Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sketchbook Tuesday

11 x 14 charcoal on toned paper

     I almost forgot about this drawing. This morning I had to go and take down the paintings from a solo show I've had going on for the last two months (I know, I forgot to tell you guys about it, oops!), and there it was!

     I'm really pretty fond of it, and it was one of those pieces that flowed and came together just how I wanted it to. I love it when that happens:) Why can't that happen every time?

     The thing I found the most striking about this horse was the deep contrast between her muzzle and the rest of her light gray body. And she has a very pretty face too. Also the lighting is gorgeous, which never hurts.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Motivational Monday, some progress, and some randomness

Making some progress with this colored pencil piece, slooooowly. Basic skin tones laid in here, deep rich shadows are next! And his forehead, ear. . . and hair :)

     No, I could not just leave this alone, like some of you suggested in my earlier post (which was a very good suggestion by the way). I had to finish it. I did really like where it was, but I'm really getting irritated with my stack of unfinished projects.

     Seriously, today I sorted through some paintings that were finished, but still stretched to their board, and paintings that were at varying stages of completion. My tower of unfinished work threatened to topple over on me. It was scary. Note to self: finish what you start!!

     So, I am :) even if it takes me forever.

And just for fun, here is a photo of my current work space. Because we're all visual people here and we like photos, especially behind the scenes ones. Oh wait, is that just me? :)

      My two oldest kids are back in school, and my youngest naps when they're gone so I can work at my desk now, instead of the kitchen table! Huzzah! I feel so professional :) And for those of you who have sharp eyes, why yes that is a nearly completed manuscript of my Young Adult novel sitting on that desk. I am so close to being finished with it, so close!

     And last but not least, since it is Motivational Monday I have a fantastic quote to leave you with. I read this in a magazine yesterday and I thought it was perfect! But just now I had to spend 15 minutes looking for it again because I forgot which magazine it was in. Why, oh why didn't I just write it down in my handy dandy idea notebook? Because I can't find it, it's gone missing at the moment.

     No, I'm not blushing. . . well, maybe a little bit. :)

"Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best."  - Henry Van Dyke

     It's a good one isn't it?

     So, that's what's happening with me. What about you guys? What's going on with you?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Eyes So Blue

"Eyes So Blue"

10 x 14 watercolor

"Where did you come from baby dear?
Out of the everywhere, into the here.
Where did you get your eyes so blue?
Out of the sky when I came through.
What makes your forehead so smooth and high?
A soft hand stroked it as I went by.
What makes your cheek like a warm, white rose?
Something better than anyone knows.
Where did you get that pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.
How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me and so I grew.
But how did you come to us Baby Dear?
God thought of you, and so I am here."
 -George MacDonald

A painting of my baby, when he was just a baby. This one is very dear to my heart.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

10 things I've learned since my high school art class

      Okay folks, are you ready for this?

      Who else is gonna be brave and post some of their high school/older artwork?


      I dare you.

     Come on, who can back down from a dare? ;)

      When I was in high school I took every art class they offered. I had special permission from my art teacher to take the AP (advanced placement, if you pass it you earn college credit while still in high school) art test my junior year, and my senior year (at the time, which was about 13 years ago, they offered a general AP test and a drawing test). I was in heaven.

      For my portfolio I had to have a theme, and a common style to my work. This is what I came up with:

      Lots and lots of these paintings and drawings of people. Mostly girls in prom dresses, or at the beach, or putting on makeup, or kissing their boyfriends (yes, I was a typical fashion and boy crazed teenager. I admit it.) These were all done in watercolor with pen and ink details. They were so. much. fun.

     The emphasis was always more on the design, than it was the accuracy of the figure. I whipped out these little drawings, (mostly from my imagination or some fashion magazine) then painted the washes in. This is where I began to learn how to handle watercolor.

This is a sketch of a Native American, his head is close to his horse, not his girlfriend ;)

     My art teacher always said, that abstraction and design was preferred over realism, and that it was the one sure way to make your work stand out enough to the judges to get you to pass the test. So that's what I did, as much as I could. But I never felt like I was creating artwork that really said 'me'. I was just doing what I thought the judges wanted to see.

