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How to Paint Blooms Course

I love reading artist blogs and hearing about their progress, inspirations, and creative journey.

I have had this blog for over then years so I have a few stories to contribute.  I'm starting with my experience of the online course that has had the most impact on my creative journey that began in 2011.

I hope this will help someone who is trying to find their own creative direction.

This is my experience of the twelve month online course 'How to Paint Blooms' by Jacqueline Coates.

I have always been creative but it was in 2011 that I decided to focus on acrylic painting.  I enrolled on various online classes and attended several in person workshops.  I learned a lot, I made progress and I also made a lot of mistakes.  Over the years I gained a strong idea of what I liked and didn’t like and what worked and didn’t work for me, but my growth was slow and lacked direction. 

For many months, I focused on intuitive painting.  I love this type of abstract art and particularly the idea of making a mess and then creating something beautiful from it, but honestly, this process looks easy yet I find it the most difficult and stressful.  Yes, I find painting without a plan or end in mind stressful and for me that is not what painting should be about.  At the same time I realized I don’t enjoy working or living with artwork that includes every color of the rainbow fighting for a place on the canvas.  Figuring out a personal, limited color palette has been one of my biggest steps forward.  Still, I persevered with this type of art.  It took me a long to admit this style of painting just doesn’t work for me.  BUT I have to say if I get the chance to take an in-person workshop with Flora or Tracy again I will jump at it – I think there is always something to learn from pushing ourselves in unexpected directions.

I was curious – how do artists learn?  How do they develop and grow?  How do artists set goals?  For me it was signing up for online class after online class, going with what seemed popular and trying different products and methods all with varying results.  It really was a case of one step forward and two steps back.

So now I was certain I wanted to paint large-scale, close-up flowers.  I felt I now had direction and a goal.  In my mind this was going to be easy and I would soon be knocking out painting after painting. And I did paint flower after flower, but my colors were muddy and each piece lacked variation in value, life and spontaneity.  

I began to remember why I gave up art as a teenager – we are always our own fiercest critics - and my critic was telling me over and over again to forget it, you are never going to be as good as you want to be, you are never going to be happy with your artwok!  But I didn’t want to give up - I decided I needed a mentor and began searching for someone painting in this style with acrylics.  

There are lots of wonderful artists out there, but I couldn’t find anyone painting with acrylics in a style I admired.  There are lots of amazing and very successful, floral oil painters, but as my painting area is in the main family room oils are something I wanted to avoid for the time being.  Besides, none of these successful artists were offering tuition.  My needs were specific I needed an artist with a good understanding my challenges; color mixing, tonal values and composition and working with acrylics.

I continued to practice, buy art books and look at art, but I was becoming more and more despondent and felt my progress had come to a halt.  I was pretty much thinking of putting the paint brushes away for good.

One lunch time while browsing the internet I stumbled upon Jacqueline Coates' ‘How to Paint Blooms’ page and my jaw hit the ground.  Here was the artist who was doing what I wanted to do!  Her website was full of beautiful big, bold bright flowers.  I picked up my jaw only for my heart to sink - Jacqueline was thousands of miles away - she is in South Australia and I am in Los Angeles, CA.  At the time my son was nine years old and there was no way I could leave him for a week to paint.  A few more clicks and I discovered Jacqueline offered a tweleve month online course.  I didn’t hesitate to get the credit card out and sign up.  Usually, I would discuss an expense like this with my husband but this was exactly what I had been looking for and nothing he could say would stop me from signing up.  That evening I sheepishly told hubby what I had done and showed him Jacqueline’s work and website.  Thankfully he was really supportive and nearly as excited as me, well, after all, it’s not golf, huh?

I followed the first few weeks of the course very closely, mixing my own colors, making color charts and working from reference photos.  Soon I had the confidence to try painting using my own photos.  Finally, I had someone giving me permission to work from reference photos.  Someone telling me it was okay to trace and erase.  The harsh voices of my high school art teachers, in my head, telling me I couldn’t do this and couldn’t do that began to quieten.  I had someone showing me how to mix bright vibrant colors and how to adjust color values and hue.    I had my mentor!

