Hello Soul, Hello Mantras: Using intentions while painting

Painting intentions can have many variations. In this watercolor and colored pencil painting of red Indian corn, I am focused on rendering the textures.

I find that painting intentions work best when they relate to the subject at hand–in this case, detailed rendering of an ear of Indian corn.

One of the key aspects of Kelly Rae Roberts’ Hello Soul, Hello Mantras e-course is the notion of working with intention. Kelly Rae encourages her students to put stickies with their intention for the painting session before they begin to work. The idea is to create a guide for how you want to feel while working on your painting, and a goal for things to learn about yourself while in the act of painting. Some examples might be: “Cut loose!” “Dance with the paint.” “There are no ugly colors!’

In other words, the focus of the intentions is on the act of painting and the painting session itself.

For me, this has been difficult. I really like to set my focus on the work of art. In the case of the mantra paintings I prefer to think about the mantra itself. Certain phrases suggest certain textures or colors. Maybe a mantra about flying would have a blue and white color scheme or fluffy, feathery textures in the background?

When I’m working on a botanical art painting, my intention is to render the subject with its textures and colors.

Currently, I’m working a watercolor and colored pencil portrait of an ear of Indian corn.

My intentions while painting are some key words about the two halves of the vegetable.

While working on the leaves, I think, “Crispy. Brittle. Ribbons.” For this ear of corn, I think of the leaves as “Wild-haired.”

My intentions for the kernels are, “Juicy.” “Glass.” “Jelly.” “Glow.”

These intentions influence how I apply the colors, the shape of the marks I make, the color combinations I choose.

You can use intentions while you work in so many different ways!

Groovy Links of the Month: Ideas for field sketching kits

A pencil and a sketchbook are the bare minimum supplies for a travelling artist!

Truly, this is all you need to enjoy sketching nature outdoors!

This year, for some reason, I have felt compelled to switch up my ordinary travel sketching kit. In February, I took pastels to the Grand Canyon. In August, I took a variety of materials to the Grand Canyon and Zion, but ended up using my tried and tested watercolor and ink pen method the most. For the Bosque del Apache birdwatching trip, I used just my favorite mechanical pencil and a cold-press, mixed-media paper sketchbook that was part of the equipment list from a workshop at the ASBA conference.

I love to see the field-sketching kits used by other outdoor and nature artists. Every artist who works outdoors on a regular basis develops a preference for some materials and gear over others. Below are some ingenious ideas for ways to make drawing and painting on location more comfortable and practical.

Hope you enjoy taking a peek at these ingenious set-ups, and maybe get some ideas for your next outdoor painting foray. If you have an interesting tip or idea for traveling with a sketchbook, please share it in the comments!

Current projects: Fall bounty

Last Sunday was cold and snowy here in the high desert. I didn’t need much encouragement to spend the day in the studio drawing and painting.

I love decorative gourds and Indian corn. They are so colorful, and challenging to draw, what with all the knobs and kernels and twisting leaves.

Three decorative gourds on tile, a watercolor and colored pencil on paper botanical art study.

More of a still life than a botanical painting. I decided to place these gourds in an environment, rather than floating in empty, white space.

The simple round and elliptoid forms of winter gourds look odd to me when composed with a blank, white background. Placing them on colorful Talavera tile gives them more gravity, plus it lets me play with differing degrees of rendering vs. impressionism. After some washy watercolor layers, I began defining the gourds with colored pencil.

Pencil drawing on layout paper of decorative maize. A work in progress in Wren Allen's studio.

At some point, you just have to grit your teeth and render every kernel!

We drove through Española a couple of weeks ago and picked up some Indian corn and gourds at a produce stand. I’ve been daunted at the complexity of the challenge in drawing the ornamental corn cobs, with their multiple colors and the textures–and of course, their wild head of hair! The cob leaves dry into all manner of twisting ribbons and forms. Also, as the corn is fertilized, the seeds grow in unruly rows and spirals. No neat grids or tidy Fibonacci spirals here!

I stopped this drawing when I realized that with each progressive row, I had decreased the height of the kernels, leaving a gap between. Yikes! Time to pull out the eraser and try again. 🙂


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