Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wow, I have been neglecting my blog the last few weeks!  I came home for Christmas and ever since I got back I've been so busy Christmas shopping, running errands and working.  I haven't had time to work on anything new and my work schedule for the next few weeks is pretty full as well, 30+ hours this coming week and the next 2-3 weeks after that is 40+!! I probably won't have time to do anything new before I go back to Poland in late January.  Here it is on Christmas Eve and I haven't even wrapped a single gift. That's how crazy it's been! :)  I'm lucky I even finished my Christmas shopping at all lol.
I have signed up for a free Strathmore workshop online though, it starts January 1st. The workshop is a lot about art journaling and having fun. I did a workshop with them last year too, and really enjoyed it. If anyone is interested, here is a link. :)
I should probably get back to my Christmas wrapping and cooking so I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever it is you celebrate. I will enjoy my weekend off for Christmas and then....back to work!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Self Portrait

I did this self portrait drawing (H and HB pencils) mostly because I wanted to practice drawing hair. 
Drawing hair can be tedious sometimes but it's also kind of fun.  My hair at the time had a lot of highlights in it, which is why it looks so streaky. Hmm, maybe this will be my new facebook profile pic? ;-)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gouache and India Ink Project

Here's a fun project I came across in an art book. It requires gouache (opaque watercolor) and India ink.  The first one I did was just a copy of the example from the book, it's not original to me. (The book is called "Art Techniques") I just really liked it and wanted to make one for myself :)
What you do is paint a picture with the gouache.  Leave the white of the paper in any areas you want to be black.  So it is a good idea to sketch out your idea first lightly in pencil and draw around the areas you want to be black. What happens is after your gouache painting is completely dry (overnight) you take a large, soft watercolor brush and cover the entire thing in an even coat of black India ink. After the ink is dry (I gave it a few hours), you rinse the painting under running water and, using the soft watercolor brush, wash away the ink.  The ink will stick to the white paper but the gouache repels the ink so it washes off and the painting underneath is revealed.  Just keep in mind gouache is water soluble and some will wash off with the ink. Use the paint thickly, because if you do thin coats, it could all just come off. In the 2nd example I did of my shoes, I didn't use the gouache thick enough and a lot of the floor and skin tone area came off with the rinsing.
I just realized maybe I should have put up the photos step by step as I did it, but these were already done before I had the idea to do this post. Next time I do this, I will take pictures and document the process. It's really fun, give it a try!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hotel Commission

A week ago, I finished one of my first big commissioned paintings for an up and coming new hotel here in Krakow, Komorowski Luxury Guest Rooms.  It was a little scary, since I haven't done too many commissions before (just one other, where I was asked to do Hopper's "Night Hawks" but with personal changes, such as making the figures people they knew and changing the inside from a diner to more of a bar).  So anyway, Komorowski is a very sleek and modern design, black, white and greys with splashes of red.  The place is gorgeous, and I would honestly recommend anyone planning to come to Krakow to stay there. I know the owners, and they're very nice people who speak fluent English and Polish (the son grew up in Canada) and will go above and beyond to make sure you really enjoy your stay there. 
So I met with them to show them some ideas, and my original idea, which we all loved, was to do a painting that looked like a sketch. The subject matter was from a photo I had taken from a rooftop of the city center, the Mariacki Church, along with the clocktower and Sukiennice (Old Cloth Hall) kind of emerging from a sea of rooftops. It was going to be a white canvas with black paint for the "sketching" and some red highlights somewhere to go with the color scheme of the hotel. 
What I actually ended up painting was this:
Now, anyone reading this who is an artist probably has had this happen to them as well, where you have an idea in your head of exactly what you want the artwork to look like, be it a painting, drawing, print, whatever. When you actually sit down and do the work however, sometimes it just takes on a life of its own, or it doesn't work out for some reason and you have to go in another direction. That is what happened with this piece. I had a large canvas (about 27x47", 70x120cm) and when I did the sketchy painting on it, being just black and white, it looked like a page from a coloring book. It was too simple, and it just wasn't working. The small pen and ink sketch I did on translucent paper about 9x12" looks great, I still love that idea. That translated on to a large, solid white canvas in paint however, did not look so great. So I thought I'd add some shades of grey in places to give it a little something extra.  Then a few things in grey turned into everything in shades of grey, because it looked weird with some things grey and some plain white. I still had no idea where the red would come in (I had discussed with the owner maybe even getting red glass cut to the size of some of the windows on the church and putting it on there but I was still always thinking about where I could put some red). Finally I decided to do the 3 large windows on the church in red with the trim details in the usual black and grey.  Also the hands on the clock tower are red and the 2 tall towers on the church have little Polish flags (red and white) on the spires.  
They still really liked the original sketchy idea too, so I was asked to do that but on the translucent paper in small scale, so they can frame it and put it next to the painting. So I will be working on that today. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Woodcut Watercolors

