Friday, August 15, 2014

Are your tools ready for work?

Friday August 15th newsletter excerpt...
So are you still picking up beach glass and pouring sand out of your sneakers or are you back at work?
If your holidays are over you are probably a bit surprised to find yourself getting back into your old routine so quickly – almost like you hadn’t been off work at all.

Well here is a simple tip that will help you add some freshness to your ho-hum routine:

Get Your Tools Ready!

...because you are going to get busy creating.

Of course I am talking about your art making tools but this applies to any hobby.
It can be difficult to fit activities that delight us into our regular busy schedules. And let’s face it, sometimes the thought of setting up can be so daunting that we start to lose our enthusiasm.

Imagine you suddenly found yourself with the unexpected gift of an afternoon off from work or perhaps a Saturday morning all to yourself. How long would it take for you to dive into some delicious art making?

Would you be able to pick up your pencils right away? Or, if you are like a lot of people, would the preparation be an event? For example, would you have to clear away all sorts of papers and catalogues and other objects to find a surface area big enough to work on? Would you have to go searching for that really great desk lamp that gives you the bright light you like to work under (and possibly have to hunt up the extension cord)? Would you have to go digging for a sheet of paper, muttering under your breath that you hope you find something decent to work on because you sort of remember running out last time and you are sure you forgot to pick up more...
You get the idea.

So my suggestion this week is for you to get your tools and your space ready so that when a bit free time becomes available you can take advantage of it.
I know this sounds simple and obvious but given the amount of times I have heard students talk about this issue over the years, I believe it is something many people struggle with. It doesn’t take much to dampen our spark of enthusiasm and the effort required to get our stuff ready can be just the dose of cold water we didn’t need.

This isn’t about having a separate studio room in your home. Please don’t use the excuse about how you can’t draw or paint because you don’t have a studio! This is about having some small space cleared and always available. This is about having your art supplies stocked up and accessible. If you have to stand on a chair to get a box of art materials down from a closet shelf, I am thinking you probably don’t actually ‘move your tools’ very often.

my pencils patiently wait for me

 If you can’t leave your supplies out, why not pack up a tote bag with some basic essentials? You can hang the tote up, out of the way, but the best part is that you are ready to take your art making on the road if the opportunity presents itself.
You can sketch in waiting rooms at the doctor’s office, in coffee shops, in the car while you wait for the person you are meeting or picking up...Choose to be the odd person – the one not checking their email and text messages on their smart phone.

Of course you know that drawing regularly (even quick sketches) improves your drawing skills exponentially. I am just repeating this truth. I need to be reminded too!
I can hear you painters moaning about how I don’t understand. You point out that you can’t possibly paint in a waiting room. Of course you can’t but you can do some thumbnail sketches for your next piece, can’t you? Something is better than nothing, no?

Of course, one of the great things about working in a dry medium, like coloured pencil, woo-hoo J, is that you can start and stop easily. I have put down my pencils many times so that I could get something into the oven for supper or so I could start another load of laundry. Then I return to my work in progress.
My point – art making can fit into your everyday world.

So why not make your shift from vacation life back to regular life more exciting by making sure art is part of your normal routine?

Why not spend a bit of time this weekend getting your tools ready? And then grab those tools the first chance you get next week. Let’s rock your world! Being back from vacation is going to be more than okay. J

Friday, August 8, 2014

art jitters and how to cure them

Another newsletter has just been published to the Newsletter Group! Here is this week's article plus a fun goat pic...cause you can never have enough goat pics in your life. :-)

(You can join the Newsletter Group by clicking here.)

Well, it was one of those weeks. You know, something breaks and you are now doing  some wonky make-do until you can get to a store, the vehicle may have something important that needs fixing, the internet is mysteriously not working when we need it, this errand needs to happen now. Sheesh.
Looking forward to next week, it’s going to be great! I choose to be an optimist.J

Today the topic is how to cure yourself of ‘art jitters’, not exactly a medical diagnosis but you’ll see what I mean... (Oh and this week I don’t have artwork to share but I do have a couple of pics at the end of the article, cause we just can’t have text now can we?)

Colinda V. wrote me about a problem she was dealing with. She was frustrated, stuck and suddenly felt unmotivated. The worst part was that this all occurred while she was actively seeking inspiration.
Colinda had made a commitment to spend time each week with her pencils, colouring and getting better at drawing. As part of her plan to seek out inspiration, she was looking at the art of artists on-line. She was viewing artist’s websites, looking at their on-line galleries, reading about their successes, visiting art forums on Facebook and watching YouTube videos.

The more time she spent doing this, she discovered she no longer had much desire to actually make art herself.

