Sometimes Being Interested Is Enough

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Often when people post their art in the communities I’m part of they follow it up with ‘but I’m not a real artist’ or ‘but it’s just my hobby’. As if there is some kind of division between ‘real artists’ who can post their art without caveat and ‘not real artists’ who need to qualify it before posting (because otherwise what..?).

This might have something to do with someone’s personal level of confidence or the way society views art, or a combination of both. I definitely identify with this tendency, this wish to let people know you don’t want them to judge you too harshly or to let them know you’re not full of yourself. This desperate wish to take a bit of that huge vulnerability out of creating or sharing something so personal as your own art.

It also might even stop you from creating in the first place. That feeling of not being good enough or not qualified enough. Why should you do it if there are so many other people who might do it better?

A couple of weeks back I went to NineWorlds (it is an inclusive geek convention, it’s amazing!) and I put myself forward to speak on a panel about problematic issues in the work of Joss Whedon. As a self-professed Whedonite (I wrote my undergrad thesis on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) I’m semi qualified to speak on this subject.

Nineworlds Panel

But I worried. What if I didn’t know enough? What if I wasn’t good enough or couldn’t contribute? What if my knowledge was too niche (e.g. just about BtVS instead of all of Whedon’s work)? What if other people knew way more about the subject? What if people from the audience looked at me and thought ‘pfft what is she doing on that panel’?

I discussed these fears with my therapist and he suggested:

What if simply being interested is enough?

This actually touches on something that I read in Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly (I mentioned this book in my previous post) in which she proposes a culture of ‘enough’. That instead of trying to be perfect, we should simply try to be engaged.

When you feel passionate, interested and excited about what you do, it doesn’t matter whether people like it, because the right people will respond to your engagement. When you downplay something, you are giving people a signal that it’s unlikely to be interesting to them, because they will simply mirror your own (lack of) enthusiasm.

This is what I try to do now with my art. I try and move away from the questions of ‘is it good enough?’ or ‘will people like it?’ and instead I try to move towards ‘is this interesting to me?’ and ‘does this make me feel excited?’.

How To Push Past Resistance?

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How to push past resistance? And what is resistance anyway??

First let me start off by stating that I LOVE the art I’ve been doing recently. It seems like a barrier (probably self-imposed) has been lifted. I used to feel like every piece I did had to be different and original otherwise I was somehow failing (ridic, right?). Now I feel I’m able to follow my favourite steps and techniques and work with limited supplies to create a cohesive body of work over the course of a few weeks/months and hone my skills (and HAVE FUN! So important).

BUT, and this is the big BUT… although I feel I’m developing, I don’t feel like I’m pushing myself to fulfilling my potential. I have this (not so secret) wish to make more technically accomplished and complex art. Not just that, but art with feeling, expression and emotion, art that comes from deep inside.

There are a few artists I really admire (e.g. Renata Loree, Ivy Newport, Robin Laws) whose art possesses a wealth of soul and complexity. Now I know it’s no use to compare my own work to other people’s work, that’s a given. But I am struggling with not knowing whether it’s a style I WANT to pursue myself or simply like looking at because it pleases me aesthetically. You can enjoy good food without actually being a master chef yourself if you get what I’m saying.

So the first question is really: IS this resistance or not? Am I painting simple quick art journal pages because that’s my deepest desire and what I need to be doing right now, or because I am afraid of going deeper, more detailed and spending more time…?

This has been a theme in my life for as long as I can remember. I find it hard to invest time. I rush through things, wish they were finished before even starting and I find it very hard to stay with them. Hence art journaling and small simple paintings fitting in really well with this tendency. But then how do I ever get to the point where I can invest? Invest time and attention to myself, my art, without wishing to rush through it? And if I engage in this exercise (for example working on a painting that takes days or weeks to complete, not hours) how do I get past that feeling of unease, that feeling of not enjoying myself or not knowing what to do or where things will go? (Aha it becomes apparent to me yet again that I like being in control… hilarious right for someone who teaches people to let go of the outcome..? *gigglesnort*)

I want more out of my art, but I want more with grace & ease, not discomfort or unease. Am I asking too much?

