Breaking the Artistic Stalemate

Breaking an art-making stalemate can be difficult. Oil pastels are a great trick to have up your sleeve.

Stalemates can be lethal for any artist. It’s imperative to have a few experimental tricks up your sleeve. Oil pastels are one of the many fun things you can play with to smash the stalemate hold. Because of the physical nature of painting with oil pastels, they have a tendency to break brain blocks.

With the vibrant colors and malleable textures of oil pastels, you can get creative with your painting and explore new techniques. The character of oil pastels forces you to use your hands in place of the usual brushes. Cast aside any needs for fine detail with oil pastels and go for the painterly look which can be freeing in itself. Not only will the adventure be fun, but it can also pull you out of a rut when art making becomes stale.

Oil pastels are a must have for any painter. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, oil pastels can be used to create vibrant and unique looks. They may break some barriers in your art-making. The vibrancy of the colors is amazing, and the feel of the oil pastel in your hand is addicting. That’s an addiction I can live with!

Pental makes a good starting set of oil pastels. Check it out here

Find a professional set here

Mixing it up

Mixing it up with painting can be a great way to express your creativity. It can be like foraging in the woods. Keep looking under trees, limbs, rocks and sooner or later you’ll discover something you didn’t know before. Art is like that. If one way of doing things isn’t working, find a new way. Mix it up. Blaze a new trail.

Whether you are an experienced painter exploring new techniques or a beginner looking to explore the world of art and painting, mixing it up can be a great way to take your artistic expression to the next level. Through mixing it up, you can combine different techniques, media, and textures to create something unique. This could include mixing traditional watercolor techniques with gauche, or combining different paints with colored pencil to create a work of art that’s unlike anything that already exists. Mixing it up can also help to remove any creative or technical blocks that may arise when working in one specific medium or technique. Furthermore, this creative process can help to create an environment that encourages out-of-the-box thinking and allows for the exploration of new and exciting ideas. So next time you’re feeling stuck or uninspired with your art, try mixing it up. You may be surprised at the results.

Artist/author Lisa L. Cyr, in an article for Visual Arts Passage, says “The mixed media painting speaks to an artist’s ability to see beyond limits and boundaries.” Format.com says, “When starting your first mixed media creation, feel free to be playful-and get messy!” Yes! Jump the boundaries and get messy!

The fun of creativity is unleashing it. In this painting, I decided to mix it up. It was a pale yellow waterlily. I needed some drama so I threw some in! I love drama! This painting started with graphite pencil, continued to watercolor. From there it went to colored pencil. And finally to gauche. Mixing it up sure feels good! I did jump the boundaries but I didn’t get messy. That’s next!

Mix it up! Push the boundaries! Get messy! Sounds like a plan!

Seeking Serenity

Why do we seek serenity in art and art making?

What is the essence of serenity in art and why do we seek it? There is no doubt some art can bring about a sense of peace, whether by making it or observing it. One of the arguments against the “shock art” that has been prominent in the last few decades, is the sense of unrest it causes in both viewer and art maker. While “shock art” can upend the art market for a bit, it does not translate to popularity with the vast art making and buying public. Shock artists may make a pile of money in the short term but have no lasting appeal. And only a minuscule number of artists can make it in the extremely narrow market for shock. So what about the greater makers and consumers of art out there? Is it serenity we are seeking or something more?

Artists and art consumers could be:

  • seeking serenity in the “vastness of scenery”
  • being transported to another world where only paint, brush strokes and color exist
  • using our imaginations for survival
  • staying healthy by using our creativity to remain connected
Reelfoot Sunset, oil pastel on paper

David Chang, renowned artist and Chair of the Department of Art + Art History, at Florida International University, on an exhibit at FIU called, “The Art of Serenity” says, “Human beings are naturally drawn to vastness in scenery.” While Alice Sun, responding in Quora.com on “Why is painting a relaxing activity?” says “To me, painting is relaxing because it transports me to another world, where only paint, brush strokes and color exist.”

While we think we are seeking peace and serenity, we may in fact be seeking something much bigger. Kaimal Girija, of Drexel University, says in an article for NPR, “This act of imagination is actually an act of survival.” “It is preparing us to imagine possibilities and hopefully survive those possibilities.” The writer of the article for NPR, Malaka Gharab is an artist herself and believes there are benefits to both making and viewing art. In her article, “Feeling Artsy, Here’s How Art Helps Your brain she talks with experts like Girija and another, Christianne Strang, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Alabama, Birmingham and past president of the American Art Therapy Association. Professor Strang says, “”Creativity in and of itself is important for remaining healthy, remaining connected to yourself and connected to the world.” 

