12/29/2020 2 Comments
2020 was one crazy year for all of us, and for many of us probably didn't go how we expected it to. Maybe there are many things we would like to forget about 2020, but on the other hand we can also take a moment to reflect about the past year and decide how we want to go forward with 2021.
In 2019, I started a masters program at The China Academy of Art in Hangzhou. At the beginning of 2020, I left to go traveling during the Chinese New Year and was never able to return to China. In March I made the decision to come back to America instead of staying abroad in hopes of getting back to China. Though I am back in America for the time being, I still continue on with my studies.
That involves spending a lot of time at home doing art. Since April of 2020, I have dedicated a large amount of time to sketching, painting (indoors and outdoors), researching, reading, writing, and journaling. Through this I have learned a lot about myself as an artist and also much about the art world around me. So, I would like to share with you somethings I learned about myself as an artist in 2020 and some suggestions for you going into 2021.
1. Keep a Journal (Daily Journal, A Sketchbook, A Mini or Pocket Sketchbook)
In 2019, I began regularly keeping various journals to help me through the process of art. I started keeping one journal, logging the various artists I had been reading about or discovered through various public blogs online. I would write down various information about the artist and would collect a few of their pieces in my journal as well. I can't tell you how much this has helped me grow as an artist and how much I have learned. While I am painting sometimes it even helps me to look at their artwork for inspiration too. Below are some pictures of this journal I have been keeping.
I also recommend keeping a journal on you whenever you go outside. You can use it to sketch places if you are outside on a walk or hike. You could even sketch people who are sitting outside or a cup of coffee while sitting at your favorite coffee shop. Anyways, it has really helped me grow as an artist to always have a sketchbook on me at all times. I've had moments where something catches my eye and all of a sudden I have to get it down on paper. It is a great way to document what you see, feel, or thoughts at any moment! Below are some paintings and sketches I have done last year.
Sketches sitting at various lighthouses in Wisconsin, 2020
During the first few months of 2020, I spent my time traveling South-East Asia with friends. My time spent traveling was incredible and spent jam-packed with fun adventures and great memories were made. When I returned to America, I started a journal, recording my memories and painting pictures of things that I saw. It is now fun to look back at my memories through my sketches and paintings. Here's a look at my travel sketchbook!
In 2021, I challenge you to keep a journal and write down your experiences (even if you are not an artist). It is not only one way to take full advantage of the creative process, but after a year you can see your growth as an artist as well as look back at all the wonderful memories you have made!
Recently, I have also been following an freelance illustrator on Instagram and Youtuber named Frannerd. She also keeps something called an "Ugly Sketchbook". She keeps this sketchbook and creates sketches with no high expectations or pressure and just enjoys creating! In 2021, I would like to do the same as Frannerd and get myself an Ugly Sketchbook! Below are some pictures of Frannerd and a link to her Youtube Channel.
2. Join a Group of Like-Minded Artists
Social media is wonderful. Through Facebook I have been able to join many different groups who will post art everyday or groups that have events going on for artists in your area. Right now I follow a few different groups like the Wisconsin Plein Air Painter's association (they post a variety of activities or sometimes artists post what they are working on), a group called Painters from the North (they post art done by artists from Nordic countries), and many other groups. I encourage you to find groups in your area to gather with and do art, or groups on social media where you can share or exchange info and ideas.
Karl Fredrik Nordström (11 July 1855 – 16 August 1923)
Nordström was a Swedish painter who specialized in landscapes.
Picture from Painters from the North
Below are some Facebook links for the Wisconsin Plein Art Painter's Association, Painters from the North, and a recent favorite discovery called The Sketchbookers Society.
3. Get an Instagram Account
Now I know you probably already have an Instagram account, but if you don't have one I really recommend it if you are an artist! In 2020, I began a new account to post more art related content as well as my art work. I started following many different artists on Instagram, those who were famous as well as those who just do art as a hobby, and I started to follow my fellow classmates at The China Academy of Art. Everyday it is a chance for me to go on and get inspiration, see what other artists are creating, and share my love of art with others as well to.
