Work

Closing the book on a sketchbook and an art challenge.

Back in May I joined the one hundred day drawing challenge on Instagram and chose florals as my theme. I had just gotten into painting flowers as England is filled with beautiful flowers that change all the time from spring though summer and I was inspired and motivated to improve. About a week in I started keeping these paintings in a sketchbook I dedicated for them and every day I added to the book. More or less. Today I finished the book a few weeks behind sketchdule and a few paintings over one hundred. It was a hard challenge to keep up with such a restrictive theme. But true to my goal I do feel like I improved a lot over the three months of sticking with it and painting my flowers nearly every day. I am also very happy to be done with that sketchbook as my collection of active sketchbooks has grown over the past few months and I am thrilled to have one less to think about cluttering my workspace and my brain. 

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Preparing to push my sketching boundaries in Oxford

By going out and sketching Oxford whenever I get the chance. Currently that means going out into the city center with my sketchbooks, pens and paints 1-3 times a week. I am not sure if this city will ever get boring to me. Just more familiar. The USK Oxford workshop begins this coming Tuesday and I am super excited. Then my kids have one more week of school before being home for the summer.  

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The first cut. Tough choices in art and in life.

That first cut is so hard. Cuts can't be taken back. No turning back. This is when I pay for using both sides of the paper. Destruction as part of creation. Choices need to be made. Something will be destroyed. Cut cut cut. Thank you Sketchbook Skool. 

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Urban Sketching tests my limits.

Urban sketching in Oxford UK around some parked bikes at a very crowded bus stop. Oxford gets filled with tourists from all over the world in the spring and summer, especially on the weekend and holidays. Yesterday was a bank holiday. Testing the limits of my ability to sketch around others. Then 1/3 through the drawing my pen ran out of ink and I needed to switch to a brush pen. Keep going. 

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Energized!

After two months of setting up painting at various dining tables throughout our stint in temporary housing I am energized by my newly set up art studio! I have a filled palette for my studio and I am ready to paint all day long. In fact that is pretty much what my Monday looked like.  

Life drawing drop in is tonight. Since today is Charlotte's day home with me I really need that time out to focus on art. I need to pack my bag with the right collection of supplies.  

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Messy desk, creative New Year.

Lately I have been too preoccupied to clean up at the end of each creative session. They blend into each other and there is a mess growing in my art studio. The art studio that is getting packed up and moved across the ocean next week. A little mess is okay with me as long as I keep creating. So far 2015 is off to a great start. I am excited about where my art is going to take me. 

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An Inky Challenge for 2015

I have been debating this idea for awhile now but I have decided to go for a daily ink challenge for 2015. I am still working out the details but I think the big things are that every day I need to make something with ink in 30 minutes or less. The #inktober challenge started off slow and difficult but midway through I hit a groove and ended up learning and growing through the challenge and missing it when it was over. My biggest artistic goal for 2015 is to improve my drawing skills and this should do the trick nicely. A year of daily ink is likely to be even more challenging than a month, but hopefully even more rewarding as well! I am excited to start and keeping it up during our travels should be interesting.

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Mini Paint Tins on Etsy

Good news! I've started selling my mini Altoid watercolor paint kits on Etsy. For a limited time as a special bonus I am offering a free watercolor painted card with the first one purchased on Etsy. I have collected a lot of commercial tins during my watercolor painting adventures, but I always come back to this one for on the go come with me everywhere color. 

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The threat of burn out.

How to avoid blogger burnout? I have gotten through most of my second week of daily blogging and it is still hard. I remember blogging daily last November and then not blogging much at all for December and January because I was burnt out by the constant pressure of daily blogging. Unlike the daily drawing challenges I have completed blogging is not super fun for me. I think it is a worthwhile activity that has positive impact on my life, but for me pressure of blogging makes it feel more like a chore. Morning Pages is becoming a more enjoyable activity and habit but that is my personal writing with no pressure for anybody to like what I have to say. I am going to keep going with the challenge but be mindful of burning out and with a plan for December and January because my goal is a sustainable habit that I enjoy doing. How do more regular bloggers do it? 

On patience.

Sometimes (often) I need to remind myself that I am still learning and that I need to be patience with my style and keep working and I will get where I need to go. I have been painting for less than a year and I enjoy it more than I ever expected. But the truth is I have no idea what my work will look like in a year or two. My personal style has not yet developed and I get frustrated waiting and searching for it and I must remind myself to enjoy the journey and keep working hard and I will get there. That there are no shortcuts. That said if anybody has some tips on honing in on a more personal style I am all ears. In the meantime I am enjoying the journey in my soon to be relocated art studio with a sketchbook always nearby. 

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What is your distraction?

What distracts you from your most important work? What is your time suck? An activity that you pretend is productive but is really just a time wasting time suck. I need to spend some time working on art today in my studio. Often when I am going through a growth period I step back from my sketchbook and focus on shopping for materials. The quest for the perfect materials that will make me a better artist. When really the time to work on art is what matters. The time I spend looking and buying supplies is often a time suck waste. Especially at this point when I pretty much have everything I need. Instead of looking for the perfect colors, the perfect sketchbook or the perfect brush I should draw and paint more. I draw and paint everyday, but if I have time to browse art supplies online I am not drawing or painting enough. Back to painting for me!

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Rainy Days

Drinking tea while listening to the wind and rain while painting in my cozy studio. Sunshine is great but sometimes I need the excuse to stay in and work indoors. Loving this stormy weather. 

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Tired. Keep going.

