Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mining for Inspiration

This time last year, after having discovered the world of online art education, I was embarking on my first real creative endeavors to draw and paint. I had joined the Yahoo "Everyday Matters" group, was enrolled in the first Strathmore Artist Papers workshop with Pam Carriker, and was learning for the first time how to work with basic art materials and how to mine my own life and art for even more art inspiration. I had made a first journal page based on the experience of staying in a favorite hotel (go here), and another about dinner at a favorite restaurant (here), and then in Pam's workshop I had learned to combine those elements into something much richer, layered and more fascinating (then here.) Since then my drawing time has produced somewhat more literal interpretations of the favorite bits of my life, but as with my blog, there tends to be a story to bind up the parts.

This January I have been fortunate to spend some quality time under the excellent creative coaching of Traci Bautista. (The first four week class of Strathmore Online Workshops is over in real time, but you can still sign up and work the lessons on your own.) I included the results of week one doodling last time, and now I'd like to show off the rich results of the last three weeks' joyous play.

In week two, we moved into all water based media, and I was able to learn about layering not only with brushed-on paint, but watercolor crayon, pencil and markers as well. The result is a painting that is sheer and glows, and when mined for closeup detail images, displays every bit of the energy and inspiration that went into three non-stop hours of fun.

"We Drank all the Limoncino" is 18 x 24 inches
(all the images from this and last year's class may be found in
 this flikr set.) 

When my Designing Women met for our January creative play day, I decided to take some of the mined detail shots and turn them into something 3-D and practical, and created a pattern for a lidded box inspired by a self-closing tea box I was getting ready to discard. Lined with a coordinated calico print, my art is now ready for gifting or selling.  

Next up was the need for something suitable to inspire a series of pieced and embroidered panels for my ongoing class with Arlee Barr, and her highly textured techniques in surface embellishment. I have been collecting fabric forever, but most recently have started acquiring OOAK hand dyed linen bits from Jackson Art Fabrics and Deb Lacativa. Of course the colorways were highly suitable to the inspiration of my painting, since I long ago learned that my intuitive sense of color mixing will generally yield a consistent palette without much conscious thought. Color is the one area in which I am most confident and happy to experiment.

Nothing purchased. Just pulled from the closet.

This photo shows a detail inspiration shot on the right, and the design starting to form in fabric on the left.
Moving on to a new assignment for workshop weeks three and four, we returned to the use of acrylics and various found items of a household nature to use as texture plates. We were creating backgrounds for what would be fanciful "girly glam" faces a la Traci's style in week four. Here are the three pieces I made in quick succession. Much of the work was done in a finger painting style. My favorite textures came from the sequin waste and the dry walling mesh, although some other useful materials were the cut off end of a plastic basket and a stamp made from rubber bands adhered to sticky back craft foam.

Everything I used minus the hose connector used to stamp
 the large circles above.

We also doodled on newsprint in India ink and a script liner (skinny brush).

Last week we faced the hardest part of the doodle challenge: faces! Although I did an intensive week of faces with Carla Sonheim last summer, well, that was last summer, and I haven't done any since. This was supposed to be totally simple and stylized, but I needed some real glam inspiration. I opened W Magazine to the first ad I saw and this was perfect.

The face and hair area laid in, and several ink doodles secured with  matte gel to use as line inspiration.

After Session I: The facial features were done in watercolor pencil and some overlay of paint, and the rest in basic craft acrylics with various small flat and round brushes. (The colors appear a bit more golden due to the ambient lighting.)

The finished painting (minus varnishing, done later.) The colors were read very true by the scanner. Although Traci's style was to add detail in various markers and pens, and colored pencils, I stayed with the paint and brushes for all of the layering. I did use some metallic gold paint for shimmer.

This happy accident is how the painting scanned when I mistakenly hit "color correct". I love this blue based palette as well, and I expect I will mine this image for all sorts of details to be used down the line in other art and projects. And so goes the inspiration.


  1. Hi Cheryl, I have just started following your blog and I find it fascinating. I think I'm probably where you were last year. Just starting to try things. I am taking a online color theory class and am really enjoying the painting (which is something I always said I couldn't do). I am also in Arlee's embroidery class and it is amazing to see what she can do with needle and thread.
    I just wanted to say to you to journey on! I love your paintings!

    1. Isn't it great to find so many of us out there exploring at this point in life? So much inspiration and great comaraderie. By the way, it has been so quiet at the FS blog, I thought I was the only student! I hope you will post some progress photos this week.

  2. hello, as I was searching blogs about watercolor, I can to yours, I also did the Stratmore Workshop, and your picture of the glam girl and the background is beautiful, and in the blue also....love your color combination and everything about it...I hope to one day be just half as good as you do.....keep it up I wont to see more.....thanks

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind comments. I feel like a newbie at art and it is always surprises me when things turn out so well. It seems to be a matter of immersing yourself in creativity as often as possible and just getting out of your own way, not judging too soon.

  3. wow, it looks like you are having fun!! I particularly like the stamped efforts toward the end. Mostly, I look forward to seeing how you integrate all these new tools and techniques down the road!!

  4. Hi, Cheryl. Lovely work/play. You show very well how you're developing the notion of layers. I especially liked the Limoncino painting with its textile interpretation (my bias!).

    best, nadia