We’re Not Laughing At Your Art (Ok, We Are)

When a program speaker for my art club had to cancel, I stepped in and did something I have been wanting to do with this group for a long time. Get them to loosen up and laugh. I think that sometimes laughing at your art is a healthy thing to do. I’ll explain soon.

So, I did a program on The Art Of The Continuous Line. Most of the group had not done these before while some had not done them since college classes.

If you need a refresher, continuous line drawings are done exactly as it’s stated. With ONE continuous line as I did with the orchid drawing seen here. You don’t lift your pen, pencil, charcoal… whatever you’re using… from your drawing surface. This is also often called contour line drawing. Slow and steady. At this point, no laughing at your art is happening.

Then there are Continuous Line Exercises! These are often done as “timed” (I like two to three minutes) or blind… not looking at your drawing surface. Which is extremely hard to do. Most people have to peek, more than once, to see where they are on the paper.

Here’s the kicker. I made the club members do BOTH at the SAME TIME. Timed and blind. (I lovingly call it drunk drawing.) I also had them doing these using each other as the subject. It was so much fun. The results were so funny. I don’t think I’ve heard this group do this much laughing in years.

As I told them. We were there to “loosen up, laugh, and learn”. We did all three. I assured them, “we aren’t laughing at your art, we are laughing with your art. It probably only makes sense to me.

I have since done this program for another group and will be teaching workshops on taking these exercises to the next level with mixed media techniques. Maybe you, the reader, will give it a try wherever you are.

Just be sure to do it with a friend. After all, laughter is good for the soul. So is laughing at your art (from time to time).

P.S. I peeked on this one.

Art: Teaching SOME Of What You Know

Many people who teach art hold degrees that they earned through four or more years of extensive study at a university.

Then there’s people like me.

I have no degree in art. I am a graduate of the “university of self learning”. (Actually, I have not graduated from that one either. I feel like every day is an opportunity to learn more.) I’m not alone.

I can say with certainty that there are so many fabulous artists who are products of this kind of university. Like them, I’ve spent thousands of hours in self study and have spent large amounts of dollars taking on-line classes with established artists to learn what I know. I may not be an expert, but I do know a lot about the creation of art. Enough about it that I am in a gallery selling my artwork. (Which may or may not be an indicator of what the public thinks is art. I’m laughing here… join in.)

So, several months ago, I decided that I needed to take the plunge and start teaching classes/workshops at the gallery (where my studio is). The gallery Board was pushing us to come up with classes for the “classroom” and several artists were taking the plunge. For a long time, I resisted. I felt like if I taught people what I do… why would they buy my work?

However, after much thought, I decided that the solution for me was to teach, but NOT teach the medium or techniques for the art that I sell there. I would, instead, teach other art stuff. Things I still like to do (mostly at home) when I just want to put down the oils, the cold wax, the palette knives and play with acrylics, mark making tools, collage, pastels, charcoal, etc. etc.

I would teach mixed media techniques! I would make it fun! I would make it interesting! I would make a little more money! I would feel the anxiety of throwing a party and then nobody showing up! (Ok, that hasn’t happened…. yet.)

So, along with continuing my almost daily painting practice and my self continuing education, I am teaching art classes and doing workshops. Come to find out, I really enjoy sharing what I know.

Ok, SOME of what I know. I’m not ready to “tell all”.

Flying Brushes

Hearing (or reading) the words “flying brushes” might make you think that I am referring to an artist with a really fast approach to putting paint on a canvas. You know… paint and brushes flying through the air with each stroke. The artist intent on letting an explosion of movement and color combine because of an idea or emotion that just had to be let out. A fanatic flurry of determined artistic genius in action.

Or an insane desire to get a lot of views on social media by attacking a canvas like a toddler who sees an unattended piece of cake within reach. Smear that frosting everywhere as fast as you can! You know what I mean.

Am I going to write about that? Of course not.

I’m referring to that incredibly ridiculous moment when, for no reason at all, your fingers let go and your paintbrush goes flying out of your hand. For years, this craziness would only happen from time to time with a hairbrush. “Oops!”

However, flying brushes, when coming from my hand are usually covered in paint.

