When most people think of painters, they think of someone who uses paintbrushes. But I rarely use paintbrushes! Watch the video to see how I paint.
My art process is intuitive. I don’t plan much, except my color palette. But that doesn’t mean that making art is without its challenges. I look back and see where I started when I took up a paintbrush again 2 years ago and my first attempt at abstract art, compared to where I am today. I paint obsessively, so the lessons I’ve learned in these 2 years have been many in number and difficult at times. My color choices have improved. My art has improved. My compositions have improved. My reasons WHY I make art have become clearer. I cannot afford workshops, so I’ve learned on my own, trying until I discover my own breakthroughs. Sometimes with tears. I think all true artists feel like failures at times. But out of the dark times and the difficult times beauty has been born. Resiliency emerges. My art has changed. I’ve lost some fans for whom my message no longer resonates. And I’ve gained others who want to be a part of my journey, who understand that life and art are more than pretty pictures. Sometimes it’s about grit and tenacity and change. Just as ocean waves splash over rocks, pulling away impurities and smoothing what is left. My new collection, titled “Emerging”, is also a relevant reflection on what we are currently, collectively experiencing as a world in lockdown.
I thought I’d share with you a little about my background as an artist. The words “self taught” are thrown around a lot these days, and I just want to say that regardless of an artist’s educational background, we are all self taught. Art is not concrete like math or spelling. We can be taught important fundamentals and techniques in art, but we apply them in our own ways to our own way of creating art.
While many students may leave art school with cookie cutter portfolios that look similar, once we spread our wings and find our style, our journeys can take us in so many different directions. I spent nearly 20 years in commercial art, working as a freelance illustrator and designer. Then, as I went the path as a children’s book illustrator of more than a dozen books, I began exploring fine art by drawing and painting still life in graphite and watercolor, and my style was very realistic and classical. It wasn’t until 2 years ago when I picked up a brush again after a 4 year hiatus (at a miserable job), that I began painting in an abstract style. And even now, my art is evolving and changing because I am always learning. I teach myself to observe nature — the way light affects color and value. I attempt to capture what I learn in my approach to each new painting. I couldn’t imagine still making the type of art I did back in the early 90s when I was fresh out of art school! There’s no creativity in repeating what you learned 30 years ago. I still apply fundamentals of composition, value, color theory, etc., but with the confidence to pave my path in whatever direction my heart desires.
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In the midst of all of the heaviness of news in the world, it’s easy to wonder whether the world still needs the arts. One of the first business closings in Chicago that I heard about was an historic dance company. Of course, there are many others and the list keeps growing, but it just shows how delicate of a balance it is for so many businesses to stay open. So what about art? Do we need art?
We do. There is value in owning an original painting, drawing or print, seeing its texture and the nuances that are oftentimes lost in reproductions. For instance, I own several works of art by other artists that are oil/acrylic paint on canvas, and I can feel the texture with my fingertips and see how the varnish catches light to play up those textures. And if I turn over the paintings, I can see the artists’ inscriptions on the backsides. I can smell the faint scent of varnish. The art is “real” to me. There is nothing like it, and knowing I own the original, touched by the hands of the artist.
So we will always need the arts. Live performance dance is so much more engaging than video recordings. Original art is so much more engaging than reproductions. This is why people buy tickets to a ballet or spend a day in a museum — to engage with the art in a way they can’t from behind their mobile devices.
My business is still open. I work my business every day. I still believe in the value of adding my own brand of beauty to the world, of creating art that is unique, uplifting, dimensional and original. I still plan to launch my next collection on Earth Day, April 22nd. I hope you'll join me. You can receive notifications by subscribing to my email newsletter.
If you are looking for a fun and colorful family-friendly activity while you are staying at home, I recommend dying eggs with supplies many of you already have on hand. If you don't have Easter egg dye packs (such as Paas), food coloring works just as well. I use plastic cups filled with warm water, a tablespoon of vinegar and 15 or so drops of food coloring. You can mix your own colors: red and blue make purple, yellow and red make orange, yellow and blue make green, etc. You can find a color wheel online if you want to see what colors mix to create other colors. (This could also be a fun teaching moment for kids.) To create the squiggly lines as shown in the photo above, I used a white crayon to draw continuous squiggly lines all over my eggs. If you start with a white egg, your lines will remain white. For colored squiggles, I first dyed my egg in one color, let it dry completely, added squiggly lines with white crayon, and plopped the egg into a second color. The crayon will act as a wax resist, so your lines will end up remaining the same color of the first dye bath, but the egg that is untouched by wax will change color in the second dye bath. Repeat this process if you want multi-colored squiggles.
I wish you all a healthy springtime. We'll get through this!
Wow. Did you see it coming? COVID-19. I didn't. Life went from relatively routine and normal to downright bizarre in a matter of about a week here in America. I think most of us took the beginning days with a grain of salt, thinking the story was overblown or that our lives would not be affected very much. In America, we don't shut down. We are a nation of workaholics, many of whom never miss a day of work. We call in sick to work. And that's the problem.
I am a full time artist working from home, and so in some ways my daily routine has not changed much. But last week and now this week, little by little, the events that I had planned for my business have all been cancelled for April and May. I was to attend Glasgow Middle School in rural Kentucky as the school art program's Visiting Teacher for 2020 in April, and had signed up as an artisan vendor at the Wilder Mansion's Art in the Park in Elmhurst, IL in May. I counted on these events to generate income. But I also really looked forward to them! What an honor to be chosen as a school's Artist of the Year/Visiting Artist, and to be able to sell my paintings and my custom silk blend scarves at a professional, local event.
But if there is one thing to keep in mind through all of this, it's that people are resilient. We've survived stock market crashes, housing market crashes, terrorist attacks, wars, devastating storms.
I live just outside of Chicago, IL. Winters here are looooong, dark, painfully cold and brutal. Sometimes I wonder how anything survives. But you know what? Every spring, the land thaws and the flowers bloom. Every spring. Even after the Polar Vortex of 2019, the crocus and snowdrops appeared in March, as they do every spring.
We will get through this. I'm not even thinking that life will go back to the way it was pre-COVID-19. I know people who have been furloughed or lost their jobs entirely. But we will get past it. There will be sunny days ahead, and the flowers will bloom again.
I'm a lifelong artist living just outside of Chicago. I love flowers, vintage finds, nature hikes and all things beautiful.