Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Artist PlayDate: Spend a Little Time With This Sensational Artist and You Are Guaranteed to Have Many, Fabulously Productive Studio Days

Amanda, creator of Persistent Green, has been an inspiration to me since the first day we met on this Sweet online playground. It started with her work. Immediately, I admired the way she sought to challenge herself and she hasn't stopped. There is something incredible in the way she trusts herself to bring thoughtful, gorgeous works to life. I have watched the colors she uses grow more vibrant and her words reach out to touch more souls while she continues to blossom as both a writer and an artist.

Although we spend all our time "speaking" through the computer, her words always seem to bounce off the screen and incorporate themselves into my life. Just like Amanda, they are filled with hope, adventure, passion, a sense of fun and lots of love. What an incredible experience it has been to share in the magic of her journey thus far. Thank you for allowing me, for allowing all of us to be a part of that.

Recently, I had an opportunity to talk with Amanda about what it takes to bring about those days we all long for - good studio days - and she had some insightful advice for us all. It gives me great pleasure to present a piece written by Amanda.

Do you ever wonder why your creative work flows smoothly one day, but slows to a painful trickle the next? Here’s a peek at how I deal with both situations, followed by three suggestions for priming the pump.

Bad Day in the Studio:

Step 1: Stare at blank canvas. Sketch a timid line. Erase with vigor. Become paralyzed by the shrill voice of Ms. Inner Critic.

Step 2: Miracle of miracles—an idea sneaks through. Sketch again. Begin to add layers. I’m cruising—but then something shifts. Each stroke of paint, every blotch of color looks contrived. Smear on more—nope, that just makes the mess even muddier.

Step 3: Sigh, cry, or scream, depending on mood. Stomp out of room, mutter something about “What was I ever thinking,” and eat some Twinkies.

Good Day in the Studio:

Step 1: I’m calm, relaxed, sketching thumbnails in my journal. No thinking or planning yet—just shapes, lines, and swirls. After a while, one section starts to surface above the rest. Hey, that looks possible!

Step 2: The paint is flowing, colors are dancing—I’m in the zone. Ms. Critic is still mumbling insults, but I’m too entranced to care.

Step 3: The artwork isn’t quite finished or “right” yet, but no worries. I take a break, set the canvas up against the opposite wall, go make a cup of tea. Later (maybe five minutes, or five days), I wander back into my studio and catch a glimpse. Oh! That’s what’s missing. A few strokes later, a line here, a dab there, and voila. Art.

How can the second scenario happen on a more regular basis?

--Begin from a standpoint of play, curiosity and wonder. Sometimes I love sitting in front of a blank canvas and just winging it, but nine times out of ten, I end up playing it too safe, afraid of “ruining” a good canvas. A great way around this is to begin with thumbnail sketches in a dedicated play space (an art journal, a scrap of paper, whatever works for you). For me, this usually means filling a sheet with little squares and doodling in them. Since I’m not trying to create Art-with-a-capital-A, I feel safer taking risks and experimenting. It’s much easier, then, making that leap onto a larger substrate, having begun from a place of inspiration rather than fear.

--Keep rules of design in mind, but also remember your own “rule.” This one has two parts. First: sometimes Ms. Critic actually has a point. That nagging feeling might mean I need to incorporate a certain design principle (balance, rule of thirds, etc.). When I’ve begun from a more positive standpoint, it’s easier to hear the constructive criticism and block the rest. Second: sometimes the rule I’ve forgotten to utilize is my own. What makes my artwork unique? What speaks to me, or through me? Right now, I’m especially moved by vibrant color, texture, graphic patterns, and a hint of text. Have I incorporated these “rules”?

--Focus on the artwork’s journey, not its destination. In my “Bad Day” example, questions about the work have taken over (what will others think? When will the piece be finished? Will it be saleable?). The “Good Day” approach focuses instead on questions within the work (what color works best? Should I try a bolder line? How about strengthening this element?). A “Good Day” is much more likely to push my artwork to a new level. If I’ve begun with a sense of play, been willing to take a few risks, and have obeyed my unique “rule,” the work might even end up somewhere completely unexpected—which, in art, is my favorite place to be.

