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Artists: What Should You Do with Unfinished Work?

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.
    Self-Portrait, unfinsihed, flat
    Self-Portrait, pastel on paper, 18 x 24 inches, 2014, Jodie Schmidt.

     

    German Shepherd, pastel, flat, final
    German Shepherd, pastel on paper, 18 x 24 inches, 2018, Jodie Schmidt.
    Lincoln, unfinished, flat
    Abraham Lincoln, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2018, Jodie Schmidt.
    Apple Still Life with blue bottle, flat
    Apple Still Life, acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14 inches, 2017, Jodie Schmidt.

    Cows grazing, unfinsihed, flat
    Out to Pasture, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches, 2014, Jodie Schmidt.

 

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.

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Pastel Workshop at the Colorful Canvas Art Supply Store in Frederick, MD

Today I taught a pastel workshop at the Colorful Canvas art supply store in Frederick, MD. It was quite a change stepping into the teacher’s shoes after years of being a student. I was amazed at how quickly my students picked up all the various concepts I tossed out at them including line, shape, color, and value. I started with a drawing and broke down the fruit still life into basic shapes. After I had done that, I broke down the colors and values to their most basic levels and continued to refine them. In addition, I took breaks in between each step, so the students could follow along and not get lost in the process. I hope to be able to teach another pastel class soon! Below are some photos of the art class students I taught today and the artwork they created. Thanks for stopping by!Colorful canvas 1, students_edited-1Colorful Canvas students, two_edited-1Carlton's fuit still life_edited-1Denise's still life_edited-1Jean's fruit still life_edited-1demonstration pastel painting, Jodie

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Pastel Workshop

Hello friends, family, and fans,

I am planning to host a pastel workshop this June at the Colorful Canvas in Frederick< Md on June 30th from 1pm-3pm. I will be giving a live demonstration of how to use pastels to create a three-dimensional drawing with a fruit still life. Call me or email me if you have questions or would like to register for this event. Beginners are welcome! Revised Paint Night Flyer, final

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My Gypsy Path to Becoming and Artist

This week I am writing about my somewhat haphazard journey towards becoming an artist and some lessons I have learned along the way. I also add a few insights from some famous artists that I feel provide a meaningful segue for my thoughts. A few months back when I was hosting an Artist opening show at Spin the Bottle Wine Company in Frederick, MD, one of the visitors to the wine shop asked me how I got my start as an artist. I answered that my mother had always encouraged me to make art and that she had enrolled me in a watercolor painting class at the age of nine. Since then I have taken many other art classes at the Howard County Center for the Arts (acrylic and watercolor), Howard Community College (drawing and photography), McDaniel College (graphic design, sculpture, drawing, and oil painting) and art classes with local artist Rebecca Pearl for watercolor, to name a few. My journey has not been a straight path to overnight success. Instead, it has had many ups and downs, despite how things might look in my carefully timed and worded Facebook Posts and artist biographies that I write. For example, I don’t post artwork that I don’t like for the most part, and the ones I do post have often been re-worked several times. Furthermore, the artworks that I show in galleries, coffee shops, etc., are examples of my best work, culled from unfinished works, experiments, and messes. In the words of poet Langston Hughes, “This life ain’t been no crystal stair.”

I can’t speak for the path of other artists, but after I graduated from McDaniel College with a bachelor’s degree in art, I struggled to find a path that would work for me. After graduation, I had to balance the realities of everyday realities such as student loan payments, with my dreams of being an exhibiting and teaching artist. My transition from being an art student in a creative bubble, to the world outside those walls, was not seamless. For instance, it was hard to deal with the isolation of being an artist without a group of creative’s to cheer me on or encourage me when rejection inevitably came, in the form of rejection letters from Graduate Schools, such as Towson University, MICA, and James Madison University.  There were also rejection letters from art galleries who rejected my artwork. At the time, I thought the only way to be an artist was to teach art or to exhibit my artwork in juried art shows. During this time, I took classes in a variety of subjects other than art, trying to find out what I wanted to do with my life, such as history, social work, and graphic design. None of these seemed to “fit”, and I usually ended up returning to art again at some point, either by taking another art class or by making art on my own time on days off from work or in the evenings. I worked in customer service jobs as a library assistant and restaurant hostess.

