Kokopelli Conga

Kokopelli Conga
"A work of art that did not begin in emotion is not art." --Paul Cezanne

September 22, 2017

Five tips for a pencil portrait

Originally published 12/26/15

Since I have dedicated my attention to watercolor painting in the past several years, it has been a long while since I created a pencil portrait. Drawing skills, of course, are important to any painter - as you still have to transfer your design to the paper before painting. But, I haven't focused on pencil drawings as the final product for a long time. So, recently, when I was commissioned to do a pencil portrait for a Christmas gift, I thought I might break down the steps and tools that I prefer to use in the process and write a little blog post about it.

Tip #1: Use a grid. This is good for any drawing you are trying to recreate from a snapshot, but especially for portrait work. Make a copy of the picture you are using and draw a grid on the top. Then make a proportional grid (in light pencil marks) on the paper you are using in order to lay out the picture proportionally. This will be especially helpful for nose, eyes, mouth.

Tip #2:  Draw upside down.  When you work on faces upside down, it helps translate the components into shapes rather than "a face." This helps the idea of drawing people become less intimidating. Check the drawing right side up against your reference photo through the process to make sure things are still looking correct.

Tip #3:  Use hard and soft pencils. The harder pencil will allow lighter lines and is good for line drawing and blocking in shadows. The softer pencil will help with medium and dark shadows. (Harder pencils have lower numbers. The higher the number, the softer the pencil). I like 2B for hard and 6B for soft.

Tip #4: Use blending stumps. These are great for softening and blending edges and shadows. They also help keep your fingers clean so you don't leave unexpected fingerprints on your paper as you work!

Tip #5: Take a picture of the "finished" portrait with your smartphone or tablet. Then give yourself a little time away (even 10-15 minutes will do).  Come back to look at the photo of your portrait and compare it to your reference photo. This will help you see little details that might need to be fixed. Sometimes things will even jump out at you before you compare it to your reference pic. It's a good tool for making sure you get those finishing touches in and are happy with the final piece. Also...you must realize the final is never going to be perfect. It is not meant to be a photograph. But, hopefully, you will capture the intended spirit.

Here is the final portrait.

reference pic

Now that this commission is done, I'll be getting back to my watercolors and posting some new paintings soon!

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

September 15, 2017

FRIDAY FEATURE: Featured Artist ~ Ian Ramsay

Repblished. Original blog post published on 5/22/15

Ian Ramsay ~ "I love to paint scruffy farms."

I'm so excited for this featured artist post! My husband and I are collectors of Ian Ramsay's work and, to date, own at least eight of his paintings. He has an incredible talent for luminosity and seeing beauty in the every day things that most people might take for granted. Kudos to my husband for making the first purchase! But, I too love Ian's work and enjoy looking at the paintings hanging in our home daily as well. 

"Capestrano, Abruzzo, Italy"  ©Ian Ramsay.
This painting 
is presently at the High Country Summer 

Exhibition at Trailside Gallery in Jackson Hole, WY

I was privileged to take a workshop with Ian about a year and a half ago. He was so open with teaching his technique for building layers of watercolor in order to achieve the beautiful paintings he creates - being careful to save the lights. I can't say that I fully achieved that goal in the painting I created during the workshop. I definitely had some challenges! But, there were some parts of my painting that I really loved in the end. Ian is a patient instructor, offering helpful suggestions for problem solving and never criticizing. He speaks with a delightfully soft English accent and soft voice, making two days of intense learning and instruction a pleasure to the ears as well! 

"Street Market, Naples, Italy"  ©Ian Ramsay. 
This painting is currently at the Summer Show at
Settlers West Gallery 
in Tucson, Arizona.

When I contacted Ian via email to let him know I wanted to feature him on my blog, he was very accommodating, but requested that we speak in person rather than conducting the interview over email. Again, a delightful person to speak with, and very graciously taking an hour out of his day to answer my questions and discuss art with me. So, as I'm sure you are all anxious to know his thoughts, here are Ian's answers to my blog feature questions.

Q: What are your favorite materials and tools...the ones you just can't live without?

