Welcome to my blog! This blog is dedicated to blogging about my art, my struggles as I try to become a regularly working artist, and useful information and tips that I learn along the way. My hope is that this blog can become a resource for other emerging artists; a combination of empathy and useful resources to help them through the beginning of their career.


Click on this image to see more of my artwork!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Art Momentum


Finding ways to squeeze art into my daily life has never been easy for me. I have a regular money making job, like many emerging artists do, which seems to get in the way of my art.  I'm always feeling frustrated because, really, what I want to do all day and everyday is art. Stupid need to eat and have a roof over my head.

However, lately I've discovered that I feel less frustrated as I've been squeezing a little bit of art into my daily routine. I've found that if I make my expectation for my art on work days lower and say that my goal is only to keep my own art momentum going then it feels more doable. I can save the complete drawings for the weekends.

So now I get up a little bit earlier in the morning and take my dog for a walk. I'll take some photos with my phone of things that I find, for some reason, visually inspiring. It starts my day out thinking about art. Then, during my half an hour lunch I eat as fast as I can and do a quick doodle on a sticky note which keeps the momentum with which I started the morning going. Also, my doodle usually amuses the heck out of me which helps my work mood!

Then I post it all on Facebook (and sometimes Twitter). I don't really post the snap shots or the doodles on Facebook because I think they are fabulous and should be shared with the world. In fact, I've gone back and forth about the wisdom of putting work that is unfinished out for the world to see, and only time will tell if this is a bad move or not. I ended up deciding to post them on Facebook because, for some reason, it holds me accountable. If I think, no matter how false, that someone out there will wonder why I didn't post that day, then I can hold myself to my plan. It's like having an imaginary work out buddy, and it works!

Every artist has their own way that they keep their art momentum going. I'd be interested in hearing how you do it. What ways have you found to squeeze art into your daily life?

Another Helpful Website for The Emerging Artist:

Check out Alyson B. Stanfield's website: http://www.artbizcoach.com/. She has great blogs and podcasts which offer free advice on the business side of being an artist. She also has a book out called I'd Rather Be in The Studio which I've been ogling for long enough now that it's just silly that I haven't bought and read it yet. I also follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/artbizcoach. I find that it's a great way to occasionally get little tips thrown your way without having to search for them. Check it out!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Artistic Contractions

Lately I have been thinking about the stages a piece goes through as I work.  I’m not not talking about the standard physical stages that my drawings go through but the stages of feelings I have as I work. I seem to have three, predictable, main feelings.

The first feeling is when I begin a work. It’s a feeling of excitement and trepidation. It goes something like this: “I have a GREAT idea for a piece! I think. Maybe. Yes, it’s going to be my best one yet! Unless I mess it up. I really hope I don’t mess it up.”

The second stage usually happens somewhere in the middle. Sometimes it even happens a couple of times depending upon how involved the piece is. I call it a sort of artistic contraction. It’s a feeling of despair and hatred directed at that monstrosity that I’m currently working on. “It’s total crap. I’ve spent hours on this damn thing and it’s crap. Great. What a waste of time and paper. Well, nothing to do but keep going and hope I’m not wasting even more time on this damn thing.”

I’ve gotten so used to this stage that it is almost (but not quite) a welcome feeling. It means that I’m pushing myself, possibly learning and usually, if I work through it, I can turn it around.

The final stage happens toward the very end and it is the reason I make it through the second stage. It is when I put a line or a mark on the page and suddenly the piece seems amazingly familiar. It feels like, somehow, I’ve always seen it. It’s not perfect, it has it’s issues, but, somehow, it has always been there. “Ah. There you are. Haven’t I seen you before?”

That really is the best stage.

What stages do you go through as you finish a piece? I’d be interested to know if other artists find themselves going through similar feelings as they work!


Now, on to my next helpful website for the emerging artist. I found this one recently through twitter and I’m adding it to my list of go to websites when I have a career question. ArtsyShark.com is run by Carolyn Edlund (an artist consultant) and has hundreds of useful blog posts.  Really, you need to book mark this one!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Another Mistake

“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes”
-  Oscar Wilde

This week I discovered that I had made a doozy of a mistake that only a beginning artist would make. One of those mistakes that gives you that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach and causes those desperate, racing, thoughts as you try to deny it, justify it, and fix it all at the same time.

