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Question Sticker Series: Start Here

The Inspiration Behind This Series

As I walk this creative career path, I continue to grow both as a person and as an artist. Through my interaction with the art community, specifically on Instagram, I am always learning and I have come to the realization that it is my calling to help others through the common connection of Art. I believe that Art is for everyone and that everyone has the ability to be creative. Moreover, I want to help people change the way they think about Art and to overcome whatever hurdles lie in their path. I want to help other artists find creative freedom and to become their best creative self.

This goal lead me to ask the question: What are your biggest struggles or fears when it comes to making art?

I was pleasantly surprised by the number and range of responses I got. I immediately decided that I would reply to each as completely as I could. An in-depth answer, not just a few quick sentences, because the goal, after all, is to actually help others. I thought I would dedicate one full Instagram post for each reply. That was all well and good until I realized that my answer was more than double the maximum post length allowed. So here I am, writing a series of blog posts instead. If my words only help one person it will have been worth it.

So I invite you to join the conversation. How can I help you with your art journey? Or perhaps I should say, what are your biggest struggles or fears when it comes to making art?  I am sure they are things we can all relate to and perhaps together we (the art community) can overcome them.

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Choosing Your Own Color Palette: Where to Start

So you want to put together your own watercolor palette? It can be a really fun and rewarding process, but also a challenging one. Allow me to offer some advice on the matter. This post is meant to accompany the Instagram Live stream I did on this subject. If you are interested in watching this as a recording, please see my IGTV @amyearls.art and the series of videos titled, "Choosing Colors for Your Palette."

The information I am sharing in this post is largely based on my personal experience and it is important to keep in mind that every artist is going to have a slightly different answer to this question. We all have certain personal preferences or an affinity for one color over another. Some artists love Payne's Gray others refuse to use it at all. There is no wrong answer. Your color palette will likely be something that grows and changes with you as you develop as an artist. Like so many things, it is not a static fixture and I think it is good to allow some fluidity especially when changing from one type of subject to another or one season to another. The list goes on.

Where to Begin

The idea of choosing colors can feel overwhelming at first, especially when there seems to be an impossible number to choose from. I would strongly advise that you have some painting and color mixing experience under your belt before trying to put together a palette of your own (Naturally, you can do whatever you want, but this is my recommendation). It is better, in my opinion, to start with a pre-made set of 12 or so colors to give you some familiarity with the medium and a starting point for understanding color. Watercolors are not like markers or pens, they are meant to be mixed together. Master color mixing with a limited set, work out all the color combinations that are possible and which ones you like best. This will give you a much better idea of what you like when choosing colors of your own. This learning phase takes time but it is extremely important to your progression and development as an artist. Don't skip it!

You Don't Need All The Colors

I would also encourage you to avoid the temptation of buying all the colors! Yes, I want them all too, but you need to know what to do with them once you have them or its kind of a waste. Not to mention you really do not need ALL THE COLORS to create an effective palette. It is very likely you will end up with colors you don't like and won't use, and that means money that could have been spent on other art supplies. Go slow, try a few new colors at a time, or maybe even just one at a time and really get to know it before moving on.

While a formal understanding of color theory is not necessary, it can be really helpful. Nita Leland has a series of books on color that you may find helpful. I took a class on this subject in college but the majority of my understanding of color comes from a lifetime of experience playing with watercolors.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

1. What subjects do you paint the most? - Tailor the colors in your palette to this subject.
2. Take a look at your current paints, what colors are the most used up? - This can really indicate to you which colors you reach for the most often and they should likely be included in your palette.
3. Consider your needs and budget; professional vs beginner/hobbyist. - This can help by narrowing things down a bit. Some colors have very poor lightfastness rating and are generally avoided by professional artists but can be fun for let's say a sketchbook artist who has no plans of exhibiting their work (Opera Pink is the first color that comes to mind).
4. What are your favorite colors? - Sometimes I will include a color just because I love it so much.

