I usually like having reference photos or real life objects in front of me to get inspired by when creating an artwork. Even though I am not particularly interested in taking the hyperrealist route, I use photographs because they remind me of details that I may or may not choose to include in my painting (or drawing), and might otherwise forget. I have found that, at times, it is these little details in photographs that my painting was lacking in order to become great. Perhaps when I become experienced enough as an artist I will have sufficient information stored in my mind to be able to paint anything without needing a reference, but I really doubt it. There are a lot of very experienced people out there that use reference photos and most of my favorite artists in history did as well. Having something to look at, even if you aren’t trying to create a perfect replica of it, is super useful.
This said, I have to admit that I am very much against tracing and even using grids (after you have arrived at a certain level of ability). I don’t even like to print out reference images, but prefer to work directly from my computer screen or from real life. Many artists recommend printing out the picture before starting a painting and working from it in order to ensure colors, values and proportions are true to the image. If you are going for something very realistic or simply believe it will be more comfortable for you, go ahead and print the image. I personally don’t because my style doesn't involve recreating images 100%. Even if it means my version of the reference will end up slightly distorted, have colors that may look a bit unnatural, or certain angles don’t completely make sense, I like this more because there is more of myself in my artwork. I view imperfections and deliberate modifications by the artist as good things. All of this is my opinion and my personal way of working. Finally, tracing doesn't help an artist exercise observational and drawing skills as much as drawing from life or from a separate image does. I really recommend not doing it after you have surpassed that initial level of drawing, no matter how hard it may be at first.
Getting back to photography, making time to take photos of the subjects you are most drawn to is incredibly important for an artist. In a previous post I talked about how sometimes it’s difficult to make time for this. I've shared links to sites that offer free quality photos that you can use to create artwork from and even sell (click here to go to this post). These sites are lifesavers for us who have a full or part time job aside from being artists and don't always have the time necessary to do an actual photo session. I don't think there is anything wrong in using photos that aren't ours in these cases, as long as we have permission to do so. I believe that using them to get daily practice in is SO much better than doing nothing at all. However, there is nothing as rewarding as creating an artwork completely on your own, from start to finish. Going though the process of brainstorming and visualization, finding the actual object(s) you want to shoot, sketching out composition ideas and arriving at the photo that you will later be using to create your artwork, may be a lot of work, but it is totally worth it at the end.
Photography is definitely an art form in itself and learning to take perfect photos takes a lot of learning and practice. I took my first Photography class when I was in High School and later on took a course in university in which we were still actually processing photos in dark rooms (man do I feel old)! It is important to know that simply taking a photo doesn't ensure that it will be able to be used for a drawing or painting. Things like resolution and lighting can make a photo extremely difficult to work with and even result in bad art. Below I am sharing a few key things to keep in mind when taking reference photos for your artwork. As artists, we should spend more time doing drawing and painting than taking photos, so we should make the process as simple but effective as possible.
Things to have in mind when taking reference photos for your art:
Here are a couple of good pictures I ended up with that I will definitely be using to create some paintings. Try not to get too hungry!
Thanks so much for reading! I hope this was helpful!
"You want to make an omelette? You've gotta break some eggs."
-Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
In today's post, I will be taking you through the process of preparing an old canvas painting in order to reuse it to make a new artwork! I am a firm believer in using what we have and in being as resourceful as possible in our explorations. Because, as most of you already know, us artists explore a WHOLE darn lot and we have to be smart about how we spend our money.
First and foremost, a bit about the original painting. This canvas was a part of an artwork composed of three separate panels (three long rectangles meant to be hung vertically side by side). The paintings are 35 years old, at least. Probably more. Another important note is that these artworks seem to have been created using very thin applications of acrylic paint. It is definitely not oil. And they don’t have much texture to them at all. I took all of these points into consideration when I decided to use them in my explorations. I knew resurfacing them was going to be easy and that they presented good opportunities for me to work on a size and format I had never worked on before.
Secondly, I used regular Gesso I had at hand in order to resurface my canvas. There is a lot of debate whether or not it is ¨safe¨ to use oil paint on a canvas prepped with gesso. A lot of folks believe that it should not be done because it is just a recipe for cracking, peeling and an overall less durable painting. Other artists believe that a good quality Gesso can serve as base for practically any type of paint or medium. I think it is up to you to figure out if this will work for your specific type of artwork or not, and the only way of finding this out is through first-hand experimentation. Perhaps your just experimenting and learning like me, and aren't really looking to create a masterpiece that will be passed on from generation to generation. In this case, it doesn't really matter. Something you DO have to keep in mind is that if your goal is to resurface an old oil painting, a whole new set of rules apply. Regular Gesso cannot be used for this purpose. You would need an oil-specific ground and/or primer (I will not go into this process today because it is not something I have personally tried). So, once again, you CAN create an oil painting over traditional Gesso, but you CANNOT apply gesso over an oil painting. Are you with me?
