I Love Palette Knives

I think that I shall never see,
A painting tool so right for me.

Though people often use the term palette knife when referring to any type of metal blade used for painting, there is a difference between a true palette knife and a painting knife (yep, I got that right off the internet). However, I’ll let you do the research if you’re interested. It’s really not that important. They can all be used to paint with (even the cheap plastic ones, if you’re on a budget).

The Love Affair Begins

Less than a year ago, I rarely used palette knives. I was mainly a brush painter. Then I met cold wax. Cold wax set me up with palette knives. At first we just played around and watched a lot of videos. I had no idea how strong the attraction would be. I just couldn’t stay away. I had to know more. I had to be with them… use them.

Now, palette knives are now my first choice when making art and are perfect for my preferred method/style of painting (whether using oils or acrylics). It’s fascinating to see what can be done with palette knives and different mediums. The layering, the scraping, the marks they can make. It’s quite exciting. I LOVE my palette knives.

Other reasons I love them are: they are not expensive, versatile, can take a lot of abuse, and are easy to clean. You can paint big and bold, or small and precise. (It just takes practice.) They aren’t limited to the traditional oils and acrylics either. I’ve seen them used by a watercolor artist. Yes, watercolors. Who knew? Someone experimented and it worked.

Where Did they Come From?

I’ve often wondered how this painting tool came into existence. I mean, did someone notice a bricklayer with a trowel and think “hey, I can slap a LOT of paint on a canvas with one of those!”

I don’t know.

I do know that palette knives can be traced back to the 17th century and were most likely first used to mix paint on the… tadaa.. palette. (Bet you saw that coming!) They were also used to scrape paint off of the canvas. (Made a mess? Using Oils? Still wet? Scrape it off!) By the 18th century, the palette knife was a popular tool with artists and they were widely used. Somewhere along the way, this handy dandy tool went from being a tool used just to mix or scrape off paint to being refined into a tool of many shapes and sizes for creating a painting. Just like brushes.

Want a Storage Tip?

My knives.

Go to someplace like Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Harbor Freight and look for a magnetic strip used for holding small tools. Attach it within reach of your painting area. The metal blades of the palette knives will attach to the strip. Gets them up and out of the way, yet keeps them close for when you need one.

Did I say I love them?

Taking the Plunge and Investing in Myself

This is the year I decided to step up and invest in myself. To put myself out there. To get my artwork in front of the public. And, sometimes, this requires spending some money. Investments are rarely cost free.

It wasn’t an easy decision. I had been full of doubts about whether or not I was “there yet”. When the opportunity first presented itself this past summer to become a part of the local art gallery (which had become a co-op of local artists) I let the doubts creep in and I passed it up. I spent the next six months kicking myself.

My Step One: Ignore the Doubts and Jump In

So… when I found out last November that they were still taking artist applications to join, I didn’t hesitate. No more kicking myself. I presented my work, made it in, and signed a six month financial commitment. Was it scary? You bet! Let me repeat… it was a financial commitment. What if nothing sold? I’m in a gallery with over 40 other artists/artisans and with people who are well known around North Texas. Boy was I nervous.

I also felt very vulnerable. When you put yourself out there, no matter what your creative thing is, you get viewed (and critiqued) by others. Others who usually have no clue about the process, the practice, the techniques, or the cost of what goes into what you have created. They only know what they like. Unless, of course, they too are an artist because artists know.

So… I hung my first artworks in December at the gallery. Has it been worth the monthly fee to have space there? YES! My work is selling and I do a happy dance for every one of them. I take nothing for granted.

My Step Two: More Public Interaction (Getting to Know Me)

I just took part in the indoor Winter Art Fest here locally. Step number 2 of putting myself out there. Participate in more public events. (Of course now, depending on how that darn virus spreads, that may take a backseat for a time.) Relationships are important and I need to cultivate them! Anyway, I don’t have to get into all events, just those that work for me, my schedule, and my pocketbook. As a lot of you know, there are lots of events that don’t involve any financial commitment to participate but are a great way to get your name and work out there. I’ve got several in mind for where I live.

