Aren't color wheels for elementary kids?
The answer is simply, no!
Every artist and creative hobbyist should have a color wheel in their tool box.
How else will you make good color decisions? Choose pleasing palettes? and Understand how to mix colors?
Here are the three reasons you should have a color wheel...
1. You will understand how to mix colors and what you will get.
Color mixing does not have to be a mystery reserved for MFA graduates.
Your color wheel is made up of the three Primary colors: Yellow, Red and Blue
Orange, Violet and Green are known as Secondary colors.
Mix more yellow into blue you get Yellow-Green, Mix more Blue into Green you get Blue-Green.
See where I am going with this? These are called Tertiary colors.
Add white to a color you make it lighter and it is called a Tint.
Add Black to a color and it makes it darker and it is called a Shade.
Colors across from each other on the color wheel are called Complementary Colors. These are wonderful combinations as they create lots of contrast when placed next to each other in an artwork. When mixed together you can use them to create brown OR this is where complementary colors are really useful, you can use a colors complement to make it darker, instead of black! Black tends to dull colors, adding very small amounts of a colors complement will darken it and make it richer. For example add a tiny bit of green to your alizarin crimson and it creates a beautiful brick red.
Colors next to each other on the color wheel are called Analogous. Usually this refers to 3-4 colors next to each other such as red, red/orange, orange, yellow/orange.
Why not just buy the color in the tube and use that? This leads to our next reason you should have a color wheel...
2. Knowing how to mix colors creates a more harmonious and pleasing color palette.
You do not have to buy every color the paint companies make. Buy a split complementary color palette. What?!
All this means is 2 yellows, 2 blues, 2 reds, magenta and white. The key is to get a cool and a warm color of each. What does cool and warm mean? Colors tend to lean towards warm - reds, or cool -blues. From this set of colors you can mix every color you will need. By all means choose a color or two like aqua or portrait pink, if there is a color you love and use all the time that can't be mixed too well with the basics. But for your oranges, greens and violets you will only need those split primary colors. Here's what I use for acrylics: Liquitex Brand Basics or Heavy Body: Quinacridone Magenta, Titanium White, Naphthol Red, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Light Yellow, Cadmium Medium Yellow (or deep yellow), Ultramarine Blue(green shade), Phthalo Blue(red shade). I also have a black, aqua and medium magenta in my line up too.
Using a color straight out of the tube creates a painting that looks off. When you mix your own colors you automatically create more natural color harmony in your work and it will be much more pleasing to the eye. You can use colors from the tube but add a bit of one of your basic colors to it. If you use a tube of green add some cadmium yellow to it and that will also help harmonize your palette.
3. Having a color wheel will help you make good color choices.
Having that color wheel in front of you takes away the guesswork of how to mix and what to choose. It's a tool. Our work improves when we have and use the correct tools. You can look at your color wheel to help you mix colors, choose a pleasing palette and know how to lighten and darken colors. Add this indispensable tool to your toolbox and help take the mystery out of color!
Do the work. Is a phrase we here and see all the time in the art world on social media.
What does it mean?
What it means is that learning to make art, whatever your chosen medium, takes time and practice. Your first attempt might not turn out as you want or expect. That is ok. Art is a skill and as with any skill you get better at it with practice.
There are amazing artists out there that we admire and want to learn from. Most likely the accomplished and skilled artists you admire have some sort of daily art making practice. It might be sketching for 10 minutes every morning. Making starters in their mixed media sketchbook for 15 minutes a day. Doing warm up paintings for 20 minutes. Painting for 30-45 minutes each day. Dedicating 4-6 hours to creating each day in their studio. This is doing the work.
Every thing you create does not have to be and will not be a masterpiece. That is ok. It's this work that you learn from and that informs the next thing you create and the next thing you create. It all builds upon itself.
Doing the work is your time to learn, practice, build your skills, improve your skills, play, explore and be in the creative flow. And in the end as creatives that is what we all really crave is that time being in the creative flow. Whether your a beginner or a seasoned artist, a hobbyist or a professional doing the work is what it's all about. How else will you grow? How else will you improve and learn?
Ask other creatives what they do each day to make art. How do they make it part of their everyday lives? Experiment and find what works for you. Think about your medium, your space, and your time. Chances are you want to do the work but you have these perceived obstacles of what, when and where to create. Start small, maybe 10-15 minutes each day for a week. See how it feels, adjust as needed.
Happy creating and do the work!
