Friday, December 30, 2011



Spring Canyon, 12" x 18"

Using a photograph as a source of inspiration can be a helpful tool, but as an artist you need to develop the strength to make decisions based on your creativity and ideas, and not become overly dependent on photos. Becoming a better artist is a lot like building muscle. You must make time to work out and improve, and try different exercises to become stronger. Training makes you fit, gives you confidence and allows you to try new and more difficult activities, which can result in new vision and creativity. Your artistic muscle improves when you exercise it independently.

A photograph can assist you in planning a painting. It can be a wellspring of information that helps you recall the place, time and object you’re painting accurately and helps you capture temporal elements not easily recalled. However, the same photograph can come to dominate a painting, slowly and subtly becoming the goal, sapping you of creative strength. Too often a photograph enslaves the unsuspecting painter to some degree of realism, detail or composition, and steals creative aspects. The artist can feel compelled to make the painting almost identical to the photo.

The eye sees differently than the camera. This difference shows in a painting done exclusively using the photo. When you stand in a location and look at a scene you tend to overlook the little things that lie close to you that a photograph will often include. The photo creates an “arm’s length” look to a place set off in the distance, like a postcard held in your hand. Another aspect derived from using different lenses is the tendency to have the same amount of detail from your feet to infinity or the horizon -- something only a photo can do -- or to have such a short focal length that everything in front of and behind the subject is a dreamy blur. Surely you’ve seen pieces painted using a photograph and clearly recognized that fact.
Many artists aren’t willing to abandon the use of photographs entirely, wanting to make credible paintings that include some aspects found in photos. So, how can you free yourself of over-dependence on the photograph? At what point does it cease to give strength and become a source of weakness? This point is different for each artist, but if you find the photo has begun to sap your power you might want to try a few exercises to help you limit its use as a resource.

Newly gained freedom from photos can often be disturbing, even a bit frightening. It seems safer to have a good photo that you can go back to over and over. However, the idea is to free yourself of this dependence and find the creative aspects of painting that will make you a stronger artist. You need to develop those artistic muscles. Begin by resolving to put the photograph away after completing a certain portion of the painting. Decide exactly how far you wish to go before setting it aside. You might choose to do a sketch, the underdrawing or one layer of color using the photo as reference.

You must put the photograph in a place where you can no longer see it if you’re to become free of its undue influence. When you reach the point of too much dependence, resolve to put the photograph completely out of sight. This means it’s not lying on your worktable a foot or so away where you can easily glance over at it. If that’s the case, eventually you’ll pick it up to see some aspect more closely and find yourself captured by it once again. Put it in a drawer or in another room, a place where you have to make a concerted effort to get it again.

Spend some time thinking about how far you really need to go with your reference photo in hand before going without. At what point in the process of your painting are you comfortable putting the photo away? (If you just said, "When it’s finished," you need these exercises!)

One way to begin is to decide to use photos only for sketches. You can draw every detail and catch every nuance of the photograph as long as you know it’s only the beginning. Many artists find this system helpful because it works out the desire to draw what they see. After completing the initial sketch, you can begin to recompose elements, rearranging things to improve the composition in subsequent sketches. Once you arrive at a pleasing arrangement of shape, line and value, put the photograph in its hiding place and proceed with the painting, relying on your intuition and creativity to complete it. This usually results in a more original work that contains some of the virtues of the photograph.

Another possibility is to use the photo for the underdrawing only. This means that you might make decisions about composition, value and detail on your paper but not make any commitments to them without changing things. You can use the photo for certain aspects, then recompose before you begin putting down color. Rearrange the elements -- lower the horizon line, position an object lower or higher, or to the left or right, lighten or darken an area, mass things together differently. Whatever needs doing, do it now. Think of the drawing as your own, not a recreation of the photograph. Take possession of the place or object you’re painting. In some ways, you might find this a more independent way to compose, unlike making sketches and transferring the image to the paper. This method encourages you to loosen up in your approach to the whole painting process. Once you’ve determined what elements you want to use and where they reside, including details in certain areas, be sure that you put the photograph away. Try to think of the new image as being liberated from the photograph, an original place or item that’s solely yours.

