Friday, February 26, 2010

Step Four (almost there!)

"Here Be Dragons" work in progress
15x20 watercolor

     Almost there! And good thing too because this needs to be finished by Monday. I'm not finished with his shirt, or hands, or the book, or the background. . . Yeesh maybe I have more to do than I thought. I always do this, think I'll zip right through a painting and then realize how long it really takes. I'm not going to post until Monday, I hope to get some done tomorrow, and I don't paint on Sundays. I might have to get up extra early on Monday morning. But I think it's coming along. I'm pretty happy with how I have not (as of yet) over worked the paint. I'm still trying to decide if I want to go back into the face, I'm afraid I might royally mess it up if I do and then I will be TICKED!
     It's been fun posting here every day, it's given me an extra incentive to paint more each night. Which is good. I find I really need a deadline to get the most work done. I'm bad at procrastinating :) And just for fun since it's Friday here is a picture of my doggies, beautiful no? Such a regal looking dog, the Giant Schnauzer. Happy weekend!



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Step Three (getting closer!)

"Here Be Dragons" work in progress
15x20 watercolor

     It's coming along, and I finally managed to take a decent picture of it! Amazing! I am finished with the face right now, but when I'm totally finished I may go back in and emphasize a little here and there. I still need to work on the hair, it's not quite where I want it to be. I have a hard time with hair, that's one of my weak points. I kept trying to decide if the color was dark enough or bright enough on the face. I'm still not one hundred percent sure about that, but I think it's good for now. When I added the dark color of his shirt, it really brought out the bright colors in his face. I always forget how much depends not only on the color of what you're painting, but also on the surrounding colors. I think the black shirt really makes the face glow a little more.
     Well, now the hardest, most nerve-wracking part is finished. I can breathe now. I get all uptight when I'm doing the face, because obviously if you blow it on the face the rest of it doesn't really matter that much. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do about the background, still thinking about that. Hopefully it will move along a little quicker now. I only have a few more days! And here is a little quote about art that I like, feel free to apply it to whatever form of art you do!

     "To make our present ability approach our aspirations takes ambition, training, a desire to take risks, to explore, to endure failure, and to hope for success.
     You don't have to draw or paint (I'm going to add or photograph, or write)  like someone else to succeed. Just register your feelings and express your perspective." Arne Westerman
     He is one of my all time favorite artists! And his style is so different than mine, but if I have ever seen anyone really paint with feeling it's him. WOW! Now go ahead and keep telling yourself this when you're feeling down, I'll try and remind myself to do it too. Until tomorrow friends :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Step Two

"Here Be Dragons" detail work in progress
15x20 watercolor

     So here is step two. Looks very similar to step one doesn't it? What I'm doing at this point is intensifying the color. I already have my map laid out so I know I have an accurate likeness. Now I can concentrate on the color and hope I don't mess it up. At this point I am being very careful to not lay down too much paint or to mix the wrong colors together and end up with clogged, muddy paper (which is much easier to do than you would think). I start with a light skin tone color, then a shadow color that I mix, it's kind of a purpley grey color. But I think it works beautifully for skin tones in shadow. Then I start laying in different shades of reds and yellows, to make the skin look like it's glowing. That's the goal anyway.
     Watercolor is difficult because it can't be erased, and it can't be painted over. Pretty much whatever you put down is stuck there. Unless you want to scrape it, or wash it off which I don't, because I think it defeats the purpose of what I'm trying to do. Which is a fresh, glowing portrait that is not over worked! One of my biggest pet peeves (and I'm guilty of it too) is when people go over it, and over it, and over it. It just kills the color and it never looks as good as if you get it right the first time. Which is probably why I quit on a lot of paintings, I've reached the point of no return and it just can't get back to it's original fresh glory! I think it's looking  good so far, I'm finished with the color at this point and tomorrow's post will show the facial features (that's my favorite part :)). Thanks for following along on this with me! Especially you non-artist people, I know this is probably boring to you, but I think it's fun to see works in progress, like on those home remodeling shows!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How I Choose What to Paint

