074. New Watercolor Tutorial Video: Mountain & Lake

I know... I'm the worst! I have been so bad since returning to Denver about updating my blog and making videos. 
In my defense, I've been REALLY busy with fulfilling Patreon orders, Paintalong tutorial (see results here), streaming, writing my book, studying, collaborations, commissions, and continuing the quest of selling/giving away my stuff.

All good stuff, business-wise.

So here's a new tutorial video for those of you who are learning watercolor!

In this video I talk about the benefits (and tricks) to painting on a small scale - something I do daily. I go through about 100 watercolor postcards a month, and it's VERY different than painting large. They are so great for studies, giveaways, gifts, etc. and really force you to look at minimizing a landscape to it's base elements.

When I'm painting these, I often ask myself "What are the minimum amount of brush strokes required to bring the landscape to life?" And what can I actually fit without making it too "busy?"

And just for fun, here are a couple images from recent projects and work around the studio.

Chinese Rainbow Mountains... probably one of the hardest mountain ranges I've ever painted. It feels so abstract!

Chinese Rainbow Mountains... probably one of the hardest mountain ranges I've ever painted. It feels so abstract!

Dolomites, Italy (practicing minimal brush strokes)

Dolomites, Italy (practicing minimal brush strokes)

The theme for May Patreon postcards!

The theme for May Patreon postcards!

Plus so much research, writing, and illustrations for my book! If you want to find out more about that, visit the official website and see previous blog post!

069. Urban Sketching & The Fear of the Blank Page

Now that spring has sprung, I find myself giving up my snuggie and slippers for my sneakers and sunglasses. 

I grab my sketchbooks, pens, watercolor travel sets, and just go. 
Sometimes I don't know where I'm going, and I just walk until I find something that inspires me.

Sometimes I remember a cool building or sunny bench that I want to revisit.
The only constant is that I want to paint.

There is a huge difference in painting from a reference photo vs. painting from life. When you paint from a reference photo, everything is already flattened conveniently to a 2D surface that you can copy.

From life, your eye must decipher the depth, understand the shadows and highlights as the sun dances over the grass or through the tree limbs. This carries an added challenge, when you're trying to capture the scale, perspective, and colors of what you see! However, with just a little practice, it becomes much easier, and far more rewarding. 
In my previous post I shared my Plein Air sketchbook tour, and talked about how meaningful the experiences were when I was painting. 

Besides, there's nothing like a change in environment to get out of an artist block or a creative funk.

Time and time again, I find myself craving a good sketch/paint session, but have no clue what I want to make! So rather than fuss over it or overthink it, I simply GO! 
Seriously, I just throw everything in my bag and leave my house.
This creates momentum. That momentum steamrolls any of my doubts or fears, and from there, its no longer about "I feel like sketching but I don't want to ruin my sketchbook or I don't know what to paint" and it becomes "where can I sit and start sketching?"

It may seem so simple and obvious, but that is the difference between a stack of blank sketchbooks and ones full of stories, experiences, and adventures!

Plein air painting/urban sketching has become as much a part of my work flow as answering emails. 

Here's a little video from a recent sketch session at Inverness Castle. I hope you find it inspiring or at least you can catch a hint of some traditional scottish bagpipes in the distance :)

This weekend I'm headed out into the Scottish highlands for a camping trip!

I ordered a GoPro so I can eliminate the tedious and inefficient process of filming my plein air sketching with my phone. Hopefully it arrives in time so I can test it out this weekend. I'm definitely planning on bringing my sketchbook and paint!

045. Positive Affirmations

When is the last time you felt truly beautiful and loved?

A lot of times, we rely on others to make us feel those things. 
Outside influences - people, social media, news, etc. can send us on a rollercoaster of emotions. 

Among all the chaos, we need to remember that we have control over how we feel about ourselves. It's not up to anyone else to tell us we are beautiful or smart or talented or brave. It needs to come from within.

"Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." - Yoda

I truly believe in the power of my mind.

It may seem silly, but Positive Affirmations have been proven to work as part of a self improvement plan. The concept is to repeat the affirmations daily. You simply say them to yourself. Through repetition our mind is rewired. You may choose anything that helps you. Choose things that you struggle to believe about yourself. Here's a good place to start (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-carmen-harra/affirmations_b_3527028.html)

For example, each day I wake up and say:

"I wake up today with strength in my heart and clarity in my mind.
Today is a new day full of opportunity.
My potential is limitless.
I am beautiful and healthy.
I am overflowing with love.
I am courageous and I stand up for myself.
Happiness is a choice."