Sometimes you’ll use one of the two methods above, and then as you begin to paint you’ll have a need to refer to the photograph again. You may need to retrieve a certain area of detail, perhaps the rocky face of a cliff at your focal point or the sheen of the water’s edge. In that case, try beginning with the photo, putting it away to recompose the drawing, and then retrieving it for the details before putting it out of sight again. This yo-yo effect works to begin to free you of the photo by assuring you when you’ve rearranged and established a clear composition and found the area of interest. You’re still able to retrieve the detail in areas where you need them. It may reassure you to know that you can freely compose and go back to your reference material later. Don’t fall into the habit of using the photo too often. If you’re tempted to pick up the picture and return to it as the final authority, this method may not be the best for you.

Another idea is to use the photo for the underdrawing, deciding on the light and dark masses of the painting, at which point you can choose colors based on the black and white values that are in place. Match the value of a color for the value in the drawing, disregarding the photographic color. This is a good idea if you’re fairly capable of understanding value and color and are not afraid of working without the aid of the photo. You’ll become free of overly photographic color and can begin with a lovely layer of playful color. If your goal is realism, you can achieve more realistic color in your subsequent layers, allowing the creative use of color to enhance realism’s lyrical quality.

Another possibility is to do the underdrawing and one layer of color, then put the photo away. This way you have the natural color in place, but are free of the photograph to add layers of creative, personal color. This will work if you’re able to think value when a color is in place, but will be difficult if you’re overly dependent on photographic color. For instance, once the green of the foliage is in place, you may find it difficult to put orange or purple over it. However, if you feel confident of color and are more comfortable with the colors of nature in place, begin with the green and let orange or purple work their magic. You still must free yourself of the photograph, allowing natural color to bow to your creativity.

If the photograph is so precious and beautiful that you cannot bear to depart from it, consider having it enlarged and framed, and don’t try to make a painting using it! Good photographs are seductive, urging you to copy every aspect. Instead, find a photograph that has some interesting elements, but one that you wouldn’t paint as it is. This will force you to recompose or recolor your painting. Bad photographs can make good paintings in the hands of an increasingly strong and original artist and can encourage creative risks that will likely improve your work. When you’re not enamored of the photo you might be inspired to make the painting look even better.

Is there ever a time when you should rely on the photograph throughout the entire course of a painting? Each artist must answer that question herself. However, think creatively and use different methods to see what will help you become stronger. As you become more confident of your ability to paint, rid yourself of dependence on the photograph. The ultimate independence comes when you no longer rely on the photo as a reference at all, instead reaching into your memory and experience to paint. Most artists have built more muscle than they realize and the act of painting solely by recall can reveal hidden strengths. Try painting your next piece without using any reference photo at all. Think about the place or objects you wish to paint, making a mental composition. Relax and let your mind and hand find the composition on your paper. You may be surprised in your ability to paint without any help from outside resources.

Building muscle is challenging but it results in new self-confidence. Knowing how much to rely on the photograph and when to let go can make more powerful paintings.

Soft Morning, 9" x 12"

Making a drawing, as I did above, can satisfy the desire to capture the details but free you to paint an image different from the photograph.

Sunstruck City
The resource photograph, shown above, is quite ordinary and uninspiring, except that it reminded me of the light that day. I used it to establish the mesas and shadows, then cut loose and recalled the color creatively.

Twilight Crossroads
Likewise a dull and fairly pedestrian photograph inspired me with a memory of shapes and light, but the color is all my own.

The paintings below were done entirely from my imagination, using no reference photograph at all.

Glow, 12" x18"

Boundary of the Day, 18" x 12"

Hillside series paintings.

