Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My 2014 New Year’s Resolution: Aim for Better Light

First of All:  Happy New Year!

Dale and I wish you the best for this new year


Four years ago I discovered a site for artists, “The 100 Paintings Challenge.”  The challenge was to paint 100 paintings in one year.  At first I dismissed the thought, but it niggled at me.  Maybe it would be good for me.  I lived in an artistic cocoon where I didn’t associate with other artist’s very often.  I didn’t paint as often as I should.  I jumped in.  Little did I know I was opening a whole new door on my creative endeavor.  I soon found myself enjoying sketching more, growing as an artist, and blogging.  Blogging!  Blogging hadn’t been on my radar, but I realized I’d found a platform that incorporated my love of writing about Dale’s and my nature experiences and my sketching.  As an added bonus I have a met, over the internet, a variety of interesting people and been exposed to a variety of art mediums.

But I digress.  That little introduction was for the benefit of those who haven’t been reading my blog for a long time.  What I want to write about today is my New Year’s resolution. 

As a result of “The 100 Paintings Challenge,” two or  three years ago I made a New Year’s resolution that I stuck to.  I freely admit all too many resolutions have fallen by the wayside over the years.  This was different.  My resolution was to dare to try for more action in my animal sketches.  The corollary to that is to forgive myself when I fall flat on my face.  I have fallen flat many times, but I also feel I’ve grown in my ability to capture a variety of poses.  I’ve learned that if I always stay in ‘the safe zone’ I don’t grow as quickly.


Now for this year’s art resolution.  ‘Dare to be braver when painting light.’  Anyone interested in art or photography knows that the handling of light can make a piece sing …. or be dull.  Sometimes I feel I capture magical light.  The swan above is an example of where I feel light makes the little piece sing.  I found the photo on another blog and so liked it so much I contacted the photographer, Susannah Anderson, creator of ,and obtained permission to paint and post it.
Light isn’t always sunlight.  It can be moonlight.
Light can be the greyness of a snowy day.

Light can be sunny.

 In all of these examples, lights adds to the very essence of the art.  Often light can make the difference between an illustration and a piece of art, even if the art is merely a simple sketch. 
I find it easier to capture light when I’m painting at home, painting from a photo that has already caught wonderful light.  I find capturing light in the field harder. This pair of Canada geese is one of my favorite field sketches – because of their looseness and their light. I want to do more of these!

Of course the importance of light applies to pen and ink too.  I actually think I’m better at capturing light in pen and ink than I am in color.  When painting in color I’m too apt to just lean on color and forget about light.  Pen and ink needs some shading to give form, so I usually think about the direction of light when pen and ink sketching.  And if it is a grey day, I may use a little creative license and suggest a light source.  Often in the margin of my sketch I pencil a tiny sun just to remind me where I want the light to come from.
Very simple sketches can have a feeling of light. 

So what is YOUR creative resolution for the New Year?


  1. Jeanette Scott here. Jim and I attended your Yellowstone talk at the library last year and went on the Raptor Run shortly after that. We so admire your talent and dedication to the very same things WE enjoy in nature.

    My resolution is to post an occasional comment.

    1. Good for you. Comments are appreciated as Jim well knows.

  2. My ex-daughter-in-law posted an idea of focusing on a word for the year. She said she wasn't much for New Year Resolutions, but for the second year she was choosing a word. I liked it, and chose "reconnect", which fits my life as we have moved back to the Salem area where I am reconnecting with family and friends, and hiking and birding locations.

  3. The nice thing about 'reconnecting' or 'aiming for light' is that they aren't the type of goal that sets one up for failure …. it is just nudging in the right direction.

  4. Hi Elva, thanks for your blog. I always look forward to reading it, and seeing you beautiful illustrations. I was intrigued by your idea of having an artistic goal for the year. I paint mostly nature themes too, and admired your goals of 100 paintings,a md using learning to use light. Your challenge made me think about it for a few days, and I think I want my goal to be giving more attention to the background of the painting. I usually have a main subject and rush through the background to get to the main event. Perhaps, working on some landscape paintings would help me develop. I look forward to practicing and seeing where it takes me. How does the light play into it too? Thanks again, Anna

    1. I'm tickled my blog encouraged you to think about an artistic challenge for the year. One of the nice things about our challenges is it isn't a succeed for fail type of resolution … just make progress. We'll never be perfect!

      I hope I didn't mislead you into thinking I'm going to do 100 paintings this year ….. lots, but not 100. I did do the 100, in fact I did the 100 painting challenge twice, but I also found I never seemed to have time for several hours on one painting. I like a mix of quick sketches and careful work.

      Happy New Year! Let me know how it turns out.

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  6. Always thought provoking and inspiring, Elva, and this post is up there with your best. Your words will be nudging me every time I settle down to paint. And though I'm not willing to commit to a real resolution, I am going to try to do more focal point emphasis and less background detail which I tend to overdo. Happy New Year to you and Dale. Wish we could be there for this year's library talk on Crater Lake to the Coast!