Today, I want to cry…

Here is the thing about artists. Something I am learning about myself anyway. I’m not sure every artist feels this way. I just know I do… at least today.

I just watched a short video on how society kills creativity. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here. At the end of the video, I just wanted to cry, it brought up so many memories, not just about myself, but also about my daughter.

My daughter when she was three years old, drew these amazing abstract pieces of art. I remember asking her one day what one of her drawings was and was promptly told, “It’s a machine Mama.” I laminated that picture so I would be able to keep it forever because I knew in my gut her time in public school would change her art. It did.

The other thing the video brought to mind was how I feel sitting down to do any piece of art, whether it was a class assignment or something I wanted to do on my own. The feelings that arise within me as I sit in front of a blank sheet of paper, no matter what color, or even if there is something already draw on it and I need to add to it, are confined. They do not flow freely. It is difficult to describe this feeling. It is like knowing something is there but you can’t see it, you can feel it, but you can’t reach it. It is the most frustrating feeling in the world, at least for me.

Seeing the boy, turn to observe the violinist, the sense of awe and pure joy is what all artists should feel or it is what they WANT to feel at the beginning of everything they start, but instead, many, like me, feel confined, held back, as if there is something seeking to burst free but has been tightly locked up and we have lost the key to unlock it.

I don’t recall as single moment in my life where I have been told not to do something a particular way. I do recall being shown EXACTLY HOW to do something. Penmanship lessons in first and second grade are a perfect example. (I could give a million other examples of every lesson learned in and out of school.) Letters must slant just so. The tail on the last letter must curve up, just so. Only in later grades were any of us daring enough to try and add a curl to the end or to create larger ovals on our letters, or big loops on the tails of ‘y’s and ‘g’s.

I’m good at copying. If I am really meticulous I can recreate a lesson almost exactly as my teacher if I have the same supplies she/he does. I learned how to do this through years and years of watching others in school, in society, what was acceptable and what was not acceptable. So much so, when I try to let my imagination have free reign, my imagination suddenly finds itself halted in its tracks, not knowing what to do. Or, how to do it. Or where exactly someone’s instructions, or copying ends and my imagination starts.

I felt like crying at the end of the video because I could totally relate to both the child and the adult. I find myself today, having begun a new job just this week, relating so very much with the adult in the video. I could feel my color drain from me. I have spent the past year and half, not working, at least not in the ‘normal’ sense of a job. I spent that year and half working to discover and reawaken my inner artist. I worked on trying to break down the conditioning society has placed upon me since I was a small child. And now I find myself having to shrug back into that conditioning in order to step back into the workplace to bring in the money I need to take care of me and my daughter.

I try not to write about my personal life here on this blog. This blog is supposed to be about my art, my experience as an artist, and my journey. But, I would be remiss in leaving this out. I would be horribly remiss in leaving this part of my journey out.

I am not alone in this. I have no doubt there are hundreds if not thousands of artists out there who have to suppress this part of themselves in order to survive. In order to live and work to make ends meet. This is not what I want in my life any more.

I worked my first full day on Tuesday, came home exhausted, with no energy to create. Towards the end of the evening I could barely keep my eyes open after just putting a few pen strokes on my journal page I have in progress. Today, I found it very difficult to get focused for working on my journal page so I decided to be brave and try working on sewing.

I won’t go into describing the sewing project right now other than to say it is supposed to be a quilted pillow cover. I may go into describing it in another post but not now. This was something I could easily stop and start during my day as I had to go to an appointment and ended up in an out of the house while running errands.

Writing this post tonight has me in tears for many reasons. I feel as though I am losing ground on what I have accomplished over the past year and a half. I feel as though I am reverting back to that person who was so bound up and lost in the business world and so out of touch from her inner artist. I haven’t had a chance to work on the Mandala Madness course which has also made me sad and heartbroken. Ever After 2017 which I won a seat in has also had to take a backseat. This is only the first week of returning to the workforce and I feel like I have gone into mourning over the loss of a close friend.

I feel the color drain from me. I feel like the child handing over the final lesson where he has finally written his letters as he was instructed to write them, without any creativity. I feel like I’m in a world where all is repetitive, dull, grey and somewhere there stands the violinist in a tiny little spot, under a small colorful tree, which no one sees as they go about their day.

