Growing as an artist

Blog, daniel smith watercolors, Painting, Watercolor
Day 3 Sunset lake

Watercolour on 36×48 Clairefontaine cold press. Daniel Smith watercolours

I just started a 100-day grateful painting challenge to improve as an artist and try to find my style and voice along the way. As I am also listening to Oprah & Deepak’s free 21-day meditation on “Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude”, I’ve combined my challenge to express what I’m grateful for each day. You can follow my progress on Instagram or Facebook.

Day 4 jean lurssen class skillshare

Watercolour on 30x 40 Fabriano cold press. Daniel Smith watercolours. Jean Lurssen class on Skillshare

So I’m painting anything and everything, mostly with watercolours although my self-portrait above is with gouache (more about that painting later…) I’m trying to improve my technique so I’m taking lots of online classes from Skillshare and Artists Network tv and either painting the class project or using what I learnt to paint a photograph (the sunset lake) or still life (my orchids & gin).

Day 6 colourful orchids

Watercolour on 30×40 Clairefontaine semi-glazed. Daniel Smith watercolours

I’m amazed at the progress I’m making and how far I’ve come. Things that were difficult to do a year ago seem to come more naturally, like blending on paper or loose free interpretations, even if they still don’t come naturally to me, I’m not disgusted with the results anymore, like the magnolias below.

Day 5 loose magnolias

Watercolour on 30x 42 Canson XL Aquarelle. Daniel Smith Watercolours

And as I read that to find my style I need to copy artists I like, I’m doing that too, like the eagle I watercoloured featured in Carrie Park’s course on Artist Network tv. My dimensions are all wrong but I’m rather pleased with the result.Day 7 Carrie Parks.jpg

As I’m a new fan to gin and tonics since I discovered great gins made in Germany and France, I had an idea to make a gin and tonic calendar for my fellow gin and tonic fan friends, so I started the painting below of one of my favourite gins, in my sketchbook. It took me three months to complete it and was the hardest painting I had to do on the art of observation as the original picture was just all greys and whites. First time I painted glass too! So not sure if that project is still on my list! 😅 At least now I know I can do it so I’m not afraid to paint glass anymore.

Day 10 gin n tonic skillshare

Then I found a class on Skillshare with food illustrator Eugenia Sudargo and absolutely loved painting the fruit tart in her course, but I got sooo hungry doing it that I got tummy cramps! Honest!😂 I’m going to eat before I paint my next project, a chocolate cake!! Its funny though cause I’m lactose and gluten intolerant so I can no longer enjoy the desserts I want to paint, but this way I’ll get to enjoy them another way.

Day 12 fruit tart

Watercolour on Guardi Artistico 30×30. Daniel Smith watercolours. Realistic fruit tart from Eugenia Sugardo’s class on Skillshare

I’m also finally using ALL my different watercolour papers. I have at least 10 different brands and sizes. Mostly cheaper paper but I have 2 Arches 100% cotton and I have to admit they are so much better. Those will always be on my birthday list ;)! The painting below was painted on Arches and the border was inspired by Jean Haine’s way of creating loose backgrounds with salt and cling wrap and the koi fish comes from Camilla Dumsbo’s class, on Skillshare again, about using liquid watercolours.Day 11 koi fish

After painting for 2 weeks already, I’ve learnt alot of different techniques and confirmed that I’m a rather good copier… I’m still very unsatisfied as an artist as my goal is to paint with emotion and convey what I have to say in my paintings. Problem is, I’m an artist with nothing to say, nothing important anyway. I’m not putting myself down, I just realised that through self-reflection, during a short art course I enrolled myself in our local community college here. In that course, we learnt how to let the inner child out and play with our feelings and go with the flow. And every time they asked me what I’m passionate about or what I hate, I realised I’ve become rather neutral about things. I do hate dishonesty and narrow mindedness, but how do you paint that?

YinYang

Yin Yang. Indien ink on wallpaper with walnut shells and sticks

It was also very difficult for me to just doodle or randomly paint as I feel everything I do needs to be worth something. Years of working full time and raising 3 kids I guess, doing nothing is a luxury I feel guilty for doing. Even now, I fill my days with all kinds of projects and a day off where I don’t produce anything or do something “useful” is a wasted day for me and I used to feel really guilty. Lately though, I just say tomorrow is a new day to try again… so I am learning to be kinder on myself.

