I have been working on a series of paintings I call my Creative Workbench Series. I have done a Jewelers bench, a chaotic innovator’s bench, and a fly tying bench and now I am working on a small engine bench. Technically this isn’t a bench, but it is a collection of items used to work on small engines, so it is an acceptable alternative to a bench.
Identifying the Problem
I thought I had made pretty good progress on my Small Engine watercolor painting until my husband looked over my shoulder and said, “It looks great but your plastic box is out of perspective”. Well, when did he get to be an expert, I just ran him off and told him it looked great.
The next morning I had a message from my mentor saying she loved the progress on the painting but the plastic box looks a little out of perspective.
Apparently my plastic box is out of perspective, which left me with a choice:
To Fix, change the plastic box perspective.
Not to Fix, leave it alone.
If I painted with oil or acrylics, no problem, I would just paint over the offending wonky plastic box and fix it, however I work with watercolor paints, not quite as easy, but I decided to bite the bullet and make the correction.
Step 1. Isolate
Step 2. Lift Paint
Step 3. Expose New Work Area
Step 4. Correct the Painting
I have only completed about half of this painting. There are more sections to uncover, but I thought you might find it interesting to see what happens when a watercolor just doesn’t look the way you intended. I am planning to have the entire Creative Workbench series displayed in a live or virtual show sometime in 2021, unknown right now. I am keeping it just a little secret, but I have been giving my Subscribers sneak peaks in my periodic newsletter. If you want to be the first to see the new paintings, provide your email address (see home page) and you will also receive a printable “Thistle” print. Thank you for visiting my blog.
I had finished some pretty intense, detailed paintings and I had not figured out what my next project should be and mentioned this to a friend. She spends her winters in Hawaii and thought she might like a couple of new paintings for her house. I asked her what she would like and she said a whale and an octopus. Excellent, I have done a whale before and I like octopuses, so I agreed. I proceeded as if I knew what I was doing and painted the sperm whale painting (above). I was pretty happy with it, the whale appears to be coming out of the dark ocean background and sunlight ripples over it’s back.
Failure to Launch
I sent her a photo of the painting and she liked it well enough, but she wanted a humpback whale with a baby whale. One more question would have been useful to have determined the kind of whale she liked. I did proceed to create a sperm whale and baby painting, that I believe she loves. If anyone is interested in this Sperm Whale painting let me know and we can make a deal.
Beholders Don’t Always Know What They Want
I was asked to do a commissioned watercolor painting for a Christmas Card. I was quite new to the art business and wanted to please any customer that was willing to exchange money for paintings. I was also quite flattered that someone liked my work and was willing to send it out to the world.
Creating a Christmas card painting is a pretty general request. I asked her to provide some ideas of what she had in mind. I don’t think she had any ideas, but came back to me and said she wanted a star.
Star, well that is a starting point. As a person with lots of science background, I first thought of a nebula with hazy colored background and no real definition, more or less an abstract concept of a star.
Then I starting thinking that Christmas cards are generally a little more direct in their concepts, so I started to look up star symbols or images that represented stars. There are a lot of star symbols and not all of them work well with a Christian world view. I decided the Star of Bethlehem is pretty well known. Conceptually a star or the sun has its whitest light in the center and as it cools to the outside it goes to yellow, orange, then red. It satisfied the criteria for a star and my Beholder was pleased with the result. It just would have been a little less stressful if she had been a little more specific from the start.
Time Does Matter
The commissioned paintings I have done are usually time-sensitive. The Beholder has an event coming up like Christmas, birthday, wedding, or anniversary and would like to have the painting ready for that event. Contracting a commission means you are willing to set aside the necessary time to create the desired painting and meet their timeline. That means you should know how long it takes you to create a painting.
One of my more demanding commissioned painting was requested by my mother. Not that she is that hard to please, but she had no idea what she wanted other than a wedding gift for her cousin’s daughter.
