Art

Paint (and Style) Matters

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This is a cheerleader post - the type of post that says, "You can do it!" and does toe-touches. Metaphorically. If you're feeling stuck in a style funk or that you're not that great at painting/crafting/cheese-making/etc... Have heart! Here is a stellar example of my own style and material evolution.

I did that about three years ago. It was shortly after graduating college with an animation (not fine art) degree; I was experimenting and had to "make myself" paint. This piece was totally fine at the time! I'm not harping on Past Lynn for painting this because it's a process (Love you, PL. Never change).

I dug it out of the studio closet the other day and thought, How would I paint this exact same thing now? So of course I painted over it.

How fun was this??? I recommend this type of project to anyone. Here's what I learned:

  • THE TYPE OF PAINT YOU USE MATTERS. The before painting was composed of those cheap little craft paint tubes you get from Kmart, with a splurge of gold leaf paint, which I left alone in the after painting. I've since come around to the fact that high quality paint leads to really polished art and super cool color palettes I'd never achieve otherwise.
  • IMPROVEMENT CAN BE REALLY IMPERCEPTIBLE. I kinda already knew that in theory (see this post), but applying it directly and literally really drove that home. That's only three years of progress!

Actually, that's it! This was a quick cheer (much like my own cheerleading career, which is to say, it was brief and only done in private)...

 

As always, prints are available!

Listen to Your Creative Gut!

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If you're a creator (and, face it, you are in one way or another. Yay you), you understand that little funky feeling of meh. I felt that earlier today. There sat a canvas on the easel and I really reeeeaaally wanted to start a painting before getting into some freelance design work. I stood there for a while like an idiot with this new show I found on Netflix playing in the background, per usual (it was a good run, Parks and Rec. I plowed through you like a herd of corn huskers). Nothing came to me. Nada in my noggin. I finally sat down in defeat and started designing with some folksy music playing, since designing and watching Netflix on dual monitors leads to ZERO work actually getting done. I guess designing uses the same part of the brain as the Netflix-watching one... In the middle of an action card design (I'll post about this really cool project I'm working on later, with permission from the game developer!), a Ben Howard song came on (look him up, yo. Serious chill), and I instantly was reminded of looking through a rain-streaked window at autumn trees. It was romantic, nostalgic, and oh so vivd in my brain, so I got up and painted it.

With my fingers. I was so stoked about the sudden burst of inspo that I had to be part of the painting with nothing in between. It was so thrilling and consuming - all the silly little problems and irks life were discarded for a while. Oh, how I needed that.

Thankfully Pandora sensed my need and played a couple more chill songs before finishing with a roaring Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as I wrapped it up (I swear it sometimes feels like these programs are sentient).

The lesson in all this? Listen to your gut. Our creativity perks up all the time and gives us a little nudge in some exciting direction, we just have to say, "Why not?"

It's kind of like in that Parks and Rec episode where Ann asks April how you get your gut to talk to you and April says, "It's not about getting your gut to talk to you, it's about listening to it when it does." Aaaaaaaa that show.

This is not objectively my best piece - maybe not even in the top fifteen - but that excited, raw energy and emotion is valuable, and it speaks to me in great ways. Perhaps it'll speak to others, as well. Hashtag ART, y'all. *mic drop*

Psst. If you're feeling this like I am, art prints are available in the shop!

Quick Inspo: Make Some Art on the Cheap!

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So the reality is that frames can get up there in price, which makes sense since they take artwork to another display level and we like that. If we're being totally honest with ourselves, we must admit that even a meh-diocre piece of art can look SO legit in a swanky frame, and not just because "The Swanky Frames" sounds like an awesome indie band name. I'm going to share with you a super top-secret, confidential method to get some amazingly displayed art in your house for cheap, as long as you're willing to do some DIY painting if needed (and you'll need it. It's fun. Trust me). Are you ready?? "YES, LYNN," you enthusiastically reply.

Step 1: patiently visit thrift shops five hundred times a month until you find the perfectly framed piece of art. I needed a long, framed something-or-other to hang on our wall by the front door. The key is to look past the original artwork. Some things to consider:

  • Is the canvas/paper/whatever material the art is printed or painted on in good condition? Does it have a weird varnish over it that may not take paint or other art media? Is it easily accessible through the back of the frame (some frames are dumb and practically require a jackhammer to get into from the back and you basically destroy it and yourself in the process)?
  • Is the overall thing sturdy? Will it break once you try to get into it?
  • Is the frame - or however it's displayed - to your liking? Squint at it and pretend your favorite painting is in it. Is it working for you? It's so easy to see a decent frame and decide it'll do. No. Get excited. LOVE the frame. BE the frame.
  • Are you going to be morally okay with painting over original artwork if the perfect frame is super custom and would be difficult to dismantle? This post is about that exact scenario.

