Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Progressions: The Different Stages of a Painting

I wanted to show everyone how much work goes into one painting. There are many people I know who don't realize the time and skill it takes to create (sometimes acquiring it as you work).

This post is less about the words and more about the progressions behind these paintings. 

Each of the shells took about two hours to complete. The one in the right top corner took three to four hours.

"Lighthouses" took a while. The reason this one took so long wasn't because of the painting. I had no idea what I was going to paint or how it was going to look. The other reason was scale. The canvas that I worked with was 24" x 48". I couldn't really figure out if I should put one lighthouse and a boat, leave some beach, or what. It took an entire year of me staring at it for me to figure out what I wanted to paint. Then I saw it on a road trip. I realized that I could put two lighthouses in one painting. This painting went through many changes as you can see here. 

It's important to not give up on your painting. I've learned so much about myself through painting. So what if you mess up. You can wet it down and wipe the paint off, you can wait until it dries and paint over it, or you can scrap it and start over. Whatever you decide to do is up to you. Just don't stress over it. Progress. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Art You Buy or Acquire

I just received a comment on a Facebook status and it's provoked some internal questions. I shared a post about a Nigerian painter who paints lifelike paintings of children playing in water. I'm unsure why he paints them, however, his paintings are very good. Although the comment was meant to be funny, since it was a "dog" who posted the comment, I feel that it is a necessary question that one may ask of the community around them seeing that not many people buy art for the sake of art. Many people I know buy posters or reproductions but do not own an original piece. If you do own an original piece I'd like to know what inspired you to buy or acquire it. Was it lifelike? Is it a subject you are interested in? Are you looking for pretty flowers to hang in your living room over a blank wall space? Are you looking for something that you could stare at for hours on end and see something different with every brush stroke? Is it something that a relative gave you or you inherited?

What inspires you to buy anything you deem to be art?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Creating When I've Got Time

Over the past year, I created less than I like to. I try to paint on weekends. There were times when I would sometimes paint twice in one weekend (those were the weeks when I felt really good about it)! At night I crocheted. During the work week I wrote in my journal using sentences like, "Gee, I need to write more." "I'm really pissed off right now." "I need a vacation to a dead writers' house because I'm going crazy and that is a good way to calm me down." "Maybe I should just live like Thoreau, but with GPS now a days there's a good chance someone will find me." Although it was "just a journal", it kept my sanity by helping my brain pen negative thoughts and frustrations every day on a lined inanimate object that held them for me to peruse later in my life.

My life changed greatly over the past year. I now find myself googling questions like, "how can I create more time?" and seeing suggestions like, "get up earlier". Yuck. I was hoping I could bottle it.

I persevere because there are many things contribute to infrequent blog posts about painting, writing, crocheting, parenting. One of them is that my three year old daughter no longer takes regular naps. It's very hard to convince a three year old that she needs to take a nap.

"Alexis, you look tired."

"I'm NOT TIRED, Mom." she whines while rubbing her eyes and yawning.

"Oh, ok." I nod half assuredly.

My painting time used to be peaceful and quiet. I used to hear nothing but the hum of the refrigerator. Now I hear: "Mommy, can I paint too? I want red. I can't do it. The paint doesn't work. You need to help me. I just want to paint a flower. Mommy can you paint the flower for me? Mommy, it doesn't look right. I am mad. MAD MAD MAD! Mommy!"


Don't get me wrong, I love to create with my daughter, and sometimes we have a blast. But there are times when I need ME time. Every hour of every second of every day is devoted to Alexis. So when I have five minutes, or an hour, or even when she goes to bed at night, I will use that time to the best of my ability to read a book, sew, watch a movie, paint, draw, crochet, write, etc. Creative little bursts of time are just as useful than a large chunk of it, because you can sprinkle them in where you need them. See?

The picture above is of my cousin Carolyn McCarthy. She is a beautiful dancer. I gave her this painting as a college graduation present.

In October I started taking painting lessons from a wonderful artist named Sheila Foley. "Sunflowers in a Poland Spring Bottle" was my first painting done her Wednesday night art class. She is an awesome and witty teacher. I highly recommend her work. You should especially check it out if you, or someone you know, is getting married, graduating from college or celebrating some other life milestone as she is a live event painter. You can find her here:   The other paintings below were done by me in her class. I choose the subject and she gives me valuable advice about light and shadow, composition, etc.

The above painting is an attempt to copy Monet's "The Magpie". I absolutely love it. It was a lot of work and I learned so much about the painting itself as well as the colors and the techniques he used.

The above painting is called "Bowl of Toasted Marshmallows". I needed to paint something that was white on white. My sister suggested marshmallows and I was like, why? That is dumb. Except now, I totally see why she told me do marshmallows (thanks Christine), plus they are delicious. Making things seem fluffy and round is tough even more so when they are in a bowl together. They have a ton of colors mixed in them that one does not notice until one is painting it.

