Monday, August 31, 2015

Painting with a Gift Card...Art Workshop in the Studio

"I'd like to paint watercolors with you sometime."

A few weeks ago, I was visiting with a few ladies and they asked about getting together to paint watercolors sometime.  To be honest, it happens that way often.  It's a compliment that I appreciate so much.  We do really mean well.  Life is busy, schedules are crazy...we're frantic trying to keep up with it all.  The day-to-day gets out of control and we don't really enjoy very much of it like we should.  So I am used to kind sentiment and wishful thinking on painting together.

Well, this time, these gals meant it.  

Here I am visiting with several ladies, while being so appreciative of all the encouragement for my recent art pursuits.  My family is patiently waiting for me in the car.  We're going to be one of the last to leave... And before I know it we're arranging to have an art workshop get-together on Thursday.  Oh.  Hmm.  Four days away.  Let's do this thing!  My mind is scrambling, I'm trying to picture how we'll set up and work in my studio with five or more of us here.  How much house cleaning needs to be done?!  In my heart, I absolutely love getting together like this and know it will be a terrific day.   It was a little bit of a shocker because plenty of people say, "let's get together" but it never pans out that way.

In the end, you just accept those God appointments and know 
He's going to bless it big time.  Ooh, this is exciting now!

First and foremost, I was making a strategy to clean up my studio (again) and arrange it in a way that works better.  This was already in the works...I have been using about half the space available.  My husband kids me that I no longer use the drafting table now that I have the drop-leaf table.  Then we resurrected the old cabinet which gave me more storage and more flat work surface.

So I sorted, packed up, got rid of and organized stuff.  With the addition of folding tables and chairs, it was all coming together.  I dug out the supplies I keep for teaching classes the night before.  At times it seemed like the mess got worse before it got better.  Whew!  I was a little worn out but I knew that when it was all over, this would be a great day.  I just love time spent with other women, so add art to that and it's a bonus.  

I still felt a little bit crazy for agreeing to this

but deep inside knew it was a great idea.  Here were other women, wanting to spend time doing something I really love.  I know it's therapeutic...that's part of why I do it.  While teaching workshops, I have seen participants get lost in the process.  There's just one problem:  It's not easy to make time for creative ambitions.  I know this for a fact.  I'm the one who kept letting it get further from me.  We have these huge plans for a jaw-dropping finished project and then face disappointment when we can't complete it to our standards.  It's hard to re-examine and set different expectations instead of labeling self as a failure.  We are not failing.  We are still pursuing and that's not failure.  Failure is admitting defeat and not trying again.  We can't do that to ourselves anymore.  What could we paint without trying something too ambitious?

I remembered the trees painted with gift cards.

Gifts cards...those little plastic pre-paid cards that are all used up.  Have you seen this before?  This is not my original idea.  I first saw this on Susie Short's Learning Watercolor site.  Wow!  What a treasure trove of wonderful information.  At the time, I was looking for ideas for workshops and it looked so fun.  To see the actual tutorial click here and then click the tutorial link under its photograph.  It is so quick, simple, and fun...try it with your kids.  They'll love it!

There were six of us ladies in the group that day.  We began mid morning with getting everyone set up with palette, paper, gift card, brushes and water.  The great thing about this project was pencils weren't really necessary.  Brushes were needed later for painting in the background.  I guess we could have lightly drawn in the trees and painted in the surroundings first.  I do like getting the background in first.  One of the ladies brought us lunch and we enjoyed collard wraps, recipe by Gabrielle at Honest  Thanks, Darla!  It was so nice to have food taken off my list.

Many great questions were thrown out for me to answer as best I know how...  The enthusiasm and curiosity was so contagious.  Their excitement was so evident and I enjoyed watching them work.  Part way through, I mentioned this would be a great blog post.  I asked if they minded me getting some photos to share and they kindly agreed.  

The sharing and observing is the best part of days like this;  the way we interact and learn from one another, and the skill level makes no difference.  The perspective of each person is unique.  The way we channel the creative spirit to the paper is quite a sight to behold.  The doing is so rewarding and fulfilling that the finished painting is just a bonus.  I've got a travel easel for plein aire painting and it's part of the room now.  I leave it set up all the time.  For a painter who enjoys working standing rather than sitting, this was an ideal set up.  I spent a lot of my time moving around the room, answering questions and explaining techniques...and just enjoying seeing them enjoying themselves.  


A winter scene in progress with trees on a slope.  We talked about light source and how trees could cast shadows on other trees.  I look forward to seeing how Mary works this painting to completion.  I know she'll complete it with her own style.  She's got the touch and vision!

I just LOVE the spatter of fresh, bright color here.  She was daring and it was such a great move.  She mentioned reading about the spattering here on the blog.  Awww.  The day went by too fast.  I appreciated their feedback & advice in marketing and pricing.  I really needed others to talk a lot of these details through.

Soft and peaceful, relaxing is the feel I find in this one.  A gentle touch and soft use of color as she gets the feel for the medium.  This was her first experience with watercolor and she did really well.  With more time painting, she'll develop more confidence.  Watercolor takes some get-to-know-you time because it seems unpredictable.

She was so excited to know we were painting this type of tree trunk.  She'd been gathering ideas on Pinterest so she pulled up one on her phone.  The choice of colors for each painting is unique, creating its own mood.

The darks in the tree trunks are just fantastic.  The varying textures give more interest.  She was wanting to take it further, adding to the background but we ran out of time.  Next time, she should pull this one out again and we'll take it a little further.  She asked me for ideas because she wasn't quite satisfied.  It probably needs more contrast with bolder color in the sky and grasses...that's just my guess.  I try not to lead too much though.  I want to guide others to decide where they want to take it.  That's scary, I know... but it's good for the artistic process.

When my daughter joined us, we were just about finished.  The ladies needed to pack up and head their own directions to rejoin their responsibilities.  It wasn't very long before my daughter asked if she could paint...of course I always say yes.  I began the clean up as she made her own creative work.  Art is so good for us!  It is a valuable therapy to express ourselves and tune out the world for a while.

At the end of the day, I was tired but refreshed.  I was able to spend a day where the conversation and focus was on creativity.  What a gift it was, not only to others but to myself.  We were all enriched and went away excited to make more art.  That's where this blog began way back so far from today...because she must make art.  It's like breathing and something deep inside is more complete because we spent the day making art.

My brief demo on the technique didn't make it very far in completion.  I was up and moving around most of the time.

Do you want to try this?
We used payne's gray because black can be so flat and lifeless.  Cerulean, antwerp, ultramarine or manganese would be a great sky.  Try mixing a little bit of any two for a bit more adventure.  Grassy greens can be made with gamboge or cadmium yellow and one of those blue pigments listed.  I dropped in gamboge by itself to bring out the golds.  Spread a pinch of salt over wet pigment on the paper, while it's shiny but not puddled.  When it dries there's a lovely crystal effect.

Let me know if you give this project a try!  Follow the link above to see the original demo (by Debbie Short) I used because it's a great place for more watercolor information.

One day in the future, I may be willing to consider offering an art workshop each month.  I'm thinking through what I'd charge either per person or per group.  For the amount of work it takes to set up and prepare, it might have to be a two day event.  It such a compliment that people like taking my classes.  I hear it often that others are hoping to take a class.  It's my main priority to be making my own art and getting a career running smoothly before I can go back to teaching again.

Until next Thursday...


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