The artist has a tendancy to want to stay isolated in their studio and work on their paintings or illustrations. You can’t get the work done unless you are in your studio working but there is a great deal you can learn from being around other artists. It doesn’t matter at what stage you are at in your art career. You can learn and be inspired from those around you. Not only do you want to learn from other artists but it is very satisfying to see someone else find great joy from looking at your artwork or purchasing a piece to hang were they can see it every day.
I have met some of my good creative friends from getting out of my studio. Even when you are quietly sitting, listening and just happen to take notes and sketch in your sketchbook. Even then you can meet someone. I met Carol Williams that way. She saw that I was sketching and she got caught up in the sketches and started talking to me. We worked on a picture book together and worked on other ideas. We sat at book signings together and presented at conferences together. But more than that, we became friends. The same thing happened with a group of young illustrators who attended a presentation I gave at a children’s book conference. They became colleagues and then friends.
So if you would like to meet some other watercolor artists and form some nice friendships with those that paint with watercolor, you might want to join a local watercolor group. Somebody caught me in a weak moment and I will be the president of the Utah Watercolor Society this year. It’s a great way to be inspired and make some lasting friendships. If your in Utah come join us.
What drives an artist to create? What causes them to want to draw or paint so much that they think they should pick up a pencil and try to capture the impossible. Sometimes those goals drive us to spend hours practicing the piano. Other times it prompts us to get out of the isolation of the studio and take a workshop where you have to paint with other people watching your progress. What will they think of your efforts? All those eyes looking at your painting.
There is alway uncertainty looming there. In the book “Art and Fear” Bayless and Orland say,
“Naive passion which promotes work done in ignorance of obstacles, becomes – with courage – informed passion, which promotes work done in full acceptance of these obstacles. Foremost among those obstacles is uncertainty.”
So even though we are uncertain about the outcome, we dive in anyway. We take courage and see where the creativity takes us. The uncertainty of my art has taken me on some grand adventures.
Watercolor sketch of 27th World Championship Fireknife
Without light there is darkness. Light in a painting creates value. Without light there would be no shadow side of an object. When light is blocked, we get cast shadows which create depth and interest in a painting. When you put the lightest light by the darkest dark, you draw attention to that spot. By manipulating values, you can guide the eye around your painting.
We went to the World Fireknife Competition. We watched the Womens’s Competition and the Men’s Preliminaries. How would I capture the energy of the drums and the fire spinning in the darkness. A painting becomes much more than what you see with your eyes. The experience of being at the competition adds a depth to your painting. You remember the beat of the drums and the smell of the fire, the flame spitting on the floor and streaking across in a line of fire. You wonder about the properties of fire as you see the contestants put the flaming Fireknife on their feet and to their lips.
‘I tried to capture the flickering of the flame by letting my brush dance across the watercolor paper. I loved capturing the form of the dancer by the light cast on his torso and the back edge getting lost in the darkness.
Clouds over the ocean in Hawaii.
As artists, we try to capture what we feel and see around us. There was a quote by President Henry B. Eyring which was displayed with his watercolors at BYU Idaho: “My motivation in all of my varied creative work seems to have been a feeling of love. I felt the love of a Creator who expects His children to become like Him—to create and to build.”
A sketch from 2 1/2” x 4 1/4” sketch book. “Where Are You Headed?”
”…..but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light,…” Isaiah 60:19 So as plants turn to catch the light, we should turn our lives towards the Savior Jesus Christ and towards more kindness, service and watching out for one another. Mahalo.
Where do you practice, put your thoughts down on paper or paint your painting before you paint? Your sketchbook. So ideas pop into your head and if you don’t get them down on paper, they disappear. The sketchbook is a place to capture them. They are stored in a place where you can go back and get ideas to use on any number of projects. I love to add words to my drawings. They can help spur my memories. They can also spur your imagination. They can be a jumping off place for paintings, illustrations and stories.
The sketchbook is also a great place to practice seeing with your eyes and toning your muscle memory. It’s amazing how your eyes and your arm can connect to make beautiful creations. The continued use of hand and eye can improve your drawings and observations. Spending sometime every day observing things around you and sketching them on paper blesses your art. How do you practice your painting in a sketchbook when you are using a pencil or a pen and the white paper? Thumbnails capture ideas for the composition and sketches help you to see the values you want to put into your painting and the placement of those values. All the work you do before your painting, adds to the freshness and freedom of your painting when paint actually hits the watercolor paper.
The sketch above came from thinking about who would take care of Santa’s reindeer and working at BYU Hawaii with students from Mongolia. So The Reindeer Keeper” was born. The spark and working on that spark started in my sketch book. Get in the sketchbook habit. l
“The Reindeer Keeper” 12” x 16” on metal. Limited edition.
The Reindeer Keeper is one of the paintings and prints that will be for sale and for viewing in person at The Gallery in the Garden at Becky Hartvigsen’s beautiful backyard garden. Come join me and other artist August 27th and 28th if your in the Davis County Area.
There is so much beauty in this world. I love painting people, landscapes and flowers. So I paint whatever grabs my eye. I love painting flowers because they have beautiful abstract shapes. There is a real freedom in painting flowers. You can splash paint around and have great fun with water and paint and still capture the flower.
So my granddaughters participated in a entrepreneur outside market and the booth across from them were selling gorgeous sunflowers. I bought some to paint and they have been fun. I’m going to participate in Becky Hartvigsen’s. Backyard Art Sale, Gallery in the Garden the end of August. So it will be fun to have some of these paintings ready to hang. I’m framing them with a wax finish and no glass. It leaves a beautiful finish. There is a nice mood to this painting. Create some beauty in the world today.
