Monday, June 20, 2016

What I Learned in 5 Weeks

Five weeks ago, I logged into the Make Art That Sells: Creating Collections for Home Décor classroom to learn what would be my first assignment from Lilla Rogers and her co-teacher, Margo Tantau. I had discussed this new challenge with my family. I warned them I was on a crash course, determined to learn more about the facets of art and design I admired while shopping in my favorite stores. Could my art be on a plate? Could my art be printed on fabric to make an apron, or bedspread, or curtains? This was something daring and different. I have spent years as a graphic artist using clip art that someone else designed. Now, the possibilities were exciting, and I anxiously entered this new world created by art agent and fairy art mother, Lilla Rogers.

Here is what I learned:

Although I don't consider myself an illustrator, I invested in a set of fine tip Micron pens and a pad of marker paper, and began to illustrate for the first time since college (that's over 20 years ago, my friends). I scanned in my work and translated it into vector art in Adobe Illustrator. For people who don't know what vector art is: I would say it's a tedious process of turning line art into shapes that can be filled with color.

Those feathers, florals and butterfly wings were pen strokes that had to be converted into solid fields on the computer screen, then assigned colors. I did that!!

I created icons using a variety of methods. Watercolor:

Brush pen:

That's delphinium and different brushstroke flowers that I made into a pattern. I did that!!!

Hand lettering, to be used as a graphic element:

And even a wooden chopstick, dipped in ink:
That wasn't actually an assignment; I was just experimenting with different line qualities. The blueberry and leaf shapes, though, ended up being designed into a carved wooden base of a lamp, for my final project.

The class was over the top -- in the kind of way you imagined walking into Wonka's Chocolate Factory when you were a kid, if it were a real thing. I'm in denial or going through withdrawal, without my Monday assignment. It would be crazy-making to keep up the pace, but there are so many techniques, so many substrates to design for, so many ideas that I could easily continue working. My portfolio would be amazing. But without the camaraderie of the other artists, and the fabulous instructors to nudge us along, life will now slow to a more manageable pace. Phew, I'm ready for that!

I learned that challenges are wonderful, but they also have a dark side for a slightly competitive personality like me. There's a fine line between admiring and supporting, and then letting your mind go to the "I'll never aspire to that level of work" internal conversation. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm new to this; I need to rack up many more hours of art to land upon a recognizable style, and be in that crowd. But, I'm not far from having the confidence to show my newfound commercial art skills to potential buyers.

Heartfelt gratitude goes out to Lilla and Margo. To say they are supportive is an understatement. I give them credit for wanting to teach what they know and bring new artists into the fold. If you are interested in learning more, go to and browse the juicy creativeness.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Creating a Series

This spring, I accepted the challenge of making a series of art pieces as part of an online class, "Y is for Yellow!" with Carla Sonheim.

What makes several pieces of art hang together as a series? I suppose it would be that they were created on the same substrate, using the same art supplies, spanning similar subject matter, maybe with similar color treatment? This was a first time endeavor. What did I know about it?

I set the following parameters for the series:
   1. Pieces would be on same size wood panels
   2. They would all start out with collage
   3. I would work from live subjects, not photographs
   4. Medium of choice: acrylic paint

The first step was to prepare the panels with collage elements and set them to dry overnight. When I went searching for my subjects, I was delighted to find an arrangement with bright orange ranunculus at a local grocery store, and a potted gerber daisy.

At this point, I decided the collages needed more unifying, so I swiped them irregularly with a sage green and off white house paint. I was careful to allow attractive collage elements to show through the paint. Then I set about sketching the composition, and bringing the flowers to life.

The first two paintings settled in nicely. As finishing elements, and another unifying technique, I added subtle bits of color through stencils, and sketched over the top with a charcoal pencil to add details.

This is my favorite part of the whole first two paintings:

A week went by, and I went in search of more subjects. Oh my gosh, I found the most spectacular peonies! (At this time, it would be a good month or more before peonies would bloom in my yard).

I knew it would be a challenge to capture their beauty. See all those petals? I reminded myself that one of the reasons I was working from LIVE subjects was to see the light and shadows, and all the wonderful textures that cannot be captured in a snapshot reference. And here was the challenge: during the time I was working in my studio, the peonies kept opening up...... larger. And LARGER. What were once buds opened to full fledged blooms. As I painted I had to be more creative to depict these ever-changing glories.

But you know what was an even bigger challenge? The dang Irises. My fourth and final subject was a real scoundrel. Those flowers are very, very difficult to capture a likeness of. However, when I shared my work on social media, as I often do while working in the studio, the Irises garnered the most attention. Go figure.

The series is displayed in my studio for now, as I decide if I will have them framed or simply hang and enjoy. My first reaction to them all arranged in a group was that I wasn't sure they worked as a 'series' because of the difference color, which was a little jarring. Some bold and bright, some muted and pastel. I suppose I could have taken artistic license and painted them in a color scheme that was more cohesive. But for my first effort creating a series, I was happy in the end that I stayed true to the natural beauty of the flowers.

Each time I paint I learn new things. I hope I never stop learning; never stop being filled with wonder of the process, of the experiences.