Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Art World at Your Fingertips

I recently discovered the Virtual Art Academy site and have subscribed to Barry John Raybould's free newsletter.

I can't stress enough how important it is to keep learning and trying new things. Perhaps when we get stuck in a rut or have a block its because we're bored. I forget to try other things - new methods, new ways to start, other materials, etc. I tend to think that any and all my time at the easel must be focused on a gallery worthy painting. In essence, I forget to play and enjoy the process as much as the outcome.

Going "back to school" is excellent way to revive your creative spirit, to push yourself to grow and to try new things just for the sake of play and experimentation. Even if you don't have teachers locally, there is a world of quality mentoring and lessons online. Check out the list we've begun in the right column and treat yourself in the new year.

Monday, October 17, 2011

120 Bad Paintings

from Jeff Mahorney - 120 Paintings

Excerpt from Jeff's blog post Oct.14th -- I'd like to thank artist and instructor Larry Seiler for featuring some of my work (and blog) in a recent Wetcanvas live Webinar (and soon to be DVD). Larry's work and wisdom have always been an inspiration to me. In fact, the name of this blog is taken from his oft quoted mantra that it takes around 120 bad paintings before you know something about painting. Larry's beautiful work, advice, wisdom etc. are part what influenced me to commit to this little experiment in learning to paint. I can't really describe what it's meant to me (which is everything). So, I wanted to say thanks to Larry. Thank you for sharing your experience, strength and hope over these many years. Thank you for passing it on to the rest of us. :)

Webinar Session #2 "120 paintings" is where Larry describes this idea that no matter what you are learning, the path to success is built on failure. You have to put in your time and show up. The bad paintings that you make on the way aren't unfortunate mistakes, they are equally necessary parts of the journey. The bad paintings are the foundational bricks on which the good paintings stand. It's all connected, the pain and the joy, the bad and the good, even if we can't see it at the time. Have faith that these seemingly random dots will connect and trust that the universe will take you were you need to be. So, relax, take a breath and pick up the brush again. You can't control or predict what will happen, but that's not your job anyway. Your job is just to show up and head in the direction of what you love.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just Keep Painting

from Robin Cheers

The advice my husband gave me last night. And my "mantra" akin to Dory's "just keep swimming" - JUST KEEP PAINTING.

The past two weeks have been a struggle. But I keep trying at least. I have granted myself permission to waste materials. To just try and if it doesn't work, I can wipe off or paint over later. Or wait and see if its got hidden potential.

I noticed my palette got stuck in a certain range and I painted 3 paintings with that same color scheme without even realizing it. So, I altered that. I've tried different compositions, going larger, then going smaller, but just keep going! I do tend to quit too soon. I think a lot of artists stop when it gets ugly. There is an ugly moment in many paintings, but we have to work past that and bring things together. I've been giving up and haven't believed in the painting.

I had the good fortune to attend an artist talk and demo with Quang Ho and Scott Christensen last weekend and they shared some wonderful thoughts which really made me stop and think.

Scott joked that artists have to "enjoy suffering" and need to be willing to have paintings fail. Fail not for lack of trying, but because you push yourself in order to learn and grow. And if you are making decisions as you paint, then you will have a positive outcome, but if you aren't making conscious choices as you work, then you are painting in fear.

Quang said you can't get attached, rather ask, "What if?"

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shea Hembrey: How I became 100 artists

If you are out of ideas - try this!

* * * *

How do you stage an international art show with work from 100 different artists? If you're Shea Hembrey, you invent all of the artists and artwork yourself -- from large-scale outdoor installations to tiny paintings drawn with a single-haired brush. Watch this funny, mind-bending talk to see the explosion of creativity and diversity of skills a single artist is capable of.

If You Want to Be An Artist

from Robin

My friend Tess shared this with me from Stapleton Kearns... he has a great blog btw. You will find a wealth of business and painting advice, lessons, Q&A, etc.

