Winter Glow, 8 x 24, acrylic Janis Commentz in a private collection
Nurture YOUR CREATIVE SIDE even when it’s cold outside!
In this busiest of seasons, I send you greetings and encouragement! The holiday season is filled with a variety of colors, scents, emotions and a distracting array of activities! As days grow shorter, we seek light-- metaphorically – an, as an artist, literally.
Winter daylight, casting deep shadows, creates a surreal backdrop. Snow glistens on majestic mountains. Dramatic shadows drape themselves on buildings and stone structures. Warm afternoon light bathes a a holiday table or a pet in a window.
Before this inspiring winter light slips away, nurture your creativity. I believe we are creative beings made in the image of a creative God. Observe the winter beauty of the season. Make a mental note or even better, I encourage you to record your surrounding in a quick sketch! Even a hasty contour sketch with indications of shadows can be an inspiration for a future painting. We rely heavily on photographs, but we know the eye provides intimate and accurate information and color as a camera cannot. Plein air artists understand this well. No matter your painting style or art form, light and contrast deeply affect your work.
Celebrate the reason for the season, enjoy special moments with your loved ones, but take time to record the effects of the changing course of the sun, especially as we approach the shortest day of the year. Here are a few wonderful paintings by well- known painters--just to contemplate.
The Magpie by Claud Monet
Winter Landscape Caspar David Friedrich
Washington Square, Ashcan School painter, Everett Shinn
20th Century Japanese woodblock artist, Hiroshi Yoshida, shows the subtle colors of a barren landscape with the snow covered mountain in Suzukawa.
Or the longest day of the year! As our connectedness to other parts of the globe increases, I am profoundly aware of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer during December. As I watch posts from artists in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and more, I am more curious about December in this warm zone. It has been very enlightening (pun intended) to see posts about art exhibits, open studios and workshops from these regions. Three artists that come to mind are Richard Claremont (Sydney, Australia), Beth Lowe (Kommetjie, Cape Town), and Tracy Verdugo (New South Wales, Australia). Their sunny creations pierce our northern hemisphere with warm beauty!
The Day, Pitwater, Richard Claremont
Stillbay, Beth Lowe
Home by the Sea, Tracy Verdugo
As a painter, I feel my strongest images have emerged from the winter light and longer shadows.
The painting at the beginning of this post emerged a after a Christmas Day hike in Joshua Tree National Park. Golden Glow captures the late afternoon sunlight.
Wishing your many afternoons of sunshine!
Each day is different, yet even during troubling periods, you can make decisions to bring at least some joy into your life.
In the desert, November started with glorious, sunny, yet crisp weather—a dip into the 30’s at night.
October was a very busy month for me – “art season” as they say. Teaching a painting day-workshop in Joshua Tree National Park, two weekends of opening our home and my studio on Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours and, because I believe we all need inspiration from outside sources, a first time visit to the LA Brewery Artwalk – a twice a year event where 104 arts open their studio lofts to the public.
Teaching Desert Institute class, open studios photos - including the model purchasing the photo of herself hiking, and adventures at the LA Brewery Artwalk:
My head is spinning with creative ideas!—in need of rest and restoration.
This weekend, while attending the funeral of and elderly friend’s husband, I was reminded of the seasons of life and our lifespan on this planet.
As artists and artlovers, the richness of our lives comes from a range of emotional experiences. Although we cannot control all circumstances, we can learn to be content—and by storing up kernels of wisdom and creativity, we can create and spread joy.
On that note, let me encourage you to set some creative goals for 2020!
I enjoy teaching a sharing painting tips, especially in our beautiful Mojave Desert! Each spring and fall, I teach a Saturday plein air painting class in the beautiful Joshua Tree National Park through the Desert Institute https://www.joshuatree.org/desert-institute/field-classes.html
In January, I will be teaching a two night/three day water based painting workshop at the historic Campbell House Inn in 29 Palms and will be directed to beginning and intermediate level painters. Come play with us in the sunny Mojave Desert, a perfect winter get away January 14 – 16th https://artcantina.com/business-directory/desert-landscape-painting-with-janis-commentz/
There is a time for serious painting and a time for fun, a time for a more academic approach and a time to break “art rules”! Does art still have rules? After my lighthearted painting, I begin to yearn to paint a bit more thoughtfully. I am eager to really work out my new lightweight plein air easel. Living near a National Park allows for some quick trips to wonderful vistas! However, urban areas, interiors, pets and so many more scenes provide great subjects for painting.
Your schedule may be very full, allowing only a brief time for any creative pursuit. Gather a few supplies. Keep them where you can get to them. It may be only a small box of watercolors in a mesh cosmetic bag ready to go.
Work in steps; prepare the surface one day, find something to paint (photo or scene) on another and then pain on that third hour that you carved out.
Gather objects for inspiration! Above (right) is a photo of an inspiration shelf I put together when I first retired from teaching and needed to surround myself with meaningful objects: (from top clockwise, Christmas music parchment belonging to my mother, photo of my mother in her 1940's ceramic studio, cubist self portrait by my uncle, Vermeer print - because I love his use of light, vase by local potter Ed Keeseling with a figure he sketched in my life drawing group, red asian wooden vase belonging to my mother, a jar of red earth from Texas that was supposed to be under the bed when I was born. Haha-- it arrived too late for me to be born over Texas soil!
Make a move! Obstacles will enter our life. I found myself journaling with a negative twist last week, ad made my self rewrite each with a positive re-statement. I created a thankfulness bridge:
The whiny negative comments changed to encouragements.
Make a plan. Even if you have to modify it, have a general plan! Turn “I can’t” into “I can!” Jump in! Apply paint! Find objects for a collage! YouTube a project and follow directions.
Spread a little joy!
