Are you improving on nature, or honoring her?

Keith Bond of FASO reminded me of an aspect of painting I am just now realizing: Favorite locations in nature can be changed or altered as you paint them. I have often viewed a a scene in nature that I thought was a perfect painting, except for this tree, or that pond. Or maybe I said to myself, “A pond in that area would make this scene so much better.” What I am now realizing, is that I was exercising a natural function of we artists. Keith Bond has described the process in his article “Show Me Your Relationship with Her.”

by Keith Bond
How close you stay to (perceived) reality and how much you deviate and create something entirely new is completely up to you. But don’t be so tied to a literal depiction that you fail to see the possibilities of improving upon the design you see in nature. […]
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Three creativity challenges to improve your art

Parasol (watercolor on paper, 16×24) by Keiko Yasuoka

Parasol (watercolor on paper, 16×24) by Keiko Yasuoka

Try freshening up your paintings and painting habits with these tips from artist Keiko Yasouka, courtesy of Cheri Haas, Online Editor of the Artist’s Network.

Three Creativity Challenges to Improve Your Art 

Keiko Yasuoka’s paintings take you to many places. Winter mountain ranges, a busy evening in San Francisco, a sublime bay with sailboats waiting for dawn to break, just to name a few. And these are just her landscapes.Her still life paintings are simply beautiful; and they vary in style, making an interesting collection of work. Keiko is featured in Watercolor Artist (February 2013). In case you haven’t bought your copy yet, I’d like to share her recommended creativity challenges that are meant to inspire you to take your work to new places.

Keiko’s creativity challenges

• Limit your palette when starting your next piece. Using three or four colors will help ensure harmony throughout your painting and strengthen your color-mixing skills.


    • Toss your photograph aside after you’ve blocked in the main elements of your painting. Because no photograph can accurately capture the colors found in nature, it’s best to rely on your knowledge and memory and just use the photograph as an occasional reference.


    • Try something different from your usual [art] workshops. Take a pottery class, work with mixed media for a month or break out your colored pencils. Having a range of experiences to draw upon can help you master techniques that are effective across media and subject matter.

Julie Gilbert Pollard is another talented artist who shares traditional watercolor painting techniques and tips for achieving a loose, painterly quality. Explore more in her book, Watercolor Unleashed: New Directions for Traditional Painting Techniques.

Morning vs. evening light

Sunset at the BeachI enjoy the long shadows of both morning and evening. I know that some artists like to paint the cool yellows of morning, but I am leaning more toward Charles Sovek’s preference of evening light. His point?

Warm afternoon sunlight

Moviemakers like to call the late afternoon light “magic time” I call it the best time of the day to paint. Why? Because, to me, the light at this time of day is at its most poetic position. While tints ranging from pink to orange reveal light-struck passages, luminous purples and blues, reflected from the sky, dance in the shadows. The cinematographers are right: Even a depressing slum can take on an inviting, never-never-land quality.

Another bonus of late afternoon light is the fascinating shadow patterns caused by the low position of the sun. While interesting shadows can also occur in early morning, it’s only in the late afternoon that the unbeatable combination of long, revealing shadows and warm, luminous color merge to create the most intriguing effects.

The Impressionists were probably the first artists to take advantage of this magical time of day. Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla devoted practically his entire life to chasing after these effects. – Charles Sovek, Oct. 1984