Watercolors to Oils: Three Things I Must Change

Let me just say how much I have loved oil painting these past few days. Since switching over to water-based oils, I can sense a bridge between my favorite medium, and the medium I’ve just picked up. I’m more comfortable with it, and feel more in my “element.” Even when I’m using a medium like walnut oil instead of plain ol’ water.

But there are a few things I’ve noticed about my painting habits/issues since playing around, and they are kinks that definitely need to be straightened out.

1. I Work Too Fast

I was working on an oil piece two days ago, and realized how fast I was moving my brush around, and how it was getting paint everywhere. Seriously. It was on me, on my clothes, and mussing up my painting in a way that would require an extended drying period before moving on. Forget painting tiny details. I couldn’t even get a block of color in without making a mess.

And I stopped for a moment and reminded myself that I was working with oils, not watercolor. With watercolors, one usually has to move super fast to get things where they need to be before it’s dry. But oils take for.ev.er. to dry. I forced myself to take a deep breath. My mess wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, it would probably still be workable tomorrow. I could chill.

So, obviously, my first goal is to work on slowing down.

2. I Lose Interest Quickly

With watercolors, a piece can be finished within an hour. If I take my time, it could take a few days but it probably still all adds up to only a few hours. Because of this, I’m used to busting pieces out pretty fast and moving on with my life.

But oils force me to take longer. Oils force me to wait, which can make me write off the drying piece altogether. The excitement has passed, and now I’m onto something new. Which works okay for watercolors…but again…this is oil.

So my next goal is to maintain my focus when working on a piece. As if it were its own individual identity (because it kind of is, right?). Perhaps each painting gets its own type of music, or its own easel. Maybe I will work on three pieces at once, but all with extremely different color palettes. Whatever I can do to separate them and bring something “new” to the easel when working.

Most of all, I will focus on each movement of my brush, each tiny detail. I will remain connected to my piece by learning everything I can about it. Even after it’s deemed complete.

3. I’m No Good At Values

This is hard to admit…but getting good values in my paintings hasn’t been my strong suit. In the past, I worked around this by inking in all of my lines. But now that I’m working with oils I find that I need to seriously practice my values if I want to make it anywhere in this medium. Not everything can be a midtone.

One way to help me through this is to photograph each piece and look at it in black and white. This will show me my highlights, midtones, and shadows, and whether or not they produce something with good contrast, or something that is nothing but mud.

As a photographer, I have been working in black and white for many years. I spent all of 2017 shooting with black and white film. I can make a good black and white photograph, so why am I nonsense at values when painting? I really have no excuse.

So my third goal is obviously to practice my brains out. Other than taking black and white photos of my paintings, I can also work on monochromatic pieces. In fact, I gave myself this same exercise as a photographer, and shot only in black and white for an entire month. You wouldn’t believe the things I learned about shadows and light and which colors showed up as a bland gray. Time to apply what I learned to painting.

I’ve only been working with these new oils for a few days now, but I really really want to get better at them so I can add them to my everyday work. I love their richness, their colors that never fade, and the fact that I feel like a Van Gogh badass when slapping alizarin crimson onto a canvas.

What about you? Have you gone from one completely different art medium to another? Did you see a few flaws that needed to be repaired? Tell me below!

Telling Stories In My Art

“Ochre Sunday” Watercolor & Gouache

I painted this last year.

Despite everyone’s wonderful and uplifting compliments, I hated it.

When I told close friends or my husband about my real feelings toward the painting, I was reassured that it was beautiful and that I had done a great job.

But that didn’t help. The fact that it was beautiful didn’t make me love it.

Because that’s all it was. Beautiful. There was literally nothing else about it that spoke to me. It was a painting of some trees in autumn. Woo. Hoo. Everyone paints stuff like this.

“That Sweet Sunday Breeze” Ink & Watercolor (and maybe a little bit of gouache)

“Ochre Sunday” was meh, but “That Sweet Sunday Breeze?” Ahh! Give me more! Where is she going? What’s her name? Who lives in the house with the blue door?

So what was the difference?

Story.

Most people who know me in real life, and maybe even a few of my online friends, know that during my entire 20s I was pursuing a writing career. While it, ultimately, didn’t work out for me, I did wind up writing seven novels and several unfinished ones. Drafts. Short stories. Poems. You name it, I was immersed in words.

And I read! I read lots of books by amazing storytellers like Diana Wynne Jones and Lois Lowry.

I love stories.

“Ready for Fall” Ink & Watercolor

An artistic piece depicting a forest is okay and all, but tell me a story within that piece and I will fall in love forever. Tell me about the witch who lives in the deep shadows beside an uprooted tree, or the hare family with the rare fox friend.

Tell me a story. Or, at the very least, give me the tools to create one of my own.

These are the things I need to remind myself when creating: Who is my character? What does she do? Love? Hate? Where is she and how does she interact with her environment?

I realize these sound like the beginnings of a book, but I am often fulfilled just by painting/drawing a single moment in a story, and then moving on to a new tale entirely.

“The Twins” Ink & Watercolor

I’ve been working on a piece lately, a bunny portrait (of course), and the goal is to have her standing/interacting among a flurry of yellow birds. I feel so inspired every time I look at even the bones of this piece. I’m thinking up her name and why the birds are flying around her and where she is and what her dreams/loves are. I want to give her a backstory and tell no one. I want to give her a future.

And as I paint her, I’m not afraid she will disappoint me. The only fear I have is that normal I might screw this up. But even if I do mess up, I will keep going. This bunny will be my breakthrough into allowing myself freedom to tell these snapshot-length fairytales.

Hi, I’m Lina. I’m that weirdo in the gallery wearing bunny earrings and pink chucks. No, I didn’t paint that gorgeous mixed-media piece with the flowers and the forest. I actually drew the smaller one beside it, of a narwhal hot air balloon giving bunny children a tour above their town.