Now, as you might imagine, artwork does not always make a great gift. Mom did not know this young women. She did not know her likes or dislikes and creating a watercolor that would be desirable for an east coast, ivy league graduate, living in New York City, was a bit of a challenge.
One thing we both had in common was her Grandmother Katherine. Katherine was my Great Aunt and my namesake. She had passed many years before and I had kept a few personal items from her auction. I thought perhaps putting them together as a Memory Portrait would make a welcome gift.
Timing is Everything
I was still working full time when this request came in and the wedding was quite awhile out, so I felt I could accomplish this goal. It seems like such a small painting should not have taken up too much time, but I was not aware that my lack of experience and demands on daily life became distractions for the work at hand. I did finish the painting in time for the wedding and the gift was well-loved.
In Summary, What Have I Learned
Know your limits
Know how long it takes to make a painting
Be committed to meeting Beholder’s timeline
Be ready to say no if it is not a good fit
Commissioned watercolor paintings is a wonderful way to stretch the imagination, become closer to understanding the Beholder’s desires to overwhelm them with joy. I will be working on my Creative Workbench Series for the next twelve months, I am more than willing to take on commissioned projects that fall within this theme. If you would like to capture a special someone’s creative space in watercolor, please fill out the contact form so I can start asking questions.
Have You Commissioned Art
If you have commissioned art before, would you please take a little time and share your experiences below in the comment section. Please share the good and the bad so we can all learn how to make the experience the best it can be.
In preparation for sending my Granddaughter a 14 year birthday card, I called my son to ask if she knew if cursive was a lost art form. I heard that some schools are no longer teaching this writing form and wondered if she knew how to write and read cursive writing. He thought she would know how.
Normally I would have just printed the note, but I have a fondness for vintage fountain pens and I love how it feels to write with one. I don’t use them very often, but I also like the look of the writing when I am done, it has an old look with some ink blotches which I think is very cool. I also love the way the pen has a slight resistance on the paper and it slows you down, allowing time to think about your word choice. I also wanted to use her Great Grandma Elsie’s Sheaffer inscribed fountain pen which seemed appropriate. I wrote out a nice note and sent it in the mail. (Click herefor blog on Note Cards for other Granddaughter story).
I called my Granddaughter on her birthday just to make sure she had received the note and to talk to her directly (seemed better than text although that is her preference). She said she was very happy with the items I sent, but she shyly confessed she could not read the card. I said I was sorry, her dad thought she could read cursive, but alas he was mistaken.
Why Does Cursive Exist
I believe cursive was devised for use with feather quill pens to keep the ink flowing and have less scratching on the paper. Later as the pens improved, cursive was just faster and flowed easier up to through the days of the fountain pens. Fountain pens were replaced with ball point pens and flow of ink was no longer a problem because it stopped flowing when the pen was lifted off the paper. This was probably around the 1960’s, so cursive was quite useful up until that time.
Why is it Still Important
I suppose it is of limited value to care about the loss of a vintage writing form. It doesn’t seem to matter what style writing one uses if it is not legible. Proper penmanship has many more advantages than just being able to sign your name.
Hand Eye coordination
Creativity (see beautiful Calligraphy examples)
Sense of pride
Reading old letters and documents
Hope Still Exists
Is cursive a lost art form? I don’t think cursive is gone forever. I think it is such a creative writing form it will continue to exist. I hope my Granddaughter will become more familiar with the writing style because she is a creative and would find it great fun to be able to stylize her documents. I am thinking she might find it a lot more fun if she had a fountain pen to write with (maybe on her 15 Th birthday) of course that would compete with driver’s training (Oh Well).
Is Cursive a lost art form? Please share your opinions in the comment section below.
I was a first timer at this. My mom had anticipated the arrival annually, but was unable to participate this year due to quarantine at her assisted living home. My husband, Dave, was also an old hand at this and knew just where to go and what to do. I on the other hand was reluctant to venture out, but felt fairly safe sitting back in the car waiting for the arrival.
