A Work in Progress

Original drawing with details added

Back in February I was honored to be chosen to participate in The Bernice Garden’s ‘Eyes are are the Windows’ art show. I was then given an old window, the theme 'eyes are the windows to the soul’, and the freedom to do with it as I please.

I started out by trying to develop the imagery and composition of the piece. I had a vague inkling of what I wanted but not sure in what capacity. I kept picturing a woman holding flowers while looking up towards heaven. The woman representing the soul and the flowers representing our life on earth. She looks towards heaven and is drawn towards her Creator.

As I was drawing various rough sketches, there was a quiet yet constant voice telling me that I had already created the drawing I would need for this piece. I ignored it and kept sketching as I couldn’t think of anything I’d drawn recently that actually fit with what I wanted. After a few hours of frustration at my inability to produce any satisfying ideas I finally stopped.

That nagging feeling hadn’t gone anywhere so I decided to go searching in my sketchbooks for anything I could use. Sure enough, I found it. When I had finished this drawing in January, I couldn’t figure out how to progress with the painting so I put it to the side and completely forgot about it. Looking at it again, I realized that it was exactly what I needed for this project. All I had to do was add the shading and details and I was ready to get this project going. In the end, this whole experience affirmed in me my need to open myself up to God’s leading and inspiration throughout the creative process. I find it uplifting to know that the ultimate Creator wants to be involved in our creative pursuits. After all, we create because God first created us.

I brought the 2x2’ single pane window to my incredibly skillful Dad who helped remove the old glazing, replace the cracked glass, and reinforce the structural integrity of the old wooden framing. I reglazed it myself and set about turning the window into a watercolor painting.

A few months before, I had gotten my hands on some Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground . This stuff can be applied to multiple surfaces like wood, stone, metal and glass, and create an absorbent surface similar to cold press watercolor paper. At the time, I got it out of curiosity but had no real plans on what to do with it. Now I had the perfect surface to utilize it on. Click the image to the left to check the stuff out for yourself or get some from Amazon. I’m not sponsored or anything, I just think this stuff is pretty cool.

Due to the transparent nature of the glass, I applied a number of layers to the window to build up a solid paint surface. It took me quite awhile to build up the layers as each one takes 24 hours to dry and cure. I experimented with both a wide, flat synthetic brush and a sponge brush and felt the sponge brush created a less textured surface. It still wasn’t perfect so next time I might try a foam roller and see how it does. I enlarged and printed the drawing out and transferred it to the window surface using an old trick I picked up in high school. Basically, covering the back of the paper in chalk, taping it down, and tracing over it with a dull pencil. I then retraced it and shaded the line art with a mahogany Prisma colored pencil. Due to the size of the piece and the texture of the surface of the watercolor ground, I ended up tearing through 4 full colored pencils throughout this whole project.

I started painting by adding washes of color to the background and figure, then I added details throughout. The biggest challenged I faced was the way the watercolor paints reactivated on the watercolor ground surface. So layering watercolors on top of each other proved to be a wee bit difficult. I’m not sure if this was due to user error or the limitations of the watercolor ground. I’m interested to work with this material some more to find out.

The real fun came with applying the gold leaf to the background. I had never worked with gold leaf in this capacity before; mostly just a few craft projects here and there. I first attempted to lay the sheets down side by side but it created seams between each sheet. I actually liked the look (it reminded me of the work of Makoto Fujimura) but I didn’t feel like it worked with this particular piece. I ended up adding a second layer of gold leaf flakes, hand torn by yours truly. For a few days it looked like a blinged out fairy had had a dance party in my studio. I was much happier with the look and texture of the gold leaf after this second layer.

The rest of the process was adding painted details, retracing pencil lines, touching up the shading, and adding and tweaking gold leaf elements. The finishing touch was adding multiple layers of spray varnish.

I am incredibly happy with the end result and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity the Bernice Garden gave me to go beyond my comfort level for this piece. It’s the biggest watercolor painting I’ve worked on (2x2 ft) and I got to experiment with new materials like the watercolor ground and the gold leaf. I was able to give an old window new life and I am excited to see it on display at the Bernice Garden show on June. 15th.