Step 2: Enter: the perfect frame.

"OMG something new I'm gonna step on it OMG OMG."

This magnificent specimen was only 10 buckaroos and it's PERFECT. I'm using that word so much right now. It has "Hecho en Mexico" stamped on the back and it's perfect. Isn't that design on the wood so good?? It has so much character and home-madeness.

Now, let's discuss the art.

This is one of those stretched velvet paintings that are commonly sold by vendors to tourists. I actually really did like the scene because it's just so innocuous that pretty much anyone would like it (mass appeal: a concept I'm still trying to understand as it applies to me, which is ironic? Maybe? I don't know). It wasn't signed, and probably took the artist very little time to do since these kind of things are produced quickly and frequently, so I had very few reservations about painting over it.

With Parks and Rec playing in the background for the entire evening (Netflix is convinced I literally do nothing all day long), I settled on the living room floor, taped off the frame, and just went to town. Side note: velvet is weird to paint on with acrylics, as it turns out. I'm assuming fabric paint is more appropriate, but the painting that was there served as a decent primer.

After hanging it, I seriously couldn't get over it. I sat on the couch for at least ten minutes looking at it. That frame completes the painting so perfectly and it fits in with our house so beautifully. Ughhhhhh I'm so happy with it. AND IT WAS TEN DOLLARS, PEOPLE.

This frame is obviously very Latin-American flavored, so I looked up Latin American art and used that as a basis for this painting; I strive to stay true to the character of a piece that I'm modifying, whether it be furniture or art, because it otherwise just looks awkward and forced. It's kinda like reasonably tweezing your eyebrows versus shaving them off completely and drawing them back on in a totally different shape that doesn't fit your face.

With that horrifying simile in mind, go forth and get thrifting!!!

Shameless plug: this painting is available as art prints (sans the awesome frame. Sorry), throw blankets, shower curtains, and a bunch of other cool stuff!

Art & Sorrow

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This will be a quick little post, but, I'll be honest, I kind of puttered around the house for the last hour to mull it over and put off writing it. If you've read any previous posts, you may have noticed the general theme in every subject is joy and a little whimsy, with an observation about how art and creativity enrich our lives in cool ways. This post is totally about how art and creativity enrich our lives in cool ways, but there's some sorrow threaded into it this time.

So almost three weeks ago, I posted this painting progress shot on my Facebook page:

I was messing around with modeling paste for some experimental fun and thought it might do well with a white rose motif. If you know me and my work, I never paint roses. It's just not my thing. No biggie.

I was halfway through this piece when I got a call that a very dear aunt had passed away suddenly.

Disclaimer: I am part of an exceptionally enormous and close family (think "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," but with a bunch of Irish people). This event sent an emotional wave each one of us felt separately and together.

That was on a Sunday. The following week is truly a flurry in my memory, punctuated with the conflicting happiness of seeing so many loved ones that traveled here from around the country, and grief for the reason. We were all so busy getting ready for the funeral and being sad that I had ZERO desire to do anything creative. Art was literally the last thing I wanted to consider. Like, I didn't even think about it, which is crazy, because it's such a fixture in my life that I kind of constantly obsess over.

That little half-finished painting sat abandoned on my easel for a few days, until one day I was alone and completely sick of not feeling like doing anything. I needed to just have a purpose to channel my sadness into. So I (somewhat half-heartedly) finished it.

My cousin saw it and, long story short, it was displayed at the calling and funeral because, as serendipity would have it, "white rose" was the theme (remember how I NEVER paint roses?). Now it's a monument to a colorful, energetic, and unconditionally loving mother, grandmother, sister, and aunt that I didn't even know I was making.

My least favorite question I heard in school was "How do we define art?" It inevitably became a debate about what art is, how it's actually undefinable (ingenious answer from those artsy know-it-alls *laughs uncomfortably*), why someone thinks abstract art is NOT art, etc... As I've experimented with my creative side throughout my life, I'm discovering the question actually should be "How does art define us?" Art has proven time and time again to me to be its own thing, separate from our formulae and stoic theory, that reaches out to us in unexpected, sometimes blunt, sometimes subtle ways. And it is beautiful.