I must admit that most often they do not fly… they drop like a rock… onto my lap, or my shoes, or the floor/rug. You’d think that I would have a tarp under my easel. I don’t. It’s much more exciting this way. You know, like an unexpected surprise! Life’s short, live on the edge! I laugh in the face danger… from paint. Ha!

I run from other dangers.

So far, I am not concerned that there might be an underlying neurological condition causing my dropped or flying brushes. I think I just get really relaxed when I’m “in the zone” or maybe I’ve been painting for hours on end (having lost track of time) and I’m just getting tired. Or, I’m trying to keep the brush in hand while I grasp something else with the same hand.

In any case, I’m not worried. I have yet to have a wine glass go flying. Until that happens, all’s good.

En Plein Aire: When Nature Calls… finale

Ok, if you’ve been keeping up, you know that I participated in my very first outdoor painting event held at our local nature preserve. And now… the rest of the story. Or at least some of the rest of the story.

As the day progressed, the roaring from the mechanical dinosaur was soon matched by the roaring from my stomach. I was ready for a late lunch. The food truck up at the Nature Center building was calling and not just to me. It was agreed that the three of us in “our spot” were ready to eat more than the snacks we brought. So away we went to join all the others already up there.

When we got to the truck and had placed our orders, I thought it would be funny to tell the person inside that we would be “dining in”. He actually looked around the inside of his food truck to see if I knew something he didn’t. So, with no room at the inn, we headed to the nearby picnic tables. My barbequed chicken/cheese street taco was delicious, the fries soggy, the Dr. Pepper cold. I was happy for all of it. Once finished, I was eager (really eager) to get back down the trail and start my second plein aire painting. I would “make hay while the sun was shining”. Or at least, I’d paint.

However… I learned a long time ago that one should never pass up the opportunity to make use of a restroom (even if your bladder is not quite ready) … especially when you are outside and your “spot” is quite a distance away. So… I entered the side designated for females, entered the stall, and started to assume the position.

“Son of a biscuit!

I’m not proud to say that I forgot my cell phone was in my back pocket.

I am proud to say that I have extremely good reflexes.

In a matter of seconds I had that cell phone out of the water with one hand, my jeans mostly back up with the other, followed by paper towels flying out of the holder like my life or should I say, my phone, depended on it. I thought my phone was toast… soggy toast. Never to be used again. Oh well. There would be no more photos by me to remember the day.

Anyway, with the phone drying and possibly dying, I finished a second painting. Much later, at the appointed time, I joined the group of happy, hot, tired artists for the showing and judging. I must tell you, the artwork turned in was fabulous. So many talented artists were part of this plein aire event. Did I win anything? No. I wasn’t there for that though it would have been mind blowing if it had happened.

Will I paint en plein aire again? Certainly. Maybe. We’ll see.

I’ll have to discuss it with my cell phone.

By the way… I’m happy to say that after leaving it out in the breeze for several hours (with the temperature at 90 degrees) and once at home having given it a lot of time in a bag of rice and silica packs… the phone survived.

En Plein Aire: When Nature Calls cont.

Part Two

I did it. I participated in my first En Plein Aire event. Not, the monthly get out and paint with others get together which I had been dodging until the days get cooler. No, this was an all day event.

Forget easing in. No…. I went all in. I would seize the day! Until it seized me.

I had my faithful cart (from Academy Sports) carefully loaded with what I thought I would need to survive a hot Texas day at the local nature preserve. I had a small ice chest with a little ice, fortified water, paper towels, cooling cloths, snacks (packaged for a toddler because that was the only thing I could find with sliced apples), hat, a small folding chair (golf spectator type), my pochade box with paints, the tripod for the pochade, bug spray, portable battery for my cell phone (yep!), and numerous other small items in a tote that I always carry with me whenever I go paint.

I left the wine, boom box, portable fan, and pack of Depends at home. Didn’t want people to realize it was my first time en plein aire that wasn’t in my backyard. I did however, bring my “square” card reader… just in case someone walking by couldn’t live without whatever I wound up painting. You know, just practicing positive thinking.

I got there, signed in, picked up my info and goodie bag and headed for the trail along with several others. Luckily for me, my friend Beth had arrived at the same time. Beth volunteers at this nature preserve, so I hooked up with her. She knew where all the best shaded areas were.

After a few minutes of walking, we had arrived and I was ready to get at it! My pochade box, however, was not. It got into a fight with my tripod. Took me about ten minutes to get them to make up and work together. Easy snap on feature, my arse.

