What’s the Worse Space You Have Ever Worked In?

a horse farm landscape acrylic painting

As of last Wednesday, my condo has been under construction. We’re getting a whole new kitchen and later on also a renovated bathroom. In other words, my home is a bit of a disaster area now.

The farm landscape painting was finished just prior to the start of renovations. My intent for the 8 days of chaos is to work out some ideas for future painting or just to sketch for the enjoyment. Here is my current work space; not a pretty sight.
my chaotic work space

Picture me in the arm chair with my sketch pad in my lap and art supplies on the bed. The contract I signed states that a person over 18 must be present always. I don’t like it but I’m making the best use of my time. Where there is a will to do art, there is a way!

Of course, I did sneak out for an appointment on Friday; and, if questioned the legalist in me would have defended the absence by pointing out that there are more than a hundred people over 18 in the combined units of this high-rise building!

What’s the worse space you have ever worked in?

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How to Stay Motivated

How to keep the Creative Juices Flowing

Red Barns in a colorful fall setting.

Some artists can come up with unending new ideas, but do you ever worry that the creative juices will dry up? There are times when I’m at a real loss about what to tackle next but there are a few ways to unblock creativity.

  1. Ideas can come at the strangest time so have a notebook handy. Rough sketch your ideas quickly instead of writing about them but if you must write use lots of description. You won’t likely recapture an inspirational moment with a short phrase. A quick sketch is far better. Taking pictures of interesting ideas is a good way to spark the imagination later.

    My art teacher Cindy Wider recommended doing little doodles no bigger than 10 cm by 8 cm to help work out some ideas.

  2. When nothing seems to interest me, I go back to my first love which is landscape. You can seldom go wrong with a painting that contains an old barn. Whatever subject you find easy just do it. You will be amazed at how that sometimes gets you back in the game.

    If you’re struggling with a piece put it aside and do something easy and fun. The idea is to finish a painting so that you feel you have accomplished something.

  3. Getting away from it all for a short time works too. Sometimes we just need a break. This is harder for artists that must make a living at selling their art but if you’re not being productive maybe a break is needed.

Some people find putting music on helps but I find it distracting. It may help brighten a lousy mood but otherwise that doesn’t work for me but it may for you. How do you stay motived?

See also:
Increase Your Creativity With This Exercise
How to Unblock Creativity
12 Ways to Improve Your Creativity

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Can I Use Watercolor Paper with Acrylic Paint?

the birds' island at cootes paradise, Hamilton, ON

Can Acrylic Be used on Watercolor Paper?

Watercolor paper is great for acrylic painting and you don’t even need to gesso or prime it first. I do find that it takes a lot of water to get acrylic to flow evenly over watercolor paper. Remember that acrylic paint should never be diluted more than 50%. You can add a product like Flow-Aid Fluid Additive or Acrylic Flow Improver instead of water.

It’s best to use a weight of at least 140 lbs so the paper doesn’t buckle too much. I place the dry, finished work under a heavy object like a book to flatten the paper.

The advantage of using paper instead of canvas is the ease of framing it behind glass in an ordinary picture frame. However, good watercolor paper is more expensive than papers made for acrylic. If you use both watercolor Paint and acrylic paint then in my opinion acrylic works good on watercolor paper but watercolor doesn’t always work so well with acrylic paper. It’s a personal choice.

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The Back Story of a Painting

The Back Story

boys sitting on the dock fishing

The picture of Contentment

Paintings generally have back stories but sometimes the painting doesn’t depict the entire story.  Take this peaceful scene

of two small boys contentedly fishing; the back story is not one of peace but frustration.

While the boys always enjoyed fishing they did not enjoy empty fish hooks for long periods of time.  An adult may enjoy the experience of sitting quietly in a lovely lake setting but children want results.  After an extended period of no nibbles on the line the youngest child completely lost it.  It wasn’t the stupid fish that refused to bite but the fault lay in the fishing rod itself.  After exploding into a fit of anger he tossed the useless rod into the lake where it sank in a hopeless tangle of weeds never to be rescued.  So much for fishing.


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Watercolor Can Mimic Acrylic

Is it Watercolor or Acrylic?

watercolor farm fall landscapeWatercolor relies on the nature of water when it flows and mixes. Too much or too little can create unexpected results or complications. It moves and dances unlike other types of paint allowing the artist to move and dance with it. There is a freshness about this medium.

It is the unpredictability that is hard to overcome. In this first ever watercolor, I had drops of water on the canvas that made little water spots in the wrong places. The only solution was to cover them up with more leaves on the tree or more paint on the grass.

The brightness of the colors surprised me because I had thought that you had to paint layer upon layer to have vibrant color. Watercolor seems very transparent which is sometimes what makes it look so soft and lovely.

This doesn’t look much different from my acrylic paintings which is not surprising because I treated the watercolor the same way I would acrylic.  Although the painting is lovely, it doesn’t represent what watercolor is capable of producing but, I think it dispels the idea that you can’t paint watercolor expecting results like oil or acrylic.


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Best Art Advice

For the past 4 years, I have entered art in the Dundas School of Art Auction. The auction is a major fundraiser for the school.  This year I entered three small pieces – 2 acrylic and 1 oil pastel.  The acrylics did not sell but the oil pastel did!  It was the first time I sold an oil pastel anywhere.  Sometimes it’s hard to gauge what art will sell and what will not.