Every once in a while I will change my affirmations, depending on what I need.

Ever since I started doing these, I've been less anxious and more prone to peace. Not that it cures instantly, but I can feel it working. The power of our mind is incredible.

So take a moment to remind yourself that you are worthy of happiness, success, and love. Stoke the fire within, so that you may send it out and fill the world with those positive vibes.

I made this little video just for fun to put a smile on someone's face.

042. First Page Phobia

If you're like me, you have a stack of beautiful notebooks and sketchbooks, piled up and ready to be filled with magical creations. Their pages are crisp, clean, bright oceans waiting to be sailed.

Maybe they've been piling up for a while now.
Like...years.

I have First Page Phobia.
It's the fear of "ruining" a sketchbook, therefore I don't make any marks. I open to the first page, my pencil hovering just above the paper, my mind whirling between ideas and "don't do that.. that's a waste of paper."

Why would I let a blank page have so much power over me? I KNOW the importance of practice, and sketching/drawing is a hugely important step in developing my skills (even for painting). 
I've had lots of time to think about it, and only recently came to this conclusion.

Ego.

I'm not talking about the popular manifestation of ego - "I'm the best!"
I'm talking about the textbook definition: "the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity"
In other words, it's our sense of self-esteem. Our idea of ourselves.

When you sit down to a blank page, and you have the thought "I don't want to mess up," - this is our ego stepping in. We must learn how to surrender to the fact that everything we create is not a masterpiece. Our egos say, "No! We only create beautiful things that people will like!"
This is false. We cannot ever expect to draw anything beautiful without practicing, messing up, experimenting, and trying.

Rather than let the fear of failure stop us, we need to remember the importance of mistakes.

Making mistakes leads to improvement. 
Children are not born with the ability to walk. They crawl before they stand up. They wobble before they walk. They walk before they run.
They fall. They get up again. And eventually, falling becomes rare.

Sketchbooks are our personal spaces. They are not meant to be shared, unless we invite the world to see (in this day that means posting photos online). 
YOU choose what the world sees. I personally wish more artists shared their messy sketchbooks, mistakes and all.
It would remove the veil of perfection and instant mastery that admirable artists tend to carry.

Ways to get over First Page Phobia

  1. Skip the first page. 
    I do this almost every time I start a sketchbook. The first page always seems to be the scariest, most sacred page. It is the gateway to the sketchbook. But rather than let that fear of failure stop me from making any marks - I simply skip the first page! This gets me started, and whenever I'm ready (if ever) I can go back and fill that first page.
  2. Have a private sketchbook, and a public sketchbook.
    If you are concerned with what people will think about your sketchbook, once again that's the ego stepping in. Rather than fight those feelings - embrace them. Have a completely private sketchbook where you can fuck up as much as you want, write notes, and make random marks. No one will ever see it. At the same time have a "public" sketchbook - one you don't mind sharing.
  3. Make your first drawing something you love - something you're good at. Rather than get stuck on what to draw, stick with what you know! If you're skilled at portraits, or creatures, or landscapes, or architecture, start with that! 

The key is to just get started. Once you get something down on that first page, the rest is so much easier!

Do you have any suggestions to help get over First Page Phobia? If so, feel free to message me or leave a comment below!

038. On Originality

They say there are no original ideas left.

Everything thought of and created is an evolution of something that was already thought of or created.

So as artists, how are we meant to make an impression in an already impressed world?

Our art is only limited to what we can imagine. Our technique and skill will catch up with practice, so focusing on building our internal library and expanding our minds becomes critical.

Never stop looking.

Look at other art. 
Look at buildings.
Look at clouds.
Look at animals and people and cars and inventions and sex and fire and everything you can.

As someone interested in not only landscape/environment art, but fantasy concepts, I am constantly seeking more visual stimuli. Movies, anime, books, art. Everything I can get my "hands" on.

Abstract experiments. Acrylic on canvas.

I have a story inside me. I doubt it's original. But the way I tell it will be. 
We each have a unique voice. Our words and art pass through our internal filters which are products of our experiences.

So go experience.

