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!