As we entered the the Farm and Fleet parking lot, there were a lot of cars and trucks scattered throughout the lot, no one knew where to park. Dave had a pretty good idea so we moved close to the west side of the lot, and waited in anticipation.
Arrived on Time
At precisely 8:30 am on 4 July 2020, the “Tree-Ripened” fruit truck hauling fresh Georgia peaches directly from the grower to Wisconsin, arrived in the Farm and Fleet lot. Within 10 minutes they had set up a tent, tables, marked off the social-distance markings, and had cases of peaches on the tables ready for purchase at $40/case. People lined up with masks on and patiently waited their turn. The card reader was super fast and there was no case limit.
Dave paid for three cases, placed them on a cart, put them in the car and we were off and home within 30 minutes of arrival. Wow, that was impressive.
Phase 2: Expecting Fabulous Fruit
Although the company calls itself “Tree-ripened Fruit”, the peaches are not quite ready on the day of receipt. They are picked close to being ripe, then placed in a refrigerated truck to stop the ripening. To get them to ripe state you lay them out individually for a couple of days until softened.
It is Hard to Wait;
Perfect peaches would have been better than apples as Eve’s temptation.
Memory of biting into a sweet juicy peach starts the mouth to salivate
Nothing matches to smell or taste of a freshly baked peach pie
Two Days Later
The time has arrived to test the peaches. A small one is chosen that is slightly soft to the touch. Rather than eat through the velvety soft skin, hot water is prepare to dip the peach in preparation for peeling. The peeled fruit is then cut into wedges and placed in a bowl for sampling.
Phase 3: Expectations Fulfilled
The arrival of the fruit truck had been on the calendar for over a month. On the day the truck was to arrive, expectancy filled the air. Foreknowledge provided certainty that the event would take place, but even so, there is always a small amount of doubt that something would spoil the day.
We did not expect to get three cases, but were ecstatic when there was no limit and we could share the glory. When we returned home we handed out cases to others so that we did not hoard this wondrous gift.
Two days later, ripened fruit was placed in a bowl waiting for the final verdict. Was the wait over? Was this the full realization of the perfect peach? As I bit into this amazing peach, It smelled, tasted and dripped exactly like I had expected. I thanked God for such a glorious gift he created in a perfectly ripened peach.
Live Expectantly to Unleash Childlike Wonder
Please share your experiences with Expectancy below. If you want to join my on my journey to unleash childlike wonder click here.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw
What does Childlike Wonder Look Like
It was a beautiful cool Saturday and I was sitting near my art booth when two small boys (5 and 7) came running over to see myTiny Wonders original watercolors. I had one painting of a vintage red race car and the older boy just had to pick it up and look it over very carefully. The younger child quickly checked out all the other paintings and was squealing with delight. I could not have been more pleased. It was refreshing to see how my paintings brought out so much joy in these young people.
Where Did Our Wonder Go
A little later there was a young man, perhaps around 26 who also came over to the admire the Tiny Wonders. He looked at all the paintings quite intently and after awhile I said hello and made a comment on the weather. I explained all paintings were originals and he confessed his admiration for my work. You could see delight in his eyes but no squealing like the young boys. He was well mannered and controlled, probably did not want to overly express his interest for fear I would ask him to buy something. It became very clear to me that this young man’s childlike wonder was still present but suppressed.
Wonder gets stolen from us at an early age. Squealing is not appropriate behavior when entering a art gallery or museum (except for children’s museums). How fun would it be to go to the Louvre and roam the floors with youthful excitement seeing the work of the world’s most creative geniuses and exclaiming with delight the whole time. Your heart would sore and your imagination would go wild. Can you image the looks from people around you and the scolding you would get. Instead of joining your expression of pure joy, you would be required to suppress you enthusiasm so the more sophisticated art lovers could peacefully admire the works. They would have read their guidebooks so they knew which works they should like and the appropriate reaction displayed. Your wonder would be suppressed or stolen away completely.
