The Importance of Drawing as Studio practice for artists

Why Artists Should Make Drawing a Daily Practice

 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 named Steve, who demonstrated how the practice of art-making and the hatching of new ideas could be brought to life, using a sketchbook.  He taught me many useful things, such as how to keep an art sketchbook pasted with photos of artwork by artists I admired, and how to write an artist statement that reflected my unique artistic voice. Above all, his most important advice was that I should draw every day. At the time, that task seemed quite difficult to stick with. 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. I learned later that that was a mistake. Now that many years have passed since my graduation from McDaniel, I can truly see the wisdom of his advice.

In hindsight, I realize that he was so right about drawing every day. Now, I no longer rush artwork and I have learned to love drawing, whether it becomes a painting or not. In fact, I have embraced his advice of a daily drawing habit at various times in my life, and I have worked on several art challenges for both human portraiture and pet portraits on my Instagram account. One of these challenges is called 100 faces in 100 days, in which I drew a pre-selected photo of a celebrity using only pencil and paper. I did not add in a lot of detail or shading and I limited myself to 45 minutes a day. The process of a drawing challenge gave me many opportunities for both successful drawing and ones that I didn’t like, but it helped me to see my progress, and that the practice bore much fruit in terms of learning to take the time to really observe my photo references and record my observations on paper. You could say drawing is akin to yoga or meditation because you need to be completely mindful in order to capture the nuances prevalent in realistic drawing.

At present, I am struggling to carve out time for drawing. Sandwiched in between working, and preparing an art portfolio for graduate school applications, and other responsibilities, I am striving to make time at least 1x a week to draw. This time, I am focusing on making mixed media pastel and torn paper collage drawings. These take several days to complete so I only post about 1x a week on my Instagram account.  But this working process works well for me, as the breaks in the

The World painting, flat
Stage 4: I began composing this piece by moving elements of the collage back and forth until I was happy with them. Then I had to cut them all out and paste them to the masonite. I created an entirely new sketch for the self-portrait and painted it in oils instead of acrylic so I could get more working time to blend and smooth the edges. 

 

Detail work, small
Stage 3: Next, I decided to paint my individual details and then add them to the substrate as collage pieces. I had to try several different adhesives to make these collage pieces stick from crazy glue to heavy acrylic gel, with varying degrees of success. The collage pieces were constructed on the illustration board, and are remnants of my first attempt at this painting. I used canvas paper for the parts I completely re-painted, such as the self-portrait profile figure.

The world, gradient, small
Stage 2: I started an entirely new painting on a new surface, using water-mixable oils on a masonite board as my support. 

First attempt, small
Stage 1: This was my initial sketch, created with acrylic, colored pencil, and pastel on illustration board. However, I wasn’t happy with it because of the colors, and some drawing errors in the self-portrait. I also decided to go with a more realistic style in the portraits and paint in tone rather than crosshatching in the final piece. 

action, give me additional time to evaluate the accuracy of my drawing proportions and the values in my shading. The most important take away I can say about drawing and getting good at it, is that it really helps your art practice to flourish. For instance, once you have the drawing and composition mastered, you can enjoy the next step more fully, whether its collage, painting or some other art form such as graphic design or sculpture. With an accurate drawing, you won’t have to worry about continuing to fix it and can fully embrace your next steps, and I am learning that it’s so much better to take the time and lay a good drawing as your foundation for your art.

A good case in point was my latest painting in progress, Money is the Bait, which started out unsatisfactorily because of several drawing errors in the initial portrait. I ended up starting from scratch in oils on a totally new surface, and it still isn’t finished. I hope to finish it by next week. Thanks for stopping by! If you want to follow my progress with the mixed media portraits, you can follow me on Instagram under my profile name, jsjschmidt.

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: A Portrait with collage and mixed media

mixed media collage
Portrait of my grandmother, Gladys, with soft pastels, watercolor pencil, and torn paper collage, stage 1.

mixed media portrait collage
Portrait of my grandmother, Gladys Carter, stage 2.

mixed media portrait collage
Portrait of my grandmother Gladys, stage 3.

