Alain Picard, talented and refined pastel artist and author of Pastel Basics, discovered his love for art at a very young age.
Always drawing or doodling or copying comic characters, Alain has been drawing since he was a young boy. “I remember drawing a portrait of Bill Cosby in the seventh grade that got a lot of attention,” Alain says.
After that, Alain knew he had a talent for drawing, but it was not until his junior year of college that he declared art as his major; he has now been drawing consistently for 18 years!
Alain has been inspired and influenced by many great artists, but most strongly by those who focus on portraits and figures, including John Singer Sargent, Edgar Degas, Joaquin Sorolla, Thomas Eakins, N.C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell, among others. His parents have also supported and encouraged his talent and his pursuit of art.
Another great source of inspiration and guidance is his high school art teacher Ms. Bogart, who would enter Alain’s paintings into art competitions to encourage and push his development. “I recently returned to my high school to teach a portrait workshop to Ms. Bogart’s AP art students. That was great fun!” Alain says.
In addition to pastel, Alain also works in oil. “I enjoy working in two mediums; I like how they influence each other and push me to take different approaches with each one,” Alain says. In his approach to composition, Alain likes to narrow in on subjects, drawing the viewer’s eye with the use of contrast and dramatic lighting.
With age and experience, Alain has become more painterly—bolder with marks and more interested in the way color and edge can impact the viewer. “Once the challenge of painting realistically has been achieved, you look to develop your style with a more personal approach. For me, I just love loose backgrounds and bold strokes combined with very subtle and refined passages,” Alain says.
For Alain, motivation and inspiration are the result of living life and remaining open and curious about the world around you. “Sometimes creating is a discipline, but inspiration always comes,” Alain says. He is constantly inspired by the beauty of the world around him; he sees beauty in people, in creation, and in the play of light and shadow.
Aside from art, Alain has a strong passion for God and his faith. He also loves spending time with his beautiful wife and two adorable sons. “That’s my favorite thing in the world: spending time with my family. I feel incredibly blessed as a father and husband, and I’ve developed a pastor’s heart for people,” Alain says.
After traveling to Africa with his church and being involved in relief work there, Alain was inspired to develop his Rwanda Collection. “Life is a gift, and it’s so important to live it fully,” Alain says. The reason he enjoys teaching art so much is that he gets to encourage others in their talents.
Alain’s advice to beginning artists is to work hard, practice the craft of drawing and painting, and find a way to study with a master artist who inspires you. “The more comfortable you become in your medium, the more freely you’ll begin to express your own vision. Be patient with yourself and celebrate successes,” Alain says.
He also advises to become involved with art associations and share your work with others. According to Alain, getting feedback is a great way to grow quickly. And most importantly, “Keep creating throughout all seasons of life!” Alain says. Being able to see the beauty in the world is essential to living a fulfilling and meaningful life.
To see more of Alain's beautiful artwork, please visit: www.picardstudio.com
Patti Mollica, gifted oil and acrylic painter and author of Modern Acrylics and Color Theory, first became passionate about art when she was a little girl. Her first role model was her babysitter, who would come over with a sketchbook and oil pastels.
“I still have those sketchbooks! She would sit and draw from her imagination, including beautiful scenes, people, etc. I was completely mesmerized by her, and so inspired to follow in her footsteps,” Patti says.
After these early artistic encounters, Patti asked her mother to buy her a sketchbook and some oil pastels, and thus began her lifelong career as an artist.
Many of Patti’s favorite artists have also been a source of inspiration to her, including Joaquin Sorolla, John Singer Sargeant, Richard Diebenkorn, William Hook, Marvin Franklin, and Robert Cunningham. She was also encouraged to pursue her dreams and artistic endeavors through the support of her parents.
Living in New York City, and thus driven by so many sources of inspiration, Patti has never had an issue staying motivated—once she starts a painting, the inspiration happens naturally.
“When I go into NYC, I see paintings everywhere I look—it’s very inspiring!” Patti says.
In addition to working in oil and acrylic, Patti enjoys working in mixed media and pastels. Her favorite subjects to draw are cityscapes, city scenes, and still lifes.
