What Else Do I Do?

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And I love doing art a lot more than looking at it. Sometimes looking at art can be terribly boring. But of course, the hiking I do leads to the art I create. Although I see things that I consider beautiful that wouldn’t make a good painting. I live in Brown County, Indiana.100_4139A There are lots of trees where I live and they shed their leaves in the fall. At least most of them do. But there a few that keep their brown leaves. I would call this color medium orange brown. And then there are some trees that keep their leaves that have a pale golden brown look to them. In the winter you see the tall and short trees-mostly bare with these intermittent clusters of medium orange and behind and beside them, the clusters of pale golden brown leaves. They look beautiful! But I have yet to find an area that is begging me to paint it. But whenever and wherever I see them and they are everywhere, I think how beautiful they are. If I could choose what I could do every day, I would only hike and paint.

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I have been asked if I can paint anything. No, I can’t. There are lots of things that I can’t paint. There are styles that I like that I sometimes wish I could paint in but can’t. I am most successful painting the places and things I know best. Natural scenes and places I’ve been are what I paint because I am more familiar with how they look. And the more I look at some thing or some place the better I am able to paint it. That is one of the reasons that I work on part of a painting and then let it rest. I want to see it with new eyes. Looking at a painting, nature, a tree; I sometimes see new things or at least things differently. And sometimes when I look at the painting again I am happy with the direction I am going or want to go, so I continue in that direction.

A question that children ask me is can I do anything. No, no one can. The best one can hope for in his/her lifetime is to find at least one thing that she/he wants to do and enjoys doing and hopefully gets the opportunity to do that. I have gotten the opportunity to do a lot of things in my lifetime, most of which I enjoyed or at least learned something from. I thought that perhaps I would not get a chance to be a practicing artist in my life. But through a twist of fate, here I am. I feel fortunate that whether I become “well-known” or not, I have at least been able to paint and sell some of my work.

Till recently, I worked as a substitute teacher. And before that I taught art and then second and fourth grade. I am also a mother and a grandmother so I spend time with my family. But I spend most of my time making art.1078

In my lifetime, I lived in Oklahoma, Texas, New York, South Carolina, Colorado and now Indiana. I visited a lot more states than that. Oklahoma and Colorado are the states I lived in the most. As far as what places influenced my art, it would have to be any place that has a great deal of trees, lakes, flowers-in other words, nature. I always look around at everything wherever I go but am not as interested in buildings as I am in rocks and streams. And the particular type of scenes in Colorado interest and affect me creatively the most.

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Pricing Art

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I decided to start selling my paintings because I needed the money.  But paintings are not really a big seller for me.  I only started painting a lot about six years ago.  So I am an emerging artist. I occasionally sell a painting.  But what I sell more of is what I started making from some of my paintings.  After a year or so I had painted a lot of paintings. A friend of mine said that I needed to burn the ones that weren’t good.  And yes, some were not good paintings.  I don’t think there is any artist alive or dead that hasn’t painted some bad paintings.  Well, I couldn’t imagine burning them-seemed a waste of materials.  If you paint in acrylics or oils, you can just paint over something you hate or isn’t good, but not so in watercolors.  So I decided to cut them up and make bookmarks out of them.  And I sold some of them!

     The first painting I ever sold was to my mentor, Pat, at a small shop in Montrose, Colorado.  It was not even a gallery.  A lot of small stores and restaurants in Montrose give artists a chance to set up their work for a few hours on a Saturday or in the evening during the week.  I had a group of my matted paintings for sale.  A lovely lady, an artist herself, saw one of my paintings and she fell in love with it.  From that moment on she encouraged me in so many ways.

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     The prices of my paintings range from framed pieces at $50 to $550.  Unframed pieces which are matted, sell from $35 to $500.  But I sell original work that is priced much less.  These are the bookmarks, magnets and jewelry that I create.  These are all one of a kind pieces and sell for less than $50.  The magnets and bookmarks are priced between $5 and $7.  The jewelry sells from $20 to $50.  Recently I began making some pins out of watercolor board and these sell from $4 to $6.

