More Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

Some time ago, I wrote a fun post called 12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils. Today, I thought I’d list a few more reasons to love colored pencils.

More Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

More Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

All Those New Pencils

Colored pencils have come a long way since I started using them in the mid 1990s. New brands have entered the market. When I started there was only Prismacolor (so far as I knew.) Now beginners can chose from dozens of brands.

And yes, most of them work well with all the others.

New Drawing Surfaces

Pencils aren’t the only things being updated and improved. Drawing surfaces continue to develop too.

As of the writing of this post, Brush & Pencil has launched a brand new, fully archival sanded art paper that takes sanded art paper to a new level. Lux Archival is the latest product from this artist-run company and it’s getting rave reviews.

New Accessory Products

New products are now available that make painting with colors pencils more like painting with colored pencils. I refer, of course, to Brush & Pencil’s texture fixative, which is sprayed over a work in progress to restore tooth. Back in the day, there was only workable fixative and it was usually unsatisfactory.

And you simply can’t beat Titanium white mixture for adding bright white highlights to colored pencil.

Actually, Brush & Pencil has become one more reason to love colored pencils for a lot of artists. Their fully archival line of products transformed colored pencils in a big way.

(No, this isn’t a sponsored post. It’s just Brush & Pencil has developed so many great new products in the last few years that it’s impossible not to find one that excites you!)

Exploration is Easier

And usually more fun, too.

I’m not sure why that is. All those years (over 40) that I created horse portraits in oils, portrait work is about all I did. I had no interest in landscapes, still life paintings, or just playing with the paint. About the only time I did anything different was when I got so disgusted with a piece that I slapped paint all over it and made an abstract out of it.

But put a colored pencil in my hand, and all that changes!

In the last few years, I’ve drawn a still life or two, food, and fabric. I’ve drawn from life (something else I never felt the need to do with oils.)

I’ve even dabbled with mixed media by doing watercolor under paintings!

It’s Easier to Have Fun

It’s also easier to just have fun with colored pencils. I do understand that. It was next to impossible to carry oil paints, brushes, and cleaner with me all the time. Painting was always in the studio, so it was always work.

But I keep a few pencil stubs in my purse all the time and also have a field kit that’s more completely stocked. That means I can draw wherever I happen to be, and that makes it fun!

There’s So Much Great Colored Pencil Art Out There

Finally (for today,) there are so many wonderful artists creating great colored pencil art that it’s easy to be motivated to create my own. Subjects are as varied as the artists and so are their drawing methods. There’s always something to learn from each one, and that’s the most exciting reason of all to love colored pencils.

So there are a few more reasons to love colored pencils.

What are some of your reasons for loving colored pencils?

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A Message of Encouragement to My Readers

Today, I want to take a little time to share a message of encouragement with my readers; with you.

I don’t usually talk about current events here, because that’s not what this space is for.

I didn’t intend to talk about the present situation either. There’s already more than enough talk, and much if it is not helpful. I didn’t want to add to the hype, and I still don’t.

But I’ve been reading your emails and comments, and have decided it’s time to at least let you know I’m getting your messages and well wishes.

A Message of Encouragement to My Readers 2

Thank you to everyone who has asked about our well being over the last few weeks and who continue to do so.

We’re doing fine and have actually seen very little change to our daily routine (other than shopping, of course.) I’ve been working at home for ten years, after all.

As a matter of fact, Neal and I have been busier than ever despite what’s happening around us and around the world. We’re both old enough to understand that nothing lasts forever, good or bad. The only thing to do is keep moving forward.

That may seem difficult these days, but it’s worth however much effort it takes.

My Message of Encouragement to You

I don’t know how bad this situation really is. I believe very few people truly know that. It’s next to impossible to accurately evaluate any situation when you’re in the middle of it. I know that from personal experience—recent and past.

It’s also difficult to maintain any sense of equilibrium during any kind of crisis. It seems like the situation will never end, and that life will never be the same afterward.

But nothing lasts forever. Not good times, not bad times.

And, all media hype aside, there have definitely been much darker days in this country (I’m writing from the United States,) and around the world. The fact of the matter is that for many people, the Coronavirus has taken a backseat to more personal life events.

There have been challenges for many of us in the last few weeks. Yes, some of us have lost loved ones or have loved ones who test positive. I have a niece, nephew, and sister working in healthcare, two of them in retirement facilities. My niece has been exposed, so I know how that feels.

But unreasonable fear does no one any good, least of all the one enslaved by it.

It’s in response to that overwhelming sense that the world is about to end that I am writing.

Things have been bad before.

You don’t have to go back very far to remember the Swine Flu, the Bird Flu, and any number of other seasonal flu events. It seems like there’s a new one every year.