Here is another little series I did of some more flowers. I had recently gotten the Painter program (similar to Photoshop or Illustrator, but this is the program I had learned at school in my one forced computer art class I had to take as an art major. I'm not good with computers and don't like making art on them, I'm not interested in learning a whole program and clickity clicking all day. Ugh. I failed the stupid class the first time and had to take it again. Imagine my horror when my first college semester's report card read like this: A, A, A, A, F. Grrr...anyway.) I got the program because I thought it could come in useful once in a while for cropping and editing, etc. I was playing around with it one day and found the option to make a photo look like a woodcut. I love printmaking, and woodcuts are one of my favorite types of prints. I decided to play around with some of my flower photos and turn them into "woodcuts" and then make paintings from them. I had a few small 4"x4" panels to use for the series, and I used watercolor to paint them. This is the first one I did:

I did this by first painting the flower like I normally would without the black. After the flower was painted, I added in all the black outlining and details. The second painting I did was a blue or blue-violet pansy. In the spring, summer and fall here in Krakow, there are a lot of planted flowers around the mall (Galeria). In the spring last year, there were pansies and I went out one day and took a ton of pictures of them. I picked out this one and used the same process as the above, painted the flower normally and added the black woodcut effect last.
The last one I did was one you've seen before in a previous post about my Patara Rose :) 
Hope you enjoyed my little woodcut watercolor paintings!

Monday, November 21, 2011

I have found I really enjoy working in a series.  When I find an image I love, I want to play with it in all different media and see where it goes.  With my Patara Rose series (see previous post "Some New Art"), I worked in all different sizes in pencil, watercolor and colored pencil sketches. With this series, I did all three in 9"x12" format. 
This little series comes from a small flower my boyfriend picked and put in my hair while we were in Alicante, Spain, a year and a half ago.  When we got back to our hotel in the evening, I took the flower out of my hair and saw it had started to wilt in the most fascinating way. It wasn't drooping like a sad little thing, it was closing in on itself. I took several pictures right away, because I knew I'd want to draw it later :)

The first image I did was a detailed pencil drawing. Drawing with pencil (not charcoal, although I like that too) is really my favorite medium. I love how you can get such delicate detail with a pencil.  It caters to my artistic OCD ;-)  Again with this pencil drawing, I didn't blend. I just built up the image using light pencil strokes, almost like sketching. You build up the layers slowly with sketchy hatch marks. The pencil does the blending for you. I don't usually like blending with fingers or tortillions very much because it makes the image look too flat. You can get so many ranges of textures without blending. Doing it my way may be more time consuming, but it's really worth it.  For this picture, I used mostly my H pencil with an HB for the very dark areas.  
After I did this pencil version, I decided to do the next one in colored pencil, since I had never really worked in colored pencil before.  I have a gorgeous set of 96 Prismacolors in a nice box and when the new colors came out, I bought those little sets too. I figured it's time to use them!

