Painting the Colors of a White Wall

I love color. It consumes me…it fills me…it overwhelms me. It stirs up feelings so big that I have to DO something with them or else I’ll explode.

So I paint.  With brush in hand, I immerse myself in all the delicious ways that colors layer and pool together, creating texture, shadow, and form.  The longer I look at something, the more colors I see. If I’m not careful, I “overwork” my paintings. (Hence the friendly reminders I scribble in the margins as I’m working – things like “DON’T OVERWORK IT, FOOL!” and “KEEP IT CLEAN, KID!”).

Last year, my mom sent me a photo she took of cracked and flaking paint on the side of an old building. (That Momma of mine has a keen eye for beautiful things hidden in plain sight). The colors in the shadows and exposed woodgrain were shockingly rich and abundant. I knew immediately that I had to make a painting of it.

Thus began the delightful and painstaking endeavor to paint paint, and now, months later, I’m finally ready to call it done. I started the painting last summer but got interrupted when we moved and then lost my momentum with it. Then life got all crazy (like it does  sometimes) and I didn’t want to touch it for a long time, so I hid it in a drawer and made a bunch of other things instead.

But good ideas don’t just go away. They don’t like being abandoned before they’ve had their say. They put up a fight and nag at you from the backseat of your brain. Keep you up at night. Refuse to back down.

So eventually I pulled the painting out of its drawer and looked at it with fresh eyes. (Things look better after you walk away from them for a while. That’s the wonderful gift of perspective!). When I realized how close it was to being a finished piece, I mustered up my courage, added a few more shadows, and voila! Here it is:realistic watercolor painting of cracked, flaking houseplant by Jacque Oman Clinton

Who know a white wall could be so colorful?! Oh, World, you never cease to amaze me.

 

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“Sarge”: Custom Illustrated Dog Book in PRINT! + A Quote for New Years

And so a new year has begun. Before I get carried away sharing my new projects that are already in full swing, I figured I better show you the things I was working on in December, first.

Perhaps you remember the book I said I was working on — the illustrated story about Sarge the farm dog? Here’s how it turned out!

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton

cover

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton

first pages

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

random middle pages

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

more random middle pages

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

more random middle pages

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

last pages

I used blurb.com for the printing, and I’m really happy with how it turned out! Their design software is easy to use and the website is informative, helpful, and full of options. (I highly recommend them if you’re ever looking to self-publish or print-on-demand). Best of all, I can order more copies whenever I want (so if you’re interested in buying one (or commissioning your own personalized book), let me know!).

EDIT: Enough people expressed interest in buying the book that I’ve put it up for sale here: http://www.blurb.com/b/7576769-sarge

Then there was this watercolor portrait I was asked to do:Commissioned Wedding portrait painted in watercolor by Jacque Oman Clinton

The above projects, plus a few orders for prints on Etsy, kept me plenty busy right up until Christmas. Then I spent the holiday week celebrating with family, relaxing with my husband, and enjoying the well-earned freedom of not needing to be “productive” (all while trying to recover from a germ that just WON’T go away). There was some re-watching of the Lord of the Rings, and a wee bit of jigsaw puzzle-ing, but mostly, there was the glorious luxury of sitting around in sweatpants, watching birds at the feeder, and doodling freely in my sketchbook for no purpose other than the sheer joy of it. Sigh…it was great.

bird blob doodle from sketchbook of Jacque Oman Clinton

bird blobs from sketchbook

And now I shall conclude with a bit of insight I picked up from author Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Though specifically aimed at writers, the following quote is helpful to all of us who are…you know…trying to live a life. May it give you the courage to face a new year and the many unknowns that lie ahead:

“E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

Nice, right? Whatever you may hope to accomplish in 2017, just remember…you don’t have to have it ALL planned out. Sometimes you just have to point yourself in the right direction and start moving, one day — one step — at a time.

