Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chalk Under My Nails (or Is It Bringing Work Home If You're Covered in Dirt?)

Builder in Pastel 
A good Builder should understand structure. (I'm still very much a student for human portraits.) The further I get into this project the more I appreciate the masters who studied biology.

So if I'm staring at you from across the room... don't freak out. I may be studying your face, your nose, your ear, to understand how to construct something like you in my next art piece.

The Builder - One foot in front of the other. On line into the next. One more layer upon the base. Building is all about the steps that move you forward, and the determination to keep moving. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Every Color Sets a Mood (or Should a Designer Really Match Their Palette to a Client's Wardrobe?)

Designer in Pastel 
Be it a room, a dress, a canvas, or a car all Designers know that satisfying click when things start to fall into place. There's an immense satisfaction from taking a mere idea and pulling together all of the elements to give it life.

Ultimately, the Designer's job is to be a great communicator. Through visual language they tell the world secrets with color, line, composition, and intensity that go beyond words.

The Designer - Collecting color swatches allows you to hold a color, to feel it, and to own it before you commit to it. You can play with compliment and contrast. You can breath in the mood each color invokes.  

I'm Coo Coo for Color (or Can Anyone Ever O.D. on a Color High?)

Mad Man in Pastel 
The clock is the ultimate frenemie for the Mad Man. Too much time and ideas just trickle through his hands, lost with no urgency driving them. Too little time and ideas flood every corner of his brain creating a log jam that can bring everything to a stop.

Personally, I've found that the morning only invites a to-do list with no time for inspiration. While the night owl flies about me with ideas by the thousands.

The Madman - There will be moments when the idea you want seems to be on the other side of a busy freeway. You can see it, but you can't put your finger on it yet. You can close your eyes and hope that being zen or praying brings the idea to you. You can go for a meandering walk and stumble across the idea in an unexpected place. You can get really good at playing Frogger and just own that freeway, run against the traffic, and claim your prize. Good ideas are just too valuable to let escape. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Color Me Clever (or Can You Get Straight A's in the School of Life?)

Student in Pastel 
Always be learning. And relearning.

So it's been a while since I've worked with pastels, and I have to keep reminding myself that these are just studies. There are parts of this study I really like and parts I could keep working on and erasing and working on again for weeks.

Sometimes that's the hardest part about being a student. You know that you are probably going to fail because you don't know enough yet, but the only way to get experience is to run, screaming into the failure. You dust yourself off (I forgot how pastel/chalk dust gets everywhere) and you look for the lessons that will improve your experience for next time.

The Student - Every book (or art medium) you revisit is an opportunity to discover a completely new understanding. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Always Be Closing (or Maybe I Need a House With More Wall Space?)

Salesman in Pencil 
I'm not a commercial artist. I am a FINE ARTIST. But does that mean you have to be a Starving Artist?

NO! Having patrons (the artsy word for customers) has a long time honored tradition. Da Vinci and Michelangelo "took requests" and tailored their art to the benefactors commissioning their talents.

This Salesman's hat often gets overlooked or explained away as "selling out," but in some ways it's the most vital hat an artist should wear. If part of why we create is to share our talents with the world, then the salesman provides us a way to connect with the world.

The Salesman - But what if I never paint anything that good again? Let it go. You'll never put your full effort into it if you truly believe your best work is behind you. Let someone else buy your great painting and tell them it's a promise of more eye candy to come. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Call to Order (or Don't Some Laws Just Demand to Be Broken?)

Judge in Pencil 
You've ignored him for too long. It's time to unleash the Judge. Step back and make an honest assessment of your work. Is it really done? Could you add something more to make it special? Did you overwork it again?

All these painful questions that eventually lead you to ask... Why do I put myself through this?!?

You do it because you love making something, and you love that only you can bring your art to life in your own way.

The Judge is a necessary evil. We invite the critic within so we can prepare ourselves for the critics lying in wait out in the world.

The Judge - Bend the rules or break them, just be sure the result is something worth witnessing. Otherwise, embrace the rules as a solid foundation for some fancy artistic architecture.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

You Can Never Have Enough Tools (or Does This Pearl Go With My Hard Hat?)

Builder in Pencil 
Finally things are starting to take shape. After the Student, the Mad Man, and the Designer now we can actually roll up our sleeves, grab a hardhat, and get down to the real nitty-gritty of being an artist -- the making.

Putting pen to paper, paint to canvas, clay to the wheel, this is how we all love to spend our time as an artist. How many people do you know who can actually say that they MAKE something everyday?

The work of the Builder can be precise and messy, intense or inspired, methodical or maddening. Every Builder approaches their art with their own unique skills and goals, but each one must back them up with a powerful sense of purpose.

The Builder - Measure twice, paint once. In other words, get the proportions right in your sketch or else you spend way to much time and paint fixing it later. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Birth of Design (or Does It Really Take a Goddess to Pull This All Together?)

Designer in Pencil 
Confession time - I enjoy puzzles.

Not like jigsaw puzzles. Visual puzzles. Spacial puzzles. Even on occasion life puzzles. I like making connections between things and finding ways to fit things together, combining elements in new ways to tell a story. If I can use those connections to draw your eye around the space, then I've unlocked something special.

To wear the Designer hat is all about problem solving the puzzle of how to translate the Mad Man's vision into reality. Does the piece work in 2D or do you need to walk around it? Can you make a bolder statement in sharp contrasting black and white or rich saturated colors? Will an intimate little 5 inch by 7 inch painting draw in the viewer or should it be an over the top 5 foot by 20 foot extravaganza? Each answer drastically changes what we see and how that artistic vision will be constructed.