A Book of Migrations

Rebecca Solnit's A Book of Migrations (1997) was reissued this year and classified as history/memoir rather than travel, though it is ostensibly about a month spent in Ireland.  The book circles round the themes of landscape and memory, place and identity, journey and exile, as Solnit ranges across the history and culture of Ireland from the flight of the cursed King Sweeney to the bitter experiences of Travellers in contemporary Ireland. The ways in which Ireland has been viewed through the prism of English cultural attitudes are illuminated by the frequent reminders of her own radically different experiences growing up in California, with its arid landscapes and long, straight roads, short historical memory and assumptions about the possibility of an unpeopled wilderness. At the Cliffs of Moher she looks out at the sea, 'a deeper blue than my own churning gray Pacific, blue as though different dreams had been dumped into it, blue as ink.  I imagined filling a fountain pen with it and wondered what one would write with that ocean.'
Cover photo by Dave Walsh who reviews the book on his website.

I'll try to convey here just one of the many interesting points she makes on landscape and culture, although I should stress that the elegance of her argument is difficult to convey out of context.  In describing the sixteenth century suppression of Ireland by English colonists and its deforestation for shipbuilding and metal smelting, she also talks about the concurrent campaign to suppress the Gaelic poets, whose rhymes in praise of military successes were seen as a kind of propaganda. But 'what is most peculiar about the war against the poets and trees in Tudor era Ireland is the close involvement of the two greatest English poets of the age, Sir Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser.' Furthermore, there were the two writers who practically created the English tradition of pastoral poetry. You might think, she wryly observes, that 'a country of wandering poets and pastoralists should have enchanted the English rather than appalled them.'

Sir Philip Sidney's father was Lord Deputy of Ireland and urged the English to 'spoil' and take the goods of any 'rhymers' they caught.  Sidney himself would later go on diplomatic missions to Ireland for Queen Elizabeth. Spenser went over in 1580 as secretary to Sir Henry Sidney's successor Lord Grey and wrote a lengthy report A View on the Present State of Ireland, which recommends subduing the Irish by starving them.  He took over an estate in County Cork, formerly the seat of the Desmond family, and 'immediately became unpopular with the neighbours'. It was targeted by rebels in 1598 - Spenser was lucky to escape to England, where he died later that year.  Back in 1589, when Sir Walter Raleigh visited him, Spenser's home 'was surrounded with woods of "matchless height"; a few years later only bare fields surrounded the castle.'

The remains of Spenser's Kicolman Castle, County Cork

For Solnit the shadows of Spenser and Sidney's political lives in Ireland lie across their artistic merit.  'The exquisite poetry of Spenser's masterpiece The Faerie Queene is inextricably linked to his brutal prose A View on the Present State of Ireland ... Should the magical trees he celebrated in the poem be weighed against the trees he uprooted in County Cork?  Can one have the latter without the former, since Ireland's lack of a landscape tradition is rooted in its scarred landscape?  Can one understand the presence of English literature without the absences of Irish literature?  Are the presences in the former, at some level, bites taken out of the latter?  Is England gardenlike because Ireland was prisonlike?  Does the English pastoral, and the security and abundance it represents, depend on the impoverished land and people of other lands?'

Bloghop winners ;o)

What a great Bloghop we had the past week ... we really enjoyed it and the cards you have made are amazing.  Every DT-girl had so many response on her blog. Thank you all! 
We will certainly do this again in the future.
Of course we all, in the team, choose our own winner by randomly drawing someone. 



Here is a list of all the winners.

Carol --> Lizy

Claire --> Paula (PEP)

Janneke --> Detje

Karin --> Aartje
Linda --> Aartje

Marion --> Mariken

Monique --> Elise 
Nicole --> Wilma

Renata --> Anita

Sandra --> Nicolet

Wilma --> Marijke
 Please contact the DT-member in front of your name by going to her blog and emailing her personally.

Our bloghop-sketch

We didn't have so many participants in the bloghop-sketch as we usually do have on our regular sketches. Everyone was probably busy enjoying family, friends, good food and Christmas presents :o)
But fortunatly we can draw a winner. 
And the one with the winning card is...

