How to Rock the Summer: A Visual Guide

Summer is here! Find some time to enjoy it.

Go outside!

Cornflower with the cows

(page from my yet-unfinished children’s book (which continues to be a back burner project…))

Eat a burger!…

Burger Tower

(“Burger Tower”. Prints available on Etsy.)

Plant a garden…

Turnips

(“Turnip Twins”, 11 x 14, watercolor. Available for sale at TWK (or e-mail me at jacqueoman@gmail.com))

Go to the beach…

Interested in having this printed on fabric or wallpaper? Shoot me an e-mail!

(Interested in having this printed on fabric or wrapping paper? Shoot me an e-mail!)

doodle from my sketchbook

(a wee sketchbook doodle)

Pick some wildflowers…

more sketchbook fun

(more sketchbook fun)

Do something nostalgic…

(I love to draw tiny foooooood)

(A rocket pop! I love to draw tiny food.)

Go camping…

(page from last year's summer sketchbook)

(page from last year’s summer travel sketchbook)

And enjoy the precious company of family and friends!

(from last year's travel journal - hiking with my husband!)

(entry from travel journal – hiking with my husband!)

Thanks for stopping by! (Now seriously, get your butt outside).

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Welcome to the World of Surface Pattern Design

Lemons 1I recently discovered the world of “surface pattern design”. Now, I’ve always enjoyed me some wallpaper, fabric, wrapping paper, and other pattern-printed things, but it never really dawned on me that there was an actual term/career field pertaining to it. What can I say? — we’re all a bit slow at times.

What a wonderful discovery! Now that I know there is an actual OUTLET for my itchy urge to draw all the “little things”, I find that the sky is the limit.Lemons 2

Fabric…specialty paper…these things are PRIME channels for all the rinky-dink doodles I enjoy making so much. What’s that, world? There’s a REASON for me to create repetitious designs of ketchup bottles?! You’re telling me that someone might actually want some fabric covered in umbrellas and pool buoys?! THAT’S INCREDIBLE! OH life, you never cease to keep me engaged.

Not only is this a gratifying outlet for my difficult-to-ignore compulsion to draw all the things, but it’s also a great way to pass the time after I’ve reached my daily limit of working on what I consider (for better or worse) to be the “serious” stuff (i.e. my acrylic and watercolor paintings). Alas, as much as I WISH I could paint for 8 hours straight on a highly detailed watercolor painting of cracked and peeling house-paint (yes, you heard me), realistically, that never seems to happen. After a certain amount of time, my eyeballs glaze over, my observational keenness dims, and I cease responding intelligently to the details of what I’m looking at. My hand cramps up, and my brushstrokes get sloppy. To keep working at that point would just leave me burnt out for tomorrow. And it would probably undo the progress I made up until then. So I make it a point to stop before I’ve exhausted myself. This ensures that I’m excited and ready to begin again the next day.

Hemingway said it best:

“You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. It is the wait until that next day that is hard to get through.”

And I agree. That wait is hard. You WISH you could just keep chugging along and crank out all your ideas, but you’ve learned that if you drain yourself today, there’s nothing to get you out of bed tomorrow. It’s uncomfortable to try to be patient with your human limitations, to wait until you are restored and able to get back at it later.

That in-between time can be a dangerous place if you’re not careful. It’s easy to freak out and self-destruct. When art is your passion, when it’s the main thing you do to feel connected and alive, then it’s a drag to have to wait-out the necessary periods of rest.  You might find yourself numbing the discomfort by eating a pint (or 2) of ice cream, or by drinking a bottle of wine, or by anxiously gnawing off your hand. Which, of course, makes it harder to start again tomorrow. It harms you and defeats the purpose of taking a break. And it leaves you feeling EXTRA uncomfortable because you’re hungover and feeling guilty for getting in the way of doing what you were so impatient to do in the first place.

I’ve had my share of foolish self-destructive moments, so surface pattern design has been a welcome addition to my list of non-work activities. It still lets me be creative and put my fascination with mundane objects to good use. It still lets me stretch my brain and marvel at the world around me. But it doesn’t drain me or require extreme precision. I can fix mistakes on the computer. I can afford to play around and try a million iterations of the same thing without feeling like I wasted hours of precious effort getting it just right. AND I can do it in my PJ’s on the couch!Lemons 3

So…Yay! I’m not saying my designs are going to show up in stores or on handbags any time soon, but hey, who knows? Now I at least know there’s a place for it. And there are so many things to turn into patterns! (And it’s oh-so-do-able thanks to modern things like iPads and Adobe!)