As for me, I’ll say art and art making is all of those things and more! The only thing I can add is, I must make art. It is a drive from inside that I have very little control over. Is seeking serenity through art and art making a means of survival and connectedness? Must be!

Anticipating Joy

Hope! New Life! Survival! Beauty! Signs are pointing toward spring popping out all over. The Anticipation is overwhelming!

Hope! New life! Winter is passing. Survival. Spring is on the way. We made it past that week of horrible cold. And here is the proof. Life goes on. We do what we have to do and we go on. As do all living things. And we look for signs than we have survived another harsh and gloomy winter. Here’s my sign.

As I was planting my iris bed last fall, this little guy must have fallen out of the bag. He popped up just off the patio so I know I didn’t put him there. I don’t even know which variety he is. I won’t find out until May. Anticipation. In the meantime, I am doing my best to guard him from the extremely large paws of my 5 month old puppy. He has survived the odds so far. I’ll do my best to keep that going. He’s my joyful sign of hope!

Iris, miniature oil

In her blog, “Filling the Jars” Julie Hage gives 21 beautiful quotes about Spring. By far, my favorite is from Henry David Thoreau, ““One attraction in coming to the woods to live was that I should have leisure and opportunity to see the spring come in.” Not all of us can take time out from life like Thoreau did so we find our opportunities to see spring where ever we can.

What does that have to do with art? Art is what we do to express the wonder of life. If we can’t take off to the woods, we paint it. And we share it. Thoreau couldn’t take his woods to people so he wrote about it. The woods came alive through his words. That’s what we do with paint.

As I wait for May to arrive, I will anticipate how I will paint this little iris guy. I’ll imagine what color the petals will be and how tall he’ll grow. How many blooms will he put out? Will I paint in oil or watercolor? Maybe some more silverpoint iris.

Spring is an amazing time of expectation. New life is arriving. The signs are popping out all around. Spring is a wonderful time for artists. Anticipating so much inspiration surrounding everything, every day. How joyful is spring!

Soaring to the Extraordinary

Sometimes it becomes necessary to get out of the head and into the perseverance of trial and error of letting go, for art to lose the ordinary.

The urge to control what goes onto the canvas is almost overwhelming at times. The image floating around inside must be the one that comes out on the canvas, page, etc. To do otherwise is to make a failing piece of art. Or is that the truth? At least that’s what lots of people assume and get into great mountains of frustration when what’s in the head is not what we’re seeing in the physical. Artwork is scrapped because it’s not measuring up to that ephemeral inner vision. The harder one tries, the worse it gets. Frustration takes over and the work is abandoned.

But what if that work was on the verge of being something really good. What if it was scrapped without giving it a real chance? How can that head vision become that physical vision? It can’t. Therein lies the problem. The only thing to do is give up. But not on the painting. Give up on the frustration of trying to make the head image be the physical image. Easy for me to say! I can say it but can I do it? Not without a conscious effort.

This bird never did become what my head was trying to say it should be. But I couldn’t give up because I had already promised it for an event. There was no choice but to persevere. After scraping off paint and putting it back on only to do it all over again, I finally came to the breaking point. I was tired and time had run out. I stopped scraping and started painting. Too tired to worry, I just let the paint flow, doing its thing. Not really thinking where I was going, I started painting from instinct. Then I went to bed.

When I woke up the next morning, there it was. Not what was in my head at all but something I liked much better. In an article in Professional Artist magazine, Eugene and Diana Avergon wrote, “By learning from trial and error and being patient with the journey, somewhere along this path, we can look for the significant strengthening of prowess in domain building, and perhaps, the releasing of the extraordinary.” I’m not saying this painting is extraordinary, but it is a whole lot better than what was coming out before I became too tired to fight. Maybe it was trial and error. Maybe it was perseverance. Probably both. But the difference came when I finally got out of my head. Both me and this Ring Billed Gull were freed once I was too tired to fight but unable to give up. Perseverance and the trial and error of letting go finally took over. In the end, me and the gull were soaring high.

Streaming Mood

Changing color or texture in a painting can change the whole mood and feel of a painting.

