Blue Lion

Blue Lion

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.

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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?

 

 

Superhero Portrait

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.

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A snapshot from my babysitting days.

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.

-Lauren

super hero painting

 

 

 

Family Home at Christmas Time

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.

Winter mountains all aglow

I believe I succeeded.

 

Star Wars Fan Art

I grew up watching the original three Star Wars movies that were untouched by CGI. I remember watching them at my grandparent’s house in their playroom.  My favorite movie was (and still is) The Empire Strikes Back. I have always loved the twists and turns in the story with its genuine surprises and plot twists.

Years later, I spent hours playing Star Wars with the little boys I babysat every Saturday. They loved the shows so much that I could always use the promise of watching the movies as a bargaining chip for good behavior.

With these shows being such a big part of my childhood I always love it when I have the opportunity to do paintings related to it.

Here are my favorite Star Wars paintings that I have created.

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Princess Leia – Charcoal
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Boba Fett- Watercolor
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Darth Vader – Watercolor

What about you? Do you have a favorite star wars movie? Are you going to go see The Last Jedi?

Let me know in the comments below.

-Lauren

Fall Home Painting

A few weeks ago I was able to complete an autumn themed house painting. This painting was really fun to work on because autumn allows me to use more colors than I traditionally get to use in landscapes. I love it when I can pull out my full Chroma red, orange, yellow, greens, teal, and violet pastels and use them quite liberally.

While painting a home seems pretty straightforward they can actually have their own unique set of challenges. For example, a reference photos might be set in the wrong season and I have to figure out how the yard and house would change with it being winter instead of summer. This commission in particular had several challenges. My reference photos were from the summer and the painting was supposed to set in the fall. I also needed to age the landscaping up. The home I was asked to paint is only a year old without any mature trees in the yard. So I had to research the types of trees they planted in the yard so I could paint them to resemble how they will look in the future. I also had to adjust where some of the landscaping was in the yard including the fence so it didn’t block too much of the house. I also removed the shop behind the house and the neighbor’s home on the right. The extra buildings were distracting and removed the focus from the house.

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Sketch

Like I always do with commissions or complex pieces I used a quick sketch to work through any potential problems. Doing the sketch I was able to figure out the sizing for the house, proportioning of the trees, how I want the branches to grow, sky to look, and shadows with the sun setting on the left side of the house.

Thankfully, the final piece ended up being over 4 times the size of the sketch and was more able to accommodate detail. The texture and detail of the house was more important on this home than on my previous home paintings. Because this house has rock, brick, and stucco it was really important to differentiate the difference surfaces so that the house didn’t look flat. When a home is all siding its really easy to imply the surface with just a few horizontal lines.

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Lately, I have been into adding unusual colors in in areas of the painting toward the end of the painting process. With this autumn scene I really loved the effect that teal, bright purples, and royal blues had in the shadows. I particularly loved what it did to the shadow side of the tree trunks. It kept them visually interesting without being distracting.

I was really excited to with how this painting turned out and was excited to give it to its new owner in person. Seeing her face light up when looking at is the reason why I paint.

I wish I had had a chance to get a better picture of it before I delivered it but my tight schedule didn’t allow for me to wait for natural lighting (an increasingly scarce resource with winter setting in). The colors in this picture are even more stunning in person.

Fall Watercolor paintings

Here are some of my favorite small paintings I have done this fall that I haven’t shared on here yet.

I did a lot of watercolor paintings this fall in an effort to prepare for a highly detailed landscape commission I was working on (more on that later). During this time I would either work on a landscapes or still life paintings.  Whatever I decided to paint I would work to add a lot of detail and make it as realistic as possible. I wanted to improve my skill at a technique called glazing (layering transparent layers of paint), painting wet into wet, and looking at details.

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-Lauren

Last Dance

If you have read very many of my posts you’ve probably picked up on the trend that I listen to a lot of music especially, when I am creating. Music keeps me from being overly analytical while I create and lets me just be in the moment. Often I am dancing and singing around my studio as I work on colorful watercolor painting and large pastel pieces. Its similar to how Cate Blanchett looked in this scene from the movie Bandits. When I am working on tight realistic pieces I often listen calmer music because it allows me to focus on the detail of the painting.

Well a few months ago I had this idea that came to me. I thought it would be cool to create a series paintings of some of the most influential musicians of my life. I started creating a list and looking for reference photos. This included artists like David Bowie, Tom Petty, Janis Joplin, Dave Matthews, and Bob Dylan. I was really excited to work on this project. Then life and commissions kept me too busy to get a chance to make any more headway on it.