 

With many thousands of years of human lives lived, and now over 7 billion people on the planet, it may seem daunting to be original.

And maybe you'll never be completely original. 

And maybe that's OK.

Instead of obsessing over that, focus on what inspires you to create. Have experiences.
Live.
Create. Never stop creating. Share your unique voice, in whatever way feels right to you.
Find your bliss, and create things that are truly meaningful to you.

Along the way, you may just do something original.

036. How Do You Price Your Artwork?

Today I'm going to dive into my method and thoughts on pricing artwork. I'm going to be brutally honest in this post. Please remember these are MY views based on my own experiences (7 years as a professional photographer, 2 years as a painter).

There isn't a magic formula that will work for everyone. But I'll explain what I went through to get to where I am now.

Fact: People want everything for nothing.

That's just the way it is. It's built into humans, probably going back to some survival mechanism. Now in a time of abundance, it still holds true. Can you blame us? It's awesome to get everything for nothing.

How many artists out there have had potential buyers ask why something was priced "so high," or request a discount or question your method of pricing a custom commission?

When it comes to your art, you can try to educate buyers, explaining that they aren't just paying for raw materials or time, but also your unique artistic vision.
Some might get it. Most of them will move on.

And that's OK, because the world is a big place. There are lots of other people. The last thing you want to do is undervalue yourself. That is a crash course for 1. being broke, 2. believing you are worth less.

Once in a while you run into people who truly understand the value of what you're doing, and are willing to pay what it's worth without question. When you do, you realize your true value as well. It's like their passion and understanding and desire to own a piece of your art is the equivalent of them holding up a mirror, and you see what they see. 

First, a little background (brief dive into my photography career, where I started). As I said, I learned the hard way.

Getting my clients to trust me and be comfortable in front of my camera was not always easy. As a photographer I was interested in capturing the genuine moments. I made sure that I was completely genuine around them, which helped. When they saw me geeking out about beautiful light, or fun angles, they'd loosen up and be natural. Eventually I built a portfolio of images that showed clients in their best, most natural light, and that drew more clients who wanted this experience. Their experience is worth just as much, if not more than the images. 

Photography is an INCREDIBLY competitive field. When I started out shooting weddings, it was right around the time that every photographer was starting to offer "unlimited hours" packages. This meant, the photographer would show up whatever time the client wanted on the wedding day, and leave whenever they wanted (usually after the send-off at the end of the night). Sometimes more than 15 hours (like showing up at 7am for "getting ready shots" and leaving at 2am after the party). This was accompanied by a fixed fee for the entire day.

As a new photographer trying to break into the industry, I went along with the trend and offered this option. I wanted to shoot at least one wedding to have something in my portfolio, so I advertised on Craigslist, Unlimited hours and photos for $200 (with the obvious caveat that it was my first wedding).

Guess how long it took to book a client?

1 day.

Yep, I was an idiot. I completely undervalued myself, because I honestly didn't know any better.
It was a wake up call the size of Mt. Everest. I shot for 9 hours, took over 2000 photos which took me 4 days to edit, plus the months and months of correspondence leading up to the wedding to go over itinerary and ideas. Other photographers offering a package like this charged minimum $1500.

I honestly didn't start charging what I was "worth" for another two years. I was hungry for experience and wanted to guarantee a busy shoot schedule so I could learn and grow. Plus I had a full time job so I wasn't desperate for money. Photography was my mistress on the side.

I experience countless clients who wanted as much possible from me for as little money as possible. Eventually, I had to put my foot down and stick to my guns when it came to pricing. 

Sure, I lost out on a LOT of business when I started charging more, but the business I gained was made of much better clients who truly appreciated my artistic vision. Less jobs didn't mean less money. It was less jobs, at a higher price, with healthier relationships and deeper bonds. This benefits everyone involved.

One of my weddings that was published in The Knot magazine and several other publications. This couple didn't question my pricing. They saw the value in what I provided, and as a result we both came out with an amazing experience and beautiful images.

You have to remember, there is ALWAYS going to be someone out there who undercuts you, no matter what business you're in, and especially in a creative field.
There is always someone more desperate, more cunning, more skilled, more naive, or any other number of things that lead them to charging less for the same product.

If you don't believe in your own value, how can you expect anyone else to? If you charge less, they will pay less.

If you charge more, they might pay more. And here's where it get's tricky.