#9 is Judith from Kreatieve


Congratulations Judith you won the stamp, sponsored by our own Janneke!
You can email her on the email that you can find on the right side ;o)

Last but not least...
we all wish you a great New Years Eve and a creative 2012.
Thanks for joining us in 2011 and making this Christmas Challenge-blog a success :o)
We hope you'll be participating and keep visiting us in the new year. 
After all, we need new Christmas cards again, don't we?!

And if you want, you still have time, to join us in the current Challenge, which ends on Januari 1st. 
We'll be back with a new Challenge on Wednesday Januari 4th.

Hugs, CCWS Team 

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Waterfall, 18" x 12"

This experiment is meant to help you identify the value of a color and use multiple colors in any given value area.

First find a photograph that contains good contrast and a range of values that you would like to use for a painting. Make two black and white copies of it, enlarging them to about 8"x10”. If you’re able, blur one of the grayscale photos. If not, it won’t make any difference. Just be sure you have one clear grayscale print, and a second one that is either blurred or not. Blurring it sometimes simplifies the choice of value areas.

Cut the grayscale print into pieces. Use three, four or more value groupings. In other words, cut out the light sky shape, the medium-light shadowed cloud shapes, the dark tree shape (massed together), the medium mountain and the medium-dark ground plane. If there are smaller groupings within a value area, such as in the clouds, average this out by squinting at the picture or by placing it across the room to look at it. Find the average of the area. For instance, where there’s a tree against the sky, do not try to cut out every little light spot. Simply choose the dark value of the tree where it is dark and the light area of the sky as big shapes. Make as many value pieces as you need so that you have at least three or four puzzle pieces. You may have more than one puzzle piece in any value grouping -- for instance, you might have two medium-dark value pieces, one on each side of a road.

As you cut out the pieces reassemble them over the grayscale copy so that you can see where they belong. Lightly number each piece with a line pointing to that area in the grayscale photo, and then number the back of the cutout pieces to match. All this is meant to do is to help you reassemble the parts into a whole again.

Now remnve the grayscale photo and arrange each of the cutouts into value order from light to dark. If you find pieces that are exactly or extremely near to the same value, group them together.

Take each value (or grouping of values) and prepare a clean, preferably white piece of drawing paper that will become the chart of colors you might use. Number them from one to five or six, depending on how many values you use.

Lay the hole in a value finder over the value shape cutout to find its value number from 2 to 9. Note the number of that value on your clean paper. * Note: There is no standard for numbering grayscales. Some will number white as 1 and some will number black as 1. Use whatever your value finder says and disregard others.

In good strong light on a separate piece of drawing paper find pastels that match this value. Lay down a swatch of the color and hold the value finder above it, then squint to see if it matches. Once you have found the matching value, note that color on the chart.

Have fun! Any color is okay. Try colors that often go unused. Think value, choose color. This is no longer a sky -- it‘s a light value. It’s not trees, but a chunk of dark colors. That’s no longer the ground but a harmony of medium colors. If you need to, turn the value shape cutout another direction so that it loses its identity as an object, such as trees, and can only be identified as a value.

You’ll know the values are exactly or almost exactly the same if, while squinting, they seem to blend into one larger shape. Look at the illustration above and notice how when you squint the blue centered in the hole and the gray surrounding it seem to merge into one. (If you can't see it, squint more.) Then mark the colors with the edges touching and you will quickly see if they are the same or very nearly the same value. As you can see in the mass of colors touching here, when you squint they become one larger shape, indicating their similarity in value.

It might be a good idea to lay aside the colors you have chosen from your palette so that you can easily find them again. You will be returning to these exact colors for your finished painting. It's helpful to make a chart for each value listing the value number and the colors, and lay out the pastel sticks on it. Do this for each of the value groupings in your painting. You should have three to six value charts. showing the color possibilities you might use in a painting of this image.

