Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Mixed Up Inky Portraits

I’ve fallen behind with my blog posts. Again. Blah. Blah. Blah. I think it’s that perfectionist critic whining in my ear. Rambling on about how dedicated I used to be posting new blog entries. Keeping up with my art. Etc. Etc. Etc.

So, to keep the little bugger quiet, I’m sharing four mixed up inky portraits that I created a while back during the “Drawn to Expression” workshop.

The idea here was to saturate watercolor paper first with water, then add blobs of ink or watered down paint. While the paper was wet, lines are added to create faces. Black and white portraits were used for reference images.

I did not like these pieces when I first started on them. So I walked away and left them for about a week. When I felt ready to work on these pieces again, I kept the paper relatively dry and added water selectively.

The end result is something I’m much happier with. Materials used include inks, thin acrylic paint, graphite pencil, Marks-all pencil, white pastel.

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Day1MixedUpPortraits2

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Inka-Dinka-Doo, Inky Expressions

I truly hoped to have posted another update before now. Sometimes it is hard to pull myself away from other tasks in order to post a new blog entry. Curious how priorities change over time. When I had my business, I was very good about posting new blog entries. It was all part of that marketing, get-your-name-out-there thing.

Now, not so much. The business has moved on and I’m more involved with volunteer gigs, promoting art from the other side of the aisle, so to speak. (Not so much making my own art as bringing art to the community.)

And just as I was getting ready to post a new entry, our 13 year old cat got sick. He started to crash, really. Not eating. Lethargic. I feared the worst for him. And that brought up a lot of other stuff.

Fortunately, and thankfully, after a visit to his regular vet, the emergency vet hospital, and a few days and nights of treatment and observation, Pippin returned home and is on the road to recovery.

So let us now return to our previously scheduled program, er blog post…

Inky Expressions

In the Drawn to Expression online class, we’ve worked with charcoal in its many forms. We’ve sketched faces and tried to loosen up our mark making.

Then Gillian challenged us, again, with ink.

I haven’t used India ink since high school. After we moved, I gave my calligraphy tools to a friend (nibs and two holders that I had since high school.) It was like Murphy’s Law. I hadn’t used them for many, many years, so why keep them now that we had downsized? And, of course, just because I gave them away…

This is why people hold onto things. You never know when you might need those things again.

But I digress.

We started by making small, inky faces. Similar to the timed task when we sketched small faces. But ink is less controllable.

Quite frankly, I did not like working with ink. Well, not the ink itself, but the bamboo dip pen. It took quite a bit of trial and error to figure out how to hold the dip pen in order to get the best flow of ink. It really didn’t work well for me when the paper was on the easel. Working on a flat surface is a bit better.

One Object-Three Ways

Next up, sketching an object from three different perspectives. Tools used included a dip pen, nib, paintbrush, squirt bottle, Marks-all pencil, black and white ink.

Day4.OverlappingGargoyles

Overlapping Inky Gargoyle

This was a bit more fun. Love the drippy ink. My favorites are the Gargoyle on the left and the one facing us straight on.

What I’m learning, though, is the cheap watercolor paper isn’t the best for ink work. Since this is just play and practice, it’s not terribly important. I also found that the ink was drying very quickly which may have more to do with the heat in my studio. In some sections of this piece I had to saturate the paper with water. Which subsequently made it buckle.

Overlapping Faces

A final assignment in playing with inks was to sketch three different faces in three different perspectives. This was a challenge for me as my comfort zone is a straight-on face, facing forward. They are easier to draw and the ones that draw my eye whenever I look for reference photos.

But, we’re not learning if we stay in our comfort zone. So I found some new reference photos and gave it a go. Here we used inks, Marks all pencil, a bit of charcoal, white pastel, nibs, dip pen, and paintbrush and squirt bottle.

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Three Inky Faces In Progress

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Inka-Dinka-Do Faces

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Left looking face

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Straight on face

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Right looking face

In the end, this turned out to be quite a fun exercise.

I believe part of what was holding me back was trying to achieve a look similar to Gillian’s when she creates her sample pieces. I know that in order to learn it is quite common to copy the samples that a teacher shares. I have no problem with that.

However, she and I have different styles. She has also been doing this a wee bit longer than I and has a bit more practice. Simply put, I find I do better if I let go of trying to copy and just try to make the piece my own with my own style (or lack there of.)