Let me tell you their story.

Evolving as an Artist: My 2019 Resolution

Self portrait–Oil on canvas

I’ve always been creating, drawing, painting, but in 2018 I finally decided to pursue art as more than just a hobby. I started an Etsy and have been a part of local art gallery shows, and even won a ribbon at the state fair! I knew, because of my success–albeit minor, but still exciting–that I’d finally found the right career path for me.

But something got snagged around August, and I began to have a bit of an existential crisis. *Why* was I creating? What made my art different or important or ______? I was also struggling with this weird “I must choose only one medium” mentality, and which only starved my creativity more.

Not only that, but labels became sort of an obsession. Was I a fine artist? An illustrator? Was I going to be better known for my generic nature stuff? My bunny portraits? Was I going to be a zentangler on the side? Lots of people have told me I should become a children’s book illustrator. Why wasn’t I pursuing that? Should I be sending out more emails to agencies? What if I don’t want to illustrate children’s books? Does that mean I’m drawing the wrong things? What should I be drawing instead?

I got a break from this during Inktober because I was, well, having fun. In hindsight, I also notice that I most enjoyed the paintings/drawings in which I just did whatever I felt like and ignored that inner voice with all the questions.

Synapses–Watercolor and gouache on cold press

As soon as Inktober was over, I returned to the funk. I painted boring generic stuff because I felt that was what I was supposed to be painting. I stuck with Arches paper and let myself run out of my beloved Canson hot press. I limited my tools to just watercolors and/or the occasional pen. I even bought ink to try and narrow myself further to just brushes and watercolor. Occasionally I would start a cute illustration of a humanoid animal, but those remain unfinished and are still scattered in various places within my dining room art studio.

My 2018 New Year’s Resolution had been simple. I was going to follow my flow. I was going to listen to my heart instead of my brain. Be more intuitive. Let go of the nonsense and just be free. I realize I’ve been failing miserably these past few months. Instead of listening to my subconscious, I’ve been limiting myself. And starving.

Nonetheless I’ve been cheerful, which is strange because when I was trying to pursue a career in writing, existential crises like these would ruin my entire day/month/year. But art, no matter how “forced” it is, is still fun for me. It still puts me in a good mood and makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

So, bruised but not broken, I joined Skillshare. For those of you who don’t know, Skillshare is a website where creators from all over the world come together and teach classes on anything you can think of. I’ve been interested in it for a while, but it wasn’t until a friend gave me a code for the two month free trial that I decided to give it a try. I figured that perhaps learning a few things would help me gain some new perspective on the “why” of my art.

Girl in the Fog–Watercolor on cold press

The first class I took was by artist/illustrator Marie-Noelle Wurm, whose abstract art is just mesmerizing, and whose illustrations are imaginative and sometimes dark. The class was called: Abstract Watercolor Paintings: Explore Through Freeform & Planned Process.

I’m so glad this was the first class I chose to take! Had I chosen something different, a technical class, for instance, I might have slid down a different path (and crashed and burned).

This class was all about what my entire resolution had been about: following our flow. A few of the takeaways from the class:

* Art is about choices. When you’re ready to begin a freeform piece, limit these choices to one brush and one color.

* Stay in the moment. When you find that anxiety start to set in, regroup and return to the moment.

* Experiment. Play. Have fun. Basically, I need to just splash around and see what shapes the puddles make.

Because I loved this class so much, I decided to take several more classes by her, in which she uses all sorts of materials. In one video she’s using watercolor, the next she’s using charcoal and dying markers! Her studio is a playground. And dammit, I want a playground!

For 2019 my resolution is to not limit myself. If I want to use watercolor, I’ll use watercolor, if I want to use oils, then dammit I’ll use oils. If I want to use charcoals and colored pencils and acrylics all on one piece, then I’m game. Art, for me, has always been about having fun and trying new things. I just needed someone–in this case, a badass teacher–to remind me of this.

Despite the many existential crises, 2018 was one of the very best years of my life. In my art I got to be a part of gallery shows, share my coloring pages with kiddos, enjoy an art crawl, and more. In my home life, I got to enjoy my family, go on numerous hikes, and cozy up to many rainy days, and I’ve watched Goo grow an artistic passion of her own.

Here’s to 2019, friends. Happy New Year to you!

Setting Goals for the New Year

Freelensed Xmas Tree Lights!

I like goals. I have a problem with goal-setting because I set too many goals. But goals make me go, and writing them down makes them seem even more graspable. It brings them to life!

Want to set a goal or multiple goals? Step one is to write them down.

I wrote down eleven goals I’d like to accomplish, not necessarily in 2019, but in general. Therefore they’re more like “bucket list” items. They are as follows:

1. Show at a gallery in the nearby city

2. Teach a watercolor class

3. Publish a book (art book or coloring book)

4. Have a (successful) Patreon

5. Start a YouTube channel

6. Do a plein air painting

7. Do a show at the local Conservation center

8. Travel somewhere and paint there. Paint-cation!

9. Run an art camp for local kiddos

10. Be a featured artist at the local gallery

11. Join Skillshare and learn my buns off

Again, these don’t have to all be accomplished in 2019, but a few are already in the works, like the watercolor classes and the kid’s camp. I’m very excited!

As for my project 365, I think I will be going for two this year. I’d like to not only do a 365 days of Art (with monthly themes) but I’d also like to do a 365 days of Yoga, because I love yoga and really want to get back into it. I’m interested in seeing how my health and well-being improves over the year with this challenge.

But enough about my goals! I want to know about yours! Any New Year’s resolutions in mind? Thinking of trying a project 365? Feel free to comment below, or shoot me an email!

Happy New Year!