I hope these thoughts have been helpful. As artists, we all come up with ways that work for us. Have you discovered a tip or trick to keep your creative work flowing smoothly? Please share!

For more of Amanda's work, please drop by her shop http://persistentgreen.etsy.com/ and her blog http://persistentgreen.blogspot.com/

Amanda, thank you for sharing this post. Your tips are an inspiration and a reminder to let yourself go, explore, play, take risks and enjoy the creation of art. Your artwork, like your writing, is a testament to the beauty that can happen when you believe enough in yourself to just create. Please don't ever stop sharing or being exactly who you are!


MagicMarkingsArt said...

what an inspirational post ~ let the creative spirit juice flow!
cheers to you both for the artistic words of advice.

Natasha said...

MagicMarkingsArt - welcome!! It's wonderful to see you here...I agree this is an exceptionally inspiring post...Amanda's amazing words makes me want to get working right now!! Thank you to you for your kind words...please come play more often :)

Oceanside Creations said...

Thanks for sharing these great tips. Something to think about when I'm feeling discouraged with my work.

Natasha said...

Oceanside - welcome!! It's so nice to have you here....you should never feel discouraged about your work. I just took a peek and it's fantastic...however we all have tough days and Amanda's tips will help to make those tons better for me, for you, for everyone...please come back and play whenever you have a chance :)

Felicia Kramer said...

Great post, Amanda. I have to constantly keep Ms. Critic under control. When I'm stuck on a particular work I remind myself of the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Then I either (1)try something radically different or (2) trash that piece and start fresh.

Amanda (Blake) Fall said...

Natasha, thank YOU for giving me this space to share some thoughts. There were so many possible topics to cover that it was difficult to choose... but this is something I've been working on myself, and thought it might be helpful to others as well.

And thank you also to Natasha for such kind words--you make a girl blush! :)

MagicMakingsArts--how nice to see you here! Glad you enjoyed the post.

Oceanside Creations--you're so welcome. Natasha's right, your work is beautiful. You made me miss the ocean!

Natasha said...

Felicia - once again you crack me up...I, too, have to remind myself of the definition of insanity...but Amanda's tips (and her "right on point" breakdown of the two types of days) helped me to get some perspetive...I'm SOOO applying those tips to my life!! And you should tell you critic to go away for good..you're pieces, the pieces we see each week are so amazingly good

Amanda - thank YOU for this...you have NO idea how helpful this is and all those words are true so go on blushing...you rock!

Amanda (Blake) Fall said...

Felicia, right on. Sometimes going a completely different route is exactly what's needed to shake things up.

I agree that sometimes there's a point of no return in some pieces...except for my favorite fix, if it's a painting: slap on a coat of gesso and paint right over it all! ;)

lisianblue said...

Critic are now and forever banned!

Painting - for me has often been with a fairly loose idea of what I want the end result to be, as long as I allow the painting to change as needed, as it wants, I usually have come up some pretty awesome paintings. Rarely have any of my paintings come out the way I first envisioned them.
Now - ornaments and pendants often get started with a line, a flower, sometimes an end result in mind, often they just get started and I see where they go.
Sort of like stream of thought -
The one fun thing about oils, or acrylics if you don't like it - just paint over it! although sometimes there are bits in there that are worth keeping.
Love the "Bad studio day" "Good studio day" nice to have someone who can put these thoughts, ideas into words.
Thank you Amanda and Natasha.

Phoenyx Ravenswing said...


So much wisdom!!! :-)

"Step 2: The paint is flowing, colors are dancing—I’m in the zone. Ms. Critic is still mumbling insults, but I’m too entranced to care." *HEE!!!* Love it! :-) Such a wonderful way of putting it. :-D

"Keep rules of design in mind, but also remember your own “rule.” " Love this section! :-) It's so true. This is the place I'm personally working on - learning to balance the two to create something that is my own voice while still having enough commonality with others to be understood and valued. :-)

The 'what is unique about you' was something we heard a lot of in the workshop and something that made a lot of sense. Why ARE you the only one who can create this piece? :-)

Thank'ee's for sharing your wonderful wisdom and reminding me of things I know, but sometimes forget. :-)

BB & GF! :-)

PS - Captcha = ableda, which has the word 'able' in it. Very appropriate for such an entry. :-D -B! :bird

Phoenyx Ravenswing said...


