With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I wanted to share a little something from last year, something that was one of my favorite commissions to date.
I had a client come in whose mother had recently passed, seeking a commemorative painting that included a very meaningful poem and her mother’s favorite flowers, Queen Anne’s Lace.
I followed my usual process for this painting, with the poem collaged in as part of the background, then building up the layers until I get to the detail work of the flower.
During a studio visit, the client stopped by to check in, and requested a companion piece to represent her husband’s mother. For this one she supplied a poem with script written by his mother to be included.
Both I and the client were very happy with how these turned out. This is one of those times that we artists love – being able to connect with our clients and giving them heartfelt artwork to fill their home.
As the Coronavirus lockdowns took hold over the past month or so, my normal routine (and yours too, I’m sure) took a significant twist. No more heading to the studio to work in my sunny, quiet, undisturbed space. Work now meant clearing space in a corner of my daughter’s playroom, trying to get decent lighting, and actually squeezing in some time to work. While my daughter is pretty responsible, she is still young and with schools closed down and all learning being done online, that means significant schedule enforcement on my part. And LOTS of follow up to ensure that work she thought was done is actually done.
That threw my creative routine right out the window. I have been struggling. Really struggling. Stuck staring at in-progress canvases without being able to make a mark, listing all the things I should be doing and then shaming myself for not getting them done. Lost in a daze worrying about my elderly parents. Overwhelmed by it all.
My solution? Add one more thing to that to do list. Sounds crazy, I know, but it actually helped.
The 100 Day Project is a challenge that has been running a few years now and begins in April. It challenges you to do/create something every day for 100 days. This is what I added to my list. One small thing to create everyday. Something quick. Something you don’t have to share. Something that just gets pen to paper.
I decided to do small portrait sketches: just 4×6, just 10-15 minutes each, just to get me moving. I’ll actually end up with 99 of them as I used day one to be my prep day and cut all the 4×6 papers and start some backgrounds. That stack is all 99 cards, ready to go.
I create the backgrounds in batches and use them as an opportunity to play with color combinations, paint textures, and pattern. Then each day I grab a card and do a quick sketch in ink and colored pencil. Here are the first few. You can catch the rest over on my instagram feed. I have some catch up to do on posting (I have been social media distancing as well!) but eventually all 99 will be up there!
As most of you know, a lot of my inspiration comes from nature and the garden. That is definitely true of a new small series I am working on related to pollinators.
I have been fascinated by bees most of my life, despite have an allergic reaction to stings as a kid. I still remember one day when I was playing down by the creek behind my dad’s house and a huge bumblebee landed on my neck. This was when I was allergic and I pretty much froze in fear. As I sat there with this guy wandering around on my neck, it started to tickle. His little feet just pattering away and his fuzzy body just meandering around. I calmed down and just sat by the creek letting this bee walk all over and felt like we became friends. I’m sure in my child’s mind there was some story running around about the magical girl who could talk to bees, or some such thing.
Skip to today, and our growing problem with the declining bee population. We have a Korean Bee tree in our back yard that has seen better days and will need to be replaced soon. I am hoping to get one more summer out of it, but those pesky lantern flies love it. It blooms at the end of the summer, giving the bees one last source for stocking up for the colder months. And boy do they! When you stand under the tree while it is in bloom, it sounds like you are next to a highway with all of the bees buzzing around!
We also let our garlic chives go to full bloom at the end of the season, so we get a swarm of bees there as well. I think one day last fall I counted at least 10 different species of bees and pollinators hitting up the chive blossoms. And that has led me to my current small series of paintings for pollinators.
My collage work for the early layers is pulled from an apartment gardening book from the early 70s; beautiful yellowed paper with a grainy, pulpy feel to it.
I have started building up the background layers, using light, earthy tones and pulling in some honeycomb. This piece will become my County Collector piece for the Chester County Studio Tour coming up on May 19th and 20th. As I continue to build up layers and work on the foreground details, the garlic chive blossoms with begin to take center stage.
I’ll be sharing the finished piece soon and will include it and others from the series in my April Newsletter. Be sure to sign up below to stay in the loop and get more details about the studio tour as we get closer to the event.
Today I am sharing with you my 2nd set of projects for StencilGirl StencilClub Voices. These are using the February set from StencilClub which is called “Grandmother’s Kitchen” and designed by Kristie Taylor.
In my artwork I typically use stencils to build up background layers and the February stencils are perfect for that! All three stencils in the set have the same basic pattern, but in different sizes. I love having repetitive patterns carry through my work and the multiple sizes helps add dimension and depth. The first thing I did with these stencils is to just play and create some background layers for my stash to be used as the mood strikes.
I used one of the smaller backgrounds to create my February Mandala. I layered the stencils in various shades of blue and then used the 4×4 in white as the center of my mandala. The details in the pattern made it easy to pick out elements to repeat and build off of in my drawing. I’m not sure if the result is more wintery or watery. What do you think?
I also used the smallest version (although the biggest stencil!) as a background on a memory box. While the pattern may have been inspired by interiors, it reminds me of a garden trellis and felt like the perfect back drop to the loose, brush stroke trees.
I see these stencils getting a lot of use in my studio going forward – and I think they might come in handy during summer kids art camp…(garden trellis, chain link fence, spaceship targeting systems…lots of possibilities here!)
You can check out projects from the other StencilClub Voices here on StencilGirl Talk.
(And if you are interested in seeing what the kids do with these stencils come summertime, be sure to sign up for my newsletter below!)
One of the questions artists frequently get asked is ‘where do you get your ideas?’ Inspiration can come from many, many sources. Things that we see, experiences that we go through, thoughts we remember at odd moments. Everything that has happened to us in our lives influence what we create and put back into the world.
The painting I am sharing today has some pretty straight forward origins. In my Zentangle practice, I will switch back and forth between working on Zentangle tiles and working in my sketchbooks and journals. Some of the drawings are just for the meditative practice, and some call out to me to be turned into something else. This quick drawing in my sketchbook was one of the later.
My mornings in the summer normally start with a quick trip out to the garden to say good morning to the bees and check for any new vegies that are ready to be harvested. The blooms always draw me in, this pumpkin blossom being no exception.
I had a few new boards prepped for new paintings with some background colors blocked in. I had already been influenced by these trips to the garden and had a background in progress with shades of green and orange. With the 2 images above in mind “Abundance”, the final painting, started to emerge.
The mandala of ‘Abundance’ captures the energy and potential of new growth, while the colors fading into the background reflect the peacefulness and serenity I feel sitting in the garden each morning, listening to the bees as they make their rounds.