For artists just starting out, Patti advises that practice makes perfect. She believes the only way to learn to draw well is to practice constantly. Looking at the bigger picture can be a great help, including thinking globally when it comes to composition.
Patti feels that she has a unique perspective in approaching composition, thanks to a background in graphic design. Expressing that a strong composition outweighs detail or rendering when it comes to the success of a painting, Patti stresses the importance of being aware of design.
“It is the large abstract shapes that are the foundation of a painting. If the composition does not work in black and white (think logo), then it will not work in color,” Patti says.
Patti admits that her work has evolved over the years. She is now more sensitive to color and has learned the importance of using it sparingly, only when needed. She agrees with the words of famous illustrator Andrew Loomis who said, “Colour is very much like a bank account. If you dip into it too much, soon you have none.”
Aside from art, Patti also enjoys snowboarding, exercising, and Eastern spirituality. She is an avid supporter of environmental causes and animal rights.
To see more of Patti's artwork, visit http://www.mollicastudio.com/
Martin Clarke, talented Western Australian artist and authorof Oil & Acrylic: Oceans & Seascapes, discovered his artistic talents later in life. After training and working in the field of science for many years, Martin accidentally stumbled into the world of painting in 2001. His introduction to art was a bit unorthodox—he had just built a new house that had a lot of bare walls and, because he couldn’t afford to buy any new art, he decided to throw some color on the walls himself.
After his first few raw abstracts, Martin was captivated by art and wanted to improve and sharpen his skills. “I got hooked—I read a lot, participated in forums, and painted like crazy! Eventually pieces started improving to the point where people started buying them—much to my amazement,” says Martin.
Many of Martin’s favorite artists, including Larry Mitchell,Andrew Tischler, Jim Thallasoudis, Dave Brayshaw, Daniel Hutchings, Clyde Aspevig, and Scott Christensen, have been a source of inspiration because of their beautiful renditions of land and seascapes. “Each of the above has inspired me to try to improve my color, composition, and realism. Whenever I need a lift, I look at their works,” says Martin. As for other important people in his life, Martin has been fortunate enough to have the unceasing support of his wife and two galleries, Boranup Gallery and Wills Domain, in Western Australia.
Although he started out working in acrylics, Martin switched to oil painting six years ago and has stuck with it. “I enjoy the long open time, the technical challenges, and its versatility,” says Martin.
Even though Martin has experimented with still lifes, portraits, and landscapes, his favorite subject to paint is the ocean. “It has a thousand moods, changes incessantly, and is a constant challenge,” says Martin. Having been a surfer for over 40 years, Martin has an affinity for seascapes and believes that, because of his long familiarity with the sea, he is able to bring something original to his work.
When it comes to composition, Martin spends a lot of time thinking about the scene he wants to create. “I have a reference library of about 20,000 photos—plein air does not suit the size of the pieces I paint—and I’ll often pick elements of various photos and mix them to produce the scene I want,” says Martin. He tries to maintain a good balance by having a focal area of interest and strong supporting elements. According to Martin, “Where possible, I’ll make use of paths to lead the eye to my focal area—I have recently done a number of pieces featuring beach stairs, which create an excellent path to my focal point.” He also pays close attention to color harmony and light.
Like every good artist, Martin is continuously improving his skills by challenging himself and painting similar scenes repeatedly until he is satisfied with them. “The sense of realism in my paintings has improved, largely because of better use of color and more appreciation for value and chroma,” says Martin. Even though he has encountered failures, Martin sees them as good opportunities for learning and growth.
In order to stay motivated as an artist, Martin likes to look at the works of other great artists, preferably in a gallery, which inspires him to start painting again and to try to achieve results equal to those of the great artists. Working full time though makes juggling work, family, sports, and painting a challenge. “But there is rarely a wasted moment in my life, and I certainly never get bored,” says Martin.
In addition to painting, Martin enjoys surfing and cycling—riding over 200 miles a week! He also enjoys the occasional race to challenge himself physically. Being a very well-rounded individual, Martin also likes reading (mainly science fiction), listening to science and history podcasts, watching movies, and traveling with his wife. With a daughter living in Los Angeles, the U.S. is on his list of places to visit.
