Once again, I’ve let a long period of time elapse since the last time I updated this blog. I could make a lot of excuses about how I was busy with work, or being down because of winter weather, but the truth is I’ve had artist’s block. Artist’s Block is the sneaky little cousin of writer’s block that you don’t hear about as often because artists don’t write things down as much as writers do. Just like writer’s block, artist’s block leads to a lack of productivity as you sit in your studio looking around saying; “I should make something,” but you don’t, and slowly, time passes by and you haven’t created anything.
I wish I had a simple answer about what to do when you have artist’s block. I’m sure you can find tons of lists out there that tell you to do things like change up your routine, try a new medium, or do some freestyle sketching or doodling. I don’t have any advice like that. The advice I have for you is the advice I have been giving myself: it’s okay. It’s okay to go through a creative drought. It’s okay to go weeks or months without making anything. You are not lazy or wasting your talent. All artists go through periods where we’re not creatively motivated, it’s normal. Above all, we are artists because we love making things, and we should make things because we love it, not because we think we should. So don’t feel bad if you’re in a rut right now. Your creativity will return. In the mean time, enjoy those other things you didn’t have time for when you were making art!
This is going to be a sad post. Going through some older work that I haven’t thought about for a while, I came across one of the first portraits I ever painted. The portrait was a gift, completed in spring of 2014. The subject is Dutchess, a Belgian Draught mare who was one of the most important residents of our farm until a couple of weeks ago when she tragically passed away.
Dutchess was a whole lot of horse, physically and personality-wise. The day we brought our horses to the farm, we put them into stalls to let them unwind from the move. Iris’s stall was next to Dutchess, and the Great Creature raised her nose over the 6-and-a-half-foot wall between them to greet her new neighbor. Iris who was barely 2 at the time, stretched her own head up in reply, in a moment my mother describes: “Was like Adam reaching to God in Michelangelo’s painting.”
In the over six years from that first day until her passing, Dutchess was a great teacher to our horses. As a trail companion, Dutchess spent many hours helping Belle get over her fear of crossing water. She helped Iris even more, being Iris’s coach for her first trail rides. Dutchess gave Iris the courage to ford streams, scale steep hills, and blaze through thick vegetation, acting as an emotional (and sometimes physical) wall. Their relationship wasn’t perfect; Iris didn’t always appreciate Dutchess’s steady stream of flatulence in her face and would pin her ears to show it, but my horses did consider Dutchess “an acceptable companion,” the highest honor they can bestow.
Dutchess was the queen of the farm, but even a queen has her not-so-graceful moments. I can remember two occasions when she fell flat on her side. The first, I surprised her carrying a hose to the water tub from behind some trees. As she heaved her huge self to turn and buck, she fell sideways with a splat in the mud, quickly recovered, and stood swishing her tiny tail with an expression that said we should never mention it again. On the second occasion, I made the mistake of trying to bring Dutchess’s companion Robin in from the pasture first. Her Majesty responded to this breach of etiquette by galloping full tilt towards the gate, trying to stop in the mud too late, and sliding her full-ton self into the gate (which subsequently smacked me in the head)
That great force of weight that gave me a concussion caused other issues as well; as Dutchess often leaned on her stall door to rest her joints, breaking it. This led to one of the barn owner’s proudest contraptions: Dutchess’s Butt Bar – a reinforced 2″ x 6″ piece of wood that could be swung out of the way to help spare the poor door some of her weight. When the Butt Bar was in use, on quiet days, you could often see flaxen tail hairs squished through the stall bars as she rested herself.
The stories I’ve shared here are only a few of my most prominent memories of Dutchess. As such a big part of our lives, her presence has been greatly missed. She may not be among us, but her spirit lives on, and there will be more portraits of her to come.
If you would like a memorial portrait of a beloved lost pet, or just one celebrating the ones you have now, you can hire me to paint it on Etsy.com
The story of the three cows is one that is very dear to my heart. It started earlier this year when I decided to join a fundraiser project for Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary. The farm is a sanctuary for farm animals in Ontario, Canada. The farm is run by two wonderful young men, Steve and Derek, and is named after its most famous, most fabulous, and first resident, Esther the Wonder Pig.
The goal of the project was simple: each artist would select one of the many photographs of animal residents of the farm, produce their own artistic rendering of the photo, and sell it, with proceeds going to support the farm. Of all the photos to choose from, the one of the three cows walking home in the frigid sunset spoke to me the most.
Work began on the painting. Sketching out the scene, working out the intricate branches, and putting the first washes of color on the paper. And, as work began, work got delayed. The demands of Life got in the way, and painting projects got put on hold for weeks at a time. However, whenever the Cows came out, with every layer that was added, I fell more in love with the mood of the painting.
