Sunday, March 22, 2015

Teaching is Fun

Purchase Hot Rose
Acrylic 3"x3"

Having Fun

When I am teaching a student, many times we talk more than we paint... but this is a very good thing. It helps me get inside the head of the student and find out what they are all about! Most teachers don't want to create a student that paints like "the teacher!"


Do I consider this work ... definitely ... but fun also. My brain is constantly thinking, how do I help this student? What can I show them?

I paint with the student, working on something that might be along the lines of what the student is working on. I will set up a still life, or we might work from photographs... of course this is in the studio. If we are painting "plein air" which means "in the open air" ... or you can just call it "painting outdoors" ... we are usually looking at the landscape and choosing what to paint. Vista, or close-up, trees, grass, lakes or streams, etc.!

One Idea For You!

A recent student asked me how to make paint drips or runs on the canvas. So to show her, I created an 8x10 showing her to dip the brush in the paint, apply random strokes, "be happy strokes," onto the canvas. Next, I took the brush with paint still on the tip and lightly dipped it into my clean water. Applying the brush tip to the acrylic on the canvas, I added blobs of water that ran down the canvas. Now... the canvas was on a stand-up easel, but if you are painting flat, you just pick it up and tilt it different ways.

What did I see in these drips? I saw stems and leaves of flowers. The only thing to do was imagine I was looking at roses... this is what I saw in my "mind's eye." The above little "gem" was the next one I did after the original 8x10 showing the student. This one is a 3"x3" acrylic on a small stretched canvas and is offered along with several others, and more to come, in my Etsy shop.

I had about a dozen little 3x3 and 3.5x2.5 canvases taped to a foam core board ... boy was I having fun! And, the student was encouraged to do something a little different!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What is your reality?

The Reality in my mind!

The Mood in my mind!

Happiness, for most of us, is a choice. Reality is not. It seems, though, that choosing to be happy ends up changing the reality that we keep track of. (Seth Godin - his newsletter on 1/27/15)

Your mood vs. your reality 

The first image above was the reality I saw when looking at my reference photo! I had changed many elements ... their actual location, or size, or more sand, less sand, more low foliage, etc. So I was already changing the "reality" of the photo. And it was not going in the direction I wanted. So, I put it aside for another day.

The second image was a few months later, when I revisited the unfinished painting... and tried using a new process and creating the mood I felt! I'll talk about the process in another blog post.

It is not exactly what I want, and still rather unfinished. But, it is going in a direction I "feel" rather than sticking too close to the reference photo. I will be sure to show the finished painting ... or at least a finished experiment ... when I get there. There are many little things that are not up to my standard in the composition and design of this piece, but I do believe they are still evolving.

So... I would say, I am choosing to change the reality of this scene to my own view of what I felt when at this location ... my own happiness!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Special Workshop - Florida!

"Ocean View" Oil, 7"x5"
Purchase Painting

My Annual Florida Workshop - 2015!
Pastel, Oil or Acrylic -- Studio or Plein Air
Melbourne/Indialantic, Florida

Feb. 25 - March 1, 2015 -- Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat. and Sunday
$90 per day -- choose your own days! Take three or more, at $10 off per day.

Florida is a special workshop I do each year ---- And you can choose your own days, take one, two, three, four or all five! This is a relatively small class... because of students deciding to paint in the studio (with the doors open to the outside, or outside in the beautiful landscape on this property!

I have done this workshop for 11 years, this would be #12. There are many returning students each year, and several new ones each year! The intention for this workshop is to have each student plan the days they can come -- just one day, two, etc. ... or all five. You can paint in the studio or plein air on the grounds of my host for the workshop. This location is beautiful and is along the intercoastal waterway. I will discuss creating studies, working from photographs as if you were outdoors, doing thumbnails and notans .... among all the other theories you may need to create your own personal vision.... instead of thinking of creating a "painting." This thought process most times takes the pressure off trying too hard! Try it, you'll like it and it might just give you a boost to try more!  And, I do not teach you to paint like me ... we find your vision!

