Category: Creative Process

Evolving Artistic Style

Autumn Watercolors Flow Arte

A package arrived to my workplace last week. In fact, several packages arrived but I had been waiting for one in particular. A brush. A brush I’d heard so much about I really thought it would be a game changer. I waited for a month because I couldn’t find it here in Montreal. Ordering from Amazon and having to wait a month is not fun, it’s the severest form of “first world pain”.

Finally it arrived. I unpackaged it carefully just to be able to admire the thing in all its glory. All my faith was in this magical wand.

I still had to work four more hours before I could get home and dip it in water and in my lovely White Nights watercolor paints.   In my mind I went through all the things that had to happen before that moment: a 30 minute subway ride, eating dinner, cleaning the kitchen, walking Boris, unearthing my watercolor pad, the paints, changing the dirty water of the previous painting session and then, only then I would be able to experience the joy and the fabulousness of this brush.

The strange phenomenon of the “fine materials” is relentless. But this time I was convinced that after my incomplete #100daysofwcpostcards I had tamed it. In fact, I thought I was on to something, I loved making my postcards and I loved each and every one, even those I ended up tossing. In my head, with this brush I would be able to paint a-mai-zing-ly.

But I didn’t know what to paint.

“Should I paint another postcard?” It was dark and the artificial light changes colors. “Do I want to paint something figurative? Do color swatches?” I ended waisting a sheet of paper just doodling. I put the brush away.

Ignoring what is already there

Weeks go by so fast and I paint so much. It’s like a race to get somewhere, only I don’t really know where. I love painting with watercolor but I’ve been focusing on certain principles and rules and I didn’t totally love what I was painting. I love the immediacy of watercolor, but there are some styles that require long, painstaking processes, like layering, glazing. Precise, realistic, delicate. Other styles are very illustrative, almost like coloring. You do a sketch and then you fill it with color. The style I’m mostly drawn to and the one that has been emerging this year is the fluid, poetic, brush-strokey (sorry, this isn’t a word), but it’s the style where watercolor blends almost in a messy way.

Virginia Woolf's Garden

In this style you sketch directly with the brush. It’s a risky undertaking because you have to work so quickly. The painting above is one of the very first sketches I did. It’s inspired by Virginia Woolf’s garden. My palette was a real pile of mud afterwards but I was quite happy with this very first result.

This was another sketch, of which I did two versions, one with gouache and the front one in watercolor.

This one I did on a different type of paper:

The thing is, I did these paintings with my old brushes, not with the magical “new one”. So why order a brush that “I heard” was exceptional? Because somewhere along the line there is still a lot of doubt. I still believe that all those artists using this particular brush are so much better than I could ever be (and they ARE great!) but I have to force myself to recognize that all the practice, all the seeking, all the art book carrying from the library studying different artists has amounted to something.

Today I stepped out into my backyard to try to capture some of the (delayed) autumn colors. There is no fiery red anywhere yet. More dark browns, greens and occasional burgundy reds. I took the magical brush and tried it at last.

Autum Watercolors Flow Arte

Now, do you see a difference?

Autumn Watercolors Flow Arte
Our vine and my bike surrounded by more vines.

I don’t really. I could easily keep evolving without any more brushes. I’m happy about the looseness and this looseness comes from the paint, the water and a medium-quality watercolor brush.

If you are considering those fantastic materials that an artist on Instagram is being sponsored for because you believe your art will improve BECAUSE of it, I urge you to step back and look at the work you’ve produced until now. Ask your work: do you need it?

Look at some of the pieces you’ve made, what did you use? What did you like? Compare to earlier work, do you prefer it now? Chances are that all the work you’ve done until now has been the result of just that: YOUR WORK and your evolving artistic style.

Now, if you suffer from brush addiction, I can’t really help you. I’m currently in withdrawal 😉

 

 

Creative Movement as Therapy.

Shiva Rea Yoga Trance Dance

I don’t know about you but change feels much too intense. At a daily level, change is fast but still tolerable. At a macro level, when you read about how the big tech companies are trying to make us all into cyborgs and how quickly they are getting there, and how governments are starting to play with the idea of manipulating sunlight to counter climate change…it’s a little less so.

