Can Artists Have Pen Names?

I picked out some paintings that I’ve done that I don’t like with the idea of painting over them. Although we have all read the articles that say an artist should develop a style and stick to it for a number of very good reasons.  Two such reasons are:

  1. to have a consistent body of work that show well together
  2. so that people will recognize your art without seeing the signature.

Good reasons I know, but what if you have a yen to do something different. Just like taking a break from painting to go out into the world, visit a museum or chat with friends all help to keep the creative juices flowing so a break from the usual painting style may very exciting. Suppose you find another way to paint that you like even better or just as well? I would think it very limiting to stick to one style.

In the last couple of weeks I experimented with doing abstract from my imagination producing two nice little pieces but then my so-called abstract started looking a lot like my landscapes except these came from my head and not an image.

Tiffany Creek  So today I broke out of the pattern and painted in a way that I’ve admired for some time and honestly, I liked the experiment and I really like the outcome.  I may tweak this a bit next week to get a bit more sun into it.

Then to top of a productive day, I found this article where Christine asks the question: Why can’t artists be like writers and have pen names! Whoa! Just what I was thinking. A different name for each genre of painting styles but somehow that seems like I’m hiding, doesn’t it?

In the comment section of Christine’s article are many other artists who think it is fine to use different artist names. Unfortunately I already signed my name to the painting but I suppose I could paint over it. Something stubborn within me says that I shouldn’t have to do though.

I’ve already logged several thousand hours into the type of paintings I’m doing now; it feels good to do something different.  Maybe it’s just a passing fancy but I’ll tell you a change is as good as a rest. My art teacher told me once she could tell when I posted a new painting without looking at the signature so apparently I have a style already. Well, maybe I’ll have two or three styles before I’m done.  What would you do?

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How to Make Your Art Sing

The Importance of prepping your canvas:

Never buy canvas at a discount store for real artwork; it’s fine for crafts or practice. I bought cheap canvas at a Dollar store once and got what I paid for. There was damage to the corner of the canvas board  and there was what looked like a run in the canvas that showed through the paint and since the canvas is not always properly gessoed so the paint may not adhere to it well.

a bridge to sunshine

Under-painted with yellow ocher that shows through the grass.

Facing a white canvas is daunting; put some color – any color – to hide all that blankness.

Some ways underpainting helps the finished art:

  • It can transform your paintings by making them look more professional.
  • It enhances the mood.
  • A red underpainting can make a dramatic warming effect on the finished art.
  • A dark brown gives it that antique look of the masters.
  • A warm brown is ideal for a Fall scene.
    • One of my favorite underpainting colors is Yellow Ochre. It provides a warm undertone for a seascape by providing balance to the cool blues and adding the feeling of the sun hitting the water. The paint flows easier and adheres to the canvas better with an under toning.
    • If you use watery paint on a white canvas your art will look amateurish but using opaque paint on a white canvas and your art sings.

If you are applying gesso to your canvas you can add color to it also. Whatever you do, don’t face a white canvas especially a large white canvas. Add color and watch your art sing!


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What Problem can you solve with your art?

When someone is successful in a business venture it is always because he/she is either solving a problem or offering a service. Google the top entrepreneurs of any year and you will find that each one of them found a way to solve a problem or at the very least made the public think they couldn’t live without their product.
The same rule applies to selling art. What problem can you solve with art?

Here are a few ways to use art to solve problems:

  • The Switch Plate Lady, Sandy Brodsky, has designed electrical outlet covers to match any decor.
  • Wedding photographers make sure there are spectacular memories of the happy event.
  • Abstract artists make art that speaks to each viewer in a different way and abstract art is a great design element in a room’s decor.
  • Portrait artists both painters and charcoal or pencil offer a valuable service for those who want to have artwork capture the essence of the person so much better than a photograph.
  • Landscape artists help to being a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere to a room.
  • Artists who paint battle scenes can bring a visual reminder of how brutal war really is.
  • Fantasy art reminds us to take time to dream.

The point is that your art can help to bring attention to issues or beautify a living space; therefore, it should be easy to find your niche because there are as many varied tastes in art as there are artists. So what problem can you solve with your art?

I want my art to remind people of the good things in life, the beauty, the hope, all found in the ordinary.  My small paintings are affordable and offer art for those with limited wall space.

a bench to rest on a walkway

An Inviting Rest

Flowers at Whitehern Historic House

Flowers at Whitehern Historic House

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Art Promotes Community

This weekend my husband and I attended the True City Conference in Hamilton, Ontario. True City is a group of churches working together for the good of the city and the movement is allowing local churches to learn from each other and together impacting the community. The theme this year is “Can I get a Witness?”

