What Do You Do If You Are In a Painting Funk?

Welcome back to my blog! hope to help you understand how the creative process works when you get stuck and cannot seem to progress with an idea.

Art is not something you can force out of yourself. We all have funky days. Have you noticed? However there are ways to stay connected to that intuitive right side of the brain where all your creativity is born. The answer is to USE it even when you are in a funk.For those of you who have a generational gap and cannot quite get the meaning of ‘being in a funk’, it means your creative right brain feels slumped, unproductive, sluggish. Yet, you want to be stimulated to create again! Here are some ideas on how to break through.

Your will not FEEL like doing anything but sulking. Be assured that it is normal to feel this way in a funk. Just don’t wallow in it! Try journaling about your feelings at this time. Writing uses the left brain for language symbols (letters) but draws upon the right creative side to think ‘out of the box’. Create symbols for your feelings. You can relate them to simple images like clouds over the sun; an ant crawling in the grass; sitting on a dime to express, “I feel lower than a dime right now”.

Draw images in the process of journaling too, right next to the words. Use vivid nouns and verbs that are not ordinary to you; add adjectives and adverbs that are descriptive words that amplify meaning to your writing like: buoyant. Voila! You can sift out an image from these words!

Feelings can be connected to symbolic images as well. Make a list of feeling words in your sketchbook that relate to where you are in this moment of your life. Put a visual symbol to your word. These may be personal only to you and misunderstood by others. That’s O.K.

The idea is to gently lead you out of the funk. Sometimes, I need to do something for others. Right now, I am volunteering to help young cancer patients at the local hospital, to draw their feelings and frustrations on paper, or even their hopes! I am very excited about this and excitement feeds my creativity.

I am strongly motivated by color. I will purposely force myself to paint a small painting using bright pinks, yellow-greens, oranges and turquoise. These colors really stimulate me and make me feel happy. I have no big plan on what to do with them. Maybe someday I will use parts of them in a collage.They just get filed into my “To Be” portfolio of ideas, torn paintings, playful painting and drawings. My work on experimenting with new mediums also goes in this file. This portfolio comes out when I am in a funk. Well, actually my storage is in a drawer in my studio.

Used when I am ‘stuck’.

Sometimes, I need to get rest because I have been too busy. I know one thing about creativity. It wears out when you wear out. It shuts down when you are under pressure. Really! Creating should be like a vacation. It is the place you catch your breath. My high school students used to call my art studio, “The Refuge”. It was where they could unwind after Trigonometry soaked up their brain! When you create it should be a release, not work. Relax, breathe, close your eyes, think of something silly like two ridiculous words together, like ‘sandal-mouth or toe-teeth’. Then, draw it. Now do another. Play, laugh and feel the tension drain out of you. Then, quietly think of what you really desire to
say in a new artwork and begin to sketch your idea. Blessings!

We Are Survivors

I need to digress today. We have just dealt with Hurricane Irma who was a terrifying storm covering ALL of Florida. I mean all. Our peninsula is about 200 miles wide, maybe a little more at some points. This storm was estimated to be 400 miles wide so there was little escape for us.

The four days leading up to our hit, was worse than what we endured; made terrifying by social media and the news. By the time it reached Miami, we were exhausted and then had to deal with the ACTUAL storm battering our home.

My daughter, a woman of invention, created an Irma Check In group, for our family, on Facebook. Our Florida family occupies Dade, Broward and Orange Counties which means we were point blank in its path. None of us decided to vacate which may have been stupid. At first, we anticipated a hit on our east coast of the peninsula. Then Irma decided to go west to the Carib side. She did enough damage to Miami, Key West and our outlying keys, then traveled a while flooding her way to the center of the state. Meteorologists were duped! Finally, Irma made a beeline for Orlando. YIKES!

Beloved Loquat

At first we said, “No God,no”! Listening to to wind was horrible, especially without electricity, which amplifies the sounds in our minds, when we are in the dark. Then we had tornado warnings. and were told to take cover. Exhausted, but hyped on adrenalin, we gathered all our sofa cushions, pillows and the dog and hunkered down in our bedroom hallway.

FINALLY, one hundred year later (it seemed like) dawn came and we timidly assessed damage. Roof still on, check. Windows not blown out, check. No flooding, check. Outside our home, uh O. Debris was everywhere including my neighbor’s gazebo upside down in my yard. Our Tulip tree by the road split down the trunk, gone and cleanup needed. Backyard? My beloved Loquat tree, the only tree left in the yard for shade, was down. (We had lost the Orange tree to Charlie.) O.K, we can deal with that, and try to restore it. Fence intact?, check. Fence gate down but fixable. Porch, which is my “prayer room”, undamaged even though the Loquat tree fell over on it. Miracle! Breathe. Breathe.