* * * *


I am not well organized, forget to write stuff down and would rather paint than do all of the the things that those creepy books written by career counselors recommend. But I guess I can come up with a few things.
  • Find Earl Nightingale and study his material. Here is a link to a post I have written on that. I am not a devotee of self improvement literature. Earl is different.
  • I often carry an index card in my left pocket with five things that I want to get done during the day. I check them off as I go.
  • I avoid making appointments. I want to paint, not meet with people so I try to keep my schedule freed up. I will obsess about the damage to my work schedule caused by an hour long appointment sometime next week. If I have an appointment during an upcoming day, I look at that day as lost. I try to get as many things done after the light fails as I can, grocery shopping, laundry, family etc.
  • I have no hobbies, I don't play or watch those sport things. I don't play video games or Farmville (whatever that is).
  • I don't have a television. If you watch two hours of TV a day and wonder why you are not making it as an artist, you are kidding yourself about the size of what it takes to do this.
  • I don't seek to earn money from other sources than my art. I don't own a rental unit nor do I buy stock, I am afraid it will divert my attention from my work, part of which is to make a living. If a dollar comes into this house it has to be from the art. I don't do jobs or employment.
  • I have a a mental list of my contacts the people who are my dealers and fellow artist travelers. I call them routinely and check in. Speaking with my friends who are professional artists who are also at their easels helps. I have about a half dozen of those, and talking to them helps me build a model for my own efforts. We are working together, separately. Their lives are very like mine. We provide emotional support for one another. You need to have a network of people who you want to be like. I have that in spades, very important to me. These are successful painters, you would know their names. We become like the people we hang out with.
  • I keep mental track of my time at the easel. Doing business things, talking on the phone, etc is all essential but it is not time spent on your art. You have to account for it separately.There is a lot of advice for artists out there on business management, most of it written by people from the business world who want to help us spaced out artists. I know a few artists who do all that stuff too. Often their work takes on the same quality though. It is real important to put your art first. ALWAYS THE ART COMES FIRST. Then worry about marketing it. Good art will sell. I don't mean to say that you don't have to do all of that phone calling a list keeping, but it is not as important as the art. I know a very successful artist who has no e-mail, no web site and no business card. He does do the phone a lot though.
  • I use Google calender it is on G-mail. It notifies me before appointments and I can look in there and see what is coming up. Many computers are sold with calender and event programs and you probably have one.
  • Once a month or sometimes more often, I call all of my dealers. I don't do it to ask if they have sold my work. I do it just to talk, I need to work with friends. If I can't be friends with a dealer usually things don't work out.
I will think about this some more and see what else I can come up with. I will do a post aimed at the serious amateur who has to have a life outside of the studio, which I don't.
-- Stapleton Kearns

Friday, September 23, 2011

Where Does the Time Go?

from Robin Cheers

This week has really gotten away from me. Here it is, Friday afternoon, and I have one incomplete small painting to show for my week. Last week, I painted 5 larger paintings.

What changed?

Well, last week I was determined and focused. I took my daughter to school and came directly to my studio to get to work. I didn't schedule interruptions and luckily didn't have any crop up.
This week, I had several appointments, met friends for lunch, took the car in for service, etc. As a result, when I had art time, I was too tired and distracted to focus on it.

The results are a feeling of annoyance with myself for letting so many things distract me from my work. I think the most successful artists clear their schedule for art. They schedule appointments later or on weekends, they treat it as a job where a boss is checking your timeclock. Sometimes its not feasible, but its important to try so the other distractions don't end up being your work.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Do you admire another artist - to distraction?

from Robin Cheers

There is so much eye candy out there that you could easily spend hours poring over other artist's work every day. From magazines and books to online galleries, websites and blogs, the access to art is amazing. And overwhelming.

This can be too much of a good thing. Its quite natural for artists to admire and want to learn from others, but if you spend too much time allowing all those images clutter your mind, you will not be able to express your own vision. I think its great to look to others to see how a problem was solved, or to inspire a unique approach in your own work, but only as a springboard. Sometimes copying a master's work is a great lesson in color mixing and design. And if you are very careful, you might distinguish how the paint was applied, which layers were first, how the paint varies from transparent to opaque. But trying to paint like someone else in all your paintings will only lead to disappointment. You will inevitably see your work as a failure, because you aren't giving voice to your own creativity.

Learning to express ourselves is a bit like a treasure hunt. Through honest expression and the belief that we have something important to share in our work, we create work that not only pleases us, but inspires others.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Working Through It

Reader Leslie recently sent the following - Thanks Leslie!Link
When I was first learning to paint, my biggest block was finding something inspiring that wasn't too overwhelming a challenge to face. Boy! That was a small universe to choose from! One day I scoured the net for the secret key to finding the perfect inspiring subject... knowing it was out there somewhere, because so many other artists were finding endless inspiration. When I hit on this, the search ended. The truth of what this person says just resonated and stuck in my bones.

Unfortunately, it was an anonymous post in response to an anonymous question on some message board I could never find again, so I don't know to whom it could be attributed. But truth is truth, and I can't help but believe the original poster wouldn't mind it being passed along. -- Leslie

How do you find your artistic inspiration?

What a wonderful question. I know this is true because I drift in and out of disillusionment and inspiration on nearly a daily basis. I think after all these years I have discovered what works for me. And apparently from reading about the struggles of people with similar difficulties, what works for others as well.


Wait for it….