As summer drew to a close, another hurdle appeared; I had intended to enter my Cows into the Saxonburg Fine Arts Show as an entry to the theme of 2016, domestic animals. As I crunched to finish the painting before my September deadline, I came to the realization that I would never be able to sell this painting. Of course, this put me at odds with my commitment to sell it as the condition of my permission to use the photo. I decided on a compromise: I would hold on to the original forever. However, any earnings from products featuring the image would instead be donated to the farm. I think this may be better than the original plan because now the picture can be enjoyed by more people, and there is no limit to the amount of funds that can be raised. If you like this picture, and you would like to support the animals at Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary, I encourage you to browse the products featuring them on Society6.com. There are products available that fit every budget, from notebooks and mugs, to duvet covers and large canvas prints! I, for one, know I will never tire of seeing my Cows.
Hi everyone! One thing I never get tired of saying is how important regular practice and constantly challenging yourself is to improving your drawing. But what do you do if you can’t seem to find nice, long stretches of time to sit at your desk, listen to music, and practice your drawing? I’ve been having this hurdle with finding the time to improve my artistic ability ever since I started at my full time job.
One thing I’ve started doing is working on small practice sketches throughout the work day. It goes like this: at the start of a shift where I anticipate having a lot of down time, I take a small scrap of paper (no bigger than 4″ x 6″) and pick a photo. I’ll usually go with something interesting or challenging from Google Images. I’ll keep that window up on my computer to work from whenever I get downtime on the job. Typically, I can finish one whole picture, from blocking in the basic shapes to refining the details over the course of an eight hour workday.
I can hear you now: “isn’t it irresponsible to be drawing when you’re supposed to be working?” I don’t think so, for a couple of reasons. First, most jobs do not require your constant, undivided attention throughout the day. While this is not the case for delivery drivers, assembly line workers, nurses, and other jobs that are task oriented, most of us, especially in office jobs, have down time at the desk, which usually gets turned into web surfing and solitaire. Which actually brings me to my second point.
Drawing at work increases your productivity. Contrary to what you (and ALL my teachers in school) might have been led to believe, drawing or doodling does not distract you from paying attention. The opposite is true. Drawing helps improve your concentration, keeping you from getting too noted by giving you something in the present to focus on. It actually turns out eyes on the paper may be better for information retention than eyes on the speaker. As I mentioned before, many people turn to games or web surfing when they’re bored at work. When I draw at work, I am right at my work station, with my reference pic on my screen and my work program running at the same time. If the phone rings or a client walks up, I am right there to help, and I get to practice the skill I love in the meantime.
Lastly, drawing while I work improves my mood. Picture how you feel when you have to go to work: tired, grumpy, maybe resentful at that huge block of time when you can’t do what you want. Maybe just reading that sentence gets the cortisol churning through your bloodstream. Now think about how you feel when you’re making art and in the flow: rhythmically applying large areas of color or shading, the intense meditative state you feel when shuting out the rest of the world to work on a small detail. You may not be able to get as far into the zone when you’re at work instead of your studio, but what you do get will probably be a lot nicer than you usually feel at work. I notice that a day drawing at work makes me feel a lot better about coming in the next day, plus I’m more likely to draw some more that night!
So go ahead and take your colored pencils to work and make something beautiful. If your boss says something, show them this article and have them take it up with me. Or just check out what I drew at work yesterday!
Part of being an artist is constantly challenging your abilities and trying new techniques. I mentioned before in my article about my experience learning to draw cats, that the most important part of learning to draw a new subject is drawing a photo of it exactly as you see it. If you are new to drawing from references, it may seem overwhelming to concentrate on all that detail, and that’s perfectly normal. Drawing what you see is a learned skill. It takes time to develop that concentration skill, as well as time time to sketch out those practice pictures! One thing I’ve been meaning to learn to draw for a while is dewdrops. Here’s today’s effort! What have you been trying to learn to draw? Let me know in the comments!
Finally, I’m getting around to the last entry in the Pony Set series. “Chestnut Pony” is the odd man of the Pony Set. Ironically, he was the dark horse from the beginning. The lone pony peeking at the viewer beneath his shaggy mane and long eyelashes never seemed to fit into the group of other pictures with ponies interacting with each other . He never even got uploaded to Society6 with the others. Not knowing what to really say about him, I pushed the project to the back of my mind as the weeks turned to months with no update. I’ve realized now that his story is just as it is, no frills, no excitement, just The Chestnut Pony.
No prints or other products featuring “Chestnut Pony” exist, however, the original can be purchased at Etsy.com
If you follow this blog or found it recently, you’ve probably noticed that it hasn’t been updated for a while. 5 months is the longest stretch between posts so far, but I haven’t given up this project! Where have I been these past months? Well, a lot of places actually. I’ve learned a new job, swam in some rivers, caught a bunch of pokemon (“- -), sweated my body weight off ( twice!) and actually finished a few new paintings! I’m looking forward to recommiting to this blog, which represents a lot of my deepest loves in life. So if you haven’t moved on yet, please continue to stay tuned for new posts (and if you haven’t subscribed to my email list or Facebook it’s highly recommended!)