A: You cannot do a good watercolor unless you are using a really good quality paper. I use all kinds of rubbish to sketch, but good quality paper to paint. [I prefer] either Arches cold press 140 lb or Fabriano cold press 140 lb. I just love them. I just love the way Fabriano holds the color and accepts the paint in such a soft manner. 

I use a big variety of brushes. I’m not one of these painters who just limits it to a handful of brushes. I like big wash brushes and lots of synthetic brushes with sharp points. I like to use the sharp brushes to kind of “draw” with when painting – if I can use a brush for detail instead of a pencil, I will.

Good, chiseled brushes and good quality paper. Those are the two things I can't live without.

"Mitkof Island, Alaska" ©Ian Ramsay.
This painting is presently at the Summer Show
at Settlers West Gallery in Tucson, Arizona.

Q: Who are your artistic influences?

A: I am influenced by almost everything I see. I have juried a lot of art shows, and just looking at the work of the other artists in the show influences how I think. 

Rowland Hilder is the first painter that influenced me. I saw his work when I was working as an architect in London back in the 1970’s. He is the person who made me want to paint. 

Next is Charles Dixon. He is a 19th century English nautical watercolor artist. 

David Roberts is another 19th century Scottish artist whose work influences me every day. From him, I think I learned a great deal about placing dark values in the right spot in a painting and how important they are to lead you around a painting. 

I admire Philip Jamison. It’s the simplicity of his work that I really enjoy.

Donald Teague. It’s the wide variety of subject matter. 

And, finally, Alvaro Castagnet. Flamboyance! I wish I had it! He just says what he thinks and feels. He doesn’t care what others think. I’m kind of a quiet person and I don’t want to offend anyone. 

"Paris Shadows" ©Ian Ramsay

Q: What is your favorite subject matter and why?

A: In the beginning, I was totally a nautical artist: fishing boats and harbors. That’s what is in my blood because I grew up around it in England. 

In Utah, I love to paint “scruffy farms.” I love the run-down look of the farms here. I don’t like “pretty” things. I don’t paint flowers or still life or children. I like things that are kind of rough and dirty. 

In the last few years I’ve been doing quite a few street scenes. I was in a gallery in Japan for about five years and I became fascinated with the city landscapes while I was there. I visited about 16 different cities in Japan and I just loved all the telephone poles and wires.

Q: What advice would you give to emerging artists?

A: Especially for those who are just getting started and thinking about it - I think you have to keep true to your own desires and your own artistic interests. I just find that sometimes art schools can break your basic interest in art. Whatever drew you to art, you need to hang on to that and not get sidelined by what someone else may tell you. Also, never bend to what’s the most popular trend because that takes you away from what you love to work on yourself. You have to stay true to yourself. 

It’s my opinion that it’s important to stay connected to good quality galleries. They give your work legitimacy. A lot of people try to market their work on their own, which is fine and they can be successful. But in order to really be able to give yourself the legitimacy [of a professional artist], you need to be connected to good quality galleries.

In order to make your work look as good as it can possibly look, it's very important to have it professionally framed.I did my own framing for years and years and never made the leap professionally until I had my work professionally framed.

"Farm and Pond, Spanish Fork, Utah" ©Ian Ramsay
This painting is available at the Brushworks
Gallery in Salt Lake City, UT.

Q: What would you most like to be remembered for in life?

A: [I would like to be remembered] for having been understanding and non-judgmental. It’s very important to me to be helpful and encouraging when I teach. It doesn’t help anyone to break them down during a workshop or a class. There’s always something that’s “right” about what someone is doing. 

Hopefully my work will be remembered. Those artists whose work is remembered after their life are few and far between, but one can always hope.

"Rural Nottinghamshire, England" ©Ian Ramsay 

Ian Ramsay was born in England in 1948, but lives in the United States. He and his wife currently reside in Utah. Ian is an internationally known, award-winning artist with collectors all over the world. He earned an architectural degree from the University of Utah. As a painter, he is self taught. 

