Redesigning my Website – The Art of Arting

I think designing a website is like painting a picture. For it to work, you have to have a vision, a plan, and a determination to edit. Otherwise you may end up with something that isn’t readable, understandable, navigable, or clear.

My website needed a significant redesign. The theme I was using didn’t work very well, especially on mobile, and the whole site seemed both convoluted and distracted. Some aspects felt like they were from my heart, while others felt like they were examples of me trying to be something that I’m not. Which is another thing to try to avoid in art, hard as it may be for some of us.

So I went back to the drawing board. I had branded myself earlier as a Pacific Northwest artist, something that seemed smart at the time, but now seems kind of pretentious and commercial in a way that I’m not interested in pursuing. I decided to write my Artist Statement and really think a bit about what I’m trying to do with my craft. Doing so really helped me put down some of my current thoughts on my direction as an artist and the things that I actually care about.

Another aspect of my art that I’ve been avoiding advertising on this website has been the digital art and design that I have done and still do. I feel like I didn’t want anybody to see that side of me because it would make me “less of an artist” in their minds. These days I’m really trying to see that most people aren’t putting that sort of pressure on me and that I’m not even important enough of an artist to have opinions thrown around like that. Instead, I’m an artist with a digital background and a desire to create different designs to post on sites like Teepublic and Redbubble. There really is nothing wrong with that, as it’s just another shade and angle of my personality.

Incorporating those changes into my website makes this a page that is much more what I want it to be – a reflection of my experiences, my goals, and my current and past work. All are present along with this blog, which has been a useful tool for me to define my convictions and grapple with clear communication of ideas that are always such abstract ideas floating in my head.

I still have more things that I am planning on changing about the site and my business model. There’s always room to improve and grow. I feel like a little plant that has been moved to a larger pot, my short roots given plenty of room to expand and come into their own. I may not know in what ways I will be growing, but I know that I will grow.

Finding a Flow – The Art of Arting

Just like anything else, there are peaks and valleys for the artist. Some days I don’t even want to look at a canvas or piece of paper. I can’t find that flow because I don’t even want to see it on the horizon.

Is that a product of laziness? Or procrastination? Or bad work ethic?

Maybe. But I think it’s perhaps more accurate to chalk it up to my humanity and leave it at that. No need to put undue pressure on myself. There are different seasons of life, years, months, weeks, days, and even hours.

I hope you agree.

With all of that said, I think there is something to be said for drawing upon our memories and reflections of the times when we were flowing smoothly. Can we let that motivate us?

Countless times I’ve found myself unexcited to paint or draw, but compelled to do so by the necessity of commission work. While sometimes this led to frustrating sessions where I wasn’t feeling my best, more often than not, when I practice those other things I’ve written about (breathing, resting, slowing down), I find that I quickly get drawn into the process and begin to work with a steady and confident flow.

So when I’m confronted with a day when I’m just not feeling the process, I know that I can still draw upon that knowledge. I’ve found those moments to bolster my confidence in my abilities and frame of mind.

Add Things to the World / The Art of Arting

In the face of the hysteria and disunity of modern American culture, when all it takes is five minutes on Facebook to bring me down and put my emotions and brains on overload, it can be very difficult to not feel defeated, fatigued, and overwhelmed by it all.

The pessimism can be draining. The hypocrisy and confusion are running rampant. Everybody has an opinion that is a fact and a fact that is an opinion. There will be no sides taken in this blog post. I’m just expressing what I have witnessed. Both sides to any issue are very sure of themselves on everything. However, if I understand the frailty and fallibility of humanity, it would be a wonder if anybody had everything figured out. Rarely do you find anybody who is teachable or humble in their approach. Instead, everyday there are countless posts by people who feel entitled to deride other people’s entitlement, at the expense of actual conversation, real connection, and the clarity of perspective and humility.

I listened to a little bit of Bob Dylan today. In particular I decided to listen to his song “Talkin’ John Birch Blues”, a tale of McCarthyism gone crazy. It hit hard. Truly we live in a time where everybody is under scrutiny. What will we find and where will it lead?

I was sitting on a bench today, waiting for some food, when a clearly intoxicated homeless man approached me. He saw that I was wearing a Calloway hat and decided to start talking about golf before asking for some change. While I would desire to help in other ways, I decided to give him a couple of dollars and some of my time, engaging his conversation, which meandered and didn’t make much sense. I’m sure you all have thoughts as to how I should have handled it. In the moment, though, I just wanted to be polite and express my concern. After a little while more, he decided to head out, stating that he would be buying some beer, something I was concerned about. A stranger nearby told me that I handled the situation well. We talked about how it can be awkward and we both lamented the fact that this stumbling stranger most likely had a different life at some earlier point in time. I mentioned a few spiritual things that I had been reading about recently and how they could perhaps be applied to that man’s current predicament. I made the brief remark that there are also people in our world who look like they have it all together from the outside, but are a mess internally, to which he agreed. Around that time, my food was brought to me, so we exchanged some pleasantries and I went on my way.

