Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WIP Wednesday, and more randomness behind the scenes

      I loved reading the comments from my last post. It was awesome to read all the different things you guys love about the way you create. So many of them were things that I love too, proving once more that blogging is cool and we are very like minded people. At least when it comes to being creative. :)

      Here's my answer: Something that I love about how I paint. . . hmmm. . . I guess I would say that I am confident in my ability to control my medium, watercolor. It took me many years and many, many, many failed paintings to reach the point that I'm at now. And I think I can say in all honesty that I'm proud of that.

colored pencil portrait, work in progress

      This piece is moving along slowly, mostly because I've had a stack of paintings calling out to me to hurry up and finish them already! I'm not finished with the face, but I felt like I needed to have some of the hair laid in so I could get more of a feel for how much I want to push the rest of the face. Truly, this is a work in progress. Those finishing touches that pull it all together are still to come. And yes, I think he might still need an ear.

      And, I've changed the commenting format for this blog. I've been getting some really nasty spam, so I've now limited comments to registered users (meaning that you either have a blogger account or some type of google open ID) Sorry guys. If you're not able to comment anymore and you'd still like to get in touch with me feel free to send me an email at crystal(at)crystalcookart(dot)com. I'd love to talk to you!

       Arrr! Scurvy bilge rat spammers!

      So, Crystal (you may be thinking) . . . what's with the pirate talk?

     It just so happens that I have missed two very important milestones this month. One: September 19 was National Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arrr! Avast me hearties! This saddens me as I was planning on incorporating pirate speak into my blog post for that day. *wipestears* Oh well, there's always next year.
Right? ;)

     And Two: The other day was my one hundredth post! So exciting! I feel like such a blogging expert now! (kidding, of course) Thanks everyone for reading along with me this far and for all your excellent conversation, encouragement and friendships.

      I think it is pretty darn cool that my 100th post coincides very neatly with my portrait giveaway. Just a quick reminder that if you still want to enter for a chance to win just click on the banner above and fill out the form, there's only two days left! Special thanks to everyone who has helped get the word out! I appreciate it so much :)

      See you tomorrow guys, have a great day!


Monday, September 27, 2010

Draw, and for the love of lists!

10 x 14 watercolor

"Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything." Wyatt Earp

     I am a list junkie. I love making lists. When I was in college I made all kinds of lists for study schedules, classes I wanted to take, books I was reading, things I wanted to do. You name it and I had a list for it.

     I still do this. I make lists for paintings I want to create, color combinations I want to try, books I want to read, chores I need to get done for the day. I even make lists of 'fun' things for me and my family to do during the summer and holidays. And, I make lists of reasons why I should stop making so many lists. 

     Oh man, I've got a problem with making lists.

     And my son does it too! I saw him making a list one day and was so proud. I didn't realize why until my husband pointed out how he was just like me. A little list maker.

     But I will maintain that having a list is a good thing. It helps you focus on things that otherwise would lose your attention. It gives you something to look back on and see how far you've come. It helps you give priority to the things that are most important to you. I love lists.

     Just the other day I wrote a list of things that bring me joy as a mother. I was feeling very overwhelmed with all my responsibilities and constantly pressed for time. I was not feeling the joy that I knew I could in being a stay at home mom.

     It helped me to realize that my life is sweet and good even though it's also sometimes stressful and challenging. I needed to remember that.

     I'm going to do the same thing with my art work and my writing. I'm going to make a list of what I love about the way that I paint. Not the reasons why I love to paint (we talked about that last week, remember?), but a list of the things I love about how I paint.

     I think it will help me feel better about my work when those nagging doubts creep in.

     So, that's my challenge to you for this Motivational Monday. What do you love about the work you do? What is something about your work you're confident that you're good at? Whether it's painting, drawing, writing or photography. Tell me one thing in a comment. I dare you :)

     And yes, I knew you'd ask this. I will share one thing too. But not today, today it's your turn. You'll get to hear mine tomorrow :) See you then!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spooky WIP Wednesday and a sketch

spooky watercolor work in progress
still untitled, but I'm working on it :)

     This has got to be one of the funnest pieces I've ever painted. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and I'm kind of surprised that I haven't included it in a painting yet. I can just see all the possibilities now for holiday-kid-themed paintings. It's going to be fun :)

     And the skeleton costume wasn't as tricky as I thought it was going to be, it was basically just negative painting which is easy when your mind is thinking 'shape' instead of 'preconceived notion of what bones should look like.'

     Of course this is far from finished, but it's coming along.

     And this week is crazy-hectic-busy for me so I did not get my sketchbook post up for yesterday, but I'm making up for it today.

