Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday Tips #2 Nurture the Artist

This week's Tuesday tip is simple.  Nurture the artist.

I am not talking here about nurturing your creativity by trying a new medium, or by setting up a scheduled time each week or each day that is set aside JUST for your creativity.  I am speaking instead of nurturing YOU.

Take care of yourself!  Take a little time off!  Make time for some exercise.  Take a walk! Cook yourself a decent healthy meal now and then!

As artists, it is far too easy to fall into the trap of fast food, TV dinners, and too much time sitting in front of our work.  But nothing stifles creativity and confidence more than feeling out of shape and slightly ill.

So, while its important to set aside time to work, and if you are trying to do art as a career it is vital that you spend a lot of time working on your art, it is also important to nurture yourself as a person, your whole person including the physical you!

I am saying this from experience, after being hyper focused on getting three pieces ready for entry in a juried show, and during that time neglecting to nurture myself at all.  Now, naturally I am feeling a little down, not too great physically, and I've gained a couple of pounds which does NOT result in a gain in confidence.

My husband had a wonderful idea to spend yesterday visiting Mount Rainier, and it was a terrific break, and offered many awe inspiring views, but at times, such as hiking over rocks to get to Paradise River, was also a revelation to me at how little I've been caring for my body lately.  The mountain was majestic, and I took many photos, unfortunately I have not yet been able to get them from my camera to my computer, so I won't be showing many of them, however I did take some with my phone, and here is one of them:

Today, I a feel tired, yet refreshed and renewed, ready to begin the next creative work, and inspired to also balance that with some self nurturing, self caring behavior such as visiting the gym, taking a walk, and starting to eat the way I know I should!

So, nurture the artist and you will refuel for your next creative session!

Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tuesday Tips #1 - Hacking Your Tools- the fan brush

I've decided to start a new feature on this blog, I'll call it "Tuesday Tips", in which I will post tips for fellow artists.  I also welcome guest posts from readers who have tips to share, just message me or ask about it in the comments if you are interested.

Today's Tuesday Tip will be on Hacking Your Tools, specifically the fan brush.  For those unfamiliar with a fan brush, it looks like this:

dry fan brush

wet fan brush
 So, why would one want to use a fan brush?  And why on earth would one need to "hack" the fan brush?  Well, lets say you are painting some grass, or fur, or feathers.  You could take a round brush and use it to paint individual blades of grass, like in this painting:

Sell Art Online

That works fine for this style of painting, where the blades of grass are thick and somewhat "out of focus" in appearance, but what if you wanted to make thin blades of grass, or fur, or very fine hair like feathers like in this close up of an owls face? Note that this is a crop of a much larger painting that shows the owls entire head and part of his body, thos feather lines around the eyes and overlapping the beak are hair thin.

You could take a liner brush, and paint each line painstakingly, and many of the lines on this owl were painted that way.  It works, but it takes a long time... what if you wanted a faster way to go about it?  Here is where the fan brush comes in.  If you use it very carefully, getting paint only on the very tips and stroking with almost no pressure at all, you can get results like those feathers that overlap the owls beak.   The problem is that as the brush gets more wet, and takes on a heavier load of paint, the lines start getting thicker, and merging into each other.  If you accidentally overload the brush with paint you don't get individuals hairs at all, and if you apply too much pressure you also get different results.  Here are some random fan brush strokes, with different amounts of paint, different amounts of pressure:

Fan brush strokes with a light load of paint,
 with various pressures applied.
Fan brush strokes with heavy paint, but light pressure.

As you can see, the results can be very inconsistent.  Now, if you are careful, the fan brush CAN and DOES work for fine hairlike individual strokes, I have used it that way myself, around the owl's beak above and in several other paintings, but it is nerve wracking knowing that if I slip even the slightest, and apply more pressure than I meant to, my painting will be messed up.

So, one time recently while painting a large area of grass on a big painting, I got fed up.  I took one of my three fan brushes, and a pair of scissors, and came up with this:

As you can see, I cut some of the hairs off to make a more even "spread" of hairs.  Now, I did this quickly and not terribly carefully, because I was just going for a "grass" effect.  But if I'd wanted thinner tips for "hair", I could have taken the brush, and some very sharp scissors, and sipped off much smaller sections, leaving many more, but thinner "tips" still attached for painting.