( I just love those adorable little tins of pencils! God I am such an art supply nerd...) Anyway, this is my first ever colored pencil art. I used a colorless blender a little (only a little) with this one, because I wasn't used to colored pencils yet and I think blending them looks better than blending with graphite pencils. Maybe once I get a better feel for them I won't need to blend so much. I used a variety of blues and purples on the petals. I wasn't worried about being so exact with the colors, I only wanted to have fun with it. For the green parts and the stem was another variety of greens, browns, yellows and blues. I kind of go about my color art like I do cooking. I don't follow the recipe exactly and I don't care what the exact colors are. I get the general idea and just go from there with what I feel like. 
After doing these two versions, I wanted to do one in acrylic paint and loosen up a bit. The first two were very precise and I wanted to do one that was more of a "free spirit" :) I use Liquitex acrylic paints. I used to paint with oils when I first started. (I really love the smell of oil paint. Is that weird?? Oh well, who cares.)  I was living at home still and painting in my bedroom, since college students don't usually have their own studios ;-)  I didn't like the solvents involved though, especially in the same room I have to sleep in, so I decided to switch to acrylic.  Acrylic paint doesn't smell as good as oil paint though...Anyway, I don't remember the exact color combinations I used but the background is Turquoise Deep. It's a very transparent color so you need several coats of it to get it dark, or add a little white to make it more opaque. The rest is a variety of purples, blues, greens, browns and yellows. I can't say I'm honestly in love with my acrylic version and I'd like to re-do it (someday...) but here it is anyway!
I love the colors I chose, especially the background turquoise. The petals are still a little too exact and the stem and green  leaves are too sloppy in my opinion. Loosening up is still hard for me, I'm not sure exactly how to let go of my art OCD. Whenever I try to just let go, it still looks too exact. I have to work on that...;-)

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I recently came across some tiny watercolors I did when I was first teaching myself the medium. 5 1/2 years ago, when my boyfriend and I traveled to Europe (first time for me!) I was so excited and I brought along a bunch of art supplies to sketch and paint the sights. We traveled through London, Paris, Nice in southern France, Rome, and Barcelona. I had bought a large sheet of 300lb weight watercolor paper, nice and thick and cut it into tiny rectangles, about 2x3", some even smaller, to do "mini's". I brought a small, portable watercolor sketch box, (complete with the cutest mini brush where the handle comes apart and is used to cover the bristles when not in use. Coolest idea ever! I even have a regular size watercolor brush like that too, one of my favorites!! Anyway, enough with my art supply loving nerdy-ness...)
I had also brought some pastel pencils, some black micron pens for sketching, pencils, etc...And didn't end up doing a single sketch the entire trip. I also lost the set of pastel pencils somewhere along the way, stupidly enough. We were just so busy trying to see as much as possible, there was never really time for me to sit and sketch. I held on to those mini pieces of watercolor paper though. A few years later, taking a painting class in undergrad, I decided I wanted to learn watercolor. The school didn't have a specific class for watercolors, just "Painting I, Painiting II," etc. So the first watercolors I ever did were 4 little 2"x3" paintings of palm trees by the sea. I forgot all about them until a few days ago, dug them up and put them on display near my computer. 
I then decided to do a few more little mini's just for fun. I found some old flower pics of mine (remember how much I love do draw flowers) and just have a go at it with no prep sketches, just sketch with the paint right on the paper. I even had a few scraps of paper that are ridiculously small, 3/4"x2", and I thought of course, "how cute!!" 
I got the idea for these mini watercolors from my old boss at the art supply store where I used to work (where I acquired the above photographed awesome art supplies). He was a watercolorist and had done little tiny watercolor paintings in art school and sold them. They were really popular and made a bit of money doing them. Since he was also working as a framer, he took scraps of old frame and framed the tiny works he did. He even showed us one he did that he had a little light bulb in it (like one of those Christmas tree lights). What a cool idea! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Some New Art

I finished another watercolor painting of a rose. Again, I tried to be loose with the paint but it seems a little overworked to me. Oh well, just keep painting :) 

This particular rose is from a hotel where we stayed in Patara, Turkey, last spring.  It's a small place with a garden of beautiful flowers all over.  Since I love to draw flowers, I'm always taking pictures of them to use for reference later. I took so many pictures of the flowers there, but this rose is by far my favorite, and I've drawn it several times. I'll probably draw it some more :)

This is the first piece I did of the Patara Rose. It's a 4x4" watercolor on board. I was going for a woodcut effect with this one, since my other love is printmaking. (Well, what art medium don't I love, really? ;-)  I actually have 4 of these little boards with flowers painted on them with the same kind of woodcut effect. I can post them another time. 

