Feeling Empty…and it’s Wonderful!

I’m writing this post sitting outside on a deck at Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. I have a cup of coffee beside me, everyone else is inside asleep and I am soooooo relaxed.

I had thought this post would be about inspiration (and there may be one of those later), because a great deal of my work is coastal and stems from this very area. I have found that this trip I am just relaxing. We’ve been busy…playing in the ocean, kayaking, shell hunting…but we’ve also taken naps, worked on a puzzle and I’ve done quite a bit of sitting and reading.

I’ve definitely had moments of inspiration but instead of filling up I feel like I’m emptying out. That sounds a little crazy and counterproductive but I think it’s just right. I’ve had a very, very busy year (haven’t we all?) and everything that I’ve been juggling rattles around in my head, on my calendar, on my to-do list. It’s been a constant Did I? Do I need to? In other words…life.

Now I’m starting to feel empty. Empty of worrying and scurrying. There is nothing on my calendar, I haven’t even opened my to-do list once. It is a very peaceful feeling.

I know just as soon as we start driving home my mind will start to fill back up again, but maybe I can keep it a little tidier. Kind of like cleaning out that one closet that somethings falls out of every time you open it. Now my closet is empty…and I’m going to put things back a little more carefully!

Go See Your Local Artists!

One of my* art festival booths from 2010.

This weekend was the WLAST, Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour, here in Northern Virginia. I was able to get out on Sunday and visit quite a few of the artists and artisans on the tour. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour both as an art lover/consumer and an artist. Here are the top 4 reasons for Art Lovers or Makers to get out and see some local art:

For those who LOVE art

  1. You get to see great art…and not so great art. Most of the time, depending on the venue or show, the artist has been juried so there is a certain level of professional recognition of their talent. Even with that some artists have only their best peices and some artists put out everything, the oops, the almosts, the ideas. This can be an interesting way to see how the artist develops their work AND get some pieces at a great price. I once bought an extremely affordable (read cheap!) piece from a sculptor that was just a study for a larger piece. I loved it though, even the unfinished edges.
  2. You get to talk with the creator of that art. You find out their ‘story’ and get to know them a little bit. It is so much more fun and meaningful to own something you can connect with the maker.
  3. You get a head start on Christmas shopping/birthday shopping/etc. I bought 2 Christmas gifts and, in keeping with #2, I grabbed their card and any other information to put in with the gift so the recipient knows more about their gift. Much more interesting than a big box gift receipt!
  4. You are truly supporting a small business and normally the local economy (depending on the type of show). For this tour I knew all the artists were local and from our county. Some art festivals allow artists from all over the country to participate. Either way, you won’t find a listing on the stock market for these folks!

For those who MAKE art

  1. You get to see great art. Or at least art that is different from yours. It is always encouraging to see others just like you out their slugging away at their painting, pottery, jewelry, etc.
  2. You get inspired by all the different art. I get a lot of ideas from seeing how others make art. I don’t mean I walk around going, “I can do that.” and head back to my studio to copy. I mean I see how a pastellist has simplified her greens for a landscape or a collage artist has created some interesting texture out of items I hadn’t considered using.
  3. You get to talk to the artists. I really enjoyed meeting some artists from a local group I have joined but haven’t had a chance to attend any of their functions. I also asked questions from artists that I admired. Another pastellist and I talked framing. A portrait/figure artist and I talked about an open studio with a model. This is a great way to make connections in your own art community.
  4. You get recharged for your own art. One pastellist that I didn’t get to talk to (her sister was greeting at her studio) had SOOOO much work. I often get creatively blocked because I think, where would this go?, who would buy this?, why am I doing this? Seeing this artist, who was extremely talented, and the sheer volume of work she had stacked around her studio made me think, who cares? She’s obviously making art for the joy of it, the progression of ideas, the pushing of her talent. Pick any reason, this is why I should be making art!

*I don’t photograph other artists work so I don’t have any from the tour.

The Seesaw: Attempting to Balance Life

Ah…that elusive word…Balance. The Holy Grail of our modern existence. We have to do so much, we want to do so much, we need to do so much. How do we balance it all?

I headed back out into the workforce a few weeks ago. With the move, I lost all my students. I’ve explored teaching option here in Virginia and decide I’m too impatient to start that chapter over in the same form it was in Texas. One of the biggest deciding factors is I don’t have a 17 year reputation and relationship with my community any more!

Income Options

I’m working on several options to regain my teaching income. First is converting my classes to online format. My first class, Drawing a Doodle, is already on Skillshare. I’m in the middle of production on my second, Coloring a Doodle. 