Acrylic on Panel
Below are some of my favorite Instagram artists that I started following this year.
4. Listen to Art Podcasts
This is my favorite one as of lately. At the end of 2020, I discovered a lovely podcast on Spotify called Talk Art.
The podcast is hosted by two gentlemen named Russell Tovey who is an actor, and gallerist Robert Diament. In their podcast they interview artists, curators, and gallerists from all over the world. Sometimes they also interview actors, musicians, and other people who dedicate themselves to art. Although I have never been one to listen to podcasts, I actually have discovered that I love to listen to their podcasts while I go for a walk. It is wonderful to listen to each artist talk about their life, the process that goes into their work, and their experiences in life. What are your favorite podcasts to listen to? Drop your favorite podcast in the comments below! Below is the link for the Talk Art podcast on Spotify.
5. Create a Space to Maximize Creativity
Whether it be rearranging your space or sprucing up your space, spend the time to do it. Sometimes it's nice to move your work space to a different side of the room. Sometimes maybe all you need is a few more plants or some new studio decor. In my opinion do whatever you need to do to make your personal workspace special and comfortable to maximize your creativity. After all a happy space means a happy artist. In 2020, I bought a plant to liven up my work space and hung up some art to make me more happy with my workspace. It made such a big difference! In 2021, make sure you have a great workspace to maximize your creativity and working environment.
Picture of my current work space, plant, and watercolor paintings
6. Splurge on Those Art Supplies You've Always Wanted to Try
"I've always wanted to try...", "What if it doesn't work?" These questions are stupid questions we poor, starving artists like to wrestle with constantly. I know art supplies can be expensive, but sometimes spending a little extra money for new and quality art supplies can make such a huge difference. Not only can they make a huge difference to the quality of your artwork, but it can also make you excited to break out that new pad of paper or those new brushes! This year, I spent quite a lot when I came back to America because all of my art supplies were still in China. I had to buy new paper, new sketchbooks, new watercolor paint, new paint brushes, and by the end of my shopping extravaganza I was yet again a poor, starving artist. Although I spent more than I wanted I found so many new supplies that will now always be a must in my home studio. For those of you interested in what supplies I discovered they include: Van Gogh watercolor pan sets (https://www.dickblick.com/products/van-gogh-watercolors/), Arches hot pressed watercolor blocks (https://www.dickblick.com/products/arches-watercolor-blocks/), and my favorite brush which is a bamboo brush from Blick (https://www.dickblick.com/products/blick-bamboo-brush/). Some new sketchbooks I have enjoyed include the Cresent RendR no show thru sketchbook (https://www.dickblick.com/products/crescent-rendr-no-show-thru-sketchbooks/), and the Hahnemuhle watercolor books which I just use as a sketchbook (https://www.dickblick.com/products/hahnemuhle-watercolor-books/).
I also have discovered and really enjoy Dr. Ph. Martin's radiant concentrated individual watercolors (https://www.dickblick.com/products/dr-ph-martins-radiant-concentrated-individual-watercolors/), and Kuretake Gansaid Tambi watercolor pan sets (https://www.dickblick.com/products/kuretake-gansai-tambi-watercolor-paint-pan-sets/), which are much more opaque watercolors but have been great for painting outdoors! As you can see, these materials all come from an American art supply store called Dick Blick or Blick Art Supplies, but I am 100% positive you can also buy these online at websites like Amazon. Above are some of my favorite new finds this year that I have loved being able to experiment with! What are your favorite materials? I would love to know!
Below are pictures of some of my new favorites.
In 2021, I hope to continue journaling, watercolor painting, as well as finding new artists and groups to join. I believe 2020 was a great year for me as an artist and I have grown a lot. I hope all of us can continue to grow in whatever we are doing. Blessings on the new year!
Until next time,