Giving up: an artist’s journey of self-realization

Giving up: an artist’s journey of self-realization

Have you ever thought of giving up?

Let me rephrase that. I don’t mean giving up ENTIRELY (please don’t do that!). No, I’m talking about that come-to-Jesus meeting, that intervention we all face at strategic points in our lives. Who am I? What is my purpose? Apparently, I did that this week – to a lesser extent. Not so much, “What is my purpose?” as, “Why don’t people like meeeee?!” (Or, maybe I just had a mental breakdown and started talking back to the voices in my head. But hey, I’m an artist. We’re allowed a little bit of insanity.)

So how does giving up work, exactly?

1. Learn from your past, but don’t live there.

Memories 259x300 - Giving up: an artist's journey of self-realization

This is me – my story of how I got to where I am, and my story of self-realization. I began the journey a long time ago. Lots of starts and stops along the way, from the kid who doodled all over her books in elementary school, to the artsy girl in high school drawing anime characters, to the budding art professional with a Bachelor in Studio Art. I have worked in graphic design, as a preschool art teacher, and all kinds of non-creative jobs scattered in between.

During some of that time, my muse stayed close. We were best friends. I had so many ideas, I thought I may burst if I didn’t get them down on paper. Long dry spells inevitably followed. Days were spent plagued with depression and anxiety and a constant struggle to find some sort of self-worth. Nothing I did was good enough. I felt inferior and longed for days past when things weren’t so complicated and hard.

Both sides of that coin shaped who I am today, so I cannot regret any of it. But I can learn from those times. And, when those dry spells inevitably come around again, I can be ready for them.

2. Let go of unrealistic expectations.

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I found my footing again last fall. Since then, I have spent every-possible-moment-since taking advantage of the inspiration, painstakingly trying to create quality content — and trying to grow my fan-base, extend my empire. Except, my empire is very, very small (really more of a village). For a while that bothered me and, if I’m honest with myself, it still bothers me a bit.

But, do you know what? I am learning that when I raise the bar too high, too fast, that’s when I crash and fail. So what if I have few followers? Those that do follow me, my people, my kindred spirits — they are gold. YOU, my friends, are precious gold. Because you are real people who take an interest in what I do. You find value in the work I create (if not, you wouldn’t bother hanging around). That means so much more than thousands of followers.

At the end of the day, I need to feel that my art means something. I need to believe that my words have power. We all do. But if I touch only one soul, make only one person smile, that still means something.

3. Give up on what you can’t control.

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I have spent years fighting for control. Control over my circumstances. Control over how others perceive me. Things that I can never hope to attain but that I continue to beat myself up over. I cannot force others to like what I do. I cannot force others to invest in my work. But I CAN foster relationships and build trust with those who do. And that’s my focus, from here on out. Creating quality art for quality people, numbers be damned.

I may not have 2000 followers. I may not be earning much at all from my Patreon campaign. But if I focus on the small things, I realize that I’m pretty lucky in the long run. 🙂

What do you have a hard time giving up on? Let me know in the comments below!

My favorite things about autumn (& fun things to do when the weather starts to turn)

My favorite things about autumn (& fun things to do when the weather starts to turn)

I miss autumn on the east coast.

autumn east coast fall change forest path dirt road leaves

That crisp air and the crinkling of leaves underfoot. Red, amber, orange, and gold that explodes in a kaleidoscope of color everywhere I turn. The biting scent of burning firewood from chimneys and outdoor fire pits. Scarves and warm fabrics; heavy boots and sweaters. Pumpkin everything.

Back in my hometown, you are completely immersed in the fall season. The leaves pile high enough to jump into. Once the weather turns cold, it sticks to you and lingers. Cold turns colder. Frost covers every surface . Every waking moment, you are reminded of the season. Halloween seems a tangible, real thing. Pumpkins and pumpkin spice are the norm.