I also decided see what type of part-time job I could find in the area. I was extremely lucky to find one that lets me pursue another of my passions, sustainable living.I love my job so far, especially because I’m out of my studio and around other people and it is only roughly 20 hours per week.

This leaves me time to continue my art career…sort of. Now comes the hard part: Balance. I still have all my mom/wife/housekeeping duties and I’m determined to not let my art drop as severely as the last time I worked outside the home.


Me at a Scout camp out in 2007

So how do I do it all? Make lists, prioritize, and understand it won’t all be perfectly done at the perfect time. I’ve divided my art business into several sections (this post coming soon) and instead of working a little on each one every week, I’m having to concentrate on one or two at a time. I check any deadlines coming up and then see what pressing projects I need to work on for the week. (This week is writing and creation.)

At home it is working the same way. The rain never seems to end here in Northern Virginia so when the sun shows up for a few minutes, I run outside to mow/garden/etc. We had visitors this weekend so it was time to get some neglected cleaning done. My house and yard aren’t perfect but I’m keeping my head above water.

Balance…for a second

The biggest thing I’ve discovered is that it is less about ‘balance’ and more like a seesaw. I find each week something takes a higher priority and by the end of the week… *BAM* ,,,, I’ve hit my butt on the ground. The next week is another priority so I kick off from the ground, slide to the other end and …*BAM* …I do it again.

This is ok though, because for a very brief second, as one end rises and the other lowers, they meet in the middle and, voila! Balance! Just don’t blink or you’ll miss the moment!

A dog plays on a seesaw with children in Scotland, By Photographes du National Geographic (http://natgeofound.tumblr.com/)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What Do I Do With Old Art?

In the ideal world every creation that emerges from my brilliant mind is perfect, inspiring, exhibited widely and sold very quickly. Then there is reality, in between the perfect-enough, inspiring paintings (that are always fewer than any artist would like) are the rest. Studios and storage places full of mediocre paintings, half-finished works, stuff that what ok in the past but not reflective of your work now and the just paintings that just don’t work no matter how many times or different ways you look at it. So what do I do with these paintings?

Good paintings, just old

©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Last Two Beachfronts

These are all over my home and in my families’ homes. Some I’ve grown so attached to that they are not for sale. The ones that are available for purchase are still on my website and through my Etsy shops. Even though what I’m making now looks different, having older works helps show my progression and range of abilities. I find this is helpful for collectors, especially since I take commissions.

Old paintings, smaller works

Again, many are still for sale on my Etsy shops. These are also easy to send to other shops or galleries. I had several pieces at Chick Shack Collectibles in North Carolina until their shop closed this year. I also will donate these when asked to by  charities or shows.

Parts of paintings or sketches that are good

©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Enchanted Net
©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Enchanted Net

Many times I don’t like how a finished piece has turned out but I like portions of the composition. These frequently show up in my collage pieces. I have no problem cutting or tearing out a piece of a watercolor or acrylic canvas and integrating it into a new piece of work. Sometimes it is just a small sketch or study that isn’t enough on it’s own but works as a part of a larger artwork.

Artwork from classes or college (or even high school)

These are usually guided exercises, studies or copies of paintings. Some may be good, they are just not considered part of my ‘body of work.’ I do love looking at the history of my artistic development though. Recently, I was looking through a portfolio from college while prepping for my move. I was really inspired by some of my work I was doing from my imagination, inspired by mythology. I’ve kept a lot of my course work from college and some from high school. This artwork is currently in paper and leather portfolios but I plan to store this work archivally soon.

Just too old, but not terrible

©Charlotte B. DeMolay

This work is mostly from right after college. I did a lot of still-life and studies to keep developing my abilities. The paintings are not bad, just not exciting or representative of most of my work. I have given several of these to family members. The rest I plan to store these archivally with my old class work.

What do I mean by archivally? I am going to purchase acid-free boxes with reinforced corners. Inside the boxes I’ll separate artwork with acid-free paper.

Doesn’t Work For Me, whether old or new

©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Joy

My husband and I argue over this one. He thinks some of my work is still reflective of me and others will like it. I just get aggravated when I see a painting that didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it. Joy is the best example. My husband says it is very ‘me’ and it hung openly in our home in Texas. It is sitting on a shelf in the basement in our home here in Virginia. I have several others that are stacked with it. What am I going to do?