The discovery of a mistake always seems to have that horrible, sinking moment of realization. Mine happened as I was coloring a drawing. I pulled out my battered piece of paper that has all the test swatches I’ve made with each of my Prismacolor markers and decided upon a pretty grey blue that I had not yet used. I pulled out the marker and started to make a swatch on a scrap paper like I always do. The color was a bright, dark blue. Assuming I had just used the wrong marker on my original swatch I did the same thing with another marker, and another, and another. Realizing that something was wrong I did what any sensible person would do. I pushed the sinking feeling down somewhere into my toes where I could ignore it and finished the drawing.

That night, unable to ignore the problem anymore, I did the research on my markers that I should have done long ago and discovered that they are not lightfast. Now I was faced with a summer of upcoming shows and nothing but drawings that were fading away. I toyed with the idea that I could still sell the drawings and just warn people of the problem, but decided that even though I’m just beginning, I don’t want to sell people a bad product. I likened selling art that can’t be exposed to light to selling umbrellas that can’t be used in the rain.

Panicked, I went to the store and bought all new India Inks (spending money that needed to be used on framing) and spent two days trying to make them work. I had used India inks in school but that was six years ago and that muscle seemed to have atrophied along with the lesson on knowing your materials. After two days I had calmed down considerably and found a solution that was much better. For now, I will sell high quality prints (archival and lightfast) of my color drawings, and revisit the black and white drawings that I’ve been meaning to start doing again anyway.

I believe that every mistake is useful. This mistake is especially useful for a few reasons. It helped bring me down a notch just as I was starting to feel pretty good about myself (a useful thing when you begin to think that you are more professional than you are), it forced me to learn about my materials, and eventually it will help me to evolve as an artist as I experiment with my new India inks.

It also helped to cement a lesson that I have learned in the past about planning before events. If I hadn’t have given myself that extra time that I’ve learned that I need, I wouldn’t have had time to fix the problem and I would have been selling shoddy artwork at my upcoming event. Thank goodness for past mistakes. Without them I wouldn’t be able to handle my current ones.

Useful websites:

http://www.astm.org/COMMIT/D01_MSkalkaVersion_Final.pdf- ASTM provides technical standards for a million things. This link is to a pdf of an overview of standards for artist coloring materials. You should be aware that these standards exist and know a little bit about them so that you can ask about them when you are buying your pens, markers, paints, or inks.  

http://www.amien.org/forums/  - This is website isn’t super user friendly but if you are willing to search through their forums you can find some great information about the quality of the products you are using in your artwork. I was able to find useful info on markers.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Too Many Blogs and Too Many Tweets!

Ack! Too many blogs and too many tweets! Lately I've found that, in an effort to increase my online presence, I've over zealously committed myself to too many online things. With my Twitter account, my Facebook account (both personal and artist), and two blogs, I've found that I just can't keep up. Instead, I've been ignoring both blogs and Twitter, making them all completely useless and whatever effort I do put into them fairly wasted. Lets face it, with a regular job, a husband, and the determination to become a successful artist, I don't have the time to waste on useless social media activities!

So, how do I fix this? Well, I'm not entirely sure. Remember, I'm still figuring all this out. Hence the "emerging" part in the title of this blog. However, I have decided that in order for something to be useful it needs to have some sort of purpose and so far there hasn't been much of a purpose to this blog or to my #draw 365 blog. And so, I'm paring down. I'm getting rid of my #draw 365 blog. I will still try to draw everyday as just a good habit, but I don't need to share it with the world.

Next, I'm revamping this blog! It will now have a purpose. My plan is to go back to my original plan of writing about what it's like to be an emerging artist and making this blog be a place that other new and emerging artists can come and find a place to empathize. I also want to have it be a useful resource. I'm going to feature a website in each blog that I've found to be of help. Check out the nifty new "Useful Links For The Emerging Artist" box on the right side of this page!

On to Twitter. Oh Twitter, Twitter, Twitter, how I love you and loathe you. When I'm using Twitter regularly my website hits go way up, and I know that it is a great way to get my artwork out to new viewers and meet other artists. However, sheesh, it's hard to keep up with everything. So, I guess I'll be doing a little bit of Twitter organizing. I'll try to use TweetDeck in hopes of organizing all the tweets and seeing the ones in which I'm most interested. Then, I'll try and log on at least twice a day to respond to and interact with the other Twits.

Phew! I hope this works!

