Friday, June 29, 2012


Cummer Gardens. ink and watercolor pencils by student, Carrie Adamiak
Keeping a sketchbook has been a tradition of artists for centuries. Through the years, painters and artists have kept sketchbooks to collect ideas, record their surroundings, plan major work, experiment, take notes, doodle, make color notes, work out compositions and make value studies.

In recent years, sketching as a daily habit has taken a back seat to the creation of finished work.

Learning to draw from comic books, age 6
As a very young artist, sketching was the way that I taught myself to draw. It was natural to draw as much as possible - it was my favorite thing to do.

I have thousands of drawings that were saved by my doting dad, done between the ages of six and twenty years of age. 

The photo to the left is from my very first drawing lesson with my first drawing teacher,  my sister, Karen.

The natural inclination to sketch incessantly was stifled as responsibilities of adulthood set in. I fell away from sketching on a daily basis and guess what happened? My skill level went down.

It wasn't until I felt the need to maintain my drawing skills as an adult artist that I began again the daily habit of keeping a sketch book.

The wonderful thing about a daily sketching habit is the effort vs. results ratio. For very little expenditure of time, you get a lot of results: skill level is maintained, self-confidence increases, ideas start to flow and one idea begets another - the momentum that a sketchbook generates is a wonderful thing!

My students are required to keep a sketchpad and work in it daily. I ask only 10-15 minutes per day. Keeping the sketchbook is part of their grade. Students who make sketching a daily habit learn to draw much more easily and quickly than those who choose not to do so.
FSCJ drawing students in the Cummer Gallery garden
Field trips to lovely places refresh the art spirit and encourage the habit of drawing on the go. 

Do you keep a sketch book? In what ways do you use it? 
What is your favorite location or subject?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Steal Like an Artist

This week, I'm allowing Arthur Kleon, artist and writer, to hold court on my blog.

Austin Kleon is a writer, artist, speaker, and New York Times best-selling author. He’s written two books: Steal Like An Artist, an illustrated manifesto for creativity in the digital age, and Newspaper Blackout, a collection of poetry made by redacting newspaper articles with a permanent marker. 

I came across Austin just this week, after one of my subscribers commented that my current obsession, The Sunrise Project, reminded her of a photographer she knows who takes a photo of the sunrise for clients celebrating a special day. I began considering how artists share ideas.

Arthur's video sparked a lively discussion in my Drawing I class at Florida State College. My students were excited to be given permission to reach for the things that they're passionate about and link them to the work of other artists in a way that honors both the passion and the artist.

The students brainstormed the things that they love - music and dance -  beginning to see how they could incorporate those passions into their artwork. For artists just starting out, this is heady stuff!

"Bad artists copy. Good artists steal"

Stealing ideas from one other is a great way to
learn and grow. We are inspired and allow that spark of inspiration to ignite a new way of thinking and creating our own work.

We transform what we appropriated with our personality and point of view and we are transformed in the process.

 Perhaps our work will then inspire someone to steal from us.

This is why I take students to visit museums and galleries to study the art and artists that came before us. We don't learn in a vacuum, people. (Oops, that was my art teacher voice coming out.)

How amazing is this? 
We have the opportunity to pick only the best from all the things offered to us in this magnificent life. We are free to select the world's greatest artists, writers, musicians and thinkers as our teachers.

Who have you stolen from lately? How have you transformed what you took? How has it transformed you?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Perfectionism: The Lowest Standard

 Learning to Fly, from 1970's sketch pad


“Perfection is a ridiculously low standard because you can never achieve it.”

Tony Robbins, well-known personal development guru




Perfectionism: noun: a tendency to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable; especially: the setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a tendency to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.

Are you a victim of Perfectionism?

Perfectionism can be the cause of cluttered houses, messy desks and artwork that is left unfinished or never started. We can't get started because we're afraid we can't do it just right.


If perfectionism is our standard, we cause ourselves a lot of misery. We find reasons to put things off "until I have time" or "until things are different" or "until some day when the stars are lined up just right."


