A Flash of color, a bright jewel in the summer sun, hummingbirds whisking by on the way to taste a bit of nectar remind us of hope and joy as summer has arrived.
A flash of color, a bright jewel in the summer sun, hummingbirds whisking by on the way to taste a bit of nectar. These tiny little sparkles with swiftly flapping wings move so fast, all the eye can catch are bits of emerald, ruby, or sapphire as they stop for a second, then fly off again. But that little second or two is enough to capture our fascination.
Emily Hannemann for Birds and Blooms magazine says hummingbirds are a sign of hope and good luck. Maybe that is why we love these special little birds. Tammy Popple of On The Feeder says these tiny beauties are symbols of lightness and joy. Hope and good luck, lightness and joy, both descriptions make for great reasons Hummingbirds are so loved.
Hummingbirds are one of my favorite birds to paint. I love it when I see the first one of the season show up at the feeder. They are my sign that winter is over. The lightness, joy and hope of summer are on the way.
When looking for a way to cut through hours of practice consider using the watercolor over pencil technique for Botanical style painting.
The technique of watercolor over pencil or graphite is a great way to get fine detail in botanical style painting. The finer points of a flower or leaf can be tricky requiring a good bit of practice to perfect accurate brush strokes. Basic drawing skills are somewhat necessary but patience is not. Patience is a valuable trait in an artist. Not everybody has it. When looking for a way to cut through hours of practice consider using the watercolor over pencil technique. Many hours of frustration can be avoided. Plus you’ll fool lots of people with your eye for detail!
A wonderful book, Botanical Illustration with the Eden Project outlines this technique in an easy to follow instruction with several examples. According to the examples, a detailed drawing of a plant is made including all shading. A beautiful finished drawing will provide the best base for watercolor to be laid over. One of the biggest considerations is the use of the proper pencil.
Knowing which pencil is which is one of the best tips for the watercolor over pencil technique. As Kevin Hayler of the Wildlife Art Store says, “Choosing the wrong pencil for an underdrawing will ruin your watercolor painting.” He has a great article on different pencils that is well worth a read here. Knowing your pencils can make the difference in a successful painting or one that looks like mud!
It was very discouraging, when first looking at this technique without knowing how vital the pencil issue was. My first effort, this delicate peach colored rose, resulted in particles of graphite coming up in the paint. The beautiful color was lost. Back to the drawing board. It looked like a total failure but instead of giving up, a pencil study was in order. And it was revealing. One of the biggest things I discovered was the use of H pencils instead of the standard drawing pencils in the B’s.
The H pencils are more commonly found in mechanical and architectural drawing. In art and office stores, that’s where the widest range can be found. Drawing supply areas in stores will usually just go up as far as 2H or 4H. The higher the number, the lighter the pencil. My experiments led me to stick with 6H up to 9H for most of the drawing. 2-4H pencils were better for the darker details. This technique has become the only one I use for botanical painting. Experiments are ongoing so that could change!
Until then, enjoy this video on watercolor over pencil. Happy Painting!
What’s your favorite garden style? Peaceful Symmetry or a Joyful Jumble? Either way, Nature is healing.
Whether you go for a garden with planned space or naturalized plantings, experts agree, time with nature has many benefits. The benefits are so great that mental health professionals call it eco-therapy. The blog, EcoTherapy Heals is devoted to ways to take advantage of the healing power of nature. In a blog post, Self Care Seeker says, there are 5 Important Ways Nature and Mental Health are Connected. Goodnet.com has a post describing 10 Unexpected Benefits of Spending Time in Nature. It appears that the verdict is certain. All that’s left is to determine how you get your fill of time in nature.
Gardens are a wonderful way to get more nature into our lives. The blog, Love for Gardens says, “The presence of gardens in our lives can improve our lifestyle, and brighten our daily, modern world that is often obscured by buildings and artificial, man-made structures.” The first thing to do is to decide what style of garden you like and find one. Or build your own.
There are two types of gardens. One is the precisely drawn architectural garden, where everything is in its place, balanced and carefully manicured. The second type is a wild array of flowers, trees and various plants tumbling all over each other and outside of any boundary. Depending on mood, day or whatever is going on, one garden may be preferred over the other. Most sources say it’s the time in nature that’s important.
Some days order is needed to counter the crazy chaos swirling around in every day life. A well-designed garden is the perfect place to get relief from the stress. One beautiful example of this type of garden is Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois, recently updated and redesigned by leading landscape design firm, Sasaki. If you are in the Wheaton, IL area and in need of some soul rejuvenation, check out this park. Pausing to take a deep breath in a well ordered space full of beautiful growing things can do wonders for peace of mind.
My preferred type of garden is the kind that looks like everything is all growing together with color spilling out everywhere. Attracted by the color, butterflies are flitting around in happy circles from flower to flower. The bees, not to be outdone by the butterflies, jump in on the act too. The result is a kaleidoscope of color and movement. I can sit for hours and just watch the bees and butterflies as a gentle breeze drifting through the flowers gives them the effect of dancers on a stage. My heart lifts just thinking about the array of beauty. A Joyful Jumble is what I call this myriad of color and energy. Joy is popping out all over!
The elegant simplicity of a white iris provides powerful artistic inspiration.