After pondering her predicament, Colinda wrote to ask me if I thought it was possible to be over-inspired!?!
Colinda’s story is a common one. I have experienced what she describes myself and I have heard similar reports from my artist friends.

Okay, so first up, let’s admit that the internet is great. We all know how helpful it can be.
BUT, there is a down side to all of that visual consumption. We can get visually over stimulated and overwhelmed. I liken it to drinking too much coffee, you end up feeling jittery and unsettled. We are irritable and whiney and we don’t even know why. We find ourselves shuffling through our sketchbooks, we flip through our photo references liking nothing we see, we get out our paper or canvas but we can’t quite manage to sit still long enough to get a project off the ground.

We now have a case of the too much internet art jitters!
Our brains do get over stimulated with all of the creativity we see going on out there in the world.  There are so many different styles and subjects and such masterful works, all available for viewing immediately, just by making a few clicks.

It gets worse when we consciously or unconsciously compare ourselves and our art to the artists and the art we see. We notice the sheer amount of work they create. Seriously, how do they create so much fabulous art so quickly? Some people are posting new work on art group forums every week!

It starts to seem as if the world is filled with zillions of super talented artists, all busy entering shows or getting featured in a magazine, winning awards, etc. This is when we start becoming irritable and whiney, not to mention unmotivated.
Finally, in the midst of our too much art exposure jitters, we really go off the deep end. Feeling seriously fidgety in our studios, we give up for the day and we give up on our pencils or paint. We toddle off, wallowing in our funk, find ourselves at our computer and we go back on-line! Why not watch one more how-to YouTube video? Argh...

Once we realize the cause, we can easily see the cure. At times like this we need to go cold turkey and turn off our computers. We need to stay off all art sites for a while.
Go back to your sketchbook, your reference photos, your work in progress, spend some time in nature. Do what you need to, to cleanse your mind and to connect with the ideas that come from inside you.

One of my favourite things to do when I need to restore and refresh, is to go gather pretty posies. If you don’t have a field, check out ditches or abandoned city lots.

Queen Anne’s Lace seems to grow everywhere and it is in full bloom right now. (it is from the carrot/parsley family of plants and is the parent of our garden carrot)

Long before we bought a small farm, I would take my car out every week or so, in the summer, and I would stop to cut the ‘weeds’ and interesting tall grasses. I would load the trunk of the car and would then go home and fill jars and vases to place all over the house. The only difference now is that I don’t need to drive my car.
Beauty is truly all around us...but back to the jitters...

I am all for priming the well of inspiration by visiting galleries, looking at art magazines and so on. But somehow the internet is different. I suspect it is the sheer amount of art we can expose ourselves to in a very short period of time. Our intentions are good, as in Colinda’s case but the jitters can happen despite our intentions.
This is the first time in human history that artists have been able to see so much visually creative work from around the world, all without leaving our chairs. It is wonderful...but proceed with caution...don’t let all that visual noise drown out your own unique artistic voice.

If you have ever had the art jitters, do share your thoughts. You can hop on over to my Facebook page or leave a comment on my blog. What is your method of recovery?


In the midst of a week of unpleasant surprises, spending time with the animals or harvesting vegetables from the garden is a great tonic. Works on all sorts of ills, even art jitters!

Here is a picture of our goat Keeah looking silly. Last evening my husband came up to the house laughing, looking for the camera. Keeah had been rubbing his head against some tree branches and some twiggy bits had got stuck between his horns. (you may have seen his twin brother Noah on my FB page a couple of weeks ago) FYI: Keeah had climbed up onto a specially built platform, goats like high places, which is why I am looking up at him.
An hour later, I went down to the barn to put the goats in for the night and I saw four deer in the field, including a gorgeous buck, eating not far from us. The deer were watching the goats with interest and now they were watching me. It was wonderful.

Have a great week, stay off line if you must and go cut ditch weeds.

Friday, August 1, 2014

newsletter show and tell

Friday August 1st newsletter excerpt:
We are in it now, the prime time for taking  holidays – for a lot of people anyway. For those of you outside of Canada, you might not know that this coming Monday is a holiday in most provinces.
Not wanting to miss out on the spirit of things, my motivation decided to take a bit of a holiday this week! J Well, it is understandable, my studio to-do list is rather dry – for example I am supposed to be writing out all of the text for the poppy project, including blurbs about me and TMS and I should get cranking on the new website design, yawn...

So I took an afternoon off, got very decadent, brewed some tea and settled myself on a wicker love seat outdoors with a book I have wanted to read. I even had a nap. It was lovely. Summer is so brief after all. J I hope those of you reading are having a chance to be decadent as well!