My friend, Marla Cilley, aka The Flylady, adviser to slobs everywhere, says that when perfectionism rears its ugly head, no progress can be made in the effort to get control of the chaos in our lives. She advises that any little bit of effort we make towards cleaning up our homes blesses our families.


What does housekeeping have to do with your artistic practice? I'll tell you a story:

Once upon a time, when I was a younger artist, I met a woman I admired, an artist of greater skill than my own. We had a great time chatting about art. She showed me her sketch pad and it was just chock-full of stuff.  Ideas, drawings, scribbles, dreams, cartoons - it was a delight to see. 

Then she asked to see my sketch pad. Yes, I had one. Brand new, spanking clean, and not a thing between its covers. 

It was embarrassing. I explained, "You see, I don't have a lot of money and this paper is pretty expensive. I don't want to ruin the pages by drawing on them something that isn't good enough."

She just shook her head and replied, "What do you think a sketch pad is for anyway?"

The next day she brought me a brand-new sketch pad and handed it to me with this remark:

  "Here you go, use it up. It's just paper."

What a gift! A pad of "just paper" and a whole new way of thinking! No one had ever explained it quite so simply. She had given me the freedom to make progress and to let go of perfectionism. I filled up that sketch pad.


I still have it. The drawings in it remind me that we don't have to be perfect, we just have to do something.

Unfinished, From 1970's Sketch Pad


In the same way that making the bed or clearing the coffee table makes the whole room look better, a little time spent creating makes a big difference too. 




The practice of Just a Little increases your skill levels. You create momentum and good habits. Suddenly, you're on a roll!


The wonderful thing about painting and drawing is that you can improve your skills for your entire lifetime. To have a lifelong quest is a wonderful thing.


The alternative is paralysis. 

So, if you sometimes have trouble getting started, I will generously loan you the mantra that I use to this day when I feel Perfectionism trying to rear its ugly head: 

 Repeat after me, "Go ahead. It's just paper."




Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Sunrise of Your Own

As my readers know, The Sunrise Project is my current obsession. Since early February, I've been rising before dawn to paint the sky as the sun rises. The current sunrise count is 55.   

People ask me as they observe the paintings piling up around my studio, "So, Jaime, what are you going to do with all these paintings?" 

My answer: "When I get enough of them, I'd like to display them all together. I'll need a massive amount - 365 is a good number to shoot for, one for every day of the year."

Then two friends of mine had birthdays this week. What could I give them?

           Their very own sunrise, painted on the morning of their birthday!

Cheryl's Sunrise, June 1

It was so much fun to paint for a purpose other than just piling up paintings for some future date.

Tatyana's Sunrise, June 2

After a quick framing job on a still-wet painting, I presented Tatyana's Sunrise to her yesterday at her celebration dinner. I must say, she was delighted to have her very own sunrise, a remembrance of how her special day began. Who wouldn't be?

Every day is a special day for someone somewhere. It's someone's birthday, anniversary, wedding day, graduation day, or the day-of-their-first-something.

I'd love to paint the sunrise for your special day. Or how about a gift for someone you love?

Who do you know with an upcoming milestone just crying out to be commemorated? Wouldn't they be delighted with a painting of their very own sunrise on that special day? 

Let me know and I'll be happy to make arrangements to be on the beach at the crack of dawn to capture the very beginning of that special day.

When you think of that special person, email me - we can make it happen! (For a very reasonable price.)

I won't see Cheryl until next week, so mum's the word, don't tell her what her present is!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Inside the Process: an Interview with Lyn Asselta

Watercolor under-painting

Last week we discovered the expressive pastel paintings of 
Lyn Asselta.

Lyn is the president and founder of 
First Coast Pastel Society and was the featured artist of A Brush with Nature at the Jacksonville Arboretum.

Arboretum Path, pastel on paper, ©2012 Lynn Asselta

Lyn's pastel painting workshop at the Jacksonville Arboretum was fun for all the participants. Lyn was so busy encouraging her students that her own painting waited to be completed until after the event. 