Yup, my works frequently turn out differently than I'd imagined, even now. There's more congruence as my skill has grown, but not 100%. And sometimes the works that diverge from my initial vision are the best pieces. :-D

Def. of insanity - oh, yeah. Gotta watch that one, myself. :-D There are times you just want to be stubborn, and that's okay. Ya just gotta understand that it may or may not change anything. :-P

BB & GF! :-)

Marja said...

Love it - I agree w/MagicMarkingsArt - very inspirational post! Thanks so much for sharing your insights, Amanda!

Sometimes I wish I could paint over or erase with my glass pieces --- but usually I try to melt them into something else. When all else fails, magnets are created! :)

I find that if I'm not listening to a piece - not allowing it to become what it needs to become, or forcing a different shape onto it, that is when I'm most stuck. Then it is time to put it down, walk away and let it rest. Easier said than done, though! :)

Jenjen © GottaLoveMom said...

Oh, thank you Amanda.

Sorry I'm late...Been busy dealing with my crumbcatchers!

Do you know that I cried reading your advice. I'm reading WAY between the lines in a way that I'm applying it to my dilema with my 17yo. [ College choices =( ]

It's interesting that your creative process is sort of similar to some of the steps I have to take in dealing with my teenager.

BUT in the pure sense of creating an artwork or writing a story,I have to constantly remind myself of just letting go - and voila, it's done!

Amanda, thanks again for sharing that awesome talent of yours.

And Natasha - as usual, hats-off! How do you do these every single week? Your passion and dedication, thank you sooooo much!

Hope to see guys later...

Keep smiling =D

aquamaureen said...

Amanda, I have loved the radiant brilliant color in your art work. Now you stun me with the beauty of your words. You presented such helpful ideas, using words that painted pictures in my mind. Your tips can be applied to just about any endeavor, and I intend to do so. Thank you so much for sharing.

Linda Hardy said...

Look at how far you've come so very fast! 354 followers? That has to be a record. You writing is beautiful.

I so proud of you and what you've accomplished so fast!!!

As they say, you go girl!

lifeartdesigns said...

Excellant article! I am taking a week long PMC1 cert class in June. I love that first photo with the clay on your hands - but it's freaking me out, lol! Does that much really come off onto your hands?? I'm picturing dollar signs being washed down the drain!

Amanda (Blake) Fall said...

Thanks everybody! So glad you enjoyed the piece.

lifeart--lol, no, that's gesso!

sharon said...

Wow! Amanda, this piece is terrific! I was inspired by it. You are so multi-talented--all kinds of visual arts and all kinds of writing. BTW, I really enjoyed the poetry you shared a few weeks ago. Keep poing and growing. I still find it hard to believe that little Mandy from Mandy Mondays is all grown up.

And, Natasha, I want to tell you that you have a huge talent for making EVERYbody feel valued and appreciated through your delightful comments. Thanks for being an edifier! This world desperately needs more people with your outlook!

Amanda (Blake) Fall said...

Sharon, what a nice surprise to find you on here! Thank you for your sweet comments. And don't worry--I'm sure I have plenty of growing up left to do. ;)

I heartily agree with your comments to Natasha--this is such a special place. I've never found a place this supportive on the Internet--or many in "real life" either.

lisianblue said...

I have to from time to time come back to certain comment sections - this being one of them.

Yes, that is it - Natasha is an edifier - and that is the key to what makes TST so special - yes Amanda - I agree about finding such a supportive place on the net or outside the net. If we could all give such generous delightful support to everyone in our life - - suppose it could have a ripple effect? I wonder!

Jenjen - children are sort of like works of art aren't they!

hehehe captcha - swayist!

Natasha said...

I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you..to Amanda for making magic happen with this piece, for all of you for your sharing, love and support and to all who left comments for me as well...you touched my heart and brightened my day...thank you! sending love