Friday, August 29, 2014

5 Actions to Kick-Start Art Making this Autumn

It is Friday so here is another newsletter excerpt...

For those of us in Canada and the U.S. this weekend is a long weekend with Monday being Labour Day (or Labor Day as it is spelled in the U.S. colour versus color, we Canadians like our ‘u’s J)
This weekend might not be the official end of summer but it marks it in many other ways. It is back to work, back to school and back to all of the activities and courses that we choose to participate in.

Before we launch into the excitement of a new season of activity let’s look back at our summers. Those of you with very good memories might remember my ideas of a couple of months ago on how you could incorporate art into your summer, especially your holidays.

How did that go for you? Did routing through your stash of unfinished work and then your stash of art books leave your house in a mess? J Sorry about that. It was for a good purpose!

Did you find time to create art with the children in your life? Anyone attempt my coloured pencil-on-Mylar fish project?

If you didn’t get out your sketch book as often as you had hoped, or you still have some art books you want to have a look through, give yourself a wonderful gift – find some time to just sit this weekend. Grab that sketchbook or an art book, pour a cup of tea, settle into a chair in the shade and soak up the pleasure that art gives you.


a sketch of a hay bale done in ink and coloured pencil, copyright Teresa Mallen

While you are enjoying your lawn chair this weekend, this would be a good time to journal a plan - an art making plan, for the next few months.

Let’s face it, between being back full steam at work, your yoga classes, your volunteer work or whatever else you enjoy and the craziness around Thanksgiving and the December holidays, it can get overwhelming.  All of your intentions to create art can get shoved aside when ‘real life’ sets in. I have some suggestions that will help you...

5 Actions For Your Autumn 2014 Art Making Plan:
1)    Commit. Sounds simple and it is. Make a commitment to do art regularly this fall and then schedule it in. Here is how easy it is to make this work:

 Let’s say you signed up for an art class that is set to take place every Thursday night, 7-10 p.m. for twelve weeks. You would have to do things each week to make it possible to attend. You might have to arrange to have the family car that night. You might have to cook dinner early and also make sure that you didn’t work late that night.

You get the idea. So, why not take this level of commitment to your art making even if you aren’t taking a class? Pick an evening and share your news with your family. Do what you need to do – the early supper and all of that. Then go to the room where you keep your art supplies, shut the door, put on some of your favourite music and get creating. Turn off your phone (no email or texting), post a do-not-disturb sign and don’t tolerate interruptions. Train your loved ones! It can be done. Imagine what you could accomplish in 12 weeks. Pretty exciting, huh?

2)    Buy supplies. Whether or not you enjoyed school, I think we can all agree that it was fun to get new pens and pencils, crayons, binders etc. Take advantage of the back to school sales and grab some fun art making supplies. Treat yourself to something new, maybe some coloured pencils from open stock that are a brand you have never used. How about trying some new paper?

3)    Book some artist dates into your plan. No doubt most of you reading this have heard of Julia Cameron’s famous book, the Artist’s Way. Her idea of us going on artist dates has spread far and wide. It has spread because it is a great way to stoke our creative fires. When was the last time you went on your artist date? Hum...

 So go ahead and plan some fun arty gigs - anything from checking out a new art exhibit at a gallery in town to taking a workshop, to messing about with your stash of unused art supplies. It can be an hour or two carved out during the week (maybe a lunch hour) or it can be a decadent outing on a weekend afternoon. Just make sure to schedule these fun and inspiring activities in.

4)    This one is optional but if you are the sort that finds it hard to follow through on your plans, it might help to get an accountability buddy. Have your spouse or a friend check in with you once a week to see how you are doing, to see if you are working your plan. This check in can be quick. It can be a phone call or a quick cup of coffee together but it does help if you have to explain yourself to someone. Of course pick a person that won’t sympathize about your distractions but will help keep your feet to the fire!

5)    Post your schedule. It can be awful easy to forget about something heartfelt and important written in a pretty journal and then stored somewhere. Grab the family calendar and start marking your weekly ‘evening at home art hours’ in. Put it all down. Block off the artist dates, even if you don’t know yet what you will be doing. Write in the weekly accountability phone call.

Remember that you are the artist of your ‘every day’, on the canvas of your life.

 Novelist Marie von Ebner-Eschenback wrote in 1905 that “Nothing is so often irretrievably missed as a daily opportunity.” You may not be able to get to your art making daily but you can make a plan that incorporates more art “opportunities” than you are currently enjoying.

