Talented Budding Artist

Iceland explodes

Iceland explodes

As I’ve posted before, I absolutely love children’s art! So here is a wonderful painting by Liv, a third cousin once removed, done when she was 11 years old.  We have never met, but are connected through our art and related by our Icelandic heritage.  She lives on acreage in Alberta, Canada with her family and a variety of dogs, cats, chickens and other critters.  She is a very good student, learning French and becoming bilingual.  She also takes figure skating lessons.

When she visits her grandmother she loves to do arts and crafts.  She watched an instructional art video and created this painting.  It features an exploding volcano with a red sky. There are boats in the ocean near a detailed lighthouse with a red flag on top. Her artistic use of red adds drama to the scene. The light and lava bursting from the volcano is reflected on the lighthouse as a boat hurries away. Another fishing boat is hauling in its catch and the red sky is reflected in the sea.  The artistic details Liv added after watching the video suggest an untold story behind the image and a budding artist in bloom!

Hello Watercolor


Although I missed the David Hockney show in San Francisco last year, I was inspired by all the people who raved about the show. Apparently he used many new apps on the iPad. Even though I am not very tech savvy and balk at using all the new technology in art, it left me curious. An artist friend recommended I try out “Hello Watercolor”. To my surprise I found it to be really fun and not too complicated! It allows for creativity away from the studio, but without the mess and hassle. The modes allow you to apply the paint with a ‘wet’ brush so you can create “wet in wet”. There is also a dry brush mode.

This image shows one of my first attempts using “Hello Watercolor.” There are 32 colors and three brush sizes (small, medium, large) to choose from in two stroke modes – regular and light. There are also two sizes of calligraphy brushes, which change from thick to thin strokes as you make curves. There are pencil lines in 32 colors and four sizes of two different erasers. One style eraser is light with fuzzed edges, the other has sharp edges and erases clean to white. The app allows you to save the paintings. There’s also paper choices and coloring pages.

I found this app to be useful for experimenting with an idea before actually putting it on paper. Give it a try and tell me what you think!

Tips on making the most of an Open Studio Tour visit

Studio tour

Welcome to my studio!

More and more cities are hosting Open Studio Tours showcasing local artists and their studios. This kind of event is where artists open their studios to the public to participate in a self-guided tour and offer a peek into the world of the arts. Sacramento’s Open Studio tour is celebrating its 10th year with over 130 artists participating on the 2nd and 3rd weekend of September. The artists are divided into two weekends. This will be my 9th year participating (somehow I missed the first year), so I thought it would be helpful to suggest some tips for studio guests and patrons while on the tour.

Studio Tours are a great way for artists and guests to connect and share their passion for art. Most artists work in an isolated studio, so it’s helpful to get feedback from patrons and hear responses about our work. It’s also a good way for guests to learn more about the art process and what is involved with creating an art piece from start to finish. I’ve learned that for many guests the creative process is often a mystery. Many artists demonstrate their media and skills, so it can be fun to watch and see how that takes place. Sometimes guests feel intimidated or nervous to engage with an artist, but I will let you in on a secret… frequently artists are anxious as well. A lot of artists tend to be more introverted, so they will usually welcome your comments and questions. Most of us put our heart and soul into our art, so it takes some courage to show others what we have created. We risk ridicule and some of us wear our hearts on our sleeve, thus constructive and thoughtful comments are always appreciated. Children are usually welcome as long as they understand not to touch things unless invited to do so. Many studios have toxic or hazardous materials and some fragile art. I enjoy having children in my studio. They are very inquisitive and bring some refreshing enthusiasm.

…be afraid to ask a ‘stupid’ question (remember there aren’t any!) It’s fun to learn more about art and the process.
… rush or fit in too many studios! Make it enjoyable and don’t burn yourself out! At minimum allow at least half an hour per studio and 15 min. travel time in between, and then adjust the time as needed. (So if there are 7 hours and you allowed 1 hour for lunch that leaves time for about 8 studios and travel time). Remember there are two days, so it’s possible to see a total of 16 studios in one weekend.

