Mile 5: snow flowers? no thanks!

I have to say, I was NOT excited about painting over my mug. The assignment was to paint some loosely drawn flowers- you know, the kind all girls doodled all over their notebooks as children. Ugh, the thought of painting over my mug with these flowers that I didn’t even like the idea of was disheartening. I’ve been stuck inside for the past three days due to the large amount of snow (at least for Nashville- they didn’t even attempt to clear my street until today. Where are the salt trucks?!), so I had plenty of time to get this painting done. Instead I sat around (and played in the snow, of course) for two days refusing to do it. I finally had an idea to paint “snow flowers,” so I painted over my mug with white paint and outlined some flowers. Then I realized that I hadn’t really thought out the snow flower thing and whatever I was doing looked awful. I seriously considered just skipping this one, but I knew I’d feel like I’d cheated myself if I did.

Then I noticed some stylized flowers I actually like! My shower curtain is made from a tablecloth that I love, but my cozy little house doesn’t have room for things like tables, so I had to re-purpose my flowery tablecloth when I moved in. Anything that resembled this would make me happier than my snow flowers, so I re-defined my source of inspiration and my painting took a major turn for the better. It’s still not my favorite painting of the marathon thus far, but I do like it now! The colors are a nice contrast to the cold white (well, now slushy gray) of the outdoors. Plus, I loved using dots of paint to create texture and interest. I’ll definitely be using this technique again in future paintings!


Mile 4: a “perfect” coffee mug

Mile 4: Paint a coffee mug! This project was intended to make us think about shapes- that all objects, even the most complex ones, are composed of simple lines and shapes. I talked about “learning to see things” in my mile 2 post (seems like it may have been more applicable here though!). A coffee mug is made up of a few simple ovals and curved lines. When you learn to look at objects for their basic qualities, then drawing or painting them becomes much easier.

This was the first painting in the marathon that made me want to paint something that LOOKS real. The thought process here, then, was much different than it was when I was painting the Angel Bird- that was more of a “i’m going to keep adding random colors until i’m happy” process. I wanted to make the mug a bit cartoonish, but with a real-life quality (like PIXAR! I always wanted to be a PIXAR artist!!), so I had to look at a real coffee mug and understand its shapes and shadows. This little coffee cup made me realize how hard painting realistically can be. Despite that drawing is a struggle for me, I feel that it’s a bit easier to shade in the intended effect with a pencil than to figure out to create the effect I want with different paint colors. I sat mind-boggled in front of the coffee mug before I figured out how to lift it from the canvas a bit.

This painting project was a great learning experience, although there are still things I’d like to edit to make it “perfect.” Speaking of “perfection” and shading with pencils, my first drawing teacher in college called the little pot to the right a “perfect pot.” I was so excited because I had never drawn before in my life and I’d somehow, at least briefly, learned how to see that pot’s true qualities and bring it to life. Hopefully with practice I can do the same with a paintbrush!

Mile 3: Angel Bird

Three miles down! I have to admit, though, I had a little trouble getting into this one. I was feeling a bit lackadaisical and couldn’t figure out how to give this little birdie justice. For two days I thought about it, but colors for him weren’t coming to me, so I decided that I just had to start painting anyway. I just kept adding color and thinking that I needed to give up on this one when I looked up and realized, “HEY, I like you flying bird. How did you come to life?”

Whitney’s email for this mile talked about how some primitive societies regarded birds highly because they were thought to be able to travel between the real word and the spirit world. We don’t idolize birds to that extent today, but some of this respect has remained throughout the centuries. Flying is synonymous with succeeding, achieving, being the best you can be- all things that can be attributed to, or at least related to, our spiritual world. I thought about this as I painted, and I suppose these thoughts seeped into the painting because when I finished my Mom called him an Angel Bird. So that is what I’ll call him, too. Sometimes insight and inspiration come at the unlikeliest of times.