I’m not sure if I can know the answers to these questions right now, but I know I feel a certain excitement. The excitement of my own potential. The gift I can give myself of time, of knowing that I’m allowed to wonder, allowed to find out, allowed to try. All my life I’ve lived with a feeling of ‘I must’, so I’m experimenting with the notion of ‘I am allowed’ and go from there.

This is a piece I did a few months ago in which I feel I captured a little bit of what I’m talking about (even though this was still definitely a quick piece)

Portrait in art journal by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

‘Let Go’ New Inspirational Art Video

Art Video Let Go by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

I’ve been so busy this past month creating my new course Abstract Watercolour Flowers. Now that most of the work is done I can come back to making some different art again. I’m rediscovering my love for mixed media art journaling and journaling for expression and to work through some feels.

Sometimes I feel guilty for having so many art supplies that I don’t really use… A big one of these is Dylusions ink sprays. I have about 10 different colours! I love their vibrant colours, but I always find them sooo tricky to work with because they seep through the pages and show up through any subsequent layers. But…. I also like a challenge and I’m always going on about letting go and the process being more important than the result…. so I decided to embrace the sprays and let them do their thing!

In this time-lapse art video you can see me create an art journal spread using acrylic paints, Dylusions sprays and watercolours. Hope you enjoy!

Here is the final piece:

Let Go - art journal spread by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

Here are two more pieces that I made with similar techniques:

Oh No Not Me - art journal spread by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

Think - art journal spread by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

It feels so good to come back to a bit of expressive & raw art journaling! Hope you found this inspiring and it will help you with your art journaling journey!

GIVEAWAY! ArtistCellar stencil set & new art video

UPDATED UPDATED UPDATED

THE WINNER IS:

Miriam Gault

Congratulations Miriam!!! You have been contacted to claim your prize of this set of awesome stencils. Thank you to everyone for entering, your wonderful ideas on how to use these stencils (I’m feeling super inspired, I hope you are too!) and your enthousiastic response to my video. You rock!

The winner was randomly picked from all qualifying entries


It’s time for a giveaway!!! WOOHOO! Have you heard of ArtistCellar? They make awesome stencils which I’ve been using for years. I’m a total fan! Their quality is superb (much more sturdy than some other stencils I’ve used) and they have lots of appealing designs to choose from. Best of all?!! I get to give a set away to one of you lucky visitors!

Watch This Inspirational Art Video

You can often see me use these babies in my videos and classes. If you’d like to see what I did with this specific series of stencils I’m giving away (Cathedral Plan series, beautiful large stencils size 8.5 x 11), please watch the short art journaling inspiration video below! (Best enjoyed by turning up the music & watching in HD!)

Link to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fD1bdVaMmdE

Art Journaling with Artistcellar Stencils & Watercolours by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

Art Journaling with Artistcellar Stencils & Watercolours by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

Art Journaling with Artistcellar Stencils & Watercolours by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

Art Journaling with Artistcellar Stencils & Watercolours by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

Art Journaling with Artistcellar Stencils & Watercolours by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

Love how you can make really individual and striking art with such simple supplies.

Art supplies I used:

Enter To Win

Now is your chance to WIN a free set of Cathedral Plan stencils by ArtistCellar!

All you have to do is:

1. ensure you are signed up to my newsletter
2. leave a comment below telling me how you would use these stencils
3. BONUS ENTRIES for extra chances to win, SHARE this post on your social media (Twitter, Facebook etc)

Good luck! Can’t wait to read your answers!

A winner will be picked & contacted by 21 April.

Start To Finish – Introduction & Verse – Mixed Media Painting Walkthrough

Start To Finish is an ongoing series in which I share the progress on a painting from start to finish and I tell you a bit about my process and the different steps. Click here to view all posts in this series.

I was commissioned recently to create a painting in my whimsical style and I thought it’d be fun to show you all how this painting evolved and give you a peek into my process!