Brutally honest moment #1: You have to take an honest look at your work and understand where it fits among your industry peers.

Sure, I wanted to charge $2000 right away for a wedding just like other photographers I looked up to, but until I had a few years of experience, my work was not worth $2000. That's a hard pill to swallow for some.

Painting

One of the first paintings I ever sold. To my aunt. 

When I started selling paintings, I still had my full-time job, so again, I wasn't desperate for money.

Brutally honest moment #2: If you are desperate for money, art is the wrong field.

Some artists make a TON of money. Those few, the 1% (or much less), are idols to a lot of us. They are living the dream!
And of course, we can all aspire for that level of success.

But most of us will make a humble living, perhaps barely break even, while pursuing the dream.
If that scares you, that's OK. It scares the crap out of me.

But if you read that, and still feel like you HAVE to create no matter what, that making money is secondary, then you may just find the type of success that truly matters.
True fulfillment.

And THAT is priceless.

While selling paintings involves a lot less client interaction than photography, I've realize that there's a ton of crossover between the two disciplines.
Also, my experience as a painter is unique to much of the established (traditional) art world, because it began online, while streaming on Twitch.tv

By painting while streaming on Twitch, my clientele was watching me create the work, yet surprisingly it didn't lead to them putting less value on it (like, I was afraid people would think, "oh that doesn't look that hard, why does it cost so much?"). In fact it was the opposite. Viewers saw me creating something from start to finish, and so they were part of the experience. Much like photography, that experience becomes part of us, and they want to take away a tangible item that expresses it = a piece of art.

A painting is more than it's materials. It's a piece of the artist. Something that was at one point trapped in imagination, came to life, and can now hang on a wall. How magical is that!?
All of the artwork I've purchased has come from a NEED to own it. It reached into me, grabbed my emotions, and shook me until I gave in. 

Pricing drawings and paintings seemed really arbitrary to me when I started out. I didn't go to school for business and I didn't talk to that many artists before selling my own work. At first, I under-priced everything. Again, since I had a full time job, I wasn't desperate for money. Painting and streaming was my new mistress on the side.

I started out by barely charging more than what the materials cost. However, after a while, I began to realize I wanted this to be a career, and I had to take it more seriously.

To my surprise, when I started increasing prices to reflect what I thought they were worth, my sales didn't drop. I was actually stunned the first time I sold anything for over $100.

I came up with a "formula" for pricing, that I still use to this day (except for special circumstances).
$Cost of materials + $Time ($50/hour) + $Shipping & handling
The cost per hour (time) is the variable. It includes prep, painting, and finishing.
You also may need to add sales tax. Consult your local laws.

I paint very fast. Like a fully rendered painting takes me a couple hours (or less). So charging a higher rate per hour is necessary to make it worth my time. 

But the number $50 per hour seems sort of arbitrary right? Not really. 
Look into any creative field at what the professionals charge (architects, graphic designers, etc) and $50 starts to look cheap.

DO NOT CHARGE LESS THAN MINIMUM WAGE! As an artist, what you offer is worth far more than a latte. Ok that doesn't exactly translate well, but what I'm saying is, the skill and vision it takes to create a beautiful painting is more valuable than the skill it takes to make a latte at a local coffee shop where you get paid minimum wage (I served coffee before so I can say this without hesitation).

Another strategy that I've seen artists use is charging per square foot of a painting. Just break it down! I personally don't use this formula because size doesn't effect the difficulty of the contents and therefore how long it takes me to paint. 

As your work develops, so should your storefront. 

Think about it. Compare the two paintings below and tell me which level of quality you'd pay more for (regardless of size).

If you continue to offer your older art on your storefront (like Etsy) at the same prices, it better stack up in terms of quality to your new stuff. Otherwise you're sending mixed signals to your clients.

This requires a constant purge and being REALLY honest with yourself (ouch). 

Can you confidently say that every piece of art on your Etsy shop (or whatever you use) is up to your current standards? Is everything you're offering representing your vision?
I found that by painting so often, the pure volume of my work was leading to fast improvement, and I was running into the scenario that what I posted on Etsy a month ago fell far below the quality of what I posted today. Now, that's all fine and dandy if I lowered prices on the older stuff, OR if that older stuff is still really good. But that was rarely the case.

