Striking a Balance

Click on the photo for an online demo from the book Vibrant Flowers in Watercolor by Soon Y. Warren

Most people think of watercolor as a medium best suited and usually used for quick, fluid compositions. But like any other medium, it can be used to create amazing detail, elaborated planned and executed paintings or quite simply paintings that spring alive. Finding this balance can be hard.

When I first started painting with watercolors as a child I mainly painted the Scandinavian landscapes where powerful skies, rolling hills and life by the sea lends itself very well to less fussy, quick paintings. Frankly so did my personality. Only with maturity did I learn some measure of patience. And techniques for improving my watercolors. Combining the fluid, almost zen like confidence of eastern brush painting with carefully painted, layered details is now my preferred style. One such example was the watercolors I painted for the card titled “Mandarin Ducks”, although when I paint for the ecards I tend to paint backgrounds separate from the objects of the painting so that they can be animated.

Click on the mandarin duck to see the card “Mandarin Ducks

There are a number of great watercolor books but I will just mention a few of the ones I have found most inspiring and helpful.

Light Up Your Watercolor Layer by Layer by Linda Moyer is more helpful for somewhat experienced watercolor artists who want to take their painting to the next level in my opinion, although it is apparently geared to even novice painters with coverage of some more basic things like color theory and studio setup. The techniques described will take some practice and lots of patience to master but are well worth it.

Watercolor Depth And Realism: 5 Simple Techniques For Adding Dimension To Your Paintings by Laurie Humble is another favorite of mine. I think the cover almost speaks for itself, but again best for intermediate watercolor artists.

Vibrant Flowers in Watercolor by Soon Y. Warren is another advanced book that merges some Eastern aesthetics with western watercolor techniques. The publisher has given access to a demo from the book, so you can get a taste. The layering of washes of primary colors shown in this demo illustrates one of the most important techniques I learned to take my paintings to a new level.

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The Art of Origami

photo by cedison on flickr

As you have probably realized by now, I like origami. I like the fact that you can take something as humble as a piece of paper and make something really beautiful, functional, imaginative and expressive simply by folding it. Now, I say “simply” by folding it, but honestly, it is not always simple.

photo by etringita on flickr

Sometimes even when an origami designer has gone through all the trouble of coming up with an amazing design and has outlined each step carefully, people like me, who don’t seem to possess the origami kind of mind get confused, little pebbles of sweat appearing on our brow as we unconsciously stick our tongue out and to the side of our mouth while we wrestle with this humble little piece of paper that just WON’T submit to us.

Photo and design by polyscene

So my hat’s off to all those frontier breaking origami designers who continue to come up with new ways of using origami to make clothing, fabric, home decor, art, etc. etc. etc.

Amazing crane designed by Roman Diaz and Daniel Naranjo

check out the Octuple Helix Compass Rose Jar from the fitful flog origami designer Philip Chapman-Bell

Teach your kids, it will increase their patience and small motor skills while having fun at the same time. With this in mind, you can look forward to another card planned for the holiday season which will feature more paper folding arts with instructions on how to fold it yourself.

photo by Markybon on flickr

In the meantime, you can send the three cards I have already created about folding paper

Click on a thumbnail to preview the card.

You should also check out these fascinating blogs about origami which might even inspire you to get started folding away as well.

origami tessellations by amazing designer Eric Gjerde
fitful flog by origami designer Philip Chapman-Bell
polyscene works by Polly Verity

Some books to consider are Origami Art by Michael G. LaFosse and Richard L. Alexander, Advanced Origami: An Artist’s Guide to Performances in Paper by Michael G. LaFosse and Origami Design Secrets: Mathematical Methods for an Ancient Art by Robert J. Lang. There are of course many other basic books on origami, some of which will be more suitable for beginners and kids. It should be noted that the design of the butterfly in my first origami card was by Michael G. LaFosse and used with his permission.

Creativity = hard work

I tend to be reading at least three or four books at the same time, except when I start a book that is so captivating that I read it in one sitting. For some books, reading bits and pieces here and there actually makes for better, gradual absorption. Creativity For Life by Eric Maisel is one of these books, giving me a nice kick in the b*tt each time I pick it up.

There is a prevailing myth that creativity is something that just comes to us, like lightning from the sky, or that it is all fun and play, but the reality as most artists know is that it is more often than not hard work (albeit it fun in a masochist kind of way).

While many parts of the book deal with some of the more destructive personality traits of many artists, even for those of us who do not suffer from depression, alcohol abuse etc. the book is a great resource for introspection. If you just need to overcome a creative block, get motivated or disciplined about creative pursuits, or really want to understand aspects of your artist personality this book is one of the most comprehensive I have seen. For me the most useful was the extensive chapter on the many, many causes of blocks (20 are discussed in great detail!).

Crafty Kids

One of the first things many people comment on when they first come to visit is the fact that we don’t have a television. We hardly notice unless they remind us, but as the boys are growing older we have noticed that they have a great love of books – perhaps even more so because they don’t have a TV to entertain their little minds for hours each day.

Emil usually makes a little reading ‘cave’ in the corner of our sofa by surrounding himself with pillows and can stay there reading for hours.

So I figured it might be fun to make some bookmarks for their books and that is what we did one afternoon … totally nerdy, I know. We got some fun supplies, like paper punches, ribbons and wavy cardboard and they had a blast with it.

The next morning I found them busy making more, haven woken up early to keep crafting away while we slept in …