My Step Three: Invest in Simple Advertising

I have started giving out business cards instead of leaving them in my purse. (If you prefer, you can just call them introduction cards.) They are the cheapest way to advertise what you do. If you are on Facebook (or Instagram) and have a page for your artwork or other creative outlet, it won’t break the bank to make a post and then boost it for a week to an audience that meets YOUR criteria. Social media is a great way to promote what you do. However, I’m a little concerned about Pinterest. Seems a lot of people find their artwork getting swiped from there and showing up where it shouldn’t. Anyway, I know it’s a slow process to get noticed and I don’t expect instant success.

My Step Four: I Don’t Have One

The steps above should suffice for now. I believe in myself and I’ve worked hard to get where I am in my art journey. I love what I’m doing. I am now investing in myself so others might love what I’m doing and invest in me as well.

Now, if you’re ready, go out and invest! Invest in yourself!

Enjoying Presidents Day

Mount Rushmore

I realize that today is supposed to be about remembering and paying tribute to all those who have held or do hold the title of President of the United States. However, I’m so fed up with politics that I prefer to not think about any of them (other than to find a photo of Mount Rushmore for this musing).

Nope, today I hold the title.

Today I declare myself President of my little place in the sun and I give tribute to myself for all of my accomplishments. Like many other Presidents before me, I prefer to remember the good things, the successes, that I have had under my long administration. And like many Presidents before me, I prefer to hope the failures stay in the closet. I also hope that I have learned from those failures which, unfortunately, so many of those in Washington seem to have not.

This Presidents Day, I celebrate that I put my child on the path to be a darn good adult. A good citizen. I celebrate the awesome grandchildren that I have some influence on. They will be good citizens too. I have made decent gains economically for my constituents. My economic stimulus program may not be fantastic, but it’s steady and is keeping a roof over our head and food on our table. (For that, I really have to give credit to my wonderful Vice President who does a heck of a good job. )

As President of my little corner, people are treated with respect and fairly. Though if you break the law or act like a spoiled brat and take no responsibility for what you do, you won’t get much sympathy or support from me. I try hard to uphold my commitments. Nature under my administration is treated with both awe and respect. I try to keep my little corner of the world eco-friendly and encourage others to do so. As the child and wife of a veteran, I support our military. I may not support some of the things they are forced to do by our national leaders, but I support those in our armed forces whose adherence to duty allows me to safely keep my freedoms.

So, as President of my little place in the sun, I have pardoned myself from any and all housework, yard work, or honey-do lists that need to be done.

I pardon you from these things as well. Have a good rest of the day.

Trees Are Your Friend

“Just go out and talk to a tree.” “Make friends with it.”
– Bob Ross

Trees. I love them. I admit that sometimes they don’t make the best neighbors… like when they fall on your house, or spread their roots under your foundation, or find their way into your pipes. But, other than a few instances where they cause a problem which they don’t do on purpose, trees are a wonderful gift of nature and actually do provide a unique type of friendship to those that appreciate how special they are.

Sister Trees by Karren Case Art

Yes, trees are your friend.

I haven’t yet found myself actually talking to one, but I have often thought to myself “What things have you seen? What stories could you tell?” while I have stood and studied their uniqueness. I’ve climbed them, fallen out of them, planted them, watched them grow and watched them (sadly) die. I feel a kinship with them and appreciate how special they are as well as their contribution to my well being. I could not live where there weren’t any. It also causes me pain to see them cut down for the sake of putting in another development. I’d rather see trees than more cement and buildings.

When Mr. Ross made his statement, I’m pretty sure he was telling his audience to not be intimidated when painting a landscape involving trees. If you’ve tried (other than grade school) to draw or paint them, trees can be a challenge. I admire those that do them in a realistic manner. Me, I prefer to do them semi-real or in art talk, “representational”. At least that way, the trees won’t be upset that I didn’t paint them accurately. I would not want to offend them. They are my friend. (Truthfully, it’s also how I paint just about everything.)