Tips:

  1. Keep color mixing in mind. - Think about the bare minimum of colors you would need to mix the range colors you will want.
  2. Test your colors prior to filling your pans and adding them to your palette.
  3. Your palette is not set in stone. You can always swap colors in or out.
  4. Dot cards can be super helpful if you are unfamiliar with colors from a certain brand. In addition, it is important to note that colors vary from brand to brand so it's important to do your research.
  5. Jane Blundell's blog is an excellent resource for color swatches and pigment comparisons.
  6. Generally speaking, it is more cost-effective to buy paints in tubes rather than pans. Bigger tubes are more cost-effective than smaller ones.
  7. When filling your palette with paints from multiple brands, consider the binder used. They will play together better if the binder is the same. Or you can intentionally create certain effects by combining paints with different binders. I have also heard that gum arabic tends to behave better in self-poured pans than honey (which tends to be tacky)(But again, I have no personal experience in this area). QoR watercolors use their own in-house binder that is not used by any other brand.
  8. You can buy a small metal watercolor tin and 12 empty half pans on Amazon for $11-12. Larger ones are also available at a very affordable price.
  9. You don't have to buy all your paints at once. Try one or two at a time instead. This is more affordable than buying all twelve at one time.
  10. A 12 pan metal tin can actually fit up to 18 colors if you take out the insert (use half pans or a combination of full and half pans).
  11. Get more pans than you think you will need. It is always good to have extra!
  12. Try to buy pans that are all the same brand. There is no industry standard for pan sizes.
  13. Consider how much space you have in your palette. More space means more wiggle room when it comes to narrowing things down. A limit of only 12 colors can be harder to settle on. (I started with twelve but ended up adding 5 more, and now I am thinking of switching to a larger palette so I have more space).
  14. Take inspiration from your favorite artists. Liz Steel, for example, is very open about what colors she uses and it can offer insight on what colors you might want to try.

A Note About Handmade Watercolors

As a final word of caution, I would discourage the purchase of handmade watercolors, especially if you are a beginner. Handmade watercolors are not regulated. There is no guarantee of the paint quality, consistency, or colorfastness. Often pigment information is not included. I hate to say this, but I have found that many people making handmade watercolors are complete amateurs who have little to no painting experience, no understanding of color mixing, or color theory, or even paint pigments themselves. Not to mention these paints are often outrageously overpriced. So if you have your heart set on buying handmade watercolors be careful and do some research before investing your money.

Final Thoughts

Remember to have fun and experiment! Ultimately, color selection comes down to YOUR personal preference (not some other artist or your instructor). It takes time to try things and discover what you like. And lastly, Google search is your friend! Everything you want or need to know is on the internet. Do your own research, don't wait for someone else to tell you the answer!

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Your Life is a Garden

Finding Happiness:

Everyone wants to find happiness, but often this can seem incredibly tricky to damn near impossible. Perhaps something only for the lucky few. Striking that balance can feel like an insurmountable task. Well, I am here to tell you that while life will never be perfect it can be pretty darn good. And in that good, you can find happiness but it's not something that just falls in your lap. You have to create it. How do you achieve this you ask? It is as simple as this: put on your gardening gloves, it is time to weed the garden. Stick with me, I will explain, promise.

Think of your life as a garden. You are in control of what grows in your garden, who you allow to visit, and who you allow to stay. When is the last time you tended to your personal life as if it was something alive that needed pruning and watering? Are there weeds in your life? Are there things that bring you down? Do you hate your job? Are there people who stress you out? A friend who is always complaining? Tired of that person who is always stomping on your tulips? It's time to draw a hard line in the sand. The bad stuff, the "weeds", the toxic negativity that is dragging you down into that pit of despair has got to go. No exceptions. No excuses. It doesn't matter who or what it is. Now it doesn't have to happen in an instant, and you don't have to excommunicate everyone who ever annoyed you, but it needs to be something you are aware of and constantly working to change. Take control of when and where these people have an impact on your life. You want to be happy? You have to make it happen and you have to be resolute. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.

