My Favorite Quotes About Creativity and Motivation


Last night I was thinking about this upcoming Thanksgiving. Alex and I are going to be in California with my family which is always wonderful. I have at least a hundred old, old paintings of mine down in my studio there at my parent's house, and I was in particular thinking about those painting last night. I'm excited to see them all again. They're just full of nostalgia and sentiment, and I'm just that kind of person that enjoys that sort of thing.

I started to laugh at the memory of some of those old paintings though. For example, "Cake Face" is a portrait I worked on for days, and as the name suggests, after so many layers of paint, poor technique (I was 12 years old) and a severely neglected photo reference, the portrait began to look more like a frosted cake than a portrait. Actually it's kind of terrifying.

Another painting there is a rooster in a loft part of a barn. Let's call it "Fan of Feathers." I had some photo reference, but I got very carried away with the roosters tail feathers that after a few days of work and one night painting very early into the morning the rooster's tail feathers made him look more like a white, majestic peacock sitting on a throne of golden strings than a rooster sitting on hay. Those tail feathers are full of pastel colors! And I'm pretty sure they take up more than 3/4 of the canvas. YIKES. 

The real juice of this story is that as I was thinking about those old paintings I felt really grateful for every painting I've had the blessing of painting. And I really do consider each one a blessing. Of course, I've had my number of successful and unsuccessful, but I know that without having painted those crazy cake face portraits (because you know it's not just the one I mentioned earlier) and without the paintings that ended up in the trash that I'll never see again (including one from last month,) I wouldn't be able to pick up the brush again today and be confident in decisions I make while painting and I wouldn't be on the road to becoming the artist that I want to be.  

I feel grateful that I haven't looked at all the unsuccessful paintings I've done and taken to heart that, "wow, I really cannot paint!" because I have said that at times--but I just haven't taken it to heart. I just keep trying. And maybe that makes me crazy, but Van Gogh was pretty crazy too ;) and he said, "If you hear a voice inside you that says 'you cannot paint' then by all means paint!" 

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk Happiness, Your Heritage brought me to tears the first time I heard it. I was thinking about this last night too. Those first words, if I watch the Mormon Message adapted from his talk, still give me chills regardless of having watched it at least a dozen times: "The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul... Everyone can create." But I especially love the part where he says "remember that you are spirit daughters of the most creative Being in the universe. . . your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination." To me I read this as a sure knowledge that Heavenly Father is on our side!! He's made us. We are meant to create! And no matter what it is you create (for me it's my paintings, but maybe for you it's as simple as creating a smile on another face by cheering them up) we are fully capable.

My last thought on this: I had a quote on my studio wall for years. It was transferred on a piece of wood in black and white with an image of brushes in the background. It read, "the art is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without the work." How true is that? We all are given gifts and talents in some way or another (refer to Elder Uchtdorf's talk,) but those gifts are nothing unless we put the work into them to develop them and use them. I think this is another reason that I feel so grateful for every painting I've been blessed to paint; it's because in that collection of both successes and failures lay a ledger of work and effort that I can look back on and be motivated by. And isn't the simplest form of motivation a blessing in itself, too? 

Thanks for reading my thoughts, as scattered as they may be. I would love to hear your thoughts on these quotes. What do they mean to you? Feel free to comment below.

Gift Guide For The Beginner Oil Painter


I may be way too ahead of the gift giving season, but I just love Christmas and giving gifts so much that I am already preparing! (And maybe there's even a birthday coming up before then!?) Regardless, I want to share a few gift guides I put together with the beginner oil painter in mind.

When I was 8 years old I got an "artist's perfect Christmas" with a set of oil paint. It wasn't just a set of oil paints though, it was the gift that set me on a path to become an artist. It allowed me to be ambitiously creative. Now, a number of years later, it's more often than not that I get an email or phone call from someone who wants to start painting or has a child, friend, niece/nephew, spouse, or grandparent interested in art, but doesn't know quite where to start. Maybe this scenario sounds familiar even to you! I always get very excited to hear of these budding artists and want to do all I can to help foster those artistic dreams.

Below you will find three guides: Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Each set is for the beginner oil painter ranked in terms of quality and price. (ex. Gold, high quality - higher price.) Of course, you can mix and match and splurge where you'd like, but you won't go wrong with any of these three sets. This is not a sponsored post, just me sharing some products I love and recommend for new artists. Happy gift giving to you and happy painting to the new artist!

Gold Set: (1) SoHo Urban Artist H-Frame Studio Easel from Jerry's Artarama. | (2) Blick Premier Traditional 7/8" Profile Cotton Canvas - I prefer standard sizes like 8x10, 9x12, 11x14, 16x20, and 20x24 (very large). | (3) Gamblin Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits | (4) M. Graham Walnut Oil | (5) Grafix Dura-Lar Matte | (6) Holbein Brush Washer | (7) New Wave Wooden Palette -Palette should be held in the hand opposite your dominate hand. | (8) Williamsburg Handmade Oil Paint Sets - Set of 13. | (9) Blick Studio Tote | (10) Blick Masterstroke Pure Interlocking Bristle Brush -I like Filbert sizes 2, 4, 6, 8 & 10.