…ask questions and engage with the artist. You will probably enjoy the tour more! (See below for ideas).
… be kind with comments. If you like the art, be sure to let the artist know. If you don’t, no comment is fine, but use the opportunity to learn more about the art and artist.
…watch children so they don’t get into materials and supplies or touch art work. Some materials are hazardous and art may be fragile.
…pace yourself so you can really observe, explore and discover. Take in everything slowly or you may miss something amazing – it’s not a race! Respect that most artists put in many hours of work to prepare for the tour and are proud of their art.
…preview the art before the tour, if available. Most tours have a location with a sample of each artist’s work for visitors to view before going to the studio. This will give you a better idea on how to plan your tour. (Sacramento’s tour has a preview exhibit at Verge Art Center).
…get a catalog/guide/map ahead of time and plan where you want to go. Many tours have free catalogues. Mark your guide with your selections. This will save time and make things go more smoothly. Plan a route that conserves time and gas. (Sacramento has guides available at a variety of public spaces around town and at Verge Art Center. Most artists have a supply too.)
…allow time for food/snacks and the restrooms. Bring water or snacks with you. Some artists may have these things available, but don’t depend on it.
…make the most of your time and select studios hosted by groups of artists at one location.
…get on the mailing list if you like the artist’s work. Most artists only send emails when they have a show and you can always opt out if you change your mind. You will be the first to learn of new art!
…see a variety of art and media. Visit a studio that is unique, unfamiliar or uses an unknown medium.
…mark your guide with comments about the studios you saw and which ones you liked. Most artists are happy to make studio appointments after the tour.
…purchase art that you love…not to match your couch! (More on purchasing art in another post).
…have fun!!!

Questions to ask the artist:
What was your inspiration?
Is this piece part of a series?
What special techniques or training do you use/have?
What is your favorite subject to create/paint and how did you choose it?
Which art piece is your favorite?
What is the story or meaning behind this piece?
How did you choose this medium to use?
Would you do a demonstration for us?
Do you offer classes?
What is your favorite part of the creative process?

AvoidHow long did it take you to make this?
This is the most frequently asked question an artist hears! It is usually asked out of curiosity, but it often puts an artist in an awkward position. Typically, aside from the actual creation of the art, there are years of training, experimenting, honing skills, hours of preparing drafts or prototypes, and time for creative thinking. Most artists don’t keep track of the time because we love what we do. Generally there are many more hours in a piece than an artist is ever compensated for. Conversely, if an artist has lots of experience, the art may take little time and appear easy to create. In the case of art, time and effort don’t always commensurate worth. Value is often determined by demand and reputation. So the question leaves the artist in a quandary about how to answer lest she over/under estimates time invested relative to worth.

Preview my art by visiting my website at www.elainebowersart.com.  I offer original watercolor paintings, signed limited edition giclees and art note cards of most of my images.  I have a new popular item – art pillows!

If you have additional tips for guests visiting artist studios please comment!

Painting the Deckle Edge – Part 2

Here are some detailed photos of how I overcame the challenges of painting to the deckle edge as described in an earlier post. (A deckle edge is the natural feathered edge from when the paper was made).

Deckle Edge Foam Core Step 1
I cut a foam core board just smaller than my watercolor paper and taped it to the back using white removable art tape. Since the paper isn’t stretched this gives support to the paper so it won’t sag or flop while wet. It needs to be about ½ inch smaller so the edges of the paper won’t touch the foam core board, otherwise a backwash will occur at the edge. It also gives a place to tape the paper on the back. Also tape an extension or “handle” at one or two strategic points. This should be on an edge area that will not have a wet wash, or after you have done one area that has dried. You can add or detach a “handle” as needed. I usually keep it on until I’m done with the painting so that I don’t have to touch the art.
Foam Core Handle

Step 2
This demonstrates how the art can be handled without touching it and can be manipulated while wet.

BlocksWatercolor art on blocks

Step 3
Cut some wood blocks in a variety of lengths so that you can support the art underneath while the wash dries. This keeps the art raised so that it doesn’t touch the table. My blocks are about ¾” thick by 2” wide and assorted lengths. Keep the art on the blocks until the paper is dry. I paint on the blocks when I do a large wash, but sometimes the foam core board is enough to raise the paper by itself without having to use the blocks. It just depends on how much the paper is curling while wet.

