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Posts tagged ‘watercolor’

How She Does It: Michelle Templeton

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Michelle Templeton, a visual artist and writer living in Seattle. In the studio, she paints and makes woodblock prints. At the keyboard she writes fictions and is at work on a novel. She has exhibited work in a variety of Seattle venues in both group and solo exhibits. Her literary work has appeared in Firefly Magazine, Lunch Ticket and Helen: A Literary Magazine (forthcoming). See more of Michelle’s work at

Michelle Templeton

Michelle Templeton

SM: Please introduce yourself and your family.
MT: I am a visual artist and writer in Seattle. I live north of the city in a woodsy spot with my husband and ten-year-old son.

SM: Tell us about your artwork/creative endeavors.
MT: I paint in acrylics and mixed media on canvas and paper. I also make woodblock prints, carving images into wood and printing the image on paper with ink. The themes of my visual art center around the world of childhood and family life. I like taking small moments that might not seem meaningful at the time and capturing them on canvas to tell their story.

I am also a fiction writer. I just completed an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. I’ve had a few stories published and I’m working on a novel. The novel is the story of three generations of women from the same family; their struggles and successes. It’s about grief and learning how to make your own life.



SM: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
MT: For a long time, I believed I had to sell lots of work to be successful. It’s very gratifying to sell work and have that validation but I’ve learned that the real success is being able to spend my days doing work I love. That’s a luxury many people don’t have and I feel really fortunate to do it.

SM: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
MT: Motherhood taught me to make every minute in the studio count. It feels like I never have enough time there so when I do have a block of time to work, I make it matter. I have no internet in my studio; nothing to distract me from working. When I’m there, I’m intensely focused. I’ve learned that it’s the only way to get things done when you don’t have the luxury of unlimited time.

SM: Where do you do your creative work?
MT: I have a studio away from home, about a ten-minute drive from my house. When my son was a baby I worked at home but there were a lot of distractions. It’s so easy to stop working to do a load of laundry, clean house, waste time on the internet. What I love about my studio is that it is my safe, distraction-free place. No kids, no household chores, no internet. It’s a place dedicated entirely to my creative work.


Michelle’s studio

SM: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
MT: This question made me smile. I try hard to have a schedule but my son’s schedule is my top priority. I schedule blocks of work time for myself during his school hours, but I also have to balance that time with time spent on my bread-and-butter job. It’s a challenge, and that’s not including the days my son has no school, gets sick, or has a dentist appointment. It’s not easy; flexibility is a requirement.

SM: What does creative success mean to you?
MT: My primary definition of success is that I get to spend my time making art and writing fiction. Having said that, sharing my work is important to me too. It’s deeply gratifying when someone loves one of my pieces enough to spend their money on it; to make space for it in their home.


Watercolor portrait

SM: What makes you feel successful as a mother?
MT: My son’s happiness. It’s important to me, of course, that he does well in school, that he learns what he needs to know to become a successful and contributing adult. My bottom line, though, is that I want him to feel loved and to enjoy his life.

SM: What do you struggle with most?
MT: Never feeling like I have enough time. Doing the multi-tasking mom-thing makes it a challenge to have long, uninterrupted blocks of time for my work. It can get frustrating at times.

SM: What inspires you?
MT: Other women. They are managing careers and full family lives and making it work. Everyone is working so hard and with incredible grace.



SM: What do you want your life to look like in 10 years?
MT: By then my son will be in college and I think my daily schedule will have opened up. I look forward to having more sustained work time.

SM: What are you reading right now?
MT: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. I’m only about 75 pages in but it’s wonderful so far.

SM: What are your top 5 favorite blogs/online resources?
MT: I love art supply websites like Daniel Smith and Blick’s. It’s fun to drool over all the fabulous paints and tools. I also love writerly sites like, Brain Pickings, and Lit Hub. My steady go-to is Facebook where I’ve built a strong network of other artists and writers.

Easel and prints

Easel and prints

SM: What do you wish you’d known a decade ago?
MT: Feel the fear and do it anyway! For a long time, I felt I had to feel ready (unafraid) to jump into a creative life. Eventually I realized that there is no such thing as feeling ready so you have to take the plunge in spite of the fear.

SM: What advice would you offer to other artists/writers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
MT: Persist! Even if you have tiny children and you can only manage ten minutes a day of creative time, keep going. Whatever you are able to do will be enough to keep the spark alive inside of you. Don’t give up.


The Beauty of a Daily Drawing Practice, Sticky-Note Style

Ellen Olson-Brown is a creative inspiration to me in more ways than I can count. She is also a children’s book author, children’s yoga instructor, life-design junkie, Bikram devotee, and mother of twins. I love, love, love what she shares below. Enjoy!


drawing faces practice

Although I’m pretty proud of the collection above, crowing is truly not my motivation for posting. I’m posting this to make a point that is *so* important to me.

