Drawing: The Power of Thumbnail Sketches

Would you like to learn a new skill to add to your drawing toolbox? Or, did you want to learn drawing , but felt intimidated by the prospect of drawing and the many approaches you can take to it, such as contour drawing? Enter thumbnail sketches. Source: Brummer, Carrie. “10 Creative Prompts for Thumbnail Sketching,” Artist Strong Blog, www.artiststrong.com. Accessed 09/11/2020.

A thumbnail sketch is a quickly drawn small sketch, hence the name, thumbnail sketch. It could be any subject you choose, such as animals, portraits, landscapes, city scenes, etc.  the only guidelines are to make it small, about 2 inches by 2 inches for height and width. Your thumbnail sketches can be composed of boxes, rectangles or any shape you choose. And you can use pencils or pens. If you wish, you can add color to your sketches with colored pencils or watercolor paints. Think of your thumbnail sketches as gesture sketches, which can be done in seconds, and which can be used as a dress rehearsal for more complex art projects, such as paintings. Source: Brummer, Carrie. “10 Creative Prompts for Thumbnail Sketching,” Artist Strong Blog, www.artiststrong.com. Accessed 09/11/2020.

Want to know how to get started? To begin your thumbnail sketches, you can begin by gathering pencils, pens, rulers and watercolors or colored pencils, if you wish. Start by drawing a series of small squares, with pencils, papers and rulers. Then decide what you want to draw and gather your source materials, such s photos, a still life, or go out on location, such as to a park to draw people and landscapes from observation. Source: Brummer, Carrie. “10 Creative Prompts for Thumbnail Sketching,” Artist Strong Blog, www.artiststrong.com. Accessed 09/11/2020.

 I began with six squares to test out different compositional concepts for my paintings, Let Your Soul be Your Pilot and Song of Service, using pencil, ruler, and pen to outline my drawings. If you can’t get outside, use your old vacation photos as a source, such as a beach vacation, etc. Be sure to try out different compositions for each box, such as: close ups, and eye level viewpoints, etc. Trying out the compositions now, will help you make the best choice for your projects and give you practice and confidence in your drawing skills. But don’t spend more than a few minutes on each sketch, keep it loose and free of detail. If you feel stuck, check out the list of prompts I am including below, from the blog post, 10 Creative Prompts for Thumbnail Sketching, by Carrie Brummer, posted on her website, www.artiststrong.com.

  1. Draw a house plant, using close up views, details of leaves, etc.
  2. Choose your favorite photo and abstract it, by simplifying it into smaller sections.
  3. Compose a still life using objects from your home, such as plates, dishes, vases, or fruits and vegetables.
  4. Draw the scenery at a park, while sitting on a park bench.
  5. Drive to the beach, or look for old vacation photos if you can’t get outside this summer.
  6. Look for patterns in your home, such as: fabric patterns in your curtains, throw pillows, or futon covers.
  7. Get your family involved and participate in a scavenger hunt on a rainy day. Ask your family members to look for an element of art, such as: line, in your home and then share your sketches of these subjects as a group.
  8. Bring your sketchbook to your appointments and draw the offices you are waiting in.
  9. Design sketches that illustrate your favorite cookery recipe.  10.) Make a storyboard from your thumbnails to illustrate your favorite fairy tale.

 I began with six squares to test out different compositional concepts for my paintings, Let Your Soul be Your Pilot and Song of Service, using pencil, ruler, and pen to outline my drawings. If you can’t get outside, use your old vacation photos as a source, such as a beach vacation, etc. Be sure to try out different compositions for each box, such as: close ups, and eye level viewpoints, etc. Trying out the compositions now, will help you make the best choice for your projects and give you practice and confidence in your drawing skills. But don’t spend more than a few minutes on each sketch, keep it loose and free of detail. If you feel stuck, check out the list of prompts I am including below, from the blog post, 10 Creative Prompts for Thumbnail Sketching, by Carrie Brummer, posted on her website, www.artiststrong.com.

Pictured in this week’s blog is my progress for the Let Your Soul be Your Pilot painting. I began with a somewhat busy composition and decided to simplify it, even though I liked all the symbolic imagery of map and compass. It felt like the figure, which was the main narrative was getting lost in all the detail, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Making thumbnail sketches helped me to see my options. The painting still isn’t finished, but I have a better idea of where I want to go next with the painting. I also began making some color sketches to try out color schemes for the finishing painting. I am hoping to have the final oil painting based on this new thumbnail posted to my blog or Instagram account by next week. Thanks for reading!

A variety of thumbnail sketches were explored here to try different viewpoints for my drawing, Let your Soul be Your Pilot. I used pencil, pen, and ruler to sketch on mixed media paper in my sketchbook.
Basic sketch for the chosen thumbnail sketch. I used this sketch as a basis for my oil painting on masonite board.
Photo collage I made in Adobe Photoshop of the revised composition from thumbnail sketches, reduced into a black and white image to focus on values, from darkest black to shades of grey and light gray. Doing this gave me more freedom to choose different color combinations, as I started to do below in watercolor paints on mixed media paper.
Color Study one of the revised composition, with analogous colors of blue, blue-green and green as the main color scheme.
This is the original sketch which I had started with before I made thumbnail sketches. I thought it was too busy and so I looked at different thumbnail compositions to try out, pictured at the top of the gallery.