So buckle up! 2017, here we come!custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

 

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Looking for Rainbows

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou, Letter to my Daughter

A rainbow landed on my painting

A rainbow landed on my painting

work in progress - watercolor "chipped paint" painting (nothing like painting paint!)

work in progress – watercolor “chipped paint” painting (nothing like painting paint!)

I saw a lot of rainbows this week – both indoors and outdoors. They came from rainstorms, sprinklers, and window prisms, and each was a welcome gift of hope and joy. The more I payed attention and looked for rainbows, the more I saw them.

A lot of things in life seem to work like that — you see what you choose to see. So why not choose to see rainbows?

Sometimes, at the end of a rainbow, you find a pot of gold. And sometimes you don't. But it's still a rainbow, and that's the real treasure, anyway.

Sometimes, at the end of a rainbow, you find a pot of gold. And sometimes you don’t. But it’s still a rainbow, and that’s the real treasure, anyway.

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New Website + Upcoming Art Show

Friends! My new portfolio/professional site is launched! You can click on the “portfolio” menu option on this page, and the link will take you to my portfolio site. Now you can see samples of my best work, organized by category and easy to browse through! Hooray. Check it out! Eventually I’ll synch it up better with this site, add an e-mail sign up, and work out the remaining little details, but for now, I’m happy it’s functional and easy to look at.

BIG NEWS! Last week I got a nice surprise when I was invited, out of the blue, to be a featured artist in RAW Boston’s upcoming Art showcase “REVEAL”. RAW Boston is part of RAW Artists. Here’s what their website has to say about them:

Raw is an international organization run by artists FOR artists. It’s mission is to provide independent artists within the first 10 years of their creative career with the tools, resources, and exposure needed to inspire and cultivate creativity. Raw ventures to provide the platform for artists to be seen, heard, and loved. Their showcase events feature indie talent in visual art, film, fashion design, music, performance art, hair and makeup artistry, and photography.

On August 25th from 7-11 PM, I will be showing and selling originals and prints, alongside many other talented Boston area artists, at Mixx 360 in Malden, MA. Tickets are $20 and you can buy them here! The event will have live music and art performers, a fashion show, an art show, craft and artisan vendors, drinks, and much more. I’m excited to go and meet other young artists and to see the fruits of so much creative labor. It’s usually quite inspiring to be around passionate people who are doing what they love.

I have to thank my husband and everyone else who has been encouraging me, from the start, to keep sharing my work online and beyond. It is because of all the sharing (on Behance, Instagram, Etsy, etc.) that opportunities like this have started to arise. If you have something you’re doing that you feel is worth sharing with the world, DO it. This is a great time to be an artist.

I recently met a local photographer, the multi-talented Joey Phoenix, who is going to take photos of some of my larger work so I can get prints made for the show. While digging through my stockpiles to find the stuff I want her to shoot, I found this old gem (I’ve shared it before, but…it’s worth another share because it makes me smile):

Albrecht Durer and Renoir's Cat

It’s a remnant from college. I combined an Albrecht Dürer self-portrait and a Pierre Auguste Renoir painting to make Dürer holding a cat. I think it would make great prints, but I don’t know what the legal boundaries are on works like this, since I essentially just copied the paintings of two of history’s great masters.

I’ll admit it: more than once, in moments of self-doubt/existential crisis, I’ve considered shifting gears and focusing on painting “regal” cats. I’d build up a body of work of classical, Napoleon-esque felines looking heroic with columns and ruffled collars and all that. But someone else is already doing that, and who am I kidding, I wouldn’t be able to focus on such a small sliver of subject matter for very long.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Love to you all. I hope summer is treating you well.

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The Awkward Middle

This week, I find myself at the awkward middle point of several works in progress. I have this one acrylic painting in particular that has been driving me nuts as I try to find my way through it. I started it with great excitement, but now that I’m well on my way into the thing, I feel a little lost in the woods

work in progress

work in progress

Every project has its awkward middle point. Sometimes it’s a brief ordeal, but sometimes it lasts for months. It’s the point when the shiny exhilaration of STARTING something has worn off. You can’t really see the end point yet – and you’re not even sure if what you’re doing is going to work. When you step back to look at your progress, it looks raw and unbalanced. It’s like looking in the mirror half-way through a haircut. Or being caught mid-step, with one leg frozen in the air. It’s uncomfortable to stand that way for too long. You have to keep going or else you’ll fall over.

