Ode to peonies

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t’s peony season here on the west coast of Canada! These gorgeous, fragrant flowers decorated the reception tables at our June wedding in Saskatchewan back in 1981, so my love affair with them is lasting. They are also an irresistible magnet for my camera and paintbrush.

I was excited to see a peony in bloom in the back garden of our current property when we first saw it back in June of 2007. That magenta peony bloomed beautifully for a few years and then mysteriously stopped blooming, eventually shriveling away to nothing. I blame the encroaching roots of trees that line the walkway behind us and the gloomy shade their branches cast over the garden.

Since then I’ve had to get my fix of peony beauty elsewhere. One local garden where the peonies bloom in profusion is Sendall Gardens in Langley. We visited on Sunday and I was not disappointed. We went shortly after a rain shower and the blooms were heavy with raindrops making them all the lovelier.

One of my favorite peony poems is by Jane Kenyon.

Peonies at Dusk

White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They’re staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it’s coming from.

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one’s face.

  • Jane Kenyon

From Constance: Poems © Graywolf Press, 1993.

Peonies are quite a challenge to draw and paint. They have a multitude of petals with curved and pointy shapes that make for a complex drawing. I’ve tried a few over the years with varying success.

My first try …

My first try at painting peonies in June of 2017—a bush of them.

From instructions in a book…

This one was drawn and painted with instructions from Jenna Rainey’s book Everyday Watercolor Flowers.

Lately I’ve attempted a few on my own. Here are several from my sketchbook.

The peony painting I’m happiest with is a 7×7 inch watercolor, “Blushing Peony,” currently available for purchase in my Etsy and Pacific Arts Market shops.

I’m now working on a set of three watercolor cards featuring peonies. Two finished, one to go.

Many local artists do a fabulous job of painting peonies. Check out these:

Bev Robertson (Vancouver Island)

Kathleen Niebuhr (Delta B.C.)

If peonies bloom in June where you live, go outside and enjoy them while they last!

Selling online through a sweet local art market

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Finding places to sell art is a challenge. That’s why, a few months ago, Pacific Arts Market caught my attention when I saw that a few of the local artists I follow on Instagram had shopfronts there.

Pacific Arts Market is a physical marketplace in Vancouver. It operates out of the second floor of a building at 1448 West Broadway (near Granville). I have never visited it in person but it looks like a happening place!

As well, the market has an online store!

After giving it a lot of thought and prayer, I applied a few days ago and was accepted into the online store! My storefront is now live. The image below is what it looks like. You can find it HERE.

You can also get to it from the Online Store Home Page. Click on the “Painting” box, then scroll down, waaay down, to the bottom. I’m the last shop on the page. Click on my name and you’re in. More art will be added in the coming days.

At Pacific Arts Market, in-store and online, you can purchase a huge variety of arts and crafts including wood, pottery, photography, wearable art, jewellery as well as drawings, mixed media, prints, and paintings. These come at a variety of price points from $ to $$$$. Check out some of the many crafts and vendors from the Online Store Home Page.

HAPPY ART SHOPPING!!

What to draw?

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Whatever creative practice you’re into, you’ve probably faced the question—what do I fill my time with?

If it’s writing you ask yourself, what do I write about? If it’s a craft, what do I make? If it’s art, what do I draw, paint, or sculpt?

I have faced this question daily since starting my sketch journal in December of 2018. Here are some ways I’ve solved the problem of what to draw.

Sketch some detail of your day:

I was inspired to start a daily art habit by Samantha Dion Baker’s book Draw Your Day. In it, she tells of how she began doing a daily sketch of ordinary items from her day. When she posted these on Instagram, they gained an eager following which encouraged her to continue this practice. Since starting it several years ago she has filled many sketchbooks, published books, taught classes, and more.

My first sketchbook entries were in that vein—items from my day. My book became a visual journal—interesting to look back on.

My first sketch journal entry – December 10, 2018.

