Alla prima quick study of my little girl’s beloved friend, Baby Monkey:
A collector (a tiny adorable collector, I might add) has already claimed this piece.
The day did not look promising.
Mother’s Day Out (along with all other schools) had been needlessly cancelled due to the threat of “inclement weather,” which in the end, presented itself only in dreary rain. I had a to-do list a mile-and-a-half long, restless energy, and a two-year-old who wouldn’t even let me check my email without destroying things in a bid for my attention. Frustrated and focused on “not wasting the day,” I buzzed around her, attempting to check items off my list, snapping and sighing in annoyance. And then little arms wrapped themselves around my legs. And then a little voice said, “Mommy, can you hold me?” And then I got smart and stopped wasting my day.
Instead we snuggled up on the couch and watched a movie. We made a dozen marker drawings.We used up all her finger paints and created a mural on the wall of the bathtub. Then we rinsed it away and used up some fancy bath gels I was saving for a rainy day (What better opportunity?) and splashed around in the foam.
And the wasted day became a success.
Step 2: Local color-
Loosely applied, basically just blocking out the different areas of the picture. At this point I’m trying to close my eyes to detail and just get blocks of color in place. I didn’t even work too hard to cover up my base color, since I want that warmth to ultimately show through.
February in Alabama is wet, cold, and grey. A perfect recipe for malaise. Will I hibernate? Will I huddle under the covers and whine? Will I crawl into bed with a pan of lasagna and try to get as fat as possible? Not this kid… not anymore at least. Let’s get back to work. And this time I think I’ll try things a little differently.
Step 1- Underpainting rub-out
Gamblin’s Solvent Free gel mixed with transparent earth orange (about 50/50).
The underpainting acts as a value study- letting me study the dark and light areas of the painting and decide if the composition is interesting enough to stand on its own without the color.
The paint/gel mixture is applied to the entire canvas (or in this case primed panel) with a large brush, then, using a t-shirt rag I rub out the lighter parts of the painting, using varying pressure to get the gradations of value.
Stay tuned for more… unless I go back into hibernation mode. Then you can find me on the couch with a pot of chili.
Wow, y’all! Where have I been? Not blogging, obviously. But I’m still here and I have a show coming up. This Thursday, come check out Eclectic Art Social Club’s (early) spring show at Rojo on Highland Avenue in Birmingham. The kick off party will start at 6:00 pm, Thursday, January 9 and the art will hang at Rojo until February 3rd.
Eclectic Art Social Club consists of myself, Mary Liz Ingram, Dariana Dervis, Chi Roach, Cecily Hill Lowe, Ami Ross, and Sunny Carvalho. This is an amazing and diverse group. Come check it out!!
I’ve discovered a few new favorite things and I’d like to share them with you!
#1- Grey palette paper
Who knew it would make such a difference, but it’s SO much easier to see color against the neutral grey than against white. Worth the tiny bit extra. The brand I’ve been using is Jack Richeson and co, inc “Grey Matters Paper Pallette.” There are probably others out there, that’s just what my favorite art supply store, Forstall Art Center in Birmingham carries.
#2- A nice palette knife
For far too long I’ve been thrifty (*ahem*, cheap) and made due with a plastic palette knife that wasn’t even the right shape. I would show you, but I actually threw it away after I used this one. It was one of those long, flat ones that looks like it’s made for buttering toast, not mixing paint. Again, who knew it’d make such a difference?
#3- Gamblin’s Solvent Free medium
This is new and I love it. I used to use Liquin, but in hopes of keeping my studio as non-toxic as possible, I had to kick it to the curb. So far this seems like a great alternative.
#4- Bristlon Silver paintbrushes
These brushes have great loading capabilities. I can put as much or as little paint on my surface with ease. Plus, they seem to hold up really well. That’s really saying a lot because I can be TOUGH on some brushes.
For about a week now I’ve been attempting to NOT multi-task. Harder than it seems but surprisingly effective. Crazy as it sounds, I feel calmer and I actually feel like I’ve gotten more done. Even on days like last Monday when my dog licked a 10″ square portion of oil paint off a painting I’d been working on for two hours (FYI in case this happens to you- feed them and give them peptobismal. This is on a vet’s recommendation. She didn’t have a recommendation for what to do about the painting). I even managed to (for the most part) not multi-task when 20+ family members came into town for my daughter’s second birthday. It’s amazing how much nicer… calmer life seems when you’re really doing one thing at a time. However, I discovered a secret hidden area where I multi-task.
That sneaky brain! Always trying to think about something else while I’m doing something entirely different. So, I’ve been working on mindfulness. Life’s too short and too precious to let moments slip away unnoticed while we’re not looking. So, several times a day I’ve tried to stop my inner narrative, my to-do lists, etc and notice where I am. Chances are it’s no place obviously special, but inevitably when I stop to notice there are special things about it. My brain is hyper. It’s hard to teach it to sit still for long. But, a little reminder several times a day, focusing for just a few scant seconds at a time, and I already notice it’s calming down.