Living with Our Scars

 
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I can’t help but feel excited about the near future. I might be overly optimistic but my heart feels eager for all that might be ahead. I just recently finished my painting entitled ‘Scars’, I was just added to the Arkansas Arts Council Artist Registry, I’ve opened up registration to this year’s Summer Art Camp, I just applied to my first artist residency, and I’m starting to work on my piece for the Bernice Garden’s Window Art Show. Things are moving forward and I’m excited to see where they lead. In the end, I know it’s in God’s hands. I just have to do my part and pray I don’t mess anything up.

 
 
Scars-Painting.jpg

As I mentioned, I recently finished my ‘Scars’ watercolor painting. As I was sketching the image, I felt led to add a detail to the chest of the woman the thought of floral elements came to mind. When I drew the vine, I realized that it reminded me of a surgical scar. Suddenly, I knew what this painting was going to be about.

 
 

Physical, mental, emotional, accidental, self inflicted, received at the hands of another, visible, and invisible; scars are something most, if not all people can identify with and I feel an image such as this will resinate with many of them.

 

Recovery and Inktober

It’s been over 2 months since I had my carpal tunnel surgery and things are progressing but moving slower than I hoped they would. My hand is fully functional at this point but limited in how it can function. As long as I don’t apply much pressure to the lower portion of my palm (on and around the incision spot) then I do pretty well. I just need to NOT jab that area with anything (say the corner of a piece of stiff watercolor paper) or else it feels like I was just stabbed in the hand. It’s a very unpleasant pain that lingers for over a minute. It also helps if I don’t try to swat at gnats who are resting on the wall. That was a pretty regrettable mistake. The doctor did a great job with the incision at the base of my palm. It’s healing so well you can hardly notice it.

As soon as my doctor said I could start drawing again I wasted no time. The first couple weeks were rough as I had to learn how to pace myself. I’m used to drawing for hours upon hours but with the pain that just isn’t possible. I have to take constant breaks with gentle massages or warm water soaks. Part of me is afraid I’ll end up undoing all the work the doctor has done.

The first month of drawing saw me working with a more simplistic illustration style. There was just no way my hand could handle the pressure needed to draw the detailed images I am used to but it was good practice and I was pretty happy with a few of the resulting pictures. I’ve been able to slowly incorporate more details as my hand adjusts slowly.

As October approached I noticed quite a few artists online talking about Inktober. I was familiar with the 31 day drawing prompt challenge but had never had the time to dedicate to it. Now I had all the time in the world. So I dove in and have had a ton of fun working with the prompts, experimenting with different styles, materials and colors themes. Below are a few of my favorites so far but you can check out more of my pieces in my gallery page HERE.

Surgery and the Need to Create

I can now say with all confidence that carpal tunnel is not fun. After coping with it for 9 months, I finally had surgery on the 14th. The worst thing about healing after surgery is the inability to work on any of my art. So in an attempt to bring a small amount of creativity into my day, I've started doodling with my left, non-operated on, hand.

So far this little picture is the one I'm the most pleased with. It's kinda funny that I've been working on a more simplistic illustration style recently and that's pretty much all I can muster with my less dominant hand right now. I'm actually really liking the simple style with the looser, scribbly lines. I love that watercolor paints are so forgiving of my sloppy application and actually seem to work really well along side the looser lines. I'm hoping to keep playing around with this style some more while my hand continues to heal.

A Peek Inside My Sketchbook

I guess it's an obvious sign that someone is new to blogging when it's been a month since their last post. It would seem like it's going to take some time for me to become disciplined enough to keep up with a regular schedule. Just add it to the expanding list of things I need to improve in. 

I may be falling short in the blogging department but I'm happy to say I've been pretty good at keeping up my artwork. Feel free to follow me on Instagram (@createdtocreatestudio) where I'm much better about posting my work as it's created. 

