The “Skin”ny on Skin

Forgive the title…I’m kind of a dork…

Yowzah it’s been a long time since I posted! So long that I forgot my password to log on to my site! I have been very very busy with things that I will share with you at a future point. However, for the moment, I’m STILL busy. I do want to show you a piece that I finished a few months ago, though, that I’ve yet to share. It’s a diptych (which is a fancy way of saying that it’s on two panels). I had so much fun with the colors in the skin tones-greens, violets, reds… To anyone reading this who is not a (totally obsessed with tiny details, value shifts, and color changes) realist artist, that statement probably sounded weird. I mean, caucasian hands should be painted in caucasian flesh tone, right? Yeah right, and grass is green and apples are red. Ok, well, those last two are true even though much more goes into those than meets the eye as well. But skin… how can I begin!? Skin is an organ, right? The largest organ of your whole entire body. It is a living thing with blood flow, covering muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones. And because it’s translucent, those elements underneath affect the color of the skin on top.  So, take that complexity and add to it some other factors like form, light, shadow, the hills and valleys that make it look like a hand instead of just a lump of peach or brown clay and it gets pretty colorful. Your amazing brain is so amazing that it takes in all those details and processes them without you even noticing, then says simply to you, “That? That’s a hand.” So, take a minute. Look at the back of your hand. Wiggle your fingers and notice how the shape of the shadows changes as you do so. Pretty cool, huh? Now tell me, what color is your skin?

Tug of Love

Tug of Love, detail

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Ok. Let’s try this again

A while ago I showed you this in-progress picture:

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with the promise that you would see it transform along the way into a finished painting. I lied. I didn’t mean to! Sometimes I just can’t finish a painting. There’s certainly something to be said for committing to a project; working until your idea comes to fruition; pressing on until the bitter end. But there’s also something to be said for stopping when you realize that what you’re working on just isn’t “you” anymore. That is not to say the same attitude should apply to every situation that bores you, or even to every painting, but of all the commitments you could flake on in life this is one case where the earth will not shatter, hearts will not break, and jobs will not be lost (unless, of course, it’s a commission- which this was not so I’m free to do what I want. So there!).

Now, let’s try this again with a painting I know I’ll finish- in part because I’m much more more in love with the subject matter. A portrait of my daily life.

To start I did a value study:

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Value study on Ampersand Oil Paper, 6″x8″

A quick laying down of the lights and darks of my composition. This is done on a small scale (in proportion to the size and shape of the finished painting) quickly and loosely, with no gridding, no drawing, and no blending. The purpose of this step is just to help you check the balance of lights and darks in your painting. For example, this composition stands alone because it is primarily dark with a bright white center of interest. When paintings edge too much toward mid-range in value, they get dull no matter what your colors or subject. Value studies are helpful, though because you don’t get distracted by the pretty colors or elaborate patterns and you can really see the bones of the picture. So far, so good. And I’m not a bit bored.

 

 

 

 

Little darlin’, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter…

 

Molly's Tree- pen and ink doodle

Molly’s Tree- pen and ink doodle

There’s a certain pleasant tension, a pressure of life that’s seems palpable in Spring. Moist air weighs on tender new grass, which in turn stretches up toward the sun. Buds push their way through branches’ fingertips and unfurl into fleshy leaves. Tulips and daffodils press their way upward through soft, fresh dirt. It feels like all of nature is pulsing. Can you feel it? Whether you realize it or not I bet you can. Is your step just a little lighter? Do you long to shed un-needed layers, whether of clothing, flesh, or sadness? It’s Spring. Get outside and soak it in.

Daffodils- watercolor sketch

Daffodils- watercolor sketch

Violets- watercolor sketch

Violets- watercolor sketch

In a Rut?

A friend of mine is in an art rut. Man, do I know that feeling!! I’m sure everyone out there has at some point or another. You’re not excited about anything you’re doing, it feels like a chore, but then if you don’t do anything at all you get that stressed out, tight, sad, tangled up feeling. Do you know what I mean? Those are the best words I can use to describe it.

I’ve noticed, though, that if I just keep moving, once I come out on the other side of an artistic crisis my work is better for it. In Walking in this World (the follow-up to The Artist’s Way) Julia Cameron points out that often what we refer to as break downs should really be thought of as break-ups, like an icy river breaking up in the spring. Once I was able to think of it that way, these periods of creative drought didn’t feel so scary. These ruts are not permanent. They’re just bumps and valleys we have to pass through to come out on the other side. It’s like the Pilgrim’s Progress of the creative life.

But, in the meantime, while we’re in them, they stink. So, here’s a list of ways I’ve found to help me keep moving through artist’s block:

1) First and foremost- Relax! This is not permanent. You are not doomed to forever live in a desolate artistic valley, devoid of creativity. Forget about your “responsible” reasons for needing to create (“I have a show coming up,” “I need to sell some more paintings,” “I’m trying to build my portfolio,” etc) and remember your real reason for creating. I paint because I’m happier when I paint than when I don’t. Period.

2) Do something that’s not your style. I think there’s a lot of pressure on artists of all kinds to have a recognizable “voice.” To have a style that people see and say, “Oh, that’s Erin Hardin’s work,” or whatever. That can get stifling, though. When I got thoroughly stressed out and bored by my super detailed paintings on metal, I started creating these little, simpler paintings.

I didn’t care in anyone even saw them. I just had to do something. I had to paint because, like I said above, I’m happier when I paint than when I don’t.

3) Change your surroundings. Can you reorganize or redecorate your art space? If you normally paint in the basement, can you move it to the kitchen table for a while? This may also mean…

4) Changing your medium.  If you normally paint, draw. If you normally draw, try watercolor. Or do something completely different like writing a detailed description of the cashier at the grocery store, the smell of the rosemary by your front door, the vase you got as a wedding present. You have a zillion facets to your personality and to your creativity. Explore them.

5) Try thinking of life as art. If you can cultivate a creative mindset in things that you might not normally think of as artistic endeavors, not only will that mindset become a habit, but also it will spill over into your studio life. Explore a little bit. Take a different route to the grocery store and enjoy meandering. Beautify your surroundings. Plant some fresh fresh flowers and enjoy the feel of the dirt. Try not to be so goal oriented and enjoy the process. You’ll get the same end result but with a better journey. Notice and appreciate the multitude of things that make life beautiful.

Most of all, just keep moving. You’re committed to your art and like any relationship it will go through ups and downs. Weather the downs and you will be rewarded with higher ups. Would any relationship be rewarding if it was always placid and stagnant?

What about you? Do you have a favorite tip for beating artist’s block? Please share! We could all use a little help sometimes.

Bringing the Outdoors In

It started gradually. A little piece here. A little piece there. Next thing you know I have quite a collection.

I’m referring to my “bits of nature” that I just can’t seem to leave outside. I pick up every feather I come across, every mossy bit of fallen bark, every cool and unusual stick. I actually went outside in a downpour recently to “rescue” a perfect clump of moss that I had seen earlier in the driveway and had meant (and then forgotten) to pick up after depositing the groceries in the house.

It’s ok. I’m an artist. We’re allowed these little eccentricities and I quite like them- both my eccentricities and my collection.

Here are just a few of the many paintings inspired by my outdoor finds:

Please contact me for purchase. If you like these, you might also like the mixed-media work found in this post.