In The Studio With A New Idea

In the studio with a new idea

Now that I’ve recovered from a ghastly case of pneumonia, (which I totally did not need), I decided enough was enough. I headed to my in-home art studio to see what to work on next. Sometimes a little straightening up can give me direction.

I sharpened my color pencils, straightened out my watercolor and oil paint brushes, dropping them into some pretty jars, took a look at my oil mediums, and stacked up some stretched canvases.

Taking some photos to admire my neat supplies I had an idea: post to Instagram! Done. (One thing about Instagram is it’s readily available from a phone, like most social media these days. Which also makes it very dangerous if I want to get any work done.)

Then I had another idea: post some paintings to Instagram. OK!

Which led me to the next thought: Why not hold an online art gallery exhibit and sale on Instagram? I could upload a painting each day with the backstory, dimensions, medium, title, price and purchase information. While I’m at it, the Muse prodded me on, I’d post right here on my little old blog. Besides here, there’s all the other social stuff everyone is hooked up to.

Why not?

You will have to bear with me as I figure out how to link all these things together. In the meantime, I’m going to start by taking some photos and videos of a few pieces of artwork to show you.

Here we go!

Grief and Hope in the New Year

©Dora Sislian Themelis, Pond Turtles, 4×6 Watercolor for Twitter Art Exhibit

As I contemplate the year that has just passed, and look forward to the new year ahead, I am both grateful and regretful. Full of hope, today I picked up my favorite book, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, my guru, and this quote was the first page I opened to.

It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.

-Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary of the 5th century B.C.

What do you know?

New year’s resolutions are well and good for some, but I find that every time I make them, I break them soon enough. So why bother? It’s futile.

However, there has to be a strategy to mark the months ahead. Some grand plan to not just study “war,” but “live” it. I’ve been on the losing end, in a way.

The last year gave me a lot of grief, and plenty of hope. Early on I had my first solo art exhibit that went very well and taught me some valuable lessons. Selling some work gave me validation. No sooner was the big event over that I fell into a work slump. Dashed the blog, the painting, the creation, the Muse left my side and I let other things get in my way. Resistance at it’s worst.

Here and there I pushed through only to fall into more Resistance. Why bother was my mantra. Hence, the grief.

Then a ray of light, a commission came out of the exhibit and I got myself together to get the work done. Great! Once I finished and delivered the painting I felt a sense of accomplishment. Soon after the Twitter Art Exhibit info came out and I painted and sent off my postcard sized watercolor painting. Hurrah!

Since then the tumult of winter holidays and obligations began, and there went everything to the trash.


The hope is that I made it to the blog today to complain about it all. Spill it out, tell the story, stop studying the war and fight it.

I think it’s a good thing.

The Greece Dream is Over, Get Back to Work

A view of St. John Theologos Monastery on Patmos Island, Greece on the easel
Painting of Patmos, Greece on the easel today, 9×12 acrylic on stretched canvas

So the Greece dream visit is over. Wonderful as it was, it’s done. August is almost finished as well, and it is high time I get myself back to making art. Being in Greece for any length of time and one can lose themselves in the beauty, the deep blues, the ocean, the light and white, the weather, the music, the food, the people..

Yeah, it’s all that, and more.

Work has been a struggle this past year. More than once I let my head get in my way. Life happens, yes, but it shouldn’t mean work, the blog, the whole thing, needed to suffer. Soon as my solo show was over I was spent.

Now that I’m home from dreamy Greece, and feeling a little better, days are my own for right now, artwork just has to happen. This week I pushed Mr. Resistance aside more than once to make sure I painted something, anything, to get into the process again. He wasn’t happy either.

Yes, I worked a little while I was away. No, it wasn’t any big deal, just some sketching in my Moleskin with watercolors a couple of beautiful beach days. I’ll show you soon enough. It’s more than I’ve done on other visits to our Greek island home. The plein air palette I purchased specifically for travel painting never made the trip with me. I was too stressed about where it would go in my bags that I couldn’t handle it. Next time.

All that being said, I have made a pact with myself. Posting to the blog must become a habit again. Rededicating my inner child artist once again to working at the easel regularly is the direction. Work isn’t going to happen by itself and the hustle has to pay off in the long run. The next art show is my focus and goal.

As long as I can continue in this manner we’ll be okay!

Fingers crossed..