I Cut My Hours to be an Artist: The Beginning Stages

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What we make time for is what is most important to us. This is actually kind of embarrassing considering the stuff I've logged countless hours doing (gives Netflix an accusing glance), but this has really been hitting home lately; in somewhat unsettling ways. I've touched briefly on the subject of creativity and inspiration and the silly expectations we get stuck in. It can actually be self-crippling in a way because, say, if I feel more strongly than life itself that I'm meant to be a world-famous, critically-acclaimed painter, I can quickly and easily become consumed by that expectation, not the actual art, which in turn makes me feel either so inadequate I wonder why I bother, or resentful of anything in my life that I perceive as a hinderance to my goals. I speak from experience. Big time. I'm probably not way off the mark here that every artist has felt this to some degree (if you haven't, I will personally interview you and air it on all the major networks).

I've been trying to see it all more simply. Honestly, I just simply love painting. I love art. I love that it pursues me; it's right at my fingertips whenever I return to the easel no matter how much time I've spent away. Art has no expectations. It just says, "Here, try this. See what happens." Art feels like home.

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So here's the skinny: I decided very recently to cut my hours at work so I can commit more time to "Home." I TOTALLY haven't had moments where I think, "WHATHAVEIDONE??????" and start scavenging for large boxes in case we have to live in an alley... but crazy awesome things don't happen without crazy scary feelings right beforehand.

Let's face it, there's a stigma in the world regarding making a living as an artist, and, frankly, it can sometimes be for good reason. I'm currently trying not to get hung up on that as I type this. I'm not going to try to argue that, but what I will do is list my reasoning for this big transition in my life that I've dreamed of for years so that, if you're in the same boat, I can help a fellow creative rationalize such an emotional decision.

  1. FINANCES: Okay, so, my husband's a youth pastor and I've been working a graphic design job with freelance design and painting on the side. With all that, we do kind of mostly alright. We live in a really affordable area and own our 850 sq. ft. house. BUT, we by no means live a lifestyle that many would call...decadent? Or even, in some circles, nice? And you know what? It's changed our perspective. Instead of working more hours so we can eat out more, shop at World Market with reckless abandon, and get our galley kitchen expanded out about twenty thousand feet, we've discovered the sweet simplicity of homemade hot chocolate and good conversation with people we really like. It's encouraged my creativity by making me see the potential in Goodwill finds. It's forced us to really analyze what makes us happy (disclaimer: it's not "stuff"). It's so cliché, I know. That's why we love it. So that's why I'm not completely wigging out about this. Sure, we will probably (definitely) have less income for a while as I work on my business, but we know what's important. We will make it work.
  2. FULFILLMENT: This builds off of finances. I was really really fortunate to figure out early on that I wasn't getting fulfilled through clothes, knick knacks, or imagining myself working at Pixar (I graduated with an animation degree). I'm such a simple person; I just want to hang out with my mom, catch a movie with Dad, pet my cats, make dinner with Jonathan, and live a life full of art and love. I for real just got this hilarious visual of Jon Lennon nodding his head appreciatively at me. Such validation. Are you living a life that reflects your fulfillment? Do you spend time deliberately? I certainly wasn't for the longest time and it's actually mind-boggling to look back on how I spent my days just two years ago. Complacency is the wall between us and fulfillment. But really, folks.
  3. SELF-MOTIVATION: This is the trickiest one. Ugh. I, ironically, just don't even want to try to explain this one. Here's the gist: I started joining freelance and artist Facebook groups. My whole Facebook feed turned into people seeking advice, posting wins, and showing off their amazing work. I got some help from some of the communities and have gotten more and more engaged with the members. It seems stupid-simple, but I don't think I would've had the chutzpa to walk into my boss' office and start the "So here's the thing..." conversation with him without the support of these internet strangers. I wouldn't feel half as motivated to paint without seeing the hard work of other artists. Seriously, COMMUNITY MATTERS SO MUCH. I can see a massive difference between Pre-Facebook Group Lynn and Now Lynn. easel

This is my most recent painting, "Isle Survive." This one is going to hold a special place in my little arty heart because it's kind of a symbol of this transformation. To me, this painting says, "I'm the real deal! I was made with passion and purpose." Same here, painting, same here.

