Quote of the Day: Seize the Moment

I was struck by this quote from Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

Brutus:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”

–Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

We cannot live in fear.  We must take the opportunities that come our way in order to move forward toward our ultimate goals.  What steps will you take today that will pave the way for your vision of tomorrow?

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Rainy Day Blues

This week has been nothing but rain. Somehow it’s making everyone cranky. Like, my whole art class 😉

A new study says eating more fruits and veggies can improve mood.  It is no surprise that the magic number of servings is 7.

But what about simply seeing paintings of them?  Let’s test it out.  Here’s some fruit for thought!

watercolor

watercolor

Feel any better yet?  An apple a day keeps the bad mood away 😉

Here are some quotes to get you through!

“Life is a train of moods like a string of beads; and as we pass through them they prove to be many colored lenses, which paint the world their own hue, and each shows us only what lies in its own focus.”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“That terrible mood of depression of whether it’s any good or not is what is known as The Artist’s Reward.”  — Ernest Hemingway

“When trust improves, the mood improves.”  — Fernando Flores

If all else fails, call the doctor!  Dr. Seuss that is 😉  Read My Many Colored Days

“But it all turns out all right, you see.  And I go back to being me.”

Technique

watercolor

watercolor

I recently took a watercolor class, which was really fun.  Look for more watercolor artwork in future postings.

In this watercolor sketch, I was practicing painting still water with reflections in it.  I can’t take all the credit though.  This was part of an exercise from a wonderful book called Creating Textures in Watercolor by Cathy Johnson.  You should check it out!  It makes watercolor very accessible for both the novice and the expert.  A classmate recommended it to me.  I’m still working on the salt technique, so stay tuned for that….

I actually wondered if I should post this, since it’s a rendering of another painting.  But then I remembered, all the “old masters” copied.  That is how we learn.  If you’re not convinced, see my earlier post.  Then, when we “get it,” we can sit down at our drawing table and apply the technique to our own ideas.  It is fascinating how that works, actually 😉

But the real lesson for today:  Don’t be afraid to tackle the subjects that really scare you!

Yohaku

brush and ink

Yohaku is the concept of white space. I first heard this term at a library conference in 2006. Legendary author E. L. Konigsburg, who wrote From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, gave a speech about appreciating both the half empty and half full glass.  She read us her elegant, intellectual speech and all eyes were on her.  It is a reminder that it is okay to prepare your words ahead of time and still be heard from the heart.

So what was she trying to tell us that was so important?  First of all, we need both the positive and the negative.  Everything has a duality.  You can call it masculine and feminine, black and white, yin and yang, north and south pole, good and evil, but it is all the same.  We exist because of it and we can transcend whatever side of the pole we find ourselves on in any given aspect of our lives in any moment.

She pointed out that only in our society would we refer to this beautiful white space as “negative” space.  Why?  We seem to have a need to fill up every corner of every painting, every closet, every space in our lives with stuff.  If we don’t, it is seen as a negative.  But how does black exist fully without the white space behind it, between it, around it, pushing it forward?  The reverse, of course, is also true, but we usually start with a white piece of paper.  And doesn’t that scare us to death?

When I asked my husband, who is Japanese, about the term “yohaku,” he immediately referred to the term as white space.  When I called it “negative” space, he said, “Oh no, it isn’t negative.  It’s a positive thing.”  I had to explain where the negative reference came from.

So how does this relate to my latest sumi-e painting?  It is my first attempt at something abstract with ink.  It is supposed to represent the concept of the “black hole.”  A little research taught me that black holes exist throughout the universe and balance the stars (light) that exists.  Black holes suck up matter (including light), which is a scary thought.  But they also spit out particles that make up all living things, including us.  We in essence would not exist without them.  The earth may in fact be a byproduct of one of them.

Looking at the painting, where is your eye drawn?  To the black in the center or the white throughout?  Could either exist fully without the other?  Which is more important?  More beautiful?

Konigsburg told us she gave herself time to write even as a young mother.  She found the space for her words.  We must find the space for ours.

My secondhand childhood copy signed and dated by the author 🙂

Check out these other posts that highlight yohaku as well as the concept of creative space:

The Four Noble Ones

Letting Go

Interview with Author/Illustrator Julia Maisen

I had the pleasure of interviewing author/illustrator Julia Maisen.  I became familiar with her work after seeing an article she wrote, “Art Education on the Cheap,” in the March/April 2013 issue of the SCBWI Bulletin.  Check out her work here.

AK: What inspired you to become an artist?

JM: I think that I have always wanted to be an artist, or at least I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an artist. I suppose I was just one of the lucky ones who never grew out of the desire to create.

AK: You mentioned in your article that you never went to art school. Are you self-taught or did you take classes independently? What artists and/or styles were you especially drawn to in your studies?

JM: It’s funny; when you talk about being self-taught it can mean a lot of different things. For me I’ve taken maybe 2 art classes at a university as well as a workshop or two. Most of my instruction comes from books, DVDs and observation. I also make up a lot of exercises for myself based on things I’ve read and suggestions from other artists.

I love the golden age illustrators, especially N.C. Wyeth. Sargent is another favorite artist as is Holly Hobbie, Adam Rex, Chris Van Allsburg and too many others to count.

AK: Where is the most interesting place you’ve gone to sketch? What did you draw there?

JM: I once went sketching at the zoo, which was a lot of fun. I also sketched a lot while on a family trip to France a couple of years ago. But mostly I don’t go anywhere in particular to sketch, since for the most part I’m trying to get an image in my head down on paper.

AK: You seem to prefer watercolors. Why do you like this medium? What do you find most challenging?

JM: I’ve always loved watercolors, in part because they are a great mix of careful planning and happy accidents. As for the most challenging thing about watercolor I think it’s establishing your darks while at the same time preserving your whites. It can be hard to build up darks in watercolors since the paint is so translucent.

AK: What is your favorite technique and why?

JM: I like working wet-into-wet and creating blooms with the water. It’s a neat effect that can suggest interesting textures and add interest to a painting.

AK: I read that you are also a writer. Which came first for you, writing or art?

JM: I’ve always done both, though I think that it took me longer to realize that I could write my own stories just like I could create my own pictures.

AK: Do you write and illustrate your own picture books? What is that process like for you?

JM: I do write and illustrate my own stories, though I haven’t had any of them published yet. Mostly the story starts with an image of an idea and I go from there. In the beginning I’m jumping back and forth a lot between words and pictures until I nail down what the story is about. After that it’s pretty straightforward, with me first writing a final version of the text and then creating the pictures.

AK: What makes you want to write and illustrate for children?

JM: It’s partly because the stories in my head just naturally seem to go there and partly because I think stories for kids have a lot of heart and humor in them, which I like.

AK: What advice can you offer to an artist who wishes to pursue a career in art/illustration without getting a formal art degree?

JM: If you are not going to get a degree, then you have to be committed to pursuing your art every day. You need to be driven to both get better and to put your art out into the world.

AK: Do you think it is better to be an expert or a beginner when it comes to making art?

JM: I think you need both to be successful. You need to be a beginner in the sense that you need to be willing to try new things and new techniques. A beginner is more likely to leap without looking and trusting that in the end everything will turn out right. But you also need the skills and experience that an expert brings to the table. An expert knows a thousand and one ways to direct the reader’s eye and communicate an emotion. That’s a necessary skill to have.

Let’s Celebrate Spring: Part 2

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