On the Creative Journey and Unexpected Detours

Running an artistic ecard business, like Ojolie, requires a lot of fresh ideas for new card designs. Even though it is a constant process of looking for inspiration, at the start of every year, I begin the planning process for what new cards are going to be released and when. This year a little accident gave me longer to ponder and plan in my head though: I sprained my right hand – the one I paint and work with – and for two weeks have not been able to even write my own name. Luckily, the hand is finally healing quite well and I feel blessed to even just be able to type this.

An accident like this is often a blessing in disguise, reminding us of all there is to be grateful, giving us renewed energy when we can return to work and our creative pursuits and most importantly giving us a mandatory break. That said, I am a terribly impatient person in these situations and just before it happened, I had completed my early spring cleaning of the studio, grounded four canvases in preparation for an upcoming exhibition I am working on. They now sit and smile at me. The dust has settled in the studio, but that will soon change.

In the meantime I thought I would share a little bit about the creative journey with you. Like most artists, I collect a myriad of materials from diverse channels to draw inspiration from.

“Tree of Life” by Frederikke Tu, 200x140cm, Sold, see more at www.frederikketu.com

Observations from my daily personal life, things that I’m fond of, personal hobbies, a memory, something a friend told me, the list goes on and on. I like to experience and watch nature to capture the essence of life and use this energy to spark ideas.

All these activities help generate ideas. As the concepts reveal themselves, I create document lists and pin boards on Pinterest as future referral sources. Then I ask myself, “From all of this, what is useable?” What are my customers looking for to suit their occasion? The concepts have to be relevant, useful and appeal to a wide audience. My process begins as divergent then moves towards convergence.

Once I decide on an idea, I start to visualize the card and animation. Sometimes that is influenced by a piece of music I would like to work with, where the melody ignites images in my mind. Other times, I see the final image and work backwards to the start filling in the gaps, or vice versa.

I consider the style, medium and pace to match the concept and take it from there. This process is useful both in my work on the ecards and in my other work as an artist. The discipline and process helps me get past any blockages, knowing that inspiration and creativity is just a question of getting to work, moving past the blocks and accepting that with time you will get into flow, and what may appear like magic to others, is just another day of work for the artist. Which I am waiting, impatiently, to return to soon as possible.

If you would like to see more of my recent work on canvas, you can see some of my acrylic and oil paintings at www.frederikketu.com

Water Mixable Oil Colors

This summer I spend about ten days painting in the north of Denmark and trying a new medium for me, water mixable oil paints.  Since I normally paint with mostly watercolors and acrylics this was a real change in pace, as the longer drying times of oil presented a particular challenge while travelling.

But I must say I loved the richness, the vibrant colors of the pigments and the final result of the oil paints.  And being water mixable means there are no nasty fumes to put up with.  So after stocking up on four canvasses and paint in Copenhagen, I set off with my kids for the coast and the little cabin we would spend the next ten days in.

“Flights of Fancy”
Oil on Canvass
by Frederikke Tu

As luck would have it, this July was so hot in Denmark, it was almost unbearable to be outside some days, so I moved the garden furniture inside and made it my painting studio.  Luckily the cabin had lots of glass and it still felt like being outdoors.

Could you imagine a lovelier studio while on the road?  Happy memories …

For the first painting I decided to forgo a grounding layer, which I normally would use with the acrylics, since there was a time constraint.  As you can see from the photos, the paint goes on nice and thin with the water mixable painting medium that is part of the range.  I have since bought a painting paste as well, which is more like the paints in thickness.

I did find that the key was not to use both water and painting medium together, or I would get some tackiness and the paint would not spread easily.  So you either use a little water or you use painting medium, but not both.  I also discovered that the white dries much slower than the other paints, so areas with more white needed more time in between coats.  As you can also see from the photos, the colors start looking really amazing after the second coat, so a second coat really is a must, especially without a grounding layer.

Painting the first coat – a little streaky, which second coat takes care of

I waited a few days between coats and in total this painting took three days to paint, much longer than a similar painting would have taken me with acrylics.  But I think the results are worth it and for many things this medium will still be my new favorite.  I still love acrylics, just for the sheer convenience and speed, but acrylics do lack something in the final feel and touch.  However they gel well with my temperament and allow me to work in my own impatient and frenzied pace.