So my problems seem so tiny. However…

Yesterday was a difficult day. Again. It was one of those days in which I battle myself: who I am, how I am. The endless battle of “Why am I not like everyone else?” “Why don’t I fit in?”. It’s the same old tune that has been playing in my head since I could speak.

This time it was the simulation of a sales interview where I’m supposed to meet with a client and sell them my wares by going down a 7 bullet point list (or the ten commandments of sales).

The simulation derailed because I tried to play out a scenario that is so far fetched that it open the floods to what I despise the most: faking. I’m not good at role playing. I can’t pretend. I can’t lie and pretending is lying which is why when I’m bored I fall silent because I can’t pretend to be interested when I’m not. I respectfully listen but I can’t participate.

So in this case, I was playing a role and it went downhill. Which in this case it just woke up all my monsters that love to sing in a high-pitch note: you are not made for business! you should get a job! what you’re doing is a hobby!

I left the class with a hole in my heart. I wanted to abandon everything. Truly. To sit there and “pretend to be interested in a person that doesn’t exist” was grueling. I want to believe that if I was sitting across a person in a real situation, I would be interested. Because I usually am, I am curious about the other, I want to know. I’m open to listening and probably I will not take many notes because I rather look at the person than thinking how to use what they just told me to make them trip up.

This simulation was a practice, the real one is next month. I will be sort of “graded” on it. Nevermind that it’s in French and feeling wobbly in French is not cool, let alone pretending in French. So I was demoralized and profoundly sad and as the day went by things got worse. I felt like I wouldn’t get out of bed the next day.

But I did. Despite reading a bit of Pessoa and perusing all my favorite existential Twitter accounts.

My day started again with a gigantic SHOULD. I should work out… maybe I should take a bike ride…no, you need serious sweat, you had a donut yesterday… do Tonique.. Tonique kills me… I suddenly remembered an old DVD I bought a while ago.  Shiva Rea’s Yoga Dance. I put on a pair of my leggings and chose the Dance Flow routine where you just dance with your eyes closed while you beat on imaginary drums. I danced like a lunatic for 31 minutes and ended with a brief meditation.

I loved how she says: Dance for nothing at all…

Shiva Rea Yoga Trance Dance

I’m not a Yoga fan, my wrists are too weak and my shoulders complain every time I do a cobra but this DVD is the antidote to my sadness. I don’t do it often because I don’t want to get sick of it. Only when I feel very sad, unsure and ready to give up.

I don’t know anything about Shiva Rea, never googled her, I don’t want to know or go down any rabbit hole. I don’t know if she’s a good instructor or not, the only thing I care about is that the music is good and her voice-over is so soothing and comforting and subtly motivating.

Promotion is difficult and slow in my world. Today I believe again that what I do is good, that my watercolor work has come a long way, that women with a curious soul recognize the fluidity, the poetry and will want to wear it.

And that everything comes in good time.

An Artist-Entrepreneur’s Quiet Path

Floral Explorsion Flowarte

Have you heard that Forest-Bathing is a thing? There’s no denying that a walk in a forest or even a park, is beneficial. It can’t NOT be. It’s silent, it’s solitary, it’s peaceful, it’s full of things to discover, things we don’t see every day. Most of these discoveries we keep to ourselves, we wonder how the tree got its bark, how a leaf falls, why do mushrooms grow in a certain patch of land, but we rarely announce it to the world. Maybe we take a few photos, but ideally, we wouldn’t be doing that.

In January I started my small business project with the help of a local organization. People come together and we follow a course to write a business plan and then we follow a sales course. I recently started that one, which is a HUGE step away from my comfort zone. I have to talk to people. I usually only write to people. I am terrible at small talk and at superficial conversation. I favor long deep conversations one on one, preferably over coffee (not a bar), or a walk. So a sales course huh? It’s compulsory if you want to keep your grant. Well, it’s going to be four months in which I will have to get over my introversion and my shyness. But this is a good thing (says the person who recently finished a YA novel titled Optimists Die First).