     It's taken me a long time to finally come to terms with painting the way I want to. And now, I feel happy about that. Here are ten things I know now that I wish I could go back and tell my 16 year old self.

1. There is no ONE way to make art. If someone tells you there is, they are wrong. It's that simple.

2. If you want to paint horses and puppies, then paint them. Don't paint something just because you think other people will like it. Paint what you like, and it will appeal to others as well. Images that come from the deepest desires of your heart will always touch other people too.

3. Not everyone is going to like what you paint. That's okay. Who cares? You like it, that's what matters.

4. You can teach yourself how to paint and draw the way you want to. It's a learnable skill. Practice, practice, practice. Study, learn, repeat.

5. Believe in yourself. If you don't, no one else will either.

6. The smell of instant coffee still reminds you of Mr. Crowther (your art teacher). And he was right about doing all those contour line drawings. Suck it up, do them, and be thankful.

7. Your first realistic portrait? 'Tis not beautiful. That's okay, try, try again. Learn from it what you can, don't get discouraged, and try again.

8. Don't give up. Not even when you think you suck. Because you don't.

9.  Prayer helps. A lot.

10. Your favorite watercolor brush is still a size 6. And also a ten. :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

WIP Wednesday

watercolor work in progress 8 x 10
for purchasing information please email me at crystal@crystalcookart.com

     Getting closer. But still, a long way to go. The body of the horse and the head is pretty much finished, but the mane, bridle and the rider's hand still need to be finished.  Then when I have all of that finished I'll go through it and see what needs to be strengthened. All those little last minute pieces.

     Oh yeah, and the horse's teeth and tongue. Jeez, how could I forget that? ;)

      I'm keeping this post short and sweet today because tomorrow my friends, oh boy, tomorrow I am going to be posting some of my art from high school (brave!!) and ten things I've learned about art since then. I hope I've learned more than ten things since then, but ten sounded like a good number.

      Now I really must go, I keep getting interrupted by a little hand tugging on my pants and asking for "pease?!" more snacks. He's starting to get a little peeved with me I think. Until tomorrow :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sketchbook Tuesday, something a little different this time

my sketch of Steven Kellogg's 'Pinkerton'

      When me and my sister were little, every year on our birthday my mom would hang up a big banner she made for us. It said "Happy Birthday" of course, and then all around the letters were drawings she had done of our favorite things. Mine had lots of horses on it, and puppies, and I think even Rainbo Brite or Care Bears, or whatever my favorite books or movies were at the time.

      A few years ago she started the tradition again with her grandkids (my mom is really awesome at drawing, but she thinks she's not, can you believe that?). Now each of my boys have a birthday banner of their own, and every year we add whatever new thing they're into right now.

    My youngest son turned two this week, so on Sunday I pulled out his banner and started adding to it. I ended up looking through a bunch of my kids favorite picture books for a long time. I was sucked into the memory of reading them their favorite bedtime story over and over again.

      It's funny how you always think things will stay the same, that nothing will change, while at the same time knowing in your heart, even if you don't want to acknowledge it, that they won't.

      Anyway, I found this book that was a collection of Steven Kellogg's best children's stories. I love his books. When I was little I could look at his illustrations for hours, noticing every little detail. His books about Pinkerton ended up being some of my oldest boy's favorites too. I think it's because we just so happened to have a giant dog that is an awful lot like Pinkerton. Seriously. But we love him.

      I took a few minutes and drew this little sketch. It's not my original creation, but it was fun. And the whole time I drew it I kept thinking about my oldest boy, who's just eight years old, and how much he loved Pinkerton.

      Sometimes I think it's okay to slow down and create whatever it is that moves you. Even if it's not your own, even if some people think it's silly, even if it serves no purpose whatsoever other than reminding you that life is good.

