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Surviving and Thriving in a Creative Desert

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

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This quote was obtained from the internet via a Google search, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Canada Goose trio,flat
Canada Geese Trio, oil on canvas, 4 x 4 inches, 2018, Jodie Schmidt.
Koi fish painting, flat
Koi Fish Group, acrylic on canvas, 5 x 7 inches, 2018, Jodie Schmidt. This is the first stage of this painting.
Koi group, flat
Koi Fish Group, acrylic on canvas, 5 x 7 inches, 2018, Jodie Schmidt. And this is the completed acrylic painting! 
Koi fish portrait, flat
Koi Fish portrait, acrylic, 4 x 6 inches, 2018, Jodie Schmidt. Pictured is stage 1 of this acrylic painting.
works in progress, flat
Here are some small value paintings of water lilies and a blank canvas. I’m not sure what the subject might be for this one yet.
small value paintings, flat
Close up of the water lily paintings in progress.
nature sketches 1, flat
Pictured is stage 1 of my dandelion sketches in colored pencil and pastel. I wasn’t happy with how these turned out, so I re-worked them in two subsequent stages, pictured here. These drawings are from my Julia Orkin-Lewis Sketchbook, Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way. 
Nature sketches, 2, flat
My first step to re-work these paintings was to cover up the areas I didn’t like with gesso and let it dry so I could re-paint with acrylic. I learned that colored pencil is really hard to get rid of if you make a mistake.
dandelions sketchbook flat
And my final two steps were to add another layer of gesso after the first layer had dried. Afterward, I re-painted the offending areas with Liquitex acrylic paint. However, I’m still not sure if I am happy with these sketches, but I don’t want to get stuck on them either. They are, after all, supposed to serve as ideas for completed future paintings.

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!

 

 

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Why Should Artists Create Content Based Work?

Have you ever wondered why some artists, such as Andrew Wyeth, and others create their artwork in a series format? My first experience with creating artwork as a series was as an undergraduate at McDaniel College, taking art classes at the senior level. In this Senior Studio Capstone class, my fellow students and I were given the assignment to create a series of artworks that expressed a theme of interest or importance to us and to write an artist’s statement that described our artwork’s theme.  For example, according to the website The Abundant Artist, some themes that artists might explore in a series include, 1.) texture and color (Faith Ringgold), 2.) politics  (Kathe Kollwitz), 3.) death, (Hirst) or 4.) messages that uplift, like Kelley Rae Roberts.   Prior to that, my assignments in drawing and painting consisted of drawing or painting to try and copy the still life or model in front of me, to teach the skills of observation. At that time, I had no idea how to even get started and had artist’s block for two weeks while I searched for artworks that inspired, all in vain. My Teacher did give us some guidance on the process though. He suggested that we create sketchbooks in which we pasted artworks of inspiration, no matter the medium, and he suggested that we look up art magazines, such as Art in America. Pouring over art magazines and artist websites, such as Forum Gallery, I could think of nothing new to say with my artwork that hadn’t already been said. I felt I had a lot of competition since there have already been many artists who have gone before me, who have created several unforgettable artworks to boot, such as Vermeer’s, Girl with a Pearl Earring, painted in 1665.

After weeks of struggle and seeking out artwork that inspired me, I had a solution. My answer came from an unlikely source, music. I decided to illustrate some of the songs of my favorite musician, Sting, using my self-portrait as a muse, along with color, and composition to portray various feelings of uncertainty, sadness, etc. Some of the songs I illustrated in my self-portrait series were Lithium Sunset and Secret Journey. The first song talks about how medication can help bring a person out of depression and make them strong enough to get back up again. While the second song, Secret Journey, talks about a mystical journey of enlightenment. I printed out the songs from Sting’s website, www.sting.com, pasted them in my sketchbooks, and underlined words and phrases that I thought were good candidates for illustration. And I referenced these songs and artworks of inspiration as I crafted my Artist’s Statement. As I searched through artwork that inspired, it became evident that I was drawn to the subject of the portrait, but I didn’t know how to make my work unique because the portrait has been done numerous times before.

The imagery of Sting’s songs provided the perfect solution to my dilemma and I was off and running. My then boyfriend, Dan, took photos of me to provide the source photos for my oil paintings. To make a long story short, I finished the series in time and even made a power point presentation as part of the project requirements of my finished works. In addition, I crafted an artist’s statement, which helped me to define the artwork by describing what the artwork would be about and what influences had to lead me to the finished work. I learned a lot about myself as an artist, such as how to distill ideas through writing artist statements and creating sketchbooks to illustrate my ideas by pasting artwork that inspired onto its pages. In particular, I discovered that I liked to make artworks that had a message, even if the search for the solution was far from easy. But back to my main question, “Why should artists work in a series?”

To investigate that question more fully, I did what many people would do, I googled it.  The websites, Abundant Artist and Art Business.com,  shed some light on the subject of content-based art. According to the authors, some of these benefits include: 1.) Making artwork in a series gives the artist a platform to connect with their audience on an emotional level because the artwork is focused and personal, 2.) Creating artwork in a series format helps others to understand what an artist’s work is about and who they are as a person, 3.) Artists who make artwork in a series are more likely to find art galleries to exhibit their work

because they know how to market the artist and this format follow their business model, and 4.) Working in a series format helps artists to understand what topics/subjects are important to them, and which they like to draw or paint.

