Friday, April 13, 2018

Taking It All In

I have turned myself over to the twelve weeks of my Nicholas Wilton Creative Visioning Project class, and now that we are in week 7, I'm wondering how much more I can hold.  My sketchbook is full of notes, ideas, inspirations, practical advice.  I watch the videos of everything from cleaning a paintbrush (who knew you should always dip it in water before you begin painting?) to showing up fully and revealing yourself in your paintings.  I'm obsessed and even lose sleep over it.  Thankfully we get a week long break after next week.

Right now we are in a deep experimental mode.  Here are the boards I posted last week:

And those same boards this week.  Better?  No.  I probably don't even like them as well as last weeks, but we are experimenting, trying to find differences and building up layers for future work.  

 While I've been working on the lessons, I've also been painting in my usual style and seeing how much I've absorbed without giving it a lot of thought.  The lessons we get over and over are about creating high value contrasts, moving the eye, and creating lots of differences.

It's challenging to move back and forth between keeping fresh and spontaneous and being analytical.  There are so many things to keep in balance that I never seem to be fully satisfied.  There's always a bit more tweaking to do.  I'm excited that we move on to glazes and creating depth this week.  O1ne more challenge to add to the equation!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Series in Process

I have a feeling I'm not going to have any finished pieces to show for quite a while.  Part of the process in Nicholas Wilton's Creative Visioning Project is to work on a series of panels for weeks, letting them build up as we learn new material.  I've gotten used to working in series, but Nick has a little different slant on it that I am really enjoying.  He had us start with 3-6 panels.  Being an underachiever, I started 3, but I'm already regretting not having more going and will be starting 3 more.  

When I've done series before, I might start 6 at a time, work on all 6 to get them going, then settle into finishing off one or two at a time.  Nick's approach is to bring up all 6 of them at the same time.  You work on each panel for 10-20 minutes.  As soon as you start feeling stuck or bored, you move on.  He believes you should always be working from a place of joy and enthusiasm.  How wonderful is that?  He says to go in and work on your least favorite board first, since you have nothing to lose on it.  By bringing that up to a higher level, you raise the bar for the other panels and then bring them up too.  I really love his approach of focusing on what you love, what delights you and moving from there.  It makes it so much easier to get to the studio when you know it's focused on fun and staying engaged.

Here is my first pile of starts.

Then another round of layering on top.

We are instructed to keep being aware of those areas that we love, even though there is a good chance that we will be covering them.  We keep letting those things sink in as they determine our interests and our personal style.  Right now I love the mark on the white area in this one.  I'm sure I'll lost it, but can always do it again elsewhere.

We'll start shaping these up with more focus on value and design soon, but always coming back to having a very playful spirit to our approach and a willingness to let go.  In case it isn't obvious, I am loving this program!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Balancing It All

My online class with Nicholas Wilton is so intense that I am actually dreaming about painting revisions in my sleep!  Nick provides many hours of image adjustment videos each week, in which he, or the other coaches, take student paintings and revise them in Photoshop to show how they could work better by applying the principles he's teaching.  Yesterday alone, we covered 150 paintings in a session.  The guy has endless enthusiasm and energy for the course!  It's really a fantastic way to learn since people paint in so many styles from realistic to abstract, and it's fascinating to see how the principles apply to diverse paintings and a great way to drive those principles home.

I find, though, that I don't always agree with changes he makes.  He tends to like things a lot busier than I do, so I'm trying to find a balance of taking those elements he teaches that are very powerful and applying them to my own work.  Right now I feel like I'm plodding along and analyzing every brushstroke.  I know that's necessary to absorb the info. and I'm hoping that eventually it will feel like second nature.

One principle Nick emphasizes is getting the eye to move all through the piece by having lots of high contrast elements in every part of it.  This is a painting I did before thinking about that principle.  It would never pass his test because the lower right corner has very little contrast to draw the eye down there.  But I like it this way.  I'm a big fan of breathing space in painting.

This one, done for class, shows the principles at work more with the eye pulled to every quadrant and side.  I like this approach too, but don't think it's a requirement for all paintings.

Funny he is having us use the Zorn palette (black, white, cadmium red dark, and yellow ochre) for our limited palette.  I never even heard of it before a couple months ago, and here it shows up in two classes.  I do love the range of colors from it!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Painterly Cross Training

Maybe one of the best things about taking 3 painting classes at the same time is you quickly learn how different teachers have their own way of doing things, and how many things are just preference, not rules.  Joan Fullerton paints with liquid acrylics and lots of water, often using water color techniques, while Nicholas Wilton wants thick opaque color, more like oil painting.  And Nancy Hillis leans towards transparent paints and glazes, but also uses some opaque.

The other good thing about taking 3 at once is the essential lessons cross over, so value, for instance, is important everywhere.  One class reinforces the next in that way and sometimes adds a different twist to it.  Now I'll be absorbing bits and pieces from each class and trying to incorporate them into how I work.

In Joan Fullerton's 4 day workshop last week, I enjoyed working with lots of transparent washes and collage.  I was happy with this one painting I finished and have several more underway.

In Nick Wilton's online program, we are focused on value and design right now.  We're working in black and white and thinking about loud and quiet conversations, eye movement, and differences.  It's a lot to balance at one time and trickier than I expected.

