Baby Steps

I’ve been thinking a lot about the stereotypes typically ascribed to artists. Some good, some bad. The list includes flaky, unreliable, emotional, observant, imaginative, starving, unpredictable, and complex. One adjective most “non-artists” (a misnomer since I think everyone has some form of art in them) don’t normally use is “perfectionistic.” A little known fact about artists- we’re typically very hard on ourselves. We may not seem that way to those around us, but we are. In fact, I would propose the theory that the “flakier” an artist seems, the harder they are on themselves (yes, I’m aware that should  have been a complicated, “he or she is on him or herself,” but that’s cumbersome. See? I’m even kind of perfectionistic about my grammar). We can have extremely high, impossible even, standards for ourselves; letting “the perfect be the enemy of the good” (to paraphrase Voltaire).

Julia Cameron, author of the series The Artist’s Way says that “artists block” is not caused by lack of ideas, but rather by a log-jam of too many ideas. Too much in-flow without enough out-flow. How often have you found yourself discarding ideas left and right, “That’s stupid. That won’t work. No one will like it. That’s too complicated- I can’t pull it off,” only to find yourself sitting on the couch stymied, frustrated, and wailing, “I can’t think of anything to paint!” (or write or draw or sculpt, or whatever)? When I do that (and I catch myself doing it often) I get grumpy and start feeling like all those bad stereotypes. Therefore, I paint because I have to paint. I write because I have to write.

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Two canisters and a candle

All art doesn’t have to be Capital A- Art. Sketch your dog, paint a wall a different color, make up a recipe. And if it doesn’t turn out, the world won’t crumble. Just create. You’ll feel better.

Laying the Foundation…

I just got some beautiful new birchpanels from Micah Bailey of Oak Hill Farm (contact me if you’re in Alabama and want to order panels from him). They’re so pretty I almost don’t want to paint on them… but of course I will. First, though, priming.

As you probably know, you can’t paint directly onto wood with oil paints. In a nutshell chemical reactions between the oil and the wood cause the wood to disintegrate and the paint to change colors. Since I normally paint on metal or on pre-primed surfaces, I did a ton of research on how to prepare my panels. My best two sources of information were Ampersand’s website and the knowledgeable people at Gamblin Artist Colors. You can actually call Gamblin for technical support and they’re so so kind.

Just for kicks I tried a couple of different priming techniques to see what I prefer. I applied just plain ol’ clear gesso to one and Gamblin ground for oils to the other.

The gesso was definitely easier to apply and cheaper. But… I went with the Gamblin ground (btw, I swear I’m not getting paid for any of this by anyone). The reason- I love smooth surfaces and the ground (when applied correctly) gave me a super smooth finish. The process is a little picky, so here’s my best advice: a little goes a long way. I mean a really long way. Apply really really thin coats. Let it dry at least 24 hrs (if I put it on too thick it ended up being longer than 24 hrs). Sand, apply again. It says you just need 2 coats, but I actually did 4. Tada! Primed panel ready for some painting love.

Bringing the Outdoors In

It started gradually. A little piece here. A little piece there. Next thing you know I have quite a collection.

I’m referring to my “bits of nature” that I just can’t seem to leave outside. I pick up every feather I come across, every mossy bit of fallen bark, every cool and unusual stick. I actually went outside in a downpour recently to “rescue” a perfect clump of moss that I had seen earlier in the driveway and had meant (and then forgotten) to pick up after depositing the groceries in the house.

It’s ok. I’m an artist. We’re allowed these little eccentricities and I quite like them- both my eccentricities and my collection.

Here are just a few of the many paintings inspired by my outdoor finds:

Please contact me for purchase. If you like these, you might also like the mixed-media work found in this post.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

You’ve all seen pictures of my revamped (and so pretty!!) gray and white studio, but have you noticed that it’s affected my work?

 

I don’t know what came first, the studio re-do or this series of paintings (they both started around the same time) but I seem, in all areas of my life, to be craving clean, white, open spaces and simplicity. Hmm… could have something to do with the zillions of brightly colored letters and other toys constantly scattered around my house.