The News
Global Issues
Hollywood Moms





Create A Masterpiece

Create A Masterpiece!
(sponsored by…)

We’ve all spent many afternoons creating art with our kids.  We’ve colored with crayons, drawn with markers, sculpted with play-doh, making construction paper collages and producing at least a thousand pounds of Paper-Mache per household.  We watch our children express themselves with primitive shapes and extreme colors, wondering if we’ve given birth to the next Picasso or Hockney or – dare we dream – Leonardo DaVinci.  We encourage their efforts and praise their results.  We endow the Museum of Contemporary Refrigerator Art and display everything that slides off the tips of their fingers.  We purchase endless boxes of Crayolas, measuring their age by the number of colors in the box.  And yet, if anybody asks us about our own talent we instantaneously blurt out the disclaimer, “Oh, I’m not an artist – I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler!”

Many years ago, I realized the imprint that a box of 64 Crayolas had made on my psyche when describing pillow fabric colors as Thistle and Periwinkle and Vermillion and Flesh (politically incorrect though the limits of 1962 colors might have been).  It’s not just me – inside of every woman is an inner child that still has the same artistic goals that we now celebrate in our own children.  Like them, we want to tell the world what we think and feel about everything – and we want to do it with a shape, line and color. 

What’s stopping you?

Why aren’t you expressing your inner artist?  Do you even ask yourself the question anymore?  What if YOU are the next Picasso or Hockney or – dare we dream – Leonardo DaVinci? 

Some of us might have been limited intellectually by the lack of funding for arts programs in the school, or warned that “you can’t make a living as an artist.”  Worse yet, some of us might have been limited emotionally by a authoritarian figure in our lives that said art was only for children – or that you didn’t have “enough talent” to be an artist.  Year after year, we hear of record breaking prices being paid for works of art that emerged from the genius of men and women who died poor and penniless.  I believe it is safe to say that these artists faced the same negative messages as these, yet were so driven by their need to express their artistic perception that they kept going.  No matter what anyone told them, they didn’t let it stop them! 

Color outside the lines!

About ten years ago, I heard something that gave me great inspiration to pick up a paintbrush again.  Christopher Lowell, an interior decorator with his own television show, was demonstrating a faux painting technique.  Acting like a cheerleader to his audience, he shouted gleefully: “There are no straight lines and no solid colors in nature!” 

It was as if someone had just given me permission to not be perfect!  I was suddenly free to think about different images and colors that I could create with paint.  Mind you, I still felt the need to include my kids in the project, as if I needed a justification that I wasn’t just doing it for myself.  But it turned into a fun afternoon at our favorite art store and a weekend of laughter and colors – and absolutely no museum-quality art!    

Whenever you create an artistic work, there is one thing that must remain at the forefront of your thoughts before, during and after your creation: the artist’s goal is to INTERPRET real life, not to replicate it.  If you want to replicate art, take a digital photo. 

Is it art, or is it therapy?

The designation of “art” is completely subjective.  The adage that “I know what I like when I see it” is a clearly applicable guideline.  Anyone can learn the craft of painting, or drawing, or sculpting, but when it comes time for someone to select which of a thousand artistic representations can be considered an actual work of art with lasting value, their decision will be based entirely on their opinion.  When the collective opinion of many individuals is that a certain artist is doing important work, the body of work that artist creates will be considered to have great value.     

When asked to share the secret of how to become a respected collector of fine art without formal training, Steve Martin offered the following wisdom:  “Buy a painting and try to sell it.”  This simple sentence is filled with enormous possibility.  First, the assumption is that you would choose to purchase something that spoke to you on some emotional and/or intellectual level.  Something about that particular painting would lead you to believe it was worth a significant amount of money.  Yet, the goal would not be to purchase a painting that gave you pleasure, but to see how much of the pleasure you perceived would be valued by another individual who was being asked to write a check to purchase the same painting. 