Go back a little further and you find the Irish Flu and Spanish Flu, both of which were much worse than what we presently face.

Things looked bad then, but they passed and life resumed.

Things look bad now, but this too will pass and life will pick up pretty much where it left off.

My message to my readers is that few things are ever as bad as they seem at the time, and that there is hope.

So What’s the Bottom Line?

What I hope you realize is that this post isn’t about the Coronavirus. It’s about staying on an even keel and holding course no matter what happens.

Yes. Take reasonable precautions.

No, don’t let panic drag you under.

What I Plan to Do

Take Reasonable Precautions

That includes staying home, but also getting outside to walk and get some sun, washing my hands regularly, and guarding personal space for myself and the people around me.

Listen to Local Authorities

When I want or need information, I go to the local authorities. City and county first, then the state if necessary. If you need or want more information than that, skip the mainstream media and check out the Center for Disease Control for the latest updates in the United States.

Maintain the Regular Routine

I’m carrying on here in southwest Kansas just like I did before.

CP Magic will continue to publish each month.

I’ll publish new downloadable classes and tutorials to help you improve your skills and maybe learn new ones.

I’ll draw as often as I can, and I’ll take care of the family, the cats, take walks, and putter around the yard. I’m even considering some kind of sketching challenge to keep my pencils moving across the paper.

Trust God

The most important message of encouragement I can offer is to have (or come to) faith.

The most important part of my daily routine is faith-based. On trying or frightening days, I spend more time in prayer, thanksgiving, and the Scriptures. My trust that God was not surprised by this situation (or any other,) that there is a reason for it (even though I don’t know what it is,) and that He has already ordained the restoration of life afterward is all that stands between me and total paralysis.

It’s all that keeps me putting one foot ahead of the other.

It can do the same for you, too.

That’s my Message of Encouragement for You, Dear Reader

What I’m encouraging you to do is be aware of the circumstances, but don’t let them paralyze you. Take reasonable precautions. Behave sensibility. Keep your head.

And keep creating.

I recently wrote a more in-depth article on this subject for EmptyEasel. If you want more specific tips, read 3 Tips for Artists on How to Survive this Crisis and prepare for the end of it.

Because there is an end and I believe it is in sight.

Colored Pencil Art Galleries at CarrieLewis.com

I’ve doing a lot of updates and behind-the-scenes administrative work this year. You know about some of them already. CP Magic, for instance. Among the many things you haven’t heard about is creating new colored pencil art galleries on my art website.

New Colored Pencil Art Galleries

New Colored Pencil Art Galleries

It’s been a busy time the last few months, both on this blog and in other ways. In the last few weeks, I’ve launched a new monthly magazine, a new series of colored pencil class downloads, and started plans for new tutorials.

But I’ve also re-organized existing galleries and added three new galleries on my art website, where I share my best colored pencil work.

The reorganized website now includes galleries for Kansas, Michigan, the Flint Hills, and Horses. No surprise there.

But I’ve also added a gallery for Miniature Art and ACEOs, for Sketches in Colored Pencil, and for Experimental Art.

Miniature Art/ACEO Gallery

Miniature art, and in particular ACEOs, have intrigued me since I first learned about them over ten years ago. In 2007, I challenged myself to paint one ACEO every day for a year. Some of those pieces will someday appear in this gallery.

But the pieces you’re more likely to find there are more than quick studies. They may be experiments, but they’re also complete pieces in their own right. Small studies of larger landscapes or other subjects, perhaps.

Or a means of using small pieces of expensive drawing paper.

New Art Galleries - The Miniature Art/ACEO gallery.
Flint Hills Study, 3-1/2 inches by 2-1/2 inches. One of the new works in the Miniature Art/ACEO Gallery.

Sketches in Colored Pencil Gallery

These works are either life drawings or sketches from a photograph. Sometimes, they even arise from my imagination or memory. They’re meant to be completed in one sitting, so are small, and often use only one or two colors.

They also aren’t usually highly detailed, but are still nice pieces deserving of a place in a public gallery.

So I made a gallery just for them!

Tree Study 2019 4, 5 inches by 4 inches. A sample of the images you’ll find in the Sketches in Colored Pencil Gallery.

Experimental Art Gallery

Sometimes, I want to try a new method, technique or tool, but don’t want to try it on a “serious” piece.

Sometimes, I just want to have fun.

In both cases, I use small pieces of paper to conduct my experiments. This gallery is still small, but you may be surprised by what you find there. Even though this gallery features the best of those pieces, they’re not easily recognizable as my work.

At least I don’t think so. You may think differently.

Purple and Blue Landscape 2019 1, 5 inches by 4 inches. One of a series of pieces created while experimenting with watercolor pencils and night-time compositions.