Introduction & Verse - painting walkthrough by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

This is a 16×16″ (approx 40x40cm) wooden panel with 5cm deep sides. It was lovely working on a professional artist grade panel like this. I knew I wanted to leave the sides unpainted so I completely covered them in low tack tape to protect them. For this first layer I adhered music paper, tissue paper (Tim Holtz) and napkins with gel matte medium.

Introduction & Verse - painting walkthrough by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

I added some heavy body white acrylics and fluorescent ink.

Introduction & Verse - painting walkthrough by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

More colours of fluorescent ink, dripping & splattering. At this point I hadn’t decided yet on a right way up and I turned the painting around many times while working. I dried the paint thoroughly in between layers to ensure the brightness of the colours.

Introduction & Verse - painting walkthrough by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

I went in with paints, mostly Golden fluid acrylics applied with my fingers.

Introduction & Verse - painting walkthrough by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

I wanted to paint a river, which started out as black handprints and then painted over thickly with heavy body acrylics applied with a palette knife. I also sketched the first outline for the face with a black Stabilo All pencil.

Introduction & Verse - painting walkthrough by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

In this step I activated the pencil. I also decided I really didn’t like the thickly applied paint from the river nor the colour, so I wiped a lot of it off and applied blues and whites with a brush.

Introduction & Verse - painting walkthrough by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

First layer of skintone and I decided to push the background back a little bit by adding neutral colours.

Introduction & Verse - painting walkthrough by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

Added deeper shading to the face and brought back some drips over the top of the right side to integrate the ‘river’ more into the painting.

Introduction & Verse - painting walkthrough by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

Deeper shading still by adding dark blues.

Introduction & Verse - painting walkthrough by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

Folded a boat out of music paper and distressed it with a stamp pad (Tim Holtz Vintage Photo). The sail was created by applying modeling paste.

Introduction & Verse - painting walkthrough by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

Added music notes to the hair and grunged up the edges by glazing with brown paint.

Here she is the finished painting, ‘Introduction & Verse’ mixed media on 16×16″ wood panel

Introduction & Verse - painting walkthrough by Iris Fritschi-Cussens

In the final steps I brought more even planes of colour into the background to tie it all together. I also added white so the main subjects (girl, river & boat) stood out more against the background.

Start To Finish – Raven – Mixed Media Painting Walkthrough

Start To Finish is an ongoing series in which I share the progress on a painting from start to finish and I tell you a bit about my process and the different steps. Click here to view all posts in this series.

I’ve seen birds as a theme in a lot of paintings recently, and it inspired me to want to incorporate birds in my own paintings.

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I started out by playing on a bunch of canvas boards. Planning to make a cohesive series with a similar starting point, but each painting still being individual and different. I selected an analogous colour scheme (colours that are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel) and just played around. I used a sponge brush, stencils, sprays, drips and splatters.

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As usual I start by sketching with my Stabilo All pencil. Each painting in the series will have the silhouette of a bird. This one is a raven.

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Using titan buff, Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold, magenta and white I put in rough shading.

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By using blues in the darker areas of the face I deepen the shading. Mixing in white/titan buff for the highlights makes certain elements come forward. I used a fineline applicator bottle to create the textured hair.

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Here she is finished along with her sister ‘Blackbird’.

Instagram Mashup – December 2015 & January 2016

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I’ve not made as much art recently as usual, which I think is partly to do with being completely exhausted after creating daily for NaNoJouMo and is also to do with me picking up playing World of Warcraft again. Playing/not playing is a bit of a complex issue for me, but in any case I’ve noticed that I’m feeling much happier generally. When I do sit down (or stand up really, as I create at my easel more and more these days) I’ve been experiencing more joy in creating. I think previously I’d been putting some kind of ‘must’ on myself. Where I felt like I needed to spend any free moment creating art (because otherwise I was ‘not an artist‘), and in doing so I stifled myself and made it into an obligation. What I needed was a plain old hobby!