For those readers who aren’t artists, this is one reason why watercolors are so difficult versus painting on a canvas with oils or acrylic. It’s also why few watercolorists paint to the edge and instead stretch paper on a wooden board. The warped paper creates many challenges, such as pooling. Some artists paint on heavier paper, but it is more expensive and I haven’t found a paper that is sized the way I like it. The heavier paper tends to be more absorbent and really soaks up the paint. I hope this gives a better understanding of this method. It has definitely helped me manage the problem. Has anyone else found another way to deal with this? I’d be interested to hear about your tips!

The Artful Beachcomber

Beach ArtAs a child I used to love making sandcastles at the beach in Santa Cruz. We also had a great sandbox in our back yard. I spent hours in it making fantasy villages with roads, houses and rivers. It was a special day when my mother allowed us to put water in the sandbox to have real rivers and make tall castles with the wet sand. As an adult I admire all the sandcastle enthusiasts who make the beautiful large scale sculptures at the beach events. I don’t think I have the energy or skills to compete against them, but one of my favorite things to do when I go to the beach in Northern California is to make sand drawings. All it takes it a good stick and a watchful eye on the tide. There is something humbling about knowing that your artful creation is but a moment in time and will be washed away never to be seen again. It lets me be freer to experiment and not worry about getting it perfect. I can ban my perfectionist inner critic and just have fun. My favorite place is below a rocky cliff so that I and passersby can get a good view of it before the waves erase it all. Someday I plan to take a garden rake with me, but then I’d have to carry it there and back again. I like the idea of creating art with something natural, like a stick. If you make a large design, it’s actually a lot of work and good exercise. My favorite image is a series of spirals laid out like leaves on a vine. It can go on forever and wind around rocks. It’s also easy to add to, making big or small spirals. Several people can join in and work on it together, then join up the spiral branches. Even children can help make spirals. Be sure to go at low tide so that your art will last longer and offer the most views. I work facing the ocean so that I always have my eyes on the waves and the tide level. If you ever see me creating one of my sand drawings you are welcome to join me and my dog!

Beach Art viewed from cliff

Beach Art - Cliff view

Painting the Deckle Edge

“Delta Sunrise” is inspired from a photo I took while flying over the Sacramento River in a 1940’s Piper Cub.  It was an amazing ride, as the pilot had the window open so I could hang out and get photos.  We were so low it felt as though I could almost touch the tree tops!  The passenger sits in front with the instruments, while the pilot sits in back.  It was an odd feeling that left me wondering who was flying the plane.  We took off and then landed in a bumpy field.  I took over 500 photos to paint from and the trip has been my most memorable flight yet.  Many of my recent aerial paintings have been from those photos.
Step 1

You can see that I started with a wash in the river and the sky.  While the sky is still wet I dab tissue to pick up the paint and create the clouds.  Since I don’t stretch my paper and I like to paint to the deckled edge, it is very difficult to do a wash in the sky and river.  I have to be careful not to rest the edge of the paper on the table or it will cause a bloom or backwash where the paper dries at a different rate.  In this painting I had a very difficult time because half the paper was wet and flimsy around the lower three edges.  Typically I pick up the paper and manipulate the wash by moving it around in different directions and upside down, but that was impossible with half the paper dripping wet and flopping!  I hadn’t planned ahead and almost lost the painting because there was no where to hold it as the washes blended and dried.  The lesson learned was to tape my paper on the underside to a piece of foam core board just smaller than my paper, but with an area that I can hold so that the paper can be manipulated while wet.  I also learned to use some small wooden blocks to set under the edges of the paper as it dried to hold it away from the table.

Step 2

I started adding the landscape washes and building up the layers.  I still wasn’t sure if I wanted another wash on the water, so I waited until there were more washes and details in place.

Step 3

I added in more details and started painting the reflections.

Delta Sunrise

In the completed painting you can see where the shadows and reflections really bring out the depth of the painting and ground the viewer.  I love placing the shadows last as the finishing touch.  I was happy that I kept the lower half of the painting all water without the river bank, as I think it really draws the viewer in and gives the feeling I had while I was flying.  I hope it conveys this to the viewer.

