Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Value of Beginning with a Warm Up

Beginning with a Warm Up ©2021 Christy Sheeler Artist
Why start with a warm up?

Is it hard for you to just begin once you have come to your creative space?  Do you find it a challenge to switch gears and forget distractions?  I am right there with you.  How often I found myself avoiding the start because I knew my head and heart weren't in it.  I was afraid of messing up an artwork in progress.  The artist inside knows when the creative flow has come to the surface.  Turning off the rest of life's worries isn't easily done.  Let me describe to you how I have found my way with warm ups in the creative painting process.

This change in my creative process has made such a big difference and that's why it's today's topic.  The experience of making something with your own two hands is unlike anything else.  I want that for anyone else who has interest to seek it out.  Ready?  Let's get to it!

Brushes and palette © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

There are many days that I have good intentions to go make art but something inside me resists in a big way.  It's not easy to sit down and just make the art happen on paper.  Maybe a few smaller and easier steps to make the transition would help me on a regular basis.  While taking an online course, I came to see how a warm up can be very beneficial.  

For me, I begin with turning on lights and music and then sitting down at my painting table.  I have trimmed watercolor paper into various sizes but there's a stack of 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" papers ready to go.  This is like stretching before exercise.  I spray down my watercolor palette and let the pigments soften.  Taking a small piece of watercolor paper, no sketching necessary, I pick up a brush and begin to doodle in watercolor.  Play.  Explore.  No big pressure.  No expectations.  I apply the brushstrokes of colors, letting them flow and merge.  It's just loosening the creative energy and detaching the cares of the day.  Spatter.  Spritz with water.  Scrape back lighter marks with a palette knife.

Don't like it or still not in that creative mindset?  Set it aside.  Start another.  These small bits of watercolor paper are not a big loss.  Maybe it takes me three or four tries and then I realize the switch in my spirit and mind has happened.  Some days, I only do the warm ups and feel that is enough...maybe it's not happening right then.  That's okay.  Go take a 15 minute break, drink some water, switch up the music, light a candle...then come back and give it another go.

What I have found is this way of beginning my creative practice has helped me to move from the easier expectations of warming up to other artworks in progress.  It may seem that artists just come to the easel and throw some paint around and the painting appears magically.  It's not like that for me.  Usually a painting is on pause because I don't have sure prompting about the next moves to finish it.  And that pressure of finishing is heavy.  Even more so when there are up to ten or twelve artworks in progress sitting off to the side, waiting in the wings.

Watercolor paper trimmed for warm ups.  © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

Ready to begin my warm up.  © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

Time to play and explore as my warm up.  © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

First warm up exercise done.  © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

There's a lot going on from eye to brain to hand to brush to paper.  The time spent in a few warm up exercises can help your creative mind get back in touch with what you want to say on paper.  Strengthen the motions and the familiarity with the brush on paper.  Let yourself move further from all the other responsibilities of life and go into this art making space.

Now, in the past, my painting style was so tight and realistic.  Not that this was a bad thing in any way.  There are so many talented individuals whose work is very lifelike and detailed in an amazing way.  For me personally, I was weary of the whole process and was yearning for a way to break out of it and work more intuitively.  I had forgotten how to play and felt the need for a reference photo in order to begin the painting process.  This resulted in me avoiding the process of was daunting.

My watercolor palette.  © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

Set this aside; time to let this one dry.  © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

A collection of warm ups.  © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

This change of mindset, recognizing that I need to give myself time and patience in starting my painting time has helped me in a big way.  Less pressure and more intuition.  My energy is more adventurous and less judgmental.  I have given myself the opportunity to explore.

So with all these little warm ups stacking up, what could we do with them?  In the upcoming blog post, as a follow-up, I will be sharing what these warm ups can become.  I have some ideas to share in which these warm ups can be helpful in additional ways.  Stay tuned!

-She must make art.


Along the way, in the last ten plus years, I have found other artists that inspire my creative spirit.  There have been so many and I will credit them as often as possible.  Angela Fehr is one of the most recent artists that I am excited to share today.  She has a generous heart for teaching with a manner that is non-intimidating, relaxing, welcoming, and accepting.  I might have come across her through Facebook and then YouTube.  I found her tutorials so knowledgeable and open minded that even if I wasn't in a season of painting regularly, I just enjoyed watching her paint with watercolors.

Angela Fehr offers so much for watercolor artists.  She shares inspiration on Facebook and Instagram,  has a very active Facebook group Angela Fehr Watercolor Workshop, a YouTube channel and now has the Fearless Artist Community.  Through her online course Watercolor Jumpstart, (which is free!) it was amazing how quickly I could transition to loose and fresh watercolor technique.  I would like to one day take more workshops from her because her tips help me develop my skills further.

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