As with all of art, my art galleries are always changing. I’ll be uploading new work and the best of my old work over the course of the year, so I hope you’ll visit www.CarrieLewis.com often.

The Challenges of Being an Artist

Time for another artist interview. This month, CP Magic is talking art with Carrie Lewis, discussing some of the challenges of being an artist.

The Challenges of Being an Artist: Talking Art with Carrie Lewis

Carrie has been painting and drawing since she was old enough to hold a crayon. In the late 1990s, she began doing more colored pencil work, which is now her primary medium.

She blogs regularly about all things colored pencil, and publishes the monthly e-zine for colored pencil artists, CP Magic.

She’s currently in the process of designing a new course.

Carrie is the featured artist for the March 2020 issue of CP Magic, where she talked at length about her art story, as well as presenting a landscape tutorial on Pastelmat.

For this post, Carrie talks about the things that have given her the most challenges as a full-time artist.

The Challenges of Being an Artist

CPM: Thank you for agreeing to share a little bit about what it’s like to be an artist. How long have you been an artist?

Carrie: I don’t remember ever not being an artist. I have a photo of a drawing I did in crayon on the bottom of a dresser drawer, but I don’t know how old I was at the time. The earliest drawing I have was drawn when I was 7-1/2 years old.

CPM: And you’ve been doing art ever since?

Carrie: Pretty much, other than two periods when I stopped. I’d say I’ve spent fifty years (more or less) making art. Mostly horse portraits, but some for myself, too.

CPM: And are you full-time now?

Carrie: As full-time as possible with so many other things also going on. To be more specific, I’ve not had an outside job since August 2009.

CPM: So you’ve been making art more than enough time to encounter some of the challenges of being an artist.

Carrie: Oh, yes! Even before I went full-time, I encountered challenges. Some types of difficulties were the same in both parts of my art life, but some where unique to each part of the journey.

Chestnut Morgan Mixed Media

The Biggest Challenge of Being an Artist

CPM: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced when it comes to art.

Carrie: That’s easy! Making time for creating.

I used to say “finding” time to make art, but then I realized that I had the same amount of time every day. Twenty-four hours. The trick was making the time for art by letting something else go.

CPM: Does that really work?

Carrie: Absolutely. When my husband and I decided by mutual agreement to unplug the television set many, many years ago, productive time suddenly seemed to expand. It may not seem like much, but an hour a night spent drawing instead of watching TV speeds up the drawing process significantly.

Even if someone gave up just one night of television, that’s an extra one to three hours of art time a week.

If they stopped TV altogether, like we did, that’s a week full of evenings to draw. Imagine what you could do with five to fifteen extra hours a week, not counting weekends.

Rainy Day on Mustang Ridge

The trick to making the time for art is letting something else go.

The Most Surprising Challenge of Being an Artist

CPM: What was the most surprising difficulty about becoming a full-time artist?

Carrie: It was quite a shock to discover that I couldn’t paint or draw eight hours a day!

You see, I’d always had to work around a full-time job. The job was necessary to pay the bills and support the art habit. I’d been successful painting portraits most of that time, and was able to do one a month around my work and family schedule.

But when I became a full-time artist, I really expected to double or triple production. It would be easy! I’d just have several pieces in progress at the same time. I was doing oils then, and would move from one painting to the next while the others dried.

So it was something of a stunner to discover I had, at best, five hours of productive creative time in me. After that, the battery ran dry. Most days, I could work four hours before running out of energy, no matter how many paintings were in progress.

Creating is a very mental exercise and if you work standing as I did and often still do, it’s also physically taxing.

Christmas Tree-O

The Most Persistent Challenge for the Artist

CPM: What challenge has been the most difficult to overcome?

Carrie: As a one-artist-show, there are also other things to do. Blogging. Bookkeeping. Inventory control. Customer fulfillment. Marketing. It’s all my responsibility. Until I’m making enough to hire someone to do some of those things, I have to do them.

In one way, I haven’t really given up the “outside job,” because I consider all of those things to be my day job. I just don’t have to leave home to do it.

The real difficulty is not that they have to be done. That’s just a fact of life if I want to earn a living with my work (which I do.) The real difficulty is that I so often find myself back in the position of having so little time for creating art.

And I can’t give up TV, because we’ve already done that!

Siesta Time

CPM: LOL, I hear you on that.

Thank you to Carrie for being so open about the challenges of being an artist.

Thank you, Reader, as well. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. You can read more about Carrie and her life as an artist in the March 2020 issue of CP Magic. She’s also provided a stunning and dramatic landscape drawn on dark Pastelmat.

I'm on the Sharpened Artist Podcast!

Guess what? I’m appearing on John Middick’s popular Sharpened Artist podcast today! How exciting is that?

