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.