Finding Time To Improve Your Art: Drawing At Work

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!

20161007_175035-1

Advertisements

How To Paint Chiffon Fabric Like A Pro: Another Craft Tutorial

Hi everybody! I’ve taken a few weeks off from posting because I’ve been on vacation. Being away was a fun and exciting change, but one of the first things I had to do upon coming home was to stencil the scarves for an order that was placed right before I left.  I’ve described in detail how I make the stencils for my scarves in an earlier post, but I’ve never gotten around to explaining how I use the stencils on the fabric itself, so that will be the topic of today’s post.

Stenciling fabric is very similar to stenciling on wood or other surfaces. The biggest difference between stenciling a soft surface like fabric and a hard surface like wood is the stability of the object. Stencilers working on a piece of wood or applying a stencil to, say, a wall usually use tape to secure the stencil to the surface. This is not practical for stenciling fabric for a couple of reasons. First, tape doesn’t really like to stick to fabric all that much. Once you get to applying the paint, the stencil will be moving around on the fabric causing your image to distort. Second, unless the fabric you are working with is stretched canvas, even if the taped stencil does adhere, the fabric itself is fluid enough to be moving around from the pressure of the brushes as you paint. The more light weight and sheer the fabric is, like my scarves, the more it tries to move around.

So we can’t use tape. what can we use instead? Weights! Usually, when I paint scarves I use a combination of pressure from my left hand and tile coasters (left over from that project I mentioned in “Three Musketeers!“) as weights on both the stencil itself and the fabric to keep everything from shifting around. With that, it’s usually safe to use the stencil brush on the fabric. However, my skills with this method were tested to the max this week when I tried my technique on chiffon scarves.

Chiffon is a particular weave of fabric with very thin fibers creating a kind of sheer veil that drapes well. Chiffon can be made of many different fabric types besides the traditional silk, such as polyester, and even cotton. I’m using polyester chiffon. Cotton chiffon is very difficult to find, and silk chiffon is best painted with fabric dye; the acrylic paint I use in my projects would wreck the smooth quality of silk, however, the techniques I am going to describe will work just as well with fabric dye on silk fabric

The chiffon I used was much lighter weight than the fabric I usually use with has a a larger polyester thread. As such, even weighted down, the fabric moved too much to be used with a regular stencil brush, and I substituted a regular paintbrush instead.

20160929_133522
Stencil brushes (left) versus regular paint brushes (right) The heavy technique used with the stencil brushes was too much for the fine fabric!

Using gently strokes with the regular paint brushes worked much better than the heavy scumbling of the stencil brushes.

The fibers of the chiffon fabric tend to channel paint along themselves. This creates a splotchy, watercolor effect. This can be very beautiful, but it isn’t what I had in mind for this project, so I used my paint sparingly and stopped short of the edges of the stencil.

20160926_181243
Painting the chiffon. Notice the up-down stroke I am using, this is working with the weave to reduce bare spots.

Working with this material was a great opportunity to practice new skills. To close, I have a short list of steps to help anyone paint chiffon like a pro!

  1. Make sure you are using the right brushes. Soft paintbrushes like you would use for art painting work better than stiff craft brushes.
  2. Use the right paint. Fabric dyes work well on silks but won’t penetrate polyester fibers. Conversely, acrylic paint works great with polyester, but will ruin silk’s softness.
  3. Weights are great to keep the fabric surface steady as you work. You can get creative with what you use for weights!
  4. Use a good work space. Make sure the fabric is spread all the way out, so that there are no creases or overlaps. If you can, the best way to do this is to set up a kind of screen so that the painting surface has nothing but air beneath. This lets you picture the final effect much better as you work. If this isn’t possible (it wasn’t for me) at least make sure that the surface you place the fabric on is wide enough to stretch all the way out.
  5. Paint with the weave of the fabric. This helps you get full coverage and avoid bare spots for a more even look. For a rectangle scarf you will probably be working long-wise, for other cuts, test a small area to which way goes easiest.

There you have it! Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or advice regarding fabric painting. Have a great day!

Sketch Practice, Drawing What You See: Dewdrops

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!

20160914_204042-1

 

 

The Pony Set: Chestnut Pony

Chestnut Pony Original Watercolor Painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art

This post is the final part of a series that contains three previous entries: “Three Musketeers,” “Pony Kiss,” and “Grooming Ponies

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

Chestnut Pony Original Watercolor Painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art
Chestnut Pony Original Watercolor Painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art

I’m Back

Cherokee 8" x 10" original watercolor painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art

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!)

fb_img_1473665578840-1
Cherokee 8″ x 10″ original watercolor painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art

The Pony Set: Pony Kiss

Pony Kiss by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Click here for the first entry in The Pony Set series

“Pony Kiss” is the second painting in The Pony Set. After painting “Three Musketeers” I felt like going for a simpler color scheme and to feature some horse colors that didn’t make it into the first picture. The result is a dapper (can shaggy ponies be dapper? I think so) black pony and his snowy-white girlfriend. Fun aside: the white pony’s expression is based on Libby, the queenliest mare at our barn.

Prints and other products featuring “Pony Kiss” can be purchased at Society6.com and the original can be purchased at Etsy.com

Pony Kiss by Laurel Anne Equine Art
Pony Kiss by Laurel Anne Equine Art