Category: painter

7 tips I use to get going when feeling unmotivated

Brunette girl with head in hand feeling unmotivated

Are you feeling unmotivated and don’t know how to get going? So was I. My days had settled into a routine. I got up, did the crossword, ate breakfast, then head to my studio, prepared dinner, watched some television, and finally off to bed. With the COVID restrictions on traveling, visiting with friends, or going out for entertainment, I saw a “sameness” with my days. I needed a way on how to get out of my rut. (See my ‘7 tips to getting unstuck’ below.)

I decided to shake things up by changing my art medium. Dusting off the oil paints (which I had rarely touched in over a decade), I considered what I could do. A friend wanted me to paint a yellow rose as a gift from his recently engaged daughter. For me, trying to paint a realistic rose with oils was totally out of my comfort zone!

It was an exciting challenge, and it took a while to get comfortable 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.

Yellow rose oil painting motivates artist to paint again

“That’s good and well for you, but I’m not an artist. So how does this help me?” you say. The key is to make some changes to your routine. Try one or all seven of my tips to revive and energize you to get going again.

Seven pieces of advice to get you unstuck and motivated

Change your routine by talking to someone new

If you’re only speaking with your family and a few friends, you’re not getting enough stimulation. Try calling up an old friend or connecting via Facebook to cross-country pal. Even striking up a conversion with your grocery store cashier will prompt a change in your routine.

Kindle your curiosity by trying something new

How about that new chocolate cake recipe you’ve wanted to try (and eat)? Or that 500 piece jigsaw puzzle that’s still in the box? Intense focus on a single activity such as cooking or doing puzzles in proven to reduce stress.

Being spontaneous can activate your motivation

Instead of eating lunch while working on your computer, count the birds you see outside your window. If you always take a morning walk, try roller-skating around the neighborhood instead. Make a point to make one small change to your routine each day. Say yes to new experiences!

Exercise outside to enhance creativity

Surrounding yourself with nature has a positive impact on the body and enhances creativity. Psychologists found that backpackers scored 50 percent higher on creativity tests after spending a few days outside without their electronics. Additionally, exercise improves blood flow and memory; it changes the brain to enhance thinking skills.

three roller skaters with old fashion skates

Start a new habit to motivate change

Good habits are the key to staying motivated. Newton’s First Law is ‘objects in motion tend to stay in motion.’ Or more clearly said, once you start, the easier it is to continue moving forward. Habits don’t have to be significant. Consistently completing a small task has the best chance for tremendous results over time. Maybe yoga first thing in the morning. Or reading before bed instead of scrolling on your phone.

Rewarding yourself for positive behavior can motivate you

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. Tie your reward to your new consistent habit. Have you been regular in your morning journaling this month? Buy yourself to a fancy fountain pen. Brought your lunch to work every day this week? Put it toward an upcoming vacation you’ve dreamed of going on.

Just making a plan can get you unstuck

Simply having a plan, whether you end up following it, will help you feel confident and inspired. Our brains are scared of the unknown and tend to freeze up without a plan. Imagining the first step will make it easier to move forward. Plus, making a plan will give you something to look forward to and help keep you motivated.

Too stressed to come up with a plan, I’ve got some tips to help you. Read more at How to be creative when stressed or under pressure.

In summary, if you need help getting motivated, 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. I’m rooting for you!

You can see more great creativity tips by signing up for my monthly newsletter.  Sure, I could use some tips!

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Summer is in full bloom with digitally painted watercolor flowers

Watercolor painting of Purple Irises using Procreate app

One of the ways I’ve been tolerating the COVID quarantine is by hanging out in my garden.  I love all the colorful flowers that pop up in the spring and summer.  I thought I’d try my hand at painting them in watercolor but with a twist.  Instead, I grabbed my iPad Pro and Apple pencil and taught myself to sketch and paint them using the app Procreate.

Digital Watercolor Flower Paintings

Watercolor painting of California poppies

 

I started with some California poppies.  I grew up in California, and they have always been a favorite of mine. Their happy orange faces make me smile.  I was disappointed that the digital watercolor brushes that came with Procreate didn’t give me very realistic watercolor edges and blending.

 

Watercolor painting of green leaves using Procreate app

 

So I did some research and found a fantastic set of digital brushes, The Watercolor MaxPack (for Procreate) by Max Ulichney. He’s a genius. I’ve posted a sample of a few of the marks I can make with this set ($25 at GumRoad.com). I’m especially impressed with the watercolor bloom and the waxy colored pencil.

 

Watercolor MaxPack (for Procreate) by Max Ulichney sample sheet

 

The iris watercolor painting was next. This painting was better but still didn’t look like an actual watercolor. My final picture was the leaves, and I can see even more progress. 

I look forward to painting some more botanical ink & watercolor sketches with Procreate.  If you have an iPad, you should give it a try.  Procreate is only $9.99 for a one time purchase.  They even have a Procreate Pocket version for your iPhone for $4.99.

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Just a pigment of my imagination

Botanical hide and seek, cold wax CWM mixed media painting, 10" x 10", white checkboard pattern over colorful background
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!

