art everyday

My Roman (sketching) Holiday

So much to take in here in Rome. The first time I saw the masses of ancient ruins with the Colosseum in the distance I was awestruck. In Rome stray cats have ruins to climb and lounge around on. 

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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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Hoarder

My name is Marissa and I am an art supply hoarder. Often hoarding my best supplies because I don't feel good enough to use it. This problem is especially strong when it comes to paper. As a printmaker and now a watercolor painter paper is my canvas and my most expensive single supply. And unlike canvas I can't simply gesso over failures and try again. With prints and with watercolor I am stuck with whatever I make the first time. No more hoarding my good paper. I will use my watercolor paper blocks every day and break myself out of my sketchbooks and out of my rut. My first block or a Arches is on its way but I need to use up this before I'm allowed to use it. 

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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.

Vacation Visual Journal

Before heading on our long weekend to NYC I spent the day trying to finish up the sketchbook I half filled during our travels to Ohio and Illinois in early July before the kids head back to school after Labor Day. Now we are back from NYC and despite drawing a lot while I was there on location I still have more planned drawings to do to fill up our summer sketchbook. But today is my daughter's seventh birthday and I am going to focus on spoiling her before she heads back to school later this week.

Cedar Point memories

Cedar Point memories

Repeating myself. Draw more, paint more, write more.

More more more! Also sleep more to keep myself energized. I went to bed early last night and woke up this morning feeling wonderful. Good morning indeed! We are going back to NYC this weekend and I am excited to bring my sketchbook to various places. After a bit of a slump I am back to drawing whatever comes to mind and strikes my fancy and enjoying it. Case in point moths are interesting to draw but I needed to draw a bird to eat them so I could sleep last night.

moths did not haunt my dreams last night

moths did not haunt my dreams last night

Favorite Things : Raskog cart from IKEA

Happy Monday! Relaxing and cleaning filled weekend on one of our final summer days here in Boston. This cleaning has led me to rediscover some of my most favorite things in my art studio.

IKEA Raskog cart is hugely popular for a reason. It looks good in a retro kind of way and it is well made and can be used to store a variety of items from plants to kitchen gear to art supplies. Guess what I use mine for? Art supplies of course. Only my favorite and most reached for supplies go on this little cart. I love how sturdy it is, easy to clean and with wheels that actually move smoothly and don't fall off like so many cheap plastic carts I have tried in the past. Mostly pens and ink up on this top level along with books that I am currently reading, with watercolor supplies down below and markers and scissors on the bottom level. I must really trust my children to leave the scissors and sharpies on the lower level and bottles of permanent ink on the still quite reachable upper level!

recently reorganized art cart from my recently reorganized and decluttered art studio.

recently reorganized art cart from my recently reorganized and decluttered art studio.

The experience of nature.

The other morning I got a rare twenty minutes alone at the Arnold Arboretum with my sketchbook. Lately I have been working on drawings that focus on the experience outdoors rather than the scene. The line of the trees, some plants, the blue of the sky and the green of the leaves are all here. And like that my morning was captured on paper. Looking forward to doing it again!

Sketchbook Nature

Sketchbook Nature

Sketchbook Keeping (practice makes perfect)

One of the lies people believe about artists is that we all are born with so much talent and can draw beautifully from birth. I am sure there are some prodigies out there that can do just that, but I for one am not one of them. Most of us artists have some amount of natural born talent and an interest in exploring it. But mostly we just need to work very hard and practice daily. That is what I teach my daughters. My eldest daughter loves to draw and wants to be a good artist and as long as drawing is fun for her she should keep doing it every day.  

Succulent Terrarium in my art studio. 

Succulent Terrarium in my art studio. 

I am pleased with my watercolor sketching lately. It really is a muscle and the more I use it the easier it becomes and the better I get. I went from not confident with pencil to confident drawing straight away with ink. What a change that means for me. Back in art school I believed two lies about myself. That I wasn't good with color and that I wasn't a very good drawer. I discovered the truth about color ten years ago when I started relief printmaking. But I remained insecure about my drawing skills. What I didn't realize that to be better at drawing I simply needed to draw more. An odd day off due to illness or whatever here and there is fine. But getting into the practice and habit of daily drawing is super important. And these past few months I have been finding the time to easily do just that. It is enjoyable and the payoff in my skills started to show almost immediately. Too bad my first sketchbook from that period was stolen because I would love to look back at it in the future. At least I have a few sketchbook photographs from that period. 