Monday, August 23, 2010

If you think you can, you CAN

     This is a picture of a card I found last year when I was browsing through a craft store. I love that little duck, so I grabbed it and read the quote on the front which is one of my favorites. If you can't read it, it says:

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."
Walt Disney

Then I opened it up and on the inside it says:

If you think you can, you can.

     I found this little two dollar card so inspiring that I bought it and set it on my art desk for a long time. Then I started carrying it around in my notebook where I write down ideas for future paintings, or stories and somehow it got lost. I was sad, I looked everywhere for it, but couldn't find it. Those of you who really know me, know that this is not uncommon, I ALWAYS misplace things. ALWAYS.

     Then yesterday, I found it! Yay! So I thought I would share it with you. I think self doubt is one of the biggest problems for artists, we never think we're good enough, or talented enough, or capable, or clever. We have a hard time believing that good things can happen to us and our work. But we're wrong. We are all talented, fabulous, inspired and hard working. We can do this.

     If you think you can, you can.

     Happy Monday everyone. Have a great day :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Another work in progress

 colored pencil portrait, work in progress

      I've been working on this portrait on and off for the last little while. I haven't made all that much progress with it, and this is still pretty rough. I'm just blocking in the basic placement of features, and starting to lay in some color. It still has a long way to go.

      But it's fun. There's something kind of therapeutic about working slowly with my pencils. Although I do tend to get discouraged when it takes me an hour to lay in the basic skin tones, which would have taken me minutes with my watercolor. Have I mentioned that I'm impatient? ;)

      I'm also going to count this as a sketchbook post for the week. Why? Ahem. . . because I used pencils. I know, I know not quite the same, but it'll have to do.

     Have a great weekend everyone! And thanks to all of you for taking the time to stop by, I appreciate it so much. Every comment makes me smile a little more, you guys are great!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

WIP Wednesday

Step two of my current watercolor work in progress
8 x 10

Step one, basic placement of features and colors

Here's what I'm working on right now. This piece is going to be part of the holiday invitational I'm a part of, but I'm going to make it available for purchase here first, to the viewers of my blog and my Facebook friends. If you're interested in reserving it let me know at crystal@crystalcookart.com by September 1st. Thanks everyone!

      One of the thing's I like about this horse (photo provided by photography by Jenny Martinez) is his mane. I loved the movement there, and I really think this is just a dynamic pose, it's of a horse and rider roping a steer.

      Something interesting about the horse is the position of his ears, he's listening to his rider. His ears aren't flat against his head (which would mean he was ticked off) and they're not pricked at attention (which would mean he could care less about that stupid human on his back). He's listening, he's excited, he wants to hunt down that cow, he's a team with his rider, and I think that is very cool :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beautiful Girl

"Beautiful Girl"
original watercolor 10 x 14

     I took a little more time with this painting. I could see that it was headed in the direction I wanted to go and I didn't want to rush it and make a mistake. I'm happy with it, I think it captured what I was trying to express.

     My niece is at the age where she's in between, not quite adult, but not a child either and I wanted to try and capture some of that transition here.

     I was captivated by her fresh, glowing skin tones, the pattern of shadows across her face, and the way the sun lit up her hair. I also really  loved her expression. She knew I was trying to get a picture of her and I caught her just as she glanced over at me, before she had time to pose or hide her face, but she's obviously humoring me. I think you can see a little of that in her eyes. She's such a beautiful girl, inside and out. :)

      I've fallen behind on my schedule of blog posts, this week is going to be a little different. Sketchbook Tuesday is going to be on Thursday, but everything else should stay the same. I'm starting a new painting today for my WIP post tomorrow. It's always so exciting to start something new, don't you think?

     And one last thing before I go. Our fellow blogger and talented photographer, Rachel Roushy, is having a contest to celebrate her 100th photo of the day post. You can win one of her photos, how awesome is that?! You can find her blog here: http://www.rachelsopenawindow.blogspot.com/

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finding inspiration

      I usually get ideas for new paintings at the worst possible time. When I have a hundred other projects I'm working on, or when life is just so hectic (which is, like all the time) that finding ten minutes a day to paint seems like a major accomplishment.