 Now go grab that cup of tea or glass of wine, your sketchbook, pencils and a calendar for plotting your plan and position that lawn chair just so...I’ll be thinking of you.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Impressed Line Technique and mini-lesson

two of our Barred Plymouth Rock hens out and about
Excerpt from the Friday August 22nd issue of my TMS newsletter:
This week’s newsletter is for those of you that work on paper and it contains a mini-lesson on the how to get a drawing down onto your paper without damaging the surface.
Plus there is a show and tell example of the Impressed Line Technique.

Lucille in Quebec wrote me and asked this:

“I am new to working in coloured pencil. My problem is that I end up with lines in my paper from my drawing. I can see them once I start using my coloured pencils. The pencils don’t cover up the lines. What can I do about this? Is there something you use to fill in these lines?

Great question Lucille and thanks for asking.

 The reason you have lines on your sheet of paper is because when you created your drawing, the pressure of your pencil scored the surface of your paper.

Rather than try to find a way to deal with these lines, I would suggest not making them in the first place.

The easiest way to avoid this problem is to create your drawing on a different sheet of paper. Then transfer that drawing onto your ‘good’ paper.

This does add another step to the creative process but it spares you from having to deal with lines showing up where you don’t want them.

Also, most of us do not draw without ever needing to change or correct something.

 If you are drawing on the paper that will be your finished work, this can be a problem. Even the best paper doesn’t take a lot of erasing well so if you make changes to your drawing as you go, erasing some lines, and adding new lines, you risk damaging your paper’s surface texture.

Therefore, the huge advantages to transferring a drawing are that you are going to keep your paper in great condition AND you won’t have etched lines showing up in your work!

 How to Transfer Your Drawing:

1)    The simplest way to transfer a drawing is through the illumination method. If you have a light box, that will work great.

 But you don’t need a light box, you can use the light coming through a        window or sliding glass door.

Secure your preliminary sketch or drawing to the window with masking tape. Place your paper over top of the sketch and secure it with tape as well. Trace the outline of your drawing, using the lightest pressure possible. I like to use a soft erasable coloured pencil, such as the Col-Erase brand (made by Prismacolor) for this but you could use a graphite pencil or a light coloured coloured pencil.

This method only works if you are able to see through your paper. But before you despair, check your paper. You may be surprised at how well you can see through print making paper. For example, Stonehenge (a brand of paper lots of coloured pencil artists use) feels thick and appears to be a dense paper but you can see through it very well.

2)    Another method of transferring a drawing is to use a sheet of transfer paper. You can purchase transfer paper in either rolls or sheets. This method is useful if you cannot see through your paper. You probably used tracing paper as a child and this works the same way. You slide the sheet of transfer paper in between your drawing and your ‘good’ paper and you then trace the drawing outline as you would in the illumination method. Again, use very light pressure.

You can make your own graphite transfer paper by covering one side of a sheet of tracing vellum with graphite from a lead pencil. Polish with a tissue and reapply. To be honest I don’t make my own transfer paper as the process is just too messy for my liking.


3)    Another method which I have never used because it also sounds messy, is applying graphite to the sketch. Here is how it works – you do your drawing on tracing paper. Place your tracing paper drawing facedown and apply a dense layer of graphite on the back side, on top of the sketch lines. Turn the sketch right side up, place on top of your chosen paper. Secure with tape. Then redraw each sketch line lightly. If the lines are too dark, you could lift the excess graphite by dabbing with mounting putty or a kneaded eraser. I would suspect there would be some smudging of graphite both in this method and in the home made graphite transfer paper method mentioned above.


4)    Finally, here is a method that is rather crackers but I will share with you because maybe it isn’t crackers to you! J Warning, this method means your final drawing will be reversed from your sketch! Ha.

 If your drawing is done using a soft graphite pencil on a sheet of tracing paper, you can simply place your drawing face down on your good paper and trace over your lines. Tape your sheet down so it doesn’t slide around and use light pressure. If you have a heavy touch, use a soft coloured pencil for the transfer. You don’t want to create any impressed lines. And again, your final drawing will be reversed from what you originally drew.

So obviously you have some options when it comes to picking a method for transferring a finished drawing to the paper you have chosen for your artwork.

I use a light box and when I didn’t have one, I used a window. Nice and clean and no smudges to lift off.

