One of my new years resolutions has been to get better at regularly drawing in a sketchbook. I often get so busy with commissions and projects that I don’t always have time to work on personal projects or try new techniques. I am hoping that by drawing and painting in a sketchbook regularly will not only improve my skill but also give me a few minutes each day to paint and create something just for the pleasure of creating. As much as I love doing commission (it’s the best job I could have) I need to spend some time creating pieces of work that are personally motivated so I don’t get burned out.
I have owned many sketchbooks over the years and have never actually finished one. I didn’t like having “ugly drawings” stuck in my sketchbook so I would either rip out pages I didn’t like or just hold off from drawing in my sketchbook until I got better as an artist. I think part of me was ashamed of my skill level for not being “good enough.’ It is kind of silly to think about now as a (slightly) more mature artist because the entire purpose of a sketchbook is for it to be a safe place to practice, experiment, and grow as as an artist.
Setting this goal for the year has helped me to FINALLY finish my first sketchbook. It’s far from perfect since I bought it a few months after I got back in to art in 2016. Some sketches have been torn out because I didn’t like them or used them for other projects. But I finally completed the pages that are remaining.
It may seem silly to celebrate such a small and silly thing but when trying to develop a new habit it is always important to celebrate the milestones along the way. It is also a sign of my personal growth as I am now more accepting of my shortcomings as an artist. I always want to improve my skill level but I am no longer ashamed of my journey as an artist.
Another benefit of using a sketch book (and not tearing out the pages) is that I have also been able to see how much I have grown over the years as an artist. Being able to see tangible proof of my progress is so helpful on days when I feel discouraged.
During this month of love and romance I thought I would share a little about this drawing I did of a couple in love on their wedding day.
This drawing is another piece that was a year in the making. I was first contacted by my client about doing this drawing of her parents on their wedding day in the late summer of 2016. She was hoping to give it to her parents as a gift for Christmas. Well life happened, she had to track down the original copy of the picture so I could have a clear reference photo. We both got busy and the project got forgotten about. Well in the early fall of 2017 she contacted me to see if I could still do the drawing. It was even more important to have done because her beloved father had past away a few months before.
So with great reverence for the project and the importance it held for the family I started. The reference photo was quite old and was tricky to work from because it was small, slightly blurry, and did not a have a lot of contrast to differentiate the details. This is a common occurrence with old photos that weren’t professionally taken. It’s why I haven’t taken on drawing my grandparents old wedding photos yet. To help the picture give me the most detail I ended up having to import it into Photoshop to try and enhance it to bring out as much detail as possible. This ended up helping quite a bit but it wasn’t perfect. After Photoshopping it I did several practice drawings of it to get practice working on the small faces and to get the shapes and shadows correct.
With the challenges this piece presented I am really proud of how the final drawing turned out. Even more importantly the family loved the drawing. I hope looking at it brings back memories of the love and respect this couple had for each other.
A few months ago I was asked to do a commission of a home set in the wintertime but not set during the holiday season.
This offered a challenge because I couldn’t rely on holiday lights and decorations to keep a winter scene from looking tired and dull. I wanted this picture to convey the magic of winter while showing off the home. I didn’t know the best way to portray that. I brainstormed and sketched the house during different times of day, with various amounts of snow, etc. I ended up liking several of the ideas but I didn’t love any of them. Then one evening I had to go to the post office. I walked outside right as the colors of the sunset were being reflected in the snow. Oranges, pinks, purples, and blues filled my eyes from heaven to earth and I instantly knew how I wanted to paint the scene. A little over 30 hours later the painting was completed.
My client and I were thrilled with how the colors perfectly showed off the beauty of this hillside home.
I had the fun opportunity to work on a commission that featured a house from my hometown. I grew up only a few miles away and saw this house almost everyday. I went to school with their kids from elementary on up to college. My mom taught them piano lessons and I went to girls camp with their daughters. So when their kids asked me to do a commission of their parent’s home I was ecstatic.
There is something endearing and personal about painting a picture of a home that you know so well for a family that you love and respect.
I know exactly where the home I grew up in is in relation to this house and the mountains featured in the background. As a result I began feeling home sick while painting this picture. I think part of it is that was from knowing I wouldn’t be coming home for Christmas this year for only the second time in my life.
The other reason I started feeling home sick was that painting this made me really reflective of my childhood, the people I grew up with, life long friends I made, and the adventures I went on hiking the mountains in the background. Even though I didn’t always appreciate it as a kid I was blessed to grow up in town I did.
The reference photos that were sent me for this commission were beautiful photos from the previous Christmas. The photos showed off the beautiful pink glow the mountains get as the sunset is reflected on them with the cozy house situated just beneath.
They wanted the house to look and feel like it was Christmas Eve. To me this meant the house needed to glow with feelings of warmth, joy, and love. So much so that it would make you wish you could jump right in and be part of the celebration.
Tom Petty is the most influential musician and lyricist of my life. I was eight or nine when I really became aware of his music (late 90’s). My love of his music became borderline obsessive. I woke up to the greatest hits album every day for three years. To this day I feel like I’m waking up when I hear the opening notes to American girl. While my peers gushed about boy bands like The Backstreet boys and N’sync. I was following Tom Petty’s nasally voice down the rabbit hole of Rock Music. My love of his music led to my introduction to The Traveling Wilburys. Which in turn caused me to develop a great love of Bob Dylan.
My love of Tom Petty was something that helped me find common ground with my new step dad. I cant tell you how many times we watched Concert For George DVD together in which Tom Petty played. When I was 12 my mom took me to a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert for their Last DJ tour. Later, When Ipod’s came out songs like “Running down a Dream” and his cover of “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” were staples on my running playlist while I ran miles for cross country practice. When I was 19 and working at a fruit stand I listened to his Wildflowers album approximately 500 times because it was one of two CDs the owner had in a building that didn’t get radio reception. I would listen to his music as painted. When I rocked my babies to sleep at night I would often sing to them:
Goodnight baby, sleep tight my love
May God watch over you from above
Tomorrow I’m workin’ what would I do
I’d be lost and lonely if not for you
So close your eyes
We’re alright for now
I’ve spent my life travelin’
Spent my life free
I could not repay all you’ve done for me
So sleep tight baby
Unfurrow your brow
And know I love you
We’re alright for now
We’re alright for now
-Tom Petty, Alright For Now
In short he has been the soundtrack to my life.
When I found about his passing I went down to my studio to watch his biography, shed some tears, and put my feelings on paper. When I was done I entitled the portrait “Southern Accents” after one of my favorite songs he wrote.