It is hard to move forward in the world when there is so much grey around you, reminding you, and discouraging you from creating your own colorful world. It can be like trying to break through a thick brick wall, to only have another brick thrown over the tiny hole you have created that gives you that tiny bit of hope that you are on the right path.

Taking small steps in order to be ready for the big steps…

I am unable to express in the right words how satisfying it is to create something with my own hands.

When a person is young, people like to ask them what it is they want to do or become when they are older. I would come up with all sorts of things. One time it was an archeologist. Another time a teacher. Another time a police officer. And another time it was a dancer. I never dreamed of going into computers. Back then they were new, not something anyone ever thought would be a common every day thing for most everyone to have in their home, let alone be able to carry around with them.

You might be wondering why I have gone off on this tangent after reading the first sentence. Hang in there. I’m getting there.

In school, I had three teachers make suggestions for what I could do with my life. The first was my typing teacher. She suggested being a secretary. That is what administrative assistants were called back then. Yes, I was good at typing and creating professional looking letters and documentation. The second teacher was my math teacher, he suggested either teaching math or getting into something math related. Yes, because math came easy to me. The third teacher was my art teacher. He suggested I use my talent as an artist and make a career out of it.

Though I didn’t set out to get into computers, the universe set me on that path, so it might appear I had followed my math teacher’s recommendation. In reality, I just grasped an opportunity when it presented itself. I can’t say it was a right or wrong decision or a poor or good decision. It just was what it was. IT served its purpose. It fed the analytical/logical part of me and provided well for me and my daughter.

There are various reasons why I chose that route. I could get experience and education in it by entering the Air Force. College wasn’t in the cards for me, so a business degree or art degree wasn’t possible at that time, neither was a computer science degree, so I opted for a way to gain experience and some education in a career field that would provide for me.

What my art teacher didn’t know was that for some reason while in his art classes, I felt the artist in me peeking out and at times brave enough to show herself. When not in those classes, she went back into hiding.

Throughout my subsequent years, I tried at times to pick up a pencil to draw but would always become frustrated within the first few minutes. I would then put it down and not pick it back up for years.

I satisfied my need to create with my own hands in other ways. I started teaching myself how to crochet after just learning a few stitches from my mother. Then I taught myself how to knit. When my mother or I bought something that needed to be put together I was right there, taking over, working together or doing it all by myself. I always felt like I had accomplished something when I was able to put whatever it was together. I got into jewelry making, even took a class in jewelry repair which I loved and was really good at it. I had dreams of designing and creating my own jewelry but I couldn’t afford the tools and supplies it would require. I also didn’t have the space or an area safe enough for the type of equipment needed. Knitting and crocheting became my way of filling my need to create, and it went in cycles because it wasn’t enough to hold my interest.

About three years ago, I decided it was time to awaken my inner artist. It is she that craves the need to create with her hands. I started watching youtube videos and discovered Zentangle, Zentangle Inspired Art, Doodling, Zendoodling, or whatever people want to call it. I am not a natural doodler. I have never been one to sit and doodle in meetings or when on the phone, or at any other time. Watching the videos, reading on Zentangle, and this type of art made me realize this might be the way for me to awaken my inner artist without having the frustration, fear, anxiety or whatever it is that kept me frozen whenever I would pick up a pencil to draw. It had structure which my logical mind craved.

My natural inclination when I draw is to draw exactly what I see.  Anyone who is an artist will know how impossible that is to accomplish. I’m a perfectionist, if my pencil stroke is not perfect then it is wrong and I’m an awful artist, is how I felt inside. I read articles, I watched videos on Zentangle and their philosophy is nothing is a mistake. Use pen/ink and you will eventually learn to accept every line you draw and no longer think of them as mistakes. And, you learn to incorporate them into your art. Boy, did I need that!

I started drawing, first just drawing the step-outs. Then incorporating them into abstract pieces using the idea of strings. For those not familiar with this idea, this is the only place you use a pencil other than to shade. Draw a random line, straight or curved or both, creating smaller areas that are then filled in with the patterns. I found a free website tanglepatterns.com which has hundreds if not thousands of patterns and their step-outs or links to other sites with the step-outs. This got me started and brave enough to try other things.