Anyway, I figured I'd give you a peek inside my sketchbook and the work I've done since my last blogpost. I've been doing some of my usual portrait sketches but I've also been playing around with some illustration ideas.

Fresh Out of the Studio

Two days and a couple evenings in the studio and voila, a new portrait is made!

I'm trying to be looser in how I apply my watercolor paints. I'm happy with how well it worked in this painting. The colors came out looking softer and lighter; adding a gentleness to the portrait. I also forced myself to keep the background supper simple.

The highlight of my day was when Mochi decided to grace my workspace with with her little cat butt. She also made it clear that she did not seem impressed with my productivity. 

Studio Upgrades and My First Commission

I know there are a lot of artists out there who can create amazing artwork no matter where they are. I can certainly doodle just about anywhere but if I want to to really become immersed in my work, I have to be in a space that feeds into my creative process. I've been blessed to have a studio space in our home for a few years now. Each year I've added to it in an attempt to make it a warm and creative space. I ripped up the old carpet, painted the walls, hung artwork, installed custom storage and shelves, and my dear Troy even relocated the entrance to the closet to optimize the space. Yet, despite all that work, I still didn't feel comfortable working in the room, and for me comfort is a major necessity for a creative working environment. 

When I ripped up the carpet I refused to put down more and we didn't have the funds to install some fancy flooring. So I painted the concrete floor and felt that would do just fine. After all the other work I've put into the space I finally realized that it was the concrete floor holding it back so much. It just felt so cold; both figuratively and literally. Looking for cheap flooring options, I discovered that laminate wood flooring has really come a long way in looks and durability. The fact that it was so easy to install on my own was just icing on the cake. Though I do have to give a BIG thanks to my Dad though for donating and installing the baseboards for me. Those were not so easy to do.

A very empty studio with freaking awesome floors

A very empty studio with freaking awesome floors

I was blown away by how much simple flooring could change the look and feel of a single room. I'm very happy to say my studio is now the warm and inviting space I've wanted it to be for years. It stills needs a few things here and there but it is a place I want to be now. A place I can be my most creative.

Since the install, I've been trying to stay as productive as possible and having a studio space I want to work in has helped a lot in that. I've even gotten to work on my first commission piece.

Commission - pencil, watercolors, gouache

I really enjoyed the challenge of this piece and I want to do more like it. I'm working hard so I can open up commissions in the next few weeks. If your interested, be sure to keep an eye out for more info. You can even follow my blog with Bloglovin by clicking the link below.

It's Been Awhile but Here I Am

Let me start this post by first wishing everyone a blessed and happy new year. 

I’m also happy to say that I’m back! 

It feels like forever since I posted but I guess in this day and age, two months away from social media is a really long time.

At the end of October I started a new job and Troy left to spend time with his dad and family in Kansas City. This left me with a lot of alone time and I felt that I needed to take a break from social media to refocus my attention in preparation for the new year. 

I experienced a lot of sudden and unforeseen life change in 2017 and I’m positive God will be doing a lot more in 2018. I have more goals set this year than I’ve ever had and a lot of it focuses on my art. I’m both excited and nervous about what this year will hold for me but I trust in God to lead me through it. I just pray I can become better at listening when He has something to say. If I had been better listener then those changes last year would not have been so sudden and unforeseen. Thank you Lord for your patience with me!

I could easily make this a long winded post but I wanted to start things out simply with a new year hello and a posting few pieces I've worked on since I last posted. I hope to have more of these soon.

Finished watercolor and gouache painting

Work in progress - Pencil Sketch

Work in progress - Pencil Sketch

And Lo, It Is Done!

This past week has been a rollercoaster of impromptu happenings, travel, and emotions.  It's been exhausting but I am very grateful to have been a part of it. I never thought I'd say that I was happy to be unemployed but if I weren't, then I would not have been able to be by my husband's side this week. 

I'll be honest though, after a week away from my paints and my favorite coffee shop, I was starting to experience some major withdrawals. It has really emphasized just how much working on my art (and drinking really good coffee) has become such a powerful form of therapy for me.  So I was beyond delighted to finally sit down today and finish the painting I had been working on. 