As I mentioned above, transferring a final drawing with very light pressure will preserve the texture of your paper and it will stop you from creating impressed lines.

 But what about when you want to impress lines?!!!

When scoring the paper is a good thing – Impressed Line Technique
 Here is an example of how scoring the paper, called the impressed line technique, can be used to your advantage.

The maple leaf below is an exercise my students work on in my Coloured Pencil Basics Course.

You can clearly see all of the light coloured veins in the leaf which is our intention in creating this drawing.

To start, the leaf is coloured a light green colour.

Then the veins are scored into the paper, creating etched grooves.

 When the various shades of green pencil pigment are applied, the pencils skip over the grooves, leaving the veins to show through. Pretty cool huh?

Impressed line technique, leaf project, Copyright Teresa Mallen
You can use this technique to add texture and detail to tree bark, rocks, brick pathways or to depict cat whiskers etc. I am sure you can imagine how this technique has many possible uses.
FYI: Just two spots are available for September’s CP Basics class. If you are interested, check out the complete course details by clicking here. My intention is to give you the skills and know how you need to get you better at what you do. AND we have fun! J
If you have any questions about the course, I would love to answer them for you. It is what I do. Just write or call...
My contact info is here.
P.S. If you would like to receive the entire newsletter each Friday, conveniently in your email inbox, please join the Newsletter Group by visiting here. The newsletter is free and you can unsubscribe at any time.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Are your tools ready for work?

Friday August 15th newsletter excerpt...
So are you still picking up beach glass and pouring sand out of your sneakers or are you back at work?
If your holidays are over you are probably a bit surprised to find yourself getting back into your old routine so quickly – almost like you hadn’t been off work at all.

Well here is a simple tip that will help you add some freshness to your ho-hum routine:

Get Your Tools Ready!

...because you are going to get busy creating.

Of course I am talking about your art making tools but this applies to any hobby.
It can be difficult to fit activities that delight us into our regular busy schedules. And let’s face it, sometimes the thought of setting up can be so daunting that we start to lose our enthusiasm.

Imagine you suddenly found yourself with the unexpected gift of an afternoon off from work or perhaps a Saturday morning all to yourself. How long would it take for you to dive into some delicious art making?

Would you be able to pick up your pencils right away? Or, if you are like a lot of people, would the preparation be an event? For example, would you have to clear away all sorts of papers and catalogues and other objects to find a surface area big enough to work on? Would you have to go searching for that really great desk lamp that gives you the bright light you like to work under (and possibly have to hunt up the extension cord)? Would you have to go digging for a sheet of paper, muttering under your breath that you hope you find something decent to work on because you sort of remember running out last time and you are sure you forgot to pick up more...
You get the idea.

So my suggestion this week is for you to get your tools and your space ready so that when a bit free time becomes available you can take advantage of it.
I know this sounds simple and obvious but given the amount of times I have heard students talk about this issue over the years, I believe it is something many people struggle with. It doesn’t take much to dampen our spark of enthusiasm and the effort required to get our stuff ready can be just the dose of cold water we didn’t need.

This isn’t about having a separate studio room in your home. Please don’t use the excuse about how you can’t draw or paint because you don’t have a studio! This is about having some small space cleared and always available. This is about having your art supplies stocked up and accessible. If you have to stand on a chair to get a box of art materials down from a closet shelf, I am thinking you probably don’t actually ‘move your tools’ very often.

my pencils patiently wait for me

 If you can’t leave your supplies out, why not pack up a tote bag with some basic essentials? You can hang the tote up, out of the way, but the best part is that you are ready to take your art making on the road if the opportunity presents itself.
You can sketch in waiting rooms at the doctor’s office, in coffee shops, in the car while you wait for the person you are meeting or picking up...Choose to be the odd person – the one not checking their email and text messages on their smart phone.

Of course you know that drawing regularly (even quick sketches) improves your drawing skills exponentially. I am just repeating this truth. I need to be reminded too!
I can hear you painters moaning about how I don’t understand. You point out that you can’t possibly paint in a waiting room. Of course you can’t but you can do some thumbnail sketches for your next piece, can’t you? Something is better than nothing, no?

Of course, one of the great things about working in a dry medium, like coloured pencil, woo-hoo J, is that you can start and stop easily. I have put down my pencils many times so that I could get something into the oven for supper or so I could start another load of laundry. Then I return to my work in progress.
My point – art making can fit into your everyday world.