However, none of these paths seemed to “fit”, and I usually ended up returning to art again at some point, either by taking another art class or by making art on my own time on days off from work or in the evenings. I worked in customer service jobs as a library assistant, hostess, and currently, I work as a Receptionist at a Funeral Home. I have learned that there are many different ways to be an artist, whether it provides your livelihood or not. At present, I divide my time between part-time Reception work and making art in my spare time. I’m constantly looking for new opportunities to exhibit my art or share my art with others on Instagram and Facebook, or at art festivals or coffee houses.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned during my creative journey as an artist was to be careful with whom I showed my art, and to carefully filter people’s comments about my art to see if they are helpful. I’ve had some bad critiques in the past and so I try to choose people who have my best interests at heart and who have some art training but are not pretentious or mercilessly blunt.  Smiley, Kim. ” 10 Life Lessons from History’s Most Famous Artists.” Huffington Post, 2 Mar. 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kim-smiley/10-life-lessons-from-hist_b_4880431.html.

And finally, another lesson that I am currently in the process of learning is that it takes a lot of time, sweat and tears to perfect one’s craft as an artist. By no means does excellent work occur in and of itself. It takes years of practice and a determination on the part of the artist not to give up on practicing one’s art. For example, according to Kim Smiley, the “Renaissance sculptor, painter, poet and engineer, Michelangelo,” knew that it took time  to create art, and likewise, Leonardo Da Vinci, states that, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”  According to Smiley, artists should “go against the grain” of our modern culture to get everything done quicker, and instead take their time to create quality work and the patience to carry it out. Ibid, Smiley, 2017.

One way that I am working on practicing my craft, has been to challenge myself to draw a portrait a day, or as often as possible. Every time I create a portrait of a celebrity, change maker, or another historical figure, I post the results on Instagram. So far, I have created 91 line portraits out of the 100 I planned to make. It’s a work in progress. If you are interested in following my drawing challenge, 100 faces in 100 days, you can find me on Instagram as jsjsschmidt2, or you may view my website, www.artofschmidt.com, which has a link to my Instagram page and is updated each time I post a new drawing. Thanks for looking!

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The Lost Art of Drawing

About a century ago (well I exaggerate a little); I was a college student studying art at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. I had a brilliant and successful art teacher who was able to make the practice of art making and the hatching of new ideas come alive like no other teacher I had before.  He taught me many useful things, such as how to keep an art sketchbook pasted with photos of art work by artists I admired, and how to write about my art in a way that expressed the message I wanted to share with it. Above all of the tips and advice, he gave I remember him telling me that I should draw every day. At the time, that task seemed quite difficult. I was always an impatient artist as a student and I often rushed through the drawing stage to hurry up and get to the painting, especially oil painting, because I enjoyed working with the buttery texture of the oil paint and I loved working in color. Now that many years have passed since my graduation from McDaniel and I am a professional artist seeking out new avenues to showcase my art and making custom pet portraits, I can truly see the value in his advice.