It’s the WORK! Yes that’s right, it’s the work. It is not some muse which guides me here and there within my artistic self and then abandons me. It is the understanding that if I do the work within my own heart and soul, and head, and actually produce a product based upon that effort, then whatever I am artistically is seen by me and others. Thereby my art is produced. And often when I am so blocked by all those named and unnamed things which I consider to be in my way (and they number in the thousands) which can stop me writing, or photographing or painting, or doing whatever it is I can do artistically at that moment, I know that if I just DO IT – write word upon word (nonsensically if necessary), or photograph a bug, or sketch a subject, or whatever, anything, my ability will all of a sudden reemerge. I know HOW to take pictures. I KNOW how to write. When I feel blocked and unable to create I have a thousand excuses why I cannot create. I can set a thousand barriers in front of me to disallow progress. And I have gone years using those impediments as excuse.

But the truth is that no one cares if I write or take pictures or draw or paint. I mean they say they do, but in the scheme of things, in comparison to world hunger, war, illness, poverty my artistic output is of little import. It is only in the RESULT of whatever art I can actually produce that people can find something to feel about my work. I can talk about my art. I can boast about it and promise it and lament its incompleteness. But only if I actually produce something can it be called art. And even then it may be bad art and I may find eventually, and sooner rather than later, that I suck as an artist. But if I don’t produce something, anything, if I only remain one of those who TALKS art, well then I am just another sap who let the barriers and blockage get in the way of that which I must do to be an artist. Actually make art.

So with all that said, my suggestion to you is just do the work. Put word to paper, pen to ink, brush to canvas. Eventually the blocks will fall and the breaks will unsieze. If you are really an artist, your art will get you going again.

Wow - powerful stuff indeed. A good dose of plain speaking too. And I have to agree - in my own experiences I fight it, blame outside events, claim my muse is MIA, but when I just get the brush wet and start pushing the paint around, I find that I can paint still. And the more I work, the more easily it comes. Like a river being undammed. -- Robin

Thursday, August 25, 2011

High Tech Bookmarks

I might be behind the curve here - I know Kate has been using Pinterest for awhile now - but I read this today from My Modern Metropolis and thought the concept quite clever.

Top 6 Bookmarking Sites for Visual Inspiration

-- Robin

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Online Gesture Drawing Sessions

Reader Matthew shared a blog post he wrote about a great concept for in-studio gesture drawing sessions. Work from the comfort of your monitor if you can't get out to do this from life, or if you need to bust through some blocks!

Here is his post copied from his blog:
Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gesture Session
I recently discovered a site with a figure drawing script. You can choose from a short list of subjects and set a timer on how long the 'pose' lasts. Other nice features are keeping all the photos in grayscale and scaling the image to fill the entire browser window. It's not the same as doing these types of exercises from a live model, but when it comes to subjects like big cats and horses, this may be more convenient.
Discretion is advised on the site with this notice: Every single picture in every category is potentially NSFW due to costumed and uncostumed models. The horses and big cats are uncostumed which is my guess as to how every picture in every category is potentially NSFW

Here's the link:
I am definitely going to make use of this - I just wish I knew what NSFW means. :-)

-- Robin

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blocks and Barriers Interrupt Even the Masters

Reader Jena Ellis shared this article with me recently:

10 Most Famous Unfinished Pieces of Art*

*update: 7/13 - I was asked to remove this link as it was irrelevant info on the host's site. Maybe wikipedia has something.

-- Robin

Friday, August 5, 2011

Charcoal Drawing

from Terri Wells

Sometimes it takes several months to gain enough distance from a project to change direction. My artist friend, Elwood Howell, reminded me of the value of drawing in charcoal to conceptualize and it was so freeing to work this way again. The wall sculpture enlargement of “In God’s Paint Box” has been on hold while Ampersand tweaked production of the boards, but I waited beyond that to start the work. Knowing that there were changes to make in the shapes and support structure, but unsure of what to do, charcoal drawing opened up creative doors. I’ll be cutting wood soon!

Click Here to see Elwood Howell’s work.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beyond Networking

from Robin Cheers

I think one of the best investments an artist can make is in artistic friendships. Not the kind that help you build professional relationships and get your work out there, but the kind of friend you can sit and have a cup of tea with and talk about what inspires you, or the lack of inspiration.

I have such a group of friends and they can understand me better than my spouse even. Its very personal when our art fails us and its hard to separate failure at the easel from the rest of our day.

We've all been through this and its nice to have another artist commiserate and remind us of our better days.

As a woman, mother, wife, etc. its also important to have a friend who is also juggling all those roles while trying to nurture the artistic self. Its a challenge and the artist can easily be overwhelmed by other commitments.

Don't lock yourself away from the world, whether things are going well or you're struggling. Online forums are great, too but there is nothing like chatting face to face. ;)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rose Frantzen video on her creative process

From Kate Merriman

I am a devoted reader of the "Making a Mark" blog by Katherine Tyrrell, who is not only a talented artist but a wise and eclectic writer on the world of artists.