     I was very interested in the shape of the antlers of this elk (??, hold on I'll go check. . . yep, it's an elk), and the rim of light along the edge. It was just a fun quick sketch. However, I had problems getting a good photo of the sketch so here you have a grand photo of ze whole sketchbook.

     And last but not least, just a quick reminder that time is running out if you would like to enter to win my portrait giveaway. It ends next week, September 30, so go click on the banner at the top of my blog if you haven't entered yet and fill out the form! Also, instead of sending me an email at the end of the contest you can just fill out the form under the banner, it has a place for you to tally up all your points (which I'm hoping will be easier for you guys). Thanks everyone! And good luck!!

     Oh, and really this is the very last thing, I forgot to include in my artist's statement from Monday's post one Very Important Reason Why I Paint. If I don't get to paint I get cranky. And that's just not good for anyone at my house. Do you think I should share that information with galleries? ;)

     Have a great day everybody! If I haven't been to visit your blog lately please forgive me, I'm running around here like a crazy woman lately, I'll be there soon :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Motivational Monday, Why do you paint?

"Blue Eyed Innocence"

5 x 7 watercolor

     Earlier this year I started refining my artist's statement. I like to write, and I think I can do a fair job at putting words together, but for some reason this was really hard! I really struggled to put into words why I paint.

     And so I just wrote down whatever first came to mind about why I do what I do. Why do I paint people? Why do I paint horses? Why is it always full sunlight? What does it mean to me???

     That's the big question isn't it? What does your art mean to you? Why do you create what you do?

     Then this last week, for the first time since I'd written it down, I looked at my brief little artist's statement again to hand in to a gallery. This is it:

"I paint to express emotion: the emotion and expression of my subject and my reaction to it. I am drawn to bright sunlight and how it affects living subjects. There are so many moments in my life where I want to stop and capture the look on a loved one's face, the light of the sun in a horse's mane, or the feel of a little hand holding mine. I paint to help me remember how beautiful life is, and to help others feel the same."
Now, this is very simple and straightforward, but it was a true expression of why I feel so drawn to paint the subjects that I do, and why I make time to sit down every day and create art. To remember that my life is beautiful and good.
So, have you thought about this lately? Why do you paint?
And since it is Motivational Monday and all, here's a gem of a quote I found to get you feeling motivated to paint today (if for some reason you're just not feeling it):
"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily." Zig Ziglar

Friday, September 17, 2010


5 x 7 watercolor

     This was a fun piece to do, and it was pretty quick too. Which is always great for me because I think I'm one of the top five most impatient people on the planet. I was always the kid who asked if we could open Christmas presents a day early.

      I just love that face. There's something about mountain lions that I think is such a perfect combination of fierce and beautiful. I love how the light makes her fur look so soft. It makes me want to bury my hands in it, if doing so would not endanger my life and limbs. ;)


5 x 7 watercolor

      This was a fun piece to do, and it was pretty quick too. Which is always great for me because I think I'm one of the top five most impatient people on the planet. I was always the kid who asked if we could open Christmas presents a day early.

       I just love that face. There's something about mountain lions that I think is such a perfect combination of fierce and beautiful. I love how the light makes her fur look so soft. It makes me want to bury my hands in it, if doing so would not endanger my life and limbs. ;)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I LOVE fall

watercolor work in progress
still thinking about a title :)

     I love fall. It's my favorite time of year, and I don't think I could happily live in a place without this season. I love the way it smells, so fresh and crisp. I love pulling out my comfy sweaters and wrapping up in them. I love making soups and stews that remind me of my mom, making my house really feel like a home. I love that feeling of anticipation that good things are coming, soon.

     I met my husband in the fall, and I think for that reason alone I will always have crazy, romantic, nostalgic feelings at this time of year. I love it :)

     So, I've been wanting to do a Halloween painting for a while with all those fun colors, costumes and memories. A few years ago I asked my son to sit and model for me, and he did. . . reluctantly. Then I did what any good mom would do. I bribed him with candy.

     Which of course worked. :) Never underestimate the power of sugar.

     Oh, and you'll have to forgive the staples showing in this picture, I'm in a bit of a hurry. I've got a hot date tonight with my husband :):):) See you tomorrow friends, I'm off to pretty myself up. 