Now, looking at the original, whole grayscale photo, compare it with the charts you’ve made. Notice that you’ve selected many different colors of the correct value for each value grouping. Using only the grayscale photograph and your imagination (no pastel for now), envision a version of the image using different and varied colors. Imagine some different color possibilities for your painting. Take your time and think. This is valuable time and necessary to do.

Then using the grayscale photograph make three different sketches, loosely trying out different color layers to see just how the values work. Layer colors over one another or use broken color, putting them side by side in your painting. You don’t need to use every color in every painting, but remember that as you layer colors they will appear to be different depending on the last color applied. Perhaps it would help you to work in a format similar in size to the black and white copy. Paint quickly so that your brain doesn’t have time to demand “real” colors. Be playful, have fun, don’t let the finished product blackmail you into becoming colorless or vague. This is a color experiment! Find what is expressive and beautiful.

When you have completed your color sketches, select one to use as a basis for a larger, more finished painting using beautiful and expressive color.

(I apologize for not having any painting samples to show you from the above color choices, however here are some colorful paintings done using this method.)

Final Touches, 12" x 9"

Shadow Colors, 9" x 12"

Green at Pink Time, 9" x 17"

BEST 2 more days in 2011!!!

 2 more days in 2011!
Please finish unfinished things before 2012 comes!

I went to a concert with my sister yesterday.
The singer's name is Masaharu Fukuyama.
He is also an actor, song writer and entertainer.
My sister is a big fan of him and I started to listen to his songs.

During the concert, we saw a video looking back his 2011.
Of course, the video included the scenes of the East Japan Disasters on 311.
And what he did was also shown.
About 17,000 people at concert hall watched and  nodded, sharing the same feeling and emotions.
As one of them, many memories and emotions came up in my mind.

At the end of the year, there are many TV programs and events, looking back the year 2011.
Some scenes and facts are new.
Now we can hear the true voices of people who suffered.

I guess all the Japanese share the same feeling right now.

Japanese will never forget the year 2011.

My life was changed a lot this year.
At some points, I felt nothing moved on.
But when I looked back, my life was changed dramatically.

However, I didn't expect this change.
I was reluctant and not determined.
I was like drifting.

But when I was watching the sufferers doing their best, and people supporting them.
I thought I could do more!
I decided to be willing to give as much love, talents and whatever I can give as possible next year!

And I'll be more proud of myself as Japanese!

Japaneses are known as modest.
We don't boast of ourselves.
Although we get praise, we tend to refuse it.

For example,
If something bad happens, it is my fault.
If something good happens, it thanks to you.

I believe this is good but I guess we'll change in the future.

I like to boast of being a Japanese.
And I like to tell many people all over the world how wonderful Japan and Japanese are!
I believe Japan will change!

I also like to become a person who can move and touch people's feeling because I was moved and touched by many people who did their best during their hardship.

I don't know what I can do now. I just decided!
That's my next year's resolution

At the end, I like to introduce the song of Masaharu Fukuyama.
The theme of this song is `KIZUNA' meaning `bonds or ties'.
KIZUNA is also the them of this year for all Japanese.

The title is `Kazoku ni narouyo' meaning `let's become a family'.
Although the song is Japanese, please enjoy the music!
Please have the BEST 2 more days in 2011!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Hacienda, 12" x 9"

In this experiment you’ll select a photograph to paint and make a chart of the values and colors to use for a painting. Find a photograph with good contrasting darks and lights and an excellent range of medium values, which make this experiment easier to do. Later you can go on to try it with moodier photos that contain less contrast. It can actually be a very good tool to use to help you decide on color variations in any value area.

Begin with a clear print of the photo in color, not grayscale, since this experiment will help you learn to determine the value of a color, as well has help you find other colors of the same or similar values to use in the course of the painting.

On a piece of clean white paper mark off a grid of approximately 2” squares, five across and five down. You can use any paper, but my experiment is done on a piece of white Wallis Pro grade paper. I find that making a chart on the paper I plan to use for the painting is most instructive.

Use a value finder, which you can hold over the colors to find the values. It’s easier to determine the darkest and lightest values, which is why you’ll do them first. Medium values are most challenging to sort out.

