Friday, September 13, 2019

9 Suggestions for the Beginning Artist

9 Suggestions for the Beginning Artist

It might seem presumptuous for a newbie artist such as myself to offer advice for other artists, but who would know better what a beginning artist is going through than someone who has recently been through the beginning phases herself? I’ve only been painting for about four years now. All those initial growing pains are still fresh on my mind, and I’m still working on these suggestions in my own art. I’m not going to give you advice about technique or craft. This is about the practical, nuts and bolts of getting started as an artist. They are the things I struggled with at first or that I found to be most helpful to me. So, for those of you who are just embarking on your art journey, here are my suggestions to make the road a little smoother and more enjoyable.

(1)    Create an “Artist’s Statement.” I know . . .  having an artist’s statement sounds all hoity-toity. However, I can tell you that it makes a BIG difference!  Even for an absolute beginner! Your vision as an artist is what drives everything else. The process of writing an artist’s statement is invaluable. It forces you to think through your whys and hows. It will help you solidify your focus and purpose in painting. It will keep you from wasting time on things that don’t fit your vision. Set aside an hour or two, and get it done. Then post it where you can see it when you paint. Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote about how I came up with my own artist’s statement. http://marycarolart.blogspot.com/2019/06/an-artists-statement.html. Check it out if you want to know more about my process.
Be prepared: Your hopes and plans for your art will change as time passes and you paint more, and that means your artist’s statement will change, too. That’s a good thing because it shows that you’re growing.

(2)    Gather the materials you will need. Nothing will kill your desire to paint more than having a great painting idea but not having the materials to follow through. Often, by the time you gather all the materials, that inspirational spark has fizzled. Make a list of the supplies you will need, and then get them. If you don’t know what you need, research it. The internet is a great resource for information, but don’t take one source’s word for it; check out several. Make sure your materials include a sketch book that’s small enough to carry around with you so you can make quick sketches when you find yourself in a waiting room or with time on your hands.

(3)    Set up a dedicated space for painting. It doesn’t have to be a big studio, but it does have to be a space for art and nothing else. You won’t paint much if you must clear away papers, dishes, or toys every time you want to paint. I started out with a desk in a spare bedroom, and later I converted our bonus room into a studio. Your studio is whatever make it; it can be a table in the corner of your bedroom, a desk in the kitchen, or an easel set up in the laundry room.  It can be a spare bedroom, space in your garage, or anywhere that you can create an area just for your art. You will need some type of shelving or cart to keep your supplies. Once you’ve claimed your space, set out the materials you gathered in #2 above and have them ready to be used.

(4)    Take workshops and/or lessons from a variety of artists. Find available classes and workshops by checking out community centers, calling your local arts council, getting online to research, calling nearby colleges and universities, or checking the arts section of your local newspaper. Then sign up for a workshop that most closely matches your own interests.

When you take a workshop, go in with an open mind. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attended a workshop and seen a student or two so involved in their own painting that they don’t pay attention to the teacher’s demos or instruction. You’re there to learn. Embrace the experience – follow the instructor’s suggestions – try out new techniques and materials – use the instructor’s palette – take notes. When you go home after the workshop, practice what you learned. Keep what works for you. Some things will resonate with you; others won’t. Also, talk to the other workshop participants. Get to know them. They will likely share with you about other art opportunities. If you like the artist/instructor, find out what other classes they teach. Workshops are vital to growing as an artist. Even nationally recognized artists take classes in order to keep learning and growing.

(5)    Get involved in the art community. There is a thriving art community on many levels – local, state, region, national, international. In the few years that I’ve been painting, I’ve added an entirely new dimension to my circle of friends and experiences. Here are some suggestions for involvement. You can’t do them all, but you can pick and choose the ones that appeal to you the most.