What could be more refined than the simple elegance of a white iris? The sparkles of morning dew resemble ice crystals on the pure white of newly fallen snow. The ruffles of the petals and falls are as velvety and flowing as a spinning dancer’s dress. The fragrance is more glorious than expensive perfume. It may be difficult to capture all that with paint, but I will try. So will others. It’s a subject that a painter cannot resist. Why do we do it? Because we must. The inspiration sits there screaming to be painted.
Since my iris was a gift, I am not sure of the variety. Susanne Holland Spicker writing for the blog of “The American Iris Society” describes a variety of white iris she grew up with called, “Skating Party”. She describes “Skating Party” as one of the first to bloom. My white iris is the first in my garden and far ahead of the others which don’t even have buds yet. Sticker also says “Skating Party” has “pure white falls and lavish ruffles” as well as a beautiful aroma. That would seem to describe mine.
GardeningKnowHow lists a variety of white iris called “Immortality” as highly fragrant, with pure white, large ruffled petals. Hmmm.. “Immortality” would also appear to be my variety. GardeningKnowHow goes on to say that “Immortality” often re-blooms in the fall. I may have to wait until fall to know if I have “Skating Party” or “Immortality” in my garden and future painting but that won’t change the current artistic plans.
Susanne Spicker, in her blog post, states, “I’ve heard it said that there is nothing more beautiful than a simple white flower.” Right now, I can’t think of anything more beautiful either. Apparently, White Iris Dress concurred as they named their shop of beautiful formal dresses in Chicago for this lovely flower. Does it really matter which variety I have to be worthy of painting? Absolutely not. As artists, we paint what inspires us. Inspiration has struck with this elegant iris. Therefore, paint I must!
Safety in artistic practice is vital. Are we paying attention?
The dangers of cadmiums and other paints are one of those topics artists don’t always pay attention to. Recently the issue became front and center for me when my 5 month old puppy decided to give me a hand with the painting by licking the paint off of a wet oil painting of cardinals. Safety in artistic practice should be our first priority but is it always? If you’re like me you can get in the zone and forget what’s going on around you. I set this painting on a side table to go to something else and was not looking when my puppy decided she liked the taste of oil paint! Thankfully, she suffered no ill effects.
There is a wealth of information out there on the dangers of artist’s materials. A teacher I had in school was adamant that no solvents be used with oil paint. But its not just the solvents. It’s also the paint pigments themselves. Renee Phillips, in her blog, says Rubens and Renoir suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and Paul Klee from scleroderma that could possibly be linked to heavy metals, such as cadmium in the their paint.
Many artists have taken up acrylic paint for a number of reasons but one is that acrylics don’t require solvents. However Artsy.net has a great article on this subject and says acrylics release chemicals into the air as they dry, such as propylene glycol and ammonia. And for those who use acrylic medium with their paints, they could also be releasing formaldehyde.
Art-Is-Fun lists some of the known toxic chemicals in paint as cadmium, cobalt, manganese, chromium and lead. All accounts say the main harm is inhalation or ingesting large amounts. Minimal safety procedures can eliminate or reduce the risk of most of these dangers. Read labels and follow all precautions. Adequate ventilation is a must.
Consider Plein-Air painting if you must use solvents. Don’t eat your paint and keep it out of the reach of helpful wanna be artists.
Though frequently mistaken, the Lotus Flower and the Water Lily are not the same flower or even in the same family.
The Lotus flower and the Water Lily have always been mistaken for the same flower, but they are not even in the same family. The yonkipin flower is a beautiful sight to see at Reelfoot Lake during the summer months. My grandmother and great aunt would always look forward to seeing them in bloom. I’ve recently researched this flower and it’s origins, and found it to be quite fascinating.
I learned that Yonkipin is a variety of Lotus flower, and that Lotus flowers and waterlilies are not the same plant. Lotus flowers have deep spiritual significance for several cultures. Lotus blooms rise above the water and are rooted in the mud. Waterlilies float on top of the water.
According to Floraly, the lotus flower as been around for at least 100 million years and has been found in a number of fossils. The lotus flower is a symbol of spiritual enlightenment, beauty, fertility, purity, prosperity and eternity. It is the national flower of India and Vietnam.
The botanical name for the North American Lotus Flower is the Nelumbo Lutea Willd and is in the family of Nelumbonaceae Name That Plant tells us. The North American variety is primarily seen in the Southeastern states. The water lily may be similar in appearance but its botanical name is Nympaeaceae and it grows completely differently. Lotus flowers are rooted in the mud and rise up above the water to stand alone, a fact that partly contributes to the spiritual mystique surrounding them. Water lilies float on top of the water and do not have the ancient history of the lotus.
Growing up with a flower that is common to you can diminish appreciation for its uniqueness. I took for granted the beauty of the Yonkipins that begin blooming in late spring. It wasn’t until I began to paint them that they Took on a whole new sense of fascination. Learning about how fortunate I was to grow up with these beauties has made me want to paint more of them. One thing is for sure: I’ll never call them water lilies again.
Join us as we gather at Reelfoot Lake in remote West Tennessee to paint these beauties, as well as the stunning sunsets. For more information, see below!
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
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.