Today, we'll look at her finished painting and ask Lyn some questions about her motivations, her background, and her process.

Hello Lyn!
Since you are one of my favorite painters and a master of plein air painting in pastel, I'd love to find out more about you and your work. Thanks for answering some
questions for us.

What was the catalyst for becoming an artist and a teacher? 
Lyn: I think I've always wanted to be an artist, but I also wanted to share that with other people. So, I started out as an elementary school art teacher and then gradually transitioned into teaching workshops for adults.  I love being able to watch someone get excited about learning to paint or draw.

Has pastel always been your medium of choice? 
Lyn: I've worked with a lot of different mediums in the past.  I started out as a calligrapher, then did a little residential drafting, I created large, intricately-designed gourd vessels with pine-needle basketry for about 10 years, and then finally pulled my old pastel box out of the studio closet and discovered sanded paper...that was the beginning of it for me!

Why do you work outdoors?  
Lyn: Honestly, I work outdoors because I love it there.  There is nothing quite like standing next to my easel, hearing the birds and the wind in the trees or the water swooshing up against the shore.  It's peaceful, and I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be when I'm out there.

What location has been your favorite and why? 
Lyn: As for a favorite place, it's hard to say.  I recently took a trip to Zion National Park and fell in love with those enormous mountains, but every time I see a new place I tend to fall in love with it, so maybe the answer is wherever I happen to be!

What do you hope your students learn from you? 
Lyn: I hope my students learn to be excited about pastels and painting.  To me, it's the excitement that is the most important thing.  Whenever I teach, the very best thing for me is the look of excitement on a student's face when they've done something they thought they couldn't do, or when they love what they've painted.

Are you ever fully satisfied with your work? How do you know when you're finished? 
Lyn: Every so often I finish a painting and I'm totally happy with it.  But, more often than not, I continue to wonder if there is anything else I need to do to really make it special.  As a painter, I'm ridiculously critical of my own work. Sometimes I will go back and work on a painting after I think it's "finished". Other times I will stack it against the wall and hope that I feel differently about it a few months later.  I'm pretty particular about what I feel is good enough to go into a frame.

Knowing when to finish a painting is tricky.  With every single painting, there is a time that I realize I've begun to work more slowly and deliberately.  The marks aren't as spontaneous anymore and I realize I'm starting to evaluate every stroke.  I've learned to pay attention at this point.  When I start to slow down, I know that I'm quickly coming to the point where one more mark could disturb the integrity of the whole painting.  So, I try to stop before I make that one final mark.   

Thank you so much for this peek into the mind of an artist.

Note: In comparing the watercolor under-painting (done in complementary colors) with the finished painting, notice that Lyn allows the under-painting to show, not fully covering it. This makes the colors sparkle next to one another.
Using watercolors for the under-painting simplifies the process and dries almost immediately, so the pastel layer can be added.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Perfectly Pastel Kind of Day

The luscious colors of the day
I first encountered the sublime pastel paintings  of Lyn Asselta  last October at the Painting the Region paint out. Lyn was one of a handful of artists using the medium of pastel. Her work captured me - the incredible colors  and textures made me want to put down my oils and pick up pastels again.

One of many mediums I've dabbled with, pastel appeals to me because you essentially draw. I draw constantly, so it's a comfortable feeling to draw a painting.

Pastel painting is highly portable, doesn't need to dry and can be framed on the spot, all convenient attributes for plein air work. When I saw a workshop offered by Lyn at the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens, I jumped at the chance to participate and learn from one of the best.

Watercolor under-painting

Lyn starts her sketch

We learned so much from Lyn as we watched her demo. One particularly interesting step in her process is the watercolor under-painting in complementary colors - the step that makes the layers on top sparkle and sing.

Just as complementary colors bring out the best in each other, Lyn Asselta brought out the best in her students. If you have an opportunity to paint with Lyn, take it - you'll be painting with one of the best.

I don't have a photo of Lyn's finished painting. She may not have finished it - she was busy helping others. 
But here's my little effort on that lovely day in May.