“Delta Sunrise” is my painting that was selected for the 148th American Watercolor Society International Exhibition in New York and will be showing at the Salmagundi Club in April.  There are over 1600 entries every year from around the world and only about 150 are chosen by the jury, which consists of five judges that must concur on the selections.  Entries are submitted digitally and each artist is only allowed one entry.  It’s a rigorous process that doesn’t allow the judges to discuss the entries until after the selections have been chosen.  They continue to go through the entries until all the judges concur on the total paintings needed.  After the selection, entries are then shipped to AWS and judged for awards by three additional jurors.  I have entered this competition numerous times and have lost count of the number of times I’ve been rejected.  Then in 2013 I was thrilled to get a call that not only was I accepted, but I won a top award!  It was very exciting!  I kept expecting to get another call saying it was all a mistake!  So imagine my excitement when I was notified that I was selected to be in the show this year.  No award, but getting into this prestigious show again is a thrill!  I hope if you are in New York in April you will stop in to see this amazing watercolor show.  It will then travel around the US to several cities in the next year.

Buddha Baby’s New Year’s Resolution

imageI recently heard that Buddha Baby made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get rid of some of his baby fat.  I’m not sure how he will do it since he’s already hollow.  Who has ever heard of a thin Buddha anyway?  If he loses weight he won’t look like a Buddha Baby anymore!   As you can see he’s been eating a lot of healthy fruits and veggies, but if he’s like the rest of us his resolution will soon be broken.   Every year I try to give up sweets, but I just can’t seem to give up chocolate since I’m a chocoholic.  Besides, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner… maybe Buddha Baby will share his chocolates kisses with me.

Discover more adventures of Buddha Baby and his story in the category “Adventures of Buddha Baby”

Art Competitions – Developing a Thick Skin

Elaine and juror Gregory Kondos

Elaine and juror Gregory Kondos

I was honored last weekend to actually meet acclaimed landscape artist Gregory Kondos at the Crocker-Kingsley Art Exhibition. I was especially honored because he chose my watercolor “Cottonwood Bend” as one of 75 pieces accepted out of 1600 entries of mixed media to be in this year’s show. The competition, which is held every two years, is open to California artists and it’s a very difficult show to get juried into. I have been rejected numerous times – too many to count! In fact, I gave up entering because it seemed out of my reach. Each time that I was rejected and then went to the show, I came away disappointed, as it seemed the art selected had little rhyme or reason. There were some great pieces, but many others left me dumbstruck. My traditional representational landscapes just weren’t making the cut! One year I remember being so frustrated that I vowed never to enter again! One of the pieces accepted that year was a cube of about 25 stacked square Tupperware containers with lids. Each container had a dead leaf in it… that’s it! This was only one example among many other similar pieces that were also accepted. I do like contemporary art, but I never did understand the meaning or creativity behind that Tupperware piece. It left me feeling defeated since it had been accepted over one of my watercolors.

I’ve since entered many other art competitions and slowly came to understand the jury process better. Not only does an artist need a thick skin to enter competitions, but we need to be able to accept rejection gracefully. Just because our piece wasn’t chosen for a juried competition doesn’t mean it was bad. Typically, good competitions get numerous entries (often thousands) and there is limited space, depending on the exhibition space. Now, imagine if every one of those entries were all by famous artists. If there is only room for 40 pieces, then many would need to be rejected, but it doesn’t mean their work was terrible or they weren’t skilled!

imageAnother point to ponder is, if the show gets 1600 entries, then an artist’s work needs to catch the juror’s attention within seconds. If the juror looks at each entry for just 30 seconds, that is about 120 images per hour. To look at 1600 images would take about 13.33 hours. That is a lot of time for a juror to be viewing art, let alone choose 75 from that group to be in a show. I would expect a juror feels pretty burned out as she gets to the last few! It’s also the reason why submitting a good photo of the art is really important. If it’s not a good representation, then it will surely get rejected. Additionally, some competitions have several jurors that have to concur on the art selected, which is a huge process.

The other thing I’ve learned is an artist should enter a show that you like and one that is suited for your work and skill level. Be sure to consider if the competition is multi media versus one medium; contemporary versus traditional; local, national, or international; and is it more for established artists or emerging artists? Multi media shows may have the artist competing against 3D art and photography. I learned that certain shows accept more contemporary pieces and are less likely to accept a traditional painting. International shows will draw more entries than local shows. Also, if you enter a show above your skill level you will be sadly disappointed. The same goes for entering a show that an artist has advanced beyond. Be sure to compete against your peers at the same level of skill.