What was in our favor with Irma was that it DID head straight up over land and downgraded the wind speed from a Cat 4 to Cat 1. Floridians know that we can survive a CAT 1, as we have time and time again. So we breathed a sigh of relief when the stats told us there were no deaths, save for a family that took their generator inside their house despite all the numerous warnings. Mainly, Florida survived. We thanked God for His hand over us and directing Irma straight at Orlando. Actually, this is the grace saved us.

Which leads me to state a spiritual lesson… sometimes we have to confront a threat that comes at us and look it in the eye and say, NO! You don’t scare me anymore. When Irma headed straight for us, it was terrifying but we remained strong and refused to give in. Most heartwarming was watching TV when electricity was restored, and seeing Americans helping Americans, our neighbors helping an 80 yr. old woman who had evacuated and didn’t even know about losing part of her roof. Neighbors climbed up and sealed it up with roofing paper and tarps so it would not damage the inside. Neighbors were lending a hand wherever we could.

What came out of this? Humanity and beauty no matter what color, ethnic background or religious belief we hold, we care and are Human and Americans. I am so proud to be one of them!

Are You An Intuitive Artist?

Welcome back to my blogs.

What I mean by being an intuitive or self-guided artist is, do you paint from intuition or do you follow the art ‘rules’ that you learned in school. I do not talking mean proficiency with techniques because we must master these basics of successfully using our art materials. Each media has their own characteristics. What I am referring to is, do we start with a few shapes and let the painting tell us where to go intuitively? That is how we let the imagination guide our concept.

Great artists broke the rules much of the time. Matisse’s “Red Studio” is an example of rule breaking. Where are the light areas? He doesn’t have any! Rule breaking.

Other rule breakers were Picasso, Cezanne and Rothko. I do not have the space or time to explain each style but look them up for yourself, and you will see what I mean. We accept Cezanne’s work now because it is familiar to us but at the time he created his art, he was considered a radical. Picasso’s work was viewed as radical but now he is considered a brilliant master.

I do not have the intellect of Picasso. I am still working on that! Thus, how do I start a painting? I begin a vague idea in my mind of what I want to do. Basically, it is a theme of some sort. For example, I am working on a series that explores the Caribbean and Florida. I begin by laying down some large overlapping shapes, then I mix my colors to fit the mood of what I think will represent my theme. I try to surround those large shapes with deeper colors to bring them forward. About a third of the way through, more images or thoughts emerge and I work to refine them. My inner thought process of years of classical art will tell me when I am off track. I will get an impulse that something is just not right. It is like your computer back button, so I back up, scrape off or rinse off the part that annoys me and then repaint it. I sometimes need to put the painting away for another work session when I can look at it with a fresh eye. This critiquing will go on for several days when I will work to accent a part, define another or completely change a part. This is the point where I am striving for balance and unity, where it all fits together and is in harmony. I am painting by my intuition and giving my imagination free reign to explore.

This brings up the point of having several art works in process at a given time. By rotating my time to critique and refine, I get a fresh eye for it. It used to be my habit to work for hours, continuing until I worked through the difficulty. However, in doing so, I lost the freshness of my concept and the ability to critique objectively.

Rarely, I was in “the zone” and I kept going as my concept seemed to flow out of my brush. I once completed a painting in 4 hours and it won several best in shows. I wish I could say that this happened to me more than once. You will know if you are ‘in the zone’. Athletes can relate to this. They are so intent on their game that they do not even hear the roar of the crowd. Likewise, many artists will listen to music to occupy the left analytical thinking half of their brain while the creative right side plays with the paint, uninterrupted by other thoughts.

Slowly, I will begin to see my style emerge. Truthfully, there is no shortcut to finding your style. It is an individual thing, just like your hand writing. When you notice that your work seems to ‘go together’ if you were to hang them all on a wall, that is your style. Congratulations! You have achieved much and are on your way to produce notable art while being your own person. Therefore, find your niche and work at it until really becomes YOU. Paint, paint and paint. Let go. Do not strive with preconceived images of another artist’s work. All you will be doing is making copies of their art and that is not fair, because they have put in the hard work. It is tempting to use the internet image search and steal an idea. Creativity is hard work! Just let go and use your intuition. Enjoy the process and let it guide you. That is what intuitive painting is all about! Chow.

How do I use colors in my paintings to make them “pop”?

You need to understand basic color theory. It is not hard, really. First, Google “color- wheel” images, and you will see many to refer to. Learn how to paint the third layer or ‘tertiary’ ones. That is easy too. They have double names like ‘red-orange’.

