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My Favorite Tools

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I thought I would take a moment to share with you some of the materials I use most often while painting. They’ve really helped improve my practice.

What tools do you use while working? I would really like to know!

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Try this next time…

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Try this next timeI think the main challenge in art making is remaining objective. How do you totally focus on this thing you are making—a painting, sculpture etc. without losing your objectivity? We need to see it as it appears for the very first time even though we have been staring at it for weeks. If we can see it clearly we have a better chance of improving it by the changes we make.

Here are a couple things I do:

1 I rarely work on something for more than 2 hours. I try to stop closer to an hour for maximum efficiency in my art process. I do my best work in the first hour almost every time.

2 I Post on Instagram what I am making. That forces me to see it small. Once I see it in my Instagram feed I can see it in a way I haven’t before.

3 Allow some distractions, like music, podcasts, and even visitors to interrupt you a little. I find my work is more easily made when I am not allowed to overly focus and obsess.

4 I turn my painting upside down and change the design so it works upside down. Then I flip it over again and re adjust for that orientation. I do this constantly. Each time I change it for one direction it improves it for the other. IN the end my picture can work either way, and then I know it is balanced.

5 I always work on 4-10 paintings on my studio wall. Not necessarily at the same time but I do jump around and I can always see all of them. Seeing so many makes it harder to obsess over one.

What do you do to remain objective? Lets start a list from all our comments…I will compile it and post it in FB and back here next week as a download. This could be super helpful to all of us!

Thanks in advance for all your comments. I read every one even though sometimes I can’t respond to all of them. I am painting a lot right now as I have a solo show coming up at Caldwell Snyder Gallery in San Francisco! The opening is Thursday, 5:30- 7:30 April 6th. If any of you are up here then I would love to see you!

Nicholas Wilton
PS The image above is a cropping of one of my father’s paintings. You can see his work at cliffordwilton.com

 

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The Edge of Too Far

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I wanted to share this little trick I use when I get stuck on a painting. It really helps me get past any road blocks.

What do you do when you feel stuck with your work?

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To Sign or not to Sign

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Outsider artist, Bill Traylor

Outsider artist, Bill Traylor

I get a lot of people asking me whether they should sign their art. Whether they should sign it on the front or the back and how big or small or maybe even not at all.

So there are no rules. This is a relatively minor thing but still naming the maker of the art is important. Especially for the artist.

Let me back up a little and talk about how I like to think about pictures, art, that people make. I feel it needs to be authentic. It wants to be as much like that artist as possible.

If most artists are anything like me, that end result, the final stages of the painting will always be scrutinized by the artist to see if anymore anything can be added to convey more strongly whatever is there. Can I make this more like I want it? What could I add or take away that could convey that feeling better?

Now, that same scrutiny needs to be applied to where and how a signature is added to the art.

Can it be added in such a way that it doesn’t take away from that original. idea being construed? So let the art determine how loud or quiet the signature will be. I tend to make mine more second reading. I don’t want to distract from what is going on in my painting.

But however you sign your art, just realize that your signature is a visual addition that can be barely noticeable or hugely distracting.

If the signature is super big, then the painting might suddenly become more about your signature. You might want this. And that too is ok. All I am saying is to be aware of the visual impact of your signature. It is part of the art, not separate, once placed on the front of your work.

Here is what I do:

I sign my last name, usually on the bottom front of all my original art.

Then on the back I write, with a black permanent felt pen (a fine point sharpee)
the following 7 things:

1. My full name
2. The title
3. The size
4. The materials
5. The date
6. A 4 digit unique image code
7. My website

I add these 7 items on the back so I don’t have to ever spend time answering the questions that come up if I don’t. I just say all the information is on the back of the painting. I also want to make it easy for people who see my art, to find me.

And in regards to the front of your art, you no longer need to wonder what size or where to sign your art now. Your signature is just one more mark in thousands that comprises your finished art.

Just use the same sensibility when making your signature that you do in making your art. That will always make it feel and look, perfectly right.

I would love to hear your thoughts on where and when you sign your art.

Please, lets talk about this in the comments below!

Nicholas W

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Show And Tell

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Hey everyone! I just wanted to give you a little tour of what I am currently working on – it’s all work in progress, but it’s great to share.

What are you working on? If you like, post some images in the comments section – I’d love to see!

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The Color of the Sea

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865_When standing at the edge of the sea in the tropics, the water appears to be a very pale translucent, aquamarine color. The sunlight hits the white coral sand and reflects its whiteness through the water, illuminating it from below. The color is part reflection of the blue sky and part reflection of the sandy bottom. The sun sparkles on the moving surface of the water. Swimming out, feet no longer being able to touch, the waves no longer breaking, the color becomes darker. The reflected light coming from below is lessened and the sea transitions into the most extraordinary deep, deep blue.

Holding my breath and swimming down into this color, I am surrounded. It is simply a blue world. It is just blue. What is this color? Why does it make me feel so alive? There is such infinite spaciousness. This blueness reminds me of possibilities, of being ultimately free. It feels like potential. There are no boundaries. Blue is emptiness. Blue is the sky and blue is also the sea.

When my brush dips into blue and I see it arc across my painting, it always returns me to that day, swimming in the tropical sea. The color blue is a small reminder of that feeling. But blue is just one of the colors upon my palette. There are so many more. However, blue is like no other. Blue is the window out, a square of it upon a canvas conjures up deep space and invites the infinite to enter my Art. Blue is the antidote to the density, and crisscrossing of the louder, stronger colors.