Can We Find Wonder Again
I have the dearest, sweetest, most naive husband ever. Each day he demonstrates what it is like to retain wonder. He does not allow my cynicism to squelch his childlike enthusiasm. When we first starting seeing each other, I took him on a vacation to a small island off the east coast of Puerto Rico, called Vieques. He was not a sophisticated traveler at that time. He had served in the army in Germany over 20 years earlier and that was the last time he had flown. On the flight from Chicago to San Juan, we had the opportunity to share one of the three seats with a young girl from San Juan. She spoke no English and Dave spoke no Spanish. As we started to fly over Puerto Rico you could see Old San Juan, beaches, a fort, and cargo ships. Both the little girl and Dave were glued to the window, exclaiming with excitement with each recognizable sight. She would take Dave’s face in her two hands and point his face toward the window. Language and age were no longer a barrier, only wonder and joy.
Join the Search for Wonder
I am on a search for my childlike wonder. My search starts with finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. It started with flowers and taking macro photographs to look for unseen details. Flowers are an easy place to start because they are such amazing creations, you can’t help but wonder how the little bugs catch the nectar and pollen and distribute it to the right place.
I take these photos and interpret them into watercolor paintings. I am not very quick at painting, so as I contemplate the details, I become mindful and that often creates moment of wonder on how this flower was created.
I know life is busy and time slips away, so I hope my watercolor paintings will help you discover a world you may not have found. I would love to have you share in my journey and you can do that by becoming an Extraordinarian. Click here for the path forward.
It was the summer of 1962 when I was sitting on the couch in our living room with my mother and brother and the World Book Encyclopedia salesman. He had brought along the most beautiful, cream-colored books. He was offering our family easy access to information that could only be found in libraries and schools right in our own home. The books felt luxurious, with the heavyweight glossy paper, gold-edged pages and colored photographs for special articles. It was going to make us scholars, improve our grades, help us with homework, and provide access to a world way outside of our Verona village limits. The cost of the set of books was probably equivalent to the cost of a computer today, with what seemed like the same access to information.
I loved those books. My brother and I would read them from a – z, just random information about everything and anything. We were thirsty for the information contained in those volumes. They supplemented our equally devoted reading of graphic magazines (comic books), which also served to enhance our literary knowledge.
The World Book Encyclopedia was our window on the world. The short sections of information were just enough to satisfy our curiosity without going into details that we could not understand. They were concise bits of information, easily swallowed and digested.
Fast forward to today. Information is everywhere online. When I go to Wikipedia to research a topic, I get lost in the information rabbit hole of links to links to links. I end up in a new subject without knowing where I started. If I want to go to a restaurant, I hunt for every review available to pre-determine my satisfaction with the food. If I purchase a product on Amazon, I must read the reviews, and their links and comparisons and in the end, I am unable to decide for fear I will not have done enough research.
I am suffering from information overwhelm. It may have started with my first set of encyclopedia, but it is now an ever-present danger that threatens my joy, reduces my creativity, and makes me questions my abilities. I go into analysis paralysis and become unable to determine what I should do next.
A good example would be weight loss. Do you know how many diets you can research online? Do you have any idea how many food choices, scales, tracking programs, or exercise programs you can research before deciding to eat less and move more?
What is interesting is this information overwhelm is a subject that has a great deal of discussion on the world wide web and just this morning I started down that rabbit hole of information until I just said, “stop”. Essentially more is less in the world of information.
If you are suffering from information overwhelm what should you do:
*Turn off your computer.
*Get up out of your chair.
* Do something physical.
If you are suffering from information overwhelm, what do you do to overcome this debilitating condition? Please add your comments below. Thank you for helping others with this condition.
I live in an area of Wisconsin known at the Driftless Area. I am not a geological expert, but I understand during the ice age, the glacier covered most of Wisconsin and skirted this area leaving a completely different landscape with unique rock formations. This driftless concept was never explained to me during my informative years and has only recently been thrust forward because of my interest in watercolor painting. I began hearing this driftless term when looking for art shows and found some special shows devoted to driftless area artists. Then recently when our local historical museum expanded, it reinvented itself as the Driftless Historium, kind of a cool name with a bit of a Victorian nature. In my quest for locations to display my watercolor paintings, I approached the Driftless Historium with some new products and as a result, they suggested I paint prairie flowers because they fall into their Driftless concept.
