Week 5 – 100 Days of Art

This week has taught me that it is all right to spend only 5 or 10 minutes on a creation, if that is all I have available. I think back to day 2 and how my creation that day took about 5 hours to complete. At that time I wondered whether I would ever get beyond the first week! Now, I am more likely to grab the big flat brushes and play.

Day 29

We were without prompts on this day and so I attended the first Urban Sketching meetup arranged by qathet Art + Wares owners Karen and Evelyn, at our public library. After our group was shushed, I realized it was time to get to work.

I sat in the children’s area, an area I wouldn’t normally venture into, and looked around. The biggest item was a tree trunk with fake branches and fronds coming off it. After that, were the stacks of shelves and books. Then I noticed the ceiling with its timber criss-crossed design and large metal HVAC tubes. Between one aisle of books there were tables, chairs and people.

This was a tricky lesson in architectural perspective. Many lines heading down, some heading up, my eye level/vanishing point being somewhere around the shoulders of that phantom of a person I included. I used my grey-scale Promarkers and settled into a two-hour quiet study. I could have added the colourful bookends, if I had colours with me. However, I think that would have taken away from the stark peacefulness grey can provide, fitting for a library.

Day 30

I facilitated a meeting on this particular evening and got home around 9 pm. I hadn’t managed the day’s art beforehand, and so I wondered, as I ate a late dinner, what would happen if I skipped a day? But, I couldn’t do it!

I looked at the prompt. It was something about how my favourite artist from the past might paint something here in town. Well, I can’t say I am a fan of Mark Rothko’s work, however, recently, I was thinking of his simple creations because of a friend’s journal post. Suddenly I had it. I would mesh Rothko’s style with home-made paints (because my friend makes and uses his own paints) to create a sunset, something our area is famous for.

Out came the turmeric for the upper yellow, the cayenne pepper for the lower brown and I then did dip into the naphthol red for the stripe across the middle. Five minutes later, done!

Day 31

The prompt was Yellow. I scoured the house for something yellow. I almost used my gloves, but then I spied the small plastic shiny vase we have on a top shelf.

This was one of those “get out the big brushes” times. I like the reflections cast upon the shiny dark surface of the dining room table. It’s currently my surface of choice for these paintings partly for that reason.

If I took more time and went back I would change how the inside of the vase looks at the top. I think I went quite wrong there with the shape and the colour, however, it is what it is and I tried to keep within the red – yellow – brown spectrum.

Once the whitest yellow was added the whole painting took on a shiny look.

Day 32

On this day we were to look back at the previous 31 days and see what we have learned. So, I went back to that dreadful attempt at abstract, using the square, circle, triangle and line, and re-did it with more understanding of the visible spectrum, and by dropping colour into puddles of water.

I know, it looks like pizza flying through the sky on a yellow balloon. It isn’t, however, it could be 🙂

Day 33

Gosh, this was quite the exercise, which I made difficult for myself. The prompt was to create a colour grid, so I decided to use all of my TriArt liquid acrylics together with my Opus Essentials fluid acrylics, 11 in all. I had thought that I’d be able to mix the colours within the squares, but each square dried so fast that I started to find myself using more and more paint. I just couldn’t do it!

So, I get the concept, and the practice was good, but the performance lacked the end result. I will do this again at some point with a far more forgiving surface than gessoed paper.

Day 34

It was Friday again and back to the art studio at our academy of music. Jim brought in his banjo, Joyce brought apples, a blanket and dried flowers. The rest of the items were found around the studio.

I had great fun with this one. I used watercolours and dropped the colours into water puddles and watched as they grew, bloomed and ran. I really like how the base of the stand turned out, as it did have some light reflecting off its metal surface. The blanket, on the other hand, had me flummoxed and I just could not capture its folds and design.

I missed some essential bits off the banjo, apparently, which make it a banjo and not just a circle (such as the metal on the rim). Too late! Done 🙂

Day 35

To finish week 5, the prompt was to practice something you had wanted to practice during the challenge. I had made a list, just before the challenge began, of things to do and the prompts have taken me away from that list. One item on the list is to get better at painting skin – not as a tattoo artist – on canvas. I have heard that the Zorn palette is a good way to capture caucasian skin tones and so I started to play around with those four colours.

The palette uses black, red, white and yellow ochre. Essentially, I made a muddy mess, but from this I can see how these colours can create some lovely tones. I will start to use this during the challenge and see what happens.

So, there you have week 5. If you had to paint using yellow as your main colour, what would you paint? Some of the others in the challenge were quite creative, and you can see what they did if you go to the Facebook group 100dayartchallenge2023. And, do you have suggestions for more colour combinations to capture skin?

Thanks for reading!

Week 2 – 100 Days of Art

Week 2 has come and gone in a bit of a daze. Art has finally become a full-time endeavour for me. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a crazy kick in the backside that has forced me to bring art to the top of my priority list.

