Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Jane's Art Basics - How To Start A Painting?

 Do you get stuck at the blank canvas? Do you want to paint but don't know how to start? As your art practice evolves you will develop your own go-to strategies for beginning, but if you are new at painting, here are a few suggestions.

  • Don't start a painting. Start multiple paintings. 
  • Do start with an inexpensive, low-stakes, substrate such as Bristol or 80# Cheap Drawing Paper
  • Do focus on the practice, the process, not the 'finished' painting.
  • Don't try to finish a painting
  • Do give yourself a time limit if that helps. 

Here is a video on The Five Minute Painting (this is an old one, not great quality):


A group of 9"x12" five-minute paintings

I made these 9"x12" five-minute in one session, which was a total of one hour.

Be assured that there are infinite ways to start a painting, so you can't find the correct way, nor can you start the wrong way, in terms of the first marks you make on the painting surface. You can start with an attitude that will facilitate beginnings. 

Your measure of success is: you showed up and applied paint (or collage or drawing) to a surface. You made marks on a substrate. That's IT. Omit the habitual evaluation and self-criticism. Just leave it out; it is totally irrelevant to this part of a painting practice. 

Let the painting practice be an ongoing inquiry, not a production line. You are discovering what the paint can do, what is in you, who you are as a maker of images. It is a long, slow, ongoing process. A practice. If you set your expectations accordingly it can be extremely engaging and fulfilling. If you begin with the expectation that you will Learn How To Do It Correctly, it can be very frustrating. You will make good paintings - your paintings - when you make a lot of paintings, with attention and focus on process, and with curiosity. Enjoy!

Cat Bennett has several books that are encouraging and helpful for making art as a practice. There are many other books and resources on practicing art, but the real learning is in doing the work. Get the paper out, put some paint on it, pay attention, repeat.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022


With Golden's Absorbent Ground you can make any surface into a watercolor surface. I do not primarily work in watercolors, but have been experimenting recently in using them on this Absorbent Ground, and combining with my acrylics and collage. Here is a video demonstrating Qor Watercolors on Absorbent Ground. You can win a set of 24 Qor Watercolors + a jar of Absorbent Ground + FOUR 6"x6" cradled wood panels. Buy raffle tickets here. Proceeds benefit Rupert Village Trust, a community building project.

Saturday, April 9, 2022


 I seem to be obsessed with scraps these days. They call to mind the debris from explosions (think Ukraine), fragments of lives washed up on a beach from a plane crash or shipwreck. But also the piecing together of worn out scraps to make something useful or beautiful (think quilts in the traditional sense).

This and the next two images are the 'parts' that I'm making, which are then cut up and reassembled.

These consist of painted papers, gel prints, found papers, and repurposed 'pieces'.

Though these have a random look, I do pay attention to varying the scale of the pieces, and the scale of the patterns, textures, and marks on the little bits.

This work in process combines one of the 'collage quilts' (cut edited) with another work in process. 20"x20" on wood panel.

Similar in process to the above piece. Both are works in process.

Collage quilts combined and edited over a painting, 20"x20"

This one is finished. Ta DA!! 24"x24" on wood panel.

4"x6" window mat. Trying to see some possibilities of up-close tiny collages in this and the next two images.



Another option I'm considering is 'floating' these reassembled scraps as 'maps' or continents, with lots of space around them.

Same as above.

This process was inspired by my workshop, The Visual Sentence, which I taught in January in Tucson (hosted by MISA) and also at Hudson River Valley Art Workshops last June. The student work was amazing. 

Here is some student work from January (click the Facebook icon to see the post):


And this is from Last June:


Friday, April 1, 2022

Creative Blocks - the March Survey Questions

The March survey asked you about creative blocks: how often you get them and whether you have rituals or practices that get you out of them. The majority of respondents (over 53%) reported experiencing creative blocks more than once per year. I am definitely in that group. Many reported having them about once a year, and less, and some (around 10%) reported never.

It was interesting to see the answers to the next question, in which respondents share their rituals or practices (if any) for getting out of a creative slump.

Here are the results of the survey.  See if you can find any correlation between the first question (how often you have creative blocks) and the second (what you do about them). 

Here are a few of the answers to the second question, though you can see all of them here

  • Schedule time that I MUST show up in my art studio, put on my apron. then set a timer. 
  • Like practicing piano scales, I work on color mixing… try to match paint chips from the store fast.  
  • I work in another discipline. I move back and forth between wring poetry and flash fiction to working in mixed media..sometimes textile figures. I open up my space to others and watch their joy creating. 
  • Take a break, take a walk
  • Clean up and organize the studio
  • A lot of you suggest doing SOMETHING, every day, or frequently, with no expectations.
  • Drawing with my non-dominant hand Reading books about my favorite artist's process Painting over old canvases so there's less risk

Here is a quote that some of you might relate to (I do): "I make paintings that I think are worthy of showing but they don't sell very often. That's when the meltdowns happen -- when I think why am I spending my precious time on something that isn't making any money?" This speaks to what can trigger a meltdown, and I totally get it. 

Many of you report that taking a workshop or exploring a new technique or new material, which entails putting yourself in the beginner's seat.

Seems like the key for many is to do something creative with low stakes. Doodle, make marks in a journal, try something new (where you can feel like a legitimate beginner), paint or print collage papers. Even cleaning the studio is a creative act. For others the key is taking a break, whether it's a walk in nature to get inspired, or a break from even thinking about art. 

I hope you find this helpful to either your art practice or your feeling of connection. Most of us have creative blocks and meltdowns at some point, and I find it comforting to know I am not alone in that. For me it is part of the process, albeit and unpleasant part. I'm among those who push through it by engaging in some kind of low-stakes creative activity - I show up in the studio and do something. Below I've embedded a Facebook post about my response to a recent meltdown, if you haven't seen it already.


THANKS for showing up to my blog. 

You can find April Survey Questions here, in which I ask you about workshop topics. Would love to hear what you want to learn.