The noise and the changing landscapes

There is a rabbit hole, a never-ending, endlessly entertaining, bright and shiny path of noise and psychedelia called “being an entrepreneur”. If you were online, or blogging around 2006, you might have fallen through it and still haven’t emerged. Those were the days when the term pro-blogger was born and people started creating info-products. Where shopping carts were easier to install and the notion of “leaving your day job” “doing what you love” brain-washed us into thinking it was easy or that it was the ideal state of being.

I’ve tried on several occasions to create a business relying only on what is available on the internet. It seems so easy, until you start doing for real. When people tell me, you should give me a crash course on selling stuff online, I laugh and say, you have no idea what it takes. Because I didn’t have an idea myself.

I did what everyone else was doing: get a mailing list, be on all social media channels, follow like this and like that, create content per channel, write, work like crazy, listen to podcasts, take great photos etc. Until I finally realized that what “works” for some, doesn’t work for others.

I do it the quiet way and it’s hard.

I have been working steadily behind-the-scenes, I’ve written a 43 page Business Plan, I have hired a graphic design firm to help me. I’ve worked on my designs, on my Etsy shop and my Shopify shop. I’ve invested money, which is something that wanna-be entrepreneurs don’t want to do, especially if they want to build a business online.  I’ve printed prototypes of everything and through that, I’ve pushed myself to try different things in watercolor.

All this trying to silence the comparison-monster that shouts every time I look at Instagram. How can some people publish a book, film thirty or more online classes, launch a home decor line and maintain a shop, on top of having kids? I’m still trying to perfect my Photoshop retouching skills for my watercolors.

The good thing is that since I quietly opened my shops, people have been purchasing leggings and scarves. I have gotten great feedback and my friend Amanda even filmed a couple of videos wearing my Ultra Floral design.

I tell myself I could do more but I also remind myself that if I do things my way, chances are they will reach a finish line. If I try to do things like other people, I will feel disconnected and I will abandon my projects. This should be in the Luisa Handbook.

So I am launching Flowarte like if I were in a Forest. Walking slowly, observing, taking the time. Even if during my sales course they said you should be selling 80% of the time. I say, sure, but not yet. I’ll get there. I’m moving towards that goal a little every day.

Meanwhile I enjoy the summer, which gives me the strange impulse to try painting flowers again.

Take a peek into my shop, fun colors, lovely textures, high-quality fabric printed right here in Montreal!

Floral Explorsion Flowarte

 

 

Can you teach someone to find their (artistic) style?

One of the most asked questions in the illustration and visual arts world is “how to find your style”.

When you’re starting out, that becomes huge once you realize that copying photos is not what being an artist is about.

Imaginary Fruit by Luisa

I’ve written about originality so much and it’s constantly in the back of my head. It’s a bit pathological in fact, so much, that when I discover an artist on Instagram or Pinterest that makes me flip out in admiration, I DO NOT FOLLOW them because I’m afraid I will become influenced.

I saw a new class on How to find your artistic style and I got a little upset. You see, some people truly make art for the sake of it, others have gone to art school and it’s the natural path but some of us, who started later in life or fell into it by a happy accident (and it doesn’t matter what field you tackle) we  feel we have to make up for the lost time, so we become a little anxious and we wish for shortcuts. These classes sort of feed a little on that anxiety.

I certainly feel this way, like I have been on some race against time trying to learn everything so I can be “a good artist”. Well, maybe it’s a rite of passage, but one thing I’ve started to reject is any effort of monetizing on something that is so deeply personal and such a place of vulnerability. I will definitely pay for classes to better my technique, but not for classes that offer me promised lands.

I don’t believe you can teach someone to find their style. I really don’t.

The book Art and Fear* would be a better investment. That book, which is very short, lists the fears I’ve had almost in the right order. I bought the book a while ago but I re-read it recently and it made much more sense. Here is where everything stopped:

Style is the natural consquence of habit.

