I don’t want to leave this until it’s one of those long overdue posts. There are some people who deserve my thanks. It’s only been a few months since I began working toward art as a vocation (that is, since I’ve been making serious attempts at getting paid for my art), but I have already received so much priceless help from some phenomenal people – people who I haven’t even met. I want to bring much-deserved attention to their amazing work and acknowledge them for what they’ve done to help me get started.
First, there was Robin Sealark. I found her on Youtube when I was looking for an instructional video on mixing flesh tones. She had a great video on that topic, and so much more. Robin is young and full of energy, witty, charming, and adorable. Her paintings are full of vibrant color and she dares to experiment and reinvent herself. Watching her videos made me feel like I already had a friend in the business. I would like to spend the first profits from my own paintings to purchase one of hers.
Next, there was Stefan Baumann. Wow. Just wow. I may have watched all of his lectures on Youtube (there are a lot) and I know I’ve watched at least a dozen of them a second time. I’ve never seen, or rather heard, art classes taught the way he teaches. I am so amazed that instruction this valuable is available for free on Youtube. The gift that he has given to the artists of the world in these videos is enormous. If you are a painter, you need to watch them. Even if you don’t paint in oils, you need to watch them. Even photographers should watch them. You won’t agree with everything he says, but you need to watch them. I’ve added attending one of his workshops at his Mount Shasta ranch to my bucket list.
Finally there is Patrick at Art Storefronts. He does their podcasts. I have determined that I am not quite ready to purchase their software/services to set up an e-commerce website with “Live Preview” (a super-cool feature where you can see what a painting will look like on your own wall). But they have so much genius advice available in those podcasts on the topic of marketing art. I’m so thankful that they offer it for free.
Besides the great people I’ve found online, I’ve been encouraged by some great people I’ve met face-to-face: church friends, friends at my day job (which I’m not quitting any time soon), old friends that I only get to see on social media, and especially my new friends at our local Urban Sketchers group — it was phenomenal to sit down with a group of strangers, talk and laugh like we’d known each other for years, and walk away friends. I look forward to getting to know you better. I’m so glad I live in a city where people care about art and artists have the means to find each other.
Most important of all, there’s my family, not one of whom ever told me that I would starve if I tried to make a living as an artist. Really. Not one discouraging word from one relative ever. Not when I was a teenager considering attending an art school instead of a traditional college. Not now, after I’ve had other jobs for decades and decided to get back into art and make it a profession. Not even one snarky comment. How rare is that?!!
The oil on canvas version of Still Life with Hydrangea (on the right) that I started back in mid-summer is finally finished. It just needs some drying time and a coat of varnish. The acrylic version on the left was finished last month, but I thought I’d wait until both were done to “unveil” them.
I started with oil paints that are water-miscible (water-mixable or water soluble — all three mean the same). I determined that they weren’t all they were marketed to be. Some colors/brands mix with water better than others. Some mix better with turpentine substitute (mineral spirits). Some don’t mix very well with either. Most colors got gummy at some point and resisted spreading. I ended up giving in and buying a bottle of Turpenoid® and a set of inexpensive conventional oil paints — the supposedly noxious chemicals that I’d been avoiding all my life for fear that they were dangerous to work with.
I found that I had been silly to wait so long to try oils. I had always assumed that oil painting required a big bucket of solvent. For that I blame Bob Ross and The Joy of Painting… also my unpleasant experiences with oil-based house paint. I bought a nifty little stainless steel cup with a spill-proof lid and a grate inside for rubbing the brushes against to clean them. It only needs a few ounces of solvent and it can be reused over and over again before needing to clean the cup and change the solvent, because the paint solids sink to the bottom under the grate. I can’t believe in all my years of making art, I never learned about this.
I’m sure you knew all about this and you’re shaking your head at my ignorance. Anyway, I’m very happy with how both paintings turned out and I will be posting them for sale shortly — the oil version will need to dry first. And I’ll need to keep my fingers out of the paint while it does. I seem to be getting better at that.
Here’s an update on the art I’ve been creating for the past month. It’s been a month for drawing practice. A painting doesn’t get very far if the artist’s drawing skills aren’t up to the job, and really painting is just drawing in color anyway. Above are a few of the ink drawings I completed this month for the Inktober 2018 challenge. I did them all in my miniature sketchbook that I carry around with me in my purse, so most of them are only about 3″ x 3 1/2 inches.
I’ve done other challenges — National Novel Writing Month (50,000 words of fiction in 30 days) for November and the National Poetry Month poem-a-day challenge for April — and those were interesting and fun, but also frustrating. I think that’s because I write well, but I LOVE drawing and painting. It’s my gift. Also, because I’d never heard of it until November 1st and I jumped in on a whim, I didn’t feel guilty when, about two-thirds of the way through the month and I stopped and only did two more for the rest of October. I just didn’t want to do any more. It was a liberating thing, actually, to abandon it, because it was good practice for a time but was no longer of benefit to me. Never keep doing something just because it’s what you’ve been doing.
I did these two drawings in an art group that I meet with at our church. The group leader stopped at a roadside produce stand to get the props to set up the still life. The drawing of the old man was from a photo she clipped from a magazine, and the rest of the page was cut away, so I don’t have the information to properly cite the photographer. I am particularly pleased with the hands, which are much harder to draw accurately than faces.