     What I'm listening to (about a hundred times today): Take Me (As You Found Me) by Anberlin (my new favorite band)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sketchbook Tuesday

 more wolf sketches

"We are drawn to wolves because no other animal is so like us. . . Of all the rest of creation, wolves reflect our own images most dramatically, most realistically, and most intensely."
Peter Steinhardt, The Company of Wolves

Monday, September 13, 2010

Motivational Monday and latest WIP

watercolor work in progress 5 x 7

     Why a mountain lion? Because they're beautiful. That's one reason :) I was very drawn to this image. I love the sunlight hitting her shoulders and back, how it turns her fur a golden-red color. I love how she's completely focused on whatever it is she's looking at.

     This happens to be a captive mountain lion, and I was honestly surprised by the affection she showed her human handler. It was pretty cool. Here we have an example of another sometimes-cuddle-beast.

     And I've just always really loved mountain lions, they remind me of a cat I had when I was a kid, who was definitely a cuddle beast. 

     Now on to Motivational Monday :) I have three things to say about that today. 

     I've been painting a lot lately, making sure that I've got plenty of paintings lined up and ready for me to start. Because I've found that a lot of the time I'll get stuck when I finish a painting and then have nothing else to work on right away.

     So right now I'm sometimes working on two or three paintings at a time, switching back and forth. This is something I haven't done a whole lot of in the past, because it would just throw me off my groove. But now that I have less and less time to devote to painting, I'm finding that I'm making the most out of whatever time I do have.

     So that's tip number one, make sure you have something ready to work on when you've finished your current piece.  Keep that momentum going.

     Something else that I'm going to start doing this week is to take three of my favorite living artists and study their work. What are they doing that I could incorporate into my style of working? Composition, value, color, mood, things like that. I think it's important to keep learning, studying and practicing, and I haven't spent very much time doing that lately. So this week I'm going to try and pick that back up.

     The artists I've chosen are Ali Cavanaugh, Steve Hanks, and Susan Harrison-Tustain. Three master watercolorists with an emphasis on portraiture and figure work. The point of this study is not to copy their work, but to learn from it, to pick their paintings apart and figure out what makes them successful and then take those principles and apply it to my work.

     Tip number two is, find an artist that inspires you and try to figure out why they do and what you can learn from them. 

     And finally, this weekend I realized something. Other people don't think about you and your work the same way you do. Shocking revelation right? Yes, well, what I mean is that if you're feeling discouraged about your work just remember that it's probably not as bad as you think it is. Actually, I'm positive that it's not. Someone out there most likely loves what you do and really admires your talent and hard work. 

     Yes, they really do. I'm serious. Not even kidding. So feel good about what you do, whatever stage you're at in your art career.  No one else can paint like you :)

      Tip number three is, you are an awesome artist. Now don't let that go to your head, but feel good about your talent and effort. It's okay. You can. I just told you that you could :)

     So, what's motivating you lately?


Friday, September 10, 2010

Brand New

"Brand New"

10 x 14 watercolor

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."  -  Elizabeth Stone

      I have decided that I really like this painting. It's one of my favorites. Mostly because when I look at it I can remember so clearly what it felt like to hold my brand new baby, how he smelled like everything sweet and hopeful, how he gripped my finger with such force that I was sure he'd never let go.

      But what I remember most is how it felt like he had filled a hole in my heart that I'd never even known was there.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

First Touch

"First Touch"

5 x 7 watercolor

     Another one of my newborn paintings. This is of my son's hand cradled in mine in his first week of life. I never get tired of looking at babies hands, they are so tiny and beautiful.

      I rarely paint this small, but decided to give it a try.

     My style of painting doesn't really lend itself well to 'fast' work. I work in layers and each layer needs to dry before I can add the next glaze of color, so painting small doesn't really speed things up for me all that much :) I hoped it would, but alas it does not.

     Ah well, who needs fast right? ;)

   Until tomorrow friends!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sketchbook. . . Wednesday and some photos


snuggly wolf sketch :)
graphite on bristol

     First of all a great big thank you to all of you who have helped me get the word out about my contest. I really appreciate it and now consider each one of you the ultimate in awesomeness :) If I could I would bake you all chocolate chip cookies. In fact, if you're ever in Utah stop on by! 

     Now, it's back to business folks. I'm a day late with my sketchbook post, but here it is.

     I went to the library and got a bunch of books about wolves and have been studying them and sketching from them, to help me with the wolf painting I have in mind that is probably going to be one of my next works in progress. It's been fun and I just had to share this one of a wolf snuggled up against the back of another wolf. I kind of like the idea of wolves as cuddle beasts instead of slavering attack beasts.

And here are some pictures from my art show that opened on Friday. It was very small, but still pretty fun.

Here I am next to one of my favorite paintings of my baby boy.

