Monday, January 16, 2017

My Problem: Doing The Thing

What my actual problem was, was finally realized after years of not understanding the source. I realized it while decluttering and doing home organization, perhaps ten years ago. Before I explain my problem, I will lead you through some other problems.

I used to thing the problem was not having enough time. In American culture we have accepted the notion that there is never enough time in the day to do all we want to do. This is solved by one of two approaches, which are told to us in many self-help books. So many books repeat the same message. Free of charge I will summarize this for you:

If you become more organized you will find more time in the day. Specifically if you use a planner and plot out a schedule you will suddenly find more time. This is not necessarily true if you don't stick to the calendar strictly.

If you learn to prioritize your tasks and duties you will put the time to what is most important to you. (This is somewhat flawed because some of us with certain life obligations and responsibilities do spend time appropriately reacting to things that happen during a day, instead of always having full control of every single thing we have to spend time doing.)

We must learn to learn to say no when people ask us to do things that are not our own priority, to take items off your priority list if they are not "good enough" or are not in alignment with you goals and priorities.

We need to learn to do less in order to try to do more of what we want to do.  Along with this, one must learn to redefine success and to learn to be content with getting done what you defined you wanted to get done. You have to let go and accept that you are really not going to do all that you wish you could because, well, there is just not enough time in the day. Meaning, if you have stated your goal is to get better at photography, and you are choosing to let go of learning to sew clothes with a machine, that when you do have success at photography (whatever success means to you that you must define) then you can't sit and stew about not having mastered sewing. You have to discipline yourself to measure contentment (a better word than happiness) -- to measure contentment in alignment with your intentional goal. You have to keep your overachiever self in check. 

So in my life I have already gone through all the above thought processes many times, readjusting my life goals and priorities on an almost constant basis throughout the year. I am not into New Year's resolutions. But I still had some issues and did not know what my problem was.

Basically my problem was discovered while decluttering. I am a pack rat and have been actively trying to not be a packrat for perhaps 15 years. I have come a long way. But I keep repeating certain behaviors and winding up feeling unfulfilled. This is the flawed cycle I go through:

1. Get curious and learn about something. This means prior projects I am capable to doing are pushed to the back burner. 

2. Gather materials and buy things to learn and then to do the thing. Example: how to sew, buy a sewing machine, buy fabric, buy thread. The shopping becomes a hunter and gatherer type activity. More time can be spent if trying to bargain hunt.

3. Feel stuck due to not owning necessary things, so buy more of #2. This is a trap in books when they list necessary materials but in reality only 1/3 of those items are truly needed for beginner projects. 

4. Feel tempted by optional extra things, as the more difficult or more involved projects seem better to aim for, so buy more accessories and extra things before I sometimes even try the basic project.

5. Don't start doing the project but keep learning more beyond the basic by reading or watching videos. 

6. After #5 repeat #2 and #4. 

7. Never start the project. Keep the stuff. Or try it once, abandon it, but keep the stuff. 

If I don't buy the items I think I need I can get stuck in a negative thinking cycle being angry that I cannot afford what I need to do it. I can get on this bad track which ruins my muse and then I don't do any of the creative projects that I already own the things for and that I already know how to do.

***Then when I am ready to start I don't actually start but get curious about something else. This may have its root in perfectionism.**

Big Revelation

Another major issue is the time it takes to master a skill is plodding work, repetitive work, or involves multiple or many attempts with imperfection so it can be discouraging to face that daily or time after time, so the project is either never started or given up on.Then I move not I thinking about some new thing that maybe will be better for me. But with many art endeavors the sill needs practice to get better. So the base problem is still there. Most endeavors need lots of failed attempts to learn and grow, not all are fast learns. Or easy. 

So my main problem with self-directed autodidact projects is that I get stuck in the gathering of supplies and learning stage then never do the thing or give up too quickly. 

It is easy to let basic real life take over my time and not dedicate time in my daily schedule to do the self-directed projects that don't have deadlines. This is why taking college classes has helped me both learn and produce. I wake up early to get to class even when I want to sleep, I go to class even when sick. I make art when sick.I push away house cleaning and cooking in order to meet a deadline. I don't do any of those things with self-directed deadlines. 

Perfectionism can also be a stumbling block. It is easier for me to finish a school assignment on time that's less than perfect but with a self-directed project I can be mad it's not perfect and just procrastinate on fixing it and get stuck in a rut as I contemplate getting back to it again. And I'm not starting anything else in the meantime. 

Over winter break I was reorganizing my art and craft studio. I had to face all the supplies stored for never tried projects or things I wish I could do that I own the supplies but never put the time to doing.  

I have set my priotrities but I'm frugal and have not let go of the supplies for projects I have not put any effort toward doing for years. I still own fabric intended for pajama pants for my son. I think he was six when I bought that fabric and made three pairs. That was ten years ago. I hated the he process  so why am I keeping in the fabric? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Everyone's In On Business Promotion

I am seeing it everywhere and it is driving me bananas.

I taught myself to make soap from books. Back then there was no such thing as online video tutorials. There were no chat groups that I could find. I wanted to know a thing so I got a book from the library and taught myself. Multiple books actually. I also bought some books. It was a solo pursuit done under my own motivation and with my own drive. I made soap on and off for seven years, for my personal use and giving as gifts. Local friends began pushing me to sell it. Then I found online chat groups and found lots of videos on YouTube from smart informed people and from ignorant stupid people. I was then bombarded with a lot of propaganda telling me I would make money at selling soap. I fell for it line and sinker. I opened a solo prop business. This meant I had to learn about small business law, sales tax, and lots of stuff legal and beaurocratic in nature. I realized selling soap needed more time promoting and marketing my soap and selling it at shows than the making or inventing of new designs or formulas. For me the fun was in the making and I wanted to be a maker. I don't enjoy selling and marketing.