Portfolio Progress completed works

This week I am taking time to inventory my completed artworks for my series Constructed Realities. This mixed media series is a collection of poetry inspired works that incorporate both text and imagery with a variety of media such as soft pastel, oils, acrylics, and gouache. I am making these paintings as part of a portfolio in preparation for applying to graduate school in two years’ time. I’ve been stretched in ways I hadn’t thought possible working with a variety of media, and the challenge of translating abstract ideas into visual art. Here’s a snippet of my Statement of Purpose, which describes these works in more detail.

In my new works, I have incorporated mixed media and text, which is inspired by art journaling and mixed media art. For example, texts from selected poems or songs, such as the writings of Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, and T.S. Elliot, Dylan Thomas, and Thomas Hardy are included in my paintings to give viewers clues about the content of my work.  Other influences include the song lyrics of Sting, and other musicians, psychological theories of human development, and current events.  These texts are incorporated into my paintings to help the view draw connections between the emotional content in my art and the written word.

Gather ye rosebuds final, small
Jodie Schmidt, Time waits for no one,  August 2020, mixed media: oil, acrylic, gouache, illustration board on masonite, 12 x 12 inches. Photo of Grim Reaper photo credit: Jbuzbee, 21 September 2008, Statue in the Cathedral of Trier, Germany, originally sourced on https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CathedralOfTrier_Skeleton.JPG. The photo has been re-mixed into a fine art image with the addition of pastel, gouache and other pictorial elements have been added to the composition such as the clock and figures. The original photo source is liscensed under wikimedia commoms.

Dream of time travel, final, small
Jodie Schmidt, Dream of Time Travel, July 2020, mixed media: oil, soft pastel and gouache on illustration board, 12 x 12 inches.

Pictures of You, with watermark
Jodie Schmidt, Childhood Memory Loss, June 2020,  mixed media: Soft pastel and gouache on illustration board, 16 x 20 inches.

The world, final version
Jodie Schmidt, Money is the Bait, August 2020, Mixed media: oil, acrylic, paint chips, canvas paper, and illustration board on masonite, 16 x 20 inches.

What to do when a painting goes wrong?

What to Do When a Painting Goes Wrong

 

Hello Friends, family, and fans,

I am so glad you stopped by to read my post today!  While this blog post is a recycled one written several years ago, the artwork I am posting is completely new, and part of my new art portfolio. This week I am featuring the painting process of my latest work in progress, The Almighty Dollar. Its a mixed media collage which illustrates the poem, The World is Too Much with Us, written in 1807,The world is too much with us, flatStage 1, Almighty dollar, flatMasonite board. stage 2, flatcomposition stage 3, flat by William Wordsworth. Although this poem was written in the 19th century, the theme of capitalism and greed is still relevant today. I think that’s what makes great art and poetry, something is written or painted in the past, which still resonates today! If you are working on an artwork or other creative project and feel stuck, I hope this post will help give you encouragement to carry on, or just start over again.

If you are a creative type or if you like to make things, you have probably encountered the moment when the finished product you imagined, does not live up to your expectations. Creative types such as musicians, composers, producers, dancers, writers, artists, photographers, cooks, and makers of all types, can probably tell you what it feels like to hit a wall with a project, and how it felt, and what they did to navigate that feeling of utter frustration. As an artist, I have experienced this frustration more times than I can count. Some paintings and drawings are simply learning projects and are difficult to salvage, while others can be fixed. I know it’s been said that you learn more from your mistakes than your successes, but when I get to a point in a painting or drawing and I realize that the painting or drawing doesn’t look right, it can be really frustrating. I start doubting myself, feel like giving up, or doing something that I am not good at, like cooking or cleaning because I know that I am not good at these things, so my expectations of success in these domains are much lower than for painting or drawing since I have no training in cookery or housekeeping.  Since I know I am not a good cook, if it doesn’t turn out so well, it’s a waste of ingredients but I don’t feel as emotionally attached to the outcome as I would to a painting or drawing.

I recently read a forum question on the website, Wet Canvas.com, and the question of the day was,” When should I stop working on a painting? I was intrigued by the question, and wondered how other artists dealt with paintings that can “look like a dog’s breakfast.” I read about a variety of solutions suggested by artists who had hit the wall creatively. Some were familiar to me, like my tendency to put the painting away and stop looking at it for a few days, weeks, months, or even longer. Others were not as familiar such as putting the painting somewhere where you can see it, such as on an easel in a living room, and then taking time to look at it from time to time to diagnose the problem. Another favorite technique is to write a list of things I want to change in the painting, be it the drawing, colors, value, edges, etc.  In my case, some of the artwork I have abandoned was started about two years ago, and I am just now starting to look at the sketches and Photoshop files.

This week I took some time to work some more on my acrylic painting, Waiting: Creative Block. I realized that there were several things bothering me about it. The colors and values, and the composition were some of the biggest glaring errors.  I am realizing they there are many reasons why this painting series of poetry illustration works have been abandoned. One of which was being too busy with other things to give the series the proper amount of time it requires to get things right, such as the composition and the drawing. Since I dropped out of the Social Work program at Frederick Community College, I do have more time to work on paintings. And since I have deliberately looked at my schedule e and started marking studio days on the calendar, I have more “intentional “time.

