Join me on my artistic journey...
I am a full time artist, and blessed with a new 12x18' art studio. It is a bit small for me. Storage is key. Like most artists, it is easy enough to become a bit of a hoarder with art supplies. There are likely dozens of good reasons why this happens. Over the years, every time you take a work shop or class, it seems you are needing new supplies, and you hang on to them! Face it - they are expensive. Every Christmas, and birthday I have received Opus gift cards [Opus is my opium]. The chi chi of art supplies, and friendly, helpful staff. I also have run into Michaels [only with a coupon in my pocket] to pick up a paint tube or two.
Have you ever read that if you keep an overstuffed closet, you end up wearing only 10% of your clothes? I am starting to think it may be the same for artists - if your paints are not organized, do you use only the same 10% of your paint colours?
I came to this realization after spending several frustrating hours rooting in my plastic containers of paint tubes after an ever elusive colour. I was taking an intense colour theory and mixing workshop for artists. The more skilled you become as an artist, the more you realize there is more still to learn. I am skilled enough I can now recognize where an artist has used paint 'right out of the tube' in their painting. Like many though, I have been mesmerized in the art store paint aisles, lusting after certain high pigment colours. The thought of mixing my own, from scratch has been somewhat of a lofty ideal. I mean the perfect colour is in a tube on that shelf! Seems so convenient!
The supply list for the workshop seemed simple enough for me to find in my studio - Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue, Pthalo Blue, Alizarin Crimsom, Transparent Earth Red, and Cadium Yellow Light. In theory I would be able to mix any elusive colour in the world from this small palette. Think of the storage problems solved! I eventually found all of the required colours in my paint hoard, except for Transparent Earth Red.
On the to do list of all future things, I had been meaning to put some order to my paints for some time. I lugged out all of the bins, and tipped them out on my worktable. I had six bins to work with and roughly sorted all of the paint tubes into the bins based on colours.
Reds, Oranges, Pinks, Purples
Greens and Yellows
Golds to Brown
This took some time, but was really the easy part. Individually, I then turned over each bin onto the table, and sorted out the colour along the spectrum down the table. You know how when you move and empty your kitchen cubboards and discover you have three containers of paprika? This was much worse, as I found multiples of many favorite paint colours. For someone who rarely likes to introduce purple on my canvases, why on earth I had so many tubes of different shades of purple, is a mystery to me. I can only think they must have made it into my studio as part of paint group boxes. Clearly more discipline and order was required.
I got rid of all sad little dried up tubes, that I had kept for some reason. Each colour family was lined up in a long line from pale to dark shade. Dividing the lined up hues even further, these then went as small shade groups into small freezer bags. Then all of the bagged colours that belonged together went into the original plastic bin. At a glance I could now see and reach for a bag containing various shades of any colour. I hope now that this is done, I can keep it up! Have I only been using 10% of my colours due to an overstuffed paint storage system? It is entirely possible.
After doing all of this, I discovered I did not own a single tube of Transparent Earth Red. Looks like another trip to Opus!
Everyone has a different artistic journey, the only tricky part can be to find your path to start. Are you already on your path, or are you still finding your way? Thinking back, as a small child I can remember being in awe of the natural world, the colours, the texture, the way everything was in a constant subtle change depending on the light. By four, I always had pretty shells, or little rocks that I carried around in my pocket or lined up on my dresser. [Still do!]. I liked touching them and feeling the textures, or turning them over and over, looking at them closely in the light. I always kept that sense of wonder with the world.
I read once that most children will lose this connection with the natural world around the age of eleven, and for many they never get it back. Some will still try, and take up different art 'hobbies' or classes on occasion but give up in frustration. We are all born naturally talented, yet why are some people more in tune with their natural creative self?
First - decide where you are on your own artistic journey. Are you trying to get back to your eleven year old self? Maybe you are the frustrated adult who has a closet full of various dusty supplies you look at a bit guiltily on occasion when you are reaching for something else. Perhaps you are painting on a regular basis but just not 'getting it', and could be in the wrong medium? Or are you an artist but have hit a roadblock, while struggling to stay creative.
Here are a few easy suggestions of how to find your creative self and also continue on your artistic journey:
1. Creative Space - Not everyone is blessed to have a studio of their own, but you can have a special creative space in your home, no matter how small it is. Maybe this is just a little box of your artistic things kept in your kitchen for a start. I have seen fabulous little spaces created with very little, in living room corners, or spare closets. The key is that you are more likely to create if your brain recognizes your little space, as the place to create.
2. Regular Practice - Have a look at your daily schedule and busy life...how much time have you scheduled yourself for creativity? Creating art requires some talent, but mostly it is practice, practice, and more practice. You need to regularly schedule this creative time in your life, even if it is only two hours a week. Creating art requires some discipline.
3. Learn Art Skills - even self taught artists have to have some type of instruction. Check out what you can access for free [I am always an Artist Diva on a Dime]. Opus for example, is a wonderful resource for their free demonstrations by gifted people. Is there a large art store near you? Ask them! Also check out Utube, for unlimited free demos that have been posted on a variety of mediums and techniques. If you are a beginner, check out community colleges for night school painting classes offered. If you can manage it, take a more challenging course or workshop in a specialty art form you want to try out from a skilled artist [these are usually advertised]. Sign up for newsletters in your local art community to find out what is going on near you. Join art groups, and meet other artists.
4. Visit Art - when ever you can in your busy month, try and visit a small gallery, museum show, or local community art. You need to see what other people are creating! This is not to intimidate you, it is to educate your eye on what you like, color schemes you may not have thought of, or different mediums you may have never seen before.
5. Get in Tune with Yourself - meditation, mindfulness, yoga, running, quiet walks are just a few ideas for how you can sharpen your creativity. When I am in the forest, or on the beach, I practice isolating how many shades of green I see, or interesting textures. This is an artistic focus exercise, that trains your brain to be present in your environment.
To me, the true beauty in the natural world, is found in the imperfection. I attempt to practice the Japanese principle of Wabi-sabi in the way I look at the world, and also in my studio. This is finding my vision in the natural simplicity around me and then a balance between the “wabi” (imperfection, humbleness and freedom from attachment) and the “sabi” (austere sublimity). The practice of wabi-sabi in my art is the art of imperfection; the flawed beauty; the natural simplicity; the free flow of movement; the lack of structure. I seek to create dreamy, imperfect flow of colour and shapes, with the added sensation of texture.