Thursday, February 13

The Wannabe Artist

Being the daughter of an artist can be...well, inspiring, sometimes frustrating. Occasionally you watch him paint and it makes you think "hey, I can do that!"...but you can't. Nope, you never can. It has given me a healthy appreciation for having art on my walls however.
Now, I'm desperate to find the perfect stunning piece for my high living room wall, something that your eye is drawn to when you enter the room, something that sets the tone, and the pallet just tumbles off of into the rest of the space. 
Then I saw this gorgeous painting by Emily Jefford... 

...and now no other piece will do! Bummer! I can't have this specific piece, I can't afford to commission a piece...uh oh, I feel that artistic pull again, you know what this means.  I have fallen back into that fantasy, that somehow I can "do it myself". So here we go again...
And because I am dedicated to sharing all the details and how-tos, artist or not, fail or succeed, I'm sharing how I created this piece for my living room inspired by Emily's perfect piece. 

My Studio
Just kidding, I don't have a studio, just my living room. I wanted to paint the piece in the lighting from the room it would hang, so a piece of cardboard atop the coffee table is my station for today. And by the way, you shouldn't try this at home! When I wield a paint brush or roller, I'm meticulous. Crazy as this sounds, I don't usually use plastic when I paint walls, I never drip, and I don't get paint on my clothes unless I intentionally used them as a brush cleaning tool. Accidents can always happen, so I should have at least protected the area from spills, but I confess I didn't. *shrug* Let's paint!

My Paint Materials & Tools
Much like my studio, I admit my supplies are a bit...shall we say ghetto creative? *grin*
We've got wall paint, craft paint, and real painters paint half dried up! I'm using paper plates and bowls as my art pallet, and my kids paint brushes from their school art set. Yep, nothing too fancy here!
The most profession items I am using are these leftover gouache paints my dad sent me years ago, most of them were dried up but some were still viable! I read up on gouache paint to make sure it would mix with the other paint types, which they do with the exception of a couple possible colors/brands.  If you are afraid your leftover paints won't react well together, test them before use. 

As I mentioned, I am also using a wall paint sample I got free from Lowes (after coupon), and a small assortment of acrylic and "craft" paints (which I just realized are actually just acrylics labeled for the consumer).

However the star of this show is going to be the metallic gold paints. I am mixing my greens with a very buttery gold to get more sparkle, and I'll be using other golden hues for my mountain ranges.

Let's Talk About "How"
First let's talk about my mistakes. Hopefully you can avoid them and get a leg up on this project.

Mistake #1: I wish I had prepared the canvass with a couple layers of gesso before painting. I prefer a smoother, less canvass-y texture.
Mistake #2: I should have laid down a better paint base. Once my first painting attempt dried, I realized I could see white canvass spots peeking through at me. Basically I dived right into "detail" without starting with a base. Big no-no, I should have known better. I had to go back and paint over top a second time. 
Mistake #3: I was timid with my colors and brush strokes. When I look back at the inspiration painting, I see a greater use of colors to create dimension. For example: when non-artists like you and I paint a tree, we think brown for the trunk and green for the leaves. In reality, artists understand that there is a much greater range of colors that make that tree realistic. They will use purples to make the shadow, leave smudges of yellow and grey to make reflective spots, etc. If you want to imitate a painting, look at it for what it is, then take a more literal look at the colors actually used. You might discover that your favorite painting of a tree didn't have any brown or green. Neat right?
Mistake #4: Not keeping my brushes moist enough. Whether not using enough paint, or not keeping my brushes wet, somehow I had a lot of dragging brush strokes to correct. Almost as if the paint lost steam across it's stroke and puttered out. Not the effect I was going for. 

One of these days I'll get a professional on the blog to show you (and me) how it's done. In the meantime, you want the deets on how I managed my novice version? 

Here are the basic strokes I used... 

1. Lots of sweeping strokes. Especially using curved sweeping strokes for my sky. 

2. Let's call this motion dabbing. I wanted to use the brush to create the subtle texture of bushes and grass.

3. I like to call this the drag and drop. I wanted the light areas to associate a little more with my dark areas, and would occasionally drag my brush from one hue into another and drop it there leaving a fanned brush imprint.

Well, I've learned from this experience that I am no skilled artist, but I can sure enjoyed painting! I learned a few things, and as they say "practice makes perfect". 

Now have an art piece that I can call my own, and a few hundred still in my pocket (or being spent on our heating bill).

Always saving a buck (or yet another $50!) I had to be a little "creative" with the matte and frame to house my new piece, but I'll share more here. *wink* 


  1. I know that when your father sees this he will have a very BIG smile and say "Karen, look at this! Our creative geans live on in another." :) Nice work Ursala. You sure are creative. Where do you find the time? Not only for your GREAT projects,but then for your masterfull post discribing them in minute detail. Your are AMAZING. ��

    1. Aw, thank you! I appreciate all the support and encouragement! :)

    2. Holy cow, what was I drinking? Creative geans? I meant CREATIVE GENES. Egads. I should proof read closer.

  2. I know what you mean by seeing something and thinking, "Oh, I could do that." It's always so much harder than it you think it would be. I think you did a great job!

    1. Thank you! It may not be a real piece by an artist, but it will do for now! :D

  3. This looks great! I would totally hang this in my own home. I definitely think you're an artist.

  4. this is beautiful!

  5. Well done and you enjoyed yourself while doing it! That's a win win in my book. My budget also doesn't allow for art purchases but I certainly enjoy painting my own. Painting it in the room where it will hang is a good idea!

  6. as someone who usually hates landscape paintings (unless i'm painting them myself), i'd like to chime in and say that while the inspiration piece is cool, i find your choice of colors more subtly moody and evocative. rock on.


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