Mixed media Explained: Part 2

Mixed media Explained: Part 2, Types of Mixed Media

 

Hello friends, family, and fans,

  • This week I am continuing to elaborate on the theme of mixed media art, and I will be highlighting specific types of mixed media art, such as sculpture, assemblage, and torn paper collage. Last week I covered a broad definition of mixed media art, and I also explored the historical roots of this art form, through the artwork of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. They began making cubist collage works in 1912, with a variety of materials including canvas and rope. (Source: Eapen, Boaz. 15 Inspiring Mixed Media Art Portfolios that You Must See, retrieved from November 12, 2019, pixpa.com.)

 

The following is a list of some frequently used types of mixed media art:

  • Sculpture: A sculpture can be made with a variety of materials; therefore, it can be classified as mixed media art. Some materials which can be used to create sculpture include wood, glass, wire, metal, or readymade objects, etc. To begin, you can start by making a base for your sculpture and then, incorporate other media to the piece such as paint. (Source: ibid.) While writing this blog post, I found a fascinating sculptor through an internet search, who specializes in fantastical animals with a surreal twist, named, Ellen Jewett. To see her work, go to my modern met website at https://mymodernmet.com/surreal-animal-sculptures-ellen-jewett/.
  • Collage: A collage can be defined as a base, or a surface such as wood, paper, stone, or anything which is adhered to another material such as paper or fabric. (Source: ibid.) You can use a variety of materials in a collage such as newspaper cuttings, photographs, ink, paint, magazine cuttings, fabric, etc. The artist, Romare Bearden (1911-1988), specialized in creating collages based on the African American narrative, using imagery from magazines, such as Look, Life, and Ebony. (Source: Romare Bearden Biography, (1911-1918), retrieved from,  https://www.biography.com/artist/romare-bearden
  • Assemblage: A close cousin to collage, assemblage has three-dimensional characteristics, which are composed in a new way to create a narrative. Readymade objects, such as children’s toys or items from the great outdoors, such as leaves or flowers can provide valuable fodder for this type of art. For instance, the artist, Joseph Cornell, (1903-1972) made assemblage boxes out of shadow boxes, photos, “Victorian bric-a-brac”, etc. He collected these items in junk shops throughout New York City and re-imagined these items to create artwork that expressed nostalgia. (Source: Wikipedia, Joseph Cornell, retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Cornell.)

With all of these options, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin your next project. As for myself, I like to look for supplies that are easy to find and relatively inexpensive. One good starting point for a mixed media project could be using paper as a surface or substrate. I have used Crescent cold press illustration board for my latest mixed media projects, which is a combination of cardboard and “100% cotton rag cold-press surface”. (Source: https://www.cheapjoes.com/crescent-no-310-illustration-boards.html#:)   My self-portrait pieces were made with a combination of wet and dry media such as acrylic paint, gouache, oil paint, and soft pastels to add texture and interest. There are many other ways to use paper as well in different types of mixed media projects such as torn paper collage, and printmaking, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The possibilities are endless!

For example, below is a list of ways in which you can use paper in a mixed media project:

  • Printmaking: There are many types of printmaking such as linoleum block prints, silk-screen prints, and Gelli-plate printing. To make prints, you will need a surface on which you place or carve an image and then transfer it to your paper through various means. For instance, in linoleum block printing you can transfer your image on the block to the paper by applying ink to your design, and then pressing the block onto your paper to make a print. The supplies you will need may vary depending on what type of printmaking you choose to work with. To learn more, you can go to https://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/drawings-and-prints/materials-and-techniques/printmaking. (Source: The Beginner’s Guide to Making Mixed Media Art, 20 September 2018, retrieved from format.com).

 

 

The sky is the limit as far as what you can do here, although it’s a good idea to find out what the journal is made out of and what media it accepts, before attempting to paint in it. I recently obtained a Strathmore mixed media art journal from Amazon. It’s made of Bristol paper with a vellum finish. It’s designed to work well with dry media such as pencil, charcoal, and pastel. Or it can be used with pen and ink, marker, or college papers.

I’m hoping to use this journal to start some new projects from the Skillshare art classes I am taking online. Today, I tried my hand at the torn paper collage technique, and I used the tutorial by Jeanne Oliver provided in her book, The Painted Art Journal, which I highly recommend! My artwork was based on a family photo of my grandmother, Gladys Carter. Starting with a tracing of a sketch, I transferred the image to mixed media paper, using carbon paper and a pen. Then, I used a variety of different media here, with soft pastel, watercolor pencil, water, and torn papers affixed to the mixed media paper substrate. I’m hoping to post photos of this portrait project in next week’s blog post, I ran out of time today and had to go to work this afternoon. It’s a work in progress, and getting outside of my comfort zone to mix up all these different media types! That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading. Artist at work, with watermarkArtist at work, 2, with watermark, flatartist hands with watermark, flatThe World, composition, flatStudio space with watermark, flat

Mixed Media Art: Explained, Part 1

Mixed Media Art: Explained (A brief definition)

 

Hello friends, family, and fans,

Have you ever gone to an art gallery and observed a work of art that was labeled mixed media, and wondered what it meant? I know I have, and I have wondered, how might I incorporate these mediums in my artwork? This question was the catalyst for starting my new art series, Constructed Realities, which combines a variety of mediums including, gouache, soft pastel, acrylic, pencil, and oil paint with a cold press illustration board as a substrate. In some ways, my art is a mixture of mixed media and traditional techniques; because I use realism for the style, but I also combine it with a variety of media, rather than working on one media, such as in oil painting, as has been the traditional practice for painting.

