Embracing Ambiguity.

Two weeks ago, David and I went to Kripalu, a yoga retreat center that we visit regularly. Of course I packed up my travel kit, journal and special treats and I took the time to find a flower to two to draw and paint.

While drawing the orange flower I was bit by a nasty bug and am still healing from it!

The next day, I returned to that bug infested place for more torture, ops, I mean, same spot to color the drawing. This is the third drawing I have done at Kripalu. If you have Dreaming From the Journal Page check out pages 118 and 122 for the other two Kripalu flower drawings and a piece of art inspired by them.

When I came home, I continued to work the page using stencils to help ‘pattern up the page’ (this page is featured in video content from the Stencil Magic class (please sign up, I would love to work with you). I want the frenetic energy of the wildflower patch to really shine through and don’t feel as if I have captured that yet. I like the page a lot, it is moving into the right place but is not quite there. Almost, just about, but not quite. Oh the ambiguity. 

When I first started working in my journal pages over time like this, it felt quite uncomfortable. I felt as if I needed to return to the page as soon as possible and complete the image. But, I find when I would do that, I often make impulsive and ill defined decisions that leave me regretting and wishing I had taken the time to truly decide what my next step should be. For me, taking this sort of time is tantamount to creating the beautiful pages I want to see realized in my journals.

So, I wonder, how do you deal with creative ambiguity? Do you embrace it, struggle and push against it? Do you not experience ambiguity?  Talk to me! 

Of palettes, paint and refills.

Sticking to the theme of maintaining a watercolor/travel palette, I created the video above. The watercolor box you will see in the video was originally a Cotman Watercolor Compact Set set, that I reclaimed, replacing their palette with colors I know and love.

Cotman is Winsor  Newtons’s student grade paint set. Empty travel palettes can be quite pricey, so purchasing a student grade set can be a good entry level start to maintaining your own groupings of color, and the paints in them are decent, so you might choose to stick with these paints while you journey into painting with watercolor. Once those paints are used, you can begin purchasing tubes of paint to refill your half pans or pans, or, like me, you might purchase a cheapo palette of student grade paints and replace each half pan with professional grade watercolor paints that you already know and love.

To remove the student grade paint, I took each half pan, dipped it in water for just a moment and allowed the cake to soften some. When the cake appeared softer, I dug down into the side of the cake, between the plastic and the cake and pried the pigment cake out. I set those cakes aside and allowed them to dry (I just gave them to a budding young artist). Once I cleaned each half pan, I refilled them with my favorite M. Graham watercolor paints from tubes.

Traveling with Paint

During the webinar a few weeks back, Barbara asked what I would carry were I to travel to France. And while I have no plans to travel to France (though I would love to), I do know what I would carry were I to do so. The above palettes, as I talked about before, are really a child’s toy. But even still, they are metal, measure perhaps 1.25×2″ and have individual wells that hold 8 colors of paint. The lid closes nicely and this kids toy can become a great adult toy with some modification.

The paint that comes in these palettes are not great, but luckily, easy to remove. I am sorry I don’t have photos of the process but it is easy enough to describe. Using a tweezer or a pick, while the paint is dry, wedge the tool between the edge of the paint and the plastic well. The paints are glued in there and are easy to pop out. Clean all of the glue out of the well so that you have as much space as possible for your chosen paints.

Then line up the tube style watercolors you would like to put in your travel palette and start dispensing one color per well. I have been loyal to M. Graham paints lately. So I put Quinacridone Violet, Napthol Red, Ultramarine blue, Turquoise, Gamboge yellow, Azo Yellow, Yellow Ochre, and Payne’s grey in my palettes.

I have given these palettes to friends as a fun gift and one friend said she has a hard time using this palette because it is so small. She likes to mix a fair amount of paint and do washes, so this palette is not suited to that type of work. Assess how you think you would use paints while working on the go. Wrap the palette in saran wrap for an easy ‘mixing tray’, nab a paper coffee cup as a rinsing cup after breakfast in the morning, tuck a small paper towel into the lid of the travel palette to help dry it out when you are ready to pack up your supplies and dump them into you back pack.

Working on the go is much different than working at home with your favorite supplies. So when you are home and have all of your supplies in front of you, daydream about what you will need to make painting in France an easy reality.

I will post the link to what I carry when I travel again, just in case you missed it or want to know. Have fun Barbara and Shirley (both are traveling abroad). I look forward to seeing what artwork your travel stirs up.

From Messy to Clean and Back

6x6 Journal, hot press watercolor paper

I don’t know how it works for you but at Casa Melly, the studio gets messy as all get out, I can’t stand it anymore, I can’t clean while in the middle of project. Then, just when it is driving me batty, I clean it up, spic and span. 

Highline Drawings

While my studio was clean and approachable, I opened a journal to find gentle little drawings that I did while walking the High Line. I drew this last fall, while I was going through radiation treatment, I had gotten to the cancer care center too early and so took a walk on the High Line. The great thing about New York City is that New Yorkers are not generally, morning people, but I am. So I sat down next to some pretty flowers and drew. I drew in pencil and painted when I got home. I used pen later still. My journal pages are completed over time, not in one sitting or in one place. I don’t think this page is complete even still.

JJ Made these.

I asked a friend to make me a set of tiny sanding blocks and this is what she came up with. It turns out, when I paint with acrylics on pine board that I love debride, sand and deconstruct the surface of my work. What better way to get in small places than with tiny little sanding blocks? Super cute, right?