Then with the passing of Tom Petty last week I knew I had at least completed my painting of him. I talked about my love and appreciation of his work in a previous post. In that post also shared a charcoal portrait I drew of him. The charcoal piece is more of calm thoughtful piece. For this painting I wanted it to have a feeling of movement and lighting – like he was in the middle of putting on a concert. I painted it to have an impressionistic edge to it so it didn’t get bogged down by details.

 

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Last Dance – Watercolor painting of Tom Petty

In the past I have painted many animals in this colorful style but this is the first person I have painted while using this style. I learned a lot from the process and am excited by how it turned out.

More pieces will be added to the musicians Series over the upcoming months.

-Lauren

 

From the field to the studio

For months the urge to just take my art supplies and go paint nature for several days was really strong. When we would go hiking or biking I would constantly wish that I had my art supplies with me so I could paint what my eyes were seeing, the colors and textures that a photograph cannot capture. However, most of time that wasn’t a possibility because I was either hiking with a kid strapped to my back while keeping my “free range” kids from wandering off or I was there to get an adrenaline rush (mountain biking or snowboarding) and painting wasn’t in the agenda. I would paint things around my home and city when I had the chance but I wanted more (cue The Little Mermaid music). I wanted to escape the grown up responsibilities of life for a few days and paint nature.

In March the stars aligned and I was able to take my first official Plein Air painting trip while my husband stayed home to pack up our home. Being that Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, and most of northern Utah were still snowed in I traveled south for this trip. I went to favorite place to hike and explore…Moab, Utah.

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The snow covered La Sal Mountains as seen from Arches National park

I think my first trip to Moab as a kid was when I became awestruck by nature. I was raised by mountains, farmlands, and forests, which made it so I didn’t really appreciate their beauty. I took it for granted that every spring I would see the orchards blossoming and waterfalls created from the melting snow. Moab however was nothing like I had ever seen up to that point. The red and orange rocks caught my imagination and love. After that trip, I opened my eyes and started appreciating the beauty of nature everywhere I went and I continued to go back to Moab as often as possible.

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A plein air painting from the Moab Rim trail overlooking the Colorado River

To say I was excited to go paint in Moab would be an understatement. Even though it ended up being rainy and overcast for most of the trip I loved hiking to some of my favorite locations and painting them. When the weather would be too wet to paint I would go to the various galleries there and talk to other artists. When it was time for the trip to be over I left feeling inspired and rejuvenated. I had so many painting ideas that I actually sketched/wrote some of them down so I could work on them once I had a working studio again.

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My quick Plein air sketches from Arches national park 

Well a little over four months have passed and I am happy to say that I was finally able to work on one of those ideas. Here pastel painting of Delicate Arch with the evening light shinning though the arch with the snow capped La Sal mountains in the distance. This idea came to me as I sat sketching Delicate Arch while fighting some very flat overcast light and sitting on a very hard rock. I wanted to use strong  and unusual colors while keeping it fairly loose with the detail. I absolutely love how this painting turned out.

Delicate Arch

 

Have you ever done plein air painting? How did it go? Leave a comment letting me know!

Chasing pink skies

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We first came up to the Billings area to look for housing it was the middle of winter. There was two feet of snow on the ground and it was surprisingly warmer than the southern Idaho we left. Billings was a roasting 5 degrees while Idaho was -25 degrees (not counting wind chill). One of the first things I noticed about Billings was the amazing sunsets you could see from the rim rocks. The sky was so massive that I instantly understood why Montana was called “the big sky state.” It was so big that the city seemed to disappear below me, making it feel like alone in the clouds with the golden sunset light shining on me. Seeing that sunset confirmed to me that Montana was the place I needed to go to develop my skills as an artist.

I had been to the western areas of Montana many times as a kid and had always been amazed by its beauty. We would drive through Yellowstone; go to through Bozeman, and then up to glacier national park. However, in all those travels we never went east of Bozeman. Having never seeing the plains side of the state I didn’t know what to expect. But seeing the farms, mountains in the distance, rolling hills, and snow made me feel right at home. Now it’s the height of summer and Billings still isn’t disappointing. The snow has melted away to reveal beautiful farmland growing things like barley and hay. Powerful thunderstorms roll in almost weekly. The magic that happens when the bright pink sunsets make the fields and rim rocks glow in its light.

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A few weeks ago we were leaving a friends house only to see the beautiful sunset. Instead of going home to put the kids to bed we decided to chase it.  We spent the hour driving around Billings snapping pictures of the sunset and basking in its glory. It was a fantastic way to spend a warm summer evening. That evening drive inspired me to pull out my pastels and do my first pastel painting of Montana. This will be the first of many paintings of Montana particularly, of the Billings area.

 

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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