And in Nancy Hillis' class, we're also focusing on value, and I've been working on using warm and cool whites for light values.  Not sure how well they show up in this picture.

Lots of new ideas to take in, and I'm loving being challenged in so many new ways.  It feels like a total work-out.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Painting Immersion

The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the culture and practice 24 hours a day.  I'm wondering if that is the best way to learn painting.  It seems to be what I have signed on for lately.  I'm continuing with Nancy Hillis's Studio Journeys.  This month we are looking at value.  That's something I tend to think about quite a bit already, so I think the exercises will just be incorporated into what I already do.  There are some new areas I would like to play with this month in value shifts and dominance. 

Next week I head up to Whidbey Island for a 4 day painting workshop with Joan Fullerton.  I'm looking forward to a new approach and to be surrounded by lots of water.

And I'm continuing my very deep dive into painting with Nicholas Wilton.  The first two weeks of the program have not involved painting at all.  Instead we've been exploring our inspirations, our desires, and our personal art history.  All of this is foundational to what the heart of the program is about--painting with your own authentic voice.  I am so curious where this journey is going to take me.  I have seen people's work change dramatically from the program, but I can't envision where mine will go.  And I find that strangely thrilling.

Here are a couple paintings from this week, working on light and fresh.

I'll be up in WA next week, so won't be posting on my blog.  I hope to still get some pieces up on Instagram though.

Friday, March 2, 2018


This year has been a strange one for me.  I seem to start down one path and end on another.  But that's OK.  I'm just letting things unfold as they will.

I started Feb. by signing up for Leslie Saeta's 30-in-30 challenge to paint 30 paintings in 30 days.  That didn't work.  I found out pretty early on that that is not the format for me.  I need to let things develop slowly and take as long as they need.  I then tried to challenge myself to paint every day for 30 days.  I didn't keep good track and know I missed a few, but I'm very happy that at the end of the month, I ended up with 15 finished paintings.  They're small, 12" squares, but 15 finished is definitely a record for me.  I tried to explore something new in each of them.  Here're a few of the latest ones when I was exploring minimal color with black and white.

And then trying to reduce the color even more in the next one.

Along the way I signed up for Nicholas Wilton's Creative Visioning Project, a 3 month long, online painting class.  That was a really big step.  I had looked at it last year, but it required so much dedication, not to mention money, that I passed.  It has been haunting me all year, so after hearing a number of alumnis say it was the best thing they ever did, I took the plunge this year.

We are only a week into it, but so far I am very impressed and excited.  It's a huge, juicy program full of information, inspiration and support.  We have something scheduled every day of the week, except for Sundays.  Always a new video, online coaching, newsletter, something coming our way.  And a huge file of resources to go through.

For the first two weeks, we don't paint in the class.  We establish our vision and goals.  The first project was to make a large inspiration board, using pictures of things that light you up.  These are going to be put near where we paint because, as Nicholas says, you need to be working from that point of enthusiasm and inspiration, that place that provides your unique spark, to create authentic paintings.  The class is very much focused on working from deep within to create your own work, no collection of techniques to make your work look like the teachers.

My board ended up dividing between things that I find calm and peaceful and things that are high energy.  I'm very curious to see where this will take me. 

Friday, February 23, 2018


A little bit more stitching this week.  Staying with Xs and Os for now and neutral colors, but I can't help thinking about how they will join and what I might do with the background white, but that will come later.

Mainly I've been absorbed in painting all week.  I'm continuing to explore the idea of color contrasts from Studio Journeys this month.  I've been thinking about all the ways of getting variety in two complementary colors, so here violet and yellow.  I've been playing with different hues of paint, different values, intensities, temperatures, and transparencies.

And in this one, exploring blue and orange.

I decided to do another blue and orange to try leaning a little more towards the warmer blues.  I also wanted to play with a central composition that does not extend to the edge of the paper.

I've made a strange discovery lately.  I always liked to paint either in silence or with some wild dance music in the early stages to get everything flowing.  While I'm stitching I enjoy listening to podcasts, lots of them artist interviews.  I especially love The Savvy Painter and The Jealous Curator.  In the interviews, many painters talked about liking to listen to podcasts or books on tape while they paint, but many said they found music distracting.  That seemed so alien to me.  I thought I'd be distracted by the spoken word.

I was way behind on listening to podcasts, so I thought I'd try some while painting.  I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed that!  They actually seemed to help me focus on painting and were still easy to follow.  I was listening to an interview with Jill Bolte Taylor, the neuroscientist who had a stroke and observed what was happening in her brain.  She described the left hemisphere shutting down and being unable to process language and reason, but the right hemisphere being free to see the bigger picture and have stronger intuition.  It made me wonder if that's what spoken word does while painting.  It keeps that language side of the brain busy enough that it quiets it down, and you are left working more intuitively.  That's how it seems to work for me anyway.  I felt like I was more absorbed in the painting process and that critic in my brain wasn't allowed to talk.

 I also discovered a new-to-me highly addictive podcast out of the BBC called Desert Island Disks.  Celebrities from all fields are interviewed and asked what 8 songs, 1 book, besides The Bible and Complete Works of Shakespeare which they are automatically given, and 1 luxury item they would take if stranded on a desert island.  It's really fascinating to hear the stories that go along with the music they choose.  Bill Gates interview was especially fun.