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     Pricing takes into account the materials, what it takes to put the product together to be sold and what it costs to get it to market. An artist, unless they become well known and sell a lot, never really gets paid for the time and talent that is put into the artwork. I want to share my love of nature with everyone so I try to make and sell items that everyone can afford.

The Business Of Art

Most of what I sell, I sell through galleries and boutiques but I sell some out of my home and do a few sales at other places throughout the year. The Venue Gallery in Bloomington, Indiana and Frazee Gardens in Brownsburg, Indiana have everything I sell. The Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis has my bookmarks, magnets and jewelry Venue1for sale. Black Sheep Gifts, also in Indianapolis, carries my jewelry as does TC Steele in Nashville, Indiana. I now have my work in two places out of state. My bookmarks, magnets and jewelry can be found at the Bernheim Arboreteum near Clermont, Kentucky. A gallery, 108 Contemporary, in my home town of Tulsa, Oklahoma has my jewelry for sale in their gift shop.

I often get asked if it is hard to run a business.  To be honest, if I didn’t need the money I would probably not have a business.  I would just paint, maybe enter a show every once in a while and look for a gallery or two to put my paintings in.  But the reality is that I need the money.  But it was not my intention when I began showing my paintings to have a business.  I was asked by the owner of a gallery to display my paintings.  I looked for a few other places to display them and entered a few shows.  Then I quit my full time job so I was thinking I needed to find a way to make some money and figured I might be able to sell some paintings.  This was only a few years ago and I was living in Colorado then.

It isn’t easy to run a business but the enjoyable part for me is meeting and talking to people. I learn a lot about art and the business of art when I go to galleries, participate in fairs, attend exhibit openings and visit boutiques.  Everyone has interesting thoughts and ideas about how to run a business.  Networking is key to being successful these days.

One of the hard parts is all the record keeping that is necessary in running a business. Then there is doing all those other things besides painting in order to prepare and market your product.  Prices have to be set and materials and equipment continually bought.  Products have to be packaged and delivered-even paintings. Magnets have to be found for your product.  The work has to be delivered.   You must maintain contact with the places where your work is to see how things are selling and if they need more products.  I learned all this by trial and error.

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I have to admit that I did sell Girl Scout cookies and participated in other fundraisers as a child. I sold Avon for a number of years so I get the selling part. But many of the other things I’ve learned about by reading books and talking to other artists or experts in a particular business thing I was trying to learn.

My daughter, Jennifer, is an accountant and after my first year in business, she told me I had to figure the cost of each item I was making so I could make sure that what I was charging would cover the commission I had to give to the shop and any cost I had. And one always hopes to make a little profit. I really don’t make much money on each item-certainly not the time and talent I put into it. But when something comes out especially nice, I take a great deal of pleasure in knowing the buyer is getting something I can be proud of.

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My Website, One Of The Ways I Market My Art

I have a website. My daughter, Katy Heath,designs and maintains it for me. I do know Picture1how to do some things on the computer but web design is not one of them. I think my website could be more popular if I had time to do more marketing.
I have facebook, twitter, pinterest and linked in. I interact with people on them but struggle with exactly how to use them to promote my art. And here again my lack of computer and internet skills often make it hard for me to figure out how to do the things I want to do. I do not have the internet at home. So if I want to do anything on the internet I have to activate it with the help of my smart phone. This uses a lot of data and I can only afford a plan with a limited amount. When I was working two jobs, I found it difficult to find the time to network through the internet. Now that I am focusing just on painting I have yet to find a balance between presenting myself as an artist and practicing my art.
I have business cards that have my website on it and I give them out as often as possible. All the places where I have my work, they have my business cards to give out, too.

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Knowing when to go it alone and ask for help are important skills. In order to market my work I am fortunate that I have friends that help me.

