In my perfect world, I would be a full-time artist. I would wake up every morning, clean the house from top to bottom (a clean house is a happy house), take the dogs for a long run (in my perfect world it’s also always summer), and then I’d make a coffee and head to my art room for the rest of the day. In my real world, I wake up every morning at 5 am (my alarm is set for 4:45), run around to clean/make breakfasts and lunches/work a full day in health care/take the dogs out/workout/dinner/dishes/and THEN if I’m lucky I can carve out an hour or two of painting before bed (if I don’t fall asleep on the couch first) and then it starts all over again. Just like Ground Hog Day.
Painting and artistic skill is definitely like a muscle – the only way to get better is to do it consistently – in some small way everyday. Even if you’re tired 🙂 I’ve been really busy lately finishing up some Christmas commissions that I can’t share just yet. However, I really wanted to let you in on my painting process so I created this time-lapse video of a little warm-up painting I created tonight before diving into my commission work. For those interested, details about the materials used are posted below the video. Enjoy!
For the painting, I used my new favourite watercolour paper – Canson Mix Media Artboards – it has replaced Arches for me as my go-to watercolour paper. The board is so thick you don’t have to worry about it bending when it gets wet and the surface texture is half-way between hot and cold press so you can use ink easily which I love.
Sharpie markers (another product I love – they don’t skip and they create really sharp, dark lines – I have gone through so many dud markers), Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colour paints, and Robert Simmons round brushes #6 and 8.
I love your feedback! Be sure to leave a comment below. Thanks for visiting!
On taking criticism, and the paradox of painting for yourself, but also (hopefully) that someone out there will like what you are doing…
“Ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself” – wise words sung by Ricky Nelson. So catchy, but the reality is, I care very deeply about pleasing everyone. If it’s not perfect, then really, what.is.the.point? Visual art is one of those things where, if you choose to display your work in any capacity, it will invite comments, critiques, helpful suggestions 😉 so you have to be prepared for feedback and how that will make you feel. Sometimes good, sometimes rotten.
I found an old high school painting the other day. I had forgotten that it even existed so it was a happy surprise. I thought, how could I have ever forgotten about this?
I painted this watercolour back in OAC art (grade 13 for all of you educated post-double cohort in Ontario, Canada). It was based on an old photo from the 70s when my parents were visiting Denmark – you can see my 1970s mom in the photo reference below 🙂 When I found it I posted it on Instagram and it appeared to be accepted favorably – some likes and nice comments. We can call it hit in 2018!
Unfortunately, I also found the peer evaluation for this work hidden in the same portfolio. It appears that I had forgotten that this painting was not well received back in high school – by one student critic in particular. Actually it’s a little soul-crushing to read this even now:
“I DON’T MEAN TO BE OFFENSIVE, I REALLY DON’T, BUT MY MOTHER PAINTS THINGS LIKE THIS. YOUR CONTROL IS EXCELLENT AND ITS TECHNICALLY VERY NICE, BUT ITS DEFINITELY SOMETHING I’VE SEEN PLENTY OF.”
There are some really nice comments on the same page. But this is the only one I can see. I mean, it’s kind of funny because I think I know who this was and I happened to know his mom, and I thought she was a very good painter! She liked to paint watercolor flowers 🙂 The same person went on to write, in response to the question: “What does this [image] imply?”
A quiet peaceful community in Europe. A place for retired seniors.
Seniors? Wait, what? And: “What does this work mean to you?”
Fair enough… And finally: “Comment on the quality of construction, technique”:
A beautiful painting. I expect to see a similar print in at least 5-10 seniors’ homes.
Again with the seniors. Sooooo, fair to say it wasn’t well-received. Or maybe he really, truly felt like people over sixty-five should be my target audience? But honestly, pardon me? It really hurt my feelings because 1. I am really, really sensitive and 2. In just a few lines he trivialized something I had spent a lot of time working on. It meant something to me.
I mean, I know what he’s saying. A street is a street. Is a street. It’s not really screaming teenage angst or even the suggestion of it. We were teenagers reviewing each other’s art. My painting is not that interesting, it’s not very exciting, it’s not modern. But… I’m not trying to be an exciting person, I don’t really take chances. I just am who I am. I feel pretty ok with owning that now… and isn’t it ok for my art to reflect how I feel and what’s important to me? Because I really like my life. I’m pretty happy. I love playing with colours. That painting was based on a picture of my parents travelling through Denmark, where my father was born, back when they were young. It has sentimental value for me times a million. It’s personalized. It does mean something, it is important.
