Category: Creative Process

Skip the recap but get a Free Printable 2018 Calendar

FlowArte Calendar 2018

Did you do everything you wanted to do this 2017?

No? That’s great.

It means you did other things that you probably need to acknowledge now and they probably will surprise you.

Free 2018 printable watercolor calendar

My friend and I have tried to do several end-of-year recaps using the Year Compass. We felt compelled to do it and like everything else that happens in mass sometimes we don’t even know why. Same thing for planning the next year.

Some people are born with a very structured-oriented brain. They can plan, execute and recap like it’s their second nature. Artists rarely operate this way but if we want to support ourselves with our work we need some of that structure; however, we need to discover it within ourselves instead of trying to adapt someone else’s methods to us.

I won’t pull out last year’s compass and compare what I said I’d do and what I actually did. Instead I will examine the themes that came up more often.

  1. What we want vs what we think we want.
  2. Finding true creativity and what does true mean.
  3. Ethics and values that guide my art making
  4. Learning resources
  5. Being a small business owner.
  6. Organizational skills
  7. Focusing on one thing vs. doing many.

So over the next few days I will examine each one of these themes and try to come up with answers that will guide me into 2018.

Read More

Evolving Artistic Style

Changing watercolor style

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 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.

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

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.

I don’t have comments on my blog, but if you’d like to share your thoughts with me, please do so via Instagram, Facebook or the contact page. I read everything and promptly reply!

Febuary: Release

Release

We are a week into February and things continue to go at a frantic pace, both in the world and in the every day. I declared I would letter my word of the year every month. I decided to take (as usual) the more complicated route and instead of doing analogue lettering I decided I would do vector lettering.

The intention behind this is to teach myself to work and improve something instead of settling for the first version of anything. It is one of my biggest challenges: reworking, rewriting, redrawing. It’s not laziness, but a little bit of desperation to get to the next thing, which does not contribute to good work.

Lettering in vector, requires a lot of fine-tuning and drawing with the pen tool is almost as painstakingly deliberate as embroidery or knitting a motif-heavy sweater. My first exercise was monoline which was a lot easier than drawing shapes. This month I tried to draw fatty letters and they are very imperfect, in fact, I shouldn’t even publish them because they are so full of bumps that type designers might have a stroke by looking at them. I must say that my handles are the way they are supposed to but maybe my anchor points are not well placed.

Anchor points extrema type

But it is an exercise in looseness and precision at the same time, working a little bit at a time, from sketch on paper and layering in tracing paper to placing points and fuzzing with the handles.

Why?

I have no desire to work as a letterer unlike say,  watercolorist or illustrator, this is a pure hobby of mine. I want to keep it this way.

If you started to make art as an accident, or as an outlet and were suddenly trapped into thinking that you’d discovered a goldmine, well, maybe it’s part of the road, but as I looked at what I’ve been doing in the past two years, I realised that I’d made a huge mistake:

“I was expecting my creativity to earn me a living”, something that Elizabeth Gilbert devotes a short chapter on in her book Big Magic, and which I’d forgotten.

It might at some point, but my mistake and the mistake I see people make over and over is to start drawing and immediately expect to set up shop, which isn’t bad per se, it’s just that if you do it too early you will make work for the sake of selling, instead of making work that you need to make in order to find your voice, your path and ultimately your style. It’s my personal take, maybe for some people it simply fuels the drive and focus.

So… release…

Right now I’m working on a more structured project which I hope to launch in a few months. This time I’m taking stock of my weaknesses and working in a much more structured approach. Hopefully this will work for my bumblebee complex and this strong pull to check out the next new thing!

Release

 

 

Word of the Year

My father talks a lot about our Circle of Influence. He reminds me about it every time I get overwhelmed with the state of the world.  I have been sucked into a state of worry and anxiety over what is going to happen now, to the world, to Mexico, to immigrants, to refugees, to minorities, to the environment. Oh la la… how to do anything?

I started the year by doing the Year Compass. I’d done it at the end 2015 with a lot of focus and devotion but this year I did it half-heartedly. I wasn’t motivated, I questioned everything. The only thing I thought hard about was my word of the year.

At first I thought about “contentment”. I thought I couldn’t go through 2017 feeling dissatisfied and sad when in reality I’m extremely fortunate. I should be content with what I have, where I live, what I do…but then another word floated through my mind: R E L E A S E…

This one felt right, this one could mean so many good things.

2015 and 2016 was a year of uncertainty and search and at the same time it was a  long period of “striving”. I was trying to learn everything in two very different fields: Web Development and Visual Arts. I consumed a lot of content and I made a lot of things, from Clip Art to Surface Pattern, to Watercolor. I tried Food Illustration, Portraits, Abstract, etc. And at the same time I was trying to keep up with web technologies, WordPress, etc. Jobwise I was sailing adrift.

