My First Solo Exhibition

I didn’t grow up in this town. As a child, coming to the Capitol City was a treat. I remember, even then, marveling at the array of bluffs surrounding the buildings, a town nestled within its own protective wall, built ages ago by the river as it cut through to create what is now miles of lush green farmland.

And the city had a sound to me, a jazzy sound. As a pre-teen, I’d walk behind my dad as we made our way downtown to a local restaurant, the sun setting behind historical stone buildings, casting long shadows on busy sidewalks. Continue reading “My First Solo Exhibition”

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.

What Makes Art Useful?

I want my art to be useful.

This has been plaguing me for a little over a year. Perhaps longer. Maybe the thought was always there, just resonating without words.

I want my art to be useful.

And is art useful when it’s simply framed? When it is placed on someone’s favorite wall beside a large window that overlooks the sea? Is it useful?

I think yes…maybe…to the person who hung it there. After all, once a piece is finished, it is no longer serving me. Once my signature is there, it now belongs to the rest of the world.

Are the evoked emotions the usefulness of art? The joy someone feels when seeing a beautiful landscape, or the smile that draws upon someone’s mouth when she sees a painting of a baby with chubby legs. The satisfaction of the artist as she signs her name on a finished piece? Are these the usefulness of art?

Is the illustrative art more useful? The art that appears in our everyday lives, even when we don’t realize it? Advertisements, puzzle pictures, and even the design on our fabrics. Gerald the Giraffe dancing to the night sounds in a beloved Children’s Book. Are these the usefulness of art?

Is only the art that promotes growth or awareness useful? The powerful images of warfare or suffering, the gorgeous documentaries that beg the beauty of the Earth be preserved…

What makes art useful? What makes it not useful? Is that even possible?

Can art be pointless?

And maybe that’s my fear. I don’t want my art to be simply there. I don’t want to create just because. I want an underlying reason, meaning, or purpose to be in place. Sometimes my art feels very close to me and to my heart and to everything I represent. Other times my art is just a frame on the wall.

On these days, I am an unfinished smudge.

I know a lot of artists who can create the same type of art with the same type of medium and with only the same two colors. And I suppose with their own focused style they have gained an appropriate meaning. A purpose. These are the artists we know of, we love, the artists we recognize when we see a piece we never have before.

But I’m not that kind of artist. I will wake up one morning wanting to draw bunnies and make people laugh and then next morning I will wake up in a monochromatic mood and want nothing to do with the sunshine outside and will paint nothing but dark figures among bare trees.

My style can vary, as my interests vary, as my soul varies.

And thankfully I’ve met a few artists like me. Artists who can’t sit still. Always wondering, discovering. Always curious. We have a childish spark in our eyes, and we want to climb that tree! Is there a purpose for us in the world?

Does our art matter? Or are we just frames on the wall?

Silent. Voiceless. Dusted over and slightly bleached from the window’s light.

Back to the Basics: Drawing

So far my experience with Skillshare has been a blast! I’ve been learning all kinds of new watercolor techniques, even learned about the awesome that is liquid watercolor, and gained a few muses and art friends.

But so far I’ve only been taking classes on painting. I attempted an illustration course, but got bored and went back to splashing around.

And then I found The Art & Science of Drawing by Brent Eviston. It’s an 8-week course with five classes per week, and it’s all about drawing.

But Lina, don’t you already know how to draw?

Well, sure, I can draw a decent tree, and if I really put my mind to it I can scribble out a cityscape, but I know I’ve definitely learned some bad habits in my self-taught journey. Brent Eviston is a master artist, and has been teaching for twenty or so years, so I definitely knew there was something I could learn from his course.

And boy have I been learning.

Being a Skillshare course, I was able to take the first two weeks in half a day. We started with the basic of basics: how to hold a pencil.  Then we practiced circles, ovals, and straight lines. We learned about expressive drawing. We moved on to volumetric shapes.

Week three was much more difficult for me than the first two weeks, and so I took my time over the course of a few days. And now I’m finally on week 4. We’re drawing organic shapes and learning about perspective. Soon we’ll learn about shading, measuring techniques, and color.

So, is it helping?

I knew that improving my drawing skill would definitely improve my painting skills. But I wasn’t able to put that to the test until yesterday, when we were meant to draw some form of produce. I went with a pear. I did my homework assignment, and then I got out the watercolor paper.

I could already see how my painting was improving by knowing the three-dimensional shapes of my pear, and the way it takes up space. I sketched with a green pencil to make it more fun. Then I splashed on the paint.

A week ago, my pears would have been two-dimensional and probably outlined in black pen. Yesterday, my pears appeared to pop off the page. They’re not the greatest in pear-painting, I’m sure, but I am definitely proud of them. And I definitely see the improvement.

I plan on going all the way to week 8 of this course, and then I hope to take Eviston’s newer course: Figure Drawing.

Perhaps my fading love of illustration will be rekindled with new possibilities.

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#Limitless Project Week One

A little over a week ago, I wrote about my New Year’s Resolution of not limiting myself in 2019. This “freedom” mentality led to my newest 365 project, #limitless.

Every day I have decided to just go with my flow. Whether I wanted to paint with watercolors, or even just sketch all day with a pencil, I wouldn’t hold myself back with nagging, existential questions. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to start giving myself monthly themes, as I’m not sure if it’s counter-intuitive to the whole idea. But I’m definitely open to giving it a try at least once.

Now that the first week of this project is complete, I think I can safely say that I’m going to learn a ton this year. Not necessarily in skill–though I do plan to learn some new skills!–but in letting myself go, and just being the artist my heart wants me to be. Continue reading “#Limitless Project Week One”

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!

How Inktober 2018 Changed Me as an Artist

Wow! October flew by! I’m not surprised. Between prepping for a Holiday show, an art crawl, and a few other events–that wound up getting rained out grrr!–I had a lot to focus on that passed the time. Oh and HALLOWEEN! Which is, you know, the greatest thing ever. Goo went as Link from Legend of Zelda this year, and I went as Castiel from Supernatural. Continue reading “How Inktober 2018 Changed Me as an Artist”

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?”

Oil Painting Returns: Five Lessons I’ve Learned

If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that I’ve been having tons of issues with oil paint, from anxiety over the toxic mediums, to headaches from resin and linseed fumes. For a while I was pretty bummed about it, but soon moved on to gouache and did my best to forget about oil entirely. Continue reading “Oil Painting Returns: Five Lessons I’ve Learned”

My First Go at Oil Paint

Self-portrait

Ever since I started the “Ghost” series, I’ve been contemplating giving oil paint a go. I felt like some of the things I wanted to paint would do much better with a heavier medium, and I’m not a huge fan of acrylic. And ever since I’ve been a part of the local gallery, I’ve seen tons of gorgeous oil paintings, and I suppose I just got the itch in general.

So what was my holdup? Well, for starters, I’d heard it was toxic to use around kids and animals. Since I have a 5-year-old and three beloved pets, I have always just kept oil out of mind. Second of all, I always figured oil was too expensive for my budget. And finally…well it was just daunting. Only the “pros” use oil, right? The people who know what they’re doing? Not someone who just wants to dabble. Continue reading “My First Go at Oil Paint”