My color palette is usually the same that I have used for years. It has become my ‘brand’.  It enables people to identify my work and when I look at my portfolio, I can see similarities in both my style and color.  My colors are ME and are part of my identity.  I like to wear them, decorate with them and paint with them.  However, it took me years to figure this out because, I was afraid to break the invisible painting rules in my head.  What freed me was when I decided to experiment with color and really thought about which colors I loved together.  I began making paint charts of all colors on my palette and noted how they mixed together to make new ones. In fact, I give my students an assignment to mix 16 greens from just red, yellow and blue.  I was not trying to be cruel.  I wanted them to look at nature and see the variety of green in it. They needed to get out of the habit of just using ‘paint tube green’.

For my work, I use a double-split complementary color scheme. Employing the full 12 color wheel, I found commercial paints that keep me in my color scheme but with some variety because many of them are hues of those basic colors that I use. For instance, for magenta, I also have a red-violet and a rose color and a warm magenta-with some orange tint to it. I only use a scarlet red for accent.

From this palette, I will choose a yellow hue, magenta, turquoise and a violet, and maybe add a light blue. This gives me a double split complement with some cheating. You can see that I have several varieties of yellow, magenta and blue greens on my palette. I use one violet because I can mix it with one of the magentas or a blue-green. Magenta will not muddy other colors like a bright red.

How do you split complements? On the color wheel, if yellow is at 12 o’clock, I choose the two colors on either side of it, which is orange and yellow-green. Then I go to the complement of yellow, which is the violet directly opposite. I will use the two colors on both sides of it which are red-violet (magenta) and blue-violet. That is my ‘double-split complementary’ scheme. I cheat and add a blue-green for contrast which is viridian for making turquoise, but be careful. Viridian is a dye color and dominates, so only use a little. Below, you can see how I have used these four colors in my painting. They layer really well and do not make ‘mud’.

So, try playing with color. Know which ones NOT to mix together so that you avoid making mud. Paint the combinations on a watercolor paper and write down the paint names you used for each sample. Draw an X over the samples to avoid. After a while, this will come naturally and color mixing will be fun, not a chore.


How Do I Plan My Compositions?

Planning avoids a lot of erasures and do-overs!  I plan what my work is about,  what color scheme will support my idea, and what composition will help me express my idea.  Then, I plan the place I want my most important thing to be.  In other words, I use a place of emphasis to keep “the main thing, the main thing”.  The one way to do this is to divide the whole work  into a 9 box grid. The spaces do not have to be squares. We are only interested in where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect.  I call these ‘sweet spots’.  These spots are meant for me to avoid placing my most important item (emphasis) in the bulls-eye center.

Once I decide where the emphasis part of my composition will be,  I plan my point of view.  I may try to avoid an eye level view for a still life.  I imagine how it would look if my eye level was looking down on my subject.   I may think how it would look if I have a low horizon line.   In landscapes, this will reveal more sky.  If my interest is in the foreground, like what is closest to me, I would try a higher horizon line. This also can apply to a still life.  How much of the table items do I want to see?  Will  this point of view show more detail.

With these decisions made, I can begin to draw the parts of the composition that will form the composition.  I keep my lines light.  It is important to note that if you use pencil on a canvas, your lines may show through the paint, unless you paint very thickly (impasto).  I use vine charcoal that can be wiped off easily.  I follow this step by using  a liner brush  and paint thinned like ink to go over my charcoal lines.

Once I have outlined my composition,  I will start to block local color  in the areas farthest away like sky and mountains.  I tell my students to imagine a loaf of bread. The end slice, furthest from you, is like the sky or the wall, the drapery, the window or whatever.  After blocking in the local color (the actual color of the object)  I work in my color values.

I never paint one area completely with all the detail and then move to another place.  Painting has to develop in a totality  all around, to keep the unity of the colors and the style. Sometimes I block in the same color in three or five places and at the same time.  This ensures visual ‘movement’ around the painting because you don’t want the viewer to be stuck in one place. You want their attention around the entire work.

I avoid putting important things at the borders and especially at the corners.  My students liked to start at the edges of the paper as if they were afraid to get in there and be bold.  I had to impress on them to plan where things were going BEFORE starting and to avoid starting at the edges. They had to consciously to move around when painting to keep their style and color consistent.

If you goal is to achieve UNITY,  the most important art principal,  you will paint with this in mind.  Balance and unity are what you always try to achieve to give the viewer a pleasurable experience.

Get Unstuck. How to get out of Artist’s Block?