Portraits are tough. The above painting is of Rachel Ray. All I can say is that during the last few weeks of this painting, I hated it. I didn't like painting faces. it was hard to get the colors to blend. It was hard to make it look realistic. She looked to big to be who she was. It was not my favorite thing to do so far. That being said, I would definitely do another portrait. Knowing what I know now would help me a lot as I made many mistakes.

This is an apple I did in watercolor pencil on my own. I loved doing this. It was a lot of fun to try a different medium. I am still getting used to watercolor pencils. So far, I've only managed to paint/draw fruit.

So onward in to the summer I march in search of relaxing creativity dripping from my pens and brushes. Let's see what the summer yields!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Weeks of Learning

I've said a million times that I never thought I would do any sort of art besides writing. Every day I look forward to the next time I will have time to grip a brush and smear my creativity onto a canvas, to learn something new and most of all share my art with people.

Over the past few months I've followed tutorials. I've refrained from posting on my blog as I've been working on a painting for eight weeks now. This painting was one that was started for a painting course at the Boston Center for Adult Education. The painting style of the teacher there and the tutorials that I have completed online are very different. With the BCAE course, I find that you paint exactly what you see and do not paint the entire background compared to a "paint and sip" where you do. It broke me out of my comfort zone and I had a tough go of it. However, this was the only new thing I was taught in the class. Everything else I would either read about or watch YouTube videos for. The theory of painting, according to the instructor, is to learn by doing. 

For the first class she wanted us to select a painting we really liked and wouldn't mind trying to replicate. I had a problem with this at first. I didn't think that artists painted other artists' paintings. Isn't that considered forgery? Well, Picasso said it best, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." Had I realized this, I may have chosen something different. I wound up selecting a photograph of geraniums in a small blue pitcher, with a rag, and plastic mesh shopping bag.

I liked the colors. They were not ones I usually worked with and I had a hard time painting flowers to begin with, I thought it was a good choice. The teacher would have rather me choose a painting. I can see why now. It is so that one could learn the techniques that a master painter used. She said it would be ok for the class. I thought it would be a two week painting and then I'd move on to something else. Yeah right. 

The instructor told us to do an initial outline of the painting. We could draw it and then paint (I should have done this) or we could just start painting. Either way the pencil would be covered with paint. I just started painting. As I started the teacher noticed that I was going to begin with the background first. The cabinets and wall and the surface underneath. She said that this is not what artists do, this is what paint and sips do and that they are only good at one thing and that is to getting people to paint. Instead she told me that the an artist only paints what they see. Meaning literally just that. According to Cinnamon Cooney, the Art Sherpa, this is exactly what they did because of lighting issues. It's not like today where we can just snap a photo.

So when I painted only the outlines of what I saw after much time without glasses and squinting, here is what I came up with. 

The first class was not a success for me. I looked at big globs of paint and felt discouraged.

I felt worse during the second week. 

It wasn't until the third week that I felt more comfortable with being in this class. I painted a leaf in the middle of the flowers and all of the sudden excitement breathed through and I was willing to let go and just follow the process. 

I was still doing tutorials on the side. I felt like I still needed some fun things to do and that this was how I would be calm at home and I'd leave the other painting for class. Other students took their work home and some even finished them which did put me on edge. But when I think about it, I knew that other students (most of them) did not have children. Who can paint when you have a little one running around, who is just so adorable, and makes you want to squeeze hug her every second? 

Here are what my paintings looked like over the last few weeks. 

And the week after.

And after...

And here is the one after I learned through a tutorial that sometimes it is a good idea to grey your greens with... Red!

The last week I really had a problem with the rag. I didn't like it. I thought it would be easy. It turns out fabric is very hard to paint. Many artists struggle with it. I can see why now. I watched a few you tube videos on how to do it, sketched it out and read books. To be honest, if I had started with the rag inprobably would have chosen something different. Here is the final painting. 

The picture doesn't do it justice. It really doesn't. This painting is the result of eight weeks of hard work and perseverance. I learned to be so patient throughout the process. It really was worth it. I also learned that the end result is never permanent and that I can change it whenever I want. As one could tell, I did change it several times. 

Painting applies to every day life. You can change anything you want. Nothing is set in smears. What used to be in a painting doesn't always have to stay there just like life. 

I hope you enjoyed this! 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Waiting for Spring

I'm waiting for this winter to be over. I always embrace my home (as I am lucky to have it) and I love to be surrounded by my family, but there is a time when one must find ways to break free from the routine snow storms and work. Over the snowiest season I've ever seen, I found I was able to do that by painting. 

I wish I could say the same for my writing but this past season has not allowed me to be so fortunate. My morning writing sessions were blotted out by horrendous commutes resulting in sporadic journal entries and zero stories. This morning I wrote as much as I could. Unfortunately when the ink is dry for a period of time it takes effort to get my mind flowing. 