Shift gears, I always thought I wanted to draw and paint. I figured this was a creative hobby. I discovered lots of videos on YouTube, everything from how to draw and how to paint to a day in the life of an artist and art history documentaries by professionals and by amateur YouTubers. Happy times, watching lot of stuff. I then noticed that some of those sharing free information were nudging us viewers to buy their stuff.  They were not just artists making art they were using YouTube to sell their product, their art supply, their classes, their online school or their in person workshops. I then began to realize that these professional artists were not making their income from their art but from related businesses getting amateur artists to think they can become a hobbyist artist or a professional artist. Here we go again. Then in my feed began appearing suggestions to watch videos about how to make money selling our art. A large number of ot hese how to videos which I then started watching was the same exact information that is general and applicable to all businesses. How to use YouTube to promote your business, how to use Instagram, Facebook, make your own website, etc.

It is everywhere. The people promoting that you can make a living wage doing a creative thing you enjoy. For most people, they will need a day job and creative pursuits will have to be a hobby done on nights or weekends.

Even if you can make a living wage off of painting or drawing, they say the same thing as the other areas, that 50% at least, will be the business side of your time. One video I saw said 80% business to 20% painting. He also said anyone who just paints and does not sell is a collector of one's own work.

One more thought: to get really good at art making it takes a lot of time doing the thing. It is hard to live a life plus put 30-ish hours into art making every week, in my opinion. This is because real life takes time and energy and making art is energy sapping. You cannot make art if your creative muse is not with you and most of us are not in that right state of mind every single day of the week. If you make art or any thing like knitting or soap making, when you are sick or feeling off, you can make mistakes. My errors have ruined batches of soap from mis-weighing ingredients due to a headache or fuzzy thinking on brain fog days (eating certain foods give me brain fog). I have had to rip back two knitted hats in the last couple of weeks which resulted in me not restarting that darned hat, I'm discouraged now.

Anyhow if you think you are going to simultaneously learn, make, and sell, it's a bad idea. A certain amount of production has to be done to learn the process. I am thinking of some new resin painting artists using a new to them material from the hardware store who do not yet know how the resin will hold up over time, if it will yellow. In soap making we need to test recipes and see how they do when used. I never sell a soap before personally testing it even when I think the batch came out perfectly.

At this point I wanted to hone my painting skills for my own self  and I don't plan to try to sell my art, because I want to make art not to work 50-80% of my time on the business side of things. Although paintings don't spoil overtime like bath and skin care products do so there is less risk if the artwork doesn't  sell immediately.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Muse & Real Life

The time between semesters was to be for getting some household projects done as well as, of course, preparing for and celebrating Christmas and New Year's Eve. I had a backlog of tasks due to busyness during the fall semester. I really am surprised at how many hours it takes to do two college studio art classes when you are really giving the learning your all. I wanted to do the projects but also that thought was in my mind that I wanted to do creative things, paint just for me, etc. I also surprised myself by spending quite a lot of time working with my soap business, reassessing things, taking inventory, cycling out old soap, and thinking about where I wanted the business to go.

A major project has been to deal with my fourth bedroom which is supposed to be an art and craft studio and storage area for my finished soap that is listed for sale and which also holds bins of supplies such as the display pieces for when I do my home shows and holiday fair markets. The room has the bones and it has my supplies but it also was a place to stash boxes of crap. I unearthed this stuff and discovered a few boxes of old favorite childhood books of one son's, a couple of boxes of Cub and Boy Scout stuff for both kids, a box of a Yu-Gi-Oh! Card collection, 22 boxes of homeschool records, a box of my own childhood art, and a handful of boxes of antique photos and saved important and possibly important papers from my great grandmother and grandmother. The goal was to get the room to a point where I could walk in and use the surface spaces and my easel when my muse was with me. I also need to be able to not feel suffocated when walking in there, by seeing 30+ moving boxes stacked lining one wall and protruding into half of the floor space.

So I have stifled my muse since mid-December in order to do regularly daily living tasks (cooking, laundry, pet care) as well as having quality time with my son who is home from college, with my two weeks with my son who was on break from high school and spending time with my husband, of course. I have shoved in the grind of the projects but they are not finished yet. I have kept diligent and increased my gym workouts. However one back weightlifting session gave me a muscle spasm in the middle of the class and I hobbled out unable to walk or descent stairs, and needed to get a ride home from my husband as I could not drive. This put me on rest and icing regimens for almost a week and was such bad pain that normal sleep was not had for 14 nights. My project cramming was slowed considerably during the injury (which is at 95% recovery as I write this). I also had peppered in visits to the chiropractor and the sports massage therapist.

All this to say that I am back to the same old struggle that probably every other creative person and artists has. That sometimes when your muse is with you, you are tied up doing important tasks. Other times when the muse is with you, you are able to put aside the lower priority tasks to make time for art making. But sometimes real life is so tedious or frustrating or stressful that it ruins the creative drive and even if you have free time your mojo is not with you. Although I have not gotten sick, when you are hit by a head cold or the flu or a stomach bug that physically is such a drain that the mental energy is not there to create.

