Self Portrait Creativity Challenge

By nature, I am more of an abstract painter, one who relies on intuition rather than being influenced by the world around me. However, last year I took a few still life painting and figure drawing classes with the very talented Holly Storlie at Gamut Gallery. I just felt like I needed that extra boost, and I don’t think I could have executed this painting last night without Holly’s guidance from last year in class.

The Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana promoted a Self Portrait Creativity Challenge this week and I painted mine late last night. I spent more time on this portrait than any other one I’ve ever painted. To get better at portraits, I plan to paint a self portrait every month for the rest of this year. I may also paint portraits of others in addition to my monthly self portrait.

Really the only part of this painting I’m not happy with is my nose. It appears flat and I’m sure I can fix it with more shadows and highlights. I reworked it a couple times already and I’m still not happy with it so I think I’m going to grab a canvas panel tonight and paint my nose however many times it takes to get it right. Then I’ll copy the same technique of the best one onto my self portrait.

I would love to hear from others who paint portraits and how you gained some mastery in creating them. For me it’s practice, practice, practice from here on out!

Cheers!

P.S. And maybe I should change the title of this one from “Self Portrait 2020-2” to “I Hate Painting Noses.” 🤣

Failing Beautifully

I have approximately 200 finished paintings in our home and my studio, and this number does not include the 200-300 I’ve painted over or sent to the trash because I wasn’t happy with them. Very rarely do I paint over a painting I don’t like anymore, and that’s because I’ve improved over time. I also plan to hang on to most of these paintings because many aren’t representative of my current work. But what does all of this really mean?

I was talking to a friend today who started painting a few years ago and she said that she wasn’t confident enough to put her art out there yet. I assured her that it would come in time and that in the beginning, for every 100 paintings I created, only about 5-10 were good. Maybe not even good, maybe more like just decent. I’ve been painting since 2009, but for the first seven years, I was painting very rarely because I was working and at home raising our daughter. I figure since 2009 I’ve averaged at least seven hours of painting time each week, and that number is underestimated I’m sure.

My point is that that equals over 3,500 hours and without all that practice and all of the failures, I wouldn’t be where I am today. For every failure, I have found yet one more way not to do something. I see failure as a measurement of effort; If I never fail, that means I am not experimenting and stretching myself to the limits. I truly believe you aren’t growing if you’re not failing at times, too.

I don’t like it when people ask me how long it took me to paint something, because really, the true answer is that it took me 3,500+ hours to create it! In art, all of your experience — all of the cumulative failures and successes — are what allow you to create what you create today.

Even though I’m a better painter now than 10 years ago, I do still produce bad paintings sometimes, and as weird as it may sound, I’m proud of them because it means I am pushing myself, as not every new technique I try is going to work out – as is the case with my “NOPE” painting above!

So practice as much as you can, fail beautifully, and revel in your eventual successes. If you fail enough, you will succeed!

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook @loririvera.art

Artist Tip: Mounting Watercolor Paper

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Looking for a unique and low cost way to display your acrylic paintings on watercolor paper? Recently, I’ve been working with acrylic on watercolor paper and needed a quick and easy way to get them ready to hang in a show. I love what I came up with; I think they look professional, especially for how little it dinged my pocketbook.

Both of these paintings are on 8 x 8 watercolor paper and I bought a four pack of 10 x 10 cradled unfinished wood panels. They were only $16.04 with my 40% off coupon at Michaels, which made them $4.01 each. I purchased wood that was two inches larger than my paper all around to give the illusion of a 1″ thick frame.

First I painted three coats of white gesso on the front and the sides of the wood, and I left the back unfinished. After the last coat was completely dry, I applied Liquitex Gel Medium with a foam brush to the front of the wood, then laid down the painting and tried to center it as much as possible. Then I pushed down all over the paper with my hands to make sure it was sticking in all places of the paper to the wood. If you have a brayer or a rolling pen, you could also use one of those. I pushed down on the paper for about three minutes.

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I waited a few hours for the gel medium to dry enough so that I could wire the back. The cradled boards are perfect for two eye hooks and picture hanging wire. The last step was varnishing the painting. I took a soft cloth and added a small amount of Gamvar varnish to it and applied it lightly to the painting. It gave it a nice sheen.

I am so excited about this way of displaying my small paper paintings. If you try this, let me know how it goes and how you like the end result!

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Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/loririvera.art) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/loririvera.art).

Top Five Tips for Beginning Artists

I am a visual artist living in Southwestern Indiana who publishes art related blog posts. Sign up to receive updates from my blog at the bottom of this page, and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram under @loririvera.art.