Hard Lesson

Several years ago, I had a bad falling out with a close friend. We had been pretty good friends on and off for about 10 years, always had a lot of things in common and a lot of laughs. One time he told me about how he was doing a Facebook cleanse and unfriending anyone who was always posting negative content. At first, I thought this was kind of extreme, but as time went by and he applied this same philosophy to negative people who were directly impacting his life, I saw things around him change for the better. Learning from his example, I really took this idea to heart and slowly began to apply it to my own life (I have been working on this for about 5 years now and I still have some deep-seated personal issues to root out, don't we all?).

I realized that I didn't want to be a leaf blown about by the whims of others. I was going to decide who to allow into my garden. I didn't want to be taken advantage of any more or brought down by one-sided relationships that did not bring something positive into my life. Most importantly, I realized that doing this was not a selfish act on my part, but rather one of self-defense. I had to be the one protecting and looking after myself. No one else was going to really and truly have my best interests in mind all of the time. I could no longer blindly trust and hope that people were going to do what was best for me. I had to do it. Me. I had to be my own guardian. And this idea was the catalyst behind huge changes in my life. I had to cut some people out of my life. If I couldn't make them leave, then I had to walk away. Don't wait for permission or for someone else to do it. Long story short, you are ultimately the only person who really has your back 100% of the time.

Sadly, for various complicated reasons that I would rather not get into, the friend who had helped me realize all of this was also one of the people who had to go. While it was a bitter pill to swallow, it was necessary. I wish it could have been another way, but I am better off without trying to carry that burden. Just like everyone else, I have my own problems and past to deal with. I cannot carry the weight of my own troubles AND those of others around me. Nowadays, I think of relationships like an emotional investment of sorts. It needs to be a two-way street. There has to be a balance, a mutual benefit. No relationship where one person always gives and the other person always takes can survive. Honestly, the hard truth of the matter is that these types of situations are a waste of your time. I can speak from years of dealing with painful unbalanced relationships, they never work out.

Show Appreciation

On the other side of the coin, do you appreciate that blooming trellis of climbing roses or your favorite shady tree? Are there good things in your life? Supportive people who always make you feel better? Do you thank them? Tell them that you love them? The friends that have always been there for you? What about your significant other? Or your faithful furry friend? Let them know how much they matter to you. Make a point of thanking people for doing things for you, no matter how small or insignificant. Tell your family you love them. Everyone likes to know they matter and are appreciated.

Returning to the garden analogy, if you want to be happy put water and fertilizer (time, attention, kindness, appreciation) on the plants you want to grow. Pull out the weeds and let them go. You will be better for it and have more to give to the relationships that matter most. If you neglect your garden it will run wild with all manner of things, plants (and people) can have thorns. Some are even poisonous. But if you tend to your garden, nurture it, you will find the most beautiful things can grow there. Perhaps you will even find the love of your life. And what is happier than that?

Why Am I Telling You All This?

I am sharing all of this with you because I had a realization today. I realized that when it really comes down to it, I genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, just want everyone to be happy (I know this is not entirely realistic, but it doesn't hurt to talk about it). This is the core reason why I share my artwork. My art brings me joy and fulfillment. I hope that by sharing it I may inspire others to seek out joy as well. I have found my happy place and I believe other people can find theirs too. If you know someone who may benefit from reading this, please share! Pass on those positive vibes!

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I Gave Up on Art

Never Good Enough:

I don’t remember exactly how old I was, probably around 13 or so, when I realized my art was never going to be as “good” as a photograph. I became disheartened with my work, thinking why bother toiling away for hours over a piece when a photo taken in an instant would always be more accurate. (Prior to this point, I was prolific in my creative endeavors, always drawing or making something, sewing, etc.) All of a sudden making art seemed so pointless. So I stopped drawing.

Now I think it is important to note that at this time in my life, I was looking at the world from a perspective where I thought "good art" meant photorealistic. It was because I believed this one idea to be true that I also thought my work was subpar. However, the more we expand our knowledge and understanding of what Art really is, it becomes obvious that "Art" is a massive grey area with lots of leeway in every direction. Most importantly, it does NOT have to be photorealistic in any way to be considered "good".