Every day this month I’ve made at least one of these little drawings on a sticky note. I find an image of a face online, paint its basic shape in watercolor, and then ink in the details with a permanent marker.

I’ve committed to this because I’ve found that mixing colors and drawing, even just a little, is one of those things that makes the rest of my day more vivid, easier.

Drawing on a sticky note is way less intimidating than using beautiful paper or a canvas, because of both the size and the humbleness of the materials. And committing to doing it every day of a short month quiets the “Should I? Why?” voice without overwhelming me.

So what’s the point I want to prove?

Well, it’s the same point I want desperately to prove when someone new practices near me in a yoga class and says, “But it looks so easy for you! I’ll never be able to do that!” and I have to tell them 1) It’s still *very* hard for me, and 2) I couldn’t touch my toes when I first started yoga. What I can do now has taken me 7 years and at least 1,000 classes of showing up and listening and trying and getting better and getting worse and having faith in the process and learning to add a gentle “yet” to a very bratty, “I can’t!!”

I love these little faces, my wall of friends and encouragers. Are they perfect? No. But I used to be scared, stiff, and frustrated when it came to drawing. I thought making art was a matter of talent, which I simply didn’t have. And now I am making things that bring me joy.

Talent is real. We’re each wired/built to optimize certain kinds of learning, performing.

But way more powerful than talent is openness, faith, courage, hard work, and enough self-kindness to let yourself be a beginner, show up, and see what happens.

Draw, run, sing, cook, garden, dance, do yoga — whatever that thing is that you’re drawn to, get your butt out there and try it 10 or 50 or 3,000 times.

Because you deserve to amaze yourself.


Cathy: Art for Life’s Sake

Fisherman watercolor, John Tinari

Fisherman (watercolor), John Tinari

I often feel guilty or self-indulgent knowing that I am not contributing an income to my family. I have never not-contributed an income to my family, in each of its mutable forms throughout the years, for as long a time as now. I have improved my perspective on these feelings in the past six months or so, since I’ve been working on my manuscript. It is slower going than I’d like, but it is going.

I have a constant reminder in my home to tell me how important it is not to forget that creative work is purposeful work, not just an indulgence. My late father-in-law, John Tinari, and mother-in-law, Rose, married very young — I believe while he was in art school. The wedding was in January 1966 and by December, their son, my husband was born. Then within the following year, they had a daughter. Four years after that followed another son. As you have probably guessed by now, John’s dreams of being a painter were quickly put on hold as he worked trade jobs, mostly carpentry or having to do with carpentry, in order to provide for his family.

Trees, John Tinari

Trees, John Tinari

In one of the earliest conversations I had with my husband (we hadn’t even met yet; this was a phone conversation that lasted a few hours), he told me his father was really sick with lung cancer. Within about six months of beginning to know my husband and his family, his father was gone. But what he left behind was beyond legacy.

When my father-in-law realized he was too sick to work, as he underwent chemo and radiation, he put down one set of tools: hammers, saws and levels, and picked up another: watercolors, brushes, palette knives, and paper. Sometimes he worked outside, sometimes from photos while getting his treatments. The results of those two years are hanging within our home: many small to medium sized landscapes full of life and green and light and shadow.

House (unfinished), John Tinari

House (unfinished), John Tinari

The most amazing thing to me about these paintings was finding out after I had been in awe of his execution of the variable greens in the leaves of all these paintings, is that he was colorblind to the green and red spectrum. One of my favorite paintings is of a fisherman deep in a river, red hat standing out amidst all that green. I can’t imagine how he was able to do that without some amount of divine sight. According to Rose, he couldn’t match two brown socks from his drawer.

Outhouse, John Tinari

Outhouse, John Tinari

I bring this up because I don’t want to wait until I am dying to do what I love to do most, even if at times I am working from a bit of a torturously dry well. My creative work is what gives my real sense of purpose beyond parenting or the rest of life’s sundries.

Cows, John Tinari

Cows, John Tinari

I was in my second paragraph when I turned to Andrew to confirm or straighten out a detail, and he said. “Hey, it’s Johnny’s birthday today, right?”

So, I just tilt my head up and say thank you, Johnny. This message is really from him to you. I just happened to be here to catch it.

[Editor’s note: Click on any image for a larger view.]

