Is Your Brain feeling a Little Tired?

This week my brain was tired. Do you ever feel that way? 

Believe it or not, painting is hard work. Yes, it's totally enjoyable, but it is hard work all the same. I have discovered that it takes about four straight hours of staring hard at something and trying to copy the colors and shapes before your brain starts to get tired and yell for caffeine or sugar. (Maybe that is just my brain... some brains probably yell for carrots). This week after painting so many days in a row my brain decided it needed a nap and a little switch up.

Instead of painting I decided to make stencils to use while painting. (art geek)

Everywhere you look there are patterns. Your iPhone makes it easy to record them. If you like playing around with mixed media or if you like playing around with scissors you might want to try and make your own. This would be a fun exercise to do with kids, how can you replicate the world you see around you?

I used a plastic folder with pockets (left over school supplies.) I drew the design on the folder with a sharpie then cut it out. Totally easy and now I have my own stencils.

This is only the beginning of pattern collecting. Tomorrow I'm back to painting! 

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Finished stencils. 

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Photographic inspiration while walking the dog. 

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Balcony railings. 

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Not sure what decade this is from... 

Not sure what decade this is from... 

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The painted stencil. 

Explaining Inspiration

This week I spent a little time exploring a new creative process that turned out to be a blast. I want to share it with you because whether you make art or not, we all have the choice to look at the world around us and see what peaks our interest and create a life that's beautiful.

This process was taught by Tracy Verdugo on Tamara LaPorte's "LifeBook 2016," an online course I have been taking for the past two years. As an artist I am often asked where do I get my inspiration. Usually, I respond with "I don't know" or the equally vague  "life, I guess." But really, inspiration is everywhere - you just have to be willing to pay attention to the details. 

In this process, Tracy teaches students to make inspiration bundles as a creative prompt. The task was to go through 6 or 7 books or papers you have collected and tear out a random image (don't over think it) so that you have a stack of about 7 to 12 pieces of paper. Taking each piece of paper one at a time see what appeals to you and incorporate that into your piece. Below is my finished painting that, in the end,  I was very happy with. BUT - like everything in life - there was a catch...

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"Little Details" 9 x 12" mixed media

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This is my first image and it is not hard to see where the figure is represented. What WAS hard and what you do not see is that underneath all the layers there was a beautiful, painstakingly  painted re-creation of this woman in black and white. Then I came to my next image and had to  decide what to lose and what to keep. What to paint over and what to incorporate.

In the end it turned out to be a much more interesting painting because of what was kept and lost. That is how I see life. We can try as hard as we can to be something we think we "should" be, to hang on tight to those images and stories we want to tell about ourselves. However, the real beauty is in the details. What we observe, discard and layer. That is how we take our world and create a life that is authentic and worth living.

Each image below is represented in the finished product. Can you spot the inspirational details?

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Yes, even a #10 envelope can be inspiring if you really look at it.

Yes, even a #10 envelope can be inspiring if you really look at it.

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Pattern Hunting at the National Gallery of Art

One of the things I love about living in Washington, DC is going to the National Gallery of Art. When people think of free museums they usually think of the Smithsonian museums on the mall. But DC has three free art museums; The National Gallery of Art (NGA), The Hirschhorn, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum & Portrait Gallery.

I think one of the best ways to learn to draw is to copy a painting or sculpture.  As a practice I try to get to a museum about once a week (if I am lucky). The NGA never disappoints me! I can always find a painting by a famous artist I never noticed before or discover something new in a painting I've seen a million times. Now that the NGA is rotating some of their art, presumably to make room for their acquisitions from the Corcoran (that is another discussion), there are more new things to see.

Recently, I made a trip to the NGA to collect patterns. Instead of picking a painting to study and draw, I decided to look at paintings and find patterns I could use for inspiration in one of my own paintings. Here is a small sample of what I found.

detail of "Odalisque Seated with Arms Raised" by Henri Matisse

detail of "Odalisque Seated with Arms Raised" by Henri Matisse

Matisse may very well be the master of pattern and color. He can take the simple and make it sublime...

detail of cloth in Auguste Renoir's "Odalisque"

detail of cloth in Auguste Renoir's "Odalisque"

detail of dress hem in John Singleton Copley's "The Copley Family"

detail of dress hem in John Singleton Copley's "The Copley Family"

The curls on this sculpture almost look like octopus tendrils.

The curls on this sculpture almost look like octopus tendrils.

The pattern on this skirt is beautifully painted. You can tell by the hands it's a Sargent... detail of John Singer Sargent's "Repose"

The pattern on this skirt is beautifully painted. You can tell by the hands it's a Sargent...
detail of John Singer Sargent's "Repose"

This modern looking painting is actually a Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, painted on cardboard.  The skirt, the fence and shirt are all full of simplified marks. 

This modern looking painting is actually a Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, painted on cardboard.  The skirt, the fence and shirt are all full of simplified marks. 

If you live in DC and want to go to the museum to draw... send me an email. We'll make an afternoon of it!