• Squint at the photograph and locate the darkest value in your photograph. Fill the bottom left square with a dark gray that matches that value.

• Find the lightest value and fill the top left square with a gray in that value.

• Decide on the next lightest value, which is medium-light, and add a gray in that value in the second square.

• Determine the next darkest value, which will be medium-dark of course, and fill a gray in the fourth square matching it.

• Find the medium value and fill the center left square with it.

**Hint: It might be useful to turn your board different directions as you fill in your squares to minimize the smear factor and the way dust drops down the page.

Check the values in your photograph carefully and make sure they’re found in the photo. Don’t use too black a dark if that value doesn’t exist there, or too white a light if it’s not that light. Remember that white has no matching color, since nothing is really as light as white.

Next to the value column record the color you see in the photograph. For instance, if a dark green tree is your darkest value and color, make a square of that dark green beside your darkest value square. If the sky is the lightest light, as it often is, place that pale blue in the second column next to the lightest value. You should then have a row of colors corresponding to each value that is derived from the real, natural colors seen in the photo.

This is the chart of colors I chose to use for the painting.
Can you picture all of them used simultaneously in the proper areas?
But to expand on your color choices, now add three more colors that match both of your first two selections in value. These need not be colors found in the photograph. Just match the values as a means of seeing that you could use them in the same place. For instance, beside your dark green you might put a very dark purple, a dark blue, and dark rust. Beside the light blue use pink, lavender or yellow. Repeat this for each row, choosing three other colors, so that you end up with a chart of colors matching each value. You should have a grayscale row, a row of real colors, and three rows of colors matching in value.

It’s advisable to set aside the pastel sticks you choose in order to make the painting with them.

Now you have a chart that you can use for your painting. My challenge to you is to use all of the colors in the chart to make a painting. See how you can use combinations of pale yellow, green, pink and lavender to paint the sky, or all the variations of brown, red-violet, burnt umber, and blue-green to make the medium-dark areas, and so forth. It isn’t necessary to make the colors highly saturated or bright, as I often do. You can just as successfully paint a tonal piece with subtle color that is strong and lyrical in color.

I suggest you begin with a good underdrawing in charcoal on you toned Wallis paper. Record the values so that you become familiar with them and can match the colors in your chart to the value areas properly, but in  painterly fashion.

To find out whether the colors were close in value I made swatches, touching the colors to make a mass and squinting to see if the values were similar or not. You can see some colors that didn’t make the cut.

First layer of color

Here are the colors used in the first layer. The ones along the
bottom are extras, beyond the original palette of colors I chose.

One thing I should make clear is that you don’t need to stick to the original palette. Those colors are meant to inspire you to use adventurous color combinations. I often launch the painting using that palette, as I have here in the first layer, and then go on to add other significant colors where needed. Be careful not to destroy beautiful color layers by adding a flat layer of one color over the top, however.

Take your time and enjoy exploratory color. Leave evidence of layers. Let broken color shine independently, creating a visual mélange. You may choose strong, bold combinations or paint lyrical tonal variations, but no matter what you do, take some color risks to see where they will lead you.

A close-up of the colors used. Notice the layers in the building
and the more broken color in the tree.

Many colors make up the tree, which invited
broken strokes laid down side-by-side.

The grasses are massed together but show evidence of
layers of multiple colors.


As a review, remember that you can determine the value of a color by laying swatches down so the colors are touching one another. For example, to find a value matching the gray stripe across the bottom, I’ve put several colors along it, just kissing the stripe.

I prefer to look at the pastels with my eyes to determine the values of the colors, rather than changing a photograph into a grayscale version (as I have done for you below for illustration purposes.) I find that there are too many variations on how to achieve the final grayscale version, not to mention the fact that determining the value of a color needs to be done visually, not mechanically, as you stand at the easel. It’s important to develop your ability to see the relative value of a color in its environment, whether that’s in nature, in your palette or amid your painting strokes.