I personally didn't worry much about creating an impeccable surface for this project because, as previously stated, I knew since the beginning that this was mostly an exploration for me. However, if it worries you, a solution is to apply Lindseed Oil prior to starting the painting process. Simply brush this all over the previously dried gesso and allow it to soak for about 24 hours. Afterwards, wipe off the canvas with a dry cloth and let the games begin! The idea is that the gesso will absorb some of this oil and it is less likely to make the painting crack later.
How to Reuse an Old Canvas Using Gesso:
You will need:
-Old canvas painting/print/pretty much whatever as long as it's not an oil painting
-Thick used up/cheap brush
-Glass containers for water
-Linseed oil (*Optional)
1. Wipe clean the old artwork. Make sure it is clear of dust and other particles.
2. Sandpaper the surface using light pressure and focusing on highly textured areas. Don’t fret so much about getting the surface super even if the painting has a lot of texture to it. Wipe surface using a cloth.
3. Apply first layer of Gesso as evenly as possible and allow to dry for a couple of hours. If your Gesso is too thick and this bothers you, you can add a bit of water to it. Make sure that first layer completely dries before continuing with the next step. If it feels damp to the touch, this means you should wait longer.
3. If you want to start off with a textured surface, simply apply a second layer of Gesso. If you don't want so much texture, sand your surface gently once more, wipe to remove particles, and apply second layer of Gesso (you can sand it once more after it dries).
At this point it should be ready to be painted on! But if you are still a bit nervous about not having a quality surface to work on, use the Linseed Oil suggestion I mentioned before. I will be trying this out on the next one!
To end this post, I would like to encourage you to always keep learning and not be afraid of devoting time to a process that might not produce the most amazing of artworks. Keep experimenting and be proud of yourself for simply going through a learning process. I firmly believe that the process matters more than the final outcome in both life AND our artistic journeys.
After I have devoted a solid amount of time into any artwork, I like to analyze it and make notes about what I learned throughout the process. In this case, here is what I wrote:
Here are a few little paintings I did last week in my efforts to step out of my comfort zone. I felt like it was time to challenge myself with new subjects that I don't usually choose to draw or paint. I think it is essential for artists to schedule in time every now and then for experimentation with different types of techniques, supplies and/or subjects because throughout these we are able not only to expand our abilities, but we are also able to learn about our own likes, dislikes and possible areas of opportunity. In my opinion, an artist should never stop learning and improving. We are creatives and most of us are innately curious creatures. We should use this curiosity to propel us to learn.
Here are my five suggestions to break out of an artistic rut:
1. Try drawing/painting an object, person, landscape (or whatever it is you usually create) in a different perspective. Do you always draw things from side view? Try doing a top view! Try doing extreme close-ups! It's impressive how much we can learn when we try to draw or paint a subject we've done a million times before, only in a different angle or arrangement!
2. Use different supplies to create your artwork. Do you usually create pencil drawings? Try a drawing with pens or charcoal sticks! Do you usually paint with watercolors? Try acrylics or gouache! You can even create a mixed-media artwork with a combination of supplies! You'll notice that in the boat and sofa studies I used my LePen Drawing pen which I had never used with watercolors before.
3. Pick a different subject all-together. Are you usually drawn to painting faces? Create a landscape or a still life piece! How can your current style translate into an artwork with a different kind of primary subject?
4. Plan and prepare a limited color palette that includes colors you wouldn't normally use. Take a look at the work you have created lately. Do you mostly use warm colors? Try using mostly cool (or vice versa)! Is there a specific color you usually leave out? Try creating a palette that includes it! Do you usually like a lot of color in your paintings? Try selecting a triad or analogous colors in the color wheel and only work with those! You can also try to select one color and use it as undertone for all the other colors you use in your painting.
5. Create Pinterest boards (or a folder in your computer) to collect artwork that calls to you for your own reference/inspiration. Check mine out here! You can then go back to it in times of experimentation and pinpoint specific things you'd like to try out. You feel attracted to these artworks for a reason! Try to target and make notes of specific characteristics you like (maybe it's the colors the artist used, the line work, how effectively emotions are transmitted, etc.) and try to implement it in your own original artwork.