I think it came out satisfactory. There are some things I'd change if I could but I learned a lot in the process, which was kind of the point. Now on to the next one!

All Things Work Together

Things have been rough lately. I've had to quite my job sooner than I had planned and I'm now in search of a new job.  Money is tight and I'm trying not to replace once source of anxiety for another.    

Jesus told us in John 16: 33, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." Faith in Christ isn't a ticket to an easy life. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying to themselves. Jesus Himself faced suffering while on earth. "He was despised and rejected - a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief." Isaiah 53:3. If anyone deserved a life of peace and happiness, it was Him. Instead He left the very presence of God in heaven and entered a life full of sadness, pain and suffering. How could I ever expect life to be any different for me?   

Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them." When I look back and see how everything has become what it is today, I see God's hand all over it and that fills me with so much comfort. Has it been hard? Yes. Has it been frustrating? Yes. Has it been painful? Yes. Has it been without purpose? No, absolutely not.

Things are hard right now and they may get harder, but I know that at some point everything will work together for my good.

I am very thankful that God gave me a skill I can focus on in times like this. Sketching and painting have been my greatest form of therapy these last 6 months and have brought me a kind of joy I haven't felt in years. I am currently working on a goal to create a large enough body of work to display in a small gallery space within the next year. So no matter how difficult life might get from here, I'm going to be steadfast in this goal. This last painting is just one small step in that direction. 

My goal started off with just me wanting to draw again. Then my goal was to get BETTER at drawing again. Then I wanted to get decent at drawing portraits, then I threw some hands in there while I was at it. Maybe an animal or two.

If anyone else is going through a troubling time (I know you're out there), set yourself a goal. No matter how small or how trivial it may seem, do it. Prove to yourself that you can and then set a bigger goal and go after it. Could you screw it up on the way? Heck yeah. You just gotta refocus and get back at it. I have a TON of sketches that are embarrassingly bad but I didn't let them stop me and eventually a good sketch popped up again. I can guarantee you that I'll produce a ton of more crummy drawings but I'll keep at it until I get to another good sketch worth displaying.  

Don't be afraid, just do it. All things will work together for your good.

Comparing the Somewhat Old to the New

I've been working on my portrait drawing skills since late March of this year. I think I've finally reached a point where I've found my style. I'm not saying I've reached the pinnacle of my talents (I am FAR from that) but I think I've found a way of drawing that feels very naturally to me and has developed over the past few months.

It's interesting to look at some of my first sketches side by side with my newer stuff. It's amazing how a little bit of practice can reawaken a skill that's been smothered under a career for a few years.

March 29, 2017

September 7, 2017

Folks, this right here is proof that if you don't exercise your talents, not only will they cease to improve but they can actually regress. Looking at that first sketch is so cringe worthy for me. After I drew it, I was so disappointed in myself because I knew I could draw better than that. I used to draw better than that. I think I threw in all the flowers just to distract anyone (including myself) from my deteriorated skills. I look at my newer sketch and I feel so much better about where I am now. It also makes me excited about where I have to go from here.  

Return to Watercolor

The first form of painting I was ever taught was watercolors by my very talented aunt. I loved how the paint flowed and the colors mixed. I've recently been trying to get back into watercolors thanks to my purchase of a Sakura Koi travel pallet.  

I'm not being sponsored but I just love this thing. It's one of the most well designed travel pallets I've come across. It's small size makes it easy to store in my artist bag along side two sketchbooks, a pencil and pen case, a compact paintbrush case, and a large set of over the ear headphones. 

Doing some paint doodles with this is what got me back into sketching in the first place. I've been focusing on the sketching part for awhile now; painting a few of them here and there, but now I feel like I should move on to drawing sketches with the intention of painting them. The first one I tried this on was in my regular sketchbook. It was okay at best but the paper just wasn't made for wet media.

So I whipped out a watercolor sketchbook I had lying around and began a sketchin'. The results were SO much better.

Ah, the colors are so smooth and vibrant! I'm definately going to keep working with this method and see where it goes.