Aspiring Artists Don’t Exist, Artists Do.

Hey everyone!  How was your week?  For me, it’s felt like an absolute blur.  It’s been so full of excitement that I haven’t been able to keep track.  I have some really exciting news! 

I will be creating a live painting next Friday (May 3rd) in Poughkeepsie for the First Friday event. Beyond that, I’m planning a semi-mural that the people of Poughkeepsie get to fill in!  This month’s event is Cinco de Mayo, including yummy food and live music.  If you’re in the downstate area, it would mean the world to me if I could meet you there! Come talk to me!  For more information, you can go to this link: http://firstfridaypk.comor check out their Facebook page:

This is a huge opportunity for me, and I can’t thank the people involved enough for reaching out to me. (Shoutout to Corene!)

Of course, this takes place on a Friday night, so next week’s Friday post will still be a critique week. If you are interested in having your artwork critiqued for next week, please send it over to as soon as possible!  

I want to have a heart-to-heart this week.  Between rebranding, this huge opportunity in Poughkeepsie, finals, work, and trying to keep up with the house chores, I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed.  And by a bit, I mean about three hours prior to writing this, I had a full-on meltdown in the form of realizing that Bulbasaur, my favorite lil Pokemon, is not real.  I mean I was ugly crying for a solid twenty minutes and my boyfriend Joey had to squirt Hershey’s chocolate syrup in my mouth to calm me down.  It was really a disgusting display.

Look at this sleeping face and tell me you don’t want to protect it.

It’s just one of those weeks.

But something that I have to keep in mind is that the reason I’m under such immense stress is because I’m moving forward in my life.  I’m headed in the right direction.  I have an awesome job that I’m in love with, and I haven’t lost my art, either.  Finals are stressful because it’s the time of the semester where you have to prove everything you’ve learned over the past 14 weeks, and I can definitely say I’ve learned a lot.

That being said, if you had told me I would be in this position five years ago, I would’ve laughed at you. I didn’t think I’d be going anywhere with art.  At that point, I was still convinced I would be going to school for engineering, despite not even having a full grasp of what engineering is.  I still don’t.  I’m from a family of engineers and I’m confused as to what they do for a living, but I digress.

I had considered myself an “aspiring artist,” rather than anartist.  I wasn’t taking myself fully seriously.  I didn’t want to put the full label on it, because I thought you had to be a certain level of skill or popularity with your art in order to be an actual artist.

I realize that a lot of people feel this way.  They think, if they’re not famous, they’re only an aspiring artist.  If it’s a hobby, they’re only an aspiring artist.

I’m here to tell you there’s no such thing.  If you consider yourself an aspiring artist, stop.  You’re an artist.  It doesn’t matter what skill level you’re at, or how many followers you have.  Do you make art?  Cool.  You’re an artist.

 You deserve to give yourself the respect of the title.  When you treat yourself seriously, others will treat you and your art seriously as well.

With that being said, you don’t need to be taken seriously to be an artist.  The only requirement is literallythat you make art.

It’s not an elitist club. If it is, the only other requirement is that you accidentally drink paint water instead of actual water.  (If you haven’t done it yet, you will.)

The moment that I treated myself as an artist, my entire focus shifted.  I was making art day in and day out; I was sketching more, planning larger pieces, and I even made an Instagram for my work.  Those baby steps lead me to where I am today: a published artist, about to have a blast creating a mural and doing a live painting in Poughkeepsie.

Don’t downplay the baby steps, and don’t downplay yourself.

So to reiterate…

Requirements for being an artist:

  1. Spending a lot of time on your art
  2. Making lots of art throughout your life
  3. Making high quality art, or having any talent or skill at all for that matter
  4. Making money off of your art
  5. Having lots of followers for your art
  6. Making art
  7. Drinking the paint water

Guardian: Watercolor | Process

Surprise Monday night post!

I just about finished rebranding this week!  I’m really excited about this, because I created a piece that’s entirely new to go on my business cards that I would like to talk about:

So, Happy Late Easter to those who celebrated! I’m breaking the Friday schedule to show you all a new painting, and how I used the holiday’s decor to help me.

Guardian, 12×18 watercolor painting, © 2019

The prep work for this piece took about two hours and the actual painting from sketch to painting to outlining to digital tweaks took four hours, rounding to a total of six hours.

Planning for this piece began with an idea.  I knew I wanted to paint something ethereal involving a glowing deer.  Then I made a sketch.  At that point, it was around 3 am at night and all I had on me was my phone, so I made a sketch with my finger in the notes section.  See, no excuses to not sketch!

