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  • Friday, August 26, 2022 1:42 PM | Tanya Roberts (Administrator)

    I recently posted an article on the WSI Facebook page that I thought you'd find interesting--and maybe useful.  It's titled "Break Out of Your Creative Rut," so I thought I'd do that--break out of my creative rut and share with you.  The article describes six ways to approach the creative process differently than before.  If you missed the article (it's not a long read) and would like to check it out, here's the link:

    I combined two suggestions and decided to try the suggestion about painting upside down and then gridding a reference image into 16 squares.  Here's my reference image: 

    And here's the image upside down:

    Then I also gridded my watercolor paper into 16 squares and began to paint, one square at a time, looking only at the upside down image.  At first I thought I would just draw and shade and have only black, white, and gray--but that wasn't enough fun--so I got out my palette and brushes and decided to paint upside-down in watercolor.

    I wish I could say that I created a masterpiece--but I didn't.  What I DID get from the exercise is practice in painting shapes and looking for darks and lights.  It took me several hours to complete the exercise--it's watercolor after all, and I waited for paint to dry so I wouldn't have mud.  I painted a square or two and let the paper dry.  Painted some more. Here's the upside-down result:

    And here it is right-side up:

    I picked a complicated photo image to do this experiment, but at least it was something I enjoyed looking at while I painted.  If I do this particular experiment again, I think I'll start with a portrait image--just the head, perhaps, and either one draw or paint that image upside down.

    However, I DID print the article on which this particular blog post is based, so I still have five more "experiments" to play with--like doing an 11x14 painting using only 100 strokes.

    But that's just my opinion.  Have fun.


  • Sunday, June 12, 2022 7:04 PM | Tanya Roberts (Administrator)

    As the song goes, June really IS "...bustin' out all over!"  All I have to do is take a look at my raised bed gardens, where, in addition to vegetables, I also have beautiful Oriental Lillies to brighten the side-yard landscape--and to paint.  I know many of you also have beautiful flowers to add to your watercolor painting collection--I've seen some of them, as well as your photos.

    It's a busy time of year at WSI.  Take a look at our calendar, and you'll see what I mean.  If you're not already a member, please do join the WSI organization.  We have many opportunities for growth--in friendship, in knowledge, and in appreciation of the arts.

    When she was here for Easter brunch, my sister admired an acrylic (30x40 on gallery-wrapped canvas) painting that I have hanging in our house, and she particularly liked the vivid colors in the painting.  She asked if I could do one just like it for her, and I told her I couldn't duplicate what I'd already done, but I could do another painting with lots of vivid colors--so I did.  However, when I finished it (or thought I had finished it--you know how that goes), I thought it needed a unifying element, so I began to read information about glazing an acrylic painting.  My degrees are in English, not in art, so this art thing is a  constant learning experience for me.  My searches led me to this video--which I found to be both interesting and informative and easy to follow--and I love the artist's accent.

    What I discovered (and I'm sure most of you already know this, but I didn't), is that glazes are best if they begin with a transparent color.  The color is mixed with  one of several possibilities of mediums--I used a glazing medium--and then applied to the dried painting.  I thought acrylics were all opaque or semi-opaque and was surprised to find--when I examined my tubes of paint--that I actually had several acrylics that were transparent.  So, I followed the directions in the video, mixed the glaze, applied the glaze, and VOILA! the glazing actually unified the painting.   

    That's my learning experience so far this June.  So....

    Go and paint beautiful things.  Have fun.  Be creative.  And let's get together and paint.

    But that's just my opinion.


  • Friday, April 15, 2022 2:51 PM | Tanya Roberts (Administrator)

    Ah, April!  We're still waiting for the "lamb" promised by the end of March.  T.S. Eliot, in "The Wasteland," called April "...the cruelest month."  It's not so cruel, though, on the sunshiny days, and it's positively delightful when the trees blossom and the spring flowers bloom.  The daisy I painted is one of the birthday flowers for the month of April, and just the thought of spring flowers makes me smile.

    Writers have many things to say about April, too, and some of the lines below are from some of my favorite writers:

    "Spring is made of solid, fourteen-karat gratitude, the reward for the long wait. Every religious tradition from the northern hemisphere honors some form of April hallelujah, for this is the season of exquisite redemption, a slam-bang return to joy after a season of cold second thoughts."

