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.


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.



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.


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.

Painting Experiments

This month I’ve been creating a doodle a day along with several other artists on Instagram (#doodleadayaug). I wasn’t intending to have a theme when I started, but after the first few days, I realized I kept drawing flowers. They are one of my favorite things to draw, so it’s been a fun month!

One doodle in particular inspired me to take the subject a little further.

initial sketches

I enjoyed the sketchy line quality, but felt it could be improved upon with some added color. An idea formulated in my head to do a loose underpainting of color with gouache and then add the sketchy line work on top of it with an acrylic paint marker.

The first step was to print out a quick copy of the original sketch, and transfer each drawing to watercolor paper using graphite transfer paper.

Transferring sketches with graphite paper

I really love the way these taped down sketches look, so I had to share!

Once the doodles were transferred, I painted each one using various colors of gouache. I liked the paintings at this stage, but I felt they were missing something. At this point, I was wondering if the intense black outlines would be “too much,” but I still wanted to go ahead and try out my original idea, just to see what the result would be. One of the thoughts I like to keep in mind when I make art is to not be afraid of “ruining” a painting or drawing by trying something new. True, sometimes ideas don’t translate well, but I figure that if I’ve done something I like once, I can always make it again if I mess up!

all flower paintings, side by side

After seeing the side by side comparison of all the paintings before and after the addition of the black outlines, I’m on the fence about which I like better. I still think that at least some of the paintings without the outlines are missing something, but maybe the black lines are too overpowering?

Taken on their own, I don’t mind most of the outlined versions, but I also wonder if they read as paintings, or just as colored-in drawings. If that’s the case, I could probably achieve this look in a much faster way, maybe using marker or colored pencil instead of paint.

Now that I’ve tried out my idea but am not 100% satisfied with it, I’m planning to redo the paintings to see if I can come up with a result that I really feel is “it”. Instead of outlining with black, I’ll work on adding depth and maybe outlines with more layers/colors of paint. So the experiment will continue!

Do you have a favorite of the above paintings? Do you think the outline works better for one painting more than another? I’d love to hear what you think!

Creative Oops

Last week on twitter, I saw a tweet asking for artists to participate in Joanne Hawker’s Creative Insight column on her blog, Origami Chicken.

Not considering that I would qualify to participate, I re-tweeted the request in the hopes that a talented artist out in twitter land might be interested in participating. Then Joanne asked me if I’d like to do it!

Of course I said yes.

I set aside a few hours one afternoon to make the painting and take the step-by-step shots I would need. I was very organized about it.

I first took photos of my studio to share, then of the supplies I would need, then the paper and how I draw my guide lines. You can see those intro photos in my Creative Insight post on Joanne’s blog. What you won’t see on that post are the following images.

Continuing the process, I snapped shots of my paint selection and how I mix paint and test out the color on paper:
selected colors


Next I paused to photograph the very first lines that make up the starting shape of the geometric painting.

first lines

Then I applied my first wash to fill in some of the shapes, and the clouds gathered, the wind started to blow, and disaster struck:


Ok, perhaps I’m over dramatizing a bit. It doesn’t look too bad I guess.

Be that as it may, the paint didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Instead of mostly sitting on top of the paper, or absorbing the paint in the beautiful way watercolor paper absorbs, the paper sucked up the paint and distributed it just under the surface in the not so beautiful way that only drawing paper can. It created a gritty, grainy texture while threatening to wrinkle and warp the paper beyond hope.


Yes, I had mistaken drawing paper for watercolor paper, and I knew I could not continue.

Well, at least not for the post I wanted to write.

But I did continue, taking the opportunity to just keep working on it without expectation. In a way, this was a very freeing mistake because at this point it didn’t matter what I did! To keep it loose, I used the same green paint I already had, focusing more on filling in the space with shapes.


Even before I was finished painting, I knew I would add detail lines not only with paint, but also with pencil.

gouache and pencil

It didn’t take long to complete this painting once I got over the initial disappointment of choosing the wrong paper. In the end, it was a happy mistake, not only for letting me explore something new, but also to loosen me up for the next painting I created–the one that I did use for the Creative Insight post.