Okay, so living down south still has a lot of those things. Certainly the pumpkin. But, it’s hard to enjoy fall when the mornings are frigid but, by midday, the temperature has shot up 40 or 50 degrees and the afternoons turn sweltering hot. (Mother Nature has a serious case of menopause down here.)

Alabama autumns just aren’t the same.

fall leaves turning colors white picket fence forest

In Alabama, the trees hold onto their leaves until the last possible second. There are brief flashes of color interspersed within the green, until one day late in the season – the leaves fall in great bunches, leaving the branches bare for winter. No kaleidoscope. Just a spark that extinguishes when winter rolls in.

Halloween makes less sense to me in that warm Alabama weather. Pumpkins and pumpkin spice seems a bit forced.Although I am jealous of the kids in this area. (Insert old granny voice) When I was that age, we fought tooth and nail every year NOT to have to wear a winter coat over our costumes. Here, it’s so nice out that they usually don’t need any jacket at all. Many times I remember my friends and I (unsuccessfully) trying to squeeze out coats underneath the costume. Marshmallow ballerinas, puffy superheroes, policemen that looked like that had one too many donuts… it was truly a sight to behold.

But, north or south, east or west, autumn is still my favorite time of year. If you’re like me, autumn is the perfect time to reflect. It is a time of creative renewal. I get my second wind, and the ideas start rolling in.

Here are some fun things to do to keep you in a creative, artistic mindset (and maybe a jumping off point for some great new projects!):

Now that you are in the right mindset, take this time to think about your favorite fall things. Maybe jot them down, describe them in detail. Try out one of the ideas above. Snap photos. Journal. Mind map some new ideas.

While you are delving into all these creative outlets – what are your favorite things about autumn? And, what sort of things do you like to create during this season? Post them in the comments below!

Seven things that shaped my art style

Seven things that shaped my art style

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” – Charles Caleb Colton

How true that statement is. Everyone has things they love, and many of those things shape us. It’s inevitable. This is no less true when it comes to our art. We see things we like, we imitate and try to shape our style to include those things.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am NOT talking about stealing other people’s work and passing it off as your own. I am also NOT talking about imitating something so closely that the end result is something that is nowhere near your own work. I am talking about imitating things in a quest to find your own style. Finding styles that you like and working them into a style that is 100% uniquely YOU.

Throughout my journey as an artist, these are the top seven things that have shaped my style:

1. Disney

Belle from Disney's Beauty & The Beast

If you know even a little about me, you know about my love of Disney (also known as an  intense, all-encompassing obsession). I had Little Mermaid everything as a little girl. Then Lion King everything. Then — well, you get the idea. I mean, I currently own approximately 30 Stitch stuffed animals. I am a member of the Disney Vacation Club. I go on Disney cruises.

(I may have a problem…)

My point is, it seems natural that Disney would influence my art style, seeing as I soaked up Disney animation from a very early age.

2. Anime

index

I started my love of Japanese animation (anime) and manga around middle school. It started with Sailor Moon (didn’t every girl from the 90s start with this? No, just me?), though my real love was Card Captor Sakura. It branched off into many different directions, but I started drawing in the Anime style, and it definitely leeched into my work after a time.

3. Labyrinth

Jim Henson's Labyrinth

I blame Labyrinth for my addiction to all things shimmery. (C’mon, that movie is an explosion of sparkles. Seriously. so. much. glitter!!). It is my all-time favorite movie. I’ve watched it an unprecedented number of times. And I admit that I do like to add a bit of sparkle to my work every now and then… Oh, and I will always love owls.

4. Just Imagine: a Book of Fairyland Rhymes

Guy Gilchrist's Just Imaging: a Book of Fairyland Rhymes

For anyone that isn’t familiar with this picture book… oh, you’ve missed so much, my friend. In case you can’t see the theme, I really, really love fantasy and fairy tales. I think this may have been the beginning of it all. Guy Gilchrist is an amazing illustrator (and the writing is spectacular as well). He has this whimsical, slightly antiqued style with soft colors.

5. Contemporary Artists

Aimee Major

Danger Kitty (c) Aimee Major. All rights reserved.