Today, I am focusing on describing mixed media art, in terms of a broad definition, and more specifically to explain what I mean when I label my own art, mixed media. And now, I’d like to offer a brief definition of mixed media art. Mixed media is a type of art that doesn’t limit people who have limited experience with art skills such as drawing. (Source: Eapen, Boaz. 15 Inspiring Mixed Media Art Portfolios that You Must See, retrieved from November 12, 2019, www.pixpa.com.) Instead, it is an art form that is accessible to anyone, even beginners. (Source: ibid)  However, one caveat is that after you decide what type of mixed media art you want to focus on, you will need to develop some familiarity with specific processes and specific media, (Source: ibid), such as watercolor interact with other media.

Did you know that mixed media art has been around for about 100 years? I didn’t until I started researching this subject in more detail. Some historical examples of mixed media art include the artwork of the cubist artists, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, his cohort. About 1912, they began to incorporate collages into their artwork. (Source: ibid) In addition, “Surrealists, abstract expressionists, pop artists and brit artists” followed suit, and added mixed media to their repertoire of art-making. (Source: ibid)

In recent years, there has been an explosion of mixed media artwork on the internet on websites such as Youtube and Cloth Paper Scissors, (which also had a periodical format with artwork featuring a variety of artists), and in art technique books, by authors/artists such as, Pam Carriker, Mixed Media Portraits (2015) and Jean Oliver, The Painted Journal (2018). These artists have used a combination of wet and dry media, charcoal and paint, and or gesso, in their portraits. On youtube, you can find art journaling technique video demonstrations by artists such as Dina Wakely and one of my favorite artists and teachers, Julie Fan Fei Balzer.  It’s a fun and free way to learn new art techniques from the comfort of your own home, which is really important these days, since so many colleges and art centers are closed, due to the pandemic.

I started out my mixed media art journey by working in a sketchbook to conquer my fears about mixed media, and it gave me the courage to explore mixed media in this new series. There is little to lose if you don’t like the artwork, and you can simply turn the page, rather than worry about ruining an expensive art canvas. Creating artwork with mixed media techniques is also helpful if you find yourself caught in the dreaded state of mind called the artist’s block, where you know you want to create something but feel stale in your chosen medium and want to learn something new and feel excited about making art again. My favorite website for looking up art tutorials is youtube. If you have a specific artist you are looking for, you can search for them, such as Pam CarrikerCS Lewis with watermark, flatEmily Dickinson portrait, flatmixed media self-portrait sketch, flatElizabeth Shue sketch, flatstill life sketches, flatunfinished sketches, flat, who has many instructional videos. And to learn more about art journals, visit: https://mymodernmet.com/art-journal-ideas/, to read the article, “How to Combine Drawing and Writing into Deeply Personal Art Journals”, by Sarah Barnes, October 11, 2017. Thanks for stopping by!

Biographical Portraits in a Mixed Media style

Hello Friends, family, and fans,

This week I am going in a slightly different direction than last week, but I haven’t given up on my poetry inspired work. I have started a new series of portraits based on the lives of writers, poets, and others to try something a little new but somewhat related to the poetry series.  Next to working on artwork, my other favorite hobby is to read biographies of people I admire, such as Emily Dickinson, Julia Child, and others. So I thought,

Emily Disckinson, flat, portrait, 1_edited-1
At home in Nature, Mixed Media, 2020, Jodie Schmidt. 

Emily Dickinson, portriait2, flat_edited-1
In this stage, I continued to add more details and some limited color to Emily Dickinson’s face, the songbird, and the echinacea flowers. 

CS Lewis portrait 1, flat
The fire of creativity,  Mixed media, 2020, Jodie Schmidt. 

CS Lewis 2 , flat, portrait_edited-1
On further review, I decided that the shadows had gotten too dark and overpowering. So I toned them down with some soft pastels to modify the tones. I struggled to figure out how best to represent this abstract concept of creativity and finally decided on using fire. I tried to combine a variety of sources, with some stock photos of greek mythology. This piece will be much larger when I am done since I plan to make it a triptych. 

what not combine my love of art and reading biographies?

Like the poetry series, the work focuses on the portrait and symbolic imagery to help describe the content of the piece. Similarly, I am working in a mixed media style with these portraits, beginning with a pencil sketch and then creating a tonal under painting in gouache. Finally, I finish it off with a more detailed limited palette with soft pastels on Illustration board. My goal is to make at least 10 poetry series portraits and 10 biographical portraits in preparation for applying to graduate school to get my master’s in fine art.

Today I wanted to show you my work process so far with these new portraits. The first one is a sketch of Emily Dickinson. Much has been illustrated regarding her and her poetry, but I wanted to show a different aspect of her personality and that was that she had a passion for plants and nature, even keeping a personal collection of plants in her home and a garden she tended frequently. It should also be noted that many of her poems are about nature, such as storms or sunrises, and so perhaps in some circuitous way, this painting is also about her poetry. To learn more about her passion for plants visit: https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/emily-dickinson/biography/special-topics/emily-dickinson-and-gardening/.

My second portrait is about one of my favorite writers who wrote the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series, with hints of Greek mythology and even an allegory of the creation story in the book, The Magician’s Nephew. I wanted to make a portrait that showed the creative process of Lewis’s writing and the flow of new ideas. I likened creativity as fire and used that as a way to contain the various characters concerned in these chronicles of Narnia books.