Those seven words, floored me. Here I was  obsessing over one artist and then another trying to find the magic key. I would go over my inspiration boards and spend hours trying to make lists of “elements” that could make up their style.

No. You won’t find their style there. And you certainly can’t checklist your way into finding your own style.

If you look at any artist at their height of their creative production, from Picasso to Egon Shiele, from Carmen Herrera to Sonia Delaunay, they drew almost the same thing over and over but somehow every work seemed new.

Nowadays, you can prove it again and again on Instagram. Those artists who are most admired, most easily recognized, they produce almost the same kind of work and once they’ve got there, once they’re comfortable, they can experiment with variations.

Yes, but how do you find it?

Again, the book Art and Fear answers: quantity over quality. It has to come naturally, you will sit at your table, at your easel, with your guitar, with your camera, etc.. and you will produce as much work as you can. Then, you take your work and you lay it out on piles (or you make playlists) and you observe. What do you do over and over?

For example,  I realized that my most enjoyable work continues to be with watercolor but I also found that I love two seemingly opposite ways of painting with watercolors: the traditional layering and then the more flowy abstract.

Is there a way to combine these? So the resulting combination something that makes me feel like I’m communicating something?

At this point I believe there are two extremes to the art continuum: you’re a beginner or you’re not. Either way, you must produce.

I also learned this lesson thanks to my sister who has been a painter for more than twenty years. She is prolific, she’s a mom and yet she manages to churn out painting after painting, drawing after drawing. When I look at her instagram, I find her work cohesive, she has a style. Oh yeah… that’s twenty years.

There is a reason for the expression: honing your art.

In my case, I’m still searching, I’m still producing, I know that eventually after enough repetition I will stop thinking and questioning “my style”, I’ll be able to move on to the more complex issues: what am I communicating?

So finding your own style is actually very simple: make, make, make, examine, make some more, examine… until you feel you are at that comfortable place. Then continue to do that and then… be  deliberate.

*Affiliate Link

Survey and Giveaway!

Leggings survey

-GIVEAWAY CLOSED-

Well, time to open the blinds a little bit.

For the past few months I’ve been working on a personal project which was born out of my fascination of body movement and the movement of  paint.

I don’t like traditional forms of fitness but I do like to move, what I love most, is to stretch and move in my own vital space, sort of a moving meditation, mixing a bunch of things: Tai chi, Essentrics, Trampoline and some 5rythms dance.

What happens after moving like this is different than what you get after working out in the traditional sense. For once, it marries creativity of movement and it frees constraints, it makes you quite aware of the space you occupy and it forces you to think of metaphors: Arms move like waves, branches, leaves, ribbons in the wind… legs move like seaweed, or they root themselves while your torso moves slowly like a willow tree, things like that… maybe it’s a bit silly but when I become blocked because I’ve spent too much time forcing myself to be better, be faster, be MORE… this is type of movement makes me focused and calm again.

On the other hand, working from home creates a few not-so-good-habits. I want to feel energetic even if I just have to haul myself from bed to my desk and I don’t want to give myself excuses for not moving. So in this spirit, I have started to design a line of leggings that can be worn as every day work-from-home uniform and as movement inducers!

I have made myself a couple of these to be able to sit on the floor, go up and down the stairs  (I forget my phone about 100 times per day), to do a little spin and stretch to Bomba Stéreo, or a few downward dogs and lately, my favorite thing to do, courtesy of Movement Muse is to sit and get up from the floor in as many ways as I can.

I work and move enveloped in vibrant colors, born from a creative session on a particular moment…

My main challenge is to arrive to a cohesive design and for this I need your help! I created a survey with a few questions that will help me fine tune my designs. Some are watercolors, some are collage and some are digital. These will be limited edition, with only two seasons per year.

I want them to be lovely.  These leggings will be made in Montreal, Canada, including the fabric, so no overseas, cheap-labor will be used.

Would you be willing to respond to my survey and if possible share it with your friends?

Once you do, you can enter a giveaway of a pair of leggings of one of my designs.

Leggings survey

The giveaway will take place on March 8, International Women’s Day!
No purchase necessary.