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I thought it would be fun to look back and see what my first post was on my Facebook art page. If you scroll through my photos, you’ll see that the first one was the left one above. To make sure I was comparing apples to apples (or as close as I could get), I took the one on the right that I created this year that is close to the size of the one from 2015, and is also abstract. I am happy with my progress and I can’t wait to see how much further I get by 2025!

Most importantly, though, is how I’ve arrived to where I am today. I am going to share what I think were the five most important things that got me from the 2015 painting to the 2020 painting above.

  1. Create art daily. Even if it’s just for a half an hour, that is better than nothing. When you do this, you are exercising your creative and technical muscles in your brain — or at least — that’s what I believe. On days you absolutely cannot make it to your studio/creative space to create, spend some time in that space meditating, cleaning, organizing, reading art books, or whatever you can do to stimulate your brain.
  2. Don’t compare your work to others’ work. Instead, compare your current work to your previous work. Every few months or every year, revisit some of your older work and see how far you’ve come. This is a difficult one, but it’s imperative, because when you compare yourself to other artists, it’s not fair to you or them. You might love their work, but they might have started their craft way before you. Not only that, I do think artists progress at different rates. Some artists pick things up faster than others, but there’s nothing wrong with that either. There’s no wrong way to make progress in art. It is an individualized journey and everyone’s path is unique!
  3. Set SMART Goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Oriented. For example, a SMART goal would NOT be “to paint more,” but instead “To create 100 paintings by the end of the year.” I only used 100 because that was one of my goals last year, and according to my records, I painted over 115 paintings last year. Are all of them big paintings? No. Are all of them good paintings. No. But did I paint some pieces that I am proud of. Yes! Not every painting will necessarily be your best.  I am a firm believer in setting SMART goals because those are the only ones you can truly measure. More sample goals include:
    • Participate in three art festivals by the end of the year.
    • Create a website to showcase my work by the end of the month.
    • Attain gallery representation with at least one gallery by the end of the year.
  4. Find at least one supporter of your work to give you honest feedback. Hopefully this person will be someone who can be honest about where you can improve, and what you are doing that is going well. For me, my family is my first filter, naturally I think because I talk to them daily. My husband will almost always have something positive to say about a work of mine, but also give me an honest critique and tell me what he thinks needs work.
  5. Take a class. Don’t be afraid to take a class…any kind of class. It could be drawing, painting, ceramics, or anything else you want more help with. I do believe that any kind of formalized art training will help you along the way. I say this because I have taken classes with a few artists. Even if you are a professional artist, there are always things we can learn from each other.  I really had to step outside of my comfort zone to take classes, as I had never really painted in front of anyone. At first it is really uncomfortable, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Now that I’ve shared my top five things that helped me get to where I am today, I’d love to hear from you. What has helped you in your craft?

100 Paintings in 100 Days

I started a project yesterday, Sept 6, 2019. I am creating 100 paintings in 100 days! I am painting abstractly and intuitively on 8×8 140 lb. watercolor paper. These are so much fun to create. My next one will be #5 and I think there’s a good chance I will finish the project before the deadline of December 14, 2019. I found a good place to get my custom mats for these pieces. Mat Boards and More (https://www.matboardandmore.com) might be where I get them.

I am trying to be playful and loose with these pieces. They are supposed to be fun rather than serious. These small paintings will also help me refine my abstract painting as I will get a lot of practice with defining my focal point in each piece. This series will help me improve in creating good compositions.

I believe abstract pieces are the most difficult to create compositionally and with color. I’ve heard people say “My 7-year-old could do that.” Or things like “I could do that.” That is so frustrating as abstract painting is harder than it looks.

I will not be creating prints of these pieces; I am just going to sell the originals.

Follow me on facebook (www.facebook.com/loririvera.art) if you’d like to see the pieces as I create them. You can also follow me on instagram @ www.instagram.com/loririvera.art. I will also be posting each piece to my 100 Paintings in 100 Days page on my website. Feel free to bookmark the page.

Thank you for following me on my blog!

Cheers!

Lori

Interview with Painter, Jaime Haney

My friend and fellow artist, Jaime Haney, and I thought it would be fun to interview each other about our journey in art making. I love Jaime’s beautiful and colorful paintings; She’s always creating something new and exciting and I can’t wait to see what she does next. I am thrilled to offer you the interview below. You can read my interview on her blog here.

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Jaime surrounded by her gorgeous paintings

When did you realize you wanted to be a painter?

