Right before the beginning of the new year, I was watching a Blessed is She talk that recommended that you pick a word to reflect on for the new year. The word that was whispered to my heart was “ordinary.”
Shortly after, I was brainstorming ideas for a collective body of artwork to produce. I wanted to build up a new portfolio and though I had a couple ideas of directions I was interested in, I wasn’t sure what I would ultimately create. I do a lot of portrait work which means I need lots of human references. I thought it might be fun to use friends and family for portrait practice or references for future paintings.
I sent out a “model call” on Facebook asking if anyone would be willing to let me use their photos for practice. I was only expecting maybe 5 people would volunteer. I ended up getting over 30 (and counting) interested friends and family members. Inspiration struck and that word “ordinary” went through my mind. I wanted to create a series of portraits of ordinary women using mixed media processes.
The first of these portraits is Raven, a talented photographer I met through a mom’s group at church. When I saw this self portrait of her, I knew this was the image I would use for the piece I wanted to create. She had some beautiful photographs of her children that had a really lovely purple and blue lighting that I wanted to draw into this piece as an underpainting.
The majority of the painting was created with watercolors. I used pens for the linework in the hair, varnished the piece, and added thin layers of acrylics on top.
When my husband and I first watched Netflix’s Stranger Things last year, I remember thinking it was one of the best new shows I had seen in years. There was that great mix of humor, suspense, nostalgia, etc that made it like a combination of my favorite Steven Spielberg films combined with The X-Files and Stephen King’s The Body.
I knew I wanted to create a piece to show my excitement for the premiere of Stranger Things 2, so I made this Eleven watercolor painting.
Last week, I got the chance to meet up with two of my art friends from college. We met for coffee and sketching, but ended up just talking. My friend Liz, recently started a 30 day sketchbook challenge for herself. The purpose is to challenge herself to create artwork on a daily basis. She has an hourglass that she flips and when the last grain of sand filters out of the top, she stops. The point isn’t to create something amazing, the point is to develop a habit and put aside time to do something for fun on a daily basis.
The three of us all work as artists (an art teacher, a graphic designer, and a SAHM/paint and sip instructor), and when you do art for other people as a job, it’s hard to want to go home and work on more art no matter how fulfilling it is. I really was inspired by Liz’s dedication and wanted to do something similar to develop a habit. I recently started a routine of cleaning the house on a daily basis, and 15 minutes here and there make a big difference. I decided the same would be true if I set time aside nightly to work on personal art projects.
I’ve been spending time every night working on art. The husband and I put the girls to bed, we watch some iZombie on Netflix, and then I go upstairs and work on art. I usually turn on a podcast and start drawing or painting. I’ve been working on some commission and work projects, but while one project is drying, I’ll work on another piece that’s just mine.
After doing this for almost two weeks, I can feel the positive effects. I no longer dread going up to the studio. Everything is set up and ready to go at my desk. It’s scheduled, so I’m almost programmed to just do it. It’s enjoyable because I accomplish a lot (even if it’s just a little at a time), and I can see an improvement in my technical drawing skills.
When I don’t know what to draw, I do an exercise from my eBooks by Cuong Nguyen. They’re a great resource and a little bit of instruction, even when you enjoy art, goes a long way.
I had been struggling to find time to put time aside for art. Being a full-time mom as well as a painting instructor for Pinot’s Palette, it was a struggle finding time and motivation to work on art.
In the spring, I read a book called Resisting Happinessby Matthew Kelly. I read a chapter a day during Lent and it inspired me to make the time to create. One of the things Kelly suggested in the book was to keep something called a Mass Journal. The idea is that you bring a journal to mass every Sunday and write down one thing that connects to you during the service. This could be a line from a reading, a song, or something the priest says during the homily.
I liked the idea, but instead of using a journal I chose to do sketches. A friend had gifted me a set of artist tiles, like the kind used for zentangles, so I decided to use these to write and draw my mass reflections. Because the artist tile cards are small, they fit nicely in a small pouch with a couple of pens and pencils I bring along. I listen during mass, write down my connection, and illustrate my reflection.
I like doing these Sunday sketches because it not only because it makes me dedicate time every week to sketching, but it also has helped me connect during church and learn more about myself as well.
It had been a long time since I had been able to create any new artwork, so I made it a priority in April to create a piece of artwork just for fun and all for me. My daughter loves Disney movies and we watch many together. It’s fun to re-watch many of the films that inspired me to become an artist.
One film that I loved re-watching was Cinderella. The artwork and animation are beautiful. I’m especially in love with the colors and style. Cinderella’s dress transformation might just be true animated magic. I love many other adaptations as well including, but not limited to, the Rodger’s and Hammerstein Cinderella TV musicals (1965 and 1997), EverAfter, and Gail Carson Levine’s young adult novel Ella Enchanted.
I decided to create my interpretation of Cinderella’s dress transformation. In addition to wanting to work for Disney, I also dreamed of being a children’s book illustrator and wanted to replicate these loves and ambitions through my art. I’m currently reading a book on children’s book illustration (a dream is to someday create my own illustrated book) and wanted to make a finished piece that might look like the page from a book. I hoped to create a sense of scene and story in one image as well as experimenting a little bit with style and technique.
My inspirations were all of the film versions of Cinderella I love and the artwork of Disney concept artist Mary Blair who helped create the look of the animated Cinderella.
I started with a really REALLY rough thumbnail using the ArtRage app on my phone. I had a vision, and wanted to quickly block it out with some colors I thought might work together. Afterwards, I created a pencil sketch, transferred the sketch to some smooth watercolor paper and began to block in the background using wet-on-wet watercolors and placing saran wrap over the paint while it was still wet. This technique create a fun texture, one of my favorite ways to play with backgrounds in my pieces.
