Here is a video of what supplies I took with my on my hiking and biking trip to Moab. For this trip I approached my sketches as a form of journaling. Most of the paintings represent something we did or saw that day. I didn’t paint on the back side of the paintings so I could use it as a spot to journal about what we did, saw, and funny things my kids did.
These illustrations are very simple as they were painted while my kids were eating lunch, while riding in the car, etc. I tried to mostly capture the mood and lighting more than the detail.
I’m sorry my voice is so scratchy in this video allergy season has hit.
Here is a list of the art supplies I took on this trip.
I am really excited with how this sketchbook journal experience came out and I hope to do this kind of sketchbook work more often. I think it adds a more personal touch to what I am creating and allows me to soak in those memories a little more.
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Something that I have been enjoyed painting lately is hair and texture. I have also really liked using analogous color pallets (color next to each other on the color wheel) for my colorful animal paintings. The color combination used can really affect the mood of the painting.
To experiment more with color, mood, and texture I did another portrait of a lion. This time I chose to do a lion that was looking straight on. The lion in my reference photo had such sad eyes that I chose to mostly use cooler colors like greens, blues, and purples. I also had the lion’s faces completely surrounded by an exaggerated long and wild mane. With his mane taking up so much of the picture I used various a metallic inks to add to the texture and dimension to it.
When I do a painting I typically cycle through various emotions of excitement, love, frustration, and sometimes despair ( yes, I am dramatic). I know this is part of the process and its not a big deal. I try to take it as a sign that I need to keep working on it.
Well this painting was more of a struggle to get to a point to where I liked it. Looking back on it my biggest problem was that I wasn’t taking enough brakes from it. When I get frustrated with a painting or tired I know I should stop and take a break. But I was feeling particularly stubborn that day and didn’t heed my own advice. So I worked until I was almost ready to throw it away. Then common sense kicked in and I realized I should just go to bed. The next morning I awoke with fresh eyes, flipped the painting upside down and realized what was bothering me about it all along. I grabbed my paints and made the changes it. I now love my blue lion with his long wavy mane.
So the moral of this story is that food and a nap can help you problem solve.
Have you ever let your stubborn pride get the best of you even when you knew better?
The Other day, I took a break from designing commissions to paint this colorful lion. Between being sick for a few weeks and constantly working on commissions since October I haven’t been feeling super excited to paint lately. I love doing commissions but there hasn’t been much time to do paintings that recharge me creatively.
When I realized I was just spinning my wheels and not making any progress on any projects. I decided to do something about it. Over the years I have learned the best way to cure artist block is to paint something that inspires me in a loose and colorful style while my music is blasting away. I don’t think about any other upcoming projects or my ever growing “to do” list. I just paint. I’m not concerned about whether it turns out perfect or if other people like it. I just focus on how the paint and water interact on the paper.
So I found some lion reference photos on a commercial use website that I liked, picked a color scheme, and turned up my music. It took a few minutes to really get into it but then like dam bursting, creativity suddenly started flowing through me. I had all kinds of ideas about how to use my brushes in unusual ways, how to layer paint colors, and about which direction to take the painting.
I love how the painting turned out and even more importantly the feeling of all that creative energy flowing through gave me the jump-start I needed to finish my other projects.
What about you? Do you have a routine that you do to help you get out of a creative funk? Let me know in the comments below.
My Last commission of the 2017 was of a little boy dressed as his favorite superhero, Henry Danger.
The idea of this painting was so fun that I was willing to push myself outside of my comfort zone to do it. I am a not very comfortable with painting portraits in watercolor. In fact it had been well over a year since I had painted any and they were all mixed media pieces. Meaning I only used watercolor for the base layers of the face and then added details with markers and colored pencils.
Thankfully, my skills with watercolor in general have improved greatly over the past year. My ability to mix colors, glaze, and control the brush have improved with my daily practice. These skills are a must when doing a portrait. Color mixing is particularly important when making skin tones because it is really easy to make skin look murky or too orange. Because I was in such unfamiliar territory with this painting I scheduled myself plenty of time so i could do multiple practice pieces if needed. Thankfully, As I worked on the first practice piece my fears of doing a portrait immediately subsided because it was coming to me so much more easily than the last time I had painted one.