Back to my story. There were periods here and there where I would make art and then stop again. Sometimes I would make art as gifts for people. I took art classes sporadically but they didn't stick.  It wasn't until I decided to go back to college for the second time to pursue graphic design that art became a big part of my life again. By this point, I was 28. My appreciation for and perspective of art had changed dramatically. Attending class, I found myself surrounded by so many creative people taking their art in so many different directions. The spark of inspiration was relit and I discovered the joy and practice of making art again.

While I have not been creating art continuously since then, my most recent hiatus was not because I gave up, but simply because I did not have any creative energy left over from my design job to work on my own projects. I have learned many life lessons in those years when I wasn't creating as much, that my younger self simply didn't see. One of the most important lessons I have learned is about perfection.

Fear of Failure

I have seen perfection tear people apart inside because even one tiny misstep meant utter failure. Or perhaps they are emotionally shattered from having experienced the bitterness of failure already. Either way, these poor tortured souls are forced to walk a tightrope through life, constantly dreading the inevitable fall from grace. The resulting pressure from this perspective is immense and many are frozen by it, unable to try because their fear of failure is too great. They are trapped by their belief in perfection, just as I was trapped by my belief in photorealism. However, this can be overcome and people CAN change their perspective.

For starters, it is important to realize that perfection, like beauty and art and so many things, is subjective. Personally, I prefer to view perfection as a philosophical ideal rather than something we can actually manifest. When you really boil it down, perfection is an idea. An idea that humans created and it does not exist outside of our minds. I find that human beings, myself included, have a tendency to get caught up on ideas. We hold on to our idealistic perspectives for dear life, even when those perspectives are getting in the way of the very thing we want most.

There is far too much pressure tied to being or creating something perfect. As soon as you let go of perfection you will be free to create whatever your heart desires without restrictions or judgment. Making art will no longer be like walking a tightrope. Take it from me, being an artist (amateur or professional) can be quite challenging. Let me rephrase, being an artist is hard AF! I think we all go through that “perfection” phase as we grow and develop. But don't let your mind trick you out of doing something you love. Stay the course. Know that your hard work is worth it!

Secondly, I think there is a huge misconception surrounding art and artists. The idea that somehow a master artist can make every brushstroke with absolute perfection, and while this may be true for a very few remarkable individuals, I would say it is grossly incorrect for the vast majority of artists out there. Art (and life for that matter) is not about attaining perfection. It’s about enjoying the creative process and expressing yourself without words. It is about sharing something that has meaning to you with others.

Mistakes Are Necessary

Thirdly, know that every artist makes mistakes. I have NEVER, in my entire life, made a piece of art that had no mistakes. You may not notice them but I know they are there. Every artist makes bad art, it is just a necessary part of the creative process that shows us where we have room to grow. It’s not a negative thing. It is guiding you, telling you which part of your toolkit you need to develop next. Every piece of art you create is a reflection of where you are in your art journey. Embrace the now, whether it be the beginning or the middle, because there is no final destination. We are all somewhere along the way looking to take that next step. Lastly, recognize that what you or I can create with our hands is something no machine or camera can ever replicate. No, not even fancy programs like Photoshop! There are roughly 7 billion people on this planet and we all have something different to bring to the table. We are not machines, we are not cameras, so why do we compare ourselves to such things? Your art is like your fingerprint on the world. It is unique to you. No one else can make your art. So stop expecting perfection and follow that creative spark!

Don't Wait & Please Share!

If you found my words helpful or you know someone who would benefit from reading this, please share! It breaks my heart to think so many people walk away from art or other things that they love out of fear. Believe in yourself. Dig deep. Find the strength to persevere. Don't wait until tomorrow or next week. Do it now. Don't be the person who looks back 10 years from now, 30 years from now, and says, "I wish I had...."

Inspired by a conversation with Angela Baker Art who I connected with via Instagram. You can find her website HERE.
All of the artwork shown in this post dates back to my late teens and ranges from somewhere around the time I graduated high school to my first year in college (2001 to 2003).
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Guest Artist on Doodlewash

Artist Feature

I have some exciting news for you today! I am a featured artist on the World Watercolor Group Doodlewash website!!! In my article, "Follow Your Passion," I share the story of how I became an artist and why I believe everyone should be following their passion. Some of you may be familiar with my story already but if not, I think it’s a worthwhile read for anyone who is tired of having a “normal” job.