First Solo Art Exhibition March 1-31, 2016

I am proud and excited to announce my 1st real solo art exhibit/sale for the month of March 2016. This lovely gallery in my area, Barnes Gallery, has agreed to host my artwork at their location.

Postcard for my 1st Solo Art Exhibit
Postcard for my 1st Solo Art Exhibit

There’s going to be an opening reception with food, drink, and live jazz music.

It’s been a rough month of preparations, framing, getting mats and some custom frames done. I certainly can’t do it all myself. I am not a great mat cutter, but I get by.

It’s scary, though. Did you ever have a party and think that no one will come? That’s how I feel about this event.

Wish me luck. Better yet, come by and say hello. I’d love to meet you in person.


Another 30/30 Painting Challenge for September 2015

Why did I decide to do another 30 paintings in 30 days challenge? I asked myself that same question each day of this month.

So ok, I want to be more accountable, push myself to the studio, paint and process, and maybe get some good work out of it. Can’t say for sure that will happen (the good work part) but maybe, just maybe the Muse will stay and Mr. Resistance will stay away.

Day 1 7x10 watercolor on Arches 140b cold press paper
Day 1 7×10 watercolor on Arches 140b cold press paper
Day 2 7x10 watercolor, Arches 300 lb hot press paper
Day 2 7×10 watercolor, Arches 300 lb hot press paper
Day 3 7x10 watercolor, Arches 140b cold press paper
Day 3 7×10 watercolor, Arches 140b cold press paper
Day 4 7x10 Watercolor, Arches 140b cold press paper
Day 4 7×10 Watercolor, Arches 140b cold press paper
Day 4 7x10 Watercolor, Arches 300b hot press paper
Day 5  7×10 Watercolor, Arches 300b hot press paper

Five works in 10 days is an ok showing. Working small in 20 minute segments and pushing the process, maybe I can double up and meet the quota this time around.

Fingers crossed Mr. Resistance keeps his distance.

A Smaller Version

In an effort to keep the Muse nearby, and to avoid Mr. Resistance, I worked up another view of the rocky crags and sky scene of the photo from my author friend. Just a smaller version of the larger work to keep things fresh and moving ahead.

Believe me when I say that if I don’t keep at it, even for twenty lousy minutes a day, I’ll be toast.

Another version of the rocky crags photograph
Another version of the rocky crags photograph

It’s smaller than the other view because I was experimenting with keeping the colors, shapes and brushstrokes to a minimum. I wanted to see if I could get away with doing less by using the small size paper and a larger brush.

Never the type to paint so small it was a good exercise in discipline. I usually paint a large painting in a small space, cramming too much detail which would have been better served by a large surface.

My professors in school would say Go bigger! So going smaller is a tough one for me.

It’s a process, and I’m all about the process. In twenty minutes a day, if I’m smart about my time.

Which, if I let Mr. Resistance have his way, I’m not.

Painting and Knitting

What’s new in the art world, here in my little studio? Lots of daydreaming, some process painting, more daydreaming, and now that the weather is changing knitting could happen soon.

Before I talk about knitting, let me show you the latest watercolor painting. Try to remember I’m working on the process, ok? That’s what I keep telling myself. Ahem.

Tractor, 8x10 Watercolor, Arches paper
Tractor, 8×10 Watercolor, Arches paper

I already worked this in the hated acrylic paints, but decided to revisit the scene using old school Maribu watercolors. Why not? I really enjoyed this day of plein air painting with a new/old friend I made online and finally met in person this day, so it was special. As we were leaving the flower nursery we were at we found these great tractors and took photos to paint from later on.

Now, about the knitting. Wintry weather makes me want to knit wooly and warm things so I’ve been looking over my yarn stash, and hunting for patterns. That’s the daydreaming part.

We now have a 4 month old grandson to knit for. Thrills!

Beyond knitting baby items I found this article on how knitting is healthy to do titled “5 Reasons Knitting is Good for You.” Perfect! That’s just what I need to hear, so I can keep on buying, oops, knitting with yarn.

Did you know that an hour of knitting burns 55 calories? Yes!

Knitting helps keep dementia at bay? Perfect!

Want to tamp down that ‘fight or flight’ response? Yep, knitting can do that.

Now if I could paint and knit simultaneously that’d be a great thing.


In the Studio to Think, Maybe Paint

Unable to move forward lately, I decided to just sit at my desk and easel and think.