At this point, things can look pretty uncertain, possibly even ugly. Things aren’t going how you thought they would. It’s not the perfect picture you envisioned at the start. Instead, it has taken on a life of its own, and now you have to re-define your approach to it. You’re in uncharted territory, trying to figure out where to go next.

If you’re a perfectionist, or an all-or-nothing type of person (I constantly struggle with this), then the middle point can be quite a disappointment. There’s not much aesthetic delight in something that is half finished! It’s off-kilter, it’s incoherent, it’s vague. How do you psych yourself up to keep pushing through?

Instead of relying on the satisfaction of “finishing”, you have to rely on the satisfaction of doing. Finishing is nothing. It’s boring, it’s lack of movement. But DOING! – that is a thrill! It’s the gratification you get from facing a challenge, day after day. It’s the joy of letting yourself be curious about where this thing is leading you. Dress yourself up for adventure so that it’s a pleasure, not a fright, to find yourself in the awkward middle ground.

In fact, maybe the middle point isn’t so awkward at all. Maybe it’s the perfectly natural place to be. I mean, we spend most of our lives in the middle space, right? We’re growing up, but we’re never done growing. We’re learning, but there’s always more to know. We’re married, but our relationship is still a work in progress. We’re done for today, but we’re going to have to get up again tomorrow…

So, alright, alright…I’ll keep working, bit by bit, on this painting that has me feeling so stuck. I’ve got nothing to lose and plenty to learn.

And in the meantime, here are some things I DID finish this week (though even with these, there’s no feeling of “being finished” because with every design I make, there’s a bazillion more I want to do next…):

strawberry pattern

Strawberry surface pattern design for fabric, wallpaper, etc.

"Robot Guts" surface pattern

“Robot Guts” surface pattern

watermelon surface pattern design. (My what a trendy shirt this would make!)

watermelon surface pattern design. (My what a trendy shirt this would make!)

As always, THANKS for stopping by! Have you found yourself feeling awkward in the middle ground lately?

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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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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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It’s Finished! The “Bittersweet” Series

Breaking news! I finally finished the bittersweet drawing I shared with you a few weeks ago:
Bittersweet 3

Thus concludes my “Bittersweet Series”…for now. Together, these 3 paintings are my winter tribute to the complexity and beauty hiding in the “little” things that surround us.  I used to find winter painfully uninspiring. The winter landscape was dull and depressing, cold and colorless. Everything was all pokey twigs and brown, brown, brown. It was the soul sucking epitome of artistic boredom.

Then, with time and effort, I learned to look a little bit harder. I opened myself up to the possibility that beauty hides in the drabness. I learned to see things differently, to change my perspective. (Metaphor? Perhaps…).

Anyway…if you also thought twigs were boring, I hope you’ve changed your mind. Bittersweet 1

Bittersweet 2

Bittersweet 3
And now, onward to spring!

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Creativity, Works in Progress, and How to Handle Fear.

The “essential effort” of artists “is to catapult themselves wholly, without holding back one bit, into a course of action without having any idea where they will end up.” – Anne Truitt, Daybook: The Journal of an Artist

This is a watercolor painting of some tangled bittersweet branches that I’ve been slowly working on for several weeks now. It’s still a work in progress, as you can see.

Watercolor Bittersweet, Work in ProgressBittersweet Watercolor, Work in Progress

The going has been slow, due to starts and stops along the way. Once, I had to put it on pause so that I could finish up the commissioned wedding stationary I shared a few weeks ago (and I’m not complaining! It was a great project). Then, when some oral surgery left me surprisingly wiped out, I took another little break. And yet another time, my momentum was interrupted by a spontaneous and much-needed trip to Arizona (again, no complaints!).