Brutally honest moment #3: Stop letting sentimental attachment cloud your vision of what something is worth.

I can't tell you how many times I painted something, had a proud little "breakthrough" (like finally painted a good cloud), so I listed it for top dollar. 9 times out of 10 it didn't sell until I lowered the price to what it was ACTUALLY worth. Be realistic. Sure, maybe it's the best you can do, but don't forget to compare to industry peers. Yea, ouch. 

Brutally honest moment #4: If you truly LOVE something, don't sell it.

There was a point that whenever I created a new "favorite" piece, I would tack on an extra $100-200 because the thought of selling it hurt my heart. I've sold several pieces that I wish I still owned, because of how meaningful they were to me. I regret selling them. I regret feeling like I NEEDED to sell them.
So if it meant so much to me, why did I even allow the chance for it to be "taken" away by listing it at an absurd price on my storefront?

I was driven by the unfounded idea that, if it sold for the higher price, I would be able to pay rent, and all is well. 

For fucks sake. There are other ways to pay the rent. Feeling the desperate need to sell everything you make is just going to lead to misery. I am learning slowly that there are some pieces that an artist creates that are meant to stay close. When you create one of those, you feel it in your heart of hearts. Trust your instinct and keep it. 

Sell prints of it instead. Sell postcards and bags and tshirts. But keep the original. Your future self will thank you!

Final brutal advice: If your work isn't selling, hit the "books."

By this I mean, get off your high horse, and back into the studio. I do this myself constantly. The ego is a powerful thing. Sadly it comes built-in for humans. 

Study.
Work.
Advertise differently. (this is going to be a whole other blog post)
Study more.
Improve.

They don't call it a hustle for nothing.

Just because you made something doesn't mean it's going to sell. I used to list every single thing I made on my Etsy shop, even studies. A lot of times it was because while I was painting it, people who were watching on my Twitch channel were raving about how much they loved it. Or I posted it on Instagram and people asked "where can I buy this?"
But once I listed it, it didn't sell.

One of the first Seascape paintings I made (7 months ago), people begged for me to add it to Etsy. It never sold.

Most recently sold piece.

So, either everyone was lying, or it wasn't worth what I was selling it for. So I had to be honest with myself.
It was a study, Sure it was cool to look at and kind of fun and expressive. But was it worth selling and shipping? Probably not. But in creating it, my skill improved, and you better believe the next time I paint a fully rendered landscape that involves elements from that study, it will be good. And THAT painting will sell.

Ok so, I hope at least some of this was helpful. It's all just been me rambling about my own experiences. We mainly just have to be honest with ourselves. Work hard. Enjoy what we do. I'm sure in another year I'll have a new outlook. I'm learning as I go!

What are your methods? Do you have a success or horror story to share or a solid formula that works for you? I'd really love to hear them. Please feel free to send me a message or post in the comments below!

019. Watercolor Animation!

Last week while streaming, we got to talking about how it would be interesting to "fly through" one of my landscape paintings. One thing led to another, and we started discussing watercolor animation. Before I knew it, the idea was deeply planted in my subconscious. For a week all I could think about was how to make this happen.

So, on Monday this week I decided to give it a try. With no animation experience, except knowing I'd have to paint the same thing over and over with very subtle changes, I began!

Here's the final result:

Stats:
- 9 hours of painting
- 1 hour of editing/compiling in Photoshop
- 15 frames
- 4"x6" watercolor postcards

As shown in this image, I taped down each frame, and painted them side by side. 

Since I didn't have a light table, I "eyeballed" everything (which is not ideal). I did a quick sketch on each card for the 3 main trees, and the rest I painted as I went. After painting all 15 frames I took photos of them and imported them into Photoshop.

I added a "tween" after each image which is basically just a blurred transitional image of the previous frame. It makes the images flow better.

Lessons Learned:

- Get a light table! (just ordered one)
- Keep some objects as stable as possible so the eye has a place to rest (light table needed)
- Plan out all of the frames ahead of time

I'm really excited about this project and I can't wait to do more! My next animation will be a mountain range with moving clouds.

012. Why Should I Draw?

I often get asked why I choose watercolor (or painting in general) as my primary medium. I'll save that story for another day. But new artists sometimes wonder where to start, or what medium is best for them?

Bicycles, 2003. Left: Colored Pencil (straight lines only). Right: Pen (stippling only).