The second drawing I did of the rose is this above, H pencil drawing on 9x12 bristol board.  I wanted it as light and delicate as it looks in life.  I didn't use any blending techniques for this, just layered pencil strokes.  Several layers of darker strokes for the shadowed areas, and feather light strokes for the light and highlighted areas. 
This is from my sketchbook. It's not a finished piece.  I was just playing around, drawing it really fast then playing around with colored pencils. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my roses :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lovely Seasons...

Fall is my favorite season. I love the warm, sunny days and cool, crisp evenings,  the changing colors of the leaves, carving pumpkins and everything else that goes along with the season.  In Poland, some of my favorite fall traditions aren't popular, such as pumpkin carving and Halloween.  Since all of our friends here are from the US or Canada, we just do our thing anyway. Friday night we went to a Halloween party at a club thrown by the English program students at the medical school.  Tom and I dressed as pirates and I can't tell you all the funny looks and laughing we endured while walking to the club! I was laughing the whole way there just at the looks on people's faces. Yesterday, we had a pumpkin carving party at a friends house and it was so much fun.  It was also interesting to see the slight cultural differences between Americans and Canadians, too...the Americans bought the biggest pumpkins they could find (and carry!) while the Canadians has smaller, much more modest pumpkins. Canadians celebrate Halloween too, but the pumpkin carving is more American, I guess. We had a great time, lots of food and fun and great looking pumpkins! (Mine is the haunted house). 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Observations on Studying

I've been thinking about study habits lately. I haven't actually studied for a test in a while, but my boyfriend is studying every day, especially for his upcoming Step 1 for the US medical licence  exam he has to take. 
He loves computers and technology and has never been much of a book person. He doesn't read a lot, mostly because he doesn't like that books take so long to get through, he wants to know the whole story in one sitting lol... and with modern technology and computers being what they are, doesn't use books as much for studying, either. 
During his time in medical school, he's watched a lot of taped lectures from professors in the US, and reads his books on his tablet instead of the actual books. He takes practice tests on the computer and if he's not home and needs some medical fact in class, he uses his smart phone to look it up. He hasn't abandoned books completely though, I do see him flipping through them occasionally, and last year he carried around "Baby Robbins" for his pathology class. (Baby Robbins is a small, pocket sized pathology book which got the name because Robbins also wrote a monster sized book on pathology). 
Normally when I see him studying, he's surrounded by his electronics and televised lectures. It's interesting to see, because when I used to study, it was books, books, books and sometimes some help from the internet. It is probably easier to study the way Tom does, because when you need a fact, it's so easy to google something and get the answer than flip through a huge book trying to find what you are looking for.  I've even learned a fact or two from listening to the video lectures (I can't really help hearing them, it's a very small apartment :)   Otherwise, I know almost nothing of medicine and I hate studying, but I do enjoy doodling Tom while he studies ;-)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Finished Painting

I finished my painting of the zinnias! I'm pretty happy with the results, it's looser than my usual style, which was what I was going for.  One mistake I made though, was to do the background last and paint around the flowers. I should have masked the flowers and painted the background first, which I will do in my next painting :)

I really like the composition of this painting because I like the 3 different perspectives of the flowers. One below eye level, one at eye level and one above. It was fun to draw the flowers at those different angles. I think my favorite is actually the top one, "worm's eye view" :) 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Watercolor Painting

Good evening! So I've been working on a watercolor painting I was hoping to finish today, but that didn't quite happen. Oh well, there's always tomorrow :) 

I was inspired to do this watercolor by a handful of flowers picked from a friends garden back home this summer. I wanted to do a painting (or at least some sketches) from life, but I never really had time to do it, so I took a bunch of photos.  I put the flowers in an old, blue jar. I just loved the color of the jar and wanted to be able to paint the colorful glass with the colorful flowers. When I was going through my reference photos though, I didn't really like any of the images that included the jar. Also, many of the photos were washed out. I just have a simple point-and-shoot digital camera, nothing fancy and I'm not all that camera savvy anyway ;-) But I have a few good shots of the flowers so I'm doing a close up of 3 of the flowers. 
I'm going to work on the painting some more tonight and hopefully have it done in the next few days. I will post my painting when I finish! 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Day Job vs Make art all day

