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  • Ugg… Sunday Skies #1

    So, if you remember a few days ago, after once again struggling and struggling to get a sky in a painting the way I wanted it, I decided to start a weekly feature on this blog where I will try to do a sky, just for practice.

    In theory, doing it on paper, just for practice, and not making a part of real painting, should relieve me of some of the pressure of perfectionism, and allow me to just practice the sky.  In theory.

    Okay, anyway, here is the photo I used as a guide.  I told myself I wasn’t trying to reproduce the photo exactly, but was just looking at it to give me a rough idea of what I was going for.  I snapped this photo yesterday in anticipation of needing it today.



    Now, here is the painting I did for practice, note that the land elements are just black/gray silhouettes to indicate a horizon.  Also note, that I didn’t do a very good job on those clouds!

    sunday skies 1


    I was working on a very small piece of paper, and I actually think it might have been easier with a larger one, because I’d have had more room to work.   I see lots of problems with this sky… but it is still better than what I often get when I try.

    I will try again next week, perhaps from the same photo, perhaps from a different one.  after all, this is just for PRACTICE and DOESN’T need to be PERFECT!  Perhaps if I keep shouting that at myself I’ll believe it.

  • What’s a Good Artist?

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    What does it take to be an artist?

    Well, it takes a desire to create art, and the initiative to act on that desire.

    If you’ve ever drawn a picture, molded clay into a form you’ve imagined, glued paper scraps into a collage, or in some other way have designed and assembled a creative work, then you ARE an artist.

    What does it take to be a good artist?

    Some would say it requires a Bachelors or a Master’s degree in art, and yet one of the world’s most well-known and best-loved artist, Van Gogh, attended several different art schools with sporadic attendance, and didn’t actually graduate from any of them.  He also disagreed with much of what he was taught.  In spite of that, he produced a great number of treasured, beautiful works such as the two below.

    “Starry Night Over the Rhone” by Vincent van Gogh – Unknown. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.



    VanGogh-starry night
    Starry Night, by Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


    Grandma Moses never went to Art School at all.

    1918 fireboard byGrandmaMoses
    By Grandma Moses [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

     In addition, there are, or have been many other accomplished artists with all levels of art education, from none at all, to those holding several degrees in different disciplines of art.  So, it would seem that educational level is not a valid indicator of what makes a good artist.

    To me, it stands to reason that a good artist is an artist who creates good art.

    So What is good art?  Answering that question, is of course,  impossible.  There are as many definitions of what is “good” art as there are people to look at art. Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes good art, from Jackson Pollock’s seemingly random spatters of paint, to Picasso’s distorted-looking portraits, all the way to pencil drawings so realistic they can be mistaken for a black and white photograph.  Such as the works in the video below, there are many different kinds of art, all “good” in their own way.



    In my opinion, the best way to decide if you are a good artist,  is to ask if your art is something that brings you satisfaction?  Not just in the creation of it, but in the finished product as well.  Do you look at what you’ve created and feel pleasure, or do you feel nothing but frustration?  Now, I don’t mean that when you look at your work you should see no problems, or see no room for improvement, but overall, are you pleased with your work even though you may still see some problems or areas you need to improve in?  If so, that is as accurate a definition of good art as any I can think of, so if you’ve created even one piece of art that meets that criteria, you are a good artist!

    In that sense,  I too can call myself a good artist.  There are many of my works that bring me pleasure when I view them.  However, not all of them do.

    Those who have followed my blog for some time are aware of how dissatisfied I often am with the skies in my paintings, and how even with the few that I am happy with, it was usually a huge struggle and challenge to get them to that point.  Any sky with more than a tiny wispy cloud in it is the bane of my existence as an artist.  The idea of plain blue skies in every painting also doesn’t really appeal to me.

    So, I’ve decided to tackle that problem the way I do every challenge I face as an artist.  I will practice, and practice, and practice some more.  I will look at the work of those I feel have mastered that element, and I will try to learn how they did it, I may even reproduce it (though not to claim as my own, just for practice).

    I will persist with this practice until I look at the sky in front of me, or at a photo I’ve taken of the sky, or even just imagine the sky I want, and render it in a painting to my satisfaction without hours of struggle and repainting.

    In order to do that, I’ve decided that once a week, I will paint a practice sky, it will usually be small, on paper, possibly as small as an index card.  One a week, until I no longer feel that a sky is an insurmountable challenge to me.

    No matter what day I actually do the painting, I will post it on Sunday, and call it “Sunday Skies”. I will begin this feature on Sunday, January 25th.


    Thank you for reading! If you liked what you see, please consider following this blog by entering your email address at the bottom of the page,  or follow me on Google+.   See the right hand column to follow in any of these ways! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you!