Lastly, just do it! Don't sit there hours on end trying to decide. Just take action! And remember, these studies aren't meant to be masterpieces. It's more about what you learn during the process than the end product. I suggest trying your best to power through the drawing or painting so that your study reaches some form of conclusion. Make notes of what was difficult, what you have to make sure to do differently next time, or any new ideas that you'd like to try.
I leave you with a great quote by French artist Eugene Delacroix:
“The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing."
Are you an artist? Have you always known you wanted to dedicate your life to creating art? I didn't until quite recently.
I've been extremely creative since I was a little girl. Not only did I like to draw, but I also liked to do all sorts of DIY's, collaging and writing. I wrote A LOT. I kept journals, wrote short stories and also poetry in both English and Spanish. I've always had my head full of different ideas and never really paid any mind to doing things the way others around me did them. At an early age I already knew that life is too short to spend doing things that we don't really want to do.
That said, I've also always known that it takes hard work, determination and patience to get to where we want to be in life. Most of us have to be willing to ¨pay our dues¨ and do whatever it takes to eventually get there (within reason). Of course, before any of that happens, we have to find out what our life goals truly are and make sure that they are coming from within ourselves and not external factors that are pressuring us to be specific types of people. This journey, in itself, takes time and courage. It is not easy to find out what will truly make us happy. The lucky ones are able to figure out their goals early in life and start paving their road towards success early on, others take longer. We are all different. Personally, I had to experience a lot of different things before realizing that what truly makes me happy is to create art and to feel the confidence that I can make something of this gift that I have been given.
When I finished High School I decided Graphic Design would be the best option for me because, in my head, it was Art-related and I would have more of a chance to pursue steadier job opportunities as opposed to the Fine/Studio Arts Major. I have a wonderful mother who always supported my decisions and taught me that I could achieve anything that I put my mind and effort to, but I never really saw becoming a ¨Fine Artist¨ per se as a serious option for my future. I guess I bought into the whole ¨starving artist" mentality somehow and thought of it more as a hobby than something that could actually generate an income to life off of.
I maintained a scholarship while in university and went off to work at Graphic Design and Advertising agencies after graduation. I enjoyed it and learned A LOT from very talented people but eventually I started to feel like something was missing. Though I enjoy Graphic Design and will probably always do design work in some way, I discovered through those job experiences that I didn't want to spend all day in front of a computer. I wanted to experiment with supplies, get my hands dirty and create something from scratch. And though I firmly believe that the best Graphic Design work initiates with hand-drawn sketches, in day-to-day agency life the workload, tight timeframes, and the need to use pre-determined style guidelines doesn't allow for much experimentation and creation as I would have liked. So after a while I decided to resign and look for something that would make me happier, though I was completely lost at that point and had no idea what that might be. Sure, I sketched every now and then, but that was pretty much it. I don't regret choosing Graphic Design as a major. What I learned in university and these first Graphic Design jobs will forever be engrained in my head and will probably always influence my artwork in some way. Also, what I learned regarding design software and technology will only improve my work.
After resigning, I spent several months doing freelance work just to keep some money coming in and my portfolio fresh, but I was really confused as to what to do next. Part of me felt like I had wasted 6+ years (between my studies and first jobs) in a field that would end up draining me out. I had a little devil standing on my shoulder telling me that I was never going to find a job that would make me happy and I was simply going to have to accept that work is not meant to be enjoyed.
I was running out of the money I had saved up and, out of nowhere, came this opportunity to work as a First Grade Teacher's Assistant at a great private school. I went for it and I really enjoyed it. Later on in the year I became interested in the Art Teaching position and started learning more about what the job entailed. It seemed like a blast, but I surely didn't have the experience of organizing and managing a functional Art room for over 250 students at a time. A new campus of the same school was opening in a different part of the city and, with it, came the possibility of applying for the job. So I did and that is how I ended up in the position I was in for the last five years. I honestly lucked-out big time and thank my lucky stars for the opportunity I was given!
I quickly learned that teaching Art in a school environment is extremely difficult. I have posted about it before (read my post about Arts Advocacy in the School Environment/My Ideas for Effective Student Art Exhibits here and my post about The Dangers of Striving for Artistic Perfection here). Obviously, when you are teaching its more about what your students learn and experience during your classes that what you do personally, so you firstly have to love children and education. Between class planning, grading, meetings, professional developments, communicating with parents, and organizing/mounting student Art Exhibits, there is little time for anything else. When my work days ended I felt completely exhausted, but fulfilled. I felt like I was leaving something positive in others by using my own gifts and there's simply nothing like it. I was on my feet for most of the day, using my hands to experiment with a wide array of supplies and it seemed like my mind had to be working non-stop throughout the day to solve a million things at once in creative ways.