Before looking at the grayscale sample below, decide for yourself which of these you think is the same or a very similar value. Squint to see if they become one with the stripe or not. (As much as I don't believe grayscaling the colors is particularly helpful when painting, I do believe you can learn about the application of value to color this way, so I've included a grayscale print.)

You can see that the second color, the rust, is a little dark, and the fourth color, the greenish-yellow, is a hair darker, (if this grayscale is to be believed,) but both the magenta and orange closely equate to the value of the gray. Don’t be fooled by complementary colors or saturation when seeking values. Squint harder.

I believe you would be successful in combining all five of these colors in an area that’s medium in value, except possibly the rust, although I might be inclined to use it in an earlier stage to flavor the colors and subsequently cover it with the truer values.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Frank Thomas' Squirrels

Let's stay with "Sword in the Stone" for a moment.
Juan Alfonso asked to see some squirrel sketches from this film, so here they are.
Frank Thomas was very fond of the squirrel sequence, and after he had passed away this section from the film was shown at his memorial.
It is a bitter sweat moment in the movie, when the girl squirrel falls in love with somebody who turns out to be a human. After she flirts with Wart as a squirrel, her disappointment is so devastating when she finds out he is a human. It breaks your heart.
This kind of emotional material is what Frank handled so well, in many films.

By contrast, one day I was surprised to see Frank in his back yard squirting water 
at some squirrels, they apparently were causing a big mess behind his house.
I gave him a hard time about it.

Bill Peet storyboarded this sequence, and with Frank's acting it became another animated masterpiece.


Imagine a River, 12" x 18"

Do you remember sitting before a blank piece of paper when you were a child, imagining what to put there? It was so easy to paint. Everything you put down meant something to you and it didn’t matter whether anyone else understood. Times have changed and now the strokes you put on the paper need to communicate clearly, but there are still some wonderful things you can derive from your imagination. You may be surprised to find out how much you already know.

Mount a piece of untouched pastel paper, place it on your easel and simply look at it. Don’t think of it as a potential painting but as a window. If I ask you to imagine something through your window, the chances are you’ll think, “I don’t know what to paint!” So start by bringing to mind the subjects you’ve already painted successfully. Do you like to paint mountains and skies? Maybe you paint dogs, or figures, or the ocean or flowers. Whatever it is you know and feel comfortable painting is fine. Find an interesting composition using a subject you know well. Recall a clear picture of your most successful or most recent painting to inspire you.

Spend some time imagining your painting in different formats. Most of us think of the horizontal landscape or vertical portrait formats, but how about a painting that’s quite wide and short, or tall and thin? Perhaps this painting could be relatively small, or you may use the whole page. Format and scale play a large part in the success of a painting. Mask off the format you’ve chosen, changing the shape of your window.

Before starting to paint, think about the value structure of your painting. Far more important than color is the arrangement of tones, which you should plot out in your mind. Whatever subject you plan to paint, think about how dark or light the colors will be and locate key elements. Where do the darkest and lightest areas come closest together? Where will you place a calming neutral? Is there an interesting massing of dark, medium and light colors, as well as smaller and larger shapes? Imagine all kinds of shapes and values together.

Now think about the palette of colors you want to use. When painting a familiar subject you’ll have a suggested color scheme -- sunflowers are yellow and black, for instance. Certain color choices appeal to us, so we frequently repeat the same palette. This may not be the time to try something new but to rely on what you’ve found pleasing and successful. However, you don’t necessarily need to think of this painting as a slavish rendition of reality. You may want to make your sunflowers orange and purple, or gold and blue. The point is to summon up colors that please you, whether true to the actual subject or a departure from reality. Plan the color scheme for all the local areas in your painting, not just the subject. Decide what color the background and foreground will be, filling in the blanks in your mind like puzzle pieces. Consider how the color of the paper might factor in the finished painting. Painting on a bright color or a very dark one will change the overall look. If you plan to tone the paper, take that color choice into consideration as well.