I am in artist block.  Have you ever been there?  This is quite embarrassing for me because I am the one who is supposed to encourage you about growing in creativity.

Part of my block is because I feel under pressure to get a new web site started with at least 10 pieces of work,  pronto.  The first painting I did was fairly good, not absolutely fantastic. The second one was not what I imagined at all.  Actually it stunk. The criteria  for these paintings was to use color schemes like complementary, analogous, primary and so forth. The second painting was with cool analogous colors and seemed boring. So, I added an orange so the colors wouldn’t get muddy over the yellow-green.  Then I got more bold and used magenta to liven things up.  This color has no yellow in it like the orange. My idea bombed and made a ‘do-do mud’ color.   Horrified, I quickly scrubbed  it off with water and gave up.   I hid my work on the floor in the corner of the studio. and told myself that I will deal with it another day.

Sitting in bed at 10pm,  I needed inspiration to “sleep on”,  so I opened YouTube and searched for my creative inspiration person, Flora Boley.  I love her work and she helps me get my head on straight.  I went to bed with visions of paintings floating around in my head.  By morning they were gone.  Poof. Now, I keep a pad and pencil on my nightstand to write a quick word to trigger the image in the morning.

I guess you realize that being creative is not easy (maybe only for Flora) but it is a wonderful way to express who you are in a visual way.  Like me,  when artist’s block hits, I am telling you to not give up.   It is usually because you have put expectations on yourself and you go into left brain analytic thinking, which is not where creativity lives.   It is the right side of the brain that births your originality.  This is the place of abstract thinking which enables you to think “out of the box”.

I have taught this over and over again to my students, so I know this stuff works.  I just got trapped into “thinking” I had it figured out and forgot to just enjoy what I am doing at the moment and trust my inner self.  Listen to me. Keep the critique for the end of the work, then refine it.   Create to enjoy the process.

Thanks for stopping by in this blog. I sincerely want to help you enjoy creating whatever you do. Please share this with anyone who may benefit from my blogs. Happy creating.

My Ideas Are Making Me An Insomniac?

It happens around 4:30am.  I am half asleep and my creative “think engine” starts to send ideas my way.  I really do not want to think this early.  I want to s-l-e-e-p. I know they are really great ideas and that they will be gone like a puff of air if I do not pay attention to them but I don’t want to wake up!  Most of my life I had to awaken early to go to my job.  Now I have a choice.  You think?

Years ago, when I was painting full time, I started my day with what artist’s call ‘morning papers’.  The concept is to have a notepad ready by your bed (phone texting is not accurate at 5 am)  and then you write everything that comes into your mind before your real brain wakes up and says, “I need coffee”.  I got some great painting titles that way.  This week, I found some of my morning notes when I was reorganizing my studio.  The ideas were really good!  Only now, I don’t need to arise early and my internal clock is moving to a more sane time.  I wonder if there is a way to dictate my ‘morning papers’ into my phone?  But then, I have to be more awake to put in the password, find the icon, etc.  No I’ll pass on this one. I wanna sleep but I don’t give in to it.

The creative center of the brain works when we are slowed down. In a relaxed mode, ideas can come forth. Creativity is birth on the right side of your brain.  It is the abstract thinking side, not the analytical side.  The idea is to access the right brain for ideas. Our best thinking is not when we TRY but when we incubate ideas and let them kind of ‘cook’ until, shazam’ it moves into the understanding part and makes sense.

I start with a fuzzy concept like I want to express the colors I love and textures, which is the basis for a lot of my work.  I get my paints out and play around.  I may start scribbling, drawing nonsense, like leaves or squiggly lines or doodles.  Slowly, something is birth forth and I take it from there.  I might start adding texture to my substrate of choice (canvas, illustration board or watercolor paper).   I can do this wth crumpled tissue paper, gels, even fabrics that I can gesso over.  Then I start adding color.  For me, this is the intuitive part.  My ideas start to build on each other and I may end up working mostly in inks or oil pastels.  I go with what feels right.

I have learned to trust myself and my sense of balance and unity. My work is not considered finished until I put it away for several days and then critique it for what does not ‘feel’ right.  I trust my instincts. You need to learn to do this too. Give yourself permission to explore and have fun, then go with it. The ideas will come.  Yes, they will. Relax!

Artist Confidence: To Be or Not to Be

Shakespeare said it but I never really knew what it meant until I decided to retire from teaching a week ago. I sat on my patio in Florida and looked up ‘Be’ in Webster’s and it said, “to exist”.  After pinching myself, I realized I do exist but that was not the information I needed.  My friends said that I should just ‘be’ and rest, to refocus and shift my gears.  Well, I am an action person, so refocusing to me means change direction, plan, execute the plan and grow.

