Does staying at home during this quarantine have you feeling a rut? Me too. My days have settled into a routine. I get up, do the crossword, eat breakfast, then head to my studio, prepare dinner, watch some television, and off to bed. Without travel, visiting with friends, or going out for entertainment, I have started to get into a “sameness” with my days. I needed some advice on how to get out of this rut.
I decided to shake things up by changing my art medium. Dusting off the oil paints (which I rarely touched in over a decade), I considered what I could do. A friend wanted to gift his daughter with a painting of a yellow rose. For me, trying to paint a realistic rose with oils was totally out of my comfort zone!
It was an exciting challenge that took a while to get a handle on painting with oils again, but I pushed through. Enjoying the unique qualities of the paint, I reveled in its creamy texture and longer working time. Experimenting with this different medium gave me new ideas for my current mixed media work and reinvigorated my studio practice.
“That’s good and well for you, but I’m not an artist. So how does this help me?” The key is to make some changes to your routine.
Seven pieces of advice to get you unstuck and out of a rut:
1. Talk to someone new. An old friend, the post-person, or the grocery store cashier (all with appropriate social distancing or with an iPhone.)
2. Try something new. How about a new recipe, online exercise routine, or craft project?
3. Be spontaneous. Instead of eating lunch while working on your computer, count the birds you see outside your window. Say yes to new experiences!
4. Head outside. Surrounding yourself with nature has a positive impact on the body and enhances creativity.
5. Start a new habit. Maybe yoga first thing in the morning. Or reading before bed instead of scrolling on your phone.
6. Reward yourself for your good behavior (like passing on that third glass of wine) and treat yourself that new nail polish you’ve been eyeing instead.
7. Plan your dream vacation for when it’s safe to travel again. Making a plan gives you something to look forward to in the post-COVID days.
So if you’re in a rut and want to break out, do something new (or something you haven’t done for ages.) Try a new recipe, run on a different path, or call a friend you haven’t spoken to in years. Or even pull out the oil paints and give it a go!
Not to worry. You can take these gallery tours from your couch. Many venues are putting up online shows free to the public to enjoy. I currently have work in the following two online art exhibitions.
National Collage Society’s 23rd Annual Small Format Exhibition
This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the National Collage Society Small Format Exhibit. This Postcard Exhibit is an invitational exhibition comprised of small format 4″ x 6″ postcard-sized collages. The Society defines collage is any artwork created with another layer glued onto the surface.
Long Island City Artists’ Spring National Collage Exhibition
One hundred eight of our artists are represented here, in LiC-A’s first online Members’ Exhibition. Our regular exhibition venues, including the Plaxall Gallery in Long Island City, are shut down temporarily due to the current health situation. So we are using our website to provide a public space in which both artists and visitors can share in the appreciation of these incredibly exceptional and diverse talents of Queens artists.
It’s weird how some paintings come into being. The artwork below is one such painting. It came about through three unrelated experiments into a single, colorful work of art.
One: I offload my leftover paints onto sheets of paper instead of throwing them out. Sometimes, I can use these paints in my collage work. This particular paper was a total mess, and I couldn’t think of any way to use it.
Two: I needed to do a transfer test to judge paper translucency. I used this messy paper for the background paper. Now it was doubly a mess.
Three: I’ve wanted to experiment with cold-wax medium. It’s different from encaustic wax, which must be used in a melted form, as it stays usable at room temperature. I needed an acrylic background to experiment on, so I grabbed this paper again.
After using masking tape to create a grid pattern, I filled in every other square with white tinted CWM. Next, I practiced removing and drawing into it. Suddenly, from all the chaos I saw order and interest. I’m as surprised as you are!
Moral of the story: Don’t throw away your failed paintings and experiments. You might find the perfect use for them one day!
The dilemma of the creative process for me is that I impose pressure to make impressive, or at least good, creations. I worry they must be meaningful and pleasing, and if they aren’t, then self-doubt, fear and discouragement paralyze me from working.
In many ways, this quarantine has been a positive experience for me. I decided to let the pressure go (with no upcoming shows or commissions to finish) and just play around with the limited materials I had on hand (acrylics and junk mail). I started small, making simple 6″ x 6″ painted collages. Working on up to 12 paintings at a time, I skipped around between them if I got stuck. I let myself step back and make work that didn’t need to be good. And you know what happened? My creativity came back. I was excited to go to my studio every day and see what would happen next. After finishing forty-two of these “Tidbits,” I was ready to move on to something more substantial.
I am writing to check-in and see how everyone is faring in their remote corners of the globe, and hoping that you are safe and well.
I’m currently sheltering in Florida with my hubby, where I’m fortunate to be able to walk and bike outside. I fill my days with art-making, cooking, reading, and enjoying game nights with friends and family (via Zoom).
As the situation has me unable to truly focus, I’m making a little bit of everything. In my studio, I have half-finished oil paintings, acrylic doodles, watercolor sketches, and cold-wax experiments. While they patiently wait for me to get back to them, I am happy to share at least one completed effort here.
There is a lot of disparity of quarantine experiences across the world, and I am genuinely grateful that we are one of the lucky families in these uncertain times. Those of you are doing essential services, you are the true heroes. You have not gone unnoticed, and we cannot thank you enough for your courage and commitment to others. Thank you.
This spring, I used my iPad, and the app Procreate to develop some painting ideas for a commissioned beach-themed artwork. Painting digitally is helpful because you can work with the client to try out different ideas without actually applying paint to canvas. You can easily go back and remove the changes with just a click of a button. In this sketch, using the client’s comments, I lightened and softened the large areas on the right. Then I add more tan and reduced the darker areas. I thought you might like to see how the final painting turned out. To the left is the revised digital sketch.
The final painting “Nantucket Summer” is now happily hanging in my client’s home on Nantucket Island.
However, I was thrilled to have my artwork featured on the cover of Wild Apple’s Art Decor February 2019 Issue. Wild Apple Graphics is a B2B art publisher and art licensor working with manufacturers, retailers, and designers of decorative home products and wall decor.
It’s so fun to see my artwork in a home setting. These two original paintings are still available if you’re interested. See them in detail on my website.
One suggestion to working faster and looser is to on start multiple paintings at one time. I use the same paper size and color palette to work up four different versions. That way, I can just move from painting to painting, adding a little here and there, letting it evolve more naturally. Everything is a little less important or precious so I don’t get as frustrated when a painting isn’t working out. I just move on to the next one and come back later with a fresh perspective.
If you follow the lunar New Year, you know that 2019 is the Year of the Pig. The Flushing Town Hall (Flushing, NY) is hosting a really fun exhibition, the Red Envelope Show, that opened last night. This exhibition is an homage to the red celebration envelopes the Chinese community distributes during the Lunar New Year. As this is the Year of the Pig, I painted some cute portraits of pigs just peeking up from the bottom of six envelopes. There are almost 1,000 envelopes on display (and for sale) illustrated by myself, other professional artists, and local school children. Many envelopes (including mine) include a special gift inside the envelope for only the buyer to see. Don’t wait to see the show as it closes on Jan. 27. A special thank you to Bert Chau of @grumpybert who curated the exhibition. ⠀#redenvelopeshow
Opening Reception: SAT, JAN 5, 5-7 PM⠀
Gallery Dates: SAT, JAN 5 – SUN, JAN 27⠀
Gallery Hours: SAT & SUN 12-5 PM; weekdays.