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 reading!
A Response to Last Month’s Post: How to Re-Prime Used Canvases
This blog post is inspired by a blog post from last month, entitled: Artists: What Should You Do with Unfinished Artwork? dated August 12, 2018. In this post, I wrote about the artwork that had been abandoned for various reasons. I also added a list of various highlights from an article entitled, “50 Ways to Use Your Unfinished Art.” Several suggestions for completing your artwork were listed in the aforementioned article including taking pictures of your artwork to manipulate it, cutting up the artwork and re-assembling it, throwing the painting away, etc. However, one technique that I didn’t mention for completing art work is to start over from scratch. For example, this could mean re-surfacing an old canvas by using sandpaper or even a power sander, depending on how thick the paint has been applied to the canvas. The processes for re-finishing canvases are different, depending on whether acrylic or oil paint was used, which is a fact that I learned after reading two articles on The Painters Keys website- Re-priming Old Canvases, and How to Resurface an Old Painting by Ericka Lancaster. I really wish I had known this sooner, as I am not sure how my old paintings, which have been re-surfaced with sandpaper and acrylic gesso, will hold out over time.
Consequently, I plan to do more research in the future, before I am embarking on a similar project with older canvases. I want to be certain that I can create quality paintings which will pass the test of time. Ok, so now to what I learned from reading these articles. For example, in the Painter’s Key’s website, the author responded to a query from a reader about how to restore an old canvas, so that it could be re-painted. (Source: http://thepainterskeys.com/reprime, Robert Genn, date of access 08/24/18). In response, the author stated that to re-surface an old oil painting can create some concrete and creative challenges because if the re-surfacing process is not done correctly, it can cause the paint to flake off from the surface. (Source: ibid) Therefore, because of this possibility, many artists choose instead to use new materials, i.e. new canvases or substrates. (Source: ibid)
Here are some tips for re-purposing oil paintings from the article, Re-priming Used Canvases:
- Sand the surface of your oil painting until it is completely dull in appearance. (Source: Ibid)
- I used a power sander with 150-grade coarse sandpaper, because it is easier to use than individual strips of sandpaper, and it gets the job done much faster.
- After you sand the painting, use a microfiber cloth to get rid of any excess paint chips. For heavily encrusted paint, you can give the canvas or paper another pass with the power sander.
- When the canvas is completely clean and you can see the tooth of it, use an “oil or alkyd-based gesso or oil primer.” (Source: ibid) You can use a scumbled technique and a rag, to cover the offending areas you don’t like about your painting, and leave other areas, untouched that you like. Using this technique is a compromise between using the old surface and the paint which remains, and painting a new layer of paint. (Source: ibid)
- As an alternative, you can use a mixture of titanium white oil paint and linseed oil. You may add additional colors to the mixture if you would like to add an underpainting; such as burnt sienna or yellow ochre. (Source: ibid) This step will provide you with a middle value, with which to compare your other values and help to create color harmony in your painting.
On the other hand, re-priming or painting over acrylic paintings is a completely different scenario and process. For instance, “acrylic molecules remain sticky forever,” and you need to ensure that there is “no final varnish remaining.” Instead, acrylic paintings should be “cleaned outdoors with household ammonia and well flushed with water before applying a water-based gesso, thick or thin.” And unlike oil based surfaces, paintings with an acrylic paint can be re-surfaced with gesso as a priming agent. (Source: ibid)
Here are some steps you can follow to re-surface an old acrylic painting, according to the artist, Erica Lancaster:
- Clean the old acrylic painting with a soft microfiber cloth until it is free of dust or grime.
- Use sandpaper to remove the old acrylic paint with a light touch, while you concentrate on “heavily textured” sections of the canvas. If you can’t get rid of all the texture from the acrylic paint, don’t worry about it.
- Go over your sanded acrylic painting with a clean cloth to remove any additional paint particles.
- Paint your canvas with Gesso and use even coats. Remember to let each coat dry at a time before applying a new layer of gesso. This can take up to 24 hours to “cure.” If you want to thin out your gesso, you can add water to the mixture. Test your canvas and check to see that it is completely dry, before applying any acrylic paint. As a general rule, you want to have at least two dry coats of gesso on your painting before you begin adding acrylic paint.
- Go over your canvas with sandpaper again. As to how many times you choose to sand the canvas that is completely up to you. Deciding on what amount of texture to give your paintings is a personal creative choice, and it depends on what type of “look” you want your painting to have, such as photorealism or abstraction. If you want a realistic look, you would want less texture and thin smooth layers of paint.
- The final step before you begin painting is to wipe your canvas again with a clean microfiber cloth. Now your canvas is ready to begin painting upon. (Source: http://www.erikalancaster.com/art-blog/how-to-resurface-old-canvas-paintings-to-crete-new-artwork.com, “How to Resurface Old Canvas Paintings to Create New Artwork,” Erika Lancaster, date of access, 8/24/18.