Sunbathing 5x7 Pastel ©2012 Jaime Howard

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What's fun about being an Artist?

Plein air painting on the sidewalk!

Happy Spring!
 Jaime Howard
SCAD Sidewalk Arts 2012 

News bulletin: Saturday, April 28, 2012

It's Spring, so it's time for the annual Savannah College of Art and Design Sidewalk Arts Festival, part of Alumni Weekend here in the charming city of Savannah, Georgia.

Later today I’ll be competing against hundreds of sidewalk chalk artists. Forsyth Park will be jammed with thousands of onlookers young and old, kids and dogs, watching as SCAD students and alumni squat on the cement and attempt to create something memorable with the most fragile and temporary of mediums – chalk.

SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival 2011
My piece of the sidewalk

The first year I entered the contest it rained. Guess what happens to chalk when it gets rained on? You guessed it – about 75% of the drawings were washed into the storm drains, mine included.

Last year rain wasn’t predicted. The weather was perfect and we picked a spot in the shade. After 3 hours of squatting on the sidewalk in a rainbow of chalk dust, fish were swimming on the sidewalk, my clothes were as colorful as my drawing and my hands were sore from blending colors into the rough cement. 

It was a day pretty close to perfection. As an added bonus, my drawing took 2nd place in the Alumni division complete with a generous cash prize.

News update: Sunday April 29, 2012: 

Today was another perfect day in the park with fellow artists and hordes of art lovers as well. My image was strategically selected to portray a happy day in Spring and my helper, Bonnie and I had a ball trying to perfect it.

Grating the chalk to make paint
Painting is so much easier

Remembering the experience of rubbing the skin off my palms last year, I decided to make paint. A kitchen grater, a stick of chalk and some water are all it takes to make chalk paint. With a house painting brush as the applicator, my palms were saved. 

We had a blast - there's something about the combination of being outside, working as fast as I can with a group of friendly and like-minded people that makes me happy. Now that I think about it, these are the same reasons, I'm a plein air painter. 

Let's just let loose and have some fun with art. This is what I hope I'm teaching my students along with techniques of painting and drawing.

I'd like to hear your story of the most fun you ever had in the process of making art. When was it? Where were you? Were you alone or with someone else? What did you create? 

                           Go on, get out there and have some fun!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Who Am I Writing For?

On my quest to write an entertaining and informative blog, I signed up for Blog Triage class with the blog docs, Alyson Stanfield and Cynthia Morris. Today's assignment is to describe the people that I hope will visit and read my blog. 
As an artist and art teacher, I'm passionate about two things - making art and encouraging others. My ideal reader would be one who is interested in the process of creativity and wants to nurture it in their own life.

Tree of Blogging Inspiration
I write to communicate with artists, art lovers and artists-wannabes, with accomplished artists who are making work that I love and with those folks who have the creative urge and aren't quite sure what to do with it.

I want to speak to people who create in any way- through music, dance, writing, cooking and through drawing and painting as well - since the creative urges and processes are the same even though the end products may be different.

I write to create a dialog with others so my ideal reader is one who will respond to my writing, comment on it with insights of their own and share the information with others who might be interested. If you have commented on my blog or shared it with others, I sincerely thank you and want you to know that your comments do not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Hopefully, with this class, I'll learn ways to notice and appreciate my readers even more!

If you're new to my blog, welcome! My hope is that you find something fun and encouraging here and that you stay tuned to this channel.

I've taken several classes with ArtBizCoach Alyson Stanfield and recommend her highly. She is a wonderful resource for artists who want to learn the "business" end of the art business.

Check out her website. Here's a link to her blog: and here's a link to Cynthia's blog:

Okay, readers, let's see what effect the Blog Triage class has on my ability to communicate with you in a meaningful way. Let us know what you think!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Feel the Frustration (and do it anyway)

Easter Sunrise over Atlantic Beach
How lovely to sit expectantly at the edge of the sea, watching the sky change colors every moment as the sun rises out of the ocean. How exciting to wait for the perfect moment to begin painting. How breathtaking, inspiring and frustrating!

