In the Land of Basil

Making Art vs Making Airplanes

In the Land of Basil 8.5 x 8 ” pencil and watercolor sketch Productive over Perfect Fact: Perfectionism crushes creativity.  An effective way to recover from perfectionism is to start creating. That might seem counter-intuitive, but it follows the same contrarian path towards recovery as other challenging situations. Heartbroken over the end of a relationship? Go volunteer, and give of yourself. That outward act of generosity can backfill your internal noodling of sad thoughts. The good light of giving that you’re shining on the world contradicts the dark weight of your heart’s woes. Car broken into, and something stolen? Buy yourself a cup …[Continue reading]

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Painting Small Portraits and Figure Studies in Watercolor

Painting Faces and Portraits in Watercolor Do you enjoy sketching and doodling faces in watercolor? I know some of you do, since I follow your blogs and the work you post on social media. I was talking to another artist friend about the pleasure, and the power of doodling the human form – both faces and the figure – as well as isolated facial features. We can all use a bit more practice in this area, right? Have you ever filled a sketchpad page with little thumbnails of facial features, expressions, or angles of the head? Want to give it a try? Oh …[Continue reading]

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Making a Silk Aquatint: The Captain’s Cabin

Silk Aquatint Experiments What’s a Silk Aquatint?  This previous post covers the mechanics of how silk aquatints work, and some of the materials used.  Let me show you more details here so you can build one yourself. Silk Aquatint is a form of printmaking that’s considered an intaglio print – that is – you’re printing from the recessed areas of the plate’s matrix, where ink is hunkered down, after wiping the uppermost surface of the plate clear. In order to get paper to dip down into those tiny spaces in the screen of the silk where it will pick up your ink, printing via an …[Continue reading]

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Be Inspired to make Small Drawing and Painting Studies

Small Drawing and Painting Studies After last week’s post,  you sent some lively emails questioning the definition of a small drawing or painting study, and how exactly does it serve an artist? Some of us like to just Dive Right In. I get it. But stay with me for a moment; think of sketching and painting small studies as a strategic planning session for the board of directors that is your art-brain. By working small and quick on the basics: shape, values, composition, cropping, and editing (what to keep, what to remove), you’re making decisions to preserve the best parts of a scene, …[Continue reading]

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Using a Grid to Sketch Small Studies and Improve Drawing Skills

It’s a New Month Happy January! Hopefully, in between holiday clean up, and taking stock of the year from the rear view mirror, you’re also swinging a telescope forward to anticipate the future heft of art supplies in your hands, right? There are work surfaces to clear, and pigments to sort, and sketch pads to flip through while reflecting on the creative goals imagined for the year ahead of us, yes?  I’m practically jumping up and down with relief at the thought of getting back to work. I crave the comfort in the familiar rhythm of Routine. Let’s get into it. Using a …[Continue reading]

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Light Field Monotype: Monterey Retreat

What’s a Monotype? A few posts back – the one about printmaking ink I accidentally left on a monotype plate for several weeks – I got a flurry of questions about monotypes. So let’s review, shall we? Monotypes are a printmaking method that don’t require carving, engraving, acid or solvents, and depending on your approach and materials, you don’t need a press to print them. Images are simply painted onto a smooth plate, and while the pigments are still wet, the plate is pressed firmly against a sheet of paper. When the paper is pulled from the plate, the inks and paints have been …[Continue reading]

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Watercolor – Good at This – and be kind to fellow artists

NOTE: I’m reposting this from the archives. Reminders about kindness are always a good thing, especially as we fold and pack away this year. Merry Christmas! When Artists are Jealous I overheard two artists making sharp, envy-driven comments about another artist’s beautiful work at an exhibit. Jealousy is a ugly cloak. Comparisons with other artists should be a healthy exercise, since surveying other people’s work – either on social media, or at exhibits – helps us stay inspired and keen on what’s happening in the art world. Look Up from Below, and Smile Admiring artists with more skill and/or success than we’ve fulfilled is an opportunity to galvanize our Where-I-Want-to-Be goals, if …[Continue reading]

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Light Field Monotype – Potted Rosemary – and leaving inks on the plate for too long

First, a Word – Then a Monotype We’re approaching Christmas. This could signal time with extended family, gifts to wrap and unwrap, and hopefully, a morning lounging with a plate of waffles while still in your pajamas. There may not be a lot of art-making this week, but you can still think about art, right?  Or maybe distribute paper and pencils to everyone after dinner, set a timer, and draw each other’s faces.  Jot down ideas for your future art projects.  Grab an artsy friend or visiting family member and head to a museum or a gallery.  How about watching an art documentary …[Continue reading]