I came across Aimee Major when I was in high school. She was going to college for character animation (which I really, really wanted to do! Funny how life doesn’t work out quite how we picture…. Anyway, I digress). Her work was and is spectacular. She’s worked on several animated television shows over the years, and I remain a faithful follower of her work. And she definitely influenced my style in the late 90s.

James Hance

james-hance-wookie-the-chew

James Hance. This man is my hero. He makes the most wonderful geeky masterpieces. I mean, seriously, his work is brilliant. C’mon, Wookie the Chew? He combined Star Wars with my all-time favorite stories – A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. So, I’m not ashamed to admit that he inspires me to be as geeky as I like in my art. If he can make such beautiful masterpieces, surely I can, too!

6. Antique photography

little girl vintage art collage rose child from Pixabay

I love looking at antique photographs. The soft, muted colors (or soft shades, for black and white or sepia photos). The slightly warm sepia tint that comes through that makes them look worn and old. I think that’s why I’m growing to love watercolor so much. You can recreate so much softness that way.

7. Comic books

sincity
Rogue and Gambit cover X-men Marvel Comics

This is a bit of a broad subject, but I do love comic books, and I do feel they have shaped my style quite a bit. Especially comics such as Sin City. I really, really love the black-and-white/grayscale mood of the art with splashes of color mixed in at certain places.

So, that’s basically it. I’m sure I could come up with many more, but really, those seven things encompass most of what my style is comprised of. Now, it’s your turn. What sorts of things have influenced YOUR style? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Top picks for October: art tutorials

Top picks for October: art tutorials

how to draw aladdin (disney)

my entire childhood.

If you’re anything like me (and you probably are not, because I’m completely strange unique), then you like to find tutorials on the web and try them out. Or, you know, buy those Disney “How to Draw” books. Does anyone else remember those? Are those still a thing? I need to see if I still have mine. I’m pretty sure I got twenty.

(No, that wasn’t a reference to Little Mermaid. I swear.)

Ehem. Anyway, the point being, I love tutorials. And so, I’ve scoured the web for days on end (translation: I googled for about ten minutes) and found a list of art tutorials and projects that I love and want to try — and I hope you try them, too!

  • Tips for drawing backgrounds: I will be the first to admit that I hate drawing backgrounds. I don’t know why, but I do. So, that of course means that I should be practicing drawing backgrounds as much as possible because if it’s not something you love doing, you aren’t going to do it, then it’s going to suck, and then all your art is going to suck, and then you’re going to curl up in a ball and cry. So.
  • Step-by-Step Digital Painting Tutorial: Not only do I love this artist’s style, but the infographic-style of this tutorial is beautiful to look at and extremely thorough. I already follow several of her steps, so it will be easy for me to try this one out and tweak my current process!
  • 13 Short Guides That Will Make You a Color Expert: These articles are short and sweet, but jam-packed with great information!
  • Head over to Clementine Creative for a list of 12 watercolor tutorials that you can check out. (I, for one, want to strengthen my weak skill in watercolor. It’s a medium where you kind of have to let go — which I have a hard time with!!)
  • I love this extremely thorough guide on How to Draw Complex Folds and Ruffles in Fabric and Clothing. Nothing beats live reference material, and the first thing this article shows is photographed, real fabrics folded and bunched up to give you a truer sense of just how fabric works.

Talking about references… Looking at other artist’s work to help your skill along is never a bad thing (we all do it, and these tutorials are a great example). But, when at all possible, use live references (or at least photographs of live references).

Not only will you ensure that your style remains your own, you will also make sure you don’t inadvertently pick up any bad habits from other artists, either. (Sorry. We ALL have them.)

  • Along the same vein as clothing, shoes are something I am always trying to improve on. Well, feet and shoes. And I was going to look for a specific tutorial when I came across this link to a bazillion (okay maybe not quite that much, but close) tutorials and references on Pinterest. So, why try to invent the wheel?