The act of creating visual art is blatantly therapeutic.  This is why our children love to draw and paint and color – it makes them feel good!   That being the case, can you think of a single reason why YOU shouldn’t feel good, too? 

Start at the top!

The best way for you to find your sea legs in the art world is to sneak off (during school hours, perhaps) and spend a day at your local art museum.  Wander around slowly, taking the time to look at every work of art with a moment of intense concentration.  Ask yourself what trend is emerging in the selections that you are most drawn to.  Do you have a fondness for realistic portraits and landscapes?  Or, does the freedom of abstract representation seem irresistible to you?    

Bring a sketchbook and some colored pencils with you.  When you find a painting or a sculpture or even an installation that stimulates your sensibilities, sit on the nearest bench and sketch it.  Mind you, the goal isn’t to make a realistic representation of the artist’s work.  Your focus should be on interpreting the typically indefinable element that speaks to your emotions.  Try to limit your time with each sketch so that you can complete a number of sketches of as many different works as possible.  The most important thing to remember is that you should not judge the quality of your own work – and you must never compare yourself to the artists whose work is on display.  You are there for the experience of exploring the process of the original artist.      

There is no such thing as one style fits all!

Art scholars delight in the notion of creating hundreds of specialties and sub-specialties of artistic style.  Dozens of academic journals publish hundreds of articles every year that present new ideas about what art is and what it means and how it was done and why it was done and what impact it had on the world in the artists lifetime and what impact it has on the world in our lifetimes and…at the end of the day, none of it means much of anything.  What really matters about art is how the artist feels while creating it and how the viewer feels while observing it. 

There are a handful of styles that you should consider when starting to create art.  These will help you define the parameters in which you will be creating.

Realism is an accurate, detailed representation of a person, place or thing that exists in real life.  The goal of realistic art is to create an artistic “snapshot” of a moment in time.  This style was especially popular in the days before cameras existed because it either enabled the observer to see something that would otherwise be unavailable for them to see – or – to remember a specific moment in time that would otherwise remain undocumented.    

Minimalism is a stylistic representation of a person, place or thing that avoids excessive detail and focuses on the most simplistic manner of portraying the image.  Line and shadow are used sparingly – sometimes to the point where the subject being portrayed is not readily identifiable.  A good example would be to consider the difference between a painted portrait of someone vs. a sketched caricature of them. 

Abstract art starts with a person, place or thing that might be recognizable and then avoids presenting the image in order to focus on the emotional response the artist is having to it.  In this instance, a large painting that is covered in shades of blue and green with no specific detail might be the artist’s abstract interpretation of water.  Abstract art offers the representation of something concrete and elicits an emotional response to its essence. 

The medium is the message.

Artists usually begin by sampling every medium of artistic expression until they finally settle upon the medium that best suits their style and sensibility.  Often, we are limited by physical or financial constraints.  For example, many sculptors would like to work in bronze or marble but don’t have the physical space or the finances that are required to do so.  While you may have to settle for working in clay or another less complicated medium, if you achieve some notoriety with that medium you could eventually receive grants or other forms of funding to support your transition into a larger medium.

For the purpose of this discussion, let’s focus on the mediums that are more do-able for a mom with the typical limitations of time and space.  These limitations are not necessarily a bad thing, because there is an almost infinite variety of things that can be accomplished with paint mediums. 

Chances are that you and your kids have already played around with watercolors and tempera paint projects.  These paints are typically made available to kids because they are water soluble, which makes for an easy clean up.  There are many reasons why it is advisable to reconsider watercolors when you begin to think about painting for yourself.  Watercolors come in tubes of more colors than you could imagine.  The tubes are small, which means you won’t have to allocate a lot of storage space for your supplies.  The brushes are also small and can vary in price from downright cheap to extremely costly – but you can pace yourself until it’s time to invest in the fine sable brushes.  The paper is quite expensive, but doesn’t take much space to store.  While most people tend to think of water colors as being transparent, you can easily develop the technique of making them deep and opaque.  One advantage to working in watercolors is that you can do your sketching in “watercolor pencils” that will blend into the paint as soon as they come into contact with your wet paintbrush.          