Featured Websites

As promised, I'm ending this blog with a website and a blog that I've found useful over the past week. They are:

www.skinnyartist.com: I've only just discovered this website and admittedly haven't had a chance to go through and read all that it has to offer. It has wonderful blogs that give useful advice and a newsletter that is actually worth subscribing to, and as far as I know, you don't have to be skinny to read it.

http://madisonzyluk.com/blog/twitter-sins-socialmedia : What a useful blog post to help you navigate some of the don'ts Twitter use. I know I'll be taking a few of the points to heart as I rediscover how to use Twitter!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Another Process Post

I have been wanting to this blog for awhile but it required me to remember that the idea existed while I was working on a finished drawing. I am generally not thinking about blogging while I'm working on a finished piece, so about two weeks after I meant to write this, I finally got around to it. This blog is another process post, but this time it is about my finished drawing process and not about the idea process.

In fact, as I write this, I realize that this blog doesn't actually require many words. I can't explain any more than the pictures actually show. All I will say is that if you are someone who thinks that artwork is some sort of magical process then probably you shouldn't look. It's a bit like showing step by step how a magic trick is done.

Poof! That's how I pull a finished drawing out of my hat!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Sketch Book Blog

I finally reached the end of my beautiful little red moleskine sketch book. It’s a proud and a bit of a sad moment for me. I began it in July of 2009. That doesn’t really seem so long ago, less than two years, but so much has happened since then that it almost seems as if I’m letting go of something that transitioned me to a whole new life.

I’ve always had a very bad habit of starting a sketchbook at a moment when I was feeling artistically dedicated, filling out a few pages, and then putting it aside. When I would pick it  up a year later I would need a new one, who wants to start their new found dedication with a reminder of a past failing? I have a box full of sketchbooks and journals to prove that I have this habit.

This is the very first sketchbook that I’ve ever filled up. Ever. I started it when I first began to do Last Thursdays and when I was still doing wood burnings (it has the burn mark to prove it). In it’s pages are drawings of creatures and gifts that will never be, sketches for drawings that began entire series, poems, comics, photos, and notes. It has seen me slowly become more dedicated, braver, and more imaginative. It has seen me through the beginnings of a relationship and into a marriage.

I have put it down for months at a time but always picked it back up. This little red sketchbook feels as if it was there as I transitioned to being a true adult. I’m so proud to have it all filled that I don’t want to put it down. Where will I put it? Somewhere so safe that it will always be available and never be damaged.

Now, I have started a new sketch book. A task that suddenly seems a little bit daunting and a little bit more important than one would think. I wonder what this new sketch book will see me through.  The only way to know is to start at the beginning, and watch as I tell the next chapter of my own story.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Patterns repeat, patterns repeat, patterns repeat...

I realized when I was working on my last piece (see above) that I'm a big cheat when it comes to doing my artwork. Because my art is generally unbalanced by color, as the setting is black and white and the figure is in color, I have to find a way to throw some balance into the piece. The easiest way for me to do this is by throwing in patterns that repeat throughout the piece.

It's so easy. Obviously, millions of artists do this same thing and have been since the beginning of drawing (that's another blog). But it's so very easy that it makes me feel like I'm somehow cheating. I wonder if any other artists feel this way about a device they employ in their art. Any artists out there that may be reading this please comment. I'd love to know!

However, I can (and do) often turn my cheat into a challenge. What new pattern can I add to the next piece? What old pattern can I add in to link my new piece to a past piece?  In the piece above I used the old line pattern and the old small circle pattern but I used the swirl for the first time.

The swirl is fun. Don't believe me? Try drawing some swirls. I'll wait.

Although it is an easy way to balance a piece and link a body of work those are not the only reasons that I use patterns. I also use them because I like them. They are ancient. They add another language to the piece; they add another way to read the work. A person might first look at the piece and notice the color, the contrast, and the story, but did they notice the patterns? Did they read the piece in that way? Did they ignore all of the easy ways to read the piece and look for the harder parts?

Here are a few of my pieces that might be fun to look at while just thinking about pattern:

I'm not sure how many people actually will read this blog but this has helped me tremendously. I can't wait to thumb through some art history books and reexamine my work with nothing but pattern in mind!

I love art!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Process Post (The First)

"Living Gourd" 11 1/4" x 6" Pen

I am one of those artists that is guilty of being unable to describe to people why I do what I do in my art. Often people will ask what inspires me and I'll say, ever so eloquently, "Ummmm.... everything?". This never sounds professional and just confuses people, even if it is the truth. I was thinking about my process a lot as I was working on the above piece and am going to make an attempt at describing some of the process of how the above creature came to be. Don't worry, I'll use visuals.

This particular piece has a form that I love. The gourd. I picked one up off of the ground at a family reunion, over 10 years ago, because I had never seen one before and I was immediately fascinated. I have carted that particular gourd about with me through many moves and it always sits in my studio space as a source of inspiration. The gourd was the subject of a painting in college, a material for sculptures of gourd people, and it inspired some of my wood burned paintings which were the beginning of my drawing strange creatures. I can't explain my love of the gourd. It just is.

