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Archive | Art Instruction

Whimsical Singing Bird: Paint with me at a VinoPaint event!

Singing Bird by Jen Norton

Paint along with me and create your own whimsical Singing Bird artwork at my next VinoPaint event on Tues, May 26! We had such a great time at our last event, we’re going to try it again with a cute little bird image. I hope you can join us and paint along!

This is a perfect opportunity for a girl’s night out or date night, and there’s no experience necessary. All materials will be provided. Even if you’ve never painted before, I’ll guide you through the process with lots of direction. By the end, you’ll have your own unique piece of art to add a bit of colorful happiness to your life! Recommended for 18 years and older only.

Our event will be held at Tony & Albas in San Jose, CA (Google Map) from 6-9pm on Tuesday, May 26th. You can get all the details and sign up on the VinoPaint site here: http://vinopaint.com/event/vp-052615-event/

Hope to see you there!

PS: Use code jenbird$10 at checkout for $10 off, for a limited time.

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VinoPaint Class: Pink Floral with Neutrals!

Pink Floral with Neutrals © Jen Norton

Learn to paint this 16×20 artwork with me at a VinoPaint event!

Think you can’t paint? I bet you can! Come learn to paint this spring pink floral bouquet with neutrals with me at a VinoPaint event this month! You’ve probably heard of these painting and social events and now I have been asked to lead one… and I hope you’ll join me in the fun!

This is a perfect opportunity for a girl’s night out and there’s no experience necessary. All materials will be provided. Even if you’ve never painted before, I’ll guide you through the process with lots of direction. By the end, you’ll have your own floral work to add a bit of colorful happiness to your life! Please note: Because this event has alcohol served, it is for 21-and-over only.

Our event will be held at Tony & Albas in San Jose, CA (Google Map) from 6-9pm on Monday, March 23rd. You can get all the details and sign up on the VinoPaint site here: http://vinopaint.com/event/vp-032315-event/  Be sure and use the code $10offTULIPS (for a limited time only) to get $10 off the price of the evening.

Hope to see you there!

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Mediterranean Landscape, step by step

I was recently hired to do a commissioned painting for some wonderful patrons, and I thought it would be fun to show you some of the process. Every artist has her own process… this a little of mine!

The clients had some ideas on themes, styles and colors they liked, but they weren’t entirely sure what they wanted and had never commissioned art before. I began by working on some formats and sketches based on their interests and the space the final piece would hang. We settled on this sketch of a Mediterranean landscape:

Landscape, sketch idea


 

I began by transferring the sketch to canvas, and painting in the values for reference. I do allow for the freedom to change my mind, but I try to at least start with the agreed-upon sketch!

landscape–line and value


 

Then I start adding color. I try not to get too caught up in the end result. This is all underpainting and I’ve found that the more time I spend playing around at this phase, the more interesting the end piece is. I got too involved to remember to take more photos, but I used stamps, layers of bright color and texture, a little collage and messy brushwork to build interest in this phase.

landscape-adding color


 

When I thought I was far enough along, I showed it to the client. Since they live near me, we could look at it in their space for better evaluation.

landscape-with sunflowers

We decided on less yellow and blue, more purples and reds, including a change from sunflowers to some kind of climbing rose bush. They also decided they’d like a more realistic sunset, with only 1/2 the sun showing. This input is really important because they have to live with the piece, and I want them to be happy! It’s hard to know what you want without something solid to look at so I always allow points for evaluation and reasonable change in the process. Here’s where our decisions lead us… I really liked the new roses!

landscape-red roses

This was really close, but we still decided to pull some of the orignal blues back into the water, lighten the sky and calm some of the turbulence in the sea. The final result… ta da!

Cocktails for Two © Jen Norton

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How to paint a house

I recently had the privilege of creating a special home portrait for a patron in my hometown. I thought I’d share my progress on how to paint a house here.

We began with some sketches of her ranch-style home, which were then transferred to the canvas. I start all my work with bright, wild colors. This adds  a spark of life to the final piece as bits and pieces of the bright color pop through. If anyone came to check on my progress at this point, they might be a little worried!
Painting progress, step 1

Next I begin to add some of the “real” colors and neutral tones. There is always a mix of many colors in nature. For example, something green usually contains all kinds of blues, yellows and especially reds. I rarely use any green right out of the tube.

painting progress, step 2

Finally, I work on the balance of neutrals. In this case, I wanted the emphasis to lead up to the front door, so I used warmer tones in the path which echo in the door windows and golden California hills behind the house. Like green, using lots of colors in the neutrals adds interest and life to the colors.

painted house commission by Jen NortonMy home portraits make great gifts too! Let me know if you’d like me to capture your special place in art!