Collage Making

First Collage

Collage Making

I used to do a lot of collage when I thought I couldn’t draw. In college, seduced a guy by sending him secret- admirer funky letters which I mailed via the post office even though he lived a few streets away from my house.

Years later, I used to make small brochures with faces of crying people and comic bubbles with messages of unrequited love.

And then collage left my radar.

I  never paid attention to it as a form of art, it fell mostly in the category of “craft” and I didn’t do it anymore.
Then with my recent experiments in gelli printing and the crazy piles of paper that come out, I wondered what I could do with all those fabulous textured prints. Some can stand on their own, others just have cool textures but since I’m constantly thinking about re-using stuff and hate wasting art supplies, I started to experiment with cutting them up and using them for instant collages. At first, I wanted to make them truly instant: arrange them, snap them, destroy them. But then I’m still stuck with the scraps and waste.
Sometimes if I pay attention, I really feel the world sends me tiny signals. I’ve been so preoccupied with improving, finding a style, improving some more, learning more, etc, that when clues come up I usually ignore them. But not this time. I went to the library and right at the entrance I found a book by Andrea d’Aquino, a very simple and fun book for starting in collage.

Then as I was cutting some shapes, I got a notification from Archibald and Alistair, the café that kindly took my holiday greeting cards to sell. They were having an all-day collage session. Everything was included, magazines, crayons, scissors, glue, etc. I sat at my desk battling inertia. Should I go? What if there are too many people there?

Hey! Resistance, dear friend, no time for you today.

I grabbed my coat and went. It wasn’t crowded and it was the perfect activity for me because even though it would have been nice to meet a fellow creative, I sat at my table and started cutting out things.

What surprised me about collage making.

Drawing and illustrating have been an uphill struggle for many reasons. I think I’m one of those “tortured” artists type who loves to suffer… because even if I love to draw and paint, comparison and other demons continue to plague me. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had put too many expectations into my work. I expected it to pay the bills too soon, I expected to find my voice by magic, I expected to be able to draw and paint beautifully and in my rush I overloaded in learning and compulsive drawing. Plus I spent a lot of money on art supplies. I don’t think there is any book that talks about this, about the “dams that open” when you stumble onto creative paths later in life.

I remember the Should and Must essay by Elle Luna, but she didn’t talk about the unexpected mixture of humbling and wanting. You see, to call myself an artist felt pretentious and out of place even when I’ve been creating most of my life. The amount of writing I have, from notebooks, stories, poems, essays etc. is ridiculous. And now the amount of drawings, sketches and paintings I have is also ridiculous and yet since I don’t have a BA in Art or an MFA it still doesn’t feel like a legitimate claim: I am an artist.

However if I look at myself from the outside I see a woman hunched on her desk, or looking far away creating something every minute of every day. But drawing and painting feel like a challenge, one that until I give in to the art I want to make instead of dabbling and proclaiming my eclecticism to justify going from Urban Sketching to lettering to Abstract Art, I will never win.

So what surprised me about collage making was that as I sat down in that café I felt decisive which is very rare.

I grabbed a couple of national geographic magazines and I started cutting out shapes. I piled them instinctively by colour and in ten minutes I had a colour palette (something I have mastered while making clip art sets) then I found one word and cut it, then I found an Iggy Pop photograph and took him. Then I laid it out, like a puzzle, moved my shapes around, added colour accents, rotated and reversed things.

Collage making

It took me an hour. I picked up my things, cleaned my table and went to say goodbye to Zoe, the owner and took off with my little art piece.

I felt so happy, not only because I didn’t feel obligated to be “good” at it, but because I liked the end result, I simply liked it. I had nothing to compare it to. I hadn’t taken a class with a feeling of urgency and FOMO, I don’t have a Pinterest board with collages, in fact I hadn’t thought of it in so many years.

I wish I could learn how to approach my other art practice the same way, I guess this time it was the combination of spontaneity, how my brain pulled from those classes which I did take in urgency, and the fact that I had already set myself up for success by letting go of resistance. Whatever collage I ended up making would have been good for me.

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