This morning I could already feel a change in the air. Oh, there were things to do. I quickly had a list of to do's. Most having to do with clearing space, a few bits of organizing. Returning library books had to fit in somewhere, groceries, laundry, the usual. Afterwards, it did seem a bit much, even with the sense of greater spaciousness that seems to arrive after a holiday.
I needed to fit in some exercise after all the wonderous feasting and the noisy gym just didn't seem to be calling me. Then I thought of my favorite trail. It is a bit chilly, gloves and scarf would be needed. So I packed everything up in the car and headed for the forest.
By the time I hit the trail, I couldn't keep the smile off my face. This is my place of inspiration. These beings that root deeply into the earth and reach so deliberately heavenward amaze me. Sleeping now, though there is still a scent of leaves, wood and earth that tells me there is life. I pat a few as I walk by, like old friends. Somehow I think they are still releasing their healing pheromes even in winter. If there was a perfume with this scent , I would wear it all winter long.
The sky is grey, but I am thinking of the gemstone colors on my palette at home, some Kyanite mixed with a bit of amethyst would be the sky colors. The trees a deeply granulating ink with a glaze of serpentine moss. The trees and sky tell me the colors they want to be and I take quick notes in a tiny sketchbook in my pocket.
I breathe deeply. Finding a bench, I sit and give my gratitudes. It's almost time to go home. I could spend the entire day out here with these trees, the soft brown leaves and grey sky. It's time to go home and be in the world again, but I know I can always come back.
Tell me, do you ever escape from your to do list and let the trees tell you how to paint the sky?
So, Having finished a few pieces, it was time to clean up my work table...important ritual in that I could begin again with clean palettes, brushes, cloth to dry my brush and paper under my work area to scribble notes on. More on my little portable work area later.
As loose as my work sometimes appears, it always begins with some drawings, some value studies, maybe even a few color swatches. Yes these are tight and carefully planned jumping off points. I usually do something more of a botanical study first. This is almost like a first date with the plant, getting to know her, understanding the sharp places and the soft places, the bright sides and the dark. Getting rid of all my original ideas about her and making some real and surprising discoveries.
After that first work, I can let loose her wild side and ask her what she really wants to be. Then the mineral and gem paints jump in and help her shine, shine, shine and we both enjoy a wild dance or two.
One of the things I really love about watercolor is that I can work on two or even three pieces at the same time, allowing one some drying time while I work on another so painting time is really optimized.
Recently I began collecting samples of the minerals and gems I am painting with. They usually live in the shell you see in the lower right. Here I've spread them out a bit. That's bloodstone, fuchsite and serpentine across the top of the drawing auditioning for the next painting and a very nice kyanite crystal on the upper sketchbook, which happens to be one of my favorite darks with sparkle and dries with lovely patterns in it.
I also have a third experimental piece I am working on to create a kind of smoky night sky effect. That one is just to play with and see how the paints effect each other. I like to paste these kinds of things in a sketch book with lots of notes so I'll remember what I did when I get something I want to repeat.
And it really is the week before Christmas and I'll be going to a Winter Solstice celebration at my yoga class tonight. Yesterday was a Christmas Party with my church group. I like to mix it up in real life, too. Here's wishing you a wonderful Christmas, a lovely warm Solstice and Hygge Winter.
What we now call inspiration, used to be referred to as "The Muse". I like the idea of being visited by the Muse. It appeals to my sense of Jungian archetypes. It also has a sense of historical romance to it. There were seven of them, plenty to go around The problem was trying to find them, lure them to share their gifts, seduce them into staying with you as long as possible. There are plenty of stories to go with all that, you can be sure
In the present, it seems we search for them, but they have a great little game of hide and seek going. They won't follow you. They don't want to wander around searching for you. They want you to be in the same place, at the same time, every single day. Miss more than a time or two and those ladies have lots of other places to go and people to inspire.
So, Greek mythology aside ( which it really shouldn't be) it is a fact that great things happen as far creativity if you have a place that you can go to, same time every day, even if its only for an hour. A studio is nice, but I have seen artists create great work in a laundry room, a dining room corner and even smaller areas. The important thing was that the space held their materials, set up and ready to go. Chagall did some of his paintings tucked into a space above the stove. It was warm and he could leave his paints there without anyone getting into them. obviously his muse was waiting for him.
On the other side of the coin, I have seen MANY artists with wonderful studios equipped with state of the art lighting, huge display areas, wide screen computers and sound systems who turn out very little actual art. Cleaners go in and dust the place! The muse goes on vacation and the artist wonders why their work is stagnant.
You can find a small space, 30 to 60 minutes a day to sketch, to paint, to be in your creative space. Bring a cup of coffee and your favorite sound track, or just silence so you can better hear yourself and the muse. Relax into your space and create something new.
When I was a kid, I loved rocks. There were big shiny mica filled boulders on the beach, fossil filled shales in the mountains where we vacationed. Best of all, my Grandmother lived "out west" and knew of my pebble passion and brought me back chunks of rose quartz and petrified wood. Yes, I was an unusual little girl compared to my Barbie loving pals.
At the same time as I was playing rock hound, drawing or painting was an equal passion and a little more acceptable for a young lady at that time. What the loving adults in my world couldn't see was that it was all about color, all about the way light moved and bounced around. It was all about being connected to something bigger than myself, which at the time was most of the world, but that something was Nature.
So when I discovered Daniel Smith had developed a line of watercolor paint made from rocks, minerals and gemstones, I had to check them out. I had actually been one of the test artists for Daniel Smith's Quinacridone colors, which I still use as they are transparent and beautifully strong colors. I expected much from what Daniels smith was calling their Primatek colors and was absolutely enchanted.
They started me on an entirely new series of imagery directed deeply into the magic of nature. Oh and there is magic out there. Just sit with some trees, some boulders, listen with an open heart and you will get the feeling.
So I had a bit of a challenge on my hands. How to develop a new palette with these wonderful primatek colors? It seemed that just buying handful after handful wouldn't get me where I wanted to go. I wasn't sure the old formula of two of each primary would work either. Then I found the Daniel Smith dot cards, which are listed on "My Favorite Things" page.
There are 66 paint dots on these cards...enough paint to do a small test painting or a series of swatches to see what the colors do as far as granulation ( I LOVE granulation), transparency and ability to lift. After playing with these for just a little while, I could make out my list of colors that I would need to start an interesting palette and then a list of colors I would want to add and or play with later...a wish list.
The best part about the dot pages is that they are VERY affordable way to test a this wide range of unique colors at home, in the way you like to use watercolors. I can even see cutting them apart and creating a lightweight travel palette with some of the most unusual paint pigments available.
This is what my palette and palette guide look like. When I get a new tube of paint, I find a well for it to go into, then on my palette guide, I paint a sample. Dry colors can look very similar and this speeds up my selection process as I work. You can see I have written some of the paint names on the edge of the palette for even faster choices where the adjacent colors may look very similar.
I just purchased a much smaller, more portable palette and will give you some infprmation on that in the near future. I am hoping to make "My favorite Things" a regular part of this blog. You can click on the image of the Daniel Smith dot pages on the blog or go to "My Favorite Things" page on this website to purchase.
Kathleen Barnes, Paintdiva
Art is my passport to a limitless journey. When I am not exploring my materials on a technical level, there is visual exploration before me. When that seems a bit thin, there is a deep calling from the realm of my imagination. Sometimes all three come together in a perfect storm. That storm, that combination of the real, the imagined and the very paint and canvas is what calls me daily, and I answer as much as I can.....