Now, I cannot say that these creations for the challenge are my best – far, far, far from it. Some were almost embarrassing to post to the 100dayartchallenge2023 Facebook group and my Instagram (@viridianearth) account. However, I know that this challenge is allowing me to stretch and play, have fun with trying new things, and add (or not) new tools to my box for future, more careful, study.

The people who are participating and/or commenting are generous with feedback. For me, I just want to encourage everyone to express themselves through art (including music, theatre, dance, etc). Art builds culture and community, on the small and large scale, and so even the following meagre submissions are working to bring people together and remind us that we are human and that we can always learn from and assist one another.

This week I stuck to the prompts. The prompts are voluntary; we can use them or ignore them. I found the prompts kept me focussed on the challenge and then allowed me to continue my regular art practice as I have three paintings on the go that hopefully will be of a quality to sell.

Day 8
The prompt was waves. I had created a painting a few years ago called Living on the Edge and at the top of that painting was a patch of dark, rolling ocean. I have always liked that part of the painting best and so when I saw “waves” come up as the prompt I decided to get out the phthalo blue (a very strong colour, rarely used on my palette) and start playing.

Day 9
Abstract. I am self-taught with my art. I learn things as I need to know them or come across them or am attracted by them. Abstract has often been something that has left me befuddled, confused, wondering what I am looking at. It’s not something I have really brought into my practice, although, I do believe that every piece of a painting is abstract when looked at closely enough.
So, this prompt affected me overnight. What is abstract? In the morning I checked Google and I followed Wikipedia’s advice: “Abstract art uses visual language of shape, form, colour and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world.”
I created shape, form, colour and line and called it a day! Phew, done!

Day 10
I like to think I did a bit better with this one. The prompt was Texture, and while it took me all day to come to a decision upon what to do, the actual creation of this took about 3 minutes total!
I have watched as a couple of my art friends have created tree bark rubbings during some of our plein air sessions. On Day 10 I looked outside and made a plan. I found some fairly thin scrapbook paper and a black oil pastel and headed into the garden. What you see here are four rubbings on top of each other. I started with the deck at my feet, happily discovering that the rubbing brought up lovely grains in the wood. Then, I went to the apple tree and a marker for a grave that commemorates Cedar, a lovely big fluffy cat. And then the apple tree bark. Finally, I went to the wire fence and included that on the right half of the page. Done! I’ll definitely do this again.

Day 11
The prompt was Shape. I chose lemons and placed them in a triangular formation. I liked their reflections upon the polished surface of our dining room table. The lemons are pretty old, getting a little hard and rigid, but still smell great.
I enjoyed this challenge as it forced me to look at lights and darks, form and shape, while also being loose and swift with the brush strokes to encourage a 3-dimensional form.

Day 12
Blue was the prompt and so I chose to create an imaginary landscape that allowed me to work with atmospheric perspective to send the distant hills into the background and bring the foreground to the front.
Everything here is blue, with the addition of some white and the tiniest amount of burnt umber. I used ultramarine and cobalt blue.
It was fun to make something up. I felt almost childlike in this creation, yet with the understanding I have gained from pursuing art over the past number of years. The result is simple.

Day 13
January 13th was a Friday and it was also the first day back for our indoor painting group. The prompt was to do something unconventional with composition. So, I looked at all of the still life objects in front of me at the studio of one of our local artists, and decided to turn my canvas around as I painted each object.
This makes a bit of a wheel composition. The only items that remained in their places were the lemon and avocado in the centre. Everything else got a shift 90 degrees to the right.
I like this almost topsy turvy composition. I’m not sure I would ever use it again, however, it was a lot of fun and a bit of a mind-bender to do.

Day 14
Today’s prompt was a chance to use tools I wouldn’t normally use. So, I grabbed a cloth, large palette knife, and two rubber scrapers and got to work. It was quite obvious to me that I had to stop when I did. Perhaps I should have stopped one step before… The more I scraped the paint the browner it became and I didn’t want to lose the individual colours too much.
This was one of those embarrassing pieces to post, however, a friend suggested it looked like a raven, and I like that. I hadn’t seen that possibility before, but now I do. I also like the three talons or claws visible along the lower right edge.

And so, there you have it: week 2 in the bag! How would you work with those prompts? Do you think having prompts is a good idea for a challenge like this? And, are there prompts you think we might be interested in following? We have 85 days to go, so there is room for many ideas!

I hope this is motivating you to pick up a pen, pencil, paint brush or toothbrush (!) and start creating. Thanks for reading.

Podcast companion

Sometimes, having a conversation playing in the background, especially an interesting one, can motivate art at the easel.