One of the best things about being back in Poland after 4 months of being home in the States is no more day job! (Until I go back home anyway..). All summer long at work, all I did was day dream about all the art I wanted to do and would rather be doing than trying to convince people to buy dresses and answering the endless broken record of questions such as, "Does this dress come in any other colors?" "Do I have to pay for alterations?" "Are these dresses 'off the rack'?" "How long does it take to come in?"  Ok, these are perfectly legitimate questions to ask, but I wish I could have just taped a sign to my head with the answers so I didn't have to listen on repeat all day long. 
The best days though, were days I was back in the alterations room helping press and steam dresses. I didn't have to answer any questions or deal with the general public. Honestly, my ideal job is one with very minimal customer contact. I'm not overly social (not that I'm anti-social though, :) but talking to people all day is just not my thing. I liked being back there where I could just steam wrinkles of the dresses, which to me was pretty soothing. I don't mind ironing. And of course, plenty of time to daydream about all the art I wanted to make :)

So now that I am back in Poland, I have several projects in the works. I have 2 paintings sketched out for watercolors, one started the other just hanging out on my desk saying, "Don't forget about me!" and several more ideas still churning around in my head.  I have also made a few pieces out of polymer clay that I want to turn into earrings and bracelets, my first attempt to make some kind of wearable jewelry.  (I will post pictures of these items when they are more complete).  The only problem is, with the day job I got a paycheck. Making art all day makes me much much happier, but also makes me more broke, as in no paycheck. I need to turn that around, don't ya think?? ;-) 

Well, back to my watercolors. I hope to finish one in the next few days and I'll put it up for you to see :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

My very first blog EVER!

Hello Everyone! Wow, I never thought I would be doing this whole blogging thing, but here I am. The reason I wanted to start a blog is so I can document my art process and also my crazy life. 

My name is Krysten and I am an artist, or at least I am trying to be. All my life, art was all I ever wanted to do.  I was always getting in trouble for doodling in class when I was younger and in trouble for the stupid things I drew (like pictures of certain teachers I didn't like genius-ly labeled with the teachers name...)  Even through the phases of wanting to do other things for a living when I grew up, art was always part of it.  In 4th grade when my friend Angela and I wanted to open up our own restaurant someday (The K&A Cafe!), I wanted to design everything and hang my art on it's walls. After some real life restaurant work though, I realized I want nothing to do with the restaurant business ;-) And then when I entered my "I want to be an astronaut/rocket scientist" phase (about 6th-8th grades) I wanted to go to the moon, paint murals on the walls of the shuttle on the way there and do paintings of space up close and personal. In high school, I took every art class available in the school (and luckily my high school had a fantastic art program) and in college my major was, of course, fine art. 

My boyfriend, Tom, is going to medical school in Krakow, Poland. He was born in Poland but grew up in the US, and I was born and raised in New Jersey. We met in high school and started dating in college, even though I still lived in Jersey and he was going to school in Arizona. After 3 years of long distance I moved out to Arizona to be with him and finish school at ASU, which has an incredible Printmaking program. Then, 9 months after his graduation, on literally 3 days notice, he was off to Poland to get into this medical school and a month later, I joined him (because most normal people can't just up and leave the country on 3 days notice ;-) We travel back and forth between New Jersey and Krakow and he is now in his 3rd year of school. (Time sure flies!!) We travel a bit around Europe since we're over here and have a lot of fun and have made a lot of new friends.

While I am in Krakow, I don't really work. Once a week, I tutor a young Polish girl in English, which I really enjoy. Other than that, I work on my art, which I don't have much time to do when I am at home in NJ for summer and at Christmas. During those times, I work in a bridal salon which eats a lot of my time and when I'm not working crazy hours, I'm doing things with friends and family. My job at the bridal salon is interesting. My best friend, Anna, worked there for years and got me the job when I was home for summer last year and unemployed .I never saw myself working in bridal either, but hey, desperate times...And I am grateful to have the job, since they let me work when it's convenient for me, like a month or so in winter and in the summer. I love my DBG coworkers too, they are what make the job fun. :)

So anyway, I hope you enjoy my blog, I will try to update most days of the week when I can. Thanks for visiting!