Those were two interactions that were rife with several opportunities for conflict, opinion flaunting, dissent, and “insert social yuck here”. Yet none of that happened. Conversation happened. Statements were made to which no rebuttal was felt needed, because we didn’t have the time to devise a contrary opinion. We also didn’t feel the draw to do something like that when we were just a few people in a unique situation.

Then Facebook happened to my afternoon. Shots being fired. Misinformation. Misunderstanding. No patience. No humility. Only escalation. In a moment of genuine despair, I closed my eyes and set my phone aside. I prayed in silence, not knowing what to actually pray for. It was truly an inward groan. I felt the negativity. I felt the tearing down. I felt the sucking away of the joys of life. The narcissism of the modern world. The influencing. The “me” – right at all costs.

In that vacuum of roaring static, I felt a sudden calming thought flash in my mind which made me sit up, suddenly at peace.

Add things to the world.

Such a simple concept. When I want to escape the world through entertainment, what if I added something, instead? When I want to veg out, numbing myself from the pain? Add something. The quick self-service? Do something of value.

It’s that simple. There is nothing inherently wrong with being entertained. In fact, it’s pretty much necessary to human morale, maturity, and growth. But let’s be honest – garbage in, garbage out. I don’t want to fill the world with more garbage. I want to add things of value. This may not speak to you and maybe that inner voice was just for me. Nevertheless, it’s worth pondering.

Relax / The Art of Arting

Look, I’m not really a hippy. I find hipness to not really be an attribute that comes naturally. In fact, I’m not even sure hipness and being a hippy are related, but I assume so, and that probably means I’m not really “with it”.

My wife likes to stay healthy and one of the many ways she does this is through stretching routines. She will sometimes throw a yoga video up and follow the movements and instructions. Neither of us gain much from the spiritual aspect of yoga, but one thing that I have keyed in on is the idea of “breathing” to relax.

It’s not really mind-blowing. In fact, the source I do care about, the Bible, has some helpful thoughts on our breath. First of all, God breathed life into humanity. The Hebrew word for spirit is the same word to communicate breath. And, of course, this side of Heaven, our breath keeps us alive, as designed by God. We rely on our breath to feed our bodies with the oxygen it needs to operate.

I’ve found that when I meditate on God and life and where I am and who I am, it is not only helpful to close my eyes, as most Christians do, but also to take slow and deep breaths. There is something calming about it, often in a way that is also energizing.

So, the application today is to focus on your breath when you’re frustrated. Take a second to relax and breathe. As an artist or creative type, this is incredibly helpful and important in the creative process. There’s no doubt you will be overwhelmed at certain points, so take some time to lose focus a little bit in order to gain better focus, if that makes sense. Relax!

When is it Okay to Give Up? / The Art of Arting

Asking for a friend…

Just kidding. It can be tough to know what threads to follow in life and which ones to give up on. I think any thread we follow will give us some sort of experience, so maybe the key is just being able to glean a positive experience from whatever threads we’re tracking. Otherwise, we’re living in full-on FOMO, which can only give us despair. I think that’s a bit of an epidemic these days, especially in the United States of America and on social media.

Anyways, when’s it worth giving up?

I can think of a few general guidelines that I want to live by when it comes to giving up.

  • Give up on things that only bring pain and hurt for others in your life.
  • Don’t give up on something just because it is challenging or you aren’t able to do well at it yet or things aren’t going great with it at this point.
  • Look to others that have been there before and try to keep things in perspective.

Fat over Lean / The Art of Arting

The most common question I get about oil painting is in regard to “fat over lean”. I went years and years without understanding how to best utilize this technique and I’m still learning new aspects. Even if somebody gets the general idea, there’s still much that isn’t understood when you’re sitting in front of the canvas.

The main idea is this: oil painting requires oil and oil is a tricky substance that “dries” in a unique way, requiring an approach that will get the best results in terms of aesthetic and preservation.

A basic understanding of oil paint will help. Oil paint is essentially pigment (from rocks, plants, minerals, etc) suspended in oil (as the binding agent – the thing that holds it all together). Adding oil to the paint will alter the ratio of pigment particles to oil mass, with the former reducing in relation to the latter (helping things move more smoothly and aiding in transparency). Solvent, on the other hand, will do the opposite, eating away at the oil and leaving a ratio in favor of pigment. To really understand how this works, I would encourage you to try it out on some cheap canvas and see the difference between adding more oil or solvent.

To get the best results from painting fat over lean, thin the first layers of your painting with a solvent like Turpenoid or Odorless Mineral Spirits (you can use the thinner in combination with a little oil medium to ensure that it doesn’t get too thin). As you lay on more layers, you can start to incorporate more oil, whether you’re painting in distinct layers or using a more wet-into-wet approach. What you’re hopefully achieving will lead to thicker application of paint as you progress (note that I’m not saying thicker application of pigment).