Three Key Benefits of Marsha Savage Workshops

The workshop engages the student to study the key elements of starting a painting in a controlled way. A plan is made, started and keeps the student on track, instead of just "flying by the seat of their pants."

Study with a teacher in a workshop allows students to ask their own questions, but more importantly to see and listen to other students' questions and processes.

Learning to enjoy the journey, not necessarily trying to finish a piece is a key element in my discussions during the whole of the workshop. This also means to follow their own path, taking what they need from the workshop and are capable of at their stage, not just learning to paint in the style of the instructor.

Registration is by e-mailing me for the workshop. I will give the address and a supply list if you need one. I am not a teacher that wants you to go out and buy new supplies if you don't need them! All the classes are kept between 10 - 16 students at most. Many times there are only about 5-6... which is how I am planning my workshops most of the time these days! Take advantage of this more relaxed atmosphere, no pressure, and small group!

For more information about me, my bio and my artist statement look through my web site, , or you can call 770-926-3623 (Smyrna, GA), or e-mail me at marshasavageart @

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How Do You Work Thru Difficult Times?

"Splish Splash" Oil 5"x5"
Purchase Painting

This is a quote from a newsletter I read this morning: "When You’ve Hit The Artistic Wall: Frustration and Creativity"...By: Lee Hammond,

"I know it’s difficult to not take bad outcomes personally, but that’s what we do. To truly succeed as an artist, you must move through it, and know that art isn’t easy. If it was, EVERYONE would be doing it! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There is a reason they call it Art-WORK!"

This is something we, as artists, deal with many times. Not all our art comes easily! Many times we wonder ... as the successes come, and then we become a little dissatisfied with our progress... why?

What questions do you ask yourself?

Do you work through a painting that is giving you fits? Or ... do you say to yourself, I think I'll play today with my art and just see what comes out of it?

The painting above is one I did several months ago when I was feeling very frustrated... so I changed the medium (pastel) I was working in at that time, to this one (oil). And, I decided to work small and not feel the pressure of having a lot of art supplies tied up, or time, ... and I actually did three paintings... oooh, let's call them pieces of artwork, that morning.

Another thing I do, is take the pressure off by not calling them paintings! It sounds silly maybe, but it works. It frees me up to have loads of fun and not care quite as much about the outcome. This was not for a show, or a gallery, or to sell... but guess what? It worked, I loved the freshness of the pieces, and chose not to go into them and try to correct every little thing that "could" be considered wrong!

When I do pieces like this... they get relegated to my "Studies" group of artwork! You might be surprised at the price of this piece, unframed... have a look! And, enjoy!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

We are Artists, right?

Interpret, Don't Copy!

"Sea Grape & Palm" Pastel 11"x14"
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Art starts with a feeling and everything should support that feeling. The concept for a painting could maybe be boiled down to just one word. Write it down and refer to it throughout the painting. When you look at your reference, do you see intrigue, or mystery? Maybe it is about the feeling of calm, or just the opposite... excitement? Write the word down, and make a quick thumbnail.

Make some notes along with your thumbnail. Colors and direction of light are important words to write. Is the scene you envision high key (mostly lighter half of the value scale) or low key (mostly in the darker half of the value scale)?

Do you want to use specific colors ... maybe a limited palette? Favorite colors? Or maybe use colors that you usually shy away from. Is there a color that has an inherent property or feeling... like blue is soothing, red is energetic, etc. Start with those colors. You can add to them if there needs to be some adjustment. Don't feel constrained by choosing a specific palette... unless that is your intention and to push the boundaries!

Begin your painting with some kind of plan, and refer to your plan or notes during the painting process. Revisit the original intention for the artwork during the painting to make sure you are still with your plan. Or has it taken a different course? Of the course if the painting has shifted, sit and think about whether you need to go with it, or put it back on course by making changes that take it back to the plan.