    -Barbara Kingsolver.

    "Let the rain kiss you

    Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops

    Let the rain sing you a lullaby"

    -Langston Hughes.

    "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

    - George Orwell (1984).

    "You know how it is with an April day

    When the sun is out and the wind is still,

    You're one month on in the middle of May."

    - Robert Frost.

    "Spring is a season of the soul to regain its strength."

    - Lailah Gifty Akita.

    April is the season of Easter and Passover.  Some of us attend religious services and enjoy a celebratory meal with friends and families.  And we celebrate being outside again after a long, long winter.  I don't think this winter was terrible in terms of weather, but it certainly was long.

    What does April mean for the artists/painters among us?  It's a chance to work outside again--to cultivate the flowers that some of us will later place in our paintings.  It's an opportunity for the plein-air painters to get back outside with their easels and paints of many kinds and colors and share ideas and friendships with each other.  It's an opportunity for us painters to grab our cameras and photograph the beauty of the spring season so we have painting inspirations for work in our studios.  It's a chance to watch the birds mate and nest as they've returned from places warmer than Indiana.  I have a bird feeder directly outside of my window where I write, and I've been watching house finches fight for morsels of food.  One thing I know for sure:  If someone tells you that you eat like a bird--it's not a compliment!  Those little creatures eat constantly. 

    I wish you a happy spring after our long winter filled with vaccines and booster shots and home tests and quarantines.  Be well and safe, and paint beautiful things.

    But that's just my opinion. 


  • Sunday, March 13, 2022 5:53 PM | Tanya Roberts (Administrator)

    It's Not That Easy Being Green 

    What the heck is she doing now, you might ask?  Well, it's spring, and in spring my thoughts turn to green because our Midwestern world begins to look green again.  That's a photo of my GREENS chart at the top of the page.  Why do I have a "GREENS" chart?  Well, here's the story.

    A few years ago, I asked my friend and amazing artist Jeannie McLeish if she would let me set up a plein air session for anyone who wanted to join us.  I'm not a plein air painter, but Jeannie is an expert, and so we picked a date and a location, and I inquired if anyone wanted to join us, and several people did, so we headed to a lovely park (and another time to the lavender gardens in Mooresville), and Jeannie shared her wisdom and advice about how to paint watercolors outdoors.  Thankfully, the day was sunny, and Jeannie began to share suggestions about capturing the light and making painting decisions about light, because the light moves when we paint outdoors.  Then she began to talk about the color green.

    It was only after I started painting that I became aware of how many colors of green exist in the landscape.  Jeannie told me that, in her opinion, using greens badly can ruin a painting.  She suggested to all of us that we choose a green that we personally like.  I know a lot of people don't like Sap Green, but I do, so that's the green I chose for myself.  Then she told us to mix the green we chose with other colors on our palette and paint a swatch of each color on watercolor paper and label the colors.  What is in the photo above is my "Green Chart," and I use it all the time.  You could also do a chart with any other color, but, at least for me, the greens are the most problematic.  If you look carefully, you can read the colors in the swatches.

    After all, Kermit the Frog is the one who said it best:

    "It's not that easy being green
    Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
    When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold
    Or something much more colorful like that

    It's not easy being green
    It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
    And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're
    Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
    Or stars in the sky

    But green's the color of Spring
    And green can be cool and friendly-like
    And green can be big like an ocean, or important
    Like a mountain, or tall like a tree

    When green is all there is to be
    It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
    Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful
    And I think it's what I want to be."

    But that's just my opinion.  And Kermit's, of course.


  • Saturday, February 19, 2022 10:43 AM | Tanya Roberts (Administrator)

    I want to talk about Creativity, which I've italicized because I want you to think about it as a word, a concept, a definition, a process, a thing.  I've been thinking about creativity a lot lately because of a discussion I had with a woman in the book club I belong to.  She is a nurse in a hospital unit that cares for babies and their mothers--and she has been working throughout this entire Covid time.  She asked me about what I was painting or working on, and I said something like, "You should come over and paint with me sometime.  It would be fun."  Her response was, "Oh, I'm not at all creative.  I can't even draw a straight line."  I thought to myself, "You save lives every day because of your creativity, and whether you can draw a straight line or not has nothing to do with it."