I am in a weird place as I start this week. It's my last week off before the next semester and a new routine starts. My back feels pretty good but I'm afraid to add back in weightlifting and cardio workouts lest I injure myself again and maybe worse. I want to go make art upstairs but the box clutter shoved to the walls is stifling me. Also the hallway is lined with boxes half sorted that need to go to the attic or to be moved out to donate away the good stuff. I was unable to lift those boxes so the project was kind of halfway done only. And the Christmas tree still needs to be taken down (I do this alone).

The discipline of attending college classes is really good for me. It took wasted time away so I was online web surfing less and spending less time on chat list  and on social media (which also kills my mojo most days). The classes help me do things not just sit and  think about how I want to do them, or sit and chat at a keyboard saying I want to do things.

I am so tempted to add in a second class to take Painting II but it would again cause me to not have time to take care of my body, I need yoga to stretch my tight muscles but class time conflicts with yoga. If my muscles get too tight it pulls my sprine and hips out of alignment and causes limited mobility and real pain. Then I have to start cycling chiro and massage to try to fix it. I need to work out to keep my core strong to hold my spine and hips up or else I get pain and strain from my weak muscles. If I work out too hard without stretching I injury myself. So it is a crazy cycle I am in, it is hard to find a balance between the right type and amount of exercise then time to stretch out too (with yoga).

I have also finished five weeks of using a bullet journal for the first time and that is helping me stay focused on my goals and to not forget to do certain tasks and errands. It is funny how being accountable to a little bullet journal helps me discipline to stay on track. Technically it's not the journal, it's the mental exercise of refreshing you mind with what is important and what is needed to do, when you see it in your face all day it is. Hard to make a conscious choice to ditch the important stuff to do time suck activities like spending an hour Facebook

Friday, December 16, 2016

Painting I College Class Redux

My Painting I college class ended this week. I am sharing my paraphrased highlights, not listing every single thing off the syllabus, so I may forget to mention something.

In my opinion the most was gotten from this class after having already learned some basic art principals. The college let in some students who had not yet taken Drawing I (or II) and either never took design or other foundation classes or had forgotten content from them. Those students struggled with basic things such as making a pleasing composition, seeing and painting value, and perspective.

We painted in acrylic using retarder to slow the drying time, also using a gel medium in order to achieve different tints and opacities, and also to do glazing with. The college did not have the required by the government air ventilation systems to allow us to work with oil paint.

Lessons and Activities and Assignments

Safety in the studio, health issues and best practices to follow

How to work with acrylic paint

How to blend color, painted a color wheel

Different brush types lesson, which brush for what? Used brushes to make many different marks (brushes can do many things)

How to mix color from the tube to create custom color. Made a giant color chart blending two colors. Later these were critiqued.

What is tint, how does opacity affect the color? Made a chart showing the effect of adding white or black in various amounts to one color, also using gel medium with the one color to show differing levels of opacity. Later these were critiqued.

Review of value, shadows, cast shadow etc. Review of basic shapes, cylinder, sphere, cone, square. Painted these.

Lesson demo on 8 different types of painting, ex. Dry Brush, wet on wet, impasto. Painted a sphere in  each including shadows and value due to light source, based on a still life setup in class. Later these were critiqued.

Went outside in sun and painted 6-8 rectangle boxes from different angles with different light source hitting and different shadow castings. Later painted in the surface and different values for each surface of the box as well as the shadows. Later was critiqued.

Review of perspective, drawing perspective.

Painted a chair still life, 18x24 using a monochromatic color scheme. With critique.

Critique, how to do one.

How to build your own canvas starting with wood from the hardware store, use of chop saw, power drill, then stretched our own canvas using staple gun. Gessoed and sanded the 30x40" canvas to prep it.

En plain air landscape demo and painting for 4 classes, total 12 hours. Clouds, Tree, Water, Grass. Did studies, close up, 10 feet, 25 feet, 100 feet.

In class and homework: painted landscape 30x40'. Could use any style but must use grass, water, tree, clouds. Had critique.

Attended two info sessions from admissions staff at undergrad art colleges who accept transfer students. (This class was at a community college.)

Attended an hour long lecture plus two art show openings with artist talks. Opening reception, meet the artist and networking.

Required to enter the student juried art show. Learned to follow procedures in rules for art show submissions. Encouraged to attend the opening (held in the evening apart from class time).

Required to do an artist studio visit and interview an artist and write a paper.

Required to do a museum visit with an observation activity and write a paper.

Learned how to Photograph our art, do digital documentation, use Photoshop to edit the photo, convert to PDF.

I am glad I took this class. The homework load varied but at peak points I was doing 20 hours of homework a week in addition to 3 hour long  classes twice a week. I took this along without other studio art class that took 10-14 in classroom/lab hours. It was a heavy load for me to carry since I did all the work and on time. I have a busy life as a mother, wife, volunteer, household manager, and small business owner. I neglected my business basically! I was also exercising at least once daily at the gym and attempting to keep cooking from scratch.

This semester also included for me, a problem with the pool that needed a total pool and patio renovation, a new drainage yard problem that needed an entire redo, a broken kitchen faucet that needed replacing, and a broken dishwasher that needed replacing (twice due to a defect in the first one). So I was a project manager or contractor of household renovations too.


