the discipline of art

Marian ParsonsArt, Watercolors30 Comments

As someone with a degree in Musical Theatre, you would think I’ve known for a long time that art is a discipline.  I really never thought about that as I was signing into the studio for an hour of vocal scales or filling notebooks with the “inner monologue” of the latest part I was playing.  At the time, I just loved every minute of it and figured, since I was studying musical theatre, it made sense that I was doing things musical and theatre-y!  I never really viewed it as work or practice, but then again, I had loved it since I was four.

Even though I worked hard and I took practices very seriously, I didn’t really put the connection between art and discipline together until recent years.

Discipline can be an “ugh” kind of word, but in this case, it should be an encouragement.  It means that anyone can approach an art or creative endeavor knowing they can improve.  Isn’t that awesome?!  As someone who loves tip-toeing into new creative territory, I think that’s pretty awesome.

On that note, I have been practicing art a lot lately in the quiet hours after the boys are in bed.  It’s been a very busy season of life and art has been my way to destress.  I sit and focus on the painting and I don’t worry about time or due dates or laundry or grocery shopping.  It’s a little retreat.

 And in that retreat, I’m practicing.  And I’m already seeing the fruit of that practice, so I thought I would share the progression…

I used this sepia-toned picture of my Oma as my first subject.  I love her soft expression in this picture and I felt like it was relatively easy, since her mouth is closed, her face is pretty straight-on, and there aren’t a lot of shadows.

Here was my first watercolor portrait…

I painted it all in one color, Payne’s Gray, so I could focus on shapes and values and not worry about color.  It took some of the intimidation out for me.  I was really pleased with it, but I wanted to revisit the same portrait after more practice and, this time, I painted it in color…

It’s a much truer likeness and I really enjoyed working in color, which was something I was a little scared of!  I used a palette of just four colors and I learned that limiting the colors can minimize the intimidation as well.

I have made a few color wheels with different reds, blues, and yellows and I chose to work with the softest palette – Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, and Cerulean Blue.  I added Sepia to some of the darker areas, like the hair and pupils, to get a little more depth.

Here’s the wheel I worked off of…

I shared on Instagram that I have loved painting my Oma.  She’s been my favorite subject.  She died when I was in college, so I didn’t really get to know her as an adult, but as I was growing up, she was always one of my biggest cheerleaders.  She flew out to Germany just to see me perform in a play.

In painting these portraits of her, I’ve been able to study her face in a way I haven’t before.  I see a lot of myself in her face.  It makes me a little sad, but there is something fulfilling in it as well.

 Anyway, feeling pleased with my most recent portrait, I decided to try painting a beautiful old picture of my husband’s Aunt Nancy.

The sketch was coming along okay, but once I started painting, the shadows on the face got out of control and it ended up in the trash.  I’ll have to do some studies on profiles and shadows and then come back to this one!

I wanted to get something done, so I drew out a face, trying to follow the “rules” of eye, nose, and mouth placement and I worked on colors and shadows more.  It’s not finished, yet, but I’m enjoying the practice.

I think this girl needs some unruly hair.

I think I might tackle a self-portrait next, but I also loaded up a Pinterest Board with (mostly) royalty-free pictures, so I have plenty of subjects to sketch and paint for my practice.

And, I’m going to start taking a watercolor landscape class now!  Fun stuff.

So, whether you want to pick up painting, photography, singing, sketching, sewing…whatever, you can do it!  It just takes the discipline to practice and you’re on your way.

Have you been practicing anything new lately?

I have a lot of computer and design work to do this week to meet some deadlines, but I’m hoping to get some furniture done as well.  That settee I ripped apart a few months ago is giving me the stink-eye.

In other news, I bought my plane tickets for China and I’ll be going there in less than three weeks!  My mom will be traveling with me and, since we’re sitting on a plane for 14 hours to get there, we will be taking a few days to sight-see around Beijing.  We’ll then take the high-speed train south where I’ll be working for a few days.

  I’m already putting together a little travel set of watercolors and a sketch pad, so I can do some art journaling while I’m there…


the discipline of art

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30 Comments on “the discipline of art”

  1. The more portraits you share, the more tempted I am to take the same class. Your paintings are so beautiful. Not only do I admire your artistic talent, but your bravery as well – flying to China! Can’t wait to see what you paint there!