I’d be working on sites which I had badly quoted or with clients who wanted illustration work for a fraction of my time and effort. I applied for jobs in many different fields but having a less than stellar written French I couldn’t get my foot in the door. By the end of 2016 I was burned out and quite sad.

I had a lot of half-done projects, a Trello Board of hundreds of ideas and I’d acquired more skills than if I’d done a BA in graphic design. But I had no clear direction or goal. I’d failed to get a job I thought I had in my pocket and I was getting more and more desperate because I couldn’t keep up with changing web tech.

But I looked around my office/studio and felt so lucky: I had all the necessary supplies to make the art I wanted, I had improved my drawings skills so much and I had time. TIME. I just had to release all those things that I sort of wanted to do and just be honest:

What makes your heart flutter? What is that thing that always stops you in your tracks? What is the art that makes you feel vs. the art that looks flashy (and profitable)?

R E L E A S E

The things you are doing because you think you should.

Striving mode

The Trello Board full of ideas that won’t get done because you’re actually doing other things.

The beautiful paper you’re ‘saving’

Books that promised you the magical “how to”

The body from the seated position into its own space.

And so many other things.

Writing the word over and over.

I had a few days of alone time in January. My husband went on a trip for nine days and I stayed home with my pup. Our house is very quiet so I carried my iPad around and put videos on the background. At one point I re-joined Skillshare and I did the Monoline Lettering class, it was such a meditative project. I decided to letter the word Release every month of this year in a different style.

If you want to choose a word, listen  to Elise Gets Crafty’s episode on choosing a word for the year. I love the idea that you “explore and examine” the word overtime. It’s never a to-do thing.

Here is January.

Release Lettering by Luisa

 

What does Fashion mean to you?

 

iris-apfel

I don’t shop. Or at least I don’t until I absolutely have to when my clothes look so tattered they’re embarrassing.

I haven’t worked in an office in more than 10 years and when I did, back in Mexico, they preferred uniforms: polyester pants and faux-silk blouses.

Fashion to me was something utterly superficial  I judged the people who took it seriously.

But the truth is I had been paying attention to fashion all my life. It’s unavoidable, nobody can escape this form of self-expression and though I have never studied it, never considered myself officially interested, I just love it.

I have seen every Fashion documentary, from The September Issue to The First Monday in May. I’ve drooled over the biography of Karl Lagerfeld and flip hypnotized through the pages of Dior’s coffee table books.

You wouldn’t imagine it if you saw me. I’m a geek. I wear sweaters, jeans, t-shirts. My hair is a mess, I hardly wear make-up and I have no sense of personal style. But my eyes fixate on Tilda Swinton’s dresses in the movie A Bigger Splash, I literally got goosebumps and idolize women like Iris Apfel and Vivienne Westwood.

Every now and then I log into my local library’s digital resources to watch old catwalk shows.

But I spend close to zero dollars in fashion, except when I buy The Gentlewoman and allow myself to go a bit lunatic with the amazing clothes that are showcased in it.

This fascination intrigues me. If I had tons of money would I buy the clothes? or do I simply look adoringly at them like artwork?

I wanted to examine this because in my never-ending quest for finding my path, I have to trust one thing: my personal taste.

What attracts me to Fashion:

  • Creativity
    There is no creative field where people can remix as much as in Fashion. Rarely do renowned designers accuse others of plagiarism. Everybody seems to be OK with the mash-up. And if you look closely at catwalk shows, even if certain trends emerge, everything looks distinct.
  • Craftsmanship
    I saw one season 1 of Project Runway, I saw Dior and I, I saw Lagerfeld’s documentary: you need special talent with your hands. You can’t wing it.
  • Self-Expression
    Of the designer and the person who wears the clothes. Bill Cunningham brought us as much self-expression as we could stand and enjoy. To dress for oneself is the first creative expression of the day, even if you dress as simply as I do.
  • Strength of character
    Two words: Vivienne Westwood.
  • Color
    I get all my color inspiration from Fashion.
  • Inspiration
    When you are creating art, it’s easy to get cycled into the same topics over and over. In a collection, the Designer has a story in mind, from there, inspiration is found everywhere and they push the limits to where many of us don’t dare.
  • Freedom
    Maybe top designers need to respond to the bottom-line, but indie designers have a mission and they do what they want.
  • Eye candy
    When things get rough in the world, it seems that fashion can rescue you and feed you actual beauty. From the beautiful prints on clothes, to the stages, the music, the colors, the clothes. It’s a suspension of reality.
  • Can be expressed at any age
    The documentary Advanced Style
  • Openness and diversity
    In the past couple of years, gender has blurred, models from all ethnicities are now featured in campaigns and shows. Fashion allows everyone to be who they want to be.