A side note is I took two workshops on weekends, encaustic painting and resin painting. These were 3 hour workshops for $100, all materials included. The difference between the two is night and day. The $250 plus materials college class focused on foundations since it was Painting I. The projects were challenging and you got out of it what you put in. The college class was also encouraging attending art school attendance or getting a MFA. The workshops were light and fun, others that artist does include optional wine drinking. The workshops lacked the basics, so you could throw paint and media down without thought to composition, color theory, etc.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Art Book Collection

My local public library has a used book store run by the Friends. I have been pleased to find that there is a steady stream of like new, high quality art history books making its way to the shelves. Although the fiction is 50 cents or $1 they really mark up the art books. A book on how to do watercolor is usually $3, $3 is the highest category of standard pricing. Some of the better books are individually priced. I paid $8 for a like new ceramics book which is my college class' textbook that lists for $65. Still a bargain but those prices know the artists and art history lovers are willing to pay more than $1 for a great coffee table sized book or a tome on Degas.

AnyhowI have been stocking up as you can imagine. Being a book hoarder since I stopped homeschooling, I am no longer hunting for books for my kids to learn with. Instead I am looking for what I want to read and now that is mostly painting how to and art history books for inspiration. I already had formerly owned two bookcases full of art books but now that I have been stopping into the used shop at least once a week my collection is growing.

How can I resist the like new books published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney and MOMA? I cannot. Sorry, not sorry. I am trying to limit myself though. One need only own so many books on Monet or Van Gogh. Enough is enough.

However the two bookcases in my art studio / craft room are full. I am pondering options. Those include books on top of the bookcases (one is not really accessible) or moving some into the game room's built in shelves. I did another sweep to get rid of homeschooling books a couple of months ago so there are actually gaps on the shelf. My nineteen year old is asking to have access to some childhood favorites that are stashed in boxes in one of two closets here. I am torn, so torn, on which books to put where and am thinking about getting rid of more homeschooling books. Or rotating out the unused homeschooling books on the shelf for favorite childhood books on the shelf.

This is a project I will be working on with the break between semeseters.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ceramics I College Class Redux

I signed up for the community college class having not talked to anyone about their own experience.

The thing I learned at class one was there are ceramics labs twice a week. The thing I learned in weeks one and two was that I could not keep up with the cycle of assignments meshing with the wet clay going to leather hard, to the bisque kiln and glaze kiln firings if I only attended class. So basically to keep up I had to attend labs which meant two more trips to the college bringing my in classroom time to 10 hours a week spread over 4 visits.

Then I learned that there was a (nationwide) charity thing called Empty Bowls and there was a clay club which are somewhat intertwined. Empty Bowls met on Fridays for four hours, it was a come if you can thing. So essentially I had the chance to be in the lab for a total of 14 hours a week spread over 5 visits. For. Empty Bowls we use donated clay to throw bowls on the wheel, or hand formed, so we get extra practice. We then decorate them with under glazes and glazes. These are donated to a soup cellar for a fundraiser where ticket buyers purchase a handmade bowl for $25. They fill it with soup and eat it together at the fundraiser then take the bowl home with them. After our work with Empty Bowls is done we were allowed to use the lab for our own pursuits.

I learned that the Clay Club accepts donations of pieces to sell on campus and the proceeds purchase under glazes and glazes as well as some equipment, since the college's budget does not allow for all that we want to have to use. I volunteered to help sell items as well as purchasing some myself.

A major thing I learned was the rotation and cycle for making items and how it works in our climate here and with the college's schedule. The clay only stays wet a certain amount of time, for you to manipulate it. We do things with spritzing with water and wrapping in plastic so we can work on our piece a second time if our class time runs out. This does not always work and sometimes our pieces are ruined. After we are done with the the wet clay we set it on our own shelf to dry to leather hard. Here that takes a few days, so working time in class I s not always when the piece is ready. Then we move it to the green ware shelf indicating it is ready to be bisque fired in the bisque kiln. After that happens (which may take a week or more) we fetch it off the bisque cart and then work on it more to paint or glaze it and set it to the glaze firing shelf where it may take one or two weeks. When it is out of the kiln we fetch it and it is ready to be graded and critiqued. So we have to time it just right in order to get it all done by critique day. Also if we want a best chance at success we should make three projects, not one, according to the head of the ceramics.

My class has finished. My accomplishments are:

I never dropped a piece.

None of my pieces broke in the kiln. I got one small crack only.

Only two pieces had mishaps with firing of the glazes but I had enough come out correctly to get an A grade.

I relearned how to make a pinch pot.

I learned how to make a pinch pot rattle and a pinch pot hollow bird statue.

I learned how to make exposed coil forms and coil projects where the coil was not exposed.

I learned how to make a slab box, platters and bowls.

I learned how to throw pieces on the wheel, regular and also off the hump, making and trimming. I learned how to throw a foot onto a slab made piece.

I made thrown cylinders, bowls, sake cups, tea cups and coffee mugs.

I taught myself sgraffito.

I learned how to use under glazes, glazes, and wash water glazing. I learned how to pour on glaze,dip in, double and triple dip, to paint on with a brush, and splattering.

I learned what raku firing is and made a selection of raku pieces.

I learned how to unload the bisque kiln and to unload the Cone 10 kiln.

I learned how to use the sprayer for glazing, the sander and the grinder.

To learn I was taught by my professor, was taught by the head of ceramics in open lab and during Empty Bowls. I learned by YouTube videos in class and at home, by reading websites and Ceramics Daily online (free), and by reading the textbook. I learned by talking to Ceramincs I & II students in my classes and in lab and at Empty Bowls. Some of these students have been making ceramics for decades, they keep coming back to access low cost ceramics making time. Being an extrovert and being chatty helps me learn a lot. Being open to learning from anyone also helps me grow.

