practice makes perfect……and my challenge to you

imagesHave you ever heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect?”  If so, did you know that it applies to more than doing a back flip or playing a piece of music?  It also applies to art.  Most people don’t realize that many ART skills are achieved solely by practicing. Good artists do studies; they experiment; they do research; they plan; and finally they practice.  I often hear people say that they would love to be able to create art, but don’t have any talent.  Everyone can create art….but if they don’t have lots of natural talent, they will need more practice!  Some might be thinking, “that’s easy for you to say, you already are an artist!”  If you’ve been reading my blogs, you might remember that although I now have a degree in art, I didn’t have much art instruction prior to college, but as a child I drew things every day.

To try to prove my point, I hope you will take the challenge I am about to issue.  Please consider taking my 30 day drawing challenge.  I want you to draw a picture of your hand or a part of your hand every day for the next 30 days.  You don’t have to know how to draw and you don’t need any fancy pencils or paper.  All that is needed for this challenge is a regular pencil, a bit of paper, a few minutes a day, and a camera to record your progress (be sure to put a date on each one).  It isn’t necessary to know how to draw or to be good at drawing to do this. In fact, if you aren’t already good at drawing, you will see more dramatic results.   As a part of this challenge, make sure that you draw what you see and really look at your hand.  See everything about it that makes it have form and then draw it.  Start out with the most basic outline of a hand, but work toward putting in shading and shadows and details.  I can’t wait to see your progress!


My first drawing of my hand…..11/13/14 Not great, but again I haven’t drawn much lately.

If you are a water color painter, I would also challenge you to do a graded wash every day as well. I’ll do it with you and I promise I will show you my results as well. So, don’t waste any more time. Start drawing and painting!

fine art and technology….friends at last

As a library worker, it has been my job to embrace technology.  Thanks to technology, I will never have to type or file another card in a card catalog. Technology also makes access to materials so much easier.  As a designer, it has been a thrill to embrace technology.  The use of technology ended the process of HAND DRAWING every bit of type in different fonts and sizes based on what we wanted in our designs.  (Yes, that’s the way we had to do it before computers!)  As a painter, I don’t know what I would do without technology. That might sound odd to some, but  I use technology for all kinds of things such as composition, trying out new ideas, research, images, image editing and manipulation and the list goes on and on. I’m not sure all fine artists embrace technology as much as I do, but thanks to my experience with it, I am able to use it in the most creative part of my life.

I take lots of pictures with my iPhone.  No, it isn’t the best camera in the world, but it isn’t bad & it is certainly convenient. I rarely, if ever, do plein air painting because of health issues, so my reference photos are invaluable to me and I take lots of them.  I couldn’t have afforded this practice without digital photography and a large hard drive.  Can you imagine printing every picture commercially that you now take?  Me neither!  I try to take pictures of things in the best light possible and bring the photos inside to paint them. So, take my experience in the library, plus my experience as a designer and add to it my experience as a painter with a bunch of technology thrown in and you end up with paintings that are planned, and experimented with, but are all my own!

I also do lots of research on the subject(s) of my painting before I put the first mark on the paper (see above for reference to library work).  I may have taken a picture of a flower that I really like, but I will almost always do a Google Image search to see if there is anything there that is an example of the same thing in different light or with different surroundings that I like better.  Maybe my garden had bright yellow buttercups against a fence and I see an image on Google Images of those same buttercups mixed with purple bell flowers.  The two together might make a much better composition than one or the other alone.  Technology allows me to have millions of ideas in the palm of my hand.  I’m not about to steal someone’s photo, but I certainly will use them as inspirations for some of my own.  Sometimes my research inspires me to handle my subject a bit differently than I thought I would.  Or, I may use Adobe Photoshop to move the flower into a better composition based on something I saw in a photo on-line.  Just because I have a source picture doesn’t mean that I paint it exactly like the photograph.  In fact, I rarely paint anything as it is in my reference photos.  Many of my reference photos are just that….a reference or a beginning.  I use Adobe Photoshop software to alter photographs and to change coloring and lighting and all sorts of things.  I use it because I am familiar with it.  There are other types of software that do just as well.