  2. Be sure to shade the edges of the eyeball so that it is round and does not follow the almond shape of the eye folds. That will take your eyes to the next level. Right now they are expressive but read as flat shapes. In any case, you are progressing very well and I enjoy seeing your work.

    1. I haven’t share the specifics, but it’s related to all of the design work I’ve been doing recently. 🙂

  3. Oh Marian, I am in love with your portrait paintings! One of my little granddaughters has the same soulful look to her eyes as your Oma except her eyes are much more round. Keep up the discipline, you amaze me!

  4. I’ve been taking watercolor classes in Greencastle and really enjoyed my quiet time practicing at home too! Are you doing wet-in-wet or wet-on-dry?

  5. Well I can barely draw a crooked line so I would have so much to improve on! Truly no talent in drawing but I did learn to sew and many years ago after I learned I made a balloon shade for a window. My mother was absolutely sure I bought it. I also learned to knit and do other hand work. And not from her. She was not into it.

  6. I have always wanted to do watercolours, ever since we had to make a colour wheel in my interior design class several (20) years ago. You have inspired me to think a little more about it. I have also always longed to play guitar…how’s your guitar?
    I bought your book recently at a consignment shop, and have been following you ever since. Thanks for everything!

    1. Oh, thank you! You really should give it a try. The online class I just took was really excellent and, I think, great for beginners.

      The guitar is going well also. I wish I had more time to practice electric, but it’s just not the season of life for lots of practice time. I do play acoustic and electric at our church each week, though, so that gives me an excuse to keep working at it and, at least, pull it out a couple times each week.

  7. My goodness, Marian. Your drawing and painting talents far surpass your furniture painting. I’m so impressed with your talent!! Your drawings are beautiful!

  8. Seriously!!!! YOU AMAZE !!!!!!! God has richly blessed you….and you are so sweet about it all. I know others have said it….. but REALLY!!!!

  9. China will be such an incredible experience! You have a great talent with your sketching…safe journey

  10. I love the new path your art is taking you, I plan on showing my art classes your paintings, I’ve traveled to China when my Husband was active duty….it’s a long 14 hours!! my advice is lots of water, walk around the plane as much as you can and think about compression socks! looks terrible but really helped with circulation. Enjoy such a beautiful country!

  11. I love seeing your portraits! They’re beautiful! I finished one the other day that was mono-colored (is that the right word?), but I need much more practice before I feel like I can share it. Creating art on paper is still very new for me. I’m much more familiar with a sewing machine than pencil and watercolor, but I’m really having fun learning. 🙂

    1. You should share!! I sometimes struggle with sharing things I’m not 100% happy with, but there is always value i feedback. Sometimes I get positive feedback and it’s an encouragement or I get some constructive criticism or advice and it’s very helpful! 🙂

  12. Love your paintings and the encouragement you give to try something new. I actually am starting to get into watercolor also. I know you took Jeanne Oliver’s class on portraits but wondered if she offers one on landscapes. Is that where you’re taking the landscape class? Do you like and recommend online classes?
    Thanks so much.

    1. Yes! I actually just started the landscape watercolor class and it’s excellent so far. It’s called “Close to Home”.

  13. Wow. I am sort of into watercolor. Very undisciplined, though. Your portraits are amazing and make me want to give it a try.

  14. Thank you for encouraging us. The heart you have for you Oma vividly reflects in her portraits, they are alive and very beautifully so, almost hauntingly beautiful and I don’t say that in a spooky sense, but in the sense that they are full of life and her quiet eyes seem to convey so much depth in such a young person. I love your first monochrome picture the most, because the eyes say so much without any distraction from colors. One day you could even tackle her beautiful collar and polkadot dress. I have found the same, only just begun pursuing art and am finding progress through the discipline. I also began to practice guitar and have found that fulfilling. I have been inspired through you. Thanks for sharing even when you are not wholly comfortable.

  15. Thank you for showing first tries and talking about what you learn as you try. Your Oma picture is lovely and you have captured some of her inner self. You are inspiring me to just try even when the results aren’t perfect. I used to hide my art because I never thought it was good enough. You have inspired me to move my easel into the family room where everyone can see it.
    God bless your trip to China!

  16. I am so in awe of all that you do. Your artwork is beautiful! Hope you and your mom have a wonderful trip! Can’t wait to hear all about it!?

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