I’m only sorry that Hemingway didn’t have such a way to pass the time.

(and now I shall resist sharing EVERYTHING I’ve “patterned” so far, so that I don’t exhaust my supply of things to show you in the weeks to come…)

Which of my lemon/lime patterns do you like best? (The possibilities are ENDLESS!)

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Solo Show at TWK in Winchester, MA

Ruffled Iris Watercolor PaintingHello, friends! I’m excited to announce that 14 of my floral/nature watercolors are currently showing at TWK (The Waterfield Kitchen), a restaurant in lovely Winchester, MA. I went there on Tuesday to hang my work and see the space. They have an awesome looking bar and menu, so even if you don’t care about buying my artwork (*ahem), you should still go there sometime! They, along with the entire family of Serenitee restaurants, are big supporters of the arts and regularly feature the work of talented locals on their walls. While I was there, I had the pleasure of seeing some of the paintings that were showing before mine went up — work by the very skilled Deanna Jacome. I love her earthy, rich color palette and the way she makes marks on the canvas. In addition to painting, she also does Turkish marbling (SO COOL!) and makes flower crowns. Check out her shop if you want to buy her handmade journals and sketchbooks, dreamcatchers, floral crowns, or original works of art! Very, very impressive.

Bittersweet 3 DisplayAnywayyyyy…my work will be up for the next month or two and I hope you’ll drive out there to check it out!IMG_1737 Fall Leaves watercolor

Thanks to Creative Salem for putting this together, and to another local artist, Ed Schutte, for helping me get connected to them! I am so thankful for the art-loving environment that I’ve stumbled into since moving up here to Massachusetts. It’s energizing to live in such a supportive community! (And amazing to see so much good work being made by other artists in this part of the world).IMG_3061 IMG_1740

art on display

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Throw Doubt Away: You ARE an Artist.

crab apple blossoms (sketching during breakfast)

crab apple blossoms (sketching during breakfast)

I spend too much time feeling like I’m not a real artist because I don’t churn out amazing work every day. Often, the end of the week comes and I feel distraught over how seemingly little progress I’ve made on my paintings. There are days that I don’t get to paint much at all — where I have to try to take satisfaction in a doodle during breakfast because the rest of the day will be filled with the not-so-thrilling busywork of framing, matting, scanning, and e-mailing.

I begin most days wondering “is today the day that it’s all going to click? If I run fast enough, will I finally fit everything in?” I chase the crushing ideal of a daily routine that is perfectly balanced and productive — where I effortlessly manage my time so that the painting, marketing, networking, practicing, learning, writing, documenting, planning, and accounting all get done…with time to spare for life’s other demands like exercise, eating, relationships, sleep and leisure.

It’s a fantasy that sets me up for disappointment, and it robs me of the joy that comes from what I DO get to work on each day.

Why is it that I can have several paintings that I’m working on, a solo show that I’m getting ready for, and my work hanging in the homes of strangers, and STILL feel like I’m not an artist? If a friend told me this, I’d call her out for talking nonsense.

The only way I’m ever going to feel like an artist is if I decide to call myself one, and choose to own it despite my niggling self-doubt.

So I’m choosing that now. Next time someone asks me what I do, I’ll tell them the same thing I’ve been saying for years: “I’m an artist”. But instead of looking at the floor and brushing it off as if I’m only half- serious, I’ll be sure to stand tall, look them in the eye, and say it with pride.

Because you know what? I AM proud. And I’m not going to downplay how happy I am that I get to do this work.

(A special thanks to Lisa Congdon whose fantastic blog post inspired me to “own it”).

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Now Showing at ArcWorks Gallery: “Niche (Wall Shrine)” acrylic painting

On display (and for sale) now at the ArcWorks gallery in Peabody:

"Niche (Wall Shrine)", acrylic

“Niche (Wall Shrine)”, acrylic

It’s part of the juried show “Spring Fling”, going on from now until June 30th. If you’re local, consider stopping by to check out some of the other artists that made it into the show!

This painting is a continuation of a series of acrylic paintings I did in college. It’s about memory, nostalgia, and the passing of time. The jar holds memories from my childhood — of long humid summers, my grandpa’s house, and other moments that have become unrealistically beautiful in my mind. It’s about our tendency to make certain memories “sacred” and the romanticized light we cast them in. It’s a shrine, more or less, for the idealized moments of the past.