 

The "Art" of Inspiration

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I don't love "inspiration." It's the Creatives' Anthem, sure, but it's so fickle; it should be called "fleeting-euphoria-that-you-must-act-upon-NOW," but Webster has yet to respond to my calls. Disclaimer: I know my tagline "Make Life Inspiring" might seem contradictory to this whole post, but it actually works with it. You really do have to make inspiration!

But really, if you are a creative type in any capacity, and you don't feel inspired, congratulations on being a normal human (sorry, I know we hate being referred to that way). ;) As I've been making strides to transition my art from hobby to profession, it's become even more... sludgey...when I paint. That was the only word that came to mind (another note for Webster). On one hand, I'm super jazzed about getting my work out there and it's challenging me in really cool ways, but on the other I feel like I'm constantly on the brink of burnout and wonder why I'm even bothering. This is NOT a pity post, it's an encouragement post because I KNOW for a fact that this is reality for so many. I don't have a perfect nugget of wisdom that will transform your entire life and I'm definitely in the midst of learning a LOT of hard lessons that I can't even identify yet.

On THAT heavy note, I do have a pretty simple method I recently found that's really effective at reminding me that I really do love what I'm doing and that it's worth it, and lucky for you, I'm not the secretive, stingy type (which has been my downfall on occasion)!

PAINT WHAT YOU KNOW AND LOVE

Replace that first word with "write," "bake," "sculpt," whatever applies to you. It seems WAY oversimplified and, honestly, sounds like a phrase I would normally ignore for being a meaningless platitude. But seriously, guys, there's such a pressure to push boundaries and take risks (hey, this whole blog is a risk for me in its own way!!!), but pursuing the new and edgy and totally original just for the sake of responding to that pressure is exhausting! The subtle things you learn from delving into the familiar are endless and essential for creative growth, which is what I'm learning right this very moment. 

Here's exactly how I made this (gradual) discovery, because being vague on subjects like this is awful and we all want to look at pictures now!

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That is Lake Michigan as seen from Highway 2 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a.k.a. where my heart and soul live. If you know me on a remotely personal level, you will have already been aggressively made aware of this. I seriously love it up there.

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I've lately been in the habit of painting aerial scenes of water, all starting with this:

Sea Kayak Painting

...which started with a cool featured image of rough waters I once saw on a streaming music site. While painting it, I thought Huh. I like kayaking in Michigan a lot. I'll just put a kayak in it. Whatevs. And you know what, that's one of my favorite pieces ever. I know now it's because I painted what I knew and loved. 

I liked painting that one so much, I just kept doing similar pieces: aerial views of water and waves, with the occasional kayak. It's not the most boundary-pushing, gritty art I've ever produced, but I have grown as an artist in this phase more than ever!

So on our latest trip to the Upper Peninsula (also known as the UP), I took a few pictures to reference on this next painting to give me an extra boost.

I wasn't going for realism here (I'm the queen of Nopatience Land), but reference photos can be awesome and, I'll finally admit, I used to really resist ever painting from photos because I wanted to be SO original, resulting in some wonkily inaccurate, under-developed weirdness where it just didn't belong. Remember that point about pursuing the edgy and totally original...?

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This isn't really a painting tutorial (you can see one here if ya want!), but I'll include a few good ol' progress pictures.

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Voilà! I happily thought of the UP the whole time I worked on this and ended up with something that's meaningful and loved, which, I think, is always evident in a piece of art.

Shameless Plug Alert: If you'd like a print of this and other pieces, check out my shop! :)

How to Paint With Expression

This is going to be a little Bob Ross-esque with a dash of expressionism, and it's for anyone who cares at least a smidgen about art because it's a mix of tutorial and an illustration of how I personally go through the process of painting. So here's a glimpse into my little studio:

Studio

It's nothing fancy (this is an 850 sq. foot two-bedroom house, after all), but it's what I got and I made it mine.

Setup

These are the basic tools for acrylic painting: Paper towels, various brushes, pallet (the immortal ice cream container lid lives on), a container of water, and paint. It's actually pretty simple; it just looks messy. Probably because it is. Anyway...

The biggest challenge for me is getting over that daunting blank canvas. If you stare at it too long it will seriously mess you up. The possibilities are so endless that you start to feel utterly incapable of thinking of anything to paint at all. Mind. Totally blank. Like that canvas.

