Thursday, March 9, 2017

Change. What it really means.

Black and yellow butterfly landing on Indian Paintbrush wildflowers. Oh, spring, come soon.

The words to describe how much I need spring.  Right.  Now.  I love Montana.  I love it all year long.  I wish spring didn't take this long to arrive.  I grew up in Nebraska.  I've been in Montana since 1994.  It makes sense that I should have adjusted by now.  Nope.  I keep saying, "spring will come," and, "it's worth the wait."  Oh, and I tell myself the moisture makes for "happy farmers."  That's my reminder that there's good in more snow.

We've had more sunshine lately so that helps a bunch.  It melts off partially.  More light snow showers arrive to lightly coat everything again.   As I write at mid afternoon, it's 36° F and the sun shines so brightly.  I crave the sunshine.  I'm eager to have the days warmer, the hours of sunlight longer, the soil ready for planting seeds in a garden.

Adding to my longing for spring, I'm preparing for change.  There's good to come and yet there's sacrifice at the same time.  I'll soon have to rework when and how I work in my art room.  It's going to be a quiet place during the daytime hours. When the creative spark is lit in the evening hours, I would like to think I'll be drawn to this inspirational and relaxing place.

Creative energy...the artistic's a part of me.

It's been suggested that maybe I'll have to give up my art for the present time.  I just can't accept that.  Maybe that's what will come without my acceptance.  Creative energy...the artistic's a part of me.  I feel vibrantly alive when working with my brushes and palette.  Sorting through watercolor tubes for a specific pigment is so familiar to me. the face of letting go and embracing the new.

What do we do with change?  How do we meet it?  Is there a wait to greet change with hope and joy?  Even if it's in the face of letting go and embracing the new.  I go forward because I'm choosing to be happy anyway.  What unexpected adventures are waiting for me?  I don't know, but I know it will be worth watching for the surprise blessings in the journey.

I'll share more another time.  For today, I'm contemplating these thoughts.  I'm doing a bit of clean up in my art room.  I've got some relaxing music playing.  The fish tank filter bubbles away like a water fountain.  The sunlight through the window blinds, creating shapes on the floor and wall, is warm and soothing.  I breathe deeply...feeling like I haven't been so aware of my breathe lately.  I need to breathe deeply more throughout my days.  I will sweep and vacuum a bit.  And then I'll glance at my art table and study that one area of the current painting that is driving me crazy.  Maybe I'll have an ah-ha moment of how I'd like to tackle that hollyhock blossom.  A way to move on and complete this artwork before my days adopt a different routine.

Can you relate to the ebb and flow of seasons for creativity?  How do you handle the change?

I'd love to hear your suggestions for working art time into your extra moments.

Until next Thursday...or when I can find spare time to write again...


She must make art.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

24 Must-Try Watercolor Techniques

 24 Must-Try Watercolor TechniquesTechniques and Tips for Watercolors

When it comes to watercolor painting, these are the tricks that draw the ooh's and aah's every time.  Watercolor as a medium seems like such a challenge because it seems unpredictable at first glance.  It's so important to learn what to expect from the pigment when it meets water.

When learning watercolor basics, these will help form a better foundation in painting with more enjoyment.  The frustration is lessened because you have a better idea of how the pigment is going to respond to what you do.

There are many helpful videos on YouTube that are great resources shared by other artists.  Do a quick search on YouTube and you'll have a great time watching artists demonstrate these techniques.

When teaching these techniques in a workshop, I bring out these posters and copies of the instructions as handouts for students.  I'm sharing those handouts with all of you, here and now!  This post has been a long time in the planning stages and I'm so thrilled to have it finally ready to share with other watercolor enthusiasts.

So, I have a bit of confessing to do first.  Have you seen my pins on Pinterest for these techniques?  Years ago, when I was new to Pinterest, I created pins for the images of these posters.  At the time, I didn't realize how popular these posters would become with time.  Now, these pins are my most commonly saved pins!  Unfortunately, they lack any explanation.  The pins lead nowhere but to the images.  Lesson learned, believe me!  I can't tell you how much I regret that mistake!  It's taken me a while but now I'm glad to share the posters and the tips that help explain each one. 

If there's a technique you'd like me to elaborate on more, please let me know in the comments.  I'd be more than happy to help you with that!

When it comes to watercolor painting, these are the tricks that draw the ooh's and aah's every time.

Watercolor Techniques Pages 1 and 2

Created by Christy Sheeler.  For personal use only.  Request permission to reproduce.