At this point you might feel ready to begin painting, but take one more step before putting pastel to paper. Identify the movement you use in your paintings most often. Movement is the energy of a painting, the motivating factor in shifting the viewer’s eye from place to place. We tend to repeat movements that please us. Think about the successful paintings you’ve completed already and determine whether you can find connecting threads of movement. For instance, you may be inclined to use a centered and circular motif in your still life compositions. Perhaps you use strong zigzagging diagonals in your figures, or calm horizontal movement in your landscapes. Knowing your habits will allow you to either use this inclination to its best advantage or go against the flow in your imagined painting. Plan the movement in your imagined painting by visualizing where the eye will start and the direction it will travel around the subject.

Try to visualize the painting fully, seeing it in your mind’s eye before starting. Be sure to use this mental picture only as the starting point -- an aid to help you reach a goal that’s not set in stone. Do a few thumbnail sketches to help you pinpoint the location of key elements, map the values you plan to use and find the movement that interests you. Limit these sketches to less than a minute to begin with, gradually lengthening the time until you have a small, satisfying composition.

The painting should begin to flow as a result of your visualization and planning, slowly taking shape as you paint. Be responsive to what begins to happen, allowing those pleasing incidental marks that occur to lead you. Occasionally close your eyes to envision your goal, and then refer back to your thumbnail sketch so that you don’t lose sight of that goal. Be flexible, but don’t allow the painting to overwhelm you. The excitement and energy of painting can sometimes become so absorbing that you’ll find yourself heading too far from the envisioned outcome, which can often result in a mess of colorful, fun marks that don’t communicate anything. As a child you could get away with spontaneity in place of communication, but now you must be in control, disciplining your mark-making and choosing successful, though lose and painterly strokes, that tell the story. Don’t let the joy of painting fool you into losing touch with what you’re trying to say.

Take frequent breaks to step back from your painting and look at it, remembering the vision you imagined so that you can compare the results. You may need to punch up the contrast, or change the size or scale of an element. Perhaps some accidental stroke or color combination will inspire you to change things. Whatever you see is legitimate since there’s no photograph or other record confining you. The goal, aside from a few thumbnail sketches, is all in your mind. Try several of these paintings, allowing yourself to come to trust that you are able to paint without a net, utilizing the spontaneity of a child and the discipline of an artist.

New Year Greeting Cards

Soon after Christmas was over, we have to be ready for the New Year.
House cleaning, special-meals cooking, New Year decoration....etc.

I finally finished my New Year greeting cards.

The card includes my photo and pottery work.
Since they have a special stamp, all cards arrive on the New Year although they are mailed a week before.
Of course, there is the time limit and if it's too late, they will arrive after the New Year holiday is over.

Now it's very convenient we can make cards by computer.
Before I bought it, I did all hand-writing with some stamps.
I'll write messages and mail them.

These days, people send the New Year messages by mail.
But I still like to write to give special thanks of this year, and happiness and friendship of next year.

The animal of the year 2012 is Dragon!
We have 12 animals, Chinese zodiac.
Dragon is the only legendary animal of 12.
So the year 2012 is not usual.
Something we never expected will happen.
Good or Bad things are all up to your mind and heart.
Please always visualize whatever you really expect to happen!

This painting is done by Seiji Fujishiro.
I visited his show and we were free to take photos of his works.
I love his paintings and generosity.

I seem to work this New Year's eve and New Year.
Friends of my friend came to Japan and I'll guide them.
This is my first time to work at these days.
I had refused to work at New Year's eve and New Year because everything was unusual and I preferred spending with my family and friends.
Oh! I lose no time in doing something unusual!!
I'm excited at new experience!
Since it is the first time for them to visit Japan, I'll do my best to support them and enjoy together!!

For all of my friends,
Thank you very much for your friendship of this year especially during our hardship.
I wish you wonderful New Year holidays with your family and friends.
When I visit a temple or shrine at New Year, I'll pray for your happiness, health and whatever you wish for the year 2012!!