(Here’s a less dark photo)
Niche (Wall Shrine)

(and a close up)

(close up)

I’m considering doing some more of these. Since I last worked on this series, I’ve racked up some more memories to preserve! I’m also considering taking commissions from others who have memories they want preserved. Got any symbolic objects of special memories that you want me to paint? E-mail me if you’re interested in commissioning some jars!

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Preparing for Shows

Framed Miko PaintingFramed Ducky PaintingThese 2 paintings finally have frames and are ready for display! My dad made the frames (he’s a fine wood craftsman, if I do say so myself. He also built the shelves and storage crates in my studio) and man, they sure are nice. Now I can submit these to the Salem Arts Festival gallery show.  (Last year I had a booth at the Arts Festival. This year I’ll just stick to the juried show – and HEY, if you’re in town, you should definitely come!).

I also submitted some work to another nearby show.  I’m still waiting to hear back whether it got accepted, so stay tuned for more details and pictures later.

I’ve been getting back into acrylic lately (after being caught up in watercolors for a while) and look forward to receiving feedback from people about some of these older works. I’m energized by the new ideas that I’m starting to get down on canvas (and the many more ideas that are swimming around in my head). It will be good to get some outside perspective as I move forward.

It looks like I might also have a solo show in the works — but I’ll save that for another day.

Enjoy your weekend! I know I will…we’re going to a clambake!

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“Fantastical Beasts of Myth and Legend.” Plus, 7 Helpful Things for Artists and Humans.

So…this happened:

Fantastical Beasts of Myth and Legend

Seeking to revitalize my brain — which was feeling “cottony” after several days spent preparing pieces for upcoming shows, putting together a new website (which will be done, eventually…), and working on my latest acrylic painting — I took a paintbrush and dabbed a few blobs of watercolor on a page.

I intended to turn those blobs into cats. (Shocking, I know).

But of course, my plan was foiled. That yellow blob up in the top right corner insisted on becoming a stegosaurus, so the cat idea went out the window. Then that red thing became a unicorn butt. Before I knew it, a dim-witted dragon joined the fun, followed by an oh-so-cheery kraken of the sea . And then — holy moly! — there was Donald Trump.

Mer-Trump, to be exact.

Thereby demonstrating that creativity, like politics, is never a straightforward process.

In other news! Here are 7 things that I found helpful this week:

  1. This podcast Episode from Danielle Krysa over at the Jealous Curator, in which she interviews artist Aris Moore. Particularly helpful was Aris’s reminder that drawing is a worthy art form (painting isn’t the only “fine art”!), her observation that “To have people respond to what you’re doing is such a gift”, and her discussion with Danielle about how vulnerable we make ourselves when we share our artwork. “It’s such a sensitive thing to do, to put your work out there. Everything you make, it’s like the first time you’ve made it. You’ve never made it before. So you’re putting out something new, and something that you’re not sure of, ” says Aris, to which Kristina adds “You’re exposing your heart to the world and hoping that they do the best with it.” It’s so nice to know that other artists feel this way, too, and to feel strengthened by their resolve to SHARE THEIR WORK anyway.
  2. This article, from Carrie Lewis at the Empty Easel, titled “Advice for Artists Thinking About Giving Up”, in which she reminds us that it’s normal to feel like quitting sometimes, and that the feeling will pass. In the meantime, don’t make any rash decisions. Just because art never becomes “easy” doesn’t mean you should give it up. “Almost every one of the hundreds of paintings and drawings I’ve finished over the years has reached a crisis at some point. Either I messed something up, needed to make major changes halfway through, or simply got tired of it. Whatever the cause, the result was always the same: I wanted to quit! Of course, I didn’t…”
  3. These two artists I fell in love with on Saatchi this week: Lia Porto and Julie Hendriks
  4. Melissa Camara-Wilkins‘s recent blog post “Why You Aren’t Writing”, about overcoming the obstacles that keep you from writing/creating. “You’re worried that someone else is already doing the thing you want to do,” she says. “This is a real thing. Someone else already wrote it or did it or said it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t…no one else can write it from your perspective. You know who you are, and you know what makes you different. That’s what we’re listening for. Write from the place that makes you, you. Write with your own voice, from your own experience, and help us see ourselves in your words. If you have something to say, it matters.” (obviously, this applies to the visual arts, too).
  5. Elizabeth Gilbert‘s quote (from Big Magic – READ THIS BOOK!) about taking action instead of waiting around for “inspiration” to strike: “…any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because Inspiration will always be drawn to motion.” 
  6. It’s rhubarb season! Strawberry rhubarb compote, anyone?
  7. Warm weather (finally!) and being able to have the windows open. Happy bird songs make the BEST background sound for painting.