That reminds me of art. Artists participation in art and cultural activities enhance all of our lives by bringing about personal enjoyment, enriching perspective, intellectual stimulation and opportunities for public involvement. Some communities have turned drab old buildings into works of art by painting beautiful murals. Who hasn’t enjoyed the wooden art pieces done by students displayed at the Bay Front? James Street North is fast becoming a trendy spot not only for Art Crawls for locals but for tourists as well.

Of course art is more than visual art. Literature, poetry, theatre, dance and music – can we imagine a world without them? The James Street North Art Crawl promotes community and provides a feast for all five senses. There is the music, the food the performers, the art, often unique articles for sale and best of all the fellowship — a community coming together to celebrate art and community.

What has this got to do with witnessing? Any time people share their gifts with the community we are all witnessing to what it means to live in harmony with others, to be human, sharing our gifts and for artists letting your soul show through in your work.
Bay Front Trolley A swan on its nest


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Let Your Imagination Fly

I’ve shared in the past just how difficult it is sometimes to break out of a particular style.  I very much like abstract art especially if it hints at something real.  You know what I mean?  When you see an abstract and immediately something real comes to mind but then when you look closer there really isn’t any distinguishable objects.  Still the art has captured your imagination and you like it.

Today I had lunch with a dear artist friend.  We almost always have artwork along to show (and critique) each other – it’s all very enjoyable.  My friend showed me an image of an abstract painting that caught my eye right away.  Later she emailed me a picture of that image and honestly, the only similarity between it and my painting was the warm browns and burnt sienna.

My point is this:  a little outing and the chance to see nice artwork can really set the imagination reeling.  In about 2 hours I had this little gem painted and I was very pleased with the work.  When the creative juices are flowing well it is pure joy to experiment.

This does resemble a landscape but with some unusual colors.  I call this a dream scape.  My dreams are in Technicolor!

dream scape

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Imagination + Photo = Great Painting

Working From Photographs

There are many valid reasons why painting from nature is better than from a photo:

  1. The camera often doesn’t record color value accurately or all the subtle colors that we see with our eyes.
  2. The camera does record objects but often does not capture life especially strong lighting.
  3. Shadows might look flat and uninteresting.
  4. There is a tendency to paint every object just as it looks in the photograph.

The biggest advantage to photographs is the capture of a memory for later use. I’ve read a lot of criticism about painting from photographs but with a little imagination you can overcome them.

We can’t always get out there and paint open-air so the next best thing is to take the camera everywhere you go. However, a little imagination and sometimes the use of a Photoshop type program can compensate for the camera’s lack.

A case in point:

Bow Bridge, Central Park, NY

A more colorful version!

Bow Bridge, NY

A dull, cloudy day, a faded image








I think you’ll agree with me that the photograph is dull and lifeless but with a fall color scheme the painting comes alive.



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How Would You Describe Yourself?

Although I have never met the man, I have enormous respect for Jack White. His articles are very informative as well as good reads because he comes across as caring, personable, real, knowledgeable and he seems to have an abiding faith in God. Jack is free with his time and knowledge in that he has mentored many artists and has written many books while facing some difficult health issues but still he’s moving forward.

Today’s article Describe Yourself  made me really think about how I would describe myself. The article is a fantastic read because Jack is a talented writer who is good at articulating his thoughts and feelings. (A handy talent for a writer, don’t you think?)Amish boys fishing

Like Jack, I would like people to say that I was caring and since people find me a good listener and friend that may be a given. But then that comes from people who know me very well. What about my blog readers, those who view my art, and the public that I come into contact with during exhibitions?

Like many I find it very difficult to talk about my art to strangers and being a good listener doesn’t do me much good here.  As an artist who would like to sell more artwork, it would be handy if I could sell art without pressure like Jack by
asking questions. What could those questions be?  I guess if someone tells me they like a piece I might ask what it is that they like about it.

One time a man asked me if the three Amish boys in my painting were my grandchildren – this might have been a time to talk about how I admire the Amish tradition even though I don’t agree with their closed society.echoes of laughter

Another time someone asked me if a painting of an old abandoned house was  my grandparents house? I could have elaborated on how the house that was not in my family somehow drew me into thinking about the family that might have lived there. It was a house that would have been beautiful in its day so what made the family abandon it and why had it been allowed to deteriorate on a prime location? One day I’m going to repaint the scene but with a family living there. I picture a swing at the side with children playing, maybe a sandbox, a lawn, flowerbeds, someone weeding a garden–the ideas are endless and it is the kind of house that

deserves that kind of family.