Once that was worked out. I could enjoy the day. I was a plein aire painter! Nature sang it’s song through the trees, the birds, the grasses. I was loving it. The heat would be ignored. The bugs dropping from the trees would be ignored. I wasn’t new to tuning things out, I have …


Did I mention that we were there during the annual Dinosaur exhibit at the preserve? Moving, life size dinosaurs. There was one right behind us. I knew it was there, how could you miss seeing it? Lovely fellow. However, it was… vocal. Roared a lot. Must have been an art critic at one time.

Then came all the parents with their kids. Kids who were there to see, squeal, cry like they were being forced to sit with Santa, and to roar back at the dinosaurs. Isn’t plein aire painting great!!

Stay tuned for Part Three. Or not.

En Plein Aire: When Nature Calls

Part One

No, I’m not going to write about the need to find a place to empty my bladder when painting outdoors. Although I must admit determining where I wind up and how close it is to a “facility” is a high priority for me. Yes, I’m a wuss.

Now back to the tale. Or trail.

Several months ago, I joined the newly created local en plein aire group. I didn’t join because I love to sweat, fight off bugs, and haul painting supplies for a mile. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. I love air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, no bugs, and indoor plumbing. However, as a local artist, I wanted to support this new group and the amazing artists who love to paint outside.

So, I paid my dues and continued to paint. Inside. Paintings of landscapes and seascapes and things that are, of course, outside. At this point, en plein aire was only in my mind. My paintings continued to be from my imagination or photos and painted in my studio or at home. Like the one to the right which was not painted outside.

I LOVE nature, but not when it’s hot. You do not want to be around me when I’ve been sweating. My deodorant doesn’t want to be around me when I’ve been sweating. I guess if you paint outside with others it’s just something everyone gets used to. Or maybe that’s why everyone sets up so far apart. Actually, it’s not that bad. I just feel like it is.

So the group continued to meet and paint. Without me. However, I was on my way.

Stay tuned for part two. My first en plein aire event which was “all day”.

People Watching Is Like Bird Watching

The gallery where I have my studio is a co-op and one of the requirements of being in a cooperative art gallery is that you have to work there a few times a month. So, (in addition to time spent in the studio) I get a lot of opportunities for people watching… and unintentional eavesdropping. Ok, sometimes it’s not unintentional. I am, by nature, both creative and curious.

I have to admit, I do like to people watch while working at the gallery. It’s kind of like birdwatching in your backyard. Like the birds, some arrive by themselves, some with their mates, some in groups. Some come in with their young in tow. You can hear soft twittering to loud cawing. Some are from the area and others are just passing through.

Watching and listening tells me a lot about our visitor. For example, those who know their stuff from those who, in a word, don’t. Those that don’t know their stuff try really hard to get attention. They strut, they flap a bit, they make a lot of noise while they tilt their heads back and forth surveying the art… all while trying to impress whoever is closest. “Look at the definitive aspects of the piece in how it’s being interpreted.” WHAT?? Yes, that circle is interpreted very circular and that square is very square. And just so you know, I would never embarrass anyone by saying something. Unless asked. Even then, I am gentle as I explain what I know about the artist, their artwork, and their technique.

Or I totally agree with them. Saves time.

Like birds to my yard, some of their songs can be irritating at times. Such as: “these look like a little kid did them”. NOT A CHANCE, LADY! Ok, it might look simple, but it’s a developed technique, and a kid couldn’t do it. (Unless the little kid is an art savant… and they do exist, but not at our gallery. We wouldn’t want the competition.) Or the songs can be quite enjoyable, “I just LOVE how this was done. I just want to step into the scene” YES! That’s what the artist hopes you’ll feel. Or even songs that are sweetly amusing. Such as “Look how realistic this is! It’s amazing!” WELL, Sir, that’s a photograph in a frame.

So, as artists, we just smile and enjoy the sighting. An art critic now might become an art collector in the future. We definitely want the bird to come back. So we do our best to encourage and not discourage… unless they are an absolute looney bird.