     So, I have a little notebook. And when I get that super-awesome-flash-of-inspiration, I write down the basic idea. This is more like a direction I want to go with my work, not specific and detailed sketches or value plans. It's for those flickers of ideas you have when you don't know exactly what you're going to do, but you know you want to do SOMETHING along this general line of thought. Does that even make any sense? I'm confusing myself here.

      Anyway, last week me and my husband watched Bright Star, much to his dismay ;). I love the romantic poets and John Keats best of all (and I'm not a poetry expert, like not even a little bit), and ever since I watched this movie I can't stop thinking about it.

      I think I'm getting some ideas for paintings of couples. And maybe period costumes. That would be cool :) Maybe some big, tragic, epic. . . Yeah, maybe just a smaller painting or two of couples, and relationships. Something romantic, but not over the top romantic, maybe something more subtle. . .

      And, this painting is one of my favorite paintings ever. I love it not only for the artist's technique, but for the powerful feeling I have when I look at it. The feeling that I can do anything. If you click here you can go see it. It's beautiful, powerful and inspiring.

      I love the story behind it, every time I see it I always feel like I can overcome. The man, Captain Moroni, is holding a piece of his coat that he's ripped. He's trying to rally his people to defend their religion and their families from persecution, and he wrote about that on his coat. To remind them of what they were fighting for. This, to me, is some of my favorite kind of art. Art that touches the soul.

      One last piece of inspiration before I go. I took my kids to the county fair today. I'm a brave woman right? I had my camera ready and got some really great shots of horses and wildlife that I'm excited about. Here's one of them:

Oh and take a look at this one:

Such a sweet innocent face.

Yep, I think so too.

Or at least I did.

Until he snuck behind me to play next to some gross, muddy, manure-infested water.

And yes, to answer your question, he did fall in that water.

Oh it's fun to go to the fair. Isn't it?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WIP Wednesday

latest watercolor portrait, work in progress
10 x 14 watercolor

      I don't think I will ever get tired of painting portraits. Sometimes I think to myself maybe you should do more figures, or landscapes, or something other than a face. But it's just not where my heart is when it comes to painting. I love, absolutely love, the process of capturing expression. Whether it's a person or an animal, I love trying to express how I see someone.

      This painting is coming along well, I wish you could see it  in real life because there are some beautifully subtle violet and rose colors that I just couldn't capture in the photo. I'm treading very lightly with this, trying to make sure that every brushstroke counts. That I'm not fussing around. Now, I just have to see it through to the end. Until tomorrow, friends. :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sketchbook Tuesday # 5

      Just a few, small studies to get me thinking of new painting ideas.

A quick little sketch of my dog that I had when I was in high school. She was a beautiful, sweet girl, even if she was a little crazy.

      Another quick sketch. This is actually two different photos of the same wolf, but I thought it might be cool to combine both of them into one painting. So they looked like a couple.

      I actually didn't know what I wanted to sketch today, so I went through an old (old, as in four or five years) file of photos I had looking for some spark. That's when I saw the wolf photos. I've wanted to do something with them for a long time, but the reference isn't that great, it's small and kind of hard to see. But I think I can turn it into a good painting. I'm putting this on my list of 'things I must paint. . . SOON.'

      I wouldn't have even thought about it if I hadn't been asking myself "what  if?" Kind of cool huh? Yep, I thought so too.

      What have you come up with when you've asked yourself that question?

Monday, August 9, 2010


"What he may become"
watercolor 10 x 14

     "When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments: tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become."
Louis Pasteur

    I'm combining Friday finished works with motivational Monday, because, um. . .  I didn't get this done until Saturday :) Sooooo, I'm gonna be quiet for once this Monday and just send you to the best motivational post for all creative type people I've ever read. And it just so happens to be written by one of my all time favorite authors.

     Now, if you don't mind my good friends, go check it out right here, and consider your creative butt kicked. :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What matters most

      I have two questions for you this week as you think about what and how you will create.

