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!
P.S. And maybe I should change the title of this one from “Self Portrait 2020-2” to “I Hate Painting Noses.” 🤣
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
Much can happen in one year…shows, growth, disappointments, and more. I’d like to reflect on this past year, celebrating all the positive things that transpired, and learning from setbacks.
In January, I began my first ever series — “Contain & Release.” It was a series of six paintings that focused on the containment and release of emotions, with each having at least one container of some sort. I ended up keeping just four in the series and dropping two of them. This was my favorite of the four. I felt as though this series provided some breakthroughs in my technique, mostly in the way I create abstract art. I realized through these paintings the importance of painting in series and plan to work this way more often in the future.
Also in January, I decided to start using the name Rain for art purposes, and later around the month of May I chose D’Lay as my last name. By the time November came around, I had learned the hard way that it creates confusion having an artist name separate from your real name, so I decided to transition back to using my real name. Just a few months before my name change back, this beautiful butterfly appeared outside my studio. It was a gentle reminder to always be open to change.
And finally in January, I attended my first long pose figure painting/drawing session at Gamut Gallery. Below is the painting I created that day. It was challenging as I normally don’t paint figures, yet it was so enjoyable as well.
Stac Art Gallery
At the beginning of summer, I had several pieces on display in StaC Art Gallery, where I also sold my favorite piece of the year. Despite its small size of 10×10 inches, it’s a powerhouse of color and composition. My favorite piece — “Rings of Fire” — below.
Last year I had an idea to start an art co-op with art created by individuals with mental health issues. After a group formed, we secured space at Zion Center for Spiritual Development & Healing. Below are a couple photos from the opening reception, including a photo of me with Cynthia Watson, a dear friend and art mentor.
Mindscapes Opening Reception
Cynthia Watson & Lori Rivera
Below are some of my favorite brushes and a note from my daughter that she wrote on my studio wall. What a nice surprise! ❤ Also shown is my favorite color – turquoise!
Funk in the City was a juried show for the first time and I was honored to be a part of it this year. This left picture was before I set up my booth with all my art and supplies in the car, and on the right is my booth in the September event. Unfortunately, it rained nearly the entire day so it wasn’t as busy as it would have been normally. It was quite a chore trying to keep my paintings dry, but since they are acrylic, the water didn’t hurt them anyway. The rain was more annoying than anything else.
I was glad to participate in my first YART show in October. I had a small setup at that event in which I took mostly smaller pieces. YART is a unique show where everything is priced $50 or below. BRRRRR – it was cold that day, but a good day nonetheless!
The Art Hop took place in September in downtown Henderson businesses where artists had little pop up galleries. My pop up gallery was located in the office of Kevin A. Francke, Attorney at Law. This was my first time participating in this show as well.
I participated in three nonprofit events this year: 1) Peace Zone Art of Recovery, 2) You Matter Suicide Prevention and Awareness Art Show, and 3) Mental Health America of Vanderburgh County’s symposium silent auction. Below is a picture of me with “Tears I Cry” at the You Matter Show at 22 Jefferson Gallery.
In November I participated in the Winter Festival at the Evansville Museum — my last and final show of the year!
I did apply to two juried exhibits this year, but didn’t get selected for either. I will try again next year! I’m sure that’s just the beginning of many rejections but I’m ready to tackle this journey. In the art world, you must have tough skin to be successful because oftentimes you are faced with many rejections.
I am looking forward to 2019 as I plan to enter some national juried exhibits, get established with an online gallery, and further develop my techniques and style. This year it seemed I was focused on both nonrepresentational abstract pieces and florals and I am pleased with the progress I made.