So reconnecting with my old hobby has also led to a reconnection with art. I’ve had a few sessions recently where I was just SOO in the zone, I couldn’t stop creating. It’s wonderful!

I’ll excuse you if you completely don’t understand the link between a computer game and painting and you think I’m prattling on! Just keep scrolling haha!

Below are some of the things I’ve been working on these past couple of months.

'Emerge' - 12x12" mixed media on wood panel  Emerge is my word of the year that I've chosen to accompany me on my journey during 2016. Really loving how right it feels for me at this time.  Emerging is painful, a slow process. I imagine it kind of like a child being born (from the point of view of the child) or a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. It's also beautiful and meaningful.  2016 is going to be an interesting year for sure.  #intentions #wordoftheyear #mixedmedia #paintingonwood #beabitmoreyou #irisimpressionsart ‘Emerge’ – 12×12″ mixed media on wood panel

I’ve picked ’emerge’ as my word of the year for 2016. Picking a word for the past few years has been so beneficial to me. It feels like emerging is painful, a slow process. I imagine it kind of like a child being born (from the point of view of the child) or a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. It’s also beautiful and meaningful. I’m feeling really excited about this word and concept. I can’t wait to see how this will help me and show up in the coming year.

WIP for owl challenge in my A3 journal  #wip #artjournal #owl #acrylics #mixedmedia #irisimpressionsart #beabitmoreyou Still doing the painting challenges and this one was for the subject ‘owl’. It’s in my A3 journal, nice to work so big. I felt a lot of enthusiasm for this initially but then lost touch with it.

Quick WoW inspired sketch.  #artjournal #sketch #worldofwarcraft #nightelf #irisimpressionsart Quick WoW inspired sketch. I think it’s a night elf from one of the loading screens.

Art time while the husb took the kids out. Loosely inspired by Tamara De Lempicka.  #artjournal #mixedmedia #arteveryday #instaartists #portrait #irisimpressionsart #beabitmoreyou Still getting inspired by Tamara De Lempicka in preparation for my Love Art Happy Life class! (You can still sign up!)

A fun mess!  #rawjournaling #artjournal #mixedmedia #messyart #whimsical #schmincke #artstagram #irisimpressionsart #beabitmoreyou Continuing with raw journaling. This is the type of journaling that currently brings me most joy and clarity. I’m brewing some ideas about a class on this.

Watching Brave on TV (until the kids made us switch channel because it was too scary ) #brave #princess #mixedmedia #artjournaling #painting #irisimpressionsart A bit of couch journaling while watching TV. Inspired by the Disney film Brave.

These #sennelier soft pastels! I'm in love! Best Christmas present ever! #softpastel #mixedmedia #artjournal #portrait #irisimpressionsart I received Sennelier soft pastels for Christmas. They’re SO AMAZING. Such a joy to work with.

Still in progress. Soft pastels, acrylics and tissue paper on wood.  #mixedmedia #portrait #whimsical #ethereal #irisimpressionsart #beabitmoreyou #artoninstagram Soft pastels, acrylics and tissue paper on wood. Still continuing my journey to finding and developing my own style.

De Lempicka inspired work in my #artjournal it's good to be #painting.  #mixedmedia #tamaradelempicka #artinspiration #irisimpressionsart #beabitmoreyou De Lempicka inspired work in my art journal

Start of a new painting.  #mixedmedia #portrait #whimsical #angel #artinspiration #irisimpressionsart #beabitmoreyou I had a funny experience with this one. Initially I was trying to do a study of a da Vinci painting but I just couldn’t get the sketch to look anything like it. It just kept looking SUPER weird and I was getting more and more frustrated. Then I decided to keep the overall shape of the figure, but one by one erase the features (eyes, mouth, nose) and put the features back in an ‘Iris way’ (i.e. my go-to way of drawing those features). WOOHOO!!! All of a sudden I loved where it was going. It’s not finished yet and I’m looking forward to working on this again.