    Fine Art America is the place to go for unsigned Prints of all my Paintings.


    My Etsy shop is the place to go to buy my originals that I haven’t added to this site yet, I sell a few select prints there also, and there you can choose if you’d like me to  sign them before shipping!  Eventually I’ll move all of my fine art products to this page, and leave only crafts on Etsy, but for now my art is in both places.

  • Teaching a SLOW Student!

    Have you ever tried to teach anyone something?  It can be difficult!  Its even more difficult if the student you are teaching is just NOT getting it, now imagine you are doing all that, WHILE you are trying to teach something you don’t know!

    That is the struggle of the self taught artist, trial, and error, and more error.

    Lots of error.  I am trying to get the sky in a painting just right, that is how I am seeing it in my mind, it is taking a lot of error.

    Here are some of my practice sheets where I practiced different techniques to try to get the results I wanted:

    Real quality art there, right?

    But its all part of learning without a teacher.

    Eventually I moved back onto my canvas, and its not perfect yet, but I feel like I know what needs happen now, its just that the paint I already put down needs to dry before I can do more, otherwise my colors will mix and I will end up with a green sky.  I also keep reminding myself that it won’t just be a sky, there will be land and a bridge, and water, the sky will end up being only a backdrop for everything else.  I keep telling myself that, but I want to get the sky perfect anyway. It is getting close to what I see in my head, and I think I’ll be able to bring it around to that point in t the next painting session.

    Thank you for reading! If you liked what you see, please consider following this blog with Google Friend connect, or follow me on Google+, or if you prefer, you can follow by email and get notified each time the blog is updated. See the right hand column to follow in any of these ways! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you!

    Fine Art America is the place to go for Prints of all my Paintings.

    My etsy shop is the place to go to buy my originals and request commissioned work. A few select prints are available here as well!

  • Word for the Year

    Have you noticed the trend on blogs of selecting a word for the year?  I have been debating what word I want for my year, it could be “create”, it could be “vibrancy”, both of those struck me as worthy of being selected… but instead, I am choosing a word that might come as surprise to many.

    That’s right, my word is discipline.  Why? Because its what I need in so many parts of my life.  I need it in the area of health and nutrition, I need it in the area of housekeeping, I need it in the area of spirituality, and I desperately need it in the areas of art.

    If I am going to improve my art and see my life as an artist grow, I simply must discipline myself to work on it regularly.  I love doing it, but so often I put it off, and don’t start.  I need to at least sketch four or five times a week, but preferably be working on more than just simple sketches and putting in time on my paintings, try new mediums, and learn new techniques.

    So my word for 2015 is Discipline.

    Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints

  • Stretching Myself

    One of my Index cards from the ICAD challenge.

    Before I first started painting in June of 2012, on those index cards that seemed so innocuous but proved to be carriers of the deadly “art attack” virus, I had no idea how much I had missed art in my life.  You see, way back when, years ago, in Junior High School and some in High School, I took great joy in creating.  Drawing, using oil pastels, markers, colored pencils.  I didn’t paint much back then, though I’m sure at some point I must have used paint a little, I really don’t remember, but it certainly wasn’t a medium that I used regularly… at any rate, at that time I really loved art.  For some reason, shortly after high school, I stopped. Perhaps it was because the responsibilities of adult life left little time for it, and little money for supplies.  Perhaps it was because of other issues I was dealing with that caused me to feel unworthy of something that would bring me joy.  Perhaps I just didn’t get around to it.  For whatever reason though, art was no longer a part of my life.  Occasionally I would do crafts, make Christmas ornaments, crochet baby clothes, something like that, but drawing, or “painting” with colored pencils or pastels, was completely forgotten.

    After starting the ICAD challenge though, I quickly realized I was hooked, not just on art, but in particular on painting.  It wasn’t long before I wanted to move beyond the index cards and onto a canvas.  Since then, I’ve painted and painted and painted.  Having had no formal training, I have learned most of what I know by trial and error, often with many errors repeated again and again (when will I finally automatically paint background objects BEFORE foreground objects???).  I’ve watched a few how-to videos, and read a few books, but mostly I’m self taught… I’ve been learning to paint by PAINTING.  Eventually I might like to go for my BFA, but in the meantime I just continue to paint.

    Recently, the gallery owner where my work is sometimes displayed suggested that I take part in a local juried show.  He felt that it would give me more exposure, and also give me a chance to see how my work compares with other local artists and to get feedback from more people.  I looked over the work I had, and felt that there were many things I had learned recently that didn’t show in those pieces, so I decided to create three pieces specifically for the show, being mindful to apply everything I’ve learned up until now.  In other words, I wanted to really stretch myself to the limits of my current skills and abilities, so that I would be submitting the very best work I am currently capable of producing.