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Treasured memories: An art commission of Orcas Island

Happy New Year! For my first post of 2013, I’d like to share some work completed at the end of 2012. This is an art commission for a family to commemorate their annual vacation on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands in Washington State (USA). It features friends and family during sunset, their kids playing on the beach and a crab cake recipe they make with their catch. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my creative process:

First, the ideas. Armed with some photos, we started with some sketched ideas. We decided to do two paintings: one featuring the location and their time with friends and family; the other of a favorite crab recipe. The two pieces could hang together or separately. I offered several versions, and this is the sketch they chose:

sketch ideas for commissioned art

I keep my sketches pretty loose, just rendering placement of a few key shapes. I like to begin paintings loosely, simply blocking in large areas with color. With my watercolor background, I prefer to begin with something bright. In this case, I knew the sunset would play a major role in the end, so I started with vermillion orange.

blocking in shapes

I gradually add in other hues, working my way around the color wheel. I’m not worried about being accurate because later in the process all these colors will serve as a base for more neutral tones.

painting in progress

Next I start to add textures, tints and tones. I love to layer these things because it creates mystery in the end. I like to look at the details in the final piece and not remember exactly how I got there! I spend a lot of time at this phase adjusting colors, and evaluating the composition to make sure it feels balanced, has movement and that my eye doesn’t get stuck in one spot. Even with a sketch, I can really get off-track in a large piece if I’m not careful. I don’t draw everything in first, so sometimes I do have to “fix” things as I paint…I actually enjoy this process and it’s one of the reasons I prefer quick-drying acrylics to other mediums.

adding texture and color

When I feel all the big stuff is in order, the progression of colors feels right, I finish by working on details and patterns. This is the most meditative and relaxing part for me and I wish all parts of the painting were this enjoyable. But I guess art is like life…you have to work hard to afford the fun stuff.

Jen and art patron with new painting

In the end, the client was thrilled, and that’s all that matters! Below are the final two pieces. The larger piece is 48 x 48″ and the smaller, which can be hung below or separately is 48 x 12″:

 

artwork of orcas island and crab recipe

 

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Colorful Cauliflower: A Live Painting Demo

I’ve been learning a little bit about iMovie and editing video from Canadian photographer Vivienne McMaster. My first attempt is this edited version of a demo I did in March of 2011 for the Los Altos Art Club. It needs some better music, but I’ll let that go for now. I talk a little at the beginning about Golden’s Absorbent Ground product and then we get into some quick painting. Enjoy!

If you’d like to catch me painting live again, I’ll be doing a demo on Monday evening, July 9th at the Fine Arts League of Cupertino. I’ll be showing you how I use washes of fluid acrylic over carved gesso for my whimsical “Places Called Home” paintings. Hope you can come!

Out of Darkness

Artichoke © Jen Norton

“Artichoke” by Jen Norton, 5x5

My Irish grandmother used to say, “Into every life a little rain must fall.” She wasn’t just stating the obvious. She was speaking a necessary truth.

You can’t have “happy” all the time, no matter how much you wish it. But then, without the darker times, would we know happy when it came our way? Would we appreciate the spring sun without the contrast of dark winter days?

The same is true in art…negative spaces and dark shadows are necessary to give reference to light and color. They are essential. A deep blue sea appears much deeper blue when black has been used in the underpainting. A glowing window or flower will not appear to glow unless surrounded by duller neutral tones. And an artwork with a strong pattern of lights and darks can move your soul like the drum beat at a rock concert.

My inspiration, Amy Grant, says it best when retelling a story by one of her inspirations, Minnie Pearl:

My Relationship with Art

California Coastal vineyard and boat with Pinot grapes

I have a never-ending stream of ideas running through my head. Sometimes it’s a good thing, or even entertaining. Sometimes it’s a stumbling block that keeps me from moving forward.

I’ve always loved pattern. Pattern takes all that chaos and puts in into some kind of pleasing order. As a designer, I always preferred brochure design the best because I could take words and pictures and make something orderly and logical out of them. In painting, I have much more freedom and often too many possibilities, making it hard to start. Thankfully, I have found ways to jump that hurdle. This is how I tackle a painting:

Stage 1: The Anxiety Stage
1. Develop a concept, sketch or at least some basic idea of where I want to go.

2. Don’t think about that scary blank canvas. Just start putting stuff on. I have evolved my painting style specifically to move me out of anxiety and into action. I embrace the chaos.

3. Slowly start to refine large shapes, color themes. I start to tame the beast, which moves me into…

Stage 2: Conflict Management Stage
4. As the large shapes take form, I break them down into smaller areas, make decisions about which will be light or dark areas, develop the “story” of the painting. I have learned both from teaching art and making art that art doesn’t lie. It can’t. It’s creative, from the Creator, pure love. If you make something you truly love, it is truthful, even if some don’t understand it. This is the stage where the rubber meets the road and I use my technical skills make life or death judgements. I should note that this could easily be an area full of self-criticism (I’m not good enough; what if they find out I really don’t know what I’m doing?). All par for the course in the creative process. I have learned to block this out. This is fear, not love. By stepping way from emotion and returning to my practiced skills, I can walk through this wall.