How do you deal with creative “mistakes”? Do they ever derail you, or do you embrace them and incorporate them in unexpected ways?

It’s been far too long since I wrote about my process on my blog, which is always one of my favorite topics to cover. Perhaps you can imagine how much fun I had writing up a process post for Joanne’s column.

Here’s a little sneak peek of the painting I created after the “mistake” painting was finished:

Painting for Creative Insight

Head on over to the Origami Chicken blog to read the details, and also be sure to check out the other wonderful artists and illustrators who have previously written Creative Insight posts!

Misfit Paintings

In my last post, I wrote about some recent paintings I’ve finished in tones of gray. I had a couple of other paintings to share, but they didn’t seem to fit with the last group, so they get their very own post!

In an attempt to re-create a couple of drawings I did in the sketchbooks that Jessica Gowling and I are collaborating on, I painted a composition of little groups of colorful lines, arranged on an imperfect grid.


I wasn’t as satisfied with the results of this. I suppose it’s an ok painting in it’s own right, but I don’t feel the same spirit from this painting that I did from those initial drawings. Maybe my expectations were too specific? I still want to pursue this style; hopefully I can figure it out!

The other painting in this misfits post is the first one that started this recent round of paintings.


This was my first attempt to recreate the stone painting from Day 11 in my birthday giveaway. I started painting the shapes of the stones without the help of an underlying sketch. I had wanted to create a horizontal bar of stones across the square paper, but because I hadn’t planned it out, I had a hard time getting the formation I was after. I decided to fill in the entire paper with stones.

I set this aside after the initial gray stones were in place, intent of finishing the two paintings on my to do list. In the end, I had some left over light turquoise paint that I decided to use to embellish this painting. Instead of creating the same pattern of lines overlapping each other on the surface of the stones, I decided to try something a little different: connecting the stone shapes with groups of three lines. I really like this color combination, but I don’t think the painting is quite done at this stage. Keep an eye out for and update!

Wonderfully Gray

I’ve been working on a few paintings over the last couple of weeks. They are all small works in gouache on paper.

I started painting again recently to fulfill a couple of requests I’ve had lingering since my birthday giveaway in June. Hard to believe almost half a year has gone by since then! Both were for the stone painting from Day 11. I’ve been making an effort to check things off my to-do list, and this was a fun task to tackle.


I mixed up a lovely gray color for the stone shapes. In fact, I mixed up a LOT of lovely gray paint, so I had a lot left over. Gray is one of my favorite colors, and I felt sad at the thought of the extra going to waste, so instead of continuing with the stone paintings right away, I decided to make a few other “impromptu” paintings to use up some more of the paint.



I didn’t plan either of these out. I started by adding lines at the corners and working my way into the center. They developed in a really natural, instinctive way, which is one of my favorite ways to create. With some of the styles of drawings and paintings that I do, initial planning can be really helpful, but there’s something very satisfying about getting my brush wet with paint and just going for it.

I’m really pleased with these paintings. I find them both soothing and powerful and the same time. And also wonderfully gray!

After a few days had passed, the gray paintings were still on my mind, so I decided to sit down and paint in the same manner and see what I could come up with.


I painted a similar radial-style composition. This time I worked from the center out toward the edges, which yielded a slightly more off-center final look. When I was finished and compared this piece with the first two, I was surprised by how different it looked. While they are all still very similar in most ways, I find that the 3rd piece overall has a more refined look, and the brush strokes are more regular. The difference could have resulted from painting from the center to the edges instead of the edges to the center, but it’s still somewhat curious. Maybe I was just in a different mood?

For the last painting I also worked from the center toward the edges, but abandoned the radial composition.


I started out with a zig-zag pattern in mind, but it quickly devolved to a less structured texture. The dark gray box in the middle only exists to cover up an area that really bothered me. Because of the way I painted the lines in that section, there was a rounded shape within the pattern, and for some reason it really bugged me! I tried to “fix” it, but before I knew it, I was smushing paint all over that area, and finally painting in the rectangular form. Can you sense my frustration with this piece?