With hindsight, I can see that he was so right about drawing every day. I no longer rush art work projects and I have learned to love drawing, whether it becomes a painting or not. A few years ago, I took a drawing class at Frederick Community College, with instructor Cynthia Bausch, who taught me how to use charcoal, pastel, and pencil to create compelling drawings with a high degree of finish. This experience started my love for drawing, even though getting the drawings right was extremely difficult. Frequently, I would do the sketch over and over again until I was pleased with the result. For instance, the self-portrait in charcoal, pictured in this post, was drawn a total of three times before I  handed in the final piece to the art teacher. Since then, I have embraced my former art teacher’s advice, Steve Pearson, from McDaniel College,  to draw every day. at present, I am working on a drawing challenge I like to call 100 faces in 100 days. In this challenge, I draw a pre-selected photo from the Internet or a coffee table book, Icons, of a celebrity using only pencil and paper. I do not add in a lot of detail or shading and I limit myself to 45 minutes a day. This time frame for drawing sessions tends to be more like 5 days a week for me since I often work on weekends and feel pretty fried when I come home. The drawings are strictly for practice and not intended for sale at this time.

To see what others in the art world had to say about the importance of drawing, I did a web search, with the query term, Why Artists Should Draw More.  Artist and blogger, Lori McNee, states that drawing can give the artists a multitude of benefits to help them improve their craft as an artist, not the least of which is learning to observe a subject, which is a skill that is important both to the practices of painting and drawing. Source: http://www.finearttips.com/2012/10/10-reasons-why-artists-should-draw-more/.  Drawing more can also help you plan out your compositions better and give you a road map to follow for your design before you get to the painting stage when it is more difficult to make changes.

McNee, (2012), also states that many children enjoy coloring with crayons. For example, I have observed this tendency in the day care setting, (McNee, 2012),  when I was working as an Assistant Teacher at La Petite Academy when I was a high school student. However, over time many children stop drawing or making crafts and self-consciousness drifts in, stealing the spontaneous joy of creating something new. I observed this tendency when I volunteered as an assistant in a middle school art class back in the early 200s. A lot of the kids in this art class would say, “I can’t draw this,” or “You do it,” to me when I walked around to work one on one with the students.Picasso-quotes-every-child-is-an-artist  In fact, even artists (such as Mc Nee) who have been trained to draw, often let this essential art practice slide over time, (McNee, 2012) and may come to rely on tracing, especially if they need to get a project done quickly for a client. I admit, I am guilty of this tendency and until a few years ago, I rarely had a daily drawing practice, and I often struggled to get my proportions in portraits correct, often giving up in futility to join all the other drawings on the reject pile.

However this summer, I was inspired to tackle my fears about drawing and making mistakes by the drawing challenge artist and blogger, Julie Fan Fei completed which she called, 100 15 minute Balzer Faces, in which she made a daily drawing practice using a variety of media such as ink, acrylic paint, and jelly plate printing, among others. Source: http://balzerdesigns.typepad.com/balzer_designs/100-15-minute-balzer-faces/.  This challenge and my art teacher’s wise advice, motivated me to complete my own drawing challenge which I like to call 100 Faces in 100 days.  I post progress photos of my celebrity sketches on my Instagram account almost every day, but it tends to be more like 5 days a week because of my work schedule, in which I often work weekends.   I spend 45 minutes on each sketch, with minimal sketching, and I simplify this process by working only in with paper and pencil.

I also keep a visual photo file of celebrity imagery I would like to draw from. One important note of caution here: If you want to sell a portrait or sketch, it is best to use your own photos if possible to avoid copyright violation, or to visit the Wikipedia web site, http://www.wikipedia.org, where you can do image searches by the name of the celebrity and find out the photo’s provenance, such as the name of who took the picture and whether it is in the public domain. Here is a link Wikipedia with a public domain photo of Cary Grant: https:enwikipedia.org/wiki/Cary_Grant#/media/File:Grant,_Cary_(Suspicion)-01_Crisco_edit.jpg. I have attached my sketch of Cary Grant based on this photo.

 To be on the safe side, you want to choose photos in the public domain if you plan to show your work or sell it or publish it in any way unless you can get written permission from the photographer to reproduce their work.  If you’re drawing is just for practice, no need to worry. But do try to give credit to the photographer if you can find out that information, and include that photographer’s name in your sketch when you sign and date it. Here are two web sites you can refer to learn more about copyright violation and terms: https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-fairuse.html, and https://blog.kenkaminesky.com/photography-copyright-and-the-law/.

