So how is it that some bloggers, YouTubers, and coloring instructors have hundreds of amazing projects on their website, meanwhile you’re sitting there with maybe one or two decent looking ones?
It must be talent, right?
Some people are born to be creative, right?
Creativity is a skill.
You can learn how to be creative. You can practice being more creative.
And my friend Catherine Anderson is here to start showing you how.
Introducing a brand new Vanilla Voice series called The Inkwell.
Over the next few months (or years?) Catherine will be talking to us about creativity plus how to find and foster the little spark that hides in everyone.
Her motto is “better thinking for better inking”. Jinkies! That’s perfect. I told you she was creative! I couldn’t possibly sum it up any better than that!
Inkwell No. 1: See the sights
by Catherine Anderson
“I wish I was artistic! I can’t draw a straight line.”
Creating art is your dream, but sadly you weren’t gifted with natural talent.
“It’s not my fault,” you tell yourself. “My mother’s second cousin couldn’t draw either. Must be bad genes…”
Still, that ache kept gnawing at your heart, so you took an evening still life class at the local high school.
Boy, was that a disaster!
The woman next to you was painting up a realistic bowl of fruit that dripped with depth and dimension. Meanwhile, you were silently hyperventilating and trying not to pass out, stuck about fifteen steps behind her, still trying to choose a color palette.
Don’t give up, my dear art-loving friend!
Instead of looking over somebody else’s shoulder, let’s look into the mind of an artist.
The mind is where creativity starts
Let’s dial back the clock a few years to when I was a Graphic Design freshman at The Junior College of Albany, in Albany, New York…
“Hold up your hands. Now look at them.
These are NOT magical hands! ANYONE can learn to draw!”
My Figure Drawing 101 professor was absolutely correct!
Since you are reading this article, you’ve got the main requirements for becoming artistic: unmagical hands and the desire to learn.
So let’s do it!
Right now, strap on a pair of imaginary hiking boots and take a little jaunt with me along the dusty trails of beautiful northern California.
Today, let’s discuss the importance of observation!
My breath caught in my throat.
It had been a glorious day of hiking in Yosemite National Park. The grandeur of that place is enough to inspire reverence in even the most skeptical of hearts. From the splendor of Half Dome’s peaked crown to the loftiness of El Capitan’s sheer granite cliffs, everything in Yosemite is…
to put it mildly…
We were in search of giant sequoia…those massive sentinels of the Mariposa Grove. At first, the pathways were laden with tourists…cameras in one hand, water bottles in the other. But as we passed Yosemite’s largest sequoia tree, “the Grizzly Giant,” sightseers began to trickle off.
Soon it was just my husband, my daughter and me (accompanied by an occasional squirrel) trekking a trail on the road less traveled by.
A worn signpost directed our wandering feet to Galen Clark's cabin.
Only another couple of miles.
Already my forehead wept with perspiration. With every step, my mutinous muscles reminded me of the nearly 18-mile hike up and down from Glacier Point the day before. Without my family’s gentle prodding, I might have been tempted to go back and blend in with the less serious sightseers.
But if I had,
what a sight I would have missed!
Suddenly the “Big Trees” parted before the little log shanty and made way for a wide meadow effervescing with thousands of brilliant yellow wildflowers! I've never seen anything simpler, yet more glorious than those golden laden stems swaying to and fro, curtsying to every passing breath of air. No wonder John Muir said:
“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.”
I stood awestruck on the wooden walkway in the midst of that field and soaked in the sight.
Do you know what is the main problem most of us have in achieving realistic color?
We simply do not look.
Oh, sure, we glance, or go by memory, but do we really see the sights?
Have you ever noticed the dusky purple shadows in the woods at twilight, or the crimson blush kissing the curled edges of a leaf?
Sadly, sightseeing is a misnomer for many of us.
Give this a try:
Close your eyes and think about what a daisy looks like.
Take your time.
(You’ve got this, right? I mean, you’ve been looking at daisies your whole life.)
Now, go to your marker collection and choose colors for the daisy’s center.
What did you come up with?
Y08, Y06 and Y04?
Now try coloring on one of the beautiful floral stamps from Power Poppy. Marcella’s illustrations are drawn with love from a heart that absolutely adores nature.
Or try using one of Amy’s stamps here at Vanilla Arts. She’s a meticulous artist who is a stickler for realism. She makes sure that every petal of every flower is drawn exactly as you’ll find it in nature.
So how is it that stamps that are so accurately drawn end up looking like make-believe?
Maybe because you are pretending?
Maybe because you colored your idea of yellow instead of what yellow actually looks like?
What do you want?
There is nothing wrong with coloring to the beat of your own drum.
That's the wonderful part of being an artist. After all, Andy Warhol painted a stunning series of Marilyn Monroe in odd hues. So don’t ever lose your playfulness in the creative process.
But if realism is your goal, you must use something more than guesswork and faulty assumptions.
You need to see.
I mean really see.
As an artist, how do I recreate the euphoric feeling of standing in the midst of that field of golden wildflowers?
good art comes from good observation
It’s the number one, most important factor.
Most people look for ten seconds and draw for ten minutes.
Do the opposite!
When you close your eyes— you cut yourself off from the source of all creativity!
I know that common wisdom today is that creative people use their imagination. The best sketch artists draw what’s inside their head and the most amazing painters paint from their dreams.
That’s not true! It’s new age artsy baloney designed to make bad art that nobody cares about.
Art is a reflection of how you see the world, not what’s between your ears!
If you’re not seeing, you’ve got nothing to say.
Creativity happens when you:
See the world
Think about what you saw
Relay your experience back to the world
Without step number 1, you’ve got nothing to work with!
creativity from observation
4 tips to translate observation into your unique artistic voice:
1. Research personal and internet photos of your subject
Examine the images closely for texture, shape, size and color. Perfect blending skills are highly overvalued. Art that lacks texture also lacks realism.
2. Stop and think about what you observe
Think about a meadow of wildflowers, is it planted in perfect rows of equal heights? Or are flowers tumbling all over each other in a riot of color and sizes? Design your layout accordingly.
3. Have a focal point (a main object)
My main Calendula was colored with precision and detail. But the background flowers? They were freehanded in a slapstick manner, then blurred. Thus, the background provides cheery atmosphere but still allows the main blossom to grab the viewer’s attention.
4. Incorporate other influences
My soft-focus watercolor background was the result of experimenting with a technique I learned in the Vanilla Livestream class called “Splashy Hydrangea.” I like the digital images in some classes better than in others, but I still do them all. Why? In every single class I learn something new that I didn’t know before, not to mention that I benefit by getting more practice. This widens my artistic possibilities immensely for successfully coloring any subject!
Remember: the next time you venture out into nature, don’t just be a tourist…
Be a sightseer!
A Beautiful Combination!
My Calendula project is a marriage of two Vanilla Arts online classes.
I used methods from each class to recreate the look and feel of the wildflower field I found in Yosemite National Park.
The Calendula blossom:
The splashy watercolor background technique:
Catherine Anderson is a graphic designer who is fearless in her use of color and detail.
She is the Studio Journal editor at Vanilla Arts Company. Catherine writes the Vanilla Voices Inkwell series of articles here and guest posts at PowerPoppy.com.
She is originally from Prince Edward Island, Canada but to our knowledge, Catherine has never broken a slate over anyone’s head. Just to be safe, don’t yank on her braids.
Supplies used in “Calendula”:
Vanilla Arts Company is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for use to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com.