If you would like to try water mixable oil colors yourself, there are several brands that offer them.  I choose Cobra from Talens.  But enough about the medium, I will let the painting speak for itself!  Let me know what you think.

Carve Out a Place for Creativity

Ever feel like there just are not enough hours in a day?  I sure do.  No matter how much I want to make finding half an hour – not to mention a weekend – to paint, write to friends or even just do one of the million little projects I love to plan (sometimes even start, but hardly ever finish), somehow by the time I finally carve out that free half hour, I would rather just take a nap.  

So how to get out of the rut, if one can call it that?!  After all, I know it is not a lack of motivation.  Here are a few handy things I am going to try that just might work for you as well:

you don't need an art studio to get started painting or writing, just a little corner in the house with great natural light and a spot where you can immerse yourself for a few stolen moments or days :)
find your own sacred little space
photo credit www.philippastanton.com

  • set the bar lower – maybe instead of starting a big project, just commit to doodling for ten minutes and see where it takes you.  Find a set time each day and commit to a very short time that is yours to use as you want.  For some the morning is best, others prefer night time.  You can use this time to write a short letter, sketch an idea in your journal or even just play with colors without a set goal in time.  Or meditate.  
  • make it a pleasant ritual – light a candle or an essential oil diffuser, make a cup of tea or pour a glass of port, put on a great peace of music if that helps you – this is your special time, so live it up.  
  • if you have the space, create a little nook in your home where you can leave things until the next day.  Ideally a favorite spot with great light or a nice view, few distractions and that won’t be used for other things.  It doesn’t need to be a studio – even a little section of a table will do.  I have created a pinterest board with some ideas to get you inspired to create your own sacred little corner for creative immersion. Remember not to make this a project in itself! 🙂
  • this one may in fact be the most important of all; slow down, become aware of stress and practice presence in your daily life.  I often get stressed when I realize how much I have to do and how overwhelming it can seem to get it all done.  One of my favorite sites that has helped me in so many different areas is zenhabits.net.  

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!).

I refuse to be practical

Yesterday I finally got around to sewing an apron (after ruining several shirts while cooking). I admit it turned out slightly fanciful – Tim’s exact words were “myyyyy, it is sooooo girly”, but hey, who says aprons have to be purely practical – with this apron I might actually get in the right mood to cook more often and look pretty darn cute doing it 🙂 Since I didn’t have a pattern available I just started with a two square pieces of fabric, that were stitched together to make the front and back of the apron. I then rutched the top hem and the waist to give the apron some shape.

The result is a fully reversible apron – hey that IS practical come to think of it – the other side being made entirely from the blue fabric used for the contrasting edges and strings on the “front” of the apron. Tim took some snaps as the sun was quickly setting this evening – the pictures don’t reveal how hot and humid it actually was.

I had used the same blue fabric a little while back to make a hem for our mosquito net and had a little left for use on the apron. After we bought our poster bed, I realized it was impossible to find a net that was the right size, so I made one from silk chiffon. But the chiffon is so light that without a heavier weight hem, it flutters too easily with every tiny breeze.

While the net might be purely cosmetic in some places, here it is a must. So now we can lie in our little cocoon, looking at the world veiled in silk chiffon and imagine the university right next door did not start building a huge ugly monster of a concrete building, obscuring the beautiful view of the cow farm we originally had from our balcony. The alternative was that the city would seize the land using eminent domain to build a highway. We are very happy we merely have to put up with a little temporary construction for the building instead. On weekends the kids still come into our bed, not so much for a cuddle anymore as they are too busy reading comics.

I am FINALLY blogging

I have been meaning to write this blog for a really long time, but I guess there is no time like the present!

After some back and forth experimentation and almost two days of work I have settled on a new look for the homepage of the site. I wanted to update the information and the look, make it slightly more compact, without altering it so much that our members might not recognize it. I haven’t decided which of these last two options I like best, but I guess you will find out soon, because Tim wants it ready pronto.

I am in a creative phase (read: driving my husband crazy, making a creative mess, forgetting to eat and pretty much being unable to fall asleep at night because I am still not finished with whatever project I started at 10 pm).