Colore Pencil Podcast

Cincinnati, Ohio artist, John Middick created the Sharpened Artist Podcast in the summer of 2015. A weekly audio show dedicated to colored pencil, the podcast reaches artists of all skill levels across the country and around the world.

“The biggest reason I started the podcast is to help encourage new colored pencil artists, and provide tips and techniques to learn this new medium,” Middick says. “I was also able to give a voice to many colored pencil artists through artist interviews.”

Middick interviews colored pencil artists who are working on their art in isolation. The public sees their work and knows them by name, but rarely gets to meet them. And they don’t often get to meet each other.

“Hearing their voice created an intimate experience for the listener,” Middick goes on to say. “I quickly started getting listeners emailing me talking about how they felt like they were getting to know the artist’s behind the artwork.”

I am the guest artist for the February 3, 2020 edition of the Sharpened Artist Podcast.

I’ve listened to the podcast for a long time, and have been encouraged and instructed by many episodes. So it’s a special treat to be able to give back to the podcast and its listeners.

John and I talked about my artistic journey, colored pencils in general, and the artist’s life. I hope you’ll join us. I’ve designed a very special and hopefully helpful giveaway to accompany the podcast.

Prismacolor Colors I Use Most Often

There’s been a lot of discussion on this blog about the best pencils to use and the best colors to use. Most of the discussion has been about issues with fading. So I thought I’d start 2020 by sharing with you the Prismacolor colors I use and why I use them.

I’m very particular about the colors I use. As a portrait artist and an artist interested in selling my work, I want buyers to get the most for their money. The idea of selling a piece at any price and having it fade away in any length of time is not a pleasant idea.

The Prismacolor Colors I Use (and When I Use Them)

Yes. I know there’s no way to make most things 100% permanent. Even granite wears away.

But I can select supplies to help my work last as long as possible. Consequently, I’m careful about the colors I choose. They must fit my subjects (landscapes and animals,) AND be as lightfast is humanly possible. It doesn’t matter what brand I use, every color must meet these two qualifications.

That usually means I work with a limited palette. That’s definitely the case with Prismacolor pencils.

The Prismacolor Colors I Use (and When I Use Them)

Prismacolor rates their pencils on a scale of 1 to 5 based on American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) D6901 standards. Each pencil is labeled with a Roman numeral to indicate its lightfast rating. Roman Numeral I equals 1, Roman Numeral II equals 2, Roman Numeral III equals 3, Roman Numeral IV equals 4, and Roman Numeral V equals 5.

I (1) is the highest rating. V (5) is the lowest.

I do not use Category III (3), IV (4) or V (5) colors for anything but fun stuff, sketching, blog illustrations, or anything else for which the drawing does not need to be archival.

But this is an entirely personal choice on my part. A lot of artists whose work I respect use every color available to them, so the final choice is yours.

Prismacolor Soft Core Colors Rated I (57 colors)

These are the most lightfast colors Prismacolor produces. They are rated as Excellent and “exhibit no appreciable color change after being exposed to the appropriate equivalence of 100 years of indoor museum lighting.” American Society of Testing and Materials., D6901 Standard

The important phrase is “indoor museum lighting.” It not only includes the type of lighting artwork is exposed to, but the framing materials used. Proper framing, including UV resistant glazing, helps preserve artwork.

It’s also important to let clients and buyers know they should not display artwork in direct sunlight for any length of time.

ASTM D6901 indicates that these colors can be used on artwork meant to be displayed outdoors, but I’m not sure I’d go that far. Any artwork displayed outdoors is more likely to fade more quickly than artwork in museum conditions.

Fifty-seven colors are Category I colors, but I don’t use all of them. My go-to colors are:

Browns

Artichoke, Beige, Bronze, Burnt Ochre, Chocolate, Dark Brown, Dark Umber, Goldenrod, Light Umber, Mineral Orange, Sandbar Brown, Sepia, Sienna Brown, Terra Cotta, and Yellow Ochre.

Greens & Blues

Dark Green, Green Ochre, Jade Green, Kelly Green, Parrot Green, Peacock Green, and Yellow Chartreuse. Powder Blue.

Reds

Black Cherry, Black Raspberry, and Crimson Lake.

Yellows

Lemon Yellow, Nectar, and Spanish Orange.

Pinks

Light Peach.

I also have a full complement of cool greys, warm greys, and French Greys but don’t use them very much.

These colors are used with almost everything I draw. They produce natural looking landscapes and are perfect for drawing realistic scenes and animals.

Category I Prismacolor Colors I Use

I don’t use all of the Category I colors because they don’t fit my palette, but there are several new colors I hope to try this year. Some of the new earth tones are especially tantalizing.