How hard could it be to beat Resistance, I thought to myself as I sat in the studio.

It’s been very difficult. Life is going to happen, no matter what. Other people go to a job every day. My job is to paint, so why don’t I do it, everyday like working people? If I was my boss, I’d have fired me by now.

Conte crayon sketch of the Elgin Marbles bas relief
Conte crayon sketch of the Elgin Marbles bas relief

Meanwhile, I was sitting at the desk looking at my brushes, paints, and papers strewn about. I thought about all the things I haven’t been doing, and then I went over all the work I have already finished, trying to turn negative into positive.

The quiet in the space was very satisfying. I looked at my stuff and daydreamed a little. The last painting I was working on sat on the easel unfinished nearby and I just noticed it there.

Sunny Sunflower ©2014Dora Sislian Themelis, 18x24 Watercolor, Arches paper
Sunny Sunflower ©2014Dora Sislian Themelis, 18×24 Watercolor, Arches paper

Then I leafed through a pastel pad I’ve used and found a couple of drawings in conte crayon in it.

Nice drawings, I thought.

A few moments passed when I found myself filling a small cup with water and adding color to the watercolor painting I haven’t touched for a couple of months. Before I could really grasp what I was doing, I finished the work and signed it.


Maybe that’s how work has to happen for the time being?

Something New in the New Year

In the Mirror ©1978 Dora Sislian Themelis Oil on Canvas
In the Mirror ©1978 Dora Sislian Themelis Oil on Canvas

Yes, it’s all lovely, the new year and all. That said, I am making hay with it.

Starting the new year right, everyone around me has taken ill with some form of cold or another, even myself.

Honestly, my own upper respiratory illness was so strange the way it came on and hung around, I was sure it was Resistance!

Yes, Mr. Resistance, in the form of a cold so I didn’t have to do my work. Imagine!

Next time, I’ll keep my ideas to myself, rather than blab them all over the internet. I’ll just surprise everyone, that’s all.

Meanwhile, I happened to be floating around Facebook when I came across a blurb about “selfies” and how artists have been doing self-portraits for hundreds of years. The “selfie” is and isn’t like self-portraits. It’s more whimsical, I think, but it had me thinking of all the times in the past when I wanted to paint a subject and the only thing around was me.

I uploaded this oil on canvas I painted of myself while still in art school. I had already painted some other thing, and rather than throw out perfectly good canvas, I painted my likeness right over the old work. I didn’t even bother to gesso over the work, just went ahead and sketched right on top of the colors.

And those curves on the corners? Well I liked to use this old round mirror my parents had in their house to paint myself, and I decided I like the curves so much I added them into my work.

Why not add some little excitement, right?

Might be a good thing in the new year. What do you think?

Working the Artwork, Holidays in Twenty Minutes


The Underside of Sea Shells ©Dora Sislian Themelis 8x12 Watercolor, Arches paper
The Underside of Sea Shells ©Dora Sislian Themelis 8×12 Watercolor, Arches paper

With the holidays upon us, there is no end to the things that need doing now. Needing to address so many items on that long and getting longer to-do list, that painting will probably be the last thing that sees any action.

How is it that there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish it all? Besides, there is just no afternoons anymore here in New York. By 4PM the day is gone and it’s pitch black outside. It might as well be midnight it’s so dark and dreary. Add the wintry bluster of the weather lately, and let me tell you how much is going to get done.

Nothing! Yeah, you heard it right. Nothing is going to get done.

So I thought I would cheery myself up by listing some of my summer watercolor paintings.

A while back I was working in twenty minute segments of time to start and finish my paintings. It was, and still is, a good strategy for getting something down on the paper, or canvas if you desire, and finishing up quickly before I went too far and had to trash the work. It was a wonderful experiment and I’ve kept the strategy going even for larger work.

Twenty minutes into my work I stop. Sometimes I walk away to run an errand. I might work on my jewelry pieces, or finish another painting. Then I can return and work another twenty minutes, step away again and assess where I’m at.

Before I started working this way I would go too far, for too long, and ruin perfectly lovely work. Over detailing, too much color, too much stress, and in the trash!

Now if I could possibly use that little trick during this hectic holiday time, maybe, just a small maybe, I could get paintings moving.

Twenty minutes in the process is a possibility. Maybe not probable, but I’m trying to stay positive.