So it is through her that I discovered this very inspirational video of painter Rose Frantzen who describes her creative process and most recent project.  It is absolutely worth the 57 minutes if you are an artist.

It made me ask myself all kinds of good questions.  Also reminded me that life is short and that I want to spend more hours of each day (week, month) creating art than watching television or strolling around a mall.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Working in Series

Lazy titles or great motivation? There’s a lot of artwork titled I, II, III from the 1960s. Working on “errors and fixing” has its merits, but if you find yourself always beating yourself up into a creative block, consider working in series. Going with the positives and the intriguing may motivate you more. It’s kind of the half full vs. half empty thing.

Loving what was happening in the movement and color in work from a trip out west, I started a series called “Western Movement.” Being aware of what I’d successfully done in the western work, I applied it to another geography and found new inspiration. Working in series can be a great motivator and causes focus in your work. I, II, III, give it a try! Let us know how you do.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The blessing of constraints

by Kate Merriman

So, you can hear me spouting off to friends about how God/ the universe /higher power always knows better than we do ourselves about what's best for us. But I don't always act as if that's true. So when this theory seems to come blazing to life, I am surprised and happy. And sort of embarrassed for myself.

If you'd have asked me, in order to create a group of 8 to 10 paintings that I really love all on the same theme, I'd need a nice month-long Artist-in-Residence program with meals a la Tassajara and foot massages each evening. If you'd have asked me to create a nice logical project plan for "Kate puts on her first solo show", it would have have a Gantt chart with a fat red critical path line extending to sometime in June 2011.

But, instead, just 15 days before I was to move house from Bolinas to San Anselmo, a very trusting and generous new artist friend invited me to be the solo artist at a popular coffee house for the month of February. Which was also in just 15 days. I looked around my little Bolinas house. Hmm, no paintings. All sold or given away. But I had to say yes, so suddenly the universe conspired with me to meet the limitation and soon I was creating new works that I'm totally stoked about. (See link via image above.)

A former painting teacher gave me some great encouragement that might also help you sometime:

"Working fast is an honest and integral part of your process," he said.

Wow! Permisssion to just go ahead and be me. No reason to put my work down just because it happens quickly. Revelation!

And just arbitrarily, I set the constraint of a theme of "wet dogs at the beach" which, strangely, further fueled the creative fires rather than the opposite.

With just a week left before I hang the show, I'm nearly ready.  Ha!  Life certainly is full of surprises.  Good ones.

I'm very encouraged to set more challenges and limits and see what comes of that.

"Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." -- Mary Oliver

What have your experiences been with creation and constraints?

Daily or Not To Daily - That Is the Question

from Robin Cheers

This morning I gave myself a stern talking to and I think it worked. I had to remind myself to stop trying to paint a masterpiece and paint because I love to paint. To enjoy the process. I think I almost get stage fright thinking that I have an audience watching and waiting. Like I have to perform.
I think that is a drawback of the online art community. We created a wonderful network for artists, but we also created a daily drama that requires constant upkeep and checking in lest we be forgotten.
I have to think in terms of "painting daily" not "(a) daily painting."
Painting daily means keeping my eyes open, working my creative muscles, seeing beyond the obvious and looking for beauty. And letting it come to me. It doesn't mean I am required to paint a painting every single day and offer it for sale. Right?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Best Practices

from Robin Cheers

After a couple of weeks off, I head back to my studio and face my easel and suddenly can't remember how to hold a brush! It takes a few days and a few canvases before I get back into the groove.

If you've been to a workshop you know that we students are always curious to know what colors, what brush, what medium, etc. the instructor uses. As if there is a certain way to do things that will make our work soar.

Unfortunately, there isn't a magic brush and the nature of art is that there isn't a set of practices to guarantee our work will succeed. But I think there are certain things that will set one on the right path. Rather than jumping right in on a large canvas, I should have taken some time to warm up, to do a loose sketch, or value study. To aim a little lower. I also thought I'd try to paint from my monitor rather than printing a photo. The monitor is nice and large, but its a good 6 feet away from me. Even a different choice of music would have helped! I realized too late that the commercial radio was really bothering me.

So by picturing myself working, by picturing what I wanted to do, and by sketching, doing a study, or warming up, I could have had better luck and felt better about my efforts.

Other things to help get yourself in the groove again might be to set up a fresh palette and select the best brushes and have them ready (something I didn't do either and there is nothing worse than trying to make old paint flow). Maybe start simple. If you paint still lifes, paint a single piece of fruit before tackling 10 items in a single painting. Loosen up your arm as well, sketch some large circles and loops to waken those muscles.

So maybe with a couple of deep breaths and remembering my own best practices, I will have more success today.
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