When we were learning to write in school, we learned vocabulary, sentence structure and punctuation. These are the foundational blocks of writing. Once we mastered these, we went on to learn paragraph development, story arc and how to shape the scenes and character to capture the mood we are trying to convey.
These very same structures exist in painting. Mark making, mixing of paint, framing the image, extraneous details etc.
Both these forms, writing and art, boil down to self expression. How do we express ourselves? Which elements do we feel are important in our story/image? The artistic license gets to decide how we express ourselves.
However, the biggest challenge is allowing ourselves to express what we want. The hardest part is that we don't always get it 'right' so we can judge ourselves pre-maturely on the form of our expression. Once we learn that the early judgement is simply our monkey mind then we can decide to press on, get curious and figure out which mark or phrase does express what we are thinking.
If you speak to any writer they will tell you that the first draft will likely not be the last. It is simply the starting point. There will be refinement, editing, and paring down the subject into its essential parts in order to be concise and still get the message across. Our art is the very same. Which details are necessary and which details are extraneous? What can I cut out and not lose the focus on the art work all together?
So if you are a budding artist, who has stumbled across that monkey mind that tells you "you better stop now, because you don't know what you are doing." Then you have likely bumped into a question that you can't quite answer.... yet. That question being, what's wrong with this shape, how do I correct it, why doesn't this look the way I expect it to? This curiosity is what will lead you to investigate what needs to change. Perhaps it's the colour, or the tone, or the value that is off. If you feel it's off, then it's off. Your artistic eye is not pleased by what you have created so far. That's it. Get curious. Try something new. Pull out a new tool to evaluate your work so you can find the answer to the problem that you are trying to solve.
Much like a piece of writing, when you read it, or have someone else read your work, the error often jumps out, then you have the point of focus to resolve that error.
Our paintings are the same. You do have the awareness to know where things are not working, you simply may not have the tool to figure out the answer. It's just learning how to use a new tool. I would love to teach you the tools that I have learned to create beautiful paintings. I have a course coming up that may be of interest to you. Here is the link
If you have a desire to paint, then you can, of course, paint. It's just learning.
I hope this inspires you to keep going with your art and your mark making. Leave me a comment below if you have any questions.
Would you like to be a V.I.P. and receive updates and early access to new works? You can. Click the link here to join my email list.
I’ve never thought of myself as a strategist. Let me tell you, up next to my brother Fred, who was a fabulous strategist, I could never measure up.
What I’m realizing is that there is a lot of strategy involved in planning paintings. So the game of “Risk” just wasn’t my thing. I don’t think I won a sing game against my brother. But I digress.
Strategy and preparation have been big on my mind this past weekend. Currently I’m in the process of my next series focused entirely on Tulips. It all begins with taking some photos, printing those photos, then selecting ones that I think would be great paintings.
From the selected image, I then make some decisions about what size canvas I want to put the image on to. In the case of the white tulip above, the bottom 1/3 of the image is not very interesting, so I will want to crop that out in the painting. And the top right hand side is not very interested either. So I will crop the image down to keep the centre of the flower as the focal point. With all that cropping a vertical rectangle feels like the correct proportions to capture this image.
Once the canvas is stretched I put several layers of medium on the raw canvas to be sure that the fibres are well sealed. Oil paint is acidic and over time it will deteriorate the canvas if the surface isn’t prepared properly.
The strategy and planning that goes into each canvas is an extension of my creative license. Yes, there are some technical skills that need to be respected, but size, dimension, surface material etc are all up for me to choose. I find this really exciting because I get to ‘feel’ my way through the decisions.
In the example that I gave about the white tulip above, I get to decide on the cropping and composition, knowing my artist eye likes to keep the focal point on the most dramatic part of the scene. I love that.
I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into the studio. Let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below.
I can send you these blog posts to your email address if you want to be sure to not miss an episode. Just leave me your email address by clicking the box below. You will receive Blog updates, and V.I.P. Access to new works.
While I was working on this little sketch yesterday morning I was thinking a lot about why my art, my voice, your voice, your preferences matter.
What I came to realize, and I've known for some time, is that what I have to say through my art or my words, is unique and valuable. Just as your voice is important, however you express that voice.
I think, particularly now with all that is going on in the world, we can feel a bit overwhelmed and silenced. A bit paralyzed really. I assure you this is a natural response. I've been feeling much the same way and working on other things rather than painting. Yesterday was my first foray into creating art again. This little drawing was the inspiration to pick up the pencil and begin again.