Acrylic paints are a thicker medium.  They dry quickly when they come into contact with the air, which means that you must learn to work quickly.  At the same time, once the paint is dry you can apply new layers and paint over anything that dried too fast for you to complete.  The tubes are significantly large and can take up a good deal of space.  The brushes vary in the same price range as watercolor brushes, but you must be vigilant with cleaning them because if the paint dries on the brush the brush is ruined.  Another consideration of painting with acrylics is that you need to paint on board or canvas, which can take up quite a bit of storage space.  While there are some thicker papers that can be used with acrylic paints, the preferred surface is either canvas or board.  Acrylic paints were designed to provide a happy medium (pun intended) between watercolors and oil paint.  While they combine the convenience of water clean up with the opacity and thickness of oil paint, they are clearly a medium with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. 

Oil paints are the medium of the masters – primarily because acrylic is a 20th century invention.  However, they have advantages and disadvantages that should be considered before you invest in the paints and equipment.  Like acrylic paint, oils come in larger tubes and should be painted onto canvas or board.  However, oil paint must be cleaned with turpentine, which is a highly toxic chemical whose fumes require a room with open ventilation.  Oil paint takes days to dry, which means you can leave in the middle of painting something and come back to it the next day with the ability to blend color shading into surrounding areas.  However, the extended drying time means there is a golden opportunity for children to have accidents that can destroy your painting, or knock it onto a carpet, floor or table that will be difficult (if not impossible) to clean and/or restore.  Overall, oil paints are not the best choice of medium for a mom. 

Pencils, colored pencils, charcoal and pastel chalks are a simple way to blend color into sketches and line drawings.  They all work on paper and don’t require much storage space.  However, if you have a child with asthma, the dust that can be created from pastel chalks and charcoal might pose a problem.  Pencils and colored pencils, on the other hand, pose no health hazard, require no clean up and can be tossed into a purse and be available for those endless hours we spend waiting in pediatricians offices, carpool pick up lines, or in the back room of dance or karate classes. 

Pick a color – any color!

After you’ve selected a medium, you should become aware of the fact that you’ve already selected the palate you’re going to work in.  You may not have considered whether you’re going to have “a blue period” like Picasso, but you know what colors you like.  Take a look in your closet and see what colors you like to wear.  You’ve selected these colors because you believe they look best on you.  Then, take a look at your walls, your furniture, and your automobile.  With the possible exception of your automobile, you’ve likely selected the colors you like spending time in.  There is no difference when it comes to selecting the colors of paint you’re going to want to work with.

There is no compelling rule that you need to paint with every color.  If you hate the color red, you do not need to purchase red paint.  If you love different shades of green, purchase the full spectrum of green along with black and white so that you can modify the shades into other variations of the color.  Some artists have had significant success by keeping black lines predominant in their works, accented by subtle touches of color in a small spectrum. 

A little bit of this, a little bit of that…

Remember those collages we made when we were teenagers?  You know – the ones where we’d put pictures of cute, dreamy boys next to great fashion magazine photos and cut out words to express our opinions about what it all meant?  It should come as no surprise that the Collage has developed into one of the most popular art forms of the modern era.  The artists collage may rely on images from magazines and written text that can be presented in or out of context.  They may also include pages from books and/or photographs that have been taken by the artist or clipped from another source.  Furthermore, it can include bottle caps or feathers or clothing tags or just about anything that might be collecting dust in your kitchen junk drawer.  Sometimes, an artist will take segments from a collection of drawings or paintings they have done previously and embed these partial images into another work of art.  This technique can be found in many of Salvatore Dali’s paintings.  It is interesting to note that there is a significant connection between artistic collage and those scrapbook pages we have all devoted so much time to throughout the years.  If it helps you to visualize the possibilities, think about collage as a scrapbook with a bad attitude. 