    Here is the first piece as it took shape:

    This first photo shows the work after my first painting session, I have no idea how much time I spent up until this point on it, but it was all one painting session.  I used three reference photos I had taken, but didn’t copy directly from any of them, just used them to spark ideas and give a general outline of what was happening.

    I decided to block in some general darks and lights in the background, so that when I added background trees gaps in them wouldn’t show stark blue sky, because I’ve noticed in some of earlier paintings that sky showing through like that often makes the landscape look flat, or fake.

    Then, here is the second in progress photo, a little more has changed at this point, one back ground tree has been added, and one more foreground tree.

    Then I added the other background trees.  Notice that I made them lighter and less distinct than the ones in the foreground, I’ve been trying to learn to implement atmospheric perspective.
    On to progress picture number 4, here I have lightened the trees in the background more, plus added some more foreground elements. I know that the picture looks very different in color here, but it hasn’t changed.  All but the final two photos were taken with my phone, and it is very sensitive to changes in lighting.  The slightest difference in available light causes a whole different color cast over everything.
    Next I simply added more detail in the foreground, such as some flowers on the bush in the lower right hand corner, and some more reflected light on the pond.

    Then I thought I was done, so I took a good picture with my good camera, but afterward, I noticed that the sky above the background trees looked “dirty” because of all the times I’d painted over to obscure the trees a little more in trying to achieve the atmospheric perspective:

    So I fixed the sky, and then took another picture with my good camera.  I printed several samples to compare the color to the original, and edited until it matched.  And here is the final result:

    So there is the painting that will be my first entry into the juried show.  Because I am keeping it for the show, I can’t offer it for sale yet, however prints of it are available on my Fine Art America page, and if the original doesn’t sell during the show, it will be offered for sale afterward either in my local gallery, or in my Etsy shop.

    Art Prints

    Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints

  • Hmmm… Still Learning!

    Since I’ve begun painting, I’ve always felt that landscapes were my weakness.  I’ve just never been very satisfied with them.  I was okay with it if I did an obviously abstracted landscape… one that was clearly not meant to look exactly real… but when it came to traditional landscapes… I just wasn’t happy with my results.

    Well, I think I may finally be breaking through that barrier.  I’ve been working on a landscape and I think I am quite happy with the results so far, so I thought I’d share the work-in-progress.  I think the real difference in this one is that I went through my photography and found reference photos to use, when before I just tried to “make up” a landscape in my mind.  I didn’t try to copy any of my photos exactly, but I did use them to plan the general shape of the shoreline, hills beyond the water, and the color of sky and water.

    Just goes to show you, I still have lots learn and never want to stop learning!

    Here is what I have so far:

    Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints

  • The Chrome Monster gets a New Name.

    Once upon a time there was, living in the mind of an artist, an idea to paint a picture of one of the coolest cars in the history of American cars.  So this artist, although she had never attempted to paint anything shiny or reflective before, decided to paint a Chevy Bel Air from the mid 1950’s, she ended up deciding on a 1956 since she had reference photos of that year available to her.

    So this artist started off, and kept telling herself that she could figure out a way to paint all of that shiny red metal, and silvery, reflective chrome.  She had no idea how she was going to do it, but just started painting what she saw, carefully matching values and colors, though she changed a few things like the photographer’s reflection in the bumper of the reference photo.

    It was a difficult painting, and while working on it the artist bestowed on it the name of “Chrome Monster” as she realized just how much of that challenging, shiny surface the 1956 Chevy had.  In her head, as she painted, she kept reminding herself, “don’t worry, paint what you see, the printer didn’t have any metalic ink, and it managed to produce a picture of chrome, so can you.”.

    Finally, after many days, she stepped back and looked at the painting and realized that it was done.  She was so happy with the result that she no longer saw it as monster, and instead decided to name it the “Chrome King”.

    And here it is:
    Photography Prints

    Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints

  • Chrome Monster Progress! Taking Shape!

    The Chrome Monster is starting to take shape, I think for my first effort at shiny metal, and my first effort at a car, its coming along pretty good.  What do you think?

    Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints

  • The “Chrome Monster” in progress.

    I just thought I’d share a picture of my latest piece in-progress.  I’m jokingly calling it the “Chrome Monster” because it is so absolutely loaded with shiny, reflective chrome, which is a challenge for me to paint realistically.  I think the real name of the piece will be “When Cars Were Cool” or something like that.

    Anyway, all I’ve done so far is outline everything, paint some lines to indicate main value areas, and start blocking in some of the darkest value areas.  I went a little furter than that with the hub cap though, and blocked in all of the main value areas except for the brightest highlights, which I will save for last.

    Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints