When I was 13, a few of my paintings were in an Art in the Garden: Home and Garden Show. It was my first time ever really putting my art out there and having to represent it as the artist. I had been in children’s art shows prior to that, but this one felt a little bit more serious to me. Afterwards, I remember saying telling my mom about every conversation I had with very kind and generous people (she had probably heard the conversation herself, but I was a bit jazzed about it all.) Over the years, I’m still asked a lot of those same questions as I was then, but my answered have hopefully evolved and matured. Maybe you’ve had a few of these questions for me yourself? Here are my top 10 most asked questions.
1. Q: When did you start painting?
A: I was about 7 or 8 when I got a set of Acrylic paints, some drawing supplies, and an “art desk” for Christmas. Not too long after, I tried my hand at oil paint with a real artist and I loved it. It’s been seventeen or eighteen years since then and I’ve never really stopped.
2. Q: Are your parents artists?
A: My mom and dad are not artists, but they are both very talented and brilliant in other things. I credit them and God for my art career more than anyone or anything. I would not be where I am today, or the painter that I am, had it not been for my parents supporting me and pushing me to go further all along the way. I still send them photos of my latest paintings for one last critique before I show the world. I do have a lot of extended family members who are and were artists though, my great-grandma on one side and my grandma on the other side being two of them, specifically.
3. Q: How often do you paint?
A: I would paint every single day and minute if life allowed for it, but for now, I paint Monday-Friday. I try to be in my studio around 9am, and my brush is set down around 5pm. Of course, there’s a lot of flexibility when you set your own hours, and I do take breaks, but I try to work on a fairly consistent schedule. Being an artist also means running a small business, so I have to take time to do that in the day, too. Occasionally I will paint on Saturdays if Alex and I are just hanging out at home, but that’s only when I have a deadline or I can’t get something out of my head—I have to paint it! I don’t paint Sundays: even though painting doesn’t feel like “work”, it is my job and I try my best to keep my Sundays as the Lord’s day. And yes, some days I do take the day off, but that’s not very frequent.
4. Q: Wait, you paint full time?
A: I think the last question answers this, but yes, I do consider my art to be a full-time job. Maybe sometimes more. 😉 I wouldn’t trade it, and this has been my dream since I was 11 years old! So I feel very blessed to be doing what I love.
5. Q: How long does it take you to paint something?
A: This is a tough question to answer. Sometimes I will work on a painting off an on for a few months, while other paintings seem to paint themselves and I can start and finish a piece in a day. I’ve heard other artists say, “it takes me a lifetime,” and I agree with that answer. A finished painting is a like a pianist performing a concerto. Before that performance, or before the painting was painted, there were hours and hours and hours… years of practice and learning how to play the piano and/or learning how to paint. I think there’s something to be said for natural ability (whether I had that or not when I started I don’t know, haha,) but there’s so much more to be said about mastering something and refining technique over time.
6. Q: Do you ever hate it? How could you!?
A: As a whole, no. Being an artist, I’ve never hated that. Like anything though, hard work is hard. I feel like I have worked very hard to be where I am now, and I still think I have a long way to go. There have been times when I have been learning a new technique or working on a difficult subject matter where I run into dead ends, or I feel like my progress is very slow. I’ve had to learn to be a more patient painter, and I’ve had many humbling experiences with professional critiques and . . . well, college! I’ve “hated” some moments like that where I felt like I was being stretched and pulled and pushed and shoved—but I wouldn’t trade those moments. I’m really grateful for those moments, too.
7. Q: Do you ever get a creative block?
A: Ummm.. YES! Is there such a thing as a creative person who doesn’t!? I keep a list of “things I want to paint” and I also have a hard drive full of hundreds of photos I want to paint, but sometimes I feel stumped when I am actually painting… I decide to do something different with a composition or maybe I want to do a different background, but I am just not 100% sure on what direction to take it. In those moments I have to step away from my work for a few hours to refresh. Sometimes, after my “refresh”, I take that painting out of my studio and set it up somewhere, on a shelf or even hang it on the wall. Then I step back and I stare at it and let my thoughts “simmer”. I’ll take the painting back into my studio when I know just what to do next, but that doesn’t always happen quickly; sometimes it does though. That’s what a creative block looks like for me, but I’ve learned more and more about it and how to overcome it over the years. I feel like it’s something that every professional is able to recognize and navigate. It’s a good feeling to get there.
8. Q: How do you know how to do that?!
A: If you’ve read this far, maybe part of this question was answered already. And again, I think there’s something to be said for natural ability, BUT there’s a lot more to be said about hard work, dedication, persistence, trial and error. If you thirst for knowing how to do something, go and quench that thirst. I’ve learned my skill by reading so many art books cover to cover, again and again, paintings hundreds of paintings (and a lot of those were terrible paintings,) attending workshops, attending classes, going to college for it, becoming an apprentice to other artists, and even teaching others how to paint has helped me learn and grow. In art, at least for me, I feel like there will always be something to learn, something to be better at, something to improve. It’s a lot like playing the piano, and I could write dozens more analogies, but it’s a skill you have to learn, and it’s a skill you have to keep up and practice a lot.
9. Q: Did you like studying art in college?
A: Another tough question. Yes and no. I feel really grateful for my time in college as an art student, and I am so glad to have my degree in Illustration. I had a lot of amazing opportunities, so looking back I am grateful for it. But, actually being an art student . . . that was one of those “stretching” moments for me. I went into school feeling like I had a lot of direction already and I knew what I wanted to do with my art already, so I struggled with being told what and how to paint when I had so many other things I wanted to paint and different techniques I wanted to learn. Even though it was good for me and my art, it’s a tough one to look back on. But . . . I would do it again, given the chance.
10. Q: How can I start painting?
A: Ohhh! This is my favorite!! Being an artist is such a rewarding endeavor. If you want to start painting, I say, pick up the brush. Get good supplies, don’t cheap out completely on the supplies. Find a mentor; someone who is an open book and an awesome cheerleader. Read books about art. Read them all. Most of all, Paint. Paint. Paint. You have to “put in the mileage” with art in order to get better. It’s such a personal thing to learn how to paint, and I think that every person learns differently. For some, reading books is the best for them. For others, a class setting is best. Find what works for you. It can feel like a lot of trial and error, but don’t give up. The rewards for painting come in small increments, so don’t overlook those rewards! Celebrate them. I’ve found that the times when I feel like I’m struggling the most, it’s just when I’m on the verge of a break through. If you’re determined, you can do it. Also, don’t feel like you have to have hours every day to paint. If you can paint even a little bit and it makes you happy, do it. Everyone starts somewhere. Also, here’s a shameless plug for a few of my other blog posts to get you started. I’m working on a Part 3 for Oil Painting Basics, so stay tuned!
Did I miss any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below! I’ll try to answer as many as possible.