But more than once, I stopped because of Creativity’s pesky little companion: Fear.

Fear is an inevitable part of making art, brought on by the inherent unknowns that characterize the process of creation. And, with the exception of brain damage and other physiological malfunctions, it is basically impossible to eradicate it. As artists, though, we can’t make progress unless we learn to accept that Fear is there and to learn to do our work regardless of it.

There are already many things trying to steal time from our projects: Appointments, trips, holidays, social obligations, chores, headaches…etc. So why on earth do we let internal obstacles get in the way as well?  Well, I suppose it’s because Fear is good at making himself seem big. He’s crafty. He knows how to make compelling arguments that strike close to home. What are we to do?

It helps to understand that it’s all just rhetoric. Fear starts chattering the moment we face a new project:

I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Will this even work? What if it’s a waste of time?

And he keeps it up at each step along the way:

Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? What if I mess up and everyone hates it? Maybe I should stop before I invest too much time in a failure…

Fear will do anything to get us off track. He starts with the basics, telling us how dumb our ideas are and pointing out how unqualified we are for the job. He tells us we’re too tired and too sore to spend another day at the easel. He measures us up against all of the other artists whose work is better than ours.

Then he gets existential. He tells us that it’s not our art that stinks, it’s us. Period. And then he goes on to suggest that perhaps art is pointless altogether, and that our pursuits contribute nothing to the world. “Other people are doctors, doing surgeries and saving lives. And you’re painting twigs?!” He said to me the other day. He reminds us, untruthfully, that everyone must surely be watching and waiting for us to FINALLY DO SOMETHING AMAZING with our lives…that it’s our last chance to prove our worth before ….something terrible happens.

I’ve even heard Fear go so far as to suggest “Kid, if you mess up this painting, it’ll mortally wound everyone you love.” WHAT?! C’mon Fear, that’s going too far.

Yes, thankfully, when Fear reaches that point, its pretty easy to call his bluff. (I mean, even I can see how irrational it is to suggest that an erroneous mark will cause the death of millions). But what do we do then, once we recognize what’s going on?

For starters, we seek the community of fellow creators, both living and dead. It’s helpful to know that other people have been there, too. I’m reading Anne Truitt’s Daybook: The Journal of an Artist right now, and every page makes me feel connected to other artists throughout time. “For me,” Truitt says, “this process is mysterious. It’s like not knowing where you’re going but knowing how to get there.” I read this, and I feel understood, strengthened, and soothed. Hearing other artists share their thoughts about fear makes it feel less personal, which diminishes its power to paralyze.  Go to the library and borrow a book, read an artist’s blog (ahem), or go to a museum. Join a local artist community. Any of this will help bring clarity to our thoughts and foster the determination needed to continue working.

Because ultimately, the only REAL solution to the stagnation of fear is just that: to get to work. “No excuses, no explanations” my mom likes to say, borrowing a quote from Julia Child. And she’s absolutely right (as mothers often are). Fear will make excuses until he’s blue in the face, offering millions of reasons why we can’t get to work. He’ll demand that we explain ourselves, that we rationalize why our ideas are worth the effort. But meh, whatever. It gets to be an old story, eventually.

So yes, Fear will greet me, day after day, but I won’t let it freeze me. We’ve developed a working relationship, Fear and I, just like author Elizabeth Gilbert did (see her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear). Nowadays, in my ripe old age of __ (fill in the blank), I tell Fear this: “Thanks for sharing your thoughts, but I’ve got work to do.” And then I get to work as soon as possible, before he starts talking too loud. I don’t worry that ignoring Fear will hurt his feelings, because I know he’s not going anywhere anyway. He’ll be around for the next project, and the next, and the next, which is why I might as well teach him his proper place in this relationship. His proper place is over there, in the corner, where he can talk and talk forever. Because I’m not listening anymore, anyway.

 

 

 

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