This piece was closer to home for me because although I do love nature and being out in it, I feel that creativity is a large part of me, and I would feel empty without it, I think. It is good to remember that there are rewards to creativity and making things, especially when paintings don’t turn out so well, which I experienced yesterday when I was trying to complete a painting that has been languishing in my studio. Needless to say, it did not go well. And instead of calling it a loss and going to do something else, to give myself time to think about what I didn’t like about the painting, I just kept adding different mediums to the dried acrylic paint, to see what would happen. The lesson here was, paint mindfully, and not mindlessly. Thanks for stopping by!

Constructed realities: Part 2, Taking stock of my progress.

Hello Friends, family, and fans, At long last, I am posting some progress photos of my series, Constructed realities. They are still mostly in the phase 2 stage of color sketches, but they are coming along. So many things seem to get in the way of making time for art, I have got to start making this more of a priority. I often wonder how other creative types, such as Jane Austen, made time to write so prodigiously despite overwhelming household chores that were required during the 19th century in a family without servants or modern conveniences. Even when she was dying she managed to crank out a new book, Sanitation, which was left unfinished because of her death.

The world is too much with us, with watermark
This poem is inspired by a poem by William Wordsworth, entitled The World is too Much with us, about the dangers of industrialization and how we may lose our connection with nature, and eventually with ourselves, due to greed. “The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers,;-Little we see in nature that is ours; We have given our souls away, a sordid boon! Wordsworth

The Dream of Time travel
Here is another mixed media piece in progress. It’s based on a fantasy I have about going back to being a child, as represented by the multiple figures that get smaller as you follow the path. Sometimes adulting is just too hard, and I long for carefree days full of energy, health, and creativity. Here is a quote from a writer Mary Oliver which nicely sums up this idea: “Sometimes the desire to be lost again, as long ago, comes over me like a vapor.” Mary Oliver

Gather Ye Rosebuds
This is an unfinished piece about the fleeting nature of time and youth. I have used several symbols to illustrate this, such as the clock and the grim reaper. The other supporting characters are myself and my husband, back when we were about 12 years younger. It’s about not letting too much time pass before you make important decisions. For us it was about getting married. The poem which inspired this piece states: “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old time is still a-flying, And this same flower that smiles today Tomorrow will be dying.” Robert Herrick, To the Virgins, Make Much of Time.

Anxiety collage, with green paint
This piece is about emotionality, and especially about anxiety. I used bright contrasting colors here to try and emphasize the jarring and explosive nature of anxiety and symptoms associated with it, which can easily turn your world upside down, difficulty breathing, making decisions, sleeping, avoidance behaviors, etc. Its a subject close to my heart, because I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and have had to work very hard to not let it take over my life. Several of my family members have it too, hence the DNA strands. Here is a quote from Emily Dickinson that inspired it: “In this short Life that only lasts an hour How much- how- little is within our power.

Despite the obstacles of daily life, she made time to write. I hope I can follow her example and bring my passion, time, and energy into making art, no matter what obstacles I face. I am taking stock of my progress so far to try and gain some more objectivity about the work still to be done, and to see the progress in hopes that it will motivate me to make more art! As mentioned in earlier blog posts this series is based on quotes from poetry, and a small portion of the quote will be added to the artwork so you can get the gist of what feelings and moods I hoped to convey in these pieces.

Practice Makes Perfect: Value Sketches and Color Sketches, Constructed Realities

Art of Blog Schmidt: How to Build Artistic Muscles

 

Hello Readers. This is an older blog post, but I felt that it has some points which still resonate with me, such as the importance of making time to practice my craft as an artist, making daily and weekly time to work on my paintings and drawings. This new series, Constructed Realities has been challenging in many ways, with challenges in coming up with new ideas, overcoming weaknesses as an artist, and sometimes just getting started. I feel afraid to make a mistake sometimes, and just have to choose to jump into the deep water and see what happens. Below is a recycled blog post, How to Build Artistic Muscles. But the artwork I am posting here is new. This artwork is based on song lyrics and poems, and is all about the figure, using mixed media materials for drawings and paintings.

Axiety, flat
 Anxiety, Mixed Media on Crescent Illustration Board, Jodie Schmidt 2020. 

Value studies, flat
Top: Anxiety, (Value Sketch) Mixed Media on Crescent Board, Jodie Schmidt 2020.  

Bottom: Money is the Bait, (Value Sketch) Mixed Media on Crescent Board, Jodie Schmidt 2020.

color sketches, flat
Top: Money is the Bait, (color sketch), Mixed media on Crescent illustration board, Jodie Schmidt, 2020.  

Bottom: Abraham Lincoln Biographical Portrait (value sketch), Mixed Media on Crescent Illustration Board, 2020.

Let Your Soul be Your Pilot, flat
Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot, (color sketch) Mixed Media on Crescent illustration board, Jodie Schmidt, 2020. 

 

A few weeks ago, one of my art fans complimented me on a painting which she had viewed on my Art of Schmidt website, entitled, Phyllis and Dad. She said that she liked the colors, that she admired my talent, and wanted to know the story behind the painting. I told her that the painting was based on a collection of family photos that I had collected and that I always remembered my father as being older than other kid’s fathers. I also shared that this was the first photo I had ever seen of my father taken when he was young. Although I do not know his exact age, as the picture is not dated, I would estimate that he was in his early twenties when this photo was taken of him and his first wife, Phyllis.