"Here Be Dragons" detail, work in progress
watercolor 15 x 20

     I'm going to have a series of posts that show all the steps from first wash to finished piece. This is one I've had sketched out and the paper has been stretched and it's been sitting ready for me to start. I just realized that I have one week to finish this, for the UWS spring show, so I plan to post on it every day to show where I'm at. I will be having a lot of late nights :) I got a call from a local art organization the other day asking if I would come to one of their meetings and demonstrate my process for creating a watercolor portrait, so this is kind of a practice run for that. 
     When I'm ready to start a new painting I look through my favorite photos I've set aside for the specific purpose of painting them one day. When I choose a photo to work from the first thing I consider is the lighting. I am drawn to strong dramatic lighting, preferably outdoors and this photo had that. I also look for an emotional connection. Which is usually either the expression of the subject, interaction with someone, or just engaged in an activity. Then I think of what I'm trying to get across, which usually involves coming up with a title. Here the boy is looking at a book about dragons. He's my first son and I thought of that saying "Here be dragons" they used to put on old maps to mark uncharted territory. And I thought that's how raising a child is for me, uncharted territory, somewhere you've never been before. But full of beauty and adventure. That's the message I'm trying to get across. Sometimes I like to have the message be not so straight forward. I want to give my viewers something to think about, other than a pretty picture to look at. Sometimes, not all the time.
     So here are the steps for this painting so far:

  1. Find suitable reference material. Looking for an emotional connection, good lighting and interesting subject.
  2. Make an accurate drawing (this is crucial in portraiture, you can be expressive and abstract all you want but if you don't have a likeness, it's not going to be a successfull portrait.)
  3. Lay down the first washes, establishing the base of the skin tones and creating a map to follow so I know I have a likeness. I so far have 2 layers of color on this painting. I usually have at least 15 sometimes more. 
     That's how I start a painting. I don't always follow this process, but most of the time I do. And when I do I tend to be more successful. Right now, I'm happy with where this painting is. I think it's going to work out well. Forgive the dark photo, I can't seem to get that right lately.
     And, later I will be handing out some blog awards I've gotten lately! Yay for all the bloggers out there! Comments as always are welcome, I love to hear them :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Another blog and why I love to sketch

     A few months ago I read a magazine article about starting an art blog, and my sister has a photography blog that I loved so I thought  I would give it a try. Then I started following favorite author blogs and thought how cool it would be to have a blog about my favorite books and writing my first novel. Then I saw that other people were doing the exact same thing! So I just started a writing blog  today, so I could talk about writing without having it take away from my art, and because I wanted to be a part of Sarah's wannabe writer's group. Any follower's of my art blog who are writer's too would love to have you come check out my new blog, comment and be my friends :) And I would love if you stuck around here to see my new paintings and stuff, and let me know what you think.

     Now about sketching. I love sketching in my sketch book, because it is my safe place. No one else needs to see it, it's just for me. I can try new things and if they look horrible I don't have to feel bad about it because no one else will ever see it! A few years ago I left my sketchbook out on the counter and someone came over to my house and they picked it up and started flipping through it. I was kind of shocked, it was like someone reading your journal where you put all those thoughts you never want to have anyone else see. They were making comments and asking questions, some of which were not very uplifting. I kind of had my feelings hurt. I felt like I had to explain myself and I kept saying, "No one ususally looks at that, it's just some stuff I'm trying out." They didn't seem to get it. I left it out because I like to have it handy in case I have a few minutes when my kids are occupied so I can get a quick drawing in, to hone my skills, and really to just have fun. The photo above in my sketchbook is a little horse I drew, that I feel safe showing others (I'm trying to lighten up about that :)). I just recently discovered that if I sketch in colored pencil they don't smear! Another DUH! moment for me. So my sketchbook stays all nice and tidy. I love that! And it forces me to work quickly and be more accurate with my marks, because they don't erase. A good thing, as I tend to sometimes work a piece to death!
     But sketching is good for me because it helps me lighten up. I stress out a lot about certain paintings, if they aren't working and what other people will think about them. If they'll get what I'm trying to say. This is a time where I don't have to feel like that, kind of like a first draft (like how I threw that in there?).