I’m also still learning how to create loose, expressive face portraits. I’ve got a feel for it using pencil and charcoal. Adding another new medium into the mix, the ink, and it felt like I was going backwards.

Overall, I’m happy with the way these overlapping faces turned out. Could I have pushed it a bit further? Perhaps. Or did I over do it, get too detailed and lose some of the expressive quality? Maybe. Self-editing is a never ending learning process. It continues to take practice, practice, practice.

 


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Letting Loose with Expression

The fourth and final week of “Drawn to Expression” started this week. I’m still playing catch-up. I’m so inspired by Gillian’s work and challenged by several of her lessons. Which is a good thing. If it were all easy-peasy, I don’t think I’d grow much as an artist.

Expressive Animals

We spend a fair amount of time working with portraits in class. We’ve also been challenged to sketch animals. I can’t quite figure out why sketching an animal seems easier and quicker (in some cases) than human faces. Do you find it easier to sketch an animal versus a human face?

In this first sketch, we were challenged to create the bee without outlining his body. That is, use tone to create the shape. And to imply a sense of movement.

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Bumblebee (Charcoal, charcoal pencil, graphite powder, Conte crayon, graphite pencil)

The next animal we sketched was an owl. Here the challenge was to create the image of the owl without putting in every.little.detail. Quite a challenge when you’re used to being told to put all the attributes of the model into your drawing.

Day4.OwlSketch

Owl (Charcoal, charcoal pencil, graphite, white gesso, Conte crayon)

Then, just for an extra challenge, we were asked to draw pairs of beetles (or butterflies, or flowers) using both hands. At the same time.

Yep, a piece of charcoal in one hand. And a charcoal pencil in the other hand. Drawing at the same time. Drawing with both sides of your brain.

Talk about a brain cramp.

Keep in mind the idea here is to challenge oneself. These are not meant to be pretty pictures that end up in a gilded frame. These are exercises meant to stretch our creative brains. To loosen us up. And to make us giggle. Which is what happened here.

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Two At One Time

The pair at the top in the center look like they’re waltzing. Personally, I think they look more like smooshed frogs than beetles.

And Bold Flowers

One of my favorite exercises thus far has been sketching flowers. Some of Gillian’s approaches in helping us become more expressive is to draw fast and then slow. To create and then obliterate. It moves one away from detail and from becoming too precious with the outcome. The hard part is noticing when you are getting “too detailed” or “too precious” with your piece.

We set a timer for this assignment and turned the paper 90 degrees every few minutes. I’ve taken the same approach (turning the paper or canvas 90 degrees) when painting. It really does force you to look at your piece differently. Perhaps finding a spark that you didn’t notice before.

Landscape pose:

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Flowers (Charcoal pencil, graphite pencil, Conte crayon, soft pastel)

And portrait pose:

Day3.FlowersinVase_Portrait

Oh, not only did I turn the paper 90 degrees every few minutes. I also turned the vase of flowers each time I changed the direction of the paper. So the visual perspective was changing all the time.

I have much more to share but will end here for now. Till next time…

 


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Friday Featured Artist: Hillary Waters Fayle

Today’s featured artist is Hillary Waters Fayle. Her original, creative work was brought to my attention via the site My Modern Met.

Hillary’s work is delicate, original, and organic. Through her art, Hillary explores human connection to the physical world, binding nature and the human touch. Her art is something that makes me say “How did she come up with that?” I love it when art causes you to question.

To see more cool pieces, visit Hillary’s web site here. Read the post on My Modern Met here.

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What Lifts Us. Hillary Waters Fayle

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A Hillary Waters Fayle

 

 


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The Challenge of Drawing

I recently joined Craftsy’s 31-Day Drawing Challenge. Well, “joined” may not be the best word. I’m not submitting what I create on the Craftsy site. Rather, I’m sharing my drawings on my Facebook page and here in blog-o-land.

So what is this “challenge” exactly? If you go to the above link, you’ll see that Craftsy has provided a prompt for each day in August. Interpret the prompt in any way you want. Yes, the suggested format is drawing. But if you’re not into drawing or sketching, then write a poem, make some music, do an interpretative dance, take a picture. Paint a picture. Let the prompt inspire your creative muse. The format isn’t important. Letting your creative juices flow is!