Yet another time someone asked me about a bridge that I painted that clearly did not look anything like the bridge he thought it Bow Bridge in Fallmight be so I couldn’t lie just to make a sale but told the truth.  He didn’t buy the original but perhaps he was the one that bought a print of it on-line at  So we can add honesty to my traits.  If someone recognized the famous bridge and told him what it really was, I would have been embarrassed because there on the painting would have been my name and then I shudder to think what word would be applied.

Someone once said that we should live our lives with the end in mind. How do you want people to describe you?

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Isn’t All Art Impressionistic?

Be True to Your Own Style

There is an exhibition coming up locally that is calling for impressionistic art as an entry requirement. I’ve known about the exhibition for a couple of months now but have yet to come up with a piece of art that fits the “impressionistic” style.

This morning, I read Brian Sherwin’s article “Don’t Create This! (Create it!)”. In the article Brian contends that artists should stop chasing art trends and do whatever it is your inner voice demands. I think he is right. You can read his article here.

It has been a frustrating few months trying to deter away from painting in a way that comes naturally to me. This morning it occurred to me — isn’t all art someone’s impression?   If most of my works looks realistic, then that’s how I tend to see things. I am a realist to a certain extend but also a dreamer – hence the folksy style of my art.

I’m going to enter a piece or two just to see, it doesn’t hurt, but as of this morning I’m going to go about my art in the most natural way it tends to flow from me.  Be true to own style!

My impression of a flower bed full of tulips

My impression of a flower bed full of tulips


My impression of Rose



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How Good Are Art Tips

Results From Last Week’s Art Tips

Here are the results of last week’s Art Tips:

1.   The first one wasn’t anything to get excited about. I soaked a mixed media paper in coffee for hours even adding a few grounds. I

coloring paper

beige soaked in coffee; blue in food coloring

soaked a piece of copy paper in food color getting better results. Notice the dark line around the edges. Food coloring comes in the primary colors so you can make all other colors. This showed a bit of promise, not so much for painting backgrounds but for other art projects like card making.

2.    I had a pizza cutter but can’t seem to find it; however, thinking about this I wonder how consistent the line will be using a pizza cutter.  I did a blog some time ago called “How to Make Your Own Mahlstick”. Youtube has a video on how to use this mahlstick.  I think this method will get better results.  There is nothing wrong with using a ruler and a pastel pencil.  This is how I got straight lines in this painting.

End of a Perfect Day

End of a Perfect Day

3.    The stain remover I use is KISS OFF but if anyone has tried denatured alcohol I’d be interested in hearing how that worked.

4.    I continue to  store my brushes upright in a glass to save space but try not to crowd them so as not to damage the bristles.  I think laying them flat is good but not necessarily do-able with limited space.

5.    I tried the conditioner on the brushes and the bristles are softer and more manageable but I think the brushes I used were beyond repair.  This is something that could be tried with newer brushes to keep them in good condition.  Another method I use to bring the bristles together again is to tape them overnight.

taped brush bristles

So how good are art tips?  I guess that depends on how well they work for you and that may depend on how well you execute the instructions.  Feel free to share your art tips in the comment section and I will post them in a next blog.

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Interesting Art Tips

Useful Tips To Try

Browsing a site full of tips from various artists on a variety of topics, I found the following most interesting to me:

1.   One of the tips that sparked an interest was how to soak card stock or even copy paper on a cheap cookie sheet in coffee adding grounds (removed later) that leave speckles of color behind. I use mixed media paper as a paint medium so this might be a great background for a piece of art.

2.  Another tip I enjoyed reading and must try was using a pizza cutter to make straight lines. If you make your paint an ink-like consistency you can roll the cutter through it and then roll a straight line on your canvas!

3.  To remove dried paint from clothing or the floor use a product called denatured alcohol with a Q-tip. Then wash with regular soap. I used something called KISS-OFF stain remover to do the same job.

4.  I store my brushes in old water glasses. I did not realize that water may stay in the ferrule storing them that way. The suggestion to store them on a cheap cookie sheet by first laying the brushes on a paper towel is a great way to store brushes as well as helping to keep them in good condition. I’ve had brushes where the bristles have been bent down when one brush is pushed into the glass against another so storing them flat is a good solution.

5.   I also have brushes that are getting scruffy so I may try the hair conditioner idea to put back some spring to the bristles. Also to reshape brushes put some hair gel on them between sessions.

Visit Jerry’s Art-arama to see more tips

This week I plan to try these tips and I will post next week what success I had.

Here are my successes for this week:

poppies growing wild A Fall Day The Sky is Darkening

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