Do you have an interest in telling your family history through mixed media collage art? I have just the course for you! It’s called, Your Family Story through Collage art and will begin on May 4th from 6-8pm at the Adams County Arts Council in Gettysbn. Take your artwork to the next level and create content-based work that tells a story, using a variety of media such as photography from your family collection, old drawings, card stock, acrylic paint, charcoal, and more! We will upcycle old sketches from your sketchbook to create new and unique artwork! Click here to learn more: https://www.adamsarts.org/portfolio-item/your-family-story-through-collage-art/.
Hello family, friends, and fans,
This is an archived blog post that I edited today, but the artwork that accompanies it is fresh. It’s a mixed media art collage that tells a story about my family history, growing up in a rural area of Howard County, MD.
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. After several cups of coffee and a long walk around my neighborhood, I set out to start a cat portrait I have wanted to work on for a while. I set my timer for 25 minutes and 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. 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 are made up of simpler shapes and less precise in their proportions than animals and people.
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, which 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 on that theme usually ensues when he finds my rejected art. At this point, the amount of unsatisfactory art and even uncompleted art is starting to grow and I am wondering what should I do with all of this stuff? Give it away to friends/family, donate it to Goodwill, toss or recycle it, or if I am liking this idea more, try to finish the unfinished art and post about it to keep myself accountable. And finally, what about those unsatisfactory pieces that I would otherwise throw away? Can they find a new life in my sketchbook, or in a mixed media piece? In one of my latest collages, I did just that, up-cycled old sketches into a totally new piece! It was so much fun and really got my creative juices flowing! This brings me to another point, I wanted to share that plans are in the works to teach a course that teaches you how to upcycle your old sketches and ephemera and tell your family story through narrative art. I will let you know when the details get finalized!
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 Carriker, 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!
I am slowly making progress toward my goal of making 20 new artworks based on poetry quotes. When complete, I am hoping to submit them as a portfolio to apply to graduate school for a masters in fine art, so I can teach college-level art classes. Over the past few weeks, I have been noticing a thread of common themes, one of which is my childhood. For some its a time of nostalgia, and for others, something to forget. For me, its a mixed bag, and the few memories I have from early childhood are fragmented, with few details. I took inspiration for this piece from many personal photos and from Billy Collin’s poem, Forgetfulness. The piece was created in stages with gouache sepia-toned paints, acrylic paints, gesso, and soft pastel with a limited color palette.
I took additional inspiration from this artwork by searching for poems written about the subject of forgetfulness. I found this gem of a quote from Billy Collin’s poem, “Forgetfulness,” “As if one by one, the memories you used to harbor decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain, to a little fishing village with no phones.” Though the poem does not specifically address the issue of childhood amnesia, I felt it captured the feeling that memories are unstable and sometimes inaccessible.
I can remember small details, like elementary school book fairs, and my love of reading, library visits with my father, and being outdoors a lot on my favorite tire swing. However, more specific details have been more difficult to access, such as specific memories of how I got along with my sisters, who were many years older. It’s as if a giant hand has wiped out these memories, and without the aid of family photos and my mother’s memories, I would really be at a loss. All of this inspired me to make a pastel and gouache collage based on family photos of things I can no longer remember. This series has been a marathon, and a mirror, endless practice, mistakes, and setbacks. And all the while, it’s holding up a mirror to all of the weaknesses I have as an artist, especially in figure drawing and composition. How I wish I had paid more attention to figure drawing class as an art student! So, whatever the outcome of this series might be, getting into graduate school or not, it has been a journey chock full of lessons and opportunities to grow as an artist. Thanks for reading!
Today I am taking a leaf from another earlier blog post, which featured an artist I admire, Richard Diebenkorn. He painted in an abstract expressionist style with oils, featuring the human figure and landscape. An identifying feature of his artwork was his use of bright colors and shapes in both painting subjects. This style branded his painting style and made his work instantly recognizable. I painted two copies of his paintings to accompany the blog post, of a figure and an abstracted landscape. Since last week, I have been pondering other art movements that I find inspiring to my art practice.
