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.

Am I a Painter?

I joke with my husband that I have an existential crisis at least once a month. And it’s true, I really do! I am always getting stuck in the muck of “why am I doing this?” and “who am I as an artist?” and “What on Earth do I have to offer this blue ball in the sky?”

My latest existential crisis was triggered by my experimenting with oil paints, which led to experimenting with acrylic and gouache. I freaked myself out a little. Am I leaving watercolor? Why would I do such a thing? I had so much potential with my watercolor pieces and even had four on display at a local gallery! Why change my medium just when I was starting to get the hang of another? Continue reading “Am I a Painter?”

When You’re Too Scared to Draw

The past 1-2 weeks were difficult for me. Every time I sketched something out, I put the unfinished piece on my easel, and then it  would just sit there. Because I was scared to go further, to pull out the Micron pen and draw the “final” draft. I was scared to mess up, to make a problem mark somewhere, to overdo it.

I was scared to fail. Continue reading “When You’re Too Scared to Draw”

Hatching & Cross-Hatching

Every now and then I’ll practice something that may or may not make it into my future illustrations. Because I learn. Even if I never use it again, I learn.

I’ve practiced hatching & cross-hatching in the past, and it didn’t make it far into my artwork. However recently I picked up a few illustration books at the library and one of them discussed hatching and cross-hatching–as well as other shading methods–and I decided to play around with it again. This time I think it has stuck. My artwork is evolving again; I can see it! While I do like the “clean” look of my most recent work, I also like the weathered quality provided by the hatching. In fact, it seems to bring forward the part of me that loves all things eerie: foggy mornings, ghost stories, fall wind, dusty photographs.

And I think that, maybe, hatching will help grow yet another branch of style for me.

At the time, I seem to like the “quick sketch” look, as I usually do, but I want to work on cleaner lines with my hatching.

Maybe it’s because I’m an info junkie, but practicing the basics is super fun for me. And because I returned to these “basics,” I’ve already sketched out four new pieces!

Is hatching here to stay? Only time will tell.