For artists just starting out, Martin advises to read everything you can about painting, go to art galleries, study brushwork, and learn as much as possible about color. Subject matter is also extremely important—Martin believes that you should pick a subject for which you have an affinity, one that excites and stimulates you. “Experiment and don’t worry about failure. Don’t listen to detractors and those who only offer negative critiques. Seek a mentor or someone who can offer a critically positive eye—my wife has been totally invaluable in this regard,”says Martin. He also advises that success is not instant, so paint, paint, and then paint some more! “The road to good work can be long and hard with many pitfalls, but it’s also an amazing, stimulating adventure, which can be very rewarding personally, intellectually, and even financially,” says Martin.
The main message Martin wants to send out to novice artists is “Go for it!” You never know what you’re capable of until you try, and art truly enhances and enriches one’s life in so many ways.
To see more of Martin's artwork, visit http://www.martinclarke-art.com
Talented watercolor artist Ronald Pratt started painting while he was in college studying architecture. “I was looking for an elective class in art that would help me improve my presentation skills in architecture,” says Ronald. There was an opening in a beginning watercolor class, so he signed up. “I liked the beauty of a good watercolor painting and the challenge it presented when I discovered it was much harder than it looked. Never in my wildest dreams at that time did I imagine 35 years later it would be my profession.” After finishing school, Ronald only painted in the evenings and on weekends as a hobby. Eventually, he left architecture to paint fulltime.
For Ronald, the people who have influenced him the most in his artistic journey have been some of his watercolor teachers and workshop instructors. “They are the ones who helped me with the transition from watching the magic of someone else being able to paint, to being able to create that magic myself, says Ronald. In particular, Ronald cites Robert Reynolds, Tom Lynch, Ron Ranson, and Zoltan Zabo as key mentors who taught him not only about painting, but how to make a living as a painter.
Ronald points out that art academia focuses on teaching the skills—but what you do with those skills is equally as important. Ronald remembers that when he decided to make the switch from architecture to art, a lot of friends and family members were surprised. “Architecture was a glamour field, and the art world had a lot starving artists. It was interesting to watch people’s reaction to that decision,” says Ronald. “Some thought I was crazy. Some said, ‘You have to chase your dreams.’ But it was my wife who said that I should go for it. Her only caveat was that I only get one midlife crisis, this is it, and so I better make it work. Thirty-five years later she still insists I’m in my midlife crisis.”
Like most artists, Ronald doesn’t restrict himself to one medium, although watercolor painting is definitely his favorite. He also likes to work in pottery as a three-dimensional alternative. “I think having to think and design three-dimensionally really helps improve the depth and perspective aspects of my paintings,” says Ronald. “Even though watercolor painting is a two-dimensional medium on paper, the sense of depth one achieves leads directly to the success of a painting.” Ronald also enjoys the tactile nature of clay, so sculpting and wheel throwing stimulate other aspects of the senses. Ronald sometimes works in pencil, colored pencil, gouache, and oil and has recently begun to dabble in acrylic as well. “ Ibelieve all mediums interrelate in ways and stimulate your work in other mediums,” says Ronald.
For Ronald, the most enjoyable aspect of watercolor painting is the process—he doesn’t have a favorite subject, but likes to paint everything.
“I do seem to gravitate more to nature for my subject matter,” says Ronald. “Landscapes,seascapes, florals, and cityscapes all excite me.”
Color is the most exciting element of painting for Ronald. “I can be walking outside and observe the splash of color in a garden, or the subtle nuances of color in the foothills, or the marvelous colors in a fleeting sunset, and get charged up,” Ronald says. “Because I get so excited over color, I try to infuse my paintings with strong, vivid colors that make the painting come alive.” Traditional watercolor paintings tend to use soft pastels and leave large areas of white paper—but that isn’t Ronald’s style. He fills the paper with rich, intense color and strong value contrast to breathe energy into a piece, a style that is more common in acrylics or oils. “With the quality of lightfast paints being produced by manufacturers today, this style is not only available to the watercolorist, but is highly relevant in our society, where people are looking for art that makes a statement on a wall, instead of blending into the background,” says Ronald.
