Saturday, December 13, 2014

Blog Hop, Part II--My Creative Process

A great blue heron, seen at  Jacksonville's Hanna Park
Somewhere in Michigan (a scene from memories)

     Thanks again to Mary Paquet for the invitation to contribute to the blog hop project by responding to four questions. I continue here with the two last questions (see my previous post for Part I). And don't miss Jo Castillo's post on Monday, Dec. 15; I "tagged" her to be next in the blog hop and know that you will enjoy her lively creative sense and fine art works.

3) Why do I create what I do?

     I have always enjoyed sewing, knitting, and crocheting, but did not believe I had any talent for the visual arts I so admired. My love for color and for the beauty of the natural world kept tugging me toward giving landscape work a try.
Castaway Preserve Cedar
Castaway Preserve Palms

     Finally, about 11 years ago, I signed up for a week-long class in acrylic painting at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina--expecting to enjoy playing with color and making creative messes, then to toss them and return home renewed and relaxed. Well, with an excellent teacher and time to practice and learn, I painted pieces that I really liked. No tossing occurred, and I was hooked! Now, with more workshops and lots more practice behind me, some pieces even sell. More importantly, I find continued delight in creating acrylic landscapes and learning more all the time. Another Folk School class this year started me in silk painting as well--a fluid, often unpredictable medium that gives me additional pleasure. Creating art is a whole new world for me and a rewarding pursuit in semi-retirement.
Jacksonville Beach
Jacksonville Beach

4) How does my creative process work?

     While considering this question, I used the little search box at the top of my blog and entered "painting process". Oh, my--I have written many posts that include discussion of the creative process in general and of the particular processes involved in individual paintings or silk scarves.
An early work--A favorite retreat near Warwick, NY

Silk scarf (using resist)
Silk scarf (natural blending--no resist)
     So, what are the common threads in varying processes for individual pieces? For processes in making the silk scarves, please see recent posts on that topic.
     Nearly all landscape paintings begin with a photo or a cluster of reference photos. Since I am endlessly fascinated with coastal North Florida scenes and want to convey the beauty and serenity I find in exploring out-of-the-way places in this area, I study angles of light, color (how to capture the incredible range of greens?!), and take notes to accompany the photos I take from various angles and distances.

     In the studio, the next considerations are composition (including tonal balance--the lights and darks) and color palette. In our area, good composition almost always involves leaving out some of the lush growth and sometimes other elements. Sketching--very roughly--a few possible versions of a scene, sometimes moving the point of view or focal point, helps me decide on a final version. Here are some previous posts that discuss composition.

     Choosing a limited number of colors helps both in unifying a painting and still gives an incredible range of possible hues. I don't try to match the actual scene so much as try to capture a feeling while staying in a realistic color range. Sometimes I go for low contrast and cool serenity, sometimes warmer, lively vistas. Again, here are some previous posts with more about color and palette for interested readers.

      Revision is the other most crucial piece of my process. The beauty of acrylics (especially for a learner like me) is that they dry quickly and cover well. I can paint over an area that does not please me, take out a superfluous bush, or whatever. Sometimes before a major change, I try it out by cutting a shape out of construction paper that approximates the change, tape it to the canvas, and squint to judge the effect on the composition.

     When wrestling with a piece that is not cooperating, it helps to remind myself that any work is a valuable learning experience (taking myself too seriously is fatal). At times, I put a painting away for a time and work on something else. A fresh look later on often yields a solution.

Question of the day: Do you enjoy hearing about the creative process or watching artists work? Or would you rather simply experience the art for yourself with no background or explanation given?


  1. Dear Mary I just read both of your wonderful posts about your creative process. You are an amazing artist and your landscapes are simply gorgeous. I have not worked a great deal with acrylics but have always wanted to paint landscapes. Yours certainly inspires me. The silk scarves are divine too. You certainly don't look like a new artist to me - your work is very professional and beautiful. Will check out Jo's post and I follow Mary's - thank you for sharing. Have a great day.

  2. I think I am just a flake but for me it depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to hear it and experience the art at the same time; others? I just want to take it all in and come up with my own thoughts and ideas on the process.

  3. Debbie, I truly appreciate your kind and encouraging comments. You have a wonderful spirit of caring for others.

    Sherry, that doesn't sound flaky to me at all; it sounds like the response of a person with both a healthy left brain and a creative right brian. Hope your week is going well.

  4. came over from Jo's blog and I love your landscapes :)

    I actually really enjoy watching other artists work, often get new ideas on how to do something and its really interesting seeing a piece be created from the beginning to the end :)

  5. How fun to hear from a new visitor! Thank you, Jennifer, for your visit and for your response to the question. I agree that seeing a piece develop from beginning to end is very interesting.

  6. Enjoyed reading about the "Blog-Hop" and seeing more of your work! Your landscapes are really pretty! Wonder what you are working on in the new year? Hope your 2015 will continue to be a very creative one

  7. Mary, I ran off to Hawaii after my post and then the holidays happened, etc., finally I have had time to sit and enjoy your two posts for the Blog Hop. Love it. You write beautifully and I admire your art!

  8. Great to hear from you both, Rosemary and Mary! So sorry to be slow to respond; I have been away from blogging for awhile. You are both such excellent artist that I am honored by your responses to my paintings. And I do enjoy writing, Mary--why is it I don't stay more regular and faithful in writing blog posts? Sometimes I think I spend too much time on the posts--not on the ones for the Blog Hop because they require careful thought to do properly and to be worthwhile--but the regular ones. One of these days, I'll try keeping posts shorter and simpler to see if that makes blogging easier to maintain. All my best to both of you!