I can open a photograph in Photoshop and copy/cut  portions of it to move to a different photograph where I can then paste them into the composition.  Or I might edit the original photo and add things to it.  I can distort, rotate, enlarge or reduce elements within the photo or I can use one of a number of filters on the entire photo or  a piece of the photo.  I can also change color palettes, textures, etc. This is one of the many places that you are the artist and can get really creative. Just don’t go overboard and do really gimmicky things.  This is a watercolor painting that you are doing and usually it speaks well enough for itself if done well. You don’t need gimmicks to capture the viewers attention.  A well planned and executed painting should do that by itself.

Compilation of Photos

1st photo of lake with boat and waves superimposed on top of painting. 2nd photo is clip art of speedboat going in opposite direction. 3rd photo of clip art flipped and rotated enough to fit into painting better. 4th photo is of an actual speed boat

As you can see, I have inserted the work of another into my picture, but I don’t intend to use anything of it other than the general outlines to make sure my proportions are correct.  Since I don’t have pictures of a speedboat, I needed some good references for a painting I was doing.  See below for the top of the finished painting and see what I did to make it my own.

Finished painting

Finished painting

Notice that the painting is different from the reference photos.  I got everything exactly where I wanted it before I ever actually started drawing lines onto my paper.  Technology can save the fine artist a great deal of time if they just know how to use it!

If you have any questions about the use of technology in your watercolor paintings, please don’t hesitate to ask.  Until next week….happy painting!

time to blog


I’m not a writer.  I’m an artist pretending to be a writer and I intend to write a blog about watercolor painting.  I will try to blog something new each Tuesday.  I plan to blog about art and watercolor painting and my teaching of watercolor, but I’m guessing that there will be something here for almost anyone!   Meanwhile, remember….I’m an artist pretending to be a writer and hopefully we will all survive this!  Now, on with the blog!


Jon Gnagy – one of the heroes of my youth (along with Roy Rogers of course). A self-taught artist most remembered for being America’s original television art instructor, hosting You Are an Artist on NBC.

to thine own self be true

One must know oneself to be happy and what I know about myself is that if I am to be happy, I must have a creative outlet.  It can be art, crafts or music, but I have to have it in my daily life.  I’ve satisfied this need by doing a variety of creative activities over the years.  Many years of music education afforded me both vocal and instrumental successes in competitions and performances.  I played the clarinet for years and sang in such groups as Sweet Adeline’s, the UU church choir and as a back up singer for a blues band.  The study of music started in fourth grade and continued on until after I was out of high school.  All of this music kept the creative fires stoked for many years.  Meanwhile, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t also draw.  As a child I mostly drew horses because that’s all I thought about.  I wanted one and didn’t get one, so I drew pictures of them.  And yes, I was one of those girls.  It’s ironic that I spent so much time drawing because I never studied art in school.  Instead, I took music classes.  There wasn’t time to do both and after my parents purchased the clarinet, I knew I would be playing that clarinet until I graduated.  Besides, there was no such thing as an art teacher in my elementary.  We did artsy  things with our crayons, glue and scissors in our regular lessons. but no specific art classes.  So, I was on my own with learning about art.  I lived on a farm and was the third of four kids and had a huge inferiority complex.  My dad worked two jobs and mom was a stay-at-home mom who never had a driver’s license.  We were stuck on the farm with no contact with the rest of the world except through television, by phone or by bicycle.  There were no museum visits for me and no fancy books on art either.  I played outside, I climbed trees, I drew pictures and I watched TV.  That was my life in those days.

long ago – my journey to art

A long, long time ago…I earned a degree in Commercial Art.  I didn’t intend to go to college.  Instead, I was going to get married and live happily ever after.  I got married and I got divorced and I got a clerical job in a bank because I wasn’t qualified to do much else without a college education.  I hated working at that bank, but that job made me realize an education was a prerequisite to getting a job I might actually like.  Unfortunately, I had no idea what job that was!  I got the college catalog & thumbed through it repeatedly and more often than not ended up looking at art classes.  I thought art was off limits because I didn’t want to teach and I knew most studio artists didn’t make much.  And then I found the commercial art major.  Thanks to TV, I knew a commercial artist.  I knew Darrin Stephens on the sitcom Bewitched was a commercial artist.  I knew I could do that job and this meant I could get paid to do art.  So I enrolled in college.  I loved my art classes and even though I had never had any formal training in art, I did very well (unfortunately my time with Jon Gnagy (see below) didn’t count).  I did so well in fact, that they gave me an academic scholarship that paid for my classes.  After graduating, it turned out, that as much as I loved art, I didn’t love being a commercial artist.  I had no idea how cut-throat competitive this field was and I’m just not a competitive person.  So, I left the design job and got a job at the local university library and knew I had to find ways to work creativity into my life.  Life took many twists and turns and somehow I ended up with a long career at the library where I still work as the manager of a collection of images (formerly slides) and a collection of material samples.  I’ve been in this job for a very long time.  I’ve always like it and it allows me to have expensive hobbies…such as watercolor painting.