"My training is totally as an architect. I picked up watercolor on my own. I got the design and materials training as an architect." ~ Ian Ramsay

Visit Ian's blog at Ian Ramsay Watercolors

His work is represented by several galleries:
Brushworks Gallery in Salt Lake City, UT
New Masters Gallery in Carmel, CA
Settler’s West Gallery in Tuscon, AZ
Trailside Gallery in Jackson Hole, WY
Trailside Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ
Image Source in England (printing rights for greeting cards and calendars)

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog!

I hope you enjoyed this Featured Artist post. Please leave a comment with your thoughts and feedback. I would love to hear from you!

September 8, 2017


Do you know how to ride a bike? Did you ever have to pick yourself up, dust off your bruised and bloodied knees and try again? I still have gravel in my knees from many a crash in my youth. But, it is also a badge of honor! Proof that the effort I made to learn and improve paid off! And, now that I have the skill, I will never forget, no matter how long it’s been since I got on a bike.

Learning to ride a bike is a good metaphor for my art pursuits. Being an artist requires tenacity. It requires dusting myself off and trying again. It sometimes even requires my blood, sweat, and tears (literally)! But, over the years, I have learned not to take rejection too personally (although it still stings), and I have persevered.

In 2003, when I joined the Utah Watercolor Society (UWS), I was anxious to “get going” with my art. I had no idea how competitive the art world was! I made slides of all my best pieces of artwork. I set up a studio corner in the dining room of my new house. I entered all the shows UWS offered (as well as several others across the country). I applied to all the art festivals I could find. I sent out envelope after envelope of slides full of my work. And, in return, I received envelope after envelope of rejection letters. For years!  

It took me four years to be accepted into my first UWS exhibition. YEARS! A significant amount of time passed after that before I got accepted to my second UWS exhibition. Eventually, sporadically, I would get accepted to an exhibition here and there, both UWS and others. I made it my goal to work for UWS Signature Membership. It took me fourteen years to achieve it!

Self doubt, self criticism, and worry are common for us as artists. Continued rejection letters can either spur an artist on to continue to improve and continue to try or…to give up. Other artists are so afraid of rejection that they are afraid to try! Our egos are fragile.

Whenever the doubt starts to creep in, I would encourage you to think of Stephen King. (What?!) Yes, Stephen King! One of the most successful and prolific writers of our time. And yet…Stephen King started collecting rejection letters at an early age. He put them on a nail on the wall. By the time he was 14 years old, he had accumulated so many rejection letters, he had to replace the nail with a spike. Right before he published his first book, Carrie, he had decided to quit. His wife fished the manuscript out of the trash and encouraged him to keep trying. What if he had given up…right before the novel that turned the tides in his career? What if he hadn’t continued to write, to learn, to improve his skills…spurred on by each rejection letter? Whenever the doubts come, I remember Stephen King, and I persevere.

Sure, it still stings when a painting I love is declined for an exhibition. But, only for a minute. Then I bandage my bruised ego, I go back to my studio, and I keep trying. Like riding a bike, my balance gets better every time, my skill improves with practice, and I can go faster and farther the more I practice!

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog. :) 

September 1, 2017

Busy, Busy Summer!

Besides working on new paintings for next March's Art & Soup event and trying to coordinate the many spinning cogs and wheels of the Utah Watercolor Society as we started our 2017-2018 UWS year, I was also able to take a couple of days in early August to attend a plein air workshop in Logan, UT with the incredibly talented Brienne Brown. Now, as you know if you've followed my blog for a while, I am not much of a plein air painter. But, it was lovely to get outside for a couple of days and to spend time with Brienne and the other participating artists. What a beautiful state we have here!

Here is my plein air setup and the little sketch I did for my painting on the second day (the painting didn't turn out so well!)

Here is the wonderfully talented Brienne...

In mid-August, I also attempted to take my family camping in a cabin at Moon Lake Resort in the Ashley National Forest. As it turns out, my husband and sons are not so into the "great outdoors" when it comes to giving up our usual creature comforts. I think the boys enjoyed having Grandma (my mom) with us, and they had fun roasting hot dogs over a fire and making smores by "toasting" (burning) marshmallows over the fire. They enjoyed camp-made hot chocolate and snacks. I know they had fun playing at the beach and in the lake water. But, my oldest has also developed some kind of phobia of bugs and wakes up in the night worried about spiders - and every little noise freaks him out! We had a visit from a bear in our campsite one night - evidenced by the log bench at the fire pit being scratched up and an entire top layer of the log torn up to get at the bugs, with big claw marks and wood shavings (I forgot to take a picture)! We saw hummingbirds, squirrels, and chipmunks every day...and even saw deer almost every day right outside our kitchen window as they came through the campsite eating the bushes.