Anyway back to letting it go in art class, I did manage to get into it, took afew hours and my first painting was the above fish representing the Yin and Yang (balance) I need to have in my life.

Day 13 self portrait

Self-portrait – Gouache on wallpaper painted with paper napkins

Most shocking of all was to discover a dark side that came out of me. The last 2 lessons produced violent images like my self-portrait above, which I did not set out to do. I just dabbed paint on paper with a napkin and this appeared. The last painting which I threw away, depicted the pain of being a mother, with bloody tears and broken hearts… Even though it scares me, I am very pleased that I managed to paint something based solely on my emotions. To do that, I translated my emotions to colour and as I was feeling some really strong negative emotions at the time of painting, red and black were my obvious choices.

Apart from the enormous progress I feel I’ve made as an artist, the painting above sort of exorcised all the negative feelings I was feeling and I feel more at peace now… or do I? I guess I’ll have to try that again and see which colour I go for… in the meantime, it’ll be pleasant food, floral or animal paintings again! 😉

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for accompanying me on my journey of self-discovery and I would love to hear your thoughts. Have a great day!

Hugs, 0aablog-signature

 

Naked in public

Blog, Painting, Watercolor

I have the chance to live in a country where being naked in front of strangers is completely normal. And while some might see this as completely abhorrent, I have come to embrace it (not while I’m naked mind you 😆) and I will try to expose the reasons why I unrobe in public without batting an eyelid, and not because I’m staring so hard… 🤣

I had a “normal” Asian Christian upbringing, meaning puritanical and guilty about everything 😉 which didn’t mean I stayed like that, in fact I went the complete opposite way…but that’s for another post. Nevertheless I don’t think I saw another naked woman until I was 26, at the gym showers in France, and of course all those topless women on the beaches in France. I picked up the topless bit on the beaches fairly quickly but never really felt comfortable and still walked around with a towel in the gyms.

25 years later and I find myself in Germany, where kids and adults unabashedly strip naked on the beaches and lakes to get into and out of their swimsuits (the naked swimmers come at sunset…), where they sunbathe in the raw in parks (the Englischer Garten in Munich)  and the famous public “textilefrei” (free of clothes) saunas and pools, where you even see whole families with kids enjoying the heat of the numerous saunas together, without a stitch of clothing on!

I’m the very “when in Rome” type of person so I tried it at my gym for the first time. When I walked in, there were only women so I laid down and relaxed. Then they left and a man came in and despite trying to stay calm , I counted up to ten and left! I didn’t try it again till 6 months later and now I’m hooked!

I love the FREEDOM of being completely unashamedly stripped of all inhibitions and not caring in the least of what people think! Coming from France where the culture of being slim is omnipresent, it was such an eye opener to see people of all sizes walking around and just letting it all hang out (pun intended), without a care in the world! I was also (mistakenly) under the impression that since the Germans are so used to seeing all that nudity, that they don’t bother looking, so I felt almost invisible in my birthday suit! I myself don’t let my eyes wonder below the waist (yes I promise!) and anyway, at the times I go, I rarely see anything worth looking at! 🤣

There is something really powerful about being able to be so exposed and not worry about any consequences. It created a real shift in the way I think and changed my perspective on how I do things now. For one, I don’t let other people stop me from doing what I want to do, well I never really did…, but now its the physical aspect too. For example some people (my husband included) don’t like going to the sauna/visit places/do stuff if its too busy and there are just too any people. I don’t care anymore, if I want to do it, I can now blank out the rest of the world and enjoy what I went there to do. I’m also less affected by what people think of me (I actually don’t really think about it).

Mind you, I still haven’t come to the point of walking around completely uncovered as some do in the common areas of the sauna, and I still don’t love my body 100%, especially with my clothes on 😉 but I no longer feel disgusted when I see my belly rolls. I’m eating healthy and going to the gym and at 53, I know I can’t get my 25 yr old body back. I definitely don’t want that skinny 46kg body with all its complexes and doubts back either.

Well thanks again for listening to my ramblings. Oh and the painting is a my first sky painting and its for a Christmas card I’m making, which you can see if you come back tomorrow evening. Its supposed to represent the heavens opening up for the birth of Christ and I love it so much I’m going to try and do a much larger version of it!