Tangles eventually progressed into mandalas. Mandalas eventually progressed into art journaling, then eventually into whimsical art or other classes where I could gradually improve my skills as an artist and learn to experiment with different mediums, eventually expanding into mixed media art.

If you have read my previous posts you will be aware that I am taking Mandala Madness a course in how to draw mandalas given by Barb Owen of How To Get Creative. I had already been drawing mandalas for over a year when I started taking this course. I wasn’t sure how much I would learn from it. The only reason I took it was I wanted to learn how to create a mandala on canvas. I have only painted on canvas once and it wasn’t to do a mandala. I love what I create so much that I wanted to be able to create a large one on canvas to hang in my home, so I signed up for the class.

I am absolutely amazed by how much I am learning in this class and we haven’t even gotten to the canvas part yet. Even if it wasn’t part of the class I feel I have already gotten my money’s worth and more. I rarely put color with my mandalas. I love them in their stark black and white. Now, I am falling in love with color too. Here is my latest:

I call it “Royalty”. This one is made using the technique shown by Barb in her free introductory videos for how to draw a mandala using a compass. If drawing mandalas interests you at all, have a look, give it a try. I think you will be surprised how easy it is. Barb is an excellent instructor. She takes her time explaining each step along the way. The only thing you need are the tools she mentions and an imagination or you can follow her detailed instructions to try and make one just like she does in the videos.

Getting here. Being able to create this with my own two hands after years of being away from art, is so satisfying to my inner artist. It is hard to describe. Over thirty years of having my logical analytical side listened to, fed and being forefront in my life, meant my creative side was suppressed, ignored, and not listened to.  It feels good to let her out to play.

I will admit. I feel freer to play when I sit down to draw mandalas because they include my rather ordered logical analytical side. Other things like drawing whimsical creatures are more of a challenge and aren’t something I find easy to just sit down and do without thinking a lot about it first. That includes art journal pages. Working intuitively is difficult for me, unless I’m working with mandalas. This is something I am only just discovering about myself.

So… when I feel challenged by something that makes me feel uncomfortable, I often find myself reaching for paper to begin drawing a mandala or to continue working on a mandala I have started. Seeing them develop gives me the courage to work on something that feels less comfortable, like the next lesson of Peter Pan and Wendy in Ever After 2017.

Speaking of Ever After 2017 the Peter Pan and Wendy lesson, it took me days if not a week or more to get the courage up to just start sketching. I finally did, and discovered I had some difficulty going small. I wanted to fill my page with the cityscape which would leave very little room for the rest of the elements in the painting. Here is my beginning sketch on 11″ x 15″ watercolor paper:

FullSizeRender

You might find it difficult to believe that I could go bigger than this. Believe me, the first sketch was much bigger, and the clock tower’s tip was at the top of the page. I had first tried drawing it in landscape layout but decided to switch to portrait layout, even so it took me three tries to get to this point.  I think this is the size I want and I hope it works with the rest of the elements.

I find it interesting, with my love of geometric shapes, how it took me so long to begin sketching the cityscape. Obviously I’m still working on it, trying to get the angles right and the buildings in the way I want them. The overall project is quite daunting, so I’m trying to take it one step at a time. I may draw the other elements which come much later in the process first so I can be sure they will fit in with the cityscape as it is.

I just know if this had been my first attempt to get back into art instead of starting with tangles, I would have walked away and never picked up a pencil again to draw. I’m so glad I took the approach I did three years ago which allows me to try a lesson like this one and be able to handle the anxiety it generates. Getting to this point in the sketch really gives me a feeling of satisfaction, because I did it and didn’t quit.

Madness, I say, Madness and a cute little guy…

I’ve been working on two projects this week, or should I say two classes. One from Mandala Madness and the other from Ever After 2017.

I’ll start with Mandala Madness:

These mandalas were grown from planting a seed and are from classes 7 and 8. This isn’t the first time I drew mandalas from a seed, and probably not the first time I used colored ink to do so. It is, however, the first time I was able to have them come out looking like I used a grid and not just freehand. No grid was involved with the making of these mandalas.

Just for clarification, the bright pink along one side is the washi tape I used to hide the seam where they are connected to the hinge. They have already been mounted into a signature. I now have two complete signatures and can’t wait for the rest to be done so I can bind them into a book. Not sure I like the bright pink, but I can change that later if I want.

