Making lemonade (from the lemons of old paint)

Moving is tough, more so when you learn the new owners don’t want any of the remnants the last owner left behind (which in our case includes a lot of unused house paint, among other things that are costly to dispose of). After an initial meltdown, many days of exhaustion/tearfulness, and no time made for the creative things that fuel me, I turned the garage into an impromptu studio and made this painting using some of the paint to be discarded. Lemons into lemonade.

I will treasure this as a piece that holds the many wonderful memories of the house we’re leaving and symbolizes where we are heading. The surface is quite rough and highly textured (largely due to the limited paint application tools and the viscosity of house paint), but even this seems metaphorically apt.

Celebrating my 50th birthday today in the most perfect way for the day, as required – packing boxes, taking out the trash, connecting with so many of the people I love, and painting.

#grateful #makeartwhereyoufindit #partiesareoverrated #introvert #fiftyandfabulous #paintersgottapaint #recycling #makelemonade

Want to Spark Joy without Tidying up?

Make art where you find it. Every day. For YOU and for love. This isn’t a Hallmark card, it’s a way of being.

Don’t wait for Valentine’s Day!

Deliberate creative acts, even small ones, feed your spirit. Do it with heart shaped strawberries or whatever inspires you. Make art – broadly defined- to create your best, most authentic life.

At most, it took an extra minute to decorate my husband’s breakfast plate as shown. The choice to do so made me smile, made him feel special, and added a little extra, out of the green box beauty, to our St. Patrick’s Day morning. Triple win.

Truth in advertising: I’m hardly an apron-clad housewife, looking for all the ways I can please my man. Most days I barely get Cheerios in a bowl for myself. Does he eat breakfast on those days? I don’t know! This post isn’t about being a good partner, at least not directly.

It’s about nurturing your creative spirit and watching your world transform!

When you cultivate a creative mindset, every day offers opportunities to make something new, to see the world with fresh eyes and an open heart. A creative approach to life changes everything.

And that’s not all…

When you find ways to share your art with others, you contribute to the pool of love. In case you hadn’t heard: love is the best antidote to fear. Don’t you want to feel less afraid? More joyful?

Making art (cultivating a creative mindset) is a form of self-love; sharing is how you spread love to others. Not everyone will feel the love, but even if one person does, the ripple effect may create a wave of goodwill. Don’t you think we need more of that?

Need more examples, more explanation?

Read more about #makeartwhereyoufindit here.

Want to Live Your Best Life?*

So often we fail to notice the interesting, potentially inspiring, or beautiful, things around us. We’re busy, tired, distracted. Hardwired to notice threat, we’re more likely to attend to the things that could go wrong, than to appreciate the musical quality of the wind, or an unusual shade of green.

Except when we train ourselves to do otherwise, as artists of all types do.

“But, I’m not artistic!”, at least some of you protest. To which I would suggest you might broaden your definition of art. To make art where you find it.

Have you ever read a sentence that made your toes curl with understanding, so moved you copied and posted it so you’d see it again? Shared a photo of a sunset? Picked and dried a wildflower that reminded you of a trip to the mountains? Kept a rock you found on the seashore and set it on your windowsill, next to the others you couldn’t leave behind?

I could go on. The point is to recognize your role in creating your experience, to look closely beyond the familiar, the easily unnoticed. To discover whether your artful witness can spark joy, no Marie Kondo style tidying up required!

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Watercolor Expressions: Variation on a theme

Seascape Yellow, 9×12 watercolor

Mostly I don’t plan paintings beforehand. There are exceptions, but painting for me is primarily about expression.

The unintended similarities between paintings shouldn’t surprise me. They might simply be variations on a theme.

Still, the repetition in the absence of intention strikes me, makes me wonder what is being painted when there is no consciously identified subject.

I’ve called this a seascape, because that’s what the image most closely approximates. I’m also curious about what else it might be.


Make art where you find it

Awakening (Found Art; Mexico, 2019)

When I think about my creative process, I can be admittedly fussy. The light isn’t quite right. Inspiration is lacking. Words aren’t flowing. The excuses are easy to find.