It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to get the basic idea across so you don’t forget what you want to paint for later.

After that, it was a matter of finding reference photos.  The forest was easy, as there’s lots of wonderful free references of forests on  

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

I took all my elements and pieced them together in Photoshop, but once I did so I realized there was something horribly off. 

I really wasn’t a fan of the bunny I had grabbed; the way his ears bent down made him look gloomy.  It felt as if he was looking at the deer with a heavy heart, expecting impending doom.

However, no matter what I did, I could NOT find an image of a rabbit from behind that worked for me.  I wanted a bunny on alert, but all the pictures of bunnies on their hind legs were from the front.  There were hardly any pictures of bunnies from behind as it was.

That’s when I realized: Easter was only a few days away, and I was within walking distance to a mall with multiple department stores FILLED with ugly decorations of Peter Cotton Tail.  At my first store, I found this weird candle holder, turned it around, and got the perfect reference!

I flipped it vertically so his sight was in line with the deer, and viola, I had all the elements I needed to make this happen.

If you like this painting, you can buy a print of it here: 

Finding Inspiration: Unclogging Your Art Blockage

Hey everyone!  How was the last two weeks?  Sorry for the unexpected break, I had something pop up that put all of my art and work in general on hold for a while.  Sometimes life just gets in the way, and sometimes it’s important to take a step back.  And then when you’re ready to come back, you can do so much stronger.  A reemergence, if you will.

I feel rejuvenated in my artwork, currently.  I took a small break, got all my ducks in a row, and now I feel stronger as an individual as well as an artist.  I’m also going to re-start up my Instagram, as it’s been completely stagnant.  I haven’t posted in months, and before then I hadn’t posted in even more months.  It just stopped clicking for me, I suppose.  But now I’m ready to come back to it, and keep you posted in multiple areas. Exciting things are coming soon, I promise.

Two weeks ago, we had discussed the importance of references, and I had given the prompt: Take two or more images, one that you took on your own and one that you found on any of the websites listed above, and create a unique image.   

I received a gorgeous drawing by Josie White, who has been a supporter of the blog since the beginning. (Thanks again, Josie! You keep me doing what I do!)

She mashed together this reference (left) and created this graphite drawing (right.)

Josie, this looks incredible!  You really paid attention to the composition of the piece, balancing the figure in front with the tree in the background.  Nice use of perspective, too!

I myself made something for this prompt!  It felt SO GOOD to let myself escape into a piece of art that I cared about.  This is a 12×12 (or around that, I didn’t actually measure, whoops!) pastel painting entitled “Echinacea.”

It still needs a few touch ups before I fully abandon it, but I’m really happy with where I am with it. I hope you feel satisfied with your work, too.

But we can’t always be happy with our work, can we? I suppose that’s up for you to decide on your own. Maybe it’s something we master with time.

However, no matter how long you’ve been creating art, we still run into hurdles.

The Hurdle

Picture this scenario: You get all your supplies set up, you have your paper or canvas primed and ready to go, and you’re super excited to make something great.  You FINALLY penciled in the time to do this, and you’ve gained the courage to let whatever happens to happen.  Then it hits you:  you don’t know what you actually want to draw.

You start scrolling through Facebook instead.

This is one of the most frustrating things to happen to an artist, and I’ll be honest, it happens to just about all of us.  It’s not just drawing or painting either, this often happens to writers as well. Heck, it can even happen when you’re cooking. Just about everyone can find this relatable in their own way.

The dreaded artist block.

Fear not, though. There’s actually a bunch of different ways to combat this!  Let’s go through them step by step.

1) Draw What’s Around You

It might not be the most exciting tip, but it can build your artistic skills.  Drawing from life is the best way to learn about form, perspective, and space.  Pick an interesting object and go wild.  From there, if you wish to expand into something greater, awesome!  Take that drawing you just did of your stuffed animal Bulbasaur and create a world around him.  Maybe it’ll inspire you to draw a series of Pokémon, who knows?

2. Search Through Sites Like and Draw What Interests You.

You don’t have to reinvent the image, just draw what you see.  If you start to get ideas from there, great!  You can use them in future drawings.

For a comprehensive list of where to find awesome royalty free reference photos, check out my last post.