1. What matters more to you than anything else in the world? What do you feel passionately about? What do you love?

Paint it, draw it, write it, photograph it.

2. When was the last time you felt joy while you were painting? (or whatever else you do that's creative) Try and figure out what made you feel like that and do it again.

     When I paint what I love, what matters to me I feel joy. When I paint colors and light that are exciting I feel joy. I want to feel joy when I create. That's kind of the whole point right? I think asking yourself those two questions will bring you more happiness while you're working. It's not all about the end result right? Right :)

 So next time you start to feel like this with your work:

Ask yourself those two questions and see if they help you feel more like this:

Or, you could just go and get a big stick. Worked for him anyway. :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

WIP Wednesday

new watercolor portrait 10 x 14

     I really love starting a new portrait. It's just exciting to see it unfold with each little step. This beautiful girl is my niece. We were outside about a month ago and I just happened to catch her when she turned her head towards me as I called her name. You gotta be fast to catch them unaware, right?

     I just have the basics down on this painting, one layer for the skin tones and a light layer to define the shadows. Then slight definition of her eyes, lips and hair. I did this as a demo for a small group of women in my church today.

      I always feel embarrassed when I talk about what I do. I don't know why, I guess I really should get over that. I think it's probably because every painting I do feels like a revelation of who I really am, and it's a little unsettling to put that out there. Even though I want to at the same time.  Strange right? Yeah, I know :)

      I'm excited about this painting. I like where it's headed so far.

      So. . . what's new with you guys? :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sketchbook Tuesday #4

"Sober" colored pencil sketch

      Such a serious expression on that little face. I wonder why? I loved the soft light from the side and his big expressive eyes. Admittedly, I spent more time on his face than anything else in this sketch. But that's the fun part right?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bye-bye block

      Artists block: when one feels no inspiration, motivation, or desire to create. (this is the definition according to me)

      I think I have finally conquered the block! I have kicked it, stomped it, and laughed in its face. I think I may have even said something like this: "Yes, you are a smart and strong competitor, but I am also smart and strong and have a reasonable chance of defeating you."

     And, yes I do like to picture my artists block as an annoying, know-it-all-Sheldon-from-the-Big-Bang-Theory, type character.  I'm an artist, and therefore am free to have an imaginary nemesis, don't judge me :)

      Since I know that all creative people go through phases of feeling stuck, or uninspired at some point, I thought I'd share with you what I've found to be most helpful for me.

  • Just keep painting. Or drawing, writing, photographing, or whatever else you do. Because eventually you will work yourself out of this slump, and you will have learned valuable insight about how you like to create. This will help you for the next time you get stuck :)
  • Take a break. Yes, I know this a direct contradiction to the first one, but sometimes a break is just what we need. Do something else that you find rejuvenating or relaxing. I find I work the best when I feel refreshed and free of self-imposed burdens. Don't make painting be something you 'have' to do, make it something you 'get' to do, for fun.
  • Study about the life and working habits of artists you admire. I find this to be very motivating. I love to read the success stories of others. How they overcame difficulties, their working method, what inspires them, you get the idea. Seeing the success of others is sometimes the motivating push we need to kick ourselves into gear.
  • Let yourself create something, just for the sake of creating it. Let yourself make mistakes. There is a lot of freedom in allowing yourself the opportunity to create something and not worry about what anyone else will think of it, or you.

    See the imperfectness of this photo? But I love it anyway, because it's fun, and it tells a story that I want to remember. And every time I look at it I can't help but smile.
  • Switch media or genre. If you usually paint, then pick up your pencils. If you write fiction, try writing poetry. It's exciting to try new things, and you might find out that you are really good at writing limerick's but how would you ever have known that if you didn't try?
  • Remember that you have talent, that you are capable, that you CAN do this. Believe in yourself.
   Just remember why it is you love to create. Remember what it was in the beginning that gave you this desire to add something to your already crazy life. Because it brings you peace, joy, purpose, whatever. You are creative because you need to be, it's who you are. Next time that little block comes along, kick him out, harshly and without apology. You have my permission.
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