I realized on this Easter morning that each day, I attempt the impossible. I get up before dawn, try to accurately time my arrival at the beach, find the perfect parking spot, ready my paint box, mix the colors I predict will appear in the sky and wait for the perfect moment to begin painting. I feel the thrill of each color as it appears in the morning sky and transforms into another color before my eyes. Within 15 minutes the sky turns from indigo to bright white daylight, displaying every color in the rainbow (some that I can't even identify: Pinkey-orange? Bluish-yellow?) as the sun makes it's way over the horizon. Clouds appear, transform, change color and are blown away as others take their place. It's a phantasmagoria! How can I even attempt to paint that?

It's enough to make me want to give up this silly endeavor. Who can paint the sky as it changes from second to second? Not me! Better painters than I have attempted it - who do I think I am?

Every day I want to give up! It seems like a dumb idea to start the day with an activity that makes you feel like a failure before you've even begun and it feels like hubris to even attempt it.

I could take a gorgeous photograph each morning, come home to my cozy studio and work from that. I could take hours to duplicate what was in the sky at one particular moment. I could, but where's the challenge, where's the thrill in that?

I know some of my skyscapes are decent paintings; when I get them home and am not comparing them to the actual sky, I even like some of them. But none of them even begin to capture what is in front of my eyes each morning as I survey what God is creating. I feel His effortlessness, the ease with which He creates, His grace. He breathes the sky into being.

God paints with light - my paints are made from earthly pigments - from dirt. How can light be painted with dirt? How can colors made from dirt ever approach colors made from light?

The gap between this effortlessness and my struggle is a chasm I cannot bridge.
It is the gap between God's perfection and my imperfection.

When I was younger, I had a theory: that when artists die and go to Heaven, they get to take turns creating the sunrises and sunsets. Sometimes, I think I can identify whose turn it was today. Monet paints the soft, fuzzy, pastel skies. Van Gogh and Gaughin the more colorfully dramatic.

I want to paint with a thought, a breath, by pointing a finger and sweeping it across the sky to paint orangey-pink clouds on an azure sky.I like to imagine it will be that easy when its my turn to paint from a Heavenly vantage point.

Until then, I won't give up. I'll struggle with my earthly pigments as I continue to be amazed, awed and humbled before Heavenly events.

Carry on, fellow artists, carry on.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Warning! Painting Can Be Habit-Forming: The Sunrise Project

Sky #21 - the one that seals the deal
©2012 Jaime Howard

It has been said that it takes 21 days to form a habit.

In the interest of good habit cultivation, I've been painting the morning sky since Feb.4. Taking a few mornings off for overcast skies, we have arrived at...(drum roll, please)...Sky#21! 

I must warn you - the painting of skies can be highly addictive. I have to confess that I'm hooked. This habit is so addictive that only fifteen minutes a day has made me into a hopeless painting junkie.

I wake up while it's still dark, craving to see the sunrise. The irresistible urge to see what's happening in the morning sky gets me out of bed before the crack of dawn.

Atlantic Beach Sunrise
©2012 Jaime Howard
Now, I'm taking my addiction even further. 

I've taken to driving to the beach, where the entire show is on display along the  horizon. It's a wonderful way to start the morning, watching the day begin.

 We all have a lot of habits, some good, some questionable. 
It amazes me that it took such a small amount of time and effort to help form a habit that so enriches my life.

It's a new day!

What could you commit to doing that would feed your creativity for just fifteen minutes each day?

You get a fresh chance every morning.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Value of Just a Little

It takes 21 days to change a habit or establish a new one. To that end, I've been rising early to paint the sky for 3 weeks now.

Feb. 16, 2012
It's just a small commitment - 15 minutes every morning devoted to painting the small section of sky outside my front window. This small change has made a big difference in the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of each day. How could this be?

By committing to painting each morning for only 15 minutes, creative momentum is established - a jump-start for the rest of the day.
With this small action, I'm reminded that first, I'm an artist. I have a sense of well-being when I remember who I am.

