Saturday, July 8, 2017

Non-Precious Art

I've been trying to work on "non-precious" art lately.

Last summer, I took Art Journal Summer School, and I think that was the origin of this for me. I had never really done any art journaling - I've always started projects with the idea, at least, of finishing them. Cardmaking does that to you - you really want to end up a card at the end of the effort. But art journaling can free you from that, letting you practice techniques, try color combinations and mediums, and even write some things down that you wouldn't write down anywhere else. It was quite liberating, especially the secret writing part.

Then, my friend Lori introduced me to the Close to Home watercolor class. In the first videos - I marveled at the beautiful paintings in Michelle's casual sketchbook, and I was still struggling with preciousness - thinking "HOW CAN SHE NOT FRAME THOSE??" But I kept watching. And her philosophy started to sink in. Practice is art. You are learning during practice sessions. You might love a practice piece, but you didn't go into it with a "precious" mindset. You went into it wanting to try something, with an equal shot at success and failure. And when you fail, you can just turn the page. Maybe after taking notes on what didn't work, which is what I like to do. It's just a sketchbook. It might end up being a pretty sketchbook, but it's just a sketchbook. It's not expensive paper, it's covered with notes, the outside might have paint all over it. It's humble.

After I took that class, I took a photo at the Wildflower Center (I showed it to you here), and Lori and Lisa Spangler and I used it as a challenge to each other. I brought my sketchbook to Ohio and got to sketch with Lisa, which was amazing. She has inspired me this year with her nearly daily sketching of plants and animals she sees on her trips to beautiful Texas Prairies. So now I'm officially hooked.

It's quite liberating. I highly recommend it, no matter what kind of art you're doing. Try stamping techniques or new products in a book. It's very fun to fill up the pages and look through them.

This month is World Watercolor Month, and so I'm doing more sketching than normal, which has been fun. I've asked people on Facebook if I can save certain photos to use as sketch inspiration, and I've loved painting the places both they and I have been recently.

I save the photos to a private Facebook album that only I can see (I recommend this also for times you are going on vacation but don't want the world to know your house is empty - just change the privacy of it when you get home!) and then I bring them up on my iPad so I can see them while I'm painting.

When I'm done, and if I like it - I print out the photo on this AMAZING portable printer I got - I read a million reviews and this one won - and I glue or tape the reference photo into the sketchbook - the little photos are the perfect size for this.

So I thought I'd just share a few recent ones I have done.

This is from a photo I took during my last retreat when a storm was rolling in - Temple, TX. It's not that great, but it let me practice clouds, which are hard, and use a brush Antonio Darden gave me when we visited his studio. I lightly sketch with a water soluble pencil (links to everything below) before I start painting each sketch, and sometimes, like here, I mask with tape.

This next one is from a photo my friend Meg took the other day at Lake Powell in Arizona - I ended up loving this one. The Hematite Burnt Scarlet watercolor is so much fun - it has a black granulation in it that makes it so perfect for rocks.
And speaking of Hematite Burnt Scarlet - it makes GLORIOUS bricks. This next page was very brave on my part - I've never tried a reflective surface before and it was definitely challenging. Also challenging was all the different perspective issues created by different planes of the walls around the barber pole. The World Watercolor Month prompt on July 4th, was red, white and blue, so this is what I came up with, with the help of this reference photo by Lisa Knechtel.

See the oopsie bottom right from some paint from a previous page? Doesn't matter - just a sketchbook. :)

This one was very challenging and fun and I ended up liking it a lot.

I got a tool in Santa Fe that blows my mind in the perspective department. I have lots of artist viewfinder tools, but none of them as genius as the View Frame by Miira. This ingenious magnetic guide system was invented by a woman and her son in Oklahoma. There's also a great app that goes with it. I purchased mine at Artisan and when I took my sister back to get one the next day, I noticed hers had a little pouch that mine was missing, and so I emailed the company and instantly got a kind, helpful response, so I'm a fan! It looks like she has a newer version in the works that's in pre-order right now, so check out her website! The original one is on sale with free shipping to make room for View Frame II, so you might want to snag one.

The AMAZING new brushes I got in Santa Fe are just phenomenal. They are synthetic, which I have never liked before these, but they are SOOOOOOOO tiny and perfect for detail work. All you Breaking Bad fans will understand why I love their name too - Grey Matters.

You can do teeny lines and details with them, and I love teeny details.

People have asked me to film these sketches - but there are a few reasons I don't. The most important one is that it would instantly make it "precious", and that's what I'm trying to get away from with my books. I'm just in a learning phase, and I need the safety of a practice sketch to be just that. When I ACTUALLY am technically proficient and can produce repeatable success, maybe. But also - these take me hours over days - and I walk away a lot. It doesn't lend itself to the storage capacity of my current iPhone.

Make lots and lots of non-precious practice art. Enjoy the process and view the result ONLY as knowledge, and you'll have so much fun, I promise. Hope you're having a great weekend!



  1. A great idea to just play and not judge yourself with a practice book. (THIS is something I need to remember, so thanks for the reminder!) Your paintings are awesome! Also, thanks for the idea to put the legend on the page as well, that too is something I wouldn't have thought to have done but it would be very important for a beginner water colourer such as myself! (Otherwise, I would NEVER remember exactly which colours I had used!) TFS!

  2. I do something similar with card making. I have a bunch of practice pieces, usually 4¼ x 5½. I save them, and go through them on occasion.

  3. Thank you, I think we all need this reminder sometimes... it's okay to make mistakes and not everything will work out. ♡

  4. What a great idea to just practice & play. I think that it's good that you don't do the videos. Then you can just do your thing. It took me a long time to try things without it turning into a card right then.

  5. Great advice. Practice and not worry about precious. I'll have to remember this when I get back to my art.

  6. I just love your watercolor posts so much. I learn so much from your blog posts & paintings, e.g., the mention of the Hematite Burnt Scarlet, I never gave this color a look but seeing your paintings & really giving this color a search it's so are many of the DS primatek pigments. I just want to say thank you for taking the time to post your awesome work and showing the colors you use and your results! I am always inspired by your work and always pick up a it large or small....and just wanted to take the time to say thank you!

  7. This resonates so much for me. I think I need to buy a sketchbook. Your practice pieces are gorgeous, but I love that that's not why you make them.


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