Today I got a little outside of my comfort zone.
When I went full time in August, I joined an amazing Collective of artists organized by Emily Jeffords. Each week I dedicate time to some "course work" on running my business effectively, and I'm a member of a community that allows me to network and engage with other creatives around the clock! It's been such an amazing experience, and gives some structure to this crazy journey of mine.
So where am I going with this? Well, if you're on any form of social media you know that things change all the time. The algorithms that connect us are constantly evolving, and that creates all kinds of challenges for small businesses - it's been incredibly positive to be part of a community that is working together to change behaviors quickly. You see, for you as a personal account, this change just shifts who you see and when.. For a big business, it changes how their marketing budgets are used.. But for small businesses, it means having to educate your audience on how to keep your posts on their feed, and utilizing the social features that the algorithm pushes (even if it's not necessarily something your audience typically likes).
Instagram recently shifted their algorithm (again), and the types of interactions that used to increase your impressions (the number of people actually seeing your content) are no longer effective. So I had to get out of my comfort zone. Instagram live, reels, stories, and IGTV are apparently now crucial to success, and these features have not typically been part of my social strategy. UNTIL TODAY when I went "live".
As anticipated, there were some nuances that didn't come up in any of my research, but I was able to learn through experience. I had so much fun, and was so pleased with the engagement! It was so worth it, even if it wasn't perfectly smooth. Because of some technical difficulties, I was unable to save the video to my IGTV in full, so I wanted to take a moment to record some of the great questions I received, as well as my answers!
What are you working on today?
Today I was working on a painting for The Cover of Land Collection, which will be released in entirety in mid-late March. The colors of this painting were inspired by the cover of the historical fiction book, The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia. There was something about the ochres, rusts, and greens that made me think of a grassy marsh, and so I went with that for the subject matter!
What is this awesome playlist?
I have two playlists that I crank in my studio, both of which are available on spotify! The one I was listening to today was made my one of my great friends, Taylor, who created it for me when I was contemplating going full-time with my artwork in June of 2020 - here's a direct link!
I also listen to one I created myself pretty often, which I'll link here as well.
Are you enjoying working on such textured paper? Will you be using it for more works?
This paper is SO much fun to work on! Not only is the texture just so satisfying to look at, but it's also very different to work with. Because it's made of 100% cotton it's much more absorbent, making it really fun for landscape work - I also LOVE the deckled edges. The water and pigments interact with the paper so differently, and it makes it even more important for intentional mark making.
I definitely am enjoying playing with it, and would absolutely use it for my loose, impressionistic works in the future. I probably won't use it for portraiture until I've had plenty of time to play around with it - the results will likely be much different then my typical, smooth watercolor paper.
Do you only use one brush for a painting?
Definitely not! During the course of my two hour live video, I used five brushes, and I'll use many more over the course of this painting. I started with very wide, round brushes because they'll cover a lot of surface area and hold pigment like crazy, which is perfect for my base layers. As I worked my way to finer points of the piece, I traded my large brush for slightly smaller sizes - although I am typically partial to a round brush over a flat!
I left off today with my base layers down, so this painting will probably not see anymore love from my large brushes as I continue. Moving forward I'll stick to much smaller, fine detail brushes to pull each individual blade of grass.
Do you always paint light to dark?
This is very dependent on the medium you're using. I work primarily with watercolor, and definitely do choose to work light to dark almost always. It's very challenging to take something away once you've committed to it in watercolor, and darker colors/thicker pigments are almost impossible to erase completely.
I work layer by layer, starting with light washes of my darkest colors, and slowly building them up. This prevents me from applying too much pigment into a piece, and having to start a work over completely because it went too dark or too bold.
I often work light first, building up the colors and textures slowly until I'm ready for my deepest contrasts. Sometimes I'll add some lights like White or Naples Yellow over the darks to get the tone just right before adding the deepest darks. I always come back through with another round of lightest lights at the end, which sometimes takes a few layers - a great example of this is the highlights on eyes in portraiture!
However, if you're an acrylic or oil painter, you probably will work dark to lights! The pigments are much more opaque, making it much easier to paint your dimensions forward (dark to light), rather than backwards (light to dark).
Do you have any recommendations for making trees not look like a 3rd grader drew them?
I am by no means an expert on this, but I can tell you that the more you paint something the better you will be at painting it! There are a few things that are important for trees specifically:
1) We were taught as children that trees should be little triangles piled on top of each other, but they're not at all symmetrical like this! The are organic, and curvy, and twiggy, and weird! It will take awhile for your trees to feel well done when you're trying to break your habits when it comes to trees, but push through it. I promise they'll start feeling more natural!
2) Trees have a ton of texture and dimension. I would recommend doing some tree studies when you focus on drawing/painting a tree and just a tree. Over and over and over. Play with painting the bark, look at the way the branches overlap and curve, and keep in mind that trees sway and tremble in the wind.
I did a tree study a few years ago (a few photos below - unfortunately I no longer have all of them because they went to friends/family who loved them), where I gave myself just 15 minutes a day to draw the same tree, but each day I focused on a different part of the tree (i.e. movement, shape, depth, and realism). I added another element to this study, where I wrote down how I felt about each, which I think was helpful in determine where I probably needed to work harder and also what styles I enjoyed most. (It's important to remember that your artistic style might not be realism - do it for the process, you'll love the art you enjoy making most.
Anyways, I hope this was as fun for all of you as it was for me, and if you missed it I hope that you learned something from my recap! I'm hoping to do this again soon, so hopefully I'll see you there! XO