I think Igot a lot out of this class. The financial investment was $250 in tuition, $60 in clays, $150 in other (mostly optional) equipment, and $30 in a fundraiser high quality ceramics apron.

I signed up for Ceramics II for the next semester. I can't wait.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Painting Thought Process vs. Technical Skills

Confession: I thought I wanted to paint for decades but was afraid to dive in. As I write this I have completed my last painting in my for credit college class Painting I and we have a week left in class,we are now focusing on digital documentation of our work to prepare a digital portfolio so I feel a sigh of relief to not have to be creating artworks for 10-20 or more hours a week on projects being graded and evaluated.

In hearing some other students talk about their painting and in reading something by John F. Carlson (landscape artist) I was reminded yet again that not everyone thinks that way I do, although Carlson and I are very much in alignment. Before I say anything else about Carlson's ideas I want to go back to the thought process.

In showing my landscape painting, a 30x40" (assigned size), the professor said a few things that I thought was stating the obvious but then I realized not everyone is in alignment with the thought process behind painting. My painting was based on a photo I took and spent a few minutes on site analyzing for its beauty and doing several shots with different composition just for the enjoyment of it and because I was captivated by the view. I then played with a filter in Instagram back when I took it. This was a site that is 1800 miles away so I did not have access to go there now and take more shots or views for my painting.

Anyhow the point is I had definite reasons to want to photograph that scene, I loved the light, it was the golden hour, the clouds were subtle. The multiple types of wind blown dead grasses and the open seed pods on the wild flowers indicated winter. The wind was blowing hard and it was nine degrees but the bare sycamore stood strong. They gray of Long Island Sound and the light chop on the surface showed the wind blowing. The snow on the beach showed the season. The lack of people showed solitude and peace.  There was a color harmony in the cool grays and blues against the warm yellows and browns of the grasses.

I had explained that for my bare branched tree in the painting I edited out some of the small branches and all the twigs because I did not desire to do a photo realistic scene plus the idea of trying to paint that in my first landscape paintig that would be a nightmare of a huge undertaking. There had been comments on  my thick use of paint which is just how I paint, I said I cannot paint thin. I received praise as the painting looked windy and cold. I use my brush strokes to indicate movement in the sky and in the clouds, to indicate motion and shape. So my clouds swirl or pop forward with dimension, my tree bark is painted in chunks, the grasses are wispy and blowing in the wind. I expressed the challenge I had with trying to show the ripples in the water without being photorealistic or ruining the look so in the end my technique seemed to fail so I kept it simple by not painting in ripples. I also had to redo the entire sky as I used bad order of operations because I had drawn and blocked in the tree before developing the sky fully, to do the sky I had to paint over a good looking tree and restart the whole tree. The professor said my thought process and the constant evaluation and reassessing of the painting's state and then redoing some was exactly the right way to approach painting.

This apparently is not understood by all, which shocked me.

But this is how I live my own life, how I raised my kids regarding my parenting of them, and it was also about how we proceeded through homeschooling. Make a plan, try to execute, assess the situation, tweak it, edit it, start back at the strong part and revisit and redo the weak areas. This is how my mind works and how I live life. So how could I paint any other way?

Perhaps this is part of why I am being called a natural at painting?

I certainly am no expert artist but I do think that taking thoughtful photos for over 30 years and already looking at the world for decades with the eye and mind arranging what I see into good compositions has honed my eye. I also (unlike most Americans) have been carrying a camera with me daily for the last 19 years. Back when the digital camera with zoom lens was delicate I bought a $35 point and shoot and took photos every day (back before mobile phones had decent cameras which essentially put a camera in everyone's pocket and increased casual snapshot taking). I later carried my DSLR in a large purse and used that often. I also took "from the hip" photos with the point and shoot and later read that phrase in marketing materials by Lomography, a plastic film taking camera company who tried getting people to take casual photos whereever they were (again before the time of high quality mobile phone cameras). But after I got an iPhone I begrudgingly put my DSLR away and switched to taking many photos every single day with the iPhone. I snap nearly every single thing that inspires me. I try to catch the light just right. I have taken over 10K photos in 2016 just with my iPhone. Plus I have taken more with my DSLR cameras.


I think it makes sense to paint when you have a reason and an inspiration. And guess what? I have plenty of inspiration in the many photos I have taken over these years. I see things around me every day that make me want to paint. I am surrounded by inspiration, so now the question is when will I give myself time to paint and where to start?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Not All Palettte Knives Are Equal

Palette knives are great for mixing paint. I made one painting using only palette knives. As a newbie what surprised me is that they are not all the same. I use metal palette knives. Some are springy and too soft and too bendable and others are so stiff that they might as well be a thick butter knife, which to me is not good. Then there is the size and width which varies.

These are the type of little things that you must learn by experience. What you need for your own usage and style of painting will vary from what others prefer so hearing the opinions of others sometimes do not help.

If you jump into learning to paint you will learn lots of things by hands on experience that can never be prepared for and decided upon by thinking before doing. I understand the desire to save money and buy only the exact right supplies before you begin but that desire is just not possible for some art supplies. As you use things that do not work or are inferior quality it gets to a point when you just decide that a poorly working tool is too big a hindrance or a hassle, and the investment in a new better thing is truly worth it. Even when we are talking about a $3 palette knife, because art supplies start to add up!

