look at failure for a moment.

When I started the Artful Journaling eClasses, I was amazed at how often the words, afraid, fear and failure kept coming up in the comments.....afraid of failing, of not being good enough, of not doing it correctly, of being judged.

Then I started to take note of how often those words came up in all the classes, on blog posts (not just mine but also in my travels around the web), and in email conversations. It was OFTEN. 

Words have power and they quite often provide a peek into how we think and what we value. Usually, we're not even aware of how much we're revealing. 

So with all this fear creeping into our language, do we consider ourselves fearful? Do we walk around expecting to be judged as "not enough" or "less than" all the time? Are we so unsure about our abilities that we question whether we can learn every time we set pencil or brush to the page?

It's worth pondering. 

Going back to the piece over on the side....I say it is a failure because it failed to meet the goal I had set for myself—which is not necessarily obvious in the piece. I was seeking to capture that translucent look of the onion skin. I managed to get close in a couple of spots, but overall, I did not succeed.

It would have been more accurate to say "I did not meet my goal with this piece of art." Instead, I called it a failure, and chances are good that several of you were getting ready to argue with that assessment in the comments. 

When we first start out creating, it takes time to learn (and baby, there ain't no shortcuts!). What is the quickest possible to learn? To sketch, draw, paint and pursue the "doing" of our chosen craft as often as we can, as much as we can. It is in the "doing" that we will learn and only in the "doing." You can read, study and think about drawing until the cows come home each night, but if you're not putting it into practice, you're not learning and improving……and making mistakes.

Which brings up another point....practice is not a dirty word, but I'll save that for another post. Back to the point of this post, often do you fail? How often do you count the high cost of failing—the wasted time, the wasted materials, the wasted effort? Every time? Most of the time? 

What if I were to say you've got it on the wrong side of the ledger? That failing is a necessary ingredient to growing, to improving, to learning new ways to see, to draw and to create? For the price of some time, materials and effort, I'd say it's pretty damn cheap, not to mention a great bargain!

As we grow in our chosen craft, we continue to fail if we continue to grow. What happens is that we fail better. Our failures become less obvious. We see them because we're the ones setting the goals. The more often we fail, the more we learn, the better we get, the more fun we have! Even failures become fun because there is always something to be learned. And we stop fearing failure quite as much.

Do we ever reach a level where we stop making as many mistakes? Yes. At some point, the mistakes we make change from "Damn! Why couldn't I see that?" to "I wonder what will happen if I put blue here? Oops, maybe not." And occasionally, to keep ourselves humble, we miss something basic. It's a reminder to go back and refresh, but we need not start over. 

So again I ask you....are you failing? Are you failing better?!

I hope so!!