However, after doing this for a while, I felt drained of ideas. My life just wasn’t that interesting or varied. Around that time I discovered lists of prompts.

Use lists of art prompts:

I first printed out the monthly list of things to draw from Doodlewash.com in May of 2019 and have responded to those art challenges for many months.  

There are pros to doing this:

  1. You never need to look for inspiration. In a way, though, when the item feels uninspiring, finding an angle to make it your own is another challenge.
  2. When you post your drawings to social media using hashtags, your work becomes part of a collection and you get to see how others have responded to the prompt. You can follow them, comment on their work, and inevitably a community develops.
  3. You are challenged to draw things you would never choose to draw without the nudge of a prompt, and so you grow as an artist.

Other lists of prompts I have followed are Spring Your Florals (an Instagram flower prompt every second-day), Opus Daily Practice (ever February), and Inktober (an October drawing challenge).  

Sometimes, though, you just get the hankering to work on subjects of your own choice. When that happens, you can make up your own list.

Set up your own list of prompts:

When I tire of following someone else’s list, I make up my own. I usually do it by themes. One month I sketched and painted only birds. Another month I gave each week a different theme (favourite things, fridge and pantry items, buildings, and plants). The possibilities are endless here: shoes, jewelry, dishes, desk items, wild flowers, insects etc. etc.

There comes a time, however, when you may feel you should spend those art hours with more intention. You may feel the need to learn a new skill or work on your weaknesses.

Work on areas that need improvement.

As I’ve continued my art practice, I’ve become increasingly aware of areas where I need to improve. Painting landscapes, for example, has shown me how I need to get better at painting rocks, trees, and water. Hours of art time can be absorbed by studying and practicing elements that need work. You can also grow in specific areas by watching videos and painting along with art instructors on YouTube and other platforms.

Work on your art business

At the moment I’m in still another space, where I’m trying to keep my little art shop replenished. Thus my daily art time has frequently gone in that direction, painting another set of cards, sketching a value study for a painting doing trial sketches and paintings in my sketchbook before getting out the pricey paper. Then, of course, the paintings themselves take hours of work.

Wherever you’re at in your creative practice, look hard and long at the challenge of how to spend your time. Then, if you’re not happy with your current source of inspiration, give it some thought, try something different, and so keep yourself and your creative endeavors fresh, nourished, and growing.

And some days I just feel the ned to get back to my roots and sketch my day. This from a walk we took on Sunday, May 16, 2021.

The Watercolor Flower Artist’s Bible – Review

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The Watercolor Flower Artist’s Bible: An Essential Reference for the Practicing Artist by Claire Waite Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


My newest art book is the gorgeous Watercolor Flower Artist’s Bible: An Essential Reference for the Practicing Artist, edited by Claire Waite Brown.

This is quite a comprehensive volume. It starts out with a section on watercolor supplies and explains the most common techniques watercolorists use. Several tutorials encourage practice with these, e.g. “Combining wet-in-wet and wet-on-dry,” “Using Masking Fluid” and more.

An analysis of flower shapes follows. Here the text explains the look and structure of the various flower shapes (like bell, trumpet, cup and bowl, etc.—eight in all), delving into how they appear foreshortened and reflect light from different angles. Of course a real flower example is used in each case. (For example, in the trumpet section, a Daffodil is the example).

A Directory of Flowers section follows that. In this part you find a picture of each flower and a link to the instructions on how to paint.

You can also find flowers by color in the colored garden section that follows the directory (“The Red Garden,” “The Pink Garden,” “The Yellow Garden,” etc.) that ends with “Berries and Leaves.” Each garden color chapter is introduced with watercolor paintings by accomplished artists. These are followed by details of specific flowers in the color family and include color swatches of the particular flower’s blooms and instructions on how to draw and paint one example.

To help you even further in finding the flower you want to attempt, you can go to the comprehensive Index at the back, where each flower is listed (alphabetically) and linked (in the Kindle edition) to its page in the book.