Ronald’s new book book, Watercolor: Seasons just came out this year. The easy-to-follow step-by-step projects are full of color and life—a perfect example of Ronald’s vibrant work. Click here to learn more about this fun, instructional book.
With his background in architecture, Ronald’s early paintings were primarily architectural illustrations that were crisp and controlled to show exact details in building and structures. As he painted more and got away from his background, however, Ronald started to loosen up and realize that painting is more the art of expression and exaggeration than the art of exactness. “I realized that if I was going to compete with the photorealism of a camera, the camera would win every time! This freed me up to look for mood or sense of place and try to depict that, rather than the exactness of a scene.”
As most artists know, the dreaded “artist block” hits everyone at some time. It isn’t possible to stay motivated and charged up all the time. Ronald finds that when motivation and inspiration is lacking, sometimes a break from art is what is needed. “I love outdoor sports. The enjoyment of swimming, hiking, camping, and golfing all seem to keep a balance in my life and get me out of the studio and into nature. When I get back to the studio, I seem to be more focused and recharged for painting,” says Ronald. Another tactic is to just start. “I tell my students that the hardest part about painting is getting started. If I’m procrastinating on getting started, I take a small kitchen timer and set it for one hour. I tell myself I can always just paint for one hour and then go on to something else. Usually when the timer goes off, I just keep on painting because I’m into what I’m doing. The hard part now is stopping.”
For artists who are just starting out, Ronald would first tell them to have fun with what they are doing. “Too often, artists who truly enjoy creating art lose sight of that joy after the initial rush wears off. Try to keep that sense of awe at what you create and look at the world as if through the eyes of a child,” says Ronald. He also suggests being willing to experiment and challenge oneself with new projects and directions. “Don’t play it safe. After all, it’s only paper and paint. Remember we get to say oops! You don’t want your doctor, dentist, attorney, or mechanic saying oops, but we’re artists, and we can! Have fun with it!”
To see more of Ronald’s artwork, visit www.ronaldpratt.com.
Artist Vanessa Rothe, who is currently the California editor of Fine Art Connoisseur, has been painting from the young age of five. “I would paint with my father on silk, using Sennelier water-based dyes. I loved the colors, as well as how they could mix and create new colors.” From then on, Vanessa always had a sketchbook in hand or watercolors in her pocket.
Growing up in an artist community in Laguna Beach, Vanessa mostly used watercolors. These days, however, she works more with oils. “I love their rich, buttery texture, and how they can blend so easily,” says Vanessa.
For Vanessa, inspiration is everywhere and in everything. “I find so much beauty in this world and see it with an artist’s eye. Even the most mundane, banal objects carry so much beauty. A rusted copper pot and the patina greens, a woman’s pose while reading a book under a lamp, a simple still life with apples…But mainly I adore sunlight and its effects on subjects in the outdoors. I find that I’m most attracted to the landscape and nature.”
A versatile artist, Vanessa works both on location and in the studio or at friends’ studios. While painting on location, Vanessa’s painting routine and method is dictated by the light and rushing to capture the sunlight on a subject. In the studio, however, Vanessa likes to start her painting sessions with classical music and a latte to sip on. “I tend to put enough paint on my palette that I don’t have to stop in the middle of the painting to replenish, as it can break concentration,” says Vanessa.
Vanessa cannot recall a time when she wasn’t inspired to paint. “I’m so honored to be an artist and to paint, to have commissions and exhibitions. Even as a professional artist who does it for a living, the act of painting is so enjoyable, pure, and exciting,” says Vanessa.
While she likes to explore a variety of subjects, Vanessa’s favorite things to paint are landscapes and how the sunlight plays on the land and casts shadows from trees. She also loves to paint Paris city scenes. “I am currently challenged and intrigued by the many shades of gray in this wonderful city that is still one of the capitols of art,” says Vanessa. “I think of the many painters the city has influenced over the years, writers, and musicians, and it simply adds to the intrigue.”
Sennelier Paints, the makers of the paints of the French impressionists, recently sponsored Vanessa—a big honor for an artist. Her work will be featured this week in the event Realism without Borders at the Scottsdale Exhibition Gallery, where her work will appear alongside that of Russian impressionists.
