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Are you confused as to how other artists manage to stay in a productive creative flow and can't help but feel jealous when seeing incredible new artworks others are constantly sharing? Do you want to make a living from your art someday, but doubt whether you'll have the courage, character and determination required to succeed? Does criticism and/or lack of support make you feel so low, that you want to stop creating altogether?
If you're set on becoming an artist, and you're constantly feeling any (or all) of these things, it's imperative that you start working on yourself, alongside your artistic skills. This is going to be absolutely essential for you if you ever want to achieve lasting success.
Being an artist is tough. Not only are we entrepreneurs (which means we work a lot, wear a ton of different hats and have to be willing to push ourselves out of our comfort zones every-single-day), but we also have to consistently create quality work that people will want to buy. Work that, in most cases, is created by us and us alone. Work that is pretty much a piece, or extension, of ourselves. All of this makes it necessary to stay strong if we're intending to make a living from our passion.
In today's blog post/YouTube video, I'll be sharing the top five things that I make sure to do on a weekly basis in order to stay healthy both mentally and physically as an artist. Since I started doing these things consistently a few years ago, not only have I been able to make much faster progress, but I'm also able to enjoy what I do much more and have been able to improve my self-confidence to a degree that I'm able to myself out there in ways I never thought possible.
It wasn't always like this though, and I'm getting very personal about my past today, which is something I very rarely do online. I do this with the hope that some of you out there will resonate with my story and really grasp how important prioritizing self-care is if you want to reach your goals.
I want to keep creating art until I'm a little old lady, and I hope that you also intend to keep inspiring and awakening others through your art for as long as possible.
It is my objective with this blog (and my YouTube channel) to help aspiring artists improve their skills and pursue their passions. However, we cannot give our all at any task if we're unwell mentally and/or physically. Not to mention, many of us artists are inherently sensitive, which is even more of a reason to stay aware of our wellbeing and set systems in place to ensure that we're not exhausting ourselves.
Artists have had a bad rap throughout history for living in excess and having erratic personalities. I'll have none of that! Whenever tragedies that artists (from all fields) have partaken in come into my mind, I also remind myself of all the others who have led happy and fulfilling lives.
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”
3. Review short term/long term goals (personal, work and interpersonal). All of them are important!
Most people go through life without really giving thought to what they truly want. They settle for what's expected and let life happen to them instead of fighting for their dreams to come true. This is a surefire way of feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.
With introspection comes getting to know yourself, and with getting to know yourself comes discovering what you truly want in life. This alone will bring you a ton of clarity. Once you're there, it's important to give thought to your specific short-term and long-term goals in order to set the necessary steps to get there. No matter where you're currently at, prioritize those goals.
A while back I wrote a blog post titled Time Management for Artists: My Secrets for Staying Consistently Productive, which I highly recommend you check out if you feel like you're wandering aimlessly through life. I provide a free workbook to help you set your personal, work and interpersonal goals, as well as ideas for scheduling your week to ensure you're making progress each and every week.
For me, it was imperative to learn to say no to the things that didn't align with my goals once I had set them. I realized time is the most valuable resource I have and I don't want to waste it on activities or people that aren't going to help me get closer to them. It may sound harsh, but we absorb the negativity and positivity from those around us. As creatives, we should strive to be around people that are positive, have big ideas like we do, and lift us up.
As you work towards your dreams to come true, please don't forget to celebrate each and every small victory that comes your way!
4. Schedule time for organization and adulting. Keep your working area as safe and inspiring as you can.
Unless you're a clean freak, have people that help you with homely chores, or don't have very much going on in life, I'm willing to bet that your home and/or working area tends to get cluttered and messy pretty fast. Most of us are directly or indirectly affected by the environment we're in, which leads to being more stressed and less productive.
It also leads to more accidents, wasting time when we're unable to find things we need, and it can also lead to more serious health problems depending on the type of artwork we create. So make sure you're staying as organized as you can, and always follow safety instructions when using materials that are toxic.
If you paint like I do, always work in well-ventilated areas and use gloves so that potentially harmful substances don't come into contact with your skin. If you can, check out brands of art products that are doing their best to provide non-toxic paints and mediums like Gamblin!
I like scheduling in at least a bit of time each week to take care of cleaning, organizing and other administrative tasks so that things don't pile up (literally and in my head). It may initially seem like a waste of precious time but I assure you you'll be saving time in the long run.
As artists, we do what we love for a living, and keeping our studio organized and inspiring to work in really helps keep things as enjoyable as possible.
5. Schedule time to disconnect from your work. Make time to socialize and set aside time for activities that relax you.
As artists, we spend a lot of time alone. It's important to make sure we're nurturing the relationships we have with people that are important to us. We can't let the connections we have with amazing people fizzle out OR keep ourselves locked up to the point that we miss opportunities to meet other great humans.
No matter how introverted we may be, we need some degree of connection with others in order to feel happy and fulfilled. Treasure the relationships you have with those amazing people in your life.
Finally, make sure you're doing things that relax you and bring you joy. As an artist, I'm sure creating art was initially something that brought you a great amount of pleasure. However, if it is now work for you, I would suggest looking for activities that allow you to disconnect for a while. I enjoy going to the movies, planning a dinner with friends or reading a good book.
Remember that the best ideas come when we're actually living our lives and not stuck in our studios!
That's it for today, everyone! I hope you found this blog post helpful and that you start making your mental and physical health a top priority. I promise you that your work, as well as every other aspect of your life will greatly improve if you stick with it.
Welcome back fellow artists and art lovers!