Here are some random brush strokes using my "hacked" fan brush, as you can see, with more paint, less paint, light pressure or heavier pressure, I got much more consistent, grasslike results, there were still differences according to the amount of pressure I used, or how much paint I loaded the brush with, but the differences were not so severe, and were easier to control:

So there's my tip on hacking your fan brush.  Now, I'm aware that they make a fan brush with shorter sections of bristles like this, but the brushes manufactured like this have each tip of precisely the same thickness, and for something like grass, I think having some variety of thicknesses looks more natural, not every blade of grass is exactly the same size as the one next to it.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Stretching Myself

One of my Index cards from the ICAD challenge.
Before I first started painting in June of 2012, on those index cards that seemed so innocuous but proved to be carriers of the deadly "art attack" virus, I had no idea how much I had missed art in my life.  You see, way back when, years ago, in Junior High School and some in High School, I took great joy in creating.  Drawing, using oil pastels, markers, colored pencils.  I didn't paint much back then, though I'm sure at some point I must have used paint a little, I really don't remember, but it certainly wasn't a medium that I used regularly... at any rate, at that time I really loved art.  For some reason, shortly after high school, I stopped. Perhaps it was because the responsibilities of adult life left little time for it, and little money for supplies.  Perhaps it was because of other issues I was dealing with that caused me to feel unworthy of something that would bring me joy.  Perhaps I just didn't get around to it.  For whatever reason though, art was no longer a part of my life.  Occasionally I would do crafts, make Christmas ornaments, crochet baby clothes, something like that, but drawing, or "painting" with colored pencils or pastels, was completely forgotten.

After starting the ICAD challenge though, I quickly realized I was hooked, not just on art, but in particular on painting.  It wasn't long before I wanted to move beyond the index cards and onto a canvas.  Since then, I've painted and painted and painted.  Having had no formal training, I have learned most of what I know by trial and error, often with many errors repeated again and again (when will I finally automatically paint background objects BEFORE foreground objects???).  I've watched a few how-to videos, and read a few books, but mostly I'm self taught... I've been learning to paint by PAINTING.  Eventually I might like to go for my BFA, but in the meantime I just continue to paint.

Recently, the gallery owner where my work is sometimes displayed suggested that I take part in a local juried show.  He felt that it would give me more exposure, and also give me a chance to see how my work compares with other local artists and to get feedback from more people.  I looked over the work I had, and felt that there were many things I had learned recently that didn't show in those pieces, so I decided to create three pieces specifically for the show, being mindful to apply everything I've learned up until now.  In other words, I wanted to really stretch myself to the limits of my current skills and abilities, so that I would be submitting the very best work I am currently capable of producing.

Here is the first piece as it took shape:

This first photo shows the work after my first painting session, I have no idea how much time I spent up until this point on it, but it was all one painting session.  I used three reference photos I had taken, but didn't copy directly from any of them, just used them to spark ideas and give a general outline of what was happening.

I decided to block in some general darks and lights in the background, so that when I added background trees gaps in them wouldn't show stark blue sky, because I've noticed in some of earlier paintings that sky showing through like that often makes the landscape look flat, or fake.

Then, here is the second in progress photo, a little more has changed at this point, one back ground tree has been added, and one more foreground tree.

Then I added the other background trees.  Notice that I made them lighter and less distinct than the ones in the foreground, I've been trying to learn to implement atmospheric perspective.

On to progress picture number 4, here I have lightened the trees in the background more, plus added some more foreground elements. I know that the picture looks very different in color here, but it hasn't changed.  All but the final two photos were taken with my phone, and it is very sensitive to changes in lighting.  The slightest difference in available light causes a whole different color cast over everything.

Next I simply added more detail in the foreground, such as some flowers on the bush in the lower right hand corner, and some more reflected light on the pond.

Then I thought I was done, so I took a good picture with my good camera, but afterward, I noticed that the sky above the background trees looked "dirty" because of all the times I'd painted over to obscure the trees a little more in trying to achieve the atmospheric perspective:

So I fixed the sky, and then took another picture with my good camera.  I printed several samples to compare the color to the original, and edited until it matched.  And here is the final result:

So there is the painting that will be my first entry into the juried show.  Because I am keeping it for the show, I can't offer it for sale yet, however prints of it are available on my Fine Art America page, and if the original doesn't sell during the show, it will be offered for sale afterward either in my local gallery, or in my Etsy shop.

Art Prints

Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints