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People who follow me on Twitch know that I recently went through a 5 day internet blackout.
I felt so helpless and frustrated, and by the end I was really starting to worry about my business. I could barely connect to a signal using my phone, but when I did, I saw that I had Etsy orders and commission emails coming in. That is usually super exciting, but I need internet to run my business!
5 days might not sound like a lot, but when you go from being connected 27/7 on Email, Twitch, Discord, Instagram, Twitter, Etsy, Patreon, YouTube, etc... to suddenly have no connection is a shock to the system. Day after day I had no answer or hope from my ISP that internet would return, so I was just drifting along doing my best to stay occupied.
The silver lining is that I had a lot of time to reflect.
120 hours is a long time. Subtract 40 for sleeping and I still had 80 hours to fill over those 5 days.
At first, time went slow and I was grasping at straws. Every time I got an idea for something to do, I remembered it required internet. So finally, I did what any artist would do.
Within those 5 days, I ended up painting both commissions and studies, as well as doing some hiking & plein air painting.
I also decided to record all of it. I had a light-bulb moment that I could use my internet-less time to make as much video content as possible for my new Art-centric YouTube channel! GAME ON!
I ended up making 4 videos during the last 5 days, catered specifically towards instruction/education and inspiration. I made them specifically for YouTube so that I could start to build a library of helpful content for viewers. It was actually really fun - and kind of addicting!
Here's an example:
I used my 5 days as practice for what will hopefully be a routine. Eventually I'd like to regularly produce 2 videos per week. Now that I have internet again, and I'm back to my regular routine and streaming, I have less time to produce videos, but I now have a good strategy for using my time efficiently, and a better idea of what it takes to make these videos.
- Watercolor Mountain - Narrated Time Lapse
- Medium Wars (Forest Scene) - comparing Watercolor/Gouache/Acrylic
- Plein Air Sketchbook Tour (Plus added narration/video of me painting in each location)
In addition, I've completely updated my Patreon Page, in order to better match my current and future artistic goals. The changes mean I'll be sending out less physical content each month, but providing more videos, process photos, and educational content more often, which is something people have been asking for.
Patreon is an amazing way for artists to support themselves, while offering exclusive content to their supporters.
Checkout my new intro video!
So, what started out as a disaster and worryfest, ended up being a period of reflection, production, and clarity for my business and goals.
I feel so incredibly motivated and inspired!!
I've been meaning to talk about my Paintalongs for a while now.
A paintalong is a live art tutorial (online) wherein I walk through a painting from start to finish, thoroughly discussing strategy and technique so that viewers can paint along with me!
I started doing monthly Paintalongs in July 2016. They quickly became a huge success and one of my favorite things to do on stream!
One of the best parts is that participants are sometimes brand new to watercolor, and they have told me it gave them the confidence to keep going and practice on their own. I'm so honored to be part of someone's artistic journey, whether it's inspiration, instruction, or general guidance.
After each paintalong I ask the participants to send me their final pieces and I make a collage of everyone's work.
Not only have I received amazing responses from participants, but I've also learned a TON by doing these paintalongs. I discovered that since I am not trained as a teacher, in order to explain things I'm forced to break down the process from a beginner point of view, which helps me to understand in more thoroughly. I learn so much while I'm explaining things. An unexpected bonus!
I also found that by planning for these paintalongs, I have learned a ton about marketing, what people are interesting in, what gets people hyped, and that it's possible to bridge the gap between having fun and being candid, and providing a structured "class" environment! There's no need to have a boring stuffy tutorial in order to product fantastic results. Let's hang out, paint together, and make something beautiful!
This all started as a Patreon milestone (if I reach a monthly pledge goal, I do monthly paintalongs). So far we have met the goal every month, so I continue to do them! To reward my Patreon support, I upload the Paintalong videos exclusively for my Patreon supporters (the videos are not available anywhere else). I always try to think of ways to return the love to those who support me!
The next paintalong is tomorrow!! If you want join in the painting, or just watch and see what it's all about, join me on my Twitch.tv/zladyluthien channel at 11am PST / 7pm GMT!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
Imagine you are sitting outside in the shade of a tree. Your eyes wander over the green grass around you until they settle on a large stone fountain. The sun creates beautiful reflections on the surface of the water. You can hear the trickle of water, and see koi fish gently twirling below the dark water. You grab your sketchbook and begin scratching contours that represent what you see before you. The trees and flowers around the fountain make a beautiful background to the stones. The bright yellow and red petals inspire energy and passion within you, and you start to add in some lively watercolors.
As you are sketching, clouds slowly roll in, and before you realize it, the entire scene is cast in a dim shadow. All of the beautiful lights and darks of the stone are gone, and you’re left with a monotone scene. Your sketch suddenly looks so different to what's in front of you, but you realize you've captured that moment in time. The sketch is suddenly so much more than a sketch. It's a memory of the beautiful setting and the ways in which all your senses were alive.
When you are plein air painting/drawing (drawing outside in the open air), lighting and weather conditions are out of your control. You are at the mercy of the environment. It forces you to work quickly, to develop an eye for what the important elements are, and capture those in quick gestures. It also completely engages all of your senses - sight, touch, sound, smell, etc. These contribute to your emotional response to your setting and play a role in the outcome. It’s a magical, visceral experience.
When you are in the safety of your studio, in complete control, you can take your time to look at a reference photo, to draw it as delicately and accurately as possible, and create an incredibly detailed rendering. All the shadows, all the lighting, all the colors are there, laid out for you in a 2D form, and more easily understood.
I want to emphasis something: Using reference photos while you are in your studio is extremely beneficial and necessary to develop your muscle memory and eye for detail. Don’t ever feel bad about needing reference photos. Until you paint something so many times that it becomes muscle memory, using reference photos is necessary and natural.
Plein air painting is similar - only your reference is all around you, in 3D form. It’s your mind’s task to translate that to 2D. There’s nothing quite like hiking up into the forest, sitting in the warm sun, and painting to the tune of a soft breeze and birds chirping.
In my own experience, since I started plein air painting last year, my understanding of scale, proportion, vanishing lines, color, contrast, and so much more has developed extremely quickly, compared to when I remained in my studio and painted from reference photos.
When you look at shadows and highlights in real life, your mind learns how to see color there, rather than just darkness or light. Your mind is forced to zone in on an area, and understand the layering of objects and light, to then translate that to a 2D form on paper.
Learning how to see, how to truly observe, then translate that to your paper takes a lot of practice. The more you do it, the easier it gets. TRUST ME!
As a landscape painter, I absolutely love plein air painting. The joy of being outside in nature while painting - it's a feeling I crave.
Please feel free to share your own plein air stories by commenting below or messaging me!