We all want to avoid as many difficulties as we possibly can! As the world has seen this past month – there are hard things that just can’t be avoided.
When I began my journey of being “sheltered in,” I wasn’t in much of a mood to be painting. Uncertainty and fear had gone viral (yikes – bad pun???) I had just returned from an out of state trip that was fabulous but I had jet lag and was grumpy. Then the reality and seriousness started settling in and I knew I had a decision to make.
I knew I had to make a choice because COVID-19 isn’t the first crisis in my life. In fact, there’ve been many difficulties in my life, perhaps the biggest was being born with a brain tumor. As difficult as that tumor has made my life, I have benefited from it probably more than any other one thing I can think of.
I wouldn’t have the same compassion, inner strength, grit and enthusiasm for life if I hadn’t faced my own mortality and physical challenges at such a young age. I learned that I didn’t have a whole lot of control over life but I could decide to focus on things that are beautiful, grow in grace and faith, and recognize how important the people I love are to me.
The pandemic is nearly over. But I choose the good I can take away from this experience: like more faith, hope, love, appreciation for what I have and maybe an extra pack of TP in the closet.
So that’s the short story version of my “COVID Shelter In” painting. It started out to be another beautiful flower I love painting. It turned into an emotional project for me to process my fears and grumpiness.
Then I remembered how beautiful the other side of a difficulty can become.
My formative years in Europe were saturated with art. I have vivid memories of standing in front of the massive “Las Meninas” at the Prado and being drawn into the beautifully mysterious space that Velazquez created. Standing in front of the “Mona Lisa” in Paris is a clear memory of looking through a window into another world. That type of creativity is contagious. I longed to be an artist too, so I emulated the artists I admired through drawing and painting.
When I was ready to formally study art, I pursued it with my favorites in mind; Da Vinci, Caravaggio, M.C. Escher and Dali. My teacher, Christopher Magadini, was acclaimed for his illustrative and composition superiority. To obtain depth, he was insistent upon the mastery of chiaroscuro. I drew spheres and flowing cloth to the point of annoyance! Now I am so grateful that Magadini taught me a solid foundation of drawing skills to build upon.
In college I was also studying molecular biology and chemistry. Those pursuits had a strong influence on my curiosity for living organisms. My imagination was sparked by discovering the mechanics of life and that intrigue continues to be an important part of my creativity.
When I saw my friend Hanne’s photo of her houseplant, I was so inspired by the transparency and the brief glimpse into the workings of a leaf that I knew I had to paint it and paint it big!
I began with an exercise of exploring the plant that had inspired me. I examined how it grew and moved; what is close to the surface and what things are overlapping or hidden. I looked at it from several different angles and experimented with close cropping and negative shapes that I found interesting.
Then I got out my big house painting brush and started in on it. There are many layers of color used. The brown background has several glazes of reds, yellows and purples, that can be seen differently in different light. The thicker flows and fragile transparent spaces of the leaf were very intriguing to me as I interpreted what I saw using many shades of greens and yellows.
"A New Leaf" was a joy to paint. I hope you enjoy it as well!
I was raised with a strong respect for nature which continued to be an important value for me throughout my life. Nature is, after all, my greatest inspiration for painting!
Because I worked at the state Capitol for so many years, I had an opportunity to get to know the AZ Game & Fish Department on many levels and was always impressed. The best example of their effectiveness can actually be seen in the lands they manage. We're avid hikers and campers, so we get to see first-hand the abundant wildlife and overall health of Arizona habitats.
My most recent painting is a portrait of a bald eagle that was rescued, but not recovered enough to return to the wild. He comes to the state Capitol annually to show off his regal beauty and help get everyone interested in Arizona bald eagles. I fell in love with him!
I hope you have a chance soon to see the beauty of Arizona deserts and forests. You might even get to see a group of bald eagles in the wild, as we've had the privilege of seeing.
Our state lands are precious and well-worth the effort to preserve!
Driving along the highway, we saw a patch of gold that glistened in the sun. Curious about what caused it, we stopped to discover a small plant that grew close to the ground, covered in tiny golden blooms.
Found in the desert during the hottest part of the summer, this little flower is often confused with a poppy, but it's actually a Caltrop. Blossoms are about the size of a dime and open for only one day. Their blooming season begins when the summer monsoon rains come to Arizona. They're a bright spot of color but when photographed, enlarged and extremely cropped – delicate little pods emerge of golden yellow in the middle of a bright orange spot; details that can barely be seen with the naked eye. "Sun-Kissed" is one of my paintings of a Caltrop.
Marco art is a twist on perspective. It's creating an extreme close-up painting, usually of very small objects or living things. The subject matter for Macro Art paintings can be found anywhere.
Looking really closely at a familiar flower or ordinary object, a whole new world of shapes and textures is revealed to you. It's like a hidden treasure right under your nose!