When she’s not teaching, painting, or at an exhibition, Vanessa is home with her husband Tommy and two little boys, Logan (8) and Perry (6). “I am a working mother who has found a lucky and unique balance between work and family,” says Vanessa. “I find that my world of art and teaching enriches my family’s life and I’m very lucky to be able to do both, as I’m so passionate about my work, but it’s so important to me to be present and a good, caring mother.” In her free moments alone, Vanessa likes to spend time with fellow artists, read French novels, plan travels, and look at famous artists’ books or works for inspiration.
For those artists just getting started, Vanessa recommends studying and mastering the core fundamentals—value, composition, color, and perspective. “Make sure you have a true understanding of these and how they work for every subject and then practice until you can do them well,” says Vanessa. She also suggests spending a full year just drawing and to learn value in grayscale before working in color.
Vanessa’s book, The Art School Approach: Still Lifes & Florals is a great resource for artists new to the art of painting.
As inspiration, Vanessa shares this quote from one of the masters, Michaelangelo:
“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”
Like every artist, even he had to start at the beginning, and it took him years to learn. So practice, practice, practice!
To see more of Vanessa’s work, visit www.vanessarothe.com.
Greg Guler's career began at two years old with a rendition of a 1930s Popeye the sailor—and today spans more than 50 years of experience and a myriad of noteworthy projects, including several years with DC Comics and an impressive list of Disney TV series.
One of Greg’s earliest inspirations was watching Saturday morning cartoons as a child, following the adventures of classics like Mighty Mouse, Popeye, and the original Disney characters. Becoming enamored with cartoon and animated characters, Greg drew as many as he could.
“I’ve always loved creating a world where the rules didn't apply, a fantasy environment. My parents used to ask me why I wouldn’t just draw a normal horse—I prefer to make up my own renditions of characters," Greg says.
Today it seems Greg’s inspiration has come full circle—as one of the original character designers for Disney’s hit TV series Phineas & Ferb, (and an artist for Walter Foster's Learn to Draw Phineas & Ferb), Greg stays inspired through the response of the show's young audience. Although he leaves his home in Colorado one week per month to work in-house at the Disney studios, Greg is often able to visit local schools or bookstores and interact with Phineas fans—that is, when they don’t find him first.
Greg says the youngsters in his neighborhood have identified him as “the Phineas & Ferb guy”, and have been known to stop him while out on a neighborhood walk to make story requests.
“They may not realize that I don’t actually write theshow, but they often have pretty good ideas!” Greg laughs.
Greg also stays motivated knowing that he helps make something both kids and adults enjoy, especially in collaboration with a remarkable team like Disney. His list of projects for the company includes Buzz Lightyear of Star Command—Buzz’s prequel to the Toy Story series—Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Darkwing Duck, Gargoyles, Lilo & Stitch and A Goofy Movie.
Greg is especially proud of his involvement with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, remembering that it was no easy artistic task to convert the show's original 2D Mickey and friends characters into a design formatted for CG animation.
The advances of modern technology impressive as they are, Greg still values the tried-and-true method of drawing with a pencil and paper. Perhaps it helps remind him of the “less is more” approach he takes toward composition, being careful to stay concise and not add too much of what professionals call “line mileage” to a piece.
“As a character designer, your job is to communicate the design in a way that helps the animator keep things clear; it’s important to know what details to include and what not to. In the end, people should be focused on the character itself, rather than the drawing,” Greg says.
This finesse with simplicity is something Greg has developed with experience, learning to value the fun, playful spirit of his work. Greg says this progression is natural for most artists, remembering an obsession with overly-realistic details early on in his own career.
“As you get older you start to analyze things differently. Every drawing doesn't need to look like a photograph—though you always want levity in your drawings, you learn to appreciate the fun.”
Growing to cherish the fun in his work, like this year's holiday card above, has no doubt helped Greg to invest so much time in his craft over the years. In the rare moments when he’s not drawing, Greg enjoys spending time with his family—his wife, two children, and pair of beagles named Smudge and Trinket.
Overall, Greg is passionate about art and the process of developing creativity in the younger generation. He’d give any budding artist the same encouragement he passes on to elementary school students: if you enjoy drawing, keep doing it no matter what.