Certainly there is the dark side of it. So here are the aspects I don’t like:

  • Superficiality
    Let’s face it. It will always be superficial to think about appearances when one thinks about the issues of the world. And yet, with all that, there is no stopping this industry,even in the toughest times.
  • The power
    I laughed with The September Issue and with The Devil Wears Prada, but the industry continues to have tremendous gatekeepers. And I can’t even get my head wrapped around the money behind it.
  • Copyright infringement
    Even if among designers there are no strict copyright rules, many companies rip-off indie artists and designers.
  • Fast Fashion
    Self-explanatory. The impact on the lives of people who work in factories and the impact on the environment are shameful.
  • Body Image
    How much damage has the Fashion industry done to young women’s perception of themselves, their bodies and who they are. Fortunately,the rise of independent designers and the reach of the web is slowly changing changing that: Refinery29, Beth Ditto even The Gentlewoman (just to name a few),  break down age and ethnicity and body image barriers.

But it is the art, the creativity and the phenomenal freedom to mix and match without being afraid of the “copy-cat” police that continues to push the Fashion industry forward. I recently watched (out of curiosity) the Skillshare class of Agus Cattaneo and though it’s 3 hours long, it’s incredibly interesting. She shows her process as a cool-hunter, those who unearth the upcoming trends and I recommend it just to get a new window of inspiration.

Of course I love to look at the work of Fashion Illustrators. In fact, one of the first drawings that made me go: oh, I wish I could draw, was Garance Doré’s illustrations.

And don’t even get me started on vintage clothes – that’s a topic for another post.

Whatever your creative outlet is, where does your inspiration come from? Where does your personal taste jump out of its seat? Is it old movies, posters, postcards, dresses, scarves, decor?

 

 

Choosing one thing

WorkSpace October

It is a quiet day in October. Beautiful light, fresh air, wonderful colors outside my window. I just finished a piece of apple pie and I’m enjoying a cup of decaf. It’s silent around here. Boris is behaving. Things are good.

When you haven’t blogged for a while, it feels like you have a lot of catching up to do. But that’s just the old-fashioned me, who still thinks with nostalgia of the “personal blog”, and how one used to follow a stranger’s life mostly through their long-form writing. So even though I have a ton of posts in draft, I will discard them and take it from here.

Inktober

This  month I’ve decided to take on Inktober and although there is an official prompt list, I decided I’d try to improve my portrait skills. Most of these portraits are sort of composites of images. To avoid doing any direct copying I’m gathering inspiration from Sktchy, vintage photos, imagination and sometimes pausing videos on YouTube. This challenge helps me work on these elements:

  • Proportion
  • Working loosely
  • Seeing value (my nemesis)
  • Limiting myself to one medium. On the first inktober drawing I added watercolor but then I decided to just focus on ink.

I hope I can finish the whole month. I might not be able to post all my drawings on four days because we’ll be going to a cabin with no Wi-Fi.

Watercolor

I have kept up my practice, mostly working with loose watercolors and creating textures. Here is where I really feel all my time and practice has paid off! I have stopped feeling constrained. My colors are finally as vibrant as they can be but also I’ve finally cracked the mystery of working in layers and controlling water.

To get to this point I have finally used that beautiful paper I had been safeguarding for “when I’m good enough” and this has been a breakthrough. DO NOT BELIEVE those who teach online and tell you to use whatever cheap paper you find. I know it’s tempting because we don’t want to throw money in the wastebasket but I’ve said it before. Good paper is important:

These are my top three choices:

  1. Cotman watercolor pads  for wet on dry $$
  2. Strathmore 400 Series  $$
  3. Fabriano Artistico  $$$

Anything below that is not going to work very well.

 

My latest illustration project:

Ilustraciones para Via Conexa

Illustrations for Via Conexa Language School in Spain

 

And working with two Theater collectives who will launch their websites soon.

Also, I’m working slowly towards designing a line of leggings for early next year. If you have a few minutes would you answer a short survey? I’m trying to gauge the styles that resonate the most.

The supposed blogpost part…

As you can see, the search of the creative outlet continues. Narrowing down and acquiring skills but there comes a moment in which I wish things would just click. Recently I listened to a Sean Wes mini-podcast: if you have creative block is because you give yourself too much freedom. It’s 100% true. This is the main reason for taking on Inktober. If I continue to look at everything I could do nothing will actually get done.

Why is it so difficult to choose one thing?