Created by Christy Sheeler.  For personal use only.  Request permission to reproduce.

Tips & Explanations for Watercolor Techniques

I know the text on the tips sheets may be hard to read so here's a link to a PDF file:

I hope you are able to try these techniques on your own!  These make up a watercolor artist's tool box for creating unusual effects.  There are several I use often.  There are 4 or 5 I rarely use but at times, these techniques are useful.  It all depends on the style and subject matter.  It's a good idea to become familiar with them, try them out with a bit of practice before applying them to an artwork you are working on.

Leave me a note in the comments!  Let me know if you've got questions and I'd be very happy to explain any of these further.  Thank you for stopping by and sharing a few minutes here today!

-She must make art.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River: An Art Commission

The first loose watercolor sketch shows my vision for the artwork.An adventure begins with a thumbnail watercolor sketch.

A friend of a friend, Julie and I were bridesmaids in a wedding more than twenty years ago.  She has been following my artwork online.  She sends me a private message.  She's interested in commissioning an artwork.  This sounds interesting to me!  We message each other about the basic details, then she shares the photos with me.  From there, I begin to doodle away with pens and watercolors...I see where my inspiration takes me.  The vision for this artwork becomes clearer in my mind.

The vision for this artwork becomes clearer in my mind.

We arrange to chat on the phone, talk through more details and make a plan.  I need to hear about what is important to her, the buyer/collector.  She tells me about this place on the Brazos River in Texas.  She talks about the wonderful history; it was built in the early 1800's, a stagecoach stop between Austin and San Antonio.  I'm drawn in and curious to know more.  I am caught up in imagining what stories this place could tell and the people it's sheltered there.  

Wildflowers and a dog named Frindle

She would love to have the little dog, Frindle included along with the types of plants and wildflowers that would be growing there.  We talk about sizes and prices.  With that decided, I begin to write up a contract, we take care of the deposit, and the real work begins!

Creating the first watercolor thumbnail sketch for this project with pen and watercolor.

The first watercolor sketch is loose and light in style.

The buyer gets a sneak-peak

As I work, I stop to take photos often which is how this blog has developed until now.  Throughout the process, I share updates through photos for the buyer.  An online album with a link by email makes it a breeze for the buyer to see what's taking place in my art room.  It's a sneak-peak, behind the scenes way for me to make sure we're on track.  It builds the excitement on both ends of the arrangement!

The proper perspective is drawn out

The first sketches begin on a large sheet of tracing paper.  Below it, I lay a sheet of posterboard with a drawn grid.  Because the perspective in this drawing is the key foundation, I work through finding the vanishing points at far left and right.  Once the drawing is completely ready, it's time to transfer it to the watercolor paper.  The buyer has chosen 22" x 30" for the final artwork size...a full sheet of 300 lb. watercolor paper.

The drawing is created using two point perspective on tracing paper with pencil and ruler.

The sketch is ready to be transferred to watercolor paper.

I transfer the sketch to watercolor paper with the aid of graphite transfer paper.

The color mixing fun begins!

Working with the art reference photos and the inspiration watercolor sketch, it's time to work through color mixing to set the tone.  This takes time but it's part of the process that gets the plan more worked out in my mind.  By the time this step is complete, I'm all excited to move on and begin to paint with these beautiful combinations of pigment.

Color mixing for the artwork with reference book and previous color mixing charts.

The color mixing chart for this artwork is ready to go!

A glance at my art table, filled with palettes, water containers and brushes.

I am ready to move to the next stage: the watercolor on paper!

Before any color is applied to the paper, I mask out the small details that need to stay white.  Now, I can begin the large washes of color.  I use a large brush and make sure I have a generous amount of color mixed so I can completely finish an area without interruption.  The sky must be completely filled without stopping or unwanted hard lines will form there.  This artwork progressed so smoothly from one stage to another.  Pre planning makes a difference when the painting begins.

A view of my work area and the artwork in its beginning stages.

Artwork by Christy Sheeler, The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

A spattering with the toothbrush in a contained area

Spattering with a toothbrush comes in handy at this point!  It's also makes a mess.  I need a plan for keeping the spatter where I want it.  The top right area of the painting will have tree branches with light coming through all dappled and delicate so I need to have a plan.  A large roll of freezer paper is a terrific way to protect surfaces.  Here, it protect the rest of the painting surface.  I place the freezer paper over the painting, cut away to reveal where I plan to work, and mix up my greens.  There's a bit of spattering and then I step away to pause while I study the artwork.  Without some caution, I'll take it further than I had meant and feel some regret...a little restraint is a good idea!