Must there always be a reason to sit down and make art? Does there have to be a specific end goal; such as sharing, selling or gifting it?
There does not. The greatest joy of making art is you can make it because it helps you relax, it is your hobby, you want to learn something new, you like the way the paint feels, or you like to express yourself with color. Ok, so maybe there are reasons for making art but they are pretty good ones with no pressure attached.
Your journey into creative expression does not need to have any end goals of selling or even sharing your art to anyone! Creating just to create is valid enough reason to get out those paints and make something.
Feeling stuck or blocked is also a good time to get out the art supplies and just create to create. Letting yourself make something is better than making yourself feel bad for not creating anything! This is where making "bad" art comes into play. Who says everything we make has to be frame worthy? Artists throughout history have made a lot of "bad" art. "Bad" art is simply the in between art, the stuff you have to make to get to the other side, where that "good" art is waiting. "Bad" art is your practice, warm ups, sketches, skill building exercises and any piece you just aren't satisfied with. Make it, put it aside and move on to the next piece you are going to make.
Creating art just to create and get your creative juices flowing is a good thing because our first ideas tend to be ok, but the magic starts to happen when you explore and play with your ideas more. This more is the key to stretching your creative muscles. More ideas= better ideas=more originality=more unconventionality=You being super creative!
A great way to nurture your creativity is to do simple art making activities that are open ended and allow you to explore, play and develop ideas and thoughts. Try this Creativity Spark to get you started...
Supplies suggested: set of watercolor paints, watercolor brushes, colored pencils, permanent ink pen, white gel pen, water cup, paper towels, Canson xl watercolor paper spiral bound sketchbook.
Start by drawing big looping lines with colored pencils. Make sure the lines cross each other and make new shapes.
Next, using your watercolor paints, paint in each of the new shapes you have created with your looping lines.
After that, use a white gel pen or a black artists pen and start filling in the spaces with different patterns!
Doodle, play, if you think you want to stop, keep going! Add more patterns! Have fun and
If you would like to try more Creativity Sparks you can sign up for my free online class!
People ask, Why is art so expensive? But maybe what the real question is Why do people think art should be so cheap?
Why people think art should be cheap:
My hope by writing this is not to put you off or make you feel bad for buying cheap art at a store. Many artists have their images licensed and do make money from their prints and products with their images on them. I want more people to be aware of what it takes to create original art and simply be more appreciative of it and not balk at prices the artist has set. A lot goes into creating that artwork and it is worth every penny!
Happy Art Buying!
In person and online art classes are everywhere these days. Which should you take?
There are benefits for taking both types of classes.
In Person Art Classes
There is nothing like taking an in person class. You get the direct instruction of the teacher. You can see how she does the steps and you can ask to see it again. One of the best parts about an in person class is that one on one interaction with the instructor. You can ask questions directly. You can get help immediately. You also have the benefit of being in a group and seeing other peoples ideas and process. These are all great things. If you have the opportunity to learn an art skill through an in person class you should definitely go for it. Watching videos and looking at art books can be helpful but having a real person showing you and explaining the steps to you makes it so much easier. Another benefit of in person classes is that sometimes all the supplies are provided. This let's you try it out without going out and buying a bunch of supplies you may never use again.
Give an in person class a try. You may just find your new favorite hobby and meet some wonderful like minded souls in the process.
Online Art Classes
Online art classes can be as meaningful a learning experience as in person classes. A quality online class should provide step by step instruction through written content, photos and video tutorials. One of the great parts of taking an online class is you can work on it at your own pace. This flexibility makes online learning very appealing to people with busy work schedules. To get the most out of your online class be sure to complete the lessons and participate in any assignments and discussions. This is where you will get questions answered, a feeling of community and help if you need it. Online classes are excellent choices for people who are self motivated and like the flexibility of learning using technology. Another great reason to take an online class is if the instructor lives far away and offers in person classes you just can't get to. An online class is a wonderful platform to learn from famous and experienced artists and instructors from all over the world.
Whichever type of class you decide to take your attitude is key to your success. Have an open mind. Be positive. Let go of wanting to be perfect at it the first time. Let yourself be a beginner. Let yourself explore, play and mess up. Give yourself time to do the work. Give yourself time to practice.
Working artists are living the dream, devoting 100% of their time and energy to creating their art. Many are teachers sharing their creative process with others. Being an artist is not an easy road nor is it glamorous. There are long days and nights creating a lot of art that no one will ever see. There is anxiety when no money is coming in. There is fear they aren't good enough. There is also hope, that their hard work and dedication will pay the bills, buy more art supplies and that their creations will bring happiness to others. Artists are driven to create and it seems nothing can stop them. It is their destiny after all and they embrace it. How can you help your favorite artists so they can keep doing what they are doing?