I was tired and wanted to go to bed as soon as the kids went to bed. I wanted them to go to bed early so I could go to bed early. Then they ended staying up drawing together in their room so I wandered back to my studio to tinker with some paintings. I am glad I kept going. Once I get through my to do list I will start putting watercolors up on my Etsy shop. I am nervous about listing these new creation as I still very much consider myself a student when it comes to watercolor. But I was a student with printmaking too not all that long ago.

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Why do I sketch?

I fill about a sketchbook a month these days. When I am done they go on a shelf in my studio and I look back on them often. My children look through them and I show them off to friends and other curious people. This number doesn't include the "extra" books I keep around. Why do I do it? Why do I use precious paper and other materials for plenty of less than perfect pages? Because if I don't I grow stagnant and miserable. Because the process is how I grow as an artist and as a person. Because my sketchbooks are important. I admire other artists that keep active, consistent yet varied and adventurous sketchbooks. It is a tricky balance for sure to develop and maintain a style while continuing to push yourself as an artist and experiment. As I try to break out of my sketchbooks a bit more and feel comfortable doing pieces for the public rather than for myself I know that making time for my sketchbooks is something that needs to come first in my art life. No matter where I am at in life I will always sketch.

The first page of every sketchbook starts something like this. Thank you  Liz Steel  for helping me get over first page jitters.

The first page of every sketchbook starts something like this. Thank you Liz Steel for helping me get over first page jitters.

Oil vs Water

One more sleep at home in Boston. On Wednesday morning I leave for Maine and will get to spend five days at Haystack. But my art life has been full since before Haystack. Just this past weekend I got to take a Japanese Printmaking workshop at the local Elliot school and it was great fun, intense work going from sketch to block to print all in a too short weekend. But I learned so much and I do want to do more with it now that I understand the basics of the technique. Carving the block was basically the same as I now it, but printing was completely different. Very painterly and flexible which was great fun. But with the ticking clock of the water based inks quickly drying out stressing me out. I came home exhausted both physically and mentally both nights. I have six original prints to show for the weekend and an itch to make more. The woodblock printing that I am much more familiar with is western style printing on various papers with oil based ink and a printing press. No painterly fun like the Japanese moku hanga, but also once I lay out the oil based ink to work with it is good all day long with little risk of it drying out. I would love to print these blocks with my oily methods to compare, but then I wouldn't be able to go back to the waterbased inks.

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Drawing Tip: Blind Contour Drawing Warmup

Want to improve your drawing? Don't know when to draw or what to draw? How about taking on the 75 Day Drawing Challenge? Started by watercolor artist and sketchbook keeper Brenda Swenson it has grown and developed into a popular artistic challenge for many people to customize. The only rules that stay constant are the 75 day length and using ink or another permanent line. I made the challenge my own with ink and doing blind contour drawings. A blind contour drawing is a drawing where you focus mostly on the outline, don't lift your pen as you draw and don't look away from your subject (so you don't look at your paper) while you are drawing. Do this for 75 days in a row (more or less) at a fairly consistent time for maximum effectiveness. I find the morning while I drink my coffee to be a good time for this activity. It can take as little as 5 minutes, but some people go all out and spend twenty minutes or longer on their drawings. I am content treating this as a warmup activity and spending rarely more than ten minutes on my drawing. I have also started journaling in the pages and including the date and weather forecast in the margins. Sometimes I fill in the drawings with details and sometimes I add bits of color. But they all start with a blind contour line that I mark the start with dot and an S and the finish with a dot and an F to keep me honest.

It was a hard challenge for me to start but once I got going I noticed a change in my drawing and easily continued. Until around day 35 when I realized I had been doing this challenge for over a month and wasn't even halfway done. I am not used to drawing challenges that last longer than a month. But I made it through that bumpy period and now here I am almost at day sixty and with well over 100 blind contour drawings under my belt and I am looking at ways to keep this habit going after 75 days and after my sketchbook is full. I'll probably just start a new sketchbook with simple graph paper and save the next Moleskine from my clearance stockpile for something else.

Market Testing

I took about a dozen watercolors  to Open Studios and I sold about half of them. JP Open Studios was a market test for the watercolors to figure out if I should keep at them and how to price them and the answer was yes keep going! JP Open Studios was fabulous fun this weekend as I love connecting with my community. And I love sending original artwork out in the world. Thank you to all those that have supported my fresh start these past months by reading my blog, offering feedback and buying artwork. I will be putting watercolors up on my Etsy shop as soon as I can get new work made, scanned and listed.

The fantastic carousel on the Boston Greenway opened last year and is a delight for both children and adults. This little painting went to a very good home this weekend.

The fantastic carousel on the Boston Greenway opened last year and is a delight for both children and adults. This little painting went to a very good home this weekend.

My Color Free Weekend

Over the weekend I gave myself the challenge to draw exclusively in black and white and the various shades of grey to help myself see value better. I didn't get as many chances to draw outside this weekend as I would have liked so I may keep the challenge going in my travel sketchbook for awhile longer. I am happy to be using some old shades of grey Pitt markers after years of neglect. Very happy that I took on this extra challenge. Wish I had done something like this when I was in art school.

started out with painting a dried and pressed flower from the safety of my studio

started out with painting a dried and pressed flower from the safety of my studio

then moved on to drawing ginkgo leaves and seedpods at the school playground while my kids played

then moved on to drawing ginkgo leaves and seedpods at the school playground while my kids played

an owl from my imagination and sketches from the Museum of Natural History in NYC

an owl from my imagination and sketches from the Museum of Natural History in NYC

My bagel and the organ at church.

My bagel and the organ at church.