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River

The palette, tubes of pigment, and a toothbrush for spatter.

The watercolor is spattered to create an effect of leaves on trees.

Spattering watercolor with a toothbrush.

Freezer paper is used for a contained area for spattering watercolor.

From one area to another, with careful thought...

It's time to turn my focus to the main subject, the cabin itself.  I work in layers of pigment so the base layers will build a rich vibrancy at the end.  From one area to another, I study the reference photos and go from there, developing it one piece at a time.  One day, I might focus on the rock work of the fireplace.  Another painting session, I focus on the window and door frames.  When two wet areas are directly touching, the pigment flows between those areas.  This means there's strategy that must be in place.  I carefully select the layers in each area and which area is ready for more brushwork.

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

Wow, what a beautiful mess?!

As these photos clearly show, I have a large yet controlled mess in my art room.  There are painting sessions where I need to work quickly without interruptions.  At other times, I can frequently take breaks for a snack or a few stretches before I return to do a bit more.  At the end of each work day, I spend about 15 minutes cleaning up and preparing the flat surfaces for the next day.

Another glance at the messy work table during a painting session.

The work continues on Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River.

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

The artwork is reaching its final stages

Once the artwork is completed, it's time to take it to the framer's!  I do not ship framed artwork usually.  I have been very afraid to ship with artwork under glass.  The buyer is sure she would really prefer to have it arrive framed; she won't have that extra detail to arrange at her end.  There's a local frame shop here and I've had work done there in the past.  As we talk, I am pleased that Chary, the framer, is happy to help me with these arrangements.  We actually meet 2 weeks before the painting is finished and go over mat and frame choices.  We narrow down the best options and then I send the final options to the buyer.  The buyer makes the final decision within minutes!  The framer is able to make sure she'll have the mat and frame for our appointed done date.  What I love about this process so much...the frame molding was made here in Montana as well.  When all  put together, it really is a fantastic presentation!

What do you think?  Are you tempted to walk into this relaxing and serene place?  Can you see yourself enjoying an hour in one of the porch swings?  The cactus have their blooms and Frindle is ready to give you a hearty hello!  There's a rugged feel to the building but it's not neglected in any way.  The strength of its construction with hefty logs and rock outfitted with so many windows.  What a haven and retreat it must be!  One day, I hope to be able to visit this place on the Brazos River, to plant my feet on the ground there and take it in...I'm just sure that I captured its charm.

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

A closer view of The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

Final mat and frame choice for The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River watercolor by Christy Sheeler

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River with double mat.

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River with double mat and frame.

Thank you to Julie for this opportunity.  She is a dream buyer/collector!  I'm so thankful that she chose to work with me.

Thank you to Chary at Framing Etc. for working with me on the matting, framing and packaging.  She does excellent work! I had peace of mind in the final steps of the process, due in part to her skill and attention to detail.  We spent several hours together as this artwork was carefully packaged up and shipped off to the buyer.

Thank you to my family for making it possible for me to create work like this from home.  My husband and two teens are supportive and encouraging in so many ways.  I counted on their input for several critique sessions.  My husband would come straight from work and go right to cooking the evening meal for us.  My kids have pitched in at home and have developed an eye for detail!

Thank you to all of you who stop by to visit me here.  I look forward to getting back into writing and sharing in the weeks to come.  I have been sorting through reference photos for upcoming artworks.  Several have my attention and I'm working through test runs toward the final artworks.  When I'm in the middle of a creative flurry, I post more frequent updates on Instagram and Facebook so check out my profiles there!

If you are interested in a private art commission, check out the Private Art Commission information.  There you'll find all the details for arranging to have an artwork created just for you!

From my messy and chaotic art room, I wish you a beautiful and creative week!


-She must make art.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

No Searching Needed: The Artist is Not Lost!

I am not lost...

I am still here making art!  I know, it's been quite a while and you may be wondering what's going on in my art room.  Well, I have to remind myself that I'm not THAT crucial to the outside world.  Several artists have caught my attention, whether for their style, methods, or subject matter.  I get a lot of inspiration from them on a regular basis.  Their energy is contagious and keeps me fueled up for getting back to my brushes.  It's a bit disheartening when I get attached to following along with fellow artists and then (poof!) they are gone.  It's a cliffhanger or an unsolved mystery.  I want to know that they've continued on and are still creating with vision and passion.  I want to know they didn't give up their art making because life got in the way.