Now… back to bird watching (I mean people watching) the visitors in the gallery. Like the birds that come to my backyard, I appreciate all the visitors that stop in. Okay, some more than others. What is important is that each is special and unique in their plumage and by their nature. Also, each comment or encounter can lead to one of the following: 1) a private laugh shared with another artist as we roll our eyes, 2) a teachable moment with someone who is truly interested to know more, or 3) an enjoyable conversation with someone who happens to really connect with a piece in the gallery.

Watching and listening. Whether it’s people or birds, it makes time spent around them much more enjoyable. Most of the time.

When Dragons Fly: The Symbolism of Dragonflies

Dragonflies. Colorful, delicate, fierce creatures. I love seeing them around my backyard. I mentioned in a prior post that I had one that used to watch me and appear to intently listen to my attempt at conversation with it.

As with many other creatures, different cultures have given the dragonfly attributes and characteristics that are symbolic with much meaning. Attributes and characteristics you won’t find in any natural science books.

The iridescence of it’s body and wings as it moves in the light causes changes to it’s colors. This ability to change and reflect the light is seen as showing us we have the ability to be adaptable, creative, and inspired. We have it within ourselves to end our self doubt and to open up to new thoughts, new ideas, new possibilities. To let ourselves shine.

In most parts of the world, dragonflies represent transformation, the ability to change one’s self. They are seen as a symbol of maturity of the mind and emotions. The dragonfly reminds us that age and wisdom give us the ability to transform. To be better.

In some Native American cultures, dragonflies have long been seen as a symbol of spring, rebirth, and renewal. They were also portrayed as the keeper of dreams to remind us, through our dreams, that we have the power within ourselves to achieve our goals. To dream of one is also interpreted to mean that change is coming.

To the ancient Celts, dragonflies were truly magical beings. To have one cross your path was a reminder to live life to the fullest, overcome fear, and let the light transform you.

The next time you encounter a dragonfly, maybe you will see more than just a “mosquito-eater”. Let it remind you that you have the power to change what might need to be changed. To see yourself in a new, positive light.

See the dragonfly, be the dragonfly. (Ok, that was corny. Bye.)

When Dragons Fly: The Magic of Dragonflies

Dragons have been a subject (or background) for a lot of fabulous artwork around the world for centuries. The image of one, in all types of forms, has a huge fanbase. I must admit, there is something awesome about how they are often portrayed.

Dragons may not exist, but dragonflies do. Thank goodness they’re small. A gigantic, dragon sized one, would scare the bejeezus out of me. They might not breath fire, but their mouths are killing machines… mostly to mosquitoes and biting flies. (Thank goodness.)

Oil and cold wax original painting

Being what they are, the size they are, and all the lovely colors they come in, I have a great affection for dragonflies. The delicate, intricately veined, often shimmery wings of these magnificent creatures are a work of art in themselves.

Last summer, one in particular loved to sit on the plant hanger and watch me. I would talk to it and, like a dog, it would tilt it’s head from side to side as I talked. I like to believe it was trying to understand what I was communicating and not sizing up it’s chances of getting a piece of me.

Like dragons, these little garden visitor “flying dragons” are a popular subject for artists, me included. Like artworks of dragons, artists have been capturing the beauty of dragonflies in many different forms from realistic to abstract from countries all around the world. For a very long time. Google dragonfly art and you’ll see what I mean.

I look forward to seeing them return to the backyard.

Magic of the Moon: Moon Glow

Once again, I was back to my favorite oils, cold wax, and palette knives. I sort of based Moon Glow on a previous painting that had sold back in June. Though I made several changes to the scene, the colors used are pretty much the same as the earlier painting. I don’t know about you, but I love pthalo blue for night scenes.

I have to say… I really like how this one turned out. If I were a wolf, I would probably live around here so I could howl at the moon every night. Fauna, flora, people, (even mythical creatures) are affected by the magic of the moon. Artists and authors often paint and write with the moon as part of the visual or verbal story.

So, what’s the story here?

As the viewer, you get to decide. Are you out on a night hike and discover the magic of the moon on the water? Are you dreaming of a moonlight encounter? Are you looking through the eyes of a bird flying through the night sky? Make it your story.

For me, as it developed, I see myself standing on the side of a small hill, experiencing the calming effect of a moonlit sky on the landscape below. I am bathing in the moon’s glow. I am feeling at peace with my surroundings. In the distance, I hear an owl calling out.

The magic of the moon is calling… can you hear it?