Comparing a London portrait painter’s work to mine from ten years ago

Portrait Painted by London artist, Nick Bashall

Portrait painting in London by Nick Bashall
2019 portrait painting of my husband by Nick Bashall

While walking through Chelsea on an art tour, I got to meet one of Englands’ leading portrait painters, Nick Bashall.  This meeting led to the exciting opportunity to watch this London portrait painter do a live demo.

Chelsea was renowned as the epicenter of Swinging London in the 1960-70s and was home to artists, musicians, and models. Though today it’s a more sedate upscale neighborhood, we were lucky enough to find one artist that still calls Chelsea home. Nick Bashall, a talented portrait painter who has painted British royalty graciously offered to do a head-sketch of my husband during our visit.

It was magical how he transformed paint into living flesh right before our eyes (my hubby also got to watch through a well-positioned mirror.) Nick talked about how important it was to paint from life instead of photographs to capture the essence of a subject truly. The shiny areas in the photo are because the oil paint was still very wet. Nicky’s finished sketch on the left.

Portrait Painted by Colorado artist, Kathy Ferguson

2009 portrait painting of David Ferguson by wife, Kathy Ferguson
2009 portrait painting of David Ferguson by wife, Kathy Ferguson

While getting my MFA, I took several figurative and portrait drawing classes. I always worked from photographs as I couldn’t coerce others to sit for me for hours at a time. Watching him work while we watched makes me even more impressed with his talent. If you ever get the chance, I’d highly recommend getting a portrait painted by Nick Bashall.

 

I created this earlier portrait painting of my husband around 2009. He still doesn’t think he ever looked like this, which is one reason I stopped doing portraits.  The model always thinks they look younger, thinner, or less wrinkled.  I couldn’t take the pressure to create the likeness they saw in their heads.

How does my student work compare to a famous London portrait painter? My husband is still a handsome devil ten years later, isn’t he? Or should we call him a silver fox now?

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Let’s speed things up!

Multiple works in progress

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.

How transparent are you?

Paint color chart

I am experimenting with acrylic poured painting, a style of painting where the paint is poured onto the canvas and the paint manipulated by tilting the canvas. It’s different from painting with a brush in that the outcome can never be planned, and all sorts of interesting things can happen.  However, a downside of poured painting is that it can use up a lot of paint and that can get expensive when using professional quality materials.

Blick Fluorescent Paints
Blick Art Materials offer some fun fluorescent paints in a variety of neon colors

Luckily, these poured paintings seem to work just as well with cheaper brands like Blick Studio and Amsterdam Standard Acrylics, generally marketed for the budget conscience student or beginner artist.

One of the first things I do when getting new paint is to make a color chart to see what is looks like on paper (it’s too hard to tell in the tube).  I paint a black line first, then over that, I paint a swatch of each paint color.  If the paper covers up the black line, then the paint is opaque.  If I can see the black line, the paint is translucent.  I use this information to know which colors will cover up other paint, and which ones will make nice sheer glazes over other colors.

It’s also an indication of density which is important in poured paints.  Opaque colors are usually denser and will “sink” while lighter translucent colors will float to the top of the paint pour on a canvas.  Stay tuned, as I will be posting some of these poured paintings in the weeks to come.

This makes me happy from “Top to Bottom”

If you follow my Instagram account (@kathyfergusonart), you’ll know that I love street art. I don’t mean that horrible tagging of initials that defaces everything it touches. I am referring to the beautiful, creative art murals by street artists that grace many city buildings.

brazilian-street-artist-binho-ribeiro

Brazilian artist Binho Ribeiro

Long Island City has a history of great street art beginning with the famous 5Pointz building.  It was once considered a mecca for graffiti artists before its demolition in 2014. Fortunately, Art Org NYC is bringing back great street art with “Top to Bottom”, a curated public mural project in Queens. One of these projects is across the street from my studio and I get to see new artwork created almost every week.

img_4512

Artist dMote – I love the tongue in cheek story of the street artist being chased from the scene

Top to Bottom is a series of murals by more than 50 artists, painted on the three-story exterior of a city block long building at 43-01 21st Street in Long Island City. If you go, make sure that you walk all the way around the building, looking both high and low – there’s a lot to see!  You might even see an artist hard at work creating a new masterpiece. I have included some photos of my favorites.

brooklyn-street-art-alexandre-keto-arts-org-lic-jaime-rojo-01-16-web

Alexandre Keto, see a video about him at here.

Afterwards mosey across the street to 43-01 22nd Street and visit me in my studio.  I love having guests, just check in advance to make sure I’m in…(970) 376-7507. 

 

First Post!

 After several different careers in my past, I’ve finally taken the plunge to being a full-time professional artist.  Such a strange description, “professional”. When I was a civil engineer or a marketing manager, I never felt the need to add “professional” before my occupation.  Still, I wanted to make it clear that while I love being an artist, I also consider it my profession.  I work hard at my craft, continually expanding my education, and challenging myself to grow in skill. Being an artist requires wearing many hats, the creation of the work being only one aspect of the total.

The artist at age five (that’s me). You can see I was already completely absorbed in creating art.

I thought it would be interesting to document my journey and start a conversation about the reality of being an artist.  I hope you’ll follow me as I embrace my new artistic life.