The Process of a Pattern: Working Through the Ugly

Art is a process. I try not to get discouraged or attached to the outcome, but sometimes it’s distressing when a painting is looking good, and I take it one step too far.

I was afraid I’d done just that when working on a lightning pattern. I had drawn the lightning shapes and painted them yellow, and then I added in a gray-blue background. The goal was to work fast because I was working on the pattern for #patternjanuary and the prompt for the day was “fast”. Once I had the background filled in, it felt a little flat to me, so I added some cloud shapes.

Lighting with Clouds

Uh oh. This is NOT what I was after. A little part of me was like, “well whatever, it doesn’t always have to be perfect.” Then another part of me chimed in, “what if you paint over it?” I wasn’t sure if it would work since it’s gouache which will re-wet, even on the paper, but I tried it. Happily, it worked! Not only did I paint over it, but because the gouache mixed on the paper, the background was actually better than that first flat layer.

Lightning Pattern

Look at all that foggy texture and dimension. I just love it!

This is such a great example of the unpredictable nature of the process of making art. There are times when everything goes perfectly from start to finish, there are times when the outcome is not so great, and then there are times when the going might be a little bumpy, but the outcome is a pleasant surprise.

Index Card a Day Challenge 2015

This year I participated in the Index Card a Day challenge during June and July for the 3rd year in a row. It was a lot of fun, as always.

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

This year I continued my surface and pattern design explorations and tried a new-to-me technique for the first time: gelatin printing!

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

I had fun embellishing the prints with paint markers and gelly rolls.

Not only did I print directly on some cards, I also cut up some gelatin prints and collaged them back together on index cards.

Index Card a Day

The most unexpected card was one where I tied knots with embroidery floss.

Index Card a Day

For the bulk of my cards I explored different ways of using paint markers and gelly rolls with lots of layering, mark making and varying texture.

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

Painting Daily: 4x6x365

I just finished my first week of daily painting in 2015!

Day 1 | 4x6x365

My initial idea was to create a painting on 4×6 inch paper each day and call the project 4x6x365. After thinking about it, I adjusted my idea and thought it would be better to work a little larger on 6×8 inch paper. I sat down on January 1st with a few sheets of paper in various sizes, and I was surprised to find it challenging to “complete” a 6×8 painting, but I had several 4×6 paintings that looked finished to me. So I switched my challenge back to the 4×6 idea, and I’ve been going strong since.

Day 2 | 4x6x365

Day 3 | 4x6x365

I’ve already explored quite a few new tools and techniques. I worked with bristle brushes, a brayer, and palette knives. I painted opaquely and translucently. I did a lot of layering and lifting of colors, achieving subtle effects.

Day 4 | 4x6x365

I played around a bit with adding pencil marks after the painting part was finished. I like the level of interest it adds.

Day 5 | 4x6x365

I felt quite bold when I made the black swish in the above painting. I had the idea for it, and had to go for it!

Day 6 | 4x6x365

Day 7 | 4x6x365

After an initial touch of resistance and a feeling of overwhelm of what this project would look like for the whole year, I started this first week by giving myself permission to make anything I wanted. There’s a looseness and complexity from all the layers and brush textures that surprises me. It’s maybe not what I had in mind, but that’s really part of the fun!

Paintings on Paper from 2014

I’ve been cleaning up my studio in preparation for a new year of art making, and when I came across a stack of paintings that I’ve made throughout the year, I thought it would be fun to tape some of them them up on the wall and take a look.

A Selection of Paintings on Paper from throughout 2014

This group of art shows a variety of the different ideas and mediums I explored throughout the year. There was a lot of watercolor, paint pen, acrylic, gouache, pencil and markers. I worked on watercolor paper, loose printer paper, and even index cards.

Another Detail of Paintings from 2014 on Wall

There was a LOT of art that didn’t make it up on the wall: more art on loose paper, but also a ton of work in sketchbooks. In 2013 I filled 14 sketchbooks with artwork, and while I don’t have the final numbers for this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was close to that! My plan is to round them up, film some flip-throughs and put together a post about them soon.

