Through a very good academic art training with excellent masters, my art died a terrible death. Upon graduating Magna cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from University, I had somehow lost all inspiration to paint anything other than furniture and walls. Art had become a pedantic exercise more related to philosophy than paint.
A yoga class revived me with some deep breathing and a reconnection to my own creative spirit. The new found sense of the body meeting the mind developed a deeper freedom that begged to be creative and pleaded to paint.
The concept of celebrating inner connections that in turn allow passion in life through art became linked to the natural world, the place where I could best breathe and meditate. Being in the presence of nature grounds me i and truly inspires the spirit of my work. Long walks in deserts, on mountains and beaches have become a process of absorption and unfurling. Finally the painting itself becomes the true celebration of spirit and art.
The wildness of the thistle has always appealed to me. Besides being the symbol of Scotland, the land of my grandmother, it is a flower that defends itself with great enthusiasm. I have much admiration for its strength and beauty.
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.
"With freedom, books, the Moon and flowers, who could not be happy" Oscar Wilde
There is a lot of discussion on Morning rituals of Artists. Well, no wonder. How you start your day is how you run your life. If you have specific things that you do, then you probably have specific goals in life. Another thing that I have found is that I have control over how I deal with my day if I have control over my mornings.
So how do you handle your mornings? Hit the snooze button a few times, then run around getting ready for your day. Do you light a candle a meditate? Go to the gym? Is there anything you do to feed your creative self as well as your body?
I do wake up early, make my coffee, which happens to be the legendary bullet proof coffee with mct oil and a bit of ghee. It's supposed to feed your brain and my brain needs all the support it can get. I keep breakfast simple. This time of year oatmeal with fruit and nuts is my go to meal. It's that Scottish thing again.
I also meditate for 15 to 30 minutes using a phone app called Insight Timer. This usually provides the quiet time I need to hear my own thoughts and connect to the creative part of myself. It's probably the single most important thing I do every day. Then I make a beeline for the studio. Yes, I skip the dishes, the chores, unmade bed. Just throw on some acceptable clothes and lock myself in the studio for as long as I can. Two hours is optimum. No computer work. Just draw, paint, sketch, prep, create. It's that freedom thing that Oscar Wilde refers to.
I have to be honest, every single day does not look like this, but to the very best of my ability, it does and when it does, I am unstoppable at anything else that life throws at me. it's like vitamin Wonder Woman...and I am so very grateful for the blessing of creating.
I love circles. It's the sense of completeness. The sense of wholeness that makes a painting sing before I even start a sketch. This piece is a perfect example of breaking the circle. Pushing boundaries just for the fun of it. Painting a sea turtle or honu as they are known in Hawaii inside a big bubble seemed like a fun idea.
As the painting progressed, I saw that he needed more bubbles and maybe some waves. They like to play in the waves. So it was time to break that bubble with some nice swirling design. I used quite a bit of my mineral paints to get the rich textures in the water and on the turtle itself. Most were carefully layered to give me as much control as possible. I think the biggest disappointment beginner watercolorists experience is when they try to rush the process.
The best bet is to work several pieces at a time so one can dry while you play with another painting. This is also a good time to work on any practice pieces or sketches you have on the sidelines. Those always seem to fall into the sidelines, but they are perfect for working on while a wash dries on a major piece.
This guy was actually a birthday present for a dear friend who introduced me to honus in Maui. Birthday paintings are always appreciated by the friends and family who receive them. another great practice!
Have you ever felt like you're going in circles? Not in a bad way, but in a good way. Revisiting things you enjoyed from the past but lost track of? Like your favorite ice cream cone, or maybe floating in water...just floating. Or maybe you rediscovered how fun it is to ride a bike. Circling back to the joy you had in previous times can be rewarding. It's at least worth a try, don't you think?
So here I am back at my blog, back doing watercolors. Two lost loves I had forgotten about in the rush of busyness and rushing about. It feels good to flex those imagination muscles. To reach back, like a good long stretch and catch the joy of watching the flow of watercolors on the tip of my brush. Creative yoga of the soul.
Is there some little or perhaps larger joy that's slipped through your fingers? Do you need to circle back and explore those lovelies again. Give yourself permission to do so. You are the sum of your experiences, good and bad. Much better to focus on the joyful ones from your past to lead you into future happiness.
"The Sea Queen's Treasure is available on the New Paintings page. Just click on the image for more information
#mermaids #sea treasure #watercolors #fantasy #crystals
Dreamcatchers fascinate me. That so many early people realized the importance of capturing dreams seems to be something we are missing...perhaps something critical.
This began as a night sky...and remained that way for quite some time. I kept asking it what else it wanted. eventually the two gold circles developed, then the dreamcatcher itself, after several others happened in other works and sketches. Finally the koi. At first I thought they wanted to be attached like feather but then I realized they needed to swim freely through the dreamcatcher...or not. The sky then appeared as water and I could see there was more to what was happening in this image. Was it a koi pond reflecting a night sky with a dreamcatcher suspended, or was in a universe of dreamcatcher and koi? I like the ambiguity as well as the art itself.
Oh, I do so envy the life of a mermaid. Slipping beneath salty waves, away from a world of anger and hatred sounds comforting to me right now. Last night my last thoughts were for those women who did not get comforting calls from their children, telling them they were safe and unharmed. I slipped into salty tears instead of waves.
I wanted to write something exciting and uplifting today. Something about the Jung retreat and art journaling and the utter joy of painting. It seems my fingers have turned to fins and I just can't write anything that is too shallow lest I get beached and never swim again.
I know I will slip into the everyday-ness of life. I know the deaths will move into the back of my mind. For now, the energy of grief and hatred swirls around me like a storm. I can only give love to those around me and hope it spreads like rings of water after a diving fish. It's the only advice I have to give.
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.....