 

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Thanks, Mom!

Mother’s Day might not be until Sunday, but hey, why not celebrate all weekend long?

After all, Moms. Are. The. BEST.

Words will never express how thankful I am for all the ways my mom has shaped my life. Sure, she raised me, fed me, clothed me, and made sure I survived past childhood; but she also went above and beyond to give me a childhood full of creativity and wonderment. It’s thanks to her, after all, that I am interested in art — she was helping me with creative projects before I was even speaking in full sentences. Her curiosity has always amazed and inspired me. She can’t help but pursue the things that interest her, and it seems like she’s always learning, experimenting, and making new things. Best of all, she shares what she learns, and has been an invaluable source of wisdom and support throughout my entire life.

Yes, that is me. And yes, I still make a mess when I paint.

Yes, that is me. And yes, I still make a mess when I paint.

When I was a kid, she was always willing to let me play with her art materials, even though I often made a mess of her studio. Whenever I was bored or curious, there she was, ready to help me channel my creativity into a new project. One project that was PARTICULARLY special to me was the “book illustrating” she helped me do in kindergarten. Throughout that year, she helped me write down stories that I came up with, and provided the materials for me to illustrate them. I’d bring them to school and read them to my class. I felt SO COOL!

A few years ago, she gave me a binder FULL of those very stories! She kept them all (that dear woman) and what a treasure they have become!

Looking through those old stories, I can’t help but notice that I’m still compelled to draw the same things I was back then — cats, fruit, nature, birds…

…and jars! Lovely, lovely jars, full of delightful things! Muffin the Puffin with Candy Jars(This is a page from the story “Muffin the Puffin”, about a Puffin who LOVES to eat gummy fish from the candy store. One day, of course, he eats too many of them and gets sick. So then he learns to eat REAL fish and decides, in the end, that they are just as good.)

I stumbled upon this old gem while I was taking a break from an illustration I was working on. An illustration that just happened to include:

JARS! Full of delightful little things!

Jars: Pickles, Fireflies, and Seashells

(Pickles, fireflies, and seashells, oh my!)

SO…THANKS MOM! — for all the support, wisdom, time, and camaraderie. Thanks for encouraging me to be myself, and for helping me pursue a life of artistic adventure. Thanks for the laughs, thanks for the cookies, thanks for listening, thanks for the love.

And thanks for the hugs, too. (My mom gives really, REALLY good hugs).

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Breakfast-induced Insomnia (an Illustration)

It happens to the best of us…watercolor and ink illustration of breakfast dreams and insomniaThe struggle is real.

(watercolor and ink)

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The Art of Spring, the Art of Winter

“Every Spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.” – Ellis Peters

Iris (Dragon tail)

“Dragon tail Iris”, watercolor, 2011 (incidentally, a winter project)

So true. Year after year, winter gives way to tulips, violets, irises, dandelions… and it fills me with delight and wonder. The grass turns green and my energy is restored. Long days, bright colors…each year, it’s a reliable and welcome source of joy.

Winter has its inspirations, too, but they require more effort to find. Much energy goes into keeping a positive attitude, and I have to pump myself up to go forth and seek ideas that engage me. It takes a lot of work to gain and maintain the momentum needed to get simple things done. And it takes even MORE work to hold onto a sense of purpose about what I’m doing. The energy required to get up and seek inspiration comes at a cost, leaving little behind when it comes time to put those ideas to action.

But I’m human, with a brain and a knack for adapting, so I’ve figured out how to deal with winter, and it’s enjoyable in its own, temporary way. I’ve found it to be an optimal time for doing slow, obsessive projects that require most of their planning upfront (like the Bittersweet paintings). I put effort into finding an idea that excites me, and then lay out the parameters before beginning. I make the big decisions beforehand, and I take care to outline a satisfying, doable trajectory. This way, I only have to rely on “feeling inspired” at the beginning, when the idea takes root. Once it’s set in motion, I can then rely on the more predictable appeal of hard work to see it through. I wake up each morning knowing I have something to work on, and knowing HOW to work on it. What inspires me in the winter, then, are things that are meticulous, detailed, and that will expand my technical mastery. During these times, the joy of creating relies heavily on the satisfaction of physically doing the work — of engaging with the materials and obsessing over the details – and of falling into a comfortable harmony with a world that seems quiet and still.