All of them carry their own associations. Yellow is curt, young and not particularly caring of what others think. Deep orange always returns me to the Earth. It is celebratory and carries with it a heraldic beauty. It feels wise. Green is adventure and always, when it can get away with it, breaks from reality. It lives life on it’s own terms and listens to no one, while Red races ahead, on fire and unrestrained in all it takes on. Purple is set in its ways, ageless and cannot escape its royalty. It is all things refined, but quietly so.

These feelings, memories and underlying attributes of Color cannot simply be ignored when I paint. They spill into one another; they cancel each other out while at other times they seem agreeable and complementary to one another. They are not inclined to be together but sometimes when all seems right with the world, they fall into order, they fit seamlessly, agreeably beside one another and I am able to finally stop. The canvas has arrived. It feels complete, and like that perfect day swimming in the tropical sea, it lingers in the present for just a brief moment and then without warning it slips into memory ever so gently behind me.

This excerpt written by Nicholas Wilton recently published in the book “The Color Lab, Mixed Media for Artists”, by Deborah Forman

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Your Art Is The Answer

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864_I was so busy yesterday that I didn’t get to the studio again. I had already skipped a couple of days as there were just so many errands piling up, so many people to call back, and to make matters worse I had also run out of dog food. I noticed that my missed days were indeed piling up pretty much at the same rate as the To Dos on my list. Of course you never actually get ahead. I know I know this.

But in all this manoeuvring, all this struggling to free up time to bring art making into my day I noticed something. When you don’t make art for a while it almost gets easier to not do it at all. Missed days turn into weeks and then you realize you’ve kind of lost your groove on all of it anyway and well, you stop.  I think this happens to a lot of artists. It happens to me.

Sometimes, this can be a good thing. Sometimes it is ok to have a break in your art making. It certainly gives you time to do more things, to find and see more things that inspire you.

But so much of the time, at least for me, I see that I just exchange the time I would be making art for time spent doing rather mundane things. I can’t even remember what time I traded yesterday for my studio time. I think I finally returned running shoes that were too small. I spent the better part of an hour trying to figure out how to upgrade my iPhone’s operating system and I think I also squeezed in getting Maizy her dog food on the way home.

These kinds of things always take longer than you think they will and tend to eat up your day.

I have realized there is just one thing that can put an end to this kind of distraction. There is only one thing that seems to work.

And it is this:

You just have to stop and do a little tiny bit of art. For yourself. It can be just 20 minutes but for some reason once you do, it has a way of reordering your priorities. You remember that this art thing is not a To Do, like getting kibble, but rather a break from those tasks. In fact it is not a task. It is the opposite of task.

It is an awakening where you plunge into the cool, clear waters of yourself. Putting marks down with paint or pencil or however you make art simply feeds your soul. It replenishes and reminds us we have choices – infinite choices – about what we want to make. Certainly in terms of art but also, in no small way, about our life too. Art making stokes the fire within all of us. It shifts our thinking into possibilities; curiosity of what could be ahead and begins to instill hope, again, within us.

Art making is simply an act of Faith. And when we do it, even in the smallest increments of time, we receive restoration. Restoration of who we are.

Outside of the endless to do lists and the busyness of our lives, Art making is part of the deeper answer that we often are too busy to ask.

It is the Yes.

Our art is just waiting, ever so patiently, for our return. We just must begin, in any small way we can. Again.

 

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Help Yourself and Teach

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869_I thought I had to have everything figured out before I could teach. I thought I had to be an expert, so I waited a long time before I started teaching. I wish I hadn’t.

There are some great reasons to teach especially if you are creative. Here are the top 3 reasons why you might give teaching a try.

It helps you.

That’s right. After every workshop I teach I can always look forward to coming back to the studio and being super clear about what I am doing. Spending time articulating to students over and over again how to improve their art, rubs off on you. When you go back to your own art, things just seem easier. By saying what needs to be done so much, when it comes time for you to finally make your art it just flows.

It helps them.

It always is a great day when you hear from someone who, months after taking a class of yours, has become fired up again about their art. Sometimes I have even had people switch their careers once they find out that art making is an option for them. I have seriously converted 3 lawyers and I am now working on my fourth! Inspiring people is a totally worthwhile thing to try to do. It simply feels great. For you and them.

You are ready.

If you were like me who thought I had to be so advanced, so totally together to teach, then listen carefully. You don’t. All you need to be is just a little further down the road than the people you are helping. There are tons of artists that are further along than you but I bet there are way more behind you. And those are the people who would love to be shown some easier ways around things that you have already overcome. Sometimes we forget just how far we have come. You are eligible.

I find that teaching is the perfect complement to working in a studio alone. Teaching a group is the opposite of working quietly alone and when you put those two together in your life it just works beautifully…

So give it a try. Start small. Take one thing, one part of art making you really love and offer a class. Think of one thing you now know that made all the difference in the world to you…this could be the thing you could teach others.

You might be surprised how gratifying it is to teach. It certainly has been for me.

What is that one thing that you recently learned that has really helped you? Could you teach this?

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Take A Break

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After working on a painting for about 3 hours, I find that the marks don’t come as easily, and it becomes more and more difficult to know where to go next. Fortunately I’ve discovered a little trick for getting around this issue. Watch the video to learn what it is.

How do you deal with creative roadblock?

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