These pages are also pocket pages so I can slip in any loose mandalas I create that are small enough to slip inside. I love how these pages feel. They have substance to them. They are not flimsy pages by any means which means the end resulting journal will have some weight to it. I will most likely use heavy cardstock but more likely chipboard for the book cover so it will have the appearance of a hard cover book. If you haven’t guessed it already, I will most likely create a mandala on the front cover, maybe even the back cover.

I usually don’t talk about personal things here. I’m going to make an exception to that for a moment. First, I’m so grateful to Barb Owen for building these classes not just for all the things I’m learning in them but also because mandalas have been an integral part of my stress relief and anxiety release process. This class has helped me to remain sane through a difficult period which is riddled with so many challenges I can’t go into right now. I will mention one.

I experience daily pain in the wrist of my dominant hand. This pain increases with the use of pens or pencils or similar objects to create/write with. We have done ultrasound and x-rays which all indicate I have a very healthy bones, so the prognosis is possibly tendonitis. I see a physiotherapist today and hopefully they will give me some helpful information and suggestions. I mention this because making mandalas may come to a screeching halt. I may be required to give it a rest, which will mean no drawing, at least with my dominant hand. I’ve been practicing with my non-dominant hand but the results are less than satisfactory and mentally an unbelievable challenge to create just a straight line. I haven’t been able to bring myself to attempt a mandala with my non-dominant hand. It is too frightening to think about what it could come out looking like.

With that said, I have found certain mediums not so painful, watercolors for one, or water soluble products which require only a light touch with a wet brush to activate. Working on other projects/classes are not so pain ridden, though they can be if I’m not careful.

One of these is Ever After 2017 which I must say is challenging in many ways. The option I have contains style development classes too so it doesn’t just challenge me in regards to my artistic abilities. It challenges me to dig deep inside to discover the reasons why I create and what I like and don’t like about something I’m working on. I’m pushed to do things as close as possible to the instructor’s lessons even if I don’t like part of the lesson. That, however, was not the case with this little bonus lesson on creating a cute bear. I so love Tam’s style. She makes it easy to create “cute” and have fun doing it.

Cute Bear

Normally this isn’t something I would come up with on my own but she makes me wish I did with extreme frequency. I tend toward realism even when I try to be whimsical or characteristic in my creations. What I’m realizing is, I am very good at copying, or rather following an instructor’s lesson almost exactly even when it is something I don’t enjoy.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy creating this adorable little guy. I’m glad there was no collage involved. I would leave collage out of any lesson if I thought it would still come out looking great but some lessons are based on the collage. It isn’t the doing of the collage which I don’t like. It is just that I don’t have an abundance of pretty papers to use and I’m not great at selecting different patterns that will look good together. I lean more towards using old text pages from books because there is no risk of offending the eyes because of poor color and pattern choices. (Okay, yes, I love, I mean absolutely LOVE the look of text behind my artwork.) Yes, I know, working with colorful pattern paper in collage is something I need to work on which is why, for now, I do the collage when instructed to do so in a lesson.

Speaking of not having an abundance of pretty papers for collage. The one thing I’m learning from Barb (from her live streams) is how to create such pretty papers instead of buying them. Or altering those not so pretty pattern papers to make them gorgeous. She has often mentioned how she likes to make all the things she uses in her projects, including the pretty papers. Before I ever knew Barb existed and I had started on my art journey, I knew I wanted to create my artwork from only those things I created, excluding paints, mediums and the tools, such as paint brushes, and palette knives and so forth. What I mean is, pretty papers, stamps, stencils, stickers and so forth, I want to be all my own creations. I don’t want to have to worry about copyright infringement if someone would ever want to buy something I created, or if I wanted to market it in a print of some sort. Besides, there is something special about being able to say, “I made that completely with my own hands and every pattern is of my own making.”

So… if I’m given the directive later today to rest my dominant hand, meaning stop using it to the point of excruciating pain, then I may focus on creating pretty paper using my non-dominant hand which could make for interesting abstract designs seeing as how I can’t draw a straight line for my life with my left hand.

First lesson from Ever After 2017

Ever since I won a seat in the Ever After 2017 course organized by Tamara Laporte, I’ve been excited to get started. The course started July 1st, so you may wonder why it has taken me so long to complete the first lesson.