3. Look at Pinterest or Behance for Inspiration

These sites are chock full of art for you to explore.  While I definitely advise against copying another person’s art, you can get the basic ideas and use them for yourself.  Maybe you like their colors, or brushstrokes.  Maybe you’re into an artists’ use of symbols, or maybe you like their composition.

4. Look at Your Favorite Artists’ Work for Inspiration

You might not have a favorite artist yet, but if you do, it might be useful for you to look at their work. What exactly do you like about it? Do you like their subject matter, their style, their use of color or shape?  My favorite artists are Marjorie Miller, Arthur Rackham, Gustave Dore, Caitlin Hackett, and Agnes Cecile.

5. Meditate

This one might sound goofy, but if you’re a person who meditates like myself, you might understand why this works so well.  When I meditate, I give up all of my thoughts and let my mind do its thing on its own. Sometimes wonderful things occur; I might see a beautiful landscape, or I might see a creature, just begging to be created.  I might see a human figure in an interesting pose.  Who knows what’ll happen!

6. Just Start Creating Shapes on the Page

Let your hand do the work for you and let your mind go limp. You’d be surprised what you might be able to see, and make something out of that.  Alternatively, you can look at a thick texture like popcorn ceiling or wood grain and try to make out objects in those shapes.  (If you’re in a real bind, squeeze your eyes super tight until you start seeing shapes. Just don’t damage yourself.) Draw that!

7. Read a Book or a Poem

Fall in love with a character.  Pay attention to their quirks. Draw them, or make your own character for within the book. If character development isn’t in the forefront, what types of imagery does the writing inspire?  What do you see in your mind when you’re reading?

8. Watch a Show or a Movie

Similar to reading, get engrossed in it and get excited.  Media can impact us in more ways than one.  If you like the visuals, you might want to create something based off that, or maybe you’ll want to make something entirely your own but based off the colors they used.

9. Look at Prompts Online or in a Book

This might seem like a no-brainer, but a list of prompts can be exactly what you need.  Prompts can be as simple as “draw a paper clip” or they can be as abstract as “draw your mood.”  With either one, you can really go all out.  Let your creativity take over and make something unique!

Here’s a prompts website for you to try out:

10. Figure Studies

If you have a friend who is willing to stand and model for you, this can be a really fun exercise. Have them take a unique pose, and draw it.  Time your drawings.  Start off quick: get the gesture of their figure in 15 seconds.  Work your way up.  If your first drawing is 15 seconds, make your next one 30 seconds.  A minute.  5 minutes.  10 minutes. 30 minutes.

If you don’t have someone to model for you, you can check out this website , filled with unique poses.  You might even want to use one of these images as a reference for a larger piece.

So What Will You Try?

Not every method is going to work for every person.  Based upon reading this, you might already know what will work best for you.  You might have to try them all.  That’s okay!  I can tell you what works for me and what doesn’t: I do best when I search Pinterest, search through old fairy tale illustrations, or search through reference photo sites.  I actually keep a huge folder filled with references that I can paint at any point if I run out of ideas.  I also like to meditate and see what interesting figures happen in my brain. Making shapes out of the paper is by far the hardest method for me to create art.

At the end of the day, what’s most important is to NOT stop drawing.  When you get out of the habit, it’s harder to get into the swing of the process.  When you’re working on one drawing, you might get the idea to make something even better for your next work of art!  This is one of the best feelings in the world.

This is also why you should keep a sketchbook with you at all times.  Have you ever had a great idea and then lost it fifteen minutes later and you were mad for the rest of the day?  Having a sketchbook and being able to jot notes and ideas down can alleviate that.  Jot down every thought about art you have.  “What if I did (blank)?”  Refer back to your sketchbook, and you’ll never run out of ideas.

For this weeks prompt, I’d like to challenge you to go to and start drawing from those images. When you come across an image that you really like the pose of, turn it into something more.  I can’t wait to see what you make!

References: Their Importance, How to Use Them, & Where to Find Them

Welcome everyone!  If you’re a returning reader, you might notice I did a bit of an overhaul on the site.  It looks much more in line with my overall aesthetic, I feel.  I’m very slowly rebranding myself, but life is telling me there’s no rush.  I am constantly in a hurry to get everything done, between work, school, and everything in between.  If I have to rush through everything else, I might as well take my time with something close to me when I get the chance.  Slow and steady wins the race, right?