Well, Joy may stay in limbo but I’ve decided to give myself permission to destroy some of these works that just don’t, well, work. The first was an oil painting that neither my husband nor I liked. I actually cut it up into pieces, very exhilarating!

Acrylic paintings are getting painted over. I’ve already coated a few with gesso to get back to a white canvas ‘look.’ Others I’m just starting right on top of. Fortunately, I love texture so the brush lines from the first painting just get incorporated into the texture of the second painting.

I still hold out hope that each and every one of the paintings I choose to keep in the public eye will be widely viewed and eventually sold. In the meantime, I’ll be taming the stacks of creative genius and creative duds!


What I Make My Art With

Netted by Perceptions
©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Netted by Perceptions, acrylic, 36″x24″

When you are looking at art in a gallery or on a website, the ‘medium’ is generally a part of the description. For Netted by Perceptions (right), I list this as “Acrylic” meaning it’s an acrylic painting. This conjures an image of me standing in front of my easel with paintbrush in hand painting happily away. While some of this is a true image, I’m usually pretty happy and there is an easel and a bunch of messy brushes, it still paints an incomplete picture (pun intended).

Collection of interesting textures

So what am I making art with? Acrylic paint and brushes to start with, then I get a little curious and start exploring. After I get my layer of paint on the canvas, I look around my studio and see what I can use to create some texture in the paint. Some of my favorites are the cardboard from Starbucks cup rings, netting from fruit and veggie bags, sponges, even just plain paper towels. I press the textured item into wet paint. It makes a impression into the paintings and lifts paint from the spot and transfers it to the next place I press. 

Tissue papers

I’ve also created more texture by painting thick lines or drips, wait to dry and painting over. Another way I create texture is embedding things into the paint such as tissue paper, other papers or even netting. I am sure to paint over these items heavily to keep them firmly on the canvas or pour Art Resin over the whole canvas to seal it in. 

How about all those straight lines that have been taking over my artwork? Tape! All kinds of tape (that’s not too sticky), right now blue painters’ tape and washi craft tape are my favorites. 

An assortment of tapes

I’ve also cut out stencils in shapes I wanted to repeat such as the leaves in the background of several of my paintings. Most of the time I use the stencils to mask out the background and paint a  new layer for the foreground.The sails in the Sea Bound series are the same because I cut stencils out of poster board and reused them for each painting. The color of the sails is actually the background of each painting.

Detail of painting in progress ©Charlotte B. DeMolay

Using my homemade stencils has inspired me to look at other objects I can use for stencils or stamping. Just the other day I grabbed a large tomato can (from dinner the night before), painted the bottom rim and used it to stamp large circles around my canvas. 

Now when you are looking at one of my paintings, I bet you’ll be able to identify some of the objects I used to create the marks. If something looks like it’s been embedded, it probably has been. The more I experiment with these, um, experiments, the more ideas I have to explore. I hope you enjoy exploring with me!

Why I Chose Skillshare for my First Online Class

Coffee Break Art: Drawing a DoodleAs I’m sure any follower of my Social Media accounts is aware…I completed creating my first online class. It was a difficult process for me as I was learning new skills (video recording and editing) and overcoming my fear of the camera. I’m happy to say I’m MUCH better with the skillset and still working on looking more natural on film.

I’ve gotten some questions on why I decided to publish on Skillshare. I did a bit of research before choosing that platform and I thought I’d share that with you:

Cost of Class

One-time Fee vs Subscription

This took quite a bit of research before I even started on the class. There are several popular sites for online learning: Skillshare, Udemy, and Craftsy are three of the biggest in the creative field. Both Craftsy and Udemy offer a one time price for each class. After you purchase a class you may watch it anytime, including offline. At time of this article, Craftsy is closed to new instructors and Udemy seemed a little overwhelming plus I read some negative feedback from instructors on their sale policies and other issues.

Skillshare is a subscription style service. You pay a monthly (or for a better price at yearly) fee and can watch unlimited classes. I had subscribed to Skillshare in the past and had been a subscriber a month or so before starting to work on my class. While I’m not a huge fan of subscription-based price,I do find Skillshare’s pricing structure an extremely good value for what you get. At the time of this writing their yearly price is $96 which is $8 per month for access to over 15 thousand classes. That’s less than the price of any individual class sale!

You can almost always get the first month for 99 cents or for free if you use my instructor link. That allows you to evaluate to see if you’d use it. I figure if I only watch one class a month (when really I watch 2-3 per week) then I’m still getting a bargain.