I am a half-hearted user of Pinterest (I'm sorry, Pinterest! It's not you, it's me), but my very selective "Painting Inspiration" pin can sometimes reboot my brain, or a random Google search. This time, I typed in "Marquette, Michigan" because that's where I want to live. I'm exercising a lot of restraint to not gush about it... The following picture caught my eye as I mindlessly scrolled.

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That is not Marquette. It was some article about European living in comparison to Marquette (Marquette's better. It will always be better). But my brain said "Oooo!" when it saw it so I indulged it.

Since this is going to be more of an abstract painting, my very first order of business is penciling in a vague guide of the painting's movement.

Penciling

This basically grounds me in the canvas and lets me see how the composition will look. You can just see the backward "S" shape, which is a tried and true layout for anything:

Pencil

I saw a saying once that really helped me with starting a painting (I can't find the author though...)

Get out of the way and the art will make itself.

Profound, right? It kicked my butt, at any rate. So I grabbed my trusty "mop" brush and just WENT for it.

Big Brush Type

This is one of my favorite brushes: it provides some fun texture depending on how you use it, and it covers large areas, which are both ideal for more emotional paintings like this one. It also forces me to commit from the get go because it just glomps the paint right on.

It's pretty important to consider your color pallet before diving in so you don't end up wasting paint and getting frustrated halfway through. I'm a huge fan of teals and oranges contrasting together with a purple-ish blend between them. Planning your colors makes it far easier to organize your paint dollops on the pallet so you don't end up accidentally mixing a bunch and getting amoebic dysentery brown.

Here's the paint dollops I used for this first part: yellow, orange, red, a deep magenta, violet, and a big glob of white. Start with the lighter colors, like yellow, orange, and red in this case, and work in the darker colors as you go along so to avoid ending up with a dark, muddled blob.

It sometimes helps to dip the brush in several colors at once so you can get a cool, quick multi-color effect.

First App

Then, make like Shia LaBeouf in a Nike ad and Just DO It!

Blob

So now we have a fun, humongous blob. The key is to just focus on one step at a time. This step is strictly color and layout. I'm pretty happy at this point about how the colors are working together, but I got a little crazy and deviated from that pencil guide, so it looks a tad flat on the left. That's what the white paint's for! Let's all take a moment to be grateful for white paint. It washes away so many transgressions.

Blending White Big Brush

CLEAAAAANNNN that mop brush and dry it off. Then dip it in that white paint dollop and go to town with it, wetting and wiping your brush as you go along so the white doesn't get contaminated.

Applying White

Blending White

After globbing white on, I used a smaller brush to blend some spots so it mellowed out the edge of the blob a little. Paint the whole canvas, even if it is with just white paint. Otherwise, it will never look complete and the bare canvas texture against the painted portions will look a little stark. I tried to incorporate just a hint of color with some sections of white to add a little interest.

Splashes Detail

Here's an example of some of the wild fun you can have with brush texture! Just stippling a lightly-loaded brush creates some neat effects.

Before Details

Done! Just kidding. It honestly looks fine as far as color and composition go, but it really is just a bunch of paint glomps. Now for the fun part!

Tiny Brush

It's our favorite little round brush! Hi, guy! We are so ready to paint small details with you and we will not be intimidated by that.

I took the canvas and paint out to the living room for this part because, let's be honest, it's way more fun to agonize over tiny paint details while crouched on the floor with Friends playing in the background.

So I didn't document this part all that well (do you know how hard it is to take a good picture of your own hand using a dinky brush??), but it's pretty straightforward: wait for the paint to mostly dry (it can still be slightly sticky), wet the small round brush really well before dipping it in a fresh white dollop, and continually wet it and dip it as you go along. The wetter the brush/ paint, the smoother it will glide on the canvas. If you do over-wet it, though, it'll dilute the paint too much and cause running. Just keep a paper towel ready to dab it up and try again.

Final

Now we're actually done! I just went with the flow of the painting for the small details and helped along some of the edges to mesh better with the little buildings; it's really about trusting the art with this and just having fun. Don't those small white lines make all the difference, though? Totally worth missing Rachel and Ross's first kiss for. No, I've never watched the show before or knew anything about it. I can show you the rock I live under in the next post. I have some great refurbishing ideas for it.