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Order Your Custom Art Portrait Today: And Make a Lasting Memory of Your Pet

Ever wanted to design a portrait of your beloved pet, as a keepsake but didn’t know how to get started? I specialize in pet portraiture for dogs, cats, and many other animals. It all starts with a free consultation with me at my studio, where we can discuss your unique vision for your pet portrait, pricing, and any other details you would like to discuss. Be sure to bring a few good photos (at least 2-4 images clear images) of your pet which show it’s defining features such as special markings, eye color, the texture of fur, etc. The photo should be taken at eye level and be crisp and clear with good lighting and should be no smaller than 4 x 6 inches. The more photos you bring with you the better so I can design the best possible portrait for you. Want to learn more? My shop policies and examples of my previous pet portraits can be located on my web site:  https://www.etsy.com/listing/487300610/jack-russell-terrier-custom-art?ref=shop_home_active_19. Here are some examples of recent pet portrait commissions in oil and acrylic paint that I have created for clients. Or you may call or text me at: (301) 712-8115 to schedule a free consultation.

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In Search of “White Space”

 

I’ve been working at a hectic pace these last two weeks preparing for a one-day art event called Art Pops! At Everedy Square and Shab Row in Frederick, MD.  Last Saturday was the big day to kick off this event and hopefully make some new connections and sales of my art work. The weeks leading up to this event were jam packed with activity and tasks such as weekly social media marketing campaigns, packaging and pricing my art works for sale, creating an inventory list in Excel, researching how to create an art booth display on Pinterest, etc.  And I learned a lot from this show, such as the importance of making in person connections with people to sell my art, how to read people, etc. In fact, I sold more art work in one day at the art show, then I did from months of posting about my art on Instagram, Facebook, and Etsy, and I am thankful for that.  However, all of this activity really took a toll on my energy and motivation to create art.

In all the business of preparing for the art show, I have really struggled to make time to create new art work. I feel that I have reached the end of my creative resources and knowledge, tapped out, so to speak. It’s been several years since I took an art class, and I haven’t read any new art technique books in several months. And this state of affairs is not like me. I am usually restless when I am not making art or coming up with some new ideas for a series of paintings or drawings. The last few days since the show ended, I have made a concerted effort to at least draw one portrait a day for my drawing challenge which I started back in June called, 100 faces in 100 days. Some days I have made some decent portraits, other days I have really struggled or been disappointed with

the results. If you would like to follow my progress with this project, you can view my 100 faces in 100 days drawing challenge on Instagram. I am listed as jsjschmidt2 on Instagram, and I post almost every day. Pictured are some sketches from this week including Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and Sean Connery.

The paintings I wanted to work on, however, are not coming together. Instead of posting the finished product as I had hoped to do this week, I have to take several steps back and ask myself what isn’t working with the composition, values, colors and the drawings in my art work. For example, in my Creative Block: Waiting, watercolor painting, I feel there are too many elements battling for precedence and not enough quiet spaces to allow the viewer to contemplate the scene. The composition feels cluttered and overwhelming and the message of creative block feels “lost” in the muddle. So yesterday, I painted over several spots in the painting with acrylic gesso. And the Civil War soldiers fared no better. So out with the gesso again. I am struggling with the drawing and the tonal values in these acrylic paintings. I have discovered that the acrylic paint dries much darker than it looks when I mix it up and put it on the brush, which is really throwing off the values. So I may re-do the painting in oils after the gesso has “cured.”

The paintings seem to be a type of metaphor for where my life is these days. Overstuffed and empty all at the same time. I feel I have lost the wonder I used to have about making art that keeps me motivated to get into the art studio ever week to see what new ideas I might “cook up.” Meanwhile, I am realizing that my workaholic tendencies are not conducive to making art work. I must create and seek “white space” to re-fill my creative tank, so that I have something to draw from when I go to make art work.  Meanwhile, I will be be seeking out this “white space” in its various forms, whether it is taking a walk, journaling, going to an art gallery, reading an art technique book, etc., to try and regain my sense of wonder for life, and for making art.

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Art work for Sale

Hello, Friends, I will be updating my Art of Schmidt web site every week with new images of my art work which is available for sale on Etsy. I’ve been looking at my postings and realizing that many of the paintings I have posted on this site have already sold, and therefore do not represent the variety of items that I now have for sale on my commerce sites, Etsy, and Red Bubble. Here are some new acrylic paintings which are now available for sale on my Etsy web site. My art work is also available on my Red Bubble site as mugs, art prints, iPhone cases and more! Here is a link to the Red Bubble web site: https://www.redbubble.com/people/jsjschmidt2017?ref=account-nav-dropdown&asc=u.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

White Water Lilies

Acrylic on Masonite Board

9 x 12 inches

$150

Available for Sale on http://www.etsy.com/shop/artofschmidtWhite Waterlillies.jpeg

 

 

Waterlillies and Koi Fish

Splash!

Acrylic on Masonite Board

9x 12 inches

$150

Available for sale on http://www.etsy.com/shop/artofschmidt