The truth is, for the majority of my life, I did not paint. For more than 15 years, I drew things.

Still life, 2009. Graphite on paper.

Still life, 2009. Graphite on paper.

Drawing has almost NO material investment, and a smaller learning curve than a lot of other mediums. Growing up, I always had a set of colored pencils or pens, or graphite nearby.

Vase, 2006. Ceramics.

Light Table, 2005. Mixed media: wood, glass, neon, converter, electronics.

I also experimented during college with ceramics, glass blowing, neon, furniture design, graphic design, and mixed media sculpture. After college, I bought some acrylic paint because I had a strong desire to create abstract art. It was just a hobby that I did once in awhile. I even sold a few to friends over the years. And since joining Twitch 2 years ago, I’ve been painting non-stop! But the one consistency with my art is that I've always drawn things.

Abstract Painting, 2011. Acrylic on canvas.

Abstract Painting, 2011. Acrylic on canvas.

Abstract Painting, 2011. Acrylic on canvas.

I’ve found, in any medium, having a strong grasp on drawing has drastically helped when it comes to understanding form, composition, and lighting.

Starting out with drawing means your mind learns to break down a subject into it’s simplest form: line. You then move on to learning different types of shading (cross hatching, stippling, soft shading, etc). During this process, the basic concept of translating 3D to 2D is instilled within your mind.

Still life. Prisma Markers on computer paper.

Still life. Prisma Markers on computer paper.

When you begin painting, there are several more layers of complication: color, depth, layering of the paint, and timing (oil, acrylic, and watercolor all dry differently). If you go into it with a good understanding of form, perspective, composition, etc. from your drawing studies - your paintings will be much stronger!

So my advice: draw.

Draw in your free time, on napkins, in sketchbooks, with No. 2 pencils or fancy graphite sticks. Keep developing your knowledge of form rendering. Your paintings will thank you!

Where to start?

I started out drawing fanart and still life. In college, we were required to draw for a minimum of 10 minutes a day, even if we didn't have class. During figure drawing class, the entire first hour was spent drawing different poses of the model, each for 10 minutes. Rapid gesture drawing was huge in learning how to translate what you see into 2D!

Ink wash drawing, 2012. 10 Minutes, figure drawing class. 

If you don’t have a model, try finding pose references online, and set a timer for 10 minutes. Give yourself an hour and just draw as many as you can.

Gandalf the Grey, 2016. 1 hour. Graphite and chalk on toned paper.

Fanart is an awesome way to keep yourself inspired. Do you love Lord of the Rings? Or Batman? Find some awesome inspiring reference images online and try to copy them.

As your skill develops, you can move on to developing your own concepts! You'd be surprised how much you will improve if you devote even 10 minutes per day to drawing. (Note: copying master artwork is a strategy to develop your skill, but be careful of plagiarism. Use it has a way to study, and move on to your own concepts.)

If you have any questions or comments, please leave a message! 

007. What Inspires Me?

1. Being in nature.

2. Exploring other artwork. 

3. Travel. 

One of the questions I’m asked most often is what inspires me? I am a very prolific painter, usually completing 3-8 paintings per week. Multiply that by a year, and you have somewhere around 300-400 paintings per year. Granted, not everything is a large elaborate masterpiece, but still, that is a lot of time and energy spent painting.

Doing something that much can lead to creative burn-out.

As a full time Streamer on Twitch, spending more than half my week broadcasting live painting, and interacting with people for several hours a day completely drains me. When I end a stream, I feel as though I just ran a marathon. I’m not only physically exhausted, but mentally and emotionally as well. I put so much of myself out there when I stream, my energy just pours out like an open floodgate.

I absolutely LOVE streaming, but over the last two years I have become very aware of my limits. I recognize my introverted tendencies and I honor them. I’ve made changes in my life to have a balance which helps me to thrive.

What inspires me the most, is nature. I’ve always been an introvert, preferring quiet observation than conversation or interaction. I have major wanderlust as well, and all of these things lend themselves beautifully to hiking and camping.

Arches National Park, Utah, 2016. LG G4 Panorama.

Moab Landscape, Utah. 2016. Acrylic on canvas. 2ft x 4ft.