Setting out to change this painting of Reelfoot Lake for me, could mean adding a bit more color or more texture. If I’m channeling Bob Ross, maybe another Happy little tree! Sometimes that’s what I do for change. Other times I dive in and completely redo the whole thing. In this painting, I mostly changed the color choices and it changed the whole mood. It became more somber. Less dramatic. The same basic painting with two completely different moods. That’s part of the fun of being an artist. Changing moods is a good thing. It’s ok to be moody!

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The main reason I changed this one was that I have had it for too long. It was growing moldy! It has been shown a few times with no interest. OK. It needs a change. But what kind of change? One criticism said it had too much purple. Less purple, check! The thing that had always bothered me was how the one cypress knee looked like a shark fin. No sharks in Reelfoot Lake! More cypress knees, check! But what else? Less purple and more cypress knees is not a lot of change.

With no particular direction, I began to paint. I let the mood float over me. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what I was thinking or feeling. I just let the mood flow. I was in my studio space without any distractions that day. It was just me and the paint. We were having some good communication time. The mood was streaming right into the brush and onto the canvas. I was in the zone.

Once the new mood was complete, I stood back and looked. Usually I make frequent pauses to check how things are going. Not this time. What was inside was coming out and moving smoothly. My first thought was that this was a whole new painting. Only it wasn’t. All that was different was new paint and a new color scheme. In spite of that, there was a whole different mood that gave it the feel of a whole new painting.

As I reflected on this whole new painting, I went back in my mind to this scene at the Lake and the inlet known as Lids Pocket. When the road dead ends at the lake, this is the spot of the first glimpse of the lake. I have seen it so many times. Starting from the time I was barely old enough to hang over the front seat of the car to get a better look until now when my memory speaks louder than vision. It was an exciting view. I’d be bouncing up and down on the back seat to get to the pier so we could get a better look out over the water. There might be a heron hiding behind those trees. I was always in a hurry to find out.

The redo of this painting does not reflect the exuberance of a child. It is quiet, somber and thoughtful. As I wondered why, it hit me. This scene no longer exists. It was wiped away in the tornado. At the spot where the road mets the lake there was a quaint motel, docks for fishing and boat rental, a business office with gift shop and across the street, a restaurant. It was all in the direct line of the tornado and now it’s all gone. The trees were uprooted or sheered off. The docks were smashed to pieces. The buildings totally destroyed. And people lost their lives at this spot. I don’t recall thinking that while I was repainting. Somewhere inside I was mourning the loss of life and a beautiful spot with many happy childhood memories. Somewhere inside the feelings lurked, then surfaced into this painting. And with the feelings bubbling out, the mood changed.

A violent weather phenomenon left behind devastation. What was once a beautiful spot lives on in memory as peaceful and serene, a tribute. Proof that sometimes we are not controlling what we paint. It is out of our hands.

For more on the horrific Quad-State Tornado:

The Tornado Photo

The Tornado Story

The Art of Nature Immersion Weekend at Reelfoot Lake

The Art of Nature Immersion Weekend at Reelfoot Lake is a great opportunity to get away from it all and join other artists and nature lovers for a weekend filled with nature, food, fun and fellowship as we make art together in the midst of a beautiful Wildlife Refuge.

Here’s a great opportunity to experience the healing power of art:

Join us for

The Art of Nature Immersion weekend at Reelfoot Lake

June 23,24 and 25th. Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tiptonville, TN and Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge

Not only is art healing, but nature is as well. Combining the two makes for a double whammy!!

Who is this week end for:

  • anybody who wants to get away and just paint
  • anyone who loves painting beautiful places and beautiful flowers
  • anyone who wants a time to destress with nature and art
  • beginners, mid-level and experienced artists will all be able to enjoy this time to create without pressure

Reelfoot Lake is a special place. It became a healing place for me during a tough time in my life. That’s why I return to Reelfoot in my painting over and over. Maybe it will do the same for you!

Get a way from life for a weekend and enjoy creating art in the beauty of nature. You could make some new friends too!

Space is limited so sign up now! Discount for early signers!

We will be staying in the Cabins run by Tennessee State Parks. Check out these beautiful cabins on the water.

Included is a pontoon boat excursion to the inlets where the unique Reelfoot Lake Lotus Flower blooms. We’ll get instructed in smart phone flower photography on the boat. We’ll return to the Pavilion at Bluebank park for watercolor painting of the Lotus Flower.

Friday the 23rd will kick off our art immersion with wildflower colored pencil painting of the flowers that grow along the shore. Maybe you’ll paint a wild water iris!