Have a great day doing something you love!

Hugs,0aablog-signature

Daniel Smith extra fine watercolour – Payne’s Blue Grey, Moonglow, New Gamboge, Green Apatite Genuine

Winsor & Newton watercolours – Lemon Yellow Deep  & Scarlet lake

Da Vinci Cosmotop mix B no 10 brush

Clairefontaine 200g cold pressed

 

 

Thankful for…

Blog, Painting, Winsor and Newton watercolors

Its been a great week! The house is (relatively) clean, I’ve been exercising, I spent a wonderful day yesterday just with my daughter… and I finally finished painting 75 cards for a German charity!  I feel like I really accomplished stuff this week and it feels so good.

So I guess that’s my recipe for happiness, spending quality time with my family, exercising, painting for a cause…and yes having a clean house especially since I hate cleaning, this has to be my greatest accomplishment, week after week. 😉 I’ve also made a conscious decision to not go back to work. I was seriously thinking about it these last few weeks, and even had a job interview for a great company, but I realised that going back to work was just a reaction to my fear. Fear of the future. I started my 54th year and I was afraid that if I didn’t look for a job now, in 4 years, when the kids are gone, I’ll really be too old to find a job if I needed one. However I finally decided not to let fear decide what I really want to do,  which is spend these last few years just being there for my kids, before they go off to university somewhere in the world, but not here in Germany.

This may seem strange to my friends who know I haven’t been working for the last 5 years. For me though, I always had my French job to fall back on so I didn’t really have to decide anything, but letting it go made me realise I had to decide what I was going to do for the rest of my life. So even if it seems like I’m just continuing what I’ve been doing the last few years, in my head its different and I have to say I’m more at peace with myself now.

So today, I’m grateful for many things. For my husband who can’t give up his job just yet to be a blues guitarist 😉 so I can do what I want, for my kids who, even though they are teenagers, are loving, rarely moody and still agree to spend an hour or so with us each day… for my friends (physical & virtual) who support me and patiently listen to my complaints, doubts and just general ramblings, for having a creative passion that challenges me each day but brings me such joy, and for my health, even if my arthritis is telling me I’m not so young anymore I can still do TRX!!

And you, what are you thankful for today?

Hugs,0aablog-signature

 

 

My goal in life

Blog, Painting

Since I came back from working (& resigning from the company I’ve been with for 21 years…) in France a month ago, things have not been quite right and I’ve been in a personal slump. I’ve managed to get back into my crafting and painting, but it doesn’t fulfil me as much as it did, before I took that month long working break in France. Being me, I’ve been doing some soul searching into what the problem might be, and here are my thoughts… that is if I can manage to straighten them out as they fall out of my muddled head.

I mentioned in one of my blog posts, that I couldn’t help but compare the work I use to do in my company, which was so easy for the large salary I got, compared to the endless hours I put into my crafting and painting, resulting with zilch money in the end. I spent max 2h on my crafting/painting and the rest of the 6h editing, making videos, posting on social media, and called what I was doing “work”. I said that this was part of my marketing strategy, to build my customer base…except I didn’t even have a shop on my blog, I didn’t mention anywhere that my products were for sale, and I didn’t renew my listings in my Etsy store. So I know why I got zilch in the end after so much work, cause I wasn’t really interested in selling! So why do I try to justify what I do by calling it “work”?

After working again after a break of 5 long years, I came back and knew I was fooling myself by saying what I was spending all my time on was actually “work”. Work is something you do with a financial goal at the end. (Or something you don’t like doing, like cleaning the house…) And since deep down I’m not really interested in making money out of what I do at the moment, that realisation just emptied all the passion for what I was doing and I’m left feeling like a deflated balloon.

So why is that? Why do I have to tie myself to a financial goal to feel what I do is worth something? Especially now that painting, self expression and personal fulfilment is so “trending. Its now ok to take time for yourself. In fact, if you’re not meditating, doing yoga or doing something creative, you’re not “with it” and oh so old school! 😉  So why do I not rejoice that not only am I doing what I love 100% of my time (well, ok 70% as i still have to clean my house…), but I’m also “trendy” at the moment 😉 I guess because you’re supposed to do all that once you’ve earned your right to live on this earth. Give everything up to do it full-time and you better be good at it and build a dynasty around it, if not, its just wasting time. At 53, I’m not close to the age of retirement (altho in Singapore, I will be in 2 years…) and my teenage kids are not young enough to even justify being a stay at home mum.