I finished two paintings in October too. The first was the acrylic version of that still life. I’ll share a picture when I finish the oil version, so I can unveil them together. The other was the abstract below titled “Vineyard” which started out as just a loosening-up exercise, but it went well enough that I refined and finished it so it’s ready for framing. I plan to paint three companion pieces in the near future titled “Orchard,” “Field,” and “Garden.” If you are interested in purchasing “Vineyard,” see my gallery page for more information.
Still plodding along with the still life. When I used the wrong mixture for glazing and had to set aside the oil version (on the right) back in August, I expected that it wouldn’t be dry enough to paint the next layer until Christmas. But it surprised me, and it appears that only a couple months was necessary. In the meantime, I started on the acrylic version of the same still life (on the left) and it has been going well… mostly. I’ve experienced some frustrations with the paint drying too fast on the canvas. (That’s situational irony, right? My 9th grade English teacher really tried, but I’ve always been a little unclear on that.)
So it wasn’t the subject matter that drove me to give up temporarily on the first canvas, it was the medium. And while working on the second canvas, the medium is making me itch to go back to work on the first canvas. I’m learning a lot, and relearning some too, about my mediums. (Or media, if you prefer–both plurals are correct in an art context; I checked.) That was pretty much the goal of this project–to learn the properties and possibilities of my materials.
So, even though I’m not finished with either version, I’m already thinking about Still Life with Hydrangea No. 3. I’ve got a whole room full of art supplies. I could do watercolor next. Or gouache. Or ink. Or watercolor over ink. Or pastels. Or charcoal. Or colored pencil. Maybe Crayola crayons will suit my mood?
OH, HOLD THE PHONE! I just recalled that single sheet of art paper that I bought on clearance this summer. (Only 15¢–I’ll never get out of an art supply store that cheaply again.) That paper is a rich muted red and that would be the perfect support for a pastel painting of that still life! I think it maybe the time is approaching to try out that box of pastels.
I’ve got a fair amount finished on the underpainting of the second version of my still life. It’s feeling very dark. Rembrandt dark. That was the plan though; keeping the rest of the painting dark and softened in detail, so the central focal point of light effects on the small pitcher will “pop.” But I’m used to using all the vibrant colors that acrylics are known for. This is new territory for me.
Yesterday I was working on the wood grain of the table that the objects are sitting on. I was using the finest of brushes with very few hairs and highly thinned paint mixed with gesso. It was tedious, but I think it’s working. The paint was so thin, it might as well have been watercolors; and the canvas was so absorbent with eight layers of gesso, it might as well have been paper. Quite a mixture of techniques will go into this one.
I discovered it’s really difficult to not keep painting those super-fine lines over and over in the same spot when I intend to paint new lines next to the previous ones. It seemed to be the same problem I’ve had with target shooting, so I employed the same principles to correct my “aim.” (Dad would be proud.)
More art tools … or, more precisely, framer’s tools. But most artists get good at framing too, because doing it yourself saves a bundle. Also, a lot of us wouldn’t let a professional framer touch our work, because our work is like our babies or a piece of our own souls. (Or we’re just control freaks.)
I just used these to frame “Bridesmaid in Pink,” (see my Gallery page) which I am about to enter in the 40th Annual Elkhart Juried Art Show at the Midwest Museum of American Art. If I get it finished soon, and if I can find a frame within my (currently very tight) budget, then I will also enter the still life painting that I’m working on.
One of my favorite Youtube art teachers, Stefan Baumann, says artists need to put their work out there for the world to see, even if they’re not trying to sell it, because it keeps them motivated. It also gives you the opportunity to see your work on a gallery wall next to other artists, which let’s you see how far you’ve come as an artist… or how far you need to go to achieve the level of art you are going for.
A fascinating portraitist whose blog I just discovered, Gwenn Seemel, provided the encouragement (in a video she shared) to get me over the dread of having to talk to people at an art event, should my work be accepted for the show… or even win something. It’s not that I don’t like people, I’m just one of those awkward introverts who has a knack for saying the wrong thing. That’s why I like blogging; I can edit the awkward out before I click “Publish” and put my words go “out there.”
They begin accepting submissions for the exhibit this week. Wish me luck!
So that still life is still sitting on a closet shelf drying…or not drying. The fingerprints just keep adding up. I’ve been mulling over what to paint next while I put coat after coat of gesso on the next canvases. (As soon as I make a sale, I’m going to start buying better canvases that are actually ready to use.) I decided on … the still life.
Lots of famous artists painted the same subject many times. Monet painted those haystacks so often that the farmers got annoyed and tore them down, just so he’d go away. I’m making a few small tweaks to the composition and this time I’m using acrylics. Maybe I’ll do another in watercolors or pastels.
My little supervisor in the tuxedo apurrrrrrrooves of that plan. So far, I have the object outlines re-drawn. I was kind of wishing I had traced it the first time, then I could trace it again. Oh well, it’s like I always tell the students at school when they forget to save their work on the computer — it’s faster when you do it the second time.
That second canvas in the background is bigger, and I have plans for it too — inspired by looking out the window at the full moon last week as the sun was rising at the opposite end of the sky behind me. More on that to come.