Saturday, January 29, 2011

Oh, My, the Details

 student watercolor by Martha Smith

These are busy times for me. But it's good to be busy.  When I'm not, I do less.  I rationalize that I'm on vacation or hiatus.  But really, I get lazy and I take it easy when there are no deadlines or commitments. 

It's funny, because I didn't paint much at all for six weeks.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't idle. And it was always on my mind.  But it didn't use to be that way.  It almost haunts me now.  What's that about?

Now that there is less time, I seem to want to paint more.  Do I desire to do it because I have less time to devote to it?  I think my urge to create comes and goes.  But that doesn't mean my creativity comes and goes.  It needs the spark and sometimes all it takes is cleaning up the studio!  That simple act of being in the place where it all happens, reminds me of a painting I want to do.  Which leads me to just do a quick value sketch.  Which leads to a small color study.  And so it goes.  It's in me now.

student watercolor sketch by Lucy Kilbane

That's one reason I issued the sketch challenge.  I believe that your art and your creative energy gets into your soul.  Like any practiced skill, a sketch enables you to really look at something.  How often in the day do you really look at anything beyond a quick glance?  So by doing it daily, for weeks, I'm hoping to start a habit.  To make some addicts.  Yes, sketch addicts!  I want it to inhabit you and haunt you when you don't do it!

Recently I read something by Charles Reid that reminded me how much we miss and how childlike we become when we do our art.  It's because we are rediscovering the wonderment of a child in the world around us that we have seen so many times before but forget to look at closely anymore.  The colors and shapes.   The light and shadows.  The curve and line.  The details.  Oh my, the details.  To do your sketches, you must really look.  See what you've been missing?   

 If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.-- Dr. Seuss

Friday, January 21, 2011

Baby, it's COLD Outside! Stay Inside and Sketch!

Sitting here this morning the sun is brilliant as it reflects off the new snow!  My laptop weather bug reads 5 degrees!  That is cold.  I know that cloud cover is like a blanket that traps warm air to the earth.  So I guess the trade to see the sun in winter in the midwest is this arctic cold!? 
Life is like that.  There is always a trade, isn't there?  You give up one thing for something else.  So what will you give up for your art?
I ask that question because I think we all make decisions that take us places.  But do we do it with intention or trial and error?  With purpose or do we allow life to float us along on the tide? 
With the sketchbook challenge, I want to encourage you to make a decision to put art in your life daily.  It's a small step that does not require that great a sacrifice!  But you WILL see rewards.  And if you can learn to draw better, your art will improve as well.  I'm glad the importance of drawing was drilled into me in school.  It has served me well.  I believe it is foundational. 
As I said, the object is to learn to see better.  The sketch is secondary, really.  Seeing what is really there is what we miss so often.  This weeks suggestion is to do the "dot to line" drawing.  The above sketch is an example I did today in less than 5 minutes.  Basically making a small dot every time the object makes a direction change. It is really a form of countour drawing, where geometry is critical.  Draw a round apple with this method.  Lots of dots and small straight lines?  Make it fun and learn to see direction changes while you draw!
Today is worldwide Sketchcrawl day.  Visit the link: to see the concept and the fun.  I will try to get a group together to do the next sketchcrawl-are you game??
Stay indoors and warm and SKETCH this week! 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

I bought an old piano from my mom when they retired and didn't want to move it.  I took a few lessons, but did not have the time and energy to pursue the piano at that time.  When my daughter was about six, I signed her up for piano lessons.  She took piano lessons until she was in middle school.  At one point, she was pretty good.  Now, we neither have a piano nor did she really play it much when it was here!  But the point is, with a little brush up practice she can!

When she started, I didn't expect her to sit down at the piano and be a virtuoso.  We got "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and other simple songs.  As time progressed, we go more complicated tunes.  What happens is this:  desire plus practice=skill.  She liked playing the piano.  The more she practiced, the better she got and the more she liked it.  And the more others liked it too!  While she never progressed beyond playing to composing, she could have used the skills she possessed to express herself creatively in that way had she wanted to.