Just recently my daughter and I redid my website. Hope you will check it out. As with all things technological there is always room for improvement but I think it showcases my work nicely.

How Many Paintings?

One of the many reasons that I like working with children is that they ask the most interesting and thought-provoking questions.  I had a student who recently asked me, “If you have about two hundred paintings now, how many will you have in two years?”  Mathematically that is an easy question.  I have been painting about four years.  I paint about forty to fifty paintings a year.  So in two years I will paint another one hundred, so I will have three hundred paintings.

But I painted a lot more scenes and still lifes than that.  For example, right now I have sixty small pieces that I just completed.  They are ready to be inked and then be made into bookmarks, magnets and jewelry.  I make that much of these products at least six times each year.  So I am creating three hundred sixty more paintings each year.

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This is really good for me as an artist. Since I wasn’t a practicing artist for most of my life, I am not very experienced.  When I am painting pieces for the bookmarks, magnets and jewelry I try new techniques and paint things I never painted before.  I am a lifelong learner in whatever I do so now I am learning by painting, continuing to develop my style expressing my creativity.  An artist should always be looking for new experiences.

It is difficult to keep up with making enough bookmarks, magnets and jewelry from summer time to the end of the year.  That is the busiest time for sales in most markets.  January to April is slow so that is the time I use to catch my breath and catch up.  Until this year I worked as a substitute teacher at least twelve days a month during the school year so I often worked in the evening and on weekends on my art.  I enjoyed doing it most of the time so it was not a chore but sometimes the house gets dirty and I forget to do other things I should do because I think I really need to paint.

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During the summer though, I can focus on painting. Most of the paintings I paint are of nature.  Most of the paintings I did in the beginning were mountains or trees.  I love trees; their leaves, their shapes, their colors and how they change with the seasons.  Mountains have always been special to me even though as a child I lived in Oklahoma.  When I was in elementary school, I picked Switzerland to do a report on.  And during the fifteen years that I lived in Colorado I hiked a lot of mountains.  They are very spiritual places to me.  I love the way they look-covered and uncovered, rocky or with trees.  Most recently I began to paint close-ups of objects in nature: leaves, flowers, mushrooms and even an occasional animal.  By doing so I challenge myself to paint new things.

But besides the painting there are other things I have to do to sell my work.  I have to package my work and find galleries and boutiques that are willing to take my art.  I then have to deliver it.  I can paint all I want but if I can’t get someone to show my work there isn’t even the possibility that I can sell it.

I also do other things with my work now that I have a lot of it.   I began over a year ago giving some of it to my family as gifts.  I donated some of my work to charity.  I gave some of my work to friends and colleagues.  As my work gets older I discount some of my prices. Having lived a long time, I have a lot of things.  I am a hiker, teacher, reader, craftsman and artist so I have a lot of things in my home that have to do with these things.  Over the last few years, I began to go through my stuff to see what I really needed to keep now that I am a full time artist. I continue to do this to make room for “art” in my life.

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The Making Of My Jewelry

Using watercolors to create a painting on paper is probably my favorite thing to do.  Next, I like making a painting on watercolor board. The paint dries faster and it is less expensive to frame.

I started making the bookmarks, magnets and jewelry because I had a lot of paintings.  I had sold some but not enough to support myself as an artist so I decide to cut up some of the ones I didn’t like.  Every composition I painted was not a winner in my eyes.  So I cut them up and made bookmarks, magnets and jewelry.

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When I began making the jewelry, I took the scraps of watercolor paper, found patterns for different objects, cut them out and painted them with mod podge.   My daughter, Katy Heath came up with the idea of how to make them into jewelry.  At first, we just put holes in them and attached them with jump rings, making them into earrings, pendants and necklaces.

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We sold some of these but discovered we could buy silvertone shapes, put the watercolor piece in it and cover it with resin.  We sold more of these.  So now we make all of our jewelry this way and we make silver plated pieces also.

