Netflix or Paint?

The other night my kids were all asleep by 8 PM (Hallelujah!) and my husband was gone working a 24 hour shift at the hospital. It had been a rough day; the morning was spent fixing things that hadn’t gone to plan. Kids fought, my three year old decide he didn’t want to poop in the toilet anymore, naps/quiet time didn’t happen (not for lack of trying on my part), and the list goes on and on. My anxiety and stress levels were high and all I wanted to do was binge watch TV shows on the couch while carb loading on cake. As I was about to turn on the TV I asked myself if that would really help me feel better. The answer was no. TV doesn’t help me de-stress and sugar certainty doesn’t. In fact, they usually make me feel worse because I feel regretful about the wasted time and sick from the sugar hangover the next day. Thus, causing me to feel worse and more likely to repeat it again the next day.

So with my answer I got up and made my way to my studio, A place that I had barely been in the past few weeks. Between going to visiting family, family visiting us, potty training previously mentioned 3 year old, and then getting a kidney infection there hasn’t been much time left to paint. This lack of studio time is a big reason why I could the stress and anxiety building up inside me. Painting is my job but more importantly it is what brings balance to my life. When I feel like my personal identity is threatened to be washed away by the demands of my husband’s schooling, motherhood, owning a business, and just regular adult stuff I retreat to my little studio. I shut the door and spent time with beautiful colors. On this particular night I turned on some dancing music, picked out a reference photo, and started. The picture I picked was a sunset picture from our summer trip to Seattle. I wanted to get right to work so I just used the pastels that were already sitting out.

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My Goal that night wasn’t to create my best piece of work but to break the cycle of putting off painting until I had time or felt inspired. It was to feel the stress leave through my fingertips with each stroke of the pastel. It was to change my perspective of the day. Instead of feeling bad that the first part of the day went so poorly I could be happy that my kids went to bed easily and early thus, leaving me with the entire night to paint. Instead of feeling bad that I hadn’t seen my husband awake for more than an hour the day before and wouldn’t be seeing him for another fifteen hours I could be glad that he has a job he loves. Painting gives me time to process and gain perspective on my life.

I came upstairs a few hours later feeling rejuvenated. The responsibilities that are still on my shoulders felt lighter and more like an adventure pack taking me on new adventures instead of a punishment.

-Lauren

Ps. This painting was actually really difficult to do with it such having such strong contrasting in colors. I will have to try it again on a large piece of paper and I use what I learned from this sketch.

Planned Spontaneity?

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.

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Quick pastel sketches to figure out my preferred layout 
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Finished Pastel Painting

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.

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My my quick elephant study. I figured out layout, color, & where I wanted to reserve highlights.

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.

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The finished piece has more detail, preserved highlights, and a background.

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.

 

-Lauren

1 Year Art-iversary

 

It has been one year since I decided to participate in The Daily Markers 30 day Challenge. The Goal of this challenge was to get crafters around the world coloring/drawing everyday for 30 days. I decided to use this challenge as a way to get back into fine art. I hadn’t regularly drawn or painted in over 7 years. During that hiatus I had lost a lot of the skills I had developed during high school. I hoped if I started drawing and painting a little every day for 30 days I might be able to get some of those skills back.

 

I had no idea how this little 30-day challenge I started on a whim would change my whole life. I quickly became obsessive about drawing. I would wake up early to draw before my kids woke up, color all through quiet time, and paint late into the night. The challenge ended in March and by April I was starting to sell watercolor paintings.

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My last Painting for the daily marker challenge

 

There was something about doing this challenge that changed me as a person. I was no longer letting fear of failure hold me back. I realized during those thirty days, while watching myself improve, that I could become the artist I always wanted to be if I was willing to put in the time and effort. In all other aspects of my life I believed that hard work could get you where you want to go. Sadly, somewhere along the line a disconnect happened between that fundamental belief and my Art. I don’t know if it was the self-consciousness of puberty that started it or society’s belief that artist are just naturally born that way.   Thankfully, being able to see such large strides in my drawing and painting skills I was reminded that art was just like everything else in life, you have to work for it. You have to work hard, practice regularly (even if you don’t feel like it), and become fearless. I say “become fearless” I mean you have to keep pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. I tried new mediums, set goals, challenged myself to learn new skills (like drawing faces), and shared what I created with others.

sealionstyledpaintingIt has been amazing to see where my Art has taken me this year. Along with learning watercolor I have learned how to draw with charcoal, and paint with soft pastels. Since April I have sold over 40 paintings, drawings, and prints. I even won first Prize at the state fair for my sea lion painting. These were all things would have never happened if I hadn’t done this challenge.

 

Even more important than achievements was that painting and drawing was the only thing that kept me sane this year. My husband is in medical school and he had to live out of state for 6 months. I had to take care our young children and all other responsibilities by myself. It was very lonely and challenging time. Art was my escape. Some days at the end of those 6 months I let my kids watch cartoons all day while I painted (very unlike me) because I felt like it was the only thing that was going to get me through that day. Art got me through depression and I am so grateful I found it during a year that I so desperately needed it.

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My first Watercolor animal painting. 

I am still very early on in my art journey and have a long way to go to get to where I want to be but I am so glad I am on it!