I still have a long way to go in developing my skills in portraiture to where i want them to be but I am proud of how far I have come.
This painting brought back memories of my years babysitting three little boys and the superhero games we would play. We would often dress up as superheroes and run around the house, pretending to save the day. We would even pretend to fly by jumping from one beanbag to the other.
Kids are so magical with their imaginations, self-confidence, and energy. It was fun creating a painting that perfectly embodied the imagination of this little boy.
Is it better to have a painting planned out completely before starting? Or is it better to charge right in and see what happens? Honestly there is no right or wrong way. I think it really depends on what medium you are working in, the style you paint in, how your brain thinks, etc.
Some materials allow for corrections to happen really easy because mistakes can easily be erased or covered with paint. For example, Acrylics allow artists to change their minds really easily. Areas that aren’t working out can be covered with paint and fixed. If the entire painting isn’t workings an artist can gesso right over it and use the canvas for something else.
Other materials are less forgiving. The most obvious example of this is watercolor. It is really difficult to fix mistakes painted in watercolor. Especially if you typically work with staining type of watercolors like I do. This is why watercolor is often considered one of the more difficult mediums to work in.
Another thing to consider is what type of style you want to work in. Are you doing a hyper realistic painting with a lot of elements to it or are you doing an abstract painting? When I want to do super realistic paintings/drawings I spend more time planning my approach and layout then if I wanted to do a more surreal/abstract piece.
Finally, it really comes down to how your brain works. Are you a type of person that likes structure and a plan or are you a “by the seat of your pants” type? Personally, I am a person who likes to have a general idea of what I want to do but I need the flexibility to be able to adjust and change my mind. I am like this in all aspects of my life. On vacations I like to have a few days planned but not all of them. I like to have the flexibility to change my mind and be spontaneous. If nothing is planned I procrastinate or waste time figuring out what I want. I am also a tactile and visual person, in school I learned better if I wrote my lecture notes by hand and if I had some visuals of what was being taught. Often times I wouldn’t look at the notes again. It was mostly the act of writing down that transferred the information to memory.
Applying this to painting I find that if I do a lot of excessively planned paintings back to back then my work start looking stiff, it stops being fun, and can be stressful to work on. On the other end of the spectrum I sometimes get frustrated in the middle of a spontaneous painting because I forgot to save the whites on my watercolor painting or realize I would have liked to do a different color combination. Both extremes can leave me frustrated. Also the act of painting my idea out allows me more clearly understand what I want. Its kind of like tuning a radio station– it gets rid of the mental static.
My solution was to find a middle ground that worked for me. If I am working on a commission or doing a painting outside my sketchbook I will typically do a “quick” painting on student grade materials to figure out my layout, color pallet, and to practice a new technique that might be needed for it. I don’t spend a lot of time on but I want to get a vison of what I want and how to execute it. I typically spend about 10-40 minutes working on it. I then take a break for a few hours so I can later analyze it with fresh eyes.
When I comeback to start work on the real painting I clean up my work space and look at the picture and decide what I like, don’t like, changes, etc. After analyzing it I turn on my music and start painting the final piece. I usually don’t reference that sketch again. This process allows me to develop an idea in my head without getting to focused on the small details of the composition. It also allows me to get into the “flow” of the painting because I already know what I want to do and what colors I’m using so I don’t have to stop my work to problem solve. If a happy accident occurs, like it always does with watercolor, I can go with the flow of it because my ideas weren’t to concrete.
Since I’ve figured out the workflow that works best for me I have noticed I enjoy the painting process more. It also helped reduce frustration, upped productivity, and has helped prevent burnout – all things that can become issues when working as an artist especially when first starting.
So tell me how do you work best? Do you charge right in with paint or do you make a plan? Let me know in the comments down below.