I’m unbelievably excited to be sharing the first segment of my Artists from Around the World interview series with you today!
This is one of the many exciting projects I’ve been working on behind the curtain and I hope these interviews inspire aspiring artists out there to keep making time for their passions, as well as help get amazing new artwork in front of people looking to bring unique, handcrafted goods into their lives.
For me, one of the most amazing things about putting myself out here in the online world, is that I get to connect with others around the world with whom I share similar passions and interests. In the short amount time I’ve been working on this site, my YouTube channel, and sharing my work on social media, I’ve been able to get to know amazingly talented artists and creatives that I would have otherwise never met.
Chrissie Murphy is one of them. She's an Australian-based artist, calligrapher and blogger who’s artistic journey began after having taken up repetitive drawing therapy as a means to recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her beautiful and unique artwork is full of personality and brings light through bold pattern, color and highly detailed line work. I absolutely love that she uses lots of different mediums to create her art!
Through her blog, Chrissie shares uplifting articles for other artists, resources and practical tips to help get your creativity in motion. Her spirituality, originality and the love she brings to everything she does, can be felt through her online presence.
Grab a cup of coffee, tea or your beverage of choice, and join me for this interview! :)
Interview with Artist, Blogger and Calligrapher Chrissie Murphy
1. You have a very appealing and unique art style! Can you share a bit about your influences and how you arrived at it?
What a great question! I stumbled into the art world by accident, really. I had been seeing a counsellor for treatment of symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and she suggested I look into being more “mindful”. I did some google searching and stumbled upon “zentangling”, also known as Repetitive Pattern Art, as a mindful relaxation technique. The act of creating the same movements with a pen, over and over and over, is very calming. It’s also a great way to be present as the strokes require your undivided attention. Needless to say, I was hooked. Repetitive Pattern Art turned on something inside me and from that day onwards (30 April 2013), I have been drawing.
Now that I’ve been drawing for a while, I have been influenced by many things. My greatest influence is the Creator Himself because His work is the best there is. I’m inspired so much by being in creation, out there amongst nature, and I’m fascinated at the patterns He uses, the shapes, varieties and colours perceived in nature. I’m also a big lover of ornamental design (particularly the Baroque period), the work of the scribes and illuminators from the 14th to 17th centuries, botanical art from the late 1800’s to 1920’s, as well as commercial product packaging from that same time period. I have a love for all things old and detailed, and I adore the work of the penman of yesteryear.
2. Can you tell us about when that moment was in your life, when you came to the conclusion that art was your passion?
Yes, I think it was about a year after I got into it. It was then that I truly realized that art was here to stay and it was all I wanted to do. I would be using every spare moment to create, and when I wasn’t, I was looking at other work or watching videos/tutorials on how to improve. It became all consuming for a while, and although it doesn’t consume me like it once did, I think that initial hunger has served me well. It was quite intense at the beginning, but after time it has settled into something that just “is”. Art IS part of me, it’s a major part of who I am.
I’m going to be really honest here and say that I started selling my work too early. Looking back on things, if I could do things over, I would have held off selling for so much longer. My early work is really terrible and it’s not something that should have been in the marketplace.... period! If you’re someone who’s trying to establish a serious online art business, selling mediocre art does not help your cause. I can see that now, but back then, I couldn’t! I actually thought the work was ok.
Now though, I can see my work is at a much higher standard, and I rely on the feedback of other artists to back up this belief. Remember.... I thought my old work was ok back in the day, so I try to honestly survey my work. An honest survey includes getting feedback from other artists I value, and good artistic friends will tell you when your work stinks! The other aspect that I believe is important when selling art, is that’s it’s instantly recognizable as yours. These two things (work of a high standard, and instant recognizable art) are the things I believe you should have under your belt if you’re going to sell art online.
Having said that, I still believe the most challenging aspect when it comes to selling art, is what to charge for your work. Just try and do a google search on this and the advice out there is mind-blowing. There just isn’t a clear answer and in the long run it comes back to you the artist to make the decision. I don’t have any real advice on how to navigate this area as I find it to be complicated. There doesn’t seem to be a one solution fits all scenario, which is what I’d really love to discover.
4. I love how you incorporate the spiritual/mental/positivity aspects in your blog posts! Would you say developing these aspects is just as important for artists as developing cold artistic skills?
Oh yes!!! Most definitely. I believe knowing these things helps you truly understand who you are as an artist. We are made in the image of the Creator, therefore we are creator’s as well. Understanding these things (which can be a bit deep at times), helps you tap into your very core as a creative.
Art is an expression of what’s within us, and if you want to be good at what you create, you need to really KNOW yourself. You need to know all your good bits, all the bad bits, all the quirky bits and all the bits that are just downright weird. You need to know how you’re put together, how you’re wired, because when you do, it will ooze out of you as you create.
At the moment, I believe the world is starving for beauty, only many of us don’t realize this. Buildings are a really good example of this principle. In any city, there are old heritage listed buildings, ones that were constructed at the turn of the century like Court Houses, Post Offices, Banks or Churches. These old buildings have ornamental design features like columns, acanthus leaf carvings and scrollwork. Polished wood is prominent, so are high ceilings and architraves, polished brass and there may even be wrought iron gates or heavy wooden carved doors. I think you can imagine the sorts of buildings I’m referring to.
Contrast this to the most recent government building constructed in your town. Construction in recent years has focused on energy efficiency, sustainable building products and overall construction costs. Although we’ve done a great job at delivering high outcomes in these areas, it’s come at a price - The loss of visual beauty.