"My imagination tells me that there must be a few lucky souls out there who are born knowing what they want to do in life and they just go out and do it, but for me, it was not so simple. For starters, I grew up in a small quiet town in Connecticut and was homeschooled until 8th grade (AKA I grew up in a bubble).

Believe me when I tell you that high school was like culture shock for me. Then at 18 years old, I was suddenly expected to know what to do with the remainder of my adult life. The only "guidance" I received was a computer-generated aptitude test. High school didn’t give me the skills I needed to enter the real world. No wonder I struggled so hard to find a direction in college..."

To read the full article, please click here.

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Interview with Ohio Explored

Artist Interview:

I was both pleased and excited to receive a vendor invitation to the 2017 Holiday Maker Mart organized by Ohio Explored. If you are not familiar with this organization, they have made it their mission, "to awaken people to the beauty of Ohio. Having never done this sort of thing before, I felt like it was a great opportunity to test the waters of "booth" style sales and get some exposure. The event was held at Urban Artifact, a brewery located in Northside, Cincinnati.

With the approval of my vendor application, the kind folks over at Ohio Explored also offered me a 10 question interview to be featured on their blog. Here is a brief excerpt:

What drew you to your craft?

This is a hard question for me to answer, as I honestly do not remember. Drawing and making things has always been a part of my life. According to my mother, I picked up a pencil and started drawing at the age of 2!

At the very core of my drive to create is the beauty I see in the world around me. I am so inspired by those fleeting moments of wonder, like a sunset or a flower in bloom, that I want to give them more permanence. Almost like capturing a memory, except I am trying to catch that spark of inspiration. The goal behind my drive to create is for my inspiration, and the beauty I see, to be made into a form which can be shared with others. I would love for my art to stand as a simple reminder that life is beautiful, if only you look in the right places. 🙂

To read the full interview at OhioExplored.com, please click HERE.

Urban Artifact

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In Search of Inspiration: Thunder Storms

Finding That Creative Spark

I often describe myself as being inspired by nature, but that on its own is a very broad statement. So today, I would like to share a bit more about exactly what I mean. Generally speaking, I find inspiration in small moments from my daily life. It could be a plant in my neighborhood that has come into bloom or my neighbor’s cat that likes to follow me down the street. There is always something intangible in these seemingly insignificant events, a spark of positive energy, that makes me want to capture that instant in time so that it may be experienced anew as art, as well as something that can be experienced by others. Below I have captured a moment, this time in writing, that inspired me to put brush to paper. I am attempting to share a few of my thoughts and my perspective in hopes that at least some part of my method for finding inspiration in the everyday will be useful to others.

Innocent Fluffy Clouds

The clouds this morning were really quite lovely. They even inspired me to step out onto the balcony and take a photograph or two as reference material for a potential watercolor painting (see the image above, panoramic view from my balcony). Yet as the day passed they became an increasingly darker shade of grey. By 3:30 pm it was quite apparent that rain was coming. Distant rumblings of thunder brought me to the window and I could see tiny spatterings on the glass from the approaching storm. Delicate spring leaves were showing their tender undersides as they flailed about in the wind. Interesting shapes and shades of low dense clouds hung ominously on the horizon. As if a dark curtain had been drawn across the western sky and the rim of the bowl that held the old part of the city.

As the thunder grew louder, Daisy who had been sleeping on the couch was stirred, an intense look of concern and fear on her sweet doggie face. Poor old girl was terrified of thunderstorms. I moved to help her off the couch and then ran upstairs to check the windows and make sure they were all closed. Just in the nick of time too!

Fast Moving Storm

When I returned to my vantage point of the balcony glass door, the farthest parts of the city had been hidden from view by a dense grey wall. Wind whipped my little potted plants sitting against the railing as well as the trees down on the street below. The dryer vent rattled with a furious intensity.