Mixed media portrait collage
Portrait of my grandmother Gladys, stage 4.

book cover picture
The Painted Art Journal, by Jeanne Oliver.

painted journal collage demonstration, flat
The Painted Art Journal, torn paper collage demonstration. 

Constructed Realities: Finishing unfinished work

When I started this new mixed-media series, which is based on poetry quotes, I was brimming with excitement and energy. I was on a roll, reading poems, writing notes, making sketches,  and photo collages in Photoshop.  Somehow though, about mid-way through the process, difficulties in composition and drawing issues in my sketches began to rear their ugly heads. In some instances, I got stuck and was unable to move forward. Some works were abandoned, while I took a break and started new works. Now, I have several unfinished pieces in progress, and I am trying to find motivation and energy to bring them to a conclusion. So, my new goal is to complete one painting a week to keep the momentum up, especially focusing on

The Dream of Time travel, with watermark
This artwork was inspired by a  quote from Mary Oliver, “Sometimes the desire to be lost again, as long ago, comes over me like a vapor.” 

those that have been languishing in my art studio. Why is it so easy to begin a new project, but difficult to finish it?

 

To that end, I am featuring a new work this week, focused on the theme of time travel. It has a bit of a surrealist tone to it with the theme of wishing I could go back in time to happier periods in my life, or at least, that is how I remember them. To represent this concept, I have included three self-portraits from different times in my life composed in a winter landscape. Time travel is something I used to be quite interested in as a child, during the 1980s. Popular books and films featured this concept such as Back to the Future, with Michael J. Fox,  Somewhere in Time, featuring Christopher Reeve. I also read books about this topic, such as the book, The Hunky Dory Dairy (1986), written by Anne Lindbergh, in which a young girl is transported from the 1980s to the nineteenth century one Saturday morning on an errand to fetch milk and a newspaper.

Constructed Realities: Part 3, A Focus on My Childhood

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.

Childhood Collage memory loss, watermark
Childhood Memory Loss, Gouache and soft pastel, and acrylic paint, 16 x 13 inches, Jodie Schmidt, 2020. 

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! 

The Dream of Time Travel: Extreme Makeover

Voices and Visions: Work in Progress: Extreme Makeover

Make Time for Art

For the past two weeks, I have really been making an effort to make time to get into my art studio and work on my Voices and Visions series, every Thursday from 10 am-12 pm. It’s been challenging. I am focusing on finishing one piece of artwork that I started a few weeks ago, called, The Dream of Time Travel. This mixed media piece has gone through many changes and edits. I’ve subtracted some elements and added others trying to find the right composition and color scheme to express the emotions I want viewers to feel when looking at this artwork.

The Creative Process: Dream of Time Travel

And yet, I am still trying to figure out just what that feeling might be that I want the viewer to take away from my painting. Is it sadness, longing, discontent, or some other emotion? I feel that finding the answer to this question will be the key to solving the difficulties I have had with completing this piece in terms of composition, color choices and subject matter.

Extreme Makeover

I began making my edits on this piece by cutting up my color sketches in watercolor and adding other elements such as paint chips for the clouds. After that, I took more drastic measures, cutting out anything from the painting that did not add to the composition, seeking simplicity. Even after hours of work, I could see that I needed to start the whole project over from scratch, because some elements of the piece just didn’t work, especially the imaginary ones, like the road leading to the fairy tale book. I realized that trying to do a surrealist style in this work, and it just wasn’t working.

Back to the Drawing Board

After I realized that the piece was not working, I decided to start over from scratch and gather my own photo references of self-portraits and a landscape to combine them into a Photoshop collage. Then, after I had placed all of my photos into the collage, I began drawing the composition free hand, trying to make it the same scale as the photo reference. While I was working on this piece, I realized I need to draw more often, and that I had become too reliant on tracing photos for my art, rather than drawing from life or photo references. So, my new piece is a sketch that I still need to finish, but one that I think will be easier to complete as a painting.