“Most people can draw if they really want to. It’s a matter of making the time and training your brain and hand to do what you see—just remember nobody in the universe but you can draw what’s inside your pen!” Greg says.
Talented artist Diane Cardaci has been drawing for as long as she can remember. “I think I really fell in love with it when I was about nine years old,” Diane recalls. She attended a local art class for children taught by a sweet elderly couple. “We began with crayons and graduated to pastels and watercolors. I remember being in awe of the older kids that were painting with easels and oil paints,” Diane says. She continued to draw through her school years but it wasn’t until she was an adult and attended medical school for two years in Italy that she realized she wanted to commit to Art as a career, rather than medicine.
For Diane, inspiration has always come from the greatest of teachers—the Old Masters. “I love to just look at their work and allow myself to soak it up like a sponge. I can spend hours looking at a book of paintings of an Old Master and love to go to museums.” She’s even been told, on more than one occasion, by museum guards to please step away from the painting! Living in New York City when she was younger, Diane came across many wonderful art instructors at the Art Students League and the New York Academy of Art. “I feel particularly fortunate to have been able to sit in some artistic anatomy classes with Robert Beverly Hale,” says Diane.
Diane works primarily in pencil and water-soluble oils, but also likes to experiment with colored pencils and pastels. Recently, she’s even begun to explore watercolor. Diane admits that she really loves to draw anything and everything—but her favorite subjects are people, animals, flowers, and landscapes.
Diane’s newest book, Drawing Landscapes & Vistas releases this month from Walter Foster and is an exciting new addition to the How to Draw series. Click here for more information about the book.
When it comes to art, composition is a key element to the success of the piece. For Diane, her technique in approaching composition is rather intuitive. “I’ll try cropping a sketch or photo in different ways and see what feels ‘right’to me. I also do small thumbnails, changing around elements and again, seeing what looks and feels right.”
Art isn’t always about technique, however. Diane says that the biggest development in her art is she focuses less on technique now, and more on the love of what she is drawing or painting. “I have always loved to draw and paint in a very realistic style, but now I allow my feelings to drive the process, rather than worrying about perfection.”
Aside from her passion for art, Diane shares a love for travel with her husband. “We have an addiction to Italy,” says Diane." We were spending more and more time in this fascinating country every year, so last year we finally decided to move and live year-round in our home in central Italy. It is a constant inspiration for me to be surrounded every day by both the beauty and incredible art history of Umbria and Tuscany.”
Even in a place like Italy, artist’s block is bound to hit at some point. To stay motivated and inspired, Diane always tries to approach her work in a relaxed state. “I do a lot of sketching, which I believe is the key to staying connected to the subjects I like to draw.” In addition, Diane spends time looking at other artists’ work, including contemporary artists that she admires.
For artists just starting out, Diane offers some wonderful advice: “Sketch, sketch, and more sketching from life. Bring your sketchbook everywhere and don’t let a day go by without at least a few minutes of working in it. Study from the Old Masters—I am still learning from works of art that have ‘stood the test of time.’”
Diane also encourages new artists to draw and paint the subjects that they love. “Art is the tool that communicates this love to others,” says Diane. Perhaps most importantly, Diane reminds artists of all ages and levels that “art is a lifelong journey of learning and growing—you never arrive.”
To learn more about Diane and see additional artwork, visit www.dianecardaciart.com.
Artwork © Diane Cardaci
Minnesota native Maury Aaseng can’t remember a time when he wasn’t drawing. “My dad used to keep my siblings and I quiet in church by drawing characters and critters in the bulletin for us, and I began to start mimicking his efforts. It quickly became one of my favorite activities, and I was soon filling up pages with dinosaurs, animals, fantastical creatures, and drawings of my family.”
As a child, Maury’s inspiration and influence came from illustrators of his favorite books. Maury says, “Their imaginative creations fascinated me and kept me turning the pages. Chris Van Allsburg, James Stevenson, and Bill Waterson were some of my favorite inspirations as a child, and I was thrilled by the stories they could tell with pictures.