Also, look at the juror – that is crucial. If Jackson Pollock were a juror, I’m guessing he wouldn’t choose many (or any) traditional paintings. So this year, when I saw that Gregory Kondos was the juror for the Crocker-Kingsley show I decided to try one more time. Although he is an impressionist, I knew he was a renowned landscape painter and he loves the Sacramento Delta. I also admire his work. So if I wanted to try again, this was the year to enter. I was thrilled to get into the show! I didn’t win an award, but getting into the show was an award in itself after so many years of trying.

So how does one approach such an acclaimed artist as Gregory Kondos? Well, at the reception during the awards it was announced that Mr. Kondos had actually been rejected 13 times before being accepted into this show. That’s 26 years of rejection and persistence… and now he was a juror! That both humbled and inspired me! So I took the opportunity to approach him with a big smile and said, “I think I may have beat your rejection record!” He took my hand and kindly said, “You weren’t rejected, you just weren’t selected.” Now that’s a great quote from a great artist, and words of wisdom for us aspiring artists to remember. He was gracious enough to sign my show catalog and take a photo with me (even better than an award!). It was an end to a great evening and gave me even more respect for one of my favorite California artists!

Click this link to see my watercolor painting “Cottonwood Bend. ” It will be on exhibit at Blue Line Arts, in Roseville, CA through Feb. 21, 2015. If you missed the opening reception, there will be a closing reception on Sat. Feb. 21 from 7-9 PM.  I will show the painting in progress and share about how I created it in a future post.

Leaf Shadow Etchings

Often I am asked where I get my inspiration from…

As an artist, I am always observing my surroundings, which contain many inspirations.  I love to watch the clouds and their ever-changing shapes, light and shadows.  My favorite clouds were in Saskatchewan, Canada where my ancestors immigrated to.  The prairies there are called the “Land of the Living Skies” because the clouds change moment to moment.  That was my inspiration for my painting called “Prairie Skies.”  I love to look up at the trees as I take a walk.  The leaves and branches against the blue sky are wonderful in the sunlight.  Sometimes the leaves are glowing and transparent.  My tree and blossom paintings were inspired by the neighborhood trees on my walks with my dog.  I try to notice the small things around me that others may miss.  When I travel I love finding old doors that are aged and peeling.  They have such character and history.  I try to imagine the comings and goings of those who have gone through them over the years.

Sometimes it seems I am looking through a different pair of glasses than those around me, in tune to a different song.  I notice patterns, colors, shapes, light and form.  A recent inspiration came from the beautiful leaf shadows that were etched on the sidewalk.  The leaves had fallen and after a heavy rain they lay wet and stuck to the cement.  Once raked up, only their “shadows” were left hinting at their brief presence.  It was a soft subtle pattern of greys.  To the unaware pedestrian this “art” would be missed and gone in a few weeks, but I captured it for you here.  Perhaps it will transform into one of my paintings as a background, one never knows!  It is one of those little jewels of inspiration.

Back to blogging after painting like crazy!

"Birdseye View" Show

“Birdseye View” Show

Many of you may be wondering what happened to my blog posts.  Well… my website server changed the offerings and no longer hosts the blog feature.  So I had to change things up and learn a new system.  I have a big learning curve, so hang in there with me!  After all, I’m not a writer or tech person, I’m an artist.   What I do best is paint, but I’m learning how to use this social media!  I still don’t do Facebook, so this is the best place to see the lateset work I’ve been doing and where my inspirations come from.

I was also getting ready for a huge gallery show and had a large quota of paintings to do.  Since my bigger watercolor paintings take a minimum of 3-4 weeks, I had a lot to do in order to be ready to hang the show by my deadline at the beginning of this past September.  Hopefully many of you were able to see my show “Birdseye View” at the Gallery at 48 Natoma (see photo).  If not, you can visit my website and go to “recent works” to see most of my paintings that were in the show.  You are also in luck, as I will be showing many of them in an upcoming show in June 2015 at “The Tong Gallery” in Walnut Grove, California.  I hope to have some additional paintings to show of the Sacramento Delta.

After the holidays I will do my best to post again on a regular basis .  I have lots of things to share with you about some recent travels and inspirations.  I’ve also documented the creative process of many of my recent paintings, so I will post photos of the work in progress soon.

If you have ideas that you would like me to share and post about, please let me know at butterflystudios@surewest.net.  Also, if you want to follow my posts, please sign up by clicking the “follow” button.

Note: If you signed up to follow my blog prior to November 2014, you will need to do so again since I am with a new server.