Go to art fairs.
Look up art fairs near you. There is one very weekend during the summer. Talk with the artists. Ask them thoughtful questions. Join their email newsletter list. Purchase their art. Art fairs are A LOT of work. They are physically and emotionally exhausting. Artists pay entry fees, go through a jurying process to get into the show and then if chosen are required to pay a booth fee.
Go to art shows.
Check out listings in the newspaper and online for gallery and art exhibitions. If you can, go to the opening reception. Say hello to the artist, ask how they were inspired and how they made their art. Tell your friends about the show too. Help spread the word.
Purchase original art by your favorite artist.
It is an amazing feeling when someone purchases your art, You literally sing and dance. Your heart flies! Purchasing art from your favorite artist allows them to keep making more art. Many artists sell original art as well as prints. Chances are there is something in your price range.
Take a class.
Many artists are teachers and offer in person and online classes. Do you love their art and are you curious how they create it? Take their class! You will be inspired and learn new techniques and gain a greater appreciation for the creative process.
Sign up for newsletters.
Many artists have an email newsletter. Sign up so you can follow their journey and find out about new work, shows and classes.
Visit the artists website.
Most artists have beautiful websites that showcase their art and classes. Check it out and learn more about your favorite artist.
Interact on social media.
Follow your favorite artist on social media. 'Like' their photos. Leave comments. Share their posts. These all help create exposure for the artist. It also let's the artist know people are out there looking.
Send the artist emails.
Let the artist know how much you enjoy their work. Many artists work alone for hours and days at a time. It is really nice to hear positive comments. Send photos of their art in your home too. Artists love to see their art being enjoyed.
Read artists blogs.
Many artists write blogs. Take the 5-10 minutes to read their articles. Leave comments and share the blog with others.
Watch artists video.
In todays digital age there are a lot of videos to watch, Take some time to check out the videos created by your favorite artists. You just might learn something new or gain greater insight into their process. Leave comments and share them too.
All of these suggestions are easy ways to support your favorite artists. Believe me, they are eternally grateful!
Where do you find inspiration for art?
Do you look to nature? Photographs? Objects? Animals? Imagination?
All of these are wonderful places to find inspiration to make art! I want to share with you some ways I use photos, fresh flowers and my imagination to create my artwork.
Working from Photographs
I used to paint mainly from photographs of flowers. I liked that it didn't die on me and I could stare at it for hours. I also appreciated the fact that I could take super close up photos of flowers and see shapes, details and color I otherwise couldn't see. I still work from photos but my focus in my art has shifted so I no longer want those super close up views anymore.
The advantages of working from photographs are that you can set up a still life and light it just the way you want, photograph it, crop it and edit it. You have the photo forever! You can use editing apps and change the photo to try different colors and paint styles! Whenever I set up a still life I always take a photo so I have it as reference for the future.
You can take photos of anything, anywhere that inspires you and you have it forever!
You can even use photos to paint on. Take a photo, turn it into greyscale in your editing app, print it on photo paper and then paint directly on top of it! What?! Isn't this cheating? Well, maybe a little but it will help you become better at creating different color values. The greyscale photo has done all the work of deciphering lights and darks for you. Choose your colors and make them match the different values you see in the photo. It really is a fun exercise, you should try it!
Get out your camera and capture all those things, places, plants, people and animals that inspire you!
Working from Life
Over the last couple of years I have discovered the joy of having fresh flowers to paint from. Creating from live objects really does give your paintings more life. You've got the real thing in front of you after all! You have control over lighting and background. There is something so joyful about having fresh flowers in the studio. Think about what you would like to paint. Flowers? Fruit? Knickknacks? Half the fun is setting up your still life. You can use colored tissue paper, scarves, fabric or fun papers to add color and pattern. Be sure to add a strong light source to create dramatic lights and darks!
Have fun creating a still life of objects or flowers to create from!
Working from Your Imagination
Painting from your imagination is the ultimate use of your creative license. As long as you keep in mind; lights and darks, composition, focal point and choose a color palette you will have a successful painting. I like to do warm up paintings purely from my imagination. I don't have to worry so much and I feel more freedom just letting myself paint. Painting from imagination also tends to result in more expressive and whimsical images. You can always add to them or even paint over them! Letting my imagination and creative intuition take control always feels freeing. Give yourself time to play with creating from imagination. Think of a bouquet of flowers, a forest of trees, or just start making lines and shapes and see where it takes you! Start with using just black and white and add color to it later. Who knows what images or ideas you might come up with letting your imagination play!