So loving this face. The slight translucency of the oil bars / oil pastels is just yummy. #mixedmedia #oilpastels #portrait #whimsical #irisimpressionsart #artoninstagram So loving this face. The slight translucency of the oil bars / oil pastels is just yummy.

Start To Finish – Let Me Hold You – Mixed Media Painting Walkthrough

Start To Finish is an ongoing series in which I share the progress on a painting from start to finish and I tell you what I did in each step. Please drop me a line or a comment if you decide to follow along and don’t mind sharing, as I’d love to see! Click here to view all posts in this series.

I’ve joined a group of artists who challenge each other to incorporate certain subjects in their paintings. A new challenge is set up every couple of weeks. It’s so much fun and I can feel it’s pushing me beyond my comfort zones and getting me to take my art further. The first challenge was ‘deer’ and you can see the step-by-step result below. I’ve also created a crow painting and am currently working on one with a fox. If this sounds interesting to you and you’d like to join too send me a private message on Facebook.

Let Me Hold You | mixed media painting | iris-impressions.com

I’m working on canvas board. For the background I sprayed the whole canvas with water and then dropped high flow acrylics and acrylic ink on top. I let it swirl and merge into each other, but not too much. I then let the canvas dry for 24 hours. The sketch was done with a Stabilo All pencil and then activated with a water brush. To avoid reactivating the pencil on subsequent layers I sprayed it with a matte varnish.

Let Me Hold You | mixed media painting | iris-impressions.com

I used heavy body acrylic paint for the shading of the face. I keep building up the layers until I’m satisfied.

Let Me Hold You | mixed media painting | iris-impressions.com

I completed the sketch and added the deer. I used the same process as before, activating the pencil and then using spray varnish to set the pencil.

Let Me Hold You | mixed media painting | iris-impressions.com

The deer was also painted with heavy body acrylics including gold paint which looks awesome in real life.

Let Me Hold You | mixed media painting | iris-impressions.com

I added finishing touches of turquoise paint splatters, bird stamps in the hair and handwritten text on her shoulder.

Start To Finish – Blood Elf Mage Fan Art – Art Journal Page Walkthrough

Start To Finish is an ongoing series in which I share the progress on a painting from start to finish and I tell you what I did in each step. Please drop me a line or a comment if you decide to follow along and don’t mind sharing, as I’d love to see! Click here to view all posts in this series.

You might not know this about me but for years I was an avid World of Warcraft player (and a Warcraft player before that.. I actually started with the original Wacraft back in the 90s). These days I don’t play anymore due to time constraints. I do miss it a lot though so I content myself with listening to the soundtracks and doing a bit of fan art.

I mostly used to play Alliance although when blood elves became available to play I did level both a priest and a paladin. This painting is of a blood elf mage, inspired by one of the TCG cards.

Blood Elf Mage World of Warcraft Fan Art | Mixed Media Painting Stage 1 | iris-impressions.com

I’m working in my Strathmore mixed media journal which is fast becoming my favourite at the moment. I started by brayering two different colours blue over the spread. I then added some black to the edges and spots of pink in certain places. I’m using a combination of Golden heavy body and Americana craft paint. My cat decided that she needed to get in on the action here.

Blood Elf Mage World of Warcraft Fan Art | Mixed Media Painting Stage 2 | iris-impressions.com

I used a white Stabilo All pencil for the initial sketch. When working on top of acrylics the white pencil can be worked into the painting, or you can erase it or activate with some water and wipe off. This makes it very forgiving and flexible to work with.

I went in with an initial layer of colour on the skin in tones of blue. I used a dark blue and white gesso. I always planned to add a skintone later but I actually really liked this effect! I might do a painting at another point that uses shading in blues. Working in a monochromatic colour scheme is actually really helpful to practice shading and see whether you’re getting it right.

Blood Elf Mage World of Warcraft Fan Art | Mixed Media Painting Stage 3 | iris-impressions.com

Using the blue tones on the skin as a guide I started putting in skintones with acrylic paint. It was important to me to pay close attention to the shading and make it look semi realistic.