a.       Find and join local art groups. Once you’ve joined one or two local groups, get involved. Volunteer to help with shows and paint-outs. You don’t have to be an amazing artist to be involved in the art world. Does your community have “art crawls” each month? One caution: Don’t over-extend yourself. Start small and make decisions about your involvement based on your artist’s statement. Will this group help me reach my goals? Is this group’s vision in line with mine?
b.       Subscribe to and read art magazines. (Fine Arts Connoisseur, Plein Air Magazine, etc.) Regularly set aside time to read them and keep up to date with what’s going on in the world of art. It’s fun to read about all the shows, conventions, and galleries and see the art that other people are producing.
c.       Join artist groups on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media, and “friend/follow” other artists. Artists generally post their work, and you can see what other artists are doing. If someone posts a painting you like, leave a comment telling them you like it. That helps to start building relationships.
d.       Join Associations such as Outdoor Painters Society, American Impressionist Society, Inc., and Oil Painters of America. Find groups for the medium(s) you use. Associations offer information, videos, workshops, paintouts. and competitions. They provide opportunities to network and learn. They also sponsor shows that give you the opportunity to submit your art for consideration.
e.       If you’re interested in plein air painting (painting outdoors), then do your best to attend the annual Plein Air Convention and Exposition (PACE). You’ll be with hundreds of other artists and have dozens of well known artists that provide sessions about elements of painting. Participate in as many of the sessions and activities as you can. 

(6)    Be patient. When I started painting, I wanted to be a great painter IMMEDIATELY! I wanted to instantly know about how to mix colors and how to paint impressionistically! It doesn’t happen that way, though. Learning takes time and practice. You’re embarking on a marathon – not a sprint. Remember that, as you continue to paint, you WILL improve, and you WILL learn. It is through this process that you will develop your voice as an artist.

(7)    Embrace your vulnerability. I can’t stress enough how important this is! It’s what I had to work on the most. When you paint, you are baring your soul and heart. It can be painful to put your art out there where others can comment and pass judgment on it. Every doubt and insecurity you ever had will push itself to the forefront. Don’t let your vulnerability freeze you, though. Remember: Different people = different styles of painting. You are the only you. It can be intimidating to go to that first (second, third, hundredth) workshop where you paint in front of people and where a professional artist/teacher (gasp!) will critique your art. Embrace the fact that you’re human and not perfect. It’s okay to be a beginning artist with much to learn.

I want to share a quick story to illustrate: When I attended my first Plein Air Convention and Exposition (2018), I didn’t know what to expect. It was in Santa Fe, and there were so many people there. I was intimidated because I only knew one other person. I attended lots of sessions and went on the paint-outs but did not participate in the social activities. I felt so out-arted by all the amazing artists there that I ended up isolating myself. When I signed up for the next year’s PACE, I resolved to jump into the activities and participate more. That year (2019), it was in San Francisco, and it was a much better experience. I met more people, finished some paintings, and learned more. At one point when I was walking back to the bus after painting the Golden Gate Bridge from Lands End, I remember looking at the gorgeous scenery and all the artists painting and thinking, “I love this!” THAT is the feeling you’re looking for! And that is the result of embracing my vulnerability as a newbie artist.

I deliberately use the word “embrace” rather than “accept” because embracing indicates an enthusiasm. It’s a good and valuable thing to be vulnerable. Go ahead and post your paintings on your Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest pages. You are you, and there’s no one else that will paint like you.

(8)    PAINT. Do your art and don’t let anything stop you. We all likely know one or two people who talk about being an artist, but they never quite get around to actually painting. Don’t let that white canvas or panel intimidate you! You are the boss of your art! Sling a little paint on that canvas. Make a commitment to paint every day for a week. Or commit to three days each week. Set a do-able goal and then do it! The simple act of starting a painting is often all that’s needed to get you going. It doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s the beauty of art. You can always wipe off the paint or paint over it.
I was an elementary school reading specialist for many years, and one thing I often told students was that “the more you read, the better you’ll read.” I told them that reading lots of “easy” books” would enable them to move to harder books much more quickly. The same is true with painting. The more you paint, the better you’ll paint. And painting easy subjects repeatedly will enable you to paint more difficult subjects. I will say it again – You are the boss of your art! So get busy art-ing! Throw that paint around!

(9)    ENJOY the journey! Painting will change your life. You will never look at clouds or trees or flowers or even an apple the same way again. You will never see a white cloud again because now your newly awakened “artist eyes” will see all the purples and browns and oranges that are in there. You’ll gain a new vocabulary and start talking about cast shadows, local color, values, chroma, saturation, and shapes. You’ll become an obsessive photographer – always aware of the need to get shots of scenes you might want to paint someday. It’s a lovely and healthy way to live – with heightened awareness of the beauty of the world around you – the textures and colors and intricacies of nature.