For now, I will share my paintings and crochet projects that I've done over the last few months. 

This painting is called "A Rest Between Cycles". I painted it because Michael's was having a contest to win a trip to Paris. I'm happy with it. I started drawing it in pencil. 

I painted a tutorial of a fruity drink while I was wishing I was in Costa Rica. 

I did another sort of tutorial of a couple in the rain. The silhouettes for the tutorial, it turned out, were a template, which I did not have. So, I drew mine in pencil from scratch and filled in the figures. I love it. So didn't Emil's brother, who asked me for it. I gave it to him after seeing how happy it made him.

Then I've been working on hats. I made this black one for my friend at work. 

My sister liked it so much, she asked me for one. I'm now mailing her this green one.

It's been a fun creative winter but I'm looking forward to warmer weather and more outdoor time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Apples and Oranges

A few weeks ago, I created a few still life paintings. One of them came out pretty good (except for a few minor flaws) and the other one was OK but not perfect. There are always going to be issues with the things that I create and I realize that. What one pictures in their mind is not always what comes out on the canvas.  It's disheartening at times to look at a canvas and not see what you expected. Here is a picture of the still life I tried to create:

Here is what I painted. The colors are wrong. The orange slices are not bright enough or even positioned accurately, the background is too dark, the shadows are all messed up.

What I was expecting was that when I looked at it, I'd have this taste of juicy orange slices in my mouth, yet all I tasted was rinds. What happened (besides putting too much white)?  Discouraged, I put it aside and resolved to hold off on painting. "Maybe, I'm not any good at it," I thought. Except I don't think I'm horrible. Being good is not really why I paint in the first place. I paint because it is relaxing and takes my mind off of things. It lets me focus on one thing for one moment rather than on many things at once. So why should I quit?

I let these feelings sit with me a few days. As I looked at the world around me, the universe unfolded it's message to me giving me reasons to not quit. One answer came in the form of a comment on a YouTube video. A few weeks ago, I entered a contest by commenting on an instructional video about how and why to use gesso. Until that point, I had heard about gesso but wasn't sure about what it was for. Because of this instructional video, I can go into the many different ways to use it but I will spare everyone the details and just tell you that gesso can be used as painter's white out.  I forgot about the contest, so I was surprised to learn that I won a huge tub of gesso! So, lesson number one is one can always start over.

Lesson number two came in the form of a Brain Pickings post about Henri Matisse. Again, I knew of him, I'd seen some of his images, but I didn't know much about him. After reading the post, I found out that he started painting in his 40's and was pretty much ridiculed by the art community. It wasn't until he was much older that he received true recognition for his work. For me, again it isn't about recognition, it's about creating for me which is what Matisse wound up doing.

Lesson number three only occurs to me now. With all of the flaws that are in my painting, I failed to see what I did right. The orange slices are odd looking but one can tell what they are. The apple is round and has similar shading to what is in the picture. After showing my painting to a few people, I felt less disappointed. Many people had the impression that while there were some things wrong with it, they could do no better. Therefore, I must be more objective.

Here are the links to the above pages I've mentioned. Happy writing, painting and creating!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Still Painting

It's been a crazy week. I'm creating a lot lately. I am crocheting scarves, hats and mittens, painting various different types of paintings and writing short stories.  I've got such a creative bug in me at the moment that the cleaning one vanished. Something has to give, let's be honest. Cleaning can always wait. Nobody can do absolutely everything even though some people try to portray themselves that way. All I can say is that I'm having such a good time doing creating and having fun. That is what life should be made up of, right?

Here is a picture of me wearing my new cowl neck scarf. It is made with a popcorn stitch. It took me two to three weeks to crochet. I love it as it is so soft and warm. It keeps that cold office air off of my neck.

Over the past year, I've taken painting tutorials to learn how to paint. The two paintings below are tutorials that can be found under Cinnamon Cooney's Hart Party on YouTube. Two weekends ago, I managed to do this cute little guy in two hours. 

This painting took me a while. I'm confident I could do a larger version at a quicker speed. I enjoyed this one immensely as it requires some of the same techniques that Van Gogh used called "stippling" which is a term that reminds me of a musical term called "staccato" which means brief sounds detached from other notes in a piece of music. In other words the painting strokes are short and detached from the other strokes. It's interesting how art, music and literature tend to overlap.

The picture below is a photograph that I took because I wanted to better my still life paintings and I figured what better objects can I paint other than fruit?

Here is the painting. I had no tutorial on this one. This was done from what the picture looked like. There are elements of the painting I don't like. The white smudging above the bananas was not supposed to come out that way. But what I do like is how the fruit came out. I think that this is one of the better still life's I've done despite the white marks. It is a real confidence booster when you are able to do something you couldn't only a year before.


At the moment, I am working on another still life. The new one has a wine bottle with wine in a crystal glass. I will post it when it is done. I hope this inspires people to do things that they would not have tried before.