This book is chock-full of information and tips. However, my favorite aspect of it so far is the artists’ paintings that begin each colored garden and are sprinkled in other spots throughout. Talk about eye candy and inspiration to improve!

I purchased the Kindle edition of the book, which I read on my iPad. It’s easy to use propped on my desk during painting sessions with no need to fight stubborn book binding. Also I can enlarge the images to my heart’s content.

I’m sure this book will be one of my most used painting references in the months ahead.






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Created to Thrive – review

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Created to Thrive: An Artist’s Guide To Living In Divine Abundance by Matt Tommey



My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A few weeks ago I took part in a three-session masterclass hosted by artist and mentor to artists Matt Tommey. The class was called “Artist Mindset Makeover.” In it, Tommey stated that one’s mindset is the greatest factor in an artist’s success or failure.

In the lectures he defined what a mindset is and identified potential internal roadblocks to experiencing success as an artist. He named roadblocks like memories of put-down words from teachers, parents and friends in childhood and past failures, of fears that we’re too old, too young, or not educated enough to be successful at this activity we love. Even the fear of success could be a roadblock. He also suggested how these roadblocks can be overcome by aligning our thoughts and mindset with what the Bible says about our identity and purpose.

Because the course was based on Tommey’s book Created to Thrive, I re-read it in the past weeks and was encouraged and inspired anew.

In the book Tommey goes into the idea of mindset in greater depth in chapters with names like “As a Man Thinks…” and “Be Transformed.” He casts a vision for Christian artists that inspires them to respect and honor the aspects of imagination and creativity put within us all as part of our creation in the image of God.

Using stories and parables from the Bible as his basis, he challenges Christian artists to use and develop their talents to be salt and light in their time, place, and sphere of influence. Rather than say more, I’ll let the book speak for itself. Here are some bits that I highlighted.

From the chapter “As a Man Thinks”:

“The power of agreement is a core principle in the Kingdom of God. Whatever you agree with, you welcome into your life” (Kindle Location 665).

From the chapter “Be Fruitful and Multiply”:

“I know all too well what we start in our own strength, we have to maintain in our own strength” – (KL 1144).

From the chapter “Faithful with Little, Ruler over Much”:

“Just realize when God invests something in you, or when the Holy Spirit brings an idea to you and puts something in your hand, it’s serious because it’s not just about you. It’s about His Kingdom going forth. You’re His ambassador in the earth within your circle of influence” – (KL 1351).

From the chapter “For Such a Time As This”:

“I believe when God said, ‘Let there be light’ in Genesis, He was saying something deeper like, ‘Let there be a release of My nature,’ or ‘Let the light of My nature invade this environment that is dark, chaotic, and void.’ When God declared the light of His very nature to be released, all of a sudden everything was transformed! My friend, when God shows up, life as we know it is transformed” (KL 1599)

“As a child of God, you are already commissioned as His ambassador on the earth to release His power and His nature for such as time as this. You have a divine purpose and the divine provision you need to pursue your divine assignment with divine authority. Realize, ambassadors have the authority to make a change in the name of the one who sent them” (KL 1660).

“It’s the habits of your life that create space for God to move, and it’s the habits you create which will enlarge your capacity to be used by Him” (KL 1673).

Finally, from the chapter “Moving from Hobby to Pro”:

“Creating with the Holy Spirit is about process, not product. It’s about continually cultivating ears to hear, eyes to see, and senses to feel what God is saying and doing within your world and then responding through your chosen creative process. For some people, that’s a very intentional process where their art speaks specific messages for specific situations, and for others, like me, it’s a much more fluid approach.

For example, as a natural materials sculptor, I create pieces that reflect the beauty of the natural world as I interpret it through my relationship with God. I simply create what I love as I’m inspired, because I believe God put those desires in me, and I sense His pleasure when I’m involved in the creative process” (KL 1883).