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I don’t dislike painting on the small pieces of paper that I use for bookmarks and jewelry nor do I dislike painting on small pieces of watercolor board but I probably would not do it on a regular basis if I didn’t need the money.  However, having said that, I learn a great deal painting on smaller pieces of paper and board. For me, painting is a process.

When I start, I have an image in my mind of what I want to do.  Sometimes I succeed in what I want to do, sometimes I succeed partially and sometimes I fail.  But I always learn from what I am doing. I don’t take a lot of notes about what I do or not do because that interrupts the creative process.  And I find that what I think about my art is not always what others think.  Sometimes I hate a piece I’ve done but someone else will love it.  It is hard when I want to do something and it is not working.  There are styles/ techniques that I like that other artists do that I cannot.   There are times I would like to be able to do what they do but don’t want to lose my own inspiration and style.  I feel I need to keep my equipment, materials and tools simple.  I don’t want to use a lot of specialized add ons to create an effect.  I want the simple act of using a brush and colored water on paper to speak for itself. As to where the ink comes from-I’ve always loved pen and ink and the contrast between black (color) and white.  I see lines as part of everything and details in everything.

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Also, in trying to create a variety of pieces to sell, I challenge myself to paint things that I would never paint in a large format because I will think – “Oh, it’s just a magnet.”  I think I grow in leaps and bounds as an artist because of the necessity of creating a lot of product in a short time. They say that “necessity is the mother of invention”.

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My Favorite Pieces

I have a number of favorite pieces in art. My favorite art style is Impressionism. I like the way these artists put colors together to create light and dark, shapes and lines.The-BenchI don’t really have a favorite piece of my own art. But there are some paintings I have done that do have a certain appeal for me. It usually has something to do with how the painting came out. It might be the composition or the color or a particular technique I came up with or improved upon.????????????????????

I had a student that asked me what my masterpiece is. A masterpiece is the greatest work you ever did. I haven’t been painting long enough to have produced a masterpiece.  And which piece that is, is usually determined by others and often after you are dead. You also have to be “discovered” by the art world. Since I have yet to be found out, it may be a long time or never, before there is a masterpiece of mine. I certainly have paintings that I am proud of-whether any one of them is a masterpiece, I don’t know. But by painting them I feel I achieved something-painting something I never did before, developed great depth or contrast between light and dark, good composition…..

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Why Do I Like Being An Artist?

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I like being an artist for a variety of reasons.  I like making things.  I am a crafty person as well and I actually used to do more crafts than I do now.  My grandmother taught me to knit and crochet.  I know how to cross stitch, also.  I can decoupage most anything on anything.  I know how to paint and stain a variety of objects.  I once stained a very large entertainment center that was in our living room for a number of years.  Name just about any craft and I have either done it a number of times, tried it at least once or know what it is.  I’ve made crafts from natural objects and commercial kits. And, yes, I love to paint.  But until the last few years I didn’t paint a lot.  I did crafts and artistic things for and with my family.  I made a lot of posters and as a volunteer created fun artistic things.  I’ve made god’s eyes and piñatas.  I’m not as good at building things that are three dimensional like sculptures.  I enjoy taking a brush and some paint (acrylics, tempera or watercolor) and trying to make the thing I am painting look real.  I am passionate in the same way about hiking.  With both of these activities when I really get going I am in the “zone” as they say –totally focused on what I am doing.  Nothing else exists for me.

      I like how you can take something as simple as colored water and make it look like something.  I also like to do it because I want to get people to appreciate the natural world around them-to realize how unique and special the world is.  If one takes the time to look at the flowers, the trees, the rocks-each one has its own design and shape.  And depending on the season, the time of day and the weather, the same object will have a different look.  I hope that by my painting things like leaves, streams and mountains that people will look at nature differently and maybe spend more time outside. I hope those who see my art will be reminded of a place they have been or make them want to go find this place I’ve painted and explore it for themselves.  Or at least preserve rather than destroy the earth.