There's a tough choice to be made between making the art and managing the social media.  Both take time and there's only so much time in a day.  I have had some incredible art opportunities and I am behind in sharing them with you.  A large art commission came my way and I look forward to bringing it to you here.  That was completed back in November and shipped in early December 2016.

A post shared by Christy Sheeler (@christysheeler.artist) on

Now, I'm cleaning and rearranging my art room.  I am making plans for art workshops here on location.  My art studio is both relaxing and inspiring and with so many people commenting on it, what better place to teach others about watercolor painting processes?!

With inspiration from the island of Maui, I'm planning a larger artwork for my personal collection.  Working from photos taken on our honeymoon, this artwork will hang in the master bedroom, as the focal point for redesigning that room's decor.

So hang tight and check back soon...I'll be working on the Ivy Ranch Commission progression photos for a new blog post to be shared with you very soon.

I am just in awe at the response to all that I have shared in the past here and in my other social media presences!  It's so exciting to be sharing these experiences globally.

If you are interested in contracting for a private art commission, I am available to work with you!  I have plans to share all the pertinent information here soon.

Thanks for dropping in and be sure to say hello in the comments below!  Feel free to share a tidbit about your current art project!

-She must make art.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

My Art Studio Update

A photo posted by Christy Sheeler (@christysheeler.artist) on

This place is a zoo!

Hey there!  I am stopping by really quick like to let you know, I'm still plugging along in my little art world.  With quite a few "irons in the fire" at this point, I'm making the most of every minute this month.

In two days, my booth will be set up and selling at the Holiday Bazaar in Cut Bank, Montana.  It's being held at the Cut Bank High School building in the gymnasium from 10 am to 4 pm.  This event has been well promoted and has a large selection of vendors as well!

I've been working with great purpose to complete two watercolor painting of the Cherry Blossoms.  These two watercolor paintings will be framed and on display!  The three watercolor paintings are 5" x 7" dimensions and I will not be making Giclee Art Prints from them for that reason.  The paintings with mat and frame are available for purchase now at $210.00 each.  The third artwork, The Delicate Unfolding, (also 5 x 7) is offered with mat and clear protective sleeve for $170.00.

My artist's booth will offer original watercolor artwork, both with mats and frames, fine art prints, my handmade note cards, my own handmade lip balms, and rustic wood candle holders in sets of three or four (my husband's handiwork).

In addition to all this, I've accepted a private art commission to be delivered by Christmas!  It's a large artwork of 22" x 30" and I'm already enjoying the process beyond explanation.  I'm so honored and blessed at the same time!  As I've drawn, reworked the perspective, transferred the drawing to watercolor paper, planned the color mixes, and studied the reference photos...I've considered how the past 17 months prepared me for this opportunity.  Each technique I've practiced and every challenging detail has given me this full tool resource for a new challenge.  I feel the weight of providing my best work now, as always.  Each of the more than twenty paintings that were created in those months strengthened my confidence and ability.

A photo posted by Christy Sheeler (@christysheeler.artist) on

I just need to say that God's timing is impeccable!  Many times along this artistic journey, I worried that maybe I'd be given a surprise challenge I would fail at miserably.  I feel like that was a silly concern now.  As I work here in the art studio, my mind is hard at work but my spirit is busy in prayer.  Many friends and family have commented on the atmosphere of this room; they observe the peaceful and relaxing way it affects them.  That is something I wanted from the start.  That is what I strive for and how I prepare to be creative.

My mind is also busy working on a plan for offering watercolor classes in the spring.  The space here limits me to 5 or 6 people per class.  I could choose another location but this room, my art room, has its own special draw for others and I'd like to host classes here.  So, if you should see me at an event, or around town, let me know if you'd like to take a watercolor class in 2017!  I've considered offering a make-and-take stamping and card making class, too!  If either of those sound like a great idea to you, let me know!  The space will be limited and I may need to offer more than one class.  This would be a full day workshop, 9 am to 4 pm...bring a lunch.  Coffee, tea and water would be available.  Bring your art supplies!  If you don't have any, I can provide a list of supplies needed and you can get them yourself before class.  I can provide student-grade watercolor supplies for an added supply fee.

I'd love to stay here and share more but my list of today's tasks is waiting for me!  I'm excitedly working away to provide the most beautifully handmade items, each one crafted with great attention to detail.

I look forward to meeting and visiting with many on Saturday in Cut Bank...
and then again on November 11th, Ladies' Night Out at the Golf Course in Conrad, Montana!

Stop on over and check out my facebook page for more current updates!  

Have a great weekend everyone!