In conclusion, I am still working on my drawing challenge and I am really enjoying the process.  I feel like I am getting more comfortable with drawing and the pressure if off because this work is not for a custom art order, or for an art show entry. I am learning how to slow down and not be in a rush to finish a project. What really matters is that I have passion, determination, and am willing to put in the time to learn to draw, paint, etc.  It takes time to acquire these skills and is similar to learning a sport or an instrument, which requires hours, days, weeks, and years of practice. I’m trying to be patient with the process and remember that most of what I know how to do now with ease, had to be practiced and (and often!), whether it was walking, talking, reading, writing, cooking, etc., etc.  to reach a level of mastery.

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100 Faces in 100 Days: Drawing Challenge

Back in June of this year, I had started a drawing challenge with celebrity portraits. In this challenge, I drew one celebrity portrait a day, using photo references of actors, actresses, and entertainers from the 1980s. I was inspired to start this series by a drawing challenge which I read about in a blog by Julie Fan Fei Balzer, called Balzer Designs. She called her challenge a 100-day

challenge and she created 100 faces in 100 days using a variety of media including acrylic monoprint, screen prints, ink on paper, ball point pen on paper, etc. I modified this challenge by using just paper and pencil to simplify it and instead of making up imaginary faces; I attempted to capture celebrity likenesses. I was also motivated to do this challenge because I had recently completed a portrait commission in May, and I truly struggled to get the likenesses of the people in the photo.

To make this challenge a daily habit, I collected photos of celebrities from the internet that I found inspiring and saved them to a file labeled, portraits, on my computer, so I had a ready supply of faces to draw. I also did a few other things to keep me on track, since I struggle with discipline and finishing art projects that I complete, especially ones without a definite deadline. So, I coupled setting the timer for 25 minutes and making the drink, usually coffee or diet coke, of my choice to go along with it. I also tried to start my drawing mid-morning, before other activities intruded. For the most part, the challenge has been going really well, and most days with a few exceptions, I have set aside time consistently to draw.  On the days when I can’t get to my sketch pad, I don’t beat myself up and I just start again the next day. And I feel I am learning so much about how to draw better portraits, for one, taking the time to really scrutinize the subject’s face and other features.

Also, just stepping back frequently has given me a fresh perspective on how closely the sketch resembles the photo reference.   On the other hand, there have been some days when I have felt really discouraged about whether I have what it takes to be an artist, when I have to do a drawing two or three times over, maybe even selecting a different photo to draw from if I get desperate.  On days like that, it’s hard to keep going with this challenge and I start to get discouraged. Lately, it has just been the dedication to push through and get it right. Last week though, I felt encouraged about the necessity of making art because, without a studio practice, I can’t have anything to share with my friends, family, and fans.  Nor can I grow in my skills as an artist, if I don’t practice. And not only that, I feel I would be losing a big part of myself and my identity as a person if I stopped showing up to make art.  I would lose that joy of creating something or seeing my internal visions come to life in sketches and paintings.  In the words of art business coach, Allyson Stanfield, “Without your art, you have nothing to promote, you have nothing to market, you have nothing to take out of the studio and share with the world.”  Source: Ecstatic Encounters Lesson 1: Devote Yourself to Studio Practice, from https://artbizcoach.com/ee-1/.

So despite the difficulties I sometimes encounter with making art, I am not giving up, not on this challenge or any other art project. As it stands, I still have quite a few more days to go before this challenge is complete…By my calculations based on my Instagram posts, I have 63 more days to go. After that, who knows what new challenge I will take on… If you would like to watch my progress, you can view my Instagram profile at jsjschmidt2 on Instagram. I attached a few photos of this drawing challenge from my Instagram account. I hope the challenge to draw every day or almost every day, challenges you as much as it has challenged me. Thanks for stopping by!