Learning Landscapes

Jessica Jewett, artI have been a portrait artist for so long that I almost got to a point of never imagining myself doing anything else. That’s not necessarily a good thing, however. Artists, in my opinion, should definitely develop a style but not at the expense of challenging themselves. There comes a point when you’re doing the same thing again and again that your creativity goes flat, so it’s incredibly important to find ways to stretch your style into new subjects.

A few years ago, I did this colored pencil piece when I was visiting family in Wyoming. This was where we were camping on the North Platte River a bit upriver from the Alcova Reservoir. I sketched it out in person, took a photo, and then added the color when I got home. It’s fairly obvious to me that I was hesitant and uncertain about how to work with earthy colors as opposed to flesh tones. It’s not terrible but I wanted it to be better. This piece now belongs to my father.

Wyoming Mountains Landscape

I’ve attempted painting landscapes with water elements before. This one turned out very well, much better than I expected at the time. It wasn’t any place in particular but more like a reflection of my thoughts on death and crossing into the afterlife. All in all, not a bad effort but I took it as a fluke because I did this under the guidance of a more experienced painter.

Night scene with a boat dock and the moon.

A trend has been developing, it seems, of me doing better with pencil scenes. It’s not that much of a surprise considering I’ve always done stronger work in charcoal or graphite. But I don’t think landscapes are meant for black and white unless you’re trying to create a darker mood with cemeteries or dilapidated houses. Nature is filled with beautiful colors that express every kind of mood or emotion in the universe and that is the real challenge for an artist to master.

But then I decided to at least work in black and white for a while to master (or at least get better) the technical parts of creating nature-based art. It’s totally different than portraits of people. I cannot approach those things the same way, otherwise I’ll fail at what I’m trying to accomplish. It could be said that people and nature have completely different souls that can’t be interchangeable on paper or canvas.

Recently I attempted doing a drawing of the coast of Scotland in color after such a long time of trying to understand things in black and white. My Scotland drawing was done in Copic markers, which has the benefit of mixing and blending the way I want to do with oil paint but I’m not quite ready to be that advanced yet. Oils are my ultimate goal but it’s been so long since I used them that I think I’m back down to the beginner stage again. That’s fine, though. I can play with color using Copic markers until I’m used to deciphering nature’s palettes and then I can go back to paint.

I’m definitely more energized and ready to try doing more landscapes and seascapes again. Seeing my marked improvement from the Wyoming piece to the Scotland piece tells me that practice really does make perfect, as much as I hate those little sayings. I wanted you all to see the improvement too because some of you might be struggling to master something in your artistic goals. Keep your old stuff because you will see your development over time. And seeing your skills grow will do a lot for your self-confidence as an artist. I certainly haven’t mastered landscapes or seascapes but I can see the evidence that I’m getting better. That’s enough for me.

Take a look at Scotland.

Scotland, Jessica Jewett

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Struggling With the Witch Cottage Series

I had the bright idea in the autumn to start a series of highly detailed, realistic pencil drawings of domestic scenes based around my concept of how a witch lived during colonial America. It’s sort of fantasy, sort of ancestral reality, and altogether original. My goal was to complete one in time for each of the four seasons. Loosely, they would be themed around Samhain, the winter solstice (Yule to some), Imbolc into Ostara, and Beltane into Lughnasadh.

I have completed Samhain and Yule so far. I think Samhain was fairly easy because I hadn’t yet decided to make it a full series, so I wasn’t feeling any pressure. Samhain is my favorite period of the year too. I can whip out art along the themes in that season with my eyes closed. Take a look at the one that started my bright idea.

The Witch's Cottage, Jessica Jewett

Witch Cottage No. 1:

5×7 print on Etsy for $10.00
11×17 print on Etsy for $20.00
ORIGINAL PIECE SOLD

I’m really proud of that one. People often send me messages asking if I intentionally hid images in the fire or in the shelf. I didn’t, of course, but I adore the idea of people seeing things in my art that speak to them. It means I somehow tapped into some amazing creative energy.

Then I decided I would do it again. A story began to form in my mind because I spent so much time with the first piece and everybody loved it so much. I had to restock it three times, which has never happened in my little shop with another piece of art. The story took shape for a more formal room designed around the winter solstice, which doesn’t look very different from Christmas. The trouble was I tried to finish a major piece of art during the real holidays. I ran out of time! It was tough to balance home life with my artistic ambitions and I had to learn a tough lesson about best laid plans. Witch Cottage No. 2 wasn’t finished until after the solstice.

Witch Cottage No. 2, Jessica Jewett

Witch Cottage No. 2:

5×7 print on Etsy for $10.00
11×17 print on Etsy for $20.00
ORIGINAL PIECE on Etsy for $180.00

But I finished it and I think the challenge was good for me. I changed up my usual way of setting up a composition for domestic scenes. Everything was done to historical specifications regarding colonial America while adding subtle hints that a witch lives in that home. I had trouble though. It was tough to keep my perspective points straight and I still think I couldn’t get those points exactly right. One point perspective I’ve mastered pretty well but two point perspective or more still wreaks havoc on my dyslexia.

