You Only Have to Please Yourself | Painting Inspiration

I had the pleasure of having lunch with Annie O’Brien Gonzales a few weeks ago, and recently, as I browsed through her book, Bold Expressive Painting, I feel like I heard her voice. It was like she was talking directly to me about things like painting from the heart, and what to remember on this creative journey. I looked through her book for painting inspiration, checked out her demonstrations on landscapes and still lifes, and by the time I reached the end of the book, there was one phrase that was still resonating: “We only have to please ourselves.”

Painting inspiration | Annie O'Brien Gonzales,
Daffodils and Violets, is a wonderful example of painting inspiration by Annie O’Brien Gonzales, who says, “This painting began with a grid of paper collage including painted washi paper, pages from vintage books and other ephemera. Although it was painted from a still-life setup of real daffodils and violets, I’ve taken my expressionist liberties with the shapes and colors to make it my own.”

With that, I grabbed my two newest tubes of acrylics in colors that I’ve not yet tried. I had chosen burnt sienna and cadmium orange hue after staring at the paint display for several minutes. I know it’s important to experiment with color mixing, but until now I’ve often felt frustrated because I’m not at the point yet where I can do this to my satisfaction. The colors I chose reflect my wardrobe, and I did that intentionally, thinking that if I wear brown so much, maybe that’s the color that needs to make an appearance in my art journal. I’m not shy about orange either, and I thought it would be a nice contrast.

Painting Inspiration for Art Journaling

I outlined two pages of my art journal with a thin, messy line of masking fluid to create an abstract border, similar to what I learned from mixed-media artist Jodi Ohl. I then filled in the middle with a mix of burnt sienna and white as I impatiently waited for the masking to dry. I wanted to mix the burnt sienna with black for the outside of the border, but grabbed phthalo blue by mistake. So I went with it. And I loved the result of the two mixed together.

As I waited for the masking and the paint to dry a little more, I began thinking about what I was going to paint within the pages. What do I want to say to the world? I asked myself. What will impress people? What will sum up the meaning of my existence? And then I remembered that it’s just art journaling. And I only have to please myself (Thank you, Annie).

Painting inspiration | Cherie Dawn Haas,
Not-so-breaking-news: Making art feels really good. This is my newest art journal spread. I might go back and add more details with my white gel pen, but I’ll give the work a little time to rest so I can come back with a fresh perspective on where the details should go–the border? The stems? You’re welcome to comment below to let me know what you would do!).

I finished the piece by adding some flowers, but before I began painting them, I had to stop and think about what kind of flower, and how I would represent it. I’ve seen millions of flowers in my lifetime, but there are so many different kinds! My mind was a blank. I referred back to Bold Expressive Painting: “When you don’t have flowers available to paint, it’s possible to use photos as reference material,” Annie says. “When you do have flowers, think about taking a quick snapshot with your phone to save for times when flowers aren’t available. Decorating magazines are a great source for flower photos. Clip a few of these and paste them into your Painting Notes to stir your imagination for floral still-life paintings.”

What a great reminder! Fortunately, I had a vase of fabric and plastic flowers in my studio and chose a simple dark purple flower with five petals, a yellow center, and a green stem. Easy breezy! Next, I played around with the paints that I had on hand and used a flat brush to delicately create the petals without worrying about the composition. I ended up making a sort of mirror-image across the two pages, and let the stems cross each other to hint at meeting at the middle.

Looking at the pages, I feel that, for now, they’re complete. At least, they’re to the point where I can put down the brushes and let my work dry, acknowledging how good it feels to have created new art today. It’s kind of the same feeling you might have when jumping into water–exhilarated and a little more alive than you were just moments before when you were just standing at the edge.

With that, I invite you to get out your favorite art materials and jump in as soon as you have the chance. If you’d like more inspiration in the meantime, check out this blog post on “Painters Who Obey the Urge.”

Yours in art,


Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques, Mixed-Media Techniques

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