Thursday, February 18, 2010


"My Solace"
10x14 watercolor

     I was planning on posting about procrastination. I have a lot of major art shows coming up in the next two weeks and I wanted to have something fantastic for them, something that would set my work apart from the other thousand entries. And then yesterday I got news that a friend of my family passed away, leaving his young wife and three little kids behind. I wasn't particularly close to him, but my sister was best friends with his wife, and I as the annoying little sister spent a lot of time tagging along with them. She (his wife) always made me feel welcome and loved and became a friend of my own. My heart aches for her and her family. I couldn't sleep this morning, waking up way before my alarm was set to go off. All I could think of was them and what they must be feeling now, and how I wish I could help them. It's my belief that life doesn't end at death, that families can be together forever. But still there is such pain and loss now. Knowing that when you roll over at night searching for them they won't be there, that you'll never hear their cars squeaky brakes pulling into the driveway again. It's so easy to go through life thinking it will never change, that people will always be around for us to tell them we love them one more time. But that isn't true, things always change. So I've been hugging my family closer to me, trying to imprint in my brain everything I never want to forget about them, trying to live without regrets. Letting them know that they are my life, showing them that I am so greatful that they are mine, and that they are still here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Aww, Thanks! and Seven Random Things

     I am really loving blogging, and all the amazing people I meet! Christine Danek gave me the From Me To You award, thanks so much! She is super sweet and has a great blog about writing. You should all go see, pure awesomeness.

     I have to say seven things about myself. Hmmm this is tricky, what's interesting about me? Here goes.

1. When I was little my dream was to be in the equestrian olympics in the year 2000. I wanted to be a show jumper and train horses for the rest of my life! I actually grew up with horses and worked at a training stable after high school, until one day I saw the trainer throw a horse to the ground and sit on it's shoulders. He claimed there was no other way to get the horse to do what he wanted it to. Don't even get me started on that. I quit that day, and I won't ever forget the fear in that horses eyes.

2. I love to run in the rain, with my dog. I love to run hills (nobody believes this, but it's true! I feel like I can do anything when I make it to the top of a really steep hill, after I catch my breath that is) in the early morning. I trained for a marathon (that's 26 miles in case you didn't know) but crushed my big toe and had to stop training. Then about a week later I found out I was pregnant. I call it Divine intervention :) This year I am running at least a half marathon, maybe a full in the fall.

3. I love chocolate milk! I feel very juvenile to admit this, but I have it for breakfast almost every day. 

4. I have two giant schnauzers, that I love and am kind of crazily intense about dog training. If ever you want to know more about this just ask, I wil go on, and on, and on. 

5. I have never flown in an airplane. Ever. Hardly even been out of my own state (go ahead and gasp I know you want to).

6. I have a deep faith in God our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (mormon). I'm not saying this to be pushy, but my faith is a big part of who I am. And don't think this changes how I think about any of you ok? You are all amazing people, we don't have to agree on our beliefs to be friends right?

7. I have the worst memory ever! I forget things almost right after someone tells me. I am always losing things because I forget where I put them! I get lost really easily and um, honestly I'm kind of ditzy. One day I was talking to my husband and I said "I wish . . . (something, I can't remember)" and he said "Wish in one hand and spit in the other and what do you get?" I thought for a minute and said "wish-spit?" Seriously I did. Not even joking, took me a minute to get it.

    There you have it, seven things. More than you probably ever wanted to know. Now I hereby pass this award on to fellow bloggers who are talented, amazing, and inspiring in every way. And if you are not on this list it is probably because you already have this award :) Love you all, thanks so much for your friendship, encouragement and for following along on this blog.

All these blogs are amazing, go see them!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The World According to Maggie: The Giant LINGER Giveaway (& a sappy story)

The World According to Maggie: The Giant LINGER Giveaway (& a sappy story): "Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog."