I was shocked by how this happened. I was sitting in the yard in the sunshine and this idea/internal voice said "sketch this beautiful peony leafing out." My response was to just go do it. Rather than the litany of negotiating that often happens. By negotiating I mean the internal qualifying of an impulse, the rationalizing, the deciding. I just acted versus thinking too much about it.
This is what triggered the notion of my voice. Why this peony, why now, why the motivation? Because for my well being this voice, creating a new drawing, is me resurfacing after all these sudden changes. I've also lost a childhood friend to cancer so I know that I'm grieving her as well. In a nutshell, I have not felt up to creating much.
That all changed with this drawing. My inspiration was showing me the way back to my creative process. I love that I just followed and feel much better for it.
During this time of uncertainty, what are you drawn to act on? It could be a knitting project, baking bread, going for a walk, calling a friend to chat. All of these gestures are elements of your creativity and voice. Just act. Allow yourself to show up however you feel compelled. Your voice matters, a lot. Perhaps more now than ever as we are all grappling with the changes.
Please share your voice with us (tears spring to my eyes, instantly as I write this.) What you are inspired to add to this beautiful life experience will help you and it will help all of us. Don't be shy. Express yourself.
,What I'm hearing is the most difficult part of sheltering in place is the not seeing other other people. This is such an unusual time we are living and yet there are so many blessings happening as well. The duality of it all never ceases to amaze me.
I'm also aware, with the loss of seeing others in person, we have lost some of the exchange of love that we are accustomed to. Yes, we can use social conferencing platforms, face time etc. But you know what these platforms don't do is provide that physical touch. That physical love that we exchange each time we are together.
If you are anything like me, then you likely have a box of cards that you have kept, love notes, that others have sent to you over the years. I realize the notes that my mother sent me over the years, in her own handwriting are something that I will keep for the rest of my life. Her love is steeped in the words that she wrote to me. These cards are priceless.
During this time of social isolation we have that same opportunity to send our loved ones special notes written in our own hand. They may even be treasures that they keep for a lifetime.
There's a nice opportunity that all of us have.
Do you have a box of cards that you have kept? I'd love to hear your stories. Leave a comment below.
This is such an important question. You likely already have art at home that has a place on your wall, so what do you do when a new piece arrives?
Let's begin at the beginning. You have received a new piece and you have a lovely wall space for just that piece. Easy. The ideal height for hanging art is 58" to the centre of the piece. This puts it at the average eye level. The problem with this new knowledge is that you have to calculate a few measurements to actually arrive at the centre of your piece hanging at 58". It's necessary to factor in the apex of the wire hanger on the back and how far it sits below the top of the painting. Once you know the apex, calculate how far that is below the edge of the frame. Mark that measurement down. Then measure the height of the art work and divide that in half. Then subtract the distance between the wire and the top of the frame. Put the nail at that height.
Now what if you have several images that you want to arrange on one wall. I found a wonderful article that talks about laying out your images in a Salon Style. I'll include the link here for you to visit that article.
I found the illustrations to be really useful. The article also includes some guidelines around colour choices. If you have too little colour or too much colour how do you handle that. What if you have modern pieces and traditional pieces, how do you handle that? Very interesting.
You know those times when you spontaneously react to something. Like the sigh that spontaneously escapes you, or the "oh my" reaction. I simply pay attention to those because they have touched my spirit in some way. So I know if they touched me then they are likely to touch other people to0.
The other piece beyond the subject matter, is the angle that I choose to capture the image and the framing that my artistic eye finds appealing. I like to capture the image with enough information that I can further edit the frame back in the studio, but to be honest, I like to capture the image pretty much how I see the painting coming together. I'd rather not do a ton of editing and cropping of the image. If the framing inspires me in the moment then it's likely significant framing for the final painting. I hope that makes sense.
So what has you stop and take notice? What touches your spirit? I'd love to hear about it. Leave a message below.
I've been walking down memory lane today. Let me share what found. This painting is quite special. It was the first painting that I have ever sold. I produced it when I was at University studying to complete my Bachelor's degree in visual arts. A friend of mine offered her shop for a show of my work. I think I hung 4 pieces for a month within her salon.