I was of course, grateful to hear the compliments about my artwork, but at the same time, I wanted to share that the artwork I post on my website does not come about by magic. It takes a lot of effort.  Furthermore, sometimes more than one version of a painting or drawing is created to lead to the finished product that people see on my website, commerce site, and social media feeds on Facebook and Instagram. In fact, I have to practice on a weekly basis to keep my drawing and painting skills from getting rusty. During this conversation, I shared all of these insights with her and I hastened to add that if I relied solely on my artistic “talent” then it wouldn’t get me very far. Instead, I have found that practicing art is much like practicing a sport or playing an instrument. I believe that in order to get good at any of these disciplines, one needs to practice, a lot, and on a regular basis to maintain a certain level of skill. And sometimes it may require me to make a drawing or painting over and over again until I get it “just right.” In the words of songwriter, Sting: “I will reapply the needle of the record player again and again to the bars of music that seem beyond my analysis, like a safecracker picking a lock, until the prize is mine.” (Sting, Broken Music, dust jacket cover, 2003).

I was thinking about this conversation this week when I was trying to decide what to blog about. While I was pondering this, I wondered how to make this knowledge which I have gained about the need for artists to practice their art, into an applicable blog post that anyone can learn from. According to the author, and textile artist, Bren Boardman, one specific way for artists to stay “in practice” with their craft is to keep a sketchbook. The sketchbook serves as a repository to record their ideas and inspirations, such as “color swatches, quotes, magazine clippings, newspaper cuttings, or reference photos” for artwork in progress. (Boardman, Bren. “Sketchbooks and Mind Mapping for Artists”, https: www.textileartist.org).

Bren Boardman, textile artist, and author of the article, “Sketchbooks and Mind Mapping for Artists”, states that sketchbooks can help artists to develop their ideas for artwork and that using a mind map in their sketchbooks is an effective strategy for fleshing out ideas for new artwork. In her article, she provides some useful tips on how to start a mind map diagram, sort of like the “web” I remember from grade school in which my teachers used to help my fellow students brainstorm new ideas. In Boardman’s mind maps, she starts with a word or phrase that encapsulates her concept for a new artwork and draws connecting branches, which describe her ideas in more detail, sometimes using imagery. To start a mind map, she recommends that you write a word or phrase, with which you can associate, the main idea. (Boardman, Bren. 2013)

In addition, Boardman states that it is helpful to consider what type of sketchbook you would like to create such as a reference sketchbook, where you might “collect color mixing tests, color swatches or samples, or an idea generation sketchbook”; such as creating a mind map which describes the process and ends with the final result. On the other hand, perhaps you might make a sketchbook that would describe a trip or journey. Furthermore, if you still feel overwhelmed about the process of starting a sketchbook, I’m including a list of suggestions that Boardman offers in her article to get you started with the process. For example, you might include: “photos, magazines or prints, magazine or newspaper cuttings, drawings, sketches and doodles, text, poetry, stories, thoughts, thoughts, letters, extracts, statements, words, fabric, threads, wools, beads, buckles, papers of all kinds.” (Boardman, Bren. “Sketchbooks and Mind Mapping for Artists”)

In this blog post, I include my process for adapting  Boardman’s mind map idea and translating it into a project I wanted to create a genealogical portrait of recording artist, Sting. My inspiration for this project was based on an overworked watercolor painting I made last summer, a portrait by Durer of a man standing in front of a landscape,  and a TV miniseries, entitled, Finding Your Roots, with Henry Louis Gates, J., on PBS. The segment I took inspiration from was called, “Sting, Sally Field, and Deepak Chopra,” and was filmed in 2014. Gates spoke with each individual in turn and he shared what he had learned about their ancestry through genealogical research. In particular, Gates shared that Sting’s third-great grandparents were lacemakers who started a family in Nottingham, England in the 1820s. However, due to the Industrial Revolution, which led to mass production of products and consumer goods, they were forced to seek work elsewhere in Calais, France, and Australia.

I took inspiration from this TV series, a failed watercolor portrait of Sting, and from a sketch by Duerer which featured a portrait of a man and a landscape in the background.  To record my thoughts, I took notes as I watched the TV segment and I re-draw these thoughts in a mind map. I knew I wanted to make a portrait that was different from the typical face front painting or sketch of a person with a wall as background, and that I wanted to let the artwork tell a story about the person. I wanted to use symbols to tell the person’s story so that it would lead the viewer to contemplate the scene and ask questions about what the symbols might mean. After I completed the notes, I set to work looking for images on the internet of Sting, his home town of Wallsend, England, and some symbols to describe his ancestor’s migration to France and their profession as lacemakers. Then I put all the photos together in Adobe Photoshop to create a collage as reference for the resulting sketch and three value watercolor painting. I plan to continue this project as a larger acrylic painting in a 12 x 24-inch size. Stay tuned for more updates on my painting process of this portrait! Thanks for stopping by!

Drawing and Value Sketches, The Saga Continues

Hello Readers, Friends, and Family,

I am including my revised artist statement for this series, which I have called Voices and Visions, but I am now calling Constructed Realities. I am finally getting into he value sketches and drawings, and its starting to slowly come together. But I still have a long way to go toward the final product. I’m not sure if they will be traditional oil paintings or mixed media pieces. Right now, I am looking for readers to let me know how my artist statement sounds, and if the artwork I am posting here, “matches” with it. If you could, post a comment on my website,  http://www.artofschmidt.com or Art of Schmidt Facebook page and let me know how this statement and artwork make you feel. I want to be sure that I am not too esoteric, and that everyone who reads it can understand what I hope to express in my art. Anxiety with watermarkThe World, flat_edited-2Value Sketches_edited-1Thanks!