So why not make your shift from vacation life back to regular life more exciting by making sure art is part of your normal routine?

Why not spend a bit of time this weekend getting your tools ready? And then grab those tools the first chance you get next week. Let’s rock your world! Being back from vacation is going to be more than okay. J

Friday, August 8, 2014

art jitters and how to cure them

Another newsletter has just been published to the Newsletter Group! Here is this week's article plus a fun goat pic...cause you can never have enough goat pics in your life. :-)

(You can join the Newsletter Group by clicking here.)

Well, it was one of those weeks. You know, something breaks and you are now doing  some wonky make-do until you can get to a store, the vehicle may have something important that needs fixing, the internet is mysteriously not working when we need it, this errand needs to happen now. Sheesh.
Looking forward to next week, it’s going to be great! I choose to be an optimist.J

Today the topic is how to cure yourself of ‘art jitters’, not exactly a medical diagnosis but you’ll see what I mean... (Oh and this week I don’t have artwork to share but I do have a couple of pics at the end of the article, cause we just can’t have text now can we?)

Colinda V. wrote me about a problem she was dealing with. She was frustrated, stuck and suddenly felt unmotivated. The worst part was that this all occurred while she was actively seeking inspiration.
Colinda had made a commitment to spend time each week with her pencils, colouring and getting better at drawing. As part of her plan to seek out inspiration, she was looking at the art of artists on-line. She was viewing artist’s websites, looking at their on-line galleries, reading about their successes, visiting art forums on Facebook and watching YouTube videos.

The more time she spent doing this, she discovered she no longer had much desire to actually make art herself.

After pondering her predicament, Colinda wrote to ask me if I thought it was possible to be over-inspired!?!
Colinda’s story is a common one. I have experienced what she describes myself and I have heard similar reports from my artist friends.

Okay, so first up, let’s admit that the internet is great. We all know how helpful it can be.
BUT, there is a down side to all of that visual consumption. We can get visually over stimulated and overwhelmed. I liken it to drinking too much coffee, you end up feeling jittery and unsettled. We are irritable and whiney and we don’t even know why. We find ourselves shuffling through our sketchbooks, we flip through our photo references liking nothing we see, we get out our paper or canvas but we can’t quite manage to sit still long enough to get a project off the ground.

We now have a case of the too much internet art jitters!
Our brains do get over stimulated with all of the creativity we see going on out there in the world.  There are so many different styles and subjects and such masterful works, all available for viewing immediately, just by making a few clicks.

It gets worse when we consciously or unconsciously compare ourselves and our art to the artists and the art we see. We notice the sheer amount of work they create. Seriously, how do they create so much fabulous art so quickly? Some people are posting new work on art group forums every week!

It starts to seem as if the world is filled with zillions of super talented artists, all busy entering shows or getting featured in a magazine, winning awards, etc. This is when we start becoming irritable and whiney, not to mention unmotivated.
Finally, in the midst of our too much art exposure jitters, we really go off the deep end. Feeling seriously fidgety in our studios, we give up for the day and we give up on our pencils or paint. We toddle off, wallowing in our funk, find ourselves at our computer and we go back on-line! Why not watch one more how-to YouTube video? Argh...

Once we realize the cause, we can easily see the cure. At times like this we need to go cold turkey and turn off our computers. We need to stay off all art sites for a while.
Go back to your sketchbook, your reference photos, your work in progress, spend some time in nature. Do what you need to, to cleanse your mind and to connect with the ideas that come from inside you.

One of my favourite things to do when I need to restore and refresh, is to go gather pretty posies. If you don’t have a field, check out ditches or abandoned city lots.

Queen Anne’s Lace seems to grow everywhere and it is in full bloom right now. (it is from the carrot/parsley family of plants and is the parent of our garden carrot)

Long before we bought a small farm, I would take my car out every week or so, in the summer, and I would stop to cut the ‘weeds’ and interesting tall grasses. I would load the trunk of the car and would then go home and fill jars and vases to place all over the house. The only difference now is that I don’t need to drive my car.
Beauty is truly all around us...but back to the jitters...

I am all for priming the well of inspiration by visiting galleries, looking at art magazines and so on. But somehow the internet is different. I suspect it is the sheer amount of art we can expose ourselves to in a very short period of time. Our intentions are good, as in Colinda’s case but the jitters can happen despite our intentions.
This is the first time in human history that artists have been able to see so much visually creative work from around the world, all without leaving our chairs. It is wonderful...but proceed with caution...don’t let all that visual noise drown out your own unique artistic voice.