So there you have it. Two different approaches to re-surfacing old paintings, depending on whether you have an acrylic or oil painting on your canvas. This week’s artwork
features the creative process of my latest painting in progress, a water lily. My next step is to combine all these sources I created to make a completed oil painting, which I hope to finish in the near future! Happy painting and thanks for stopping by!
It all started with a bad day
It was a tough day in the art studio today. I woke up this morning with very little energy; however, I was determined to make time for art regardless of my lethargic state. Several cups of coffee and a long walk around my neighborhood later, I was ready to begin. I set out to start a cat portrait I have wanted to work on for a while from one of my art technique books. I set my timer for 25 minutes and I started drawing from an art demonstration book. Suffice it to say, the drawing did not go well, at all, despite several attempts to get the proportions of the cat’s body correct. Each attempt just brought on more feelings of frustration. After the third attempt, I finally gave up and put my supplies away and went to do something else, probably laundry or reading a book. After working on the cat portrait, I realized that I am really out of practice when it comes to doing animal portraits, as I have been focusing a lot more on floral subjects, which is made up of simpler shapes and less precise in their proportions than animals and people. And I realized that I needed to practice drawing much more often like I did last summer when I completed a drawing challenge, 100 Faces in 100 days, which featured celebrity portraits.
What I observed from the day
I tried not to beat myself up about it, or obsess about what my failure to meet my expectations might mean, but I think that this drawing might end up in the growing pile of unfinished artworks. This observation brings me to today’s topic, which is, what to do with your unfinished artwork. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have several unfinished or unsatisfactory art projects residing in my art studios, such as pastels, drawings, watercolors and some oil paintings that did not turn out as I had envisioned. This makes me wonder, what should I do with this collection of art misfits? Earlier last week, I serendipitously found the article, “50 Ways to Use Your Unfinished Art,” by Carrie, on https://www.artiststrong.com/50-ways-to-use-your-unfinnished-art/.
What I have done in the past with unsatisfactory art
In the past, I have usually tried to resolve issues with unfinished artwork, sometimes starting over from scratch; i.e. creating a brand new drawing on a new substrate and re-surfacing the canvas by sanding it with heavy grit sandpaper so it can be re-gessoed. Other days, when I am more desperate or frustrated, I throw it in the trash, never to be seen again. Unless of course, my husband gets to it before I take out the trash. In which case, he fishes it out and says, ‘Why did you throw this away?” Or, some variation upon that theme usually ensues when he finds my rejected art. Ok, so now on to some information I would like to share with you about the article I read, “50 ways to Use Your Unfinished Art.” Here are a few highlights from the article.
- Take a photo of the artwork and “”manipulate the photos” to re-design it. Adobe PhotoShop is a good photo editing program to try for this option, with editing tools such as cropping, filters, light and dark balance, and photo filters. The possibilities here are really endless!
- “Abandoned art project, anyone?” (Source: 50 Ways to Use Your Unfinished Art”)
- Cut the artwork into pieces to construct a college. For example, the artist and author, Ann Blockley, has an excellent book, which describes this technique called, Experimental Landscapes in Watercolor, and it’s available on Amazon.com.
- Cut the artwork and create a background for another piece of art.
- Select a completely different art medium to finish the art. For instance, make it a mixed media piece.Amazon.com or your local library will probably have lots of books on mixed media art from which you can gain inspiration and techniques.
- Re-use it in a reconditioned item of furniture.
- Create a tray from your art using epoxy.
- Throw the painting away-if it makes you feel better.
- Take a break from it for two weeks or a month, to get some objectivity about your work. After that, re-assess your incomplete work, but only complete the pieces that you feel led to work on, and let go of the ones you aren’t sure how to resolve.
- Post a photo of your artwork in a community where artists give each other feedback, such as http://www.emptyeasel.com, and ask for help from others.
Below are some links to websites that can help you get started with some of the techniques listed in this article, such as collage. Another website to visit for ideas on how to re-invent your art might include, youtube or Pinterest. YouTube is a great way to see techniques demonstrated, it’s almost as good as being in a class. Just be sure to look for art tutorials with narration so you can learn what techniques and materials the artists are using to make their work. It’s harder to figure that out with the speeded up variety called, time lapse. Thanks for stopping by! I hope this article is helpful to someone out there who is struggling to complete their art. I am definitely going to try out some of these techniques myself to try and complete some of my unfinished art, which is posted in this week’s blog! I’ll let you know how it turns out.
- Collage: https://www.artistsnetwork.com/art-mediums/mixed-media/create-collage-landscape/.
- Mixed Media Art: https://medium.com/prikabylove/beginners-guide-to-mixed-media-art-5199d920082d. http://www.createmixedmedia.com/make/mixed-media-memories-and-mementos, and http://www.clothpaperscissors.com/mixed-media-art-techniques/.
- Intuitive Painting: https://creativejuicesarts.com/what-is-intuitive-painting/, https://creativejuicesarts.com/what-is-intuitive-painting/,
Hello Facebook friends, Instagram followers, and family, This week I am blogging about my monthly newsletter and the topic is my latest inspiration, art on a small scale, otherwise known as pocket art.