I think I will keep this newsletter short this week, seeing as most of you are probably heading off to play somewhere.
How about a show and tell?

My star gazer lilies are in full bloom right now, so it seems an appropriate time to show this oldie but a goodie... (I have kept the file size small on this one. When I include a lot of pictures, the size of the newsletter can get pretty large to send via email.)
Star Gazer Lily, coloured pencil on Stonehenge paper. Copyright Teresa Mallen
Next item for the show and tell is a spoon with funky reflections...
I got an idea for a series – a piece of fruit on a spoon. I am not sure what inspired the idea but I do like all of the reflections one sees in cutlery so I know this was one of the main motivations for doing the piece.
To help with me work on the concept, I shot some pictures of a cherry on a spoon. Here is an example:

 I fussed with lighting, placing the spoon at different angles to see what sort of reflections I got and so on. I tried different shaped cherries, some with stems, some without...
Once uploaded onto my computer, I zoomed in on the photos, played with cropping etc. and in the end I decided the image I wanted was more of a close up, not showing the entire spoon.
If you remember my newsletter from last week, the story I wanted to tell in this piece was the ‘story’ of the colourful shapes in the reflections on the silver of the spoon. (BTW, regarding last week’s newsletter, Heather Neill, the artist that painted the cover art of American Art Collector, found out about my newsletter and left a comment on my blog. I nearly slid off my studio couch in surprise...LOL)
The next photo shows the piece under way. You can see that I am working on a black sheet of paper called Mi-Teintes Touch. The paper also has a sanded surface (think of the rough texture of sand paper). This type of paper is often used by pastel artists. The tape in the photo was keeping the paper from moving around on my drafting table.
Oh, and of course I am doing this entirely in coloured pencil.

I enjoyed drawing the cherry but for me the true delight was in detailing the reflections on the spoon. It was a quick piece and it was a joy to work on from start to finish.
And what about that fruit on a spoon series? Well, the idea is on hold. Turns out once I had one completed, I wasn’t too keen on repeating the theme. Perhaps I shall return to it one day.
Depending on what you read this newsletter on (desktop versus a device) the resolution might look a bit fuzzy in spots but as I stated above, I am trying to keep these newsletter files from getting gigantic. Just trust me, everything looks awesome in person! J

Cherry on Spoon, 10” x 3”, copyright Teresa Mallen
And that’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed the show and tell.
(If you would like to receive the entire newsletter, in your email inbox every Friday, click here to join the Newsletter Group.)


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

poppy project

poppy project, approx. 5" x 7", coloured pencil on Stonehenge paper
copyright Teresa Mallen

Here is a photo of my finished poppy. (The background looks uneven in this compressed version of the photo. In reality the background has been left as the white of the paper.)
 In a few weeks, this poppy will be available on-line for anyone and everyone to download. The project will include a line drawing you can trace onto your own paper and there will be palette suggestions as well as directions on how to colour your own version of this flower.
 This project will be a terrific way for coloured pencil newbies to try the medium, to get colouring right away and to get immediate results.
For someone already experienced in using coloured pencils, this will be something fun to work on in between your own drawings.

peony and poppy, both coloured pencil on Stonehenge paper, copyright Teresa Mallen

I placed the poppy next to my latest peony petal piece and snapped a pic. I know some people are skeptical about the range of values you can get with cps. I chose to use much darker values in the poppy and yet I didn't have to burnish. All sorts of things are possible with coloured pencils!
Once the project is ready for downloading, I will be letting you know here, on Facebook and in my I am pretty sure you won't miss the announcement. :-) I can't wait to see what everyone creates...send me some pics please!

Friday, July 25, 2014

no more boring art, get personal

It is Friday and my Friday newsletter has been published to my Newsletter Subscription usual, here is an excerpt...

(If you wonder what is in the newsletter that doesn't appear here, well there is some personal chat and this week I answer a question about my 2015 teaching schedule plus I also posted about my poppy project. I don't want to overwhelm blog readers with a lot of text so I just post the main article. If you would like to recieve the complete newsletter in your in-box each week, visit this link: newsletter)

This week I am going to chat about how as artists we can sometimes start to lose a sense of freshness with our work.

Let me ask you this, is your art feeling a little stale? Are feeling connected to it or do you sometimes feel you are just making ‘pretty’ pictures?

Today’s newsletter has a remedy. I shall give you one way you can really ramp up your connection and your enthusiasm for your art work.

Here is the cover of the latest issue of American Art Collector Magazine:
The artist who did the cover art is Heather Neill:  

(Her work is gorgeous; do take the time to check out her website. I especially like her room interiors.)