Buildings are just one example, but I could rattle off a dozen more. Product packaging, print media, handwriting for example, all these things that have changed over the years. They have become more economical or mass produced and in doing so, a lot of visual beauty has been lost. And I think the world is grieving this, they are starving for real beauty. In today’s world, art is more important than ever before, because it can play a vital role in closing the gap that mass production and cost cutting opened. We have a world starving for beauty. As artists in today’s society, we have been given a unique opportunity to feed the world some of the beauty it’s been desperately craving.
Next month I kick off on one of my most favorite times of the year – Inktober. I’ve participated in Inktober for 5 years now and I’m as keen as for Inktober 2018. If you’re not aware of what Inktober is, it’s where you create something with ink every day, for the entire month of October, and you post your work online using the hashtag #Inktober. I will be closing the blog for the month of October to ensure I have plenty of time for drawing each day, and I will also be sharing my work to my social media accounts daily. Inktober is intense, but so worth it. At the moment, it’s where my focus is as I begin preparations.
7. If you could share just one piece of advice to aspiring artists who want to make a living from their creative talents, what would you tell them?
Take your time and don’t rush things. Spend some time really getting to know yourself as an artist and when you do, make sure you put yourself out there. I’m not talking about your art here, but you! I mean you in a selfie or a head shot, a portrait – an image of you. When you show your work online, don’t forget to show yourself as well. More than anything people want to connect with you, to feel like they can relate to you, and they can only do this if they can put a face to you. So don’t be shy friend, get out there and smile. And you know what? When you do, the world will smile with you.
I’m online just about everywhere!
My Etsy Shop:
I also tweet and tumble, just search for Chrissie Murphy Designs and you’ll find me.
Thanks so much Chrissie, for answering my questions and everything you do!
I'm looking forward to seeing all the amazing artwork I'm sure you'll be putting out there for us and to connecting with you in the future!
There are a couple of things Chrissie mentioned throughout the interview that I feel are incredibly important for aspiring artists to understand, which I would like to go over.
Firstly, Chrissie indicates how important it is to be open to receiving feedback from other artists so that we can use it to improve our work. She mentioned how listening to other knowledgable creatives around her was fundamental in her artistic development, as this allowed her to improve her skills significantly and be able to offer quality artwork for her audience/customers.
We can all really learn from Chrissie's ability to remain open and not take things personally!
As I mentioned in my blog post titled Why Criticism is an Essential Part of an Artist’s Life and How to Handle Criticism Like a Pro, it’s absolutely essential to understand that receiving both positive and negative feedback is going to be a recurrent element in an artist’s life, no matter how talented you are or how long you've been in the field.
If we want to become respectable artists and arrive at a point at which we're actually making a livable income from our skills, we have to not only get used to taking criticism, but learn to use people's feedback (whether positive or negative) as fuel to keep going and not as a reason to stop us from pursuing our passions. It's also essential to know when we're receiving feedback that could actually be beneficial for us and when it's not. *Hint: Listen to people who know about art and know what they're talking about.
One other HUGE thing Chrissie mentioned is the importance of introspection and getting to know oneself as an artist so that we can truly be able to share ourselves and the ideas we feel strongly about through our work. Isn't that what art is supposed to be all about, anyway? It's okay to be inspired by other artists, but it's also incredibly important to make sure that we are putting our own personal message and style out into the world.
I talk about this in my blog post titled 5 Fatal Habits and Practical Advice, which I highly recommend you check out! In it, I talk about how it's just as essential to work on ourselves mentally as it is to work on developing our cold artistic skills in order to become successful as artists.
I’m a huge believer in making time for introspection and acknowledging both our strengths and our weaknesses. This will not only enable us to work on becoming better versions of ourselves, but also to become better artists.
That’s it for today, everyone! Thanks so much for popping by and talk to you soon!
Have you ever traveled to a new place and wished you had a few solid recommendations of inspiring places to visit from actual locals who know about art? Planning a trip to Ireland and wish to make the most of it so you can return to your studio inspired and full of new ideas?
Traveling can be such an amazing source of inspiration for artists and art-appreciators! When I have the opportunity to visit a new city/country, I strive to make the most of it both in terms of enjoyment/relaxation, as well as taking in inspiration that I will later be using for work.
As I mentioned in my blog post 3 Proven Hacks to Progress Artistically While Traveling, I love reaching out to actual locals who share my interests and get suggestions from them about places I should visit.
Today's post was written by Neville from www.irelandart.com and he's sharing a list of recommended galleries/museums we simply must spend time in when visiting Ireland. There are few things as inspiring than spending time surrounded by all kinds of amazing artwork!
Whether it is their Guinness, food, music or rugby, the people of Ireland seem to turn everything into art. For artists, art lovers and novices in need of inspiration, Ireland should be at the top of your bucket list as whatever your art fancy may be; you will find it in abundance in the Emerald Isle. Let’s look at some of the most popular art venues the country has to offer.
1. Irish Museum of Modern Art
Located in the centre of Dublin, the building in itself is an architectural piece of art that takes your breath away before you even enter it. Dating back to 1684, it has been restored and revamped and now has huge viewing spaces. There is an artist-in-residence studio that is extremely popular with local artists and tourists alike. The permanent collection includes artists like Chuck Close, Ed Ruscha, and Louise Bourgeois, to name a few and of course Irish Artists also feature prominently in their collections.
2. Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane
This gallery was literally moved from London to Dublin; the walls, floors, ceiling and the rest of the building where transported across the Irish Sea. Today the gallery is the permanent studio of Francis Bacon, as well as an active charity which hosts open nights and events. Here you will find international modern and contemporary art. The collection includes works by Joseph Beuys, Berthe Morisot, and Agnes Martin.