I have done several floral watercolor paintings and this seemed to be a logical step, helped limit my scope of subjects and I found myself in research mode. During the research process, I found a local remnant prairie on Instagram called Moely Prairie. It is only 30 miles from my home and I was permitted to use their wonderful photos, which was great considering it is tough to photograph prairie flowers in the winter. During my quest, Moely Prairie posted a Milkweed Plant Flower as a reminder of the connection between Milkweed plants and Monarchs. My normal tendency is to zoom in close to a flower to extract the more interesting details within the flower itself. I had never looked a Milkweed plant flower before, but I became captivated by the five little nectar cups around the floret and the petals that pointed down instead of up as most flowers try to display their pretty parts. I started to look into the reason for this interesting display.
I became a bit obsessed after awhile when I started to read about the claw-like thorn that came up from the cavity around the cups. Instead of nice little pollen granules that stick to the bee or insect, a pollinator slips off the downward turned petal and a sac of pollen attaches to its leg. It has to be pretty strong to pull its leg out or it may stay stuck on the plant and die. It is pretty hard to explain how this works, so I have placed a YouTube video below so you can get a better explanation.
The other cool thing about the Milkweed plant is the connection with the monarch butterfly. The monarch caterpillar eats milkweed exclusively because they are not affected by its toxic sap, but birds find the caterpillar unappetizing. Unfortunately, the number of Milkweed plants is diminishing because they aren’t a flower garden plant and prairies are dwindling so Monarchs are dwindling also. I recommend doing some research of your own and look around for opportunities to spread Milkweed seed if you get a chance. Maybe plant some in your yard where they can co-exist with other perennial flowers, or contribute to a prairie restoration group to help the Monarchs continue to thrive. Below is the completed Milkweed Plant Flower painting and the original was given to my Granddaughter for her birthday. I have provided the Driftless Historium with Watercolor Print Blocks displaying this and other prairie flowers and they will be for sale at their gift shop soon. Keep the wonder going Extraordinarians.
A couple of months ago my son jokingly sent me a message with a photo of his workbench. It was just full of stuff, some in-process work, tools, along with some adult beverages. I laughed when I saw the photo, knowing that my son is extremely inventive, but tends to have too many projects at varying stages of completion. When I saw the photo, I thought the workbench was a visual interpretation of the many synapses firing in his brain. Too many to control requiring the need of some fluid refreshments to slow down the impulses. It was a crazy photo, but after a while I thought wow, wouldn’t that make a great painting.
This started me down the path of a new series I am calling Creative Workbenches. It will be an intimate look at a variety of work spaces from a diverse group of creative sources. I have enlisted the help of a jeweler who fixes watches and clock and a fly fisherman who ties his own flies. I hope to recruit additional artisans over time.
One thing I am learning about creative workbenches is how intimate this project is becoming. How a person lays out their work area says a great deal about their creative process. As a messy desk person myself, I need to be surrounded by the materials and ideas associated with the project I am working on, however, I don’t like to mix too many different project at once, so I must put away anything not related to the current project. The photo above is an example of how I start out to determine the layout of a new painting.
We are all creative people to some extent, every job has their own creative element and each requires tools for the trade. I am looking for additional Creative Workbenches: What does yours look like? Would you like to share and possibly have it made into a painting. Please leave a comment below if you would like to participate. If you subscribe to my website, you will be informed on the progress of my creative workbenches.
The original of Creative Workbench #1; Wired, I will be giving to my son, who provided me with his photo and the idea, but I have scanned it and am able to make reproductions if you are interested please send me a message.
My granddaughters (10 and 12) completely annihilated me while playing Spot It! during their post-Christmas visit . My husband and I had no chance to react quick enough to those elusive figures.
