Practice Method #7 - Pick One Small Part And Practice, Practice, Practice


Practicing A Small Part Of The Whole

Stem Focus

For the past two weeks I have found myself smack dab in the middle of an artistic block! WOW! I've heard about them, but I had no idea what it felt like to be truly unable to do anything artistically! Have you been there?

My first thoughts were pretty much to just quit. Put it all away and call it good and move on with life.  The problem is that I am only a month away from completing a six-month Royal Botanical Garden, Edinburgh Certificate Course and it would be so sad to come this far and not finish! I've learned so much - so I needed to find a way to push through... And I think this did it!

I decided to try to focus myself on one aspect of the plant I am currently studying instead of overwhelming myself even further with a larger area.  Flowers are hard. Leaves are the hardest!! I imagine roots and tubers will be hard, and the tiny parts of the cross sections and dissections will be hard, but what about a stem? Now that might be doable!

How To Watercolor The Stem

And so I began... Just a little bit because I didn't want to do it at all. 

I cut off a fading flower at the base so I had a good portion of the stem, and not worrying about getting the drawing and size perfect, I drew out some quick stem shapes and then I focused first on color - and just played around with it. There's something about a study page, no matter how simple it is, that stirs the artist inside... It doesn't take much before you are back in the driver's seat and out of that rut!


This was enough for one day. I tidied up my desk so that it would be organized for my next practice time and left it all for a hot cup of Chamomile tea with honey, a good movie - "Pride and Prejudice", and continued crocheting my grandboy's blankie.

The Best Art Supplies

When I sat down in my studio again, I practiced only stems...  I might add here, that I used real watercolor paper too. I don't know about you, but when it comes to just practicing, I have a hard time using good watercolor paper because it's so expensive. But I'm finding I have to do it! 

Watercolor reacts differently depending on what you are painting on, so if you truly want to practice and make it count - you are just going to have to use the good stuff. It's the only way your practice will make you grow because you are learning about your paint, your brushes and your paper - and most importantly, you are learning about yourself as an artist.

All these things react to each other differently and you need to know what those reactions will be, so you can learn to use it all for the good and beauty of a piece of beautiful art.


Another thing that I really think helps me, is hanging my art and my practice work up for me to see.  As you can see, I have a frame that hangs above my desk that has strings attached horizontally so I can use small clothes pins to hang my art on.  Then I can see it from a distance, as well as up close and it beckons me to come and play - like a good friend :)

Even Practice Makes Art

Once you have practiced for a while (a few days or a week), take time to draw out a nicely shaped and measured stem - maybe only one or two - side by side.  Now choose the best color combinations you have come up with and purpose to do a "real" looking stem.

You will have to take time to really study the live stem. Holding it and turning it in your hand, notice the little details in it. Now prop it up and shine a light on one side of it to give it a highlighted area and beginning with your shadow side first, paint it in layers, painting your lightest wash first. Remember not to lose your highlighted side, and when you finish add all the little gestures you can see.

Take Notes As You Go

After finishing the first drawing, do the second one, only try to perfect it a bit more from the first.  Think about what you might do differently and take notes on your paper.  Think about the things you did that worked really well, and write those down too.

Document Your Subject & Mediums You Are Using

Don't forget to document the name of your subject, the graphite you used for drawing, the watercolors you used, the paper you practiced on, and the brush #s you used.  You may return to it one day and you will be glad you documented your work so well.


Artistic Block Victory!

I know all this practice of just stems was a huge factor in helping me get through this time of artistic block - but it also helped me to be ready to begin my composition for the RBGE. 

Hope this Practice Method helps you as much as it helped me - and always remember:  "PracticeMakesArt!" :)