As an artist, I find that the different shapes, sizes, foliage colors, and changes of trees throughout the seasons to be, in a word, fascinating. I believe this is why they are, and have been for centuries, a popular subject for painters, photographers, and others. Unlike other models, trees don’t charge a sitting fee and they pretty much stay where you want them. They are also easy to find.

Even if you are NOT an artist of some type, get up close to a tree and look at it’s leaves, it’s limbs, it’s bark. That tree’s life, what it has experienced, is often right there if you look hard enough. You can see the good times and the bad times it has experienced. Again, what stories could it tell you. Stories about storms, the stress of drought, the secrets of families in the houses around it , changes to the area before you came along, and stories about those pesky woodpeckers that keep showing up!

Trees are indeed your friend. They do much for us and ask so little in return. Their biology is amazing. The aren’t just wood. Next time you are close to one, say hello. Listen to the sounds they sometimes make. And if you are so inclined, hug one.

If You Love Sunsets, Are You An Opacarophile?

Sunset Dance

I love sunsets. Lots of people love sunsets. We paint them, we photograph them, we sit and watch them. Until recently, I had no idea that there is an actual word associated with this attraction.

Opacarophile. If you break it down into it’s two main parts, here’s what you’ll find: opacare which is Latin meaning dusk or sunset, and phile which is the Greek word for love.

Why the Attraction of Sunsets?

According to Physchology Today, sunsets have a profound mental effect on the brain and this effect often lasts long after the color has faded. That’s one reason the attraction of sunsets is so instilled in humans.

Sunsets affect our mood. Studies have proven it. Sunsets are a wonderful inducer of calm, of taking away stress, of slowing us down. They relax us, they can induce a time of meditation or to not think at all as we just experience the joy of the moment brought on by the view.

“Sunset is a period of rest, renewal and reflection.” — John Suler

An Artist’s View of Sunsets

The time of day when the sun is in it’s last hour in the sky (or it’s first hour at sunrise) is called the “Magic Hour” or “Golden Hour” by artists and photographers. This is the time of day when the light and the colors reflected back to our eyes is at it’s most intense. The sky will be rich with color. “It’s the time of day when ideas and emotions stir inside us.”

Sunset Over the Fields

It’s these rich colors that compel the artist to grab the paint and capture the beauty either as realistic, abstract, or in my case, as a representation. I once read and agree wholeheartedly with the statement that “sunset is one of my favorite colors”. Of course it’s not a color, but a collection of colors, but you get the idea. You never think of one color when someone mentions a sunset, but you sure know what one looks like just by hearing the word.

“Sunset is the most spiritual moment where the human race meets the extraordinary spirit of the universe. — Mehmet M. Ildan

A sunset is truly one of nature’s most magnificent and inspiring works of art. And… they’re always different! Clouds, dust, all those particles of pollution, the time of year, your position on the globe, all of these things affect what we see in those beautiful skies at sunset.

The Science of Sunsets

Ever notice how the most vivid sunsets appear when there are clouds in the sky? The clouds reflect the red and orange hues of the setting sun back to our eyes. On a clear day, you don’t get as much of this reflection.

The colors of the sunset result from a phenomenon called scattering. Molecules and small particles in the atmosphere change the direction of the light rays, causing them to… scatter. (sciencedaily.com)

I could go on and on, but I won’t. The science behind sunsets it huge and not why I’m writing today. But feel free to research it.

Here’s your homework for this week and every week. Go outside, find a nice spot, watch the sun as it sets. Enjoy the moment. Reflect on the good in your life. Relax and thank the sun for lighting your day. And if you are so inclined…. paint it!

Walk This Way: Following Your Path.

Walk This Way

When I was younger, I loved hiking. I actually still do, though my stamina is really crappy now. Anyway…. not the serious gotta have a backpack, camping gear, GPS, bear repellant, etc. kind of hiking. I’m talking about the kind where you just go out and follow a path or two through a state park, local park, or the woods behind your house. There’s something freeing about venturing forth, water in hand, to just explore where the path leads you.

Life is full of paths too.