3. The MAC
It’s not only the Republic of Ireland that has a nice art history and thriving modern scene, Belfast also hosts some of the finest art galleries in the UK. The MAC is one such gallery which features works from famed local artists such as Nicholas Keogh and Maria McKinney. This six story building is an impressive architectural structure housing no less than three very different galleries. The good news is it’s free to the public and open seven days a week.
4. Kerlin Gallery
This gallery is located in the heart of Dublin and is known for its impressive collection of contemporary works and well-known artists. One of these famous artists is Dorothy Cross. Her sculptures and photos investigate the connection between humans and the natural world.
5. Gallery of Photography, Ireland
Located in Dublin City’s Meeting House Square, the collection of global and Irish works will have photographers beaming. Their photography workshops and courses will be valuable to anyone interested in the art of photography as it is concerned.
6. Eakin Gallery
This small family run gallery in Belfast’s bustling Lisburn Road was established in 1979 and since then has become synonymous with the local art scene in Northern Ireland. They showcase some of Northern Ireland’s leading artists such as Terry Bradley, William Conor and Frank McKelvey. If you're looking to take a painting home with you, they do sell some of their collections as well.
7. RUA RED
This art centre is in the cultural quarter of Tallaght, is just outside Dublin city centre. Aimed at the local community, RUA RED works side-by-side with festivals and is involved in various events and programmes, like visual art exhibitions, theatrical productions, writing workshops, dancing classes and film screenings. Visit them for lively, local entertainment.
8. Trinity College Library
A visit to the library at the Trinity College is one of those things that you just have to do. This venue is famous for having an illuminated manuscript that contains the Four Gospels of the Bible, known as The Book of Kells. It is kept in a dark room. According to that in-the-know, the craftsmanship of this book is simply outstanding, especially the word Christ’ that is written in garnet, gold and umber colors.
9. SO Fine Art Edition
Nestled in the heart of Dublin’s city centre, SO Fine Art Editions is known as one of the best of Ireland’s contemporary art galleries. Their extensive collection includes sculptures, prints, photography and works in glass and ceramics.
10. Red Barn Gallery
If you are looking for a photographic art gallery with a difference then the Red Barn Gallery in Belfast is the place for you. It’s a non-profit organization which is dedicated to the provision and advancement of the photographic arts for the public. It’s a relatively young studio having just opened in 2008 but in that time it has become a must see for art lovers in Belfast.
Neville is the owner of Irelandart.com an online gallery based in Northern Ireland
that is dedicated to the promotion and celebration of Irish art and artists.
Follow him on social media:
Thanks SO much for sharing all of these awesome places with us Neville! I certainly look forward to visiting Ireland and taking in all the amazing art it has to offer!
Do you frequently struggle with creative block? Does it bug you that your artwork isn't as original or engaging as you'd like it to be? How often do you take time to explore different sources of inspiration or experiment with alternative methods that could possibly propel ideas for new work?
In today's post I will share one of my go-to methods of artistic exploration that I use when I need to get my creative juices going. This technique is one of the easiest and most practical ways to boost your inspiration and I will explain why I consider it to be so powerful so that you can use it to your advantage as well.
Whether you are currently in period of creative block, are in an exploratory mood, or you simply need ideas for a new piece, I highly recommend trying collage ! It is an excellent way to produce or kick-start the production of engaging and personal artwork. As an extra bonus, I find it incredibly fun and therapeutic (and boy do we need both of these things as artists sometimes)!
This blog post is the fourth in a four-part series about the use of different types of references when creating artwork:
1. Using Other People's Photographs to Create Art (when it's okay to use other people's photos and how to do it in a way that will ensure your artistic progress)
2. Creating Artwork Based on Your Own Photography (click here to learn fast and easy ways to produce your own reference pictures)
3. Why Drawing from Direct Observation is Essential and 10 Tips to Improve (click here to learn why this drawing/painting method is so important in order to progress artistically)
4. Using Collage as an Effective Method to Create Unique and Expressive Art (click here to find out why collage is so powerful and how you can use it to your advantage)
``Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The ``newness´´ in the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components.´´
The term collage comes from the French verb coller, which means to glue. It is an art technique in which a new composition is created by arranging a variety of clippings taken from preexisting materials. Though there are many, many ways of going about creating a collage, it usually involves selecting some type of substrate (which can be paper, canvas, wood, cardboard, etc.) and materials like paper, fabric and photographs to glue on it. The photomontage is a type of collage that incorporates primarily pictures or pieces of pictures to create a new image.
An assemblage is a type of artwork worth mentioning in this post because it is somewhat related to the collage. It is basically the arrangement of an indefinite amount of three-dimensional objects to create a sculpture. Assemblage art usually involves the use of wood, metallic objects, plastic and even items collected from trash bins.
Brief History of Collage
The collage was made famous in the early twentieth century by Cubist artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who started gluing pieces of paper and other objects on their paintings. These artists completely altered the course of abstract art by incorporating real-world materials into their work and inciting the public to arrive at their own conclusions about what it may all mean.
The photomontage was heavily used by Dada artists like Raoul Hausmann and Hannah Höch, who created bold artwork in response to political and social issues of their time. They used collage to transmit important ideas to the public who was dealing with the aftermath of World War 1.
The collage is associated with the beginning of modern art, as artists passionate about experimenting and finding new techniques to implement began turning the art world on its head. These artists began challenging conventional ideas of what art is for and how it's supposed to be created.