Another aside on clothing: this book by John Peacock is amazing! I have one of its older siblings, but I may have to upgrade. It’s a great reference on different clothing styles throughout (most) of history.

  • One final tutorial on drawing figures – this article on Design Your Way has a ton of video tutorials on everything from eyes, to faces, to gesture drawing and poses.

You can also  view more art references and tutorials on my Pinterest board, Art Reference – I update fairly frequently.

So, about those tutorials… Seriously. Try them. And let me know how they are in the comments.

I’ll wait. 😉

(P.S. If you have Netflix, they now have the entire Bob Ross series available to stream. That man fostered my obsession with art at a very early age. And, c’mon. Bob Ross. I dare you to watch it and not laugh you @$$ off or end up in a good mood by the end!)

bobross

Supercharge your skills with nano sketching!

Supercharge your skills with nano sketching!

I have always stressed the importance of keeping a sketchbook. My studio at home is jam-packed full of sketchbooks – big ones, small ones, skinny ones, fat ones, (yes, this is sounding like a Dr. Seuss book…)

Karen Elaine’s idea of nano sketching, though. I admit I fell in love with this idea as soon as I read about it! Sketchbooks, minified! Sort of like flash fiction, only for art. And like flash fiction does for writing, nano sketching condenses your art into a small, confined area, which helps to tighten skills and sharpen focus.

So, what is a nano sketch?

Nano sketches are quick gesture drawings done with a pencil (no erasing) keeping the lines loose light and free.

Sounds pretty simple. We used to do exercises like this in art school. Sometimes we would have to look only at the subject and never down at the paper – you know, if you want to take this to an even more advanced level. Or are a bit of a masochist. Either way.

Nano sketches are quick and usually done in a public place.

Since the journals themselves tend to be so small, this makes sense. Think of the possibilities! I would love to take one of these on vacation with me and do sort of a sketch-journal about my experiences!

A real useful trick is to photograph your subject first so you have an image to refer to when things change (and they always do) and if you want to complete the sketch at a later time.

I love the above piece of advice. I almost never finish a sketch in time — and when I am drawing active scenes, it’s great to grab a shot of the instance for future reference. I don’t know about you, but it’s kind of difficult for me to sketch someone jumping in mid-air in the nanosecond it takes them to jump up and then hit the ground again.

If you can do that, you must be some sort of superhero, and you should be out fighting crime instead of sketching.

Making time for nano sketches every day is a quick and easy way to practice drawing and painting skills and to observe the world in an entirely different way. 

Challenge accepted!

Seriously, though, I have been trying to make it a goal to draw something daily. Even more so, to draw things I actually see (as opposed to things from my crazy ADHD mind) to help hone and refine my skills. Art is kind of like riding a bike. If you stop riding, you start to lose the basics and you don’t ride nearly as well as if you had ridden daily.

Or something like that. I’m bad at metaphors.

Anyway, I highly recommend you check this guest post out at Doodlewash! Karen goes into much more detail, and her sketches are lovely! (I mean, just look at that cat. So adorable!)

Scroll down to the end of the post for the link to the full article. And, enjoy!


nanosketch6 - Supercharge your skills with nano sketching!

Greetings, my name is Karen Elaine and I am an artist, author and teacher living in the mountains near Sedona, Arizona living with my husband and cat (follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and visit my website!). I’m the author of Origami Card Craft and The Art of Kumomi as well as other books on paper crafting […]

via GUEST DOODLEWASH: Nano-Sketching by Karen Elaine — Doodlewash

Spark creativity with simple ways to find creative inspiration

Spark creativity with simple ways to find creative inspiration

Spark creativity with these simple tips…

These are just some of my favorite ways to spark creativity when I’ve my muse has all but deserted me — and they are certainly not the ONLY options! But, I think these tips are ones that most people can agree on.

What sorts of things do you do to spark creativity or get in a creative mindset? 🙂

Feel free to share the below infographic with a link to my site!

Ways to spark creativity

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