                Here's my take on this Creativity thing.  The concept of creativity is too often associated with being able to do something artistic.  Well, art IS creative.  No question about it.  However, so are other things that people might not think of as being creative.

                If you've ever worked on projects of any kind with a team of people (I have), and if that team was put together taking into consideration the very specific talents of each team member (I wrote an article about teaming which was published virtually) I'm willing to bet that at least one member of that team was an idea person--the "let's do THIS" person.  Another person might have been the doubter--"that's too hard," or "how could we possibly Do that?" Still another person would be the problem solver--"Here's how we can do that and make it successful."  Still others would be the logistics people and would be able to plan and schedule the project. THAT, my friends is creativity. Not only are the ideas creative--so is the ability to work productively with other people.

                I had two grandmothers who were incredibly creative cooks, so I grew up appreciating their efforts.  One grandmother who emigrated here from Hungary when she was just a young girl could have earned a living as a chef.  My other grandmother actually DID earn her living as a chef--she owned, operated, and cooked at a small cafe near where I grew up where people would stand in line to purchase her pies.  Anyone can follow a recipe, but only the truly creative can mix together the recipe ingredients in such a way that the meal at the end of the process is unlike anything someone else might make.  If you cook like that and people love to come to dinner at your house--that's creativity.

                Without the creative minds of those who live their lives in the scientific community, we would still be fighting Polio.  Talk about creativity!  And problem solving!  And my book club friend who each day finds creative ways to help heal her patients.

    It's time for all of us to give ourselves and others some credit for the creativity of the mind and not just the creativity of the paintbrush.

    But that's just my opinion.  Go forth and be creative.  Everywhere.  And have fun doing it!


  • Friday, January 07, 2022 12:33 PM | Tanya Roberts (Administrator)

     A Tribute to a Liberal Arts Education

    There is so much talk and emphasis on Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) education that the Fine Arts/Liberal Arts are being eliminated or downgraded in many schools and colleges.  I fail to understand why we can't have ALL of it--STEM, literature, languages, music, art--all the creative elements that make our lives more enjoyable--and for some people make life worth living.  What follows is a piece I wrote a few years ago at the request of the English department at Ball State University.    They asked me to write a blog piece and answer the question, "Why Study English?"  Here it is--something to think about as we begin a new year.  Let's let the Liberal Arts--all of them--bring us some joy and pleasure.

     I’ve always been a good student.  When I graduated from high school, I really wanted to go to college, but my dad wasn’t sure that I needed to, so we compromised.  He picked my school—Purdue—a great choice for me, as it turned out, and he also picked my major, elementary education.  Not a good choice.  I would have been a barely adequate elementary teacher, so I changed my major to Secondary Education/English and graduated four years later with many, many semester hours in literature and writing and linguistics and rhetoric and went on to spend 30 wonderful classroom years mostly at the high school level, having taught all secondary grade levels and loving it.  While my undergrad degree was at Purdue--in English, not Education--I studied for my MA degree at Ball State.  I taught freshman composition in the BSU English department as a TA while doing my own course work.  I had some great teachers at Purdue and at Ball State and I am grateful for the time they took with me.

    Why major in English?  There are many reasons.  You’ll know more than most people doing crossword puzzles. You will understand allusions to literature in ordinary conversation, news, plays, movies--conversations that people who are not avid readers may not get.  But most importantly—and this is VERY important—you will learn to read critically and write clearly.  You will have to read great books, short stories, poetry—all genres—and you will LOVE reading them.  You will write—and you will become very good at it, too. Your speech and your writing will become more persuasive, and, via your communication skills, you will be able to become a leader.

    People may want to know what you’ll do with an English major, and the easy answer is that you will become language literate in a society that lacks many of those skills, and that ability can be money in the bank in this culture where we write MORE than before, both because of and in spite of technology.  It’s also true that an English major is great preparation for law school or for many graduate programs.  There are also many opportunities in areas of corporate and non-profit communication once you have technology experience--and all English majors have technology experience.  I used to tell my students to take all the writing classes they could.  They were already readers, or they wouldn’t even consider becoming an English major, so I encouraged them to become first-rate writers, too.  Excellent writers understand the concept of "audience."  They learn to be persuasive.  They learn to love the English language and to use it correctly.