To this day, collage remains a technique that never fails to cause an impact and is still used by artists to address topics that are important in the world.
``The beauty of the collage technique is that you’re using sounds that have never met and were never supposed to meet. You introduce them to each other, at first they’re a bit shy, clumsy, staring at their shoes. But you can sense there’s something there. So you cut and paste a little bit and by the end of the song you can spot them in the corner, holding hands.´´
(This quote was found at Austin Kleon's website.)
A Few of My Favorite Collage Artists
(German 1887- 1948)
(German 1889- 1978)
Kurt Schwitters, Hannah Höch, and Raoul Hausmann were all artistically multitalented and key participants in the German Dada movement. They became known for their bold, expressive collages that communicated thoughts about the state of their country following World War 1.
The messages behind their most important works were either deeply autobiographical or charged with political/social meaning. Though their artwork may seem nonsensical and even humorous, these artists brought important topics to the public and made them think about the current state of their society.
Like Cubism and other movements, Dada was considered avant-garde. These types of artists were tired of old art perceptions and sought to create change by exploring new techniques and introducing new ideas to the public.
Many Dada artists used mass produced printings like magazines and newspapers to create their works, blurring the line between what is and isn't art. They stimulated their audiences to interact with their works and incited them to arrive at their own meanings.
Read my blog post titled How to Effectively Use Other Artists' Work as Inspiration and a Great Method to Start Developing Your Own Artistic Style.
Why Collage is So Powerful and Why You Should Use it To Your Advantage
Though I personally use collage as exploration or to create a reference image for a future painting, and not as a finalized piece in and of itself, it is an invaluable part of my creative process. It has a lot of advantages that I have yet to find in other techniques.
To start off, collage requires nearly no preparation and you probably have any needed supplies at home. You don't have to be particularly inspired to start, as frequently, one gets inspired along the way. Collage is cheap, practical and almost always yields some type of positive result that you can use to progress artistically.
It is an easy and fast way to exercise your knowledge of Art Fundamentals. Everything you have in your head about compositional arrangement and Elements/Principles of Art like shape, color, texture, balance, rhythm, etc. is applied by creating a new piece out of ready-made materials.
Furthermore, the technique requires almost no effort at all, which is great if you need a break from your current processes. I find collage is created almost subconsciously. All you have to do is allow yourself to work. When creating a collage, your mind starts connecting ideas and coming up with meanings that are personal to YOU.
NOBODY else could have created that composition because YOU picked the individual pieces that called out to YOU, and YOU arranged them in a brand new way. You created this work based on the ideas and connections that you formed in your head and nobody else has your tastes and/or thoughts.
FInally, collage leads to very expressive and unique artwork. It helps to get to know yourself as an artist and often brings out ideas about what you are personally currently going through.
My Collage Making Process
To begin, decide whether you're going to be creating a traditional or a digital collage and prepare your supplies. I do both, by the way, depending on the circumstance!
What you'll need:
-Computer or another device with a photo editing software like Photoshop
-High quality images (either your own or that you have permission to use)
*Find my list of favorite free image sources HERE
2. Create your individual clippings
Take your time searching for individual elements that call to YOU personally. Prepare AT LEAST 5-10 individual items and create a variety in terms of texture, color, shape, etc. I also recommend picking out different types of subjects. For example, create some clippings of human figures (or parts of the human figure), a few of inanimate objects, animals, textures that can be perhaps used as backgrounds, etc.
For this exercise I looked for my images online, but I also wanted to include my own hand in my composition, so I went ahead and took a picture. If you're creating your collage digitally, make sure to keep your images organized in folders so you don't give yourself a headache while doing your photo editing!
Click on each photo to go back to its original source at Unsplash and Pexels.
Start playing with your clippings, arranging them in a variety of ways to see what is most interesting. Don't paste anything down yet! I usually start by creating what I want my focal point to be and then add to it. Think of where your biggest shapes are going to be placed and then add smaller ones as you go. The point isn't to fill up your entire background space, but to add smaller elements where it makes sense to depending on your overall message.
Try to think more about a possible meaning, than about saturating with color and shape just because it looks pretty. As you go, you'll inevitably begin creating connections and thinking of ideas that are personal to you. At this point, I almost always start thinking of possible titles for my collage!
4. Carefully paste everything together
Paste everything together, thinking about overlapping elements and position within space. Try to apply your knowledge of Art Fundamentals so that you can create a composition that has meaning to you, but is also visually pleasing.
5. Consider whether you can take your collage a step further!
Finally, it's time to think about whether you are going to leave you collage as an exploratory exercise or whether you are going to create something with it!
Personally, I decided to create a watercolor painting with mine! In the past, I have even used collages as references to create large canvas oil paintings! The possibilities are endless!
Have you ever had positive experiences creating collages? Do you have any particular way you use them? I'd love to know your thoughts! Leave a comment in the comments section below!
If you were to asked to choose between an artwork that displayed an amazing quality of realistic rendering or one that captures your attention due to its unique expression of ideas, which would you choose? Are you one of those people that just plain hates all degrees of abstraction in art, praising only those artists who consistently produce work with high levels of realism? On the other hand, do you find photorealism boring and lacking a particular style or unique touch on part of the artist?
``Neither is there figurative and non-figurative art. All things appear to us in the shape of forms. Even in metaphysics ideas are expressed by forms. Well then, think how absurd it would be to think of painting without the imagery of forms. A figure, an object, a circle, are forms; they affect us more or less intensely.´´
This is not going to be an opinionated post bashing either abstract or figurative artwork or anything in between. This will not be a rant about how much I dislike either style and, much less, a criticism towards artists of any kind. Au contraire, my friend! One of my main philosophies in life is appreciating and learning from all types of things and finding morsels that speak to me so I can create my own unique mishmash of awesome.