Following Your Path: Have a Plan

Here’s the thing with me and maybe with you too. I don’t blindly forge ahead. I make sure that the path I want to take is doable. I don’t want to get lost or hurt following it. So I plan… usually. Yes, it’s exciting to step off the path and see “what’s over there”, as long as you keep a firm eye on where you were, so you can get back on it. Lost is not a fun thing to be.

Following Your Path: Keep Moving

Your career, your hobby, your art, your hike in the woods should never be stagnant. Not moving gets you nowhere. Enjoy the stops to rest, explore, enjoy the view…. but keep moving forward. When I look at my artwork from years ago to where I am now, I see all the paths I took to get here. And I see how I kept moving forward. Occasionally, I see where I got off the path, but I managed to get back on it. I didn’t give up getting to where I wanted to go and I’m still exploring as I journey on.

So… follow your path, plan for new ones, take a break if needed, but keep moving.

Happy New Year! Art Resolutions for 2020

If you know me, I don’t make new year resolutions. They irritate me.

Life coaches and others say they are good for you and should be attainable over the year. I say they’re good for about a week or two… they are rarely attainable (because for some weird reason we feel the need for them to be grand and life changing)… and they irritate me.

However, if I were to make some “art” resolutions for 2020 they would most likely be this:

Stop letting details get in the way. I’ve been striving for the past year to be more expressive. Loosening up is hard for me… but I’m getting there. Especially since I started using (almost exclusively) painting knives. Wonderful tools. And if you drop one on your foot… no blood. Just paint. Though you do swear like you’ve been stabbed.

Squint more. I try hard not to squint because it leads to wrinkles. However, as artists know, squinting makes the details go away… which leads to a more loose, expressive painting.

Invest in better wrinkle filling serums and creams. I will be squinting more this year.

Invest in myself as an artist. Late in 2019, I decided to invest more… a lot more… in myself as an artist. If you stop learning, you stop growing. If you stop growing, you’re art will too. Thank goodness for payment plans.

Believe in myself as an artist. If I don’t believe, no one else will either. I AM an artist. I was juried in to a local gallery which was a big deal for me. I will try harder not to let the doubts creep in about my work.

Put myself “out there”. I plan to set up from time to time in public places and paint. Talk more about what I do. Donate artwork to charity events. Use social media more (sorry Facebook friends… you’re probably tired of me already. HA!) Market myself within my local community and beyond. Maybe people won’t remember my art, but hopefully they will remember me. The lady covered in wrinkle cream.

Declutter my creative space. This will be a 2020 resolution that will be a challenge. My creative space is a mess. Maybe if I squint, I won’t see it. Gonna need a lot of cream.

Happy New Year from me to you!

Painting Like a Child

The Fun of Whimsical Painting

I was at the LAST Art Gallery in historic downtown McKinney (TX) today when a customer walked around and mentioned how delighted she was that we had a young child artist’s work on the wall.

Excuse me???

Well, the artwork she was referring to was NOT that of a young child, but was produced by a respected, long-time artist that (as a member pointed out) is just young at heart. Much of this artist’s work is whimsical paintings, drawings, and collages. If she had been there, I’m sure she would have laughed. Because that’s what the intent is. To make you smile or to make you laugh.

Camo Dog

Whimsical Painting is Letting Your Inner Child Come Out to Play

We ALL have an inner child. Some hear it calling and some don’t. I have to admit that I hear mine calling pretty often. Okay, daily. I hear it daily. I also admit that I give in to it. Not so much in public, but definitely at home. And in some of my artwork.

I also have to admit my inner child is quite spoiled from getting it’s way so much. From some of the artwork that I have seen at various art shows… it’s pretty evident that others give in to theirs as well. And the results are often delightful.

Painting Like A Child Isn’t Child’s Play

Whimsical, silly, artwork might sometimes look like a child did it, but in truth, it is quite often done by someone with a practiced eye for composition, color, mark making, and all the other technical stuff…even though they’re bending and blending the rules. It’s also popular. Not everyone wants a serious portrait, landscape, or still life. Some of us still enjoy high fives with our seven year old selves.

I do want to say one more thing.