Whatever your preference, photos, life or imagination, I hope find freedom to explore creative expression in your own unique way!
This summer in the workshops I have been participating in as a student I have one major take away. That is the importance of some kind of regular and consistent art making practice. Having a routine. Doing warm ups. Scheduling creative time. The artists I admire all have some sort of routine that gets them going, and keeps them inspired and productive.
Have a Routine
How I would love to incorporate all of the ideas I have learned about in the workshops this summer. I am still processing them and figuring out how to add them into my life and creative practice so they feel right for me. The last thing I want is to force myself to start a practice that just doesn’t work for me. Artist Lisa Kennedy starts her day at 5am. Yes, 5 am. She starts with a daily 6”x6” painting of a floral still life and has been doing this for over 10 years! What dedication! What a morning person! I am not able to physically get up that early. My health needs require 8-9 hours of sleep and 5am would just make me a zombie for the rest of the day. I know me and my body. That is a good thing! I know I would like to have a daily painting practice but 5am is just not going to work.
My brain is already starting to think about how I can work daily painting into my day. For me the first step is setting up a work space. I have the perfect little desk in our living room. It has become cluttered with this and that. TIme to clear and organize and set up a small painting area. Having all my supplies set up is half the battle. How can I say no to painting if it is all set up and ready to go? My setup is simple. A lamp for a spot light. A roll of paper towels. A palette. My paints. A couple brushes. A water cup. A still life. I am ready to paint! 5 am may not be my time. That is Ok. Maybe its just before or after breakfast. Maybe it is in the evening. I am going to be flexible and figure out my ideal painting time as I go.
Doing Warm Ups
A daily small painting does not have to be my only creative time during the day. I am fortunate that I have a studio space where I can work on larger and multiple paintings. From artist Bob Burridge I learned the importance of using warm ups in the studio. He paints with mainly acrylics and starts each painting session in his studio making 6-10 small warm ups on watercolor paper. We practiced this in his workshop and I loved this technique as well. I realized I do something similar using a canson xl watercolor sketchbook. In my sketchbook I do small practice paintings to try new ideas for subject matter, color palettes and compositions. Bob’s practice gets him loosened up and his ideas flowing. Sometimes he uses just black and white and others he uses color. Not all of these warm up paintings end up as finished works of art but many do.
I love the idea of doing these warm up paintings. I have started doing them as soon as I get to my studio. I get out big sheets of watercolor paper, gesso them and tear them into about 6”x9”pieces. Then I put black and white on my palette, use a big brush and lots of water. Sometimes I paint floral still life, trees, or horses. I can paint anything. This warm up time is my playtime! After they dry I sometimes go back and add color and develop finished paintings. Most importantly, I started painting right away and this gets me going to be more productive in the studio.
Scheduling Creative Time
The last three months I have also been a part of an amazing group of women artists led by Mati McDonough. This creative business mentoring program has helped me see the importance of focusing my many ideas and scheduling time to create and work. A schedule for a creative person can seem stifling. In reality it is a powerful tool that can help me be more focused and productive. My summer has been far from routine. I do have classes scheduled at regular times which automatically gives me a schedule. This is good because I can schedule my other creative/work time around them. I am calling it creative/work time because that encompasses all the things I do for my art business. This includes making art, writing, business/computer work and making videos. I wear a lot of hats having my own business. This can also make me feel out of focused and stressed.
My schedule is based on setting completion goals for myself with specific timeframes. I have 2 online courses in the works and I set a self imposed publish date. I know when they are due and I prioritize working on them. I also make lists of all my ideas and projects. I rank them in order of when I would like to complete them. I tend to be less overwhelmed this way. I know I will get to a certain project and I won’t forget about it because I have it written down. I also have daily priorities. Mine are painting, writing, teaching and making videos. I do not get to all of them each day and that is ok. At the end of the day I check in with my daily priorities and in a journal record what I have accomplished. This has been an amazing tool. I can see what I actually did that day and relax knowing I am working on my projects one step at a time.
Incorporating the ideas of daily practice, warm ups and schedules is a great way to find focus. Every artist can benefit from a regular and consistent art making practice. The key is making these ideas work for you in an authentic way that motivates and inspires you.