My challenge is trying not to be too literal with the prompts. That’s probably why I made it through the first three and haven’t picked up my sketchbook since then. That and well, just setting aside the time. I’m trying not to put pressure on myself as I find myself falling behind (uh, oh, see the tiny beads of sweat breaking out on my forehead.)

That making time thing and just doing it, well that’s a post for another day.

Anyways, here are my interpretations for the first three prompts:

Grow” Inspired by the baby robins that were in a nest outside our kitchen window.

Grow

Grow

In Bloom” The Black-Eyed Susans are bursting in our yard.

Black Eyed Susan

Black Eyed Susan

Flutter” This brought several images to mind. Butterflies. Wings. Eyelashes. I chose a large turkey feather as inspiration.

Fluttering Feathers

Fluttering Feathers

What will you create with the prompts in the 31-Day Challenge?


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My First Two Weeks With Flora

As promised, I wanted to share with you my progress in Flora Bowley’s Bloom True online class. This class focuses on painting intuitively. That is, listening to your inner voice for direction, practicing non-attachment, getting rid of expectations, and playing. Lots of playing.

Believe me, it is not as easy as it sounds.

Listening to my inner voice isn’t hard. I’ve been doing that for a while now. Practicing non-attachment, not wondering what the final painting will look like, not letting the inner critic get too loud. Those things are much trickier to put into practice. Even playing with paint on the canvas can be a challenge at times.

Our first couple of weeks have been spent getting to know our canvas, putting lots of layers on it, playing with the paint and textures and shapes. Here is my progress so far.

If you have a cat or dog at home, you know they want to help out in the studio.

"I wonder if Mom will let me help her paint?"

“I wonder if Mom will let me help her paint?”

We experiment with how to apply the first layer of paint. Wet on wet and then blindfolded. (Um, just me. Pippin did not participate. Really. Have you tried to blindfold a cat?)

Three Canvases Ready to Go

Three Canvases Ready to Go

After this approach, we work on adding layers. Warm layers, cool layers. Lots of layers. There is no right or wrong way to add layers of paint. Nor is there any magic number for how many layers to put on the canvas. It’s all about play and listening to your intuition.

First Canvas Progress

Here is the paint progression and transformation of the first canvas. (Click on the first image to start the slideshow.)

Second Canvas Progress

I work on at least two canvases at a time. While one canvas is drying, I can paint on another canvas and stay in the flow. (Click on the first image to start the slideshow.)

At this point, the paintings have gone through the “Wow, that’s cool” stage and the “Ew, that is really ugly” stage. Several times. Toward the end of last week I was getting better about practicing non-attachment and allowing myself to say “Wait until tomorrow” before passing too much judgement onto the piece.

Many times, seeing the painting with fresh eyes in the morning has been all it takes to appreciate the process.

I still have no idea where either painting is taking me or what they will look like in the end. And that’s okay.

I’ll leave you with another cute cat picture. Pippin decided if he couldn’t help paint my canvas, he’d get creative with the drop cloth.

PippinGetsCreativeWithFloorTarp


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24 Tips on Sparking the Creative Muse

I’m sure you’ve been here. You have a deadline to meet. You’re knee-deep in a flurry of activity. Ideas seem to ooze from your brain. Maybe you write them down. Maybe you don’t and later forget them. And then it happens. That big, bad vacuum of black emptiness opens up. No ideas come to mind. You have no clue what to do next in the studio. You stare at the white canvas. No words come to mind and your fingers are frozen on the keyboard.

You have hit the proverbial wall in the creativity department.

My friends and I often talk about how we keep our creative muses active, especially when our muse decides to take an extended vacation. It seems to be a common topic that we re-hash over and over.

This time, instead of just talking about it, I decided to ask my friends and cohorts to send me their tips for sparking the creative muse. What follows is a collection of 24 tips to jump-start the muse.

Dr. Finkelstein (image from the book "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas" by Frank Thompson)

Dr. Finkelstein (image from the book “Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas” by Frank Thompson)

Tips to Spark the Creative Muse

1. Keep a notebook: Jan Warren of Broadbrook Art recommends keeping a notebook handy at all times. Jan keeps her notebook next to her painting area. When she rinses her brushes or changes a paint color, Jan uses the pages of the notebook to remove all the color from the brush. Then, Jan says, “When I am feeling particularly bereft of creativity I open up the notebook and use whatever I have on hand to layer images or color over those paint blotches. This mixed media notebook then serves as color studies, technique trials…some even become final pieces for sale.”