We had rain storms every day and spent most of our time in our little sloping-floor cabin playing board games (no TV, no Wifi). We declared a ban on electronics for the weekend (except tunes from an iPod). It was good family time as we played marbles, Mexican Train, Yahtzee, "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" board game (because mommy loves all things Peanuts), 2200 (a rummy card game), and Exploding Kittens (another fun card game...my 7-year-old loved this one!). It's great that our boys are now at ages where they can learn to play games with us that are beyond Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. :) I grew up camping in an RV and fishing lakes off the bank or trolling in a boat, and I tented while in college and into my mid twenties, but I have always been more of a "city girl" myself. Turns out my boys and husband are about the same. I think they would have mutinied if I had suggested sleeping in a tent on the ground in sleeping bags! Even so, the family time "off grid" was nice. We need to make those kinds of experiences more often! We are headed to Moab for Labor Day weekend. We'll be "camping" in the city this time (though still a cabin) and heading up to Arches National Park (our favorite!). :)

I hope you and your loved ones have had a great summer and are looking forward to fall! Our kids are already back in school, and I'm glad we had those few days of family time, unplugged, before we had to get back into the Fall routine.

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog!

April 28, 2017

Recreating the "Magic"

"Inspiration is for amateurs!"  Have you heard or seen this quote? I have many times, and I believe it as well - in a sense. If we are to be professional artists, that means we show up to work as any other professional would. Some days you have a successful and productive day, others...not so much. But, you plug away at it no matter what if you want to create that paycheck!

But, setting that attitude aside for a moment...sometimes artists are also inspired! When we are, we have to act on our inspiration, immediately if possible. And, a lot of times, that inspiration results in something magical. A painting that you truly love, where all the techniques and color harmony and everything just came together. Sometimes it is just a happy accident, when you are experimenting with new ideas and techniques.

The question is...once you've created the magic...can you recreate it? What if you did that magical painting on inferior quality materials because you were just experimenting. Or, what if it was larger or smaller than you really wanted. What if you decide you want to do an entire series of the same design. Are you able to recreate the magic? 

I pondered on this question for a while (a couple of years, in fact) because I wasn't sure I'd be able recreate the magic discovered in a painting I really loved.

In recent years, as my work evolved into creating woven paintings, I find I have to use tracing paper to copy my design and then transfer it to another sheet of watercolor paper so that I can create two of the "same" painting in order to weave them together. Suddenly, I find that my fear of not being able to recreate the "magic" of a sketch has drastically decreased, as I am not expecting myself to freehand draw that exact same composition over and over. I can work off the original design that I drew the first time. And, while each subsequent painting is never exactly the same, I have found that the more I work with mingling my colors, and as I continue to learn how my paint and paper behave at different moisture levels and drying techniques, my fear of recreating the "magic" of color and texture decreases even more. The result? I am loving each new painting I create.

Loving your work is a good thing! Love the process, and love the outcome (even if it ends up being a painting you wouldn't send to a gallery for sale)! If you are always creating with love, your paintings will be infused with that energy. Every time, you will be creating magic!

Inspiration is certainly helpful for us when we are excited to try a new subject matter, design, or technique. So, in that way, inspiration is not for amateurs. But, don't let inspiration dictate your work pace or create fear in the process. Don't fear that you can't recreate the magic of a painting you loved because you don't feel that same flash of inspiration that you felt the first time. Show up every day, or every week, or every month (whatever your schedule is), and just create. Then, repeat, repeat, repeat. After a while, you will find that you are, in fact, recreating the magic every time!