The seat I won included package 2 which includes style development. Tam takes her lessons very seriously and style development is no different. She provides a workbook that asks some very poignant questions. This is important for one who really wants to develop their own style. I’ve been lost about how to do this and after reading the first set of questions and working on answering them, I can understand why finding my own style has been a challenge.

I used to think of myself as a deep thinker but realized there are areas I haven’t even considered. Answering the questions wasn’t always easy. It took days for me to pick up a pencil and begin the first art lesson after answering those questions. It took even more days after the sketch was completed to add color. Every time I approach a page no matter what it is, I have to face my inner demons. Demons that were planted in childhood of not being good enough. It is funny how something as simple as vacuuming and dusting a living room and being criticized for it, can make one think they can’t do anything well.

It took me one day to create the main character sketch, and another day to add some sketches of the embellishments being planned. It took the same amount of days to add the color, collage and details. I finished it yesterday, the 16th. Sixteen days from when the course started.  Yes, I have done other artwork in those days as well. The other artwork helped to build my confidence up and bravery up to approach this page with paint.

I don’t think the feelings I have when approaching the page will ever completely go away. What I hope will happen is my confidence will increase over time and I will be able to push through the fear and hesitation more quickly so I can experience the joy of creating.

This page wasn’t without its trials and tribulations. One area in particular on the large bear gave me trouble because I chose a color that was not suitable and was almost impossible to cover up. I ended up using gesso which then became a challenge to get the mediums I was using to work over it. Yes, I had to improvise and choose a different medium to lay down something that would accept other mediums so it would hopefully blend seamlessly with the rest of the bear. In the end, I discovered I could do it and be happy with the result.

I am not a fan of collage but Tam’s instructions are to follow the instructor’s lesson as closely as possible in order to learn what you like and don’t like in order to discover and develop your own style. So… I did the collage. My materials for collage are few. I haven’t created a variety of stock to use for collage because early on I realized I wasn’t a fan of it. At the most, I do like to use collage on thinner paper to build up thickness so it would not disintegrate under wet mediums. In that case, I generally like to use text paper from old books.

Because this is a course one has to purchase I will not go into any more details of the lesson. If you want to learn more, check out Tam’s list of courses. All of them even the free ones are phenomenal in my opinion.

Goldilocks and the Three Compassionate Bears

This is my version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears lesson that is given by Tamara Laporte. I am thrilled with how it turned out. I finished the followup questions today which I realized I should have been considering and making notes on as I worked on this lesson. I think I remembered enough of my experience to answer the questions appropriately.

I would love to do this again but with just watercolor, and maybe I’ll try it or incorporate it into the last lesson for part 1 of the course. The last assignment of part 1 is to then take what you have learned from the instructor led classes and create your own. It is early to think about that right now. I have three more lessons in part 1 and a bonus lesson to do yet and it is already over half way through the month of July.

Mandala Madness

It has been a crazy couple of weeks. I won’t go into the details other than to say my focus on my artwork has suffered because of it. I, however, am thankful for signing up for the Mandala Madness course provided by Barb Owen of How To Get Creative. The course started just a couple weeks ago and has helped keep me centered. Over the past year or so drawing mandalas is what has kept me sane. It is my go-to therapy when things start stressing me out or causing me anxiety.

If you haven’t heard of Barb Owen and How To Get Creative, I suggest you check out her YouTube live streams on Friday’s at 2pm Eastern.  You can find them from her YouTube channel here.

I am up to class 5 and 6 of Mandala Madness and here are the mandalas I created this past week:

I cannot take credit for the design. These came straight from Barb’s class. Though no two mandalas are alike, the idea behind each of the mandalas came directly from her class. I don’t think I would have thought of doing anything like these two if it wasn’t for her class.

I have been drawing mandalas for over a year now and I can get quite intricate with mine although I rarely add color. I enjoy the stark black and white designs, so adding color to mandalas is fairly new to me and I am thoroughly enjoying the different ways Barb is teaching us how she adds colors to her mandalas.

I decided I wanted to create a journal from the mandalas I am creating from the class and came up with an idea of how to do that. Since I am creating them on loose sheets of paper, I combined some of my knowledge of creating scrapbooks to come up with a way to do it.