I use a few at a time for paint mixing to allow each to remain dirty with paint, one for each major color scheme being used (blues, greens, grays or whatever I am focusing on at the time). I also use one designated for scooping out my acrylic gel medium.

P.S. I find packs of wooden handled metal bladed palette knives at discount at Tuesday Morning sometimes. If you have a chance to touch them in person in a fine art store I recommend that, after you know what it is you like and dislike.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Aerial Perspective / Atmospheric Perspective

One of the things I learned in my college Drawing II class and again in more depth in my Painting I college class is about aerial or atmospheric perspective. To be honest I never knew about it before although it's the way the human eye sees the world and I love it in photography and in drawings and paintings. I just didn't know its name or that it's a necessary art technique to use if you want your landscape to look realistic and right to the eye and mind.

There are two main components to aerial / atmospheric perspective: that the distant most part of a landscape has more blurry edges and is not as crisp as things in the foreground or middle ground and that in color works the color of the farthest away things is more gray or blue, cooler tones and not at all the same bright colors as the things in the foreground or middle ground. So a pine tree up close has bright green needles but the same variety of pine tree far away would be a different shade of green, more dull and grayish or bluish.

I was told that to not use atmospheric perspective is an amateur or newbie mistake and it reads so wrong to the eye and mind that it screams "bad art". I had never thought of it before but now when I see it I think to myself, "No! That is so wrong looking!"

I am so new to painting, having only done one landscape in trying to teach myself to do watercolor about five years ago. I am a newbie and am looking forward  to learning how to choose correct colors and to make the farthest away things not crisp and sharp so it looks as we see a real life landscape with our own eyes.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Process vs. Product, Why Make Art (and Thoughts on Crafts)

For my whole life I have been a process based maker. I knew it inside and that is why when I homeschooled my kids I was quite different than how other parents and teachers approached art making with children. I thought my way was normal and right but apparently I am / was the minority.  As I attempted to do group activities with other homeschoolers or neighbors I saw product not process. I also hated coloring books and never bought them for my little kids. Instead we used plain paper to draw and paint on. 

Then my oldest was a toddler I attended a lecture at a parenting conference by an artist, Susan Striker, who encouraged parents to expose their children to art making (not crafts) and she emphasized process not product. I completely agreed but wanted more info so I bought her two books and read them. They are ideas and her philosophy written for parents and teachers. She also had a line of anti-coloring books on the market which encouraged kids to use their imagination by asking open ended questions and having them draw out their answers. I did buy those but my kids wanted no part of them.

The reason to emphasize process not product with little kids is that the goal is to grow their creativity and to have fun with the process because they are too young to learn all the formal art rules that create works that look a certain way and attempts to copy to try those methods will yield ugly results that the child will hate sometimes, then they will turn on themselves, feel poor self-esteem and be discouraged from further experimentation and play with art making. Also the young child's poor gross and fine motor skills interfere with their brain and hands doing what it needs to do for some art making plans recesses. However knitting does help a child's brain prepare for learning to read, as does large body cross movements across the lateral plane, whether that is painting across large canvases, drawing on a big blackboard or using the monkey bars at a playground. 

When you want to have a certain product you need to know the steps to get there (but preschoolers and little kids are usually not developmentally ready for that). If you want a sweater that fits you must know how to get the right gauge by correct yarn selection and consistent knitting tension to match your knitting pattern or you will wind up with something that's too small, too big, too long, or wonky being all of the former mixed into one garment. If you want to paint a landscape of a sunset and have it look like the actual fantastic sunset you must use good paint and know how to mix it just right then how to apply the paints with different strokes and the brush you choose matters.

Ideas and Message Communication

In the adult world of art making there are three fields. 

One is to create a visual representation to convey a message someone else thought up, think of a children's picture book where an author wrote the words and the publisher needs the illustrations, in America we call that person an illustrator. Think of the Magic trading card game where game creators think up new characters and they need an illustration on the card, so an oil painter is hired to paint a dragon in a fantasy setting. 

The second field is graphic design where a company is selling something or marketing a product or service and they need everything from the company's name written in a font, color, and size that appeals or conveys a message, or they need a logo or an advertisement created. Packaging is also the realm of the graphic designer sometimes. The graphic designer doesn't invent the original product or company, they are hired to create marketing and promotional materials. 

The third field is what we call the fine arts. In my layperson's eye this means the artist is the one who conceived the idea and who carried out the process to make it. They are in full control and are working for themselves. The question becomes why are they making art? Presently it is considered in the art world to be most pure if an artist is making art to share a message or idea. A writer may write an essay and publish it on a blog or do freelance to rant on their hatred of rape but the artist uses primarily visual tools (not words on paper or on the computer screen) to convey emotion, thoughts and messages they want the viewer to learn, be exposed to, or influenced by. Sometimes the driving desire is to promote or lash out at an issue or a main goal of influencing others while at other times the artist is using art making to work out their own thoughts or emotions and the fact that someone else will see it is secondary or maybe not even cared about. 

There are artists whose goal is commercial sales and money making. Their original idea may have been to make something for fun or some other purpose and then it may change into something that is reproduced on a grand scale. I guess also comic strip artists fall into this category, I'm not sure. A comic may start as a way to share a message, silly, funny or serious but if hired for regular production  it starts to be about meeting a deadline and forcing creative content to be thoughtful for a deadline. 