What are you going to do

I once did a brain-dump on a trello board. I put everything that was roaming in my brain, all the classes I had purchased, all the things I needed to learn both for illustration and web design, the “businesses” I wanted to create, all the personal projects, including a zine, an illustrated book, making prints of my work, etc and looking at how many columns this brain-dump spanned, I was aghast. Plus, one day I needed a scratchpad to take quick notes during a meeting and I opened my dreaded white box: out came all the  stories, ideas, notebooks and more unfinished projects.

You see, I keep feeling I’m not really doing anything and I don’t say this to get people around me to tell me: but how can you say that? You’ve done so much!

No. Actually I say it because it really seems that way to me. Scatteredness in my personal projects is painful to me. I’m capable to focus on client projects until the end and make my clients happy. But as I’ve been writing this post, I have simultaneously been working on a small painting because, you know, watercolor requires one to be patient while it dries. So the painting gets a layer and the post gets a paragraph. And since I started this post, I also left for half an hour to walk my dog, came back, made an appointment with the goomer, cleaned his backside and then added another layer to my painting.

And, as I walked outside I listened to another one of those podcasts that tell that same old story about someone who started a business and in three months they were skyrocketing into “success”. My husband tells me, of course nobody is going to record a podcast about people who failed or who are taking longer to get to where they want to get. And though I know this to be true, it still wiggles into the subconscious and plants question after question and demeans the little progress one makes.

But when I go through my archives, my sketchbooks and my pile of watercolors, I realize that despite all my neurosis and my hunger for producing good work, I have improved greatly. Day 4 of inktober was featured in Ello. My clipart is slowly picking up and looking at my watercolor textures brings me so much joy.

How do you get out of a motivation slump? Do you step back? Do you work harder?

I hope you can share with me!

Conundrums of Art: which are yours?

Lamy Drawings

I’m currently reading a fantastic book: 33 Artists in 3 Acts by Sarah Thornton It’s a book that presents us with some of the world’s leading professional artists. This means, people who don’t even need to physically create their works but just imagine them and get their staff to make it for them. Strange when just one look at Instagram and we see so many artists working their ass off every single day. However, this book is fantastic for one reason: it has shown me that creating things is important, but most important is why we create these things.

I’ve seen many challenges go by the 30 day challenge of this or that, the 100 day project, the index card challenge, the pattern challenge.. etc. I see the value of those efforts, it makes you sit down and create no matter what, the prize is that at the end of the process you have somewhat a body of work. I’ve attempted two of those challenges. Last year I tried the 100 day project drawing strange animals but I fell off the wagon on day 27. This year I attempted a pattern challenge but I couldn’t finish it either.

Some people say quantity over quality. In Sarah Thornton’s book it seems the opposite is true. What if you create fewer works of art but with better quality? As usual, I’m like a pendulum between the two. On one hand, I want to fill up my Etsy shop with unique clipart sets. and on the other hand, I want to draw what comes naturally, in this case, those intriguing ladies I love so much. 

Some artists really want to make a statement, political, social, etc. but some of us don’t. Some of us just follow our own sensibilities and tastes. Sometimes we will never know why we create the things we do.

Personally, I started drawing portraits from the beginning. The first watercolor attempt was my Vivienne Westwood portrait. Then my bee-complex kicked in and I started drawing all sorts of things. I took several classes and I tried the challenges mentioned before. But I realized that I don’t particularly like to doodle, so drawing birds, cups, trees and everyday objects does not motivate me at all. I do admire those incredible sketchbooks, like Liz Steele’s teacup sketches, but when I sit down to draw and I look around my house, nothing ignites the spark.

Faces, portraits, characters… that’s what drives me. And watercolor…

Getting Better

That Vivienne Westwood portrait should have discouraged me from attempting to create portraits, but as I’ve mentioned, I’m stubborn. One of the most important things I’ve learned is to loosen up when drawing.

In the image below, the first girl (top left) was done with very controlled movement.

Lamy Drawings

She’s small, you can tell I was looking at the paper, carefully considering where each feature went. In the second drawing of the same girl, I looked more at my reference image than at the paper, I held my Lamy a little looser and I drew her bigger. On the right, I picked a reference image and jumped right in, I started with the left eye and mostly tried to do a contour drawing but looking at my sketchbook a little more often. She fell off my very loosely held pen. This was a revelation.

This fondness for precision that I have is stupid. Precision has ruled most of my life. I like it when people use the precise terms to define something, when there is no deviation from the plan, or route. Even my clipart is very precise.

As I look at my intriguing lady on the right, I feel almost love for her and for my own hand. It’s like they went to play without me. This has happened also with my watercolor textures:

Texture example

After years of banging my head against the wall with color theory, I have found a way to make colors work no matter what. The clue: loosen up!

This year, I’ve been attempting to shift towards illustration work more and more, but I wonder, should I be less inclined to work for clients and more to work from my artistic self? These are the conundrums of art I constantly find myself in.

Darn, I don’t know.