Mile 2: Finding My Inner Child

I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to paint over my pink trees. I always feel that my work looks better when I see it again in the morning, so accepting it and then immediately covering it up was definitely a test of detachment (one of the goals of the Creatively Fit Marathon). My Mom sent me this email (for those of you who know me, YES my Mom can send an email now! I’m so proud!) when she found out I was pursuing this:

I just reread Words I Wish I Wrote by Robert Fulghum, and the second page of the first chapter talks about something called Pentimento.  This refers to old paint on canvas and how when it ages it becomes transparent and you can see images of past paintings.  Lillian Hellman calls this Pentimento because the painter repented or changed his mind along the way.  She says this is a way to say that an old conception, replaced by a later choice is a way of seeing something and then seeing it again.

I thought of this as I dipped my brush in the yellow paint that was bound to blot out my trees. This is really just a step in my canvas’s (and my own) coming of age, isn’t it?

This Mile was intended to bring us back to our roots. We all drew figures like this as children. In fact, there’s a framed chalkboard in my parents’ house that has some of my earliest “art” – my stick brother and I looked much like the guy in the painting! Whitney included a tidbit of information in the email about Picasso. He was a heavily trained artist, but he spent most of his life trying to “un-train” himself and  find the innocence of childhood art- it’s raw, basic, and colorful. So, I put the paintbrush in my left hand (the non-dominant one!) and called to my inner child. As simple as this one is, it’s really growing on me already. I love the texture from the first painting that’s peeking through.

In a way, this reminds me of one of the very first projects I did in my very first drawing class in college. We were to look at the still life in the center of the room and draw it, but we were not to look at the paper until we were finished. We were learning how to really see and understand the shapes and shadows from wherever we were sitting in the room, and not to focus on the paper we were transferring them to or what we thought the objects should look like. Obviously the drawing didn’t turn out too well because I wasn’t allowed to look at it until near the end, but the exercise taught me one of the greatest techniques I have learned so far- how to look at things for what they are and not what I think they should look like.

Mile 2 felt similar to this college exercise because the goal was to get back to the root of things. Become a child. Understand basic shapes because complex things always have to start at the beginning- in art and in life. And it also reminded me that I am completely unable to draw perfect circles- especially with my left hand!

Enjoy my little man while he’s still around! In a few days he’ll be hiding under whatever Mile 3 brings!

Mile 1: Ready? Set. Go!

Mile One is complete! The first email came on Friday when I was in New Orleans, and I had all my tools with me, but of course I didn’t take the time to start a marathon while I was on vacation. I’m proud of all those runners who work out no matter what day it is, but I’m just not there yet! I was excited all day to get started though. I was inspired by something pink and grey today, so I decided to step out of my box and use colors that I honestly never use (call me Mother Earth-Tone). It’s a bit Heffalumps and Woozles, isn’t it? The outline of the painting was provided to us, so it made it a bit easier to take that first step.

I had actually done this particular painting when I purchased Whitney’s paint kit last year —->   —->   —->   —->    —->   —-> and I really like how it turned out, so I hated to paint over it. Plus wouldn’t it be cheating if I used a months-old work as my very first of 26 paintings? So, I dug out my pencil box, sketched the outlines, and started all over! I’ve found that I gravitate toward painting trees, so this was a perfectly comfortable start.

This will get painted over in the next day or two, an act that will definitely take some getting used to, but it gives me the freedom to take some risks that I wouldn’t normally take if the painting would potentially be hanging on my (or someone else’s) wall. I’m hoping to be able to move quicker and with more confidence as the paintings progress and as I become more “creatively fit!”

2010: the year of the marathon(?!)

So, I’m about to embark on a 26 painting marathon along with Whitney Ferre and her painting groupies. Here’s her website: I’ve loved tinkering with painting since last spring, but I need to step it up a notch. Hopefully in the next couple months I’ll improve my skills, learn about the painting process, and learn a little about myself. The word “marathon” is a bit scary to me, but hopefully this will spur lots of positive changes in 2010.

I don’t know how this all works yet, but the basic idea is that I’ll be painting 26 paintings on top of each other in a period of a couple months. AHH!! Follow my progress starting January 15th-ish!