my heroes, better known as my art enablers

I’ve had many heroes in my life.  As I think back, most of them had something to do with my passion for art.  My first was, Jon Gnagy who taught me to draw.  Actually he taught many people to draw as he was a self-taught artist most remembered for being America’s original television art instructor, hosting You Are an Artist.  He was on in the late 50’s and early 60’s and he was fantastic!  He broke drawing down into cubes, cylinders, spheres and pyramids and made even the most difficult subjects easy to draw.  One of my favorite Christmas gifts was one of his “Jon Gnagy Drawing Kits” (they are still sold today).  I guess if Santa wasn’t going to come through with a horse, this was going to have to do.  Forget Bob Ross and his happy trees…Jon Gnagy was my first art hero!  My world stopped on Saturdays when his program came on because Jon was teaching and I was learning.  Jon was my hero.  He gave me the creative outlet that I so craved.  Videos of his show can still be found on YouTube today.  Here is a link to one if you want to check them out.

I have several heroes in my family that made it possible for me to be an artist.  My parents were my heroes for letting me live with them for years while I pursued several creative endeavors including college.  My mom was a separate hero because she  stood up for my need to be creative.  My dad never really understood this need, but my mom did because she had it as well.  She was always immersed in some sort of craft or art project when I grew up.  She also made all of our clothes and eventually joined the tole painting craze of the 70’s & 80’s.  Her talent is memorialized in the intricately painted wooden Santa’s that made for each of us.  My husband, Jeff is also one of my heroes because from the beginning of our relationship, he has been 100% supportive of EVERYTHING I have ever tried to do.  He is my biggest fan and gave me my start in watercolor when he gave me watercolor lessons for Christmas in 2004. Thanks to Jeff whom I love very much, I found my other love…watercolor.

My sisters and my daughter are also my heroes for helping me in so many ways.  Barb for the countless hours she put into helping me get ready for shows; for loaning me money to buy frames; for just being there and  pushing me on.  Karen for being the first of many to buy something I painted.  That painting could be painted so much better now and I’ve often wanted to take it back & do it over, but since it does document a period of time in my painting career, I will leave it as it is. Finally, my daughter Chelsea is also one of my heroes as she is always my on-call critic.  She has an excellent eye for detail and for good art and is honest to a fault!  She sees things that are missing or are weirdly present in my paintings that I can’t always identify.  Her critiques are long distance now, but still very much appreciated.

My first watercolor class was with local and award winning watercolor painter, Brian Gordy.  He is also one of my heroes because he unlocked the mysteries of watercolor for me much the same as Jon Gnagy taught me to draw.  I may or may not ever be the technical perfectionist that Brian is, but what I lack in technical expertise, I make up for in my love of the medium and my willingness to try new things.  Watercolor is absolutely magical to me and there is little in the world that sucks me in and makes me lose all track of time like painting does.  It has provided much pleasure and saved my sanity more times than I can count.

My last hero is Bob Hartley of the local gallery/studio called The Artist Within.  Bob gave me my first opportunity to do a one woman show.  It was so much work, but so much fun.  I’ve shown my work there since as well as in many other venues, but Bob gave me that first opportunity and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. Bob also gave me another opportunity and the encouragement to do it.  He asked me to teach watercolor lessons out of his studio to beginners.  I knew I could paint, but never thought I could teach it.  Now, teaching others to paint is a new passion that I enjoy very much.  All of my heroes have been so instrumental in my evolution as an artist and I thank them and the countless other friends and family that have also supported me and my work.


My upcoming blogs will be nowhere near this long, but to take you on my journey, I felt compelled to tell you how it began and where I’ve been and why I’ve been there.  Now, come back and catch my blog next week when I start telling you about watercolor and not about me.  Enough about me!