Heather’s work caught my attention from the moment I saw the magazine. I immediately wanted to know why she chose this subject.

Why did she choose to paint two older fellows, looking out to sea? I doubted she was enraptured by their um, buttocks! J

I suspected there was a story and I love art that tells a story or captures a mood; art that conveys something.

I quickly flipped through the magazine to read her story. Heather stated that she painted these two gentlemen just for herself and she said that these portraits were “very personal and straight from the heart”.

  She went on to say that “these portraits are all about love at the deepest part of my soul.” Woo-hoo. That is something to aspire to in our art!

One of the fellows in the painting was 97 yrs old and a long time friend. He died last year and his friend Pete, also in the painting, died shortly after. “I needed to see the two of them together – relating to each other but really relating to the ocean. They would sit together and wouldn’t look at each other and would exchange maybe five words in the three hours.”

So, there was a story and what she was painting was meaningful and personal for her.

So what does this have to do with you?    Well, I ask you, is your work personal?

Or are you just going through the motions, doing another still life, floral, or landscape even though you feel rather bored by it all? Maybe folks like these paintings, they expect this from you. Or perhaps you have done them so often you are comfortable, (and therefore safe, no risk involved if you do what you have already mastered). Maybe they sell well and you don’t want to rock the boat.

If your answer is yes, and you feel like your work has gone a bit stale and become a bit ho-hum why not try my fix:

My remedy is for you to examine your motives and put yourself back into the art making process.

Decide to do work that is personal, meaningful. Choose passion.

Even if you are a beginner, the best way to ensure that you will hang in there, doing what it takes to get better, is to do art that you want to do.

I occasionally hear people say that they took a drawing class and it wasn’t for them. When I start asking questions, I find out that they were drawing something that bored them to tears. Imagine spending every Monday night for 12 weeks drawing the same fruit basket arrangement. And yes, drawing classes like that do exist.

Why not draw and paint what you are passionate about?

If you want to draw dogs instead of still lifes, draw dogs! Simple, no?

(I took piano lessons as an adult and I couldn’t get into the kiddie stuff. I asked my teacher for something meaningful and she found me beginner classical stuff. I was soon learning a watered down version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and it was a darn site better than plunking along with train songs and froggie stories.)

Bottom line, your art supplies are at risk of getting covered in dust, if at some point your art doesn’t make your heart sing.

The next time you choose a subject, before you grab your paint brushes or pencils, ask yourself why you would spend time on this.

Is the subject meaningful to you, is there a story (and it is okay if only you know the story), does this ‘float your boat’, is there a flicker of love for the subject, some passion?  If the answer is yes, proceed with joy and enthusiasm. If not, I suggest you pass.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

supernovas and leading edges

day lily, coloured pencil on Stonehenge, copyright Teresa Mallen

Lovely lilies are opening all over the place, yellow ones, deep burgundy ones and of course orange ones - as in the Day Lily above. Lilies are super low maintenance as well as pretty, which is fabulous.
I have several books on the go right now and one is by Danielle Laporte called the Fire Starter Sessions. Session 1 has us declaring our super-powers - as in "competency is for suckers". :-)
Danielle asks:
  • "Would you rather be sufficient or masterful?"
  • "Would you rather be bright or a freaking supernova?
  • "Would you rather be well-rounded or on your own leading edge?"
Well gee, I'll go with masterful, hum, a leading edge sounds kind of scary (makes me think of a ledge not an edge and I have a fear of falling) and I would have settled for bright cause that sounds rather perky and shiny but wait...
I can choose to be a freaking supernova?
Well sign me up for that! That sounds super juicy (and a bit blinding and explosive!)
Now what sort of art does a supernova create? :-)
How about you, are you well rounded, bright and sufficient or are you the super-power options?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Coloured Pencil Basics - register now

I am teaching a two day, Coloured Pencil Basics course, in my studio (Ottawa, Canada) on September 20 and 27th. If you have always wanted to give cps a try (and you live close enough to attend), now is your chance.

The picture above shows the lower half of my studio with some lovely ladies busy working on a project. Connecting with other art loving, cp newbies is all part of the fun we have.

You will get all of the instruction and support you need, everything presented step-by-step, to get the results you are dreaming of! AND there is a super duper BONUS PACKAGE included.

To check out all of the details click here. You can conveniently register on-line as well. I can't wait to meet you! (Only three spots remain available, so don't wait or you might miss out. Space is limited in my studio and I therefore have to limit the number of students.)

If you don't live in the Ottawa area and you would love to take this course, I have great news for you - an on-line version will be offered early in 2015! I am working on it now. :-)