    While I loved teaching, after I retired I was offered a job as a technical writer.  My job was to write for and edit user Help files for a medical program written by and for a major pharmaceutical company.  Our tech writing team’s job was to look at the plan for the program and, from that plan, write user-friendly Help files.  It WAS an adventure, to say the least.  I received a good salary, met some really good people, visited often with the software engineers, and learned a great deal about the very specific requirements for tech writing as opposed to the writing I had been doing.  In addition, I’ve been responsible for writing newsletters for one educational business and writing and editing for a not-for-profit organization.

    Some years after getting my MA at Ball State, I again attended Ball State as a participant in the Indiana Writing Project, which was life-changing for me as a teacher.  Finishing my MA did not finish my participation in learning.  I went on to take 30 hours past my MA simply because I wanted to learn new “stuff.”  I applied for an Eli Lilly Teacher Creativity Grant at the end of the 90’s because I wanted to study connections between writing and painting, and Lilly gave me a generous stipend to spend during the summer on anything I wanted to do to enhance my comparison of the written story and the painted story.  That summer changed my life, too, because I have continued to be a painter.  My love of language and writing morphed into a love of and fascination with art, and I continue to paint and study to this day.   

    All the arts matter in our development as interesting and complex human beings.  Listen to music.  Play music.  Draw.  Paint.  Dance. Create. Problem Solve. Write, even if it's only for yourself.  I value my liberal arts education because it helps me to bring joy and creativity to my life.

    But that's just my opinion.

    Wishing you a creative 2022.


  • Saturday, December 11, 2021 10:23 AM | Tanya Roberts (Administrator)

    Our Christmas trees keep getting smaller.  From the days when the kids were little and we went to a tree farm and cut the biggest tree we could find, to today, when our tree is shorter than I am tall.  The size of the tree represents the size of the celebration!

    I sometimes envy those of you who have large families attending your holiday celebrations.  It must be so much fun to catch up with people whom you haven't seen for a while (especially during these pandemic times) and to comment on how much the children have grown, and NOT comment on how much some of the adults have grown.  And even if someone is wearing a mask, the eyes still smile.  Have you noticed that?  We might not be able to see the entire smiling face, but the smiling eyes are still welcoming and wonderful.

    This year our Christmas has taken a new route as our son and daughter-in-law have moved to Leeds, England, where they both have happily found exciting new jobs.  Their two children--our grandchildren--will be joining them there to celebrate Christmas, and our Christmas with them will consist of a Zoom meeting or a face-time call.  It's not the best way to celebrate, but it certainly is better than no celebration at all.  Thankfully, our daughter and her husband are here to celebrate with us, and they are always fun.  I'm glad they live close by.

    I have an English friend who commented that our Thanksgiving celebration in the U.S. is a bit of a puzzle to the Brits.  She told me that it seems like it's just Christmas but in November.  I told her that it's not like Christmas because at Christmas we have baby Jesus, presents, and a celebration that lasts for days--beginning with the Hallmark Christmas movies in October.

    No matter what holiday you celebrate at this time of the year, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas, I wish you a beautiful time with family and friends. 

    But that's just my opinion.

  • Sunday, November 07, 2021 6:07 PM | Tanya Roberts (Administrator)

    My favorite holiday of the year is Thanksgiving because, for me at least, it's about the gathering of friends and family to share love, good food, and appreciation for each other.  We don't have to buy gifts or lavishly decorate for the occasion.  We just have to show up, maybe with a bottle of wine or a home-cooked dish to share.  We meet.  We hug.  We talk.  We eat.  And we promise to do it all again soon--or at least the next year.

    We show gratitude when we act in a way that shows appreciation for others.  I learned about gratitude and  giving from two important women in my life, my mother and my favorite grandmother, my dad's mom.  They were both thankful for many things, but "thankful" is a feeling.  "Gratitude" is an action, and their actions toward others in sharing what they had showed their pleasure in just being alive and helping other people.  I saw my mother one hot, summer day invite a homeless person--a boxcar train traveler (we called them hobos)--to sit on our back porch while she fed him food she had fixed for lunch.  He asked for seconds--and she obliged.  He said he was thankful for her actions because he hadn't eaten in several days.  My grandmother--an amazing cook--was one of the first people at her First Christian Church to offer help to those who needed it.  She brought flowers from her garden or chicken and dumplings or one of her wonderful pies.  The actions of both of these women showed gratitude to other people throughout their lives.