Summer is a busy time of year with vacations, weddings, kids and family time. Along with work and normal life happenings our time for creative expression can get lost in the shuffle. How can you squeeze more creative expression into your busy summer? You can plan it into your vacations, have family art time, you can take art supplies with you on vacation and you can take a class online or locally. There are lots of ways to keep your creative juices flowing. Why not let creative expression be part of your summer fun too?
Plan Creative Time Into Your Vacations
I made a point this winter to look for art workshops that I could take this summer in places I have always wanted to visit or spend more time in. Then I asked a close friend and family members if anyone would like to tag along and enjoy the place while I was at the workshop! This was a great idea! In June, I traveled to Sedona, AZ and took a 3 day Loosen Up with Aquamedia Workshop with the charismatic Bob Burridge! If you haven’t watched his Bob Blasts videos you are really missing something special! Check out his website HERE. My dear friend went with me and she enjoyed hiking the canyons during the day while I was painting and in the evening we strolled around Sedona and enjoyed fun places to eat. In July my mom traveled with me to the picturesque Door County area of Wisconsin and I attended a painting workshop with artist Lisa Daria Kennedy. Check out Lisa’s art and workshops HERE. My mom explored Fish Creek and in the evenings we hiked in the Peninsula State Park and had memorable dinners like the classic Fish Boil. In August my mom will be joining me again as we go even further north in Wisconsin to Madeline Island School of Art on Lake Superior to enjoy a 5 day painted papers collage workshop with artist Elizabeth St. Hilaire. Check her website HERE. What an art filled and memorable summer this is! Plan ahead and make creative expression part of your vacation. Visit a new place, discover artists you have admired and learn something new!
Have Family Art Time
Do you have all the kids at home? Grandkids? Family reunion? You can always count on kids to love a creative activity. Go on Pinterest or Google and search summer kids crafts and you’ll have more than enough ideas to choose from! Or keep it simple, get out some watercolor paints and paper for some painting time or air-dry clay or model magic to create summer inspired sculptures! Put down a plastic tablecloth and get out those art and craft supplies, you’ll love all the creative ideas kids have!
Take Art Supplies with You
Are you going on vacation? Why not take some simple art supplies with you? Every trip I take there is always some downtime and that's when I get out my watercolors. You could take a sketchbook and some pencils and pens, a small watercolor pad and watercolors, colored pencils, or your favorite camera. Keeping a travel journal or sketchbook is one way you can be in the moment on your trip and record the places and things you see. The great thing is most art supplies come in handy travel sizes and kits. What art supplies would you like to play with on your next trip?
Take a Class Online or Locally
No need to venture far for an art class or workshop, chances are there are local classes you can take and even online classes. Online classes are a great option if you don’t have vacation time, you can work at your own pace in your free time. Many art related businesses from galleries, to schools, to art centers to parks and rec programs offer art classes for adults and kids. Search for art classes near you! There are also lots of art fairs in the summer and many of the exhibiting artists teach classes. Go to an art fair, chat with your favorite artists to see if they teach and where!
Summer is a fun filled family time. Don’t forget the art! Let creative expression be part of your plans. It will help you have an even more productive and enjoyable summer!
As adults we have a hard time allowing ourselves to be a beginner. We are an adult after all, shouldn't we be able to do things right and perfectly the first time?
I can't help but laugh at that statement. Since when does anyone do anything perfectly or just "right" the first time anyway? Not me!
As you are beginning your journey into making art it is ok to be a beginner, In fact, I am giving you permission right now to be a beginner, you can make mistakes, you are allowed to make "bad" art, and it is ok to practice, a lot.
All the great artists did not churn out perfect and amazing works of art that went right to the museum or gallery. Every artist from Georgia O"Keeffe to Picasso started somewhere and I imagine there are sketchbooks filled with ideas and drawings and practice paintings and piles of discarded work that well, stunk.
Making art is a process, it is a journey. Every single thing you make leads to the next thing you make. Your skills build, you improve, and your ideas evolve. That's why it is a journey and a process.
There is no such thing as a perfect painting, if you feel satisfied with what you created that is good enough. If you feel frustrated with what you created make another one and let the last one be a learning experience.
And by the way, how many of us are going to end up with art in a museum or gallery anyway? It is also perfectly ok to create art because you enjoy it, because you are proud of it as a personal accomplishment, and because it is a positive outlet for your self expression.
Enjoy the journey, trust the process, go and make stuff, you have my permission.