Maury is the artist for Walter Foster's exciting new children’s release Learn to Draw American Landmarks & Historical Heroes and the forthcoming Drawing: Birds.
While Maury is a talented graphite pencil artist, he has been increasingly drawn to watercolor painting and in recent years found great inspiration in watercolor artists who depict the northern forests of the United States, such as Howards Siverton, Gordon MacKenzie, and Roderick MacIver. “These [artists] have been excellent fodder for my interest in painting wildlife found in the woods and waterways of Minnesota,” says Maury.
Maury’s mom was an early encourager for his artistic endeavors, enrolling him in every art class she could find as he grew up. “Along with my dad, she was my first “fan,” says Maury. In addition to family, Maury also found great encouragement and art instruction in some of his teachers. “In the 6th grade I struck gold by having Dan Ingersoll as my art teacher. He began giving me private lessons after school and continued to provide inspiration, valuable critiques, and much-needed friendship throughout my high school years.”
Maury was also lucky to find a mentor in professor Janice Kmetz while studying for his graphic design degree in college. “[She] mentored me with an independent study in illustration work and helped train me for the professional world.” Maury says his wife Charlene has been an enormous support and his biggest cheerleader for the last nine years. “Being a gifted designer with an MFA in fine arts, she has provided wonderful insight into my work and has helped push me further than I could have hoped to get on my own.”
A nature lover, it should come as no surprise that Maury’s favorite subject is wildlife. “Some things don’t change much over the years,” says Maury. “It’s been three decades since I first picked up a pencil and wildlife is still my favorite subject. However, I also enjoy cartooning and drawing people and landscapes.
As a nature enthusiast, when Maury’s not working in his studio he enjoys the outdoors as much as possible. “Getting outside to go canoeing, snowshoeing, hiking, cross-country skiing, and fishing are some of my favorite activities. I’m also a fan of continued education and have been happy to take some woodworking and ecology classes post-college. Like most people, I enjoy good books, movies, and adore travel.”
Even for artists, finding inspiration and staying motivated can be a challenge at times. “Mortgages and bills are one powerful source of motivation,” says Maury, who is a full-time freelance artist. “But on an artistic level, there are three things that keep me motivated and inspired. The first is to work on a variety of projects in a variety of media. This helps keep things fresh and provides multiple challenges. The second is to view work of artists more talented than I. It’s a humbling and exciting thing that motivates me to always try to improve my work. And the third is to be surrounded with the beautiful scenery and fascinating creatures that captivate me in northern Minnesota.”
For artists just starting out, Maury has some useful advice and tips. “I would advise an artist just starting out to speak thoughtfully and kindly with clients and to accept criticism with open arms. Art collectors, publishers, and authors are looking for artists who they enjoy working with, and ultimately your talent will only get you as far as your people skills. Be grateful to work in a field that can be difficult, and keep working on ways to improve your skills.”
Maury also suggests that artists strive to strike a balance between work they get paid for and art they create for the sheer joy of it. “The first will keep you making art, and the second will keep making you enjoy it,” says Maury.
His last piece of advice for artists looking to make a career out of their art is to take a business class. “It’s a cheaper way to learn how to be your own boss than trial-and-error. Take from an illustrator who learned that one the hard way!”
To learn more about Maury and see additional artwork, visit his website at www.mauryillustrates.com.
Artwork © Maury Aaseng.
Still Life with Two Walking Sticks
28" x 45"
Gouache on museum board
When my high school art teacher died in 1981 I felt somewhat lost. He had always been a person who understood my paintings and when he died I felt panicky. I was not sure how to evaluate my own work and know when it was successful or for that matter when it was finished. That was 31 years ago. May I share some thoughts about how to determine when you should stop working on a piece of artwork and how to critique your own work?
The American painter Albert Pinkham Ryder had the extremely bad habit of overworking his paintings. He often worked on the same painting for years on and off and painted over things that should have been left alone. He could not stop trying to improve his work. His motive was good but the practice was bad. (He also was a horrible technician and used paints for his paintings that were not at all permanent. As a result his work is deteriorating at a faster pace than it should be.) Knowing when to stop working on a piece of artwork is crucial.