The World According to Maggie: The Giant LINGER Giveaway (& a sappy story)

The World According to Maggie: The Giant LINGER Giveaway (& a sappy story): "Linger Cover LargeIn Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here. "


10x14 watercolor

     Last year my husband came home from work with a list of a bunch of national watercolor shows for me to enter. He had typed at the top "Crystal's to do list: Win each of the following shows." I can't even say how much it means to me to have a husband who cares so much about my dreams. I've written a lot about my kids and how they inspire me to paint, but really it's my husband who inspires me just as much. He helps me believe in myself, to try things I wouldn't normally do. He believes in me and is constantly looking for ways to help me, or encourage me. When I told him how much I wanted to write a book he instantly started making my life easier (with kiddos and housework) and gave me a fancy new pen and a note of encouragement that I still look at every so often to remind myself that I can do this, that someone believes in me and loves me. I don't think I would even be painting if it weren't for him, he signed me up for my first watercolor class right after we were married as a gift.
     I entered this painting in the Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors last year and when I got the acceptance letter, all I could think of was him. How he had believed in me, and that I never would have tried to enter that show if he hadn't encouraged me to do it. It helps so much to know that someone else cares as much as you do about your dreams.
     Since it's Valentine's Day I think I can indulge and be sappy and just say how much I love my husband, how greatful I am for him and how I can't imagine a life without him. There is so much more to this story than I'll say here (for which I'm sure you will thank me), but I just need to say that I would not be who I am today without him. He not only loves and encourages me, he saves me every day, and he has since the day I met him.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dwight, an example of self confidence, who knew?

"Rising Up"
watercolor 5x7 

  This morning I woke up early planning to write. But I realized I had one more day before the deadline for my UWS show and I had nothing to enter. It's a watercolor show, but every piece can be no larger than 12" including the frame. And I don't have anything that size, unbelievable! So I thought I would try and paint something real quick, knowing this would be the last bit of free time I would have before Saturday. I painted this in Sepia to kind of give it a more western feel and because it is much quicker for me to only work in value instead of color.
     I put in my ipod and gathered a cup of water and a cup of sepia paint, a few brushes and a paint rag and sat in the middle of my family room floor and just painted. I didn't keep track of time and it went so fast! I was done in about an hour, which I still can't believe because I am a SLOW artist. And while I realize that this piece is more of a study than a masterpiece, it was fun and I like it. The house was so quiet, it was still dark outside, and it had just started to snow. It was a good time. And I am pretty happy with myself that I will be meeting my goal :)
     Sometimes we do just need to get started, it seems to me that my most successful paintings are the ones I did on a whim. Just because I thought it would be fun, or because I wanted to. Not because I thought a judge would like it, or that it would sell, but just for me. In fact most of the paintings of mine that have won awards have been exactly like that. Of course some I paint thinking they are fantastic and no one else does, but that's a whole other story.
     I really believe that if we are true to our "artist hearts" and create what moves us, or inspires us instead of what we think we "should" be creating that other people will respond to our work the same way we do. Paintings that are created from the heart can't help but touch other people as well. They just can feel it. And I know we will succeed if we remember that in everything that we do. Maybe not always in the way others think we should, but to us we will. So create what moves you, and everything else will fall into place.
     The success I feel in creating this painting today is internal, I feel good about myself, more confident, ready to tackle another project. Because I have proven to myself that I can. And if that's not success, I don't know what is. Now I need to apply this line of thinking to my writing, which at times consumes me with nasty self doubt. Just keep telling yourself you can do this, because you are awesome. You know Dwight from the Office? When he wanted to ask Michael for a raise and he went out into the hall and did some dorky dance to head banging 80's rock talking himself up, "Because I'm Awesome!!!!" he shouted. Keep telling yourself that in a much less humiliating, lame, Dwight way. Do what you love the rest will follow.
     So, my question to all you reading this is, how do you let yourself do what you love, and not be paralyzed by what other people think? Feel free to comment, I love to hear them.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"My Next One Will Be Great"