Personal Use

I’m a life-long learner. I am constantly reading, signing up for classes (free and paid) and listening to podcasts. Skillshare has not only creative classes but writing, marketing, business and technical class as well. In fact, I was watching Skillshare classes on how to do videos to help prepare me for my class!

Although I initially joined for creative classes, I have found myself watching videos on writing, blogging, marketing and, of course, videoing. Most classes I have encountered are 15-30 minutes in length and broken down into 1-5 minute videos. This is great when you have only a short break or get interrupted often. You can easily stop at the end of a lesson instead of trying to remember what point you stopped the video.

Supportive Community

I’ve used Skillshare so much and have been so happy with their setup, it felt natural to pick it to do my class on. When I decided to teach my class, the support was incredible! Skillshare runs a Challenge every month for instructors and provided deadlines with prizes (I won the first one so they are real!), guidelines, a teacher handbook, question and answer sessions plus several ways to get feedback from other instructors and students.

I even received help from other users. The video editing software I am using is quite a bit out of date and. I couldn’t find any video tutorials. Another student/teacher (lots of people are both!) found a link to the manual for me. While I initially chose Skillshare from my own learning experience, it was reinforced by the support I received from Skillshare and the online community during the class creation process.

So if you are a life-long learner like myself or have something to teach the world (or most likely both!) you’ll love Skillshare.

Art in Triplicate: Working in a Series

©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Seasonal Trees Series: Autumn Red, Autumn Orange, Autumn Yellow, Acrylic, 12″ x 6″ - $80; $200 for the series of 3
©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Seasonal Trees Series: Autumn Red, Autumn Orange, Autumn Yellow, Acrylic, 12″ x 6″

Lately I’ve been painting exclusively in a series. What’s a series? Dictionary.com says “a group or a number of related or similar things, events, etc., arranged or occurring in temporal, spatial, or other order or succession;sequence.” Yep, that sounds about right.

Why would an artist want to work in a series? I’ve started working in a series this year for several reasons:

Work out New Ideas

©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Window View Series: Dining, Studio, & Sunroom, acrylic, 12″x 12″, $165 each; $400 for all 3
©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Window View Series: Dining, Studio, & Sunroom, acrylic, 12″x 12″

Working in a series let’s me work out an idea in several different ways. My first set was the Window View Series. The inspiration was the beautiful fall colors I could see from all over my house but the idea was the concept of seeing the outside from the inside. I wanted the bars of the window panes to be obvious and I wanted to see it in different ways. Sometimes you can work out these ideas in a sketchbook but when several seem to work, paint them!

Push New Ideas Further

In my Sea Bound Series (below) I really departed from my usual loose realism into almost abstract. I was experimenting with adding different textures into the painting. As I progressed into the 2nd and 3rd painting, I even added some paper and then netting on the canvas and painted over them to exaggerate the texture even more. Pushing your ideas in a series allows you to keep some things similar (for me the relative composition and the color scheme) and see how the new ideas look as they progress.

Portfolio is more Cohesive

By creating paintings as groups of at least three, your portfolio looks more like a progression of ideas. While a good body of work can be created without a series, it is sometimes harder to relate the paintings and can look random. This is especially true if you like to explore new subjects, media or techniques. For me, learning and discovery are as much a part of my work as mastery is. This can come across as indecisive if you don’t have enough work with similarities. Working in a series creates cohesion immediately, especially if you take an idea from one set and explore it in the next set. Suddenly you have six paintings that have a cohesive look.

Builds a New Body of Work Faster

Starting at the end of last year and definitely as I paint into this year, my artwork has a different look than my previous work. I still love my older work and there are still a lot of similarities between it and my newer work (texture, color vividness, subject choice, etc). But my newer work is definitely different. Since I’m in a new location and working towards getting my art into local shows and galleries, I want enough paintings in this new body of work to submit at once. If I had to submit ten and three were from this year and seven were from the past two to three years, it would look different.  By working in a series, I’m often working on all three paintings at the same time which increases the size of this new body of work much faster.

Varies the Price Points

©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Sea Bound Series: Into the Unknown, Continuing to Wander, Netted by Perceptions , acrylic, 36″x 24″

I’ve had paintings in the past that were a part of a diptych that sold separately. I’ve also had a series of three sell together with a commission for a fourth to go with them! I always offer individual prices for the paintings but when they are obviously a set and complement each other (as a diptych, triptych or a series), I offer a bundle price at a discount. I figure it is always better to sell two or three (or four!) paintings at once and it may entice someone who is on the fence. Plus, the thought of my paintings hanging together like I intended them to be seen is worth slightly less money to me.