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     Some people like my art because to them the landscapes I paint are nice and peaceful. I am glad they like them but I hope they realize that not everything in nature is beautiful; sometimes what happens in nature is rather harsh such as what can be seen after a fire or a tornado.  So far I haven’t painted any of these things because I don’t have a great deal of experience with that part of nature.  I hiked when it snowed, sleeted, stormed, the wind has blown so hard I could hardly walk and it has rained so much I was soaked to the skin.  I felt nauseous because of the altitude, frozen because of the temperature and sprained my ankle when I fell through the snow.  And I guarantee you I was not thinking about painting, what I wanted to paint or that anything was beautiful.  I was trying to survive.  Sometimes I was trying to get to the top of a peak.  Sometimes I was trying to get down from somewhere.  Sometimes I was trying to keep from getting blown off the side of a mountain. Or I was looking at it lightning in the sky behind me and hoping I could hike down to tree line before the storm caught up with me.  And one day it was so foggy I couldn’t see but a few feet in front of me. I definitely wasn’t thinking about painting anything then.  But the pictures I took from these hikes I use in creating my art. 

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         Right now I paint for a lot of different reasons.  Part of my income comes from what I can sell.  I began painting at a time in our country when the economy took a downturn.  There are still people buying art but not as much as before and I am relatively unknown. I am what is called an emerging artist.  Art is one of those things that people want but don’t need. So when money is tight they don’t buy as much art.  I sell paintings from time to time but cannot rely on the money I get from selling paintings to support me.  And unfortunately I have bills to pay just like everyone else.

      I needed to have something to sell at a lower price range than my paintings. I began to cut up some of the paintings I didn’t like and make them into bookmarks and magnets.  I sold them.  I also knew that women love shiny things and buy jewelry no matter how the economy is doing.  So I did the same thing, took bits and pieces of small paintings and made jewelry and sold them at prices that people can afford.  Eventually I had to start painting small scenes and still lifes for the bookmarks, magnets and jewelry because I sold so many.  And I didn’t want to keep cutting up my paintings.

 

     Sometimes I enjoy what I am painting for my “boutique” line as I call it and sometimes it becomes more work than I would like it to be.  Don’t get me wrong.  I would rather be painting than many other things I could do to make a living but I would rather be creating paintings than bookmarks, magnets or jewelry.  But having said that, when I paint a rose or a landscape for one of those pieces that is extremely successful to me then I am overjoyed. And through the jewelry, bookmarks and paintings I can show off my work.   Also, by forcing myself to paint some things like animals, different plants and buildings I am constantly growing as an artist.213

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

When I am having one of those days when I am wishing I didn’t have to do this, I always remind myself that the paintings I create have benefitted from all the other smaller pieces I force myself to paint.  And with some of the money I make I can buy more paint, watercolor paper and board so I can paint more paintings.  That makes it all worthwhile.

Starting To Paint

  I don’t really remember the first picture I ever painted but it was probably “a paint by number” picture. My grandparents bought them for me. I don’t really know if stores even sell them anymore but they were small, flat rectangular pieces of material like the watercolor board I use today. The surface was marked with numbers. The numbers referred to the colors you were to paint with. The paint came in small tubs and the kit came with one brush. It was fascinating to me to put different colors together to create a shape. I don’t remember there being much black but this is where I began to experience the placing of different colors side by side to create areas of dark and light and objects. These paintings were put together much like the “Impressionists” painters painted. I think it was by doing these that I became interested in painting the way I do today.

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I also have a few of the paintings that I did at home as a child with regular paints like watercolor. Whenever I got a chance I painted- at school and at home. My mother didn’t allow us to have many art supplies lying around the house so that wasn’t often. One painting I did at home is of a donkey, another a memorial and a third is of some trees.

Just like you, I started painting in elementary school using the metal or plastic box of water colors. When and where I went to elementary school, there weren’t any art teachers but there were times when the classroom teacher let us paint. Tempera paint was another type of paint that I got to use in school.