I completed the online course from May 2015 to June 2016.  I participated in the Facebook group regularly chatting with other students.  I have met students of all abilities doing the class.  There are those that are naturally gifted, those that have been painting for sometime and developed some serious painting skills and there are complete newbies with very little experience.  It's often hard to tell who are the new painters from the photos.  After reading the posts I'm often thinking 'Are you sure?'

 During my time on the course, I never posted any photos of my work, but then, I rarely post photos of my work (or photos generally) online.  My inner critic still hangs around and I just don’t feel ready to share online as yet.  However, I did sell several pieces and donated to a local charity.  My donated art pieces are always very popular and big fundraisers which makes me extremely happy as the money goes towards a kids’ art program I am involved with in the local community.

One thing I have noticed about all the student posts is there are very few (if any, that I can think of) half finished or abandoned artworks.  Most of the work I see is finished, or at least very close to finished.  Personally, I start struggling with most of my art when I'm only half way through and find finishing a piece really hard work.  But this method makes it really easy to compete all these steps to get a piece of artwork to a finished stage.  *Actually, I'm back to edit that last line.  The method doesn't make it 'easy' - I still find finishing a painting very difficult - rather the method makes it much more 'achievable'.

Six months into the course, my husband and I started house hunting and my painting time became less and less as we packed up our house and moved home.  Finally, at the beginning of 2017 I started painting on a regular basis again.  I now have the confidence to tackle a wide range of subjects using the methods I learned from the course. 

After a recent text conversation with Jac I decided to log back into the workshop classroom and found lots of lessons that I had missed the first time around.  Maybe they didn’t appeal to me at the time or I thought they would be too challenging.  I think it’s interesting how a little confidence and knowledge can help us see things so differently.  I’m now excited to tackle those big, pink peonies that scared the life out of me the first time around. 

When I first signed up, the twelve-month class was big commitment.  I was adding an outgoing expense to the family finances when I should have been focusing on the house move but the class kept me sane during a busy time. I find this way of painting relaxing and calming.  Sure I still struggle with certain areas, painting is often a series of problem-solving, but now I know how t I can solve those problems and move onto the next step.

You can probably tell I cannot say enough good things about Jac and her teaching methods.  Signing up for the class was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.  It’s been over two years since I first discovered ‘How to Paint Blooms’ and I’m still excited to go back and do the lessons I skipped and even redo some for a second time.  I will never tire or learning or painting flowers and I am so grateful for the confidence and skills the course has given me.  Jacqueline Coates is not just a mentor, she is a gift.

Below are some of my canvases at different stages...

How Do You Keep Organized?

I tend to use a combination of my phone, paper scraps and the back of my hand to keep me on track, but I notice I am most organized when I use a planner.  I'm currently using a Blue Sky planner.  The size is six inches by nine and has both weekly and monthly views with plenty of room for shopping lists, after-school activities, creative ideas and doodles.  My husband finds it strange that I don't just use my phone, but I find I actually remember the stuff I put in my planner if I physically write the words with pen and ink rather than typing on an electronic device.  I also prefer the academic year format which runs from July to June so I'm not changing planners during the holiday period.  I've just ordered my new planner so I can start entering summer camps and activities.  I'm trying a smaller version this year as I plan to keep it in my handbag and use it more consistently.

As a creative. how do you keep organized?  Do you prefer pen and paper or are you strictly digital?

Book Review: The Victorian Flower Oracle by Patricia Telesco

I was searching for what seemed like ages for a book of flower meanings.  It took me weeks before I could finally decide and it was more impatience (and a good price) that made me hit the buy button rather than knowing I had found the perfect book.