2. Music & nature: Pat Krachune shares “When I need some inspiration, I listen to classical music and that usually gets my juices flowing to create.  I also sit in my courtyard and look at my fountains and watch the birds….nature relaxes and inspires me! ” Pat also finds inspiration watching other artist’s videos on YouTube. Check out Pat’s work on her blog, Art 4 Liberty.

3. Schedule the time: Judy Warner tells us, “I go in my “studio” at the scheduled time and start something, or work on something that needs improvement whether I feel “creative” or not—and that usually seems to get me going.” Check out Judy’s paintings on her Facebook page

4. Take an adventure drive: Photographer Roxanne Marshal takes what she calls an  “adventure drive”.  “I just pick a direction and go.  I usually come across landscapes and water vistas perfect to photograph and sometimes even some other interesting items as well.  This really gets my brain cranking ideas for framed images – possibly even 3D or a mixed media piece.” See Roxanne’s photography on her site, A Picture’s Worth

5. Take a break: Deb Wolf of Deb Wolf Designs recommends taking a break for a change in perspective. “Step away from the painting with your hands behind your back. Taking a break and viewing your work with a fresh pair of eyes can really give you a new and fresh perspective on your work.” Deb also shared “Stress breeds Creativity, at least for me it does.  While our work can be a stress inducer when we hit the proverbial wall, it also acts as a stress release sometimes producing good results on a piece.”

6. Observe: Paula Berry suggests observing everything in your environment. “While hiking, gardening or at the beach, I look really hard at some things.  Texture and shape get my attention, whether it’s a natural item, waves, clouds, greenery.  A plant from the time it emerges from the earth, grows, flowers and seeds intrigue me.”

7. Distraction: On the other hand, ideas often happen while working on another project. Again, Paula Barry shares “Drawing in my mind and problem solving while working on other clay work or while in the garden, walking or even driving in the car, when I least expect it, an idea comes to mind.  I then find myself obsessing about the new idea until I can put in into action.  Of course, at the time I tend to think it was a great solution to a problem or a great new idea.  Sometimes, the idea is good. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out as intended, but the whole process is exciting.” You can see Paula’s ceramic art at Paula Barry Ceramics.

8. Drive, she said: Gina Belio of The Color Blue, also likes to take a drive to spark the creative muse. “Whenever I need inspiration, I drive.  Sometimes I drive to the ocean or the mountains and sometimes I drive to a nearby store like Barnes & Noble.  Partly this works for me because the art of driving frees up my mind from thinking and then it’s recess for my brain (and subsequently my muse!)  The other reason why driving works for me is because I am mostly inspired by color and I can find color in any of these places – nature, books, cards, even in a cup of java! ”

9. Go shopping! Seriously. Ritva Ojanen, jewelery designer, tells us that while many girls like to shop for shoes, for Ritva it is beads. “I have the same passion for beads. I shop on-line and go to bead stores and supply shows. I have to see with my own eyes and touch with my hands to make my choices from the seemingly endless array of colors, finishes, textures and shapes. I will buy whatever catches my eye even though I may not have a planned design in mind at that moment. I leaf through magazines, whether it be on art, nature, or fashion and these images will spark ideas for trying new color combinations. When I have a supply of beads handy it’s easy to just play and see what happens. This is the intuitive process I’ve developed and trust that something new will always come of it, just keep working.” This definitely results in beautiful pieces of jewelry. Visit Ritva’s website, Ritvaliisa Ojanen to see her eye candy.

10. Put your butt in the chair: For mixed media artist Sue Landsman, sparking the muse begins by putting your butt in the chair. “If you wait around for the muse to come, not only are you holding yourself hostage, but you’re also not doing your part to meet her half way. If you train yourself to just sit down and work, regardless of how you feel, more often than not you’ll find yourself getting into the groove. And anyway, something is better than nothing.” To see Sue’s imaginative work, visit Landsmania

11. Get back to nature: Art and tea enthusiast Karen Park recommends getting back to nature. According to Karen, “spending time in nature – watching a sunset, walking in the woods, working/puttering around in my garden – always helps me reconnect with my creative soul.  You’ve probably noticed that some of my jewelry pieces are named after a nature experience – “Albuquerque Sky” or “A Winter Walk in the Woods under a Full Moon“, for example.  Those are the moments that truly inspire me.  My creative voice speaks in beads!”