I also love to play on a fine line of realism and abstract when I paint in a macro style. When you first look at my painting, "Desert Gold," do you wonder what it is or do you know right away? I'd love to hear what you think. (For more macro art take a look at my gallery).
Isn't it true that some of the best things in life are all around us and we see them so much that we end up taking them for granted. Especially when we're pressed for time or our thoughts are consumed with worry or stress.
It's so important to have times that you intentionally slow down and notice the good things that surround you. You'll live more inspired and your life will be richer if you do!
It's a great way to celebrate the environment, culture and history of an area. And it's attracting professional artists that are creating unique and inspiring pieces!
I was fortunate to be selected for just such a project. The City of Goodyear awarded 5 artists (from hundreds of applicants) a commission to create art for a traffic signal cabinet at 5 different locations in the city. The cabinet I was assigned is in a shopping mall – where I shop all the time!
It was a great experience to connect with the owners and managers of the businesses in the mall, to talk about art. We brainstormed about subject matter, history of the area and style of painting. I found a lot of support for my florals and the bold colors I typically use.
I worked closely with the Arts & Culture Commission – scheduling the project and presenting my draft concept. I was inspired by their goal to have artwork that could be seen easily driving by, along with a few "hidden" nuggets that could be appreciated only close-up, by pedestrians. It was fun to incorporate these elements into my painting.
Having decided on the local cholla cactus flower, and with the commission's enthusiastic approval, I painted on a very large wooden panel. The painting was professionally photographed, sized for a vinyl wrap, which was permanently applied to the metal cabinet.
People are genuinely excited to have artwork on the streets of their communities.
“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso.
I've people ask me if I could teach them how to paint.
My first response was to search for materials on things I learned in art classes. But isn't that kind of stuff readily available online?
Then I realized that its the basic study of drawing that guides my work. It’s not that I draw perfectly but instead that drawing has helped me to see the world differently. Any venture into painting is all about seeing.
Seeing as an artist is about becoming aware of what you actually see with your eyes rather than what you expect something to look like.
From a scientific point of view, our eyes use a multitude of tricks and gimmicks in order to produce a vision that our brain can understand. The role of an artist is to deconstruct what we see in order to get to the mechanics and details of how we see something, then transfer that to whatever medium or style we like. Since we are all individuals, the product of our seeing will be as diverse as the number of artists in the world. Which means a whole lot!
That reminds me of a wise saying: "Don't try to be someone else – they're already taken."
This intentional way of seeing is something that can be learned. That's where drawing becomes such an important foundation for any artist. Challenging yourself to look deeply at a subject and attempt to reproduce it on to a 2-D surface, requires careful looking – without preconceptions or whether it makes sense to your brain or not. Well, maybe especially if it doesn't make sense to your brain! (Remember all those tricks and gimmicks!)
Can I suggest a great way to start drawing? Use your eyes to find shapes of color, shades of color, where light is touching and where shadows are falling. As you see these things, try your best to copy them. Not how you think it should look, but just what you see. One of the best tools to begin seeing this way is with a sketchbook that you use daily.
Drawing is always an important part of my painting process. Abstract artists usually have the ability to draw. Even a friend of mine that creates fine art sculptural baskets will draw sketches of his ideas. As you practice and practice this kind of focused observation and recording, you will begin to see like an artist. As awkward as it might seem at first, your brain will slowly start letting your eyes take over. With regular practice, you will begin to notice that you are seeing things differently. It's like discovering a whole new world!
I can't think of a better foundation and starting point for learning how to paint than drawing.
And the best news – you don't have to know how to draw a straight line! (Really? Where did that excuse come from anyways!?!?!)
If you have more thoughts on seeing like an artist, I would love to hear your comments below!
We just came home from a trip like that. My husband and I found a “new-to-us” redwood old growth forest far off the beaten path – Montgomery Woods State Reserve in Northern California. I thought we would never get there on that zig-zagging barely paved road. But it was well worth the drive! Some of the tallest trees in the whole world are in this reserve.
Standing in a grove with these ancient giants was breathtaking and exhilarating. It was only about a 2 mile hike – just enough to immerse in the forest without taking all day.
I love the atmosphere of old growth forests and this place was thick with it. Sound is muffled by a rich carpet of ferns and sweet smelling mulch. Everywhere you look are fallen trees, branches and stumps that are quite literally using their misfortune and decay to breed a new tree, as only redwoods can do. I felt a strong sense of ancient majesty as I looked up into the canopy overhead, trying to glimpse the tops of some of the smaller trees.
Like a small rural community, every creature seems to know each other’s business and seems quite excited to be the first to announce our presence. I find that it’s the perfect balance between serenity and a thriving environment teaming with wildlife and lush foliage.
Hi! I'm Becca Farmer and I'm a visual artist.