Friday Favorite - Solvent Transfer

This morning I feature my favorite drawing, painting or print from my week. As always you can find more from my week on my Daily Drawing Tumblr. I spent the afternoon with the windows open breathing in fumes as I added transfer images to a bunch of cards that had either hand printed or painted designs. This one surprised me. I did it enough that my Blender Pen ran out of solvent and i had to stop for the night. But then my Inktense colored pencils arrived and I had time to experiment with those.

Three happy mLee art fans are now customers as well. Thank you.

Three fans stopped by the mLee studio to purchase artwork before their big cross country move next week. All three of them seem pretty happy with what they left with. Good luck on your move and try not to gloat too much about the weather come February. While these beautiful people are lucky enough to live in Boston (for now)  and visit my studio in person I realize not everybody is so lucky. So I try to bring a bit of my studio online through the blog and on Instagram. To my customers are all over the world; you too could be featured on my blog. 

Want to be featured on future blog posts or Instagram? Send photos of you, your kid or pets posing with my artwork to marissa@mleefineart.com

Want to be featured on future blog posts or Instagram? Send photos of you, your kid or pets posing with my artwork to marissa@mleefineart.com

Sketchbook Page of the Week

Since all the artwork I did on vacation was in my sketchbook(s) I have lots to share. Head over to my Tumblr blog of drawings if you want to see them all. And head over to Etsy is you want this original watercolor mixed media piece for yourself.

Potted succulent plant viewed from above.

Potted succulent plant viewed from above.

Analyze what works, learn from it and ditch the rest.

For somebody that fashions herself as a bit of a minimalist I certainly am a pack rat when it comes to my art. I wouldn't have it any other way. Kept an obviously failed collagraph print that was just a hot mess and sat on it for weeks. Until I was ready to get out my watercolors and pens and transform it. It may not be a masterpiece but I learned a lot during the process of making it. In the future I can take pieces that aren't a disaster and transform them.

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Sketchbook Share : a stormy relationship

After a too long hiatus I started keeping a sketchbook again. First I finished off the one that I had been working on for (well) over a year, then I drew on random scraps of paper while I waiting to find the perfect next sketchbook. Then I gave up on waiting for the perfect one and the perfect moment and just grabbed one and started drawing. The lines are more solid and sure and my new personal goal is to use what I have and avoid hording my "good" materials and just use them. I started keeping a Tumblr blog just to showcase my these daily drawings.

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Fear: Keep Going!

That is how I learn. I have nothing to lose by trying. I have everything to lose if I don't try and keep experimenting. Embarrassing creations are part of the learning process and they are good and not a waste of time. The reality is that I often have no idea if what I am doing is good while I am making it. If I'm lucky I will know when I am done, but often I am unsure. But that the fear is actually a good sign that I am onto something and not playing it safe anymore. Being an artist is rarely comfortable. Be wary of comfort as an artist. I ripped up an old collage that I did not like and salvaged the board to experiment with this portrait of my daughters. I may eventually do the same with this but for now I am happy that I tried something.

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Old school drawing in the digital age.

I like to draw on paper. And I like paper a lot. As a printmaker paper is probable my favorite material. Ink and color is important but those are purely practical and utilitarian. Paper is soft and lovely and different subtle shades. Printing to the edge of the paper in a bleed print or leaving a border. Western versus Asian styles versus handmade papers. It is the base that the inks mix with and I love working with paper over canvas or other materials. With this love of all things paper and traditional I have mostly avoided digital artwork. But that is starting to change. Baby steps really but I might have room for it after all. 

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Collaboration

Inspired by the magical creativity of my six year old daughter. Having just finished carving the large block that I have been working on since November and not feeling quite ready to start printing with it I needed something creative to do with my time. So I started a collaboration with my six year old daughter. I took drawings of her's and turned them into small woodblocks to print with her after school or on the weekend. Ideally when her little sister is not around or occupied with something else. So far we have a mermaid and a butterfly. The butterfly has eyes in her antenna as well as long eyelashes. Awesome! I have a bunch of these small blocks of plywood to carve so I can keep this up for awhile. Stay tuned for more carvings and the prints. 

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Art Date

On the last Saturday of every month the ICA has cool programs and is free for families. The ICA Boston is always free for kids but on those days the kids get the adults in for free as well. Pretty cool. We went in the spring and had a great time but haven't been able to make it back until this month. I went with my eldest daughter and had a great time. She loved the Nick Cave exhibit, especially a statue with the Easter bunny holding a very glittery egg. But what she loved best is what I love best. Sprawling out with an amazing view of the waterfront and drawing. She worked very hard on her drawing and put it above her bed when she got home and kissed it goodnight. I think we will be back for more of these art playdates.

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