Mountain Fall | watercolor | ©Jennifer Love

A Patchwork Fall | Watercolor | ©Jennifer Love

Fallen 1 | Watercolor | ©Jennifer Love

Fallen 2 | Watercolor | ©Jennifer Love

Fallen 3 | Watercolor | ©Jennifer Love

Fallen 4 | Watercolor | ©Jennifer Love

Fallen 5 | Watercolor | ©Jennifer Love

How are you inspired? How do you keep yourself coming back to the studio even when you aren't feeling inspired? How do you "recreate the magic?" I would love to hear your thoughts. 

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog! :)

April 12, 2017

Video link - Social Media for Artists - April 2017

Here is the video link for my presentation "Social Media for Artists" - April 11, 2017 at the Utah Watercolor Society Cache Valley Chapter meeting.

Thanks to UWS-CVC for having me! It was great fun, and I got a loaf of YUM-MMMM lemon bread as a thank you. Sweet!!

Click here to see the video on YouTube (or click on the video below to play it now). :)

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have a great day.

April 7, 2017

Social Media for Artists - April 2017 update

Last April, I had to opportunity to speak to the members of the Utah Watercolor Society (UWS) about using various social media platforms to promote and market your artwork and yourself as an artist. What a great experience for me and such a fun night! 

This year, I have been asked to give the same presentation to the UWS Cache Valley Chapter (UWS-CVC) in Logan, UT.  I'll be speaking to this talented group of artists on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 at 7pm.

image source: public domain - copyright belongs to original artist/designer

I spent several hours over the last weekend reviewing my presentation from last year and updating screen shots and other information in order to prepare and update the presentation for UWS-CVC.

Not surprisingly, many things have changed in just a year's time in the digital world. In addition to updating graphics and a few stats and references and deleting information that is no longer relevant, I have also added a little information about Facebook Live, which is new since last I presented.

Hopefully, this time around, I will remember to get a "selfie" of me with the UWS-CVC group (since I forgot to do that last time with the UWS group...very UN-Social of me)!

What makes me a social media expert? I'm not, really. Just a social media user who has been blogging, Facebooking, Twittering, and Pinteresting for a while to promote my artwork. I recently added a couple of Youtube videos to that mix, and have tried Periscope. I am going to dive into an attempt at Facebook Live before the presentation in order to have some first-hand understanding of the platform. What makes any person an expert?  Only that they happen to have a little bit more knowledge and a little bit more experience than those who they are speaking to.

So, "expert" or not, I said I would be willing to share what I have learned to the UWS-CVC group. Luckily, I had a lot of positive feedback from my Salt Lake UWS presentation last year, so I will presume it went well! :)

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity recently to attend some social media training sessions and also listen to a webinar on the subject of various social media and how they are used both in the professional media business world and the art business world. Add to that the 5+ years I have spent learning (through much trial and error) the various platforms that I currently use in my artistic endeavors, and then a fair amount of internet research on the different platforms, and I was able to compile a decent deck of information for the UWS April member meeting...all boiled down into a 90 minute presentation!

The bulk of the information included in my presentation is compiled from other sources (online and otherwise), and I have tried my best to give source credit on each page. Additionally, I added a page of useful links (some of which were also sources), and tried to include several visual examples throughout. (We are artists after all! Visual creatures are we!!) 

I also provide a few copies of one of my LinkedIn blog posts which is relevant to the presentation.

As they say, if you really want to learn something, you should try to teach it to others. So true! And there is still so much more left to learn. :)

Click here to view my LinkedIn blog post What Do You Want To Achieve With Your Social Media?

Click here to view my Social Media for Artists presentation (or click the pic below). I hope you might find some of the info useful and welcome your comments or feedback or suggestions.

 Social Media For Artists - April 2017

Special thanks to marketing and social media gurus Tracey McCormackBill CarmodyStefan LubinskiBarney Davey, and Lori McNee for useful tidbits of information about various social media platforms! (And, of course, to Google, for making research about any topic easily accessible with a few mouse clicks!)

Thank you to Catherine Darling HostetterColleen ReynoldsKristi Grussendorf, and Brienne Brown for allowing me to use your Social Media images in the presentation! 

Images sources are from public domain. Copyright belongs to respective photographers/designers.

As always, thank YOU for stopping by my blog!