As you come to the end of a painting or drawing, it helps to give some time away from it to see if it is really finished. Try not looking at it for a couple of weeks and often when you do this you'll see your work with fresh eyes. Don't ever analyze work immediately after finishing it. Often an artist is tired and needs time to recuperate. I once burned a half-finished painting. I look at the photo now I had taken of it before I destroyed it and it was actually coming along nicely. Being exhausted I was too critical and my reasoning was off. I made a big mistake. I should have "mothballed" (putting it away—out of sight) it for a while and then looked at it when I was rested up.
Another tip is that you can look at artwork in a fresh way by turning it upside-down. You see the artwork more abstractly and you can also see color, contrast, and composition easier. You can also look at your work in a mirror. I have a mirror directly behind my easel and I often turn around and look at the painting in the mirror. This is a great way to see if the drawing is incorrect in any way.
I make a list of things I need to do to finish a painting and go down the list and check off those necessary adjustments. It is a list made by looking at the painting from about ten feet away and looking carefully and thoughtfully.
If you know anyone who has a good eye ask them to look at your work. My wife is not an artist but she can tell me when something does not read clearly. She might say,"What is that shape over there?" or, "That spot over there doesn't seem right." Her hunches have been invaluable.
As you continue on as an artist it gets easier to make these decisions. I have come to the point where I can readily see what needs to be fixed and it is more of a gut feeling than a rational decision many times. I sense when something is not correct. You will grow into that ability too.
In conclusion, listen to your intuition. If you are not happy with any piece of artwork (no matter how many others like it) then you should do what is necessary to make it right. No amount of persuasion has ever stopped me when I sensed something needed to be fixed. To learn more about Daniel K. Tennant, visit
For watercolor artist Peggi Habets, drawing and painting have been a part of her life since childhood. After studying graphic design in college and working as a designer and art director for 15 years, Peggi decided to return to her original passion—fine art.
“I started studying with several well-known painters and discovered, to my delight, that watercolor is an exciting medium to work with,” says Peggi.
While Peggi also loves working with dry media like charcoal and pencil, her medium of choice is watercolor. “Watercolor has a fluidity and spontaneity that I have not found with any other medium,” Peggi says.
Her favorite subject to draw and paint is the figure, for its endless possibilities of composition, style, mood and concept. “It’s the one subject that everyone can relate to.”
Peggi’s book, Watercolor Made Easy: Portraits was published in May, and her work is also featured in the new release The Art of Drawing & Painting Portraits.
For Peggi, her family has always been extremely supportive of her art and is a big reason she is doing what she loves today. Like most artists, she also finds inspiration in painters of the past, including John Singer Sergant and Anders Zorn. “I am also inspired by contemporary artists Mary Whyte, Dean Mitchell, and Guan Weixing,” says Peggi.
When Peggi first started painting, she explored a variety of styles, methods, and materials. “I used brighter colors and didn’t think much about temperature, value, or edges.” But as she grew as a painter and her interest in realism increased, she found herself drawn to a more subdued, less arbitrary application of color.
“Currently, I’m using a limited palette of 8-12 colors that are neutral in nature,” says Peggi of her ever-evolving approach to color.
Little Guardian, watercolor
To stay motived when artist’s block hits, Peggi keeps a book filled with ongoing painting ideas. “Anytime I feel ‘stuck,’ I leaf through the book and plan at least one new painting,” she says. In addition, Peggi continually looks to the works of others for inspiration. “I have a wonderful group of women painter friends that I meet with regularly to plan exhibitions, exchange ideas, or just to compare notes. We continually keep each other motivated and inspired,” says Peggi.
Outside of the studio, Peggi spends free time with her husband and three teenage sons, camping, kayaking, and traveling. “To prepare for the rigorous balancing act of raising a family and working in the studio each day, I include exercise and meditation as part of my daily morning routine.”
For artists who are just starting out, Peggi suggests studying and practice, as well as finding mentors and instructors to learn from. “Ask lots of questions, exhibit your art, get involved with your local artist groups, and work very, very hard. Success does not happen overnight, but it is attainable!”
To view more of Peggi's art, visit www.habets-studio.com.
Artwork Copyright Peggi Habets