Being an artist is a calling – a calling to journey through this life being more observant, more caring, more intuitive. A calling to embrace your imperfections, to explore your world, and to translate your deepest thoughts and emotions into color on a canvas. Enjoy the journey.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Two paintings and 3 Fused Glass Pieces in two separate Auctions

This past weekend was a weekend of our church festival plus a concert, and both events had their accompanying auctions! Each year our church's annual Fall Festival and our town's Concert 4 the Cure occur on the same weekend. Ron and I are always pulled between the two events - trying to get to both although they're both the same evening. Our family is invested in the Concert 4 the Cure because Lily (my granddaughter who has battled leukemia twice) has worked so hard to raise money for childhood cancer research. All the money raised at Concert 4 the Cure each year goes to Vandy's Children's Hospital - where Lily has been treated since 2008.  This was the first year Lily has missed the Concert - but she missed it because she's away at college! That fact fills me with such happiness that she is able to experience college after all she has been through. My daughter, Lily's mom, is in charge of the silent auction each year, and she made sure I contributed.

So I donated items to the auction/silent auction at each event.

I donated this painting to our church’s Fall Festival. It is a painting of our church, and it was in the live auction. It sold for $250.  One of my best friends bought it, and soon after the auction she texted me a photo of the painting already hanging on a wall in her home. I was so honored! It's the third time I've painted the church - and I hope to paint it again someday. I wrote a poem to go with the painting.


Then, for the Concert 4 the Cure's Silent Auction,  I donated the following painting and fused glass items. Although the paintings and glass pieces were displayed at the concert, the bidding was done online. I was in Georgia and was able to bid on several items from there (not any of my items!  LOL!) I have no idea who bought any of my items.

Here are screen shots of the final bid amount for all four of my donations:






I was so pleased that I was able to contribute to both our church and to the children's hospital through my art. And this was the first time I sold any of my art work. So that's a milestone in my journey.

Plein Air Painting Workshop at the Booth Museum in Cartersville Georgia

Last week I attended a Plein Air Workshop at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA. The actual workshop was held at the Booth Art Academy which is about a block from the Museum. The workshop featured three well known artists: Kathie Odom, Lori Putnam, and Dawn Whitelaw. When we signed up for the workshop, we had to select one of the artists to be our primary artist/instructor. I chose Kathie Odom since I had been in her mentorship group for three sessions last January and already knew that I related well to her. However, although I spent most of my time with Kathie, the workshop was designed so that we had sessions with the other two artists as well. A 3-for-1 deal.

It started on Thursday evening with each instructor introducing herself and telling about her art journey. We also received our schedules and information about the activities for the rest of the workshop. There were free samples of Gamsol and Galkyd Light - plus a gift bag with lots of Booth Museum and Cartersville Chamber of Commerce goodies. After about two hours that evening, Day 1 was complete.

Since my Mother lives in Rome, GA (about a 45-minute drive from Cartersville), I stayed with her and drove back and forth to the workshop each day.  I spent a lot of time in the car. I enjoy that, though. I listen to audiobooks, and it's a quiet time alone. The minus was that I didn't spend any time with the other class participants outside of class. Some of them got together at the hotel in the evenings for dinner, drinks and talking. I got to spend extra time with my mother, though. So it all evened out, and I was thankful that I could spend my days painting and learning with other artists - and my evenings with my mother and some siblings and other relatives, too.

Friday morning we met at Euharlee Covered Bridge in Euharlee, Georgia - a little community about 15 minutes from Cartersville. A truly beautiful little place with a covered bridge that is quaint and reminiscent of earlier times in America.



The three artist/instructors set up their easels at various locations near the bridge, selected their subjects and then demonstrated how they paint, talked about their process, and completed their paintings.  The workshop participants were free to watch one, two, or all three of them. I chose to roam from one to another, and that ended up being a great choice. I learned from each one.

Lori Putnam set up facing away from the covered bridge. Her painting focus was the road with its pattern of cast shadows from the trees and buildings.

It was good to see how she blocked in her painting and then selected the colors for the road, trees, buildings.


