How do you get yourself out from under emotional challenges? Do you use your creative outlets and/or something else?
As most of you know, starting late summer I took a sabbatical for several months because I needed to Prevent a Train Wreck. This time was followed by our much anticipated vacation to Barcelona. Unfortunately, it was rudely interrupted by the theft of all of our luggage from inside of our rental car as described in Thieves Among Geniuses-Miro and Gaudi. As a result of this traumatic experience, I have been experiencing periodic mild anxiety attacks. This was a surprise me and continues to confound me. Consequently, I have not been inspired or motivated to paint, much less anything else work related.
I had intended to return from our European vacation all charged up and ready to get back to work. Ha! My psyche wasn’t ready, so I have been patiently listening to my body and trying to take care of myself. Meanwhile, what about my art? As I mentioned in my last blog post, I asked a good art friend to push me to start a couple of paintings. I did and that was Okay, but not satisfactory.
This week, after a few mornings of mild anxiety attacks, I decided that I needed to do something different. Painting has almost always served as an emotionally grounding activity for me, but I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to paint! This is not a common phenomenon for me. Feeling lost like this indicated that I still needed some healing time. However, sitting around watching the snow fall (quite the snow storms this week in Colorado), wasn’t working for me.
When in a conundrum such as this, I often pose challenges for myself. I decided that I would use existing painting materials and try something I have only watched on YouTube. I would paint multiple paintings on one sheet of 22″ x 30″ watercolor paper. Here is the step-by-step process of my mixed media demo.
Step 1: First, I gessoed a sheet of 140lb cold press watercolor paper with a couple of layers to create some subtle texture. Once dried, the surface buckled like a rolling prairie. I flipped it over, sprayed it with distilled water. Laid it on a clean flat surface and covered it with a large piece of acid free mat board I had on hand. Then placed a heavy half inch piece of wood on top, followed by stacks of books. It dried overnight and the surface came out quite flat.
Step 2: With drafting masking tape, I taped my substrate onto a 24″ x 32″ x 1/2″piece of gatorfoam board, which is light and sturdy.
Step 3: Then I needed to do the math because I wanted to create 8″ x 10″ paintings. This meant I wanted my taped openings to be 8.5″ x10.5″ so I can mat these in 8″ x 10″ pre-cut mats. Ultimately, I intend to sell these small mixed media paintings at upcoming studio events, if they are good enough. And if this first attempt is not up to snuff, I plan to continue doing more of these.
Step 5: Then I decided on a color palette. I always determine a color palette before I start painting. If I don’t, then confusion from all of the available choices becomes overwhelming and I usually end up making a mess. I do not consider deciding on a color palette as limiting, rather as a way for me to see how I can maximize the use of the chosen colors. It does not mean I will not add another color ultimately if I think the painting needs it.
Below shows my color palette, which is different for me; this was another challenge I presented to myself. I also gathered up several possible papers I would consider for collaging. Using collage papers makes this a mixed media demo versus a typical painting demo. 🙂
Step 6: I applied the gray color all over the piece, treating it as one painting. Using a palette knife, I randomly applied worm-like paint and then with a credit card, scraped the paint. With another tool, I scraped those lines you can see.
Step 7: Then I turned the board and dripped and painted the muted gold color. I also splattered some black. Between each of these steps, I let the paint dry.
Step 8: I like stencils and sponged in this whimsical design and smeared areas with black.
Step 9: I noticed that my first stencil was not within my four 8″x10″ windows —argh! –so I added another. Pieces of ripped sheet music were also collaged using acrylic medium.
Step 10: Up to this point, I am looking at the whole piece as one painting and ignoring what is going on in each of the ‘windows.’ Next I painted and drew with more black paint, then added the Quinacridone Azo Gold. Notice also that I dripped some rubbing alcohol to get some organic shapes.
The layering is important to me because I want to create a sense of depth. Throughout the process, I am letting experimentation and my intuition lead me. I am not invested in a successful painting(s). Learning to let go like this has been fascinating and I enjoy it. After many layers, I start thinking about the major elements of design.
Curiosity has caught up with me and I am wanting to know what each of the 8.5″ x10.5″ ‘windows’ are looking like. I painted white on top of the taped lines to get a better look.
Step 12: Now, I am looking at each ‘window’ and starting to evaluate its design elements. I tweaked a few colors, values and shapes. I had decided not to use white during this exercise, which was difficult to do. The white I used is called titanium bluff, which is a cream white. (Note: The photos above were taken with my iPhone, whereas the photos below were taken by my Nikon camera. Hence, they do look slightly different.)
Step 13: It’s time for the reveal of this mixed media demo! I have never done this exercise before, so this is exciting to see. Below you can see the individual paintings. Which ones, if any, will become a small painting?
Step 14: Now, I can see them individually. Ultimately, I will work on each one, move its orientation and decide if any are keepers.
Do you have a favorite? If so, why do you like it? I will also see if I want to add another color such as a brighter orange, or a green or cerulean blue. I know I will alter the values in a few places. Consider these a work-in-progress.
This mixed media demo exercise was a good for me to do. In fact, on my first day I painted solid for nearly four hours. I was thrilled and my brain was rid of its monkey mind as well as feelings of not being motivated. I felt like my painting enthusiasm had returned. I walked into out living room and crashed on the coach exhausted. It was a good exhaustion and I felt I had painted out of my funk. Yeh! Not sure how long, but at least for now.
To see more of my larger mixed media and abstract paintings, please click here.
What do you do to move forward through challenging times? Does art or creativity play a role?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave comments below and share the post with others.
Gratefully and colorfully yours,
PS Oops! When I went to buy some pre-cut mats for an 8″ x 10″ painting, I discovered that the window is cut to 7.5″ x 9.5″. Therefore, next time I will tape off only 8″ x 10″ windows on my gessoed watercolor paper.