    Yes, at Thanksgiving we are thankful--at least I hope we are.  Are we also grateful and willing to assist others?  That's one way we can show thankfulness.  Because WSI is a not-for-profit organization, we are required to share our talents with others.  There are programs under way to help us implement that sharing and show our gratitude for our love of art and our ability to convey that talent to others.

    My suggestion--volunteer.  Sign up to show others the love you have for art and the joy it can bring to be able to create something belonging uniquely to the person who created it.  If you are not only thankful but also grateful, share your gifts.

    And have a lovely Thanksgiving.

    But that's just my opinion.


    PS:  Paint beautiful things.

  • Thursday, September 23, 2021 10:58 AM | Tanya Roberts (Administrator)

    Welcome, September, and Beautiful Autumn. Someone on Facebook the other day asked a question about the four seasons of the year--which season did I like the least--and my answer is easy.  I'm not a fan of winter.  I do, however, love the other three seasons.  It's one of the reasons I enjoy living in the Midwest.

    Covid is still thriving in our area, but a return to appreciating the arts is thriving, too.  There are many autumn arts festivals and occasions to support arts and artists in our area, and people seem to be showing up to appreciate the artists' work, especially if the gathering is outdoors. 

    I think it must be difficult to earn one's living as an artist.  For one thing, artists are asking people to purchase something that they don't require; it's not like spending money to put food on the table or making a mortgage payment so families will have a roof over their heads.  And yet those of us who appreciate art and DO art, find that we DO require the arts in our lives because the arts--all of them (and the humanities in general)--enhance our lives like nothing else can.  I listen to music when I paint.  Do you?  I attend theater performances and music performances, and I read every day--sometimes more than one book at a time.  I have a studio in my home where a friend tells me that I "play with paint."  And he's right.  I do. 

    I also support Indiana artists.  In our home I have original work by Jerry Smith, Henry Bell, Bob Myers, Jeanne McLeish, Peggy Brown, photographer Mike Jack, Lee Popei, Rena Brower, Connie Sands, Rena Brouwer, Rob O'Dell, beautiful photos of the Michigan City lighthouse by my brother-in-law Kent Lange, and, of course, some of my own work.  And, with the exception of the lighthouse photos from my brother-in-law Kent (which were a gift), I purchased the works of the artists whom I mentioned.

    It's important that we support our own people.  I had a decorator tell me the other day that when he decorates the homes of people in the area they sometimes pay a great deal of money for work from "fashionable" photographers and artists which is not nearly the quality of the work produced by artists here.

    Therefore, my advice as this autumn seasons gets underway, "Support your local artists."

    But that's just my opinion.


    PS:  Paint beautiful things.

  • Tuesday, August 24, 2021 6:48 PM | Tanya Roberts (Administrator)

    Poppies are an August birthday flower! When I first started writing this latest blog, I heard distant rumbles of thunder, but the storms were too distant to bless my bleached-out lawn with the rain that it needs.  I'm still waiting for water that will relieve the parched earth that is our yard.

    As we deal with 90 degree+ weather, no rain, and the Delta variant, I think this month I'm going to write about things for which I am grateful--and it's not any of the things listed above.

    I am grateful for roses.  I've had a rose garden of some kind in every house where we've lived, and I love the gorgeousness of this beautiful flower.  These roses are from the garden, and the scent of the flowers fills the room.  By the way, that's a painting by WSI's Lee Papai on the far wall and one by WSI's Rena Brouwer on the right in the great room.

    I'm grateful for paper--good watercolor paper--and the beautiful colors of the watercolor paints that I can use to place my beautiful roses on paper and keep them with me long after they have wilted in the vase.

    I'm grateful for artists.  I had a conversation the other day with a new acquaintance who also loves art and whose work involves art, and we talked about how once we began painting and studying art, we never looked at anything the same way again.  We saw more lights and shadows.  Instead of "green," we saw many greens in the landscape.  We saw different ways to compose a painting.  Experiencing art in its many forms is life-changing, and I am grateful for that.

    I am grateful for the beautiful WSI show at Newfields.  If you haven't yet seen it, I hope you will.  And while you're there, also visit the Van Gogh Lume exhibit.  It's lovely. 

    But that's just my opinion.


    PS:  Paint beautiful things.  And be grateful.

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