On the subject of focusing on one thing at a time, in my latest painting I (mainly) focused on one color. White. I JUST finished it about 20 minutes ago, but I’m eager to share it.
Man I love color!!! Look at all the zillion colors you can find just in white! Sorry, like I said, hyper brain. Anyway, this was really fun to do. And clearing my mind of all distractions and just looking for that myriad of colors imbedded in white paper and a white background was a great lesson in mindfulness. Tada! This blog post has come full circle. Namaste.
I have a vice. It’s probably one a lot of you share. Like many vices, it’s hard to resist. It’s not normally seen as a vice. In fact, in this culture of more more more, it’s typically viewed as virtuous.
The following is a true story, and typical:
I put on moisturizer in the morning. While waiting for the moisturizer to soak in, I begin brushing my teeth. When I reach for the toothpaste I notice a cup on the bathroom counter than needs to go in the dishwasher, so toothbrush in mouth, cup in hand, I head to the kitchen. When I get there I realize the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, so one-handed (I’m still brushing my teeth with the other hand) I begin unloading the dishwasher. Teeth brushed, dishwasher half-unloaded, I return to the bathroom to rinse my mouth and put away my toothbrush. While there, I realize I never finished applying my make-up. Powder on, mascara out, I realize I never finished unloading the dishwasher. Mascara applied quickly, I return to the kitchen where I find my husband, unaware that the dishwasher was half-unloaded (because really, why should it be??) putting dirty dishes in the with the clean. Amidst all of this there is also some toddler juggling going on. This. Should. Not. Happen.
So, in a quest for sanity, peace of mind, and just all-around efficacy, I’m trying to rid myself of my multi-tasking ways AND as I’m going to tell you all about it (Didn’t you know I would?).
A friend of mine is in an art rut. Man, do I know that feeling!! I’m sure everyone out there has at some point or another. You’re not excited about anything you’re doing, it feels like a chore, but then if you don’t do anything at all you get that stressed out, tight, sad, tangled up feeling. Do you know what I mean? Those are the best words I can use to describe it.
I’ve noticed, though, that if I just keep moving, once I come out on the other side of an artistic crisis my work is better for it. In Walking in this World (the follow-up to The Artist’s Way) Julia Cameron points out that often what we refer to as break downs should really be thought of as break-ups, like an icy river breaking up in the spring. Once I was able to think of it that way, these periods of creative drought didn’t feel so scary. These ruts are not permanent. They’re just bumps and valleys we have to pass through to come out on the other side. It’s like the Pilgrim’s Progress of the creative life.
But, in the meantime, while we’re in them, they stink. So, here’s a list of ways I’ve found to help me keep moving through artist’s block:
1) First and foremost- Relax! This is not permanent. You are not doomed to forever live in a desolate artistic valley, devoid of creativity. Forget about your “responsible” reasons for needing to create (“I have a show coming up,” “I need to sell some more paintings,” “I’m trying to build my portfolio,” etc) and remember your real reason for creating. I paint because I’m happier when I paint than when I don’t. Period.
2) Do something that’s not your style. I think there’s a lot of pressure on artists of all kinds to have a recognizable “voice.” To have a style that people see and say, “Oh, that’s Erin Hardin’s work,” or whatever. That can get stifling, though. When I got thoroughly stressed out and bored by my super detailed paintings on metal, I started creating these little, simpler paintings.
I didn’t care in anyone even saw them. I just had to do something. I had to paint because, like I said above, I’m happier when I paint than when I don’t.
3) Change your surroundings. Can you reorganize or redecorate your art space? If you normally paint in the basement, can you move it to the kitchen table for a while? This may also mean…
4) Changing your medium. If you normally paint, draw. If you normally draw, try watercolor. Or do something completely different like writing a detailed description of the cashier at the grocery store, the smell of the rosemary by your front door, the vase you got as a wedding present. You have a zillion facets to your personality and to your creativity. Explore them.
5) Try thinking of life as art. If you can cultivate a creative mindset in things that you might not normally think of as artistic endeavors, not only will that mindset become a habit, but also it will spill over into your studio life. Explore a little bit. Take a different route to the grocery store and enjoy meandering. Beautify your surroundings. Plant some fresh fresh flowers and enjoy the feel of the dirt. Try not to be so goal oriented and enjoy the process. You’ll get the same end result but with a better journey. Notice and appreciate the multitude of things that make life beautiful.
Most of all, just keep moving. You’re committed to your art and like any relationship it will go through ups and downs. Weather the downs and you will be rewarded with higher ups. Would any relationship be rewarding if it was always placid and stagnant?
What about you? Do you have a favorite tip for beating artist’s block? Please share! We could all use a little help sometimes.
Don’t you love those errands that take you to an enjoyable part of town on gorgeous early fall days? Last week I dropped off some pictures at Little House Galleries in Homewood. Little House resides on Linden, one street over from Homewood’s main shopping destination. If you’re in the Birmingham area, go by and check them out! Tell my paintings I said, “Hi!” and grab a cup of coffee at O’Henry’s Coffee.