I’m sure the sketchbookery will continue in 2015, but I also plan to do a lot more art out of my sketchbooks. I really want to focus on created finished works on paper, panel or canvas in the coming year.

Detail of Paintings from 2014 on Wall

To help with this goal, I’ve devised a daily challenge for myself. Basically I’ll be creating one painting for every day of the year! I’m still not 100% sure about all the details, but I think I’ll decide on a particular size somewhere between 4×6 and 6×8 and take it from there. More info on that project is coming soon.

Here’s to lots of creativity in the coming year!

Acrylic Painting in Layers and Thinking About a New Project for 2015

I recently got a great deal on some Golden acrylics, and I’ve been having fun trying them out.

I’d been working regularly with watercolor before getting these new paints, and switching between the two is always a bit of a challenge until I get the feel for it again.

When I got back into watercolor a few months ago, I found myself laying it on way too thick and wanting to layer it. Now that I’ve gotten used to watercolor, my initial acrylic efforts were getting kind of muddy until I “remembered” the magic of layering.

After a few layers of paint, I had a somewhat muddy dark gray surface with light speckles. I wasn’t too impressed at first, but coming back to my art table after a break and taking another look, the speckled surface reminded me of cactus prickles. I ran with the idea!

Close up of Cactus Painting

I drew the outline of the cactus shape (you can see pencil lines where the segments meet) on the page, and then painted around the edges with a layer of purple and then blue. For those two layers I thinned out the paint and painted it thickly in sections, then dabbed it off with a paper towel before it could completely dry. That technique allows you to see through to the speckled layer, as well as the lighter purple layer under the ultramarine blue. It also gives the piece the vibrant luminous color that it needed.

The final touch was adding red cactus blossoms here and there.

Not only was I trying out paint, but I was also trying out different sizes of paper. I’ve been contemplating another year-long daily project, and one of my thoughts was to work on a specific size of paper. This one is 5×7 which feels pretty good to me, but I’m also trying out 4×6 and 6×8.

Are you considering a year-long project for 2015? I’ve also been thinking about working with a time limit, or possibly working digitally, but I still haven’t decided. I would love to hear what you have planned for the new year!

Rethinking Embedding Instagram Photos

If you read my post from yesterday, you’ll know I was excited to find out that you can embed photos directly from instagram.

As with many things, even if you can, it’s good to find out if you should.

My friend Robyn emailed me with some really important feedback. While browsing her Feedly feed, she noticed that when she saw my post, she couldn’t see the image. Since I specifically talked about including an image, she knew it was probably there, so she clicked over to my site. I was curious, so I checked my Bloglovin feed, and also noticed that no photo showed up in the preview. For anyone who follows me with Feedly, Bloglovin, and probably other RSS feeds, they might not have the same incentive to click through without seeing a preview of the image in their feed.

For me this is a deal breaker, so for now I’ll stick to uploading photos to Flickr and linking them from there.

Here’s the same image from yesterday, linked from Flickr, in case you missed it:

Doodles on Watercolor

It looks a lot better than the embedded instagram photo anyway!

It’s good to try out new things, but it’s even better to find out what really works best! Thank you Robyn!

We Are The Contributors

We Are The Contributors is a cool new creative community that hosts collaborative projects. Some of their goals are to create and showcase art projects inspired by a theme while growing their creative community. I love that the work created can be ANYTHING–visual art, music, poetry, an essay–you name it! I also love the fact that they are focused on including people from different backgrounds and communities across the internet.

I first heard about WATC through Jaime Derringer who participated in their first project with the theme “The Armory Show”. I was really impressed by the work that was created in Project #1 so when I saw the invitation to sign up if you wanted to be considered for future projects, I jumped at the chance! Happily I got an email inviting me to create something for Project #2: Beginnings.