I had envisioned a roughly painted tulle skirt created using thick gouache, but when I struggled to get the effect I was looking for, I had to switch tactics. I took a gamble of the dress by using a combination of wet-on-wet technique with lots and lots of salt to create a crystallized effect. Thankfully, it turned out even more magical than I had anticipated. When I started adding fine details on top of the dress, it really came to life and had a dimensional quality to it that I loved.
Cinderella’s face and the pumpkin were painted using gouache. I wanted to include the pumpkin and mice to foretell what else Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother would transform to get her ready for the ball. I had originally started with a solid black silhouette for the pumpkin and mice, but felt it looked too flat when compared to all of the textures used in the background. The addition of blue and purple gouache helped tie it into the rest of the piece.
I am very happy with how this piece turned out. I hope to create a Snow White themed piece in the near future.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes video depicting my process on Cinderella:
The last couple of months have been very busy months for me. November and December were filled with lots of holiday commissions for Christmas presents and weddings. Even though I didn’t have the time to work on getting my Etsy shop ready for the holidays and working on some holiday marketing and prep, I ended up having my busiest holiday sales season anyway. The popular items of the season were Colorado themed jewelry.
My favorite commission of the season, would have to be this pencil portrait I drew for a friend of the family. It was a present for his mother in-law depicting her dancing with her daughter, his bride.
Because of being busy with lots of commissions as well as my regular job working at Pinot’s and raising a toddler, I haven’t had time to work on my own artwork. I was able to do a fun watercolor and gouache painting at the very beginning of the year of my interpretation of Kim from the movie Edward Scissorhands. Tim Burton’s art and movies always connected with me growing up (though honestly, what middle/high schooler didn’t connect to his characters). I remember watching Edward Scissorhands at a friend’s house at a sleepover and feeling completely wrecked emotionally at the end of the film. It spoke to feelings I was experiencing being somewhat of a misfit high school student. This movie, as well as his other films, inspired a lot of the kinds of emotionally driven art I was creating during that stage of my life and I wanted to create a piece that honored that.
Since then, all of my artwork has been work related. It’s good to be busy and earning money, but it’s been a little bit creatively draining. However, yesterday I was able to create some art for fun. My friend Conni, has been hosting “Inspiration” art gatherings. These gatherings are opportunities to be surrounded by other artists and art lovers and exercise our creativity. One of the things I miss most about college studio art is being surrounded by people who are constantly creating. These Inspiration get togethers are a way to put aside time to be creative, but in a fun and relaxed environment. It also provides people an opportunity to try new things and get to know new people.
At our get together in February, we had a “Wine Women and Watercolors” night where we had a flower still life and all played with different watercolors and water media while drinking wine. Yesterday, we drove to a natural area and hiked. We took pictures and sketched and then drove back to Conni’s house and created artwork based off of our sketches and photos using the media of our choice.
I had no clue what I was going to create, especially since I don’t normally create art that’s nature inspired, so I walked around with my camera phone looking for inspiration. I took a couple photos of some dried up plants by a lake and sketched them in my multimedia sketchbook. I masked off my drawing with a new masking fluid pen I got and filled in each negative space with a variety of bright colors instead of the gloomy grays and blues of the actual sky. After I finished with watercolors, I removed the masking fluid, used pencil to re-draw the plants, and added some light gel pen branches to add more layers.
It was a lot of fun just to be sitting down and creating a project “just because” and reinforced the importance of creating my own art. Sometimes I don’t work in my studio because I don’t have an idea for a project of importance. I forget that the little sketches and doodles are just as important to do because art is just as much about the process as it is the final product.
I’m excited to announce my new Colorado jewelry pieces! I now offer square pendant necklaces and beautiful quick release cuff bracelets featuring Colorado Columbines and our Colorado Flag. Simply click on a photo to be brought to the item in my Etsy shop:
Need more Colorado love? There’s also Colorado greeting cards available in my shop:
When I was in middle and high school, I used to draw in my sketchbook daily. My sketchbook went with me everywhere I went. It was a good icebreaker for meeting new friends, a good way to pass the time during class (don’t worry, I was a good student 98% of the time), and a good way to practice and create. I was constantly making up my own characters and stories. My sketchbook was almost like a diary or creative journal.
Sometime during college, I stopped keeping sketchbooks. Yes, we often had to have a designated sketchbook for each individual art course we took, but I didn’t really use them in the same way that I had before.
For my birthday, I asked my husband to get me a sketchbook for my birthday. He got me two different mixed media sketchbooks. The one I started to use is a Strathmore multimedia sketchbook that has a cover similar to a Moleskin sketchbook. I love it and have been trying to get back into the habit of working on art in the studio every night. Having a nice sketchbook definitely helps!
A couple months ago, and before I got my new sketchbook, I started trying to branch out and try new things with watercolor. For some reason, having a wash of color helps me figure out what I want to draw. Doing art this way kind of reminds me of doing a charcoal or conte drawing on toned paper.
I recently have been trying to get more portrait practice in. I do a lot of portraits in my personal work as well as commissions, so I wanted to make sure that I was staying in practice. I decided to get back into gouache and add it on top of watercolor washes to see what would happen. This was my first practice:
I remember finishing it and thinking, “This was a ‘practice’ piece? It’s better than some of the finished pieces I’ve done lately.” But maybe that’s the thing… When you work in a sketchbook, you take more chances and you allow yourself to experiment more. I think sometimes the pressure gets to you when you’re trying to do a finished “final” piece of art.
So right now, I’m going to continue sketching and practicing. Hopefully more of my sketches will turn out as nice as this piece. I’m hoping that over time, my new theme and style will start to show itself in my sketchbook pages.