I apologize for the horrible gourd photo... you get the idea.

Generally my drawings will begin with a quick sketch and, lately, there seems to be a project that will cause me to start that particular sketch. This drawing started with a project idea I had for a local bar. I plan on doing a few fun drawings of creatures hanging around beer to show in this establishment. Here is the quick sketch and the more detailed sketch where these particular creatures first appeared. 

After I sketched my new gourd creatures I fell in love with them. When this happens then they are guaranteed to show up in more than one finished drawing (note: creature life). Once I start to be able to see my creatures as having a life and personalities then I can't help but give them life in a drawing. It would be cruel not to!

I have been recently looking at some other artists' beautiful sketches online which helped me to remember my love of sketches. I've always loved drawings and paintings with loose free lines; something one would never guess by looking at my current body of work. Before I began this drawing I started to feel like I wanted to revisit some of my more painterly roots and experiment with my pens in a new way. That experiment resulted in the below color sketch (this scanned image cuts off part of the composition).

I took what I had learned about coloring from my experiment and decided to apply it to my final drawing in a more precise way. The result was a bit of a style departure in my coloring. I will be continuing to experiment with coloring with my Prisma Color pens. It is a relatively new media for me and experimenting will be what will help me master it.  Also, while I didn't choose to use the above sketch's composition, a similar composition will probably show up in a future drawing. I love the idea of these guys as ant like creatures skittering about in a line in the desert.

If I were to describe the rest of my process and the ideas that I sifted through when working on "Living Gourds" then this would be the worlds longest blog post. So instead of continuing to write I've posted a few of my finished drawings that I looked at when working on this drawing. Each drawing is a learning experience and I always pull from the successes from previous pieces to help my current work. I'll leave it to you to make the comparisons and notice what I pulled from each work.

I'll write more about my process and ideas another day. For now, this is enough. I hope it was of some interest!

Friday, February 11, 2011


The other day I sold my first piece off of a gallery wall! I’ve sold my work  before but this is the first original drawing that I’ve sold since I’ve come into my own style, and it is also the first piece that I’ve sold from a gallery. When I found out about the sale I ran about the house grinning like a crazy person and, because I was alone at the moment, I shared the news with my dogs. Their reaction of refusing to get up from their nap was very anti-climactic. See if I share exciting news with them again.  

Rude dogs aside, what had me the most excited was the validation. Somebody, that I don’t know, likes my work for my work. They liked that particular piece enough to spend their hard earned money on it. It gave me that little bit of encouragement that was needed to keep working at selling my art; if one person likes my work enough to purchase it from a gallery, then surely someone else will too!

Most artists probably don’t shout it from the rooftops when they hit this milestone; they sit back and pretend that it happens to them all the time. I however, am not one of those artists. I’m proud of my little accomplishment. I think part of the problem in the art world is that not enough people hear about the process that artists go through as they work on their career. Being an artist isn’t all about starving, suffering, and moping about with a closet full of berets. Being an artist takes a lot of hard work, and I intend to celebrate any time I have a success. I’ll leave the beret wearing and moping to someone else.

P.S. Thanks to everybody who supports an unknown artist by buying some of their work. You are probably, unknowingly, giving that artist just the boost they need to keep plugging along.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why I Am Yet Another Blogger

Why am I blogging? 

I don't really feel like I have a lot to say. I've always thought that what I do have to say is really expressed best in my drawings. There is a reason I'm a visual artist and not a writer. I hate to write about my art; it is always a struggle. Why would I write about something that I can only express visually? When I do bother to write my grammar and punctuation is awful, and I often find myself having anxiety attacks over the proper use of a comma. 

This sounds miserable. Why I am I doing this to myself?

Oh yes. I'm writing because all of the women artists I admire have written in some way. They've written in journals, letters, or have even published their writings. They've written in a way that was acceptable for their day.  What they've written not only helps people to understand their artwork, but just as importantly, it helps encourage other artists. Their writings tied them to a community of artists.

So, I will write in a form that is acceptable for my day. I will write to help myself better understand my art, to explain why I do what I do, and to maybe encourage other emerging artists by helping them to see that they are not alone in their struggles. Who knows, maybe  my little blog will help tie me to a community of artists. 

 At the very least, this blog will amuse me, and maybe you. Just don't tell me about my comma problems. It wouldn't be polite.

 Curious about what my art looks like? www.elisabethmitchell.com