It’s not that quality doesn’t matter. But I wonder how often the insistence on the right conditions to approximate beauty is really an excuse to avoid the vulnerability of imperfection. 

There is something to be said for spontaneity, for making art simply to engage in a creative act, to express something in resonance with our best energy, our loving heart.

Destructive energy can be easily found, but collectively we can choose to shift the tide. One way to do that is to practice and celebrate simple creative acts. Whether it be a sand sculpture, a poem, or photograph, let’s make art where we find it!

Watercolor Expressions: Light heart, light touch

Untitled watercolor, 5×8

Do anything, but let it produce joy.

Walt Whitman

Joy [joi]: 1. A state of happiness 2. Playful application of paint on paper

A fellow blogger reminded me about the importance of playfulness when making art.

Critical thinking has place in painting, but a considered break from striving is a lot more fun.

Haiku #11 (Just Be)

Just Be (digital painting 1.1, 2019)


Productivity
Chief definition of worth
Or we could just Be

© Amanda Reilly Sayer
Just Be (digital painting 1.0, 2019)

Digital painting is fun in that it allows for low-stakes experimentation with an original image. I enjoyed this playful departure from my usual, more serious approach.


Which image do you prefer? Do you agree that our culture values outcome (production) over process (being)? If so, do you think that gets in the way of being in creative flow?

Watercolor Expressions: “Spread the light; be the lighthouse”

The title is borrowed from a recent Yogi teabag, but is a practice I’ve been trying to embody. Only partially successful a lot of the time and well aware of my imperfections, I still aspire towards this goal. In the light of my best self I hope to find humble solace, to generate true love for others, and to move myself (and hopefully others I encounter) out of darkness.

Early lighthouse paintings

To the Lighthouse, 2017

As a lover of nautical themes and lighthouse symbolism, I’ve long wanted to make a decent lighthouse painting. My first attempts, about 2 years ago, were so technically poor I’ve stayed away from painting them since. The first of the series (pictured right) was done as a small sketch to prepare for the intended bigger version. It was ok, but I had difficulty seeing beyond the imperfections.

Beacon, 2017

My second effort (pictured left) was no more successful – maybe even less so – but came with a personally meaningful insight, the reason I treasure it. Made shortly after a disheartening world event, I, like many others, was searching for peace and hope. The working title for this second painting – To the Lighthouse – is also the title of my favorite Virginia Woolf novel, which added intellectual appeal. But as I worked on the painting for embarrassingly many hours considering the outcome, trying and failing to figure it out, my perspective shifted from seeking the light to being it. It almost seems silly now. After all, the idea is popular enough to be printed on a Yogi teabag tag! But at the time, it was an ‘aha!’ moment for me: You don’t need to find the light, you need to be the light! This insight unfortunately didn’t translate into making a luminous painting, but it did change me and necessitated a title change for the painting. To the Lighthouse became Beacon.

Another try

At times I feel future paintings are simmering in the background, not ready to be conceived, but still in active preparation. I’m not sure this makes sense to someone who isn’t me, but captures my experience of making the lighthouse painting shown below.

Nearly two years after the first lighthouse painting, I started by sketching lighthouses, this time using a photo model, to better understand perspective and form. That helped a lot! The first two paintings were generated from my imagined picture of a lighthouse scene, a vision equal parts primitive and inaccurate. I can see that clearly now.

The photo I used as a model for the new painting waited as an open tab on my internet browser for over a year, a long simmer! Finally, over the past weekend, I made the painting (pictured below). It’s still not perfect, but I’m happy with my progress.