One of these art movements is the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. In particular, I love the color and emotion I see displayed on the faces of the portraits and figures. In a similar way to a play, they are figures on a stage, acting out various dramas. The PRB group was founded in 1848 in England by young art students and they included: Dante Gabriel Rosetti, John Everett Millais, and William Holman Hunt, who studied at London’s Royal Academy of Art. (ibid, and Smith, 2013)
According to Roe, 2014, author of “The Pre-Raphaelites”, the Pre-Raphaelites were composed of a disparate group of “sculptors, painters, designers,” who were frustrated by the limiting strictures that the London Royal Academy of art imposed on art, such as an emphasis on idealization, and balance. Instead, the Pre-Raphaelites sought inspiration in the work of other artists such as Van Eyck, Memling, and Giotto. (Roe, pg. 2) According to the author, Roberta Smith, who wrote, “Blazing a Trail for Hypnotic Hyper-Realism,” some of the subjects which the PRB enjoyed painting were medieval themes such as King Arthur’s, Guinevere, and Shakespeare’s Ophelia in Hamlet, and stories from the Bible. (Smith, pg. 2)
Smith states that these artists characterized their work by emphasizing painstaking realism and “Technicolor” palettes. (ibid) In addition, Roe, states that the Pre-Raphaelites used a line, and flat perspective and bible stories. In particular, William Holman Hunt’s A Converted British Family, Millais’s Christ in the House of His Parents and Rossetti’s Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850) evoked virulent criticism from art critics, who disapproved of the highly realistic treatment of religious figures. ( Roe, pg. 2) However, according to Roberta Smith, (2013), although the Pre-Raphaelites challenged the art establishment of their times and “introduced a new painting style” it does not necessarily follow that these painters were “avant-garde.” Furthermore, Smith states that they did not make radical changes like Manet, Cezanne or Van Goh. In addition, they did not have a strong interest in painting “modern life.” (Smith, pg. 4) Instead of “embracing the people, fashions, and activities of their time, as their French contemporaries did, they escaped into fantasy.” (Smith, pg. 4)
Whatever the case may be, Smith, 2013, states that their work played an important role in influencing other important art movements to come such as “Symbolism, Art Noveau,
and modern design, in children’s literature and Photo Realism, and also contemporary art”. (Smith, pg. 4) For instance, “Tom Uttech’s dreamlike views of wilderness (on view at the Alexandre Gallery on 57th Street in Manhattan), Ellen Altfest’s detailed yet painterly realism, Ron Mueck’s disturbingly lifelike sculptures, Mark Greenwold’s intrinsically twisted narratives and the equally finicky if more surreal images of Anj Smith.” (ibid).
I have added two new portraits I made of Abraham Lincoln, my favorite United States President to my Etsy Shop at https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/ArtofSchmidt. These two paintings are pictured below. I was inspired to create these pieces by a day trip to Gettysburg, PA several years ago, when I happened upon a gallery owned by Gettysburg, Pennsylvania artist, Wendy Allen. Wendy Allen has dedicated many years of her life to capturing the likeness of Abraham Lincoln in a variety of fun and colorful incarnations from Andy Warhol pop art inspired to the tonal art of Pablo Picasso. Also, because Lincoln is one of my favorite Presidents, I knew I wanted to capture him on canvas.
He is an inspirational figure to me for so many reasons and he never let any obstacles stand in his way. Although he had a limited formal education and very little encouragement from his father to discover his potential and unique talents, he went on to achieve the American dream we all aspire to achieve. His step mother, Sarah Bush, provided emotional support, and books, such as the Bible, Aesop’s Fables, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and Lessons in Elocution, to help Abe with his self-guided education. It just goes to show what can happen when someone believes in you, and you believe them!
In the meantime, I am also working on some acrylic paintings of Civil War Soldiers in watercolor and acrylic. I will be posting progress photos of these paintings this week. Stay tuned!