Wishing you a wonderful November! ~Janis Commentz
Henri Matisse, Le Chat Aux Poissons Rouges 1914, (The Cat With Red Fishes)
…August…vacation…back to school…seeking to escape heat….
For most, we are seriously seeking inspiration.
What moves, propels, encourages, excites, helps you develop and sharpen senses? What awakens, kindles, invigorates, amuses and delights? This can be a tall order, but sometimes, if you can find even ONE of the above in your art practice, you have found a treasure.
WHERE I Go
I find wisdom when I turn to Scripture to start my day. Inspiration is often like kind words spoken. “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11 You may be familiar with Grace Noll Crowell’s lovely 1950 poem inspired by that verse:
Oh, to speak so fitly
That my words my be
Like bright golden apples
On a silver tree!
Oh, to write so wisely
That some hungering one
May reach and pluck that fruitage
Shining in the sun!
Beautiful craftsmanship, elegant carving, music and poetry are all praised in scripture. Inspiration is often like kind words spoken to your soul.
My mother's autographed copy - from poet best friend, Esther York Burkholder
Lately, I like to read a bit of poetry—especially by some of my local friends. Noreen Lawlor’ poetry is filled with wisdom and often humor. Poet Cynthia Anderson, acclaimed for her perceptive reflections about nature, teamed up with watercolorist Susan Abbott in Now Voyager.
Even my Facebook and Instagram feeds are fill with artists, writers, dancers, musicians and more.
I know the visual artists whose work generally makes me want to get out my paintbrushes...Matisse, Picasso, Redon, and many contemporary artists. Hover to see artists and titles. You can see I draw inspiration from many sources.
To WHOM do you turn for inspiration to pursue the creative process?
I am grateful to meet regularly with a group of women painters to discuss art trends, review each other’s new work, encourage and occasionally exhibit together. I wish I had a photo of our last very animated gathering.
Finding your GENES
Were certain relatives in your family tree especially inspirational? Did you have grandfather who danced? A great aunt who recited poetry or inspired you in some way? Find out more about their legacy. Imagine how excited they might be to share their artform with you!
I could not resist: my grandfather, whom I never met, in a production of Firebird during high school I have always loved modern dance.
Setting the SCENE
Consider which time of day inspiration most often visits you. If it’s not your “creative” season, pretend it is—seek autumn colors and poetry, find winter glow in candles and cool colors…you get the idea!
Create a gathering to share —host a coffee or meet in an inspiring setting. Attend a concert or play. Visit an art gallery. Invite friends to play musical instruments, paint, write random poetry ~ so many options
Finding the WORDS
…from philosophy, painting and theater….
“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul”
George Bernard Shaw
You know who are your muses and encouragers? Seek them out! Gather with them. Drink in inspiration as you would a cool summer thirst-quencher.
And most important…encouragement and inspiration are generated when you give it back. Encourage other artists. Even if it just means giving a child a crayon and paper!
Janis Commentz - Sketchbook in Monet's Garden at Giverny, France
As we approach summer, what will entice you to read a blog?
As my favorite season approaches, I think of mornings spent journaling and reading on our backyard porch swing. I think of mornings and afternoons painting on the patio. To me, forever bound to the traditional academic calendar, summer tempts me with the colors, tastes, and textures of lemon meringue pie and sweet juicy watermelon!
If you are a painter, these colors are just as tempting pouring out of the tube! I am ready to set up a table of summer delights and begin painting!
Janis Commentz - Sunflowers-acrylic on canvas
As summer approaches, what nurtures your creative practice? Healthy foods strengthen our bodies, and sunlight and water support healthy growth for living things. Another crucial element for creative growth is respect.
Recently, partly due to an overlong winter, I have noted a bit of grumpiness, belittling and inconsideration creeping into creative events in which I am participating. It’s baffling at times. How are we to react?
In all areas of life, we flourish when we have the respect of those around us. As I Google “respect and creativity” I find a gold mine of ideas. Respect is vital in healthy day-to-day experiences. When we set out to create and develop our talents, we are seeking joy and purpose! Not all of our endeavors can be as smooth as lemon meringue pie or as tasty as watermelon, but respect certainly helps cultivate creativity.
I know I, too, can get caught up in critical behavior. Let me make a few suggestions for the art community, using the acronym R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
R eview and redirect our own behavior. Compliment before complaining! Avoid joining in the whining and criticism.
E mpathy -all artists young and old need encouragement and consideration. We teach this to our young. Are we considerate when encountering an artform very different from our own? Do we support those who are learning new skills? Recently, I bought a piano keyboard recently, and it’s a great reminder of my lack of skill. I am delighted with my very baby steps!
S pirit and Support – An individual’s spirit can be easily crushed. While direction and guidance may be given, kindness is crucial! We grow hardened to heartless behavior, but we don’t expect it from our art community
Pay attention and pay it forward! Listen and speak a few kind words when we see someone suffering from harsh remarks. We talk a lot about bullying, and some of our leaders are not modeling the best behavior. Help make your art community an encouraging environment!
E tiquette-an old fashioned word for good manners. Let’s hope they never go out of style!
C reativity flourishes in a respectful environment. Artists deserve dignity. We all are a little wary when someone is watching over our back—but the difference between callous criticism and loving kindness is like night and day!
T houghtfulness-Creativity is a thoughtful procedure. Nurture your own creative forces and those around you in a laboratory, greenhouse, conservatory or studio that boosts creativity. Take your Vitamin R (Respect-no chemical or app intended) Respect yourself! Respect Others! Respect your surroundings!
Sunlit Jasmine Poolside Lavender Fields
Note: As our lives have been shaken by COVID 19, I invite you to check into my blog for encouragement and creative activities. Be well. May God keep you safe.
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