I honestly didn’t think this last painting was going to see the light of day anywhere on the internet, but after setting it aside and looking at it a few days later, something about the painting intrigued me. It’s definitely grown on me, and I really like the texture-pattern area toward the bottom. That was the last section that I filled in, and I think it has potential. It’s irregular and regular at the same time, and I can definitely see doing a larger piece in that style.

What do you think of these paintings? Do you love gray as much as I do, or is there another color you’d be sadder to see dry up, unused on the palette?

20 in 20: June Birthday Bash Giveaway, Winners for Week 5

WOOHOOO!!!! I’ve done it! So happy to have completed this project. Thank each and every one of you who participated in the giveaway. Every single one of your comments helped to keep me going throughout the project and really mean so much to me!

Days 19 - 20

The winners for Days 19 & 20 are:

Day 19: Ellie who said, “eep! here’s my last try. i love this one…seems magical. thank you for sharing your birthday with us & i hope you have a super fabulous day :]”
Day 20: Paulette Beete who said, “What a beautifully complex painting. And styling it in the basket is a wonderful idea. Hmmm, think I’m going to reconsider how I’m framing some of my heart and see if working with some flat baskets might work. Thanks for the inspiration A!”

Congrats to the winners! If you won a painting, get in touch with your mailing address at aisforanika {at} gmail {dot} com (or you can send a DM on twitter if you follow me!) within 72 hours and I’ll send you the painting!

This week I used an overly complicated coin flipping method to ensure that the selection of winners was completely random.

These are the last winners for this giveaway. I know there are a number of commenters who didn’t win one of the paintings, but I’m sure I’ll do another giveaway at some point, so stay tuned! Also planning to open a shop with prints of all the 20 in 20 paintings in the next couple days, so keep an eye out for that as well! Thanks everyone, again, for helping to make this a fun & successful project!

20 in 20: June Birthday Bash Giveaway, Day 20

Woohoo!!! I did it! Today is the last painting for this 20 in 20 giveaway project. I must admit, things got a little rocky for me during the last week or so, but I persevered, and today I can proudly stand back & look at my accomplishment! If you’d like to see an overview of all the paintings, check out my 20 in 20 set on flickr.

Day 20 of my 20 in 20 Giveaway

When looking for an item to include in a photo set up for this painting, I was drawn a basket that’s hanging on the wall. Placing the painting in the basket seemed to be the thing to do!

Day 20 of my 20 in 20 Giveaway

This is a gouache painting that covers the entire 6in square piece of Fabriano Artistico 140lb paper.

**A quick reminder about the comments this week: This is the last painting! I’ll be announcing the winners of Day 19 & 20 on my birthday tomorrow, June 29th. In order to do that, I’ll be closing comments for both paintings on Wednesday morning. Make sure to get your comments in early so you won’t miss out!**

If you like this painting, leave a comment on this blog post and you’ll be entered to win it. It’s as easy as that! For more information about the giveaway, read the Giveaway Details below.

Many thanks to Abbey Hendrickson from Aesthetic Outburst for providing the inspiration for this project!

Giveaway Details:

  • eligibility: open to anyone worldwide.
  • how to enter: leave a comment on the giveaway post to be entered to win the painting featured in the post. Feel free to enter to win more than one painting, but only one comment per person per post.
  • entry deadline: comments close on the first Sunday morning (EST)* after the post is made (*the exceptions are days 19 & 20 which fall on June 27th & 28th. Days 19 & 20 giveaway posts will close the morning of the 29th, so I can announce the final winners on my actual birthday).
  • winner selection & notification: winners will be chosen at random and announced on the blog each Monday for all the giveaways from the previous week.
  • how to claim your painting: send me an email at aisforanika -at- gmail -dot- com with your mailing address and I’ll send you the painting you won right away! Winners must send me their response with their mailing address within 72 hours (3 days) of the published time of the notification post or they forfeit the prize in which case another winner will be randomly chosen.