Artist Statement for Constructed Realities

 

How does an idea for a painting get born? For me, it’s sometimes a memory being replayed, hearing a song lyric that resonates with me, reading a poem that lends itself to telling a story or visiting an inspiring art exhibit. This series of paintings focuses on the connection between the human condition and stories described in the written word, through poetry and song lyrics. The works may describe a feeling, such as a search for love, broken relationships, and homes, uncertainty, nostalgia about one’s childhood, wishes and desires, journeys, the modern world and industrialization, overcoming adversity, artist’s block, etc. These themes are described using metaphors and symbols, such as maps, industrialization, etc. In addition, limited. The color palette in oil paint, to keep the focus on the content of the artwork and not the color.

 

Two things have sparked this re-current theme about visual storytelling, and they are: 1.) An art class that I took at Frederick Community College, and 2.) Learning about art journals and mixed media artwork. In January of 2015, I took a drawing course at Frederick Community College in Frederick, MD. One of the final assignments I tackled was to illustrate a poem of my choice using pastels. A major challenge in this assignment was to find a poem that had some concrete images to illustrate. I chose Robert Frost’s poem, Ghost House, which has an abundance of concrete imagery. The first lines, “I dwell in a lonely house I know, that vanished nearly a summer ago, and left no trace but the cellar walls …”

(Frost) griped me with a strong visual picture. I immediately thought of a derelict house and I tried to create a narrative about this haunted house. Slowly, different images popped into my head, a derelict house, a ghost bride, a tree, a path, and some crows. To facilitate this process, I collected artwork that inspired me on Google image searches and checked out art technique books on vampires and fantasy creatures from the public library. To create this current body of work, I collected a notebook of images that inspired me, from Google searches or Pinterest, and stitching them together in PhotoShop to create unique compositions. Next, I read books on poetry or did Google searches to look for poems that lent themselves to visual depiction. Brief lines from the poems or songs which inspired these works are embedded within the works so that the viewer can make the connection between the imagery and words which inspired each work.

 

I then collaged various photos of the house, ghost bride, path, crows, landscape, etc. in Adobe Photoshop and printed out the collage on copier paper in the size in which I intended to create the artwork. The final step was to trace the image with carbon paper and Pen and to begin filling in the pastel paper with tones and shades of blue and purple pastels. Some of the poetry that has inspired this new series, entitled, Voices and Visions, are verses written by Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, Robert Frost, and T.S. Elliot, among others.

And my second inspirational spark to create this series is the art journaling movement. A new trend in popular culture is the concept of the art journal, in which the artist writes and illustrates specific things, feelings, seasons, etc., often in mixed media materials. According to mixed media artist, Dina Wakely, art journaling is a way to express your emotions through imagery and text, and no specific rules need to apply to this process. She also shares that the idea of art journaling is not a new one, and well-known artists, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, kept a series of notebooks. Like Dina, I find that creating narrative art can be a meaningful process, either to express difficult emotions such as sharing universal truths with others in

Much the same way as song lyrics do. In a similar fashion to the poets, Dickinson and Frost, songwriters such as The Cranberries, Sting, Shawn Colvin, U2, Roseanne Cash, Johnny Cash, and Coldplay, and many others have masterfully shared universal truths about love, loss, uncertainty, identity, depression, and loneliness. A good case in point is Sting’s song, Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot, an ode about uncertainty and the process of finding answers in the midst of it.

Artists: Rekindle Your Creativity

 

Confession: I Haven’t Been Painting Much

I have a confession to make; I haven’t been painting very much lately, even though I call myself an artist. In fact, it’s been almost a month since I painted a picture, or even wanted to work on a painting. Yesterday was my first day back at the easel, working on a complicated water lily painting.  Although this subject seems simple, it has been quite challenging to execute. I have been trying to push myself beyond my usual comfort zone of placing everything in the middle of my artwork and to create alternative compositions. I have spent a lot of time, effort and thought to explore different compositions and value schemes to resolve the painting.

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way of Creativity

But it’s been an off and on the journey, with very little motivation to create again. This lack of motivation to be creative is, unfortunately, nothing new in my journey as an artist. Instead, it has been a frequent and unwelcome companion. For some reason, I no longer have that naive joy I used to have in creating art, where I was free from the brutal inner critic. Instead, now it seems that my artwork must have a purpose, in order to be worthwhile. Somewhere, perhaps buried deep inside me, is a desire to create, but that has to compete with a myriad of other priorities that fight for my attention, such as cooking, organizing, cleaning, to-do lists, etc. It’s a constant tug of war, deciding what my priorities should be. Other things that make me doubt the point of being creative and feeling like it’s a luxury to make art have been the drying up of art sales and commissioned work. In addition, I have had to cancel several art events due to weather conditions, or a lack of interest from others. All in all, it makes me wonder, what is the point? Does anyone really care if I make art or not? Does it impact their lives?  Is it meaningful for me to make art, whether it sells or not?  Is this a hobby, a business, or something in between? What is my purpose in creating art?