I’ve been an artist all my life and I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t one. It truly is how I’ve identified myself all of my life. I was always encouraged by my parents to create and express myself from the beginning. My mother was always creative and my father made his living as an artist. When I was a teen, I preferred to illustrate mostly. I experimented in photography for a short time. It seemed like common knowledge that fine art wasn’t a profitable avenue to take so I went into graphic design. While it was a creative outlet, I still would draw and create things in my off hours. A few years after the birth of my son, about 2011, I felt the urge to pick up the paintbrush and I’ve been painting ever since. It’s been very rewarding and frustrating at the same time.

Where do you find inspiration for your paintings?

Oh my, where don’t I find inspiration?! Seriously, inspiration comes to me in so many forms. It comes in dreams, A lot of times I am painting in my dreams. It comes from my day dreams and even while I drive or shower. It comes from my many lush gardens I tend – the shadows of a clump of plants, the brilliant colored flower petals. Inspiration comes from the natural world around me, like the woods behind my house where I like to walk, explore… and get inspired. Watching TV, I may get inspired by a face or a place – many times I’ve paused the program and snapped a photo because I was inspired by the look on a face or slight smile or curve of a neck. The way a woman’s eyes look away with melancholy. Music deeply inspires me and has been the source of many paintings including titles for paintings. Writings and poems inspire me. There really isn’t a time I’m not inspired. I am constantly painting in my mind… how would that song look if I were to paint it? I’m never at a loss for inspiration – it is literally everywhere.

Mystical-Mother-Nature-painting-by-Jaime-Haney_lores“Mystical Mother Nature” by Jaime Haney

How do you describe your style?

I’ve had my work described as Fauvism – I’m sure because of the strong color I use. But I would describe my style as more Post Impressionistic. While my paintings are somewhat realistic in their stylings, I’m not concerned with photo realism. I prefer there to be acknowledgment that my hand made the art, imperfections and all. I hope to evoke to the viewer the feeling I’m experiencing from my subjects whether they’re made up in my imagination or from real life. There’s a certain darkness to my work, whether that’s seen or just felt. I’m not really a light and airy type of painter, I love to inject a little mystique to my work… a nod to the supernatural even.

Who influences you?

I can’t really say that I’m influenced by any certain artist as I’m not well versed in art history. However, I am familiar with past artists like Frida Khalo, Henri Rousseau, Leonora Carrington, Georgia O’Keeffe, Dorothea Tanning and Gustav Klimt. I like their paintings very much and might go as far as to say their work influences me but maybe it’s just because we like similar subjects or colors, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s easier to see as a viewer of my art rather than myself who influences my work.

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Do you take commissions?

I do occasionally take commissions if the fit is right. The person wanting the work would of course need to enjoy my style and not ask for me to paint in a way that isn’t natural for me.

Tell me about your commission process.

For this I’m going to lead you to a web page on my site and it talks about going through a commission. https://jaimehaney.com/ever-wanted-commission-painting/

What do you find to be the most difficult step of painting a piece?

I’d have to say that would be different for each painting. However, I also will say when I start a new painting it’s almost like I’ve forgotten everything I’ve ever learned and I go through the process thinking to myself well how am I going to do that? I just have to start, many times with a rough sketch, and the painting moves on from various stages often without my knowledge of what I’ve even done. My painting process seems to incur many stages of my being lost somewhere in my mind and I love this. While on the other hand some paintings have many stages that are just awful looking and I have to reconsider what I’m doing but usually if I keep at it, I can pull it out of that dreadful stage. That is when many paintings go to rest on a ledge somewhere while I let time and sometimes dreams tell me what to do about them. The best paintings to me though are the ones that somehow appear without my realization of how they got there, it’s that wonderful land of being in the zone… as if it paints itself and I’m just the channel.

What is your favorite thing about being an artist?

Oh, so many things. I love being able to take my viewer to another world and forget their problems or just everyday goings on. Also painting or drawing what I imagine or dream, reality means nothing when I’m creating and I find that very seductive. Being able to convey a feeling or mood with the strokes of my brush. When I walk into my studio and know that no matter what I decide to paint that day I alone have control of my painted reality and that is very satisfying.

How do you know when a painting is finished?

This is a difficult question and each painting is different. Like I mentioned, my dad is an artist and we’re very close. I often ask his opinion on a painting to see if he feels it needs anything more. Many times I set aside a painting to let it simmer in my thoughts without having to make a snap decision. When I go back to it with fresh eyes, possibly something jumps out to me and I know where to go from there or decide it is finished as it can be so I sign it and it’s done. Other times I just know it’s done. Some paintings are simply abandoned and I move onto another because I’m sick of it.

How do you title your paintings?

