Paint or Draw What You Love  February Art Challenge

Paint or Draw What You Love February Art Challenge

February is the Month of Love

One of the questions many ask is – WHAT do I draw or paint?

I remember going through a period of searching. At the time, my main concern was to make a living, so I painted things that I thought people wanted. I asked questions like – What do you like. Still-life? And if so, what subject? Do you like landscapes or seascapes? Do you like people or animals?

I thought this was the way to go about doing this. Truthfully, it became work. It was just hard work, turning out paintings and drawings of things that had little or no appeal to me. It showed in everything that I did. I felt that, although some did sell, that I contributed very little to these works from my soul, although they were technically correct, they were soulless.  I painted some of the strangest things to try and find the right audience, but I won’t go into that too much at the risk of embarrassing myself here.

However, over the years, I started to notice a pattern. When I produced art that was meaningful and intentional on my part, using subjects and colours that appealed to me, I left a bit of my soul in them. This became the art that sold or inspired others, irrespective of the subject.  So, I did what every dumb artist would do, I made more of the same. Obviously the emotional connection and the passion I felt the first time around, wasn’t the same when I reproduced these paintings, and guess what? They didn’t sell either!

As a student of art, I love to read and learn about artists who are successful and whose art really appeals to me. Around the time of this epiphany, I was reading Jack Vettriano’s biography.  Without going too much into it (you can find many books, articles and interviews online) Jack was given this advice by an artist who he was following, who told him one simple thing PAINT WHAT YOU LOVE!

My current favourite artist is Andrew Tischler. He is an American born artist who lives in New Zealand on the South Island in a town called Lawrence. He is incredibly generous with his knowledge and teaching and has tons of YouTube videos and a Podcast too. Anyway, I listened to another podcast on YouTube called the Artful Painter Podcast where Andrew was being interviewed as a guest. You can listen to it here

Andrew tells a very similar story and therefore has the same philosophy – PAINT WHAT YOU LOVE

Andrew paints in oil and he also has a series of videos on his 10 000 hours SKETCH ENDEAVOUR. (I kid you not!  Two hours every single day!)  He is an extremely busy artist, making videos, painting commissions and for his gallery, and he runs an online teaching business too.  He travels into beautiful NZ countryside and paints plein-aire also while recording!  This guy is phenomenal!

One of the things Andrew has been criticized for is that he sometimes works off photographs. This is ridiculous if you watch even one of his videos as his photographs work for him, not the other way around.

He has this wonderful 3 step ritual that he works with (and he is SO generous to share!) which is:

Ask yourself 3 questions when you are in your painting planning stage.

  1. WHAT’S WORKING? (In your composition, your focal point, contrast, harmony etc. In other words, he applies the elements and their principles to his painting plan and used a photograph to guide him)
  2. WHAT’S NOT WORKING? (Looking at the elements, you will quickly figure this out. Also, note that photographs always lack something that was there when you saw it with your own eyes. Your own creativity can put that back! )

And lastly – the big one

  1. WHAT IF? (What if you moved a tree, or added a door, or changed colour, left something out, or added something?)

I want to take this wonderful artists advice and apply this to my next monthly challenge.

February is the month of love. Not because it is Valentine’s month as I have never been a fan, but because in 2017 on 14th February, I married my best friend of 15 years on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean! We booked a cruise with a wedding and the cruise gave us a date. We sailed on the 12th and the wedding was booked for 14th February.  Obviously I took tons of photographs, as I do on all the trips and travels I have been on. I started to dig out all of these photographs and I plan to make little paintings. I have a box of postcard size 10 cm x 15 cm (4” x 6”) watercolour sheets and exactly 29 of them. (Ideal for this month) The paper is only 160gsm so I will use watercolour pencils and just gentle colour washes. I may use ink or Conti pencils.

I’m nervous and excited and love the challenge! The theme is PAINT (DRAW) WHAT YOU LOVE. No other rules. I encourage you to try and do one every day.

I post my daily contribution on Facebook and Instagram. The main reason for doing this is because I have made a commitment so I need to show it, and also, to encourage others to join me. It’s lonely out there people!  My heart skips a beat when your contributions come up. They give me encouragement like you would not believe! I am always in awe of so many of you who have young children or full-time jobs and you take the time to do this. This shows commitment and I am so in awe of your persistence. Thank you!

Will you join me in this challenge? We have so much to love when you start to think about it. I know too, that you all have tons of photos. Consider why you took them. See if you can use them?  They can be anything. You needn’t show your photograph. No judging, just doing. Remember to let the photo work for you. It doesn’t need to be a replica of the photograph. Apply the elements and principles to your thumbnails and re-construct your photographs this way. This is a good way to use a photograph.  Thumbnails are just rough shapes in a block that will assist you to plan and construct your painting or drawing. Consider your elements while making them.

Please comment and let me know what you think of the idea.

P.S. I posted this blog now because, in case no one noticed, we only have 26 letters in the alphabet (January Hands) so you will have a few days to gather ideas, photographs and materials before 1 February 2020 (It starts on a Sunday).

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January Hands

January Hands




Sign Language Hands

I am kicking off the New Year with a slightly different challenge. In December we looked at our faces every day, but we also have our hands which we can draw, which is easy because they are with us all of the time!

The deaf use their hands to communicate in a beautiful way. The language is made up of gestures to form words, but they also use their hands to create the letters of the alphabet. I have always wanted to learn sign language so I think this is a great opportunity.

I am right-handed and these letters are normally formed with the right hand so I have had to reverse the hands so that I can gesture with my left hand and draw with the right.

You are welcome to join me in this challenge and post your daily challenges on our Facebook wall.

You may download the images that I have prepared for you here



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Reflections of Self

Reflections of Self

Many artists throughout the years have been creating self-portraits. There is a good reason for this. It is not drawings or paintings that will ever sell. Well not while we are alive or until we are famous anyway.

But learning to be a great artist requires tons of practice. All you need is a mirror, your medium and a surface. It teaches you to see, really well.

Vincent Van Gogh created 30 self-portraits in his short lifetime. How many have you made?

Have you ever looked at a self-portrait and wondered why it never looks like you do in photos, but you know that you drew it correctly?

Well, first of all, do you realise that the person, whom you see in the mirror, is not the person that a camera sees or who anyone else sees, for that matter?

The best way to explain this to you is to show it to you.

I have a lazy eye. It’s my right eye. When you look at me, this is what you see

This is what you see

This is what I see in a mirror

If I were to mirror my portraits, by just flipping the photograph of my portrait around, you would probably find it a little more recognizable, but when you look at my drawn portrait, you are looking at a mirror image of my face.

I have seen artists drawing with a double mirror. The one in front of them captures their image and reflects that image in a mirror behind the artist, who then creates a portrait from the mirror behind by looking at the reflected image in the mirror behind them.

I used Bend-jamin to show you what I mean.

Seems like quite a job, but would be interesting to try this. 

Our faces are generally symmetrical, which is why it doesn’t make too much difference, however, it’s a great observation, don’t you think? When you have completed your portrait, try holding it to a mirror and see what I mean.

Here is a portrait that I did yesterday. I scanned it and then mirrored the image so you can see what it looks like.

What I see in a mirror is on the left. What you see is on the right

Like you, and every artist out there, I am still learning. I’ve just been learning for a long time! I am loving this challenge. I usually take anything from 45 minutes to an hour to complete a drawing. I don’t watch the clock, I just work. It is my goal to do a drawing a day (sometimes more). I started these challenges in October, and I plan to continue for a year, or two, or ten!


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