In thinking about my 2018 creative resolutions, I realized that so much of what I do as an artist is visual. What I select to paint, how I mix a color, and how I place elements within a composition all begin with my ability to see. Every day I am aware that my sight is my partner in my art. I was fortunate to work as a teacher in a residential school for blind and visually impaired children when I first graduated from college. I taught kindergarten there for five years. What I learned there so many years ago has been a force in my life.
I learned that seeing is so very much more than what our eyes can pick up. To describe an object to someone unable to see, one must convey qualities beyond color and light. One must describe weight, volume, size, texture, and fragility. This is not always so easy! Models of objects cannot substitute for the actual thing. Sometimes you must just go out and “see” something with your hands, body, heart, and soul.
That brings me to my creative resolutions. This year, I resolve to:
1. Keep my eyes open and look beyond the obvious whenever I am out and about. I know the flower is beautiful, but what about the way the blossom is attached to the stem? Or the shape of the buds, leaves, and branches? And by the way, did you catch that great shadow?
2. Use my camera to record what I discover. My camera is a constant companion, a portable sketchbook, and an amazing resource for developing compositions. I encourage you to try out some of the photo-editing apps, if you haven’t already. Pixlr Express is my favorite. This app allows you to add effects, overlays, and borders to your photos, and crop and resize them.
3. Always look at the negative spaces. These are found between things; empty spaces with great compositional power. Many times the negative spaces are far more interesting than the objects. Get to know them.
4. Do more sketching to capture shape, pattern, detail, and line. I must admit that I am not a big sketcher. I prefer to create my lines, shapes, patterns, and detail straight on the canvas with brush and paint. However, I have taken to sketching on my tablet with one of several drawing/art apps. I can sketch with the digital equivalent of ink or pencil. I am making a commitment to do more in 2018.
5. Revel in beginning paint layers. Taking joy in color and the freedom to explore color mixes always makes me happy. These playful beginnings lead me to exercise more of my visual senses, as I discover what lies waiting.
6. Stay in touch with the process of making art. There doesn’t always need to be a final outcome whenever you make time for art. Sometimes all you need is to get back in touch with what you have forgotten or have put aside for too long. I recently rediscovered image transfers, and remembered how much I love the way they look.
7. Learn something new. This is wide open for me. I’m excited to discover what it might be. I will keep you posted!
8. Make a lot of mistakes. The more mistakes you make, the better you will get at learning how to do things. Mistakes lead to discovery. Discovery leads to mastery.
I’m excited to be a part of the regular contributors to Cloth Paper Scissors in 2018 with my column, Exploration: Painting. It’s an honor to be able to share with you some of my favorite artists and the lessons I’ve gleaned from them. We can never learn too much from other artists. How we each “see” so uniquely is always a wonder to me.
Chris Cozen is an educator and self-taught mixed-media artist as well as a Golden® Artist Colors Golden Artist Educator. Chris has authored several books, including Acrylic Solutions: Exploring Mixed Media Layer by Layer and Acrylic Color Explorations: Painting Techniques for Expressing Your Artistic Voice, with North Light Books. She has also hosted numerous instructional videos on acrylic techniques with ArtistsNetworkTV. See more of her work at chriscozenartist.com.
Get even more inspiration for the New Year with this tutorial on how to make creative dice that will inspire your artwork!
Chris has so many fantastic books and videos that feature tons of great acrylic painting techniques for mixed-media art. Here are just a few!