     Posing with my model baby (okay he's two, kind of not a baby anymore). And yes I know he needs a haircut, but I just can't bring myself to do it. He's my last one. I think. I'm pretty sure. We'll see :)

    And here's handsome hubby next to his portrait. Smiling. Because I asked him to :) Sometimes he needs a little coaching in that department, he's prone to looking. . . intimidating?? Is that the word I'm going for? Maybe more like serious. No wait, I got it, 'intense.' That's it ;)

    So. . . what's up with you guys? Anybody have any good news to share?

Monday, September 6, 2010

A CONTEST! Here's your chance to win a custom portrait of your choice!

"Here Be Dragons"
watercolor portrait of my son

      Okay friends, remember a few months ago when I talked about a contest I wanted to have? Well now is the time! I'm going to be offering one 8 x 10 watercolor portrait (human or animal, your choice) to one winner of this contest. I've decided to start accepting commissions again after having declined them for the last three years, and the one you win would be the first on my list!

      Does that sound good?

     But I need your help in spreading the word, so here is what I'm asking for all my fabulous friends to help me with. I'm going to be giving points away for the different ways you could help promote this contest. Some of them you may already be doing (like following me or being my Facebook friend, thanks guys!) others will require a little bit of work on your part (like having a blog or Facebook post about this). This determines how many points you earn and increases your chance to win the portrait.

watercolor portrait of my husband
      I appreciate all of you so much, your friendship and kind words have been like a light shining out of the darkness for me on some days, and I've really, truly been honored with that. I know your lives are busy and I want you to know how much it means to me that you take the time to stop by and comment and help lift me up, so this is my way of trying to pay that back to you.

      Here's a list of how you can earn points in my contest:

  • follow me :) +5
  • follow my Networked blog +5
  • comment on this blog post (so I know you want to be entered in the contest)  +1
  • comment on new posts from now to September 30 +1 per post
  • friend me on Facebook +5
  • blog about this contest (leave me the link) up to four times +5 for each time you post
  • post about this contest on Facebook up to four times +5 for each time you post
  • link to this contest in the sidebar of your blog +7
  • heart my etsy shop right here +3
  • were you sent here by someone? Tell me their name and they get +15 for referring you
  • total your points and send them to me in an email, telling me what you've done
     And if you are already following me, or facebook friends with me then you definetly get to count those in your point total :)

     This contest will run until September 30 and during the first week of October I will announce the winner! Good luck everyone, and thanks in advance for helping me get the word out about this contest! :):):) If you have any questions send me an email at

"All Set"

Friday, September 3, 2010


8 x 8 watercolor

     I decided to crop out a couple of inches on the side. I think I like it better with the emphasis just on the horse and his mane. The mane is really what I found the most interesting, how it looked so full of movement. And the way the horse looks posied in the middle of his stride, I love that. For some reason, whenever I hear the word cadence I always think of horses running. It reminds me of being a kid and spending hours wandering around the pasture with the horses. Good memories :)

    Oh, and tonight's the opening reception for a local art show that I'm participating in. It's at the Gallery at Ogden Blue Print. If you're local (to Utah) stop by and see me!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


"Brand New" a work in progress
watercolor 10 x 14

     Made some progress on this today. I think the precious-newborn side of this painting is winning out. Don't you think?

     Now things will start moving a little more quickly on this painting. I wanted to be sure that I had the proportions right in the beginning, now I just need to strengthen the color and values and deal with the background.

     I really am starting to like this painting. I think the hand in front of his face is so sweet. The reference photo is of my youngest son when he was about four days old. I took HUNDREDS (and I mean that literally) of photos of him in that first week, knowing that he'd outgrow that newborn stage so fast. And I'm really glad I did. :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

WIP Wednesday

"Brand New"
watercolor work in progress 10 x 14

     Sometimes I work on a painting and I can see, right from the beginning, that it's going well. And then other times, even when it's a subject I'm confident painting, I'm not sure how it's going to turn out. And so, I debated about posting this latest work in progress today, because I'm not so sure about it. Granted, this is still at a very early stage with much work to be done.

     Judging from my stack of unfinished paintings I sorted through the other day, you'd think I would have plenty to chose from. But I wanted to post something that I've actually been working on lately, instead of two months ago. So here it is.

     I'm crossing my fingers with this one. I told my husband that I thought it could go either way, precious newborn baby, or little old man. Right now I think it's leaning more towards precious newborn baby. I'll post another update of this tomorrow, when it's a little further along.

     Oh, and I've got another art opening this Friday, and this time I'll be sure to take some pictures and post them. :) See you guys tomorrow!

Current music: "Secrets" by One Republic
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