Prismacolor Soft Core Colors Rated II (26 colors)

ASTM D6901 standards categorize these colors as Very Good, and suitable for fine art uses where the artwork will be displayed indoors. They are not suitable for any work displayed outdoors, or anywhere in which exposure to high levels of UV light is possible.

No direct sunlight, in other words.

There are 26 Category II colors, but my palette is currently limited to about half that number, as follows:

Browns

Beige Sienna, Chestnut, Cream, Ginger Root, Pumpkin Orange, and Sand.

Greens & Blues

Chartreuse, Grass Green, Kelp Green, Olive Green, and True Green. Indigo Blue, Mediterranean Blue, and Slate Grey.

Reds

Black Grape, Crimson Red, and Scarlet Lake.

Yellows

Jasmine

Pinks

Peach.

Category II Prismacolor Colors I Use

As with Category I colors, there are some Category II colors I don’t use.

And as I add other brands of pencils to my stash, Category II colors will become fewer and fewer. Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils include several good matches for Prismacolor Category II pencils, so I now use those before reaching for any Category II Prismacolor. I can see the day coming when I no longer need Category II colors.

The yellows, greens, and blues are used as needed on landscapes and, less frequently, animal portraits.

The Bottom Line

I’ve discovered over the years that I can do almost everything I want to do with Prismacolor Category I colors. Those generally more muted colors are enough to draw most animals and landscapes.

The Category II colors are a nice supplement, but unless I’m drawing a still life (which doesn’t happen often,) or adding bright accents to a landscape or portrait, I don’t need them. Since most of my subjects don’t require bright colors, there’s simply no need for a lot of bright colors in my pencil box.

When combined with other brands such as Polychromos, Derwent and others, the Prismacolor Category I colors provide an excellent color base.

Does this mean you can’t use all of Prismacolor’s colors? No. Deciding which colors to use and which to avoid is as personal a choice as deciding which brands of pencils to use.

A complete list of Prismacolor Category I and II colors is available as a free, PDF download, so you can print it and take it with you on your next in-store shopping list. The list downloads automatically, so check your download file if it doesn’t open for you when you click on the link.

Why I Switched from Oils to Colored Pencils

Jana wants to know why I switched from oils to colored pencils, and if I’ve noticed one sells better than the other? Here are Jana’s questions.

Hi Carrie, 

These are business related questions instead of technical ones, so if you choose not to use them on your December questions posts, I will understand. 

1. Why did you switch to colored pencil from oils? I ask this because I went the opposite direction.

2. Do your colored pencil pieces sell as well as your oils did? 

Your blog with all its tips and helps is so interesting to me because you reinforce much of what I tell my drawing students. Since I teach primarily how to draw with pencil, it is only my more advanced students who go to colored pencil, so I read your blog to be sure I am not leading anyone astray. (It has been about 15 years since I was active in the CPSA or used colored pencils other than as accents to my graphite.)

Thank you for your thoroughness and clarity. 

Blessings, Jana

Thank you for your question, Jana. I don’t mind answering business questions at all.

Why I Switched from Oils to Colored Pencils

Why I Switched from Oils to Colored Pencils

I’ve addressed this subject more than once in the past, including a similar question earlier this month. But I wanted to answer this question because it also includes a question about sales.

And every artist trying to turn their artwork into money wants to know about sales!

I switched from oil painting to colored pencils for two main reasons, with about twenty years between the the first reason and the second.

Chapter 1: Convenience

For over forty years, I painted portraits of horses. I was an oil painter because that’s the medium I learned as a preteen and teen. By the time I sold my first portrait at 17-years-old, I’d already been painting for several years. Continuing to oil paint was never a question. I often told people I’d retire when I fell face down in my palette!

Image by Katya36 from Pixabay

Part of my marketing strategy (if you care to use such lofty terms) was attending horse shows and trade shows. Michigan hosted two big shows every year. The Lansing Stallion Expo in March and the North American Horse Spectacular in Novi every November. For many years, I attended both with a collection of paintings and drawings, but my primary goal was lining up portrait work.

I saw artists working at those shows and thought it would be cool, but oil paints are such a nuisance to travel with. They pack all right if you don’t take everything in the studio, but working on a painting in public is risky, and getting wet paintings home safely is no picnic either.

So in the 1990s I started looking for another medium that traveled better. I wanted something that could produce oil painting-like results, high levels of detail, gorgeous color, AND was easy to transport and use on location. Pastels were out because I’d already tried those and disliked them, so colored pencils were the only choice.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

I intended to continue oil painting. Colored pencils gave me a second medium to offer clients, but I really preferred to work in oils.

Most clients chose oils, but some preferred colored pencils. One couple even opted for watercolor colored pencils. Talk about a step outside my comfort zone!