And a last one that I believe is so true:

“Realize people don’t buy art because they need it, they buy because of connection. That connection might be with the artist, the process, the medium, the experience, the subject matter, or any combination of these factors, but there has to be a connection” (KL 1902).

If you’re Christian artist (whatever your art form), struggling with your calling or with how to make progress towards goals and dreams that seem unattainable, Tommey’s book Created to Thrive will definitely put you on a positive path toward thriving, even flourishing as a Christian creative.

Tommey is also a mentor to artists and hosts a regular artist podcast. Find out more about these aspects of his work at MattTommeyMentoring.com

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Seasons in a Creative’s Life

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“Spring Song” – Violet Nesdoly (Watercolor on 140 lb. cold press paper, 9×6 inches).

This week I’m taking in a three-session webinar on the artist’s mindset led by artist coach and mentor Matt Tommey. Yesterday’s lecture was followed by a Q&A where Tommey answered submitted questions. The first question and his answer opened a window for me.

The question was (not the exact words but the gist) “What do I do when I feel an artistic calling in many directions?”

Matt’s answer:

  • Many creatives are polymaths, i.e. Renaissance people who are interested and excel at many things. It is not surprising that they struggle with finding a focus when their interests and skills are wide and varied.

  • The answer to that is to recognize that life has SEASONS.

He spoke of his own seasons of leading worship (music), basket making (art), church involvement, now leading his mentoring program.

Our seasons are determined by many things: our age, family and responsibilities to them, finances, health, etc. When we are aware of life’s seasons, and the changes they bring, we don’t need to stress when we find our focus shifting as a result of changing circumstances.

I can relate to that!

When our family was growing up, my creative pursuits involved decorating my home, sewing for my family, gardening, and doing the odd craft project.

Then I started a home-based medical transcription business and for a time my attention was absorbed by it—along with family and church responsibilities.

Once it was established, I got the itch to work on an old love—writing. I registered for a writing course and within about a year, had sold my first article. Many published articles, stories, devotions, puzzles and poems followed. I published a couple of poetry books and even wrote two novels.

Then in 2017 I discovered Bible Art Journaling through a request to review the wonderful book The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling. Oh shiny!

(Many of my siblings are talented artists with formal art training. I loved art but felt I couldn’t measure up, so shoved that old interest into the background. When I saw the Bible Journaling book and the projects people did, immediately I knew I wanted to try this, just for the fun and spiritual enrichment of it. I promptly ordered a journaling Bible, which I enjoy doodling in to this day.)

My next step into art was joining Instagram where my visual world exploded with the wonderful art work of others. I joined in on a few art and lettering challenges and stumbled across Samantha Dion Baker’s book Draw Your Day, about keeping a sketch journal.

On December 7, 2018, I made my first sketch journal entry, with a resolve to do a little art every day. It’s a resolve I’ve pretty much honoured since them.

What I discovered, however, as I let myself get drawn ever more into the vortex of art, was that my formerly high enthusiasm for writing was waning. All the creative oxygen in my life was being sucked up by art. I often felt sad and a little guilty about this, but didn’t feel like going back to the committed writing lifestyle either.

Yesterday’s discussion by Matt about flowing with the seasons of life, then, helped me put my experience into perspective.

I realized there were reasons why I was moving out of the writing season.

  • I have written about many many things and felt talked-out.
  • As I age (and I am a senior) words are harder to find. The old mind isn’t quite as nimble and sharp as it used to be. Art is easier on the brain.
  • The production cycle for any big writing project, like a book, is long and taxing. Even if one puts one’s heart and soul into it, it is often not monetarily viable. (It’s true what they say, that writing the book is only a fraction of the work that’s needed to get it out into the world.)

All that to say, I now understand my journey better. I feel free to embrace this new season of visual art creation as a step that was right and perhaps even inevitable.

Our Lecture One assignment was: “Create a piece of art that reflects your response to the beauty of God’s gift of imagination.” The Red-wing Blackbird study that illustrates this post is based on a reference photo i took a few weeks ago, of a blackbird singing his heart out. It symbolizes the joy of a new season.