Throughout those five years I not only developed both personal and professional skills that are extremely valuable to have, but once more I got closer to what I really wanted to dedicate my life to. I was able to conclude that I enjoyed Art more than I enjoyed Graphic Design. Of course, the art I was making was mostly for class purposes or for school events and I did little to no art for myself probably until my last year teaching. During my first few years in the position I didn't have the usual teaching vacation periods because I was studying to get my Master in Education degree during times off from work (sometimes even simultaneously), so I didn't even have that. Most Art Teachers I got to know (especially school Art Teachers), stopped making Art for themselves because they simply didn't have time to between keeping up with job responsibilities and/or taking care of their families. All of these things started to bother me more and more.
At the end of the last school year I had made the decision to get serious about my art and that I wasn't going to approach it as a hobby or something secondary. I discovered that I adored teaching but, at a personal level, I NEEDED to make art for myself. I YEARNED to have the time to experiment with different techniques, improve my skills and find a personal art style that I could eventually share with the world. I KNEW that if I made time for this, I would not only be much happier, but I would also be able to offer a lot more to my students in the future. I knew that I had to make a decision about what to do soon, especially because I was already over 30.
And thus came my decision to resign from my wonderful full-time teaching position and only teach part time. It took me around 14 years of studies and jobs to discover what is important to me and what I need to do to be happy, but I realize that those years were not lost. I personally needed to go through that time of self-discovery. I also needed to build up those personal and professional skills that will help me pave the road towards success. I can honestly say that my true objectives in life became clear to me until recently and it isn't until now that I actually have the courage to ignore other people's expectations and dedicate my time/energy to becoming an artist.
There are people that live their whole lives and never pay any special attention to what they TRULY want. Many of us are too pressured by external factors (time, money, OTHER PEOPLE, difficult situations in our living environments, etc.) that we simply give in to the idea that life has to be lived a certain specific way. We ignore that little voice in our heads that asks ¨What if I had....?" every now and then, doing what is safe and what is expected. I am extremely thankful that I finally have discovered what makes me happy and that, after a lot of hard work (and perhaps some luck), I am in a position to be able to work towards my dreams.
Thank you for reading this extremely long and personal post. I'd LOVE to hear from you! Did you decide to go for a ¨safe¨ career choice due to external pressures? Was it always clear for you that you wanted to dedicate every available moment to make art and that you wanted to make a career of it? Are you an artist that is struggling to live from your art? Drop me a line and I'll write back!
I am naturally kind of an obsessive person. I tend to put too much of myself into everything I do to the point that I have put my own health behind completing tasks to the absolute best of my abilities. And I mean WHATEVER task, not only art-related. I didn't know how to say ¨no¨ and didn't stop working until I was completely spent, always striving for perfection. This is one of the reasons why, about two years ago, I made a commitment to myself to put my own priorities and health first, before anything/anyone else. I know there are a lot of people out there like me.
I also studied Graphic Design in which presentation is a very important part of projects. I remember the first semesters were extremely tough because professors took off points for nearly non-existing pencil/eraser marks, etc. So I learned that, to be a designer, I wasn't only expected to find super creative and highly effective visual solutions to problems, but also that they have to be presented in a professional and organized manner, fully backed up by research and facts. After graduating with a BA in Graphic Design, I worked in agencies and advertising firms for several years. I was surrounded by very talented people that I was able to learn a lot from and I also learned a lot about technology/software. I am extremely thankful for that.
Then came a HUGE shift in my professional life in which, after burning out from working so many extra hours (and not being paid extra for a single one of those hours- Yay Mexico!), I ended up as an Art Teacher at a private school teaching around 250 students each semester. At the beginning, my mind kind of imploded. It is safe to say that neat freaks would not last in this kind of job. Trying to get 25 students at a time to advance their art projects in a period of 48 minutes (clean-up included), while also grading and managing behavior problems, is INSANE. Several times throughout the day, you have another group waiting outside that is expecting to come into a relatively clean and organized classroom and will be working on a project completely different from the group before it (at times I go from 5th to 7th or 8th to 6th, etc.). Those first two years, I taught art to levels Kinder all through to Middle School students with no experience teaching Pre-School and with no assistant at all. Perfectionism, cleanliness and neatness was simply out-of-the-question. There is constant chaos going on and you have to keep calm to make things work. As a teacher in general, I think you have to learn to let go of things. There is so much going on at once, that you have to learn to discern what is most important from what isn't and keep moving forward or you simply will not get through the day. All of this while being patient and always well-mannered. You are an example for your students after all.