Cootes Paradise in the evening

Oil Pastel 11×14″ on Mi-teinte paper

Each year, I agonize over what paintings to enter because I really would like them to sell.  In fact, I feel very let down if I have to go back like last year to retrieve one deemed not likely to sell in the auction.  This year I’m pleased to say all three made it  in but I was really depressed that two were not sold.  The woman attending the pickups wished me a good day and then said something that lifted my spirit – “see you next year?”  “Sure,” I said and I meant it.

Artists have to have thick skin.  A rejection in a juried art show doesn’t mean a personal failure.  Case in point, this oil pastel although rejected at a juried art show earlier this year yet someone liked it well enough to pay good money for it at the auction.

Have you ever disliked a painting you just finished, hid it away for a time and one day looked at it again and said, “Hey, that’s not so bad, in fact, it’s pretty good!? Why did I dislike it in the first place?” I heard tell of a woman who bought art no one else wanted at garage sales and flea markets filling her whole house.  Apparently there was a beauty to the collection when seen together.  Art is very subjective, one person’s throw away is another’s treasure.

I won’t be so hard on myself in the future.  You shouldn’t be either, go ahead and enter that auction or exhibition, there’s not much to lose but everything to gain.  Be honest in your appraisal of your own work, take courses, keep learning, watch YouTube videos and try out new techniques.  If you can find someone to critique your work that isn’t family or friend listen to what they say. Best art advice is to keep striving.

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Finger Painting Not Just For Children

Finger painting flowersI’ve been watching YouTube videos of professional artists finger painting.  It looked like so much fun and sort of natural and easy so I decided I had to give it a try.

I guess when an artist can make a style of art look easy then he or she has mastered it.  For the amateur — it might not be so easy.  The artist I watched used bare fingers to paint.  I’m not sure that’s the safest thing to do even with acrylics so I bought tight-fitting gloves.

For one thing, I got too much paint on the canvas especially on the vase that should have been smoother.  Secondly, the gloves get very messy and needed a good cleaning before using a different color.  The paint does not come off the gloves as easily as it would bare fingers but when paint gets under the nails using bare fingers, it’s impossible to get at it. Also, the ends of the glove fingers were not tight enough so there were ridges when painting.

The artist in the video used all of her fingers.  She drummed her fingers against the canvas to make lilacs having two shades of purple and a white.  It looked so simple.

By this time in the video, I was resorting to my paintbrushes.  Painting with the fingers definitely looks a lot easier than it was but I will stick to my brushes.

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10 Hints You Might Be An Artist

A Peak into the World of an Artist

Artists are always on the look out for ideas because they live to create and paint the world as they see it. Artists tend to get very absorbed in their projects to the exclusion of everything else.

If you recognize any of these traits you too may be an artist:

  1. You have no qualms about staring at people while your pencil darts around the paper. You aren’t actually seeing the person but intent on a particular feature so that you don’t even notice that your subject is looking back puzzled or annoyed.
  2. Your studio walls have many colorful flecks of paint spatters. There is paint on the furniture.
  3. You can’t be reached by phone because you are absorbed in what you are doing.
  4. You don’t want to talk about your latest project but then you spend a lot of time telling someone all about it even while their eyes glaze over.
  5. You are still in PJs at noon because you haven’t taken time to shower and dress.
  6. You carry a pencil or pen and a pad of paper everywhere.
  7. You can never get enough tubes of paint or brushes.
  8. You walk around looking at things through your thumbs and index fingers in a square or you actually carry a viewfinder.
  9. You would rather browse the art store than the mall.
  10. You always look like a tourist because you are gazing at everything around you.

Which traits most describe you? I’m particularly bad at number 5.

Here is this week’s obsession:

memories of childhood

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Monochromatic Painting

What is monochromatic Painting

monochromatic painting in Paynes Gray

Monochromatic Painting

Monochromatic painting uses one color plus white or black to vary the value. Any color can be used for a monochromatic painting depending on the subject. Painting a winter scene in red may not convey cold. Paynes Gray and Shades of blue on the other hand are excellent for winter landscapes.

The Advantage of Monochromatic

The number one advantage of using monochromatic colors is that it always looks visually appealing and balanced.

Painting a gray-scale or monochromatic color is a wonderful exercise to train your eye to see the subtle differences in grays from white to black.

I have wanted to do a monochromatic painting for some time and this past Friday was the day. I chose Paynes Gray for a winter scene but any blue would have worked. Paynes Gray leans more towards the gray side of blue and can produce lovely shades with white added. The monochromatic color scheme is very striking and ideal for a winter landscape. Any comments?

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Need a Little Inspiration?

Often we value output over input but when we get blocked it’s not the output we should be concerned about but the input. Blocks will come and when they do remember why you started sketching, painting or whatever in the first place. You probably got inspired by looking at good art that you wanted to do or even bad art that you thought you could do better. In either case, input inspires.

Here are some awesome links to inspire and unblock your creativity:

The Red Barn

Below I was trying out a small student quality watercolor set and a black ink pen.  I like the outline of the ink in the drawing of the red barn but next time will try the same sketching techniques learned in pencil drawings like cross-hatching, stippling, varying line width and scribbled lines.

The River landscape was hastily painted with black Liquitex acrylic ink and brush to see how adding watercolor to the work would look. Sometime I would like to redo a similar landscape but use an ink pen for the trees so that making fine branches would be easier and faster.

red barn ink and watercolor

The Red Barn

river winter landscape pen and watercolor

The River


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