I decided to make myself a cup of tea. Chai, my favorite, with an extra dash of cinnamon to go with the delicious homemade curry I had eaten for lunch. This time when I peered out, half of the city had vanished, even the tall graceful facade of Music Hall and a nearby clock tower were gone. The storm raced towards me, bringing with it a torrent of rain blowing at a steep 45 degree angle.

Standing there in awe, I was distracted by the feeling of moisture on my feet. Searching for the source, I realized that rainwater was being blown under the door! It trickled out by the door hinge and across the tile floor. I bent down and mopped it up with a towel. A few moments later when I looked up, everything but the nearby trees, which swayed violently, had been completely blotted out by impenetrable grey clouds. Sheets of rain were hurled down from the sky. The wind rose to an even higher intensity and large droplets pelted the glass. My set of wicker chairs skidded across the balcony and banged into a large flower pot, carelessly tossed by the storm.

A World Apart

Without the familiar view out of my window, I felt a strange sensation of isolation. Almost as if I had been swept away to an island, lost in a bank of angry clouds. I let my imagination wander a little bit. Amusing myself with the idea that perhaps it was possible for your whole house to be teleported to another world, just as Dorothy and Todo had been. Or perhaps the clouds would part and I would find the city truly had disappeared, a gaping hole left in the place of streets, buildings and foundations, much like the NeverEnding Story. Then a more realistic fear entered my mind. Living up on a ridge, on the third and fourth floors of a historic row house, I wondered if the old building could withstand another beating from Mother Nature. Would the bricks crumble and fall, taking me tumbling down the hillside with them? While my rational mind knew this to be utter nonsense, it was still a somewhat disconcerting thought.

As quickly as the storm had come, it passed. Everything outside had been thoroughly drenched by the deluge. The westerly facing windows were foggy and scattered with clinging droplets. Daisy was thankful to be tucked back in her bed. Excluding the occasional distant thunder, a peaceful quiet ensued. The far horizon lightened, yet the sky was still quite dark for the middle of the afternoon. The powerful storm had left an eerie half-light in its wake. Perhaps there would be more thunder and lightning to come….
In the distance, a crack of thunder rolls.

Now that I've given you a peek inside my mind, I hope you can see why something as commonplace as a thunderstorm would inspire me to create. The strength and speed of the storm were like nothing I had experienced before and I wanted to capture just a fraction of that on paper. I must admit that I really struggled to get the kind of results that I was looking for with this project. I'm almost embarrassed to share it. Unfortunately, I was using an inexpensive paper and I think that was working against me. The cloud formations and colors from the reference photo were far more complicated than I initially thought. However, I did learn a bit more about clouds and layering colors for sky paintings.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained. At the end of the day, it's only paper after all.

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Cleaning Your Brushes

A How-To Guide for Cleaning Your Brushes:

One of my goals as an artist has been to improve and learn new skills through online tutorials, classes, blogs, etc., so I have watched hours of video! While there are a ton of “how-to” or “best” art supply videos, none of them really go in depth about caring for those art supplies, specifically brushes. A good brush can be a bit of an investment. However, with proper use and care they can last a long time. Please note that some styles of painting and techniques are harder on your brushes and will cause them to wear out faster. The material the brush is made of will also impact how fast or slow it wears (synthetic vs. natural fibers).

A component of taking good care of your brushes is cleaning them. Now I will be the first one to admit, I don’t do this as often as I should (which is every time you paint!). The frequency of cleaning will be up to you and largely depends on how often you are using your brushes. Cleaning your brush will lengthen the life of your brush and will eliminate any chance of leaving old paint on the bristles.

What you will need:

  1. A paper towel (or something to dry your brush on)
  2. Clean water
  3. Brush Cleaner
  4. Your brush(es)

A Note About Soap: I would recommend using a brush cleaner for this purpose. I am currently using “The Masters” Brush Cleaner. It was only a couple of dollars at my local art store. You can also order it off Amazon.com, see link below. This cleaner is specifically meant for artist brushes and won’t cause any damage. In a pinch, I have also used a liquid soap like Dr. Bronners Castille Soap. As a general rule of thumb, anything safe for human hair, like shampoo without conditioner, is safe for your brushes. For my masking fluid brushes, I use a local handmade laundry bar stain removing soap, and it is the only thing I’ve found that will remove all of the masking fluid from my brushes. For you local Ohio artists, the laundry bar is made by The Tree Hugger Company.
Amazon Link: General Pencil Company The Masters Brush Cleaner & Preserver 2.5 0z.