Chapter 2: Changing Focus

Eventually, portrait work tailed off. I think the move to Kansas had a lot to do with that. Most of my clients were from Michigan and I had been active with the Michigan Harness Horseman’s Association since the second year it hosted a benefit art auction. Many clients purchased their first portraits there and some of them became repeat customers.

Kansas isn’t that far away from Michigan, but it was too far to make the trip to the MHHA auction every January. I continued participating, but by long distance. Then they canceled the auction.

After that, it didn’t seem to matter what I did, I couldn’t sell a portrait to save my life. The last portrait was completed in 2016. An oil portrait for which there’s a moving story. But still the last portrait.

Back then, colored pencils were just starting to catch on, thanks to adult coloring books. I enjoyed them. They were a lot easier to manage in my studio (which is one corner of what should be the dining room,) and they were still portable. My husband played in the Wichita Community Band and I could take pieces to work on during weekly practices.

So colored pencils became my primary medium.

Long Story Short

(I know. Too late for that, isn’t it?)

A decision that began as a matter of convenience became a matter of finding a marketing niche twenty years later. Simple as that.

I haven’t completely given up on oil painting. I still love the process, the colors, the results, and even the smells. But let’s be honest. With cats and kittens in the house, it just doesn’t make sense to try oil painting!

Maybe some day I’ll get back to it.

That’s why I switched from oils to colored pencils. Now about selling original art….

Oil Painting Versus Colored Pencils in Art Sales

The other part of Jana’s question is about sales. Have I noticed one medium outselling the other?

The cold hard truth is that my originals aren’t selling. At all. Any of them.

It’s been a couple of years since I sold original work and those were mostly ACEOs through eBay. Most of those were oil paintings, but mostly because that’s what most of my ACEOs were.

Why I switched from oils to colored pencils.
Even though my primary focus is now teaching colored pencils, I do have a website dedicated to marketing original artwork and promoting portrait work. In both oils and colored pencils.

Now, before you begin feeling sad for me, let me add that my work doesn’t sell because, quite frankly, I don’t market it!

Yes, I have a website dedicated to my original art, but the main focus of my studio business is teaching and that’s the bulk of marketing energies go.

If I spent just half the time marketing original art that I do marketing this blog, I’d probably have sales.

And then I could answer your question more positively!

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When You Get Tired of Drawing Your Favorite Subjects

Be honest. Have you ever gotten tired of drawing your favorite subjects?

Everybody has something they love drawing. That subject is their go-to subject. It comes above every other subject they might ever consider drawing.

Some artists love still life art and assembling the elements of a still life is as much fun and making the art.

Others are drawn to animals and prefer pet portraits or wildlife art.

Still others specialize in human portraits or landscapes or urban scenes.

When You Get Tired of Drawing Your Favorite Subjects

There’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone is born with special interests and everyone gains life experiences that sharpen those interests or introduce new interests.

But what happens when you grow tired of drawing your favorite subject?

When You Get Tired of Drawing Your Favorite Subjects

Don’t be like me when that happens! You’ll end up stifling your creativity!

You see, I’ve been doing horse portraits for forty years or more. For most of that time, I thought I’d never do anything else. I saw no need to. I loved the look of horses, their long manes and tails, the way they moved and even the way they smelled. What else did I need?

Then came my first look at the Flint Hills of Kansas and all of a sudden, the idea of doing landscape art leaped into my mind.

Tired of Drawing Your Favorite Subjects? You may be on the brink of discovering a new favorite.
This is one of my favorite views of the Flint Hills, and the one I’ve tried most often to capture in art. I have photos of it from almost every season. The only thing I lack is a thunderstorm shot and a snowy shot.

At first, I resisted it. I wasn’t a landscape artist; I was a horse artist.

Then I decided to pair my horses with landscapes. That made sense, after all. Horses are part of the landscape around here. A big part.

That idea produced a couple of nice colored pencil pieces, but no more.

Afternoon Graze is the best of two colored pencil pieces pairing my previous love (horses) with my new love (landscapes.) I haven’t given up on this idea, but I confess to being drawn more to the landscape than the horses these days.

Since then, I’ve struggled to draw anything.

Yes, there are lots of fun pieces resulting from experimenting with my first set of artist quality watercolor pencils or new papers. And there have demonstration pieces for blog posts and tutorials.

But what I call “serious art” has dwindled to the point that it’s now been nearly a year since my last finished piece!

So what’s going on?

I haven’t really given that much thought because I have been busy doing other things. Things that need doing like writing and designing tutorials and improving the weekly newsletter.

I’ve also started writing a book based on the best posts from this blog. So it’s not like I’ve been sitting on my thumbs waiting for inspiration.

But a few days ago, a radical thought popped into my awareness.

Why am I waiting for inspiration to make another horse drawing when what I really want to do is a landscape?

