Sketching at Clark Botanical Garden, NY

On one of the last nice days of autumn I revisited a beautiful place near me, Clark Botanical Garden in Albertson, NY. I’ve visited here many times to find some serene, calm moments.

It’s just such a lovely place for calm and meditation. A place to “bath in the forest” as I’ve read. This particular day I planned to paint in watercolors here instead of the other favorite place, the beach. That day the beach might have been a good choice, but I wasn’t sure if the weather was warm enough. At the Gardens the sun was really strong and hot. Maybe it was better that way.

First watercolor attempt

I found a bench at one of my favorite spots at this sunny, turtle filled pond with reeds and lily pads. Ate the lunch I brought with me and then got to work. The first attempt was a little tight. Another garden wanderer approached and we chatted. She loved this one.

Second attempt a little different

The next watercolor sketch was somewhat looser in style. I always start out getting down every detail and this time was no different. Deciding to paint the negative space instead of each item I saw was helpful to keeping my hand and brush free.



At the Studio on the Last Beach Day

I know, I know. Where have I been? Especially since I said I’d be all over this blogging thing again, and I haven’t.

It’s all Resistance. The summer and the beach, house stuff, a little thing I did to my finger, everything and anything not to get work done. Then I do some good work and afterwards I crash.

Believe it or not, I get some of my best work done at the beach. I call the beach my studio, my office. It’s comfortable, no distractions, no phone, and work gets done!

I don’t bring a lot of stuff either. No rolling cart for me! A chair, my bag with art supplies, lunch, and iced coffee. This time of the year there are very few visitors at the beach. People are back at work and school.

It’s quite serene. In fact, it is heaven.

A couple hours is all I need to clear my head and regroup. I survey my surroundings, drink in the salty air, listen to the waves hit the shore, watch the seagulls carefully. Once they took my lunch right out of my bag.

Usually I take some photos, maybe search the sand for seashells I like to collect. Then I have my lunch, being mindful not to eat my apple so I could paint it with the seashells. There’s nothing like a colorful apple or peach popping up against the cool pastel colors of shells and beach pebbles.

When I feel I’ve soaking in enough of my scenery I get to work. This particular day I was able to get a couple of watercolor sketches in. The dunes behind my seat are calm with green and gold beach grass, fencing and blue sky. I remembered to save the apple for my still-life.

The weather has been strange here in New York. It’s almost mid October and the temperatures have been warmer than usual.

Could tomorrow really be the last beach day?

Finished Artwork in the Process

Fall Day 18x24 Watercolor ©Dora Sislian Themelis
Fall Day 18×24 Watercolor ©Dora Sislian Themelis

With the following mantra in my head “It’s the process. It’s the process” miraculously I beat back Mr. Resistance and pulled off this latest watercolor painting.

It wasn’t easy either.

Quite a while back I visited Clark Botanical Garden in nearby Albertson, NY and snapped a few pictures of some of the landscape gardens. A couple of those photos ended up as paintings. When I went through those a couple months ago I decided to push myself out of my artist’s block and throw some paint around.

That was it, then we left for Greece. On our return I really wasn’t interested in continuing on deep, fall colors. Geez, we just came back from the bright whites and blues of the Greek islands!

I almost ripped this off the watercolor block to toss it when my head said to just try to finish it. If I hate it afterwards, by all means, throw it out.

Process first and foremost, I pushed through. It’s a finished work at the very least.

Finished Artwork

The Muse and Mr. Resistance had their way with me and I hope they’re done arguing about it.

Updates to the unfinished watercolor painting were completed in a timely manner, thanks to the Muse. As for Mr. Resistance, he stayed out of my way while the work went ahead, and big thanks to him for keeping his big mouth shut.

Of Two Worlds ©Dora Sislian Themelis, 14×20 Watercolor, Arches 140b cold press paper

I delivered the painting to the book author, who seemed to be pleased with the work, with fingers crossed that her idea of this as the cover of her new book would work out well. However, it doesn’t look like it will, self-publishing templates being what they are I guess.

Positioning the artwork wasn’t fitting into the suggested space for the cover and is probably going to be scratched for something that works better.

Too bad it isn’t going to happen the way we had liked. When the book does finally come out I’ll let you know.

Twitter Art Exhibit 2015

This will be my second year participating in the Twitter Art Exhibit which is being held in Moss, Norway. Last year it was in Orlando, Florida. It’s a fun idea open only to artists using twitter. I’ve made some lovely connections with other artists across the globe, sharing ideas, our process, and our art.

The sale of each postcard-sized work will benefit a group called Home-Start Moss, which helps families in need. Artist David Sandum of Norway is a foundering member of the exhibit.

I’m happy to have done my piece and sent it out. This little painting made it safely to it’s overseas destination intact.

Three Shells ©Dora Sislian Themelis 6x4 Watercolor on Arches cold press paper
Three Shells ©2015 Dora Sislian Themelis 6×4 Watercolor on Arches cold press paper

For me it’s an incentive to get to work done, push aside Mr. Resistance so I can meet up with The Muse at my art space. And that ain’t easy, as I’ve mentioned many times before.

Now, I know I’m going to hear it, that painting is a joy, all freedom and light, happy little trees in the forest Bob Ross stuff.

Creating art is a tough job and I’m a slacker lately. Totally unprofessional.