We’ve all arrived there. You look at the progress on your drawing or painting and you see no way to salvage it. You see no way but to throw it out and start over again. The above painting arrived at that point. I saw no other way. Chuck it in the garbage and throw it away.
‘But there is an advantage to going ahead and finishing the painting. You take a look at what you have and decide. What do I need to add to this painting to get it to work? Do I need to add some rich darks? Do I need to paint over the unfinished parts of the painting to cover up the white of the paper so I can more fully see the values? Do I need to refine some of the shapes? Maybe lift off in places?
There is an advantage to just finishing the painting. There are things to be learned by the completion of your project. Sometimes the refining process at the end of the painting takes some time and patience. That may be what you need to learn.
And so I finished the painting. There is a very nice mood to this painting. Something I would have missed if I had thrown it out. It captured the age of the old rusted metal wheelbarrow. And once again the words I tell my students and workshop attendees came ringing back into my ears, “Why don’t you just finish the painting. Just get it done and then hide it in a drawer for a week and take a second look at it “
WARNING: Some paintings might have to be hid in a drawer for longer than a week. But it will be finished. I’m glad I didn’t throw this one out.
I’ve always loved telling stories. Whether it is with a nice watercolor painting or as I create characters for children’s books, it’s the telling of the story with art that I love. I’ve bounced back and forth between the two. The children’s book illustrations have detail. The watercolor paintings can be big enough to allow freedom of brushstrokes. It’s a good combination.
The one has influenced the other. When I’ve been working on a picture book, things seem to come into my life that have an influence on the book. The elements and principals of art can improve both children’s book illustration and watercolor paintings. Things learned in a watercolor workshop end up influencing my illustrations. Imagination is used for both. It’s very satisfying to start with a picture you see in your head and watch it appear on your sketch book and become refined with watercolor.
When we left for our mission to Hawaii, I had a couple of paintings at a show down in St. George. My daughter picked them up when the show was over. They leaned against the wall in my studio. We returned to our home in the middle of covid and we were still teaching some online classes for BYU Hawaii so I never unboxed the paintings. I couldn’t remember which painting was in the big cardboard box. Like meeting an old friend after a long parting, this painting emerged from hiding. We put it up above our fireplace. One of the fun things about creating paintings is that there is a variety of paintings to display In your home while they are waiting for just the right buyer.
It’s also fun to see paintings and prints find a new home. As artists we create to share our love for the beauties in this world and how we see them. It is nice that they can bring joy to others. Sometimes they send me pictures to show me how they’ve framed them. Thanks to Kris for finding a new home for the giclee print “On The Road To Emmaus.” Here’s a picture of how it’s looking.
Usually I’m not afraid to put paint to paper but at the Sarah Yeoman Workshop, I stood there looking at my painting and debated. I’ve read to all my students the quotes from the “Art and Fear” book, but I had just put down a free watercolor painting of peonies and a nice, free rendering of the mason jar. I was pleased with the results. It was on a half sheet of watercolor paper. Everything had gone right from the sketch to the color choices. Now Sarah was asking me to put in a background in a way I had never done before and I was worried my whole painting would end up in the toilet. There is that moment of hesitation …………and then I went for it.
I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Courage, experimenting, and learning things from other amazing artists can cause a continued growth in your watercolor painting. Membership in a Society of other artists can provide opportunities for workshops and demos. The workshop with Sarah Yeoman was provided through the Utah Watercolor Society. Sarah gave it her all. Even though it was over zoom, there was a connection with the teacher and the students. The background added emotion and freedom to the painting.
So painting watercolors is a part of being an artist. Sometimes you have to be in front of the camera. My paintings were hung at City Hall while I was gone with my husband on our mission to BYU Hawaii. I was supposed to talk about my art at a meeting where the city was invited. But due to covid restrictions West Bountiful City recorded the story behind some of my paintings. Here is the link for that video:
I remember in junior high loving the way watercolor went on the paper. I was painting flowers and the way the paint mixed with the water was beautiful. My use of watercolor was sporadic. Later on I thought that watercolor would make brighter illustrations for children’s books than the guache I was using. So off to a watercolor class.
There are a lot of rules with watercolor and some myths out there like watercolor is so unforgiving. When I took that first watercolor class, the paint was not doing what I wanted it to do. My painting didn’t look like I wanted it to look like. It was frustrating. At that point if I had listened to my frustrations, I would have quit the painting and missed out on years of joy discovering watercolor.
Sometimes the best way to learn something is to dive in and use the medium. That’s what I did with watercolor, I dived in and learned how the paint mixed with the water. I learned what happened if I added more water and I saw what happened when the paint was added fresh to a wet spot on the painting. I have a lot of tools in my watercolor toolbox. Mostly I learned from the day to day painting of the things that grabbed my attention. So now do I know everything there is to know about watercolor? No. That is the joy of a creative life. There is always something else to learn.
Robert Henri, in the book “The Art Spirit” said, “The technique learned without a purpose is a formula which when used, knocks the life out of any ideas to which it is applied.”
So there is a lot of self direction in art. What you learn from a critique should lead you in a direction of self improvement. A lot of the changes in my art have come about from a serendipitous popping of ideas into my head. All those things that I learn are bubbling around in my head just waiting for me to pull them out and use them. So when I recognize a problem with my art, it’s like when I recognize a problem in my life, I try to see what I need to do to become a better, kinder person. I say to myself, what if I tried this? Would this make me a better artist? What if I didn’t have negative thoughts about the neighbors’s pet pig who is eating my butternut squash out of my garden, would that make me a better person? Life and art is a journey of discovery.
There is great joy to be found in the journey. Another quote from Robert Henri, “Order is perceived by the man with a creative spirit. It is achieved by the man who sincerely attempts to express himself and thus naturally follows organic law.”
What are you doing to creatively attempt to express yourself?