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Drypoint and Collagraph Printmaking – Whale and Mermaid

Experiments in the Art Studio Experiments in the studio are important, because that’s what we should be doing with art supplies, right?  Keeping things fresh and full of wonder by pushing past our comfort zone in artmaking, and testing new approaches. G-R-O-W-I-N-G, which requires a certain amount of comfort with the idea of failing too. Do you agree? Beyond discussions and theories of leaping past playing it safe, do you push your artistic skills all the way to failure, in order to expand your creative breadth? Art Studio Bartender I’ve mixed intaglio and relief printing on the same print, like a bartender conjuring …[Continue reading]

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Watercolor Sketch: Study for Cypress Viewfinder

Cleaning Up for Winter Art Projects The obstacle course that is my studio has to be dealt with. I’ve been cleaning in here for a few days, a little at a time. I can see the floor now.  Small spaces get cluttered quickly, so I use two baker’s racks to store as much as I can fit into the closet. It’s a tetris game behind closet doors. All it takes is sliding a frame out to measure it, and pulling a bin out to find a particular print, and a few more like that, and I’m bumping shins on things. I’m not complaining, …[Continue reading]

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Figurative Monotype – Jantzen Topper and Being a Gifted Natural vs a Determined Student

A Gifted Natural – or a Determined Student I attended a piano recital my grandkids played in last night. The performers ranged in age from about 5 to 14. The performers’ skills demonstrated everything from super beginner, first recital, barely able to reach the pedals and eek out Jingle Bells, all the way up to a classical piece played from memory with no sheet music. Praise for Effort Alone The range of proficiency, and the growth I’ve witnessed in the skills of the kids over the past few years struck me on a couple of  levels. Some of them are so young, they …[Continue reading]

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Watercolor: New and Notable – and Skill Building in Figurative Watercolors

Seeking Beauty to Fix a Slump When I need a boost of double-shot inspiration, I look at some of the amazing figurative watercolor artists posting their gorgeous work online. And thank goodness they’re  taking time to snap and share imagery, or video-record their process, because I rely on those “stop-me-in-my-scroll” power-boosts to shove me out of an art-making slump. Looking at work galaxies ahead of your own is inspiring to some, and overwhelming to others. Which are you? Figurative Watercolors Here’s a few figurative watercolor painters I follow on social media that make me sprint to my art supplies to get back to …[Continue reading]

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Sketchbook Practice – programming motivation with mini-successes

When You Used to Make Art I loved everything about art as a kid. My excitement for creativity followed me through my teens, and I doodled and dabbled with art studio courses in college. And then I got a job. Then I moved, and got another job. And life got busy, and I stopped making art. I was pretty miserable about the dust collecting on my art supplies, but I was very committed to my Have-To list while ignoring my Want-To list. My sweetheart at the time encouraged art-making with kidnapping-note newspaper cutouts surreptitiously taped to things around the house. (Thank you, BJK. XO) Despite …[Continue reading]

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Watercolor – Bunny’s Tutor – and What’s the Best Size for Paintings?

Does Painting Size Matter? What size do you make your art? I paint watercolors and build printmaking plates in small format. Every piece of art I ever made was under 8×10, with an occasional hurdle into 11×14 – until I started to sell at Art Festivals.  In a comment on last week’s post, Marie E. asked: How have you decided on the size of your work? I have been trying to enter some watercolor competitions… It seems that larger works are the norm. Why have you made the decision to go smaller with your work? Do you find that it sells better? Is …[Continue reading]

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Monotype Printmaking – Bird Watching – and some fine artists to follow

Making a Painterly Monotype Here are some process photos for making a painterly monotype with non-toxic inks from a sheet of acrylic or plexiglass. If you’re interested in diving a little deeper into printmaking and monotypes, I’ve got a series of monotype tutorial demos for you on my youtube channel here. Grab a beverage and a notebook. In each video on my channel, there is a list of supply links to everything used in the demo. Find the lists in the ‘Show More’ links under each video window. Be sure to subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss upcoming watercolor and printmaking …[Continue reading]

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Watercolor – Wine at Mandola Rosa – and Gift Ideas for Artists

Best Gifts for Artists If you are adamantly *not* an artist, but you have a creative friend or family member that would love an art-related gift, I’m here to help!  My own family is sprinkled with engineers, mechanical wizards, construction titans, internet security bosses, firefighters and nutrition and fitness gurus. If I set them loose in a Dick Blick art supply store, and said “Please buy me an art-flavored gift?”, they’d be utterly perplexed. They all love art, and they’re totally supportive of my artistic endeavors, but that would be akin to sending a art historian out to buy buy circuit board assembly parts.  …[Continue reading]