But something shifts in spring. Nature is less stingy, and inspiration literally grows on trees. Unlike Winter, Spring heaps energy onto my plate like a grandma feeding pork chops to her grandsons. It gives, and gives abundantly. Suddenly, I’m awash in life and meaning, and it’s begging to be expressed.

It’s not just the flowers that sweep me off my feet. It’s the change in daylight, the singing birds, the nostalgic smell of warm asphalt and mulch, and the re-emergence of my neighbors from their winter dens. I don’t have to scrunch up to keep warm. There is no bracing myself against the biting wind or staring at the ground to protect my eyes from the sun’s harsh angle. Now I can expand, breathe, and let myself feel my body as the sun warms my cheeks and the wind knots my hair. That reconnection to body and earth reminds me that I’m a part of this beautiful universe, and it is from that that my sense of purpose is re-awakened. Life matters, moments are beautiful, memories are precious…etc. All of this fuels my creative drive, amplifying the persistent need to “capture” and express these bountiful moments so that others may feel the goodness I’m feeling, too.

But of course, this comes with its own challenges. Because now I’m FULL of energy and ideas and purpose, but it will scatter all over the place if I don’t take some measures control it. Then I’ll end up good and tan, with lots of dirt on my bare feet, but winter will come and I’ll have gotten nothing done.

So usually, things go like this: For one week, I let myself frolic, untethered, through the creative whirlwind (and pollen induced blur) that arises during those first days of TRUE spring—those days when nature comes back to life and I can walk outside without a jacket. My imagination goes wild and I usually don’t sleep much because I’m on a roll brainstorming about the nine million projects I’d like to undertake.

I become like a hummingbird that can’t stop flying because it has to keep finding more delicious flowers to drink from so it can sustain its crazy metabolism. Only, instead of nectar, I’m drinking inspirational fodder, which I need to sustain my hungry creativity. I let myself flit around, delighting in my ideas, stockpiling energy and inspiration. I write long lists of potential projects in my notebooks. I take a lot of ugly reference photos. I write down specific feelings, thoughts, and words that will help me remember. Though I create very little, it feels very productive.

I don’t hold back and I don’t take the season’s change for granted. It is a welcome restoration to what feels like my more natural state: that state in which my zest for life drives me to explore my curiosities and try to recreate them on the page. (I say it feels like my “natural” state because when I’m in it, I feel like I’m thriving. It seems to contribute to my well-being somehow). For that precious week, I indulge my exuberance. And then I try to settle down and get back into a work routine.

My cache of ideas, gathered in that first burst of Spring excitement, becomes a sustainable energy source. This makes it easier to maintain a productive routine. I go to bed and wake up excited about my projects. I cherish my routine because it moves me daily, bit by bit, down the list of projects I have in my head.  Of course I know I won’t be able get to ALL the ideas on my list, not in one season or in one lifetime. But that is a WONDERFUL motivator because it means I’ll always have something to do. There will always be a reason to keep trying, another carrot dangling before me. Life won’t get dull unless I decide to stop listening to my curiosity and creativity (which, in all likelihood, seems impossible since these things are inherent to being HUMAN). This is an excellent incentive to take care of myself and to honor my days, because I want to keep having that creative experience of seeing beauty and getting lost in it.

Thanks goodness Spring will come again next year, and with it, more ideas and energy. With such knowledge, I can buzz forth, landing on the flowers that catch my eye, relishing the freedom of Spring’s abundant generosity. I’m free from worrying too much about “keeping up with my ideas” because there will always be enough. Yes, as long as the years keep turning, there will be enough.

(What are these lists of new project ideas, you ask? I guess you’ll have to keep coming back to see!)

Iris (Dragon Tail) framed(One last thing: Thank you for reading this. I fear that my posts may be beginning to sound redundant. Certainly I’ve written about spring before. But each year, I learn and grow so much, and as I come to understand myself more, life becomes better and better, artistically and otherwise. I hope you know that I only share these personal insights because I think they might be helpful to you on your own path, not because I love to talk about myself. I think we all benefit from seeing how other people pursue a meaningful life, and I’m just as interested to know how YOU do it! So if you can relate at all, to the change in seasons, or anything else I said, please DO share in the comments below!)

 

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