Unless I have a prior engagement, I spend my weekends traveling around my city/state/country (depending where I live at the time). This means each weekend I’m signing off for several hours. No social media, no phone. Changing my perspective, experiencing some breathtaking scenery, and finding peace in the quiet.

My second greatest source of inspiration is to observe other artwork and watch/read fantasy/sci fi movies and books. I have an extremely active imagination, and I’m constantly nurturing it with visual stimuli. I spend at least one solid hour per day scrolling through Instagram alone (I follow over 1,000 amazing artists). This is both a comforting ritual (it's how I start and end my day), and a blast of incredible inspiration, ranging from painters to sculptors, dancers, poets, and inventors.

The Lost Temple - Wanderer Series, concept art. 2016. Watercolor on cold press paper.

It’s not silly to get lost in your imagination, to believe in fairytales and magic, or to daydream about living in Middle Earth. Why? Because our imagination is one of the main things that sets our species apart from other beings on the planet. I refuse to be ashamed of my ridiculous obsession for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, because these things nurture my imagination.

Without imagination, humans never would have created civilizations that span the globe. We wouldn’t be traveling the galaxy in space ships.
Someone, somewhere had to imagine it.

You can't express your inner voice if you can't hear it yourself. Therefore it is beneficial to have as much fuel for your mind to imagine your creations. Spend time getting to know yourself. What gets you really excited? What relaxes you? The next time you feel a huge wave of inspiration, stop and look at where you are and what you're doing. What train of thought led to that inspiration? Nurturing your imagination and your creative spirit isn’t just about fantasy and magic, it can be anything from music to a well designed car.

If you’re looking for inspiration, step out your front door. Experiences in life give us the fuel for our stories.

For some immediate results, here are my (current) favorite artists, whose work you can follow on their website or their own social media sites.

James Gurney - Oil Painter. (My favorite artist since I was a child).

Alvaro Castagnet - Watercolorist

Joseph Zbukvic - Watercolorist

Thomas Schaller - Watercolorist

Donato Giancola - Oil Painter

Peter Mohrbacher - Digital Painter

And of course, don't forget about Twitch Creative (hundreds of artists streaming live artwork every day).

Finally, traveling is a huge source of inspiration for me. When you travel to other countries (or even other states), you gain a worldly perspective. You see other cultures thriving, you witness incredible architecture and landscapes that you never imagined existed. You also grow as an individual, and become very resourceful (especially if you're a budget traveller like me). Traveling isn't for everyone, but for me it has enriched my life with amazing experiences. I see that directly reflected in my art and my overall happiness. 

Various travel photos I took in 2016/2017.

Various travel photos I took in 2016/2017.

Travel top: Don't fill your entire itinerary with busy tourist activities. Give yourself time to wander and explore quietly, observing, soaking it in. Get lost. (Don't worry, you always have Google Maps on your phone as a backup). It's an amazing way to get to know yourself and your surroundings. 

In short, get out. Go beyond yourself. Do or see something new.  

004: Overcoming Artist's Block

Artist's block plagues almost every artist, and those who say they've never felt it, are lying.

It's a natural part of the creative process. It happens when the brain is burned out, when you're tired, when you "just want to draw but don't know what to draw."

My method of overcoming artist's block is simple.

First realize, Not Everything You Create Is a Masterpiece.

Then sit down with all your supplies (whether its graphite, paint, clay, whatever). Find an inspiring reference image or fanart or set up a still life in front of yourself.

Then draw [paint/write/sculpt].

You might be scoffing right now, like "OH GEE THANKS SARAH THAT WAS HELPFUL!" 

However I am 100% serious. You have to look at your set of skills as something that will always need improving. You are never done learning.
Think about why you enjoy creating anything in the first place. Is it that rush when you finish a piece and it looks great? Is it the idea of sharing it on social media and having everyone praise it? Is it the intimate internal process of exploring your artistic voice?

Plein Air Painting at Denver Botanic Gardens, 2016.

Plein Air Painting at Denver Botanic Gardens, 2016.

Regardless, there is one truth: if you want to progress as an artist, you need to put in the time / the practice. This means, take advantage of those artist's blocks and use it as a chance to study. Paint that reference photo or that still life, knowing every stroke is solidifying a new connection between your mind and the canvas. None of it is wasted. Then, later when inspiration suddenly hits you, and you have a brilliant idea for a painting, you've already got some of that legwork done, and your painting will be that much better.

You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. 