Remember, above all... my motto is: "It's the journey, not the destination!" So, enjoy... and have fun!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Not Rejection ... Just Selection!

Dunes Mystery, Pastel 11"x14"

Have you ever entered an art competition? 

If you have, you did receive a notice that your painting (or other type of art) was either accepted, or not accepted into the show. Many artists will tell someone they entered a competition but they were "rejected" or received a "rejection notice."

There have been several conversations on Facebook and blogs, and in newsletters ... where I just read something and posted a comment. Here is a link to the newsletter: Jurors and Rejection by David P. Hettinger on the Fine Art Views Art Marketing Newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter from this site, it is a wonderful group!

My comment: "Love this language difference. I tell all my students in posts about "not being accepted" and the difference I feel by using those words. I have been a juror and judge and also know how difficult the task is. Saying you were "rejected" ... wrong! It is not rejection, just selection"

Do you let it bother you because your were "not selected?"

How do you handle the feeling when you receive that letter or e-mail telling you, "sorry, but your work was not selected for the show?"

Do you feel like you are less proficient than other artists you know? You should never compare your work to that of others, only to your previous work!

Or ...

Do you tell yourself, "okay, just one juror's opinion" and then go on about creating your work?

Be sure to take the time to look at what was accepted if you get the chance. And, have a look at the statistics of that particular show / competition. Remember, there were probably well over ten times as many submissions as there were spaces for accepted pieces in some of our prestigious shows! Just as a for instance... a recently chosen show had in the neighborhood of 2,000 entries submitted and accepted less than 200 paintings (I wish I had the exact numbers, but I am close). Think of how many wonderful artists and pieces of art were "not selected!" Good company, right? But, no reason to feel "rejected."

The painting featured above has been submitted to a couple of shows, and has not been selected. And, guess what? I love this painting, with any inconsistencies it might have, and still think it is a wonderful painting. And it was the best painting I could do at that time, and was submitted to those shows because of that feeling!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Always and Never ... Do you use these words?

"Rocks & Roses" 8x10 Pastel Plein Air


I was reading a post from the Robert Genn newsletters that mentioned these two words. It made me think about if I use them. No, I tell my students to not use them. The minute I say I "never" do something, then that will be the one thing I will do sometime in the next day or two! How does that happen?

When we are painting, the best feeling is when we get lost in what we are doing, right?

When we are "lost" in the minutes of our painting, we are working from a more intuitive state. I have a real problem saying I am an intuitive painter. I don't think I am most of the time. I am a thinker, an analytical painter. I have one or two artist friends that tell me all the time, "Marsha, quit thinking, just paint!"

This can stifle the creative instincts many times... and I mean the analytical thinking, and the voices in my head telling me to stop being that way. Maybe I am going in and out of the analytical state and the intuitive state. I would like to think this is more the way I work.

Does painting plein air help us with painting less analytical and more intuitive?

The painting shown above was done plein air (on location / from life). Because I was under a time crunch with the sun moving and changing the shadows and even the colors, I was working a bit faster than I do in the studio. It helps me stop the brain, but encourages me to look, see the scene or object, and put it down without agonizing over the elements, colors, temperatures, etc. So, I think the brain shifts to the right side easier and allows us to enter that more intuitive state.

I talk about setting a timer when in the studio (and when painting plein air) ... not a race against the clock ... but a time constraint so we can quit being so analytical when standing at the easel. This does not free you from making a plan before you start!

What else might help?

I also have a "mentor" that said to me, "you need to spend more time on your stool and less time with brush or pastel stick at the painting." This stool is several feet away from the easel. It is where the analytical side of the brain can come back into play. Making decisions from this distance with real purpose, not just painting without a purpose with hopes those strokes are the right ones, in the right place, etc.

My work at this time is trying to follow the advice of my friend and mentor... not painting so analytically ... and spending more time planning, and sitting on the stool. I am taking my time, and not painting for shows and competitions, or even for the gallery... but painting for the pure joy of doing it and seeing what happens! 

Always? Never? ... How about you?