Step-by-step method:

Step 1: Wet the brush thoroughly.

Step 2: Load the brush with clean water and apply the water to the brush cleaner.

Step 3: Gently lather the soap onto the brush, taking care to keep the bristles working in the proper direction. Be patient, it may take a moment to activate the cleaner. Also, you do not what to gouge the cleaner with the base of the ferrule. You may see some pigment leaving the brush, this means the soap is doing its job!

Step 4: Carefully work the soap through the brush with your fingertips. Very little pressure is needed. DO NOT pull on the bristles.

Step 5: Rinse your brush in clean water. This may be at the faucet or in a water container.

Step 6: Repeat until there is no more pigment leaving the brush head. For me, this generally isn’t more than twice per brush.

Step 7: Pat your brush on the paper towel and leave it to dry laying flat.

Now your brush is clean and ready for the next time you paint!

 

General Brush Care & Tips:

  1. Allow your brushes to dry flat so that there is no water trapped in the base of the brush, or ferrule, where the bristles attach to the handle.
  2. Make sure to store your brushes in a way that the bristles will not be misshapen (I keep mine upright in a stoneware mug). If a brush is left in a bent or crimped position it may retain this shape and never return to it’s original form. This will more than likely leave the brush unusable for normal brushwork.
  3. If you are traveling with your brushes, I would strongly recommend using a case designed specifically for protecting the bristles. A normal style pencil case is not adequate.
  4. When rinsing your brush, do not smash it down on the bottom of the water container. It is okay to gently touch the brush to the bottom, but scrubbing the brush hard can bend the hairs, which causes damage or can break them.
  5. The same goes for when you’re painting. If your style involves placing a lot of pressure on the brush, and rough strokes, that is up to you, but be aware that you are going to need to replace your brushes more often.
  6. You will know a brush is worn out when it will no longer take a crisp shape when wet. If you wet a brush and then firmly tap the handle against your finger, it should form a sharp point or edge. If it does not, then it is showing some degree of wear. This is also a technique for selecting a good brush before you purchase it.
  7. Old worn out brushes often make great textures, so it may be worthwhile to hold on to a few just for this purpose. Splayed bristles make great grass and fur details, to name a few.
  8. If you know you are going to be packing your brushes away for an extended period of time, it is best to make sure they are clean beforehand.

There is a lot to know about brushes, so I may write more about them at a later date. Please let me know if this was helpful to you!

Happy Painting!

amy

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Finding Your Purpose

My Two Cents on Finding Your Purpose:

First of all, let's take a look at this phrase, “finding your purpose”. Wow! Talk about a loaded sentence. There is so much pressure when we start thinking about finding the one true thing you are destined to do with your life. As if in one “eureka” moment it will all come to you in a flash. It’s like chasing a unicorn for goodness sake! It just doesn’t work like that. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed as a teenager attempting to tackle this question. I think there is also a misconception here, there are many things a person can accomplish over a lifetime, we need not feel like we have to stick with one single thing. Plenty of successful people change careers or direction.

So now that we have pumped the brakes, let's take a step back. My first word of advice on this one is,"keep it simple". Often your “purpose” is the very thing that has been there from the start, it's sitting right in front of you, but because of various obstacles and/or social expectations to get it right, you end up looking everywhere else. You find yourself trying to do what worked for someone else, or what someone else thinks is best for you, or to do what is “practical” and “secure”. This is how our culture trains us to think. Follow the status quo, become a good little worker, “live the American dream.” Don’t fall into this trap, it is not how you find true happiness.