I believe that there is something to learn from everything, and that if one remains open, there will ALWAYS be something valuable to take that will enrich us as human beings (and consequently improve our work). I believe exploration and the desire to improve should be an intrinsic part of an artist's life, and feel like constricting oneself to a particular style will not allow as much progress to be made.
This said, today I am not going to get into the contemporary kind of artwork that does not really demonstrate any kind of particular knowledge about Art Fundamentals on part of the artist. You know which kind of works I am talking about! Though I do give some of these artists merit for striving to engage with their audience at a philosophical level and attempting to communicate ideas about difficult topics, in this blog post I am only considering work that shows knowledge of Elements and Principles of Art/Design.
In my personal case, it didn't take long to realize that I am naturally drawn towards creating figurative artwork. What HAS been a struggle, however, has been reaching a conclusion about what degree of realism I want my artwork to convey. You see, though I admire and respect hyper/photorealist artists very much, I would like to be able to arrive at some distinctive style that I can call my own someday.
Though it requires an immense amount of patience and skill to produce hyperrealism, I want my work to be more than an exact replica of what everyone else is able to see by looking at a picture. I'd like to arrive at an artistic style that demonstrates both skill AND is able to communicate an idea or feeling. I know I have a long way to go before arriving at this point, but simply having reached this conclusion tells me I am making progress as an artist.
What do the terms Abstract and Figurative mean in Art?
Figurative and Abstract are simply two (very broad) categories in which artwork, be it painting or sculpture, can be divided into. It is important to understand that there are numerous degrees of figuration and abstraction, and this can even occur within one same piece. Though some art can be easy to categorize into either pool, others are a bit harder to decipher. There are a few art terms that are often confusing when learning about figurative and abstract art that I want to touch upon.
The word representational is often used interchangeably with figurative but these two terms are not synonyms. Both abstract AND figurative artworks are usually representational. Why? Because, most of the time, even when creating work that is completely abstract, there IS something from the real world that artists are trying to represent.
Two artists, one figurative and one abstract, can be creating a painting using the same flower arrangement as reference, and each of their works at the end (though completely different from each other) are going to be a representation of those same objects. Abstract artists simply choose to express what their eyes are taking in in a more expressive and unconventional manner.
Also, it is important to note that the term figurative does not solely refer to artworks containing the human figure as subject, though many times they do. This term describes any work that is clearly derived from object (or living) sources, be it a portrait, landscape, still life, etc. In other words, if you are able to instantly recognize what it is your looking at, whether its a house, a flower, or a horse, it can be classified as figurative.
Finally, just because an artwork is figurative/representational, doesn't mean that it has to be realistic! Realism in art is created by the ability to render pictures using perspective, value, proportion, form, texture, etc. to depict subjects as closely as they appear in real life. This type of artwork is created with the intention of representing the subject as truthfully as possible.
Realism is also an art movement, but we are talking specifically about styles today. It takes an immense amount of knowledge about Art Fundamentals (form, perspective, shading, proportion, human anatomy, color theory, etc.) and practical experience in order to create realistic artwork.
This is not to say that abstract artists know nothing about Art Fundamentals or how to create the optical illusion of three dimensionality! There are amazing abstract artists that are able to combine color, line, texture and shape to create three-dimensionality, movement and many other interesting effects in their work. Consider the artwork below by the great Victor Vasarely. There is simply NO WAY that he could have created pieces like this one without having extensive knowledge of the Elements and Principles of Art, as well as years of practical exploration!
``It takes years for representational artists to develop their skills in mimicking the objects before their eyes.´´
This term simply refers to artwork featuring subject(s) that retain a fair amount of real-world characteristics. It is always representational and the audience is easily able to recognize what they are looking at, no matter what degree of realism is involved in the creation of the piece. The term figurative became a common term to use in art conversation after the arrival of abstract art.
Consider the following two artworks. Sargent and Matisse were both figurative artists, but they had VERY different styles!
For a very long time in history, realism was sought after by artists and praised by art appreciators. From the time the Greeks became obsessed with the human body and began studying its proportions to create beautiful marble sculptures representing their perfect Gods and Goddesses, to the Renaissance, when Filippo Brunelleschi discovered how to transmit perspective and depth on a flat, two dimensional surface, creating true-to-life art was what all artists strived to achieve.
Throughout history, mathematical and scientific advances allowed for both greater knowledge on part of the artist, as well as more effective artistic tools and supplies. It wasn't until the second half of the 19th century, with the surge of Impressionism, that realism started to be challenged by artists who wanted to explore further.
``Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes...Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an exploration into unknown areas.´´
Contrary to figurative art, abstract art does not attempt to represent subjects in an accurate or natural way. It is not the objective of this kind of artist to achieve realism, but to communicate emotions or ideas. These artists make use of Elements of Art such as shape, color, line and texture to create visually appealing compositions that are meant to express what is in their mind.
As mentioned before, this kind of artwork is usually also representational, as the artist has at least some sort of reference to work from. However, there are artists that do not use any particular reference, but apply their knowledge of Elements of Art and Color Psychology in order to very effectively transmit emotion. Abstract art can range from easily comprehensible to entirely geometrical/organic with no recognizable figures. One of the main characteristics of this type of artwork is that it interacts with the viewer in the sense that it calls out for interpretation.