Beacon, 9×12 watercolor (2019)

After I’ve finished a painting, I not uncommonly see new things and have impulses to change it. Away from it for a day, seeing it in my mind’s eye, I decided the sky should be a darker. When I shared that idea with my husband, he protested. The sky, almost indistinguishable from the lighthouse, is what he likes best about the painting. As a lover of metaphor, there are worse things – as we spread light, we may become one with the sky. I’ve quite a ways to go, but happy to be getting closer. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

A shifting definition of good work

Cape Cod Cool, 10×10 acrylic (October, 2018)

Learning to paint with acrylics

My acrylic painting journey began at one of those wine and paint nights, something my husband thought would be fun for us to do as a couple. He was right! After a manageable set of instructions, each of us was encouraged to make a version of the model painting using the blobs of black and primary colors provided. There was no talk of color mixing, no real technique offered besides a caution about order: start from the top with blue fading into red/yellow sunset, next add the blue ocean, end with the black rocks and sailboat silhouette between them. Everyone happily managed their own interpretations, smiles and laughter abundant throughout. Maybe that was the wine! I remember being struck by the individual differences in outcome despite the uniform instructions and materials.

PaintNite 2014 (first acrylic painting)

This PaintNite scene (pictured), though not one I wanted to hang at home, found a place in a windowless office I used for part of my work week. It brightened the space and inspired peaceful thoughts, or so I was told by one of my adolescent patients who otherwise did not radiate calm. Despite this decided value, I knew the painting wasn’t particularly ‘good,’ something I mistakenly thought was a byproduct of the medium, not just my lack of skill. Still, I picked up some canvases and acrylic paints on sale at a local craft store. I imagined I’d host a PaintNite with friends or make paintings with my young nephews, ideas that would sit untouched in the corner of my basement, alongside those canvases and acrylic paints.

Years later…

Several years passed, dotted with intermittent watercolor painting, my preferred medium only by habit and lack of experience with any other. Then, my husband, catalyst and longtime supporter of my artistic efforts, gifted me a portable plein air easel. He apparently imagined me on the French countryside, complete with beret and smock, his imagined representation of an artist. And what a lovely way to be envisioned! But he didn’t know that type of easel, which doesn’t adjust to fully horizontal, isn’t ideal for watercolor painting. Although I skipped the beret and smock, I decided to honor the gift by bringing canvas and paints up from the basement, to give acrylics another try on my new easel.

You might wonder whether I thought to research acrylic painting techniques before I began, something that seems obviously wise now. Naively, I thought I knew all there was to know about applying acrylic paint, having had the introductory lesson at PaintNite. I know, I know – hindsight is humbling! In my defense, my art education stopped in middle school. I thought ‘good’ painting was done with either watercolor or oils, a medium off-limits to an amateur, the brush cleaning alone beyond my capacity. It hadn’t occurred to me that acrylic painting, like so many deceptively simple things, can also be complex and render beautiful scenes.

Without expectations, or skill, I set up the easel and started putting paint on canvas, intending to make a rock breakwater, something I’d struggled to master with watercolor paints. No surprise, the rocks were not a success in this painting either. But to my delight, I discovered that with acrylic painting even a dark mistake could be painted over with a lighter color, not really an option with watercolor.

New Medium, July 2018
(2nd acrylic painting)

The final result (pictured) looked closer to what I considered a ‘good’ painting might look like. It wasn’t great, I knew, but it was better than I’d expected it could be and motivated me to keep playing with this new medium.

So much more to learn…

Since then I’ve made several acrylic paintings of varying quality and have recently decided to learn more about technique and application. There is a lot to learn! It’s tempting to see all the paintings I’ve made to this point as not ‘good’ through the lens of increased knowledge and experience. For example, initially more focused on color and composition, I didn’t realize visible brush strokes might add to, or detract from, a painting. Poor paint coverage is also a thing, which doesn’t affect the gestalt but really makes for a poor quality painting on the close up. This final painting (pictured at the top), my third of the medium, exemplifies both kinds of mistakes.

My definition of a ‘good’ painting has shifted, and will, I suspect, continue to evolve. Still, there is something about this painting, even with the noted imperfections, that keeps me from painting over it. Even that PaintNite painting was beloved by at least one person and was therefore valuable, if primitive in other ways. These paintings remind me that while we can evolve in technique and knowledge, we can also appreciate and honor where we’ve been. We can define ‘good’ broadly.

In other news, although I’ve thus far managed to talk my husband out of the need for an artist’s costume, he occasionally still wonders aloud, “Wouldn’t you like a beret?” Maybe someday I’ll decide that would be a ‘good’ look for me.