My learning to paint was a gradual thing. I don’t believe any one person actually taught me how to paint. My first real art class wasn’t until I was in high school. My teacher’s name was Mr. Grace. I learned a lot about art, drawing and elements of design, composition, perspective…

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In college I took some general painting classes but nothing specific. But watercolor always interested me because it is just colored water and yet you can do such amazing things with it. When I started playing around with paint again in my late fifties, it was both acrylics and watercolor I began with. Acrylics allow one to redo something if you make a mistake or just want to change something a little.

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Watercolor is not so forgiving. You can tweak something a little but in reality once you put your paint on the paper, it is there. There are tricks and techniques that will help you do different things with watercolor but I am somewhat of a minimalist in that area and like to create using just the paint and the brush. I do add ink after I paint now and can do a lot with creating shapes and lines on and around the color I painted.

I started being good at being an artist when I decided I was an artist. And that was about six months to a year after I started painting full time. Another artist I know told me I needed to decide I was an artist not just someone who paints. Only then would I be one. And she was right. I do think it is helpful to read about the lives of artists. It makes one realize that artists’ lives are like anyone else’s except they have this drive to create.

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It does take years to become an accomplished artist. And it really depends on how you define what an artist is. If you think an artist is one who creates, there are a lot of artists in the world who create a lot of different things-some of which are called art depending on who you ask. One must work at something to be accomplished at it. This is true whether you are a mechanic, a teacher, a scientist or an artist. One has to be passionate about it and want to do it no matter what. This can be hard when there are things we all need and want. And someone has to make a living and pay the bills. Most artistic people –musicians, writers, sculptors, to name a few do not earn the majority of their living as an artist. Sometimes one gets lucky and is discovered as an artist but most of the time artists work at other jobs and do their art when they can. That is the reason why it might take a long time before one really feels she/he is an artist.

How Long Does It Take?

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I started painting when I was a child but there were many years when I never picked up a brush. It was only when I got frustrated with my full time job in the fall of 2008 (?) that I seriously began to paint. So I really have only been painting for about five years. That is not long for any artist. By painting the bookmarks, magnets and jewelry pieces, I have the opportunity to paint a lot of different things. Subjects like animals and flowers that I would not otherwise have tried. I always painted landscapes when I painted nature.

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In the very beginning, I painted these black and white faces because shadows and emotions interested me. But I rarely do that now.

I also painted in acrylics and watercolor. I took a class in oils and completed three oil paintings but I don’t really like oils-it’s a tactile thing and I don’t like the fact that oils take so long to dry. I like the fluidity of watercolor and the way watercolors can be put on paper. I do like acrylics, too and am thinking about doing some acrylics this summer. Both painting acrylics and painting on watercolor board have the advantage of not having to be framed. And if you make a mistake in watercolor you are stuck with whatever you can make of that mistake but in acrylics you can paint over it.

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Artists are often asked how long it takes to paint an object or a whole painting. It can take forever, some paintings never get finished. Paintings get set aside because artists are not happy with them or they paint over them if they use acrylics or oils. I usually finish mine but it takes a while (usually a couple of weeks) because I work on several paintings at a time. I do this because I like to paint one color/ one part on each painting and then let it be for a day or at least several hours. It takes a while for the paint to dry and show its real color. I also like to give the image a chance to rest from my mind so I can take a fresh look and then decide what my next step will be. Will I continue to add color in the same place, a different place, make something darker or lighter…? It also depends on the size of the piece. It takes a lot longer to finish a 16” x 20” painting than it does to finish a 3” x 3” jewelry piece or a 2” x 5” bookmark.

I feel I accomplished a lot in these past five years. I still have a long way to go and every time I pick up my brush and begin to paint, I learn something new. Having started doing this late in life, I don’t know if I have enough time left to become the kind of artist, I want to be.