Blood Elf Mage World of Warcraft Fan Art | Mixed Media Painting Stage 4 | iris-impressions.com

Eek, hands! Hands are difficult, but I allowed myself to just keep it simple and not obsess over them. Simple shading gives you the idea that they are hands, but the attention is drawn to the face & dress.

For the dress I started out with a first layer of blue and then I mixed several dark purples on top. It’s a good idea to use subtly different colours and work with highlights and shading on clothes as well as the face to give that sense of depth and interest.

When you’re in the final finishing steps of a painting it can be really helpful to take a picture. Sometimes certain mistakes are really obvious on a picture while you don’t see them when you look at the original.

Start To Finish – Rabbit Wants To Be A Cat – Art Journal Page Walkthrough

Start To Finish is an ongoing series in which I share the progress on a painting from start to finish and I tell you what I did in each step. Please drop me a line or a comment if you decide to follow along and don’t mind sharing, as I’d love to see! Click here to view all posts in this series.

I haven’t done one of these in a while, as usually I forget to take pictures while I’m working (it kind of interrupts the flow), but I worked on this spread for a few nights in a row which meant that I took a picture at the end of each session. Keep reading to find out a bit more about the techniques & supplies I use and my thinking process when I’m art journaling.

This spread started when Jupiter, my 4-year-old, told me a story one evening about his stuffed animals and said “Rabbit is sad because she wants to be a cat, but mouse says she can’t.” I think this appealed to my imagination from the point of view of discovering one’s own identity and the struggle one might experience in a society that often tells us we can’t be ourselves if that doesn’t fit within the norm. Yes, I’m sure that’s not what my 4-year-old meant lol, but that’s the story that evolved from it in my mind.

New sketch inspired by a story Jupiter told me about a rabbit and a mouse. #artjournal #sketch #portrait #whimsical #irisimpressionsart

This is in my Strathmore Mixed Media journal. I did the initial sketch with my Graphgear 2B mechanical pencil. I did lots of erasing and making sure I was really satisfied with the sketch. I’m practising 3/4 portraits and trying to get my faces to be non-wonky.

First steps with colour. #mixedmedia #artjournal #strathmore #irisimpressionsart

There are two approaches I take, either I do a background first and then work on top to add the featured elements (like a face). When I do that I usually work quick and imperfectly. The other way which you see here is where I sketch first and work on the face in detail, before creating a background around it.

I find shading a face very meditative. On this face I started with a layer of Neocolor II watersoluble crayons. I don’t press hard, but I do add a lot of colour. I then activate the crayons with diluted gesso. I keep adding more Neocolor II on top, making sure the previous layer is dry (if you don’t wait you might rub off the previous layers). As I get more towards the final layers I use water to activate rather than gesso.

A bit more progress on this one. Going through an ugly disjointed phase in my opinion lol, but it'll get better. I usually rush through paintings, doing stuff in less than 1 hour. But with this one I'm taking my time. I think this is my third evening working on it and it'll probably be another one or two sessions before it is done. Feeling excited about this painting and connected. #mixedmedia #artjournal #visualjournal #irisimpressionsart

I worked on the mouse and rabbit with acrylic paints mixed in with some gesso to make them flow better. I generally work with the rule that the outside edges are darker and the inside is lighter. This usually gives a nice effect and looks semi-realistic (in as far as a whimsical piece can look realistic! Lol). I put in a quick background with paint & gesso just to get rid of the blank page.

"Rabbit is sad because she wants to be a cat but mouse says she can't." Story by 4-year-old Jupiter. #mixedmedia #artjournal #artoninstagram #irisimpressionsart

I finished the piece by adding coloured pencils on the face to deepen the shading. I then used oil based paint sticks for the background. I applied them roughly and then smooshed them out with my fingers. They do dry eventually (usually a few days) but while they were still smudgey I used a pin to scratch patterns in the background.

I really love the different elements of the spread and I’m calling this finished. I do however feel like I need to work more on being able to integrate my subjects and the background a bit better, so it all becomes more cohesive.