Things I have tried to do to get creative again
As I mentioned in last week’s post, I have been struggling with artist’s block this summer. During this journey, I’ve tried various things to break out of it, such as: copying art demonstrations from art technique books, re-touching/re-working old paintings, and working in a prompt driven sketchbook. Unfortunately, the later project hasn’t been working out so great lately. I’ve been procrastinating on doing the daily prompts, and have felt uncertain as to which mediums to work in for the sketchbook pages, should it be watercolor, colored pencil, acrylic, gouache or something else that I use? I have been unhappy with the colored pencils because they take so long to build up color and tone and I want to get some momentum and finish the nature section so I can keep moving along. It’s also difficult to correct mistakes with this medium, and I am finding that a lot of my prompts are not living up to my expectations. All of which keeps me stuck in neutral, and not making new work consistently.
Some insights I have gained about my artist’s block
Maybe it’s also the heat of the summer, which seems extraordinarily hot, even for Maryland. Or perhaps it’s the dislocation I feel in adjusting to a new house, guilt (genuine or otherwise, about abandoning household chores to make time for art), or something else entirely. Whatever the cause, I want to come up with some solutions so I can move forward and make more art, and hopefully at least some of the pieces will turn out the way I envision or will be at least good enough to post on social media. This year there’s been a mix of both good paintings and some not so good paintings. The paintings I’m not happy with might get thrown out, or sanded and re-worked, depending on the state of the canvases. I feel dry and uninspired, and I feel I have reached the limit of my skill set in art. In fact, I feel I need more fuel for my creativity and knowledge base.
Tips for breaking through a creative block
While I am pondering these thoughts, I’d like to share some tips I picked up from an article, “How to Survive a Creative Slump,” by Our Daily Craft, on http://www.ourdailycraft.com/2017/02/21/survive-creative-slump, by Sarah White, February 21, 2017. A few suggestions that the author offers include: 1.) starting with a small creative project, 2.) working quickly, 3.) reading a book you enjoy, and 4.) organizing or cleaning something in your home. For instance, the author suggested a few small projects to help jumpstart your creativity such as 1.) “sewing a cloth napkin,” 2.) “knitting a headband,” 3.) Paint on a 4 x 4-inch surface, or “writing a haiku.” (Source: ibid) Since I am not particularly good at crafts or anything DIY, which I learned after re-finishing some furniture and all of my kitchen cabinets in my new home, I have settled on painting a 4 x 4-inch canvas of Canada Geese. I re-worked this miniature canvas in oil paints about a week ago, and I am fairly happy with the result. Another suggestion that the author makes is to re-visit old projects that you had left unfinished. (Source: ibid) I certainly have a pile of unfinished works-such as unfinished drawings, pastels, and pages in my sketchbook where things just didn’t come together. Perhaps it would be a good problem-solving exercise to utilize my creativity.
In addition, the author also discussed making something quickly-which I’m not sure I would do
since most of the problems I have had with my art have been poor planning. Another problem which leads to unsatisfactory art for me is not spending enough time checking the accuracy of the drawing, as unfortunately happened with my latest portrait of Lincoln, which I decided to re-work and re-draw with oil paints. Needless to say, it didn’t turn out that well. Maybe if I were an abstract painter I could get away with a more intuitive approach to painting, than a more structured one with specific steps, but I am not. Since I am a more traditional painter, I am sticking with what works for me, which is starting with a drawing, adding three values in pencil to the sketch, and then making a colored sketch to base the final painting upon. Unfortunately, the more I tried to fix the drawing, the worse it got. In the end, I finally decided to abandon it, and start with a new sketch on a totally different substrate on a larger scale. It hasn’t become a painting yet, but I think I identified some drawing errors in the painting, by making a new sketch.
However, one thing I do want to try is to read a novel, article, or poem, to try and get some new ideas flowing. Some of my best works have been inspired by the poetry of Dickinson and Frost. Maybe reading literature will also help me to become a better writer and get me out o this writer’s block I seem to be assailed with lately. How about you? Do you have any suggestions for breaking out of a creative rut? I’d love to hear! Just post in the comments section of this blog. Thanks for stopping by!
Here are some of my new acrylic paintings featuring my Autumn series which I plan to exhibit at the Frederick Coffee Company in Frederick, MD as Artist of the Month in October of 2017. I will be selling these miniature canvases for $35 each, and I will also have some larger paintings for sale. Pictured are some completed canvases and some three value sketches and color sketches to plan the other paintings which are
in progress. Here is a link to the Frederick Coffee Company website if you would like to find out more about the venue. The coffee house has a variety of coffees, teas, sandwiches, and salads and features live music on selected days of the week. http://fredcoffeeco.com/. If you would like to join my Mail Chimp email list to learn more about this event and more art shows like it, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will gladly add your email address to my Mail Chimp account. Thanks for looking!