Almost immediately I knew I would work with painting for my submission, as it would reflect the beginning of my effort to paint more this year. By the time I zeroed in on the specifics of what I would create, I realized it would be a whole series of paintings that would each individually represent a beginning of a painting, and as a group represent the beginning of my resolve to paint more in 2014.

Submission for the We Are The Contributors Project #2: Beginnings

I wrote up a description of my thought process about creating the series of paintings that you can read over on the project page.

Now that I’ve had a chance to reflect on the works I created, I realize that these initial paintings are about jumping in, getting something down on the page, and building the momentum. I worked quickly on each piece. I didn’t over think it and I didn’t judge any of it as “good” or “bad”. I was immersed in the process, laying the groundwork to be able to move forward with energy and enthusiasm.

I’ve only shared 9 of the 32 works I created, and I’m looking forward to sharing many, if not all, of the other paintings in their beginning stages as well as along the way as I develop them further.

If you think you might be interested in participating in a future WATC project, don’t be shy! Find the link to sign up on the WATC home page or check out their blog for mini projects that they host via instagram and are open to anyone to participate.

By now the new year is well under way. What are you beginning, or what have you recently begun? Even if you started something a month or two ago, I’d love to know about any new territory you are exploring, what new art medium you’re giving a try, or if you’ve started a long term project for 2014.

Gouache Paintings Made with Extra Paint

Gouache is one of my favorite mediums to use. I worked with it in October and November for my daily pattern project, and during the process, something new developed–a series of abstract paintings I dubbed “extra paintings” since they were made in addition to the day’s pattern.

If I had to pin point the source of this new discovery, it would probably be when I started to use pieces of sturdy paper as paint palettes.

paint palette

paint palette

I really enjoyed the “paintings” that would develop on these paper palettes after several sessions.

There were times when I mixed too much paint in the process of getting just the right color, and I would let it dry on the palette. A couple of times the paint globs actually cracked and started to flake off which I wasn’t crazy about, so I started to scoop off the extra paint and smear it around on an blank sketchbook page.

painting

I thought these pages might come in handy for making textured papers for collage, but just like with the paint palettes, after several painting sessions, the built up layers became more and more interesting.

painting

painting

Before I knew it, I had painted quite a collection of “extra paintings” and my eyes were opened to the new possibilities of a different kind of visual pattern and texture.

painting

I’ve been having so much fun with the paintings I’ve been making, I want to do more. This year I plan to do a lot more paintings and I can’t wait to get started!

Pattern a Day October

After creating patterns for over a year, it’s funny that I never realized that most of the patterns I created were on white backgrounds. I became aware of that fact before October, so I thought it would be the perfect challenge for me.

It really was a challenge, but wow, what a great one!

On the first few days I worked with looser brush strokes and tried out watercolor washes for the background.

Day 1 Pattern a Day October

Eventually my brushwork got more precise, and I decided to work with opaque gouache backgrounds, although I sometimes used several tones of the same color to create a textured surface.

Day 11 Pattern a Day October

Many of the patterns I created this month used abstract shapes, but I also included recognizable objects in a several patterns which was a lot of fun.

Day 18 Pattern a Day October

Day 25 Pattern a Day October

Even within the parameters of working on colorful backgrounds with refined brushwork, I was able to explore bold strokes of color that filled the page as well as delicate marks scattered over the surface.

Day 23 Pattern a Day October

Day 24 Pattern a Day October

I really hit my stride this month and created a number of patterns that I was very happy with. I still plan to experiment with different media in the future, but I’m sure that painting patterns will always be part of my repertoire. Also, now that I’ve gotten comfortable with working on colorful backgrounds, you’ll definitely see more of them from me in the future!

Bottles for Light Grey Art Lab’s 6 Degrees Show

Several weeks ago I saw a call for art at Light Grey Art Lab. The show is called 6 Degrees, and it’s an, “exhibition and project celebrating the work and cultures of artists from around the globe–a show about the power of the collective voice”. To be considered for the show, I had to submit a portfolio site for review.