After I can be a teacher, bookkeeper, mom, wife, or whatever other hat I have to wear that day. Speaking of the "wife and mom" hats, when I don't paint, I get cranky. I spent years cranky and out-of-sorts because I felt that taking time out of my life to be an artist would be a selfish thing to do. I'll admit it - I felt like a martyr and acted like one. Now, I know that when I take the time to be selfish, the everyone in my life benefits.  

Feb. 23, 2012
Painting is becoming easier. I'm not "rusty" each morning. I paint the same patch of sky every day, yet it's never the same, so I don't get bored.

From this morning jump-start, I find it easier to paint later in the day. They say that whatever you keep track of gets better, so I've been marking the calendar (I love to give myself gold stars) for each time I paint. Since Feb. 5, I have awarded myself 17 stars! Some days, the sky is grey and no sky painting is done, but the habit prevails and I just work on something else. I have about 5 paintings going at a time, so there is always something to do.

One small step, one good decision, one small commitment, has led to more productivity, which generates more creativity, more ideas, and more excitement about the creative process and my place it all of it.

Take the time to create and should you be tempted to feel selfish or guilty, remember this old saying and insert your name:

"If (your name here) ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."


Friday, February 10, 2012

Early Morning Skies

 Greetings fellow art lovers who live under the sky.

Of all the habits that I nurture - the good ones and the not-so-good, 
Getting Up at 6 am to Paint the Sky 
is my current favorite.

I admit that each morning when my phone alarm starts its insistent chirping in the dark, I reconsider my decision, but I get up anyway because a week of painting just 30 minutes each morning has taught me so much.

I've learned that creativity doesn't require gobs of time! Painting the sky as it brightens up to create the day is a self-limiting endeavor.

At 6 am it's still dark. By 7 am the show is over and I'm done!

I learned that painting is what I'm here to do. Every cell in my body does a happy dance while the sky puts on a show, taunting me to paint faster - that cloud won't be there in a few seconds and that rosy orange will turn to aquamarine.

 I've learned to paint fast and in the dark. 

I've learned an easy way to practice what I preach - that to nurture your creativity, you must create something every day.

They say a habit, good or bad, takes about 21 days to form. I'm looking forward to the next 14 days, and I don't want to miss the show.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Morning Adventures

 6:15 to 6:30 am
6:30 to 6:45 am

Did you ever have a big adventure from 6:15 to 6:45 am?

Ever the early riser, I’m often at my desk checking email before dawn. I sip coffee and watch the day begin outside the picture window. I can see a swatch of sky over the house across the street and most mornings I gaze at it sleepily and say to myself, “that’s so pretty – look how fast the sky changes – I should paint that…”

During the Painting the Region: Color the Coast Paintout last fall, my artist pals, Kelly Medford, Elizabeth Ferber and I had the best of the painter’s world – a house on the beach. Each morning for a week, we woke before dawn, scrambled to set up our easels in the dark, and painted from the porch as the sun came up over the Atlantic Ocean. The wind whipped our nightgowns and hair around and at times blew the canvas right off the easels! We painted furiously as the sky changed colors right before our eyes. No fancy mixing of just the right hues – no plotting and planning the composition – just reacting with our paint and brushes to the scene before us, laughing and painting in the darkness. It was a great adventure.

The paintout ended, the artists went home and I went back to work. Each morning I remember how much fun we had that week. I gaze at the sky over the house across the street and bemoan the fact that since I have a job teaching others to paint and draw (poor me!) I don’t have time to paint.

This morning, instead of sleepily watching that patch of sky, sighing and wishing that my life were that exciting more often, I did something about it. I painted that sky – twice. Two paintings in the space of thirty minutes!

The sky outside my window changes colors as I paint – a beautiful and inspiring challenge. Hold on – that pink wasn’t there a second ago!

No more excuses – I am a painter and I shall paint. I’ll keep the adventure alive in my heart. Stay tuned for the results - a peek at the skies over Jacksonville while the sun is rising.