IMG_0537I captured this gorgeous “Chicken of the Woods” mushroom walking through one of my favorite state parks last weekend. It would have been really tough to sketch this in the moment. For one thing, it was raining! For another, the mosquitoes were really bad! Fortunately it was really easy to capture this image with my trusty Canon Powershot digital camera. And once I have the reference photo, I can explore a number of options for creating a new work of art.

With this simple photo I have a starting point for a sketch in graphite pencil. Or I can create a watercolor underpainting to capture the main areas of color and then go over  this with colored pencil to capture more detail. Or I can draw the mushroom completely in colored pencil.Or I can sketch it in graphite and then paint over this with acrylic paints. So many starting points.

I love having options. I carry my camera with me for this very reason. Because it’s a digital camera, I don’t have to worry about “wasting film” on bad shots, or spending money on film or developing film only to find a couple of shots I actually want to keep.Every artist I know worries about “wasting” money. A digital camera takes all of the stress out of the creative process and frees me to explore.

What do you do to take the stress out of spending money on creating art? Does it have to be “good” to be worthy of your time and money? How do you define “good” art? What is a good use of your time and money?

How do you take time for exploring?

What would you do with this photo?

Views: 53

Comment by Thaneeya McArdle on June 22, 2011 at 3:16pm

That's an amazing mushroom, Suzanne.  Have you decided what medium you'll use to draw or paint it?  It certainly is an inspiring form.


You're right that artists do worry about wasting money.  I hate to 'waste' paint so I always keep a spare canvas or two laying around, so that when I'm done painting with acrylics for the day I can smear the leftover paint onto the spare canvas.  Eventually a painting starts to form - usually abstract.  It's a great way to set the foundation for an abstract piece without really 'trying'.  It seems to give the piece substance and history.


It's funny, the question of whether art has to be 'good' to be worth it, because (as you know) whether a work of art is 'good' or not is so subjective.... and even the artist can't tell in advance whether a work of art will turn out to their liking or be a total disaster!  So there's always a bit of risk involved.  I think the best approach is to enjoy the process and not worry so much about the final outcome, because even when we're not aware of it, making art is always a learning process. :)


Great post - I always enjoy reading what you're doing/thinking.

Comment by Suzanne Vadnais Monson on June 22, 2011 at 3:57pm

I really like what you do with left over paint Thaneeya. Have you ever shared this as a tip? I think it would help a lot of beginning (and not so beginning!) artists step into some new ways of working. I know it has inspired me.


I want to render this "chicken of the woods" mushroom in pencil and colored pencil, using some water color to underpaint the warm tone. It should be fun!


Thanks for the sweet compliment about my writing! You are my ideal audience.  ; >

Comment by Thaneeya McArdle on June 22, 2011 at 4:34pm

Great idea to share the leftover paint idea as a tip, Su.  I'll go do that now. :)


I think your plan for the mushroom piece sounds great!  I look forward to seeing it. 

Comment by Jeffrey A. Knight on August 30, 2011 at 5:20am
Jeff here -- I thank God -- He has given me a creative muse that stays on GO -- I need to get better at selection and application -- an example -- I get many of my ideas from the basic shapes -- they inspire me -- they relate to everything -- the cone has given me for example my garden maiden series ( still working on it ) I develop it into my initial idea -- I create an environment or setting for my idea ( the maiden ) add color, line, texture, possible other characters -- I wiil use thumbnail sketches -- I am a puzzler ( is that a word ? --ha! ) -- I piece my thoughts together
Comment by Suzanne Vadnais Monson on August 30, 2011 at 2:14pm
I can so realate to wanting to improve my selection and application process too Jeff! So many ideas, so little time. I really like the fact that you get many ideas from the basic shapes. This is where I start my drawing classes: exploring the basic shapes. Your work is a great example of this in action! I like the Garden Maiden piece you included here. It has a Native American feel to it!
Comment by Starr White on August 30, 2011 at 3:04pm

Suzanne, I love this photo.  I can imagine that you surprised the fairy queen in her resplendent ruffled gown and she bent over and tucked her head into a knot hole to make you think it was just a mushroom! 

I have a little pocket sized digital camera that I keep in my purse just for such occasions.  I take lots of photos everywhere I go.  If I like a design on a t-shirt, a beach towel, a purse, etc. I'll take a snapshot of it.  I also tear images out of all kinds of magazines and keep them in an inspiration notebook.

I really struggle with wasting money = art supplies.  I am often held back from trying something because I don't want to waste materials.  If I don't feel relatively confident that I can achieve the result I want, I won't even try.  I am trying to work through that.  I know it's holding me back.  I am really trying to learn that every effort has its own value even if it's not what I wanted it to be. Since I am a beginner and have so much to learn, I am trying to approach each piece as an exercise.  I'm not trying to create something that I want to hang on the wall (although it would be nice), I am just trying to get better and learn something with each attempt.  I try to tell myself that if I want to improve, if I want to learn, it's going to cost me something.  You just don't get something for nothing.  So the money I spend on art supplies is an investment in my future as an artist.  ( I need to write this down and stick it on the wall so I can read it every day!) 

Comment by Suzanne Vadnais Monson on August 30, 2011 at 3:19pm

Starr your image of the fiary queen tucking her head into a know hole made me smile like a little girl! Thank you for that image. My sister had a silly book called something like The Squashed Fairy was a collection of watercolor images of fairies "captured" and "pressed" between the pages of a book. Someone gave it to her as a gift. Very creative idea.

I often address this whole issue about wasting money on art supplies when just starting out. This is my best advice: only buy things you will use. Start with student grade materials to gain some familiarity with the product. You can advance to higher grade supplies as you grow your skills. And because you are learning about how to use the material as you progress, you will notice and appreciate the difference between the student and the professional grade.

This has served me well as I branch out into using more and more mediums. Go slow. Spend only what you feel good about spending. It helps if you can get supplies on sale or at a discount And I love the idea of writing down encouraging statements to keep yourself focused on giving yourself permission to be a student of art.

I also highly recommend doing "The Artist's Way" a guided journaling and creative exploration process created by author Julia Cameron. I completed the 24 week course when I was first getting started on my art career. It was a wonderfully rich and insightful beginning tool! Used copies of the book are pretty easy to find. I have one I would be willing to share with you! ; >

Comment by Starr White on August 30, 2011 at 3:36pm

Thank you, Su!  You are so kind.  I am building a learning library and I will add this title to my list of books to get.  I have received a lot of great suggestions from my friends here at the Art Colony.  I am currently working through a book on abstract painting to try to help me loosen up a little.  I never, ever thought I would be doing abstracts, but I am finding that I really enjoy it.  

Since you are an art teacher, may I ask you some general questions that I have?

Comment by Suzanne Vadnais Monson on August 30, 2011 at 4:11pm
I am happy to share any insight and tips I have with you Starr. Please feel free to ask me any questions you have. If I don't know, we have a wealth of experienced artists to draw on in our fabulous community at The Art Colony! I think it might be a great idea to build a learning library resource in our community. I will talk with Thaneeya about getting this set up!
Comment by tk piatek on September 4, 2011 at 11:54pm

I have a collection of fungi pix I took in the woods in New York State a while ago - some are even bigger and weirder than this. My first thought on seeing this gorgeous mushroom is ... ooh the curves. I would probably crop a section and play with those gorgeous curvy shapes and their shadows to see what appears. I will look in my files to see if I can find my most amazing one to share.



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