A very close friend said to me “taking care of myself and doing what I love to do everyday, just for myself, is so pointless” and she personally couldn’t do it. Another friend remarked that my husband might respect me more if I earned some money. (Luckily my hubby does not tie my self worth to a financial number… and has always treated me the same way whether I worked or not). Another friend who has followed my venture into painting, said in a very dubious voice “So you’re an artist now?”, when I came out of the closet & started to say I paint, when people ask what I do. And those that don’t know me, ask me where I exhibit, because obviously if you say you paint, you should have something to show for it.

Its obviously not what others say that make me feel this way. Its in my very nature, my core values, that push me to be “productive”. Its why we tell our kids to study hard so they can get a job doing what they want to do. Its an improvement, yes, from when we used to tell them to get a good job, whether they liked it or not, but we’re not telling them to go out into the world and just do what makes them happy, whether they earn anything or not. It would be such a waste wouldn’t it? If they spent they’re lives just being happy, without being productive; aka earning something.

So that’s where I am, thinking I’m wasting my life if I just want to paint for me. Cause where’s the goal in that? And we need to have goals in life. So is “I want to be a good painter”, “Why?” “Because I want to be good at what I love doing” enough of a goal? And what does a “good” painter mean anyway? Good for whom? Most of the great painters were never appreciated when they were alive. So, was it good for them that their paintings are now considered masterpieces. That they never knew all their blood sweat and drunken tears were worth it in the end?

Do we live our lives for others or for ourselves. Obviously the answer is so easy, yet so hard to live by. And for once, by the end of my (long) post, I didn’t have a “eureka” moment. Because I already know how I should live my life, I just have to be brave and do it…and be happy doing it…or wait till this menopause moment to pass and the dark clouds will be lifted…

 0aablog-signature2-1-e1541513881572.pngis figuring her life out

Letting Go…

Blog, Painting, Watercolor

I’ve been away for a month, back in France, to resign from my old job in the aeronautical industry. I was on a sabbatical leave until now, you see, and since my company wouldn’t extend my leave (its only been 5 years…), I had to resign from the company I spent 21 years with. As they did not expect me to resign, I stayed a little to help out while they looked for my replacement, and earn my first salary in 5 years!

golden leaf

I did not expect letting go of my job to be so difficult, after all, I had spent the last 5 years doing something different, and was quite happy most of the time too. Nevertheless there was always this fallback solution of my job waiting for me, if anything went wrong for me here. I also couldn’t help comparing the (substantial) salary I got at work for doing so little, compared to the 8-10h I put in daily for my card and painting “hobby” and getting no financial gain out of it. Additionally, knowing that the kids will be going to universities in 2 and 4 years, my added salary would have been very handy to finance their expenses without us having to make any sacrifices. I would also get to spend more time with my eldest son who stayed in Toulouse.

autumn leaf

So to my surprise, I was tempted to stay. But by the end of the month, being away from my younger kids and my crafting (I didn’t bring anything with me apart from my paints) was making me miserable. And when painting, which was something enjoyable to look forward to, became a pressing need by the end of the work day, I knew giving up my desk job would be the right thing to do.

weeds

So now I’m back home with my family in Ulm, the month I spent in Toulouse seems like a dream, like it almost never happened. I knew this would happen, that the minute I got back, everything would feel ok again. But this time, I no longer have the fear of letting go, because I let go, and without regret.

opp wall

Something wonderful happened with my painting too, while I was in Toulouse. I don’t know why, but I simply let go too. Maybe because I didn’t have much internet to look up references or inspirations and I didn’t bring my books with me either, so I was left to painting what I saw in nature… and felt in my heart. I painted without caring if it was good or bad, and even soldiered on if the painting started out as a disaster, as with the painting above.

So is it because I closed a chapter in my life that my new one can finally take flight? I don’t know, but I certainly look forward to every step of discovering it as I know I’ll have tons of fun and pleasure along the way.

paint signature base