One more thing!

We’re having a two-day sale at our Etsy shop. You will find 15% off all items in the store (art cards and wall art). Check it out: at Violet Nesdoly Art.

Art Exhibition

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Art shows are a new experience for me. Applying to have my art included in a show is a lot like getting a writing submission ready for publication or a contest—exciting and a little stressful. And so, a few weeks ago, after completing just such a submission, I was thrilled to have my painting “Persimmon Fall” accepted into the Langley Arts Council “Looking Back, Moving Forward” show.

“Persimmon Fall” – Watercolour on 140 lb. Winsor & Newton, 100% cotton, cold press watercolour paper, 9×12 inches.

It was originally planned as an in-person gallery exhibition, but that had to change because Covid-19 restrictions are still in place.

The virtual show opened on April 2nd and runs to May 12. You can view the exhibition gallery HERE.

Resurrection!

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He is risen!

He is risen indeed!

This is how Christians around the world greet each other on the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, in western Christianity Easter Sunday.

One last duo from Laurel and me, for this special day. I sent her the painting, she wrote the haiku.

“Joy” – by Violet Nesdoly, (100% cotton, hot press watercolor paper, 7×7 inches)

Lily
 
A blossom so pure,
with a voice so full of Life
it speaks, He’s Risen!

Laurel Archer – © 2021, All rights reserved

One of our pastors quoted a Bible verse on our Good Friday service that perfectly goes with this duo:

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” – Hebrews 12:2 NKJV.

Wishing you a BLESSED EASTER!

Lent Conversation — Conclusion

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Here, on Good Friday, the last day of Lent, Laurel and I conclude our Lenten conversation with one more poem and image.

Laurel’s poem prompt, “Quicken,” articulates the restless dissatisfaction and the sense of “dare I hope that things can be different?” characteristic of us in our human state. Those feelings have only been amplified by the strangeness of the past year and its restrictions, imposed because of the pandemic.

Quicken

I’ll bring
my unsettled,
uncentered self, to you.
This week it’s all ‘the holy’ I have.
Emotions scattered,
resolves shattered,
not because of anything,
it’s just well, everything, and
I don’t want it to go back
to the way it was. Not entirely. There.
I said it. Whispered it
our into your silence.

Can this atom of, I don’t know – hope?
be enough for you to split
and quicken me back to life?

© 2021 Laurel Archer – all rights reserved

The word “split” in Laurel’s poem opened the visual door for me. I thought of the way a germinating seed splits to let out new life. But in the process it dies. Yes, that too is part of the gospel message–a part that makes this dark Friday “good.”:

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” – John 12:24 NKJV.

In the end, I opted to portray a bulb instead of a grain of wheat, with a sprout that has just split open its white shroud.

“Hope” – Violet Nesdoly © 2021
Pen and watercolour on 140 lb. watercolour paper, 9×6 inches.

So, Lent is past. But stay tuned. Easter is just around the corner!

A Lent Conversation – Week 6

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We are in the season of feasts—Passover and Easter. Isn’t it wonderful that God instituted landmark feasts—meals of special food filled with the ingredients, tastes, colours, and smells that bring spiritual realities to mind?

As we’ve been reading through the Gospels at our supper table, I was moved a few weeks ago when we came to Mark 14 where Jesus told his disciples to prepare the feast (the Passover) that we now call “The Last Supper.” It made me smile to think of this assorted crew doing kitchen duty. My thought was to create a sort of still life of the supplies for the Passover meal gathered on a counter after a shopping trip. That is the inspiration for “Prepare the Feast.”

Laurel responded to my art prompt by taking it home, literally, with her poem “Do This” about the wonderful meals of remembrance that we’ve all experienced—weighty with spiritual and emotional significance. Because of pandemic restrictions, we’ll miss eating an Easter meal with our loved ones this year. It has made us appreciate such memorable occasions all the more.