Through the month of March, I’ve been working on the #indexcardartproject with two of my Instagram friends – @mishwooderson and @openfieldmercantile . It’s been such a great exercise for me in a lot of ways and I thought I would share my thoughts and takeaways so far.
First off, if you want to get into art in any capacity, a project like this is a great way to do it. It’s a commitment to consistency, not to creating anything great or frame-worthy. It’s about learning through putting pencil-to-paper so to speak. And, with just 17 cards done, I have already learned a lot. Here are five of the areas where I feel like I’ve grown the most.
one | shapes
I’m learning to focus on the larger shapes of a subject. I seem to be able to do this with certain things, but I get bogged down with the details on others. Since I’m approaching each card with the idea that it’s okay for the work to be unrefined and unfinished, I’m okay with a tree being represented with just a blob or two or three colors. Then, the magic of paint and our own incredible human eye work together to make a tree of it. It’s teaching me that I don’t need to overdo it in the detail department.
two | color
I have been going out on a limb with a lot of the colors I’ve been using and it’s been liberating. From the beginning, I was mixing colors on my palette that I would want to use in a home decor application. While that approach can be helpful if I’m painting a piece to fit in a specific room, it can be counterproductive if I want the painting to have a sense of reality at all. While I’m not going for photorealism or anything even close to that, I want the colors to feel appropriate for the subject. I’m learning to add more reds and pinks and browns to my favorite green, blue, and white color palette. And just how it does when you add warm wood to a room or a touch of copper, it makes the cooler colors pop.
I’m also pushing the colors more…darker, lighter, brighter, more vibrant. Pushing my limits helps me discover where they are. Oh, that was too far for me or wow, this worked!
three | composition
I’ve been reading a book on composition and have been trying different ideas in my landscape paintings. I am learning a lot about what makes an interesting painting, what leads the eye, and what fits with my personal tastes. I think I was a little lazy about studying composition because I learned all about it as I was studying photography. While many of the concepts are the same, they are totally different art forms. What makes a great picture doesn’t necessarily make a great painting.
Taking the time to be a student of composition has improved my work already.
four | not being afraid of white
In so many books I’ve read about painting, the author reiterates how adding white to greens makes them chalky. I took that as “don’t do it.” But, as I’ve been playing with color and as I’ve been studying some of the impressionists, I am feeling free to add more and more white. I’m going through tubes of white at a ridiculous rate now. I’ve already been buying large tubes, but I think I might need to buy it in cans.
And I’m finding all of these lovely soft greens that I was afraid to mix before because I thought it was “wrong”.
five | contrast
Contrast and value are other areas I’ve coasted in for a while. I have developed my eye through photography and decorating to notice contrasts and the way high contrast adds drama and low contrast is soft and gentler on the eyes. But I’m recognizing how much more mindful I need to be about contrasts and values in painting. I’m enjoying exploring those areas in these little paintings, especially in the skies and clouds.
I haven’t had a lot of time to work on larger painting projects over the past few weeks, but I have completed a couple of landscapes and cows applying these lessons so far…
I hung the landscapes in my 1/2 bathroom (on my mom’s insistence that I hang one of my own paintings in my house), but the originals of the cows will be for sale soon. All four of these are available in prints and other products on Society6, though. You can check them out HERE.