 

The Takeaways from the Creative Process

Otherdream of travel with hands, flatdream of travel with flowers_edited-1dream of travel, landscape_edited-1, flatPhoto College Dream_edited-1Dream of Travel Version 2, sketch_edited-1 takeaways from this project are: 1.) Sometimes you just need to get started on art to make progress, even if you’re out of practice, 2.) Failed art pieces can be the springboard for new art, 3.) Simple compositions work best for me, 4.) I need to draw more often, 5.) Drawing from one’s imagination is really difficult, and perhaps I need to stick to a more realistic style, and 6.) I need to think about what emotion I want my viewers to feel from my artwork, which will influence my color and compositional choices. Through it all, I am learning that everything on my journey of creativity is useful to me and that good art can’t be rushed, not for me anyway.

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!

Art of Schmidt Newsletter

Hello Friends, Followers and Fans,

It has been a super busy season for me, managing the daily tasks of life, plus buying a new home, and various other things, so I haven’t posted as often as I would like. Meanwhile, I am researching articles that I think would inspire future blog posts that would be of interest both to artists and nonartists. While I am working on that, enjoy a peek behind the scenes into my latest pet portrait custom art order, which is inspired by a portrait of Elizabeth 1. Bandit, full portrait, color sketch 2800px-Elizabeth_I_in_coronation_robes (1)Art of Schmidt Newsletter, March 2018, page 1, final, final, flatArt of Schmidt, 2 March 2018, final, final_edited-3Art of Schmidt, 2 March 2018, page 3, final, final_edited-2Art of Schmidt, 2 March 2018, page 4, final, final, complete

A Life Remembered: Paintings that Helped Me Process Grief

This week I am between projects, as I have just finished the 100 Faces in 100 Days drawing challenge. I also completed some paintings for the Frederick Coffee Company Art show I just finished. So now the perennial question, what do I work on next, and what do I blog about next? I have finally picked up the brush and pencil this Monday and started to revisit the drawings and photoshop files I created for my Voices and Visions poetry illustration series. These works are in the very beginning stages and I started them with evaluating the compositions of some of these files in Photoshop and re-organizing them. After that, I worked on transferring the photocopies of these illustrations to watercolor paper and illustration board. One painting even got to the basic lay-in with acrylic painting stage, but the others need another coat of gesso before they will be ready to paint.

It seems that the bad news I got from the Doctor’s Office on Monday has helped catapult me to action with this series. For the past several months I have been focusing on promoting art shows and administrative duties such as marketing, data entry, pricing, packing up art shows and setting new ones up, etc. However, the phone call I received this Monday, reminds me of all the other times I got disturbing news but had to find a way to get through everyday life in spite of it. This week has really been a déjà vu, of all the experiences and emotions I felt during my dad’s illness from March 2011-September 2011 when he passed.  But with all that being said, the real take away I have had from these experiences is that tomorrow isn’t promised and that I need to make the most of the time I have today.

In March of 2011, I got the phone call that everyone dreads; my father had had a stroke. My sister had called the ambulance and he and was at Montgomery General Hospital where they were testing him for various things. This event ushered in several months of inconclusive tests, different diagnoses, hospital visits, sleepless nights and ongoing stress and uncertainty for me and my family. I felt totally unprepared for this kind of long-term stress and I didn’t know how to cope with it. The situation was also a shock because my father had always been a healthy man and never seemed to have any ongoing illness, other than his recent bout with shingles. I turned to making art as a way to try and introduce some calm and predictability into my days so I could go on working, doing laundry, etc. I discovered that attending art classes every week with a local artist, Rebecca Pearl

introduced some much-needed structure into my days. After my father passed in September of 2011, I was still dealing with a lot of emotions. I decided to create a series of portrait paintings about his life to try and process the grief and to create a meaningful way of honoring his memory, using family photos as references for the oil paintings. Some days I could barely paint and looking at the photos of him in happier times was really difficult. Other days, I was able to paint without feeling so sad. And now, several years later, I am turning to art again as a way to cope while waiting for answers about my diagnosis of a low platelet count.  I have to wait for two more weeks for another round of tests to get some more conclusive answers, hopefully.