Without skills you don't have the tools to create.  Your skill set is the underpinning or foundation that frees you to create.  When the skills become practiced they become automatic and secondary,  and your creativity can be more fully expressed.

Some of you are going to take this six week sketching challenge.  What I hope to get across is the idea that consistent practice of this basic skill will give your artwork more breadth.  I can't say how it will effect you individually and that's the beauty.  Just as each of our artwork is different, so will be this learning experience.

I will try to post weekly with some photos of sketches-not just mine, but students as well.  Feel free to email me yours to share.   Happy sketching!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Blogs, Bloggers and Blogged Down!

Happy New Year! 
Let me start by saying, I visit lots of blogs myself.  Mostly blogs of artists I admire, but I do read a variety of them on a variety of subjects.  My main complaint is they don't post often enough!  I am always impressed by daily blogger's and daily painters.  Heck, DAILY anything impresses me!  But even the daily people miss a day here and there.  It's allowed.

Like I said, I visit quite a few of them.  If you do that, then you are sure to get some fresh content from one at least.  I don't visit everyday, except those who do it daily.  Most bloggers are probably busy actually doing what they blog about which is why they don't have time to post more often!  But what about me?  I need an update!  I need their inspiration.  I need the push they give me to do what they are doing! 

Like the organizational blog I read.  She emails it to me weekly.  I love that blog!  Sometimes I even do something in it.  I know I think about being organized more because it's in my face now.  And I find that helpful.  Something to aspire to!

Then there is the cooking blog.  I don't really like to cook anymore, but I like it that someone does.  And that I could go to this blog and get ideas if I did in fact ever really want to cook again.

Now that its the new year, I will start reading the Weight Watchers blog again!  I'm hoping to be motivated to get back into the diet I started last year~ you never know!

The blogs are endless.  And while I read them and wish others would post more often, I realized that while I try to post twice a month, it doesn't happen.  I get "blogged down" with other things.  I rationalized this holiday season with my failed attempt at posting daily to inspire creative holiday's, that there aren't that many readers.  Besides, I did have to deal with the flooded basement that derailed many of my plans for Christmas anyway.  (the clean up crew pushed the contents of the room into the crawl and blocked access to the tree, ornaments and other decorations.)

But then I learned how to check the stats page on my blog site.  That tab show how many hits you have to your site.  While not rock star status, I apparently have a few more followers than I knew.  So I'm inspired again!
And with the new year came all the new year resolutions on the blogs.  Well, I will spare you that because for me new years resolutions are suggestions that I can argue out of by February!  Instead I am going to incorporate an idea I read in another artists blog.  While I was only going to use it in my classes, I decided instead to share it with any of you that read my blathering.  (those of you who do not do visual art, but have some other creative talent-see the idea below)  It is a challenge to sketch (or in my challenge to sketch or do small painted studies) each day.  There are suggested guidelines and each week in class I will demo or suggest a way to change it up and create variety and excitement in your sketch book.  I encourage you to check back weekly for the updates and hopefully see a few daily sketches.  We will start in two weeks when my classes start back up.  I'd love to hear from you if you plan to do this.  I think making a commitment to something-like putting it in a blog!-gives you accountability and keeps you going.  I have a sign up form to keep you honest-and you get something at the end!

Now, the guidelines are:  Sketch daily,  weekends optional, for six weeks.  That's 30 sketches.  If you do not get to it one day, do two the next.  The size is up to you but I suggest a sketch pad at least 8x10-but it's up to you.  A sketch is not a drawing.  It should take a maximum of 30 minutes!  Each week I will suggest subjects or different methods to keep it fresh.   You may paint them, but they need to be done quickly.  The idea is to get us using our right brain and training our eye to see and record daily.  At the end you will receive a little card giving you artistic license! 

For those of you non-visual artists-is there any way you can challenge your creativity with bite size exercises that use a foundational skill? 

I have a neighbor who is doing a Bento blog-do you know what a Bento is?  I didn't!  And that's the beauty of a blog!