All meals are included! Friday night supper will be at Bluebank Restaurant on the water where we’ll follow supper with watercolor pencil painting of the legendary Reelfoot Sunsets from the dock at Bluebank.

Sunday morning we’ll paint the birds, herons, egrets, osprey and more that are abundant through out the state park and wildlife refuge.

Price includes all meals and double occupancy room with two queen beds.

email me with questions: marygwyn@marygwynsart.com

The Season of Love in Art

How is love portrayed in art? Love in art is as varied as the artists creating the works.

February must be the season of love. It’s Valentine’s Day and everybody is thinking of love. Does it show up in art too? Yes! Maybe not in all artist’s work but lots of us think about painting subjects that denote love to us. When love is in the air, it’s in everything. Even in the cold February weather, people still think love. Or maybe the cold brings that on.

ArtsPer magazine did an expose on love depicted in art covering the many variations of love such as friendship, parent and child, brothers and sisters, marriage. However love is portrayed it seems to be a favorite subject for artists. Speculation abounds from viewers of love in art. Love covers so many emotions and feelings, behaviors, all kinds of meanings. It could get very complicated. It could get crazy.

In Renee Phillips excellent article covering Love in Art, she examines two famous artworks depicting a kiss. As there are numerous variations on love, there are numerous variations on a kiss. The two works she examines here are of passionate kisses between lovers. That is probably what we most often think of with a kiss but there is also the kiss on the cheek as a greeting, the kiss of a parent for child and child for parent. The list could go on and on.

Does love in art have to be deep or filled with angst or some other passionate emotion? That is probably an unanswered question. Maybe somebody answered it. The sweet simplicity of two little birds says all I want to say about love. Two little birds out on a branch sharing a look at each other. Do they have a passionate relationship? Beats me! I just like love things to be sweet, simple and straightforward. Saving the angst for another day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Seeing More Clearly?

Artists do see more clearly than others but it has nothing to do with eyesight.

Do artists see more clearly than other people? My aunt asked me years ago what I saw when I looked at a particular lake. I couldn’t really say verbally but I could with paint. Paint is a language I can speak better than words. But does that mean I am “seeing more clearly” than the average person? People ask why did you put that bit of red somewhere. Or that little bit of orange. I don’t have an answer to that. It just needed that bit of orange or blue or whatever. That leads me to believe I see something other people don’t but does it mean I see more clearly?

Visual Artists tend to see:

  • Fine detail
  • Vivid color
  • Color interactions, sometimes subtle, sometimes blantant
  • Shapes missed by the casual observer
  • Emotions
  • Movements
  • And lots more

A similar statement on musicians would be do they hear more clearly? And writers. Do they verbalize more clearly. Poets? Dancers?

Our physical vision, hearing, etc. is not better than any one else’s. Our heart’s vision is different. This might explain why Monet and Georgia O’Keeffe kept right on painting after their vision started dimming. Beethoven was composing after losing his hearing. Their hearts were still talking.

Do visual artists see more clearly? With their eyes, no. But with their hearts? Yes! The secret is to keep the eyes of the heart open! Listen to what the heart is saying!

The heart always sees clearly.

The Mission of Art

The real misión of art is touching and healing hearts, and bringing joy and beauty to our world.

Exploring previously why we make art, I skipped the real mission of why we make art. The number one reason to make art is the sheer happiness it gives when a painting brings joy to someone else. Sometimes it’s a painting that is a special request and when they see it, it hits the emotional spot. When a painting was not planned for someone in particular but someone sees it and it is just the thing they are looking for, it is again a joyful moment. Sometimes a painting is bought from the internet or in a shop or gallery and there is no way to know for what reason it was purchased. In that case, I let my artist brain run wild with imagining how life changing that painting became for someone somewhere. Never would I allow myself to think it was bought just because it matched a color scheme or something mundane like that. In my heart, I want all my paintings to be meaningful to the person they go with. If that piece of art can touch someone else’s heart, then my heart sings.

The number one reason to make art is to bring joy to people by

  • touching their heart
  • helping to heal a heart
  • creating a peaceful feeling
  • spurring other good feelings
  • adding more beauty to our world

If art can do that, we are fulfilling our mission. This week, it was my joy to create two special pieces of art for two different people, one very young and one very old. The tears streamed down my face in both cases. As I watched one drive away toward the person it was destined for, I looked down at my puppy with tears dropping on her head. She looked up at me with concern in her little puppy eyes. I smiled at her and she wagged her tail. And that was “Mission Complete.” Nothing else matters.

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