My personal favorite way to overcome Artist's Block is to change my scenery. I love painting outside, so I will go for a walk or hike with my sketchbook and paints, and spend a few hours sketching. In the winter, this can easily be done at a coffee shop.

So the next time you sit down and think, "ugh...I don't know what to make." Before you push the paper away and turn on Netflix, remember, you are the only one standing in your way.

.01 Prologue

Intro

This isn't a tale of a heroic uprising, or a tale of legendary love conquering all odds. It's definitely not a tale of a world-renowned prodigy or a mystic healer of old.

This isn't even a tale, I suppose.
More of a modest (hopefully) telling of my own self-discovery, shared in the hopes that maybe even one person is inspired to follow their heart and pursue their dreams.

One of my projects of 2017 is to write this blog, and post at least 1 entry every day. Anything from Travel notes, photography, art journaling, and personal stories. My hope is that anyone reading finds inspiration to follow their passions and achieve their dream, whatever it is!

 

A couple of things first:

1. I'm not a professional writer. In fact, it has taken me over an hour to write this dang intro. 
I'm an artist, observer, and dreamer. I'm sure half of what I write will be cliche or break some kind of writing rules. I may even regret telling some of it. But I'm going to try!

2. I am agnostic, but consider myself spiritual. I read people's energies, and I speak openly from my heart. These things influence how I communicate, so occasionally my writing might seem a little bit like a hippy who is higher than a kite got a hold of a laptop. Honestly, I just want to express things how I experience them, and I usually don't filter everything to sound "professional."

I've realized that my greatest joy is being immersed in nature, and painting the beautiful world we live in - both real and imagined. It's an interesting mix though. To be lost in the wilderness, hiking through miles of forest, coming upon a 40 foot waterfall, watching the sun filtering through the surrounding trees, highlighting the cool blue water below as it flows past. Then to go home and paint the scene in front of hundreds of people on my Twitch channel, answering questions, sharing stories, technique, and inspiration. It's like a social feast-or-famine lifestyle (and I usually prefer famine).

Even though I've never shown a single piece of art in a gallery, I've discovered that there are ways for people like me - introverted, socially anxious but extremely passionate - to share my vision, be part of a community, and make a living through my art. 

I know I live in an incredible time. The technology that is available to artists today, to share our process and experiences with others, is at a new level. I can share the painting process, live, through a website, on which someone who lives thousands of miles away can log in and ask questions and witness the creative process.
This website I'm speaking of Twitch Creative. But we'll get to that in a later post.

So, I hope there's something you take away from my story. I will continue to share it as best as I can! Along the way, if anyone out there has any questions, please don't hesitate to comment or message me. I would like to be transparent and as helpful as possible!

.002 The Lore

There's always a lore, or history, in every story. How else are you, the reader, meant to invest in the characters or plot? What makes you care?

When I think about my own history, I tend to break it up into chapters to easily keep things straight. I think many of us do this, even if we all don't label it as "chapters."

Although it may shift as time goes on, these are generally how I see my chapters.

Chapter 1: Ages 1-15, from which I remember almost nothing, but I'm sure many important and wonderful things happened. I have vague memories of playing sports, drawing, and playing outside. I grew up between Colorado, Massachusetts, and Syracuse, New York. 

Chapter 2: Ages 15-18, high school in America. You've seen Saved by the Bell, 90210, and all the movies depicting high school in the 90's? Yea.. it's not that far off. 

Chapter 3: College, or more specifically, Art School. Followed by my second degree in Interior Design.

Chapter 4: Real jobs and Marriage

Chapter 5: Twitch, Self Employment, and Self Discovery

Chapter 6: Divorce

Chapter 7: Self-sufficiency (now)

And that leads us here. A 31 year old artist currently traveling the world.

I won't be going into all of my personal details but I will share what I feel are the important pieces I've made sense of, and I what I think may inspire others. I will try to explain how I made this dream come true.
As I write this, I am sitting in my studio in Scotland. My second trip to Europe within the same year, only this time it's long-term. 

If it's one thing I know, it's that the important moments are happening right now, and with time and experience, we gain the wisdom to understand them.

Tomorrow, I'll begin the new year with a post explaining how I got here, to be a full-time artist, living her dream.

If anyone reading this wants to discuss a certain topic or has any questions, please leave a comment or message me!