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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It 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.
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!