2/25 Weekly creativity contest winner & new prompt

Ah, the eyes have it! Lovely submissions for this week’s creativity contest. Our winner is Elizabeth Beck, for this beautiful collage. Elizabeth writes: “i just finished this collage this week …. and intentionally left out the eyes …. to leave it all more ambiguous and mysterious ….. so … for my eyes entry, i give you no eyes!” (I just love your work, Elizabeth, and I’m anxious to try my hand at collage with the SIX BOXES of potential collage materials I gathered up while packing for my move.) Congratulations, Elizabeth — your $10 gift certificate has been issued.



From Karen Winters, a watercolor painting. Karen writes: “I have always admired the way Egyptian women were portrayed in sculpture and painting, so I decided to do a closeup watercolor just featuring the eyes of an exotic beauty. Unlike the ancient paintings that were very stylized and graphic-looking, I chose to represent the eyes in a more realistic manner. The kohl that Egyptian women and men used for distinctive outlining served more than a decorative purpose. Originally made from the soot derived from burning sandalwood paste, kohl served as a medicinal aid and protection against strong sun. Modern preparations may contain lead, so caveat emptor.”



From Jen Johnson, a poem. Jen writes: “My submission is a quick little poem dashed off during naptime (because that’s all the time I had this week!) based on something I seem to remember reading somewhere a long time ago. Your prompt reminded me of it — not sure if it’s scientific fact or not (and a quick google search with the kids in my lap can’t confirm it) but I like the idea anyway.”


They say that the dark side of the moon,
The side blind to human eyes,
Has a gigantic crater, so big it could be seen
With ease from our own Earth —

If ever we could see what can’t be seen.
It would look like an enormous lunar eye,
Peering down at us each night.
The huge hole a dark iris, pale moondust sclera.

What myths would have been made,
What stories spun, what gods imagined,
If each night we looked up to see
A changeable gaze staring down from the sky?


From Rebecca Coll, a painting that she created this week as a gift to her husband on their anniversary. Rebecca writes: “I stretched the theme of ‘eye’ to include how we use it and experimented with the whole optical illusion thing. I figured after 19 years a marriage is about so much more than you can see on the surface. It’s about who we are and the love we have shared. To show this I painted a tree (growth, stability, branches for our independent passions, etc.) using both of our profiles to create the trunk. Then, up in the tree I added 19 hearts for the 19 years… Can you see them all?”



From Kelly Warren: “Pure goofiness…the eyes are two of my evil eye pendants.  I’d say this is me after one too many margaritas.” Love it, Kelly!



From Cathy Coley, a poem:


My eldest son’s mossy deep forest green
glow in the sun and mute to wood.
They are the unusual eyes
of my grandfathers,
both of Carolina Cherokee blood.
I wander lost in those eyes
when they look at me.

At a powwow when he was three
a young Mohegan boy of eight
smiled and said,
‘He has the eyes of my tribe,
the eyes of the wolf.’

From boy to boy passed more
than a stick of rock candy.
This is his second early memory
after the red and licorice
ladybug birthday cake.
He has the eyes of a wolf.

My second son’s eyes kaleidoscope
from bright blue to green to slate.
My mostly Irish father’s eyes are aqua green,
Turn to crystal blue, even lavender.
My boys’ father’s Irish eyes switch, too —
Sky eyes clear blue to thunderclouds.
My young son’s eyes are big as the sky.
I can fall into them, and rarely swim back out.

My daughter’s eyes are deep,
clear, warm bullets,
black brown depths of her father and me.
My mother, my grandmother,
his father and generations
back into the hills and across the ocean.
The deep history of continents
collide in our daughter’s eyes —
founders, natives, immigrants,
brown as earth’s rich soil.

Histories upon peoples read
in our children’s eyes.


From me (Miranda): A header image that I several months ago — it’s one of my favorites. Naturally, I am enchanted by the eyes of all of my children, but I have to say that Liam (the youngest) has extra depth to his baby blues.



This week’s prompt: “Light”
Use the prompt however you like — literally, or a tangential theme. All media are welcome. Please e-mail your entries to by 10:00 p.m. eastern time (GMT -5) on Tuesday, March 3, 2009. The winning entry receives a $10 gift certificate to Writers should include their submission directly in the body text of their e-mail. Visual artists and photographers should attach an image of their work as a jpeg. Enter as often as you like; multiple submissions for a single prompt are welcome. There is no limit to how many times you can win the weekly contest, either. (You do not have to be a contributor to this blog in order to enter. All are invited to participate.) All submissions are acknowledged when received; if you do not receive e-mail confirmation of receipt within 24 hours, please post a comment here. Remember, the point is to stimulate your output, not to create a masterpiece. Keep the bar low and see what happens. Dusting off work you created previously is OK too. For more info, read the original contest blog post.

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