I had a lot of artist’s block for many years. After I finished high school art maybe some of that self-doubt and lack of confidence in my work and my ideas and my subject matter continued to haunt me for a bit…
In my last year of high school art everyone had to pick a thesis – a topic of focus for the year. I was obsessed with my grades at this point and knew I would be applying to science programs at university. So the art school “game” was a little (a lot) tricky because I was really aware that every painting I was making would be attached to a grade. For me – if you want to turn something you love into an utter chore just attach a grade to it. I was literally frozen creatively by the opposing goals of wanting to create beautiful paintings and take a few chances, while trying to maximize my grades in art as well as have time for physics, chemistry, bio, calculus and algebra. I didn’t know it then but conditions were not favorable for painting my masterpiece.
It’s funny because going through my old diaries from grade 13 art, I have realized that the essence of myself has really not changed at all… Thirty seven year old me is still the same seventeen year old girl with a lot of the same worries, and concerns, and also the same things are still important to me. What makes us who we are is not something that we can change. It really stays with us. Seventeen year old me really wanted to paint beautiful, real things from the world around me, things that meant something to me. I was just lacking the attitude then to really own it.
I guess that’s why it took me twenty years to have the confidence to paint a 24″ x 24″ enormous painting of my micro cat and title it, “This is a Cat”. Because sometimes a cat is just a cat… is just a cat. It just took me awhile to get here.
So… kind of a personal post. To answer the question, how do you take feedback and accept criticism? I have no idea, I’m still super sensitive 😉 I’m still figuring it out. I think you need to just try to take what you need and then filter out the rest. I’m just going to paint what I like because that seems to be working for me – finally – and keep the wise words of my favorite high school art teacher in mind (he probably knew I was freaking out all the time, lol):
My first video is up! Please excuse the awkwardness! 😱 I wanted to say hello in person, and introduce my upcoming video how-to content via – what else? – a video! 💁♀️ The dogs make a guest appearance throughout 🙄🙄🙄, and you can hear Beesa in the background 😻. Happy watching!
Now that I’ve ripped off the proverbial Band-Aid by publishing my first few posts, I feel like it would be a good time to let you know a little more about myself. I think if you asked someone who knows me to describe me, they’d say I’m the lady with all the dogs. This past Halloween one parent remarked (as I handed out candy with one foot hooked on the back of our front door, bracing the world against my curious gaggle of barking dogs): “So this is the dog house!” But I would have to correct them and tell you that I’m also the lady with some cats too-and they aren’t wallflowers 🙂
We have three dogs and two cats – Teelo, Riggs, Clicquot, Beesa, and Wiggis. They are the center of our little family and we kind of orbit around them making sure that everyone is healthy and happy (and for the dogs we also make sure they are tired so they will be extra good). They all have very specific likes and dislikes and wants and needs. To give you a taste: Beesa likes her senior cat citizen appetite-stimulating kibbles to be served 1 tbsp at a time with warm water (she’ll let you know when she’s ready for more). Clicquot likes to go to bed every night at 9pm. Wiggis likes to sit with my husband in the evening on the green couch. Teelo is scared of rolling dice and shuffling cards. Riggs will growl at you if you try to move him when he’s napping.
Our animals have really been the basis for a lot of my painting inspiration, especially over the last year. I take so many pictures of our pets, I love action shots (usually napping shots work best however) and there will be one in a million that I will look at and think – that really captures the entirety of their personality in that one photo… That would be a cool painting… And then I let that kind of park in my semi-subconscious while I mull it over and when I’m ready… TADA! Well, it’s not always that easy but I do find that some of my best paintings (and sketches!) come about from months of thinking about a particular image and how I would work that out in a painting and then when I finally put brush to canvas all the work of thinking is done and the painting just flows…
When I draw or paint or spend time in my art room focused on my art, I really find that’s a form of meditation. I never really understood that part of yoga – being still and focusing inward. I was always more likely to fall asleep on my yoga mat than achieve a higher level of personal awareness. I’ve realized that when I’m painting, all I’m doing is being absolutely focused on my work. And when I am painting something that I love it’s a way to meditate on something that makes me very happy. I have found that to be incredibly fulfilling and I also find that it has resulted in me creating the very best work of my life. I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves over the coming months and years and what subject matter I may turn to next and how this will all develop. I hope you will enjoy following me as I do :).
What inspires you to paint? Leave a message in the comments below 🙂
This is a painting of my sweet cat Beesa. It is also my first oil painting. The title is my idea of a cheeky reference to Magritte’s famous pipe.