Still I’m pressing onward to new challenges. At the moment, I’m working on the third piece in my Witch Cottage series centered around the rebirth and renewed light during the period of Imbolc into Ostara. I had the fabulous idea of a greenhouse scene to show where the witch in this artistic story grows her plants, flowers, and herbs.

Again, I’ve run into delays and the sacred days have already come and gone. This time it was my health. Chronic pain is a companion to my disability and I had to have an invasive procedure this spring. I might even be looking at surgery this year too. So I’m doing my best to be kinder to myself about missing my self-imposed deadline because this is not something that could have been avoided.

Let’s take a look at my work-in-progress of Witch Cottage No. 3, shall we?

Witch Cottage No. 3, WIP, Jessica Jewett

I’m not sure how much you can decipher about what’s going on in this piece but you’re looking at the interior of a greenhouse. There are drying herbs strung across the top. A table and chairs are in the middle with a bench on the right. Through the open door will be a glimpse of the outside as well. I’m planning to set up an Imbolc altar on the table and maybe hide an ewe outside somewhere. We’ll see where things take me as I go. This one has been daunting because I rarely draw plants, but I’ve been practicing in other sketchbooks.

Of course, since I’ve made it this far, I can’t stop now. I don’t really want to stop either. I did not, however, believe I was going to be so challenged by this project. Once I’m done with Witch Cottage No. 4 in a few months (I haven’t yet decided how to depict summertime), I’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the fact that I succeeded at a challenge I set before myself almost six months ago.

Don’t get stagnate in your art. If you’re not feeling challenged, or you’re not slightly nervous about your work, then you’re not developing your skills. An artist needs constant growth in order to experience life at its fullest. Sometimes being nervous is a good thing because it makes your accomplishments all the more potent and special.

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Video: All of my art done in 2017.

I wanted to put together a compilation video of all my various art projects in the last year. Hopefully if I do this right, you should be able to watch the video below. I’ll also provide a direct link to the YouTube page in case it doesn’t work here for you.

Looking back on it now, 2016-2017 has been my biggest period of growth since I was a student, as far as my technique development and my creative experimentation is concerned. This past year I tried playing with subjects and ideas that I never would have considered a few years ago because I used to be so stuck in the little box of what should be viewed as “fine art”. That can be a bit of a downside to being exposed to any sort of classical training. You do need those technical skills but you’re also at risk of falling into the us vs them trap of what’s real art and what’s not. I’m happy to say that I think I’ve grown beyond that trap and I’m much more willing to experiment these days.

Now, let’s see if I can post the video here.

Here’s the direct link: https://youtu.be/Vo4z4gJbdq8

As always, if you enjoy my videos, please feel free to subscribe to my channel. I’m hoping to hit 1,000 subscribers this year. Your support means a lot to me!

Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

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Inktober 2017: Week 1

Well everybody, we’ve survived the first week of Inktober – those of us who are participating, anyway. If you’re scratching your head at just what I’m talking about, Inktober is an activity that artists do to get to know each other and see new artists in the online world. Every day during the month of October, artists complete an ink drawing and post it online for everybody to see. There is an official prompt word list if people need inspiration but so far I haven’t needed it.

005 Micron Pen, Jessica Jewett This is my second year participating in Inktober, although I didn’t finish last year. I made it halfway through the month, and then I caught a really heinous cold … or maybe it was a sinus infection. I can’t remember. Needless to say, I didn’t finish so I was very determined to finish this year. Not only finish but create a body of work that challenged and stretched my artistic abilities.

Stretching my skills first involved gathering the right materials. My favorite drawing pens are the Micron variety. Copic makes a very similar line of pens but I haven’t ever found them at prices that don’t make me curl up into the fetal position. Micron pens come in several sizes and colors. The most common sizes I reach for are the .45 mm (05) and the .30 (02), both in black. I’ve got a set of colored ones but I haven’t used them yet. I’m enjoying the limited color palette I’m using in my Inktober sketchbook this year, which is mainly black with some light flesh shades and purples. The colors I’m using are the Copic Ciao markers. Those are alcohol-based and some of the ink is bleeding through onto the next page of my sketchbook. If this was a professional job meant to be sold, I’d care more, but as it is, this is only for me to play around and try out different illustration styles to see what I can do.

On the fifth day, I did get a stomach bug. Go figure. I always have some illness or another (compromised immune system) but I pressed ahead anyway. I’m still on schedule! That fact alone makes me very proud of myself. The sixth and seventh drawings are not exactly up to par with my intended plans because I wasn’t feeling well but they’re still worth keeping in my opinion.

Here are days one through seven of my Inktober 2017.