It wasn't long before one of her patrons decided to purchase this beauty. I have no idea where it is hung as I failed to keep in touch. However, I'm thrilled that it is out there somewhere. It feels like a beacon reminding me of all that is possible. It is the evidence that my work is saleable. That I can paint. That my joy translates onto the canvas.
I thought you might like to see it. It is different than my current work, however, it is the foundation of where my art career began.
What do you think? Let me know. I'm curious.
My Peony Series is coming along. I have plans to complete 15 paintings all focused on that gorgeous bloom - the peony.
This is one of the most challenging flowers to paint simply because of the abundance of petals that you literally get lost in as you try to articulate which one goes where.
My process, up until this point, has been to articulate the shapes using the greyscale. This has been a really effective way to capture the details, then move to colour once that layer has dried. There are a couple of limitations to this, the main one being time. 1) The time to create the painting increases because you are basically painting the image twice and 2) the drying time for each layer ads to the completion time of the painting.
So I decided to venture into painting directly in colour rather than the greyscale. To be honest, I've been a bit scared by it. Removing a key step to my process unsettled me. However, I just began, like I always do, putting paint on the canvas. I'm 9 hours in with several of the hours being wasted in doubt and mixing the various shades of pink. Can you hear the judgement when I say wasted in the previous sentence.
Yes, judgement has been a constant companion with this change in process. It's really no different than the judgement that I was faced with when I started the greyscale process. So I know I've travelled this path before and it's a necessary step to the success that I have already achieved in the greys. It's no different with colour. Building confidence required that we do something versus just reading or wishing about it.
One of my mentors calls it the "Messy Middle". It sure is a messy middle. It's a hot mess, or that's what my judgemental mind wants to tell me.
However, the other thing I know to be true is that I can only focus on one section at a time, and I do know what I'm doing if I pay attention and listen to what my intuition is telling me needs to come next. That's all I ever have to work with.
As David Whyte says "Start close in." I'll attach the poem here for you. Start close in with the first step. That's all we have to work with. Just start close in.
Start Close Inby David Whyte
Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
way to begin
Start with your own
give up on other
don’t let them
your own voice,
Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
heroics, be humble
start close in,
for your own.
Start close in,
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
A David Whyte poem from
River Flow: New & Selected Poems
Many Rivers Press
I'm in my studio this morning preparing my next set of paintings. I'm working on peonies, for a bit of context.
Have you ever been at the flower market display and felt that the $15 or $25 to buy the bunch of flowers, is too much? It just feels a bit, I don't know, excessive like you're really going out of your way to buy something frivolous. I don't know if you've ever had that but for me I always think twice about buying cut flowers because they don't last all that long. Yes, they're beautiful, but then I think the underlying current is I don't always allow myself to have that luxury because it feels like the $25 or whatever it costs is not necessary right at the moment. That my desire for beautiful things is not that necessary. Youch.
I talk myself out of it and I really love beautiful flowers I love having the colour, the shapes, the luxury of it in my home, the beauty of having, you know, something that's just delicious.
I realized in painting peonies, in this case, that I love all kinds of different types of flowers and through painting them I get to have that beauty and that luxury in a more permanent way, in a way that my investment allows me to enjoy it every single day. They aren't going to perish and I'm not going to have to discard them after a week or so.
The painting is a more permanent experience of that flower and, for me, as I start to complete more paintings and hang them around my home, have art displays, put them on my website and that kind of thing the feeling of that flower is everlasting. When I look at these paintings I feel the same way I felt when I first saw them. I feel the joy. I feel the luxury. I feel the worthiness of having that kind of beauty around me and I'm curious if you have ever considered that we limit ourselves because of an immediate expense and yet our heart and soul is yearning to be surrounded by more beauty. To allow ourselves the luxury of having beautiful things around us.
One of the problems that my paintings solve is that you can feel the luxury and the opulence of having beautiful flowers around you every single day and they're not going to perish. They are a constant reminder that we are worthy of the things that we enjoy. That we can create the space for the luxury and opulence that we desire.
What do you think? If this resonates with you I'd love to hear your comments. What's your favourite flower? What things do you like to surround yourself with that feel a bit opulent, a bit special or luxurious?
Claiming what we want is not always easy. We don't want to come across as a victim, we want to take responsibility for our decisions and we want to consciously step into what we want. Give a listen to my journey of claiming something that I want, an artist residency to focus on growing my art practice.