In process: Back alley coreopsis

I’m talking about tuning into Podcasts, although really this could be a family conversing, coffee shop chatter, a radio program, or, I guess music. It could be an audio book or a webinar, potentially even a Zoom meeting so long as you don’t need to be there on video and participating.

Lately, I have been tuning into Youngman Brown’s “Your Creative Push” and I am finding his resource of almost 400 episodes worth exploring. He is taking a break right now from podcasting, so it is a great chance to research the archives and pick what suits you for today.

Take, for instance, this conversation with Martha Beck. There is a lot to digest from this episode, and one take-away is to tune into your gut when considering a pursuit. Whatever it might be – and since this is the Artists’ Journey, let’s say a painting subject – consider the idea. Do you want to spend 10, 20 or more hours detailing a painting of, say, back alley coreopsis, like the one I am currently creating? Would something with detail like that make your stomach turn/churn or excite you? (Honestly, I must have spent more than 20 hours on it already and I keep finding things to do!)

Another inspiring conversation Youngman had is with artist James Gurney. I just listened to this yesterday, and it speaks to what I will be doing today in about an hour – heading outside to do some art. Something small and quick, or something that takes all day – regardless of what it is – if it is furthering your art experience, it will be a healthy pursuit. Gurney suggests giving chance to explore different mediums, not caring whether the end result is show-worthy or sellable. That, the best education in art comes from doing.

Today, I will be cycling off to a location with lots of cover. There is a low cloud drizzle so I will be experimenting with soft pastels on coloured paper. This isn’t my usual medium, but I tried it last week in the fog and it seemed perfect for the day.

As we were working, the fog started clearing and by the end of a few hours the sun was hot and everything had changed. I personally preferred it foggy – just for its mysterious quality, and sitting beside the shore with birds calling but unseen was magical.

So, have a listen to Your Creative Push and let me know what you think. Then, grab your art supplies – especially something you are unfamiliar with using – and head outdoors. It is only early October and there is still lots you could interpret from 3D to 2D so go for it!

Journey of 1000 strokes

The same year as artist Drew Burnham came to town, I signed up for a day’s workshop with local artist Alfred Muma; two artists with extremely different styles, yet both willing to share their techniques and encourage others on their creative path.

We have two lino prints of Alfred’s in our house, one of the old North Island Princess ferry that ran for 60 years between Texada Island and Powell River (a new ferry, the Island Discovery, took over that route last week as the NIP retired), and the other of our local beach and the paper mill.

An artist since the ’70s, Alfred is quite an inspiration. And so it was that on this particular Saturday in late fall I arrived at a portable school room on the premises of one of our elementary schools with three other students.

We learned about perspective, about view points, and about thumbnail sketches. Alfred created a still life display out of various objects and we walked around it, stopping, sketching thumbnails, then moving on. We started our main pieces by using charcoal to sketch in the design, which was then hit with a piece of cloth like swatting a fly (not that I do that). I decided to try something different, and got out my set of palette knives.

Unnamed, palette knife study – 2016

The finished painting is stored in my basement and likely will never have a title or be put on display. However, I remember time slowing in that workshop, and me feeling totally supported as I tried out this new way of applying colour. Whatever the outcome, I learned a lot that day, and I have gone on to use my palette knives with somewhat confidence since then.

If you get the chance to study, even just for a few hours, with an artist in your own community who knows what he or she is doing and can convey that information in a supportive way, take it. You never know where a little help along the way can lead.

En plein air

It is overcast with a little sliver of sunshine poking through, five degrees cooler than yesterday and the wind is threatening to build. Today is an en plein air day and I will be meeting up with four artist friends in a couple of hours.

The west coast of British Columbia is a place joined by ferries. Inlets curve and curl, deep fjords cutting into the mainland. In a car-cultured world, ferries are a necessity and our destination today is down at one of these ferry terminals.

Well, actually, it is right next door to the terminal. There is a little harbour and it will be the small boats tied up to the dock that will be our subject.

So, what to take? Over the years I have wisened up to reduction. Less is definitely more and although it would be good to take an easel, canvas, all my paints, it just isn’t practical. The intent of painting outside is not necessarily to paint an entire picture from start to finish, but to immerse within the environment and gather enough information so that back home, where I have everything I need, I can use that research to create, hopefully, a compelling piece of art.

A deck chair, waterproof jacket, extra sweater – should I take the umbrella? – two sketch pads (one for just the black ink pens and the other if I decide to use my Promarker pens), lunch, water, camera, and a backpack to carry most of these items.

Ok, seven hours later and here I am back at home, with a few mosquito bites and a sketch to show for it. The weather was beautiful, a slight breeze kept me holding my paper down, and the insects kept me distracted. However, that is what en plein air is all about. Here is my sketch.

Sitting at the dock, Saltery Bay

If you look at the photo above, you can see I have narrowed down the focus to just include one and a half boats. The sailboat is the one with the yellow door, followed by the red awninged motor boat behind. I decided to ignore all other boats.