Beesa is our first and oldest pet. We are bad and have lost track a bit but she’s around fifteen years old. Beesa is a Bengal cat, and she is registered with The International Cat Association under Jabara Asia. When we brought her home, Asia quickly morphed into the name Beesa, and if you met her you would definitely agree that is her name. If you call her name she will come trotting from anywhere in the house. She likes to chat with you and makes a noise that sounds something like, “Heeeeeeeeeeee” to emphasize her points. She is very little and we call her the micro cat. Everyone who meets her is shocked to find out she is so old, she is still spry as a baby kitten. Given Beesa’s micro size I thought it would be really nice to paint her portrait gigantic-in-comparison. What she lacks in size she certainly makes up for in personality.
About six months after I took up painting seriously again in 2018, I started to question whether acrylics were the ideal medium for me. My biggest issue with acrylic paint is that it dries way too quickly for my liking. Even using Golden retarder medium liberally I’d always get to that awkward tacky paint stage where the brush is nearly dry and starting skipping across the canvas. Not what I want. I want to blend and have time to really work with the paint. I really had the sense that it was time to move over to oil paints. However, other than an incredibly unfortunate looking self-portrait painted in oils for a grade 11 art project (*think every tooth painted individually*shudder*), I didn’t have much experience. The oil paints themselves were a pretty significant financial investment, I was worried about having to use solvent to clean up, and I really found the number of available mediums to be totally overwhelming. Like what on earth is “oil spike of lavender”? The corner housing oil paints and mediums at our local art store was more like a witch’s pantry.
Now maybe I have too much time on my hands but this transition ended up taking forever. Like many months. I researched every detail. I spent a long time obsessing over which oil paints to start with (finally decision: Old Holland professional quality paints) and which mediums to use (that was really, really difficult but ultimately Gamsol and Galkyd). When I had everything purchased and organized, and my husband surprised me with the gift of a second H-frame easel just for my oil painting I came up against an enormous wall – how to transfer my drawing to the canvas for the oil painting? I read somewhere that graphite will “swim” to the top of an oil painting and ruin everything in 100 years. But if not graphite then what? I searched for old school overheard projectors on Kijiji, and finally went as far as to email Gamblin paint company directly for their opinion (their answer? ultimately it probably doesn’t matter). In the end I discovered white saral wax-free transfer paper. Used on top of a canvas prepped with neutral burnt umber this has turned out to be an absolutely awesome solution for transferring images.
But I digress. I love the Beesa painting. It may just be my most favourite painting I have ever painted to date. I love that Beesa probably weighs less than two pounds and her portrait is 24×24″ It is like a million times bigger than her. And then there is the paint: From the first swatches of Old Holland oil paint I was in love. I love, love, love the luminosity and intensity of the colours. Even professional quality acrylic paints don’t stand a chance against Old Holland oils. I loved painting for a few hours, taking a break and coming back to a still totally workable painting. I felt like I planned this painting and this transition for so long that when it came time to actually put brush to canvas the whole thing flowed really naturally. And isn’t that when our best work is bound to happen?
I put a lot of thought into preparing my canvas before finally getting started and it was well worth it. For anyone interested in trying their hand at oil painting, stay tuned for a video tutorial detailing how to start an oil painting and some introduction to oil painting posts all coming up soon!
I love my art room. I just love it. It is my favorite room. One of the very first things I did when we moved into this house was to claim one of the bedrooms for my new art room. The animals usually move freely around in here and while I’m painting I usually have one to three dogs sleeping around my feet. Riggs is sleeping on the floor beside my desk as I type this. There is a permanent dog bed that gets moved around depending on where I’m working and a few blankets too now that it’s getting cold (vizslas like to be covered at all times).
We lived in a one bedroom condo for ten years and even if I wanted to paint, nothing really made me feel more lazy than the idea of having to dig out my art supplies from our storage locker in the basement. And the cats. Oh the cats. Two wild bengals with a magnetic-like attraction to batting paintbrushes and pencils off the table. And then painting at the dining room table where we threw our mail and winter coats? No, the mood to paint didn’t strike often.
My art room is one of the key factors in my productivity. I have all of my art stuff organized, in one location, and I can close the door if needed (keep cats away from drinking paint water, keep dogs away from licking delicious-to-them oil paintings). And I can literally be in the middle of a project and get up and walk away and know that everything will be there when I return, ready to go.
I have two easels. Once I started oil painting I realized I really needed one easel for oil paintings, and a second for acrylic. The reason? If I have a few acrylic paintings on the go I’ll regularly prop one on the floor against a wall to dry while I work on another. Not really a feasible option for oil paintings which dry markedly slower. I started having nightmares about Beesa and Wiggis (the cats) marking the paintings by rubbing right up against them. So two easels it was. I set up a caddie in between that houses all of my oil paints and mediums, brushes for oils and acrylics, and odds and ends like transfer paper (white saral paper! just the best recent discovery!), masking tape, coffee filters (for filtering used paint thinner), paper towels, and some other odds and ends. I try to really maintain a minimalist working area – the caddie only houses supplies that I use all the time.