Shhh, don’t tell my guru Steven Pressfield. He’s already pegged me for an amateur.

You’ve got to be made of strong stuff to tangle in the creative realm. Distractions abound around every corner. The Muse waits for no one. Mr. Resistance, on the other hand, stays well past his welcome. He’s pretty sly, that guy.

Yes, the crickets are chirping here.

Yes, I’ve made it to the studio to get some work done.

Yes, it may not be pretty, but hey, I’m here.



Plein Air or Daily Painting?

In the last few months of my art journey, between listening to Mr. Resistance and trying to fend him off, I was intrigued by two kinds of art processes: the daily painting and plein air painting.

As I would love to be one of those intrepid daily painters, I’m not sure I can hack it.

Yes, I’ve been painting in twenty minute segments and getting work done that way. But real daily painting? And to be responsible enough to post that work? Hmm, maybe that’s not me.

Then there’s the plein air painter. Also an intrepid bunch of folk, some of who trudge out to remote locations to paint the scenery. I would love to be one of those artists, and I have done that, but not really equipped the way some are. I am working on that though because I think I could be one.

Then again, I do get anxious thinking I’m all alone somewhere, which I like, but it’s scary too. Anyone one could be lurking about, with little old me happily painting away unaware.

I had an opportunity to join a local group of artists who meet once a month to paint at a local plant and garden nursery. That was great fun to see flowers, tractors, fall scenery, and a rocky waterfall.

I particularly enjoyed the waterfall, and the tractor which I already showed you here.

Take a look at the waterfall sketches I did in my Moleskin notebook:

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch in Moleskin

Plein Air Watercolor sketch 2 Moleskin

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch 3 Moleskin

Quick sketches in micron pen with watercolor washes, and straight watercolor work without pen sketching. The idea was just to get something down on the paper, the feel of the subject, some color and light. That’s it.

Imagine, I did three sketches outside! Next up, I’m investigating outdoor painting easels and pochade boxes. Maybe if I am well equipped I can make the plein air thing happen more often, but nearby, in full view of civilization so I don’t get scared!

A Productive Painting Morning

This was the most productive morning I have had in quite a long while. Working at my art making had taken a back seat to the mundane, every day stuff of life. What else is new?

Today you can pat me on the back because I beat Mr. Resistance at his game!

Making the most of a pretty wide open morning, I made my way to the studio space and worked on the latest larger piece. I had been putting it off, painting some small still life works, and ignoring this one.

At 18×24 it’s large for a watercolor painting, but the small pieces were 7×10.

Big difference in working space.

Laying in some nice darks on this 18x24 watercolor
Laying in some nice darks on this 18×24 watercolor

Twenty minutes and I had some really nice darks going on with a lot of color for interest. There’s some things I’m not so sure I like, but overall this work is coming together nicely.

Another art event is soon approaching on Memorial Day weekend, and I hope to have fresh, new work to show. Updates will be forthcoming, unless Mr. Resistance shows up and drags me out of the studio by my feet.

It could get ugly.

New Painting for Monday

Monday is my favorite day of the week. The open-endedness of the weekend is too much for me. It seems I need structure. Or maybe I like peacefulness, something I can’t enough no matter when.

On Monday, if I’ve been good, I get to show you the latest work from my easel.

Using a photograph as my starting point, I sketched a scene from our Greece visit in watercolor paint on a small size paper pad. Just enough space to work quickly and get something down.

A quick watercolor sketch of boats at Amorogos, Greece
A quick watercolor sketch of boats at Amorogos, Greece

Again, I was using the Marabu watercolor paints I resurrected. Now that I know they’re “vintage” paints, I would like to preserve them for times I feel like using something special.

At least I got some work done. Now if I could figure out this website business, I can get back to work on a regular schedule. Otherwise, I’ll have no hair left on my head.

Working Past Resistance and Something to Show for the Effort

The amazing thing about studying getting past Resistance is how it really works.

Yes, I will raise my hand here, I have been slacking on my work. I was on a roll, and now I’m at the point where something has to happen or I am so firing myself. This is no way to run a business.

Subscribing to Steven Pressfield’s newsletters have been a great resource as well as his books. The other day I picked up Do The Work and read a passage that smacked me across the face, hard. It said to read some statements about what we want to do our art, and if we chose one of the lame statements we should just stop right then and throw his book in the garbage.

Wow. But you know what? That’s the thing that made me paint something. Anything. Just do the lousy work already! Process, something great can come of  just the process.

Working with watercolors with Marabu pan paints
Working with watercolors with Marabu pan paints

At my desk looking at an old set of pan watercolors in a tin box my Pop gave me years ago, I thought I’d just try them out. Just a small Arches pad of paper would be enough for a sketch in paint, I figured. I never thought I’d love these old Marabu watercolor paints, but the colors were surprisingly vibrant. By the time I decided I’d done enough I ended up loving my “job.” The paint just flowed on the Arches paper, nice mixtures of colors mingled together within pleasing shapes. All in all, a nice, satisfying effort for the day’s work. Yeah, well, let’s say a half hour’s worth. Sometimes, if I’m in it, that’s all I need.


Red Peppers ©2014 Dora Sislian Themelis 7×10 Watercolor, Arches paper

Could it be that reading the butt kicking work about dodging Resistance helped? I think so.

Now, get to work!