I looked at so many books that I admit to getting confused and the book that turned up wasn't at all what I had expected.  The book has 221 pages, black and white illustrations and no color photos. This is not a glamorous coffee table book, but I wasn't disappointed and this is probably one of the most magical books I own.  As well as folklore meanings and history for over seventy flowers there are also extra notes and information that I hadn't expected to find, for example, on page fifty-four tucked away under 'geranium' is a recipe for geranium punch which as the author states is idea for summer rituals and romantic rites, on page forty-four you will find instructions for clover honey, on page one hundred and fifty is a recipe for a healing cream and on and on you will find little snippets of information on how create a variety of magical plant related lotions, potions and beverages. 

However, the main magic of this book is that Patricia Telesco encourages you to build upon the knowledge on these pages and create your own flower oracle.  I was thrilled to find this was the main idea for the book.  I can't think of a better way to learn the meaning of flowers than to create your own little flash cards that can be used as a personal oracle deck. But don't expect any detailed instructions or examples.  The information is covered in few paragraphs at the beginning of the book and it's really the readers job to take Patricia Telesco's suggestions and get creative.

I love how unpretentious this book is.  The recipes nestle in the paragraphs like little gems waiting to be uncovered.  There is no long winded build-up or trumpet-blowing, self-promotion.  The author quietly presents her information in simple plain text that seems fitting for a book about flower meanings.

First published in October 1995, I believe this book is now out of print but you can follow my affiliate link by clicking on the picture below to find offers from third party sellers on Amazon.


Painting Flowers with Jenny Doh

At the top of my list of things to 'improve' this year is my art.  At one point I was creating every day but last year that dropped away.  Moving house ate up a lot of my time but that's all behind me now and I'm determined to concentrate on art making this year.

When I saw that Jenny Doh was offering an in person flower painting class in her Santa Ana studio, Crescendoh, I jumped at the chance.

I've attended four workshops at Jenny's studio and each one is a special memory.  For me, the day starts as soon as I get in the car.  Even the fifty-five minute car ride seems magical as I drive by myself on the freeway (something I rarely do) I feel independent and optimistic.  Walking into Jenny's studio is an up-lifting experience - art work and supplies everywhere and always someone interesting and inspiring to chat to.

I know from Jenny's website and social media posts that she is a super-smart woman, well-read, an avid knitter, author, artist and musician and now I also know she is a super-generous teacher who has an amazing ability to roll up her knowledge and life experiences into meaningful anecdotes and analogies to illustrate and explain her painting instructions.

Sometimes we need permission to do even the simplest things and I felt Jenny gave permission to slow-down, speed-up, observe, edit, plan and use tools not normally associated with artists such as iphone apps.

If anyone reading this is on the fence about attending an in person lesson, and I do understand it's difficult to get away from the daily routine, but do it.  Put yourself first, just once, the benefits are so enormous I'm sure you won't regret it.

How to Make Flower Preservative

When you get home with your flowers and the little sachet of flower preservative is missing - urgh... 

I found this simple recipe to keep your blooms lasting longer?

Homemade Flower Preservative
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of household bleach
2 teaspoons of lemon juice

Dissolve all the ingredients in one quart of warm water.  If your arrangement needs more water then double the ingredient quantities and the the amount of water.

How does this work?  Each ingredient has a specific job to keep the flowers lasting longer.  Sugar provides the nutrition the flowers would normally get from the soil via the roots, bleach ensures the water remains clean and the lemon juice keeps the solution acidic which helps with the uptake of water. 

Don't forget to change the water every few days and mist occasionally.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any other tips for extending the life of your cut flowers. 

Hello 2017: One Little Word

Hello 2017!

I'm always excited by this time of year.  People are so motivated to make change.  Setting goals and making lifestyle improvements is always positive.

However, I won't be making a new year resolution this year. In fact, I haven't done for a few years now.

What I will be doing is Ali Edwards One Little Word.  You can find out more about the project HERE.

Some years ago my one word was 'healthy' and that was the year I changed my eating habits and lost a significant amount of weight (and so far I have kept it off).

This year I'm choosing the word 'improvement' and hope to apply it to all areas of my life - health, home, work, art.

Will you be joining the 'One Little Word' project?  Or do you have other goal and milestones for 2017?