It might be hard to tell from the photos below so I’ll try to describe my idea. When I have 4 completed mandalas from the class I will create a hinge from cardstock to adhere the pages to creating a signature which can then be sewn into a journal cover.

I took a folded piece of cardstock so one side was the same length as the page and the width was wide enough to adhere about 3/4″ of the edge of the page to one side of the fold while leaving about 1/4″ or more next to the crease.  I attached page 1 and page 2 back to back onto  one side of the folded piece of cardstock and adhered 2 of the sides leaving the top edge open so the page forms a pocket that opens at the top. I did that in case I wanted to create smaller mandalas, then I could just slide them into the pocket to store them. I did the same thing with page 3 and 4 on the other side of the folded piece of cardstock. This forms one signature.

The 2nd picture in the series below shows page 2 and 3 spread open so the fold of the folded piece of cardstock they are adhered to is in the center. I used washi tape to hide the seam where the pages are attached. The first photo is the front of the signature, page 1, and the 3rd photo is the back of the signature, page 4. Once I complete Mandala Madness I should have a few signatures to sew together and attach to a journal cover I create. I adhered the pages to the folded piece of cardstock using double-sided tape.

I can’t wait to see what else she has in store for us to learn in her Mandala Madness class. I am already surprised by what all I am learning even though drawing mandalas isn’t new to me. If you want to find out how to make any of these mandalas, you’ll need to check out her class at howtogetcreative.com.

~Patti

 

Always finding something new to learn…

This might be a little difficult to see but I decided to write about this little piece I sketched. This came about after watching Flora Bowley’s session in Woman Unleashed Online Retreat. Her session is about shifting perspective. What you do is start creating marks on the page, then turn it 90 degrees, make some more marks, turn it again another 90 degrees, and just keep doing that until you feel you are done. Flora does this with paintings, and in the session she used different materials to make her marks, sometimes layering over part if not the entire piece obliterating some things entirely.

I chose to just use a mechanical pencil with blue lead. Her style is intuitive painting, therefore this process is about just putting down whatever comes to mind. No planning, just doing. The only thing I planned was to just use the one pencil, no paints, just pencil, just sketching.

I have seen some amazing drawings, some would call them zentangle inspired or just doodles, or fantasy gardens and so forth. I have tried to create my own but always had problems trying to organize it all on the page.

When using Flora’s intuitive technique, even though I was just sketching, I felt a sudden freedom from trying to place anything just right on the page. Turning the page 90 degrees gave me a different perspective and allowed me to place marks in places I normally would not place marks if I kept the page oriented in the same direction all the time.

Creative Revolution Shifting Perspective with Flora Bowley copy

I may decide later to go over it in ink, but for now it will stay as it is. I’m rather swamped right now with so many things happening which require my attention, many of them time sensitive, but all good.

~Patti

More watercolor facial studies….

In my last post I talked about the first watercolor facial study I did for a 21 Secrets class I took. Repeating the technique was not so easy on my next watercolor study which was focused on the nose, a feature I often have difficulty with. I didn’t have any left over skin tone mix from the first one, and several days had gone by, so the skin tones do not match.

nose copy

On the same day, I also worked on a study of the mouth, mostly just the lips.

lips copy

Several more days passed before I worked on the last one, which was the left eye. This one I actually worked on today. In the class, Jodi Ohl demonstrated both the dry method and the wet method for applying watercolor to the paper and though her wet method ended up very loose, mind did not.

right eye copy

I started all of them by wetting the paper first and then applying the watercolor. I will admit the perfectionist in me immediately started trying to control exactly where the colors went. If you haven’t worked with watercolor, then you don’t know how ridiculous that statement sounds. On this last one I tried to be looser than all the others ones and was not very successful. Loose technique in anything, just may not be my style. I’m working on it though. I’m better at loose technique when it is abstract.

After I completed my watercolor study today and it dried, I decided to see how all four of the pieces looked displayed together. Here is what it looks like:

collage 2 copy

She is a bit wonky but that is to be expected since I didn’t lay down all four pieces of watercolor paper and sketch her out first so all portions would be symmetrical. Even so, I like how they all look in a collage. I may mount them this way permanently but not sure at this time.

My next venture in watercolor? Maybe, I’ll try to do her whole face and see if she ends up looking anything like the reference photo.

~Patti