So how was your week? Other than tidying up this page, I worked on my first from-scratch web design.  I also painted a bathroom, and I caught up on all of Rick and Morty.  I gotta be honest, I discounted that show upon first sight because of the fan base, but it’s actually pretty hilarious. If you’re like me and you haven’t watched it because of its stereotypes, go watch it.  It’s ridiculous.  Plus, it’s important to get a break every once in a while, consume media and have a laugh.  It’s something I need to do more of, honestly.  I’m constantly churning out media, and yet I so rarely actually ingest it for myself.  It gets exhausting.  Even something as goofy as Rick and Morty can be beneficial; I mean those COLORS they use are so fun to look at.  What do you think is the most important thing in your own art?

This week, I wanted to keep things a little shorter than previously, but still talk about something that is extremely important in understanding your art: references.  References are used either directly or indirectly to influence how your art is going to look.  You can pull from multiple references at a time, or only one.

References are important because, unless you’re a superhuman, you cannot rememberhow something looks with 100% accuracy.  So if I wanted to draw a realistic dog, doing so without a reference would be extremely difficult.  I don’t inherently know the curvatures of a dog’s face, or their hair pattern.  To prove this, I’m going to draw my dog, who I see every day, without a reference for you:

So without a reference, I remembered that my dog has goofy looking ears, a smiley mouth, and a long tongue. But, as you can see, I didn’t know how to put it together.  I didn’t even attempt  in-depth shading or hair.

In reality, this is what my dog looks like:

You can go ahead and laugh, but I gotta be honest, I did a lot better than I thought I would. Still, there are some glaring issues. Now, if I’m using that image of my dog as a reference, I don’t have to worry as much about making the subject look like what it’s supposed to, because I can see it in front of me and can compare them.  Using this image, this is what I can create:

I’m not gonna lie and tell you this is the best pet portrait I’ve ever done, (it was actually a rush job for a class critique over a year ago) but as you can see it’s much closer to the original reference.  Similarly, I could have drawn from life and looked at my dog as I drew him, but that has its own set of challenges.

**PS: The reference photo I used of my dog was actually taken by the lovely Ericka Wadleigh of Luna Light Portraits!  You can find her on Instagram @lunalightportraits.

Multiple References

So, what happens when you want to draw/paint something a little more out there, like something you can’t see in real life?  What if you want to draw something otherworldly, like floating islands or anthropomorphic animals?

This is where you can use multiple references at once and piece them together.  You can do this a few ways: in your mind, which is the most traditional way, by printing out images individually and cutting them out and pasting them together, or you can use Photoshop or a similar software.

No matter what method of piecing together references you use, it’s always best to start with a few preliminary sketches.  Get your ideas on the paper and map things out before going in with details.

If you wanted to draw a lion in space, you could easily piece those two together.  I mean, I made this in like two minutes and it gives me exactly what I need:

If you wanted to draw something like a griffin, you’d have to piece things together a little more carefully.  A griffin is comprised of a lion and an eagle, and you’d have to look at the form of wings, the form of a beak, the tail of a lion, etc. just to create a creature with accuracy.  You don’t have to pull the exact shapes from the references: just allow them to grant you the knowledge about how the creature should be built, and put it in it’s own positioning.  Take from references what you need!  It’s extremely unlikely that this artist found wings in this exact position, or the body of a lion sitting like this:

The artist of this image also used a reference for the sky, the buildings, and the stone behind the creature.

(Art by Jesper Ejsing for Magic the Gathering, listed under public domain:

Do I Have The Rights To Use This Reference?

When looking for references, there are some legal issues that you have to be careful of.  If you intend on selling the artwork, you need to make sure you can use the reference legally.  The absolute best way to use references is to take your own, but that’s not always possible. For references that you need to find but can’t take by yourself, there’s a couple websites for you:

https://pmp-art.comis a hidden treasure: PMP stands for Paint My Photo! Users upload photographs that people can paint.  Make sure to read the terms and conditions to this site, as they do change frequently.

http://freebigpictures.comis exactly what it says it is: free big pictures.  These pictures are mainly nature related, but what they lack in variety they make up for in quality.

More well known are https://pixabay.comand  These sites are incredibly similar, but have varying content.  Each site is filled with royalty free stock photos.

Finally there’s my absolute favorite:  Unsplash has super high quality images, and a wide variety of them.  You can find just about anything you’re looking for with these images.


I’d like to end this week’s post with a prompt.  Take two or more images, one that you took on your own and one that you found on any of the websites listed above, and create a unique image.   Once you’re done, you can send it to bmartin.artdesign@gmail.comand it might get featured in the blog. Thanks for reading!