I don’t take this too seriously and I think it is really great that someone has invented a game that children can win without compromising the parent’s integrity or competitive spirit, however, I was very curious about why adults lose at Spot It! so easily.
I have a theory based on a tiny bit of experience and the book I am currently reading, “Reductionism in Art and Brain Science” by Eric R. Kandel, Nobel Prize Winner. This is not a quick read, but it has some enlightening details on how the brain processes images.
In grade school, we were shown a classical image of how our eye works. The image comes into the eye upside down and the brain has to turn it around and figure out the image. It turns out our brain has even more work to do, it has to take the image and make electrical signals related to forms and shapes and associate them with something we may have seen before, then interpret that into something we can understand.
These signals don’t all go to the same place in the brain, which even adds more complications. There is a place in the brain that just handles faces. There is place in the brain that takes care of shapes. Shapes are easy, even babies recognize shapes, but more complex things require life experience and learning.
So back to “Spot It!, it is my theory that younger children look at the shapes on the card and react quickly to what they see without going through the interpretation process. So why do adults lose at Spot It!, because we have too much experience. Our brain is spending too much time trying to figure out what the shape is, rather than reacting to the shape itself, then associating it with a name. This makes us slow in reaction time.
If I had a way to turn off all the images I have experienced in life and go back to baby shapes, I think I could do much better, but alas, I don’t think retrograde my memories would be a very good idea.
This all relates back to how people interpret art. Art isn’t just someone looking at a picture and seeing what the artist portrayed, it is more of the artist had something in mind, but the beholder uses their life learning and experiences and interprets the image in a completely different way. Essentially both the artist and the beholder are creators.
So when you play Spot It! with your grandchildren next time ask them if they could give you a few free cards, just to even out the odds.
“Why do adults lose at “Spot It!, because we have too much experience.”
Crayon Lust Curves Creativity should have been the headlines when Crayola introduced the 64 count crayon box with sharpener in 1958. Imagine the thoughts I had as a five year child seeing such a wondrous sight. More colors than anyone could dream of and the possibility of always having a crayon with a sharp point. I imagined how easy it would have been to stay in the lines if I didn’t have to deal with a rounded crayon. I imagined the artistry my pictures would have; thinner stick figures, architectural features of my square houses would become distinct with better detail. Oh how wonderful that flip top box lid was, so easy to fold back over the crayons rather than trying to tuck the flap of the box back in and never quite sealing tight so all the crayons fell out.
Lust is a big word regarding a five year old. How did so much desire grow in such a small child. I don’t remember where the advertising came from that would have enticed me to desire these crayons so much. I expect it was more word of mouth or even more probable, the rich kid in the class room came to school with a box and the first forms of jealousy formed.
I know I asked for a box of these crayons each year when school supplies were being purchased. I never did get one, that was probably due to good parental money usage and the reality that one really didn’t need that many crayons. In fact I am pretty convinced that if I had that many crayons it would have actually diminished my creativity. How would one choose the right red when one had eight instead of two. I probably would have been constantly sharpening the crayons, just to see how perfect I could get the point rather than putting color on a page.
I do know that crayola had the best crayons. To this day I remember the luxury of feeling the paper on a new crayon. It had a texture that prevents them from slipping in your fingers, yet was soft and velvety at the same time. The saturation of the pigment was perfect and satisfying when you laid it on paper unlike cheaper waxier crayons that some people try to substitute to little children destroying their creative joy. The cheap versions left more wax and the more you tried to achieve a strong color the more wax built up and left one very dissatisfied with the end result.
The 64 count crayola box was the start of my art supply lust. To this day I continue to want more watercolor paints in different colors, knowing that only a few are required when you mix your own colors. I always want more brushes, but I only use a few favorite ones a regular basis. I have to learn that lust for creative tools does not help my creativity, just like jealousy and lust prevent me from loving and appreciating all that I am blessed with now. Creativity comes from my imagination, not from tools. The more content I am with my circumstances the more freedom I will have to create. That applies in all areas of my life.