Artwork of any kind actually done by a child is a precious gem from a treasure chest and I hope you let them know how much you appreciate what they created. Encourage, praise, nurture. You never know… they might grow up, become an artist, and have someone say how delighted they are seeing the “child’s” artwork on display in a gallery somewhere.

Painting Trees: The Tree Amigos

I love trees. I find myself including them more and more in my paintings, which is a real change for me because I never felt good at doing so in the past. However, you know what they say about practice. Thousands of people regularly paint trees so obviously there’s a lot of practice going on. Painting trees is hugely popular with artists. So many interpretations! Trees are also a popular subject with poets and other writers.

Advice From A Tree

Stand tall and proud.
Sink your roots into the earth.
Be content with your natural beauty.
Go out on a limb.
Drink plenty of water.
Remember your roots.
Enjoy the view.
– Ilan Shamir

The Tree Amigos: It Didn’t Start This Way!

When I started this one, I had no intention of painting trees. It actually began with the idea of a rainy day and a child under an umbrella. That’s all. No trees. Just a little girl ( which became two) under a large umbrella. And that’s what I did! I had mixes of blues, violets, grays, whites on my palette and with my palette knives, laid on my background then when dry enough, added the figures. However, the composition bothered me. Therefore, I swiped through it all, removed a lot of the paint, and in the chaos of colors I saw a street scene. I worked that idea for a while, but didn’t like that either. It just didn’t speak to me. Actually it did speak to me… it said “noooooo”. So I scraped and wiped and re-swiped the colors and sat back and just looked at it for several minutes. That’s when I started seeing trees in the shapes. Trees and water and sky. So I started developing the shapes and moving colors around. In the end, I had a painting of three trees which I finally named The Tree Amigos.

Speaking of Trees

If you google it, you’ll find that there are over 60,000 tree species in the world. The ten most common in the U.S. are the Red Maple, the Loblolly Pine, Sweetgum, Douglas Fir, Quaker Aspen, Sugar Maple, Balsam Fir, Flowering Dogwood, Lodgepole Pine, and the White Oak.

A lot of lovely subjects if you like painting trees. I guess I had better get to practicing.

The Amazing Colors of Fall

I love Fall. The gradual change in weather, the gradual change in the landscape. The way the trees and bushes begin to dress themselves in their Autumn colors… while the mortals in their midst do the same. Even if you are not a cool weather person, you have to admit the colors of Fall are just spectacular. They are some of my favorite hues to paint with. Even when it’s not Fall.

Fall Leaves (mixed media)

Too bad some of you are missing it. Fall. Not by choice, but because Mother Nature seems to have decided to skip it this year. Or at least delay it. Here in North Texas, we went from summer temps to a few days of cold, back to summer temps, a few hours of Spring, then an arctic front blew in, and if the forecasters are correct… we’ll be back to Spring again in a few days.

It’s kind of hard to figure out what to wear from day to day (hour to hour?) and I think everything in the landscape is just as confused as we are. Summer colors or Fall colors? Leaves on or leaves off? What season are we in? Luckily, the last cold snap has gotten things started. Nature’s palette is finally changing. The amazing colors of Fall are beginning to show. Especially within the trees. They are glorious with color right now. How I envy those states where the trees go on for miles and miles with the colors of Fall beautifully displayed.

I think, as adults, we often tend to lose the wonder of what is presented this time of year. The amazing colors of Fall are lost on us because we either take it for granted or all we focus on is whose yard those leaves are in… and who’s gonna have to rake it all up. Confession: Here where I live, when the leaves come down in the yard… if we wait a few hours… the wind will change and it’ll get blown into the neighbor’s yard. Of course, then the neighbor does the same thing, and a few hours later, the wind blows it all back! It’s a game of who blinks first.

I encourage you to let your inner child come out, or better yet, take a child with you, and go find a few leaves that are in the transition change (on a tree, bush, plant, the ground) and take a really close look. Some of them will have colors that merge so beautifully that they look like they were painted by the hand of an artist. Greens, yellows, reds, oranges, purples. Sometimes all on one leaf!

The amazing colors of Fall. Don’t take too long to look though, the way things have been changing lately, you might miss it.