After five years on this beautiful roller coaster, I have learned many things at both professional and personal levels. For one, I learned that perfectionism is not as good as I initially thought it was. It is not good because, in life, one of the most important things is to keep moving forward and perfection hinders our progression. Think about it. Life goes by fast and, once we have decided what it is we truly want, we have to use our time wisely in order to get there. Perfectionism comes together with anxiety and fear and, in my opinion, is a complete waste of time. Whether something is perfect or not, it doesn't matter. What matters is that we are learning and improving. Once we understand that and the fact that EVERYONE else is also a work in progress, it becomes easier to put ourselves and our creations out there for the world to see, even if it is scary. I think this is an essential part of being an artist.
I am also extremely thankful for having the opportunity to teach Art because I have learned that I love Art and Illustration perhaps even more than I like Graphic Design. Throughout these years teaching, I have drawn, painted and experimented with different types of media much more than I ever did before. I have discovered my passion for traditional media and working with my hands. I have learned that we, as humans, are imperfect and it would be, therefore, ridiculous to expect constant perfection. Finally, I have learned that we should embrace life as an opportunity to progress towards who we want to be and what we want to create, always remembering (and not being ashamed of) the work we put in to get there.
Yesterday I attempted to paint a watercolor face and, after trying three times, I gave up and decided to go to sleep because I had an appointment in the morning I had to wake up early for.
Here are two of the three sketches I made on good watercolor paper which I then painted and ruined. At least I got in my face drawing practice for the day (silver lining!).
I'm usually a pretty stubborn person and think (maybe naively?) that I can accomplish whatever I set out to accomplish. However, when things simply don't turn out the way you want them to by the third try and two hours later all you have to show for yourself are three pieces of ripped, crumpled paper, it's easy to start second-guessing yourself and your abilities.
Yes, I got a little frustrated and mad at myself for wasting my good watercolor paper. Nonetheless, I took a breather and reminded myself that the time I put in was not wasted at all. In fact, I learned many things from my failures that I will be applying the next time I try this out again. I also reminded myself that, I cannot expect myself to create a masterpiece after having only dedicated a short amount of time to this particular technique applied to this particular subject. I reminded myself that every artist has his/her own strengths and weaknesses and that this is a good thing. This is what sets us apart from each other and gives us space to grow and explore. We are also human beings and every single day has its own set of variables which may be affecting us mentally and/or physically.
If you ever have what I call a ¨Bad Art Day¨, give yourself a break. This doesn't mean you are a bad artist or that you should stop altogether. Don't let yourself be consumed by your frustrations and take this as a sign to do other things that are important in life as well. You could clean/organize your workspace, play with your pet, get a workout in, prepare some healthy food, spend time with loved ones, watch a good movie, etc. All of these activities will affect your work in a positive way when you get back to it later.
As a creative, what brings me the most fulfillment is probably the act of producing something that started in my own brain and was made with my own hands. The sense of elation that I get from creating is something like a drug to me. I get obsessed with this feeling and wanting to improve in order to create even bigger and better things. I am also an introvert and have no problem spending my entire day indoors working, so I have to make an effort to stop and do something else. It is important to remind myself that I am not a machine and more areas of my life need attention. What's more, it is the experiences we have in life that bring us the strongest inspiration. Think of how much better your art would be if you dedicated time to your mind and body and actually made time to enjoy what life has to offer!
If you ever have a Bad Art Day, take a breather. This is normal. Don't be so hard on yourself and think of how far you have come. Nothing great comes easy and/or fast. If you are anything like me and you like constantly stepping up to challenges, congratulate yourself for even trying. Stepping our of your comfort zone is an act of bravery and will ultimately lead to growth. If you are putting in the work, trust that you are getting better and keep going after having taken a mental break. If you know in your heart that this is your passion, don't ever give up.
Hey guys! Journalist Frank Lee asked me if I'd be interested in co-producing this very interesting infographic describing 10 of the things we designers dislike the most when working with clients. I've definitely experienced some (if not all) of these problems when working at agencies as well as freelancing. Wouldn't our jobs be so much more enjoyable if these things didn't happen? Check these out and leave a comment if you think of any other issues that aren't mentioned!
Find discounts and coupons for over 10,000 stores at: http://www.coupongoo.com/home/