With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution and the invention of camera, artists started seeking new ways to create artwork that went beyond a realistic representation of what they could see. The Impressionists were the first to start exploring use color and paint in new ways that would permit not only the rendering of a beautiful picture, but expression on part of the artist. They wanted to create work that the camera couldn't. It was in this time that the manipulation of color and shape started to occur. Later on, the Cubist movement brought forth an even greater degree of abstraction.
Though the stylized drawings on cave walls and symbolic stone sculptures created by prehistoric people are disregarded by some as simple decoration, they demonstrate that abstraction has been part of human life since its beginnings. Groups of people all over the world used shape, color and line to communicate ideas and created decorative designs on pottery and other tools. This means humans have been creating abstract art since we first had the need to express ourselves. Abstraction is not a completely ``contemporary´´ or ``modern´´ thing, but a style that has been with us all along.
Tips to Explore/Improve Both Art Styles:
1. Practice drawing both from life AND from quality photography. First focus on shape and proportion to create an effective outline drawing. Worry about detail and shading only after you have been successful in this. Once your ready, explore shading in whatever technique yo prefer (you can learn about hatching/crosshatching shading techniques and download free practice worksheets in my "Guide to Shading Techniques: Hatching, Cross-Hatching, Scribbling and Others" blog post).
2. Keep a sketchbook and use it CONTINUOUSLY as a means of exploration. Read about why it is important to keep a sketchbook and how to use it in order to improve in my blog post titled "Why Sketchbooks are Essential Tools for Artists and a Few Usage Tips". Your sketchbooks will be your best friends!
3. Whatever your subject or choice may be (portraits, landscapes, still life, etc.), study the elements involved INDEPENDENTLY. For example, if you wish to be a portrait artist, make time to study only eyes, then focus on noses, then lips, and so on BEFORE attempting to draw or paint a complete realistic face. If you want to do landscapes, make time to study different types of trees, how to paint clouds, water, and so on BEFORE attempting to create a complete realistic landscape. Explore your medium of choice and practice creating different colors and textures with it.
4. Always keep learning and practicing Art Fundamentals. No matter what your artistic style is or even what subject you wish to specialize in in the future, ALWAYS make time to practice things like form, perspective, anatomy and effective compositional arrangement. I created a blog post for beginners about perspective and drawing three dimensional shapes which includes free worksheets to practice with that you can read here. I will be expanding on different Art Fundamentals in the future, so stay tuned!
1. Practice the deliberate manipulation of Art Elements (be it color, shape, texture, etc.) in order to more efficiently transmit ideas or emotions. Maybe for you this will mean simply starting to use colors that are slightly more unnatural, bright or contrasted in order to make your drawings or paintings more impactful. Maybe it means arriving at your own, stylized version of a human figure.
Maybe you wish to bring out only a certain part of your drawing or painting by adding more detail to that area. Whatever this may be for you, think about the message behind your work and how you can modify reality in order to impact the viewer. Don't be afraid to break the rules!
2. Try using art supplies that FORCE you to pay less attention to small details. This goes especially if you are naturally prone to want to create high levels of realism. If you paint, try using larger brushes and/or creating a picture using less brush strokes! If you draw, try using a medium like charcoal or oil pastels that don't really allow for high level of detail.
Try to discern between what a picture has to NECESSARILY include in order to portray what you want to portray, and what can be left out. Also, try using techniques that will allow you to work faster and looser.
The following pieces have been explorations I have done in the past in order to gain practice at working faster and more loosely. This has been hard for me because I am prone to want to add detail, but I am seeing much progress with time!
3. Experiment and explore with unconventional supplies! Use ready-made things you have laying around in your studio or home like fabric, paper, pieces of plastic, etc. and think of them in terms of shapes, color and texture. How could they complement each other to create one same composition? Make your collection and think, are you drawn to these particular objects for a specific reason?
One of the best (and most fun) ways for me to explore shape, texture and color is by creating collages! They are something I start with no particular idea in mind, but new ideas always pop into my head throughout this process!
4. Look inwards and use internal stimulation instead of external stimulation to create your work. Give importance to getting to know yourself and think about what ideas and themes are important to YOU as a human being. Continuously write and brainstorm what comes into your mind. Start works based on these ideas instead of working from images or objects that exist beyond you. How can you use color, shape, texture, etc., to transmit your idea?
Making Time to Explore Both Styles
``What interests me is all the stuff that goes into abstract and abstract-figurative art. Not the styles, but the stuff that, in various combinations, make the styles: mixing and matching painting methods and ideas.´´
As artists, we should make time to explore both figurative and abstract art throughout our journeys because it will enhance the outcome of our work. I believe we should always seek improvement and be willing to step out of our comfort zones. On one hand, it's incredibly important to learn the rules before attempting to break them and to always make time to go back to the basics, no matter what level of expertise we have achieved. This will help us maintain our observational and rendering skills fresh.
On the other hand, we should explore new techniques that will enable more effective communication with our audience because, well, isn't that the point? Great art is engaging at a visceral level and makes people feel and/or think!
Personally, some of the artwork that has called out to me the most combines both figurative AND abstract techniques within them. This is what I seek to achieve some day with my work!
I'd love it if you could answer the quick survey below!
How to Effectively Use Other Artists' Work as Inspiration and a Great Method to Start Developing Your Own Artistic Style
Are you constantly trying to find inspiration by admiring other artists' work and find yourself copying more than you'd like? Do you feel like you are making no progress towards finding your own artistic style? Are you simply unable to produce as much original artwork as you'd like?
“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing."