I’ve wanted to participate in one of LGAL’s group shows ever since I took a couple of workshops with them back in 2012. This one seemed perfect for me, so I put together a portfolio site on Cargo, submitted the link for consideration, and crossed my fingers.

I was so happy to see my name a few weeks later listed among the accepted artists!

I was asked to, “think of your surroundings and the environments, people and places that make your world special,” and base my piece for the show on those ideas. I gave it a lot of thought and the process lead me through the macro and micro environments in which I live.

I’m from the US, but what does it mean to be from Maryland? What’s the distinction about being from Gaithersburg? What is it like to live in my neighborhood? How is the street I live on unique? What about my house and yard? That lead me to one more general question: how do I interact with my environment, wherever I might be–whether at home exploring the back yard, running errands in a nearby town, or checking out museums in DC.

I realized: I’m a collector. No matter what environment I’m in, I go into noticing mode. I collect images with a camera, and I gather treasures that I find, both natural and manmade. Collecting ideas and items is my way of registering the inspiring details I encounter day to day that might otherwise be forgotten.

Since the theme of the postcards ultimately was to be about me, I got to thinking about my immediate environment where I spend the most time–my yard, my house, my street, and the nearby creek.

Initially I planned to create a still life sourced from some of my collections gathered in my surroundings–bottles found by the creek, feathers I come across on neighborhood walks, flowers from the garden, or one of my many potted plants. As I started gathering items together, I focused more and more on my collection of bottles.

bottle collection

I’ve found all of these bottles (and more) down by the creek. There is an old farm dump down there, and I can always count on finding a few glass treasures when I go exploring, especially after we get a lot of rain. My most prized bottles are the blue one, the old ink pot, and the small milk jar. I’m still amazed at the variety of bottles I can find so close to home!

But I digress. To get started, I decided to do a few loose sketches of the various bottles in my sketchbook.

bottles sketch

I had an idea to do washes of color over the bottles as a nod to the translucent colors of the glass. I chose colors that were inspired by real bottle colors, but since most of the actual bottles are clear, I took creative license and used the colors at full strength.

Although I had intended this to be the first step in an entirely different process, I really liked the result of this initial experiment, so I chose to pursue the idea further.

I found these initial sketchy drawings quite charming, but I decided to redraw the bottles twice more. While still maintaining the spontaneous line quality, I drew the bottles more carefully and included more details.

bottle drawing with more detail

I drew them once more in a looser style, though still somewhat more refined than the the original sketches.

bottle drawing, looser

Then I had two versions to work with. Both similar and both good!

I went ahead and painted both versions with the gouache wash technique I tried in my sketchbook.

both versions: refined on left, looser on right

Still both similar and good! How to choose?

Ultimately it came down to the size at which the art was going to be displayed. We had to get postcards printed of our art which would be displayed at the show. I chose to go with the standard 4×6 inch size because anything bigger requires the same stamp as an envelope! Since the final size is on the small side, I chose to use the looser of the two drawings for the final piece. Since the lines were bolder and less detailed, it actually made a better impact at postcard size.

final bottles for Light Grey Art Lab 6 Degrees Show

I got the cards printed at Overnight Prints on uncoated stock, and they turned out beautifully!

bottle postcards

I signed and numbered all 100 cards, bundled them up and shipped them off to Minneapolis. The show opened December 6th and is on display through January 17th, so if you happen to be in the area, do stop by and check out all the awesome postcard sized art work.

If you won’t get a chance to see the art in person, check out the show’s online page where you can see all the cards! You can also purchase larger prints of any of the postcard art on Light Grey’s site. I’m offering the print of my “Bottle Collection” at 13×19 inches for $30, and there are also a limited number of postcards available for just $6. Here’s a link to the listing for my “Bottle Collection” card and print, and another link to the main LGAL shop.