Dawn Whitelaw set up facing the bridge. This was my favorite subject of the three. It just seems that if you're going to paint around a covered bridge, the covered bridge should be in the painting. LOL!  Dawn is such a knowledgeable and quiet artist. I learn just from watching her, and I loved her presentation at the workshop.




Then I watched Kathie Odom paint for awhile. She also turned away from the bridge and painted the back of a house with a small house (play house, maybe) in the background. There was a large pot in the yard between the two houses, and she wanted that to be the focal point. Kathie has so much personality and was constantly sharing ideas and techniques.



This is another view of the covered bridge. There is just something about covered bridges that I love. They ooze stories of long ago.



After we spent Friday morning viewing and interacting with the 3 artists/instructors as they painted, we returned to the Booth Art Academy after lunch.  There, they had two 90-minute sessions - one with each of our non-primary instructors. That means I spent 90 minutes with Dawn and another 90-minutes with Lori. I learned so much from both of them - the most important thing was the value of drawing a small thumbnail sketch before painting. It helps to ensure the painting is what you want it to be. Via the thumbnail sketch, the artist works out possible issues before commiting it to paint. Then day two was complete.

Saturday and Sunday were spent outdoors and at the academy with our primary instructor. So Saturday morning, Kathie and her students met at a dead-end road right outside of Cartersville where there was a field with some white cows and a red barn. We set up our easels along the road, Kathy demo'ed, and then we tried to follow suit at our own easels. Since it was a dead end road, there were only two cars that came by during the 3+ hours we were there, and those were two nearby residents who came to see why all those people were milling around the road and painting.

Here is a view from where I set up my easel. It was interesting that one person set up right in the line of sight of just about everyone. So the majority of the class had to try to peer around her in order to see the barn. Some people just have no common courtesy. That person then stood at her own easel painting whenever Kathie had us come watch her demo another aspect of the painting. It puzzles me why someone would pay for a workshop and then not take full advantage of trying to learn as much as possible from the instructor.


We had some shade the first 30-45 minutes, but then the sun got high enough in the sky that even with umbrellas and wide-brimmed hats, it was miserably hot. Shortly after 11:30, I had reached my heat limit. The heat was bouncing off that asphalt, and I was melting. So I packed up my stuff and decided to head off for lunch a few minutes early. As I was leaving, I saw several other people packing - and I think by the time I drove off, everyone was pretty much done for the day. The photo below is of me with my friend, Barbara, right before I left. You can see by the background what a beautiful site it was.


This is my painting of the red barn - totally unfinished - lots I want to change about this. Now that I'm home, I hope to finish it soon. It's WAY too dark right now.


We spent Saturday afternoon at the academy. Kathie gave us the presentation she had given the other two groups the afternoon before, and then we all worked on our barn paintings for the rest of the afternoon. Day three was complete.

Sunday morning, Kathie's group met again at the Euharlee Covered Bridge. Our instructions were to set up our easels wherever we wanted to paint, and Kathie would circulate and comment/critique/offer suggestions for everyone. Kathie sure kept her word - constantly moving among all the students. She's one of the most giving artists I know.  Below is my set-up with my painting on the easel. I chose basically the same view that Dawn had chosen on Friday. You will notice the sketch pad where I had done my thumbnail drawing before starting the painting. However, if you look at my painting, you will see that I got the upper lines of the road all wrong. My road ended up looking like there's a hill leading to the bridge rather than a gentle slope.  So, now that I'm home, I plan on re-painting the road to straighten that out. Again, I still have lots to do, but I like this painting so far.


Sunday afternoon, it was back to the Academy where Kathie guided us in making a "greens chart." We mixed colors to make about 20 different shades of green on a panel to keep in our studios or with our plein air materials. It's amazing how many shades of green you can get with just 3-5 different tubes of paint.

And before we left on Sunday afternoon, Kathie's husband, Buddy, took a photo of our group, and then Day 4 was complete. The workshop went past so fast. 


I didn't finish a single painting during the workshop. However, that hasn't bothered me one bit. I feel that I have two paintings close to being finished, and I learned a lot that will help me be a better artist - and, most of all, will help me take my art in the direction I want it to go - looser and more "painterly."

Pandemic Painting

The Coronavirus pandemic is in full swing, and people across the world are self-isolating in their homes. Quarantines are wide-spread, and s...