Silver Set: (1) SoHo Urban Artist Wooden A-Frame Lyre Easel from Jerry's Artarama. | (2) Winsor & Newton Artists' Oil Color Sets - Introductory Set of 10. | (3) Winsor & Newton Liquin Medium - I prefer Liquin Original 75 ml. | (4) Silicoil Brush Cleaning Tank | (5) Masterson Sta-Wet Palette Seal 12x16. | (6) Gamblin Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits | (7) Blick Studio Traditional 3/4" Profile Cotton Canvas - I prefer standard sizes like 8x10, 9x12, 11x14, 16x20, and 20x24 (very large). | (8) Winsor & Newton Monarch Brushes - I like Filbert sizes 2, 4, 6, 8 & 10.

Bronze Set: (1) Blick Studio Oil Color Start Set Of Ten | (2) Blick Crafter's Tote | (3) Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits 4 oz. | (4) Fredrix Canvas Pad | (5) Blick Studio Aluminum Tabletop Easel | (6) Winsor & Newton University Bright Long Handled Brushes -I like sizes 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. | (7) Silicoil Brush Cleaning Tank | (8) Richeson Wooden Palette -I like 12x16 rectangle.

The Portrait Project: Update!


After a week+ of being too sick to paint (the worst!), I'm back at it and The Portrait Project is going strong! Hurray!!! I have a beautiful lineup of portraits to paint this week and next, including this one from yesterday! To everyone who submitted--I'm BLOWN AWAY by your portraits! Every time I get a new submission I just scream "YESSS!!!!" Ahh! They're perfect! Thank you, thank you! I love seeing your beautiful faces! 

It is not too late to submit your portrait! I will be taking submissions until the middle of November. If you missed it, see this post on how to become a part of The Portrait Project! Be sure to read it thoroughly. All questions should be answered in that post, but if you have a question, please email me. :) 

I've been getting asked what my schedule is for this project, and although the end date is tentative right now--my goal is 50 portraits! YAY! I'm painting Monday-Saturday and typically have four or five portraits scheduled a week, and I'm LOVING it. Maybe I'll write more about my process for these portraits soon. What would you like to read and see in regards to this project? (Answer in comments below!)

Shown above: my palette at the very end of this portrait. I think it's so fun at the end of a painting to look at all the chaotic messes of color on my palette that match the colors in the painting. It feels like a really complex puzzle and takes on much more meaning to me. I always wish I had an endless supply of palettes so I didn't have to "clean" off their beautiful messes and that they could stay with their painting. Also, I found this leaf when I went for a walk after being so sick. It was cheerful to me, in every sense. This year it seemed that the leaves went from green to beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges in just a few days! So it stuck with me in my studio while I painted this cute girl. I can only image was she was looking at while looking out her window into this beautiful world.

If you're checking this blog for PP updates--you're in the right place! I'll be posting here frequently as well as on Instagram (@SarahCNightingale) and my Facebook Page (Sarah C. Nightingale Art.) 

Become A Part Of The Portrait Project


The Portrait Project has really taken off! I am so grateful for everyone who has supported it in any way. Thank you! Since day one, I’ve been getting many inquiries about how to be involved in this project, so I’ve created this guide to help us all out! Afterall, I can’t paint portraits if I don’t have people to paint! And I want to paint you!

It’s very simple, take a photograph following this guide, submit it via the form on my projects page at, your photo will come right to me, I will send you an email if I choose to paint it, and viola! You have a portrait!! Exciting, right? I think so!

Please note that although I would love to paint every single photo that is submitted, for style consistency in my work, I will only be selecting certain photos that fit the style and essence of the project. If your photo is chosen, I will send you an email the day I begin working on it. The painting will be posted to this blog for you to see upon completion.

-You must submit your own photos! This is so important, so please be honest. If a professional photographer shot them and you don’t hold all copyrights, I cannot paint them. Please read “Terms and Conditions”. By submitting photos you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.

If Your Portrait Is Painted: After I complete your portrait and post it to my blog, you then have the option to buy! All portraits will be painted 1 face/portrait per painting, 8x8in. with premium quality oil paints on Arches Oil Paper. (By submitting photos, you are not obligated to purchase the finished project if I choose to paint, but this could mean that your portrait sells to another buyer.)

Pricing: 1 Portrait $250 | 2+ Portraits $220 each | 4+ Portraits $175 each

As much as I love selfies, please have a friend take photos for you. Or set a timer and stand far away enough from the camera. I think this goes without saying, but make sure your photograph is a portrait of you or your child's human face. No pets for this project. Sorry!