That’s the gist. Try it out yourself and see your results.

As an added bit of useful information, take note of the differing transparency levels of your paints. Some pigments are more prone to being transparent and some are more opaque. This means that some paints will react to the addition of oil differently than others. For instance, Titanium White is very opaque. Adding oil will increase its flow, but will not generally make it more transparent. Payne’s Gray is very transparent. Oil will help it to “wash” over earlier layers in a way that can add luminosity and depth of tone. As you learn these elements, you’ll begin to utilize your colors much more effectively and broaden your abilities.

AV Nerd / The Art of Arting

Before I get into all this stuff I want to tell you, I just want to say that today I got a hdmi converter for my Playstation 2, so now I can hook it up to my TV and play one of the greatest games of all time, Ico. Okay, you can proceed.

I’ve been doing some occasional Youtube videos over the past couple of months and am kind of finding my way into what I want to produce. I think there’s a part of me that wants to be informational and helpful, but there’s also the logistics of taking on too much work in making edited videos full of spoken and illustrated content. At this point, I just don’t think it’s viable to do things that are both very in-depth and visually exciting, all at once, especially with the production values I have (next to nothing).

So I think I will be focusing on splitting up the main focuses of what I want to do with my videos. I like the idea of doing time-lapse videos that are mainly meant to give a very broad overview of the working process and to provide an entertaining view of a painting/drawing coming together quickly. I also like the idea of doing quick insightful videos that are mainly meant to teach a very simple idea. There’s a part of me that wants to combine these two things into one video, but I just don’t think I have the current resources to do that. Little by little.

Learning is Tough / The Art of Arting

I think you could probably ask anybody if they enjoyed school and you’d get a relatively common response that it was hard or boring or that they liked some things but were really bad at other things. I don’t necessarily think this is a problem with the system (although that is a deeper subject than I’m willing to focus on right now; there are plenty of challenges and problems with the system, as is). I think it’s a human problem with lots of contributing factors.

I’m only going to talk a little bit about one of them.

I think that the key issue in learning something is interest in learning it. If you like to fly-fish, you’d probably be more inclined to learn how to tie different hooks and attempt new techniques. You’d be more interested in researching different rivers, migration patterns, seasonal climate effects, etc. This would lead to more subjects, like camping basics, car maintenance, outfitting, food preparation, etc. You’d develop these abilities over time and would have worlds of room for learning new stuff, but you’d also be much more of an expert than many other people. All because you had an interest in what you were learning.

So, the question is: can we develop an interest in something that we have no interest in, if only to learn a little bit about it? Specifically, when confronted by something that strikes us as meaningless and boring, can we learn how to find it interesting enough to grasp it? What can fuel that?

I think that we’re always learning, whether we set out to or not. Maybe the trick is to be open enough to ask questions, to not put so much pressure on yourself, to try new things, and to give yourself rest.

The Year of The Draggin’ / The Art of Arting

This year has been weird. Besides that one lady who I heard predicted 2020 to be a year of crappy times, who could have seen this thing coming? I guess that matters less than what we do with it while we’re in it and how we look back on it.

No politics. It’s a rule for this blog. Kind of a rule for my life.

All I will say is this: use this time for good. I know that there are a lot of definitions for “good” out there, some of which you agree with and some of which you don’t, but there are plenty of things that are good which we can all agree upon.

  • spend some time and energy on your family
  • contribute something of value to your work or your hobbies
  • take some time to read and think
  • do something that scares you or feels intimidating
  • give yourself and others grace
  • practice patience
  • clean your living space and develop good cleaning habits (I’m looking at me here)
  • I’m sure there’s plenty of other things, so maybe make a little list for yourself

Because, hey, life goes by pretty quickly.

And Now for Something Completely Different / The Art of Arting

Up to this point I’ve pretty much posted a bunch of blogs that are kind of wading around in the art world, or at least they’ve been posing as profound in some way. Poseurs.

Today that changes.

I’m just here to say that I love Stardew Valley. I mentioned it in an earlier post. It’s what got me going in the direction of this daily blog. I’m persuaded that regular contributions to a pursuit will yield results. So, by regularly contributing to the virtual world of Stardew Valley, I’ve yielded some small amount of work ethic, oddly enough.

Anyways, this isn’t about me. This is about virtual me. My character has a cat named Gingerbread, two chickens (Babs and Bev), and two moo cows (Darla and Marla) on a small ranch that has harvested many a crop of cranberries and chili peppers. These fields are also home to several scarecrows and “rarecrows” (rare scarecrows – collect them ALL!) which are doing a great job of getting those demon-eyed crows out of my veggies. I’ve been fishing a lot and even won the fishing competition this year. My crops were so out-of-this-world stellar that I took home top honors for my display at the yearly fair. Me and Penny are starting to get closer because all she cares about are the diamonds I find when I’m adventuring in the nearby cave. It’s a good time in Stardew Valley.