And, you can see it is unfinished. I have yet to fill in the rest of the trees on the island beyond, but I gathered enough data to know I could finish that at home.

A note, too, that these boats move…literally. One of my artist friends was creating a lovely watercolour of a line of boats along a dock and one of them left. So, it is good to take photos as soon as possible to at least have something to work from should your subject move away!

I hope this inspires you to grab pen and paper, a snack and some water, and venture outside – even into your backyard – and draw.

Ambassadors

WordPress provides two weeks or more of instruction for new bloggers. As I follow along the tutorials and do the assignments, I come across inspiring blogs from others. One such other is Bobbie Herron.

Bobbie recently posted The Perks of a “Look at that” Attitude on her Aloft with Inspiration blog. In it, reference is made to a 12-minute video from John Muir Laws: Be a Nature Journal Ambassador. As Bobbie suggests, take a moment and watch the video and then make sure you read through her post.

We all have our reasons, said or unsaid, why we find solace looking at an element of nature with a sense of admiration. Really, what isn’t there to admire about nature? The colour palette always works – if unsure, look at a meadow in full bloom and the depths of colour that thread together to create the tapestry of unified chaos that we observe.

Shortly after starting my own Artists’ Journey, I realized I was looking at things – anything – differently. I was seeing the lights and darks, the shapes, watching how the “thing” moved (if it did) or took up space, and how the shadows played off its surface (think of a wooden stool). This was the calming, taking a breath, slowing down, meditative nature of looking with all senses.

Poinsettia in ink and colour pencil on paper

You can do this. Just like Bobbie spent a few moments admiring and then sketching a rhododendron, you have the time to pick up a pencil, pen or paint brush, and paper, and first look then look and draw. See what you can come up with and how time slows down.

A few days away

Being on the Artists’ Journey does, of course, include time to be creative. When I had first chosen my acrylic paints, I had envisioned spending countless hours sitting on the bow of our very modest sailboat painting the splendid scenery we are able to access. I tried that once and the boat moved so much I gave up. I have now realized that pen and paper is a much better solution, and rather than sitting on the bow, I hole up in the cockpit.

I did just that yesterday morning. We had anchored at Smugglers Cove, north of Vancouver, Canada, and were stern tied to the shore. This is one of my favourite locations and looking up at the shoreline bluffs is one of my favourite pastimes. It wasn’t long before I got out the pens and paper – a new type for me: Strathmore’s Mixed Media 400 series – and time melted away.

Rocky Outcropping, Smugglers Cove, 01.06.20

I recently purchased a set of cool and warm grey Winsor & Newton Promarkers along with their portrait set. Most of what you see on the rock is created by the Promarkers. I was really happy with how they worked with this new paper.

This post is a bit of a blip in the Artists Journey posts, but it was inspired by a blog post I read earlier today by artist Christine Mallaband-Brown. She’s participating in the sketch challenge set by Stoke on Trent in the UK, and her materials of choice are pen and paper.

You can pick up a regular black biro, a pencil, or a sharpie marker pen and use a piece of scrap paper and just look at something – a plant, a bookshelf, a table and chairs – and start drawing. Why not give it a go?

An invitation

I have a white 22″ x 28″ canvas sitting on my easel to my left. It’s waiting for my imagination to determine what image it will hold. A blank canvas, a blank page, a blank anything, is a pause, holding space, for the spark of creativity to burn.

I am inviting you to climb on board the Artists’ Journey – plural because it is not just me, it is you and all other creatives who are opening up to those sparks – and share insights, motivations, resources, and mentors, that help you craft your creative spark into the eyes of tomorrow.

The day before yesterday, I installed hanging hardware on the back of two paintings, then moved them downstairs into the basement. I brought up my freshly gessoed blank canvas, which I had just sanded off, to take its place on the easel.

Yesterday, I cycled 20 kilometres to meet up with other artists at a local beach, to sit in the shade and sketch a scene. It’s the middle of spring and a cool wind still blows from the northwest. I sat, with cycle jacket zippered up, looking out at the sunny view from beneath a large cedar. Cycling home got me warm again.

And so it is, that six years after I bought myself some rather expensive Golden Open acrylic paints, I find myself wanting to share this journey. I tried to start that a few years ago with the birth of “Follow the Artist” newsletter. I managed three monthly episodes before that fell through the cracks. Here’s my second try.

I think the world is a better place when we all follow our own passions. If we can share the process along the way with a willing audience, all the better. For me, it is predominantly visual art, however, I am writing a novel, so putting words on a page to create a picture, as opposed to using a paintbrush, is just as thrilling.

Join me on this Artists’ Journey and together we will unpack the creative baggage we’ve been carrying around. Sign up to never miss a step.