Above: Campbell House Workshop in January - see participants working in the mirror!
Today, as I look out the window, I see over 100 Joshua Trees, and gratitude spreads over me like the sunshine on our beautiful Mojave! We expect a high of 67°F today. If you live in a less temperate zone, I hope you have your February creative vitality flowing!
Weather changes, but our creative spirit can be nurtured in every season! Last year, on this date, we had snow! Beat the winter blues with creative choices.
With a number of ongoing projects, it has been essential to reevaluated my practice and reset goals this year. For me, it means fewer outside commitments and new personal directions. Each of us may need to re-focus on a different aspect of our art practice.
As you approach spring, may I suggest some spring “cleaning” and a review of your resources?
TIME - Each of us has only 24 hours and 365 (1/4) days per year. A portion of your time may be obligated to work and family, making your own creative moments even more precious. Are you giving away time? Are you volunteering? If so, examine this activity. Volunteering is a wonderful activity that can build friendships and share ideas. It supports the culture of your community. Plan your schedule carefully and reserve time for your personal creative practice.
ART SUPPLIES - If your creativity involves the visual arts, supplies can be expensive. Take inventory. If your medium is acrylic, you may want to try gessoed watercolor paper, a lovely surface for all water based mediums! Watch for sales. Whenever I hear of someone clearing out art supplies, I jump and have been gifted paints, mediums, and more. Although working large can be freeing, working small allows you to travel outdoors being inspired by what you see. When traveling, I carry a small kit of watercolors, a small watercolor pad, 2 favorite brushes, 2 mechanical pencils and a fine point sharpie. I am learning to keep my plein air painting kit more compact so I can carry it easily. Talk to friends about art supplies. You may even want to host an art supply swap. One person’s trash is truly another’s treasure. Have you learned to stretch your own canvas? Interestingly, I find very few do this today. In my youth, my dad built wood frames and I stretched canvas - using a staple gun. Consider other do it yourself art supply projects.
ENERGY – How much can you effectively accomplish? Often less is more. (That being said, stretched canvas may well be worth the cost.) A trip to a gallery, library or museum can be well-spent visual inspiration. A walk outdoors or a drive into beautiful surroundings can trigger creative ideas. Plan time in your studio (even if it is the kitchen table or small closet). Unplug the phone, eliminate distractions, feed the pets, or wait until the kids are at school. Don’t expect a masterpiece! Allow yourself to play; enjoy color and design. I must complete project commitments, but when I start painting just because the paint on my palette looks so delicious and an image pops into my head, the real magic happens!
PAINTING PARTNERS - As in many realms of your life, with whom you spend time is important. Some friends encourage. Others leave you exhausted and drained. The energy created by a group of joyful, enthusiastic creatives can act as a positive cheerleader. Choose carefully. I love people, but I have really learned to enjoy solitude and getting to know myself. Do not hesitate to let your creative guide be yourself!
SPACE – The key to a good creative space is organization and careful choices. This does not require pristine neatness, but an orderly plan. As you work, supplies are tossed around or grabbed quickly. Create your workspace: the kitchen table or a desk in a closet can serve beautifully. Collect needed items and move the rest to another area. If you must, place items not required in a hamper. Remove it from distracting sight. Locate good light—next to the window or a lamp. I like carefully staged inspiration—a painting or print, a scented candle, an item reminding me of an artistic loved one. At the end of each session, clean up! Clean your brushes thoroughly. For acrylics, I find plain water to be the least wearing on brushes, but I use a scrub brush and get ALL paint out! Neaten up your creative area making it ready for your next session! If you must pack up, place items in a carrying container (a bank box, basket, hamper, tool chest) and create your own traveling studio!
This month, the famous groundhog predicted an early spring, and although I appreciate beautiful winter light, my mind is moving ahead to spring! Each season provides something to anticipate – just as each season of our lives and art practice help us to look forward!
Remember advice for the New Twenties:
Nurture your creative practice!
Plan new experiences and exploration, ever seeking inspiration!
Let your inspiration drive your art!
Remember to encourage others!
Wishing you all the best for an artful year!
Below, pics of my Workshop at the lovely Campbell House Inn in 29 Palms: plein air painting, fabulous student work, group photo, initial sketching, my demo.
.Workshop News 2020:
March 21 at Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley, CA (currently sold out, but you can sign up on the waiting list)
Desert Institute Field Class in Joshua Tree National Park: April 4th, Black Rock Campground, Yucca Valley
Capturing Joshua Tree landscapes with Acrylics (beginners welcome!)