I have a big dining room table opposite from the easels. This was a great purchase. This is my multipurpose work area. There’s so much space. I use it for paperwork, writing, watercolour painting, everything. The desk light is an LED TaoTronics lamp, another great find. It has five different light colour settings and ten brightness settings. I never turn it off. At night I just put it on its dimmest setting and that way if I walk past my art room in the middle of the night for water or to let a dog outside I can peak in to check on everything 🙂 I have projects everywhere. On the floors, on the walls, everything in varying stages of completeness. I find it really inspiring and motivating to surround myself with my work in progress like this.
Between my easels and my dining room table I have a wood drafting table that I only use for drawing. All of my acrylic paints live in a big tupperware container underneath the drafting table. And all of my paintbrushes and pencils and pastels are housed on my wooden bookcase in the corner. You can see more projects scattered about here, ready to go. And you can also see my acrylic palette propped against my easel. I found that scrap of wood in my dad’s workroom in grade 12 in a pinch and I have used it for every acrylic painting ever since. It’s getting kind of heavy with old paint but it’s also kind of neat to see it changing colour depending on what I’m painting. I think about retiring it and hanging it up in the art room like a my own Jackson Pollock-inspired acrylic splatter on wood… but then I wouldn’t have a palette so I don’t.
I have art hanging up everywhere. I used to be really afraid to hang anything up permanently but I have a hammer and a jar of picture nails in the art room closet and I just hang paintings now as I please. If I make a mistake I just pull the nail out and try again and don’t tell my husband :). I like being surrounded by my old paintings. Even the ones that I used to cringe about. There’s a bunch of those. It’s kind of nice to be surrounded by where I’ve been while moving forward into new directions with my art.
So that’s my art room. Welcome! I’m really looking forward to letting you in on some of my upcoming projects really soon. Stay tuned!
Hello world! Welcome to my website. In the days that I have spent working on evachristensenart.com… and then reworking and then deleting it all in frustration (thank you to the wonderful people at WordPress – the premium support package has definitely paid for itself in dividends) – I kept thinking about what I would talk about in my first post. So many thoughts and now here I am, sitting down to type and it’s a little tricky to get started.
I “did art” my entire life up until university and then I took a break so long it seemed like all of those memories were part of a different person’s life. School – biology, chemistry, physics – wasn’t conducive to artistic inspiration, and once I started working neither was the one bedroom condo where we lived for ten years with two cats hell bent on knocking paintbrushes off tables and drinking paint water. When my husband and I finally moved into our house four years ago I declared one of the bedrooms to be my art room, set it up with a brand new drawing table and easel and then… let it sit dormant for a few more years.
It’s not that I haven’t had any inspiration or any urge to create in that time. An idea would come and I’d think oh that’s a good one, too bad I don’t know where any of my art stuff is. I even managed to complete a few paintings here and there from sheer force of will, but I wasn’t too thrilled with them.
This really changed for me this past January. I completed a painting of our view from the top of the La Cloche mountains from our epic backcountry hike at Killarney park in the summer of 2017. When it was complete I posted it a photo of it on Facebook for the first time. Two things happened. One, I got a lot of positive feedback and I was somehow able to shake the feeling that unless my painting looked just like reality, it was a fail. Instead, the Killarney painting captured all the good feelings from our trip. Two, since I had finally gone to the effort of getting my paints and brushes out of retirement and literally dusting them off, I quickly completed another painting of our sweet vizsla Clicquot at Algonquin park the summer before.
And then everything snowballed. I found myself making more and more time for painting on weekends and in the evening after work, I decided to make a real effort to conquer acrylic paints, and I also made the decision to only paint the things that matter to me. I started an Instagram account to share my artwork (@evachristensenart). And I realized that as much as I enjoyed painting in high school, when there was a grade attached to creativity, I always felt like I had to make my artistic decisions based on getting the best mark possible.
What does it mean to paint for myself? I paint when inspiration strikes me, and when I need a break I take one. I like to paint what I see, what is real, but I am inspired by the things I love – our three dogs and two cats (Teelo, Riggs, Clicquot, Beesa, and Wiggis), experiences captured in photos I have taken, paintings that tell a story, my favourite artists. I like to paint big, and I love colour. I started painting with oils. As it turns out, inspiration begets inspiration. I now have a long running of list of projects – personal and commissions – and I was outgrowing the confines of my Instagram account.
I really want to share my art with the world, and to connect with people through my painting. So without a single technological bone in my body, I signed up for a website on a whim and here we are. I would really like to explore my relationship with art through my blog posts, share a little technical know how for those who are interested, and have a space to really discuss the evolution and inspiration of my work, now that I have finally found my way back to it.