Mixed-media is also a modern development.  In this kind of artistic creation, you might find acrylic paint and water paint used together with line drawing and paper collage elements combined.  You might also find that this kind of work is created on a non-traditional surface such as glass, metal or a three-dimensional surface.  Some artists have created multimedia compositions on shoes and teacups.  This is, perhaps, the most rebellious form of artistic expression – and is often the most fun to create. 

Don’t be afraid of the blank page!

Once you’ve decided on which medium, which style and which color palate you’re going to create, you need to begin at the beginning.  Interestingly enough, this is the point where many people actually stop themselves.  After purchasing the paint and the canvas or paper, they are ready to begin – but the plain white page almost defies them to make a decision of where to start and what to paint.  As we’ve all discovered in dealing with our kids, if you give them the option of a tuna fish sandwich or a peanut butter sandwich you will likely get an answer and everyone will be happy.  However, if you ask the same child what they want for lunch they are likely to select something you don’t have in the house and then there is an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction for everyone and no good solution for anyone. 

In order to keep that from happening to your artistic endeavors, I’m going to suggest you follow a simple series of steps that will jumpstart your creative process and enable you to achieve a finished result that will encourage you to continue to a more advanced level. 

Quantity is better than quality.

In the beginning, you should focus on the process rather than the results.  The best way to do this is to give yourself a lot of leeway to fail.  Once you are comfortable with the idea that your results don’t have to be great, you will relax and begin to experiment.  So, start with a stack of cheap paper or poster board, as well as cheap paints or colored pencils.

The next step is to think about one of the most motivating slogans of our lifetime – Just do it!  That’s right – let the Nike slogan lead you to your creative spirit.  Play with color and explore the medium, how it looks and how it feels to use.  Paint or draw as fast as you can without judging your results.  Stay secure in the knowledge that if you make a mess you can paint over it or just move on to the next piece of paper.  If you like one part of an otherwise problematic page, you can cut out the part you like and use it as a collage element on another page.

When you have finished for the day, start by cleaning up your workspace.  When your brushes are cleaned and all your paint is closed up, gather all of the work you have done that day and tape it up on the wall like a gallery.  Now, stand back and look at the work you have created.  See what it looks like at a distance from across the room.  Allow yourself to see the good and the bad in each work. 

Now, the next step of the process is the hardest for most people to accomplish.  Do it anyway.  Pick the three pictures you like best and leave them up on the wall.

Second verse, same as the first – a little bit louder, a little bit…

The next time you sit down to create art, begin with a photograph.  It could be a photograph of someone you love or a place you enjoy being.  Whatever it is, you are going to paint this picture in each of the styles mentioned above. 

Begin with the realistic representation of what is in the picture.  Try to fill the space of your blank page with the same information that is within the photograph.  If possible, use the same colors and the same amount of light and shadow.  On the next sheet of paper, create a minimalist version of the same picture, using as few lines and as little detail as necessary to recreate the same.  Next, venture into the world of the abstract as you represent that same picture in a way that finds the essence of what it means to you without being a recreation of what it looks like.  You can do as many of each of these as you want.  But then, it’s déjà vu all over again…

When you have finished for the day, start by cleaning up your workspace.  When your brushes are cleaned and all your paint is closed up, gather all of the work you have done that day and tape it up on the wall like a gallery.  Now, stand back and look at the work you have created.  See what it looks like at a distance from across the room.  Allow yourself to see the good and the bad in each work. 

Now, the next step of the process is the hardest for most people to accomplish.  Do it anyway.  Pick the three pictures you like best and leave them up on the wall.

Three’s a charm!

Now that you’ve had a chance to experiment with three specific styles, you get to pick which one you like best.  You might be surprised to discover how often you will pick a style that is different than you first expected it might be.  At this stage, you are going to experiment with variations on a theme in the same style.