I love to title paintings. Sometimes the name will come to me as I paint it and I’ll write it down in my studio so I don’t forget. Occasionally a song playing (or the lyrics) while I’m painting will become the title or lead to the title. My titles tend to be dramatic and deep, evoking what I’m feeling during the process of painting it. Sometimes though they simply are just what the painting is of, but more often than not I like a deeper meaning to the title.

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“What  Lies Beneath” by Jaime Haney

What is your work day like?

I’ll start out by saying I’m naturally a night owl but with having a son in school, that has curbed my night owl ways. I’ve always felt more creative at night but I’ve learned that as a professional artist I cannot wait on a feeling and must create my own inspiration during the hours I have available. So my work day starts when I return home from dropping my son off to school and I usually start with my computer. I check and return emails or communication with my email list. Next, I check to make sure my website is up and running and deal with that if needed. Then answer any comments I have on my blog, perhaps write a new post and eventually make my way to social media which is a very important part of my art business. Around 11:30 I eat something and then head to the art studio. I get about three and a half hours of painting in and then it’s time for my son to come home on the school bus. After this, the day just flies by. I spend some time chatting with him about his day and according to whether he wants my company or if he wants to play video games, I might get another hour in the studio before it’s time to close it up and get dinner started. After dinner, I might get back on social media for a short time to reply to comments or post more and that’s about it for my evening.

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A peek inside Jaime Haney’s studio

What are your favorite subjects to paint?

There are a wide variety of subjects I like to paint. I’m an avid gardener so I enjoy painting tropical plants, gardens and flowers. But there is a bigger part of me that would rather paint abstract landscapes, making up my own world I see in my dreams and visions. Trees are always a favorite but more than anything I really like to add a sense of mystery to my paintings no matter what the subject is. Life is never boring and there are endless subjects to paint that give me pleasure. There’s usually a story associated with my painting either a true one, folklore and myth or something I’ve just made up. That’s the greatest thing about being an artist, you can make anything you want and I find my imagination is the best at creating subjects to paint.

How can people find and buy your art?

My website is http://jaimehaney.com and that is where I have an online store where my art can be purchased and I ship it out. I also host my blog on there, it’s really the best place to find me. I have a monthly email that I send out to subscribers where I offer my new paintings, art show invites and other fun things, come sign up I’d love to have you. I do have a Facebook page for my art as well as an Instagram and I’ll share them below, but since we have so little control over these social avenues and they could be pulled out from under us at any time, I’d rather have someone contact me directly via email jaime@jaimehaney.com or through my website.

My Facebook page: www.facebook.com/JaimeHaneyArtist

My Instagram handle: Jaime Haney  https://www.instagram.com/jaimehaney/

20 Random Art Facts

It’s been a week or two since I’ve written a blog post. I’ve been painting pretty consistently and below are my last two paintings. I know…I know…a little early for Christmas themed paintings, but I’m trying to get a head start.

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I thought I’d write “20 Random Art Facts About Me” so you can get to know me better as a painter.

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Painting in my studio

  1. My studio is in a room in our house, which means that it’s extremely convenient, but I also get sidetracked sometimes. It’s small but works for now.
  2. I find abstract art to be the most challenging genre to master. Creating something from nothing and out of your head takes special skill.
  3. I’ve been painting since 2009, but painting on a more serious and dedicated level for the past year.
  4. I made it into my first juried exhibit this year.
  5. My favorite color is turquoise.
  6. I was 90% self taught until this year when I took a few still life classes.
  7. I tone my canvas with Burnt Sienna 95% of the time.
  8. When I create abstract art, my process is influenced heavily by the abstract expressionist movement. I’m not really sure what/who influences my still life yet.
  9. I dread cleaning my brushes after I paint. It’s probably what I dislike the most about the painting process.
  10. My favorite surface to work on is hardboard panels.
  11. I have a degree in business, not art, but if I could do college over, I would major in art.
  12. My current favorite subjects to paint is different kinds of fruit and vegetables.
  13. I try to get started painting by 10:00 a.m. on days that I paint.
  14. I listen to all kinds of music when I paint but my favorites are Enya and 80s music.
  15. I’m a late bloomer. I didn’t start painting until I was 34, ten years ago.
  16. I always have something to drink when I paint…coffee, tea, soda.
  17. I believe even the most masterful artists need to continue learning. Painting is a never ending journey.
  18. I hope to start plein air painting next spring.
  19. I sit down when I paint still life but stand up when painting abstracts. My whole body gets a little workout when I paint abstracts. That’s when I can get the most energy into a piece.
  20. My studio is usually messy!

I would love to get to know you too. Feel free to leave a comment with random things about you.

