Thursday, January 14, 2021

What A Warm Up Can Become

What a Warm Up Can Become © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist
The Warm Ups Have Multiplied!

What to do with all these littles?!  Previously, I shared The Value of Beginning with a Warm Up...reasons for this and how I go about my warm up process in my daily painting sessions.  (I've linked the title if you're curious to read it later.)  There's so much gained in this way of transitioning into a creative mindset.  I have chosen to make my warm ups quite small at about 2 1/2" by 3 1/2" though the size varies.  There are several uses for these small artworks.  

Once I realized the difference daily warm ups make, I was no longer faced with so much resistance to create.  The little warm ups began to accumulate quickly.  The pressure to perform is lessened so these small beginnings have a greater chance of being something worth keeping.  Today, I am sharing 3 ways to use the warm up paintings that have accumulated over time.

3 Ways To Use Your Warm Ups

Small warm ups on watercolor paper. © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

1.  Shop for some lovely little frames and put little warm up artwork on display.

I have found my favorite places to shop for frames to be Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx, and Michaels.  Hobby Lobby offers frames in sizes for the smallest artwork at a discount that makes them very affordable.  Artwork of this size fits perfectly on a dresser, side table, or shelf and can be changed out with other artwork so easily.  It's amazing to me how much a painting feels "real" once it's in a frame.  Offering these to customers on a tight budget is a great idea.  The artwork by an artist they love is now an option!  An artist can gift this small framed artwork as a thank you to anyone who has shown generosity in support of their art business.

Watercolor warm ups.  One in frame.  © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

A watercolor warm up in white frame. © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

2.  Create a note card with extra artistic flair.

Over time, I have gathered a supply of blank cards and envelopes from Michaels and Hobby Lobby.  My favorite choice is the brown kraft paper style rather than white cardstock.  A stash of washi tape, rubber stamps, and twine make the project options limitless.  Using your choice of tape to attach the artwork, the finished note card will be ready to send off to a friend.  If you should find the washi tape doesn't hold well enough, use a piece of 3m scrapbooking double-stick tape to attach the watercolor paper to the card.  You can decide whether you want the artwork to be easily removed to be displayed in a frame by the recipient.  This is the little gift I enjoy sending off to those who purchase my original artwork.  I often write a little personal note on the back of the brown tag or card; I describe the piece on the front, whether it's a trimming from a larger artwork or a warm up.  Wrap it in a little cellophane sleeve with a business card and include it with the artwork.

An assortment of watercolor warm ups.  © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

My stash of supplies for gift cards and tags.  © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

These little tokens of creative expression can be such a special treat to gift to others.  The time it takes to put one together and the supplies can be very minimal.  The impact in contrast, very touching and special.  How much more personalized could these be?

Simple ways to use a warm up.  © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

Basic tags and notecards with warm ups added. © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

A brown kraft tag with a watercolor warm up. © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

3.  Use the warm up as a planning stage for artwork projects

I have so many sketchbooks.  I am afraid to count them.  I buy them with good intentions but avoid using them.  I don't really know why but hopefully, one day, I will overcome this avoidance.  Sketchbooks are great for planning with quick sketches but the paper in most is not the right weight for watercolor washes.  I have one small one that I have used; Reflexions Aqua Watercolor Spiral Sketch Book by Creative Mark is the one I enjoy using especially in my travel art kit.  I purchased it from Jerry's Artarama years ago.  I should have bought up a stack of them in varying sizes.  If you have a recommendation for a watercolor paper sketchbook you love, please add to the comments below!  I mention sketchbooks because I needed a solution to planning for beginning new artwork projects.

Whether the surface is a small scrap of watercolor paper or a page in a sketchbook, these quick watercolor studies help with planning out composition, color choices, values, and much more.  I love using my small sketchbooks when on location.  

A sketch book for watercolor on the go or planning.  © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

These thumbnail sketches are similar, though not really warm ups.  They are smaller and quicker to complete.  The process still results in miniatures that can be trimmed and used for other projects.  Bristol (smooth) was the surface used for these.

Making small watercolor sketches for planning. © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

Here is my larger sketchbook, lighter weight like a drawing paper, maybe 50-60 lb. weight for thickness.  It can take light watercolor washes, but will buckle when wet.  I like it for the size of pages and the sketchbook design.  It has a thick cover and the spiral binding is easy to flip through.

Making a variety of sketches for planning. © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

It's important to experiment with a variety of weights of papers and surfaces.  The final work won't have the same touch when working from one surface and then on heavier weight watercolor paper.  It's been a while since I painted on hot press watercolor paper.  Hot press watercolor paper is very smooth.  I have been using cold press for many years and that's my preference; its medium textured surface has more tooth for dry brush techniques.

It can take a little while to switch into art-creating-mindset.  My warm up time helps me transition from other life concerns into this place of expression. So, with this in mind, I am finding that these smaller artworks can help me work through my ideas for compositions and color combinations.  As I paint, I work through my options for light and shadows, pigments to use, and where there might be challenges in my plan.  These finished warm ups can be a general guide for going on to begin a larger artwork with less hesitancy.

I hope you've found some new and helpful ideas for using the little warm ups, the scraps, the left overs that get set aside.  These may seem insignificant but reimagined, they can be beautiful in their own way.

-She must make art.


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.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Waterfalls & Rivers Collection Now Available


New artwork is now available!  The recurring theme in these pieces - water.  The year 2020 did not make it possible for many of us to travel as much as normal.  Not much about 2020 was normal.  As I sorted through art reference photos, my mind transported me to the locations I love most.  We were able to venture out with a few day trips close to home.  Being in the landscape is best but painting these landscapes was also a delight.

Here's a small preview of some of the collection:

Exploring on an Autumn Day © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

Remembered Retreat © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

Memory of Waterfalls Roadside © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

Sunday at Mill Falls © 2021 Christy Sheeler Artist

Interested in seeing the rest of the collection?  These and a few more available on my website linked here.  Be sure to subscribe to my mailing list when you are there.  Those who subscribe receive my updates first.  

More artwork coming soon!


-She must make art.