What Do Art Resin and Video Have in Common?

(scroll to bottom for video)

For me it’s stepping out of a box while filming what’s in the box. I have been wanting to create some online classes for several months now. I have quite a few ideas for classes (I have been at this teaching thing for a while!) but my hold up has been the video process.

How do I video?
What do I say?
How long?
Where do I put my videos?

All of this plus the nervousness of being ON the video. Those who know me well will find that statement a bit of a shock. I have no fear at all of public speaking. I can speak in front of large groups, small groups, adult groups, preschool groups…I really do enjoy it. I have even been filmed for news clips and had no problem with it.

Last year I was part of a series of videos the Wylie Independent School District filmed on careers of the students’ parents. (See the video here.) Their film contractor was great, but instead of me talking to him, he asked general questions and I was to talk to the camera. That was unnerving. There was no body language to read. No interactive dialogue. No natural pauses or ends. It made me nervous..me! nervous!

So I’ve been doing a LOT of reading and a LOT of video watching over the past couple of months. I’m working on some outlines and my first class is in the works. In the meantime I’m working on getting comfortable talking through a machine instead of in a regular classroom. Below is my first art video ever. I’m trying some small steps to answer some of that list of questions above.

Also, this a new technique I’m experimenting with incorporating into my art. Since Art Resin is not a common term, I figured this video would both demonstrate what I’m referring to as well as help me learn. It’s a little long but…baby steps! Enjoy!

New Directions

Into the Unknown
Into the Unknown, acrylic, 36″x24″

If you’ve been following my Facebook or Instagram account you’ve seen some of my latest paintings. These look a little different. I’ve taken a new, yet old direction in my work. (Just for reference, on this post images on the left are newer, older is on the right).

Just a Phase, acrylic, 30″x18″

For the past 15 years I’ve described my style as loose, painterly realism. Some of my biggest influence is from the Impressionist. The subject is easy to identify but obviously not a photograph. I composed paintings of subjects I loved while exploring texture and the sculptural qualities of the paint.

Window View: Sunroom, acrylic, 12″x12″

My current paintings are actually a nod to some of my post-college work. For some reason I have always been fascinated with lines. Especially lines against organic shapes. Right out of college I experimented with some lines in paintings that was very reminiscent of Piet Mondrian  It was one of these earlier works that inspired my new direction. I completed Body Image in November of 1997. Twenty years later I was staring at the painting (it hangs in my bathroom) and felt that pull towards lines again.

Body Image, acrylic, 24″x20″

This time it looks a little different but I’m heading towards lines again. I do feel this new direction is definitely an evolution vs. a total throwback. I’m still fascinated with texture and the physical presence of my paintings. Tough to see in the photos but many of the paintings have actual physical dimension from the layers…both through brush and palette knife work.

Little Trees, acrylic, 7″x5″

I’m really excited about exploring this new direction and I hope you’ll follow along during my journey. I’ll continue to post new artwork and posts about my inspiration and techniques.

I want to play around a bit with videoing work in progress but that is a TOTALLY new realm for me. If you have any advice or product suggestions, I’d love to hear it!

New Studio Tour

20161102_081506In my new home in Virginia, I had to let go of the classroom studio I had in my Texas home for so many years. The room my husband and I chose is a narrow room with a bay window on the first floor. It was meant to be a home office. While my husband works from home frequently, we prefer him to be up on the second floor away from the noises of everyday living (and out of my way!). The room is much smaller than the joined living room/dining room space I took over in Texas (see here for photos of that space). I had tried a smaller room like this once before in Texas so I thought I’d learn from past mistakes…don’t try to cram too much in there! Well, I didn’t learn as well as I thought I did.

Initially, I planned this room would be for creating art and working on my scrapbooks (a major hobby of mine). Any other crafts, like sewing, would be set up in the basement. Yes, basement! Woo-hoo…those things are really cool! I quickly discovered this room wasn’t quite big enough for both art and scrapbooking. I haven’t moved the scrapbooking supplies downstairs yet but you can see in the photos that it’s pretty tight.

With my daughter and grandson staying with us temporarily (her husband is proudly serving our country overseas), I also had to move ALL the cat stuff into the studio.
So a few issues I’m still working through but the positives are north light, great view from the bay window, built-in bookshelves and it’s still a room just for my artmaking!

Enjoy the messy photos, I’ll consider this my ‘before’ shots and post again when I get it cleaned up and organized.

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