12. Looks to her son: Dannylion tells us her son is her source of inspiration. “My son – who loves to work with his hands. He strings beads and when I see how hard he works for something vs. person who does not have autism or mental retardation doing that same task, it fills me with such emotion that I could do a bit of everything – I could write, I could work with polymer clay (my favorite), I could work with wire, I could make different things[knit or crochet], (cannot sew); but more importantly – I reinvest my time back into my son – reteaching him another creative method or project… He is my best teacher in life.”

13. Make some noise: Monotype & pastel artist Ann Gillespie suggest making some noise to wake up the creative muse. “I DO bang on a drum, shake a shaker, take a walk in the woods, sketch, do meditative collages etc, These things all help put me in a more intuitive mood for art. But sometimes they are also just creative ways to avoid getting in the studio to do the work I really want to! So for me these practices are best combined with my regular studio work. In general getting into the studio first thing in the morning is best, but I have also been trying to get used to working at any time of day. Short periods of time on a regular basis are infinitely better for me than no time at all, but also much better than long days just once in a while.”

14. Change the beat: Needle felt artist Lyn Slade recommends changing the beat to tempt the creative muse. “I’ll shake up the music in the studio, putting on a completely different style of music sometimes gives me a jump start.” Check out Lyn’s needle felt pieces on her website, Lyn Slade.

15. It’s a puzzle: Lyn also owns a bed and breakfast. Recently some B&B guests, who are also artists, suggested pulling out a jigsaw puzzle for sparking the creative muse. They commented that when they get stuck some times they pull out a jig saw puzzle…something about the different parts of your brain used in assembling a puzzle helps them. Oh, to read more about Lyn’s B&B, visit Charlotte’s House B&B

16. Listen: Watercolor artist Brenda Evans offers this advice. “I think the creative muse is always there and we have to learn to listen to it. I think it is a persuasive voice in our heads, not an imperative voice. Often we are too busy, maybe working to a deadline, but the inside voice is always there saying things like, “is that right?”, “stop and think about that”. I think when we are hands on being creative, the voice gets stronger and says things like, “but you could do this”, “look at it from this angle”, “there is something more exciting, you could do”, “stop now and do this”. It’s a wonderful voice, always looking out for your best interests, a bff if ever there was one.”

17. Shake it up: Karen McMillan, a Master Certified Retreat Coach, suggests variety when it comes to motivating the muse. A walk in nature, looking outside at trees and birds, listening to music, or breath and meditation.

18. Make a bargain: Jody Arthur, a Children’s Clothing Designer, suggests making a bargain with yourself. Look at your to-do list then make a bargain. “I’ll give myself permission to do this or that creative thing in return for getting this or that other thing done.”

19. Move it: Shelley West, a User Experience Specialist, suggests getting up and moving. Make a dance play list on Spotify or your music device of choice. When the muse is low, put on the play list and take a dance break. Exercise also works in the same way.

20. Rinse: You know how our minds seem so clear in the morning? Shelley also shares that the morning shower and humming while washing and rinsing her hair sparks new ideas.

21. Daydream: Barbara J Bolls-Guillory, Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and jewelry artist, reminds us that it is good to take time to daydream. She tells us that “going within to journey or indulging in daydreaming to open myself up to other ways of seeing/feeling/thinking.”

22. Delight the inner child: In addition to daydreams, Barbara also suggest delighting the inner child by “playing a game, drawing or coloring, or whatever fun activity that delights the kid in me.”

23. Eye-candy: With Internet bursting at the seams, eye-candy inspiration abounds. Pinterest. Flickr. Blogs and websites. Don’t forget the more traditional venues either-local art museums and art galleries-to spark the creative muse. Some museums also offer free drawing days where you can sketch inspiring images in the different galleries.

24. Clean it: One of my trusted approaches to waking the creative muse is to clean the studio. When work tables and the floor get too cluttered, the muse can’t breath. Taking time to clear the clutter opens up that breathing space and soon new ideas flow again.

How about you? How do you spark the creative muse? Please share your suggestions in the comments section below.

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