work in progress untitled
colored pencil 8x10

     I am really enjoying working on this colored pencil piece. I think it's going pretty well, but it is taking me forever, and I am not a very patient person :) The watercolor on the other hand is not. Sometimes I look at it and I think "It's ok, it's coming along. I see promise." And then other times I look at it and want to shove it under my bed where it can never be seen or tear it up into little, tiny pieces and set them on fire. I am just not feeling it, and I have to feel it or else it just doesn't work. I painted it specifically for a UWS show this Saturday that was on my list of goals for this year, but it's just not making it. So feeling frustrated, kind of a lot. Not that I want to dwell on negativity, but it's a little discouraging when you start a piece with a vision in your head of how it's going to look and then you paint it and. . . . Nothing. You have no idea how to fix this mess you got yourself in. Ever felt like that? I hate it, I feel like that way too much. Not just about painting but other things too.
    So what I do when I feel like that is pull out my notebook that's filled with quotes by artists and authors that I admire and flip through it until I find something that speaks to me. And I always do it never fails. Hopefully you like quotes or you will find this blog very boring :) Today I found this by John-Seerey Lester an awesome wildlife artist:
     "When people ask me which of my paintings is my favorite, my usual answer is 'my next.' If we as artists achieved exactly what we wanted each time we would never progress. Don't be despondent. Always think positively. 'My next one will be great.'"
     That is what I'm telling myself today. I'm putting "Peek" aside for now, I'll probably come back to it later, but for now I'm going to keep working on my colored pencil piece and start something else in watercolor. I have one I've been wanting to start for a while. But I need to find something else for this weekends show, I'll have to go through my stuff and see what will work. I am making that goal, you hear me? Hunting it down with an elephant gun (that was for you Maggie if by some chance you are reading this:))
     Here is one of my favorite paintings I did last year.  It's not my "next" Mr. Lester,but I'm still working on that. I just looked at it again the other day and well, I just really like it. It's my boy, that's why.

"Far Away"
watercolor 10x14

     So, what do you do when what you're working on just doesn't seem to be "working?" I love to hear tips about perseverance :)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Why do I paint? Why do you Create?

work in progress "Peek"
8 x 10 watercolor

     Today I was talking to a friend about being a mom, she is married but they don't have kids yet.  I was saying how hard it is for me to take time to do things that I love, because I feel so guilty about taking time away from my family when there are a hundred other things clamouring for my attention. She said that it must be hard to do that when you have kids and I agreed that yes it certainly is, but it's one of those things you just can't know about until you go through it yourself. When I was pregnant with my first child everyone, and I mean everyone, told me I would never have a good night's sleep again, that my husband and I would never go on a date again and that life as I knew it would never be the same again. But what no one ever told me was how instantly and powerfully I would be in love with my new baby.  I admit the strength of that emotion took me by surprise, I knew I would love that baby and already loved him through the pregnancy.  But when I first held that brand new irreplaceable soul in my arms my life was changed, the best change of my life. I had never felt such instant and powerful love before, so the lost sleep and fewer date nights weren't that big a deal, not when the reason for those was such a precious, loved little thing.
      So that conversation got me thinking about my art.  Why do I paint? Because I love to, because I love to try and express just a little how much I love my children, how they are my whole world.  And because it makes me happy and you know what they say about Mama being happy.  So I try to convey that through my work, I try to show how I feel in every piece that I do.  I try to put a little bit of my soul, so to speak, in each painting.  Hopefully others feel that, but if not that's ok, because I do and that's the most important thing. I think that's why it's so scary to put your work out there whether it be art, writing, photography, or whatever you do. Because you risk others not appreciating what you have sweated blood for, pouring your whole heart into it.  It takes courage, and I think that all mothers have crazy amounts of courage. You just have to because those little ones, dearer to you than your own life, need you to.  Here are two of my favorite quotes about motherhood and art, every time I read them they lift me up and make me try a little harder.
". . . the artist brings courage. Painting something important to you just because you care about it, regardless of whether anyone else will think it matters - that is painting with courage. . . it takes courage to share your vision with the world." Carole Katchen 

"You have nothing in this world more precious than your children.  When you grow old, when your hair turns white and your body grows weary, when you are prone to sit in a rocker and meditate on the things of your life, nothing will be so important as the question of how your children have turned out. It will not be the money you have made. It will not be the cars you have owned. It will not be the large house in which you live. The searing question that will cross your mind again and again will be, How well have my children done?"  President Gordon B. Hinckley

work in progress untitled
colored pencil

So here are a few works in progress I've been working on lately, not much done so far, but coming along. Feel free to comment on why you create, I'd love to hear it. :)
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