Ways I have been Making Time for Art

Despite my doubts about the validity of making artwork, I have been pushing myself to create art nonetheless, kind of like adhering to a fitness schedule. One of my methods to keep my drawing skills sharp has been to draw a dog portrait from a reference book called, For the Love of Dogs, by the photographer, Rachael Hale, five days a week and to post the results on Instagram. I try to keep the sketches simple, and I  spend about 30-45 minutes on each drawing.  However, I am not sure how to get back my love for creativity. Instead of taking time to ponder this question, I tend to spend my time reading or watching the British television mystery series on YouTube, called Lewis.  But now I am starting to wonder, what steps can I take to start enjoying making art again? So, on that note, I would like to share some tips from an article I read on a website called, Skinny Artist, managed by Drew Kimble.

The author, of the article, “5 Ways to Rediscover Your Art and Reclaim Your Passion”, states that there are five techniques which can be used by artists to rediscover their creative spark. The techniques he lists include: 1. finding ways to nourish your creativity, 2. reducing distractions in your environment, 3.) locating a community of creatives, either online or in real life, 4. engaging in small creative practices on a daily basis, and 5., keeping your creative practice varied by changing up your techniques, media, etc. (Source: Drew Kimble, “5 Ways to Rediscover Your Art and Reclaim Your Passion,” www.skinnyartist.com.) In the interest of brevity, I am only going to share a few of Drew Kimble’s tips.

Nourish Your Creativity

Drew Kimble states that to keep your creative well flowing, you need to re-group by viewing as much art as you can. (Source: ibid)  By observing works in art galleries, books, art magazines, websites, etc., it will help you to define the direction in which you would like your artwork to go, and inspire you with imagery to re-construct, abstract or re-interpret your artwork through the lens of other artwork. (Source: ibid) A quote from Isaac Newton helps to illustrate this concept: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Limit Your Distractions

In our twenty-first century modern society, we are frequently inundated with distractions, whether it comes in the form of cell phones, the internet, movies, hello, YouTube, etc. (Source: ibid) A cell phone alone contains a myriad of distractions including: “movies, instant messenger, arcades, phone games”, such as Pokémon Go, etc, etc. (Source: ibid.) This does not include other distractions, which may seem well-intentioned or important: such as cleaning, cooking or organizing our homes. And for most of us, we need to make a living outside of our art, unless we are retired, have a trust fund, or a well-off partner who helps to support our artistic careers, so there is also time we need to dedicate to our jobs. (Source: Ibid.) On the other hand, to be creative, we must carve out empty places in our schedules, or what I like to call, white space. (Source: Ibid.) Without stillness and solitude, it is difficult to create an environment conducive to creativity where memories, experiences, literature, song lyrics, cultural influences, history, imagery, etc, can merge to create the seeds of inspiration. (Source: Ibid.)  In fact, Agatha Christie has been known for saying that some of her best ideas came to her for novels when she was washing dishes. She states, “The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” (Source: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/agatha_christie)

In addition, the author, Drew Kimble, suggests that keeping a “time journal” for many days can help him to identify what activities he spends his time doing. (Source: Ibid.) Another tip he shares is to schedule time for making art and to be gentle with yourself, even if you don’t meet your expectations and cross everything off your to-do list. (Source:  Ibid.) Likewise, I have been trying to reduce the number of items I place on my to-do list, as far as creative projects are concerned. I’ve been realizing that most days, I can only do one project at a time, especially on days when I work at my part-time job. I’m trying to make Thursdays a day to spend more time on creative projects. One of the projects I hope to get started on, is my poetry illustration narrative series, an art project I have yet to complete because of its complexity. I also want to focus my energies on my daily drawing challenge, which features dog portraits. I’m learning that if I take on too many art projects, I have a tendency to leave these projects unfinished and then I feel guilty for being so unproductive. One other way I could make time for art would be to cut down on the time I allocate for entertainment, especially movies, which can take up a lot of my free time if I am not careful.

Conclusion: What’s the Point of Making Art?

In closing, I would like to return to some questions about the meaning of art, both to myself and to the society in which I live. Pondering the role of art in my society and in my life specifically, I read and researched some articles online to see what others had to say about the importance of art in our society, to address one of the main questions I posted about making art, which is, What’s the point? So here are a few thoughts from an article I read: “Why We All Need  Art in Our Lives,” by Lesli Walsh, April 11, 2013, retrieved from http://www.michipreneur.com/why-we-all-need-art-in-our-lives/. The first point, the author, Walsh makes is that 1.) art is an integral part of who we are as humans, and that it can help us to create balance in our lives or to find other routes for self-expression when words fail us. (Source: Ibid)  Point number two is that art helps us to understand how historical events impact people emotionally, and how it has shaped our own lives. (Source: Ibid) Thirdly, making or viewing art can help us to become more self-aware about our inner thoughts, desires, fears, etc, and gives us a chance to slow down and decrease the stress we experience from living in a multi-tasking, fast-paced society. (Source: Ibid) Through self-awareness, we can grieve losses and heal from traumas. Another value we can get from making art is that it can help us to develop critical thinking skills, by teaching us how to represent abstract thoughts and concepts in concrete ways through visual symbols. (Source: Ibid) Finally,  by talking about the art we make, we can learn how to be better communicators with others. (Source: Ibid) One last thought about the value of art is that it can transcend cultural differences and give people a common language, where words are not necessary. (Source: Ibid) Thanks for stopping by and readingwater lily three value sketch_edited-1, flatWater Liliy redux, finalwater lily watercolor, color study_edited, flatLily pad with frog_edited-1, flat!