New adventures in painting


Hello all! I feel like I’ve been pretty incognito lately, so I’ll just jump right in and show you what I’ve been up to.

I’ve been going through some really vicious cycles of depression about my work. This usually encompasses a whole lot of issues– feeling frustrated with my time & workspace; feeling like so many other artists are more talented and self-confident; feeling like I’m not skilled enough and that I don’t have anything meaningful to communicate through my work; thinking about applying to grad school again and if I’ll be up to the work load or expectations about my skill level; being increasingly dissatisfied with my undergraduate schooling and feeling like all these other issues might be moot if I’d been taught more technique or had professors that were more invested…

I’ve been trying to pray more on this, and also take responsibility for what parts of the problem that I can. The real issue is feeling like I have no control over the situation, and that’s just not true. Yes, there are things I can’t change, like my professors not teaching. And while it may feel unfair that four years later I have to be the one that picks up their slack and works harder, with no guidance, it does a hell of a lot more good to just do it than to sit and feel sorry for myself!

So I’ve been going back to the basics. Here is the stack of books that comprise my current reading list:

reading list

There’s a book on botanical illustration, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s amazing books on watercolor, James Gurney’s book on color and light, and, by fabulous chance, a slim volume called Art & Fear, which seemed miraculously applicable to my situation. It contains such gems of wisdom as, “ART IS MADE BY ORDINARY PEOPLE. Creatures having only virtues can hardly be imagined making art. It’s difficult to picture the Virgin Mary painting landscapes. Or Batman throwing pots. The flawless creature wouldn’t need to make art.” It’s one of those books where if I set out to underline every meaningful (or hilarious) passage, it would be less time consuming to just circle all the text on every page.

One of my first resolutions was to build myself a limited color palette for painting. I’ve seen a lot of variations on this recently from reading step-by-steps on the Daniel Smith site, and thought it would be good to do. I am a total pigment junkie. I’ve somehow accumulated over a hundred different watercolors; choosing colors for new paintings had become crippling. I fell into a habit of selecting the exact color I wanted, rather than building up layers and relying on glazing to get some real depth. When I applied to Syracuse, was rejected, and asked for advice, the criticism that somehow hadn’t been obvious to me but now makes perfect sense is that my colors are all too flat. Sometimes you really can have too many options!


So yes, basics. Law’s Dreamscapes books are gorgeously detailed and helpful, and I’m especially happy to have them as I’ve admired her work for over ten years now. I was also guiltily happy because when I started sifting through and making a list of every color she used, I came up with twenty-two. What a breath of fresh air, since there were a few painters’ interviews I read that listed six. I think I’d rather eat old socks than only use six colors. (As it is, my revised list is up to twenty-six. My husband thinks I’m nuts and has become the Paint Police whenever I mention adding a color or two!)

My dad and I are supposed to leave on Monday for a road trip out west, although with the parks closed I don’t know what we’ll do. I’m taking along some paints and my watercolor sketch book, and am working on some more Forest Spirits til we leave!

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