Getting Back in the Swing of Things

It has been a crazy few months around here with the work, family vacations, kids school starting, etc. I am trying to get back in the swing of things and finding my new balance.

The last few weeks I had been struggling to feel inspired on what to paint and create. In an effort to get inspired I decided to watch some other artists youtube channels. I found that a lot of the artists I was watching were combining pan pastels and Faber Castell Polychromo colored pencils. So I decided to order some from Dick Blick. When they arrived I started experimenting with different layers of  pan pastels, the colored pencils, and Pastel Pencils on Uart sanded paper. The results were exhilarating. It sounds strange to be exhilarated about drawing with pencils on sandpaper but for this artist struggling with artist block it was just what I needed. While doing my little sketches my brain started generating tons of future project ideas.

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First sketch with Polychromos
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More Polychromos sketches on sanded paper
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sketches combining Polychromos, Pan Pastels, and Pastel pencils.

One of those projects was a series of owl drawings. I love owls. They are beautiful birds with such big eyes.  I have now finished the first two owls in the series.

Tree Barn owl Etsy

Etsy owl

Here is a timelapse video that I recorded while I worked on the second owl.

I cant wait to share with you more from this new series I am working on.

 

-Lauren

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To Grandmother’s House We Go

As a kid I went to my Grandparents home almost everyday. I even went on vacation with them. Words can’t describe the love and appreciation I have for them. Their influence helped me to become the person I am today.

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I was my Grandmas shadow, following her wherever she went and “helping” with whatever she was doing. This included volunteering at the local nursing home. I watched as she cut and styled the hair of the residents, painted their nails, and danced with them when the local band would come play. I learned how to cook, garden, bottle peaches, sew, repurpose furniture, and how to make house work more fun by playing dancing music as loudly as possible. To this day I get the sudden urge to “dance clean” when any Bee Gees song comes on the radio. My creativity and fearless nature in learning new skill was cultivated by my grandma who demonstrates it daily.

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My Grandparents and I at my wedding. My grandma made my wedding dress.

My Grandpa worked in the car industry for many years but when I was seven he decided to change career paths and start a cabinet company next door with his sons. This career change allowed me to spend even more time with my grandpa. I remember going over and “helping” him build the cabinet shop. This included me picking up nails, stacking scrap wood, painting the siding, and sweeping up the sawdust. When the next door neighbors needed help redoing the irrigation system for their alfalfa fields my grandpa handed my brother and I a shovel so we could go help him dig the trenches for the pipes. He taught me how to shingle a roof when he was hired to do an addition to a neighbors home. As hard as he had us work he always tried to teach the concepts of working hard, finding satisfaction in a job well done, and playing hard when the work is done. He would often let us pick out a drink and cookies from the gas station on our way to the dump. Or when we finished a big project he would teach us how to ride their three wheelers.

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My Grandpa helping me blow out my birthday candles

The holidays are always a magical time but it was especially magical at their home. The Carpenters, Johnny Mathis, and Nat King Cole Christmas albums would be blaring out of their living room speakers while my grandpa set up the tree and my grandma decorated the house. The house would be filled with the smell of treats cooking for neighbors and upcoming family dinners.

Christmas Eve was the peak of excitement. Every year we would drive down the street to their house just as the sun was about to vanish behind the mountains. The Christmas tree could be seen sparkling from their big living room window. All the lights would be reflected on the snow. That warm glow meant I was about to spend the evening eating homemade rolls, a delicious dinner, playing with cousins, and opening the Christmas pajamas made for all the grandchildren. After the celebrations we would find make our way out to the chilly car, ready for a night of sleepy anticipation for Santa’s arrival.

Last year when my aunt called me about doing a Christmas themed painting of their home as a family gift. I excitedly agreed. I have never known more clearly what I wanted a painting to look and feel like more in my life. I wanted it to convey the warm, colorful, joyful feelings of Christmas Eve that I experienced arriving at their home as a child.

I started the process by doing a practice drawing of their home. This was important because I had never drawn or painted a house before and was still pretty new to using soft pastels at the time. The study allowed me to work through which colors I wanted to use, how to do light reflecting onto the snow, and the order to apply the pastels to achieve the look I wanted.

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The 9×12 Study

I ended up finishing the painting on Christmas Eve. When it was finished I was giddy with excitement because the painting had turned out exactly how I wanted it to. Looking at the painting sparked those feelings of the joy, excitement, and love I felt in their home as a kid.

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“Christmas Eve” – The finished painting.

I felt that same joy and excitement when I watched them open it on Christmas day.

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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