Crafts of the type that uses a kit or specific detailed set of directions are about product making and the strictest types have little room for customization or freedom of choice. I was going to say these are very constricting and terrible as that is my personal opinion and experience with them but then I thought of my second child. After having a firstborn that was gleeful in making art and anything that was maker-generated with freedom of choice my second was the opposite. By the time he was in elementary school he firmly preferred a perfect final product which he seldom could make at age 5-7 and he wanted to be told directions. To him following directions strictly was rewarding. He wanted acceptance by the authority figure and he wanted to feel competent by feeling he could do a thing that was expected of him. It boosted his self-esteem to know he did a thing well and correctly. This is the opposite of my older son and I who never thought of the other people when creating. We had fun playing and experimenting with the materials. We wanted options and choices. We worked with spontaneity and the constant choice to change one's mind gave us freedom. We rebelled against sets of directions or the person who was dictating to us to do this then that then this then that just so. We wanted to improvise. 

To me when wanting a final product to be a certain way that is designed and conceived by another person, it is usually a craft. You can do the steps without feeling any emotion about it, there is no message or idea being communicated. There is usually no personalization. But if you change things with your own techniques or ideas or content then it transforms it into art and it stops being a craft. 


To put it simply to me art is when an individual creates something out of an idea or with a desire to share an emotion or message. The extent to which the viewer may understand or perceive the intended message cannot be always guaranteed as people have their own minds and opinions, ideas and perceptions. Even if an artist intends that their work should be interpreted or understood in a certain manner the viewer may reach a different impression or may miss the message entirely. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Believable vs. Unbelievable Landscapes in Art

Something to consider when making landscapes and other realistic art: it has to be believable.

Today I saw a photo of a sunrise along the shore, over Long Island Sound in my hometown. I have never seen anything like that in real life. This amateur photographer has a history of using Photoshop and filters. I immediately wondered if it was altered. The colors of the autumn grasses and other clues led me to believe indeed it was probably unaltered. It was just a crazy spectacular sky with outrageous rare colors. My next thought was if this was painted to record the wow factor the viewer may reject it as being unnatural and therefore unappealing.

This is like reading fiction when the story is too bizarre so we reject it and hate it. Or a movie. Yet sometimes in real life there are crazy stories that hit the news or celebrities or politicians so things in real life that are so over the top we are stunned and say, "Real life is stranger than fiction". But real life can get away with it and human-created art cannot get away with it.

In a landscape when considering the real scene sometimes also we have to edit out or move a thing here or there so that the work is more appealing. If being extremely true to life is the goal then the scene should just be photographed not painted or drawn.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Basic Acrylic Painting Steps

This is what I have learned about the basic steps of acrylic painting.

1. Select your stretched canvas. If prepared in the factory it is ready for use. If homemade, you must gesso the canvas cloth first.

2. Blend white paint with a neutral color to make a lightly tinted color. Paint this over the entire canvas as a base layer wash. You can add water to this to make the wash. The goal is to cover all that white up.

3. Plan your painting with thumbnail sketches for composition.

4. Make some studies on smaller canvases where you work out details like how to paint that bark on the tree or whatever it is you are painting. You want to work through some challenges on small canvasses where the stakes are lower when you fail. You are NOT doing test runs on on the big canvas.

5. Take a pencil or a light gray paint with a fine tipped brush, and sketch crudely on the canvas, the major things.

6. Block in the colors. This is like filling in a coloring book. If you sky will be blue paint it a light or medium blue. If your tree will be green, use green in that area. Paint the background into the objects as the back layer. There should be no white on the canvas now.

7. Paint in the objects starting at the back, the farthest away objects. Start with darkest values. Paint the lighter values on top. Even if you use retarder in your acrylic paint you need to learn your drying time. Do not mess with the paint layer once a skin starts to form or you will get balls and clumps of paint and medium kind of like lint blobs on clothing (but the acrylic  cannot be removed). Work an area until it starts to dry then move on to something else.

8. Work the entire painting. Move around the canvas doing some of everything. It is like a cycle. In a landscape you could do sky, trees, ground. Then the next pass after that layer dries is sky, trees, grass. The painting goes from base blocks of color to very detailed in the end, if detailed is your painting style and intention. You don't make final finished grasses when your sky is one flat blue swath. You move around in stages all over the canvas.

One reason for this is if you mess up a placement and need to correct something you won't want to widen the tree trunk if your grass on the ground next to it was 100% complete and perfect. You will have lost time as you have to redo even more, and you will be upset at losing work you felt was finished.

9. If using a glazing technique like I do, you use the opacity of the blended paint to cover up or bring out colors you want to hide or see more of. This is a constant process throughout the painting process. I also add in solid layers of acrylic gel medium in between some layers to add to the glowing effect and I put a clear coat as the final coat too.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Summer 2016

My summer ends this weekend.

What a summer. I started with a six week intensive Drawing II class. It is tiring to be in a classroom for four hours and to create on deadlines and to struggle though art processes. Then there is the homework.

I got a bunch of decluttering done in my garage and have stacks of boxs ready to donate to the fundraiser garage sale to be held in September. We moved some sentimental toys up to the attic, we just could not part with them. Mostly me but some my older son wants.

I got my older son ready to move away to college for the first time, then he did move. I shuttled my younger son around to summer school and we traveled out of state for two national sports competitions for him.

I took no "fun vacation" with family or by myself.