You know, when you’re an artist, that’s one of those thoughts that pretty much stops everything in its tracks! You cannot not give it serious consideration.

I look across the room as I write these words and I see the line drawing of Thomas clipped to the sample of Clairfontaine pastelmat.

The finished line drawing for a portrait of Thomas, our oldest cat, recently deceased.

I received the sample this summer but didn’t know what to do with it until after Thomas had passed to the other side.

Now, I have the following dialogue with myself every time I look at the drawing.

“I wonder how that paper would work with a landscape?”

“No. That paper’s meant for Thomas’ portrait!”

And then I remember that stunning thought from a few days ago.

Maybe it’s time to move on.

I still haven’t taken that line drawing off the Pastelmat, but the idea grows more appealing every day.

And yet, I waiver between wanting to keep doing what I’ve always done because, well, that’s what I’ve always done and doing something I want to do more right now. It’s difficult to let go of old habits even when there’s the possibility the letting go isn’t permanent.

I hope you’ll forgive my rambling this way, but I know that when I struggle this much with something, there are others out there wrestling with the same dilemma.

That’s perfectly all right! It’s part of the growth process in life and in art.

So what should you do when you get tired of drawing your favorite subjects?

If you’re torn between making another drawing of a subject that’s been a personal favorite for years (or decades) and doing something new, don’t fret. It’s not unnatural. It may instead be a sign of growth.

Let go of that old habit and try your hand at the new idea. Maybe it won’t go anywhere, but maybe it will. Maybe you’ll discover a new Old Favorite. At the very least, you may discover ways to improve on drawing that Old Favorite.

That’s what I’m going to do.

Let’s try it together and see what happens, shall we?

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Tips for New Artists

I know from reading emails and answering your questions that there are a lot of new artists in my audience. So I thought it would be a good idea to share a few basic tips for new artists; the sort of things I wish someone had told me decades ago!

Tips for New Artists

Tips for New Artists

1. Be prepared to persevere.

The real secret to success is getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, plain and simple.

The world doesn’t owe you a living.

Neither do the people around you. You may be the most talented artist since Rembrandt, but even he had to persevere.

2. Develop a thick skin.

From the first piece of art you make to the last, there will be critics.

You have to learn to deal with people who criticize your work, your methods, your marketing… probably even you. They are as much a fact of life as the sun rising in the east. Learn not to internalize it.

Tips for New Artists - Develop a Thick Skin

3. Learn to learn from criticism.

Some of the criticism may be warranted, so you can’t automatically discard it all, but learn to be gracious.

Analyze criticism at face value and glean the comments that will improve your skills as an artist, and in dealing with people (and let’s face it, most of us like nothing better than to shut ourselves up and make art!)

4. Draw (or paint) every day.

Don’t fall into the habit of thinking you need to wait for inspiration to strike before you make art.

Don’t accept the lie that you need large chunks of time, either.

I’ve lived both and know they are not true.

The best way to be an artist is to make art. Every day. Whether you feel like it or not. Whether you have the time or not. Even if it’s just a few minutes to doodle on a napkin, make use of it. Nothing is more discouraging than waking up one morning and realizing it’s been a year since the last time you made art.

5. Set goals.

You’re probably as tired of hearing this as I used to be. Get over it. I had to and when I did, I learned just how valuable goals can be. And easy.

Start small. A sketch a day, maybe.

If a time goal works better, set a time goal. Just make sure you’re drawing for that five or ten or 60 minutes each day and not doing Facebook or the on-line crossword puzzle. They DO NOT count as making art.

I’m sorry to report that one of my favorite activities (browsing Pixabay) also doesn’t count as making art!

Tips for New Artists - Set Goals

6. Develop a system to monitor goals.

Try a calendar with big squares. Jot a few words about what you did each day.

Or try a white board list, or even a text document or piece of paper.

Decide on your goal for the week or month, then decide what you need to do each day to reach that goal. For each day you make art, record the amount of time you spent or what you drew. You’ll be surprised how quickly it adds up.

7. Don’t let your goals rule you.

You may be thinking this is a contradiction. It’s not. Life happens. There will be some days when, despite your best planning and intentions, you just can’t draw or paint. Don’t let it stress you out. That’s part of the reason I like weekly and monthly goals in addition to daily goals. If you miss a day, you can make it up somewhere else and the weekly or monthly goals provide the incentive to do so.

8. Have fun.

Whether you make art for personal pleasure or as a livelihood, have fun.

For some, making art will become like a job and will require you treat it like a job, maintaining regular hours and behaving like your own employee. Try not to lose sight of the joy of art. The reason it drew you in the first place. Take time to nurture that, to grow it as you grow your career or hobby.

You won’t regret it.

Those are my tips for new artists. What can you add to the list?