Only high quality photos will be accepted. Photographs should be taken with an SLR or DSLR camera. If you don’t own one or have access to one *some* point and shoot cameras, including phones with cameras will work (ie. iPhone 4S or newer.)

Option A.) Photograph inside near a large window, and make sure that the light is only coming from that window. Turn off all lights inside and close curtains on any other windows besides the one you are using (even ones across the room.) Only photograph from 45 minutes after sunrise until 45 minutes before sunset.

Option B.) Photograph outside. If you choose to shoot outside, be careful of bright, overhead light. Usually this type of poor lighting happens around noon. If the nose and eyes have deep shadows underneath them, wait until the sun begins to fall a little more.

Tip! Most photography guides say that “soft light” is the very best! I agree, but I also love a great contrasting light in my portraits. Between outside and a window, you can get that type of light any time of the “day.” If you photograph a good shadowy/highlighted portrait--it’s likely I’ll be painting your submission.

Examples: The images below are examples of great portraits! Although, there are hundreds of different poses, expressions, lighting situations, etc. that can make a beautiful portraits. See what you come up with! These guides apply when photographing anyone at any age. Not just my beautiful  friends.

Any position is great so long as the majority of your face is in the light. Ultimately, It’s up to you!

Just make sure your whole head is in the shot, a little room above, and about midway down your upper arm.

Tip! Whether you are shooting indoors or outdoors, be aware of "strange" shadows on your face that may be caused by blinds, leaves of a tree or anything else. They shouldn't be there.

Don’t show your teeth! A soft smile is always best for paintings of portraits. (However, naturally parted lips show character, and sometimes I love to paint a portrait with naturally parted lips.)

Important! Please don’t wear heavy makeup, especially on the eyes. Any under the eye eye-liner or strong “cat-like” eye-liner I steer clear of when selecting photos to paint. Mascara is a yes, but go bare or light for any other. Also, lipstick is great, as is a hint of blush, but it’s not necessary.

Tip! Watch this great video on “squinching” your eyes! I wouldn’t recommend this look for children, I love to paint their big, bright eyes full of expression, but it is helpful for adults who might feel like a “deer in the headlights” in front of the camera.

Examples: The images below are examples of great photos (Left) and poor photos (Right.) Although the examples show mostly side profile views, this applies to frontal views (like the top right) as well.

-Do not crop your images! I want to see the whole picture, and it allows me to crop images for paintings with consistency. Also, please do not edit your photos in any way.

-If you have multiple photos to submit, please submit them separately. That way it is easier to communicate which one will be painted if it is chosen.

-Please do not submit more that 4 photos per person that is photographed. Choose the best! (If you are submitting photos of your children, just 4 per child will do.)

IMPORTANT! -I'm mentioning this again because it's so important. You must submit your own photos! This is so important, so please be honest. If a professional photographer shot them and you don’t hold all copyrights, I cannot paint them. Please read “Terms and Conditions”. By submitting photos you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.

-Files should be original or large size and submitted as a Jpeg, or TIFF.

Click here, enter your information, upload your photos, and you’re done! I am so excited to see what great images you submit!

I can't wait to paint you! If you have questions, please contact me. Thanks for being a part of The Portrait Project!

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For more reading on this subject, see this post about capturing great photo reference for paintings!

The Portrait Project: Three + Four


I don't know what it is about setting a goal, a solid goal, to create something whole every day, but it seems to be so incredibly inspiring the moment I do. The Portrait Project is very time consuming, as you could imagine, but there's a drive behind my work right now that is unmatched to any other project of mine. I think the drive comes from a specific desire to learn and an equal desire to grow. After all, that is exactly why I started this project, to learn and to grow; to learn more about portraiture, and to take my technique and abilities to a new level. And of course, to share my art with you and capture you in paint!! Portraiture has always been my great love when it comes to making art, and I could guess that it forever will be. 

Highlighted in this post are paintings from day three and four. Day three (shown directly above) is a portrait I have been wanting to do since December. I shot the reference for it out under a large tree just before the sun dipped below the horizon. You know, that moment just after the golden hour has passed when the light turns brilliantly cold, and then it's dark in an instance? That was this hour, and it was beautiful. Additionally, this sweet girl couldn't have had a more harmonieous expression. She was a great model! 

Day four (shown above) is of my niece at nine months old. I wanted to capture the innocence and the quick cheerfulness of her. I debated for a long time to paint this one or one of her in full grin, but I love the anticipation for the viewer of this. It's almost if you smiled at her as she is painted here, her face will light up and she'll smile hugely back at you. I'm not sure, what do you think?

Sometime next week I will be posting about how you can be involved in this project! I want to paint you and your loved ones! I want to capture you with paint. Stay tuned! You can sign up for blog updates to the right under "Subscribe" if you want to be one of the first to know! Or, as always, follow me on Instagram or Facebook (links are also to the right.) Thanks for following along. :)

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