In this post I will explain one of the methods I use to make sure I produce original artwork while getting inspired by other artists. This strategy is an amazing way to work towards finding and developing one's own artistic style. Plus, it's very fun!
The act of copying is a very delicate subject in the artistic field and just the word seems to put many of us on edge. I say, let's try to relax and admit that each one of us has been constantly inspired throughout his/her life by people, experiences, artwork (and by “artwork" I mean movies, music, theater, books, etc.), the environments we have lived in, advertising, and pretty much everything around us. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has a conscious or unconscious effect on us and, therefore, on the work we produce as artists.
We have all been influenced by a combination of different things and have different likes and dislikes. This is not to say that two different artists are never going to produce similar work. There are bound to be similarities amongst us in terms of technique and/or subject matter because there are only a certain amount of techniques and subjects to work with.
However, if we put in the effort to discover ourselves as artists (what techniques/supplies we enjoy working with most, what our own distinctive abilities as well as areas of improvement are, what ideas we want to put out into the world, etc.), we will eventually get to a point at which our work will be a direct representation of ourselves.
This is, in my opinion, what matters most and what I am personally working towards. At this point in my artistic journey I allow myself to admire and analyze other peoples' work, but make sure that the bulk of my time goes towards looking inwards and doing my best to apply what I have learned in my own way.
Having said all this, let's begin!
The Artist Mishmash Exercise
To begin you will need a phone, computer, or any other device on which to search for existing artwork, a few pieces of blank paper and a pencil. Make a list of three artists that create work you greatly admire. If you have already created a Pinterest inspiration board like I have, go ahead an use it! If not, now is the time to investigate.
I really recommend keeping it at only three and trying to select artists that produce very different types of artwork. Once you have finalized your list, and perhaps read a bit about each artist if you don't know about them already, analyze several of pieces of each, and write down four to five specific characteristics that you have found in each artist's work.
a) Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
French artist Toulouse-Lautrec was both a painter and an illustrator. He is known for his provocative paintings and drawings depicting the decadent Parisian nightlife, that he was a part of himself. He created many posters and advertisements for nightclubs including the Moulin Rouge, and elevated advertising to a fine art status. He was a skilled Post-Impressionist painter that experimented with a variety of techniques and supplies. In his posters, he made use of bold, flat shapes of color.
Characteristics of his work I really like:
-Roughness/raw quality of his work in both subject and technique
-Bold use of color, perhaps unnatural at times
-Variety of mediums and substrates used in his sketches and paintings (charcoal, pastels, oils, lithographs, graphite, crayons, canvas, paper, cardboard, etc. )
-Hand-lettering in posters
b) Hannah Höch (1889-1978)
Höch was a German visual artist that is considered the pioneer of the photomontage technique. Her work transmitted deeply rooted social and political messages regarding issues that were occurring at the time (sexism, war, etc.). Though she also worked with oil paints, she is primarily known for her bold collages created with images taken from fashion magazines as well as illustrated journals. Her work conveyed strong, important messages, but were humorous at the same time.
Characteristics of her work I really like:
-Collage/photomontage technique (I think it's quite interesting how we can take bits and bobs of already existing images and create a whole new meaning for them by combining and rearranging them)
-Charged with deep meaning about political/social issues but humorous at the same time
-Incorporation of popular elements into artwork
c) Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Hopper was an American artist that started his artistic career as an illustrator and turned into a fine artist later on. He is considered to be one of the most important realist painters of the twentieth century. His enigmatic artwork depicts the loneliness of modern urban life in America. The arrangement of elements within his compositions, as well as his amazing use of light/shadow and detail, create very visually striking pieces that very effectively create tension and emotion in the viewer.
Characteristics of his work I really like:
-Realist style but not literal copy (certain degree of interpretive rendering that makes artwork more expressive)
-Artwork tells a story or makes the audience think
-Use of color and contrast creates very striking imagery
-Feeling of mystery and solitude
Alright! Once you have your three artists, and you have listed a few characteristics of each person's work, start brainstorming ideas in which you could incorporate most of these into one same piece. Create several different sketches! You don't have to use ALL of the points you've written down, but make sure to at least use one characteristic of each artist.
Having trouble? Consider these tips.
-Start with the artist that uses subjects or styles that you have a bit of practice in already and then see how you can incorporate characteristics of the other two.
-Instead of wasting too much time thinking of the overall idea you want your drawing/painting to transmit, start drawing ONE object/person/animal/shape and add to it as you go. You'll start making connections between the elements you start adding.
-After you have learned a bit about your favorite artists, think of an idea that is personal to YOU and YOUR LIFE, and then think about how one particular artist might go about representing that particular idea.
Once you have selected an idea to work with, go ahead and start with your final piece! Remember, this is an exercise and is not meant to produce a finalized artwork. As with all types of explorations, try to have fun with it and not pressure yourself to create something perfect. If a great idea for a final piece, awesome! If not, at least you learned something new!
After having sketched out a few different ideas, I selected one and created a composition in Photoshop using five different pictures. I used this (digital) collage as reference as I drew and painted. In this piece, I used a variety of supplies and techniques including watercolor pencils, Prismacolor Soft-Core pencils, Gamsol, watercolor paints, black gouache and even a bit of charcoal. Some areas in the painting are purposely made to look more realistic and polished than others. Finally, I did my best to create an image that propelled the viewer to think about and interpret what he/she is seeing.
Which are YOUR three favorite artists and what is it about their artwork you love so much? Do you think any of these characteristics can be found in your own work? I'd ABSOLUTELY LOVE it if you took a minute to comment below! Let me know if you use the Artist Mishmash technique! I'd love to see what you come up with!
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