Lori

Painting My Way Through Anxiety

IMG-1104“Pepper Medley” 2019
9×12 oil on canvas panel

They say that depression is when you dwell on the past and anxiety is when you worry about the future. If you struggle with either of these, or even stress, painting can help you manage your symptoms.

My anxiety has been terrible lately…worrying about anything and everything…things that may or may not happen. All the time I spend worrying could be spent so much more productively, and I’m happy to say last week and yesterday I was more productive. I’ve painted three pieces in the past week and when I was painting I noticed something. I wasn’t worrying at all. It’s as if my anxiety disappeared for those several hours, and my anxiety also seemed to be at bay for some time after I was done painting. It’s like painting resets my brain.

I’ve been painting for years and I’ve never noticed the healing power of art as much as I have in the past week. I don’t know if it’s because I’m dealing with anxiety instead of depression for a change or if it’s because my anxiety has been so terrible. Or maybe I just simply noticed something I haven’t paid attention to in the past.

All I know is that I think this is my newfound motivation for staying on a painting schedule. The fact that I can dwindle away my anxiety to nothing is a big motivator!

Painting has always helped relax me, especially when I’m stressed. But what has happened over the last week is just amazing to me. If you are struggling, give painting a try. It may prove to help you too.

My Dream Studio

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Even though most of my painting inspiration comes from within, sometimes I long to have more scenery around me while I’m painting. My dream studio would be in the mountains with large windows on all sides for good lighting. Ideally, all of my light would be natural! I’d also have a sink, a bathroom, and a little refrigerator in my studio. In case you are wondering, the studio wouldn’t be attached to the house. The outside of the studio would be painted turquoise (my favorite color) and the indoor walls would be painted a very light gray. I have found light gray to be a good studio color. It’s not as reflective as white but still bright enough to feel open and airy.

I imagine if I had my dream studio, sometimes I’d also paint outdoors surrounded by mountains and blue sky, while breathing fresh mountain air. I could see myself painting my female figures with mountains in the background.

My husband and I were married and also honeymooned in Gatlinburg, TN. We had such a wonderful time and the scenery and weather was magnificent. It was at the beginning of October, and while the leaves weren’t turning (darn) during our wedding, they were starting to turn by the time we had left. It was gorgeous!!! I would love to go back to the cabin we stayed in and paint in the cabin and on the balcony.

I love the mountains, the quaint little shops, the art, and the fresh mountain air of Gatlinburg. The natural scenery would be so inspirational for painting, but until then, or until I have a studio in the mountains, I will continue to paint in my current studio, which is small, but it works for now!

I often dream of having a larger studio and one like that described above. What about you? What is your dream office, play space, studio, etc.?

Canvas or Hardboard Panels, and Size?

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Day two of painting faces. I think I may start a series of fun female portraits like the ones on this page and I just hope I can stick with it and keep the series going. I painted these two today and they were so much fun. I tend to jump around a lot with my painting and I’m hoping to change that with my fun portraits. I want to be known for a style/subject matter. I know that is not a priority for everyone, but for me it is.

Right now I’m trying to decide if I want to keep the facial features somewhat consistent or vary them. I’m leaning towards varying the shapes of the eyes, nose, and mouth because I’m afraid all of my paintings will look a little too similar if I keep things consistent. Even today, though I have a different eye color, eyebrows, etc., they look a lot alike because I used same eye and mouth shape.

But the biggest dilemma right now is trying to decide what substrate to use for these paintings. I like both canvas and hardboard panels, although between the two I like the hardboard panels a bit better. The advantage of using canvas is that you don’t have to frame the finished piece. You can just add a wire to the back and hang as is. But I don’t want to leave the sides unpainted, and for some reason when I paint with oil, I hate painting the edges. The hardboard panels must be either framed when completed, or sit on a tabletop easel. However, since 9x13s are a standard frame size, they can be easily popped into a standard frame with the glass removed.

I’m also trying to decide what size to paint. I’ve been painting on 9×13 panels and that seems to be a good size. Not too small, but not so large that the price is high. At this size, they are affordable for a wide audience.

I am still deciding, but at this point I am leaning towards the hardboard panels. I like the fact that they are sturdy and easy to store. I also like the way the oil paint glides on the panels. Canvas can get holes poked through it so easily, and dented too. Sometimes I also don’t like being able to see the tooth of the canvas. I probably need to buy a bunch of panels from Blick Art again.

I used to paint just on canvas. Little did I know that branching out to other substrates would be such a dilemma. So many choices!

My question to my readers is what size painting do you typically buy? Also, do you have difficult choices to make in your chosen career?

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