Pick a new picture of a person, place or thing that has significant emotional meaning to you.  The challenge at this stage of the adventure is to create a picture in the style you have selected and create as many different paintings in as many different ways as you can imagine.  You can paint the entire picture or you can focus in on a small detail.  You can focus in on a number of small details.  You can paint the same picture using different colors, or flip it to face the picture into a different direction (like a portrait of someone looking to their right switches to a portrait of someone looking to their left).

Once again, when you have finished for the day, start by cleaning up your workspace.  When your brushes are cleaned and all your paint is closed up, gather all of the work you have done that day and tape it up on the wall like a gallery.  Now, stand back and look at the work you have created.  See what it looks like at a distance from across the room.  Allow yourself to see the good and the bad in each work. 

Now, the next step of the process is the hardest for most people to accomplish.  Do it anyway.  Pick the three pictures you like best and leave them up on the wall.

Art is created to be seen.

By this point, you should have nine pictures taped to your wall.  Now it’s time for you to have a showing.  But instead of being as vulnerable as an artist in a gallery, you get to handpick the people who you know have your best interests at heart.  Call your closest – and most supportive – friends and family members and invite them to come over one at a time see what you’ve done. 

If you haven’t told your friends about your artistic ventures, you should begin by sharing the reasons you decided to give this a try.  Walk them through your “gallery” showing them the first group of three pictures, then the second and finally the last.  Tell them that you would like to know what they think – for better or for worse.  Then LISTEN CAREFULLY to what they have to say.  If they are not forthcoming with details, you can ask them specific questions about what they think about specific pictures.

If there is a consensus that one of the pictures is receiving a positive response from everyone, take a leap of faith and purchase a frame for the picture.  Don’t spend a lot of money on the frame – it’s just an early stage picture that you will likely want to replace at a later date.  The goal is to go through the process of honoring your creativity and giving it a respectful place in your home.  Find or purchase a box or a portfolio in which you can keep all of your work. 

Time to step up your game!

Now it’s time to go purchase the next quality level of paint, brushes, pencils, paper and canvas.  Expand your color palate to include more colors.  Experiment with some of the products that work with your paints.  Acrylics can take on new dimensions with the addition of gel or shaping medium.  Watercolors can be impacted by the use of gum Arabic. 

If you’re working with colored pencils, you might want to start using different colored paper to see how colors are affected by the tint of the paper.  You might also consider working in a palate that includes the brown tones (burnt sienna, raw umber, tan) on cream colored paper to create a sepia effect.

From this point on, every work of art you create should go on the wall for at least three days.  In this way, you can see if there is something else you might want to go back to add or modify in order to make the picture work better.  It will also give you the opportunity to see the development of your skills set. 

There’s safety in numbers!

I’m not talking about the old paint-by-numbers kits we used to get when we were kids.  I’m talking about the kind of energy that happens when a group of people gather in a common cause.  It’s time for you to sign up for an art class in your chosen medium.  There might be some private courses offered through local art stores in your community.  If you’re looking for something bigger, just about every community college in the country has art classes that are offered on an extension credit system.  They don’t cost much and they expose you to a professional art teacher who can help you begin to learn the tricks and techniques of using the medium you want to work in.  You should also take advantage of any opportunity you have to experience taking classes with different teachers.   Each of them will offer different insights into the medium and the way you are using it.   

The real advantage of taking an art class is that you will get to meet other people who share your interest in art.  If there is another mother in the class whose kids are the same age as yours, you might be able to set up a double play date.  If nothing else, you will get to see how other early stage artists explore their creativity.  Remember – whatever you do you must never compare yourself or your art to anyone else.  Your art is a unique expression of who you are at this particular point in time. 

Sponsored by…

< Back to Homepage


home | about us | contact us | advertise l terms of use
  @Copyright 2008 - Moms Digital World

Tell Them What You think
Tell Your Story
Change the World
Write Check-Lit
Create A Masterpiece
Write Kiddie-Litter