Meet the Artist, Inktober
Days one and two are two-panels introducing the artist. It features a section of what’s in my bag, my religious symbols, likes, dislikes, and a self-portrait.
Witch, Inktober
Day three was my interpretation of a movie still from Snow White.
Pagan Altar, Inktober
Day four was me experimenting with shapes, and light and shadow with ink, which is not something I’ve mastered yet. It turned into a pagan altar featuring a god and goddess statue, a bowl with burning herbs, a crystal ball, a scrying mirror, a bell, wine, and flowers.
Witch Hazel, Inktober
Day five came as a special request by a friend. This is my interpretation of Witch Hazel, another old Disney character.
Witch Potion, Inktober
Day six got harder because I was sick. I drew a fictional advertisement for a potion to make magic powers stronger and more stable. I drew inspiration from old Victorian tonics sold in newspapers and magazines.
Chains, Inktober
Day seven was a look at what I feel like some days with my disability. I live in a body that doesn’t function like it should and I go through periods of feeling like I’m in prison.

So far I do feel like Inktober has been a valuable experience, especially because it’s forcing me to learn a medium I don’t normally employ. We’ll see how I feel when I come back to post days eight through fourteen though!

Are you doing Inktober? Show me your work!

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Finding my darker niche. Let’s talk about authenticity.

It’s been a little while since I last blogged (except for my Arteza brush pen review earlier this week!) but it’s all for a good reason. In the last couple of months, I’ve been working very hard building my artistic style. Almost by accident, I discovered that I’m great at expressing ideas and aesthetics related to my spiritual path as a pagan woman.

Jessica Jewett, artI’ve been tapping into my spirituality to create more interesting art and touching the deeper, more authentic part of myself has resulted in more self-fulfillment. It happened because I was starting to feel my creativity dry up and that’s a dangerous thing for any artist. Part of me was starting to fall into the trap of creating what I thought people wanted instead of engaging the people who find passion in the same things I do. I thought I was simply taking time to make art that I care about without any plan for engaging people. As it turns out, I’ve engaged many more people because I’m showing more of who I am. Authenticity is what makes an artist great. I’ve found that an artist can have all the technical skills in the world, which I certainly don’t, but it won’t mean anything unless the creative process comes from a real, true place inside.

In August, I was reading about the Otherworld in ancient Irish tradition, which is (without going too deep) the old Irish interpretation of the afterlife. Ancestor worship is a big part of my spiritual tradition. I’m one of those people who enjoys visiting cemeteries – the older the better! – and I think some of the most beautiful places are where we honor our dead. That led to creating this piece. It sold within fifteen minutes of posting that it was finished and (maybe) there will come prints out of it. All because I decided to try making art that was interesting to me!

The Cemetery At Night, Jessica Jewett
The Cemetery At Night is 11×14 on mixed media paper, drawn in black charcoal, white charcoal, and graphite pencil.

Is it perfect? No. I think what people responded to the most was the way I showed my passion for what I was doing, and that’s something to think about for any artist.

So I tried it again. My next project for most of September was something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Since we’re getting close to the Halloween season (Samhain for me), I’ve been watching a lot of witchy movies like Hocus PocusPractical Magic, and The Craft. I find the fictional witch aesthetic really fun and I’ve been feeling the urge to add my own contributions to that image.

I came up with a witchy hearth based on 18th century colonial homes. Like, how would a witch decorate her cottage in the colonial frontier? I thought most of his or her belongings would be functional to their craft but even functional things have their beauty. Improving my skills in drawing different textures has been more fun because I enjoyed the subject. I learned a lot about the texture of wood, stone, fabric, and the need to maintain good one-point perspective.

The Witch's Cottage, Jessica Jewett
The Witch’s Cottage is 11×14 and it was done on mixed media paper, drawn with charcoal pencil and graphite pencil.

Once again, this piece sold within minutes of completion. I was shocked! A lot of my audience has been finding things in this piece that I never intentionally placed but I don’t dare mess with those things now. People tell me most often that they see a face in the hearth fire, while others say they see the silhouette of a witch in the shadows in the back of the second shelf.

Beginning this journey into doing art that I thought was only interesting to me has been an eye-opening experience. It’s fun for me to do pieces with a lot of detail and show imagery related to my spirituality while combining it with occasional fun and fantasy, and especially history. This is who I am and I was afraid of showing it for so long.

That’s the moral of this story. You may find yourself falling into the same people-pleaser trap if you’re not careful. Things you create might be what’s popular or trendy at the moment and you may produce technically beautiful things but there will always be something missing. It’s almost a sixth sense thing with the people looking at your art. If they don’t “smell” your soul on it, they’re not going to be as responsive to what you’re offering as an artist, writer, musician, or whatever it is that you do.

But the second you allow your personal authenticity to come though, people will start engaging with you even more. My darker themes or pagan themes certainly won’t appeal to a wide audience but the people out there who are like me will and do respond at a much higher rate.

No matter how odd you think you are, there are always people like you. Be yourself.

Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

$10.00


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