The images in the last post seem a bit disorganized, so I’m going to post images of each canvas separately. Here’s the first one:
Wow! I love this book! It’s changing my approach and my attitude about art-making in ways I never thought it could or would. Imagery I never would have consciously thought to include in my art is appearing effortlessly as a result of the approach I’ve learned from this book.
Many who have reviewed this book have expressed disappointment that it doesn’t teach you how to paint, or that it doesn’t teach you how to paint exactly like the author, or that it teaches you to paint too much like the author and not in your own unique style, or that it contains too much “psycho babble” and not enough art instruction. Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.
The book offers exactly what it claims to offer on the cover: “Techniques for uncovering your own unique painting style,” and my only criticisms of it are that the information could have been organized more efficiently, and that, as lovely as Flora’s paintings are (and they truly are stunning), it would have been helpful to see how other artists applied the the techniques in the book to develop their own style. With so many of Flora’s beautiful paintings on nearly every page, it is hard not to want to emulate her style.
With that said, I have to say I still think this might be the most valuable art instruction book I’ve ever purchased, and I have purchased a crapload of art instruction books, to put it somewhat indelicately.
First, let me address the criticism of “too much ‘psycho babble.’” When I first sat down to read this book, I had the same reaction: “I didn’t buy a book to teach me yoga, or how to dance or meditate or play. Get to the art!” But later, as I began to mentally reorganize the information presented in the book, I came to realize that the mental/spiritual part of Flora’s approach is critical to developing one’s artistic intuition, and that developing one’s artistic intuition is what Flora’s approach is all about.
As unexpected imagery began to appear in my paintings this week, a lightbulb went on in my head: in order to create art that is uniquely my own, I need to set aside what my conscious mind thinks is correct, and let the quieter, less forceful part of myself have its say, and that in order for that to happen, I need to take the time to cultivate that quieter, less forceful self… which is what the “psycho babble” parts of the book are about. In other words, without the attention to the inner self, this approach simply will not work. Take the time to be quiet and still. Take the time to journal. Take the time to move, to dance, to play, because those are the things that will make that inner voice, your intuition, stronger, which will in turn make the art you create unique and honest and truly your own.
Now as far as the presentation of actual art techniques, it’s all there. No,
Flora will not tell you how to paint flowers or birds exactly like she does, but that’s not the point of this book. What she does do is share a large collection of prompts, from pages 44 to 57, for using large and small brushes, your fingers, rags, spray bottles, and etching and stamping tools. She also provides a basic list of materials to start with (pages 40 to 43) and tips to help with choosing colors (check out pages 68 and 69 for the best tips on choosing colors to start painting with). She discusses how to develop your painting in an organic and unforced manner (see pages 105 to 107), and also shares tips on getting “unstuck” when you’re not sure what to do next (these are sprinkled throughout the book).
I’m working on a sort of study guide to go along with this book; it’s a bit rough right now, but it’s enough to help you get started if you’re not sure where to begin:
1. Read the whole thing. You don’t have to memorize it or even understand it all, just start familiarizing yourself with her approach.
2. Gather the materials on page 41. Have at least two surfaces to paint on, I used two 24″ square canvases and several 12″ canvases to start with. I also got cheap “Artist’s Loft” acrylic paint in quart-size jars at Michaels so I would feel free to use as much paint as I wanted without feeling like I was “wasting” it. I started with three primary colors and black and white. You can also use any other materials you like; there’s no reason you can’t incorporate any other media of your choosing using this approach. Like collage? Go ahead and glue something to your canvas. Pastels? Crayons? Charcoal? Image transfer? There’s no reason to limit yourself. It’s your art; if it feels like it should be included, by all means, include it!
3. Read page 68 and start your painting with warm colors as described. Begin to build layers of paint using the tools and prompts described on pages 44 to 57, moving back and forth between canvases, and between warm and cool colors, as your layers dry. Work fairly quickly and try not to think too much at this point.
4. After you’ve built several layers, read the second and third paragraphs on page 65, and pages 104 to 107. Look at your colors and imagery in particular. Read pages 94 to 97. Continue to build your layers, developing your colors, imagery and composition as discussed in these pages.
5. When you feel stuck, read page 88 and the section on nonattachment on pages 108 to 111. I especially like using my spray bottle and turning my painting 90 degrees when I’m feeling stuck.
6. Work until you feel you’ve reached a natural stopping point. Read pages 119 and 120. If you’re like me, your painting will be far from finished after a single session, but these pages will give you something to think about as you look at what you’ve completed so far.
7. Reread the book, in whole or in part, between painting sessions. If you feel so inclined, as I do, take notes as you find helpful tips and meaningful ideas.
8. As Flora says on page 22, “TRUST. ACCEPT. ACT. ACKNOWLEDGE. REPEAT.”
We finally moved into our new house just over a week ago. Didn’t love the packing, but I do love the new space. So much more open and full of light than our old place. Still unpacking and cleaning the old house (yuck).
I also started a new job recently as a product data specialist at Build.com. I really like it there and the contrast between the detail-oriented work I do there is a nice contrast to the open-ended work of art-making. I think it’s good exercise for my brain.
I hope to get back to a regular routine soon now that we’ve moved and I’m settling in at work. I really want to devote more time to art again.
My style keeps evolving and changing, which is good; I like the new direction my work is taking. I’ve been incorporating a lot of natural elements lately, flowers, animals, etc., and a lot of figures in a more realistic style than I was using before and I’ve been really wanting to draw from a live model again (I think it’s been about 20 years since my last life drawing class). I think it may require a trip out of town to make that happen, though, as I can’t seem to find any life drawing classes or drop-in sessions in Chico (I could’ve sworn the local art center used to do drop-in sessions, but apparently not anymore). Hopefully my family can live without me for a few hours so I can go play artist sometime soon!
Exhibition opportunity: Small World, Small Works 2012 This exhibition will begin in Chico and visit four other cities, including the state capital, Sacramento. Would love to see international artists participate! The fee is $25 per 12″x12″ canvas ($20 for members). Deadline: October 30, 2012 http://chicoartcenter.com/gallery/index.htm (scroll down) Prospectus: http://chicoartcenter.com/PDFs/SmallWorld2012/Small-World-2012-Entry-Form.pdf
Artists, please check it out and spread the word!
I’ve been struggling with how to use my mixed-media collage technique/style for humorous images for awhile now. I’ve wanted to do children’s book illustration for a long time, but I’m always drawn to humorous stories and my style just didn’t seem suited for that. I finally just decided to let myself experiment without judging too much and I like what’s developing. I’m learning plenty and figuring out what I like and don’t like, what works and what doesn’t and having some fun in the process.
These scans aren’t great – the backgrounds are really a more saturated yellow, not so brown, but everything else is pretty accurate.