Sunday, January 26, 2020

Practical Productive Practice for Artists

There's a million ways to paint an apple.  An apple.  Think about it.  You could paint an apple in any color of the rainbow.  Paint it cut in half.  Paint it rotting on a cutting board.  Paint it in a basket.  Paint it in shadow.  Put in under a spotlight.  Paint it abstract.  Paint it in black and white.

You see where I'm going with this?

SO many choices.

If you were told "go paint an apple!"

Would you know what to do?

Would you know what surface you want to paint it on?

What brush to use?

What palette to use?

What medium to use?

What would you want to SAY about the apple in your painting?

Those are the questions the Artist has to answer before they even pick up a brush.  And it's in those questions where frustration can sneak into the studio.  I HAVE TO MAKE SO MANY DECISIONS JUST TO MAKE A PAINTING.

So, the practice - the act of practicing painting - can be frustrating if you don't work within a few parameters.

What makes practice practical? What makes practice rewarding, so that you want to practice MORE?

Rules.  Parameters.  Parameters are your friend.

I started to realize that the students who were working with me who wanted every color, every brush, and a complex source of inspiration were making SLOWER progress that the students who PRACTICED painting.

So the short point to my long intro is...

I'm here to help you practice.

I'm here to run the drills.

I'm here to give you measurable goals.

I'm here to get you to that moment where all you have to pick up the brush and START.

Think of a pianist who runs through scales for twenty minutes before practicing a full piece.  Think of a basketball player shooting 3 pointers for hours a day.  Think of a chef who made omelettes for two years before they tackled a four course French dinner for 12.

The greatest of all time have run the drills.  They have done the practice...more than you will ever know.

Have you ever watched the show Chef's Table on Netflix?  Almost every single chef has been through the ringer.  They studied under a master, they practiced, they learned the Traditional methods in their field.

In every story, though...almost without fail...they realized they had their own voice, and they wanted to tell their own story.

And they build their menu, their style, from the grain of rice to the cut of beef.  These chefs - these artists - pick EVERY aspect of their meal with Purpose.  Some of them grow their own food, just to control the very source of the taste.

Why aren't we doing that as visual artists?  We SHOULD be doing that as visual artists!

Choosing our color - even down to the BRAND that we prefer.

Choosing our surface - and whether we want oil or acrylic ground...or texture...or copper!  Have you tried painting on copper?

Choosing our inspiration - and being as AUTHENTIC to your voice as possible!

So the goal, as an artist, is to explore enough - to practice enough - to create enough - to start to discern what methods and materials work with our voice.

That is why I have developed my first round of nine lessons for artists to work on at home.  This practice - one small painting a week for nine weeks - is designed to help you explore a variety of limited palettes, on nine different surfaces.

The subject is simple and used throughout the nine paintings.  By using the same simple subject, we can also focus on the practice of applying paint.  The drawing aspect is absolutely crucial - and without strength in drawing we cannot accomplish much more by throwing in color - but for the purpose of practicing - I have kept the subject simple, and focused on using paint and surface as effective as possible.

No matter where you are on your artistic journey, Practice is crucial.  Practice is the key.  Refining the basics to the point where they become ingrained, become effortless...become Mastered.

I can tell you, truthfully and sincerely, that creating these lessons has helped my paintings as well.  The deliberate choices I make when I sit down to paint reflect the lessons I learned in creating this series.  In fact...I have done the series far!!! Once for PRACTICE and again to add video step by steps for my online course curriculum.

The beauty of this simplicity is that there is still so much VARIETY to explore!  These are examples from one limited palette...only the subject changed...yet look at how different they can be!

I have been teaching for over 20 years.  It's a Practice.  Anytime anyone says "how are you so GOOD?" my answer is always the same...Practice practice practice.

If you are looking to create a habit of practice for the next two months, sign up today for the Mastering the Limited Palette will receive your first lesson and the supply list for all nine paintings.

The Mastering the Limited Palette series is

Manageable - one 6" by 6" painting per week.  A size you can work on anywhere!

Accessible - for any level.  The simple subject allows you to explore the paint, not Labor over complex subjects.

Memorable - you will create a visual reference to have in your studio - the palette and surface choices used here will give you an entire CHART full of options to use in later works.

Employable - these are techniques you will use in every painting - no matter what subject you chose!  In any style - the painting language explored is versatile - any style of painting from realism to abstraction will incorporate these techniques

FLEXIBLE - you will receive inspiration beyond the to incorporate these limited palettes in your own work.

By the on line studio is Sketchzatura. 
Sketchzatura is the act of achieving an effortless mastery of drawing - and painting! "Sketch" is the active exercise of practicing your drawing and painting skills. "Sprezzatura" is an Italian term for "effortless mastery". 
So..let's get Practicing!!! Effortless Mastery Awaits!!!

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Most Influential Woman of the Decade (as decided by Me at my kitchen table)

Hey, it could be worse.  I could have made the decision in my bathroom.  But the real truth is I made the decision on naming this person The Most Influential Woman of the Decade in my most sacred my studio, in front of my easel.

Way back in 2009 (holy cow why does it feel like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at once?!?) I wrote my first brief blog post about Heather and her blog.  A couple years later, Heather wrote a post about a portrait that I sent - unsolicited - to her of her daughter.