The Designer - Good design is part science and part art. There's a logic, a studied experiment, and a serious history to understand how elements fit together. The art is what elevates it from work to almost effortless design. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Look to the Light (or How Many Mad Men Wear Tailored Suits?)

Mad Man in Pencil 

Oh the possibilities!

The frenetic phase of ideas and inspiration that causes a natural endorphin rush can be a bit addictive. Ideas, color, creative combinations, new transformations, bold opinions, and quiet moments surround us and taunt us with endless streams of possibilities.

You can't remain a student forever. At some point you must go a little mad and take some artistic risks to strike out on your own path. And if you're wearing a tin foil hat while on your journey people will definitely keep on eye on what you'll do next.

The Mad Man - If only you could collect ideas and dreams in butterfly nets before they float away, laughing as they escape.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Graduating to the Next Dimension (or Where's My #2 Pencil?)

Student in Pencil 
Confession time - I am a perma-learner.

I actually enjoyed high school. I did get stressed out a lot, but not because of petty dramas or a need to be perfect (I got good grades, but never aimed to be valedictorian). I knew college and huge student loans were right around the corner, and in high school you can learn for FREE!

Needless to say I love the library, and the internet can be like a good art book cranked up to eleven!

As an artist it is vital to be a life long learner. Every time you open your eyes the world shows you something you've never seen in quite that light (think of Monet with his haystacks).

The Student - Seeking answers to what you don't know can lead you down paths you never knew were there. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Better Buy Better Built Baubles (or There's Life Outside My Studio?)

Salesman in Ink 
You've done it. Your've made something amazing. So, now you stick it in a drawer?

No way!

Enter the salesman.

Or maybe a nicer term would be an advocate. After all, what a salesman truly does is advocate for their product or service, and isn't your artwork worthy of having a strong advocate.

Somebody has to believe in your art. And chances are that somebody's probably gonna have to be you.

The Salesman - There's a buyer for everyone. Hopefully they value your art as much as you do. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Judge Not (or Why is Editing Always So Painful?)

Judge in Ink 

We all have that inner critic. The one who tells us that it won't work out, that those colors don't go together, that nobody's going to think your work is good.

In truth we all need to have a judge in our lives and in our artwork. Otherwise how would you know when a piece of art is done. The judge knows.

The trick is to keep him at times, at arms length. Otherwise we'd never have the strength to go out and try making anything if all we did was listen to the judge.

The Judge - If your stomach hurts when you look at your artwork, it's not ready yet, and your dinner probably wasn't fully cook either. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Brick by Brick (or That's Not What It Looked Like in My Head.)

Builder in Ink 
Until you can see it, touch it, or experience it, the thing is merely an idea. A perfect idea. An idea that could change the world, save the universe, cure the common cold!

To be an artist means more than just believing you're an artist or saying you're an artist. You've got to get dirt under your fingernails. You've got to actually build something.

It may look like playtime to others, but we know there is serious work happening here. Choosing between ultramarine blue and royal blue could change the entire foundation of your painting.

Manifesting the vision in your head into a tangible reality - that's magic, and it takes a truly skilled builder.

The Builder - Making the thing can be the most difficult task. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's Perfect! I Hate It. (or a Designer's Work is Never Done.)

Designer in Ink
With an eye for detail, a sense of balance, and the passion for beauty, the Designer fuses reality with fantasy as she juggles form, function, and the unexplainable "awe."

Like the goddess of love, the designer brings elements together with a deft hand and trained eye to create a new whole that is more than the sum of its minor pieces.

The Designer - Knowing what to leave out is just as important as knowing what to put in.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Journey into Madness (or Was I Already There?)

Mad Man in Ink
Sometimes you just need a tinfoil hat!

Every artist dons the Madman's hat when they have a thousand ideas bouncing through their minds like rabbits hopped up on Red Bull and Pop Rocks and Espresso and Pixy Stixs.

It's that exciting spark of creation, that burst of inspiration, that whirling dervish of possibilities that capture our imaginations, and like so many eccentric geniuses we tilt at windmills, we search for snuffleupagus, and we build castles in the air.

The first painting I remember of Rene Magritte was the Castle in the Pyrenees, a castle built on a boulder floating several feet in the air above a roaring sea. Brilliant madness!

Want to see what other artists are painting for 30 days? Visit

The Madman - I could go in a thousand different directions, only a few of them would be wrong, but all of them would be interesting as long as I keep moving!

30 Paintings in 30 Days (or What Am I Getting Myself Into Now!)

Student in Ink
So over 700 crazy artists from around the world will not sleep for the entire month of September all because of this lady with a radio show, Leslie Saeta. I've enjoyed listening to her podcast "Artists Helping Artists" while painting animals for Petburbia and doing various commissions.

Now, here I am taking on another wild project, but I'm doing it my way...

6 Hats, 5 Ways, 30 Days

Every artist needs at least 6 different hats to do what they do.

It's no accident that I'm starting off with the student. (Da Vinci's sketches are well known, and Mona Lisa is often the only painting new students can name!)

Instead of 30 paintings, I'll be doing 30 studies. This is a chance for me to stretch some artistic muscle, show that I have many flaws, and hopefully also connect with artists (and art lovers) who know how to mix encouragement and brutal critique.

The Student - What I'm learning is that I need to paint and draw many, many, many more people.