I have a mirky art plan so it is not well anchored; I have some idea of how I should start but it has shadows at the edges and I need to envision it more clearly.  How then can I proceed to the growth stage?  In a nutshell, I am back to where I started, ‘to be’.

If you want to learn how to make art, I can teach you. If you want to know how to find your artistic voice, I can show you. If you want to understand how to put together an artist’s portfolio, I can explain it.   If you want to know how to write an artist’s statement, I can instruct you.   So, why can’t I figure out what I am going to do next in retirement?   I guess it will include all of the above that I was going to teach you.  Who was it who said,”Round and round we go, and where we stop, nobody knows?”

First, I need to see myself as an artist again.  I have been a teacher, a Registered Nurse and I lived in those identities for years.  Sometimes, I was comfortable to switch back an forth and still create.  This is different.  I need to ‘see’ myself as a professional artist. I have all the head knowledge and I even taught it for years.  However, the proving ground for me, is NOW.   In teaching, we call this part of the learning process synthesis;  applying what we have learned.  Is this where you are?

Growing in art is like growing from a baby to a toddler and then into puberty and finally to an adult.  It takes time and living in it until it becomes yours. This is a decision time for you.  Every artist reaches this point of choice.  If you just like to play in art because it is pleasurable, then do it.  If you really have a passion for it and want to get serious and grow, that will take commitment and dedication but the payoff is big. You will have an inner satisfaction that you are using the gift that the Creator gives every one of us.  I truly believe this!   I have seen it unleashed in my students and they were amazed with themselves. Believe it is there.  Believe you have it and can use it.  Trust.

Self-Acceptance Builds Passion

Art is a high calling,
Fear is coincidental.
From ‘Art Without Fear’

“..Becoming an artist consists of learning to accept
yourself, which makes your work personal, and in
following your own voice, which makes your work

If you need to get your head strait, read “Art Without Fear”, a book by Bayles and Ortlund. It deals with fear of non-acceptance when it comes to your art.  Friend, this was where I was years ago and it resulted in artist’s block, big time.

My breakthrough came when I decided to head for the hills of No. Carolina and take a workshop with Mary Todd Beam who was making a name for herself in the art world.  It was as if she gave me permission “play” in art and just copy what I saw. The result was freedom FROM myself.  I could use the colors I liked, not what the ‘local’ color really was.  I could ramp the colors up until they became a riot of patterns and shapes.  I could leave out parts, invent other parts, combine images or paint them in a circular composition.  I could do what I wanted…within reason.

Art still needs to have some basic principles to be of excellent quality. Does the word ‘excellent’ scare you?  Relax. For instance, you will need to understand composition and how colors react next to each other.  YouTube is a great resource for learning art principles.  Only don’t copy another’s work.

Copying other artist’s ideas really hurts the creative spirit. It is permissible if you are learning principles from the masters. Artists will actually go to museums to copy a master painting to understand their concepts. However, this is mainly for educational reasons.  Beware!  The net is filled with images and copying another artwork and making minor changes does not make it YOUR artwork.  I constantly had to explain this to my students.  They loved to copy art because it made them feel more secure.  So, I gave them the 70-30% rule. That meant seventy percent was to be their idea, enough so that the original artist could recognize it as theirs.

Coming back from the North Carolina workshop was my turning point.  I began to get accepted into national competitions and even had my work published in Rockport Publisher’s, ‘Best Of’ series.  At that point,  I was able to paint eight hours a day and was growing my style until funds ran out and I needed to return to teaching art in the public schools to sustain my art career.  Most artists have to be realistic and work. You will need to figure out your personal schedule. If you love to create, you will find a way. Just don’t stop.

What is Artist Voice?

I am on voice rest for four days. I have laryngitis, an irritation of my vocal cords. When I answer the phone, people can’t hear me. They do not identify me, even as a family member. You see, our voice is part of who we are and I do not sound like ‘myself’.

Did you know the art we create also has a voice? It identifies us by our style, the colors we use, the forms and symbols we seem to incorporate again an again. I live in Florida and get to often visit to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg,FL. Dali’s symbols were the black ant, a flaming giraffe and wooden crutches and butterflies. I bought a mobile of butterflies there and it hangs in my studio. These were his symbols and it makes me think of him.

I will be referring to Creative Voice in more of my blogs because I realized that many artists do not even “see” their Voice. So what is ‘voice’? It is the quality of your art that seems to repeat itself in every artwork you make. It identifies you. I plan to also blog about why you seem to paint what you paint and how you respond to your preferences inwardly. This will help to define why you make the art you do. So visit often.