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Every Artist’s Life is an Adventure

Have you stopped to think about how much of an adventure the artist’s life really is?

You haven’t?

Let me see if I can change your mind!

Every Artist's Life is an Adventure

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

Gandalf, The Hobbit

You don’t need to be a Hobbit or a wizard to have an adventure.

The plain, simple truth is that if you’re drawing breath right now—and I hope you are—you’re also on an adventure. It’s called Life.

And if you happen to also be an artist—and the chances are good that you are, since you’re reading this post—then the adventure is doubly exciting.

How My Artist’s Life is an Adventure

My adventure began years ago, when I picked up my first crayon and made my first mark on whatever it was (a wall or something of that nature if I remember correctly).

I’ve loved to draw for as long as I can remember. I’ve been painting since my preteen years and have been painting portraits of horses for paying customers since I was seventeen.

From the time I sold that first portrait, I knew I’d grow up to be a famous painter of horses, traveling the country and the world to paint the horses of wealthy horse owners.

That was my dream. My goal. My quest, if you want to put it that way.

Adventures rarely happen according to your plans

Mine was no different.

Although I always had paintings on the easel and had a number of clients, including several who bought more than one portrait, the dream just never fell into place.

I had a good small business, but not exactly what I’d envisioned. Consequently, I always had a job to keep the bills paid.

For nearly thirty years, the path of my artist’s life was a winding, up-and-down foot path through an uncharted canyon.

Every Artist's Life is an Adventure Canyon Road

What’s an adventure without the unexpected?

When I got married, my husband promised I could become a full-time artist.

Fulfilling the dream never seemed more real—or attainable—than in those days. He talked about exhibiting my art and attending horse shows more than I did.

The year after we married, we attended a huge show in Louisville on Derby Weekend. I painted a new collection for that show. That was an adventure all its own. From the moment I was accepted as an exhibitor to the moment we got back home after passing through Kansas City only hours after the biggest tornado in decades.

But being a full-time painter was more work than I imagined. It was fun, but it wasn’t as easy as I’d envisioned.

Then my husband lost his job and we spent eighteen months unemployed, facing bankruptcy, and countless other challenges. I begged God to show me what to do.

Every Artists Life is an Adventure Seeking Direction

What’s one unexpected turn without another?

God sent a job.

The director of the local art gallery called to ask if I’d like a part-time job. I thought she wanted an assistant.

She wanted a replacement.

The following 4-1/2 years were mostly good. I had a lot of fun, learned a lot of things, and had a chance to try marketing and exhibit ideas I would never have otherwise tried.

And then there was all the great art I had the privilege of exhibiting and the great artists I visited with and learned from.

In 2009, I left the gallery. My husband and I discussed my becoming a full-time artist. Could we survive on his income until I got my feet under me? He said we could. I wasn’t so sure.

Could I generate enough art income to replace a regular paycheck? He thought so. I wasn’t so sure.

For a long time, I’d been like a fledgling bird, poised on the edge of the nest, looking out (and down!) at the world and thinking about trying to fly.

The Artist's Life is an Adventure Fledgling Bird

Wanting to fly, but afraid to take that first jump.

God finally took a hand in matters. HE said “Enough dilly-dallying. You will fly. You will fly now. Off with you!” and He gave me a push I couldn’t ignore.

Back on course?

As it has turned out, the direction I was to go wasn’t the direction I’d expected.

Portrait work dropped off to nothing. In its place came a regular gig with EmptyEasel, where I’m a near-weekly contributor.

Then other artists started asking me to teach them what I know about colored pencils. Who would ever have foreseen that? I sure didn’t.

I have no regrets. None of the things that followed each of the two previous job losses followed this one. Quite the contrary, I felt like I’d been freed from the chains of the nest and set on a course that is frightening, exhilarating, and challenging all at once.

The Artist's Life is an Adventure Eagle

The chain of events from the time I picked up my first big Crayola to enrolling my most recent student and launching my most recent lesson download has been God’s way of forcing me to take huge, scary steps and go in directions I’d never considered on my own. He just had to do it in a way that left me with no doubts.

The sequence of events that followed confirm the notion. I’ve been pushed, prodded, and goaded further and further along that path.

At this point in the adventure, grand dreams painting horse portraits have been replaced by teaching others to paint horse portraits.

And landscapes and other things!

Where will all this lead?

What’s the point of sharing my artist’s life with you?

Just this.

It’s important to realize that all of life is an adventure, and that the artist’s life is also an adventure.

It’s important to begin your adventure by taking the first step, but it’s also important to realize that the first step is only the beginning.

You also need to have a goal in mind when you begin. A dream.

Expect the unexpected, and learn to work with it.

And by all means, don’t worry if the original dream turns into something else somewhere along the way.