Stage 3: Euphoria
5. This is the stage where I can get lost in details for hours, adding texture, refining colors…all the romantic, emotional qualities that make the piece uniquely mine. I am mesmerized in the making of patterns that have formed from my earlier chaos. This is the stage most non-artists think we makers live in all the time. No, you only get to come here after going through the other stages. Sometimes Stage 1 & 2 can flow more quickly…say if you’ve been divinely inspired. Most of the time, you’ve got to do the work. And yes, art is work.

Art is a bit like life, don’t you think? If we all had the chance to make more art, maybe we’d be better at life. I’ll be showing some of my latest Work at my next Open Studio on May 12 & 13, 2012 and I hope you can come.

The piece above is a sample of one of my paintings…filled with the patterns of the vineyards that grow in the Santa Cruz Mountains near me. This piece is titled, “Coastal Pinot and Chardonnay” and is being used by the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce as their 2012 graphic. With coastal fog and a warm climate, the Santa Cruz mountains are known for their Pinot grapes…and “Chardonnay” refers not to the grape, but to the boat passing by…the Chardonnay Cruise that runs along the Santa Cruz Coast!

You can purchase a print of this artwork here. Please contact me directly to purchase the original.

Bees in the Hive, You Know How I Feel!

The Organization of Bees © Jen Norton

The Organization of Bees

School is out today, which means my house is bursting and buzzing with about 10 extra teens, mostly girls. Energy, laughter, food on the floor and makeup strewn all over the bathroom… How do so many kids, each manageable when isolated, become such a force of chaos en masse?

Compare that with bees…also female…who buzz en masse, seemingly in chaos, but who actually live quite ordered and productive lives. They each know their job. They don’t get distracted like we humans. Like our children, our lives are intertwined with theirs. Their seemingly small movements literally support this planet’s life forms.

Bee photo and sketches

I am currently part of a group show with my Allied Artist West friends up at Presentation Center in Los Gatos, CA. Our show features paintings either painted on site, inspired by the center or its philosophies, or other beautiful places in California that are meaningful to the artist. I chose to work from a picture I took of their beekeeper tending the bees on the property. When I work from a photo, I first trace everything, including the border. Then, I assign black or white to each shape I’ve traced to make a pattern of lights and darks that I like. In this case, I decided to make the background dark to play up the “hotness” of the day in the foreground. This becomes my roadmap for my painting. I refer back to it often as I add color and texture and all the other fun stuff! Like bees to a hive, I return to it to stay true to my original intent.

I’m pretty sure Presentation Center is going to purchase the original painting for their property. Prints of this piece can be purchased here.

Clear Vision: It’s all about the editing.

Jen Norton's vision board

My vision for my art business, in pictures!

I had a mini-aha-moment today as I was putting together a vision board for my business as part of my Hello Soul, Hello Business e-class. I’ve believed in the importance of making a vision board for some time. I’ve seen other artists make them. I’ve heard about them being used for therapy. And I even made my husband make one a few years ago as he was struggling to reach some of his personal goals. But I never sat down and made my own. I guess I just figured I make pictures all the time, how different could it be? I know where I want to go, right? But a girl can change her mind.

Today’s board creation project is falling after four days of pondering and writing about aspects of our businesses like their values, characteristics and soul missions. Through guided exercises, we have been digging deeper into our own truths all week, seeking to define what we have been put on this planet to do. So today I sat down with my scissors and old magazines to craft my board. Thought it was just a fun way to wrap up the week. That’s when I realized it’s not just about making a concrete form of your vision or having it posted as future reminder, although those are important parts. The magic is in the editing.

As I went through each magazine, words and pictures passed before me that held meaning and relevance. With each temptation, I had to make a decision: Is it REALLY relevant to my vision? Or is it just something that fascinates me, but that could distract me from my chosen path? And then came the time to glue it all down. My board was only so big. My collection of stuff was about three times bigger. More editing! More clarity to my vision!

I don’t know why this is such a revelation, really. My best paintings have been edited and “fixed” to to my liking before I let them leave the house. Each of my blog entries can take me several hours of editing. In both processes, there is a lot of thinking time along with actual action. I absolutely believe half the worlds problems would be solved if people would just think before they speak. Why would my vision be any different? It isn’t…I’ve just been keeping it on the back burner for too long, never quite finishing the final revisions. But here I am in the here and now, glueing down a clear vision of my vision, and I love everything included on my board. I only allowed one tiny distraction: a little picture of a dog with the words “My therapist has a wet nose”. If only my dog had thumbs…I could use an assistant!