The last big thing this summer was while exhausted cleaning the garage out and doing daily tasks I made the decision that I was ready to take on fitness as a daily project. I have not been truly in shape for 22 years and have not been able to exercise more than two or three times a week in 22 years. I lacked the motivation and drive to do it as a project. For me it has to be an intentional goal, a project, and a major effort. I decided with my upcoming fall art classes at college I will not get what I need from my gym so I quit that gym and invested in a bigger fancier club that offers more classes (up to four held at one time) and has tons of yoga also. Friends had tried talking me into joining a hot yoga only studio for almost $200 a month and another to a regular yoga only place and another to a Booty Barre only place. I decided I need variety. So today marks day 30 in a row of me exercising daily and I have lost at least 10 inches. I didn't take measurements until day 5 so in 24 days lost 10 inches. I am getting stronger and feel fantastic, plus sleep better. But due to a terrible new bus schedule for my son and the coach wanting the athletes to do morning cardio my son and I decided on this new schedule: we wake at 4:45 and are out the door before 5:15 to get to the gym by 5:30 for a one hour workout. I then drop him at the close by high school. About three days a week I return to the gym a second time for yoga to stretch. Since leaving my career I have preferred to sleep until my body naturally wakes up, which is between 7:30-9:am, with the only exception when I had a not really negotiable morning appointment like a college class I really wanted to take this summer.

Oh and I reorganized and decluttered the master walk in bedroom closet which is also household storage.

I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos about contemporary artists, their process, how they got into art making and how they live their life, by John Thornton of Pennsylvania, very interesting stuff. I have been reading books and doing product reviews for the Amazon Vine program. I also have been teaching myself about encaustic painting.

So that is what I have been up to this summer. I have done no drawing or art making. I just have focused on projects and tasks and house stuff.

Monday I start two college classes: Ceramics I and Painting I.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Who We Are Is What We Do

Many Americans want to do so much that we feel we need more hours in our day. Since that is impossible, instead we need to figure out how we spend our time and if it's doing what we really want. A certain portion of our time is spent taking care of our house and our possessions, or reorganizing them or for shopping for more stuff. Thus owning too much can become a burden and prevent us from doing what it is we think we really want to do.

The key to feeling content in life is knowing what you want and to do that thing and feel satisfied. It is not a good feeling to try to do too much then fail at doing it all or fail to meet deadlines, because we then feel negative about ourselves.

We need to make time in our lives but stopping the doing of things that are unnecessary or extra or stupid or that are time wasters. There is nothing wrong with taking an intentional break from reality o watch a TV show or a movie but if you spend more time looking for stuff you already own so you can use it, or dusting saved things on shelves, you have lost time from doing what you want to do now.

We need to let go of old hobbies and stuff related to them because that stuff is in our face or in our way and preventing us from doing what we want to do now. Even if it is just visual clutter it is a reminder that "I failed at watercolor painting" and "Scrapbooking is a drag". Who wants to be reminded of the negative?

Today my game room has nice built in bookcases filled with homeschool high school educational materials. I already ditched the SAT prep books for the old style SAT that stopped being used as of this spring. But why am I keeping all that stuff when my last high schooler is in public school? I am getting excited at the idea of getting rid of more of it. While I am busy working on the garage I am psyching myself up mentally to be alright with letting go of the books we used and loved and those we used and hated or the ones we never got around to using at all.

Look around your home. Does it support the lifestyle you are living right now and those of your present goals? If not, start culling and letting go of the possessions that do not represent your life and your lifestyle. Make room mentally and physically to do what you really want to do right now.

Saving Stuff For Projects

This is a conundrum for creatives. We have real life to live that takes our time and interferes with just making what we want. Then other times we have time to create but may lack inspiration, have no motivation, or are dealing with illness or emotional stress that wrecks our muse. These times of real life living sometimes derail us from doing art and craft projects we did want to do at one time. Times change and then maybe we decide we want to do something different.

The thing is we should let go of what we own that we are not using. It is hard to let go of perfectly good stuff that we invested money into. I get it.

Before I moved long distance I donated a lot of craft supplies to an artist who was going to be teaching craft classes at children's summer camp. It helped me to know my investments were not wasted and instead would be enjoyed.

Here in Houston I have found Texas Art Asylum. They accept donations of art supplies and craft stuff and other things like old board games and old dolls and almost anything, books, magazines, vintage ephemera, costumes, seashells, rocks, vases, cameras, some construction materials, anything. Some items are put into a separate room for free for teachers to use in classrooms. The rest is sold to the public in their retail store. I have been giving some of my stuff to them.


When looking at what I own I ask myself:

How am I living now?

If I have free time what will I do with it?

Do I want to ever do that pursuit again?

Do I own too much material for that hobby? Example I think I own a hundred canning jars at this point and even if I make a ton of jam I will never need 100 all at one time. This week I am culling my  cookie cutters as I don't forsee using these shapes going forward. When making cookies with my young sons the car shapes were fun but I don't think I'll ever use those again.

Can I access the materials? Are they organized well and reachable and ready should I need them or are they buried so that if I want to do that thing this afternoon I will have to go buy new supplies to do it with?


While decluttering I keep asking myself what kind of home do I want to live in and do I want to park in my garage and do I want to really go to the steaming hot attic to fetch a thing or is it really smart to cram 500 books in a closet and have none accessible?

I also try not not be negative with myself. I am taking some cues from Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizer who says we should thank our belongings for their usefulness in our life or the joy they brought us at the time or the emotion of buying them having felt good in that moment, to feel that gratitude then say goodbye and let them free into the world to get into the hands of someone who will actually use them now and have joy added to their life with our old stuff.