If you have ever had the art jitters, do share your thoughts. You can hop on over to my Facebook page or leave a comment on my blog. What is your method of recovery?


In the midst of a week of unpleasant surprises, spending time with the animals or harvesting vegetables from the garden is a great tonic. Works on all sorts of ills, even art jitters!

Here is a picture of our goat Keeah looking silly. Last evening my husband came up to the house laughing, looking for the camera. Keeah had been rubbing his head against some tree branches and some twiggy bits had got stuck between his horns. (you may have seen his twin brother Noah on my FB page a couple of weeks ago) FYI: Keeah had climbed up onto a specially built platform, goats like high places, which is why I am looking up at him.
An hour later, I went down to the barn to put the goats in for the night and I saw four deer in the field, including a gorgeous buck, eating not far from us. The deer were watching the goats with interest and now they were watching me. It was wonderful.

Have a great week, stay off line if you must and go cut ditch weeds.

Friday, August 1, 2014

newsletter show and tell

Friday August 1st newsletter excerpt:
We are in it now, the prime time for taking  holidays – for a lot of people anyway. For those of you outside of Canada, you might not know that this coming Monday is a holiday in most provinces.
Not wanting to miss out on the spirit of things, my motivation decided to take a bit of a holiday this week! J Well, it is understandable, my studio to-do list is rather dry – for example I am supposed to be writing out all of the text for the poppy project, including blurbs about me and TMS and I should get cranking on the new website design, yawn...

So I took an afternoon off, got very decadent, brewed some tea and settled myself on a wicker love seat outdoors with a book I have wanted to read. I even had a nap. It was lovely. Summer is so brief after all. J I hope those of you reading are having a chance to be decadent as well!

I think I will keep this newsletter short this week, seeing as most of you are probably heading off to play somewhere.
How about a show and tell?

My star gazer lilies are in full bloom right now, so it seems an appropriate time to show this oldie but a goodie... (I have kept the file size small on this one. When I include a lot of pictures, the size of the newsletter can get pretty large to send via email.)
Star Gazer Lily, coloured pencil on Stonehenge paper. Copyright Teresa Mallen
Next item for the show and tell is a spoon with funky reflections...
I got an idea for a series – a piece of fruit on a spoon. I am not sure what inspired the idea but I do like all of the reflections one sees in cutlery so I know this was one of the main motivations for doing the piece.
To help with me work on the concept, I shot some pictures of a cherry on a spoon. Here is an example:

 I fussed with lighting, placing the spoon at different angles to see what sort of reflections I got and so on. I tried different shaped cherries, some with stems, some without...
Once uploaded onto my computer, I zoomed in on the photos, played with cropping etc. and in the end I decided the image I wanted was more of a close up, not showing the entire spoon.
If you remember my newsletter from last week, the story I wanted to tell in this piece was the ‘story’ of the colourful shapes in the reflections on the silver of the spoon. (BTW, regarding last week’s newsletter, Heather Neill, the artist that painted the cover art of American Art Collector, found out about my newsletter and left a comment on my blog. I nearly slid off my studio couch in surprise...LOL)
The next photo shows the piece under way. You can see that I am working on a black sheet of paper called Mi-Teintes Touch. The paper also has a sanded surface (think of the rough texture of sand paper). This type of paper is often used by pastel artists. The tape in the photo was keeping the paper from moving around on my drafting table.
Oh, and of course I am doing this entirely in coloured pencil.

I enjoyed drawing the cherry but for me the true delight was in detailing the reflections on the spoon. It was a quick piece and it was a joy to work on from start to finish.
And what about that fruit on a spoon series? Well, the idea is on hold. Turns out once I had one completed, I wasn’t too keen on repeating the theme. Perhaps I shall return to it one day.
Depending on what you read this newsletter on (desktop versus a device) the resolution might look a bit fuzzy in spots but as I stated above, I am trying to keep these newsletter files from getting gigantic. Just trust me, everything looks awesome in person! J

Cherry on Spoon, 10” x 3”, copyright Teresa Mallen
And that’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed the show and tell.
(If you would like to receive the entire newsletter, in your email inbox every Friday, click here to join the Newsletter Group.)