Art Groove - Camp4Grownups! August14-19 Landscape Painting as a Creative Process. I am delighted to teach this summer at Camp de Benneville Pines summer Adult Art Camp! My class will be one module at a full 6 day art camp experience in the beautiful mountains near Angeles Oaks, CA. Sign up early! Description below.
October Desert Institute Field Class in Joshua Tree National Park - date TBD
New Online Shop Last, but not least, I will be opening my new ETSY Shop on March 1.
Ooh La La! I love the new items soon to appear on my online store, including these adorable stickers to match notecards! ArtbyJanisCommentz: French Press, will feature my first spring collection! After many years of painting and teaching, I fell in LOVE again! With France. Everywhere I traveled, I discovered beautiful buildings and villages to sketch. I want to share the beauty of French design with these lovely paper products and to invite you to bring a bit of France into your home.
As we enter a new decade, I am sure many of us are pausing to evaluate the past few years, our habits and our gifts. It has been said 2020 will be a decade of clearer vision—let’s hope so. It is definitely a time to reflect on our priorities.
What has been a heavy weight and what allows you to soar?
In my own art practice, I have removed certain activities and obligations from my schedule and added new ones. I am reflecting on one of the most important purposes for my life, to bring light and joy, to encourage others in this often dark confusing world.
Above: "Joshua Trees Against the Blue Sky" by Janis Comments, acrylic on canvas, 20" x 20"
I am reflecting on my approach. For me, the queen of multitasking, I have learned that this is not always wise. Taking photos in our beautiful rare snow, making footprints in the ice to photograph for Instagram and then reading my mail as I entered the slick floored garage---combined for the perfect slip up – (or down!) and produced two tiny bone fractures last February! Less multitasking.
Learn to savor experiences. Sights tastes, aromas, feeling, sounds! I am certain this will influence the inspirations that translates into a painting!
Time. We know time is precious. If your schedule is already busy, it is difficult to slow down and let creativity wash over your soul! However, like exercise and good nutrition, you will reap the benefits of more creative opportunities. One of the negative changes of the 20th century was created by the desire for more efficiency, faster “smarter” methods and packing more into each day. No one has invented a longer day. Know the lifelong restorative benefits of the arts!
Change of scenery and continued lifelong learning. I have had the good fortune to travel this year. In fact, I seek the cozy interior of my studio. However, even if travel is not in your budget, may I suggest subtle changes. If possible, take a different route to work or school. Talk to new people. Visit different places in your community: a park, a library, a museum, a swap meet, even a different supermarket! Add new books to your reading list, different genres of music and more. New experiences awaken new ways to approach your creative practice—whether it’s poetry, painting, acting, playing an instrument, sewing, collaging or other art form.
My recent trip to Savannah GA led me to observing and drawing amazing, and to a Californian, older architecture, reminiscent of European cities. It led to study of unfamiliar people and events. Upon my return home, I am drawn to the buildings of our Mojave in a new light- and with unexpected interest!
Below: My photos and sketches from Savannah
Locally, the small burg of Pioneertown came to my attention. In 1946, the “Living, breathing movie set” was created by investors including Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Today, “Mane Street” hosts small art galleries, specialty gift shops, a working Post Office, church and “Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.” Pappy & Harriet’s, originally the Cantina-an outlaw biker burrito bar, evolved into a tourist hotspot serving great food! And its performers have included Robert Plant, Leon Russell, Seann Lennon and, yes, Sir Paul McCartney! And, when I first was a teacher in the desert during the late 70’s, we used to watch our principal bowl at the Pioneertown Bowl. It was a working bowling alley then—rumors of its reconstruction are alive! Lots of detail and inspiration for sketching and painting.
Below: My photos and sketches from Pioneertown
For the New Twenties:
Nurture your creative practice!
Plan new experiences and exploration, ever seeking inspiration!
Let your inspiration drive your art!
Remember to encourage others!
Wishing you all the best for an artful new year!
News for 2020
Jan 14-16 Desert Landscape Painting at the Campbell House Inn (photo) Campbell House web
April 4 Joshua Tree National Park Desert Institute: Capturing Joshua Tree Landscapes with Acrylics https://www.eventbrite.com/e/capturing-joshua-tree-landscapes-with-acrylics-spring-2020-registration-82537434689
Aug 14 – 19 Camp Benneville de Pines Art https://www.uucamp.org/camp-calendar/Groove : Summer Camp for Adults - Landscape as a Creative Process: Using Acrylic and Water-based Paints
Oct (tbd) Joshua Tree National Park Desert Institute: Plein Air Painting in the Park!
I also hope to launch a new line of cards and paper goods based on travel sketches for my France Sketchbook Calendars. Reaction (and sales) has been welcoming!
Below: January Workshop at the Campbell House Inn and right, France Sketchbook Calendars and Cards
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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