When Heather, aka Dooce, shared that watercolor portrait on her was...not an changing.

You see, the actual act of creating that portrait and sending it out to Heather went against the grain of every thing in my life at that point.  I was not in a situation that nurtured chance, risk, or anything out of the Perfect Picture of Domestic Life that was The Goal.

It was profane, almost.  Like that sexy novel hidden among the self help books on my nightstand. I sent the portrait to Heather in secret.  I didn't tell anyone I was doing it.  I was ashamed at my inner voice, telling me to Paint it, and Send it.  It was - truly - the first time in a long time that I didn't care what my close circle would say - I only cared about what my heart told me to do.

And Heather could not have been more generous with her kindness, and her platform.  By sharing that portrait on her blog, she introduced thousands of people to my work, and many became patrons, and for that I am truly grateful.  It set my business on a course that allowed me to nurture myself as an artist, and nurture my children because I was in a good place as well.

Over the years, we collaborated on a few other pieces, and I was inspired by many of her photographs which led to a series of some of my all time favorite portraits.

Divorce happened, in her life and in mine, and I cannot imagine what it was like for Heather to share that with her audience on her blog.  I very rarely talk about mine - even though I would like to share more -  because I cannot talk about the impetus for change and growth without talking about the catalyst for it.  And, like other conscientious parents out there, I am aware that my children will always be half of me, and half of their dad, and if I insult or disparage either one of us, I'm hurting them as well. 

But I will say this...when I was pretty much at the bottom, when I thought nothing good was coming down the pipe again...I heard from Heather.

Heather reached out to me in the sweetest way, wanting to create something special to honor the Cowboy (you can read her own words about him here).

What Heather doesn't know, is that she saw me, she sought me out, when I felt the most lost, forgotten, and invisible.

I was at a point when I felt like Damaged Goods.  I had been battling false police reports, lies to DFCS, having my children removed based on false statements made by a person I removed from my life YEARS before because I knew she was Toxic...holy cow.  I was Unseen.  Unloved. the people I spent my whole life trying to please with every fiber of my being.

But in the midst of this...Heather reached out.  She not only hired me to create - she shared it again with her Tribe.

She believed in me, and shouted it from her keyboard.

Do you have any idea what that means to someone?

Do you have any idea how life affirming that was?

Do you have any idea how powerful she remind me that I am Worthy of praise.  That what I do matters.  That I made a positive impact on her life.

And this past December, she reached out to me again, for another covert operation: capturing the children of the Cowboy, for his birthday.

Heather has faith in people.  She believes they are capable.  She believes in their minds, their creativity, their decision making process.  She has never micro-managed me as an artist, but has always responded with enthusiasm for the choices I have made on my canvas.

That is rare.  I know...I've worked with thousands of wonderful clients.  And this amount of Trust has only appeared a few times.

Heather has a belief, and a trust, in me that is incredibly precious to me.

The portraits that I created of two of her boyfriend's children are two of my all time favorites.  They were done in a limited palette, a very timeless almost sepia-toned range of browns with a touch of black.  Based on Heather's photos, they were casual, sweet, and done with a great deal of Love.

And I will never show you.

But I will tell you...Heather hired me to create these beautiful pieces right before the Holiday.  She paid me a deposit immediately.  And that deposit helped me have one of the best Christmas Holidays I have had with my family in years.  We're not talking a huge amount...but the amount I needed to buy a few gifts without using my credit card and feed my family and spend the quality time with them we all deserved.  It was the first time I had both of my kids for Christmas in four years.  And Heather helped make it amazing.

I wrote this on my blog way back in 2012...

As a writer, Heather puts herself out there, in front of millions of people every day.  Without shying away from the harsh realities in her life, she shares her joy and sorrow with her fans and followers.  Her bravery is inspiring.  As an Artist, I hope I am following that lead, and sharing a bit of myself with every drawing or painting I share with you.  We both know that not everything will be rewarded, but more often criticized, and yet we are compelled to do it anyway.

I went through the harshest period of my life a couple years ago.  I was afraid to even leave my house for a while.  I was silenced.  I was erased from my son's life for a period of time.  I was eliminated by family members.

But throughout all of that, I discovered what true Kindness is.  I discovered how special it was to be lifted up by another.  I realized how powerful it is to be Seen.  To be Heard.  To be Trusted.

As I stood in front of my easel on the last day of 2019, working on two of my favorite portraits of all time, I realized that Heather has meant more to me these last ten years than most people will ever know.  While her love life is reduced to internet fodder and her medical issues are another reason for small minded people to Judge What They Do Not Understand, I was one of the lucky ones behind the scenes, being Seen.  Being Heard.  Being Trusted.

At a time when I felt silenced in more ways than one, Heather shined a light on my strengths and my potential, and she helped me find my way back to my Voice.

I wanted to write this today to acknowledge Heather, her impact on me, my self-worth, and how by doing so she has helped me as a Mom, a partner to my own Cowboy, and as an Artist.  In a world where sometimes the easiest thing to do is ignore our own pain by tearing another person down...I wanted more than ever to lift someone up.

I Love you, Heather.  And Thank You.