Instead, do some soul searching. The first step towards finding what happiness means to you (this is different for each person) is knowing yourself. Ask yourself some hard questions. Dig deep. The answers are all there, no one else can find them for you. Ask yourself, “what really makes me happy?”, “what inspires me?”, “what leaves me with a feeling of fulfillment at the end of the day?” For me, it was more like remembering something I used to know, rather than some new, profound, or earth-shattering discovery. Like, “Oh yeah, I really love making art, why isn’t it part of my life anymore?” I had decided to scratch art off the list of viable careers as a young teenager and never questioned it again! The result? I’ve been fighting with myself for over a decade, trying to make myself be happy with a “regular” job. That is a long while to only take a couple of steps forward and a lot of steps back. If I had spent all that time working on developing an art career imagine where I could be now?

Back to keeping it simple, I like a LOT of the same things now that I liked as a kid; art, horses, and nature. These things are part of who I am, at my core, and they make me happy. Simple as that. Now maybe the things you like don’t fall neatly into an existing profession, but don’t let that stop you. Be different, be unique, STAND OUT. That alone is a tremendous thing to offer the world. Don’t know how to make it work? Don’t worry, I didn’t either (and I am still figuring it out), and don’t give up. Start by researching. You can find out pretty much anything you want to know on the internet. Get good at finding the information you need and there will never be another problem you can’t solve.

This brings me to another piece of advice; never stop learning. Read books, listen to TEDx talks, take an online class, watch tutorials; learn from other people’s mistakes. Be inspired. Knowledge really is power. Better knowledge leads to better decisions, which in turn is more likely to take you where you want to go. Knowledge can open doors you didn’t even know were there.

Long story short, life’s purpose doesn’t have to be this huge daunting thing, as if everyone needs to make history or they have failed. Not everyone can be (nor should be) the next Steve Jobs and there is nothing wrong with that. To put it as simply as I can, your “purpose” in life is to be YOU! Strive to be the very best version of yourself that you can, for the sake of finding happiness and fulfillment. Not for money. Not to satisfy social expectations. Be strong and stay true to yourself! Don’t compare yourself to other people, no one else can be YOU. Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to forge your own path. TRUST in something bigger than yourself, you are not the only one looking for a more meaningful existence.

“Get good enough at anything and someone will pay you to do it.” – Unknown

Open post

My Story: Part 4

Making My Escape

Continued from Part 3...

At some point in the midst of my research, journaling and trying to find a new path, I had an epiphany. A real "DING" light bulb moment. Suddenly, everything I had been through, all the so-called "wasted time," made perfect sense. It was all leading up to THIS exact moment in my life, giving me all the tools I would need to shape a career of my own choosing. The seemingly scattered education I had gained through my years of college were the exact skills I needed to take the next step. I think it was this change in perspective that really gave me the push I needed to commit to becoming a professional artist (what I should have been doing all along!).

I saved up what money I could and if I am being honest, more would have been better (I am extremely fortunate to have someone supporting me). By September of 2016, I had given my notice at my job and was heading out into the big, scary unknown. This time I was the one creating change in my life. Yes, there were certainly risks involved, but I had to give it a go. I have not had a single moment of regret since.

Truthfully, with the internet being what it is today, it is easier than ever for artists to be successful or for anyone to make money online. There are countless unconventional ways to make a living from the web. Just Google it.

Moral of the story?

Don't do something just because it is what is "expected" or what your parents, family, friends, etc. want. Don't limit yourself because of a perceived obstacle or so-called impossibility. How will you know if you never try? Don't let yourself be boxed in by convention or fear of financial security. There is a way to make just about anything work. It may not be exactly how you had planned, but just take it one step at a time and see where it takes you. You don't have to know all the answers before you start because you will NEVER have all the answers. Trust that you can handle what life throws at you and that it will work out.

Follow your heart. Listen to your gut. Live with no regrets. Don't be afraid to be different and to walk your own path. I will leave you with this quote:

"The person who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before. Creativity in living is not without its attendant difficulties, for peculiarity breeds contempt. And the unfortunate thing about being ahead of your time is that when people finally realize you were right, they’ll say it was obvious all along. You have two choices in your life; you can dissolve into the mainstream, or you can be distinct. To be distinct, you must be different. To be different, you must strive to be what no one else but you can be."

~ Alan Ashley-Pitt

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