Tuesday, August 16, 2011

in which I paint... more or less

My mom was a good artist. She worked in oils mostly and I grew up with the smell of turpentine in the air. She decorated all the cards she sent me after I moved out of the house and she moved to Ohio. She was doing mail art long before we knew it had a name. I have all those in a drawer and since they mean nothing to anyone but me, I'll begin to use them in my journals.

I also have many of her paintings - some weird avant-garde cats in non-cat colors of turquoise and lime green, scruffy little owls painted on old boards, still lifes of fruit in earthenware bowls, old barns standing in fields. I have them hanging all over my house and enjoy looking at them. I can remember some of them on the easel when I was a kid.

Unfortunately, artistic talent must skip a generation, like baldness, because I don't have much of it, at least in the painting/drawing realm. I haven't worked real hard at it, but I'm definitely not a natural, like she was. But I recently bought the book Nature Inspired by Tracie Lyn Huskamp. In it, she shows a variety of ways to capture nature in your work - photography, leaf rubbings, sun prints, flower pounding, and, yes, painting.

She has you trace the rough form, transfer it to muslin, and then just... paint. I kept the book on my end table for weeks and I'd look at it in the evening while DH watched bad sci-si. (did you know that 'bad sci-fi' is a genre all its own?) and I kept coming back to the painting pages. She uses birds as her examples, and I really wanted to paint a bird. So... the other night I did it. I slowed down my usual rush-thru-things tendency long enough to actually paint something that doesn't look like an alien you can tell is a bird.

The bird in the book on the left - my bird on the right. Can you even tell the difference??!?!?

His head is blurry cause I had too much water at first, but you cut the bird out and glue or stitch it into your journal, so the bad part will be cut away.

I'm ridiculously pleased with him.

Here's the cover of the book with my bird and palette. I had paint left, so since I was channeling Monet on such a roll, I painted some flowers! The pen outline and charcoal shading really help make these look like flowers.

They're on cold press w/c paper that'll eventually be bound into a nature journal, along with this pink flower haiku spread and a few others I've finished so far. I've been collecting garden/nature images, ephemera, etc for a while and am about ready to dive into my envelope of goodies and do some collage spreads.

I recommend this book, by the way. It's full of good tutorials and thoughtful prose about how to collect and preserve bits of nature for your journal or several other projects that she gives directions for. It'd be a nice gift for any artsy nature lover on your Christmas list. No affiliation, yadda, yadda - just happy with the book.


  1. Leslie... THANK YOU for such a glowing review... I truly appreciate your kind words about Nature Inspired and am THRILLED that my words inspired you enough to give a go with the painting. Your bird and flowers look GREAT! I would DEFINITELY encourage you to keep going... it is like riding a bike the more you practice the better you will become and the easier it will be. I always start out my workshops by telling students that on my first day of Art School my Drawing 1 teacher told the class that Drawing is NOT A TALENT.. it is a SKILL... that has always stuck with me and I remind myself of this often when I am feeling frustrated the the direction of a particular piece.

  2. Leslie I have this book on my shelf - I have others I like more but will go back and take a second look - I'm always looking for new things to try.... P.S. I for one don't think the art gene skipped a gen! You do great stuff...